This morning, the twins and I went to visit one of the schools Charlotte is interested in going to next September. It was a small Christian school, and all my correspondence with the head of sixth form had been very positive.
It took me an hour to get dressed. Not an hour to get ready, but one whole hour to simply get dressed. I don’t spend that much time over the whole week, let alone one morning! Suffice it to say, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t entirely sure why. Any school would be lucky to get Charlotte – she is enthusiastic, intelligent, full of energy, with a very real joy of learning. Yet I was apprehensive. I felt like I was on trial – like the very success, or lack there of, of home-schooling Charlotte would be judged, and that I would some how fall short.
As we were being shown around by two delightful sixth formers, I tried to picture my vivacious 16 year old here. It was a nice atmosphere. It wasn’t too dirty or run down. Every one we met was perfectly pleasant. It was very small, but that wasn’t necessarily a problem. But as we were taken down to have an interview with the head of sixth year, I could not get rid of the feeling that there was something missing.
Head of sixth was very welcoming, and immediately launched into a monologue about the virtues of his school, and particularly his sixth form. He was earnest about wanting to support Charlotte if her ME was ever to flare up again. He was very pleasant. At the end of the interview, he mentioned Charlotte’s maths. Now Charlotte has decided to take functional maths rather than GCSE maths. It is examined at the same level, but would not be as well thought of as Maths GCSE. He said that he would encourage Charlotte to take maths GCSE at the same time as three A levels. I could see the look on Charlotte’s face. She was wholly unimpressed with that whole idea! The inference was that Charlotte did not have enough GCSEs to satisfy universities, and so she would need maths.
I know I am probably looking too much into this, but I felt like I had somehow let Charlotte down maths-wise. He stated that perhaps if Charlotte had a different teacher, she might be successful in maths. Oh.
I left a different person to the one that had arrived one hour before hand. Yes, I had been nervous. And yes, I had known that it wasn’t really my girls who would be deemed successful, or not, but me. However, I’d been unprepared for how upset I was inside that I had some how failed my daughter, and I was left wondering what I could have done differently to have helped her to be more mathematically inclined.
This mushroomed over the next few hours so that I began questioning home-schooling in and of itself, or at least my home-schooling. Maybe I am not enough. Maybe I never will be. Maybe I should never have thought that I would have been.
There is one truth that I definitely know, and that is that I could not have done more, or worked any harder, or supported Charlotte any more than I have. She may have been more successful in school; she may have got more GCSEs in school; she may even have enjoyed maths in school… but there is more to education than simple exams. I am certain that Charlotte is as mentally healthy and as mentally robust as she is because she is home-schooled. I am certain than Charlotte is better read and a more enthusiastic student because she is home-schooled. And I am 100% convinced that Charlotte is more confident, and comfortable in her own skin because she has been home-schooled.
Maths isn’t everything. Nor should it be. But for just one tiny minute in that head of sixth form’s office it felt like the last 16 years of pouring my heart and soul into Charlotte had not been adequate.
We left the school, and on the way home chatted about our thoughts. Charlotte said she liked it more than she thought she would, and Lillie felt it was a definite possibility for her sometime in the future. But for now, Lil said she was happy at home. I didn’t share any of my own thoughts in the car. I needed to process them first. It wasn’t until I was chatting to my mum later on this afternoon. She poo pooed the idea that I’d failed Charlotte in any way (as any good grandmother would!). She asked me what I thought, telling me to ignore the whole maths thing for now. My answer surprised me. I said that the school had no energy or vibrancy. It was a nice, well-behaved school. There was no swearing or badly behaved children. The classes seemed to be very well run, and the teachers were very well thought of by the two girls showing us around. But it might not be quite the right choice for my Charlotte, who has an impish side to her which I think might very well wilt and die there. She needs a place to grow, and spread her wings; a place which will give free rein to her creativity and enthusiasm; a place where her love of life will be encouraged rather than subdued.
This was the first school we looked at, and I think we maybe need to keep on looking for the right school for her. We’ve not found it yet.