How’s your 2017 going? Despite my best intentions, my other blog has been taking up all my energy for the last few months. But the new year seemed like a good opportunity to share what we’re up to, starting with my busy 13-year-old.
My 13-year-old’s goals
Cordie wants to go to university when she’s 18. Here in England the most straightforward route to uni is to sit GCSEs, which are the exams schoolchildren take at 16.
Although schoolchildren commonly sit eight or nine GCSEs, most homeschoolers only take about five, spread over several years. At the moment Cordie plans to take maths, English (both compulsory), French, physics, Spanish and/or chemistry.
At the start of this academic year we started working through a GCSE textbook, but after years of hands-on maths we found that approach far too dull. So we switched to the Art of Problem Solving, which we’re loving.
I’m happy to say that what I wrote here on this blog four years ago has more than come true:
‘Let’s Play Maths [the wonderful book that inspired our maths play] suggests different approaches for the teen years depending on whether a child has had a good taste of the “Aha!” factor during the elementary years. Once a teen is ready for textbooks:
“Don’t be fooled by your own experience of dry or tedious math classes: textbook mathematics is still math the mathematician’s way, as mental play. But it is no longer the play of a child dabbling in the shallows… No, this is the play of the athlete, who works hard at training and enjoys seeing his muscles grow firm, who can’t wait to test himself against a new and challenging opponent.”
We’re using the Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra (plus the free accompanying videos). AoPS Prealgebra covers topics Cordie learned a while ago, but to a depth neither of us has ever explored.
Although AoPSPreAlgebra doesn’t cover the entire GCSE syllabus, we’re confident that after Cordie’s worked through it she’ll have such a thorough understanding of mathematical concepts that she won’t have any trouble picking up the extra topics she’ll need for GCSE.
English language GCSE is required for university entrance. Cordie’s preparing for it by taking this correspondence course.
She’s had top marks for all her assignments so far, although the tutor has warned that she writes far too much for every question so it looks like her main challenge is going to be containing herself!
As with maths, our years of hands-on science combined with Cordie’s voracious appetite for watching science videos on YouTube has prepared her well for the challenge of covering the rather dry GCSE syllabus.
Fortunately we have a homeschooling teacher friend who’s a genius at bringing the syllabus to life. Cordie’s twice-weekly Skype sessions with Kate are the highlight of her week. Last term they explored science generally. They’ve decided to focus on physics this year so that Cordie can sit her GCSE in January 2018.
Cordie’s also learning environmental science at her weekly homeschool group. The teacher is another experienced and inspiring former homeschooler who brings the topic to life with hands-on activities, project work and presentation opportunities. She’s covering the environmental science GCSE syllabus so Cordie may sit the exam at some point, although she’s not relying on it as a core subject for uni entrance.
Cordie loves languages. She’s listened to her hero John McWhorter’s books on language dozens of times and she talks about studying linguistics at uni one day, although of course there’s plenty of time for another passion to prevail.
She’s learning French and Spanish in very different but complementary ways.
She learns French with three other homeschooled girls in a weekly class taught by a former schoolteacher. Rachel is super-organised and well-versed in GCSE requirements, so Cordie’s getting lots of practice writing the endless postcards about her holidays that GCSE seems to consist of.
In contrast Cordie learns Spanish via a combination of intensive courses in Spain (we go about twice a year), weekly Skype conversation classes with a native speaker friend, and grammar with me.
This contrast in the ways she’s learning is really opening Cordie’s eyes to the different ways we can learn languages, which is helping fuel her interest in linguistics.
Music is Cordie’s current passion. After going to five rock concerts last year she’s switched from classical guitar, which she’d been learning for six years, to acoustic and electric.
She’s having lessons with a teacher who used to front his own band, although mostly she teaches herself via free websites and apps. She’s also doing this course in songwriting and music production on Udemy. (NB Udemy has regular sales, when even their £200 courses cost £10.)
As often as she can, Cordie gets together to jam and compose with her guitar and bass-playing BFF, and when they can’t meet in person they’re making music over Facetime. Hearing the house filled with music and seeing the way it lights Cordie up is such a joy.
Sport and social
Exercise and physical fitness are really important to Cordie. She’s continuing gymnastics and ice-skating and is training towards getting her black belt at karate in the spring.
This term she’s also starting a martial arts tricking class which will bring together her karate and gymastics skills. (Her dad and I are looking forward to seeing some Matrix-style moves, although hopefully not off the top of any tall buildings.)
Cordie’s recently become a Scout patrol leader and she’s looking forward to another full year of expeditions and activities with her busy troop, including several days hiking along the Jurassic Coast later this month, and a week in Austria in March.
This will be her last term at Stagecoach, where for the last ten years she’s learned singing, acting and dance. She wants to continue singing lessons and she’s considering joining another drama group, but I’m in no hurry to fill up the space in her diary!
Are we still unschooling?
Just writing about Cordie’s busy week leaves me feeling rather exhausted, but my whirlwind of a teenager thrives on it.
If she was my only child, I might worry that I’d somehow pressured her into taking on all these activities. But as I’ve often said here, the opposite is actually true – my role is usually to gently reason with Cordie about whether she really has time to take on yet more commitments!
For me, unschooling means supporting my children in whatever ways they want to learn. As you’ll see when I write next time about what Jasper (11) is up to, unschooling can look very different even within the same family. I take that as a sign that I’m doing it right. 🙂
How’s your homeschooling year going? I’d love to hear from you!
* * *
I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.