An Accidental Homeschooling Day

We had an accidental home schooling day.
It wasn’t planned, it just happened.
It went very well and it now really confirms that home schooling could work for us.

Ocelot woke just before 8am, which is when school starts. She never sleeps in so I thought she might be ill so didn’t wake her. Once awake, I gave her the choice; school or home school. She picked a PJ day!

After breakfast, she played with Tiger and made him a few items from The Lego Movie, then she asked what she could do all day so I asked if a list would be helpful. We made a list of activities she could do, but with no Minecraft until 3:30pm.

She started with Python programming, followed by Scratch programming, then back to Python. I then suggested she should do a bit of work so she did 3 pages in a Science workbook; it took 5 minutes. Tiger decided he wanted to do a workbook too so I found a pre-school one and he did 10 pages. She then decided to do a Powerpoint presentation on ‘Vulnerable/endangered Big Cats’. Then it was lunch time, followed by more Python. I then said she needed to do a bit more school work as she was skiving off school. I fired up Education City (we seem to have a never ending subscription) and she did a few Maths, English and Science exercises; they were far too easy but she didn’t mind. Tiger played on his EducationCity at the same time as he liked what he saw on Ocelot’s screen. After that, we planted their sunflower seeds and put them in a makeshift greenhouse. I then had a brief look at some GCSE Biology past papers, she answered the first 6 pages correctly despite not having been taught the content. Then she wanted to do more Python and Scratch, she did that until I said she needed some fresh air, so we planted some flowers in the garden. She then proceeded to dig a huge hole in the grass so had her Minecraft time put back to 4pm.

She then went back inside and opened up an art set she’d been given for her birthday and started painting various bits. At 4:30pm she realised she wasn’t on Minecraft so went on and met a friend on her server. They skyped for over an hour until dinner, then she went back on after eating and skyped her friend some more. At 7pm, it was bedtime so she did her music pieces, got into bed and is now ‘bed schooling’ with her Duolingo, her Latin and a periodic table app.

Ocelot says she had a great day but there were things that she didn’t have time to do that she wanted to do. She doesn’t want to go back to school tomorrow.

For me, it was a much better day than expected, Ocelot was calmer and happier. I don’t think she learnt anything, but her brain was active and engaged. I realise that right now, she needs structure with ideas on what to do. I have also learnt that I am probably underestimating where she is academically so need to think about how to incorporate some challenge for her.

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The gifted bit

Ocelot’s IQ puts her in the ‘profoundly gifted’ category. She has always had a thirst for knowledge and a desire to learn new things. We knew she was bright when she started naming letters at 12 months of age, a few months later she had moved onto reading words and by 2.5yrs she was reading basic chapter books like the ‘Rainbow Magic Fairy’ series. She loved to type short stories from 24 months of age and then by 7 years old, she had written and published her first 8000 word novel, a year later a 12,000 word sequel was written. Her maths followed a similar pattern;  basic addition at nearly 2, then multiplication and basic algebra at 3 years old. The maths has plateau’d a lot recently mainly due to lack of differentiation within her class.

Ocelot is a rare breed, her IQ is a huge number that I struggle to comprehend; there are some days though where I do wonder if she’s been overscored by 100 points as she is as absent minded or as daft as they come!

ADHD

Ocelot has ADHD, she’s had the official diagnosis for the last 12 months.

In hindsight, I knew from 14 weeks gestation! This is when I first felt Ocelot move, after that, she didn’t stop…all day and all night were party times for her.

The day she was born was another sign, she just didn’t sleep unless conned into a slumber by heavy rocking! At 14 weeks of age, she’d had enough of lying about so changed to unaided sitting. By 5 months she was crawling, then cruising followed, then at 8 months she was walking independently. Once the movement had been mastered, she turned her brain power to learning as much as she could, starting with all her letters and phonics by 14 months, then reading words at 17 months and by 2.5 years of age, she was reading chapter books.

I look back to the nights where we would walk her a mile, she was 12 months old when we started doing this…a tiny toddler walking a mile in the vain attempt to help her sleep. By 18 months of age, we could leave a pile of books in her cot and she’d read herself to sleep.

