Monday 30 July 2012

English Literature

English Literature; a highly favoured subject and one that many Catholic Home educators will enjoy.

In many Catholic homes one will find a treasury of well loved, classic and cherished books and many a Catholic child will grow up remembering books being read out loud and sitting in a quite corner enjoying an honoured favourite.

In our home we have a wide range of books ranging from old fashioned classics to non-fiction, all varied and different but censored to be morally acceptable so a child can choose anything from a shelf and sit down and enjoy.

Being well read is a worthy prerequisite for any English course, especially the IGCSE in Literature. If one has read widely and enjoyed different genres and styles they should have little problem with these courses.

From our own experience we have, again used the CIE board for English Literature.

 Catholic families will be glad to find Shakespeare still available for their child to study - well known classics such as 'Julius Caesar' or 'The Tempest'  or 'The importance of being earnest' by Wilde. There is poetry too, last year was Alfred Lord Tennyson or a more modern option 'Songs for ourselves'. In 2014 they have included the poetry of Thomas Hardy.

A note regarding Shakespeare- whilst it is a wonderful experience for many children to hear and read the jewels which are Shakespeare some will find it challenging to study alone and not in a group setting or just plain difficult. My son decided not to opt for the Shakespeare choice last year because he preferred to see it performed live and felt he benefited more greatly from this than from studying it laboriously and not gaining much thrill from it.

Instead it can be beneficial to read stories like 'Tales from Shakespeare' by Lamb (my children read this with me at  10yrs);

And try and see the plays performed live. This brings such a realism to the child and Shakespeare will linger for a long while in their minds.

I could not recommend 'The Young Shakespeare Company' enough ;

Our secular home education group employed them to do a whole workshop on 'The Tempest' with a large group of children many years ago now and they still talk about it and have vivid memories of being part of such a sensational play!

Shakespeare plays are often performed in open air theatres and these can also be very attractive to children.

Returning to the Literature syllabus- there is not much which is morally objectionable and one is able to find classical and deep literature.

In the Edexcel board they offer Austen's 'Pride and prejudice' which is exceptionally popular in my household!

Ben, who is 15yrs, sat his English Literature in the summer. He chose three texts- 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte, 'Journey's End' by R.C Sheriff and selected poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Instead of choosing more books he opted for the unseen paper so he had to answer on a piece of literature he had not previously seen.

English Literature is definitely a viable option for the Catholic home educator. Do allow a maturity of mind however, I certainly would not conceive of my children sitting it before 15/16yrs old as they need to master how to pen a clear essay with critique, analytical skills and argument and I think this comes from experience and a more developed mind. (and lots of practice!)

What are your views on this subject? Should all children study Shakespeare?

Saturday 28 July 2012

English Language Post continued!

Following on from the initial English Language post I feel I should clarify a couple of points, as well as add some extra information in regards to the CIE course.

From a personal point of view we were (and are) very happy with the CIE board. They are renowned, apparently, for enjoying original  and unique exam papers and a student's personal points of view which is quite a rarity.

They don't seem to have anything too risque in their syllabus and the content is modern but not trashy. Having read through  many past exam papers I have not yet to date found anything I would consider immoral.

Regarding the Catherine Mooney courses. I am not endorsing them here as I have no experience of them personally. However many home educators have used Catherine's two courses and she has a very high pass rate and is supportive.

When I said English Language is usually the 'first port of call',  that is to say most people regard English and Mathematics as the 'essentials' and will opt for these exams first so the child has some form of qualification.

What I did not mean to insinuate is that English is an 'easy' option and that all home educated children should choose this first. (Just in case any one thought this was being proclaimed!).

English, like all subjects, can be extremely challenging to some children. Many children despise writing or may have significant trouble with it and will prefer subjects like Mathematics or the sciences. If this is the case then it would be wise to take English at a later date and concentrate on the subjects the child enjoys more.  Others have a natural inclination to write; enjoying creative writing stories and poetry composition from a very young age. These children will, naturally, have less trouble with the IGCSE when they come to take it.

Our son Ben who has already taken the CIE IGCSE English Language at 14yrs just loves English. As it is his strongest subject and something he enjoys for 'pleasure' we felt he was able to take the exam early and first. Of course had he not been keen, or an avid writer, I would have held back  as I do believe English Language requires a maturity on behalf of the student. This applies to English Literature even more. (A post on this will follow but many HErs take the Literature exam later as the child will need to write essays {three if doing the CIE board} and have an understanding of how to answer an essay style question.)

