Monday, 31 May 2010

Hello all

This past couple of weeks has been a bit odd on the home education front! It's been opposite ends of the spectrum if I'm honest!! Callum was keen last week for a start, haha! Which was a complete turn around from the week before which is where I suppose I should begin.

Weather was pretty good that week if I remember correctly and Callum (admittedly I was pretty much the same) just wasn't interested in doing anything remotely workbooky (I know that isn't a word, but it fits). With all this in mind we decided to say "let's have a social week instead" and he agreed! Now a lot of you may think that any kid would prefer a social week to a work week and I'm sure any school kid would love a week at home seeing his mates instead of being stuck in a classroom, but Callum, as we have ascertained on many occasions, is a bit different! Socialising to him can often be as stressful and as awful predicament than sitting in front of a workbook or, heaven forbid, sitting an exam! He doesn't 'enjoy' socialising unless it's on his terms and certainly not more than about once or twice a week, so the fact that he saw his best mate since nursery 3 times and had some children back after trampolining AND went to Gore Farm on the Sunday with my friend's (and his) girls was a bit of a shock!! 5 days out of 7 is a big thing!!! And he coped well and he enjoyed it and he wanted to do it, so all was good!!

I felt a bit guilty not getting anything remotely curriculumy (again I know that isn't a word) done all week, but learning to interact with others is just as important for kids such as Callum. In fact it is the only question/concern that his paediatrician has ever had about him being home educated; it was also the first question the LEA guy asked and that's before he knew about Callum's Asperger Syndrome. This leads me to wonder why all the concern with exams, SATS, school league tables, etc! If, once out of school, their only concern is social interaction, does this means that all those 'wonderful and interesting' opportunities that they get to learn in the said curriculum are a complete waste of time? I often think that they are! I sit there sometimes looking at the books and thinking 'I remember doing this, but I've never used it'! Yes, the ability to read is always useful. Of course it is! We wouldn't be able to read road signs, tell the difference between a can of beans and a can of peaches or understand the 1001 forms that we seem to have to fill in over the course of adulthood (actually I can read well and some of them still stump me). We do not have to have a love of reading to need the ability to read. The same is for writing! We need a certain standard, not so we can write the next bestseller, but so we can fill in those 1001 forms I've already mentioned. The same goes for maths, but honestly it's the ability to add up and take away that's of importance. Even multiplication and division could be argued as just a quicker way of doing the adding and subtracting. When was the last time you used a Cosine for example? Yes, if you want to make a shed, you need dimensions; if you have the desire to buy a new sofa, you need to be able to work out if it'll fit in through your front door (and we have made that mistake in the past believe me), but you don't need a degree in physics to do either, you need to be able to add up and take away! And when on earth have you ever been asked when Henry VIII ruled over England - only in an exam about history!!! My point being is that although I felt totally and utterly guilty about not doing 'schoolwork' I shouldn't have. My adult life has been spent having to interact with lots of different people from different walks of life, different ages, viewpoints, abilities, etc! So the fact that I spent a whole week getting him to interact was probably much much much more important! In fact, I should feel more guilty about this last week as we did 'schoolwork' and had an 'incident'!

Now the reason we did 'schoolwork' was because Callum wanted to, in fact he was very keen to do it! So keen in fact that one day he was filling in a worksheet at 8am by himself without my help!! He didn't do fantastically well at it, but he did it off his own back without prompting which is fantastic (it was a literacy one, hence the not being fantastic bit - literacy being his worst subject)! We don't follow a timetable as such, but we have a little list of things we'd like to achieve each day and last week we achieved and did more! Education City was a godsend and printing off the worksheets to do the following day and looking for similar pages in our various workbook collection helped to make sense of it all. We also baked cakes as I had an old friend come to visit and we rediscovered art!! He did see his best mate on Wednesday, but (as I felt really crap on Thursday) we didn't go trampolining and so he didn't see his usual crowd. But it didn't bother him! So looking back over the past couple of weeks from the sofa of ill on the Thursday afternoon I was feeling pretty smug! We'd socialised when it had suited him and it'd had been successful; we'd done schoolwork when he'd wanted to and that too had been successful. I thought 'I've cracked this Aspi thing'! However, Friday brought me straight back down to earth with a bang!

