Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Home educated to college

I've been meaning to write about this for a long time now but just didn't ever seem to be able to find the words.

When you start on a rather odd path like home educating, especially a free-range, autocratic, child-led home education, college or structured education seems a long, long way off and for some it never comes at all. But like all things, if and when it does creep up on you, it can be a shock or at least for me it was. I started recording Facebook 'lives' last year and my August / September ones were all tinged with an air of sadness and the emotional-ness of the loss I was feeling over my eldest going off to college after 12 years of not being at school and 17 years of being with me pretty much 24/7. Don't get me wrong, I was excited as well but it was a big change for the whole family and I really had no idea how he was going to emotionally cope with the environment of a college with over 4,000 students (I wasn't bothered about the academic side).

Anyway off he went, my gorgeous, sensitive, free-range child and we were blessed to have him looked after, nurtured and cared for by total strangers. There were ups and downs of going from no academic study to 3 days a week of Maths, English and a level 2 Games Design course plus the fact that the college only catered for people re-taking Maths and English GCSE not those who had never even studied Maths or English GCSE. But the staff were absolutely amazing - DS was given extra work to do and was helped in every way possible.

DS has never been diagnosed with dyslexia but when he started trying to read when his sister was teaching herself at age 4 (DS was 7) he showed classic signs of it. I am dyslexic so knew what to look for. At that point I asked if he wanted to read and he said no so I told him to stop - he was only doing it because his sister was. We always brought our kids up to play to their strengths and at that age his strengths were climbing trees, drawing maps, playing computer games and mental arithmetic so why learn to read when you don't want to or need to - that was our philosophy. Left to his own devices, he eventually taught himself to read some time between the ages of 11 and 12 with no issues at all.

At college he was supported by the learning support team and assessed with additional needs due to his dyslexic symptoms and at times he availed himself of the mental health services when he felt overwhelmed or needed some time out. All this was done with no judgment or stigma, as I feel it should be. We all have mental health and need support from time to time and the same with a helping hand with academic work.

Anyway, I'm here to let you know that all went well. He coped, he passed all his courses with the best mark he could get and he managed that all in 8 months from an academic standing start. He started the equivalent level 3 course yesterday.

Why am I telling you this though? Am I just wanting to blow my own trumpet on how amazing I am as a mother and educator!! Nope. Instead, I want to remind everyone out there that there are alternatives to mainstream education that don't need you, as a parent, to be a teacher or amazing at imparting knowledge to your children. When my DH and I decided that DS was not going to school because we didn't want him to be taught to read or anything until he was ready, we decided that as the main stay at home parent, I was there to parent my children with guidance and love, not educate them in the ways of Maths, English or anything else.

Although I have helped other people's children pass GCSE Maths (I am a geek who LOVES maths) I am appalling at imparting my mathematical wizardry to my own children. I am mean, short-tempered, have no patience and become possessed by the worse teacher you can imagine. Not at all Mum of the Year material!! In contrast, I am their Mum, I am their taxi driver, I am their confidante (if needed) to name just a few but I am not their academic teacher and I don't need to be. Most of their 'education' from me has been around emotions - trying to have empathy for where someone else might be coming from if they act in a certain way that causes upset; not taking offense (as it is pointless - read my post here); holding your boundaries whilst being kind; not labeling someone as something but rather labeling the behaviour; the 5 languages of love, etc.

All the academic stuff is better taught by teachers and that seems to have been borne out by DS's experience. I am hoping that the emotional resilience he showed over the last year is due to my DH and my nurturing of him and his sister over their lifetime but I can tell you that his academic prowess is all his to congratulate himself on as well as the college staff who facilitated his learning.

So remember:
  1. there are alternatives to our education system
  2. you don't have to be a teacher to home educate - you just have to care about your kids :-)
  3. children DO NOT have to follow the national curriculum
  4. it does NOT have to be expensive to home educate
  5. it is possible to pass Maths and English GCSE in 8 months having never seen the curriculum before (3 hrs a week per subject whilst doing another course)
  6. you can get a job without any qualifications - just thought I would throw that in there in case you are still reading!
  7. if you are MY child, don't ask me to teach you Maths unless you want to see my Mrs Trunchbull impersonation!! In fact, don't ask me to teach you any academic subject
  8. MOST IMPORTANT - you are all unique and AMAZING (watch my FB 'live' to really instil that in you) 
If you would like further information about home educating please feel free to get in touch.

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