Increasing numbers of parents are unhappy about the way in which the school system is failing their children because of the conveyor-belt like process based on test scores. When the kids don’t get the scores, they can be written off for the rest of their school career.
One parent was determined not to let this happen. She decided to home school for a short time to help her child progress at her true level.
Many parents feel that they couldn’t consider home schooling long term. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot work for families in other ways.
I asked her to tell us how it worked for them:
Can you tell us a little background?
All through her primary school our daughter had been fairly happy and achieved well, and had a good group of contemporaries doing the same. But when she went into secondary school, to our surprise, she was placed in a much lower stream than the others. We couldn’t understand this but on approaching the school were told that her position was based on standard scores that predicted she was ‘in the best place for her ability’.
I knew that she certainly wasn’t – even one of the other members of staff indicated to me that she was in the wrong group. But the Head wouldn’t budge on their decision, maintaining test scores are an accurate prediction of ability. We felt this was ridiculous, knowing our child and that children change dramatically day to day.
Our daughter became increasingly unhappy, having regular days off with illness, eventually was diagnosed with stomach migraines due to school stress and given medication. We thought there must be a better way, so went into discuss this with the school; we felt confident that if she were moved into her usual group she could cope with the work and also her health would return. The school was most unhelpful saying that she couldn’t move group unless she got better results and we were stuck in a Catch 22 situation.
Since she was too unwell to go to school most of the time anyway, around February time we made the decision to home school for a while, get her end of year grades up, so she could go back into the group that suited her.
What did you do with your daughter at home?
We used a variety of text and workbooks, same as they used in school, (it’s all on line now) to work through the curriculum they’d be doing in class, in preparation for her sitting her end of year 7 exams. We found the work took remarkably little time at home one-to-one with no distractions. We knew she had the mental capacity to deal with the work and would cope with going back to sit her exams in the normal way. It was only the unfortunate class group she’d been with which had been the trouble.
How did your daughter feel about not going to school?
She was instantly relieved and her symptoms disappeared. She didn’t take the medication she was prescribed – there was no need. She still saw school friends and it had no impact on her relationships. She also had time for her other pursuits, many outdoors, which contributed to her return to good health and happiness. In September, when she went back full time, she was in the top stream – as she always should have been. It was no problem at all returning.
If you hadn’t taken this action what do you think would have happened?
We would have had one very unhappy, unwell daughter who would have abandoned education as fast as possible. I imagine we would have had awful battles and it would have disrupted our family life as it was already beginning to. If children are miserable, they won’t learn. It seemed crazy to suggest we give our daughter horrible drugs when, to us, the answer was obvious. The school was blinded by scores rather than observing the individual.
She certainly wouldn’t have achieved what she has now; she has graduated from Uni and is thrilled to be going on to do a Doctorate. Thank goodness we stuck with what we felt was right for her as I’m sure it would have been very different if we hadn’t.
Home education works on so many different levels. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. It certainly worked brilliantly for us.