It is good to have return visits from old faces who have graduated. This evening it was a Sixth Form arts student – let us call him B – who looked in. He was a fortnightly regular for English and Maths from Year 8 to Year 11, following his withdrawal from school (bullying) in order to be home-schooled. Others to take his place have now made contact, having just this term entered the home-school sector.
Do students benefit or suffer on the whole from home-schooling? Clearly it must often be inconvenient for parents and carers to have full-time – term as well as holiday – responsibility for the young person, and I know, in the case of B, there were frequent time-management issues at home – very late nights, very late rises, and lots of time squandered elsewhere, which sometimes nearly drove his mother to distraction. On the other hand, with his outgoing personality, he also pursued a routine of social and recreational activities, such as music, drama and martial arts, not all of which he might have kept up if he had been attending school normally. His GCSE year was somewhat anxious, but in the end his results were reasonable (as indeed they ought to have been) and he has now rejoined Year 12 on an equal footing with his peers. Ups and downs, but on the whole then, a success story.
The commonest reasons given for early withdrawal from school are (i) distress caused by bullying, and (ii) getting into trouble – rebelliousness – that has resulted in a breakdown of relations with staff. The latter may be interpreted by school authorities, understandably, as an attitude of ‘not wanting to learn’ – though the case is not always as clear-cut as this; ‘not wanting to learn under the conditions and constraints of school’ is often nearer the mark in Year 11. Thus the students who present themselves at the Centre having fallen foul of school discipline, often do want to pass their exams, and will get on with tuition, feeling they have something to prove, in a way that is no different from those who comply at school.
To the home-schooled at the upper end of the school-age spectrum, ‘independent learning’ is what tuition has to promote – an extensive rather than intensive approach – if only because, otherwise, tuition would be a terribly expensive burden for most families. Structuring a programme of studies, setting an appropriate quantity of work for the students’ own time, and providing detailed feedback when work periodically comes in is mostly what is involved.
I am just hoping it will work out as well for my new proteges as it did for B.