We were attending a workshop about castles at the Guildhall Museum, Rochester on Friday afternoon. I'd 'checked out' who was going to be there and there wasn't anyone who he didn't like; he'd been before, so no new situation; and most of the people going he knew/liked a lot. Plus the guy who runs the workshops is really good with our kids, so I thought we were safe and all bases had been covered! But no!!!!! Well, I say no; all bases were covered except I'd forgotten that Callum can be a bit of a git at times!! Now I don't mean that in a nasty way, I really really don't! But once Callum has 'one on him', it is incredible difficult to get him out of it! And to be honest he needs to learn how to get out of it himself! Callum had been fine about going for weeks, in fact he'd been quite keen until the day that is! Friday morning he spiralled into a mood of doom and gloom. By Friday afternoon he was the child from hell. I know I should have just not gone, but we all have to face situations sometimes that we don't want to (see previous blog) and I knew that it would be interesting and fun! Had it been London or had I known that there were people there he didn't like I wouldn't have pushed it, but I knew that that wasn't the case, so I did!!

We arrived early and met up with a couple of other families for lunch which he was fine with, then we got to the museum and again he was fine! But as soon as we went into the room he started! He refused, at first, to go in! I explained calmly that he didn't have to sit on the floor with the other children, he could sit with me, but that was good enough! I eventually ordered him in and he sat down with me, his back to the 'tutor' and proceeded to kick the leg of my chair and pinch my hand and arm! I tried to ignore it as I knew he was just after attention, but after 15mins of this I lost it - sorry, but I did!! You see I knew that there was nothing there that should have caused an 'Aspi moment'! I've been his mum for nearly 11years and home educated him for 3 of those! I know his triggers, I know what is going to set him off and I know damn well that there was absolutely nothing there. I avoid those kind of situations like the plague as it'll be me that suffers in the long term (who wouldn't avoid them?)! Sometimes Asperger/Autistic kids are just being pedantic just like neuro typical kids! They are just being naughty! And, I'm sorry, but to continue to kick my chair and pinch me for 15mins was being naughty! The workshop was interesting, it was hands-on and it was fun! If he could have come down off his high horse he would have enjoyed it! I know this because during an experiment which he refused to join in with, we went around the museum and he was fine! After the workshop, we went over to the castle and he was again fine! He was just being a kid who had worked himself into a frenzy of 'I'm not going to enjoy this and I'm going to prove I'm not by being disruptive'! If he truly had been having an Aspi moment he would not have calmed down at all, no matter where we were and what we were doing, I would have had to take him home, but that wasn't the case!

The outcome of me losing it was that I said something I never say "you are going back to school mate"! He looked at me completely aghast, stopped pinching me and turned around! It didn't mean that he joined in, but he stopped hurting me! That night I sat down and explained that I don't do this for fun, I do it because I care about him; because I never ever want to see him in a situation where he can't cope; I don't put him into those situations because I know how much they can confuse and frighten him; but I am not going to be his punchbag everytime he has a sulk! And if he can't respect me as much as I respect him then this will never work! He apologised and I think he understood and, of course, I would never really send him back to school. However, after having such a brilliant two weeks, we have ended on a bit of a sour note. I'm hoping that next week will be better and I'm sure it will be. It also just goes to show that, home educating or not, children will always be children.


Saturday, 29 May 2010


Hi all

It's been a while and I do try and keep up, but time keeps flying by so quickly and we have been having a mini war here.

I must explain to those that do not know I have the strangest shaped garden in Medway (I've looked on maps and it is pretty unique). It is L Shaped! I've been told by various sources that the house once belonged to a fireman in Victorian times and he used to keep horses in the back; hence the side alleyway which is soley for our use. I've also been told that the land which now houses the 3 houses to our left (as you face the front of our house) also belonged to the house we now own. When the owner decided to sell the land he didn't want to lose all of it, so only sold off half the length which resulted in our property having an L shaped garden. It is approx 80' long from house to rear fence, in old money, and at about 40' up it stretches across the next 3 gardens by about 55' making it a pretty reasonable size garden and the main reason we bought it. It does mean, however, that we have 9 garden neighbours instead of the normal 3!

