When home educated kids get towards being teens, things tend to go one of a few ways. Sometimes, as in Fran’s case, they head off into school; sometimes they stick with a very autonomous and alternative education, trusting that aptitude and interest and enthusiasm will serve the child well when they get to a point of either wanting to access mainstream education or get a job. In the ten years I’ve been home educating, I’ve seen that come good so many times that I’d trust that approach if it was right for any of my kids. Often, however, the child and the parent veer towards the conventional and start a process of collecting mainstream courses and qualifications, accessing exams and courses through a variety of means.
Before Fran went to school we had concluded that we would aim for her to collect a core of gcse exams and that we’d do that by studying the courses until she was 16 and then she would go college and try to spend a year there and do all the exams at the end. It was an easy way to make sure she had a fall back plan to her dream of dancing professionally, the fall back plan at the time being agricultural college. The huge frustration for home educators is that, despite paying taxes to have a right to a school place for a child, we don’t have access to exam centres by right and so have to enter exams as private candidates, if a centre can be found at all. Schools are misinformed and don’t want to risk an unknown candidate fouling up their stats, even though in fact that doesn’t happen as private candidates don’t count in performance stats. And private candidates have to pay, with £250 per exam sitting being an oft quoted sum of money.
It’s not fair and it means people have to be creative and look for ways of sitting exams, even if it means doing them as they can afford to, or later on as evening class or mature students.
Since going to school, Fran remains slightly in the home ed camp because the school could not fit her into the history gcse classes and the intention was for the school to provide support for her to do this at home with me. The reality of this has been unimpressive and we are now looking at her doing igcse via a distance learning course, similar to the ones provided by this college. Hopefully this will be not only a course she will prefer, but be easier for us to manage, going back to the old style of relying on ourselves totally, rather than waiting for support from school.
My greatest responsibility of course still lies with the other girls, who are now all reaching a point where either school, or more diverse and stretching learning is on the horizon for them. Maddy and Amelie are both enjoying working harder and have very different needs, so a plan a, with a potential school move if it looks good being plan b, needs to be in place. I’m starting to think in terms of providing more concrete plans so they are ready for gcse if that is what they want. Although Fran has adapted well to school, the amount of written work, revision and tests has been a steep learning curve and it strikes me that Maddy might need more of a run up to that if she does go to school at any point.
So, if I have any home educating readers left ( 😉 ) I’d really like to know how you see the teenage years and any formal study going? Do you use online courses, a local college, a particular tutor you know via home ed land or other places? Do you have any recommendations for how to approach formal qualifications or where to access them? I thought I would try to put together a list of recommendations for people who mightier some inspiration.