Sunday 17 February 2019

More Irish children now taught by parents at home

Challenging: Cora Venus Lunny was homeschooled. Photo: Paul Sharp
Challenging: Cora Venus Lunny was homeschooled. Photo: Paul Sharp

Mark O'Regan

The number of Irish parents teaching their children outside the confines of the traditional school has soared.

Figures obtained by the Sunday Independent under a Freedom of Information request reveal there are currently 1,090 home-educated children in Ireland, compared with 699 in 2011.

Experts say the reasons why Irish parents are embracing this kind of schooling are varied - and differ widely depending on family circumstances.

However, some parents believe that as the primary educators of their child they are best placed to meet their educational needs, rather than the "institutional" approach of a school.

Cork tops the league table, with 167 children registered as being 'home-educated'.

Dublin has 157 children in this category, followed by Galway and Wexford, both of which have a total of 62.

In Monaghan, just three students are receiving their formal education at home.

Figures also show boys rather than girls are more likely to get this type of education - out of the total of 1,090 students, 605 are male and 485 female.

These figures include all children in primary and secondary education.

Experts say many parents turn to home education as a last resort, if there are school-related problems that cannot be resolved to their satisfaction.

Others make an "ideological choice" to take responsibility for their children's education right from the outset.

Some parents wish to avoid any kind of interference by the State, while others want to ensure that their children's upbringing adheres strictly to their religious beliefs.

Eibhlin Byrne, executive manager of Tusla, the child and family agency, says one of the main reason parents home educate is for "ideological and philosophical" reasons.

"It should also be noted that 13pc are children with special needs - whose parents feel their specific requirements would not be met in a school setting," she added.

And while some children traumatised by bullying are being withdrawn from school by their parents, this figure is believed to be relatively small.

"Religious considerations are also a factor, with those of the American Christian faith being the biggest group where this is an issue. Other parents take their child out of school for just a year."

The issue of socialisation is usually raised when homeschooling is mentioned, but Ms Byrne says in the majority of instances this is not a significant issue.

She said the growing number of children being home educated in counties like Dublin, Cork, and Galway, is most likely due to a "network" of like-minded parents living in the same area.

Violinist Cora Venus Lunny, daughter of traditional music legend Donal Lunny, was home-educated from an early age.

While it can bring many benefits to the child, she warned it requires "massive dedication" on the part of parents. It can be a major challenge, especially so when a parent is not bringing money into the household.

"My mum had her own personal reasons for doing it. But it can be tough work helping your child socially integrate. And for a parent there is also the issue of being around a child all day - it's not something everyone is cut out for," Cora said.

Sunday Independent

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