This blog is no longer kept.

Friday, June 29, 2007

End of Term Excursion: Aboriginal Culture

We went walkabout for a week. To complete this term's study on the geography and cultural melting pot of Australia and Aboriginal Art, we took a week long camping trip to Cape York Peninsula.

The Laura Dance Festival was the pinnacle focus of the trip and neither Boy, Step-father or I were disappointed. Some photos appear below but also check out my info article over at Imaginif: The Culture of Dancing Corroboree for Child Safety.

Whereas Boy has previously visited Split Rock at Laura, my attendance (and a handy tour guide book) ensured a degree of Rock Art painting, culture and myth appreciation. Boy has grown up around Indigenous Australian culture, has heard the words, the language, and knows some of the myths (Quinkins are a favourite in our family), but he had no deeper appreciation than knowing that bread from the bakery can be bought sliced or whole.

Imjim Quinkan - A malevolent spirit. Still very feared.

The story has it that the Quinkan bounces across the rocks on his long knobbed penis. OUCH! The women who married Quinkans are portrayed with breasts that stick out sideways. The breasts were also used for bouncing across rocks.

These Aboriginal Rock paintings and etchings (top pic with Boy) below are approximately 50,000 years old.

1) Woman, Quinkan, Echidna. 2) Flying Foxes (staple tucker [food]). 3) Woman, Red Dingo, Quinkan

Tall Spirit
(they like to hide behind tall Gum trees and can be hard to see)

Another focal point at the Dance festival was meeting up with my foster brother - Joseph McIvor: a celebrated Aboriginal artist, who lived with my family in Cooktown and Cairns during his high school years. Joseph was my brother's best mate and they were always together. It seemed logical that Joseph just live with us and have the opportunity to extend his art through training and access to resources that he may not have otherwise been able to gain access to. Joseph held a Didgeridoo making stall at the Laura Dance Festival and Boy got right into the making of a Didj (pictured).

Boy with his completed Didgeridoo and Joseph McIvor.

Following our attendance at the Laura Dance festival, we spent 3 days in Cooktown, a place I lived as a teenager and young first time mother. The weather was miserable and freezing (by Far North Queensland standards) but Boy's highlight was the abundance of Wallabies around our cabin. The following photo's are of wild wallabies - not zoo tamed creatures.

We are currently on school holidays and Boy refuses to raise any blogs on what he learnt on his camping trip to Laura and Cooktown. Guess how our new school term will be beginning then!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Search and Destroy Spelling Bee Mission Achieved.

Today is the 12 month anniversary of a particularly traumatic event in Boy's life. As a result of the trauma, it is also the anniversary of the last time he had contact or conversation with his biological father. Is it any wonder that Boy has been experiencing an over stimulus of emotions and meltdowns leading up to anniversary day!

Although not the last day of attending traditional school, it is a significant day of what school means. The traumatic experience partially occurred at school and goes a long way to explaining why Boy rejects institutionalised learning. Therefore, to honour having made it to a year of forward growth, we are going out to morning tea at a gourmet tea and chocolate shop and step father is taking Boy to EB Games to purchase a new PS2 game.

But, ever on the lookout for that teachable moment and possibility to manipulate some learning material, I carried through on yesterday's Spelling Bee. Boy happily chose 10 "B" words and hid them (all together - he didn't want to hide them in 10 different places) to give them a spell in a place that starts with "B".

We had a quick tally of Aussie related "B" words and Boy came up with quite a few that I had not considered: barbeque and beer were Boy's favourites and he reckons that the words will be said by nightfall and he'll get to test our spelling of the list currently having a spell. Funniest thing is though, as I was processing the list, I spelt one of the words wrong!!!!! This is going to be a hoot when Boy catches us saying an Aussiecentric "B" word and tests our spelling of his compiled list. Like a radar searching for enemy planes, Boy is on a search and destroy mission to catch us saying one of the discussed words.

I am glad to report no meltdowns or anxiety and that Boy had a decent nights sleep. I on the other hand am now aware of why I coped so poorly yesterday. I have a very sore throat, ear ache and headache. I am grateful that the most stressful thing on my plate today will be choosing which hand made gourmet treat to choose. Chocolate. soothes many life difficulties!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Spelling Bee

Think of every swear word that starts with B. That's how our school day ended.

"What's for school today Mum?"

"We're going to finish your origami fish, do some Australian spelling and a
Kinetic Math and English unit."

We managed the origami fish okay (well, Boy did. I could not understand the instructions at all!!!). Spelling though: B**!!"""___!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a beautiful hook in to a melt down.

We're studying Australian culture. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to include some Aussiecentric words. Did he carry on!

"Those aren't Grade Six words. I'm not learning high school words. What, do you think I've got a photographic memory! You're stupid, you're a bitch," etc, etc, etc.

