IGCSE Exams

I love IGCSE’s! The noble IGCSE is an Qualification that is like the UK GCSE exam, but international. It’s of a slightly higher standard than the GCSE qualification, with 3 different exam boards Edexcel, CIE (cambridge) and AQA, and there are so many exams you can do, from Maths and English, to Astronomy and Bangladesh Studies. Some of them are so cool, I mean SO COOL, and it’s quite nice to be able to say to my very worried granparents, my future university and myself that i didnt waste this year, instead spent it studing ancient greek or doing my project for Global Citizenship. Of course you still can do the standard exams, just the kick-ass ones as well.

From September 2014 to Early January 2015, I studied for my Edexcel Mathematics A course. This was my first time doing an IGCSE and I was pretty sure 3 months wouldn’t be enough. I only had to do 2 hours of maths a day (5 days a week) and even then I never really did that much. The recommended time of study was about 140 hours, however that was for a class room situation and on my own I whizzed though chapters daily. The IGCSE covered all of the topics in the Junior cert as well as basic calculus (just simple differentiation), some further trigonometry, vectors and quadratic simultaneous equations. That was the Higher Level paper, and although it sounds hard, all it takes is for the penny to drop and everything falls into place. I finished the book by the end of November, though spent most of October pretending it didn’t exist.

As an external candidate (i wasn’t attending a Centre or school), everything was done through the textbook, the Internet and my mother. Getting through the textbook was definitely the easy part, but with only one month left I was panicking. I did about 3 or four pastpapers a week, spending a small fortune on ink. My advice to people who want to do this exam, buy the pastpapers. for 10/15 euro it saves hours of time, and about 20/30 euro on ink. That was probably the biggest mistake we made. However the pastpapers were crucial because the exam NEEDS to be thoroughly nit-picked. I had a habit of writing my answers as top-heavy fractions, which if I hadn’t corrected would have cost me 5-8%, as well as other things.

I sat my two papers at The Dublin Tutorial Centre, one on the 6th of January and one on the 12th. I had no idea what date or time my exam was at until very close to the exams, and while I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t an official pupil at their school or whatever, it took a while for them to send us the information. Due to the exam being international, the exam board only gives the date of the exam, and whether it s AM or PM. Anyway, I sorted it out when I went for a last minute study session with a teacher at the centre.

The exam situation was lovely! I sat my exam with only two other people, which meant that there was minimal noise and theres wasn’t a sense of unimaginable doom that comes with large exam halls. Although I wasn’t allowed my phone, camera etc(pretty standard), could bring in a little nibble of chocolate (YUM) and leave when i felt I’d finished. Each paper was 2 hours long, and I had plenty of time to check my work 2 or 3 times.

Now I just wait. I should be getting my results some time early march, and I’m very much hoping for an A*. the exam is graded on a curve so I’m not really sure what percentage I need to get, but 70-85%+ is usually the A* mark.

Currently I’m looking for my next set of exams. As the examinations for the IGCSE have many dates during the year, I can sit my exams In January, May/June and November, although this vary per exam (for example I can only sit Latin in May/June). Yesterday I spent my day looking up past papers and syllabus’ for CIE Physics. CIE Geography, Edexcel Global Leadership and CIE Chemistry. I think for May/June I’m going to sit CIE Geography, CIE physics and CIE Chemistry. Global Citizenship looks like a lot of fun, but there is not really a textbook for it and it involves doing a project in your community. As much as I want to the work load is too high, so I’ll just have to take it next year.

Note: for anyone looking to do any IGCSE’s as an external candidate, some exams require coursework that needs to be marked by a Centre. Although some Subjects offer an alternative, its best just to check that before jumping straight it.

If the blog title doesn’t give it away, this new blog is basically about free-spirited teens running rampant through the streets of Dublin city, tearing down the walls of the defined roads ahead of us, and running free into the pains and possibilities that lie deep in the jungles of the real world. whether that Jungle literal or metaphorical, we are those who want, will or have dived into a world of self learning and hope.

Or at least that what we want it to be.

At this current moment this tiny glimmer of a blog is merely 3 teenage girls living in Dublin,who have done away with the boundaries of attending a “proper school”, although it’s peaceful and exciting all at once, we have found that for the few that have, very little of what self learning can become, just isn’t happening. As a new Home Schooler myself I find that if I look hard enough i might find what I’m looking for, but the loop holes to get there are small and few. Sometimes it feels like i have to cut through many years of stupidity to get basic goals accomplished as an under aged individual.

