Home education diary, October 2000

9th October

I suppose this is a common worry with home educating parents - but I do think my boys would like science labs.  Then again... I doubt if Dan would have specialised in sciences anyway, so perhaps the lack of lab doesn't matter too much.  Besides, these days, it seems, there's not much experimentation that can actually be done by teenagers in school; health and safety regulations mean that either teachers do them, with everyone watching, or the whole class sees a video. 

But sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we'd stayed in Birmingham, and if they'd be happier doing straightforward GCSEs in a school rather than doing this ACE course where I have to ensure they keep going.. and which does have some very pointless parts.  Of course GCSEs have dull and pointless parts too, but it would be the teachers doing the insisting rather than me!

We rather feel that we miss out on the after-school and extra-curricular stuff too.  Not that any of the schools here have very much of that.  It just seems to be work and homework and not much else, so I'm sure we're doing the right thing while we're in Cyprus.  But although both boys now say they'd prefer home education if we were in the UK too, I'm not 100% certain they would, if we ever go and live there again.

Tim has cut down his activities to such an extent that all he's doing is piano lessons and guitar lessons (and guitar hasn't started up again since the summer yet).  He'll join the inter-church Christmas choir but that's only for November and December.  He gave up on Scouting as it was too disorganised, stopped art class, and the Greek choir stopped anyway. 

Tim would have loved things like metalwork and other projects if he'd gone to a school in Birmingham. One school we looked at might well have suited him well, as it had so many resources for technology and woodwork and so on.

Still, I keep telling myself at least he knows how to wire a plug and cook a meal, neither of which I learned to do in all my years of school!

Daniel is pretty happy spending hours at his 3D graphics, but he does go to art class still (and is possibly going to take an Art GCSE at the end of the year if the teacher can get 
organised enough); and he's still taking clarinet lessons, which seem to be going well.  He doesn't practise a whole lot, but his teacher seems to be pleased with him. He's finally joined the Town Band which meets to rehearse two evenings per week so I guess he'll be out marching next time there's a national parade day.

Both boys do also go to the weekly church youth group and we have our island-wide home education support group once a month.  But it's still a bit lonely at times. 

12th October

Tim has decided to do some French again so is working through the Parlo site on his own, doing one lesson each day, learning the vocab, listening to the conversations, and so on.   He got miles behind on the email lessons which they are sending him, but likes the online things very much.

Daniel has decided he's going to get back to Greek as he's now in the local town band (which is conducted in Greek) but hasn't yet done any. We do know know a good online course.  But he's not so good at getting on with things like that.

14th October

If they stick with ACE long enough, it's equivalent to A-levels as well as GCSEs. There are three levels of achievement in it - the first (which should take about 2-3 years overall) is equivalent to 8 GCSEs. The third level (which is probably another 2-3 years) is equivalent to 10 GCSEs and 3 A-levels, and is acceptable as a 'national diploma' at most universities. The second level is somewhere in the middle.

Whether or not the boys will get beyond the first level - or even that far! - rather depends what becomes available here.  If Daniel does the Art GCSE, we'll see how he feels about it in general.  If it's more suited to him than ACE we'll see if A-levels are possible - by correspondence, maybe.  We're definitely going to look into the computer driving license thing, too.  For what he wants to do (graphic art, games programming, web design etc) experience seems to be the most crucial thing.  So it may be that just the first level of ACE could be plenty of qualification to add to the experience he's getting all the time.  He's not quite 14 yet so there's still time.

At least Daniel isn't moaning about ACE as much as he was.  I still pretty much have to drag him out of bed around 10am because I know he won't do anything structured after lunch, so anything he does for ACE has to be before about 1pm.  But with trying to get quickly through the earlier work, it's not so bad.  And some of it is actually rather interesting.  I suppose we just had to get used to this new system, and find out how to use it most effectively. Some people apparently use individual desks with little flags at home, like they do in ACE schools, and aren't flexible at all; I can't see that point of that.

It's helped that the weather's getting a bit cooler, so the boys been getting outside rather than being stuck indoors in the air conditioning all the time. It's good, too, that they're back to their various activities, such as they are, so the weeks have at least a little more structure and variety.

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