Atypical Summer Holiday with Children

No, that’s not a typo, I really meant atypical:

atypical
eɪˈtɪpɪk(ə)l,aˈtɪpɪk(ə)l/
adjective
  1. not representative of a type, group, or class.

What exactly do I mean? Let me try to explain it.

For most families, the school holidays often go along the lines of planning a few days out, staying at home, sometimes going away on holiday for a weekend or a week or even a fortnight. If the weather is bad, or someone is unwell, or there has been a busy day previously, plans are juggled around or postponed to a more feasible day. Simple. Most things can be done this way, barring the actual holiday away, even if days out can’t be postponed in this time period there’s always another time – at the weekend, or later in the year.

Not so when your very ability to leave the house is dependent on facilities that are simply not present in most places.

We have friends who have this very issue. Adam is almost 11, he’s a full time wheelchair user and cannot stand, not even for a second to transfer. All he needs to be able to go out is an accessible toilet with a changing bench and a hoist. He can use the toilet, but needs a hoist to transfer to a bench, to sort clothes and change slings, and then hoist over to the toilet. Strangely the majority of “disabled” toilets can’t even accommodate his wheelchair, let alone his mum as well. They certainly don’t have a hoist and bench that he can use.

The toilets Adam, and many others, need are known as Changing Places or Space to Change toilets. There are companies that will assess and fit them into spaces, not as much space is needed as you might think. There are also mobile versions called Mobiloo that can be hired for events and so on.

Room in the Loo?

In Cornwall, where we live, very few places have a suitable toilet for Adam. So, a couple of local charities have arranged for a Mobiloo to come down a few times over the summer holidays. But a few times, on specific days, does not allow for bad weather, illness, or a busy few days.

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Last week we went to a local theme park on a day that was pouring with rain. We did not reschedule, because Adam couldn’t. This week Adam was excitedly awaiting a day out to the zoo. He’s unwell so can’t go. He’s upset because he knows that he can’t just go another day when he’s feeling better.

In addition to the unnecessary issues with days out, Adam and his family cannot simply go on holiday either. That too is fraught with issues, difficulties, extra expenses, and stress. There are not so many places with hoists fitted in the accommodation, and if there were, where would they go on days out anyway. In the past airlines have destroyed Adam’s wheelchair, his only means of getting around, what is he supposed to do then. Places like Disneyland are all to happy to invest huge sums of money into whole new sections of park, but are yet to install suitable toilet facilities.

It shouldn’t be like that. Toilets should be available PERMANENTLY at the majority of places. Them not being there is discrimination against those that require them. It would be deemed unacceptable for places not to have standard toilets – properly accessible toilets should be no different. And no, standard “disabled” toilets do not count.

What makes the situation even more shocking, is that the majority of places, when contacted, either brush it off, or ignore the request completely. A common excuse is: “our customers don’t need one”. That may be because the customers that do, can’t be YOUR customers.

Fun, inclusion and days out with friends should not be limited to specific days simply because your needs are slightly different from the majority. Particularly not in a county based on tourism, and particularly not when you are 10 years old.

Every holiday period, every day out, every trip to the supermarket, every day is atypical for Adam and his family. Really, every day should be as “normal” for him as it is for other children.

For more information on accessible toilets see the blog written by Adam’s mum: Ordinary Hopes

 

 

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Children should not be scared to go out.

It isn’t right, it isn’t fair, it isn’t necessary. Life should and could be made much easier, and better, and inclusive for many people, adults and children. Greater awareness of the realities is what is key. No, disabled people are not already protected in law, there is still an awfully long way to go before they are.

Ordinary Hopes

I have this little boy called Adam.
He is very sweet and very kind.
He is loving and giving,
And scared of many things.

Because life has shown him a harsher side than it shows to most 10 year old children.

He has had many surgeries.
He has known much pain.
He has cried with terror upon waking to find most of his body in plaster.

