Friday, 8 April 2016

Some of our unschooling wins!

I thought it was about time I mentioned a few recent unschooling wins!

Lily is now reading almost fluently and loving her new-found freedom. Not only is she better able to communicate with and understand the world around her, she is also brimming with a new level of confidence in her own ability to learn!

She has gone from reading simple children's bedtime stories, to young adult manga in a matter of weeks. She has revolutionised her own bedtimes in the process. She is now getting in to bed without any electronic media and she is reading (and sometimes drawing) until she feels tired. This doesn't mean we are without incident completely, every night, but it does mean it is far more manageable and that Lily is far calmer and happier.

We have talked again bedtimes as a family, but we are all agreed that they are working really well as they are and we all feel that we are benefiting from them in a positive way. This means we maintain the status quo. Yay!

Hannon and Lily get into bed at 9pm, with all electronics gone by 10pm and then reading for as long as you wish. Dominik stops gaming by 11pm and is in bed with his PS4 off by 12. He has chosen to have his tablet, as he will only read online. He is currently immersed in Undertale fan comics (more on this later).

Lily has also learnt to write by hand. This is something that has never come naturally to the boys, but Lily has taken to it like a duck to water. The boys are happier to type. Full stop. They do not have the skills at the moment to hold a pencil comfortably so typing is far quicker and feels nicer. They can both spell well and Dominik requested that I buy an Usborne book on spelling, punctuation, grammar etc. so he is actively learning some grammar! :-) Again though, Lily has picked up grammar very easily. In fact, I'm not sure we have even talked to each other about it. She may have heard me talking about it with the boys though. Either way, she rocks at punctuation! She wrote a note for my mum this week and it was simply beautiful. I will try and remember to upload a picture of it if that is ok with them. The envelope was even addressed - Beryl/Nanny - how lovely is that?

Lily has begun drawing her own little animations on her white board (her favourite and most used Christmas present by far!) almost continuously. She usually draws boys and girls and love hearts etc, but it is fabulous work.

She has been enjoying parkour and is a natural when she actually tries to be present during the lessons! Her physical abilities are extraordinary. She has also picked up some early tennis skills this week too.

I'm sure I could go on but I must tell you about the others.

Hannon has now learnt to use a second online animation programme. He is putting together little animations as well as making games. He is trying to perfect his YouTube intro at the moment. He has also made a few vlogs which seem to get more views than his gaming, much to his surprise!

Hannon has had a friend here for a sleepover this week and it went so well! There are usually a few skirmishes during a visit but this time, not one! Hannon was kind, thoughtful and generous without even a second thought. He allowed our guest to use his computer pretty much continuously whilst he was here. He said it was because his friend doesn't get to use one otherwise, as he only has gaming consoles. This made me think about how important it is that gaming consoles do not forever overshadow personal computers. We have found that having the ability to type on a keyboard makes a huge difference to communication skills and especially spelling abillity. (Google autofil is an issue though so best to turn that off!!) Lily does not have access to a keyboard and is using handwriting. I guess it just goes to show that where there is a will, there is a way.

Today Hannon typed 50 messages to Dominik during a livestream! 50 messages! He even typed one in the font 'Windings' because he thought it would be funny! He even searched for a translator to do it for him!!! Hilarious. Dominik loved it too.

Hannon likes to make and solve puzzles (they all do actually..hmmm, WE all do!) and we were gifted a 'Monster Book of Monsters' which was great for puzzle solving! If you aren't familiar with it, it is a book that featured in the Harry Potter book series that needed to be stroked in order for it to be opened. Well, this one needs a four part code to open it or it gobbles and growls at you with a cute little mouth. They all had marvellous fun setting new codes and trying to crack them! It was brilliant! Every time one of them cracked a code they would open the book, take out what was in the secret compartment, and then replace it with their own (by now) not so secret stuff and say, "This is my book now", to which I would reply, "No it isn't, it is still Hannon's.". They would then say, "But it can't be, only I know the code, so it's now mine!". How could you argue with that logic? So, the book currently belongs to the person who last set the code!

