Quick and Easy Recipe: Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup

I absolutely love the taste and texture of sweet potatoes. They make a slightly lighter but far more flavourful alternative to the regular potato and for that reason I think they’re much more versatile.

The soup served with cheddar.

The sweet potato is high in fibre, nutritious and very filling, and they’re available year round.

This recipe is one of my favourite uses for sweet potato, it’s quick and easy and the result is a delicious and very filling soup.

It’s my go-to winter warmer in these cold Yorkshire winters, the chilli gives you a bit of a kick to help warm you from the inside. If you like spicy add a little more and if you’re not so keen then add less.

I serve mine with a sprinkling of grated cheese and a couple of slices of crusty bread with real butter.

Served with mozzarella cheese.

It doesn’t usually last long in my house but I have found it’s still okay to eat 3 days after it’s been made if stored in airtight container in the fridge (allow to cool first). You could also freeze in individual portions. To reheat pop it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes depending on your portion size, or warm over a low/medium heat on the hob.

Over to the recipe.

Quick Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup Recipe

1 onion

1 red chilli (or a pinch of dried)

1 tsb coriander

2 crushed garlic cloves (or a 2 tsp of garlic granules)

750g sweet potato, peeled and cubed (1-2 inch cubes are fine)

700ml of chicken stock (use vegetable stock for a vegetarian alternative)

Your favourite grated cheese (optional) – I used mozzarella in these pictures but I’ve also used cheddar and Gouda in the past, both of which were equally tasty.

Method

1. Over a medium heat, soften the onion, chilli, coriander and garlic in a little butter for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the sweet potato followed by the stock and bring to the boil.

3. Cover and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes.

4. Blend, add a sprinkling of grated cheese, serve and enjoy.

Go make this right now, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Let me know what you think.

Living with a dog with MMM

Spirit, long before his diagnosis of MMM

Spirit is our 6 year old blue-eyed sibe, he’s a typical husky – vocal, does as he pleases, thinks he’s the boss, but he’s loving and against our original expectations has become an important part of our family.

First signs that something wasn’t right

We first began to notice something wasn’t right a couple of months ago, he appeared to yelp when yawning but we weren’t sure if he was just making a yawny noise (if you know you know), then one day when my other half went to stroke him he panicked and bit him then cried and yelped. We realised something wasn’t right. The following day we booked an appointment with the vet. All day he was depressed, laid and ignored us, he even snubbed freshly cooked chicken. We knew he wasn’t well. Once the time came we got his lead out and he seemed to transform miraculously into an excited dog again. The vet couldn’t see any obvious signs of anything wrong and gave us a weeks supply of medication to see if it made any difference. It didn’t, except for making him drink lots and pee lots.

We took him back a week later and explained he didn’t seem much different. The vets explained they suspected MMM – Masticatory Muscle Myositis. They wanted to put him under sedation to try open his mouth though and have a look inside, something he wouldn’t allow anyone to do whilst he was awake. This was important so they could rule out anything dental. We booked the appointment for the following week. Spirit was sedated and when his mouth was opened he yelped and cried, the sedation wasn’t enough, he’d have to be put under a general anaesthetic. Under GA they were only able to open his mouth 4cms. The muscles were so wasted and worn. How hadn’t we noticed he couldn’t open his mouth much? Hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess.

Feeling sorry for himself

Then came the diagnosis

The vets diagnosed Spirit with Masticatory Muscle Myositis that day, he was prescribed 60mgs of Prednisone/day, Tramadol and Omeprazole. We weren’t warned about the effect of Prednisone on his remaining muscle, but fortunately I’d found a Facebook group for other owners of dogs with MMM who told me that this would be likely, and boy did he just waste away in front of our eyes.

4th December – one day after diagnosis!

We started Spirit on his medication that very night (7 tablets on a night, 6 on a morning) – fortunately he’s a bit of a glutton who swallows certain snacks without even chewing so getting medication in isn’t a problem.

