Thoreau Quote

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, 17 June 2012

And back to normality.....sort of

It has been so long since my last post. We've had a few months of rather dramatic change in the family which have been distracting and taken most of my attention; in addition there were the dreaded IGCSEs which B sat during May! But things have calmed down a bit now and I hope to be able to drop in more often!

When I started this blog I intended to give some idea of what it's like to home educate. To go someway to answering the questions 'What do you do all day?' or 'How on earth do you get teenagers to do anything?' So I'll try and post more regularly about our everyday activities and hopefully you'll be able to build up a picture.

Since the IGCSEs exams were in May, they were the primary focus of our day for a good couple of months before that. B sat two - History and English Literature. This might not seem much, especially when you consider that in school children often sit many more than that, but it's a different ball game when you're going it alone. For a start, we began these in September, so only 8 months to cover the whole course instead of two years. It's perfectly do-able, but it does mean the workload for each subject is double that of a schooled child. Also, we found these two subjects to be particularly heavy in terms of the material that had to be covered. To top it all, we did these completely alone - no distance learning course, no tutors. So as well as learning the material we had to trawl through books, websites and past papers to work out how to answer the questions in the exam!

And that was the only bit we didn't like really. B did enjoy studying the material, largely because as a home educated student you get to pick the topics you actually want to do, instead of being restricted to the ones the teacher has chosen. So for English she chose Romeo & Juliet and Pride & Prejudice, partly because she was already familiar with both and had acted in a version of Romeo & Juliet a couple of years ago. There was also an Anthology of poems. It's been a while since I had to consider iambic pentameter, personification and dramatic irony and I have to admit it took a while to get the old cogs going!

For History she chose The First World War; Development of a Dictatorship: Germany Between the Wars; Civil Rights in the USA; and Changes in Medicine. Again, being able to choose your topics was a big bonus.

So, interesting stuff. Not so interesting, though, was having to learn how to regurgitate it in just the right way to pass the exam and it was very hard to get B motivated and working in that way. So much so that she took a lot longer than she should have done covering the material and we were left with very little time to revise and do practice papers. So, for the weeks up to May our days were pretty much like this:

Poor old J was left to his devices a lot of the time! He quite enjoyed this period of autonomy though. We recently invested in a subscription to Conquer Maths, an online course, and both B and J are enjoying taking themselves through it. So each day J would do a couple of topics of his Maths, followed by a page or two of his English workbook (amazing how happy he is to continue getting to grips with spelling and grammar now - and how pleased I am that leaving it until he was ready, no matter how late that seemed, was the right approach). Then he'd get on with whatever took his fancy - reading his book (currently 'I Am Number Four' by Pittacus Lore - a huge change from last Autumn when I blogged about his learning to read); working on his project (a book about the guns that appear in an Xbox game! Ah well, it was his project, not mine, and did after all involve research, history and writing!); baking (such as testing several different recipes for brownies to see how they differed and why - and which were the nicest!); or whatever else he felt like.

At the same time I found myself without a car for three months, living as we do in a village with a pitiful bus service. We did use the buses though and they brought lots of new experiences, such as listening to the chatter of the regulars going to town on market day; catching the connecting train to Peterborough on a Saturday; trawling through timetables finding out where we could actually get to without a car. Hardly anywhere it turns out, or at least not if we wanted to get back home the same day! Cue discussion about the pros and cons of cars versus public transport and whether the government should perhaps do more to provide a viable alternative for those of us in the countryside!

Then there were all the 'normal' activities, such as caring for the animals, chores, television, football matches for J and drama classes (and a production) for B, all of which enrich us in many ways.

All in all this period of relative inactivity hasn't been as sparse in the educational department as I thought it would be. J has benefited from the downtime and is ready to forge ahead with some new projects. After a couple of weeks to recover from exams, Beth is also much more receptive to the idea of some forward thinking and planning. And I feel I've recharged my batteries and am ready to go :)