We flowed from the high of GCSE results day to the final decision on what Sixth Form Fran would attend, to last minute tweaks and changes to A Level choices and the scheduling in of enrichment activities around personal commitments. And all of it, for the first time, was judged up against the future. Lists were consulted, pathways considered and options – in the sense of the word far bigger than choosing school subjects – looked at and assessed.
I’m an enormous believer in it being possible to change your stars at any time. I’m not one for panicking about making the perfect choice at one moment and never wavering, as I wrote about here. I played safe and took no risks for fear of failing when I was at school and not following my heart meant nothing more than I look back not knowing if I would have been good enough but knowing for certain that I never really tried. And our home ed life certainly taught us to think differently about the paths our children might take – to try the unconventional, to follow your (and their) instincts and be prepared to carve out a way personal to the child, not carve the child to the accepted norm.
Fran has plenty of aspirations; like me, she has a tendency to think whatever is laid at her door is a great idea. having passed her Level 1 British Gymnastics coaching last week she already knows she can work as a gym coach. She;s likely to be a decently qualified coach well before she leaves school. And she is aspirational about her academic future and her career too, with physiotherapy and sport science at a good uni both high on her list of hopes. That means she has had to consider her A Level choices far more carefully than I did because some careers do become closed off once you turn your back on science subjects. She’s settled on Sport, Biology and Psychology for her AS Levels, knowing that they not only excite her but also support those careers that call to her. Carrying on working and training as a gym coach give her the tantalising possibility of having back up, skilled earning power through uni and gap years or even while she hunts for the perfect job afterwards. And if things don’t go to plan, if the high A level grades she needs don’t happen, she has a cast iron fall back plan.
It’s a set of subjects I find myself surprised by, my bookish, humanity subject loving, history conscious daughter choosing so far away from anything I would have imagined. I catch myself wondering what she would have done if she had continued with home education.
But in all that, there is another thread.
The stage calls her. Alongside those subjects is a BTEC in Performing Arts which, judging by her all round good parents evening last night, filled with all the normal praise, is where she excels. And sitting next to her in her exam success West End show treat a few weeks ago, it is clear that the desire to perform at a high level tugs her bones even harder than it did mine.
When I was at school, the message was clear; get your education first, no matter what and then, if there is room left, follow your dream along the side.
I’m not sure if I agree with that. There are some things – gym and dance to name but two – which have a shelf life. It’s not only gathering qualifications that matters, though once you are in the system, doing well is clearly a good way forward. But passion and desire and total commitment will get you a very long way. There is little worse than regretful wishing – whether it is wishing you worked harder back then or wishing you had tested the footing on a different path..
For Fran, this looks like taking a few different forms. She’ll gather these A levels at school and give it her all but she plans a gap year before uni, if one of the courses she wants will take her. And in that gap year she plans to finish her basic gym qualifications and do a course that will give her some skills that link dance and performance and gym all together. And alongside that she plans to do some West End auditions (because why the hell not? The worst that can happen is a no) and apply to some performance colleges too.
And that’s as many doors to universes kept open as possible. Which is the subject of this rather lovely video, all about helping teenagers see the possibilities that science can bring them and all the ways their lives can pan out depending on whether they make one choice or another. Your Life is about the benefits of studying maths and physics at A level. It’s a 3 year project aimed at inspiring young people to see the career pathways they open up, the employers who value them as subjects and how being informed at up to date about technology and the sciences at drive them leave you able to step into any ‘universe’ you want to.