This is the year of the Big Experiment. Home school. In South African terms... EISH...!

My son is supposed to be starting in on the GCSE (UK) system, but I'm having hassles getting the info out of the local suppliers of study materials. He's supposed to write exams mid-2009, and has to fit 2 years of study into 18 months, so we're already behind on this one. Having to "wait for word from London" while their entire staff sits on a training session in Spain isn't helping.

In the meantime though, the kid needs to get stuff into his brain. While his friends sit in a classroom, he needs to be doing more than playing Flyff online and waking up at 10 to wander around in an unwashed stupor. So this week I've been setting him tasks every day via email from work.

Remote-schooling, if you will.

I'll send through about 5 things for him to do, with a bit of variety. He's done some reading of books I have at home (Readers Digest Condensed Books, "Three Men in a Boat" etc), he's done some online research, he's done housework, and personal hygiene, he's done pet-care. OK, some of those are a "you'd better do this as a decent human and part of the home" things - but in the world of home-schooling, they count as real-world education. We've done basic math while doing a shopping run - calculating how much cash we'll have to fork over at the till, what the best bargain per weight/volume is, and whether we can afford to buy one thing over another on a limited budget. He's had PT walking to the nearby shop for an experiment ingredient and carrying the groceries :-) OK, it's not that much exercise, but we're only starting out.

The thing with home-schooling is this, especially while awaiting formal schooling materials. Home-schoolers need a portfolio to prove that they've been learning instead of simply sitting around idly. Documenting his experiment this week is part of that. Listing books read adds to it too. We've got him watching the news every night for economics, history, geography and current events. There's talk of making cooking compulsory as learning in the UK - well, he'll be helping more with meals. I've booked him in to join me on a First Aid basics course next month. I'm grabbing "Romeo and Juliet" (the modern one with the old English - Leonardo DiCaprio etc) for him to watch and report back on - along with other classics already lying around the house (Gone with the Wind, Ben Hur, The Birds...). I plan to drag him off on a roadtrip or two and he is scheduled for a journey overseas this year (Without school terms to worry about, it's great! Wonder how long his gramps / cool aunty-friend want to keep him for.. M - can you send him walkabout with the locals? ;-) ).

He's got Favourite Man keeping an eye on him while I'm at work - which is a huge help. I get inside info if things aren't happening and can put in a quiet word or three to move them along. Favourite Man knows Things about Things too, and bit by bit the kid's absorbing knowledge (even if he doesn't look like it).

OK, it's a bit of an uphill battle at the moment. There's the whole teens & hormones thing to deal with along with the learning curve of making home-school happen. We still have to socialize him decently. We still have to work out a lot of other things. But I'm hopeful and optimistic that it can be done. Learning is really fun if you find a way to do it outside of being told how, and I think the kid's starting to see that.

Yes, there's more effort needed on both my part and his. And this isn't "official" school in the formal sense of the word. But he's learning, nonetheless. He's starting to get the right idea of how this has to happen.

Deep breath, holding thumbs - and let's see where it goes.

Funny how just when you think it's working... Seems I have more work ahead of me than I'd hoped.