Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ode to the Post-it Note...

Alternate title: Further Adventures in Homeschooling...

I have to start by saying I'm generally all for using as little paper as possible. I've got a touch of the hoarder about me, only in the fact that if I am able, I seem to accumulate piles of crap faster than a sewer. So, I try to not acquire it, so I can avoid collecting it.

But it's a little piece of paper that I feel the need to sing about right now. It's the Post-it Note. It's my teeny tiny saviour as I wrestle autism and curriculum and the fact that there are only 24 hours in every day.

You can write on them, you can cover stuff with them, you can cut them up into useful shapes. You can make patterns with them, you can re-use them, you can eat them.

OK... it's probably not a good idea to eat them, but right now I'm using so many, Scruffy's got the idea they are something to be coveted so he's made it his quest to eat a few.

It's tough for Billy (and often me) to isolate the most important information, at any one time, on a page or a screen. It's even tougher for him to NOT be distracted by the least important information. But if you add a Post-it... You can stick one over a computer screen to block the flicking, repeating, animated thing that often attracts the autistic eye. You can summarise information on a Post-it and stick it next to the confusing mess of symbols. You can cut holes in a post it to make a window to look at.

Handily, you can use the multi-coloured ones to make a visual schedule. I can do a bit of creative sticking on a worksheet, and then say, 'Do blue, then pink, then yellow', and somehow that's easier for Billy than saying, 'Do questions 1-3 while I eat my toast.'

It's often said that manipulables like Cuisenaire Rods and Base Ten blocks are the keys to getting tactile, sensory focussed autistic kids to engage with basic number facts. I agree they are a great idea, but find it's hard to link the concrete play back to the worksheet (and therefore generalise the learning). Enter the Post-it, which can easily, quickly and dynamically label collections of blocks. You can write sums using separate Post-its, and assemble the information in a form that mimics a traditional sum (well, depending on how quickly you do it). It builds a little gluey paper bridge between 'fun with blocks' and 'how in hell do I answer 4 +4+4=?

As I re-read what I've written, I'm starting to think... what has my life been reduced to? But I'm bigger than that thought, and more to the point, Billy's learning journey is bigger.

Sometimes, homeschooling is so hard I want to cry.

I've never had even the slightest feeling that I'd like to speak roughly to my son. Until now. Not right now, but when I've come up with 19 ways to ask, 'Which number is the odd one out?' and he's still staring at a butterfly outside the window... in those moments, I think up lots of abusive swears. I think, people, I do not say.

I always thought of myself as a fairly creative thinker, but this homeschooling adventure has brought me back to reality with a thump. I did train as a teacher long ago (and met some of the best and the worst people on the planet in the process, but that's another post) and the lecturers were always going, 'Oh that Valerie, always taking the road most obscure...' I had visions of myself covered in butterfly stickers and home-made wings uncovering the concept of metamorphosis with a pack of enthralled kiddies flitting in my wake...

Let's just say, I may as well be reading Kafka's take on metamorphosis to Billy... it's not his lack of ability to understand that gets in the way. It's autism, that requires short, sharp, repetitive stabs at the same piece of information in the same way using the same language every single time.

I had no idea how verbose I was (I hear people who know me in real life gushing coffee out of their noses as they read this). I had no idea how inconsistent I was (again, a fair few ex-bosses will be wiping tears of mirth from their eyes). I had no idea how easy it is to turn a simple concept into a meaningless babble. Actually, I kind of did know I did that, but there's a lifetime of chatting habit to change there.

Homeschooling Billy has clarified for me that the world we live in is an abyss of meaningless communication, with a few choice boats of wisdom battling the waves on the surface.

And my Post-it friends are the sails on those boats.

I love you Post-its, and all who sail on you.

Now, I believe I said I felt like singing about Post-it Notes and this may be the cutest, most meaningful (and easiest for your ears) way to do it.

Post script (get it?): I am not sponsored by 3M or whoever makes post-its and in fact thought this product was  a stupid waste of time and flourescent dye until about a week ago. If the makers of post-its want to get in touch about ASD friendly post-it products, I never said that bit about wasting dye...


Yellow Robin said...

Who knew that a blog post about post-it notes could be so enthralling?!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE how you always think outside the box!
And just for a giggle....check out this blog dedicated to the humble post it notes :)

Ro said...

I'm contacting you via FB!

Zoe said...

Love this blog. The quality of your writing is excellent - you clearly have the panache of a real writer (about which I am totally jealous!)

Looking forward to reading more.