Regular readers of this admittedly irregular blog will recall that La Child is A Bit Clever™. In terms of intellectual ability she falls somewhere between that annoying friend who seems to be good at everything, and Einstein.
Did you hear the quotation marks there? “In terms of intellectual ability”.
In terms of good old fashioned gumption, La Child falls instead somewhere between Homer Simpson and a three toed sloth. Taking her out of school coincided, by some freakish twist of fate, with the onset of major league puberty, so what with her sudden appreciation of absolute freedom, the realisation that late nights and even later mornings were an actual option, and the dawning of the Age of Rage, you won’t be massively surprised to learn that not much academic stuff happened for a while.
And that was fine. Everyone* will tell you that when you take a child out of school there really has to be a period of unschooling/de-schooling/farting about (delete as appropriate) in order for the little cherubs to adjust to their new, less structured life. That period of unschooling can take a few weeks, a couple of months or, in our case, about two years, but however long it takes it’s an important step. And so we were fairly relaxed about it all. La Child still did stuff. She climbed walls, she perfected her Judo throws, she learned to do a triple Salchow**, she did all that outdoors, activity type stuff that for whatever reason she hadn’t had a chance to do very much of at school. And slowly, some more academic activities started to emerge. She’d go on tours of the National History museum and do a half day DNA sequencing course (the full day ended with you having to bring home a cloned cow, didn’t fancy that); she’d attend a course on the medicinal qualities of various herbs at the Chelsea Physic Garden; she’d spend a day dressed up as Queen Anne at Hampton Court, learning all about the Tudors, and so on.
Then, out of the blue about six months ago, she suddenly announced that she was ‘ready’ and, even more amazingly, ‘willing’ to start studying Maths, and English, and Science, and ‘other stuff’. When La Wife and I picked ourselves up off the floor, we found a little group of other home ed families who were keen to start some more structured learning, and we all clubbed together to bring in tutors.
And now, six months later, La Child is about to take her first GCSE, and by all that’s unholy she’s chosen Maths. She’s 11. Next year she intends to take her English, Biology, Physics and Art GCSEs. Year after that, who knows. ‘Other stuff’ maybe.
Two interesting things stem from all this:
1. If you happen to home ed, don’t let anyone tell you that a relaxed approach doesn’t work. Children will learn stuff when they’re ready to learn stuff. After all, we’re happy enough to adopt a ‘let them learn at their own pace’ approach before they go to school, aren’t we? What does it really matter how old they were when they first crawled, or walked, or spoke, or managed to hold it in long enough not to make an almighty squelchy mess doewn their trouser legs? By the time they’re adults no one will know or care. So why are we so very paranoid about filling them full of facts once they hit school age? “13 years old and you don’t how to factor a quadratic formula? Shit, you’re fucked my sun.” Don’t think so.
2. La Child never quite seems to lose her propensity to surprise. There are times when we forget just how advanced she is, with all that cleverness lost in a sea of attitude and angst, but every now and again she’ll do something to remind us why we went down this road in the first place. And I refer the honourable member to my statement, made some moments ago somewhere near paragraph three, to wit: La Child falls somewhere between Homer Simpson and a three toed sloth. Typical teen, hours spent on Instagram and facetime, but work is a rude word best left unspoken. And yet, here we are with a child who has had to pick herself up by the bootstraps and not only learn all that good GCSE level Maths stuff, but also (in order to catch up with her far older class mates) all of that pre-GSCE level Maths stuff that she didn’t bother learning when she first left school. She’s been sat on her bed all hours of the day and night poring through the books, and bugger me if she hasn’t done it with a smile and a determination hitherto unknown in Casa Branza.
I’m proper proud, I am.
*not literally, obvs.
**no, she didn’t.