Sorry to be annoying but I have decided to move this blog to firstname.lastname@example.org. I have wondered for a while about Jake’s anonymity issues and have decided, after a year of being anything but confidential that I should perhaps be more careful. Nothing has happened but I just have a sense that now is the right time to make this small change. I am still playing with the layout over at Mayhem but hope you will bear with me – blog design is still quite a new skill for me! I have moved most of the blogs from here already and simply changed the names. I will remove all the tags from here and, eventually, delete it.
For my next trick I am going to try and blog to a wider audience – Mayhem and Stardust is my first foray into that. I hope you will come with me.
I worry sometimes that I write negatively about Jake. I think what happens is that when I feel very negatively blogging is a bit of a release. That means that he is not well represented. Therefore I am writing this blog in order to give me a place to link to from every negative blurb. When a bad thing happens I can always say – but then, ‘postscript’.
I lost my temper today and had a lot to say about it. Then the day carried on, as it does. I spent some time licking my wounds and Jake just picked himself up and got on with things. He went to the library, and behaved. He played board games well. He cooperated with Peter. He ate his lunch happily and then set off, having asked me nicely, to do his favourite thing which is to go to the farm. He loves being on the farm. He says it is what he wants to do. Forever.
Luke was doing some digger work and Jake joined in. As luck would have it he had written a poem for Luke earlier today. There once was a Duke named Luke, who was a rascal who lived in a castle. He had a friend called Jake, who he threw in the Lake. It is rare that writing a poem for a tractor driver is the way forward and we are hugely lucky that we have the sort of neighbours who love poetry on the move. Three hours later Jake came back in, ate his saved supper and announced that he was probably too old to go to bed at 7. Keen to accommodate (after my unedifying outburst today) I agreed. So, while I put the younger ones to bed he got out his library books and read happily for over an hour. It is now 19:55. I know for sure that I can go to him and say that it is bedtime and he will be perfect.
What I haven’t got yet is how this all happens. How is this the same child? Am I wrong to be asking him to apply himself to my home ed targets? Could he just stay on the farm? What a conundrum.
I find him downstairs recording a 4 minute long rap style serenade to the cat on my iPhone. “I’m not just rock and roll you know Mum”
I read today that our brain has a bad-decision detector. A region in the brain prevents humans making the same mistake twice. The lateral frontal pole is used to reflect on decisions and to answer ‘what if’ questions. It is the part of the brain that remembers what we didn’t choose to do and ponders the validity of our choice, constantly measuring our decisions against what could have been.
I read it in the aftermath of a particularly provoking morning and as the article unfolded I found myself having ‘that’s it!’ moments, one after the other. It was just so Jake. We won’t dwell on the issue arising from our decoupage session this morning (takes deep breath) but, before things went very wrong I was chatting to Jake as we snipped away, “Mum, please don’t talk, I can’t cut and talk at the same time”, he says. How like your father I thought and almost forgot it. Then later on I read that this frontal pole is also responsible for multi tasking. It allows two trains of thought at the same time. Like cutting and talking.
I shall blog about this I thought as I read the article (multi-tasking, making plans while doing something else – just saying) I am sure there is a link to ADHD and FAS type brain damage from this research. Then, of course, I got to the bottom of the article and the bit where they say that it has huge implications for ADHD and other conditions. Oh well, someone else thought of it too.
Back to cutting practice. This rather nice profile was Monday’s output (OK, the more detailed cutting was mine – the fabric dyeing, first cutting and gluing Jake’s, Rome wasn’t built in a day you know)
He looks rather angelic doesn’t he?! Bad decisions? Moi?
– it’s when I need it most. So says a Swedish proverb. Quite wisely. I am considering having it put on a T shirt to remind me that days like these are just as valuable as calm and productive ones as they give us the opportunity to address some of the influences that make Jake who he is and to continue to respect all of him. I am not sure if I can still blame Christmas for the rocky road we are currently travelling but there is no doubt that Jake’s internal noise levels are currently really high. The ‘noise’ that sensory overload or chaotic connections make must be horribly distracting. We think we know what Jake’s noise sounds like, his individual play sessions are a continuous battery of spits and shouts and hisses and growls. A clunking rattling sound like being in a ships engine room. Its no wonder that it is hard to concentrate. Or to be quiet. Or pay attention to anything that doesn’t itself create enough noise to drown out the background cacophony that I understand is the backdrop to his waking hours. Another son of mine has had tinnitus following a spell on active service abroad and is old enough to describe the stress of internal noise. I am quite sure that Jake’s scrambled thoughts are just as stressful, his newly acquired physical twitchiness is evidence enough, and it is my job to remember that and be kind whenever humanly possible. My current approach to our days together, where good humour and calm feature on every days target list is not just for his sake, it is to remind me too.
