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Would it be better to educate your children at home

On a typical weekday afternoon, Dublin teenager Amy Shields is hitting the books much like any other kid her age.

Right now, she is devouring Greek mythology, brushing up on bushcraft, learning about environmental causes via copy cartier gold necklace chain ECO UNESCO, making her own jewellery and taking French lessons.

So far, so unremarkable until you realise that Amy (15), from Churchtown, has designed her own lesson plans. Amy's parents, Sarah and Denis, believe in 'child based learning' or 'unschooling', where learning is dictated not by the national school curriculum, but by the child's interests and passions.

"We occasionally got out some books and did a bit of maths or Irish, but most of the time I followed what I was interested in," Amy explains. "My parents saw how much my sister (Zoe) and I had learned naturally up to the age of five simply through interacting with the world daily, and they believed that natural drive and passion to learn couldn't and shouldn't stop. And it didn't."

Amy did try mainstream school for a while, attending a secondary school in Ballsbridge for first and second year. As it happens, the subjects she had a natural interest and aptitude for were the ones taught in mainstream education.

"I really enjoyed it in some respects, and not in others," she recalls. "I met some really lovely people and learned a lot about myself, and I had fun for the most part. I think it was really good for me to expand my mind and see what it was like, and I'm glad I had the choice. "At the end of a day in school, more work seemed like an impossibility," she reveals. "I think that for me, the difference between learning in school and out of school was that in school, it was work, and out of school it was play.

"By the time I got home, I was so exhausted by it all that I had no motivation to do the things I love. I also found being indoors all the time challenging."

The number of families opting for homeschooling is rising. As a contact cartier necklace diamond fake officer with the Home Education Network (HEN Ireland), Rose Wells receives regular queries from Irish parents keen to dip their toes in the homeschooling water.

"When you've been involved in home education, you tend to see it as a great option," explains Wells, who has homeschooled her 13 year old daughter Saffron. "But for those who aren't sure yet, they have plenty of people around them saying 'you can't do that'."

Indeed, the issue of homeschooling was thrown into sharp focus last summer when Monica and Eddie O'Connor were jailed for non payment of a Carlow District Court fine in a dispute over the homeschooling of their children. After stating that it was their constitutional right to educate their children, the couple had refused to be assessed by the National Education Welfare Board.

"I can't speak for Monica," says Rose, "but some people don't register (with the board) for their own reasons. Some people have heard of Monica's case, but they haven't read the fine print. They think that if you home educate you can go to prison, which isn't strictly true."

Emer Hyland, senior education welfare officer at the Child Family Agency, points out that while not everyone registers with the State agency, they should.

"We don't fake cartier necklace mens prescribe the education that they have to provide, but we have to be satisfied that the child is receiving a minimum amount of education."

Elsewhere, criticisms have been levelled at homeschooling parents, often by those who know little or nothing about how it all actually works.

Chief among their gripes is the notion that homeschooled children don't become socialised: "It's just one of those myths that goes around, but it's a question I'm constantly asked," says Leixlip based Emma Friel, who homeschooled her 10 year old daughter Alice until last year. "But my daughter has lots of neighbours and friends, as is normal for her age. You tend to make an effort with a homeschooled child so that they don't get bored, so she did the gym and Irish dance. If anything, these kids are quite self assured."

Alice now attends mainstream school because she "wanted to be where the other kids were", and Emma now juggles several other commitments as a single mother, including college study. In every sense, Alice continues to flourish.

But while homeschooling felt like the right choice for Alice as a young child "she was very teary and unhappy when she started school at five, so we took her out" Emma admits that as her child's primary educator, self doubt has been a constant companion down the years.

"You question yourself a million times over the years, asking yourself if you're doing the right thing," she says. "But I relaxed more into it, and then found it was really quite easy to do at home.

"I did have a voice in my head, 'you don't want her to think this is an easy ride,' so we got the school books and kept up with maths and Irish and the usual," adds Emma. "As the years went by, we relaxed and didn't follow them so much."

Some parents who follow the national curriculum at home often face another dilemma: How do you approach a subject in which your child needs more help than you can give?

"Of course I wondered at what stage do I get to before I go out of my depth here?" says Emma. "If Alice gets bored at school, we might have to consider (the prospect of home education to Leaving Cert level). If that happens, we'll take it month by month. Many homeschool families go down the A level route or get grinds."

Rose is also familiar with the options available to parents and students. "The Leaving Cert isn't the only way to get into college," she explains, "and a lot of home educators focus on FETAC courses as a way to get into college. It's also possible cartier necklace diamond imitation to do (UK) GCSE exams online."

Amy makes a salient point about exams and college entry: "A lot of teens actually realise that what they want to do doesn't necessarily involve college. There are certain professions, such as teaching, or medicine, in which it would be very difficult to pursue a career without college.

"In this day and age, however, there are thousands more things you can do with your life. A lot of unsure kids are coming out of the school system who are forced to pick what they want in life within moments and then an extremely large sum of money is spent educating them in something they might not even be passionate about."

HEN Ireland's members around 150 families nationwide in all provide support and guidance to each other but what advice would Rose have for a curious parent or newcomer? Someone daunted by the idea of being fully responsible for their child's education?

"It's a commitment, but then so is being in the school system," she reasons. "You don't have to make lunch, do a school run or make sure that uniforms are ready every morning. You can have a more relaxed approach to the day. If you don't have the answer for something that your child wants to know about, you can always use the internet. It can be draining in some ways as you are certainly with your child a lot more. But most of the parents I know wouldn't change their homeschooling experiences for a minute."

Amy, meanwhile, appears to have learned some rather valuable lessons in life entirely of her own volition, and well ahead of schedule.
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