The following day I was already noticing improvement. We had gone out and on our return he was excited to see us, tail wagging, bum wagging, talking to us, and doing the funny excited run dogs so when they’re giddy! I realised I’d not seen him like that for a few weeks. The improvements came quick, he was back to stealing food from the table when you turned your back, stealing from bins given half a chance. Within 3 day’s he ate a crispy pizza crust, he had previously struggled to eat a slice of cheese which was why we originally suspected a dental issue. This was amazing. It’ll be 4 weeks in 2 day’s that he was diagnosed and he’s doing amazingly but the muscle wastage in his head, presumably as a result of the Prednisone, is very noticeable. He looks like a skeleton with skin on. He has noticeable dips in his skull area that weren’t obvious before. The vet said that had he not been a fluffy husky the damage would have been more obvious, but even now he is fluffy it’s very obvious. I hope that over time and with a good diet he will build some if not all of the muscle back up around his head and face, but if not as long as he can eat and is happy that’s all that really matters.

Before and after

Our Santa Special Experience With North Yorkshire Moors Railway

This year our littlest is 4. It’s his first year understanding the whole Santa/Christmas thing and so we wanted to make it a special one. We wanted an amazing experience that he/we would remember. He’s a typical boy – he loves all your stereotypical boy stuff including trains, so we just knew this would be perfect. We booked it at a price of £23pp. The eldest didn’t want to come, and he’s 17 so we didn’t force him.

The elves delivered this letter on the morning of our trip!

We started the day with a delivery from the elves telling Toby he was going on a train ride to meet Santa. This caused so much excitement, he was bouncing happy. We knew straight away this was going to be a good day. We got ready and left. Very early. We’re usually late for everything and we absolutely did not want to miss this.

We arrived an hour before our train was due to leave, we managed to watch the steam engines moving around the platforms getting into position and we saw another ride return that had been out for afternoon tea.

There were lots of staff (volunteers I believe) to help out at the station. We were greeted by several friendly faces who directed us to the refreshments area where we could have a complimentary hot drink, juice, fruit, mince pie and a shot of Irish cream (for the hot chocolate of course).

By the time we’d finished eating/drinking the other guests were starting to arrive, we decided to free up a table and made our way onto the platform to have a look around whilst we awaited our time to get on the train.

We found Santa!
We made orange lollipops – no idea why? When you’re 4 anything goes!

Eventually it was time to take our seats. I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that we were on the back carriage, it was the only seats available by the time I had booked so we took them. I felt that it’d be a little rubbish as we’d be so far away from the engine pulling us. I needn’t have worried though as the train stops halfway through the journey and the engine is turned around to pull it back the other way. So we did the return journey as the first carriage! Winner!

I went off on a tangent there, on the train we were met by Crackers the elf. “Crackers by name , crackers by nature” he said. He wasn’t wrong. His Irish accent was the perfect addition to his character. He was genuinely happy, outgoing and funny, everyone loved him.

Don’t leave your phone lying on the table or Crackers the elf will take lots of selfies (or elfies?)

He had the entire carriage laughing, singing and taking part in games. He picked on our daughter who refused to shout something out after him (she’s 11, a little shy and too grown up now for Santa/Elves, or so she thinks). He named her the grinch for the rest of the journey much to her embarrassment.

The first games he played he chose my partner and another unfortunate dad to take part in a race in our half of the carriage, and two from the other half. They had to race to the middle where Crackers was waiting, doing funny runs and then run back. The whole carriage was in fits of laughter. The game was then repeated with ladies and then children. There was no opportunity to get bored.

The chosen ones!

Santa arrived on our carriage around halfway through our journey. He seemed a genuinely happy guy with friendly, smiley eyes. He happily chatted with the kids and didn’t seem rushed. It was at this point that Toby surprised us by asking for a robot. One thing he doesn’t have. Panic! He sat and posed for pictures before moving on to the next bay. Crackers the elf followed with gifts, which all seem well thought about. No generic selection boxes which you find all too often.

