starting sixth form

It’s hard to believe Flea’s nearly starting sixth form.

The nature of life is, I think, that we can’t live in crisis mode for ever. Sooner or later, you adjust, you find a new balance.

You wake up one day and realise your jaw doesn’t ache from clenching in your sleep. Your heart isn’t racing. You’re not thinking about the crisis because you’re distracted by work, and the sun is shining and is it time to book in at the hairdresser? Life has a habit of making you move on, and focusing you on the trivial details of the everyday.

But what happens when it doesn’t?

It’s definitely been a year (and a bit) of crisis, for us. There’s been a pandemic (in case you missed it), work has been utter chaos, and poor Flea’s been dealing with home schooling and the uncertainty of this year’s GCSEs. And on top of that, there’s our family situation.

Crisis? What crisis?

I feel like we’ve made peace with home schooling, and I’ve adjusted to changes in my work, and things are on more of an even keel these days. But I confess, it’s been 18 months and I’m still struggling with the ongoing split from half of my family.

My family are the sort of people who try to do what they think is right. So I accept that they have valid, good reasons for the choices they’ve made, and I’m not here to say they’re wrong. Equally, though, I think I deserve a family that picks up the phone when my birth mother dies.

Life isn’t that complicated or mysterious – if people care about you, they’ll be there for you when the skies fall in. If they’re not, it doesn’t make them bad people. It definitely doesn’t mean you don’t love them or wish the best for them. It just means they can’t give you what you need. So you need to pick yourself up and get the f-ck on with the business of being happy.

Moving forward

For me, the first step is probably moving away from the small village where we live. Right now, my family lives five minutes down the road and quite apart from the stress of walking the dog or going to the supermarket, it’s hard to move past a situation when you’re driving past their house 10 times a week.

Luckily, it turns out that having a teen about to start sixth form is the ideal time to move.

It’s only been two years since we bought our current house so my plan is to rent it out. I had to pay a small fee to the mortgage company for “permission to rent” and there will be a small increase to our mortgage payment. I’ve spoken with local estate agents who have valued the house, so we have an idea of what we’ll have available to rent a new place. The question is where?

Brighton rocks

Flea is excited about the idea of moving back to Brighton. The city has great weather, music, concerts, beaches and a diverse community.

Although the application deadlines had passed, Flea managed to apply to two sixth form colleges, and was offered places at both. The plan would be for Flea to finish her GCSEs in Lancashire, then move to Sussex just before starting sixth form college.

This gives us time to do a few DIY jobs around the house before renting it out, and for me to plan things like storage of furniture – you need a lot of storage when you’re downsizing from a 4-bed house to a 2-bed flat!

The frozen North?

Last year when she was first thinking about sixth forms, Flea submitted an application to a grammar school about 20 miles to the north of our current home.

Flea just received an offer from the school, which she wasn’t sure would happen. It’s an academically selective school,  ranked in the top 2% of state schools in the country. It’s A-Level results are impressive, and many students take the Cambridge Pre-U exams. The students there are about six times more likely to get into top universities compared to other colleges we’ve looked at.

My teen is very ambitious, so she’s really drawn to starting sixth form in a place that gives her a great chance of getting into her dream university course. But it does mean we need a Plan B for moving. If Flea goes to the grammar school sixth form, we’ll probably look at moving to one of the villages between our current location and the new school.

How to choose?

But – oh – choosing where she’ll be starting sixth form is a BIG choice. And it’s very much Flea’s choice. I can advise and offer insight, but ultimately my girl is growing up, and the bargain we’ve struck is that if we move, Flea gets to choose her sixth form first, and I’ll choose a home after.

So what will it be?

The academic sixth form with great results – but also all that pressure and competition? Not to mention a dress code that asks kids to “wear a business suit that reflects the seriousness of your studies”? 

Or the bigger sixth form college with the good results that asks students to add their pronouns to their ID badges and encourages individuality and freedom?