I’m enjoying our home education adventure this year. It’s taken on a life all of its own, often a little independent of our input. It’s not all model making, crafting and bicarbonate of soda volcanoes anymore ( with the exception of Lady P). Home education has become more about ambitions and aspirations for our eldest child. For our seven-year-old it’s about hearing his more mature voice as he narrows down his interests. It’s about routes to achieving dreams through academic work, activities, play and conversation.
Home education for an almost teen.
My eldest is almost a teenager. A switch clicked a good few months ago and since then he’s been almost entirely self-motivated. He decided what he wanted to achieve and my goodness what a driven young man he is becoming.
His love affair with music blossomed and he practices his violin for hours each day. He wants to achieve. I watched him perform in three concerts in July at the Royal Northern College of Music. The biggest of which saw him play in an orchestra mainly made up of seventeen-year-olds. He loves it. His friends there are college kids, he is at home in that environment. He had a first violin solo at another and played to a young string audience with teachers at the last. He’s located his musical heart and it’s an emotive experience for me to watch him sway as he plays Mahler.
He owns his music.
He motivates himself to play as he does with his music theory. I can’t help him as I don’t play the violin and nor does my husband. I can read basic music but his abilities have far outstripped my own. His musical success comes from both a natural ability and a lot of disciplined hard work.
The little blonde five-year-old who played musical games on brightly coloured quavers at his piano lessons has metamorphosed into a 5 foot 7 inch violinist. You can’t count the number of times I have wept tears of pride and happiness as I’ve watched him play.
My seven-year-old has his own musical dream. This year he began piano lessons. Later than his brother because prior to seven he wasn’t interested. We never forced our eldest to take up music, it was just in him and so we waited to see if our middle child had a musical ear too. He’s taken to it with ease and it won’t be long before he thinks about a grade. It isn’t the piano he fancies though.
He found the percussion teacher at our local music service on his own and asked when he could start. He’s bold and brave. He wants to drum so our job is to help him on this journey. Stretching finances to pay for more lessons in a borough where music isn’t subsidized in any way isn’t easy. It means that something else will have to go and that will probably be things like our Netflix and Friday night bottle of plonk.
We’ve suggested that he also starts on a strings adventure, a prospect over which he is deliberating. This offer is borne from a parental guilt about him being the middle child if I’m completely honest. It’s a case of making sure that he feels that he has all the same opportunities as his older brother. Strings might not be his thing but at least he has a chance to give them a try.
I love that he knows what he likes and what he wants. Drums. Loud, rhythmic drums. Neither my husband or I were surprised when we discovered his desire for this instrument. Physically and mentally he seems perfectly suited to banging out a beat and the important role a percussionist plays in an orchestra will appeal to his centre-of-attention personality. The task at hand is to set up an electronic kit somewhere in our not-quite-big-enough house. It won’t just be our finances we need to rearrange, it’ll be the furniture too.
Home education & GCSE’s
My eldest is working towards his chemistry IGCSE along with a group of home educated teens. One of the parents among our home educating ranks is an experienced tutor and so he goes to her once a week. He learns in a group setting with ten teens all keen to achieve top grades in the difficult subject. They learn in a wonderful whole brain way thanks to her amazing teaching techniques. He enthuses over the work and even over the homework.
Next year he hopes to study for his maths GCSE with her. His plan, not ours but one we support wholeheartedly.
By August 2018 my then thirteen-year-old will have a chemistry IGCSE and GCSE equivalents in music theory and violin. There’s a chance that he will also have or be studying for his PE GCSE by that point as well thanks to another home ed parent and his athletics coach. He will be studying for his mathematics GCSE and hopefully also biology and or physics. This is his plan – we like it.
I support him at home with English. He works through a Galore Park text-book which I’m on hand to help with. We also continue with book studies. Currently, we are reading ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. I located a scheme of work online to support the text which covers not only English but history and politics. We both enjoy our time together. With him there’s no longer a ‘timetable’ rather there’s the knowledge that today is the day we will work through the next chapter. When he’s ready, we get together to learn. The independence suits him.
Ad hoc courses and activities will always occur. Throughout August he’s participating in an art course at a local gallery. At the end of which he will be given an Arts Award. We’ve got a Drone programming workshop on the radar next week for example. Earlier in the year, we had an intensive media studies experience. There’s always something unusual to participate in.
Game developmentAnother driver for my eldest is his desire to develop a computer game. He has a Unity programming course which is aimed at professionals, not twelve-year-old boys. With dogged determination, he follows the lessons and is slowly building his own game in Unreal Engine 4. When it’s complete he says that he will sell it, we’ve no doubt that he will.
My eldest has a lot of strings to his bow not just musical ones
LanguageThen there’s German. We continue to learn the language with a native speaker who also happens to be a home educator. In the future I imagine that the boys and I will sit a GCSE in the subject yet for now learning conversationally is our goal. Our tutor is offering lessons for home educated children in a group setting from September. Should it be of interest you can contact her at Deutsch Centre language school for a chat.
Home education at seven-years-old
My seven-year-old has a soft spot for maths. He asks to do maths nearly every day of the week and when he’s not working his way through his work books, he can be found puzzling through his Sudoku book. Word searches and Sudoku appeal to him. I pick up puzzle books from the newspaper stand at the supermarket every couple of weeks for him. At bedtime, he will sit in bed with his radio on and complete Sudoku. It’s cute, heartwarmingly cute and more importantly it fuels his love of numbers. Leave him to it I say.
Another fascination of his is rocks and stones. After a trip to a museum where he watched a video clip of a man making a weapon with flint, his interest became more focused. Together we are studying prehistoric Britain with our eye firmly fixed on tools and weapons. His ultimate goal is to make something himself in a prehistoric setting so my ‘find-a-trip’ radar is on. If you have any suggestions please let me know.
His greatest ambition was to learn to swim this year. My eldest has been like a fish since he was small but my seven-year-old struggled. This summer I’ve taken all the children swimming two or three times a week. His goal has been achieved and he can now swim amazingly well. Later this year I will look into swimming lessons for him not just so that he can have a certificated acknowledgement of his skills but to help him hone his technique.
Our Home education is about listening. Listening to what our children are trying to say about who they are and what they want to achieve. Sure, we ensure that they cover the basics because their future depends on having a grounding in the core subjects but they are free to choose their focus subjects. Free to play, free to dream and free to work. These are the values that make our home education work.