T11’s First Term of Interest led, autonomous learning

T11 would have officially been going in to secondary school this year.  To mark the occasion we decided to hand over the reins of his education to him.  This has always been a goal of our home-school and over the summer he expressed that this was his desire also.   He is a very responsible, highly motivated young boy and well ready for this next stage in his education.  Friday sees the end of our first term and I thought I would do a quick reflection of what has worked and what hasn’t worked.  These types of reflections are always interesting for me to look back on and will inevitably help prevent me from making similar mistakes with the girls down the line.

Just to recap what his choices were this year:

  • Bible study each morning
  • To finish Saxon 87 with the goal of doing Algebra next year and studying for his GCSE the following year
  • To begin Apologia General Science and complete the accompanying notebook.  We bought him the science set to go with the book, and the CDRom.  His goal was to study this independently using the schedule found in the note-book.  He wanted to study this book to give himself a good foundation in science prior to beginning the Physical Science book the year after.
  • To study, along with a friend and her father Physics GCSE with a loose goal to take this exam in two years time.  He studies this with his friend on a Tuesday Evening and completes the work the father sets him during his school time during the week.
  • To learn history alongside his sisters in the afternoons
  • To begin All About Spelling (his weakness)

What has worked

Bible study has been done fairly consistently each day.  He finds this both enjoyable and simple.

T11 is enjoying Saxon 87.  By the end of this week he will have completed 15 lessons and the investigation.  He had hoped to finish 19 lessons and the investigation. He was ill for one of the weeks and also had the girls’ birthday off so didn’t manage his goal.  However he consistently scores well, always making between 78-85% each lesson.  He and I are very happy with how maths is going, so much so that he has decided to continue with maths (maybe with half a lesson a day) during his break week, just to make sure he doesn’t forget any of it!

T11 is loving physics and is currently studying waves.  He enjoys being taught by someone different, loves the social aspect of it and is relishing learning new things.  I never have to ask him to do his home work and any time I inquire he has usually already emailed it over to Paul, his friend’s father.  He asks for help if he needs it, but apart from that I am completely hands off.   He is coping fairly well with the late night on a Tuesday (not in bed until 9.30pm) and knows I will stop the lessons if he begins to show any signs of grumpiness.  Yes I am that mean!

He loves, loves his general science content, but we are having issues here (see below)

He is still enjoying history, as do we all, and joins in enthusiastically.  Nothing needs to change here.

He loves being responsible for his own time.  And he is handling that aspect fairly well.  I still have to remind him to take breaks, but that has improved considerably since the beginning of the term.

What is not working?

T11 has struggled with his writing for as long as I have homeschooled him.  He is incredibly intelligent and naturally studious so I think finding the writing hard is a real bother to him.  The General Science has a notebook attached to it and he had decided that he would fill this in.  In addition T11 had wanted to follow the schedule as set out in the Apologia note-book.  And this is a problem.  Please understand he has absolutely no pressure from us at all, apart from to do his best.  However because he had wanted to follow the schedule set out by Apologia and, finding the writing laborious and very time-consuming, was falling (in his eyes) behind, it was stressing him out.  School is not meant to be stressful, least of all at 11 years of age, so we set out to rectify the situation.

Our Solutions

He was adamant that he did not want to drop the General Science because he wants to do the Physical Science next year, to complement his physics.  So we came up with a plan.  First, I suggested he drop the Apologia schedule and work at his own speed.   Second, I offered to listen to him narrate me some of the answers rather than him writing them down.  To me science is a subject that it is very important to understand.  Writing is one way of checking a student’s comprehension.  Being at home with only five students instead of 30 means I have a few more options available to me than a teacher in a regular classroom.  One of those options is oral narration instead of written narration.  T11 will still be writing up his experiments but he will orally narrate the answers to all the other questions in the note book.  This will cut down on his writing considerably, whilst still making sure he has grasped all the concepts he is reading about.  Lastly, and this is something he found out by accident and I thought I would include it just in case it helped someone else, he has begun to write in Biro.  All three older children have always used pencil to write with, for the obvious reason that it rubs out.  On an occasion when he couldn’t find his pencil T11 used a pen (just a Bic biro) and he found it considerably easier to write with.  Since then he only uses pens.  These three things have helped decrease what was becoming an area of stress in his schooling.

I am hoping next term will be a better term for T11.  It has certainly been a learning curve for us both, and unfortunately has probably been the toughest term ever for him personally.  I keep reassuring him that it is fine if he wants to change the course of his study or slow down, but he is adamant that this is what he wants to do, and apart from the writing is loving it and finding it very interesting.  I can only hope that the alterations we have made will help to enable him to reach his goals.