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Parenting & Education in Ireland

Home Education in the Republic of Ireland


by Kim Pierce, Home Education Network

Click here if you are looking for information on the Home Tuition Scheme 2016/17


Who can home educate?
How does home education work in practice?
What about exams and other forms of assessment?
Third Level Education
What about social interaction?
The Home Education Network
Registering for Home Education



Many people are unaware of it, but home education is a legal and constitutional right. Article 42 of the Constitution has the following to say:

1The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.
22. Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.
33.1 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 in any particular type of school designated by the State.
43.2 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.
54. The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.
65. In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.


Who can home educate?

Anyone can home educate their children. There is no requirement for you to have a third level qualification, a teaching qualification or even the Leaving Cert. You do not need a curriculum, formal lessons or a designated school room. You do need an interest in your children's education and a commitment of time and energy. Home educators come from all walks of life and have a variety of reasons for choosing this option. One of the problems that parents thinking about home education often encounter is a lack of confidence in their own abilities to home educate their own children. This disappears after a few weeks or months when they see their children becoming happier and enjoying learning.

How does home education work in practice?

Some families make a formal arrangement about hours and curriculum, centered around their child’s interests. Many others have an inforal approach with no set curriculum. Families are free to follow the national curriculum, devise one of their own, or not follow a curriculum at all. Most families will use a combination of formal and less formal approaches, often moving to a more informal system.

The experience of home education is very different from school-based education. The amount that children learn without being taught is surprising to some but gratifying to all involved. It may help to take a long term view by realising that, although the "average child" may learn to read at, say, six, some children will not learn to read until much later. There is no evidence that these late readers are any less keen on reading when they see that it is useful to them.

Approaches may change over time and can be different with different children, even within the same family. New home educators, particularly those that have withdrawn their children from school, may follow a more structured approach. Some parents like to see their children producing some concrete work as it gives them confidence that they are actually learning something. Others may be comfortable following a less structured, less school like approach.

Probably the best route is to find an approach that both parent and child are happy with, with the onus on the parent giving a large part of the decision making to the child. A good rule of thumb is ‘are your children happy’?. If they’re not, then you need to look at your approach and see how it could be changed. You have the freedom for both you and your child to try various approaches and see which one suits you all best.


What about exams and other forms of assessment?

Parents who are with their children every day do not need to see exam results to monitor their child's progress, strengths or weaknesses. Exams measure only a small part of the skills that children need to acquire as they grow up. Self-esteem, social competence, emotional security, happiness and physical development are not easily monitored, let alone improved by examinations. When/if it comes time to sit formal exams like the Leaving Certificate or O and A levels, arrangements can be made through ETBs, Adult Education Classes or the Dublin Tutorial Centre (www.dublintutorialcentre.com, Tel 01 6612209).


Junior and Leaving Cert can also be sat at any school by registering with the school in early January of the year that the exams will be taken. More information can be seen at www.examinations.ie A levels can also be taken through the National Extension College in the UK, email courses@nec.ac.uk website www.nec.ac.uk. Another option is the Wolsey Hall Oxford which also supports home study of GCSEs and A Levels.

Nuala Jackson runs an alternative school that provides junior and leaving cert. She can be contacted on 051 383426 (evenings) or on her website at www.xlcproject.org . Her and her son Eoin Jackson now have a distance learning programme specifically for home educated children wishing to take Leaving Cert. Eoin can be contacted at lamph@eircom.net , or on 086 8594577.
Please note that it is not a legal requirement to sit either Junior or Leaving Cert.


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