Monday 8 June 2015

“Getting to the Destination” — Part 4 of Transitioning Your Teen to Secondary (Home)School

This is the fourth post in a series about transitioning your teens to secondary (home)school. In the other three parts, I have covered topics like routine, vision, and the underlying point that teens often need a different approach than younger children, if for the very reason that exams start to loom big in their lives.

In this part, I want to talk about the different approaches you can take to the academic part of your teen’s new level of home learning.

My advice here is built on two premises: 1) I am assuming that you are wanting to “up” your teen’s game to a higher level of learning, and 2) that you have some desire to achieve academic success in whatever form that may take.

The good news is that, as a home educator, you don’t have to model your child’s learning on the example given by schools. Whereas they are cloistering teens for up to 8 (or even more) hours a day, setting homework for two or more hours beyond that, and covering upwards of 12 or more subjects, you can take a more targeted (and sane) approach to secondary school.

I have heard this personalized approach put in terms of a journey. If, for example, you wanted to travel to Edinburgh from London, you wouldn’t really want to buy tickets to Cardiff, Liverpool, Chipping Sodbury, and another half-dozen stations to boot. This is similar to the schools’ approach, but for home educators, it’s both expensive and unnecessary.

Instead, you focus on only the ways to get to Edinburgh. Do you walk, cycle, drive, take a bus, a train, or fly? Which route for a car? Which bus company? Which train station? They’re all legitimate approaches, but it’s likely that only one of them will be the most efficient for your situation.

While this is not intended to be a post about exams (there are plenty of better places for this, such as the Exams Wiki via, we probably all know that most education beyond GCSE-level requires five GCSEs or equivalent, and that includes English and Maths.

Assuming you want these exams or equivalents, then there are only really two ways to approach them (if we’re staying with the journey metaphor): buying a direct ticket, or taking the scenic route!

Maybe you have already got the feeling from my earlier posts of this series that I’m rather no-nonsense, and so you might suspect that I’m going to advocate the direct route. However, that’s not the case at all.

Having come from a liberal arts education in America, I really can’t stand the thought of spending one’s precious learning years in an exam textbook, ticking off short answer questions and parroting back a stack of unrelated, uninteresting information.

That’s not education; that’s just informational bulimia, where it’s just all crammed in, and at the risk of sounding crude, it’s then just all barfed out. There’s no nutritional value for the mind in that kind of activity.

So, perhaps against my no-nonsense approach about education in general, I am definitely not a direct-ticket kind of person when it comes to learning. That’s not to say that I advocate the tickets to Cardiff, Liverpool, Chipping Sodbury, when all you want to do is get to Edinburgh, but perhaps something more akin to breaking up the journey: sometimes walking, sometimes cycling, sometimes train or bike or car.

Taking the scenic route can be more effective.

The question becomes how one puts into practice this theory of enjoying the education journey while staying focused, motivated, and ultimately, aiming for exams.

Next time, I will give a selection of the current options for this kind of broad approach, but in the meantime, please don’t a) sign your child’s life away by exchanging school for an all-day online school; b) buy every revision textbook out there in case the information overload will teach something worth remembering beyond the exam date; or c) throw your hands up, abandoning all hope, and just letting your teen retreat into an electronic land of soporific entertainment.

There is an optimum way to navigate your teen’s (home)schooling, but you need facts and options, knowledge and wisdom, but there’s one thing you don’t need: the desire to do what’s best for your child, because I can tell you, you’ve already got that!

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Suggestions, ideas, tweaks, or maybe you're just a happy Dreaming Spires student who wants to leave some encouraging words! Thanks for posting! Kat