Which brings me onto my mini war. When we first moved in, Oct 08, the rear fence which separated us from 4 of our garden neighbours in King Street was pretty poor. One had done a reasonable fence under the 'tree house', one had a ramshackle shed (it had the front, but no sides or back) so they didn't go near the back and the other two where just metal fencing, corregated rusty sheeting, paving slabs and oven grills. We intended to replace the rear fence but wasn't entirely sure if it was ours, theirs or joint responsibility and we weren't too concerned. However, one of the houses had a Staffordshire Terrier that insisted on coming into our garden every time their children went in and forgot to take it with them! It was a sweet little thing and very friendly but also rather annoying as Phil and Callum aren't keen on Staffs and I was wary as we have a black Labrador and having known people with Staffs am aware that they usually don't get on well with other dogs! We managed to scrape together enough cash by the springtime to erect a 6.5' fence all the way along the inner perimeter of the rear boundary and the problem was solved!

However, over the winter of 09/10 the family had decided that having a Staff (and losing two other Staffs who had got out and ran away) wasn't enough and they got a Mastiff! All was not too bad until they decided to throw out a mattress which they propped up against the back fence (the garden is full of rubbish). The Mastiff, only a year old I might add, heard our dog in our garden one afternoon, raced up the mattress and jumped the fence! Callum was absolutely terrified and I was a little uncertain as the Mastiff was obviously nervous (realising it was in a strange place with strange people and no way home I couldn't exactly blame it). I love dogs, am not particular scared of them (I've beaten off a huge white Boxer before that attacked my Lab when it was a puppy, while the Boxer's owner stood by sweetly calling "get off boy and come here" - like it was going to pay any attention), but I do know that dogs when nervous can be a bit, how shall we say, snappy!!

Anyway, luckily the owner came to the fence, apologised profusely and came round to get it! While here he proudly showed that the Mastiff had lost one of it's toes as it had got too close to the Staff who'd had pups!! But then went on to reassure me that it/they were perfectly lovely dog/s who wouldn't harm anyone and who were brilliant with his kids! I nodded in all the right places but firmly asked him to remove the mattress so that it couldn't happen again!! All the time thinking they it may be fine with his kids, but I wasn't entirely convinced that it/they would be fine with mine and that he wasn't really taking into account that I also had a dog who was likely to want to protect its own territory and protect my child and, as his dog was the intruder, all hell could break loose!! Obviously a very sweet guy, but a bit thick shall we say!

Well the dog didn't manage to get over again as he did remove the mattress, but, of course, now their dog knew about our dog and so every time we went into our garden it would launch itself at the fence barking like crazy! Over the past couple of months it has been left in the garden more and more (I think it's getting a bit big for them to handle to be honest and it still has at least another years growth to go) and it has been barking pretty consistently and launching itself at the fence. It got to the point that Callum wouldn't go out into his own garden because he was terrified! I'd gone out a couple of times to hang washing out and it had gone berserk barking and now growling, so I could totally appreciate why C wouldn't want to go out there. To make matters worse the children began climbing onto the fence (up the rusty old one by the way) and being nosey and when I'd asked them to get down I'd had 'language' from the boy! I must point out at this time of the story that the eldest, a girl, is approx 6/7 and the language expert boy was about 4!!! I decided to call our local Civic Warden for advice which was that I should go and speak to the parents about the kids and the dog!! Great!! I also rang the local community police office and got pretty much the same advice.

