Thursday, February 25, 2010

My "education summary" for my LA

Having made it clear to my LA that I will not have any more home visits - in protest over Badman/Clause 26 et al, I decided to agree to their "suggestion" that I send a report in instead.

I remain convinced that what I see as an accurate, honest and appropriate summary of how home education has looked for our family - and where we see it going - will not be acceptable if DCSF gets it's way.

With that in mind, I am sharing the summary that I sent this week to my LA - which they have accepted.

Since our last visit from our LA’s EHE team (around June?), the family has continued to follow an autonomous style of education. Each child is allowed to follow their own interests, and to progress at their own pace. We occasionally have conversations about things that we – as parents – would like to see happening but
we do not force them to do anything (other than tidy their rooms!).

Joshua’s main focus continues to be drama and acting. He has taken part in two shows with the SAVVY Young Company (http://www.savvytheatre.co.uk/young.htm). The first was "What Use Any Generation?" Josh wrote a review of the project for Youth Theatre Now magazine as part of his Bronze Arts Award (see pages 8 and 9 here http://www.savvytheatre.co.uk/ytn.pdf).

A cut down version of the show was also performed by them at GUILFEST in 2009.
The second show was DAGS (http://www.savvytheatre.co.uk/yngpast.htm). Josh is currently working on the next show, Midsummer Night's Dream, where he is playing Theseus, Duke of Athens.

Josh is about to submit his Bronze Arts Award work for accreditation. This has included writing a website to showcase his "arts hero" – David Tennant (see
http://www.artsaward.joshnewstead.co.uk/).

He had a modelling job, on a photo shoot for Macmillan Education, which was fun – if somewhat ironic!

Outside of these things, like any teenager, he spends a lot of time on instant messenger and facebook chat keeping up with his friends. He also helps out at Baseline in Bromley – the largest youth group in the Borough of Bromley – every Friday.

He maintains his own interest in current affairs via news website and the BBC news channel.

Samuel continues to progress amazingly well. He has made tremendous efforts to deal with the quirky aspects of his personality resulting from Aspergers and his social development has been incredible. A year ago, he would not go on a bus, would not want to be out when it was dark, would not have stayed away from home and was awkward in peer social situations.

However in the summer he decided to go to Rock Camp, the 5 day youth camp for 7-11 year olds that our church runs every year. For a child with Aspergers this was such a big deal. Going away from home for the first time, new people, new environment, crowds, noise, no privacy, shared sleeping, games, activities, constant stimulation... the list of challenges he had to overcome is long. Yet not
only did he go but he met all those challenges and grew noticeably as a result.
He now helps out on a monthly basis in Sunday School for 7-11 year olds, being responsible for the multi media.

He attends a weekly teen group along with Josh which involves them getting a bus to and from Bromley in the dark. Again, this is a significant step for Samuel (though he still won’t go alone).

Despite have no formal "lessons" Samuel has worked himself on his spelling and towards the end of the summer went from having quite atrocious spelling to now a very competent level of writing.

Somewhat counter-intuitively this seems to have come about from using chat/text speak via instant messenger and the in-game chat facilities on World of Warcraft. He can type very fast, and very accurately.

Samuel is keen on cooking and is currently designing a website to showcase his gluten free cooking (http://www.samuelspecialsupplies.co.uk/). He is also designing leaflets to hand out to local people!

William’s progress has been slower but we are aware that his issues are more complex.
When we were living with William’s grandmother the situation had become untenable and, in particular, sharing a room with Samuel had led to multiple meltdowns on a daily basis. Since moving into our own place in May – where William now has a room of his own – these meltdowns are less than one a week.

He now attends Sunday School weekly on his own (as his brothers are in different groups) and also goes to Urban Saints on a Sunday afternoon – again, whilst Samuel goes as well they are in different groups. This is significant because William has to manage without any of us there to interpret to him, and on his behalf. Whilst it is obvious that he is failing to grasp some 60% or more of what is happening during the sessions, he is enjoying them. His section leader is SEN-trained which is a
bonus.

William has not wanted to learn to read and we took the decision to wait until he appeared ready and willing to learn (I do not feel it is appropriate to force an ASD child to learn something they do not want to – quite apart from it being very difficult!).

Despite this, William has made some amazing progress with his reading. In true autonomous style, this has taken place via Club Penguin! Within the Club Penguin website there is a place that he can take his character that has a "library" where you can "take a book out" and read it. The idea is that you type the words you see on the screen to turn them from grey to black, and every now and again you can select one of two words to go into the story. Despite not being able to "read", he attempts to do this. He sits and tries every key on the keyboard until he finds the right one.

He has his own laptop which of course has a keyboard all in capitals so hardly any of them look like the letters on the screen. This means he is learning his capitals at the same time.

This experience led us to discuss as parents the relevance of the actual alphabet (as a learn-by-rote activity). The relevance of the order of the letters is not as relevant in today’s society. Other than being able to recite it, or use it for codes, or filing, why do you need to know it? However the relevance of the position of the letters on a keyboard (or on a mobile phone pad) seems to be more important.

In addition to this, William wants to use an online game that his brothers have used and as such has decided that it will be useful to be able to read. He is now voluntarily spending half an hour a day on sites such as Super Why and Star Fall practising spelling.

As a family we have enjoyed the company of many other home educating families both through regular organised gatherings and through the many family-to-family relationships that have been formed.

We’ve made use of the plethora of home education groups in the South East of London and across Kent and taken part in many of their outings. This have included the Annual South East Home Educators’ Beach Day, a visit to a chocolate factory, the Britain at War Experience, and Reigate Fort to name but a few) as well as outings to parks and indoor play areas.

Our hope for the rest of 2010 is that Josh will continue to pursue his love of drama. We will need to discuss with him whether or not he wants to progress to the Silver Arts Award and/or look to take GCSE drama or indeed start looking at the entry requirements for drama school.

We will continue to encourage his involvement in the community activities through our church, reaching out to the desperate and needy of Bromley – and particularly to the disenfranchised youth.

Samuel has recently developed a serious interest in drumming and we are seeking someone to teach him how to play the drums. We also hope that he will pursue his love of cooking. We intend to provide as many opportunities as possible for him to follow his entrepreneurial instincts.

William needs a lot of support as he starts to become more aware of how his ASD impinges not just upon himself but upon others. Blissfully unaware for the most part of the world around him, it is important that he discovers those things that he needs to be able to manage in order to take part in the wider world – outside of his family, church community, and home education community where he is understood and supported.

This needs to be a slow and gentle process.

As always, we will continue to be guided by our children to ensure that progress is relevant, appropriate, and timely.

3 comments:

Joxy said...

Fantastic :-)

(I'll check out those websites you mention too)

I agree though I can't see DSCF accepting a report like that - they would no doubt what to know what maths, english, history, geography, science levels the children are at.

I dont' see it as the end of automonous learning as such, I think however, that we parents, will have to become creative in how we present what our children are learning; and that's shame because it misses the point of child led learning.

CiaranG said...

It doesn't sound like it's a problem in this case - perhaps even an advantage - but just for future reference regarding the issue of keyboards being all capitals, take a look at this:

Mia's keyboard

Sharon said...

Great report and your boys are all doing so well. Duncan has learnt to read and spell from his internet activities too, and both Thomas and Lady are Club Penguin fans too. It's helped Thomas improve his writing more than anything I tried to teach him!

This is such a great way for children to learn and find out their passions and skills and it's so worrying that if (when) these new laws and restrictions are passed we'll have to quash their abilities and conform.