This is the spelling result:

Aboriginal - Abarikanl
Indigenous - Indichaness
Culture - colcher
Barramundi - Baramundy
Australia - Austalya
Southern Cross - Southen Cross
Rock Painting - Rock Painting
Kangaroo - Kangkaroo
Campfire - Campfire
Koala - Cawla

While I can accept that Boy spelt some of the words phonetically, I was shocked at how his anger appeared to block his ability to sound some of the words out. Boy knew he couldn't spell the words but used his anger as a smoke screen - a way to divert my attention and give up on the spelling exercise. I persevered and stayed calm during the barrage of abuse hurled at me.

Kinetic Math and English though: Oh dear!!!!! I confiscated Boy's lap top as a result of the school refusal. Step father saved the day though. He and Boy are great mates and when Boy calmed down he went to step father to apologise and discuss what had just happened.

Step father backed my confiscating action up. Boy knew that he could get around neither of us so finally agreed to do a Kinetic Math and English unit, but with step father.

It's now hours post the incident and I am still smarting. I know it's a passing thought yet today I have wondered why I home school. Why do I put myself through this? Why do I insist on my son being educated?

I home school my child because his anger tantrums and Asperger meltdowns do upset other people. His anger and excellent articulation of a range of put downs do block teachers ability to stay learning focused with Boy. His meltdowns are a result of his disability, not because he is a naughty little boy and our decision to home school was based on taking the stress off Boy and enticing him with knowledge that does not look educationally institualised.

Bxxxx##**! It was me who buggered up - AGAIN. I tried to make Boy do what I thought was the best thing for him. I disempowered him by expecting him to be like children without Aspergers. I became too teacher orientated and forgot that we value natural learning, as far removed from instutionalised curricula as possible.

Tomorrow we'll have a spelling bee. I will allow Boy to pick ten words that start with B. I'll write them on slips of paper and ask him to give them a spell - a rest. He will have to hide the B words in things that start with "B" (bureau, biscuit tin, bathroom, etc). The next time he hears either myself or step father say an Aussiecentric word that starts with B, Boy's task will be to find his list of hidden "B" words and to test both step father and I. If we wrongly spell any of the words, Boy can pick another ten B words for us to spell.

I will make a spelling mistake on purpose. I will do whatever I have to to help Boy learn how to spell. Boy has Aspergers, I do not. It is my job as his home educator to educate him, not further reinforce his hatred of anything that looks like school.

And right now....Boy and step father are playing Monopoly. We figured that this was a nice way for Boy to have some additional Math learning without us having to suffer the trauma of another meltdown. Beautiful.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Employment Opportunity for Boy with Aspergers

Boy has been offered money in return for making clay figures that represent emotions. He is a dab hand at the clay work - one of his strengths. Step-father and I were proudly showing off Boy's clay figurines to a colleague of mine and she immediately offered Boy money in return for making her a bag full of symbols that somehow express a range of emotions.

A sandplay therapist, my colleague stated she struggled to find symbols with faces on - not the normal happy, angry or sad faces readily available on cheap children's toys, but faces that capture the range of human emotion - curiosity, grief, anxiety, etc. One of her students had made some faces out of clay but they were now broken, stolen or worn. It was time to replace her feeling symbols and in Boy's clay work she recognised an opportunity.

The cottage industry started during this mornings home school. Boy has been requesting arts and crafts so I pulled out the Sculpey clay and informed Boy of my colleague's offer. Boy heard "money" and jumped at the chance.

During his eagerness Boy made things that he wanted to make. While I sat beside him and calmly moulded clay, I attempted to inform Boy that this was a contract that meant he had to make what the client wanted: symbols that expressed a range of emotions.

Bad move! What an argument we had and I bought into his Aspergers melt down and insults toward me. I'm an idiot, I know nothing, how would I know what kids like, etc, etc. It went on for 45 minutes. I was so angry that I yelled at Boy: "Stop acting like an Aspergers person." Oh good one Megan! He is a kid with Aspergers.

Despite the toxicity and heightened emotion of our today's home school, we did manage to produce a few emotion symbols (pictured). I think he modelled the angry and scary ones on my face!!!! We have now made up and resolved to start afresh tomorrow. He stated that when I was naming all the emotions his head got jumbled up and he started to melt down. Good learning for me here. Tomorrow I will simply allow Boy to check his emotions against the "feeling faces" poster we have on the wall.

This is Boy's employment opportunity - his cottage industry. I will keep my emotion and professional knowledge out of this and allow Boy to experience the exchange of cash for goods and services for himself.

And...I've given up smoking today. This is not the best day to do anything stress provoking!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Message from a Home Schooled Boy in Australia

As part of Boy's socialisation skills we are helping him to reach out and make new friends. Given Boy's Aspergic tendencies toward computer obsession we have created a safe section for him to hang out in, in our child protection website. I just about live on the site but Boy is bored with chatting to me!

If your home school child is up for making some new friends in a safe and moderated forum environment, then please consider joining the site and helping to foster social understanding between international home schoolers.

The section for kids is private. It does not become visible until a person registers in the site. I have the police doing their regular internet patrols and I immediately ban pornography spammers and delete accounts of any other spammers. It is as safe as I could make it. To date, we have had no spam in the kid section.