She was always energetic, both mentally and physically, but, by the age of 5, we were starting to see problems with her behaviour. She was often angry and frustrated, this turned to violence and meltdowns on a daily basis. We went through a phase when she was 6 of her having 2 hour screaming meltdowns every day. It was at this point we seeked help. We took her to see an Educational Psychologist who gave her a battery of testing. Some of the tests showed big discrepancies and in one area, a difference of nearly 70 points between sections. ADHD was mentioned and we were told to investigate further. It was 9 months later (due to waiting lists) that we got the official diagnosis. It was a life changing week as we decided that we could no longer cope with the meltdowns and violence, her school work was suffering, family life was suffering, we were all miserable. We started Ocelot on a Ritalin type drug and we haven’t looked back.

The time before the medication kicks in is hard; she cannot concentrate enough to get dressed or eat breakfast, she cannot control her emotions or her feelings. The same issues arise when the medication wears off. Without the medication, she is completely disorganised, she cannot dress herself, fed herself and some days, she cannot string a proper verbal sentence together. Her frustrations and emotions are heightened so she becomes violent towards us, she cannot listen, she cannot stop moving, she flits from activity to activity, she forgets everything…the medication helps her to filter out the important stuff and bring everything together.

Some days though, the medication has little effect, this is often food or lack of sleep related.

With regard to homeschooling, she will be medicated for a good 12 hours. I’m looking forward to having this time with her, as right now, school get all the benefits and we get the pre and post medication behaviour.

Ocelot is happy to take the medication, she understands how it helps her in daily life, but there are times when she just likes to go a little crazy so we hold off!

Update

Ocelot has been ‘bed schooling’ herself every night for the last few weeks. She is trying to maintain her daily streak on Duolingo, plus she’s keen to keep up with her Latin. She is still using StarWalk to look at constellations, Hopscotch is another favourite along with Scratch programming and DragonBox.

School wise, she was excited to start Algebra but disappointed to be repeating sums she could do when she was 3.

This morning, she didn’t want to go to school and was disappointed when I told her she had to. We talked about the ‘third’ option of homeschooling and for the first time ever, she spoke about homeschooling in a positive way. I believe she has decided that a term’s trial would be something to do…and she asked for the summer term as she hates tennis! I told her, we’d have to speak to Daddy about this idea. I feel happier now knowing that the idea is truly planted in her head and that any rebelling to the concept is less than I imagined. It’s a big step for her and one that she doesn’t know much about yet. My prediction will be that after a term, she will be asking for a longer trial.

School Meeting

We had a meeting with the school recently. I had promised Ocelot that I would try once more to talk to her teachers about challenging work.

Basically, Ocelot has been assessed by the school as a level 6 in Writing, Reading and Math. She is working at a high level in Science, plus all the other subjects. What are they going to do about stretching her? Nothing. One teacher said they didn’t want her to learn any facts, another didn’t want her getting ahead of the class, another said they were challenging her but clearly aren’t, another said they weren’t going to teach above a level 4.

Level 6 is classed as the average for a 14 year old, or ‘exceptional’ if you are in Year 6. Ocelot is a Year 4 child who hasn’t been taught at this level by anyone and yet they are still holding her back.

Ocelot was disappointed when we told her that the school wasn’t going to do any more. It cemented our decision to pull her.

Easter or Summer?

In 4 weeks time, we will have to tell the school that Ocelot is leaving. She is at a private school where we are contracted to give a full terms notice of her leaving. Whatever we do, we have to pay a terms fees. Do we pull her out at Easter and lose many thousands of pounds? Do we keep in her in until July and risk her emotional and educational needs slipping even further?
I would remove her at Easter and just write off the money. Mr Ocelot is keener on her staying at school until July so that she can gain in a little more confidence within her class. Whatever happens, her leaving letter will be handed in a 4 weeks but in the meantime, we have to discuss the leave date.

Bed Schooling

Ocelot is ‘bed schooling’ herself. Every night, when she goes up to bed at 7pm, she takes my iPad and works on a few apps. She is trying to maintain a daily streak of Duolingo (French) so this is often her first app. By 8:30pm she has worked her way through at least 5 apps. Her favourites this week have included: Star Walk (astronomy), DragonBox (algebra), Scratch and Hopscotch (basic programming), Leo Latin, Pages (iPad version of Word) plus some geography apps about countries and flags. She is also testing out a few apps by a company called Clever Dragon to see if they are worth purchasing.

She isn’t getting as much reading done as she would normally do was ‘bed schooling’ has been her choice. However, she is continuing to read through the Eragon series of books in the car.