However I’m getting off topic. We’d like to get together a group of teenagers in Dublin who are Self Learning to create a site full of resources and information for those Home schooling or looking in that direction. We’d love to be able to make the transition from school to home Ed as easy as possible, as well as a social one too! i find that the sole down side to home schooling is that as teens, sometimes we can become a bit socially deprived. Now that doesn’t mean I’m forever alone, sometimes I’m busy and bustling with clubs and friends and projects ( this blog for starts!), but i wish from 8-4 I had more to do. it can be soooo lonely! sure you can draw of go swimming or go hiking or…or…or…or. the list goes on. It’s just sometimes you find yourself with a very long ummmm. It’s almost like even though I don’t attend my old school, I’m still locked on to their schedule

Going of topic again…..

We’d like to make Home Schooling easy to start, socially superior and crazy fun times!! However, there is a limit to the knowledge of 3 teenagers, and we’d love some support from anyone within Ireland or abroad, who is or has previously home schooled for Ideas and contributions that you feel will benefit young, budding self learners we’d love your feedback ans support. If your Currently in the Dublin area, home schooling and would like to be a part of this blog we’d love to hear from you as to what you want to achieve and accomplish as a self learner.

Why self directed learning works for me

I liked school.
Probably not what you’d expect of an avid unschooler/life learner.
To be honest, the first year I was there, I loved it. I can actually go back through the posts of my blog and find the statement “I am loving school.”
So why on earth, you may ask, did I leave?
Well, first things first, the novelty and enjoyment of school did wear off. I went into school for the first time the day I turned thirteen. It was tiring, but there were so many people and it was lovely! The atmosphere was great, everyone was nice, the classes were interesting….
For about… six months, maybe?

After a while, being with people your own age every day wears thin. Personal space doesn’t really happen in school.
After a while, the once-interesting things being taught become severely boring, the homework takes over any ounce of free time you may have (especially for one with such severe procrastination issues such as myself) and the subjects become repetitive, uninteresting. It was as if my natural, free, wonderfully varied learning slowly transformed into the unnatural, forced, dull and bland learning that fits the system. The system is all that anyone cares about. I stopped drawing. I stopped playing music. I spent all my free time recovering from school.

So, near the end of second year, I realized that I was become just another person in the system, just another number, just someone who would go through life like everyone else, devoid of my natural passions and interests. The worst thing about school was that I hardly ever got to go outside.

When I left school, I had the best summer of my entire life (so far). And since then, that has continued. I am doing what I want, I get to be with the people I want. I am drawing again, I’m writing lots of music, I’m teaching myself the guitar, and most importantly, I get to be in the place I love every day, in the mountains. I sometimes do a bit of maths, a bit of Irish, and I go to French class, but other than that, I follow my passion in the things I love. I’m getting into photography, art, jewellery making, music, and writing a lot more, and I know myself that my true passion is the environment/nature. Where would this be if I were in school? I didn’t even have time for any of this there. Now, I’m free to develop my interests and develop as a human being, among people I want to be around.

That, my friends, is why self directed learning works for me.

Home education (aka unschooling, life learning, etc.)

Yes. It is true.
I no longer attend school.
It is beautiful.

I am fifteen years old and I have only been in school for two years. I think it was really great for me to try. I learned a lot about myself and I made some wonderful friends.
But why?
Why?

Why are children made to spend fourteen years of their life in a BOX, treated like sheep, not given any trust or responsibility, stressed out to the highest level and given practically no interaction with people outside their age range?

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I could probably rant incorrectly for a while but I don’t really have the stamina.

I can tell you this, however. Today, if I was in school, right at this very moment, I would be preparing for the last class of the day, exhausted, awake since half six, having spent eight hours in a classroom cramming in ten mostly unneccessary subjects and with three hours of homework already piled upon me for the evening. There are, I can tell you, thousands of things I love to do. I would go home, sit, staring blindly at pages that make no sense, procrastinating furiously out of tiredness, when the outdoors was calling me, but I had no motivation to do anything. When I was in school, I did not want to play music. I did not want to draw. I did not want to write, or walk, or learn.

