Since starting homeschool our original plans for our kids have been tweaked.
We’ve decided to get their GCSE’s and A-levels out of the way as soon as possible, so the kids can focus on their passions. Exams are a stressful part of childhood, for many the worst part of childhood. The hard laborious work, constant pressure, expectations, competition, and public shaming and condescending advice if you get bad grades isn’t exactly pleasant, and nearly all the stuff learned is useless. To this day I occasionally wake up, in a cold sweat, worried that my university finals are around the corner and I’ve forgotten to prepare for them – that’s how stressful they were.
Hopefully Maryam, 11, will have finished her A-levels when she’s 13, Danyal, 9, will be done by the time he’s 12, and Sabeen, 7, should finish when she’s 12, possibly 11. The reason Maryam finishes later is because she started home school the oldest. They’ll only take exams if we feel they’ll get A*s, so if they don’t look like they’ll get the A* they’ll wait until the next exam date.
A significant benefit of doing the exams early is it sounds way more impressive on a CV, so everyone will assume they’re hyper-intelligent, when they’re not.
For those that haven’t read my earlier blogs the odd thing about this all is that my kids aren’t working hard, unless it’s the period leading to public exams. They do work intensively 7am until noon, five days a week, but that is pretty much it – they have very little homework – and so the weekends completely off. The effectiveness of 1-to-1 teaching is what is driving things. Isabelle and myself, for that matter, aren’t working hard either.
Most good schools make 9 or 10 GCSE’s and 3 A-levels standard. We’ve decided on 5 GCSE’s, and 4 A-levels.
We’ve reduced the GCSE’s because when one has A-levels, the GCSE’s become fairly irrelevant. Students do an impressive number of GCSE’s because when they are applying to universities they do not yet have their A-level grades, so universities base their offers on the GCSE grades, but if our kids apply to university, they will have already finished some A-levels.
Another thing that we’re doing different is staggering the exams. Schools make their students do all their GCSE’s at one time, like over a summer. This is just plain stupid. That’s the best way of making students do as badly as possible.
So Maryam recently completed 3 IGCSE’s – Maths, Biology, French. She’ll do Physics in 3 months time, in November 2016, and two months later she’ll do an IGCSE in Accounting (taught by Isabelle, a Chartered Accountant). Getting an A* when she’s going to be spending the prior few weeks focusing on that subject suddenly doesn’t sound so stellar. So after her Accounting IGCSE, she’ll do 2 A-levels in the middle of next year, and a final 2 the following year.
Note Maryam is not doing an English GCSE – compulsory in schools in the UK. I checked up with the top universities and none have it as a requirement.
For Danyal the plan is for him to start his maths A-level after he’s done his Physics iGCSE which he’s hoping to do in November 2016. So he might have finished an A-level or two before he’s done with all his GCSE’s. He’s good at maths (like his father before him!).
We don’t yet have much of a plan for Sabeen but I’m hoping she might be ready for her IGCSE maths next year, in June 2017. We’re kind of assessing her aptitude and interests.
Finally, the kids are continuing to learn their languages and play their sports, as per Homeschool 1.0, but once they start going for the GCSE’s and A-levels the hours are somewhat reduced, with exams the clear focus. We just want to get the exams out of the way…