Regular readers will know that we Home Educate our four kids. Well, we did: the oldest is now 20, and post-A Levels he started working for a software company, which sends him across the world at an alarming pace and frankly lives his best life.
Son No. 2 is 18 and about to start college, with an eye to heading to Uni a little later than normal but in a far better head place than if we’d forced the issue when he was 16.
Son No. 3 is 16, and ever since he could walk and talk has declared that he will be a soldier. He has never wavered, he impatiently huffed and puffed at the rules until he was old enough to join the Army Cadets at the age of 12 and is honestly a bit of an Army nerd. We may mock him for this.
His intention has always been to join as infantry – as a paratrooper, in fact *wibble* – and he was really keen to join Harrogate, the Army’s junior training college for 16 & 17yr olds. With this in mind we made an appointment at the army careers office this summer; I’ll be honest, I fully expected them to simply say “Infantry? Certainly, sign here Sonny”.
But no – it was a total aye opener.
Having taken their aptitude tests, he was informed that he would be wasting his potential as Infantry (which has the lowest entry requirements) – he had scored highly enough to aim for the Intelligence Corps, the most demanding of all the entries.
He wasn’t interested in IC, but he does have a keen eye for the Royal Signals, the IT & Communications branch, and only one step below in terms of requirements. He ‘hadn’t thought he would be smart enough’, but apparently when your Army Recruitment Officer tells you what your parents have been saying for years, you actually pay attention.
(he said as we walked out “basically, if I’d gone the Para route, I’d leave the Army in ten years time qualified to kill people really quietly, and not much else. With the Signals I’ll come out with a Master’s Degree and really good industry qualifications”
(and yes, I’m thanking my lucky stars he saw things this way in the end!)
To get into Harrogate on his newly-selected Royal Signals course he needs two GCSEs – and he only has 5mths to take them, as he will be too old for Harrogate after March next year.
No school will take on such a challenge, but obviously we aren’t restricted by school timetables. And I know that GCSEs take just 120 hours of study – and less if he’s not worried about obtaining a top grade. It’s not something that’s talked about much – obviously in a school system it’s very different, where you’re studying 12 or 13 subjects at a class-appropriate pace once or twice a week over over a two year period divided into terms. Very different to one-to-one intensive personal study on just a couple of subjects, with nothing to stop you working in a targeted fashion for four hours each day if you wish (and your brain holds up).
So we absolutely knew it was doable – we just needed to find the right system to do it. After a mad few day’s research, scrambling to find the right courses and exams timetable, I spoke to ICS Learn. And within a day he was signed up and accessing the online courses for his required English Language and Maths.
Disclaimer – ICS Learn have provided my son with the two GCSE courses in return for sharing his progress with you. All course decisions, opinions, reviews and photography are my own.
And while every other 16yr old of his acquaintance is gazing into a summer of blessed lazing around, he’s getting his head down and working hard. And not once have I had to nag and poke him into getting started – it’s astonishing what a work ethic they find when they come to the decision themselves, and it’s for a purpose of their own choosing. He’s totally motivated by his end goal, and knows this is the only way to it.
Right now he’s decided on 2hrs of each subject a day, loosely 10-12 in the morning and then 1-3 in the afternoon. This gives plenty of time to cover the course (10 hours a week means the whole course in three months, leaving revision time). We’ll reassess in a month when we see how he’s getting on, and adjust accordingly.
For us, having an online course was essential, and I’m not sure he would have tackled the task ahead without. I know a lot of Home Ed families do all the studying themselves without tutors, but with such a short time frame we need to make sure he has all the help and info that he needs. Being an online course he can work at his own pace – obviously there’s no strict timetable that he must keep to, so he can gallop through the easier parts and take his time where necessary.
Plus, importantly he has unlimited support from a ‘real’ tutor, both online and on the phone, meaning there’s always a brain to ask if/when he gets stuck, and to mark his assignments to check he’s on track.
So here we go – his current plan is to take Maths in November, English in January, and be in Harrogate in March. Meeep…
Learn more about online learning for GCSEs with ICS Learn here.