Through the early years of your child’s education, they will be learning a wide variety of subjects that are pre-set for them by the national curriculum and so will be following a set path. As they move into their GCSEs, A-Levels and eventually a university degree, they will need to carefully think about the subjects that they want to choose from instead.
This can be an important and sometimes difficult choice. Parenting blog ParentsNeed have interviewed numerous parents regarding how they find and choose the right subjects for their children and we’ll explore the findings below.
Why is it important to think about choosing the right school subjects for your child?
The subjects that your child will want to study is a personal choice that will arise out of their own desires, preferences, and personal choices. However, with some choices, particularly their GCSEs when they will only be 14 or 15, they may be too young to know exactly what they want.
It is important for you, as parents, to help guide them through this process, thinking carefully about where your child excels, what they really like as opposed to what they think they might like, and about the future. It is not as clear cut as ‘GCSEs lead to A-Levels which leads to a university degree’ when it comes to subject choice. Your child may be able to study a subject at university that they did not previously study at college. However, there is a link and many universities will want to see successful GCSE and A-Level results in a certain subject before taking on a student in that area.
How important is it to choose the right school subjects for your child?
It is not the absolute be-all and end-all that children get this right first time, and it is important to ease them with this process as they can have a tendency to get easily stressed over what seems like life-changing decisions. As previously mentioned, they will not be tied into a lifelong contract once they have made a decision at GCSE level, and their own personal preferences may change over the years. Think how often adults have major career changes!
They will also be able to make changes if necessary. Perhaps they started a new language at GCSE or a new course at A-Level such as Philosophy, only to realise that it is not quite for them. Schools have facilities in place to accommodate for this, allowing students to change their subjects to find something more suitable. And while this will be a big moment for your child, it is worth remembering that these early-on subject choices are not their only life-defining moments. However, if given enough thought and time, children and their parents can find the best school subject route for their children first time around. Below we look at a few factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right schools subjects for your child.
What subjects do they enjoy and what subjects are they good at?
It can seem obvious, but what do they really enjoy? They may not even properly know this themselves at this stage, but which subjects do you find that they come home and talk to you about? Did they learn about a new period of history that truly fascinated them? Did they take part in a science experiment that blew them away? Perhaps they enjoy working out tough mathematical calculations or get greater satisfaction from learning through the use of a computer. As with much of parenting, you need to listen out for your child’s signals, signs, body language and the words that they use when they describe and talk about certain subjects. It is extremely important as a parent not to push them down the route that you want, but what they want. Listen to their positives and negatives, and explore these in more depth with them.
Of course, thinking about what subjects they are good at is always perhaps the easiest option. It is unlikely that children with be overly ecstatic with learning at a young age, so they may not come home bouncing off the walls about a specific subject, but if they are very good at it then it could be silly to drop it out of their learning.
Are they more academic or vocational?
Again, at the age of 14 or 15 it is far too early for them to truly know what kind of a career that they want when they are older, and indeed many adults still have not figured this out. But you may already have begun to gather a sense of what kind of route your child may go down in the future and it is important to be thinking about this.
Do they seem more book-smart and academic with no clear indication of what they want to do in the future? If so, subjects like Philosophy, Critical Thinking, English Literature or another language may be useful for them. On the flip-side, maybe they seem more vocational in nature? Perhaps they have made it clear they want to be a vet or a mid-wife? If so, you can begin to think about having your child go down the route with subjects that apply to these fields.
If your child has no clue what they want to be when they are older, which is more than fine, do not try and force them into thinking about this simply to find the right subjects. If there is no clear answer, fall back on to the subjects that they both enjoy and are good at, as this is always the safest option.
Perhaps your child already knows which vocation they want to undertake when they grow up?
Are they good at essay writing and exams?
Up until GCSEs, subjects will follow a set pattern and testing structure. Following the years after this, it can change dramatically to the point where some subjects are purely coursework or exam based.
Is your child good at writing essays? Perhaps they excel in exams? Maybe they are more hands on? The course content of a subject is obviously important, but ultimately it will be their scores and not their engagement in a class that gets them through the system, so also have them think how they can get the best results possible.
Plan ahead as much as possible
Do try and plan ahead as much as possible. As mentioned above, don’t push them down routes simply for the sake of it, but if you can begin to get them thinking about the university they might want to attend or the career they might want to have, you can research what subjects these require.
Some universities will require certain grades in certain subjects for your child to take a new course on, so it can be useful to choose the right subject for your child early on. Many universities are flexible in this however, and will accept certain grades from other subjects.
Are they good independent studiers?
When it comes to choosing a university degree, is your child good at independent study? Some courses, such as History, will often only have around four to six hours of lecture times in some weeks, so it will be heavily focused on your child learning for themselves.
Some children need much more guidance and structure, so carefully consider how well they study at home.
Have a think about how well your child studies at home when choosing the right school subject for them
Also think about extra-curricular activities
It is important that your child becomes as well-rounded as possible, as this is what universities and employers will look for in the future, so you mustn’t only focus on school subjects and education.
Make sure that you are getting your child involved in plenty of extra-curricular activities, with as wide a range as possible. Things such as joining a sports team, signing up to the Duke of Edinburgh Award and getting a weekend job all show different levels of commitment and skills that will be appealable to institutions further down the line.
Some also argue that even getting slightly lower grades at university but having a more well-rounded child is better for landing a job.
Keeping your child happy
The most important thing above all else, as you will already know as a parent, is to keep your child happy. Make sure you have regular, open and honest conversations with them about what they do and don’t like, and what that might mean for their future.
Although it can seem like a stressful time, make sure you list out the positives for them. They are beginning to grow up and get control over their own lives! They will also be able to engage more fully with the education system when they are given more choice over what they want to learn.
Ryan Kh is an experienced blogger, digital content, and social marketer. He is founder of Catalyst For Business and contributor to search giants like Yahoo Finance, MSN. He is passionate on covering topics like big data, business intelligence, startups and entrepreneurship. Connect with him on Twitter @ryankhgb.