4. Don’t do too many subjects
You may be tempted to mimic the approach of most schools when it comes to GCSEs and do as many as you possibly can. Can I discourage you from heading down that road – even if your child is really bright! One of the great advantages of home education is that we can provide our children with a balanced lifestyle where their week is made up of formal academic study and other things such as helping around the house, time for their own personal interests and even doing things within the community. If you opt for too many subjects, these ‘other things’ will get squeezed out.
Ultimately, IGCSEs are about keeping as many doors open as possible – to enable our children to have the widest possible range of options at 16 or 17. We took the decision with our own children that 6-7 well chosen IGCSEs, including English language, maths and a science would be enough to keep these doors open. Other families may opt for fewer or more, but don’t do too many. At NSWLearning, we actively discourage families from enrolling in too many subjects.
5. DIY or buying in help?
It is quite possible to prepare children for IGCSEs without any outside support or assistance. Many families have done this – indeed, back in the 1990s, when we were helping our three daughters prepare for their exams, this was the route taken by virtually all home educators. It is the route we took in large measure because that was all we could afford at the time. However, it is a challenging road and one that demands a pretty big effort from all involved.
The alternative route is to make use of external expertise – from the larger online providers like NSWLearning, from the large number of individual tutors who offer support in particular subjects or even from local teachers.
Our advice here at NSWLearning is almost always to do a mix and match approach – save money by adopting a DIY approach in those subjects where mum, dad or friends are able to help and, if necessary, buy in support in other areas where you feel that you can’t offer adequate support. Home education is demanding enough without choosing the hardest possible road to travel.
For the same reason, we also suggest that if as parents you are going to find it immensely challenging to provide your child with one of the subjects they want to study, it may be better to defer this until college at a later date.
6. One year or two?
I have already expressed my views on preparing for IGCSE exams in a year or less. I guess I am ‘old school’ but my view is that study – even studying IGCSEs should be enjoyable and beneficial. My definition of ‘beneficial’ doesn’t simply revolve around the grade in an exam! My advice is always to allow enough time to enjoy and be enriched by study – even study for IGCSEs.
Alongside this, what is important is that as a parent you decide which exam session (i.e. which year) that you are aiming at for your child. This has implications for almost everything else that you do – from finding exam centres, to the books that are studied in Literature.