Category: Education

A Struggle A Head (by )

Last night we had our worst parents evening yet... it was pretty much as we expected. Mary is lovely, bright, mischievous and struggling except in maths. She loves outdoor learning and has brilliant comprehension levels when things are read out to her.

The school have her as a focus kid for reading but due to cut backs and things they no longer have the teaching assistants and can't give her anymore without depriving the other kids. We are reading with her at home though I don't think the school actually believes that. We've had to stop Jean pointing out what books she was reading at the same age - our not so small little bookworm is struggling with just how different her sister is to her.

Mary also throws her books at me and gets in a rage and informs me that she has no homework and hides her spelling sheets.

She is 7 yrs old and the gap between her and her peers is starting to widen - this is where the self confidence drop could happen and it has taken us ages to get her settled in school because she is a high energy bouncy child. Also stupid bloody SATS is coming and the emphasis on exams and results and testing testing testing is there and it makes me so angry (with the system not the school).

Mary is often giving up her playtime to read - she gets distressed when I tell her at home that she should play in the garden why it is light before homework because she feels the pressure of it but again she is miss bounce so she needs to get ride of all that physical fizz in order to sit and focus. Neither me nor the teacher think giving up playtime is good as it's soul destroying - I was that child sat inside yearning to play.

I look at some of her work and I can't work out what is needed - I don't know what an imperative is... I have a degree from one of the best universities in THE WORLD. Does she really need to know that now? Wouldn't just getting her writing clearly and coherently be best? The curriculum is stifling.

Again the teacher suggested we do bedtime reading with her were we read to her but we already do that - or rather Al does that - due to the head injury I couldn't and so I tend to tell her stories. It's not every night because sometimes it gets too late but it is most nights.

I don't know how to help - she won't sit down to do the booklets like Jean did, she is not a bookworm though she is thirsty for knowledge though she has come to like books in a way that she hasn't before recently - I set up the indoor "fire circle" for stories and had some spoken/improvised and some read out stories over Christmas and we go to the library once a month to fortnightly where she spends ages with the picture books (yes the ones for toddlers). Sometimes she reads them to us, sometimes she makes stories up from the pictures - I was still doing this at 10 yrs of age - I couldn't read properly until I was 12 and already in secondary school and the social implications of that are... not nice.

But I am at a loss as to what to do? Teacher friends and family - suggests are appreciated.

Her teacher suggested that we get up earlier and doo reading then - but we are a) not morning people any of us and b) we already get up at 6 and Al is often struggling with tiredness so to be honest I think earlier mornings would probably make it unsafe for him to drive - Mary often has to have a run around before school and goes to breakfast club not for breakfast but so she can be brighter and more with it at school.

She has never been able to drink or eat cow milk so it's not like I can cut that out and I know that is something that often improves things for kids in her situation.

In her written work both numerical and letter based there are reversals and transportations and not just in one axis - there are Ps where there should be ds and her numbers are often mirror images.

I've asked the school to look into dyslexia - I have dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia where the dyslexia is extremely bad. She is still considered a bit young for the tests and things as dyslexic tendencies are thought to only become properly differentiated from general childhood learning mistakes etc... after 8 years of age - I am worried that the damage will already be done if we wait until 8. The school are being very supportive including Mary's odd take on clothing she will and will not wear :/

I debated about blogging this - but part of the problem with these situations is that they get hidden - I know people worry that it could harm a Childs future employability if this sort of thing is shared but really that comes down to something that needs to be drastically changed in our society. If just the suggestion that someone might have had learning difficulties is enough to stop them getting a job then this country really needs to look at itself. And if she does have dyslexia then hopefully she can be supported through the education system - though with the current government I am doubtful of how long there will be support for.