Toby got an emergency vehicle set which he was delighted with, Kaesey (11) got a make your own jewellery set – it came with clay and stampers to shape it and bake it. It was brilliant. Zak (12) got a science kit. It was almost as if the people that chose the gifts knew our kids. We were very pleasantly surprised.

Kaesey with her gift

Once the unwrapping was finished, Crackers came around with some activity packs – these contained things like colouring sheets, pencils etc. By this point we were on our return journey. We played a game of ‘finish the lyrics to the Christmas song’ and then sung along to lots of Christmas songs. It was over before we knew it.

We were all beaming and buzzing from our amazing experience and couldn’t thank the volunteers/staff enough. The attention to detail and event they put on was perfect in every way. I think Toby will talk about it for a long time.

Our journey lasted around 75 minutes altogether

It’s probably too late for any last minute bookings now but if you had considered going but wasn’t sure it would be worth it then I would say go for it! It’s not a cheap day out, but does represent excellent value for money in my opinion, and there’s plenty of time to save for next year!

Paper Plate Christmas Trees With Colour Changing Lights

It’s nearly Christmas (18 days), our favourite time of the year! We love getting crafty and messy. We’re in the middle of decorating the living room at the moment so the telly is off the wall, and everything is piled in the middle of the room meaning no Christmas movies together and no chilling on the sofa with a hot chocolate under a duvet.

Earlier this year we made some chameleons (I’ll do a post about those later) and I had the idea of using the same idea for a Christmas tree with colour changing lights.

I wanted to try it at the school I work in first but couldn’t get hold of paper plates believe it or not so we made them at home!

Here’s how we made them:

Draw a simple Christmas tree design

Poke holes in for lights

This can be done before or after colouring in your tree

Colour away

Colour the lights

We did lots of different colours all over a second paper plate. Toby’s colouring his is in every single colour we have. He also has a moustache and part glasses after the elves drew on him through the night!

Lots of bright colours!

Attach the lights to the back of the tree with a split pin

And spin!! Watch your Christmas tree lights change colour!

Toby was delighted with his tree 🥰

These took us around 20-30 minutes which was perfect for Toby, he’s 4 and hasn’t the greatest attention span so any longer and he’d have soon got bored. You could do much more intricate trees using the same idea which would take longer and be ideal for older kids.

We used double tipped pens – they’re brushes on one end and normal pen tips at the other. I use them for bullet journaling. Paint would probably be good, if not better, but we’re all out for the first time in years! Time to top up.

On that note I’m away shopping now, Merry Christmas 🎄

17 Elf On The Shelf Ideas

We’ve done elf on the shelf now for a couple of years, not the official one but the cheaper mischievous elves! I know only too well how hard it can be to come up with new ideas year after year.

We actually considered making last year the final time, Toby, our youngest, is only 4 and wouldn’t remember, and the older children are now “too grown up” for silly elves that mum and dad obviously move, but they asked if we could carry on for Toby and if they could help. They were very excited about helping to make it magical for him, so continue we have.

The elves arrived this morning with a North Pole breakfast.

We start with a North Pole breakfast and advent calendars. It’s a horrendous amount of sugar which our kids love the look of but in reality the majority of it ended up back in the cupboard to eat later as they couldn’t manage much! I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the next few weeks but here are some of my favourites from the past couple of years.

Chocolate covered Brussels sprouts!

Par boil your sprouts, allow to cool and cover with melted chocolate and sprinkles. You can do much tidier versions than I can but you get the idea!

Photocopier fun!

Make sure you have plenty of ink for this one! Elves having fun with the photocopier is highly entertaining for the kids. It brought giggles in our house.

Elf selfie cookies

How much time do you want to dedicate to elf on a shelf? Ours (over) cooked up some biscuits and decorated them to look like themselves. There are literally loads of recipes to choose from online and lots of tutorials for piping the icing. It’s the first time I’d done anything like this but I don’t think they turned out too horrendously.

Googley eyes!

I don’t think this needs any further explanation.

Target practice.

A packet of toilet rolls and a Nerf fun and you have a quick yet very effective result!

