I’m so proud of Buzz today. I’ve been teaching myself to use Inkscape, a free opensource design programme. I decided it would be really useful for Buzz to learn to use it too, it could potentially open many doors in the future. As well as this, he is very creative but in a mathmatical way. He’s never been into colouring or drawing, but he loves drawing diagrams, and if he does draw a picture it has to be very precise and scientific. For example, the other day I drew a sun, you know, that typical way most people draw a sun – a round ball with lines coming out all around. He said “that’s not what a sun looks like” and proceeded to correct my drawing with a non-spiked sun with red heat spots and solar flares!
So I felt that working with vector images on a design programme might be just his cup of tea when it comes to creativity. And it turns out I was right! I spent a few minutes showing him some of the basics, then left him to have a play. Half an hour later I encouraged him to choose a youtube tutorial to work on. I’ve been using Nick Saporito‘s channel, his tutorials are excellent. Buzz chose to create this Heartbeat Design Vector. It may not look like much at first glance, but if you start watching the video you’ll realise there’s so much more to it than first meets the eye! I really didn’t believe he’d cope with it, in terms of the focus and time needed to see it through – it’s a 13 minute video (which we have to pause and rewind a lot to follow the instructions) and is created for adults or older kids, not young children. However, I was completely wrong.
Buzz grasped the concept and the language so quickly, quicker than I had! He’d hear something once and then remember it. Or Nick would say something that wouldn’t have made sense to me if I hadn’t worked through some basic tutorials, but Buzz seemed to understand it, as if it was a language he has always known. It took about 2 hours, a he loved doing it too. He was so proud of himself, and this is really important. He struggles a huge amount in some areas, and can get very upset and cross at himself (and us!) if he can’t get something right. The world is black and white to him, and if it’s not right then it’s wrong and bad, there’s very little room for middle ground. It’s exhausting for him and for us (as it was for school) to work in the areas that don’t come naturally to him, so I’m super excited to have found another area of strength and enjoyment!
I suggested we write a poem as Buzz always comes out with very poetic sounding phrases, but he suggested we write tongue twisters instead. Homeschooling is mostly Buzz-led so that’s what we did. Here they are. Some written by Buzz, some by me. Let us know which was the hardest to repeat over and over as we’re having a competition between us!
Ali asks Alan about antelopes and anteaters.
Busy buzzy Barnabas bakes bread beautifully.
Can cows count cantankerous crickets?
Does Darren dance delightfully?
Elephants eat elderberries early in England.
Gorgeous guineas graze on grass gratefully.
Lily lies laughing like Little Lola.
Silly Sam sings silly songs on sunny Saturdays.
Timmy titters to tiny turtles.
We only intended to make a little broken pot garden (pot got broken in the latest wind storm, but nothing is trash in this household!), but we got carried away and made three little gardens: a broken pot cascading garden, a hanging basket, and a little miniature village. The bare patch on the village has grass seeds, we will be making it into a little playground on a lawn.
I have just been in tears watching this video because I’ve never seen or read anything that explains, shows and describes the way Buzz struggles that is quite so spot-on.
THIS is why I home school. THIS is why I couldn’t go to post-natal groups and toddler groups. THIS is why we join in outdoors activities but avoid indoor activities. THIS is the struggle that goes un-noticed as my son holds on to his feelings, his anxieties, his panic, his fear, his over-excitement, his over-stimulation, as he works so hard to keep himself together and hide his struggles…. THIS is why he comes through the front door into his ‘safe zone’ and breaks down into an inconsolable wreck of utter physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.
THIS is high functioning autism. The kind of autism that so often goes unnoticed because the kids are aware enough to know there is a certain etiquette to which they must adhere, but struggle enough that having to adhere to it is overwhelming. The kind of autism that results in so many HF-ASD kids being misunderstood, unsupported, and often, ultimately, homeschooled. The kind of autism that has parents being judged as not giving their children the appropriate discipline when in fact they have more and clearer boundaries in place than any other parent they know. The kind of autism that results in kids being told they are naughty when in fact they are terrified to over-step the boundaries; to be punished. The kind of autism that the parents hardly ever talk about, but think about non-stop as they analyse every possible scenario within every situation and take endless measures and steps on a minute-by-minute basis to avoid this kind of physical, mental and emotional overload.
But… this is also the child who hears every bird singing… “I heard a blackbird over there, and a robin over there.” This is also the child who cries emotional tears when they feel the warmth of the first Spring day on their face. This is also the child who will see the tiny speck of a buzzard high in the sky that everyone else takes an age to pinpoint! This is also the child who will notice the most vulnerable person in the room, and will make sure they know they have a friend in him.
THIS is my perfect, beautiful son.
It’s always fun when family come to visit, especially when the sun is shining!
We’ve been trying out Buzz with various clubs, something he couldn’t do when he was at school because he was always so exhausted and stressed after school. It’s been really helpful to give him the opportunity to be more physically active and for him to discover his interests. We started with quite a few clubs, Capeoira being one of them, at Grupo Muzenza.
Capeoira is a Brazilian art form of fight, dance, rhythm and movement, and is a lot of fun, but we didn’t continue with it as it was too late in the day for us to manage. I thoroughly recommend it though, particularly for kids who need to let off some steam.
Mario characters + pizza = fractions…. of course!! Buzz loved this. I wish I could always put this much effort into numeracy!
We are actually de-schooling at the moment, which is a period of time at the start of home-schooling taken to get school out of the system so that you can start afresh and work out your own teaching/learning style. Call it a sabbatical if you like! If you jump straight into doing school at home it doesn’t really work too well and the kids come to resent homeschooling. Homeschooling isn’t school at home, because we have so much more freedom and choice and flexibility; we can be a lot more practical; so we need to take the time to work into it gently and find what works for us. And Buzz needs time to rediscover himself.
Something we have noticed since Buzz finished school is that he has re-learned how to play for a long period of time. School is so busy, moving from one activity to the next so that teachers can fit in all aspects of the National Curriculum required, that Buzz was losing his ability to fully engage in an activity and keep his focus on it. He is now regaining this ability and getting into the swing of taking life more slowly. It’s been a difficult time to be honest, as if Buzz is going through some kind of detox, but we are coming out the other end now and finding our feet. I can absolutely understand why de-schooling is so important.
Saying this, Barnabas enjoyed school and enjoys learning. He also thrives on having structure. So we are incorporating some numeracy work into our weekly schedule, be it a fun and practical activity like this, or just 2 to 5 minutes from a workbook.