Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Compulsory Miseducation

I've been trying to get back to reading, which was near impossible whilst drugged out on the painkillers, and have restarted the book 'Compulsory Miseducation' by Paul Goodman. Published in the 1960s and is a criticism of the formal schooling system, as it was in America at this time. I'm only a few chapters in, but thought these few sections worth quoting:

(on High School 'dropouts'

"..Numerically far more important than these overt drop-outs at sixteen, however, are the children who conform to schooling between the ages of six to sixteen or twenty, but who drop out internally and day-dream, their days wasted, their liberty caged and scheduled. And there are many such in the middle class, from backgrounds with plenty of food and some books and art, where the youth is seduced by the prospect of money and status, but even more where he is terrified to jeapardize the only pattern of life he knows"

And on learning to read:

"A great neurologist tells me that the puzzle is not how to teach reading, but why some children fail to learn to read. Given the amount of exposure that any urban child gets, any normal animal should spontaneously catch on to that code. what prevents? It is almost demonstrable that, for many children, it is precisely going to school that prevents - because of the school's alien style, banning of spontaneous interset, extrinsic rewards and punishments. (In many under privaliged schools, the IQ steadily falls the longer they got to school.)Many of the backward readers might have had a better chance on the streets."

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Back in action

Wow! I can't believe how long it is since I added an entry to the blog - 2 weeks at least!

Well, mostly it can be blamed on my continuing back problems, which are becoming a pain in the u know what! I am mobile - stiff but mobile - and the chiropracter has to a certain extent fixed me a bit, but it feels like it will be a long time till I'm back up to full working function again. However I am finally off all painkillers, apart from the occasional ibuprofen, and glad to be so. Felt so rough the week after I stopped the strong stuff that I thought I was coming down with something yukky, but I think it was just the after effects. I still have dry skin across my knuckles and I'm sure some of my hair fell out while on these horrible tablets. Hmm..didn't see either of those side effects listed on the leaflet inside the box, maybe I'm unique in my reaction!

So we have been out and about a little and I'm able to drive (stiffly) now. We've started going back to a fortnightly home education group that we haven't been to for ages. I'm not sure if the boys will participate in any of the activities (they seem to prefer to run around outside on the fields!), but I figure we'll give it a try and see how it goes. Poor Jack the dog has had fewer walks and run arounds than usual, but I'm hoping things will improve slowly. I managed to take him 'round the block' today without coming back in too much pain, so I guess that's an improvement. Thankfully now he's turned into a big boy and learnt to cock his leg, we have frequent stops all the way around the block to 'mark his territory', which suits my awkward gait and pain aversion strategy at the moment!

The MRI scan that I had a few weeks ago (not such a long waiting list afterall) apparently showed a bulge in one of the discs. The doc said that this disc wasn't impinging on any nerves (oh yeah? well something bl**dy well has been!). So as you may have guessed the doctor's not been particularly helpful or sympathetic so far - he was the one who visited while I was laying in agony on the sofa, waggled my legs around (lots), appeared to have no idea about backs and when I said 'but I home educate and I've got 3 kids to looks after' said ' ah well, gotta go now'.

Having looked up 'disc' and 'bulge' on the web, I can't say I'm much more informed, except that lots of people have it asymptomatically, and it's basically a sign of getting old and worn out - well if I didn't feel old and decrepid beforehand I certainly do now. Not yet 40 and having had restricted activity for the past 10 years, I'm desperate to get a little bit of youth - or even a bit of middleagedom - in before I'm consigned to being totally and truly OLD. Looks like my dream of owning a smallholding might have to be downsized considerably!

So I have to make an appointment mid May to 'discuss options' with this doctor, which sounds rather a rather gloomy prospect. If it's the usual NHS options, then I have a pessimistic suspicion the advice will be 'take painkillers and work through the pain'. After 10 years of on-off back pain, and several fobbed off attempts at getting some help from doctors/midwives/other health professionals, I have very little faith that anything will be done to help me on the NHS. Looks like more expense for alternative therapy then...