Message from Boy below (how great is this that I am getting him to write!):

Hi all,

I'm boy and I would like you to join the k.h.k. (kids helping kids forum) in my mum's website.

The k.h.k. is about kids talking about stuff, like what they like and stuff they do. No swearing is allowed and creeps get kicked out. To enter the kids section, you have to be a member and Mum can ban your computer if you are a trouble maker. You should hear Mum go off when someone puts bad stuff on the site!

This is like the modern way of having pen-pals. It is safe, fun and cool and counts as home school learning about technology.

It is only for kids aged 10-18 and your parents have to know about it because they have to help join you up.

Thanks, Boy

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Australia's First Nation People are called Aboriginies

Article by Boy, age 11

The Australian Aboriginie has been here for more than 60,000 years. When white people came to Australia they killed many Aboriginal people and they herded the rest into groups and made them work for white man.

I live in an area where there are lots of Aboriginal people (Far North Queensland). They are nice. Their skin can be balck, brown, tan or even like a bit sun tanned but not too much.

Aboriginal people live in houses like you and I live in but they love the land more than we do. Their country is very important to them. Where a person is born and where their family comes from is something that means important stuff to Aboriginies. If they are born in the rainforest they may have a rainforest bird or animal as their totem. If they are born in the dessert then they have a dessert totem.

A lot of tourists have the wrong information about Australian Aboriginal people. They only see the bad stuff on the news but there is also lots of bad stuff on the news about us white fellas. Mum said that someone told her that all Aboriginal people abuse their kids. Mum nearly had a heart attack and set them straight. Most Aboriginal people love their kids and try hard to protect them.

Aboriginal painting is pretty neat. They paint with lots of dots and colours made from mixing sand and ground up stone. Their colours represent the earth and other natural stuff like water, sky and grass.

The Aboriginal people tell their stories by either talking or dancing. They are an oral culture (Talk not write about things). The Aboriginal dance story telling is called Corroboree. We call it "shake a leg" as its nick name.

Here is a video that I found on YouTube. Mum is letting me look at YouTube for technology. Because we are studying Aboriginal culture she said I had to find some videos to share with you about Aboriginal culture or people.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Driving all the way to Cooktown

Boy and step-father recently went on a road trip. Although during a school week, Indigenous Australia was woven into their adventures (we're studying the cultural melting pot and geography of Australia this term) and Boy attended business meetings with step-father.

Step-father works frequently on Cape York Peninsula (a place of high Indigenous population) and is currently doing some work for an organisation that hosts and markets Australian Aboriginal cultural centres. The trip included a visit to ancient rock art paintings.

Boy's own review of his cultural learning trip follows:

Monday 4 June 2007
P and I left here at 3:00 to get to Lakeland Downs. P and I stayed in a caravan in winter true. P ordered a very big dinner and we could not finish it… lol. It was very cold and I felt sick.

Tuesday 5 June 2007:
We went to Laura and met a lot of new people. We met Cliffy, Allan and John. We met John in the
Quinkan Center. It was very fun in the Quinkan Center and I had a good time there. Then we went on the walk on Spit Rock and looked at the paintings. Then after that we went up to Cooktown and made a fire with some fish ‘n’ chips. It was very good and I had a ball!

Wednesday 6 June 2007:
P and I went down to the Kiosk for breckkie. I had baked beans on toast and P had toast and coffee. P said the toast tasted like crap. I hung out with P for a while and spent the rest of the day with Rossco and Tom.

Thursday 7 June 2007:
We headed back and made up a song

Driving the road all the way to Cooktown
Boy he farted, he pulled his pants down
P the accountant didn’t know what to do
And shortly there after we hit a kangaroo
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Does Learning Ever Stop?

"What's a hiatus Mum?" he asked in earnest.

"It's what's happened to your blog entries at your Homeschooling Aspergers site. We've had a hiatus: a break, a glitch, an interruption, a burst out, but now we're getting back to normal."

"What's that got to do with that thing at the top of your stomach then?"

Oh dear, does learning ever stop? Boy and I have been having a great time even though our exploits haven't been recorded of late. We've had natural learning experience after experience and I'm sure we've used our yearly quota for home school excursions!

I have learnt a great lesson from my manipulation of teachable moments and natural learning on the run. There is no need for me to ask Boy, at the end of the day, what his learning has been. Prone to hate anything that looks like formalised education, Boy embraces natural learning and adult conversations. Try to reduce a conversation to learning and Boy gets somewhat angry.

"What is your learning today?" I now ask myself. By placing myself in the student's shoes and reflecting upon my own learning I now sit in a better situation to offer Boy a gem or two of my newly gained knowledge without it looking like education. This works for both of us and leads into discussions that may otherwise have been missed. new website is holding its own, my hiatus hernia isn't killing me, and Boy has excelled in his learning of life. We're back - see you tomorrow!

This blog is no longer kept. I am instead blogging only to Imaginif Child Protection became Serious Business