Blog Archive

Monday, 28 April 2014

Home education and career paths

Though I read quite a few home education blogs, I haven't read any posts recently about what happens as home-educated children progress to young adults.  I love reading the blogs of people with younger children as it takes me back to the days spent doing similar pursuits with my gang.  Now, it may just be that I haven't come across many posts to do with older children yet but there is only so long I can sit on my backside in front of a screen for!  After all, the home education (and housework etc) demands my time and attention too.

For this post, I will dedicate my next few posts to brief profiles of our six children.  If you wish to ask any questions about exams or anything else, please do so via Comments.  Let me start with the eldest and work down...

Daughter aged 24 in July 2014 (attended school until aged 12/Year 7)

Personality traits - studious and self-disciplined but a self-confessed perfectionist who continues to put pressure upon herself.  Loves singing and receives professional voice training
Favourite academic subjects - music, history, maths but jack of all trades, loves reading historical fiction
IGCSEs obtained prior to age 16 - English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography
Further Education - at Sixth Form college:  AS History, AS Critical Thinking, AS/A2 Maths, AS/A2 Further Maths, BTEC certificate Drama
Higher Education - University of York studying Maths but dropped out during first year as the university lifestyle did not suit her despite doing well in her subject (verified by my speaking to her tutor!).
Progression thereafter - found job training as an accounts clerk and moved a long away from home.  Completed two years of Open University degree course in Maths (statistics) before the OU dropped the February start time forcing all units to be completed between October and February instead of being spread throughout the year.  She could not sustain full-time employment and the study hours necessary (dreadful shame and I wonder how many other students dropped out).  She is now running the accounts department and is second in command to the boss.  She has just bought her own flat through a shared ownership scheme.  Still singing and studying with a professional singer for Musical Theatre exams. New interests developed since leaving home: sailing, volleyball.
Future possibilities - possibly studying for CIMA exams.  More Musical Theatre exams

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Striking the right balance with technology

Let's face it, technology plays a huge part in modern life.  When it comes to home education, it would be much more difficult without the resources available via the internet.  I have also seen much more happening via social networking in recent years.  However, it is all to easy to let it run away with you until suddenly you look around and wonder how it came to be that you are spending too much time sitting on your backside in front of a screen and not enough time at a table (or elsewhere) with your children.

Our home education journey has come a long way since the early days.  Back then, we were concentrating on teaching the children to read, hold a pencil, draw and do maths verbally.  Progress led to workbooks and writing LOADS of stories.  Diaries also worked very well.  However, the majority of the days were spent playing with friends and going out en famille.

Time passed and workbooks became textbooks for the older ones whilst the early years projects started with the younger ones.  More time passed and the phases shifted again.  Exams: did we need or want to do them early?  Yes, we did.  Only at this point did the use of computers become more significant.

Now I look around me and see that too much time is spent in front of screens.  Personally, I have to spend more and more time here than previously in order to run our business and earn the money to pay the bills, to fund the trips, to pay for the books de-da-de-da-de-da... this is increasingly the modern way. However, the example I set in doing so then seems to have given the rest of the family the idea that this is the example to follow.

I do not believe it is right and so I am going to re-structure our home education to return to our core values with selective and judicious use of technology.

Watch this space!

P.S.  This means I may be writing shorter blog entries and automating the other "stuff".  Here is a list of all my digital presences so you can see how it has taken over.

P.P.S.  Whoever said that computers "save time"?

Inspire To Write main website

Full publication list on our website

Music CDs on our website and links to digital downloads

Listmania link to all the ebooks available on Amazon

Our experiences of self-publishing/epublishing:

Our home education blog:

Mr Smile's Happy Blog:

YouTube Channel

David (not that he ever logs on!):

Business @mason_creative-
Helen @MrsSelfPub -

David (not that he ever logs on!):

Friday, 4 April 2014

The solution for over-tested school children?

With all the current press coverage about the government's plans to start testing pre-school children, it takes me back to the reason we started home education in the first place.  I feel fully justified in sporting a slightly smug expression now that, nearly 12 years on, I am very happy we did so.  Could this latest threat to childhood lead to many more people jumping the same way?

Our story in brief

Our eldest daughter was 12 and elder son was 10 back in 2002.  We had three younger ones of 4, 2 and a few months.  Our daughter was always top or thereabouts in school, our son was also pretty well up in the rankings.  However, 2001-2002 saw a big change in their respective school experiences.

I remember that, one week into high school, our daughter told us how the teachers turned from "nice" to "nasty".  One week to integrate and then the testing began.  I recall her revising for test after test after test.  I am not sure how many lessons involved teaching as most seem to be used for testing.  She was still doing well but in the course of the year, she became more and more tired and very disillusioned.

At the same time, our son's class at junior school seemed to go into behavioural meltdown coinciding with the retirement of a senior member of staff who seemed to be the glue holding the class together in the previous year.  I remember tales of fights and furniture being thrown around by a small group of unruly pupils.  I remember the cover teachers walking out and no effective teaching taking place.  In all, his class saw nine different teachers before the arrival of an inspirational male teacher in the final term who pulled things back together but by that time, we had decided to jump ship and home educate.

Waiting in the wings was our next daughter, aged 4, and due to start school in September 2002.  We had put her name down at the infant school the previous year.  She had been attending a wonderful Montessori nursery and we loved the ethos and methods - so child-centred!  However, my husband still recalls the moment as if it was yesterday, that he stood in our house and suddenly realised that we were about to "lose" her to the school system.  It didn't take long before we decided it was to be home education all the way.

Our brush with testing

Currently we are back in exam season when we come up against the hurdles our children need to jump if they want to move smoothly on to higher education.  It is always stressful but it will be OK.  It will not matter what marks they get, I know they can keep their positive outlook.  They have learned there is more than one way to do things and that you don't need to be conventional and, for example, go to sixth form at 16 because that is what everybody else does.  There is such a thing as an early gap year that still satisfies the powers that be regarding the new legislation e.g. full-time work, distance learning courses.

I wonder...

I look at our family now and wonder to what extent they would have been afflicted by the unhappiness that is blighting the lives of too many British children.  Ours are a pretty bright lot though not without their eccentricities and teenage strop-outs but on the whole, they are happy and they realise it too.

I wonder if more parents are likely to vote with their feet if the proposals to test two year olds become reality.  I also wonder how best to help the disadvantaged children in deprived areas who are the ones who would most benefit from intervention of some sort.  Perhaps it is their parents who need the teaching and guidance in how to nurture their children and not the children themselves who need testing. Who wants to be branded a "failure" at the grand old age of two!

You may like to read the following blog posts by other bloggers whose articles particularly touched me before I wrote this post:
Ross Mountney: "Forget testing - start trusting"
Leoarna:  "What I know about British kids"
Michael Rosen: "Why Wilshaw is wrong"

Mr Smile also has something to say on the matter on his Happy blog