The Christmas tree is pants!

This had to have one of the best reactions from our children, cover your Christmas tree with their pants and socks, leave a note from the elves saying “your tree is pants, it really socks”, or similar.

One for the older ones!

Our elves stole a bottle of beer and they couldn’t handle it! This was the result. Vomit fest. Of course this isn’t for everyone and our kids didn’t really ‘get it’ so it’s probably one for the older ones.

Dry dog biscuits and bad jokes!

Dry dog food angels! Quick and easy.

Ketchup & Squirty cream Santas.

So so quick and easy!! Sure to make the children smile.

There’s snow place like home.

This took two cans of spray snow, I could definitely have used more. It’s one I’ll be repeating this year as we get very little snow here. There’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home, there’s snow place like home.

Single and ready to Pringle.

Save those empty Pringles tubs for a quick and easy idea! You could also use cereal packets such as Rice Krispies – snap crackle and pop!

I moustache you a question.

There are so many options for this idea – the kids faces, parents faces, elves faces, pen, eyeliner. How far is too far? That depends how naughty your elves are I guess!

Elf smoothies.

This works well if you have a number of elves, failing that let the kids toys join in and help for an alternative.

Face swap!

Pose the elves in a similar style to your children’s photos and replace them. It’s fairly quick and easy and our kids found it hilarious when they realised what the elves had done! I realised after that the top photo wasn’t entirely accurate but it didn’t really matter all that much!

Green elf milk!

Food colouring and milk for a funny elf prank! Our children weren’t sure about green milk on their cereal though so was glad we only did a little bit.

Enviro-friendly elves.

We have tried to reduce our single-use plastic use and we made some eco bricks, the elves helped us one night by stuffing some bottles. Our daughter who had just taken part in a competition in which her and her team raised lots of awareness of the dangers of plastics in the sea was delighted by this.

I’d love to see your favourite elf antics too.

Bullet journaling and home education

Last week we didn’t get much done. I had so many ideas swimming around in my head that I overwhelmed myself with them and I decided that if our home education journey was to be a success then we needed a plan going forward. So I decided to return to bullet journaling. It’s a hobby I previously had and enjoyed and I hope that I will use it going forward now I have a real purpose for it. Bullet journaling is basically a DIY journal with no limits whatsoever. You can have anything in it that helps you, just unleash your creative side! Some popular pages in a bullet journal are weekly/monthly spreads, to do lists, mood trackers, exercise trackers and so much more.

I bought the Leuchtturm 1917 Slim which is an A4 journal and perfect for what I need it for. I previously had the same but in A5 instead.

November 2019

My journal is obviously a work in progress but will be used to show our home education plan to officials, it will be used to organise ourselves and every aspect of our busy lives. It is a source of self-motivation.

I chose a double page monthly layout for my main plans, as you can see we don’t have a particularly busy November planned so far although it’s not complete. This style offers me plenty of room to add in plans for our family of 6. The little dragon in the bottom was added at the insistence of my daughter who was desperate for me to try draw one! I feel he ruins the page in one respect but then when I see him I think of her so he actually makes me smile :).

This is my plan for this week, in no particular order. The beauty of home education is there is no set timetable, if he wants to look at energy today that’s fine, if he doesn’t that’s also ok, as long as he does it this week. Monday we did some work on algebra, and the history of Christmas with History.com. His life revolves around coding so it’s a bit of a given that he’ll do that daily.

I found a great Christmas stocking pattern and tutorial at Bags of Love which we have printed off. The material is on order and we’ll make a start soon. The objectives for this will be to see that he can read and follow the pattern, use a number of different stitches (perhaps not on the sticking but certainly some practise pieces first), safely use a sewing machine, complete the stocking, and finally write up about the project.

We have lots of sources and resources for the other subjects, books, websites and materials. Home education doesn’t have to cost much, in fact many of ours were free or very cheap second hand!

