At the moment everyone is ‘home schooling’.

I have three children and they are all educated in very different ways.

My eldest daughter Scarlett has, up until lockdown, been attending a local college where she has been studying for her A Levels. Since college closed she has been advised that she will not be required to participate in any more work and that she will not be required to sit exams in the summer. The Government website for the Department of Education has provided guidelines for how they will provide pupils with their grades and this will be through assessment of work throughout the course from her teachers and then the teachers will be asked to grade the pupils in ranking according to how likely they were to have been to obtain that grade https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-details-on-exams-and-grades-announced all pretty scary stuff. I think she would have preferred to have sat the exams and at least felt that she still held some control over the situation. Whilst she is not required to complete any extra work she has decided to immerse herself in one last project that the teacher has set as an optional. I have read it and it is pretty impressive.

She is impressive, she has worked hard from the very start of her A levels, and has recently been accepted to study law at all five of her university choices, these included three Russell Groups https://russellgroup.ac.uk/. She isn’t studious, it does not come easy for her, but she puts her head down and gets stuck in. I am very proud of her.

Bonnie has been home educated for the last four years. Now as some of you will have currently been introduced to the world of home schooling I do have to point out that it is not the same. Normally we can go and visit art galleries or museums or at least pop to the local art shop to browse the colours whilst Bonnie decides what she needs for her next master piece. We do not normally have an armful of celebrities offering free access to websites, we do not normally have my husband around as much to provide a break for me, we do not normally have Joe Wicks jumping up and down encouraging us all to get the day started. The point is that it is a lot tougher for us both than you would think.

The flip side is that Bonnie does have more company at the moment; on the whole this has been a good thing. Her sisters have more time for her and it is great to hear them all giggling over something that they have seen on the internet, probably at someone else’s expense.

Whilst on a trip to Cornwall last summer she discovered a book at the cottage that we were staying at and has finally managed to get my husband to contact the owner and obtain the title of the book. The book has arrived and she has started it, she is awesome this book is far too complex for me https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parallel-Worlds-Science-Alternative-Universes/dp/0141014636 .

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That leaves me with my youngest Lizzie. She attends a private school, and her days are very long and very structured. They include a lot of physical exercise and a great deal of enthusiasm is required. Her days since lockdown are still very structured and still very long. I marvel each day at how she gets up logs on and keeps going and going and going, her resilience and positive attitude inspire me.

Technology has been amazing in providing her with online lessons in which she can interact with her teacher and classmates, it’s not the same but it definitely has kept her learning on track and ensured that she has not fallen behind. It has also given me a chance to see how amazing she is at certain subjects that she says she “hates”, I now see that it is a lack of confidence and not an issue with understanding the subject. One thing that I am sure of is that this is not the same as home schooling, this is home learning, it is very different.

In conclusion it would seem that they are all coping very well indeed to their different learning situations, but before I go I have to say something. Whilst the learning is going well I am really upset for them. I am upset that Lizzie turned double digits this week and could not have a birthday party, I am upset that Bonnie cannot get her ‘teacher’ back one to one and I am upset that Scarlett will not be able to feel those mix of emotions as she walks down the corridor and out the doors of college for one last time.

I am me and you are you!

Sometimes you ponder and think and turn things around in your head that you just cannot explain in words. I have been doing that for sometime now, wondering how to write this blog and if it would make any sense. I’m still not sure that it does, but then again hopefully someone will understand what it is that I am trying to explain and the questions that I am asking.

For me, I sometimes let my brain think too much and then I get stuck on a thought process that literally just blows my brain. For example: Death, I just don’t get it. I understand it from a religious aspect, from a practical point of view but what I can’t complete in my thought process is just what happens to me? Where do my thoughts go? I’m someone who likes hard factual proof and with death we just don’t have that.

At the moment what I am searching for is the answer to “what is different about myself and my daughter Bonnie?”. I am aware that many autistic people do not like the labels of autism, normal, etc and this blog is not meant to cause offence to anyone in anyway and I appreciate that some of my terminology may seem insensitive but please stick with me and if possible provide as many comments as you can.

You see I had recently read the book The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder’ by Sarah J Harris. The book is about a fictional murder and how an autistic teenage boy, Jasper, is caught up in the situation. It talks about how he develops friendships, some of which could be viewed as inappropriate and how he expresses his emotions through his art work. The most interesting factor for me though was that he suffers from synesthesia, which means that when he hears sounds he sees them as colours, below is a link which describes the condition in a much more detailed way if you are interested  https://www.livescience.com/60707-what-is-synesthesia.html Jasper also has problems recognising faces and so when trying to piece together the events that lead to the death of Bee Larkham you can understand the complexities involved. https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008256371/the-colour-of-bee-larkhams-murder/

Allow yourself to get into the mind of Jasper

This started me wondering what things that my daughter feels and understands as normal for her but that generally in society we would not have not considered. It’s a little bit like someone being born with something that causes them physical pain and that that pain stays with them for life, but because they do not know a life without the pain they do not know any other life. How many things does Bonnie have to deal with that we do not even know about and how much is she aware that the rest of us do not have those complexities to deal with.

Recently she said to me “Can you feel the moisture in the air?” So we had a discussion about the moisture in the air. It turns out that she can smell the change in temperature without even going outside. Now I wonder how many others also experience this sense and how it makes them feel. My Bonnie really struggles when it is cold and not a sunny day, we have lots of those where we live, and so is it an inbuilt sense to help her adjust ? For me I too could tell that the temperature had changed because when I went outside I used the senses of sight, I could see that the sun was going down and the sense of feeling because my body felt colder but I did not smell moisture in the air.

So how many more areas are there like this in her life that I fail to understand? How will I ever understand them because they are not even something that I have ever though about. For me the only way to do this is to talk, and then keep on talking. Initially when she would talk to me about how fatigued she became I would say, “well I’m tired too”, but then over time after talking about this I now understand that my tiredness is nothing in comparison to hers. I am aware from talking to other autistic people that some count the leaves on trees whilst taking a country walk. That some people deal with busy cities by imagining that the people around them are in fact trees, because this helps them cope with the sensory issues.

I am very much aware that Bonnie is Bonnie, in the same way that I am Kate and that we are all very different in life. I don’t want people to judge her for her autism, I want them to accept that she may not conform to what they judge as conventional but that if they spoke to her they would see the amazing abilities that she possesses. Her intelligence cannot be recorded in the same way that other children her age are tested because her understanding of the world is unconventional, not weird or odd or strange but just different. Maybe if we all stepped out of our boxes and took time to see what is around us then we may learn some of these different approaches to life and the world may be a better place.