Today, instead of spending eight hours sitting in a classroom, I have spent two hours up the mountains, walking, taking photos, listening to trees, learning invisibly about the world. I collected hawthorn berries. I noticed that a particular species of spider was common of the trunks of ash trees. Getting home, I played guitar, figured out the chords to a few songs, and I continued writing a song. I helped cook a delicious lunch (Butternut squash, chickpea and sesame seed falafels with cucumber yoghurt raita if you must ask), ate, and now I sit, speaking to people across the world, learning Irish online, drinking ginger and turmeric tea and eating the hawthorn berries from earlier.
I am not tired after this. I am energized. Which mean that my day can continue, and get even better after three o clock, whereas in school that was the end of being able to do anything. I intend to continue the scarf I’m knitting. I intend to continue the crochet hat I started yesterday (I couldn’t find a crochet hook big enough so I found a stick and carved a surprisingly functional crochet hook in fifteen minutes) If I do end up watching TV, which generally doesn’t happen, it will most likely be a Ray Mears documentary on bushcraft (Although most of my attention while watching TV is usually on my knitting)
Tonight, I will probably go to bed early, as I spend my evenings drawing these days. I’ll continue listening to a lecture about global warming I got out of the library yesterday, and if I get tired of drawing I’ll continue the book I’m reading about food waste. Is there anything there that I did not learn from? I am calm, happy, relaxed. Today is one of my more fallow days, spent mostly at home and relaxed. Other days in the week are more busy. I do maths with another homeschooling friend one day, I meet a school friend and go to an environmental/peer leadership course/group another day, I go to French class another day, I help my mum with her Forest School work one day a week, I try to get to my writing club once a week too sometimes. I’m also starting my Gaisce award, an Irish award for young people which involves a skill, community involvement and a sport. I’m going to take up the Viol for my skill, do my environmental group as community involvement and either do yoga, tai chi or archery for my sport.

Now, answer this question. If you were/are a fifteen year old, which one of those days sounds more appealing? Rich? Full of true, life learning and skills?

I didn’t attend primary school, and yet when I went into school I got on as well as the people who had spent six-eight years in there already. And I was bored by the work given, most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good things too, but the drudging routine, the sheer pointlessness of it was not something I fared well with.

Some people may argue that school is very important, because without school, you can’t get into college, and without college you can’t get a job, and without a job you can’t get money, and without money you can’t have a family and a house and a pension and therefore you can’t be happy.

…….

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I’m sure there are many other reasons that you might think school is great. You might actually be one of the rare people who really thrive in school and love it, and if you are, that’s great!

But I’m just going to make a few points here, going through the thing I said before.
1. “Without school, you can’t get into college!”
You can get into college without going to school. There are many, many, alternative routes, and there’s also different types of homeschoolers/unschoolers, some with a strict curriculum and exams and some with completely free child-based learning. Most are somewhere in between the two. It does differ in different countries, but here, I know that if I want, I can study myself and do the leaving cert, or I could do A levels, or I could do FETAC level five courses, or many other things. School and college do not go hand in hand.
2.”Without college, you can’t get a job!”
Ehh… no.
There are certain professions, such as teaching, medicine, etc. which would be very difficult to pursue a career in without college. In this day and age, however, there are thousands more thing you can do with your life. Home education gives people time and space to develop their true interests and passions, so that when they do decide to go into the world, they are generally pretty sure of themselves and what they love.
A lot of unsure kids are coming out of the school system who are forced to pick what they want in life within moments and then an extremely large sum of money (that they then have to pay off for the rest of their life) is spent educating them in something they might not even be passionate about. Why??
I can reasonably confidently say that if I wanted to, right now, I could probably make a reasonable amount of money off what I love to do (With some effort and enthusiasm, which is currently somewhere not too accessible within me) Because I haven’t been in school for my life, I have a rather large range of interests and passions. I could not put any one of my passions above the other. (Although nature, environmental issues and human/animal rights are very, very important to me)
3. “Without a job, you can’t get money”
Well, depending on what you call a job. I don’t even like the term ‘job’. It indicates something you don’t want to do. And why would people throw away their lives doing something they hate? It’s a little beyond me, but it’s too common.
There are many ways of earning money. As I said before, homeschoolers often have superb skills and resourcefulness. Why have a ‘job’ when you can earn money doing what you love? And you can, if you want.
4. “Without money, you can’t be happy.”
Well, money does help in terms of things like food, shelter, travel, etc. Probably, getting older, money is handy. But it’s not necessary to hoard giant amounts of money to spend on things you’re going to throw away. There are ways of living without money, or much of it. Happiness does not depend on money. No.

Happiness. That’s what a lot of this is based on. No, you cannot have eternal happiness, it is impossible. Sorry. But you CAN live a fulfilling life, helping others and truly loving everyone and everything. No, homeschooling is not the answer, not to your life’s happiness and worth but I can definitely say that my life is the greater, the happier, the better, the funner, the brighter, the calmer, and the more beautiful for it.
(This post is based on my experience and thoughts, please don’t take it as personally attacking school or anything! I’d just like for people to see that there are many sides to life and that school is not the only way forward)

If you are a teenager or parent or carbon-based life form interested in homeschooling I would recommend you read The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn, I had it lent to me by a friend and am reading it and finding it really interesting!