Sitting in my kitchen last week drinking tea with a home schooling friend, the topic of alternatives to IGCSEs etc came up. It ignited the interest I had always felt in regards to studying and learning and I could vaguely remember (naively?) saying none of my children would ever take GCSEs/IGCSEs! And here we are a few years on and our second child is currently sitting two more exams in Latin and Maths!
So what changed? My friend and I were agreeing that the 'peer pressure' (yes! it even exists among home educators!) of many of their friends settling down to the exam courses was a factor, plus of course the age old argument that they are stepping stones for attaining any means of FE (further education).
This is most definitely true..after all once I'd contemplated it what would they actually *do* if they weren't now studying towards exams?
Our chat then wandered into other avenues...of course there are many other ways of learning and qualifications but not many people are aware of them.
For a student who may not be very academically minded but would like to fill their day with learning, there is the option of the BTEC qualification. Level 1 is a 'broad introductory level designed for those not able to achieve grades A*-C at GCSE'.
There are a wide range of subjects - art and design, child care, music or engineering....
Level 2 (14yrs-16ys) is equivalent to GCSEs and again the range of subjects is impressive, even including fish husbandry and horticulture- unusual!
BTECs can be studied at home so quite accessible for the home schooler or at a college and once one has attained Levels 1 and 2 (I'm not sure if one needs to do both) then they can go on to 3 which are recognised by Universities and are equivalent to A levels.
An Art BTEC, for example, could be studied alongside a few IGCSEs too as it demands a couple of days in college allowing the student enough time to cover more studies if they wish.
The beauty of home education is that studying is done in the child's time- when the child is ready, not the school. Each child is different and the Mother will know how much her child can manage, unlike a school. Home education also allows the child to study over a longer period of time, ie many home educators will sit IGCSEs over three to four years, so it is flexible and less stifling.
Of course all this is dependent upon what the student actually would like to study in the future. Medicine demands top grades in the sciences and so IGCSEs followed by three to four A levels is imperative.
Do our children *need* GCSEs/other qualifications to succeed in life? Almost certainly not. I still stand by this yet I do also wonder what I would replace their studies with in reality. Does not sitting IGCSEs lower their chances to do A levels, or go to University? Possibly not, but I still am not courageous enough (yet) to take that chance!