T11’s First Term of Interest led, autonomous learning

T11 would have officially been going in to secondary school this year.  To mark the occasion we decided to hand over the reins of his education to him.  This has always been a goal of our home-school and over the summer he expressed that this was his desire also.   He is a very responsible, highly motivated young boy and well ready for this next stage in his education.  Friday sees the end of our first term and I thought I would do a quick reflection of what has worked and what hasn’t worked.  These types of reflections are always interesting for me to look back on and will inevitably help prevent me from making similar mistakes with the girls down the line.

Just to recap what his choices were this year:

  • Bible study each morning
  • To finish Saxon 87 with the goal of doing Algebra next year and studying for his GCSE the following year
  • To begin Apologia General Science and complete the accompanying notebook.  We bought him the science set to go with the book, and the CDRom.  His goal was to study this independently using the schedule found in the note-book.  He wanted to study this book to give himself a good foundation in science prior to beginning the Physical Science book the year after.
  • To study, along with a friend and her father Physics GCSE with a loose goal to take this exam in two years time.  He studies this with his friend on a Tuesday Evening and completes the work the father sets him during his school time during the week.
  • To learn history alongside his sisters in the afternoons
  • To begin All About Spelling (his weakness)

What has worked

Bible study has been done fairly consistently each day.  He finds this both enjoyable and simple.

T11 is enjoying Saxon 87.  By the end of this week he will have completed 15 lessons and the investigation.  He had hoped to finish 19 lessons and the investigation. He was ill for one of the weeks and also had the girls’ birthday off so didn’t manage his goal.  However he consistently scores well, always making between 78-85% each lesson.  He and I are very happy with how maths is going, so much so that he has decided to continue with maths (maybe with half a lesson a day) during his break week, just to make sure he doesn’t forget any of it!

T11 is loving physics and is currently studying waves.  He enjoys being taught by someone different, loves the social aspect of it and is relishing learning new things.  I never have to ask him to do his home work and any time I inquire he has usually already emailed it over to Paul, his friend’s father.  He asks for help if he needs it, but apart from that I am completely hands off.   He is coping fairly well with the late night on a Tuesday (not in bed until 9.30pm) and knows I will stop the lessons if he begins to show any signs of grumpiness.  Yes I am that mean!

He loves, loves his general science content, but we are having issues here (see below)

He is still enjoying history, as do we all, and joins in enthusiastically.  Nothing needs to change here.

He loves being responsible for his own time.  And he is handling that aspect fairly well.  I still have to remind him to take breaks, but that has improved considerably since the beginning of the term.

What is not working?

T11 has struggled with his writing for as long as I have homeschooled him.  He is incredibly intelligent and naturally studious so I think finding the writing hard is a real bother to him.  The General Science has a notebook attached to it and he had decided that he would fill this in.  In addition T11 had wanted to follow the schedule as set out in the Apologia note-book.  And this is a problem.  Please understand he has absolutely no pressure from us at all, apart from to do his best.  However because he had wanted to follow the schedule set out by Apologia and, finding the writing laborious and very time-consuming, was falling (in his eyes) behind, it was stressing him out.  School is not meant to be stressful, least of all at 11 years of age, so we set out to rectify the situation.

Our Solutions

He was adamant that he did not want to drop the General Science because he wants to do the Physical Science next year, to complement his physics.  So we came up with a plan.  First, I suggested he drop the Apologia schedule and work at his own speed.   Second, I offered to listen to him narrate me some of the answers rather than him writing them down.  To me science is a subject that it is very important to understand.  Writing is one way of checking a student’s comprehension.  Being at home with only five students instead of 30 means I have a few more options available to me than a teacher in a regular classroom.  One of those options is oral narration instead of written narration.  T11 will still be writing up his experiments but he will orally narrate the answers to all the other questions in the note book.  This will cut down on his writing considerably, whilst still making sure he has grasped all the concepts he is reading about.  Lastly, and this is something he found out by accident and I thought I would include it just in case it helped someone else, he has begun to write in Biro.  All three older children have always used pencil to write with, for the obvious reason that it rubs out.  On an occasion when he couldn’t find his pencil T11 used a pen (just a Bic biro) and he found it considerably easier to write with.  Since then he only uses pens.  These three things have helped decrease what was becoming an area of stress in his schooling.

I am hoping next term will be a better term for T11.  It has certainly been a learning curve for us both, and unfortunately has probably been the toughest term ever for him personally.  I keep reassuring him that it is fine if he wants to change the course of his study or slow down, but he is adamant that this is what he wants to do, and apart from the writing is loving it and finding it very interesting.  I can only hope that the alterations we have made will help to enable him to reach his goals.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing T11’s progress, Claire! It’s so very helpful to me, who’s looking at this for Tiger with my forward planning hat on. 🙂 T11 is not alone in his writing issues — it seems that it is very common among boys. Tiger certainly isn’t writing very much yet either. I totally agree with you about your approach to reduce his stress by not having him write everything, so that his studies may progress without being hindered by the need to write excessively. The tip on Biro is also very useful. The smoothness of the pen versus the friction of the graphite against the paper is noticeably different.

