In my head, home education is over for us now. I can’t see Fran or Amelie returning to it and I hope that school will shake down well for Maddy and Josie; both of them seem to be managing even if not perhaps quite as smoothly as the other two. Even Bene starts a trial at nursery one day a week next week. I really don’t know how I feel about that, though it will make a huge difference to us to have a day a week where we can work together.
For all of them, I think the key is choice. No-one has to be anywhere and knowing they can walk away at any moment is an oddly empowering thing, it seems. Strange really, when you think that the main premise of school is letting kids know they have absolutely no choice but to go. Inbuilt opposition-ism being such an essential part of human nature, you’d think we’d have learned to use it to our advantage by now!
Lots has been written on home ed blogs about how it isn’t necessary (or even perhaps a good idea) to do GCSE’s if you are home educated. Had we carried on I think we would have done some, but I’d have been pretty content to let the girls continue to mostly acquire skills and brains and attributes and abilities and not worry too much about exams. There is so much more to life than A grades.
But. That said.
When Fran went off to school she couldn’t do history gcse because the option stream was already full and so they let her sit out that stream and study for it independently. Initially we were going to do the same one the school did but getting the materials was hard and the course looked a bit… meh… so we asked if they’d let us study the igcse and be entered via school. They said yes and we got on with it; it was a great course with lots of American history, WW1 and WW2 work and also a portion on how the political map of Europe altered after the war.
I’d love to say that we worked on it consistently but with Bene arriving, we didn’t really. She’d really only done 1 or 2 of the 5 topics she wanted to do by last summer and we had to get really committed. My role was mostly to keep her at it and chat about topics, while Fran really got on with the doing alone. She was very focused and did 85% of the work without any input at all. And then, last minute, I discovered that one thing nearly 18 months at school had taught her nothing about at all was planning a revision timetable, organising revision in an effective way that actually helped her learn the work. Oh – and how to read a question and answer it effectively because so far as I can see, no one had actually got her to a point where she could really do that; we basically picked up where we left off when she entered school as a just 13 year old.
The igcse got sat, a year early so as to squeeze into the syllabus that only needed one exam and had a good set of topics; they’ve altered the exam to 2 and a more rigid structure for next year. I was incredibly nervous because to be honest I knew my support hadn’t been as consistent as I would have liked and, with only 2 past papers, question practice had been limited to just using the one course book and those papers at the last minute to gauge what was coming. I was so worried I had got her to revise the wrong questions, or work in the wrong way. But when she came out of the exam, sat on her own as a solitary yr 10 among yr 13’s, she felt she’d done okay. Between how I knew she’d worked, the resources and skills we had, the time element and how well I know she can manage questions under pressure, my guess was a B.
Results came out while we were away on holiday and as they have no email facility at her school, we had to wait. It was a nervous drive home… and a scary envelope opening. So much on the line… her creditability as a child working alone, mine as a home educator (in my head anyway!) and the trust the school had placed in us by letting us use them as an exam centre, my hope that that will clear the way for them to offer that facility to others in the area…
She got a B 🙂 And along with it came the results for science part 1 (which I marshalled her through the revision for!) and an RE short course. Also both B’s 🙂
She did so well and we are so proud. More than anything I love that she achieved her history B on her own and I so hope it will give her self belief in her ability to work independently. When you have such a busy life as she does (12 hours gymnastics a week, 7 hours dancing, 3 hours of rugby and last year two additional shows plus the panto and 5 distinctions in high level dancing grades plus teaching a dance class too) then the pressure to still perform at academic work is huge. Fran isn’t ever going to be a straight A* all round student, she isn’t entirely that way inclined and her other activities form a vital part of her being but there is so much more to life than grades. To get creditable grades plus all that other activity is a huge achievement.
For me it was a huge confidence boost that I can help a child get through a gcse exam. I don’t suppose it’s a skill I will need now, but I might and I’m so pleased to find it is an accessible option in terms of what I could give her and what I was up to. I really hope it will serve as an encouragement to other home educators too.
It was a good month; good exam grades, several distinctions in dancing exams, gymnast of the month and buying her first pointe shoes. A nice moment to reflect on what her upbringing has given her as she starts to move away from our influence and guidance and become her own person. And a high point too, one to draw on. September has been tough on all the girls so far with some difficult moments and knock backs they aren’t used to. But that’s life and it needs character to get through it; I hope Fran will remember these good moments in the next few months.
Well done, biggest girl.