Hannon has been helping around the house completely voluntarily. He is also helping to choose meals with me every week because he is so fussy it is causing me too much stress now. He is helping me choose foods for him that he will eat. Today he ate....wait for it......KIMCHI!!! Yes, my 9 year old boy ate kimchi and asked for more when he was finished. I am so proud of him for trying it. I lived in South Korea when I was 21 and refused to even try it! He is amazing.

Ok...move on Natasha.

On to Dominik. He has been reducing his competitive gaming time gradually. He is realising what we already know and that is that he is far nicer to be around when he doesn't do it at all. I know. It truly sucks. He is gutted at the result of our experiment. I think we all are actually. We all want him to be able to play the games he adores but we have all seen that without them, he can function far easier. We think it is simply over-stimulation. He gets so agitated that he cannot manage anything else. Not even a conversation some days. He is playing fewer games and he is spending more time with me. He is also spending more time with Hannon, which Hannon loves.

He has continued with his physical exercises too and says that he hopes to return to parkour one day and to take up archery with Hannon and I. He is optimistic about the impending neuro-developmental therapy and is eager to get on with it.

What an incredible change. He is actually taking charge of his own well-being in a big way. He is embracing changes to himself like never before. I have talked to him about the possibility that his behaviour may change once he begins the therapy and he seems to understand that too. I am so proud of the leaps he is taking. He is also monitoring his diet and getting dressed and undressed at the end of each day. Not made much progress with bathing nor teeth brushing but baby steps are good.

Oh, yes! The Undertale fan comics! Dominik has begun writing Undertale (a new-ish game following on from FNAF) fan stories! It is called 'fanfiction' and he loves it! He has written at least two of his own so far. He brought one to me to read and I began talking to him about grammar and punctuation and the importance of structure for your story-telling. At first he was frustrated and cross and then he listened to me read his story without any punctuation and then again, but with some punctuation.

He immediately identified the difference and realised that his lack of 'theory of mind' was inhibiting him. He had assumed we would all read it how he does completely forgetting that we are NOT him!

Once I physically showed him what would happen to the reader, he understood immediately. Yay!

Just proves that practical, one to one support is priceless.
Especially with children who have communication difficulties.

NB - That ('communication difficulties') is NOT just a phrase for SEN advocates to bandy about! It actually means something! You must be practical in your teaching! It must be real! NOT realistic! It cannot be learnt via a make believe story, at least not to any real depth of understanding in my humble opinion. It MUST happen TO THEM. Not AT THEM. I am speaking from experience!

Domink has been taking strides I was unsure I would see.

And I suppose I should include Harriet?

Oh, ok then.

She is still, completely lovely. Today we had a baby visitor and she simply hugged and kissed him, and hugged and kissed him for about the first ten minutes of his visit. She just wanted to love him. It was quite obsessive and she was doing it with no prompting at all. It was beautiful. She's an empath of the highest order! You could see him visibly start to relax even in this new, strange, noisy environment. He left his mum without a glance and began smiling and playing happily as soon as she was done.

She is also walking! Yay! Oh man, she took a few steps in the week before Easter weekend and then on Easter Sunday she just walked! Over 50% of that day, she was on her feet. She was so proud and excited that she had finally got the hang of it! She is now only walking. Within two weeks she has gone from crawling to only walking. The downside is that she now does not want to go to sleep. Ever!! It is tiring me out a little but, meh, it'll pass and she is so happy I don't care! Today we went for a little walk to the end of the road and last week she walked around her first park, choosing her rides and her explorations. Harriet is truly content and happy with her life right now.

Her comprehension is excellent. There are very few daily routines that she doesn't comprehend now. She can communicate what she wants very effectively too. She rarely screams for attention but she does 'tantrum' if she doesn't get her way. I am hoping this will get better when she truly understands that I will let her do anything that does not pose a significant risk to her or us (or the cat)!

Harriet is a blessing as I always knew she would be. There is no love like the love from Harriet.

Ok, that's enough.

I'm exhausted and I want to snuggle with everyone before they get to sleep!

Love to you all from our unschooling bubble.

N x

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