Monday 19 August 2019

What's a Transcript? Help for Exam Alternatives!

There's a growing movement amongst home educators of ditching the UK exam system and using the American one for university entry instead.

Instead of GCSEs and A-levels, families are following a broader approach to studies in years 10-13 while preparing for the US national exams known as SATs.

That's not "sats" to rhyme with "mats" as you may have heard about, those national exams for younger UK schooled children, vilified by state schools and rejected by independents as long ago as the 90s.

Instead, you say "S-A-T" and it stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test, administered at College Board test centres throughout the US and even the UK. The general exam lasts about 3 hours and is comprised of maths, reading, and writing multiple choice questions. Subject exams are usually sat in the afternoon of the same day, lasting about an hour per subject. Again, they're multiple choice and can be taken in maths, biology, history, English, and many foreign languages.

UK students can submit the general test plus three SAT exam grades to UK universities instead of doing A-levels, saving a lot of time, money, and stress.

Alongside the grades, students may be asked to provide the university with a transcript of study that shows completion of school-level education, and the video below explains more about this document called a transcript.

For more about taking the US SAT route to UK university, come join the Facebook group called HE Success without UK exams. Many families are members who share how they have done it already, and are helping the rest through the process should they choose.

Thursday 16 May 2019

An Extended Student's View

As is our tradition at Dreaming Spires Home Learning, when one our students finishes studying with us for four or more years, we leave time on the last day for them to say a few words about their experience.

We make a fuss over our graduates.

The following is a speech given today that captures so much of the interaction, connection, motivation, and maturation that we see in our students.

"When my Mum signed me up for RenLit, my first Dreaming Spires course, 4 years ago, I was not impressed. I thought the workload would be far too heavy and complex for a mere 14-year-old like me. I also thought that doing an online class would be too structured and ‘school-like’ to be compatible with my beloved home-schooling life. Well… 4 years, 12 presentations, 40 books, 172 narrations and a large handful of sonnets, short stories and poems later – I have officially changed my mind. In fact, the Dreaming Spires English courses have been one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my 13 years of education. 

"It’s weird though… Going into my first Dreaming Spires class one September evening, I never would’ve dreamed that I would be here, graduating 4 years later! I was sceptical and a little bit scared. But as the year unfolded, I was happily surprised. Instead of being confronted by complex, boring, stiff education, I was thrown into a whole new world of fascinating 16th century books, conversing with classmates, and even a little bit of friendly competition. Anyways, RenLit was a huge success, and it was followed by AmLit, then MAL, then Brit Nov – pretty much the most random order you can think of. Because when have I ever been known to do things the simple way? But I was in it for the long haul… Something about Dreaming Spires just made me want more. I loved it all – the classes, the books, the people, even the homework! 

"Now, I’m a social person by nature… So, I was quite delighted by the discovery of the All Users forum. Imagine, I could actually interact with people of my own species (aka home schoolers) from all over the world. It was grand fun. I was there the year that we nearly broke the All User forum because we posted over 24,000 posts. I was there the years that major religious discussions broke out all over the forums. I watched entire governments rise and fall in the micronations forum. I have discovered old friends from the past on these forums and forged new friendships with people all over the world, as well as with some people a little closer to home. And that’s just in the All User forum! Every year I have joined a new group of people with each class I’ve done. I’ve loved being a part of each diverse group, forming friendships and working together to help each other understand issues discussed in class, arguing over controversial characters, and ultimately helping each other form relationships with the books we’ve read. Shout out to Bethany, Nadia, Anne, Ruqs, Charli, and Marielle as some of the amazing people I’ve had the joy of hanging out within various settings in and out of class, as a result of Dreaming Spires! 

