Budding Graphic Designer!

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.

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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!

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This. Exactly this.

 

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.

“My brain might be different from yours, but it’s still amazing!”



I want to share this video here because it hits the nail on the head; these kids say it better than I ever could. This is Buzz through and through and is one of the main reasons I took him out of school, although since homeschooling I see it for myself so much more clearly. It is truly amazing to see his brain working so effectively and quickly and enthusiastically when he is allowed to move and fidget and stim as much as he likes. It fascinates me because it is not what I’m like at all. I can fully understand why all that movement and noise can be mistaken as him not focussing and not concentrating on what he’s doing, and I can understand why it would distract other children in a classroom setting.

The more I homeschool, the more I realise that this is exactly what Buzz needs, and that makes me so excited and relieved and certain of our decision. When we made the decision we were far from certain that it was the right one, but Buzz was struggling more and more with school so we had to give it a shot. Now that we’re doing it I see that homeschooling is the only way Buzz will be able to reach his potential, enjoy learning to the full (which he really does), and keep his stress levels to a minimum. I am beginning to understand why he came home from school and completely broke down, because he had been trying too hard all day long just to be the person school needed him to be, and that was before even trying to do any work. Just as the girl in this video said:

“It makes me feel sad when you tell me to try harder even though I’ve already tried as hard as I can.”

Quotes taken from the http://www.facebook.com/Upworthy/videos/1125589414148582

It’s School Jim But Not As We Know It

10th September 2015: Today was one of those days where homeschooling really came into it’s own. Such a lovely day.

A common misconception is that homeschooling is doing school at home. That you have to meticulously plan six hours of school for each day. That you have to make your child/children do exactly what you have planned at exactly the time you have planned. I had that misconception myself. However, it is nothing like that. I guess I shouldn’t call it homeschooling. Home Education might be better, but actually it’s just living life.

If you put it into ‘school’ terms we spent the day doing literacy, numeracy, science, geography, humanities, computer science, home economics, music, and more. And yet there was no planning involved whatsoever, and there was no set timetable.

The day started with Buzz eating All Bran and asking what it was. Recently we had a long chat with a lovely older man who works in a horse supply shop, who we had previously met at Polegate Windmill (which he and his wife help to look after in their spare time). He told Buzz all about the process of ‘harvesting’ flour. So I asked Buzz to think about what the man had told him, and helped him to remember the answer to his question himself. We wondered why cakes are always made with white flour, and not wholemeal flour or bran [science – tick]. We decided to find out if cakes could be made with bran, so we looked up some recipes on my phone. Buzz found a carrot cake recipe using All Bran and wholemeal flour that he liked the look of and asked to make it [computer science – tick].

We went and had a look around the kitchen to see if we had all the ingredients. We had everything apart from the mixed spice. So again we looked up online to see what was needed for mixed spice. Buzz helped to measure out the spices and grind down the coriander and cloves. We both now know what spices are used in mixed spice [random lesson – tick!]

The cake recipe needed six carrots. Buzz has never actually peeled veg before. Grating yes, but not peeling (we have a very sharp peeler!). So I showed him how to use our peeler and he started peeling carrots. It was very slow going for him, and I fully expected him to give up after five minutes. He spent half an hour peeling the six carrots, without a single hint of frustration, boredom or distraction [fine motor skills – tick; patience and determination paying off – tick!]

As he peeled them I was adding them to the cake mix, and weighing each lot separately. There had been three lots, so three different weights. And we had the total weight required. Buzz had a pile of peeled carrot and I said we need to work out how much of it had to go into the mix. I gave him paper and pencil and he happily took up the task. Since he had been the one choosing to make the cake, and peeling all the carrot, he was happy to do these calculations. He added up the three amounts together so we knew how much carrot was already in the mix (using two different ways of adding). He then had to subtract that from the total amount required to work out how much still needed to go in. Obviously I make sure he’s using his own initiative to work out the process, rather than just being told to do a bunch of sums [20 minutes of numeracy – tick].

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We finished the cake and put it in the oven, and when it was ready we took a piece each and sat in the lounge to eat it. Buzz got out one of his birthday present books, which had fun quizzes in it. He started to read it out to me, questions and answers, so I asked him to let me try to work out the answers. He covered the answers so that he could also try to work out the answers. We did this for a good 45 minutes, with him reading aloud the whole time [literacy – tick]. Topics covered included national emblems relating to different countries, and traditional foods eaten in different countries. We talked around the topics and I told Buzz about what I had eaten in countries I had been to and asked him to think about traditional foods for England, Scotland and Wales (the only countries he’s been to!) [geography and humanities – tick]. ­­­

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Lastly, Buzz keeps forgetting to wash his hands with soap when he’s supposed to. Instead of having him write “I will wash my hands with soap” one hundred times (I’d never do that!) I asked him to make up a rhyming song about washing his hands while I made signs to remind him. He was amused and enthusiastic about his disciplining! And he has learned to remember to use soap [music and more literacy – tick].

During Buzz’s last few months at school he was very easily distracted and distracting for other children, he struggled to focus, he fiddled with things a lot, he was restless, he couldn’t sit still, he rarely finished his work, and was often kept behind during break to finish work. I’ve seen all this myself, focus can be a huge issue for him, and it is very frustrating to watch him struggle. However, days like today show a completely different child: incredible single mindedness, focus, enthusiasm, determination and patience. It is so rewarding and exciting to see him like this and really encourages me that homeschooling is the right way forward. It’s a big learning process for both of us!

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Mario & Friends Pizza Party (De-Schooling)

Mario characters + pizza = fractions…. of course!! Buzz loved this. I wish I could always put this much effort into numeracy!
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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.