Despite all this I'm glad to be up on my feet, off the crutches and at least a partly capable parent. I'm not sure I was much of a capable parent before my back problems, but at least I could pick Lego up off the floor which does come in handy in a house with two Lego-mad boys! On the subject of lego, I'm keen to take the kids to Legoland before the boys' annual passes run out at the end of May. However, considering that the last trip we made to Legoland was in the week running up to my back meltdown, it's probably not such a good idea. Still trying to get ds1 to finish off his application for a Blue Peter badge, so that I don't have to use up all our Tesco vouchers to get more Legoland passes. I've copied what I needed to onto CDs and he just needs to write some blurb to accompany it. Ah, well that's the tricky part, getting ds1 to do writing. Even typing is fairly tortuous, so it might be a while before it's done.

We've had a few things going on in the home ed 'area'. The boys have made some mini rafts with some friends who came over and we have ambitions to make full-size products eventually that will really float and carry people. We're yet to find the perfect launching spot, or indeed anything to make the full-size rafts out of, but the idea is there.

The kids have several 'overdue' letters owed to penfriends. Mental reminder to get them sweating over pens/keyboards some time in the next week.

I have plans also to do some ongoing 'project' on aircraft, perhaps incorporating a workshop or two and a museum visit (that'll be a job for dh I reckon). Also some model plane/paper plane making and other science projects. Not sure exactly when we'll get started on these as the ideas are coming from me and we - or should I say I- seem to have lost momentum at the moment. I'm sure it will all fall back into place soon. (Or fall off the precipice!)

The allotment is looking quite good at the moment because the weeds haven't started growing yet where my parents have dug over. The kids and I managed to plant some beans and mangetout peas the other day, but there are lots of 'chitted' potatoes to go in and I'll have to get dh to dig the trenches (daren't take a spade to it myself). I'm really not sure how it will all pan out with the gardening this year. There are loads of seedlings in the greenhouse to be planted out once frosts have gone, and I'm hoping I'll get to plant carrots, beetroot etc at the allotment soon, but I think I'll have to restrict my ambitions for the next few months. The kids' plot needs some attention too and we need to find some topsoil or compost for their raised beds, but again, that all feels rather daunting at the moment. No doubt the other allotmentees will be grumbling soon about 'perennial weeds' and other moanings about my plots or my children or my dog (sadly some seem to make a fulltime career out of complaining), but there's not much I can do about it and we only have a limited amount of weed suppressant material to cover the dug areas.

Well we're off camping for a few days very soon to try out our new super huge (embarrassingly huge) tent, so have been doing a little preparation/packing over the past few days. The kids are so keen that they have already packed -ds1's bag was quite well packed, but I think ds2 may have got a little distracted as he'd only managed to pack 2 pairs of pants and socks and that was it! It could have been quite a minimalist camping trip if I hadn't checked. I'm hoping my back will hold out for the trip.

My exploration into 'ethical shopping' (see 10 March posting) has been rapidly curtailed by being sofa-ridden and then hobbling on crutches. I haven't managed to get back to the greengrocers (I knew I wouldn't be able to shift all the shopping back to the car) or the Coop (ditto). Sadly I ended up going to Tescos last night and shuffling around with a trolley trying to stock up on vaguely ethical - but mostly not - products. AND to top it all, Jamesons wasn't on special offer. Having gone off wine as a result of several weeks of painkillers accompanied by no drinking (yet another weird side-effect), I really fancied a drop of whisky to finish the evenings off with. Anyway, it was probably just as well I didn't buy any. I realised as I filled the trolley on the last aisle that it was getting so heavy I wasn't sure I could actually push it across the carpark to the car, let alone lift all the bags out. Oh I am so feeble! So, I guess I can add 'ethical shopping' to my list of things I have to be patient about till this 'back thing' is fixed.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Missed the snow, just finding my feet again

Well I've been laid up with my bad back for nearly a fortnight and with the painkillers I've been sleeping around 18 hours a day most days and my brain has been fairly mashed as a result. Have finally got mobile again thanks to a bit of 'alternative' therapy - Mctimoney chiropracter and therapeutic masseur - but still hobbling a little on crutches. It seems the painkillers have made me miss the snow (I saw photos) and, well, most of what has been going on over the past few weeks. In fact it made me lose complete track of time. The local home ed community have been very supportive and have helped out with childcare and even turned up with meals and cakes! Dh has had to take an extra week off work than planned, so not amused - though it's been an interesting experiment watching him 'live' my 'life' for several weeks - i.e. looking after kids, shopping for food, cooking on a budget etc..Normally even if I'm ill, it's rare for him to take over my role completely, so for me to be so totally out of action has been rather interesting.

