How is 2020 shaping up for you? This year I’ve stepped into the unknown and it’s a little scary. In January I started my journey as a homeschooling mother!
Homeschooling has been of interest for many years. I started reading about it during my first pregnancy over 22 years ago. One of my best friends was homeschooled as a child and it was a positive experience for her and her siblings. They’re all very accomplished in their fields and have successful careers now.
In the end my husband and I chose to send our three children to the local national schools. One reason we made that decision is that situations and challenges occur at school that help children develop resilience, which simply don’t occur at home. It’s been a bumpy road, and I sometimes question whether we made the right decision.
Over the years, my children have had various issues to deal with at school, whether it was bullying, racism, or exclusion. There have been times when they have felt humiliated by teachers. They do not feel comfortable asking questions because they’re actually scared of some teachers and don’t want to risk being ridiculed in font of their peers. One could argue that all of these negative experiences have prepared them for the world we live in, but at what cost? I can see how their self-esteem has suffered and the toll it’s taken on their mental health. Anxiety and depression have become all to common among young people.
I think teaching is one of the hardest jobs anyone could sign up for, and I have great respect for the job they do. However, some of the teachers genuinely don’t seem to like working with young people. My experience at school was very different from my children’s. I went through a completely different education system in America. I may not have liked every teacher, but they never demeaned me or my peers. I’ve been surprised to hear of the snide remarks and sarcasm directed at certain secondary school students from their teachers, whether in their presence or behind their backs. School ought to be a place where students feel safe, nurtured, and respected. Instead a culture of meanness seems to prevail.
Of my three older children, my daughter has had the easiest time at school. She’s naturally quiet and studious so her teachers generally favored her in primary school. The most annoying thing for her was constantly being seated beside disruptive children because the teachers seemed to think that was a good arrangement. Maybe she was supposed to be a good influence, but it made it difficult for her to focus on her own work.
Over the Christmas holidays she asked if she could homeschool for the remainder of this school year. It’s a big decision to make because it’s an exam year. In Ireland there are 2 especially important years in secondary school: third year and sixth year. In June students will sit the junior certificate and leaving certificate national examinations. While the junior certificate doesn’t actually affect their chances of going to college, the leaving certificate determines what career choices they’ll have. Depending on how many points are received on the LC, students will be offered courses based purely on merit. If a student has a bad result and doesn’t achieve the points needed for their preferred university course, they have to repeat sixth year and retake the exam the following year. (There are no SAT’s in Ireland).
I won’t go into detail here about my daughter’s reasons for wanting to homeschool because I want to respect her privacy. After much thought, I consented. I have made an application to homeschool since it’s enshrined in the Irish constitution that parents have the right to do so. An interview will be scheduled in our home at some stage in the future. In the meantime, the main difficulty we are facing has to do with classroom based assessments. The research I did online said it was possible for home educated children to take the junior certificate exam. In actuality it isn’t so straightforward.
We are lucky my daughter’s school is being very accommodating and have supported us. She has already completed many of her classroom based assessments (CBA’s). There are “classroom tasks,” however, that must be completed at school. I, as her home educator, cannot submit the work. It has to be signed off on by a qualified teacher working in the Irish school system. Fortunately the school has made arrangements for her to meet privately with her former teachers to do the classroom assessment, which counts for 10% of her exam grade. The biggest problem she faces is Art because the students submit a portfolio which cannot leave the school. It seems we can’t submit a portfolio from home. I’m still waiting to hear back about this subject to see if a solution has been found. It would be awful if my daughter fails Art, especially because her teacher said she’s “one of the best in the class.”
I am relying on my daughter’s self-motivation to rise to the challenge of home study. Maths is the one subject I don’t feel confident in helping her with so I bought her a course on HomeSchool.ie,which has proved to be a valuable resource. It’s still early days and we’re in the process of making this transition.
From my daughter’s perspective, she thinks she’s working at a faster pace than at school. I see a marked improvement in her mood. She seems much happier and relaxed since we started homeschooling. She’s chatty and communicating a lot more. I do worry that she isn’t getting out enough, and I think she needs more physical activity. I’m trying to gently nudge her in the right direction while encouraging her to take responsibility for her choices.
I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous about how she’ll perform on the exam this summer because I feel responsible for her progress. I also question if I’m being “too soft” as they say in Ireland. Something I’ve come to realize is that I value education, but I think it needs to reform. The needs of the whole child are not currently being met. I want something different for my youngest child, who’s not yet three. If I homeschool him, it will be with a completely different approach. That, however, is a blog for another day!
What are your thoughts on homeschooling? What do you think the pros and cons are?