Sunday, 21 August 2016

How can kids get good grades from home education?

My eldest son has just passed his A levels with A*, A*, A, A and is off to a top University to study Law in a few weeks. 

Friends have now been asking me for tips on how to help their kids achieve good grades. I want to state straight away, before anyone gets angry, it's not necessary to get good grades to be a success in life. Having failed my A levels I am speaking from experience, I have had a wonderful life so far, with interesting jobs and having met wonderful people all with out good grades. 

BUT, I do have some tips to help your kids achieve the best they can in their education. 

Tip number one: Chill out while your kids are young! Really have lots of fun, do many interesting things. You can do a few basic learning activities like maths, learning to read and write, but most learning can be done by following interests and getting out and about in the world. I think inspiring your kids to find life interesting by finding that spark that interests them and feed the fire. May be your kid loves animals, then go to farms, go see animals, touch them, watch documentaries about them, sign them up for zoo keeper holiday club, etc. They might not end up following this path later on but it's more about letting them see the world and being interested. The most noteworthy comment I got from my sons A level teachers was that he was interested in his subjects, which they remarked was very unusual. That I believe was helped by the fact learning for him has always been led by interest. 

Tip number two: play to your child's strengths. Don't fix in your head an idea of what you consider is academic success. Get to know your kids, if they have been in school a while, it might be hard for them, as they might not know what interests them, as all their lives they have just learnt what they have been told to learn. Time is a great healer, it might take a while of just being, chatting, living and doing interesting things for you and your child to start to find a passion for learning. It might surprise you and be a love of learning to cook or may be making videos to post online or a particular sport. I have discovered with my own kids that forcing them to be interested in something I think is worthwhile is a fruitless task. Also be ready to adapt constantly to their changing interests and strengths as they grow. The only constant I have found in home ed is the constant need to rethink my plans. 

Tip number three: Read to them, read lots and lots of books to your kids when young. Reading is wonderful, you can inspire and they can learn so much, right from your sofa and for free if you use the library. Even if they are reading by themselves read to them as this can lead to discussions and shared experiences of the stories that are such powerful learning tools. 

As your kids get older you can introduce more formal learning if they start to have a particular direction they want to head academically. You might need help with this if their interests don't match your skill set. I hate teaching english, and as my eldest has ended up taking all subjects based on that horrific thing called essay writing, I hired a good friend who was an english teacher to help him. I have done the same for my youngest son. Whereas being an engineer I felt perfectly comfortable teaching them physics, biology, and maths.

Basically just keep adapting, encouraging and listening to your kids. My youngest is completely different to my eldest, so there is no point trying to force them down the same road academically. It feels like an impossible climb, but keep going you will get there. 

This is us on top of Ben Nevis this summer, it was hard work but what a feeling when you reach the top. :-)

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