Our First Week Of Officially Home Educating

Well what a week it has been! It has been a bumpy start and not the best first week, I had an interview to prepare for, dad was on days all week, the boys broke my brand new laptop screen and I’ve had horrendous pain from what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder, but nevertheless we have started.

I was sort of expecting a phone call from High School this week to see if they could work with us to encourage the boy to stay in school rather than take him out, and help with suggestions to help him want to be there. I got absolutely nothing. Not even an email. No acknowledgement at all. This to me shows how much they care about him attending their school. I feel like it was a relief to them that we took him out. I’ve never really complained about support before from them but this has made me wonder if we should probably have done this sooner!? Could this attitude have been picked up by him earlier and he just hasn’t realised? Is this why he would not go? I’ll never know but I will forever wonder, and when the time comes for him to (hopefully) return to mainstream education I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable sending him back there!

How we’ve started!

We have started slowly, investigating helpful websites that we can use, resources available, and I’ve been reading up on the curriculum which should be getting delivered to a child of his age. We’ve also rejoined the library.

He’s 12 and would be in Year 8, exceptionally clever with an amazing ability to learn and retain information when a subject is delivered to him in a way which grabs his attention, or even just if it’s something that interests him. He’s pretty closed minded unfortunately when it comes to learning, he doesn’t understand why he should have to learn geography and history for example, his interests lie purely in computing. I want him to realise that everything about our lives relates back to history and the world around us. I want to teach him to experience a taster of everything so he can see that it’s all a part of our bigger picture, and I don’t want him to be bored of it. I also think it’s important that he has some input into what he learns about! I don’t have any complaints whatsoever with his primary school but I do feel that he hasn’t learnt to love learning and that is a tragedy! This is most important to me.

So with all that in mind we have registered on Khan Academy, he’s currently working his way, slowly, through Algebra and coding. It’s a brilliant website, a non-profit organisation with the aims of delivering world class education for free to anyone, anywhere! I mean how amazing is that! We haven’t done much of it but what we have looked at is brilliant! We’ve got a number of workbooks and a bonus for me is I also work in a school so I also have access to Twinkl for supplies.

We used to read lots when he was little, his reading books after school and we would read a story before bed, every single night. It’s precious time and very very important. As he’s got older and been introduced to technology however his love for reading has ebbed away. Rather than jump straight into an English course we are trying to encourage a love of books again. It’s taken two visits to the library before one caught his eye and he’s still to start it, but he will I’m sure. He has a very strong vocabulary, often choosing words that you might expect to hear from someone very highly educated. He always uses them in the correct context and it amazes me that someone who has fallen out of love with learning can pick up and use language like that!

He’s always been interested in science, we’ve seen a number of websites offering science experiment kits containing everything you need to do them at home. This was an area I worried about as I thought, and school also reinforced previously, that he would never have the same hands-on science experience that he could get at school. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I’ve seen a number of places that offer scientific workshops to children who are home educated too. Whilst I probably won’t be able to make these with him his dad almost definitely will due to his 4 on 4 off working shift pattern.

I am currently looking into the sports opportunities for him. He hated PE and his high school agreed it was best not to push it in Y7, and dropped it from his timetable. However they insisted he do something in Y8 and he often got in trouble for not having his kit or for not joining in. They kindly offered for him to go to the gym instead which he was keen on, but unfortunately as we couldn’t get him to school that never materialised. As he’s not very active at all it’s going to be a priority of ours. He loves swimming and he also loves ice skating, although he doesn’t have a natural ability for it, so these are two potential areas we’ll look to utilise. Once he turns 14 we can register him at our local gym but that’s a way off yet.

We were told he wouldn’t get the same social opportunities if we took him out of school. I agree, he won’t be forced to sit in classes full of people he doesn’t really know or like, and he won’t walk around on his own anymore amongst hundreds of other children. Instead he’ll take advantage of the social opportunities that come from everyday life. Speaking to people he doesn’t know. He’ll join groups of other home educated children and make new friendships. We’re still in contact with friends he’s had for years who do go to his school but who he didn’t share lessons with, and they are wonderful families who won’t stop inviting us to events just because we’ve chosen a different path. I have no doubts that this will help his social skills in the long term.

