Thursday, 9 February 2012

This is what happens when you're busy making other plans

While I've been angsting my pants over GCSEs, IGCSEs, diplomas and all that other academic stuff, this is what the kids have been up to. It always seems to happen like this, there I am panicking, and there they are oblivious, happily educating themselves with minimal intervention from me...

The first stages of an igloo (using an ice cream tub as a mould for the bricks)


Ice Man
Spanish number dominoes (free printout from

'Down to Earth Geography'

Playing 'maths man'

visiting the exhibition on refugees at the Town Hall

Preparing an 'African Feast' with friends
Fried plantain chips
Exotic fruit salad (first time my kids have eaten pomegranate)
making date chewies
stage 2 (after cooking). Then rolled into balls and dipped in icing sugar (see below).

Papaya stir fried rice

Back to the stone circle (with the bear hat that is now - sob - lost)

Just as cold as last time we visited!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

And breathe out...

My muddle is over.

Well. Not entirely. But I do find that information is a great soother of worries. I like to know the options and feel now that there are options.

For the past week I've been researching the various opportunities that *might* be available to ds1 as and when he is ready.

The prospect of vocational qualifications has been turned bosoms-up this week by Michael Gove. Basically many level 2 vocational qualifications (usually 14-16 years) will now no longer count towards schools' league tables. So even if the colleges choose to offer the courses, in practice the courses probably wont run. As a local college contact told me 'It's unlikely schools will release their level 2 pupils to do something that wont count in the school's league table'. Sigh.

But all is not lost. There will still be options of some sort. And ones that will be open to home ed kids (even if I have to wrestle with the LA for the funding). And even if it means ds1 ends up doing level 1 'mucking about in farm fields for morons' courses. In fact he was quite attracted to the idea. (perhaps I should encourage him to set his sights a little higher?)

It looks like GCSEs will be changing over the next few years, so they will be less likely to have continuous assessment elements. For home ed kids this means they will be easier to take as external candidates (currently the only options for home ed kids are IGCSEs  or the very few GCSEs without coursework elements).

Funny how all this stuff is so straightforward if you have a kid in school. All you have to do is choose what GCSEs to do and everything else gets sorted for you. If you're home edded, you have to first find an exam centre that will take you as a private candidate (at a cost of anything from £60 to £180). Then you have to find qualifications that don't require coursework (usually IGCSEs, but these are often considered more difficult for the student than GCSEs). The choice can be limited and you may not be able to do the ones you want to do. Then you have to find out what exam board you want to use and check that the exam centre will allow you to use that board. Then you have to buy the course books for the right exam board (and no, there's no funding available for that, either). Then you have to help your child study the course, even if you know nothing about the subject. You will also need to find and download past papers, deduce the best exam technique and schedule all of the work in, so you have time to work through the content before the exam. Then have to make sure you book the exam centre in time. And then the child has to take the exam.

But I digress.

Ds1 and I have discussed all this and come to an agreement that the priority is to spend the next year getting his English up to a level whereby he can have the choices other children have age 14 or 15. Whether this means GCSEs or IGCSEs or vocational courses or no courses, the choice will be his. But he will be able to have a choice.

Ditto with the maths. He agrees that now is a good time to fill in the gaps. He wants to have options. He wants to be free to choose what he wants to do when the time is right. And without adequate literacy and numeracy the options are going to be limited.

It's going to take a little time to catch up on the kind of things school kids have had drilled into them on a daily basis for years, but progress on Maths Mammoth and Galore Park English is already good. I'm glad we've left it until now to work on the 'boring' stuff - you know the sort of thing: answering questions in full sentences, remembering to number your answers, showing your workings. God knows we could have sucked the soul out of our home ed by tackling this dry stuff all the way through, but instead, we can cover them quickly at this age.

Also we can discuss openly and honestly why these are the necessary 'hoops' to jump in academia (and why these skills are mostly irrelevant in the working world).

A lovely home ed friend who has been through similar issues with her child said to me last week:

'Don't worry what other people say. You know your child better than anyone. Just trust your instinct.'

These were the words I so needed to hear right now.