"I’ve had many favourite memories come from being part of various classes… Like the time Dr P majorly creeped out the entire class by sitting and watching us silently for 15 minutes at the beginning of class. Or the time I managed to put a bunch of Hamilton references into a presentation on the York Mystery Plays and then nearly died trying to present it while watching the Hamilton fans freak out in the comments.  Or just recently when a couple of us got together and had a hilarious time reading the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest all together (the recording is available if you care to see it *ahem*). Having fun while learning is one reason why I love Dreaming Spires so much. Somehow, things just stick better in your brain when you’re enjoying yourself. 

"It’s not all been sunshine and roses though… I have been pushed and challenged in every single one of these English courses. I’ve spent literal days agonizing over my bibliography for a certain research paper (cough cough AmLit). I’ve spent many a late evening writing and rewriting essays because somehow you just have to fit both HOW-Hand and PEER into every paragraph. And I have spent hours slogging through books with complicated language (Looking at you Faerie Queene), boring politics (Gulliver’s Travels), and rather disgusting romps (ahem Canterbury Tales). I’ve even thrown a book or two clear across the room (Uncle Tom’s Cabin – I’m sorry. I still love you.)  But you know what – it’s all been totally worth it. I’ve learnt so much and have grown to appreciate even the most challenging books we read. (mostly… I’m still having reconciliation talks with Utopia.) I’m really grateful that I have been pushed by Dr P in each class I’ve taken. If you’re willing to put the effort in, you will reap the benefits!  I now know how to write a tolerably good literary a analysis essay, how to format a bibliography, and how to interact with challenging, complex and just plain not-very-fun books, thanks to Dr P. 

"No kidding though, I have learned an awful lot. Each English course is so widely spread that by doing all of them you really do get a very wide grasp on literature throughout the ages. I’ve learned literary terms I never knew existed and are now forever burned into my brain. Juxtaposition and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for instance… And of course, the infamous sublime of Wuthering Heights. I’ve also learned tons about the history surrounding the literature we’ve read… McCarthyism is now forever entwined with Fahrenheit 451 for me, as is Dr P’s widespread education in 17th century prisons and The Pilgrim’s Progress. I’ve also wrestled with lots of different important issues through these courses… What makes a human a human? – Frankenstein. The dangers of communistic ideas as promoted in Utopia. The importance of books in society and history – Fahrenheit 451. The place of ancient literature in a modern society – Beowulf. I’ve been forced to think, to dig deep into major issues, and solidify my personal beliefs. And all this before I turned 18… 

"However, as I sat down to look back at these past 4 years and to try and come up with a suitable graduation speech, one thing kept coming back to mind – one thing that is probably the most important of all. Yes, the fun, the memories, the learning, the growth – it all has been absolutely wonderful. But what really has been highlighted for me is the passion that these 4 years of Dreaming Spires has ignited in me – a passion for English, for writing, and for stories. Now, I’ve always been a reader, a devourer of books. But Dreaming Spires has given me a direction for that literary hunger. Each course that I have taken has further opened my eyes to the sheer breadth and beauty that can be found in literature. I have been taught how to personally interact with books of all different genres, eras and styles. I have been shown the power that literature can have on the world. This growing passion for literature has blossomed over the years and is now bearing fruit in that I am planning to go study English at uni this Autumn. (wow that was quite the tree imagery I just came out with. Anyone want to do a HOW-Hand on that?) Dreaming Spires has had a direct influence on this decision, by constantly feeding my passion for literature and pushing me towards bigger and better things.

"So, to conclude this speech, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to Dreaming Spires for 4 years of wonderful memories and friends, new and old. Thank you to you guys – this past year has been a blast doing Brit Nov with you all! And most of all, thank you Dr P. Thank you for personally investing into my education through teaching classes, marking homework, and answering innumerable emails with questions. Thank you for introducing me to some of my now-favourite books. Thank you for pushing me hard and always expecting my best. Thank you for opening the world of literature to me in a way I never knew was possible. And most of all, thank you for being one of the people that has sparked my own passion for English. Dreaming Spires has been an invaluable tool throughout my high school education and I’m sure I will continue to reap the benefits for years to come.

"I’ll finish by saying what Dr P says every year at the end of the last class just before she signs off. Thank you, and may God bless you all."