This went on for about another week until one Thursday after trampolining we had a few of the kids back to our house. The weather was lovely and they went outside to use the trampoline and have some fun. Up came the kids, bang goes the dog against the fence and the barking/growling ensued! I asked the kids to get down, but the girl said she was stuck!! She asked her brother to go get dad about 1/2doz times, but no dad appeared! Ok, time to go round! So off I hobbled, knocked on the door, explained that their daughter was stuck and asked them to try and keep the kids off the fence as it made their dog worse at launching itself at the fence and was terrifying my son! They apologised and 'dad' was sent out to get kids down. On the way back I was caught up with by a guy who said they were the neighbours from hell and proceeded to tell me horror stories about the kids, noise, etc to the point where his son had moved out of his house next door! Sorry, that isn't going to happen to me!! I thanked him for his information and told him to keep in touch. On entering the house I discovered that the dad had come outside and got the kids down, but they had promptly climbed back up again once dad had gone and had started giving Callum abuse over the fence!! Time, I thought, to ring the coppers again, however, no-one available so left a message!!!!

Since that day I've been in touch with the Council again and relayed information to the Civic Warden, got a noise nuisance diary and been keeping notes of all incidents. Then wonders of wonders I heard voices in the garden last Wednesday and it sounded like someone giving advice. It turns out that my friendly PC had been on holiday and on his return had taken it upon himself (armed with all the information I'd given him previously) to go visit the house! He advised them that the children climbing on the fence could be seen as criminal at best and welfare at worst (apparently both younger children (they have 3, I thought it was only 2) were running around completely naked both inside and outside the house. The garden was full of wood, rubbish, bits of furniture, dog faeces, broken toys and mud (no grass). He suggested that they remove the rubbish and do something about keeping the dog under control! Wow, I love him!!!

As a result, the very next day (I was out) the neighbour had called Phil from over the fence when he'd got home and asked if he could use some of our old trellising to higher our fence which Phil helped him do. Has cleared half the garden of rubbish and built another 5' fence half way down his garden so that the dog can't even reach our fence and the rest of the rubbish is contained. Phil has offered to help him clear anything he can't get rid of as that's what he does!

So far then I think the war is over! I know that some of you will probably say we should have just offered to help in the first place and maybe we should have, but Phil isn't the sort of person to confront people and so wouldn't have gone round. Plus when I have spoken re the dogs before they have dealt with the immediate problem, but have done nothing to stop it long term. I think having someone officially visit has made them realise that it isn't just us moaning and that they must take some responsibility for their own dogs and children. The only downside so far has been that I've now had their neighbours ringing me expecting me to help them with their problems. They seem to think I've set up a petition to get them evicted and that they can just come round and sign it! Unfortunately, that was not my intention unless the problems escalated and, as my own issue is only with the dog and children in the garden and that has been resolved, it isn't my place to start getting involved with issues such as night disturbances. They have been given all the information that I have and I've pointed them all in the direction of the Council, but I feel slightly aggrieved as they knew the problems I was having and had my number (I'd given it to the guy I'd met to forward on), but didn't bother ringing me until they realised that I'd got somewhere! Sorry mates, you're on your own! It's a bit like the Americans isn't it? They were asked to join the war, but refused until they got bombed themselves. I've reached a truce in my battle so far and I'm not going to reactivate any more gunfire. Fight your own war!!

So I have had a week of no fence launching, only one incident of children climbing on fence and although the dog is still barking, it isn't so often and isn't for so long! I'm still going to send in the noise diary, but will add a covering letter to say that I want no further action taken, but could they ensure it is kept on record so if the problem does rear it's ugly head again (after all the dog IS going to get bigger and stronger, so whether the secondary fence will hold it forever I do not know) the records are there!

PS: I apologise to any Americans reading this and I, by no means, hold any grudges towards you personally!! It's just a metaphore.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Hi all, been a week or nearly two since last wrote. Am sure that time speeds up the older you get!!

What have we been up to? Well lots of socialising for Callum and more science - he's becoming a bit obsessed, haha.

On the Friday after the science fair we visited a friend of ours that lives in Maidstone. They have come to our house a few times, but we have never been to them. They come along to our trampolining group. They kindly picked us up and dropped us home, which was lovely as I probably would never have found it!! It was a slightly hectic day, but Callum really enjoyed it as did I.

