On this page Scottish island mum is drawing on her experience as a parent, teacher and university lecturer.
We understand the need for qualifications as they are something the world of work understands. Some home educating parents choose not to put their children through qualifications and that works for them. We always felt that some qualifications would be useful.
We agreed with the children that they should all aim for qualifications in English and maths which would be either GCSEs or an equivalent. Beyond that we tailored their qualifications around their individual needs.
Molly knew from a very young age that she wanted to work with animals and after lots of research and discussions decided that she was most interested in animal conservation. She needed a university degree for the area she wanted to work in so that meant a more traditional set of qualifications. Through distance learning she sat six GCSEs and passed them all with excellent grades. I am not a fan of young people doing more than about six subjects as I think the pressure takes away from the joy of learning. After Molly got her GCSEs she carried on to do 3 A levels and one AS level in subjects relevant to the degree she wanted to study. Molly has now graduated from the University of Lincoln with a 2:1 degree. She is currently studying for a masters in species recovery at Nottingham Trent University. You can keep up with Molly via her blog Conservation Stories.
That may well all sound quite familiar. Next in line is Harry who is 20. Harry is not that motivated by academic pursuits and always prefers to learn through practical activities. He had no interest in university but had a great interest in personal fitness and, in particular, body building. Once Harry had achieved his level 2 qualifications in maths and English he moved up to level 3 (equivalent to A level). He successfully studied for and passed his Diploma in Health and Fitness through a relevant distance learning college. He has also completed his level 3 diploma in Sports Nutrition through distance learning with a distinction profile. He then added a diploma in professional cookery to his qualifications. Harry loves Arran and is currently doing an apprenticeship with a master plasterer on the island.
George is interesting. He is extremely bright but did not thrive in his time in school in the early years. He has responded particularly well in the home education environment and has really come out of his shell. He is currently studying for his highers or equivalent in photography and tourism management. He already achieved a distinction in his animal care diploma. George attends the island Duke of Edinburgh scheme where he has achieved his bronze award. He has almost completed his silver award as well. His interest in the outdoors extends to trail running and he now runs races on and off the island. He has applied to do a degree in Adventure Tourism at the University of Highlands and Islands.
I should probably say that George has taught himself to bake the most amazing cakes so I always think a career in baking might be an option. He informs me that I a wrong because baking is something to do when he wants to chill. Point taken!
Max is almost 16 so is still in full time home school. He has two interests that have really captured his imagination. The first is all things computer but he is particularly interested in making short video clips. The second thing is all the work we do as a family for international charities. We are just starting to gently discuss how he might combine the two but it is early days. The priority is to give him lots of opportunities in both these areas and see where that takes him. I have a social networking role with several international charities and I am including Max is as much as possible because he has developed such strong instincts in what might help in situations where life is very hard. Max has also completed his bronze award with the Duke of Edinburgh and is well underway with his silver award. He too runs and in 2015 completed his first 5k on the island.
So, you can see four children and four different routes and I think that is right. Children should be given a balance of space, to find their own interests, as well as opportunities to explore these interests. Research shows that parents are the most influential people in a child’s decision making over careers. We do not subscribe to the view that you must choose a career for life because we believe society has moved on from that pattern. We also make sure our children understand that learning is a life long process and I think that removes a lot of the pressures that are so evident in many young people today.
Scottish island mum regularly advises young people as they begin to fledge into the world. Feel free to drop her an email for a chat. She appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call programme (22nd January 2014) where she debated the role of parents in their children’s career choices.