Recently one of the national papers published its school league tables. It only focused on secondary schools and its sole criteria in ranking the schools was on the number of students that went on to certain third level institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland. So, while somewhat useful, it had rather a narrow focus.
One type of school that will never make those league tables is the Home School. Whenever I think of home-schooling an image from the old children’s encyclopaedia Childcraft pops into my mind. It is a picture of children in remote parts Australia using a CB radio to contact their teacher. It seemed very exciting to me as a child. No teacher in front of you all day – heaven!! Back then, being home-schooled here in Ireland was practically unheard of.
The Irish constitution has always allowed for parents to educate their children outside of the state run or recognised school system. Article 42 of the constitution states:
The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State. The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.
Considering that our constitution was drawn up in the 1930’s, it is a very liberal approach!
In the United States, homeschooling is a very common and accepted practice. Here in Ireland it is a small but growing community.
Parents who homeschool their children must register with the state agency Tusla (tusla.ie) before the child is aged 6. If the child is already in a school, then the parent must have returned the registration form to Tulsa before removing the child from school (otherwise if the child is absent from school for more than 20 days the legal implications around truancy kick in). Once the application has been received, Tusla will arrange for a Preliminary assessment to be made. The assessment usually takes about 2 hours and is an assessment of the education being provided or proposed. This requirement exists in order to safeguard a child’s constitutional and legal right to a minimum education.
One interesting factor when homeschooling is that the state curriculum does not have to be followed. Parents do not have to replicate the school environment at home. Some parents will prefer a structured approach, others will adopt an informal approach (known as unschooling). Often an amalgamation of both occurs, with parents adapting to needs of the child as required.
For anyone considering home schooling, a good first stop is Home Education Network Ireland (henireland.org). It is a support network for people home schooling or considering homeschooling some or all of their children. They will put you in contact with other homeschoolers so that you can discuss the pros and cons of homeschooling before you make your decision.
One issue parent who homeschool sometime struggle with is what to do if their child has a learning difficulty. At Hummingbird Learning Centre we can provide the help needed! For more just complete our assessment form and we will get in touch to talk about how we can help.