We still have a million other things to think about but I believe whilst we haven’t done much in our first week, we’ve made a bloody good start! So far his sister (Y7) hasn’t played the “it’s not fair” card. It would simply be too much to get my head around home edding two, but I can honestly say that in the future if I still feel as positive as I do now it wouldn’t be out of the question to consider taking her out as an option too!

Our next big job is to begin to write our education philosophy for the education welfare dept as they’ll be writing to ask for it soon. I’ll be using this blog to catalogue the work we do – the exciting and the boring.

The Start Of A New Journey

We did it! We sent in the deregistration letter for our school refusing 12 year old this afternoon. After months/years of deliberations we’ve finally bitten the bullet and took him out of school.

Do I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders? No! Do I feel like I have definitely made the right choice? Yes and No! Are we going to give it a bloody good go? Yes!

School Refusal

As you may have read on my previous post we have gone through years of school refusal, it’s not just behavioural which is how I always imagined these children, he has Asperger’s syndrome and just isn’t coping with the school environment. Our hope is that in the future we can get him back to school to complete his education but for now we need to get him to a place where this is a possibility.

So Much To Consider

I currently have around a gazillion questions and thoughts floating around my head. Will the education authority agree to give us funding from his EHCP towards the costs of tutoring and materials? Will we even be able to get him to learn at home? What if it doesn’t work out and he has to return to school but has fallen behind? I’m reassured that these are normal feelings and that they’ll soon fade away. I hope so!

Family & Friends

I’m lucky that all our family and friends have been supportive of our decision so far. It would’ve been so much harder without their approval, which seems ridiculous as I’m a grown woman with 4 children, but I think everyone wants others to get it! And they just do.

What Next

I’ve yet to hear from school regarding our decision, I was a little sneaky in that I sent the de-registration in at the end of the day, the last day of this half term. I doubt I’ll hear anything now until they return. This suits me nicely as I’m not ready for the conversation with them just yet. I don’t know how we’ll begin our journey but for sure we’ll find our feet and I intend to make this a journey to remember.

It may end up not working out and I am okay with that, but it may be the answer to our prayers too, and we would never know till we try!

I have everything crossed now for our future and I will be sharing our journey on my blog!

Our Story Of School Refusal

If you’d asked me ten years ago about my opinions on school-refusal I’d have been quite frank and said it was something done by feral kids as a result of poor parenting. Nowadays however I find myself in this very position, I am the parent of a school refuser. I’m not the sort of parent I pictured 10 years ago, I gave up work to stay home and raise my children, we were fortunate enough to be able to give them what they needed and wanted, they had holidays and technology but most importantly they had my time.  School refusal wouldn’t have happened to parents like us in my mind 10 years ago. I guess I was narrow-minded, I had no experience of raising children who were old enough to really refuse school, I thought of school refusal as a bad homes issue. It isn’t, not by any means, and I’ve seen lots of parents in a similar position who are blamed and persecuted for their kids not being okay at school.

Looking back our son never loved school. We would often drag him in upset and leave him crying because we’re almost conditioned to believe that school is the only way for kids to succeed in life so we push them to go, and for most kids they do love it, and that’s great.   Once at school it’s the teacher’s job to keep them there and try settle them down for a day of learning and socialising. They don’t do this out of malice, but I do believe it sets in motion a chain of negative experiences – upset, feeling out of control and restraint for example that eventually causes the child to become disengaged from the education system.

Our son was diagnosed with Aspergers in school, it was clear from nursery that he was very different from his peers, choosing to sit with his back to people than join in, watching the class circles from the other side of the classroom, and generally having a really hard time. I knew nothing at all about the Autism spectrum when it was first suggested to us by his school, we were already struggling to cope with the problems he had at home and every healthcare professional he saw must have been able to see he was Autistic but chose to do nothing about it, it really was scarily obvious when I look back. School we felt was our respite from him. It gave us 6 hours to recharge our batteries and be able to leave the house without constant meltdowns. We could go shopping and not have to leave because the sight of the stores toilet doors caused him to lose the plot completely.