Anyway, dh went back to work today so been hobbling and trying to get through the usual routine with the kids. My parents have been here for a few days (surprise visit) to dig over my allotment. They've been very considerate and stayed on a local caravan site and generally just spent the day digging and digging to help me get the plots into order. It's been a fantastic help as I'm going to be in no condition to get the plots ready for this year's planting and I'd otherwise be running out of time.

Well short entry today.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Long time no see

Well it's been ages since I've managed to get together a blog entry and I do have a genuine excuse (honest!).

Having had back problems for the past 10 years on and off, I've finally really messed my back up big time and have been restricted (imobile) to the sofa for the past 3 days. Even the vast quantities of painkillers and other assorted pills haven't helped a huge amount. I was particularly disappointed by the Diazepam which I'd always thought was some sort of valium-related wonder drug, but it appears to mostly turn me into a dozy bleary-eyed mushy brained mess. If putting me to sleep is one way of getting rid of the pain then I suppose it's doing it's job, but it would be nice to be able to retain some sort of brain function!

After an extremely crappy visit by a totally disinterested doctor who obviously knew nothing about back pain and was even more disinterested when he found out I was merely a woman who looks after children I think I've lost my last remaining strand of faith in the medical profession. I can't help thinking that if I'd been the male breadwinner of the family then I'd have received rather more attention, sympathy and treatment. Still, can't complain, after 10 years of back pain they've finally conceded to give me painkillers (at last!) and booked me in for an MRI scan. Downside is that the waiting list for the MRI scan is 2-3 months. Hmm....Anyway Mr Doctor Doom cheerfully suggested that I could be like this for around 2 weeks to a month, which I thought was a really well-educated prognosis considering he didn't even seem to know exactly what was wrong with me. Even the explanation that I had 3 young children to home educate and that I really couldn't face the next month confined to the sofa and having to pee in the kitchen jug (needs must), didn't extract a tiny bit of sympathetic advice from him.


Took things into my own hands. Got dh to hire me a pair of crutches from a local chemist at a very reasonable rate and at least now I can slowly and painfully hobble across the room. I've even managed to limp dangerously up the stairs to the bathroom which has got to be my best achievement ever. Everest? Hey, that's a doddle! The luxury of washing my hair, albeit in a painful and slapdash way, has made me feel even more positive about the day.

Dh is desperate to go back to work (2 weeks at home with me and the kids is probably 2 weeks more than he'd like) so hopefully by Monday I'll be mobile enough to act as baby sitter, even if I wont be doing a lot of parenting. The kids have been great, but still wondering how I'm going to get out and about with them. The painkillers have made me too drowsy to drive and I don't think I'd be able to walk to a bus stop yet, so perhaps I could use a taxi on a few occasions just to get them to burn off a bit of energy at the park or similar.

In the meantime there is SO much to be done in the garden and allotment that I'm finding it frustrating not to be able to just get on with it. All the digging needs to be done now before the horsetail, thistles and couch grass take hold and to prepare for putting potatoes in which are nicely chitting in the conservatory window and need to be planted soon.

So what else has been going on? Well last week dh and ds2 went to STEAM at Swindon for the day (not my cup of tea) to look at trains and well, more trains I guess. We also spent a good day at Legoland making the most of the kids' annual passes. Still trying to persuade ds1 to finish off his application for a blue peter badge so I don't have to fork out for another annual pass when his runs out in May this year.

Some rides are just too scary!

It's no fun being eaten by a Lego Lion!

Also spent a day at the 'Living Rainforest'. There have been some improvements to the rainforest since we last went, with more 'hands on' activities and a larger cafe area.
Lots of emphasis too on sustainability and recycling, which I though was rather ironic considering that at least most of the food I saw served in the cafe was overly packaged in plastic wrapping! Still, overall we were fortunate with the weather for a week where the forecast was bleak.

Turtle/Terapin at The Living Rainforest

Wow! What a big fish!