Monday, 29 December 2014

The Death or Life of a Favourite Subject

Thoughts today have turned to next year's Home Education, and one thing in particular is on my mind: English (urgh).  It is more than ironic that an English graduate should have such a reaction to the subject, but that is how it now is.

Eldest, age 12, is getting to the age where we are thinking about the possibility of iGCSEs.  He is not ready yet, I know that, but we are still mulling over options in the hope that we will have an idea of how we want to progress when the time is right.  It is highly likely that we will follow the iGCSE route within the next couple of years, and Maths and English seem the most obvious subjects that are generally required whatever path he then pursues.


He hates English.  Middle hates English now too - and I hate their English workbooks.  We've abandoned them in favour of reading and writing for pleasure.  All three boys love reading and are quite happy to do the odd bit of writing, but all of the National Curriculum type workbooks (from KS2 onwards) that we have attempted are absolutely and dreadfully off-putting.  It is not just about basic grammar: they dissect and pull apart the construction of a piece of writing until it becomes meaningless.  Many of the questions are so vague and often subjective that I can't even answer them - and I have a degree in the subject!

How are we going to get Eldest through a qualification in my specialist subject when the way it is taught is so repellant to both of us?  I love English: I love grammar; I love books; I love writing... but I cannot abide what the National Curriculum has done to the subject.  I heard a teacher recently comment that the way English is taught nowadays has smothered our children's creativity and robbed us of our inspiring readers and writers, and I couldn't agree more. English as a subject has been dissected to death; the Government have killed my favourite subject!

So this is my dilemma: do I try to teach English in the way required for Eldest to be able to gain a qualification in it, and risk putting him off the subject for ever - or do I do my best to encourage him in the love of literature and language that I enjoy but risk him never gaining a generally required qualification?

I'm stumped.

All I can do is move on to planning other subjects for now and hope that one of my fellow home educators has a genius idea.  If so, you can be sure I'll share it!


  1. Just a thought, but does he have to do it? I've heard of lots of home ed teens that skipped GCSEs entirely and went straight to college courses. On the other hand, if he does decide he wants to do them, I imagine you could work through the course much quicker than a schoolchild would, so you could wait until he is really ready for it, it doesn't have to be in the next couple of years. There are lots of possibilities, but I guess the most important thing will be what makes Eldest happiest. X

    1. Thanks for commenting, Rachel :) Yes, we are going to leave it a while until he's ready. At present we think the iGCSE route will be best for him, but a lot can change over the teen years, so we're just trying to keep options open. A fellow HEor has recommended the Galore Park books as a helpful transition from unstructured English (lots of reading and writing) to being ready for iGCSEs, so we're going to have a look and see if Eldest takes to them. If not, we'll just keep looking. I just don't want to limit our options yet, and I think that is my main concern. I'm sure it's not going to cause problems just yet though :)