We had settled nicely into our routine of home school with me, projects with Peter, home ed group socialising and Forest School as a first step back into group education. Our week had a balance that I was happy with. I would go so far as to say that we felt quite optimistic!
Christmas wasn’t great, in the end. It really is a tough time for families like us. We had several fairly wild days. I was holding on for the return of our sanity in January, what little we ever had! I was therefore doubly disappointed that Forest School didn’t feel that they had enough staff to manage Jake this term. They have often had extra pairs of hands around when he visits but he was doing so well that I had hoped that staffing dips wouldn’t mean he couldn’t go. I don’t blame them for not having him back but I am a little dejected about it. It feels as though we are a little bit more alone than I would have wanted.
Ice sculpture tea light holder – last day at Forest School
Anyway, here we are, back to a new normal. The slight change in our routine has made me focus on how to replace some of the experience he had at Forest School. I can’t replicate some of the group discussion and socialising but I can take on some of the fine motor skills and problem solving. We have a barn next to the house that, in warmer weather, we use for craft activities. Taking a leaf from Forest School (!) I think we will have to do more art and crafting here, in our own barn. We are making it more weather proof and hoping to be able to warm it slightly.
Bring out the thermals and call up the friends!
December is such a tricky time for families. Adoptive families particularly. I read many blogs about how hard this time of year is for children who come late to their forever family and for whom this time of year is a minefield. The sense of overwhelming stress, loss, failure and pain sit really uncomfortably with the tinsel and glitter. Sadly I don’t read much about any sort of understanding support for families who are under siege in this way and I wonder how some of them are even putting one foot in front of the other at the moment.
Last year, when we had all three of the young children at home full time, I noted that even in the midst of the stress of house moving and renovation that taking school out of the December mix was a massive relief. This year, with two (very happily) back in school, I could almost see the jagged shards of stress overload sticking out of them as they burst out of school at the end of the day. Jake and I have spent the last ten days being calm so that we can absorb some of these spikes. We haven’t done anything that we know will set either of us off on some sort of melt down. We have walked more, played more and to be honest, kept Christmas at bay.
Now here we are on Christmas Eve. Feeling sane. Feeling as though we might even have an ordinary day tomorrow. Success!
I occasionally feel the need to tally what we do. Being off radar has its own responsibilities and one of these days some sort of grey bureaucrat is going to find me out and demand to see towers of dusty leather bound documents which detail, in perfect latinate script, our achievements on an hourly basis for the last year. Hold on, this might be a dream I had…
Nightmare or not it really doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on what you do. An article in the Daily Mail (my guilty little secret indulgence, an addition caught off my very erudite friend S who seems none the worse for it and is exceptionally good at quizzes) this week slammed a woman in Scotland for “un-schooling” her children. There is a slight misunderstanding here. I think un-schooling means the period immediately after you take your children out of school, during which they get the whole mainstream education bugs out of their system. Autonomous education means allowing the child to direct the curriculum, trusting that abandoning any sort of structure will in fact be freeing rather than plain lazy. Anyway, the Mail rather typically found a couple of polarised views and dressed it up as news. It made for interesting discussion at the home ed group Christmas party yesterday though and, as you saw, some uncomfortable dreams for me. The majority of the children in our group are raised on a mix of styles. Some old fashioned learning; arithmetic, spelling, times tables, fractions etc usually ‘taught’ alongside workbook work and web based support backed up by much more project work, in much more depth, than schooled children experience. Most home educated children do more craft, reading and self directed specialist activities than school children. They visit places of interest and interact with people of all ages on a more regular basis. They travel more. They cook, shop and manage their days more independently.
I smiled yesterday to watch the receptionist at the party venue reach for a calculator to work out 3 times £9 and caught the glances between the 8 and 9 year old home educated children who were waiting nicely (rather unlike the school party who arrived in a crashing wave of swearing and shouting a while later) They didn’t say anything and as we walked away one said to the other – “Did you round up or just know it?”
‘Un-schooling’ in action!