Student Insights – Jess’s Story

We asked our students about their experience of learning with Oxford Home Schooling. Here is Jess’s story…

Home Education may be one of the more unconventional concepts in society today, but it is the one to which I attribute all of my achievements to date. From September 2004 – September 2009, I was home educated. I finished primary school with mutual excitement and trepidation for ‘Big School’, but little did I know, I would never go. Though it was to many peoples’ disappointment, my family’s decision to home educate me was simply due to a dissatisfaction with the security and safety of schools in the area of London we then lived in, not anything weird, dramatic or problematic.

After a year or so of researching and gathering information together, we came across Oxford Open Learning. They were supportive and informative about this style of education and had a personal interest in the students and their development, which I think we found most appealing. The courses were clearly structured with individual tutors, meaning help was available via phone and e-mail too. Plus, with OOL I was able to begin my GCSEs much earlier than I would have in school, studying for two or three at a time each year until I achieved 7 GCSEs – enough to start college or take the next step in terms of work. I was able to learn in a flexible way, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I won’t pretend it wasn’t difficult at times; home schooling takes a great deal of self-discipline, that is difficult to harness, especially as a young teenager with the distractions of a home environment. This is why I found home schooling so beneficial, though: I developed a balance between the freedom of learning in a comfortable environment and the daily hard work that was a necessity if I wanted to achieve these qualifications. In fact, in opposition to the home school stereotype, I believe it takes far more hard work, concentration and discipline to work at home than it does in school – there’s no teacher to answer to in class, no classmates with which to share work (or distract you), and no more motivation than your own desire to learn and achieve something. I loved the freedom of home education and thrived in learning this way, and I actually found studying for my A-levels at college a breeze in comparison. In fact, though the studying was hard, it did not compare to the depth of learning that home education provides.

I achieved seven A*-B grade GCSEs with Oxford Open Learning, in English and Maths at 14, History and Geography at 15, and finally Chemistry, Law and Art & Design at 16. Whist I’m aware many 16 year olds now gain handfuls of GCSEs by the time they’re 16 at school, mine were all the more meaningful because of how I learned and the adversity we faced in deciding to educate this way. I cannot take sole responsibility for these achievements, however. I could not have done it without supportive parents, who were an absolute necessity for me. My mum was my main teacher, particularly in the early years, learning with me as we ploughed through the OOL folders, and I could not have done it without her. Tutors, though incredibly helpful, cannot replace the guidance of a supportive parent – being home schooled is difficult and not a popular decision with many peers or other parents, so it is important for your own, like my mum, to reinforce the positivity in learning this way, to make it as enjoyable as possible – far more enjoyable than learning in school, in my incredibly biased opinion.

Whilst everybody’s journey is different, home education is an incredibly varied and insightful option, which actually enabled me to enjoy the topics I studied in a far more in-depth way than I would have experienced at school. I attended many social clubs and engaged in as many extracurricular activities as possible, so being isolated – a popular accusation against homeschooling – was never an issue and I assure you, I am a fully functioning and well-rounded individual because of being home schooled, not in spite of it.

I entered college at 16 because I felt ready to study in a different way. I wanted A-levels and began college with no issues. I actually felt I taught myself more than the teachers did! It wasn’t that they were unhelpful, only that I was used to learning by myself and it suited me that way. In fact, teachers strongly encouraged me to drop a subject in the second year, believing the workload would be too high and you are only required to have three A-levels. I did not see this as a problem, though, and I continued with my four subjects (English Literature, Geography, Art & Design and Philosophy), achieving an A*, A, A and B, respectively. I trusted my and my parent’s intuition about my learning more than that of my teachers’, and was proved to be right. After this, I decided to undertake a degree because of my home schooling days, and was able to indulge in my passion for literature. With full time degree courses only amounting to eight hours of tuition time for my subject, the majority of the work was independent. Whilst my classmates struggled with adjusting to this, I was able to dive into studying for my degree in a mature and independent way, which I would not have done without being home-educated. I achieved a first class degree in English Literature this year thanks to the skills I developed from being home-schooled, and whilst it has not been the most regular one, my journey has been one I couldn’t be more proud of.

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