As I started tapping away, I realised this is quite a big topic, so I’m going to split it into two posts; the first of my reflections about this season, and the second with some more practical pointers. We have also done a podcast on exams, at Mended Tea Cups
Embarking on IGCSE’s felt as much of a leap out of the boat and onto water as initially taking Lanky Dude out of Reception when he was four. A step into the unknown. Yet my overwhelming memories of these years with our boys is of God’s absolute faithfulness, His unfailing provision and His constant kindness. I’m forever thankful we had these extra years of homeschool; to walk closely with our boys during a season in which they began their transition into the amazing young men they are becoming.
It was about so much more than clocking up exam grades. I had the privilege of being a part of their lives, of learning alongside them, of discussing, challenging and being challenged. At a time when there are so many negative voices in teenagers’ lives, we were able to continue to speak positive truths and continue to lay firm foundations for the time when they stepped out into college education. These are years when it is normal and good for our kids to be asking questions, digging deeper into the worldview from which they’ve been taught and I believe it’s so important for them to have a safe place in which to do so. I often prayed that they would have “Issachar eyes”. Issachar was the Hebrew tribe whose responsibility it was to discern the signs of the times; and it was wonderful to have the space, during these years, to read about, debate and discuss national and world issues.
Friendships are important during the teen years, as they look to others at a similar life stage for affirmation. I’m so grateful that our boys have a few solid friends they’ve known since childhood (another regular topic for prayer). We joined a Christian home ed group as we embarked upon IGCSE’s, partly as I felt I needed some reassurance that what we were doing was indeed possible, and partly as I thought it would be important for the boys to know some other home educated teens. The welcome we received and subsequent friendships have been hugely significant for all of us. I think God know what we needed before I’d even asked!
Having said all this, continuing to homeschool has also maintained and strengthened their sibling relationships, which I think was particularly important for our family as our youngest daughter joined us around this time, through adoption.
So much of our philosophy of education is relational, establishing firm foundations of faith, family and community. I was really surprised how learning together through IGCSE course work strengthened my relationships with the boys. Some subjects Lanky Dude studied alone, but RS, geography and all three sciences we worked on together, as I also did with Rhythm Dude, sitting on the sofa and reading through the text books. I really enjoyed having my brain challenged at a slightly higher level than previously, though in an excellent role reversal Lanky Dude often explained the physics to me! (He got an A* and is now studying for physics A level). I also understand that emotional bonds are made/strengthened when we walk through challenging situations together, and I think this was true as I attempted to support both boys through exams.
It was also fun! The ECHO educationscience courses we used included lots of experiments which has passed on an interest in chemistry to our oldest daughter; she sees it as all about mixing colourful chemicals! And of course we could still go on holiday when everyone else was at school.
Every child and family is unique and IGCSE’s or the alternatives at home may well not be the best choice for many families. I, however, remain deeply grateful for these “extra” years we had homeschooling the boys. It was a huge privilege and an immensely special time.