We very often get asked if home educated children can take GCSEs and of course they can, but what lies behind this question?
It is a socially constructed view of education as starting school at 4, doing SATs, building up to GCSEs and then hopefully using those GCSEs to obtain employment.
But do home educated children need GCSEs? Some may, if their ambitions include employment which requires set examination results, but a great many never need them.
One of the most special things about home education, is seeing the fantastic achievements that home educated young people demonstrate.
Take Oliver, a lovely young man of 15 with a gentle and caring nature and a fantastic talent for photography. Oliver won our recent children’s competition and has no GCSEs and yet any professional would be proud of his work.
Ben is another child who was home educated until recently, a talented artist with a sharp mind and a flair for design, but many years from considering whether or not to take GCSEs. Ben’s mum is an artist and his inherited talent is obvious.
Sean is an extremely talented, home educated young man who has made jewellery and fine forged metalwork that earned him a Distinction * at B-tec Level 2, as well as having attained the rank of Colour Sergeant and is an acting Company Sergeant Major in the Army Cadet Force (ACF). Sean took 2 GCSEs but achieved his goals without ever having the need to do so.
He attended college at 14, where he was a student ambassador, then student union, and attained B-tec level 1 in Woodland and Countryside Management, Creative Metalwork and applied science, alongside B-tec level 2 in sport. This was followed by a level 2 Diploma in blacksmithing and metalwork, and he continues now onto Level 3.
Some home educated children go straight to taking degree courses, particularly with the Open University and often at an early age. Charlie is one of those young people.
He took a different route by completing his degree at 15, achieving an academic fellowship and a pilot’s licence, then completing GCSEs at 16. On the way to his goal, he won an award for citizenship from the County Sherriff and attained the rank of Sergeant in the Ait Training Corps (ATC). Why did he take GCSEs? because at that point his ambitions required it.
There is a pattern to this, a pattern of choosing to take courses, training and examinations only if they fit with the young person’s own requirements; a pattern of lives led in a different way and a pattern of home educated young people forging their way in life and following the beat of their own drums, led by their own amazing selves and never by a pied piper of social expectation.
Patterns are everywhere in life and home educated young people create amazing, individual ones as they achieve their own goals in life.
I will say goodbye now and leave you in the hands of a beautiful young woman. She was told by a parent that she would be a failure if she did not go to school and achieve GCSEs, but she believed in herself and is now soaring toward her goals, having stepped straight into college. She tells us about patterns:
‘I grew up with repeating patterns. There were the fading beige polka dots on my bedroom wall. The grain of the wood that made my bookshelf, on which sat the small box with the sticks of chalk arranged tightly in a pattern of coloured circles which I would use to draw hopscotch on the pavement. The pavement that was made up of squares which, when followed, would eventually lead to another pattern – the train tracks. The train tracks that I would walk along, that led past the town and beside the river to the bridge with the pattern of repeating bars. The bridge that I would one day find myself looking over the edge of, when the weight of the world, and the people in it, became too much for me to stand up against. When the pattern of my thoughts became far too broken and tangled for me to ever unravel and I followed the memory of my childhood patterns to the bridge of my childhood walks with the bars that I would bang a stick along as I walked past, except this time, I was on the wrong side of the bars and I was looking down at the rushing water and I suddenly realised why they always tell us never to look down when in high places.
I have learnt that a fear of heights is actually a fear of falling. While not everyone is scared of heights, we are all scared of falling and I mean falling both literally and figuratively. Take the mind, for example. It is a metaphorical abyss that once fallen into is one of the hardest and darkest places to escape from. And falling in love. Another kind of falling that we are both terrified of and obsessed with. There are different kinds of falling, I’ve learnt this. There’s the sudden and unexpected kind like when you trip on a shoelace and your hands smack onto hard ground, followed by thoughts of “Did anyone see that?” There’s the kind when that particular person smiles in that particular way and your heart does that kind of flip and you think “Oh God, I’ve fallen for them.” And there’s falling from grace. When bridges burn and all of a sudden you’re back where you started. A harsh yet humbling reminder of our fragile humanity. It hurts almost as much as physical pain to realise that even when we think we’re touching the clouds, we control nothing. And just like that, we’re on the ground again.
I once realised that humans have a strange obsession with being remembered. We spend our lives trying to build a legacy to leave behind and we all want to achieve something that we will be remembered for, to do something that society and maybe even the history books will deem ‘successful.’ I never understood this. I never understood why we care more about what happens after we leave this planet, then what happens during our time here. Death is a strange thing for a lot of people. We always say “We’ll never forget.” but I’ve discovered that that’s a lie. We’re always forgotten eventually and no one lives forever… although sometimes I think I could have. I wanted my legacy to be that I watched a thousand suns set. But we aren’t remembered for things like that, for things like happiness. We never do the things we love the most. Instead, we sacrifice our childhood dreams and spend our lives chasing after imaginary gold. We wanted to be pirates, but there’s no treasure here. Instead we live in a world of negative spaces and people with unfulfilled hearts.
We all want someone to pray to. Some small acknowledgement that we are not alone in this great expanse of everything. A knowing that someone or something will listen when we fall apart. And hope. A small word that has so much power over us. We may be standing at the bottom of the tallest mountain but the thought of “maybe” or “one day” is enough to guide us to take the first step. As long as we remain breathing, we will be that hope that, as sure as the sun is to rise and set over the horizons, will continue to carry us. Hope is an undying light that we cannot help but follow, whether it is through a physical or metaphorical nightmare it urges us to push on. And we do. Humanity is like that. A collection of broken and beautiful souls all on different journeys but moving in the same direction… up. Up mountains that life always seems to place in our path. Let that be our legacy. Let we as the human race be remembered as those who continually climbed their mountains. Together we learnt how to fly.
I am looking over the abyss and finally feel what it is to experience freedom. Freedom of thoughts. So many revelations. It is as if they are flowing through me. Like falling. Maybe I am falling. Drowning. In thoughts that feel like water. A lack of oxygen leads to madness. Mad. Maddening. “I am madly in love with you.” “I am so mad at you.” “They’ve gone mad.” So many meanings for a single word, it maddens me. Darkness. Closing in around me, yet it is so peaceful. It’s like a night without any stars. When you’re so far away from artificial light that you can almost imagine you’re part of some ancient civilisation. Pain. My chest hurts. It is as if the world has gotten too small for my expanse of thoughts to ever be able to find room in. Don’t panic. I feel like I’m screaming but I can only hear emptiness. The sound of nothing is deafening me. Can I take this any longer? I am floating but I cannot tell in what direction. I no longer know which way is up or which way is down. I no longer have any recollection of things such as space or time or movement and I am simply existing in a universe of emptiness. And then, just like that, it all stops. I am no longer drowning, no longer flying. There is no more pain, no more darkness.
I take a breath’.