Saturday, his sister came over to visit (and to watch Dr Who) and stayed overnight as it's easier for her to get to work from our house than it is from hers. Callum loves it when his sister visits. He really misses her being here full time. I think having an older sister (she's 22 now!!) is really nice for him. It's like having another mum, but one who doesn't moan, haha!

Monday, we went to Gore Farm to have lunch with a couple of friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. I was really chuffed with Callum as there were no other children going. I packed him up with nature books, a bug box, binoculars, etc and hoped that they would be enough to keep him occupied! He ended up spending a lot of time sitting by the pond watching the Koi Carp, bless him. We did go for a walk through the orchard and was hoping to go the the lake and feed the ducks, etc, but the little area where you can go in and feed the birds was being refurbished, so we had to come away. Thought he might be a bit sulky, but he wasn't! Treated him to a door hanger in the shape of a camper van as he'd been so good!

Tuesday we redesigned our timetable. I'd set one up, but it hadn't been working that well. Callum needs a timetable and has always insisted that we 'work' until lunchtime Monday to Thursday and not 'do anything' afternoons and Fridays. We parents know that actually even when doing, what seems to them, nothing they are learning, but often with Callum doing nothing means computer games (as spoken of in previous blogs). Anyway, Callum had a good look at the timetable and decided to rearrange and redo most of it. We don't do a subject timetable anymore, just a list of things we'd like to achieve during the day covering maths, literacy, science and projects. I thought he'd cross most of it off and insist on cutting the work down. However, much to my surprise he reorganised, added and rejuggled times!! He's now spread the work throughout the week pretty evenly, including afternoons, evenings and Fridays, taking into consideration his strengths and stressers and how receptive he is within the week! Wow!!! I'm impressed!!! I finally feel as if he has taken control of his education and not just left it up to me, perhaps me reorganising 'the classroom' has helped him see what is available to him other than his beloved computer games! Anyway, well done Callum!

Wednesday he worked through his list and then went to his best friend's house for the afternoon. This meant I had an afternoon to myself which was lovely!

Thursday was trampolining. He'd caught up with stuff in the morning and done a spelling test. Now I'm only doing the weekly test because I want to know where his problems are and to prove to him that he knows more than he thinks. He got 9 out of 10! The one he got wrong was a 'st' word! I've noticed before that he has trouble with 'st' and it was this that lead me to ask for a hearing test and now a speech and language assessment. I don't think he is hearing sounds properly! His hearing test came back perfect, so now am just waiting on the assessment. After trampolining, he had a couple of the children back to play until 4.30pm. I love watching him socialise now! Those that know me well will remember the days, just after removing him from school, where he would hide under tables and chairs and behind me rather than socialise. So I love seeing him happily playing and interacting. Thanks to home education and the patience and understanding of those parents and children that we've met, he is finally able to socialise without stress (apart from the odd occasion, but then it will never be perfect, what child is?)

Friday, his sister returned for another visit. Callum wanted to do experiments with her, but he got increasingly aggitated as the time of her arrival got later and later. Luckily, I already knew that he'd want to do the experiments more than once, so we did them all and then did them again when Terri arrived.

We did Elephant's Toothpaste and Dissolving Polystyrene from the chemistry with cabbage website and the 'volcano' using vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

The Elephant's toothpaste is similar to the mentoes in soda experiment, but using Hydrogen Peroxide, washing up liquid and dried yeast. It foamed beautifully and looked exactly like a squeezed toothpaste tube. See below:

We used Acetone to dissolve a piece of polystyrene (that we'd got out of a skip up the road) and spelt out Callum's name.

And the volcano turned out fab! We made it out of salt dough the day before then laid it onto green and blue card in a tray to form a landscape and I made 'trees' a la Blue Peter to add to it.

We used red wine vinegar, I don't have malt in my house due to the gluten issue and it fizzed a lovely reddish colour!

This week we have continued with printing off and displaying our holiday photos so we can produce a folder and continued with our 'timetable' which seems to working rather well.

At the moment, Callum is upstairs playing with Callum D on the pool table. I think they have made up a game using the pool balls and Battle Strikers!! I'm not asking as it's bound to be too complicated for me - haha!