He would come home every day and his emotions would be everywhere, he would stim, he would play with water and flood our house, he would be angry and he didn’t sleep. I guess looking back they were all warning signs that he wasn’t coping with the demands of school life. We needed the break whilst he was at school though to help deal with the emotions when he got back. It was a vicious cycle and at that point home-education was most definitely not an option for us.

We got a lot of support from primary, by year 2 they had applied for a statement of special educational needs. He was granted 30.75 hours just in time for him going into year 3 and from then until the end of his time there he had 1:1 all day every day with the same person. They put in place social skills groups, friendship groups and other interventions to help him succeed. He was always encouraged to try things outside his comfort zone such as swimming lessons and even a 2 night school trip. He really blossomed and had many friends, but he still hated going to school. His refusal looked behavioural, he would kick, punch and bite as I tried to drag him up the drive, it got worse with the arrival of his baby brother in 2015.  

The time came for him to go to high school. This was a very difficult time for us as we weren’t convinced this was the right school for him, but we live on the coast and there isn’t another high school for 11 miles. He wanted to go with his friends and we felt he deserved to give it a try. We tried to iron out any issues before he started, make sure everything would be perfect and in place by the time he started. They were aware of his refusal issues with school but we were reassured that  they understood and could help. Quickly he began to refuse, he missed his second week completely and he was put on a reduced time-table. This was great and only meant to be supportive, but he takes things very literally, so when school said “Monday you only need to come in and do the one lesson, more if you want” in his head that meant “Monday do one lesson then leave”. That was fine and we worked with it and soon got him back to going, now and again. They put things in place so if he felt he couldn’t be in class he could go elsewhere. I felt positive that they really wanted to help.

Not even 6 months in we were informed that the ‘Parent Support Advisor’ in school had took it upon herself to refer us to the educational welfare department. Now I could understand if I wasn’t in school every week trying to find a solution, if I wasn’t dragging him in only for them to mark him as not there because none of us could get him to go past the reception area. The woman had never so much as spoken to us. We were now on the path for prosecution if things didn’t improve. I honestly felt betrayed. We sat in numerous meetings with overpaid EWO’s (Education Welfare Officers) who were being paid a decent amount of money to sit and tell us what we already knew. Their favourite phrase was “you could be prosecuted”. As if their constant reminder was somehow going to be the answer to our years of problems. We listened to them quoting false laws to us, telling us how we should punish our sons refusal by giving him nothing until he decided school was for him (we tried, it doesn’t work). They admitted there was nothing they could offer to help, but yet we were expected to be “working with them” to resolve his attendance issues. I can see why some parents struggle with their own mental health issues when forced into a corner like this. Some parents have to leave their jobs over it. I work in school myself (his old primary) and the fear of prosecution weighed heavily on me. I know only too well how capable he is and I want only the best for him. Unfortunately as of now, part way through year 8, his attendance is currently sat at 67%. I’m waiting for the inevitable letter reminding us of our responsibilities as his parents and demanding we go and explain ourselves at more pointless meetings. I am looking into the chances of having EOTAS named on his EHC Plan rather than his current school because it just isn’t working, but realistically we’re going to end up de-registering and taking responsibility for educating him ourselves, I just know it. I actually like the idea of home-educating him, but I don’t want to feel pushed into it.

I am thankful we have an education system, free to all, and I have one child who has gone all the way through, one in her first year of high school and one in reception year. Its become clear though that it is not the right system for everyone. This high school just cannot meet our needs for our son, but the only alternative is special school which he is not severe enough to go to. There are no options for children in the middle.  The system needs reworking to become a fairer system for all, we need schools for everyone because mainstream simply does not suit every child. We’re lucky to be in a position to provide him with education at home, not everybody forced to take the same route is as lucky as us. It would not be the easy option for us to take, but I honestly don’t know where else we can go.