It's not the lack of understanding or support from the general public - though that can get wearing. It's not the fact that the only time you get a break is when you're asleep, and even that is not guaranteed. It's not even the financial challenges that are involved when only one partner works but there are still resources and activities for pay for. No, the worst thing about home education is the glaring awareness that you and you alone are responsible for your child's future. When your child is in school you can at least console yourself with the thought that your child is in the hands of professional educators, but with HE they are solely in your care: emotionally, physically, socially and educationally. And because Home Ed is far from a mainstream option, it can sometimes feel like you are carrying out some sort of high-risk experiment on your best-beloved. At this point in a train of thought The Wobbles are usually not far behind.
That is where I am: so far into the land of wobbling that I feel I have forgotten how to stand straight. Not with regards to Middle and Youngest - I am more confident than ever in the Home Ed life that we enjoy. But Eldest, bless him, is another matter entirely. Regular readers will know that I have been mulling over his growing needs for a while now, from his developing need/ ability to get stuck into more meaty subjects, to the awareness that he is approaching the age when in school he would be gearing up for GCSEs. I thought we were heading along a certain track but now I've got stuck. I'm no longer convinced that the GCSE route is the best for him, but that is proving a REALLY difficult idea to let go of.
Almost since the very beginning of our HE journey, we have stuck with the same style, only occasionally veering off to toy with unschooling or varying degrees of structure before returning to what suits us all most. Mostly we have carried on with the little parent-led bit of literacy & numeracy, leaving the rest free to personal or group interest. I am starting to suspect that this was because of a subconscious assumption on my part that the boys would end up needing to take Maths & English GCSEs even if they did no other exams, those being the ones that are essential to most jobs. I am clearly not fully deschooled.
So I had been sort-of progressing along with the GCSE assumption, and Eldest recently had a chat with a lovely friend who was offering to give him some tutoring in English. When I spoke with her today she said she felt he wasn't really in the best place to be considering starting with a GCSE in English at least, as he sees it as something arduous and feels discouraged by the thought of it before even starting. And that's before considering his literacy skills (which may be patchy) and exam skills which are non-existent (hence the need for a tutor). I asked him if he wanted to go ahead with the tutoring and he said yes. It surprised me that he was positive, but then he said she was the best option. When I asked what about if he didn't have to do any English he looked like he'd been handed the keys to a sweet shop, so clearly it is not his favourite. I think I have probably not helped here, as although I have encouraged his love of reading and his self-expression through writing, he know that I think very little of the current education system's presentation of English as a subject... maybe I have inflicted my negative bias upon him! We could pursue a GCSE course in Geography or Biology which are the most obvious choices, but I don't want to put him off those too.
So now I am basically just questioning if GCSEs really are a good route for him or if I have been succumbing to deep-seated conditioning. Eldest does have a general idea of preferred future career options, and there are possibilities of pursuing his chosen area that do not include GCSEs, although they would give him a boost. The question is, can I de-school myself to the point where I am not automatically imposing GCSEs on him, so that we can both look at it again without prejudice? I don't think he is connected enough to the idea of starting on a path to a future career for that to motivate him yet, and although it's tempting to panic that he might be the sort of character who never connects enough with what he wants to do to really throw himself into getting there, I don't want to push him prematurely. After all, surely the point of HE is that each individual progresses at a natural rate as they are ready.
Oh I don't know - but I do know that my head is in a bit of a flat spin about it all. So I am going to do what I always do when attacked by The Wobbles: back right off! From tomorrow the boys will be entirely unschooling again for a season, which will hopefully give me (and Hubby) time to talk to others who have walked the "GCSEs or alternatives" path before us, and talk to Eldest, and pray, and generally invest in consideration of the stage we are at before coming up with a revised plan. Unschooling doesn't scare me: I know they'll all still be learning and thriving. It's just time to get to grips with the way ahead...