In my last post I pondered over some of the relational, character and faith building aspects of continuing to homeschool into the teen years. I still believe these were the most foundational for us, but it was also important to continue our boys’ academic studies, and in this post I’ll chart a little of what that looked like for us.
There are numerous educational choices when our kids reach their teen years. IGCSEs at home (and many ways to do this), GCSEs at college (more colleges now are running GCSE courses for home ed students), American SAT (growing in popularity in this country, see Under an English Sky) or another pathway specifically suited to an individual child. Both our boys took quite different pathways, suited to each of them. Helen and I talk further about some of these in our podcast at Mended Tea Cups
It was clear that Lanky Dude had a uni course and career pathway lined up by the age of 13, and that IGCSE’s were not only going to suit him, but be his best ticket for uni. Having done remarkably little research when we first began our home ed journey, I researched endlessly for this one. And I prayed. God was so faithful and over the three years he amassed eight IGCSEs, with a good handful of As and A*’s. Geography and RS we did by reading the relevant books together, English we used an online Dreaming Spires course, maths and Economics he self taught with the relevant text books and the for the three sciences we used Sam Martell’s Echo Educationcorrespondence courses. These were excellent and Sam herself was a huge source of advice and encouragement for which I was so grateful. They included lots of fun experiments which felt very much like a continuation of how we’d learnt before. Lanky Dude did masses of past papers for each subject when it came to revision, which prepared him well.
Finding a centre from which to sit exams is difficult; we used three different settings in all. It is also expensive. Some where quite a distance away, so for a morning exam we would travel up very early to beat the traffic and have breakfast in the car while waiting for the centre to open. I’m not sure what memories the boys have of these times, but I now have fond ones; it was one to one time, I had time alone while they sat the exam and was able to walk and pray, and when they were done I bought them a bacon butty before the journey home! So much of our home ed journey is relational and these were important connection times.
One of the great things about home ed is that we can try to tailor our children’s education to their abilities and interests. As Rhythm Dude is dyslexic it was clear exams weren’t going to be easy or be an accurate measure of his strengths. Amazingly, he did take two, when he was 14 and 15, and although he enjoyed the courses it was agony watching him try to revise. Alongside these he got on a “link” course at college doing general building. This was one afternoon a week and was a wonderful way into formal education for him. The following year (year 11) he got a place on an early college transfer programme do do level 1 carpentry, with maths and English GCSE. It is a popular course and the places were already taken, but they created an extra one for him due to his good character reference from the Links Course. Music to a home ed mum’s heart! He has nearly completed this, and has done really well. He has been able to progress his English doing Functional Skills, had excellent support and received glowing reports all round.
I sometimes have wondered if I was right to attempt IGCSE’s at home with him, knowing now that he could have got on the level 1 course and progressed from there without them. However, he has now applied for and been offered a place on a sports course for which he did need them; so God knew…..
I’m not sure what we will do with the girls, but I am more confident now of the many options available, and we will endeavour to choose a pathway for each of them which best suits both their interests and their learning styles.
Every teen and family is unique and this may well not be the right option for many, but for us it has been a blessing on numerous levels. It was a precious season when I knew my Heavenly Father’s guidance, provision and grace. I had the privilege of walking alongside our teenage sons during these emergent years. As I look at them now, strong in faith and character, able to make wise choices, good friendships and to study well, I give the glory to Him with a heart overflowing with thankfulness.