Yes, Home Ed in this house has become all about Eldest's exams. Middle and Youngest are doing just one required exercise in Maths or English every day, and other than that are occupying themsleves beautifully with an entirely self-led selection of drawing designs for games and avatars, reading endlessly varied books, playing board games (Carcassonne, anyone? We love it!), writing their own books and designing the covers, cycling round the garden etc. Meanwhile Eldest and I have our heads down, working hard in the time we have left. His first exam is in less than 4 weeks, on 22nd May, and his last exam on 8th June.
As advised by many experienced HEors and as part of our revision, we have printed off past papers to attempt (and are trying not to feel guilty about the amount of trees sacrificed for such an undertaking). Eldest has had his first proper go at completing past papers in Geography and Maths this week, and I have to say we have found it very discouraging.
It really has been the point of greatest pressure for us. Major wobble alert! I can see the large gap between what is known and what needs to be known, and it feels very intimidating. It's not just the facts presented in each curriculum (which are numerous, to say the least), but other concepts such as having the ability to deduce the answer (and workings) that the examiner wants to read; the ability to map out a revision plan and pace oneself through it; the maturity to keep going in the face of discouragement and a seemingly impossible task. And I have to say, despite the low marks on his past papers, Eldest has grown enormously in this past year and is progressing well. If we weren't financially committed, it would be tempted to pull him out of the exams as he does not appear to be ready YET (through no fault of his own), but we are committed so we are reminding ourselves of the goal when we first started: to give it a go a year early it for a trial run to see what we can learn. And we've learned loads. I am confident about what we can achieve next year - I just don't know if we can cover all the ground necessary by the 22nd May.
Obviously as we have been followed the curricula this year, and put so much time and effort into learning to order, of course the hope was to pass a couple of exams a year early so there would be less to do next year - BUT I have to remind myself to see the bigger picture. Even if there are re-takes ahead, that is also a really important life-lesson: not to quit if the first attempt fails. Maybe that's more important than the actual qualifications themselves? Of course it's not what we want for our kids, but maybe it will help Eldest in the long-term. Anyway, ultimately we are still learning. Eldest may pass yet, if revision goes swimmingly well and the exam questions fall in his favour. But right now I am focusing on just two things: how incredibly proud I am of him for transitioning from mostly autonomous learning for pleasure to prescriptive learning to be tested - and the fact that this summer's exams are not the be-all and end-all: whatever the results, they are just one more step on our journey towards fulfilling what Eldest wants to do.
So we are continuing to revise, continuing to aim for improvement and determined to give the exams a really good go. And then we will see what the results may be, and more importantly, we will be better prepared for what is next. A home educator's life is never dull!