OVER a dozen people attended a homeschooling information meeting in Treo Nua Portlaoise recently, organised by Laois homeschoolers Annette Morris Keane from Mountmellick and Lisa Keating from Portarlington.
The home educators invited Donegal native Gwen Murphy of Paedeia Education to counter myths surrounding homeschooling and to provide up to date information.
Ms Murphy is a qualified teacher and lecturer with a bachelors degree in philosophy, a higher diploma in education and ten years’ experience as a home school teacher.
“Ireland is one of three countries in the world where parents have the constitutional right to home school their children. Families have extraordinary freedom in Ireland when it comes to their children’s education.
“The Irish Constitution recognises parents/guardians as their children’s primary and natural educators and puts them first above the state and positive law. Guidelines issued by the state acknowledge that a different education from state sponsored schools may be equally effective, if not more effective, in meeting individual learning needs.
“Education becomes mandatory in Ireland at the age of six, however, most parents send their children to school after their fourth birthday when many are not ready for a school setting. You don’t have to place your children into any particular school. You can take your children out of school if you wish and educate them in the more natural and nurturing home environment.
“There’s a straightforward process in place. Contact Túsla, who will, in turn, contact your child’s school making them aware of your decision. They will provide you with application forms and carry out a home visit to do an assessment, as they have to be satisfied that your child will receive a minimum standard of education.
“Home-based education provides more opportunities to be physically, intellectually and emotionally active. Home educated children have a more positive relationship with learning and are more self-directed. They typically excel in terms of academic achievement and show great social skills,” she said.
Coordinator of Earth Schools Laois Annette Morris Keane said: “There is no one way to successfully home educate, which is the beauty of it. It makes no sense to me to standardise education since all children are unique with their own sets of skills, gifts, interests and values.
“Our family’s approach to our children’s education is to encourage and celebrate the children’s individuality by resourcing and providing what they need to follow their own interests.
“Home schooled children develop their literacy and numeracy skills using a mixture of standard workbooks based on the national curriculum and through activities like cooking, baking, growing food, letter writing, shopping, the list is endless. They learn how to live by living real life every day and by playing an active role in real life activities and decision making. In the midst of all this, they still get lots of time to be children, to play and to be carefree.
“Our son is a science fanatic. Feeding that with learning materials such as books and experimental activities at home and accessing various classes and workshops is how we accommodate his passion for science.
“Our daughter is more of a right-brained creative type, so her learning activities include writing her own stories and songs, art work, dance and gymnastics classes and as she is an animal fanatic and along with caring for our own animals she attends horse-riding.”
Speaking of her own experiences of homeschooling her ten-year-old daughter since the age of four, Lisa Keating said: “Over time, and much research, I realised the benefits of home education. Apart from the fact that we have no early starts and no big uniform and books expenses, it made a lot of sense to home school. We’re always on the go, whether it’s shopping or volunteering at animal rescues, she’s with me all the time learning different things. She has a much broader understanding of things than I had when I was ten.
“She can sew, cook, she’s an excellent reader, actress and singer and she can whittle a butter knife from wood. She also designed a leaflet for her friends on the Hubble Telescope. She’s doing things that kids her age are not doing and mixing with people of all ages every day. Homeschooled kids have a certain confidence about them. She knows who she is, she’s never been bullied and, more importantly, she’s happy.”
Homeschooling meetings take place locally in Abbeyleix Heritage Centre on the first Thursday of each month from noon to 4pm and Free Range Learning meetings take place in Athy GAA club on the third Wednesday of each month at the same time. All are welcome to attend.