Today Eldest sat his final IGCSE of the season. Any Home Ed parent who has travelled this road will understand how exhausted I feel - it takes a huge amount of mental strength to facilitate learning, revision etc at this level, and emotional strength too, to help your loved one through the peaks and troughs of learning to be tested, let alone carrying the weight of felt responsibility for their success (or failure). To be honest, all I want to do now is nothing for the rest of the day - to just cuddle with the dog and watch a movie while the kids play on the Wii. But - I also really want to mark this day - officially the last day of Eldest's home ed journey. So even though I haven't blogged for many months (oops), I wanted to check in with today's thoughts before surrendering to couch-potatohood.
Now I know August's results are not guaranteed, but right now that is almost irrelevant to me. I am just so proud of how hard Eldest has worked, and how much he has grown this year - both physically, at over 6 ft 2 (!), and personally. It was most evident at the beginning of exam season when he turned up to the exam centre ready for his first paper only to discover there had been a terrible mistake and he had not been registered for his first (and best) subject, Biology. He sat in the exam room for an hour waiting to see if the college would succeed in trying to get an emergency paper sent over, but sadly the exam board (Cambridge) refused. On paper it sounds such a minor thing, easily summed up in a sentence, but in reality it was such a shock. The whole year he had worked to prepare himself for this point, and we had been so pleased that his first exam to ease him into the season would be in his favourite subject - but now, not only was that paper cancelled but the whole subject jeopardised, and if that failed, what about next year's entry to sixth form? As we sat in the principal's office later that day discussing the final refusal from Cambridge, I was so proud by how Eldest carried himself. He didn't slump into depression or get carried away by anxiety, nor complain about how unfair it all was - all of which would have been understandable reactions. He simply took it in and joined me thanking the staff for their efforts, and came away resolved to find a way forward.
Well, we now have a way forward of sorts. Cambridge refused to let him sit any of the Biology papers so he has no chance of getting that IGCSE this year, but the college have done everything possible to be helpful and have said that if he does well in his other subjects they will still accept him onto the Biology A' level course in September. This was such a relief, but on top of the week-long confusion over whether he would be able to sit any of the papers, it added pressure on him to do well in English (his worst subject) and Chemistry which he only started studying in October. Thankfully we had had some extra tutor support in both those subjects, so we prayed and did our best to refocus, and although the stress on Eldest was evident over those few exam weeks, he showed so much character-strength that I could almost burst with pride.
So anyway we kept our heads down and continued revising, and this Wednesday afternoon we were going through his English revision when I realised this was it: the last day of involvement as Eldest's home educator (his last exam was today, but he consistently performs best after a day of rest so I steeled my nerves and scheduled in yesterday as a day-off). As we read through the anthology I realised the significance of what we were doing just in time to really live in the moment and savour the last half-hour. We sat side by side on the sofa reading through one of my all-time favourite poems, "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, with Eldest rolling his eyes good-naturedly and grinning indulgently at me every time I enthused about a particular line or the overall energy and attitude of the poem. It was really special, and I'm so grateful for that moment - captured in my heart for ever.
Of course it's possible that he may not get good enough results in August to go to sixth form college, and we may have to take more time home educating him through retakes - or revising for the Biology IGCSE if he needs to take it in November while studying for his A-levels. But right now I have to accept that in all probability my job here is done - at least as far as being his official sole educator is concerned. And so we come to the end of this era. When we were enduring the drudgery of learning of IGCSEs I often wished we could have carried on doing the fun stuff that I still get to do with Middle and Youngest, but right now I am grateful for those two hard years - not only has Eldest really grown and proved himself ready to go on to his new challenge of sixth form college, but I really won't miss those IGCSE studies!
One era finished - in the coming days I will refocus and make plans for the next season, having fun learning with Middle and Youngest while enjoying seeing Eldest take his next step growing in independence. But the rest of today is dedicated to one long and relieved slump on the sofa - I figure I've earned it!