We've been home educating for four years! It's odd how sometimes it feels like our years in school were another lifetime away, but yet I still feel like we're only just beginning and finding out our options etc. Obviously we are still learning and adapting, which is exactly as it should be given that we are all growing, and change is an essential part of healthy development. There are very few negatives to Home Ed, but I think the only one that affects us here at all is how overwhelming it can feel when you are 'on duty' 24/7. We learn ways to manage though, and it's a tiny price to pay for my child(ren)'s wellbeing, not least because for the vast majority of the time we have a whole lot of fun together.
The responsibility definitely feels heaviest when you don't know what the future holds, but that is not so different to parents of school kids: my friends with children in school still worry about their offspring's happiness and success, plus they have all the other concerns about increasing school hours, forced academisation (if that is a word), excessive and meaningless testing, the negative social issues of bullying and peer pressure, and children with special needs having those needs painfully unmet. My odd little wobble certainly pales into insignificance faced with the weight of those burdens.
So this year I have been forcing myself to ease off the pressure particularly for Eldest as he is at the age when his peers in school are choosing their GCSE options. I was struggling under the subconscious pressure that it was putting on us until the issue rose to the surface of my consciousness and I realised I had a whole new level of deschooling to go through. Several weeks later and I'm still not deschooled enough, but happily, through the advice and wisdom of HE veterans such as Ross Mountney I have been able to give myself a stern talking-to, and I am still successfully camping in "back-off" zone.
As all good unschoolers will know, that does not mean the boys have not been learning. The things they talk to me about out-of-the-blue regularly amaze me with the range of their knowledge and interests. Structure-wise they are still continuing with MathsWhizz because they enjoy it, and Literacy Planet for the same reason - other than that, it is all led by their own interest. Incidentally I am not totally happy with Literacy Planet as structured learning because I find it hard to monitor what they are doing, but until such times as I find a new literacy program that we all enjoy and I feel the need to bring some structure back in, I'm happy for them to keep at it.
The other day I stumbled across an app that claims to measure reading age. Although I'm not a fan of comparison based testing, it seemed innocuous enough, and was presented as a game of levels (the lochness monster collecting her eggs, one at each level), so I let the boys have a go. Eldest (almost 14) showed a reading age of 15 1/2 (as high as the test goes), Youngest (age 7) took the test in two stages as he got bored half way through - his reading age came out as 8 1/2. Middle (aged 10) came out as having a reading age of 15! This from my boy who left school in Year 1! He wanted to keep going until he collected the last egg (and so finally scored 15 1/2) which was fine, but his first and most accurate result of 15 was still very encouraging to him.
It was a fairly short test and pretty one-dimensional, but it was a positive experience for all, and reminded me of the sheer value in surrounding the boys with books and letting them just choose what they want to read. My nice tidy bookshelves that I once arranged by subject now exist only in my imagination: in real life our books seem to have a life of their own and are always moving, disordered and scattered throughout the house. I choose to rejoice in this as it shows my boys are reading, even if I don't always notice them doing so (I am actually not keen for the time when my books stay where I put them). The Reading Age test results only really confirmed what I already knew: my boys enjoy reading, on a whole range of subjects, both fiction and factual - and by doing so they are learning and growing beyond measure. The test app was simple and encouraging, but the love of reading and learning as evidenced by the books left all over the house... that's our Home Ed success right there!