Home Schooling

Home Schooling

Choosing subjects

Core Subjects

The two essential subjects are English Language and Mathematics. Beyond that you have a choice across a broad range of subjects.

What are the facilitating subjects?

You may have heard of ‘facilitating subjects’ but wondered exactly what this means.  These subjects are the most valued at A Level because they allow a student to choose a wide range of degree courses.  They ‘facilitate’ entry into good university degree courses.  They are also worth considering as FIRST CHOICE options at GCSE.

They are:-

English Literature History Geography
Modern Languages Classical Languages (e.g. Latin) Mathematics and Further Mathematics
Biology Chemistry Physics

At A Level, home-educators should try to choose at least one of these subjects and for the more competitive universities, two of these subjects.  When considering courses do check which A level subjects are required by each particular university.

Avoid virtually parallel subjects – breadth of knowledge is important

One of the upsides of home-education is the freedom to choose subjects your child enjoys, but do be mindful of the pitfalls in focusing on a very interest-centric learning experience. Quite frequently home-educators will opt for very similar subjects in order to glean a certain number of GCSEs/IGCSEs.  This isn’t well advised because overlapped knowledge is of little use when a child moves on to the next step and has to choose three A Levels; colleges and/or universities may, at their discretion, refuse to allow combinations of highly similar subjects to be allowed to each count separately towards entrance requirements. It is not unusual to see a home-educated child with IGCSEs in Biology, Human Biology, Environmental Management (and now Marine Science).  These subjects are too similar so try to be more diverse. Try to choose a broad sweep of GCSEs/IGCSEs that include both science and humanities.  There is a list of available IGCSE subjects on the Edexcel website which you can find here.

Equivalent CAIE link here.

Please note – CAIE IGCSE offer two parallel choices of IGCSE in most of their subjects.  One is grade 9-1 and the other A* to G.  They are however identical in their demands and their Assessment Objectives.  If you are in the UK your centre will most likely offer the Grade 9-1 version but it is fine to use the A* to G version for past papers and general practice. The A* to G versions are more aimed at overseas students who still prefer the old legacy grading.

Once you have confirmed with your exam centre which exam boards they offer you can then choose your subjects and the topic choices within those subjects. Be careful here, although there may be some exotic and enticing choices within the topics available it often makes sense to choose the more popular choices.  The reason for this is there are likely to be far more resources available.  It is not commercially viable for a publisher to publish a text book with very limited appeal so try to stick with those choices that are well known and well catered for. Do your research before you commit.

When an exam board introduces a new specification there will be very limited chances to try past papers and you may be limited to the specimen paper on the website. Keep this in mind when making your choices.

As a rule, where an exam has a practical endorsement or coursework it may be very difficult to access as a home-educator.  This will include PE, Drama and some exam boards offering English Language, such as AQA.  

Modern Foreign Languages however are more readily available because the speaking assessment is taken under strict exam conditions and the centre does not get involved in the preparation.

Some exam centres now offer GCSEs and A levels which involve practical assessments but these are usually on the basis that the centre takes a role in the entire GCSE or A level course and uses its own tutors for teaching and examining and they will of course charge for this.  However, subscribing to an online course provider enables that centre to confirm that the candidate is genuine and their work authentic.  

Please don’t expect a centre to accept your entry for any exam that involves a practical element unless it has been agreed with them at the outset.  Countless times private candidates pursue the specification of their choice and then wrongly believe that they will find a means of having their coursework validated.  Please don’t put exam centres under pressure to do this as they will be subject to the rules of the exam board.  This is a particular problem with A Level History where students ask a third party to assess their NEA (Non Examined Assessment).  As I am sure you will understand, the third party has absolutely no way of knowing if the work is authentic or has involved the support of a parent, teacher, fellow student etc.

For A Levels such as History and Geography, CAIE is usually the safest option.  Rather than involve coursework you will have to sit an extra paper (usually four papers in total) but at least this avoids the NEA conundrum.