Friday, 26 February 2016
how much advice is enough
Helping children grow up is challenging. There is so much more to it than keeping them safe and happy. There is for example education and how to prepare the children best for a life after school. It is terribly worrisome. Sam is at a stage in his life where he seriously needs to think about his future. He is so young still and it seems too early. What advice should I give him? How far should my support go? Tiger mum or slacker mum? How do I even notice which category I am in? What if my advice turns out to be wrong? Sam definitely wants to go to University, which narrows the options down. Richard and I live and breathe academia, which helps, too. Still, I am biting my fingernails.
We had S4 parents night last night. It is an important year for Sam as the end of it he will be sitting seven National 5 exams, leading way to the National 6 exams the year after. If you live in England, National 5 exams are equivalent but different from GCSE's and National 6 exams are equivalent but different from A levels. Entry requirements for University are five National 6 qualifications or three A levels. After you sat your National 6 exams you can technically go to University but in reality, most students sit sixth year to deepen and further their studies. The options are to 'pick up' a couple more National 6 qualifications, or to undertake Advanced Highers (I am not sure what these are called in the 'new' curriculum). University entry will normally be based on the the second last year of school. This is unique to Scotland, doing your qualifications a year before you finish school. It may sound a bit weird but if you think about it, there are some advantages. For example to possibility of taking up subjects that are really cool but don't add to your University entry requirement portfolio. It is not a compulsory year.
Sam is a bright spark and he is generally doing really well at school. Recently he sat his prelim exams (you may call them mock exams) to assess where he stands. The results were mixed, in some subjects he did better than his target grade, in other he did worse. Where he did worse, it came as a surprise and is largely due to exam technique. I suppose that's a relief. When he made his subject choices last year, he was thinking of engineering. But a lot happens in a year, work experience for example, maturing, finding out more about himself and his likes and dislikes and whatnot. He is more interested in the computing sciences now, and some aspects of the life sciences. He has to drop to subjects at the end of the school year and finds it difficult to decide what to persevere with and what to give up. If he drops his weakest and and least liked subject, he will not be able to do life sciences. Some subjects he enjoys are not entry requirements and he may have to drop at least one of these. He can't do more than five National 6 qualification due to timetabling and workload issues. The National 6 qualifications for University entry have to be taken in one single year so he can't spread it into sixth year. You have to feel sorry for the teenagers in this country. Difficult decisions about the seemingly distant future when you are struggling with becoming an adult.
I am also trying to remember what kind of career advice I had when I was Sam's age. Not much I don't think. I remember going to visiting career advice service much later and leaving with a pile of information about a variety of careers. I did some work experience, too, but essentially, my decision to study biology was a spur of the moment decision based on a fascination with viruses and very little knowledge about careers in the biological sciences. Knowing what I know now and being who I am now I would probably choose a social sciences subject.
So, to cut a long story short, what advice are we giving Sam? We think it is really important that Sam chooses subjects that he enjoys and hopefully excels in. It is impossible to keep all the options open in a country where you have to narrow down your education focus so early on. By choosing what he loves he may loose some opportunities but he will enjoy his education. Careers are much more fluid than they used to be when I was his age and they are also more multidisciplinary. There is a great focus on postgraduate education, opening up many more possibilities at a later stage. He will find his way, it may be circuitous route, or a straight one but he will find his way. I'd be interested to hear about your own experiences, personal or with your children.
On a completely different topic: my camera packed it in. I have been without for two days and feel bereft. A new one is on its way and once it is here I shall disassemble my broken one and see what is wrong. I don't quite have the guts to open it up without a backup. The photos above were the last ones taken before it inexplicably and without prior problem stopped working.
I am finishing this post during work time at home and I just got a phone call from Richard saying that a colleague had made doughnuts for us to share. How unlucky is that??
Have a great weekend! I'll go dancing tonight and hope to do some other fun things over the weekend. Be sure to come back and find out what we've been up to. xx