He has broken bones doing everyday things.
He has had terrifying episodes of sudden illness.
He has struggled to breathe.

He has been stared at and pointed at.
At a theme park, a group of children even snaked their way BACK through the queue to stare some more.

It took him many years to learn to speak.
It took almost 10 years to master sitting.
It took over 10 years to be able to move his legs.

He still can’t stand.
He may not ever.

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When this is the best option you have.

Ordinary Hopes

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If you use social media you have probably seen a picture of a child with disabilities lying on a toilet floor.

I am sure that the mere sight of the pictures ignited strong feelings.

There are always many comments on these photos.

Most are from people who are horrified to learn that this happens. They hadn’tconsidered this before,but now they know, they hurt for these parents.

If you don’t live with these difficulties or know somebody who does, you cannot possibly be expected to know how awful things can be. There was a time when I didn’t know.

I wish I still lived in that time, with that blissful lack of knowledge of the horrors people face each day.

Then there are the hurtful comments. Maybe they come from “trolls” ormaybe they just come from people who don’t understand. Somehow they blame the parent. They would never do this. They

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Underground and Overground Adventures in the Sun

Our two final days before packing up ready to head home. We drove three hours south to Waitomo Caves to explore the Stalagmites, Stalactites, Columns, Weta and Glowworms before heading over to Matamata for the night ready for Hobbiton today.

On the way to Waitomo we took a slightly longer, more emotional, route to go through the city I was supposed to be working in (Hamilton), and the small down South of there that we had planned to live in (Te Awamutu). I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have a look at them, I couldn’t quite manage to stop and explore properly though :/

At Waitomo there were three caves we toured, we did them in reverse order as we arrived at lunchtime. The first was a dry cave with Cave Weta, the second and third caves had flowing water and glow worms inside – no photographs were permitted in the third cave, the main one of the three. All three had stalagmites, stalactites and limestone, together with very knowledgeable guides who gave us lots of information.

After a quick overnight stay we headed over to the Hobbiton Film Set for a guided tour there. It was incredibly busy here, lots of tours going on alongside each other. I must confess I am not a LOTR or Hobbit fan in the slightest, I’ve only seen bits of some of the films by way of osmosis when the boys have been watching them. However, it was a beautiful setting and thoroughly enjoyable experience in its own right. There were only two downsides: 1 – time, because it was busy there was no opportunity to spend longer in the Green Dragon Inn and have lunch, we had to stay with our group and get the same bus back to meeting point. 2 – there were stoneware drinking cups in the Inn that they were serving the complimentary drinks in, I wanted to buy some, the gift shop did not sell them!

To the North!

Our journey continues up onto the North Island of New Zealand. In Wellington we took a tour to Zealandia, an amazing urban wildlife reserve where they have worked tirelessly to fence in the native species and remove as many introduced species as possible. Birds with flight are free to come and go, flightless birds are protected from the predators that were introduced by both the Maori and European settlers all those years ago. The result has been species close to extinction becoming reestablished, and a species thought to be extinct brought back after a few were found in the mountains.

The tour also took a drive around Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, with a very knowledgeable coach driver giving us detailed information on various buildings of interest and the damage caused by a very recent earthquake. He also took us to the Old St Paul’s Cathedral for a look around, a wooden structure built by shipmakers, something giving the building real character when looking at the roof structure from inside which closely resembles an upturned boat.

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Between Christchurch and Wellington, it really is quite humbling to see the damage caused by earthquakes. Lots of empty spaces in Christchurch, fewer spaces in Wellington, but being more recent there are still cracks evident across the roads. Since our visit, we have heard news of devastating wild fires in Christchurch, truly saddening especially for a beautiful city that was still recovering from the 2011 earthquake.

