Blog Archive

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Exams: Physics without a text book

We are currently in Mallorca for a two week break in celebration of mine and Dave's birthdays.  With us, as ever, are four of our six lovely children and a selection of home education materials.  It is pared down on this occasion as we were trying to cut down on the hold luggage as EasyJet now charges £30 per item and most of our baggage weight always seems to be in books, shoes and sports equipment.

Responsibility for packing the IGCSE Geography and Physics was passed to the two students who were to ship it in their hand luggage.  Unfortunately, when we started unpacking, we discovered that the physics books were still back home.  Cue panic.

We are now adapting to the situation by using online resources that we haven't used before.  My starting point is the wonderful selection of resource sites on the home education site A Little Bit Of Structure (LBOS).  My gratitude to those blogging home-educating parents is immense.  I have cobbled together some extracts from old physics textbooks available from the National STEM Centre (nothing to do with cells but actually an acronym for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).  I also found a gem of a Kindle book "20:80 Physics" by Michael Reid that has some great techniques and mnemonics for remembering and manipulating formulae.

Amazon fortunately list Pearson's official textbook for IGCSE Physics so I can look inside and use the table of contents and index as a further prompt.  Unlike the IGCSE Geography which has its first sitting this May, the IGCSE Physics has been going for a couple of years and so I can download most of the past papers/marks schemes and examiners' reports from the subject page.

Now comes the tricky bit: putting all the resources together and delivering them to my two students.  Wish us luck!

P.S.  Now also found loads of material on Memrise:

Friday, 14 March 2014

Is it OK to let them fail?

How hard should we push our children to study?  How much pressure should we exert when they seem to be lacking in motivation?  Should we let them learn from failure?  How does our stance fit in to our original motivation for home educating?

These are all questions that are buzzing around my head as we move towards more exams with two of our six children.  It is also discussed in an article in The Times this morning in relation to both sport and a high achieving independent high school.

The current study schedule for Rosa (16) and Rory (14) is another two Edexcel IGCSEs in May/June 2014:

  • Geography (one 3 hour written paper)
  • Physics (one 2 hour written paper and one 1 hour written paper)

They already have four IGCSEs to their names, having taken Biology and Chemistry back in May 2012, AQA Maths GCSE in November 2012 and IGCSE English Language in May 2013 (see the links for downloadable specifications from the boards' websites).

For each of the subjects, we purchased the recommended textbooks listed on the resources sections of Edexcel and AQA. Other than that, being on a low budget, we had no professional tutors, only our own brains and those of our (often unwilling) students.  The biggest problem was not the content to be taught but managing the fluctuating enthusiasm and commitment.  They passed all of the exams but we feel sure that their best marks were in the subjects that fired them up most and therefore they worked hardest at.

For us, home education had always meant freedom from the pressures on school students to pass this and achieve that.  This was fine until the reality of the mid-teenage years with our two older children (22 and nearly 24 at time of writing).  They wanted to go back into mainstream education for sixth form.  For this they needed 5 GCSEs grades A*-C. Hence our push for exams began but it was tough at times.  They succeeded and went on from college to university and employment.

As I stress myself out once again, trying to bring Rosa and Rory to the dining table to study...and not succeeding, I wonder if I should let them "fail".  I know they are in fact unlikely to achieve less than grade C for either subject but I also know they have potential for the top grades if they put in the work now.  Will the disappointment on results day at not getting top grades (as happened before) teach them to work harder for themselves not for me?

I am beginning to think I should let them face the consequences of their own making.  However, I don't know if the legacy of my own conventional teenage years, high standards and passion for study will let me.  May be I, too, need to learn to "fail".

Friday, 7 March 2014

Experienced home educators' blog

Hello there!

I have started this blog specifically on home education following interest in posts on my blog that covered our self-employment, travel and home education lifestyle.  I decided that the home education merited its own dedicated blog.

We live in the UK and have six children.  We chose home education when the oldest two were 10 and 12 years old (they are currently 22 and nearly 24).  The younger four children are currently 10, 12, 14 and 16 years of age.

Back in 2002, we became increasingly disillusioned with the lack of breadth to the curriculum being forced on English state schools and the increasing drive for so-called "improved results" year on year at GCSE.  The emphasis on measuring pupils' performances seemed to mean that education, in the true sense, was deemed secondary to the statistics.  While we genuinely sympathised with the teaching staff's predicament, we voted with our feet and jumped out of the system.

Although initially we allowed a few months of autonomous de-schooling, it soon became apparent that the children responded to a structure for their studies.  This may have been because they had grown used to it at school.  We decided to opt for a home curriculum of our own design.  This focused on English and Maths while we found our feet; other subjects were covered less formally through museum visits, workshops etc.

I will post more information on our journey in coming weeks/months but suffice it to say that we succeeded in our aims and continue to do so with our younger four who have never attended school.

If you would like to learn more about our journey or ask any questions, please follow this blog.