You may want to start with mapping out a weekly schedule for your child. This does not have to look like a normal school day, but could have a regular start and finish time for academic learning, breaks, lunch, socialisation and time dedicated to sports. Of course, home education offers more flexibility so some days the routine may look slightly different, but a weekly routine can give you a good grounding on which to build your child’s education.
You will absolutely not be able to plan how long it will take you to cover the entire specification for a subject. At school the 120 hours per GCSE teaching is set in stone and schools are able to develop a concrete timetable which ensures that students ‘should’ reach the end in good time. This doesn’t really happen with home-education. It depends on many factors but the principal issue is how quickly a child understands and absorbs the content. Approaches here vary but it can be useful to map out a full timetable covering eight or nine half an hour lessons (with breaks) per day and see how quickly you work through the specification for each subject. Some will take longer than others but remember, it isn’t a race and it doesn’t really matter if exams are sat early or late. Subjects which are a strength can be covered more quickly. Where a child has shown a high level of competence it may be an option then to enter exams and get these subjects out of the way so that then you have more time to focus on the weaker subjects, again, entering them when the time is right.
It is very common for home-educated children to enter exams early. This isn’t because they are particularly precocious (they may be) but it is usually because juggling timetables leads to an unknown outcome and it makes sense to enter when good and ready rather than in your rightful school year. Be careful here. Some universities mistakenly believe that these children have been hot housed by ambitious parents but from experience, it is more a matter of budgeting and idiosyncratic timetabling. Taking nine GCSES in one sitting would be beyond the budget of most parents so splitting them makes sense and is normal. Equally, some will tell you that universities prefer students who have sat all their GCSES in one sitting because it proves they can cope with the pressure. This is not true. Children have been known to secure places at Oxbridge and Russell Group universities who have split their GCSES over several years. However, it is essential that all A levels (at least three) are taken in one single sitting. It is not unusual for a home-educated child to complete a GCSE at age 13 and then make a gentle start on A Level study in that subject which can be very beneficial.
The focus of all education, school or home, should always be about learning and enjoyment of the content rather than rushing to tick off exam qualifications. One positive of home-education is to allow this learning at a pace which suits because there are no time constraints but equally, as a parent, you may not want to be doing this forever. Exam qualifications are simply the tickets you need to progress through the career pathway that life brings you.
One more word of advice here. Some children show an ability to write well at an early age. Occasionally parents see this as an opportunity to enter the English Language exam early but this is not really to be advised. There is far more to the English Language GCSE than simply writing well. Although a strong natural ability to write well is no doubt an advantage, the test here is much greater and includes recognising, understanding and commenting on inferred and explicit meaning, implementing a range of grammar skills, an ability to perform narrative, discursive, imaginative and transactional writing and most importantly, an ability to recognise what a writer is trying to say through the words they have chosen, what techniques they have used and the effect these techniques have on the reader. A young mind may show creative flair but the nuances of this exam are much better understood with a bit of maturity on side. Topics chosen for GCSE papers are often current and relevant to modern day affairs such as climate change and sweat shop labour so an older, well-read child will no doubt have a significant advantage over a younger person who simply writes well. This is not one to rush.
What if you have more than one child?
Home-educating more than one child at a time is actually quite common and many very successful home-educating families achieve this with fabulous outcomes. Don’t be afraid to combine lessons. Children of 2 or 3 years age difference are quite capable of learning together. Parents with limited time may not have the hours in the day to repeat lessons from one sibling to another and a younger child will often quite easily keep up when learning beyond the confines of the school environment. School children are subconsciously conditioned to define themselves by year group but this presumption is very quickly broken down when learning at home and age becomes irrelevant. Where children of different ages are removed from school to be
home-educated together, start by addressing their needs in each subject separately but as they become familiar with the process they will accelerate quickly and you may very well soon have the joy of combining their lessons so that they can learn together and hopefully, support each other.
Below you will see two rough timetables prepared by a successful home-educator who saw two sons through from Year 5 and Year 7 through to university without support. Both sons were taught together where their stage of progress allowed, whilst other lessons were split. The advantage of this was that it provided revision time for the child who was on a free period whilst his sibling was learning. Please note that the parent was involved in all 45 lessons and the child who was on a private study or revising was sat at the same desk so their progress could be monitored and encouraged.
Child 1 age 15 (already has GCSES in English Language, French, Psychology and Geography)
|English Literature||PS||English Literature||Physics||Maths|
|Physics||Physics||French Literature for A Level||French Grammar & text Book for A Level||English Literature|
|Geography – covering bits of GCSE which were not covered previously and moving on to A Level||Maths||PS||Geography – covering bits of GCSE which were not covered previously and moving on to A Level||History|
|PS||French A Level||Maths||History||PS|
Child 2 age 13 – already has Geography GCSE
|PS||Maths||Biology||English Language -READING||Physics|
|Astronomy||Astronomy||English Language -READING||Maths||Biology|
|English Literature||Chemistry||English Literature||Physics||PS|
|Geography – covering bits of GCSE which were not covered previously and moving on to A Level||PS||Astronomy||Geography – covering bits of GCSE which were not covered previously and moving on to A Level||PS|
|Maths||PS||PS||How to conduct Science Experiments||English Language|