After Wellington came the small harbour of Tauranga. We took an excursion to Rotarua from here to see the truly amazing hot springs and mud pools at the thermal reserve. Wow is the only way to describe it. If you’re lucky enough to get to NZ you must try and get to Waiotapu in Rotarua – this has got to be the best of the excursions by far. We learnt that the reason for the hot springs is the active volcanoes around the area causing hot magma to lie below the surface and heat the water. The extreme heat also draws mineral out of the rocks to dissolve in the water, causing the bright colours. There are hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers aplenty in this area. The Maori tribe that settled here used, and still use, the heat provided by nature to cook their food.

Our final day on board was in the Bay of Islands, just north of Auckland. We had booked a tall ship experience here, a day spent on an authentic schooner, sailing in the sunshine around the bays, finding a secluded beach for some swimming in the sea and relaxing with a BBQ lunch on board. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, for the first time, so the trip was cancelled – I had a spa treatment on board the cruise ship, with a sauna and full body massage with hot stones, instead 😉

The final leg of our adventure is already underway in Auckland, I will post a summary of that in a few days.

100 Ways to Home Educate: With The World!

Today I am taking part in a Home Education Blog Hop initiative, here is a little about what Home Education looks like for us.

Home Education for us: 

If I had to describe our style it would be Semi Structured dabblers in Worldschooling. This basically means when we’re ‘at home’ we follow a loose and flexible timetable with subjects and activities guided by E’s interests and future plans, but we also try to take lots of breaks around the world and country, of varying lengths of time, to discover and learn about different areas and cultures.

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We try to adventure, rather than holiday, doing things a little differently to a standard package holiday where we can. At the moment we are exploring the Southern Hemisphere (have a look at my recent blog posts for more information) but have also traveled by train to Italy, driven around France for a month (sleeping in the car as well as camping) and stayed with friends in Spain. In addition we try to get out and about in the UK including camping in Cardiff, a few days a year in London, Chester Zoo (which is an awfully long drive from Cornwall!) and more.

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What have we covered so far on our current adventure? So much it’s hard to know where to start, but I will try to summarise some of the points! We have learnt about time zones, body clocks and jet lag. We have experienced these first hand, as well as the opposite seasons in the other hemisphere. Currency conversion and cost estimation while out and about, as well as supply and demand affecting pricing – just why did our laundry cost so much to have done on the ship?! We’ve looked at native species, deadly species, cautions for them, and sun safety. We’ve seen a dam, learnt how and why it was built, and the strong relationships formed plus other benefits of those from different cultures coming together with different skills. We talked about evolution and natural selection, multiple times, and the risks of introducing species to an area. We’ve seen differing coastlines and mountains, a rain forest and icy cold waterfalls, learnt about sounds and fjords. There have been discussions about relationships between settlers and natives, what we think went well, what didn’t and why that might have been. We’ve all learnt lots about earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers, which led onto a discussion over dinner about natural disasters and any ways we know to protect ourselves from them (duck and cover, seek higher ground, enter a basement etc). We’ve seen and talked about Maori traditions that still live on, learnt about the Haka and what it really is and means, beyond rugby!

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty, and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. To put it into perspective a little, we’ve been away for precisely three weeks. I feel we’ve covered far more in that time, in far more depth and breadth, than we could have at home, and we still have another week to go…

Some background to what we do, and why:

E came out of school at the end of year three, after a change of schools crushed his optimism and love of learning. He plans to do his GCSEs as an external candidate, studying the material from home. Maths and Science are his favourite subjects, and I have insisted he also sits the exams for English and studies the material for French (as he has been learning French for several years now). He also covers computing (including coding/programming) within his timetable. Then there’s the local Home Ed trips out and meetings to juggle.

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O is not Home Educated at the moment, although he has been in the past, currently he is studying at college for his A levels and he went to a small independent school to sit his GCSEs as he has Asperger’s Syndrome so mainstream school  was not able to meet his needs and he did not wish to sit exams as an external candidate. His school set up has meant we’ve had greater flexible for adventure than many families with one or more children in school.