The biggest problem for kids with learning difficulties like this is the confidence crash - this is something I really really hope to avoid but she is in many ways a very shy child anyway. Being dyslexic myself I find it really hard to help her - I can't tell her how to spell a lot of things and we end up looking things up in the dictionary. I have already introduced Scrabble which was a big thing for me with spelling and we are still using the board that my nan gave me. She loves the game - I think she might actually have won the last family game - destroying Al's theory that I always win it. I've given her my little spell check machine that my cousin Ivan gave me when I was doing my GCSE's to help - it has some spelling games and things on it too. But again these are things I have already done - what else is there?

On the plus side she spent her last round of pocket money on an actual chapter book which she has been "reading" in bed - it's a sparkly kitten type book and is actually quiet thick - there are some pictures in it at the beginnings of chapters and things. I hope that the love and want of books will work the same magic on her as it did for me - she is a very clever little engineer and loves puzzles and designing and drawing and is always winning things for her ballet.

SmashFest Photos (by )

Back in the autumn we took part in SmashFest Earth and Sky Tour when it came to Gloucester Library. It was an amazing day with lots and lots of people - so many that I we began to run out of our Space Craft supplies so that was more than I typically get through at a whole weekend of music festival!

As Cuddly Science we had a fantastic time and my new asteroid impact simulator went down very well as did the paper mâché volcanoes!

Here is the SmashFest Flickr account with some cute pics of Mary etc... hidden in and amongst it all and maybe the rest of us as well 🙂 Mary had her rainbow coat.

Working Things Out (by )

Cuddly Science is about the kids engaging and discovering things for themselves - sometimes this leads to "off topic" discovers such as how the magnetism of the earth works when the workshop was about looking at the rocks with the hand lens attached to the compass! These are the best moments though when the child is fully engaged and working things out for themselves and asking questions!

Working out how the world works with Cuddly Science

Plus this is a super cute picture of Mary 🙂 But in all seriousness one of the things I came up against time and again is restricted learning - to keep children focused on the "task in hand" for box ticking rather than it being about the learning process. This is one of the reasons I am sticking to informal education rather than formal - my brain doesn't work like that and though will agree that children including those with ADHD need help to learn to focus often I feel it is detrimental.

I love these moments when the child falls down the rabbit whole of enquiry and you can see their brains actually working things out for themselves - it is AMAZING!

Mad but Lovely Times! (by )

Things have been pretty mad here! There have been Science Festivals, poetry festival, scare acting and a whole host of other things! Last week saw SMASHfest at Gloucester Library which was super super amazing and Cuddly Science had a fab time.

The Wiggly Pet Press launched the Gloucester Poetry Societies first book Poetry without Pretension at the The Gloucester Poetry Festival and Salaric Art and Craft have been out and about doing Upcycling projects and drawing like fiends!

And of course all three of those things are me plus the acting! This last week alone saw me filmed for TV, interviewed for radio and though I wasn't in the photo Cuddly Science was photographed for the newspaper. I have so many photos and things to share and November is looking pretty exciting too with more acting, Christmas craft workshops, archaeology digs, singing, Diversity, literature and poetry Festivals, craft fayres, community outreach and museum gigs! I am no longer taking bookings for 2017 sorry about that but I really am full!

And that's without all the domestic stuff like my hospital appointments and halloween/fireworks events for kids etc... not to mention Nanowrimo and stuff.

Kitten Technologies and OhBot Supporting Ada Lovelace Day (by )

Robo Rob part of the programming board game designed for Cuddly Science

Really wonderful news, the Cuddly Science event Ada Lovelace's Coding Time at the Museum of Gloucester on Saturday 14th Oct 2017 is not only having a wonderful OhBot Robot but also Simple Graphics by Kitten Technologies 😀

Kitten Technologies

This event is aimed at kids and is ticketed at £5 per child, there is puppet story telling, colouring in sheets, Robo Robs Jobs the board game as well as the OhBot programmable robot head and the simple graphics programme. I am very excited about how this event is shaping up 🙂

Oh Bot programmable robot head at the Cheltenham Fun Palace 2017

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