SOME Cork parents are opting to permanently homeschool their children from September after noticing significant improvements to their mental health during lockdown.
Meadhbh O’Leary, who volunteers with the Cork branch of the Home Education Network, said she has been getting four times as many calls from parents accessing support compared to this time last year.
A number of parents are reaching out for help after making the difficult decision to remove their kids from school permanently.
The former school teacher, who refers to the method as unschooling, said that a cohort of parents had noticed a considerable reduction in their child’s anxiety since shifting to home education.
“There is the cohort of parents who are worried about their child’s physical health,” she said. “Another cohort are worried about the psychological effects that seeing people in masks and separated every day might have on their child. Then, there is the cohort of parents who are seeing how their once stressed out and anxious child is now much happier. Since there is such a great improvement in their child they feel that homeschooling is something that would greatly benefit them.”
She acknowledged the parents fearing for their children’s physical health.
“Many aren’t doing this from a philosophical standpoint. This is something that has been forced on them.
“One parent who contacted me said that she didn’t want her child to be a guinea pig. Another had an older child who had left school but was still lived at home. The older child had diabetes and it was feared that her school-going siblings might catch Covid and seriously put her at risk. Nobody really knows how this will affect their family.”
Ms O’Leary — who homeschooled her three children until they decided to enrol in mainstream education — spoke of the misconceptions around this alternative teaching method.
“I feel it’s very important to say that homeschooling isn’t what parents experienced in March where they were under pressure trying to get their kids to do the work that was sent on. This is a completely different scenario. When this is part of your life and you don’t have the pressures of exams, you are able to follow the child’s lead.”
Ms O’Leary said that supports need to be put in place for families considering homeschooling their children.
“The constitution states that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family, yet there is no support out there for parents who would like to explore this option.”
The former teacher stressed that unschooling doesn’t have to compromise their children’s sense of routine.
“I’d like to reassure people that a child who doesn’t attend school can still thrive. During their time being educated at home, they were involved in so many activities from football and orchestra to drama which gave academic structure to their lives. My eldest child didn’t pursue mainstream education until she was 15 and a half but still got on very well in school and is currently awaiting her predicted grades.
“Homeschooling has always been a legitimate means of education but Covid has pushed it into the mainstream.”
- Those looking to access support in their area around homeschooling can check out the Home Education website at www.henireland.org