Blog Hop:

Previous blogger:

The Start:
http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup/2017/02/06/100-ways-to-home-educate-launching-a-blog-hop/

 

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Next Stop – New Zealand!

From Melbourne we spent two full days at sea before arriving at New Zealand’s South Island. The first day was spent on the ship admiring the views and wildlife in the Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds, which it turns out are actually Fjords – the on board Naturalist explained the difference between the two features. We were lucky enough to get clear views of the Milford Sound which is more commonly draped in a thick mist. The temperature at Milford was icy, with cool winds coming down off the mountains.

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While cruising the sounds we were able to sea seals, dolphins and albatross in their natural environment. As well as mountain waterfalls going right into the sea, and amazing lines in the water where the freshwater from the mountains mixed with the salt water from the sea. A truly stunning welcome to New Zealand!

Onwards from the sounds was Dunedin, a city built predominantly some Scottish settlers, including the nephew of Robert Burns. The name comes from the name Edinburgh as that is where it was fashioned on. The timing of our visit could not have been better – the day of their largest annual market – Thieves’ Alley Market Day – the origins of which we’ve thus far been unable to ascertain! We were sure to visit the Cadburys’ Chocolate Factory while we were there with the awesome chocolate waterfall, although sadly pictures were not allowed on the tour 😦 Turns out the Kiwis like their chocolate with marshmallow in the middle.

Our final stop on the South Island was Akaroa, a beautiful natural harbour formed my a crater of an extinct volcano that has merged with the sea on one side. To get out of Akaroa and over to Christchurch we had to ride up and over the crater edge in a coach. Christchuch was really poignant; almost exactly six years on from the massive earthquake and there is still much evidence of the destruction that occurred. After our bus tour of the city we went to a nearby nature reserve to see the Kiwi birds and Kai Apline Parrots, as well as a Maori culture experience which included seeing original Maori huts and a performance of traditional Maori dances.

Damn that’s quite a dam! Plus our next leg begins.

The last thing we did in Sydney before moving on was go and see the city’s largest dam. It was hot day, but well worth the visit. The area that had been flooded is huge, and it was all planned in advance even down to building a settlement for the workers to come out of the city to live in with their families. When the levels are low there are old roads visible from the viewing platform.

The dam has a visitors’ centre which is free to enter and has loads of information on the history of the dam area including a video about the settlement and building process. The settlement is still there today, and still inhabited, although obviously the building work was finished many years ago. The area around the lake is a nature reserve, so the wildlife around the dam is left to its own devices which is evident in the size of some of the fish in the lake.

The next part of our epic adventure was boarding our cruise ship for the middle portion, and main event… A cruise round New Zealand! We boarded our ship at Sydney Harbour and sailed around the coastline to Melbourne before heading onwards to New Zealand.

In Melbourne we wandered the city and checked out the Old Melbourne Gaol which is a preserved building showing the history of hanging, imprisonment and the stories of some more infamous convicts that have been held there. We also took a walk along the beach on the way back to the ship, avoiding the water and burning hot sand. There is a lido there that used to have a defence wall to prevent carnivorous sea creatures entering – we couldn’t quite understand why it’s not there any longer 😉

Dingos, Crocs, Taz and the City

 

Lots of lovely regular posts from me at the moment, while there’s reliable broadband to be had. The next chapter of this particular adventure commences Sunday and then internet access may become more unpredictable and slower… Then again it may not…

Yesterday we went to the local Wildlife Park, Featherdale. We were able to see lots of Aussie animals, including free range kangaroos, and stroke a Koala. The weather was much cooler with rain and even thunder in the evening. It has been pretty dry here in the last six months – the rain was very welcome.

Then, today we went into the city. Naturally we saw the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge; we also saw the Cathedral and adjacent park and a beautiful restored building which now serves as a high end shopping centre – The Victoria Building.

And back “home” on the double decker train…