Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Daunting Responsibility

Emily, bless her heart, is feeling a little worn down by the cares of the world just now. In particular, she is worried about her future. Having successfully convinced herself that she's no good at anything at all, she worries about whether she'll be able to get qualifications she might need and whether, having obtained qualifications, she'll even be any good at her chosen career, whatever that might end up being. She worries that the fields she thinks she might want to enter, particularly fashion, are too competitive and that she won't stand a chance. She worries about all kinds of things which, presumably, a ten year old shouldn't be worrying about and which if we were doing our parenting job well she wouldn't be concerned about for a long while yet.

Meanwhile, Jon and I stand and watch and weep internally if not externally. How easy it would be if she were in school. Hand over all that responsibility to the school. Let them "guide" her towards a future career in the same way that they guided us - guidance which, it must be said in my case at least, wasn't worth the ten minutes it took to deliver the bloody obvious in a chilly careers room one winter morning aged 16. Largely incompetent and unpleasant my teachers may have been, but I wasn't worrying at ten years old about my future, because I knew I'd be getting the "right" qualifications at the "right" age and that it would all become clear just like it would for any other "normal" child at school.

Emily's career angst was sparked by the letter about the 11+ from the local grammar school; that's what brought all these conflicting emotions to a head, for all of us. If Emily genuinely wanted to go to school, we would facilitate that as I know many other home ed parents have done. She maintains that she doesn't want to go if there is any way round not going....but no matter how much we reassure her that there are plenty of ways around the s-word, there still seems to be some nagging doubt in the back of her mind.

It's becoming ever clearer to me that home educating a primary aged child is an absolute delight...but that once the child approaches secondary school age, it becomes altogether a different kettle of not entirely sweet smelling fish. Blend raging hormones and normal pre-teen angst with a naturally sensitive disposition and a still-working-on-it lack of confidence and we have a fairly tricky situation going on here with Emily. She's at the age where kids start to realise that their parents are fallible after all and can and do make what, she wonders no doubt, if we make mistake with her education? What if we bugger it up royally and she ends up unable to access the opportunities she could have accessed at school?

What indeed. We would never play games with Emily's future and would put her into school in a heartbeat if we genuinely believed she would be better off there or that by staying at home she is limiting her future. I wholeheartedly *believe* that we can do a much better job than any school can in giving Emily a decent childhood, a flourishing family life and an excellent education. I wholeheartedly *believe* that my child is an individual and that I do not want her jumping through someone else's entirely arbitrary hoops for the next six years of her life. I wholeheartedly *believe* that we can take alternative qualification routes, perhaps via the OU, which will stand her in much better stead than a set of identikit GCSEs will. I believe all of those things fervently. But what if I'm wrong? What if we're wrong? What if, in ten year's time, Emily curses us to hell and back for not having sent her to school?

My rational mind has it all planned out. We've looked at college courses and their entry requirements in Emily's areas of interest. We've reassured both ourselves and our daughter that yes, we can do this. We've planned at least three alternative routes to any one destination. And of course, at any age up to around 14 or so, the s-word remains an option should she suddenly change her mind and want to join the rat race. It's all going to be absolutely fine. We can do this and we don't need to delegate the task to a bunch of strangers, even strangers in a "good school". Who better to safely guide Emily towards a happy and fulfilling adulthood than us? On paper, it's perfect.

It's our job to listen to what Emily wants to do with her life and to make absolutely bloody sure that she gets every opportunity to do just that. And move heaven and earth to that end we will indeed. But when you're faced with a tearful ten year old in a panic over what might happen in six or eight year's time, the odd wobble in your self-satisfied and confident can-do approach is probably inevitable. I guess it's a good sign that we adults question our own decisions under these circumstances. At least we're not going into this blindly. Perhaps a wobble or two is justified....but we'll get there. The alternative simply isn't good enough.


Sarah said...

fwiw I feel almost exactly the same anxieties about having gone down the school route. You can't win.

Elaine said...

What a great post. I have these worries all the time. People seem to automatically assume that HE stops at the end of Year 6 but we have known children go through their secondary schooling at home, take GCSEs, A levels and one even got accepted to Oxford. It is daunting though isn't it? I'm always wondering whether Katie would work harder if she was at school, have more close friends (but then perhaps she wouldn't see me as a friend quite so much), do more after school things, etc., etc. But then I think how many interesting and varied things we've covered and will continue to cover (whether they would have appeared on the national curriculum or not), the opportunities that have opened up to us that may not have done if the children had been at school. How many people actually remember what they've learnt at school anyway? Not many I'm sure! I would imagine HE children learning in their own way will actually absorb and remember what they've learnt.

There are options open to the HE world when it comes to exams, although naturally it'll cost! I'm not an expert as I haven't yet taken my head out of the sand to fully investigate, but I thought I'd read that children may take maths and English GCSE for free (at Adult Edu college) when they are a little older than the usual GCSE age. Also, like you said, OU and National Extension College would be good sources for home learning.

Katie seems to be fed up with herself/life, unsure, lacks confidence and is plain confused about herself most of the time. I'm trying very hard to put it down to her age (12) but I worry that others will see these things as a "problem" because she's HE.

My thoughts are with you all!

Ruth said...

It can be a worry but I have 3 out of compulsory school age now and one is doing a history degree, one is at college and working as well and the other is going to colege in September. Don't worry Emily just enjoy HE now.

Shirl said...
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