Our three were totally autonomous all the way through, with no formal work at all, until they chose to go to FE College post 16 or do an OU course. We know so many autonomously home educated young people who would say the same thing, no formal work until they chose to do some. Some I know have chosen to do a few GCSEs at a time, and others have done GCSE/A level/other FE courses, at FE College when they are ready. The majority have gone onto University too, with a wide range of universities taking them- Bristol, Oxford, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leicester, LSE and those are just the ones that come quickly to mind where some of our children's close friends are.
Our experience would lead us to agree with SDeuchars, that the young people can learn the skills they need when they are motivated enough. We didn't need to work on developing particular skills before that-we just did whatever interested them. It seems to me that Universities need some evidence that a student can study to the required level. One of my children has done an Art Foundation course, before the course being taken at Uni now. That dc doesn't have GCSEs at all, but did an FE College course first, and used a portfolio of work to get onto that.
Have you ever looked at Vision2Learn. They offer some good level 2 courses - business, IT and customer service and the students do not need any prior qualifications. Only problem is that you can only apply once over 19 for free places.
I was thinking more about GCSEs and exam centres as I understand this seems to be a stumbling block for many.
It can be difficult and the advice is to find an exam centre that will take independent candidates (you have to phone and ask - just cause an exam board website says they do it, doesn't mean they do).
Also I was wondering how easy it is to move from informal learning to a structured course and what are the key skills that need to be developed before this?
None, in general. My DS did an OU maths course two years ago which ensured he had enough of a grasp of maths to be able to do the A level from a standing start. My philosophy would be that you learn the skills you need when you have a reason to use them. I still support him, so I have downloaded past papers - having done one earlier in the week, he knows that today's mock paper in college was easier than if he had not done it, so he has now learned an important skill that he'll put into practice over the next few weeks (he takes the AS papers in January, having started in September).
I'd expect the same with English, or any other subject. It is OK not to have "study skills" (writing essays, research, taking notes etc.) as long as you are in a position to learn them (e.g. from a supportive teacher, parent or other mentor) when you need them. I teach a level 1 module for the OU and we provide a lot of support to students to tell them how we want them to present assignments etc. We do not penalise them at the start but as they move through the module, if they keep making the same mistakes, they lose marks.
Although it is early days for DD she may be interested in an art foundation course and I presume this would be more portfolio based but I wondered whether like many uni courses, maths and English at GCSE would be required as a minimum - can OU credits be used instead of these as well?
Unfortunately, the OU route is effectively closed off to most HE young people - from October 2012, OU study is funded from the same Student Loans pot as other degrees and using OU before going to uni will eat into the total amount they can borrow. There are often schemes that allow access at a cheaper rate (e.g. the current Access to Success scheme gives an access module and a full level 1 module for £75 to the student) but the standard rate is £1250 for 30 credits. Universities may accept 30 credits as being equivalent to one A level. My DC got in under the previous funding regime where part-time study was entirely separate and was based on the student's income, so they did most courses for free (and 30 credits were only about £450).
It now costs £2500 to study but AA100 is the humanities (60-credit) introductory module and is very good to prove ability to write academically. It covers art history, poetry, history, philosophy, culture, religion etc.
Thanks SDeuchers - that's very interesting and reassuring. I didn't really want to have to wade through key stage 3 just to ensure DD can manage GCSEs. I'd noticed with my older children in school that there did seem to be a lot of repetition.
The OU route does seem very appealing as it allows you to be fairly unstructured until you've identified strong interests. Regarding the tricky bits I was thinking more about GCSEs and exam centres as I understand this seems to be a stumbling block for many. Also I was wondering how easy it is to move from informal learning to a structured course and what are the key skills that need to be developed before this?
I too was under the impression that universities require evidence of previous formal study. Although it is early days for DD she may be interested in an art foundation course and I presume this would be more portfolio based but I wondered whether like many uni courses, maths and English at GCSE would be required as a minimum - can OU credits be used instead of these as well?
Thanks for your reply - your DC are obviously doing really well which is great to hear.
DD (20) is at uni doing law (European). She had no qualifications as such but she did have 190 credits from the OU.
DS (18) is currently doing 1.5 A levels at college. He has no prior qualifications (but has 210 OU credits).
We were completely unstructured until the DC started doing OU courses.
I don't think home ed is an obstacle to higher ed. It can be an advantage as the young people, IME, are used to working with adults and are used to independent study. I'm not sure what "tricky bits" you had in mind.
I think KS3 is pretty pointless. There is a lot of repetition in school years 7-11 (probably in an attempt to get as many as possible through the target 5 x A-C GCSEs). If the DC are working as independent candidates, there is no need for the lengthy courses and the endless repetition - once she has got it, she's got it, IYSWIM.
I do not think it is possible to get to uni (in England, at least) with nothing to show. It is possible to go without having done GCSEs, without having done 9 GCSEs and without having A levels. However, you'd need something accredited for the uni to even look at the application.
I've dropped in and out of this board in the last year and have learned a lot.
DD is 11 and just starting her third year of home-ed. We are just weighing up how informal/structured we want to be over the next few years but we presume at some point formal qualifications will be needed to get DD where she wants to be. While I understand roughly how these can be achieved I would really love to hear about the paths other home-educating families have taken and how their DCs have reached university or paid employment.
Were you quite structured or more autonomous? Do you feel that being home-ed is not really an obstacle to higher learning? What were the tricky bits? Is it easy to start a GCSE course without following the national curriculum at key stage 3? Has any one missed out formal qualifications and gone straight to uni?
Really any experiences and advice from those at the other end of the journey or going through it now would be fantastic.