Tuesday 19 March 2019

What's a Dreaming Spires Course Like?

We've been running these courses so long, we sometimes forget to explain the basics. We think everyone knows that our courses always start the second week of September and finish the second full week of May, and last 30 weeks long.

We finish in mid-May because I like my summers!

We also think everyone knows that our courses are one hour of live instruction online each week: an extra half-hour on top of that if the course has an add-on extension.

Except for foreign language courses, the homework is usually four hours to be spread out over the whole week, and most of it is reading, the books for which are generally engaging living books: no textbooks here! The written part is fairly low key and graded on whether it's done or not - should the quality be less than amazing, we work with individual students to improve, but it doesn't affect their grade.

For foreign language, there's more conversation and practice partnerships than there is reading.

In every course, we bring our expertise and enthusiasm for a subject, and if students are struggling with a concept or are interested in exploring down a rabbit trail, we can slow down and address these desires. The syllabus has been created by ourselves so there's no hard-and-fast rule about what has to be covered on it, other than wanting to do justice to the subject by covering what should be covered for students to understand it best.

There is, however, no one right way to achieve it, but our tutors have a whole chest of tools to use along the way, and teaching students how to use them, too, is our ultimate objective.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Early Bird Has Started: Ends 30th April

It's that time again - time to grab one of the limited spots on our live, online courses for homeschooling teens worldwide.

The excitement is catching for students and parents! 

Early Bird is a great time to register because you can save a spot for just the reservation fee of $40, and pay in installments for the remainder until 1st September 2019.

 What's more, the price you're quoted is LAST year's price.

 I've already mentioned how this is our biggest selection of subjects and courses yet, with new addition this year of geography, math, and art history, plus new courses from most of our instructors. In fact, I think I'm the only tutor who isn't adding a course this year!

This is how I feel about that! 

Remember that we're happy to discuss anything about our courses that you're unsure of! Sign up today so you don't miss the chance for your teen to learn in a way that's unlike almost anything else out there!

Monday 11 March 2019

New Video Series on Youtube to Introduce 2019-2020 course line-up!

Starting March the 12th, a Youtube series gets underway to give you a brief description of each of the courses we'll be running for next year.

Talking it all through with you 

The first session is just about the common attributes of all the courses, whether science, foreign language, history, etc. Following that, I'll look at each of the courses in turn.

Why not subscribe so you get the link sent straight to your inbox?

Sessions One: The Intro -

Friday 1 March 2019

New Timetable, New Tutors, New Tabs - All NEW!

Today, we have revealed our timetable for 2019-2020, our new roster of tutors, and our FIVE new courses including three new subjects.

My surprise is revealed!

Have a browse around the new website and click all the buttons, and mark your calendar for the 15th of March when we start our Early Bird registration period.

Any questions, don't hesitate to contact us - there's a contact form in the sidebar (maybe more viewable on a computer than a phone), or pop over to the Dreaming Spires Home Learning Facebook page and message us.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Jump on a Course in January

At Dreaming Spires, we always take on a few new students after the Christmas holidays, slotting them cosily into our sociable and friendly courses when maybe their previous studies had become dry or boring, unmotivating, or perhaps not rigorous enough.

A student attends class in the airport!

We can do this because we run all our subjects on a modular or unit-based system. Sure, there will be a few things they missed from Autumn term, but all previous webinars and recordings are available should they feel the need to fill in the blanks.

So whether you want to add something like Spanish or French, delve deeply into the history of Ancient Rome or the complicated causes of World War 2, debate medical ethics in biology or the other sciences, write a stunning screenplay, or lay down foundations for great exam results by learning to read harder books and write solid essays, there's something for everyone at Dreaming Spires.

Course fees are reduced pro-rata, and jumping on now means a family can take advantage of the special pricing of our pre-registration period in April, when our current students can reserve places on courses that otherwise fill up fast.

Pop on over to our registration page to sign up today, or use the contact form to ask for further details.