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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".