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.


Anne B said...

I think you're absolutely right to have done it this way for your child. That's the point, isn't it? You know your kids better than anyone else. You know how they learn, what makes them smile and what reduces them to tears of frustration.

And fwiw I'm not convinced parents of school children have it that much easier if they want to get GOOD grades. A friend of mine is currently trying to stay one step ahead of her daughter, at a highly respected academic school, who is being taught Physics by a PE teacher. At least we know where the gaps in our education are!

She also had very little choice about subjects and a couple of obvious ones like history and geography were in the same timetable block so it was either or.

KP Nuts said...

We have a mother in our local area group who blogs here. She is very experienced in exams and has tried various pathways and, more importantly, she is very kind, friendly and helpful :)

Also other readers might not know that Fiona at has been busy compilling a list of exam centres that will take home educated children.

I do understand your feelings about your gaps and so on but do remember that despite having sat behind a desk for 11 years of their life doing maths and english everyday a shocking number of school childre fail maths and english gcse.

There is this book by Gareth Lewis I read a while ago called "Unequalified Education" I wrote a couple of blog posts about it because it was so useful to me. One quote from it was

"Schoolchildren are consistently told that exams are important and some of this conditioning permeates through to people who do not go to school; they assume that their path must, at some point, converge with people who do go to school, and that the time will come when they must stop the work they are doing, however rewarding it might be, and sit some exams so that they can get qualifications, go to University etc."
and then he goes on to say "These assumptions deserve to be questioned........."

I found his book very thouyght provoking. As I say on my blog posts I didn't totally agree with all of it but the ideas in it were helpful. It has encouraged me to seek out adults who have moved organically into the world of work and followed non traditional career paths. I think I wrote about that too :)

higglepea home ed said...

Hi Big Mamma Frog,
Your home ed friend is very wise. You know and love your child like no one else in this world. Listen to your mummy spider sense and all will be well.
How well I understand your 'muddle'. x
I home educate our three daughters 16, 14 and 10 (very soon to be 11! - that's very important ;))
We are currently about half way through the IGCSE mine field and have been trying to find a way to do A levels as external candidates. That has been our toughest challenge so far. So we decided to broadened our 'options'.
My older two have started with the O.U on a degree course as young applicants. This seems a much better way for us as a family than the A level path at the moment. Mine feel there is a much wider choice of subjects and it's home learning, which they are used to. The ucas points can be transferred at a later date and some Uni courses say "A levels or equivilent" on their applications - which when I last checked they all said O.U is good to go for them!
For us, it's another route to take, a different pathway to walk, but what does it matter as long as it gets them to where they want to go in the end. x

Thank you KP Nuts (blushing) x

Carol said...

Sounds like a good plan :-D

@ higglepea homeed - My eldest has uni interviews with just 2 IGCSE's (English and Biology - no maths) and no A levels - in our limited experience Unis have been open minded about her educational background and I'm sure your children will be fine too when the time comes!

higglepea home ed said...

Phew! You know what Carol that's soooo great to hear and is a huge load off my mind! It's such a scary prospsect out there, it's really easy to get bogged down with 'excess'!
I know of no other home educator to talk to whose children have got into Uni or been for the dreaded interviews, so you give us hope. xXx
Thank you ((hugs)) x

Carol said...

Glad it's a help - if you'd like to know how my daughter gets on, my blog (which I'm not terribly good at updating) is You'd be more than welcome to track her progress however things go!

higglepea home ed said...

Am so very much obliged Carol to you, will do just that if you don't mind. It's very comforting to know that there are others out there exploring new opportunities where ever they may lead. Thank you. xXx