    As for T11’s stress over the schedule, he comes across as a very highly self-motivated boy. He’s lucky to have you there to advise him on how to balance it all out.

    1. There is a battle that goes on inside me, which says he needs to write and write lots, else how on earth will he be able to sit for an exam? And he wants to take exams. I’m honestly not sure if I am helping or hindering him by this approach. Maybe it will be a temporary solution. At some point he will need to learn to express his thoughts onto paper.

  2. T11 is so self-motivated, and any new routine will take some tweaking – I am so impressed with his drive and discipline! I certainly wish I had more of that!

  3. It sounds like he is making great progress. On writing ~ does he push to hard on the paper and have to tight a grasp on the pen? My son is having those issues and we are finding that having him write with a slightly bumping tile or tin foil is helping to decrease some of the pressure. He only practices this with a few sentences at a time. My son prefers pens too.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Yes, he does hold his pen firmly and press hard. Could you explain in more detail what you do with a bumpy tile or foil? I’m not sure I’m understanding, but I would like to give anything a go which might help.

  4. Sounds like T11 is off to a fantastic start. We have used Apologia science with the notebooks for years. This year I looked for something different because it just seemed to drag the science along, something I didn’t like and neither did my son. I finally decided to stay with Apologia, but use notebooking pages of his choice. He loves it. My daughters are both doing Apologia Biology with my husband. I purchased the KBC notebooking journal and we are using the pages to record their work. My oldest daughter has difficulty with writing and spelling, also. I have been thinking about doing oral narration (which we do frequently) to replace most of her writing. You have encouraged me to go ahead with that plan. I was most concerned with what would happen when (if) she attends college, but I think I will let that concern go for now and consider what is best for her at this time.
    Please tell T11 that he is doing a terrific job! What an example for his sisters.!! I am so impressed with his motivation and willingness to give up some of his off time to continue his studies. (I should be so motivated.)
    Thank you for the encouragement, Claire. Blessings!

  5. M, 13, struggles with the handwriting, too. This year I’ve allowed her to do any writing on her laptop ( much faster for her) and print it out, but she still does copywork to continue practicing. It’s been an ok compromise so far.

    It sounds like T is doing a great job taking control of his own education! Well done T! (And Mum)

    1. Typing is much easier for him. It’s an internal battle for me Phyllis, because he can’t take his exams using a computer, they are all written. I wonder if the fine motor skills will improve with age?

  6. This is really useful. One of my children is secondary school age and is finding the volume of some subjects challenging.
    I would second the typing comments. My son finds typing faster and easier although he has to do some of his work in pen as he doesn’t have a condition that would allow him to take exams on a laptop. If he did, I would give up on writing by hand completely!

  7. What a motivated young man. That’s great he has the motivation to work so hard.
    I think writing is so often harder for boys. My middle son has a hard time with writing as well. We try to find creative ways to make it fun and I usually allow him to write a few things and answer or explain the rest orally.

    My daughter (12) is just starting with Apoligoa General Science and the note booking. She is not interested in science at all so at am hoping that the note booking will make it more fun for her.

    I think it’s great when you can hand over the education to your child and them be motivated and have goals. That’s how it should be.

    Have a great week.

    1. Thank you Amber. I really understand T11’s frustration with his writing because it is holding him back. I really do hope things become easier in time, but until then we will do what we can to support him and help him move on in his studies.

  8. I”m so glad to hear T11 has made such a good start, even if it has been hard work. You must be really pleased. I was going to suggest typing, too. Writing is an important skill, of course, but in our children’s future I think keyboard skills are going to be very important.

    J(8) is going to do NaNoWriMo this year using dictation software! (We shall see how that goes…) I’ve also been told by an educational psychologist that he could qualify for having keyboard in exams. So good that these things don’t have to hold back our bright boys!

      1. It’s National Novel Writing Month – http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ – and there’s a fab young persons section. The idea is to write a novel in a month. My two are writing long stories with modest word count goals as it’s their first time. I’ve done the adults version a few times – you update your word count every day and it’s fun seeing the “wordometer” on your account homepage go up. There’s lots of supporting resources for educators on the site too, like questionnaires to help develop characters, plot and setting.

  9. My eight year old loves to dictate information and hates to write. I wonder if it’s a boy thing 🙂 I’m glad to hear that having more control over his education is working out well!

  10. What a good boy for setting his own goals and being so adamant about sticking with them! I’m sure his writing will come easier with time and practice. My husband has a device that he talks into and it writes out his emails and text messages…it would be so much easier if our kids could do the same, right?!

      1. His is actually on his phone…he has an Android phone and I think he downloaded the app for it. He uses it constantly and says it works really well. There is also speech recognition software you can buy for your computer that will do the same thing, though I don’t know anything about the different brands…

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