Blog: May 2018

Thursday, 31 May 2018

A home-educator's journey, part 1: selecting our course provider

Studying at home

Today’s post is both a guest blog and an NEC learner story. Meet Anna and Lucy, a mother and daughter who are sharing their experiences of distance learning and home education. This post is the first in a series of blogs that will follow Anna and Lucy’s journey while they learn at home with the help of NEC.

Selecting our course provider

For us, one of the joys of home education is the freedom to choose how you study. If you choose to take the path of formal study and opt for GCSEs there are still a variety of ways to follow the courses. The choices are wide and you need to consider the level of support you need, your confidence level in going alone, your own family circumstances and the financial aspects.

Some of the options available are;

  • Distance learning courses
  • Tutor led sessions either in person or online
  • Working through the course syllabus and textbooks on your own

We are about to start our second year of GCSE study and we will be using NEC for two subjects, covering the courses in a year. As we come towards the end of our first year of GCSE study we have been able to reflect on strategies that were effective and what needed to change.

In our first year of GCSE study we were still very new to home education and nervous about diving into GCSEs alone. We, therefore, opted for two routes to study-a distance learning provider (not NEC) and tutor led courses. We felt that using a combination of a distance learning provider and a tutor would provide the support Lucy needed as she worked through the course materials and to mark assignments so we could see how she was progressing. It also gave her the opportunity for self-study which was needed as I was often busy working with her two boisterous brothers. The tutor led groups offered her the opportunity to pursue her interest in drama which can be difficult as a home educator.

After a wobbly start, when the whole prospect seemed quite overwhelming and I needed to support her in managing the workload, Lucy showed that she was able to self-study well and consistently gained good marks in her assignments. The distance learning courses allowed us the flexibility to study at times that suited us- we could work around Lucy’s commitments to her tutor led groups and her many dance lessons.

However, she did find the course materials, from the provider we had chosen, quite dry and we had to supplement with some other activities to alleviate the tedium of working through the huge paper file. She was keen to try something different for this year. Although I have gained confidence in my abilities over our first year as home educators I was not quite brave enough to just work through the syllabus and textbooks alone. Having three children with different interests means we have very busy lives managing all their extra curricular interests and I was concerned that I would not be able to offer enough time to support Lucy if we chose this route.

We came across NEC through social media and downloaded some of the courses that she was interested in. Lucy liked the way the materials were set out and felt motivated and excited by the courses. We liked the fact that there is tutor involved who can offer feedback to her work and access to an online community of other learners. Another factor that influenced our decision was the fact that the exams are booked through NEC so we are certain of having a place to sit the exam when we come to it. This can be particularly problematic for language courses, as we discovered this year, and we are pleased to not have to deal with the stress of finding an examination centre when it is time to book her examinations. The way that NEC works gives us the flexibility that fits with our lifestyle. We do not have to be home for a certain time for online lessons or travel to a centre to meet with a group. Lucy can study when the time suits her around her other activities- this can be early in the morning, in the evening, short or long sessions. This gives us the freedom we wanted to follow her other interests. We are looking forward to starting the courses and will be blogging our journey to GCSEs using the NEC.

About the writer

My name is Anna and I have been a home educator since January 2017 when my youngest two children left school. Prior to this I had been working as a primary teacher specialising in special needs. I was increasingly disillusioned with the education system and this, combined with the fact that my middle child was finding school hard going, led us on the path to home education.

Lucy is my eldest child and has been home educated since April 2017. She had previously attended the local village college. She had been generally happy in her early primary school days but in the later years she was less motivated by school and once she started secondary school we saw an increase in her stress levels that was not acceptable to us. Once her brothers were home educated Lucy saw that it was something that was attractive to her and she decided to join us in April 2017. She wanted to start GCSE work straight away as she was at that point in her school career and she started on three iGCSE distance learning courses to take exams in the summer 2018. She also studies GCSE drama with a group and French as part of a small group with a tutor and will take those examinations in 2019. She also completed her Bronze Arts Award in her first year being home educated and is now working on her Silver Award. Lucy decided that she wanted to take Maths and Sociology GCSE courses to add to her qualifications. Distance learning courses have generally worked well for her this year so we decided to go for this option again though the NEC.

Current comments: 0
Friday, 04 May 2018

NEC’s Art Techniques course

A painting depicting trees in a field

This week’s blog is written by Jane Horton, tutor for NEC on the Art Techniques course.
Jane introduces the new edition of the Art Techniques course, which she has been responsible for revising and updating. Here she explains why it is good to explore your creativity and what sort of exciting changes have been made to the course. Jane studied art history and art at postgraduate level and has been involved in art education on and off all her working life, specialising in open and distance learning. Jane is also a practising artist and illustrator.

What does the new course look like and why should you study it?

This course is a great starting point for anyone who feels they really want to grasp the nettle and have a proper go at drawing and painting. Work your way through this course, with helpful feedback from your tutor, and you’ll end up wanting to take it even further. This course has always been popular with NEC students but we felt it needed to be refreshed and brought up to date. The good news is that this updated course is just about to be launched and you could be one of the first to enrol.

Anyone studying this course will find themselves just as challenged as previously but will find their path through the course a little clearer and simpler. You’ll still cover all the basics, of line, tone, shape, perspective, and colour. And you will practice a range of themes that will stand you in good stead on your artistic journey. The new version of the course includes more focus on women artists. It’s always important to look at the work of others when learning about art techniques, and it’s essential to add in some examples from wonderful female artists which the old version of the course was lacking.

If you take one message from the course it should be to draw all the time, every day if possible. Your observational and drawing skills improve as if by magic if you do this. Included in this blogpost are a few examples of my quick daily drawings and paintings which form the core of my practice. This daily practice has formed the basis of a shift in focus of my art practice and a satisfying move of direction. Perhaps doing this course will change your life and move you in a new creative direction?

Black and white drawing of two people seated at a cafe table, one smoking a cigarette

As a tutor and an artist myself, I hope this course will help you to discover your latent artistic skills and develop them. It can provide the basis of an interest that will fill the hours, and mean you will never be bored. After all, you can pursue drawing with the simplest of tools: a sheet of paper and a pencil. You might want to take this further on completion of this course as well. You could sign up for more courses locally, or even an art degree, either online or at a college. But first, get out your drawing and painting tools and enrol on this refreshed Art Techniques course. Follow each exercise carefully and you will really improve your drawing and painting!

If you would like to know more about this course, get in touch and speak to our Course Advice Team. You can email us at, call us free from any UK landline on 0800 389 2839, or send us a message via our website’s Live Chat. We can also be found on social networks including Twitter and Facebook.

Current comments: 0