Some of the children we home schooled with have graduated from Uni now. One of my friends was talking to me lately about her son.
Right back when he was six and a half he was almost school phobic which was why she decided to home educate.
This is what she told me:
‘School clearly didn’t suit him. He was so bored and I found I was dragging him away from doing things that interested him at home to do dull stuff in class. He was in a huge class and hated crowds. The school hardly seemed to notice when he learned to read and kept sending dull Readers home when he was almost fluent. And his personality seemed to change; he became unhappy, aggressive and unwilling to learn when he’d always previously been cheerful and enthusiastic to acquire new information. He was always ill too, hardly ever did a full week in Year One.
‘All this stopped when he came out of school, an option that he suggested having seen a piece about a home-educated child on the TV. Once this idea was raised I did some research on home education and we decided to take him out of school at the end of the summer term and see how he responded. He was well ahead in ability anyway, so I guessed that even if he did nothing at home for a year while he matured, he could still go back and be in about the right place school-wise!
As it turned out he never did go back and his brothers never went to school at all. She went on…
‘No child in my experience progresses in all areas at the same rate, but they are expected to in school and this causes children such problems.
‘In some areas my son was years ahead. He would read voraciously on dinosaurs and animals, absorbing information way beyond his supposed intellectual level. In the other areas, particularly writing, progress was slow and I questioned whether this mattered. When other parents compared what their kids were doing at the same time, and mine wasn’t, I sometimes felt worried. But I knew that equally could have happened in school.
‘I stopped worrying as I felt he was clearly bright enough and would catch up on the things he needed to eventually, which is exactly what happened. Children do not have to always do things in a specific order. And now he’s ended up achieving the same as his school friends even though we didn’t do things at the same rate.
‘Take maths for example; he was quite good at maths but didn’t have a natural love of it and found it boring. So we left that for a while and concentrated on things that did interest him. Looking back, he probably didn’t do any formal maths at all between the ages of 12 and 15, although maths came into our everyday lives and through the science he did.
At fifteen he studied for IGCSE biology and geography, both subjects he enjoyed and from then he went straight on to AS levels in those subjects. He really didn’t do much sustained writing until about six months before his exams because we approached his learning through reading and discussion. But he went on to achieve A* in his results. He didn’t take IGCSE Maths, English and Chemistry till he was seventeen, when he needed them to apply for university and suddenly gained some motivation!
Last year he graduated with a First in his Masters of Biological Science.
‘School really doesn’t suit so many children because they don’t grow and progress in the expected order – this seems to be particularly marked in boys, who may be quite late acquiring formal academic skills. But because the school curriculum is so rigid it makes failures out of those who don’t fit. Time frames really don’t matter because education isn’t a race and just because children don’t achieve in a given time it doesn’t mean they will never achieve.
‘I’m more relaxed about the other two (both teens now) and know that they will achieve how and when they need to with our encouragement and a variety of approaches. I just wanted to reassure other parents who are home educating and worrying about their children not achieving in the conventional way that it doesn’t really matter, because with the right situation and encouragement they will get where they want to go in the end’.