In Ben's case he took the Literature this summer at 15yrs and felt he was better equipped to answer these style questions than he would have been the year previously.

A very helpful and informative yahoo group which many Catholic Home Educators are on (but it is secular ) is ;

I am sorry this address has only appeared now- I am still working out how to add links, answer comments and post information ! Please bear with me as I learn the art of blogging and keep sending in comments and advice! Thank you so much for all the kind support shown already, and God Bless!

Thursday 26 July 2012

English Language

English Language is a sensible starting point for the IGCSEs as one usually needs this qualification when seeking employment and not just to enter Further education.

The IGCSE qualification is again superior to the GCSE and many home educators opt for this as there is no coursework required and is exam based only. This does mean though that it all depends upon those two exams!

English Language has undoubtedly been demeaned over the past years in England. It is alarming how little grammar children are taught in school (if any formal grammar nowadays) and there is little requirement for grammatical knowledge in the exam although well written, grammatically correct work will be acclaimed.

Many Catholics will teach their children Latin which will help them immensely with their English. In past ages English was taught via Latin and the grammar and form the pupil received was of a much superior quality. Research shows clearly that children with a knowledge of Latin will be better spellers, be more grammatically competent and hold a wider range of vocabulary. As one of my children proclaimed the other day, Latin is the spine to the English language!
Sadly gone are the days when schools teach English through Latin so the advantage to having this will be significant.

The C.I.E board offers English Language IGCSE ;

The board is quite helpful with appropriate books to use;

We used this board for my son's English Language IGCSE last year. We did not find anything morally objectionable with the materials either which was pleasing. The pieces of work they use are not highly literary but they are acceptable and the student is marked on their writing skills, form, analytical skills and creative writing ability.

Another board, Edexcel, also offer the IGCSE;

This is similar to CIE however there is a poetry component in it too.

Both these boards offer the extended or core options. Extended is harder and one can gain between an A*-E grades and core allows the student to attain a C and below grades.

A Home educating Mother, Catherine Mooney, runs a tutoring course for both English Language and Literature. These have proved very popular to some home educators and she will mark assignments and offer alot of support. It is ideal for a child who is less confident with English although it costs around £200 per subject.

Other long distance sites like- also offer varied subjects in IGCSE level but having no experience of them I cannot expand.

Please do write in with any experience you have with English GCSE or IGCSE exams from home.

Monday 23 July 2012

Keeping Education Catholic

As a first post I thought it might be helpful to look at the education system and how we, as Catholic Home Educating families, can 'survive' it. This blog is dedicated to supporting those who may choose or have chosen to follow the UK system instead of an alternative one (namely a Catholic curriulum which are mostly American).

I always envisaged when my children arrived at the the age to sit exams that they would only take the bare minimum and continue with their other, more important and essential, education. A kind of 'two-tier' education which was very clear within my mind but has been harder to provide for my eldest son.

From the little experience I do have as a Catholic Home Educator trying to work the system I would say it is possible to achieve IGCSEs and continue with extra courses such as Classics, Greek, Catechism, Theology. However this seems only truly attainable when one has plotted how many exams the child can take on board at once with the extra work.

My (humble) advice would be to not take more than four IGCSEs at one sitting (especially if you are considering the extra, more important subjects).  Home educated children nearly always study the courses in far less time than is usual. A typical IGCSE course is two years long but many HE children are finished in three months! Of course this is not really ideal as the subject will not be absorbed as deeply as one would desire and they certainly will not become masters of that subject. It is much more pressuring to take on two year's worth of study in a matter of a few months. 

 Why are we even contemplating the UK system? I think one has to come to the agreement that all these exams are stepping stones to further education and give the child some sort of grounding in a particular subject that they can then use to achieve other goals. Most parents would desire their children to love to learn, to master certain subjects and to be taught to think, analyse, argue and discuss for themselves. I would say this is the crux of true education and one which cannot be found within our schools or doing a handful of exams at home. Therefore one has to have in mind the reason why they're taking these exams and the benefit to the child. 

I hope this is of some help towards clarifying why some choose the IGCSE route. It is possible to sit some very traditional subjects, such as Latin (one can choose the Literature and the language sections), Greek, Mathematics, English Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy. 

I'd love to hear of any one else's experiences with juggling exams and other courses...please send in lots of comments and discussion!