Do grades define You?

GCSE results day yesterday, it seemed to trigger mixed responses across my Facebook newsfeed, and for many people close to me. Some who sat the exams and collected their results, Some who didn’t, home educating parents, there was a lot of emotions in the air yesterday.

I remember 2 yrs ago going with my 14 yr old daughter to collect her results. She didn’t get the grades that she had hoped for but they weren’t important. For us, the big thing was that she had overcome her anxiety and walked into that environment and taken the exams. She was 14 and had been home educated for 2 yrs and she chose that path. When she then chose to not sit any more, we supported that decision. This year we know that she has already achieved her English, maths and ICT functional skills. We know that she has achieved her bronze duke of Edinburgh award, She was awarded a Hertfordshire young people’s award, She has gained work experience. She is surrounded by friends and family who are incredibly proud of her, and that love and pride is not dependent on grades or results.

I know there were teenagers celebrating with their families some fantastic results, and plans for further education can now continue to move forward without a hitch, parents are proud and that’s great. But what of those who didn’t do so well, or those who for whatever reason didn’t sit the exams?

GCSEs aren’t a legal requirement, at any age! And while they can make routes into certain careers a bit easier, they aren’t the be all and end all! I have no GCSEs and have never been held back. I reached senior level doing a job that I loved and yet was able to choose to become self employed and work around my family following maternity leave. I have a Bsc that I worked for in my adult years, and own 2 properties along with my husband who left school after his GCSEs.

I know of many home educated youngsters who are doing brilliantly on their chosen paths. Some include sitting exams, others dont. Education isn’t a one size fits all package as we well know, all these young people are overcoming their own things and following their paths. Alternative qualifications and experiences are just as beneficial if not more so, skills learnt will stay with young people longer than knowledge read and regurgitated onto a piece of paper.

A quick search gave lots of results of famous and successful people who didn’t shine at school: Richard Branson left school at 16, so did Simon Cowell, he only had one 0 level.

Drew Barrymore dropped out of school aged 13 yrs after being admitted into rehab. Successful tv journalist Jon Snow got a C in English and failed all his other A level subjects. Broadcaster Clare Balding planned to study at Oxbridge but her A level results delayed that. She chose to take 2 yrs out before resitting her exams, practising her interview skills and finally gaining a place to study English at Cambridge.

Lord Alan Sugar left school with just one GCSE and Russell Brand wad actually labelled a “waste of space” by one of his teachers!

Steven Spielberg was rejected by film school 3 times, that didn’t stop him creating many multi award winning classic films! In fact, he only returned to study to get his BA in 2002!!

Jeremy Clarkson got two Us and a C at A level, Robbie Williams failed his GCSEs through lack of interest. David Karp left school at 14 but made his millions founding Tumblr.

Joey Essex got a U in his drama GCSE. It hasn’t stopped him, he now owns his own fashion brand and boutique.

Writer and Critic AA Gill, is incredibly dyslexic. He had a miserable time struggling at school and was advised to become a hairdresser. He didn’t start writing until his 30s but gained success.

Green and Blacks chocolate founder, former Cosmo editor and the UKs youngest ever magazine editor Jo Fairley left school at 16!

Guy Ritchy was kicked out of school aged 15 for bad behaviour. Lawrence Graff (OBE) left school to learn the jewellery trade at 15 years old. He founded the Graff diamond company in 1960.

And not forgetting, Albert Einstein himself! He was famously expelled from school for being “a rebel and a dunce” he did not even speak until he was 4 years old!

There are many people who I know in my life with various results at school. Some as adults have found they needed to resit exams to get the grades that their adult chosen careers have required. They have done this, no trouble. Some are in jobs that have never required GSCE results. Some have no evidence of GCSE grades but higher education certificates instead.

School, exams is not a route that suits everyone, and fortunately it is not the only route. Whether you or your children sat their exams or not, whether you or your children got the desired grades or not, what is absolutely important is that you remember to do what you love. Do what makes you happy and work for what you want. You are not defined by your exam results. In the long run they will have very little influence over who you are as a person.

Be you, be happy, be kind. That is what defines you.

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Learning from peers

Something that seems to keep coming up, as usual at this time of year, is how important it is for children to mix with those their own age. How crucial school is for a child to learn to socialise.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I’ll say it until the end of time. Children do not need to be around a large group of children their own age to learn! In fact, children learn brilliantly from those slightly older, What can they learn by way of progression if they spend all their time with people at the same age and stage as them?

I have said it before, I will say it again…. I have observed children learning freely and naturally. I’m not talking solely academically, I am talking risk taking, trial and error, problem solving, group game rules and friendships. I am talking pure socialisation. Not to be confused with the forced association of having to spend 6 hrs a day 5 days a week with the same people. The stuff that can’t be taught, it is acquired knowledge and strengthened through practise. I see this all the time. When home educated children get together ages, gender, abilities stop being divides and start just being “one of the group”. If a child can’t do something, they aren’t segregated into their own group of “those who cant” they are supported, helped and encouraged to learn by those who can!

I have watched my teenagers help others learn to swim and build water confidence. I have watched my 13 year old help a friend learn to ride a bike! And it doesn’t end there, when using gym equipment at a home ed meet I watched the children learning from each other. So my son, aged 2 at the time, watched the teenagers running and jumping, and he couldn’t manage that. But he kept watching and some smaller children who also couldn’t jump it came along. They could climb and jump off. He watched them for a few minutes, tried it himself and nailed it! Sure I might have sprouted a few more grey hairs in the process but THAT is what natural learning looks like!

I have seen children learn to read, not by being taught, But by enjoying being read too and by watching other children read.

Of course I am not suggesting that as home educating parents we step back completely, many of us spend large amounts of time carefully planning, resourcing and researching methods and subjects for our children’s educational benefit. But there is clearly a lot to be said from allowing children freedom to mix, without being segregated by age.

I watched this pixar short about a baby bird learning to get food. All the birds in the flock are wading and they run away from each wave. They catch small (clams*) as they stay so close to the shore line and work quickly. This poor baby bird got scared by the waves….. then met some crabs. The crabs weren’t scared of the waves, they would simply bury into the sand and allow the waves to wash over them. The baby bird learnt from this and you see him catching massive clams and bouncing around with no fear. It’s a lovely little film, But at the same time it really highlighted to me how much our children benefit from breaking out of the box we put them in, mixing with different people, different backgrounds, different ages. I have learnt so much from people I have met since home educating, families from all over. And my dad who is 69yrs old says the same thing, so of course our children will benefit. Had that baby bird not met those crabs, he would have stayed with all the other birds, catching small clams quickly and forever scared of the waves.