I frequently see people asking: How to homeschool in Ireland?
The first talk I listened to about home education about seven years ago was “Hold on to your credit card” and I am very grateful that it was. I’m going to suggest the sentiment of that talk here:
Think about your why, look at you and your children – think about their (and your) strengths, weaknesses, desires… Write them down! Yes, actually write them down. It can really show up what needs some thought when you try to put it into words. And only after all that go and spend money on curriculum. Some curricula can be very expensive and, if possible, you want to use your limited, hard-earned cash productively. Sometimes you just need to go and get a book out of the library.
Deciding to home educate is only the first decision. There are lots more going forward, but if you spend time thinking about your why, then you can evaluate plans, curriculum, and the many opportunities, against it.
It can be quite overwhelming when you first look into home education. For a start, there are many approaches to home education. Then there is trying to fathom out to use the information from the mainly USA sites when you are living in Ireland. This website is focused for those using a Classical and/or Charlotte Mason approach living in Ireland. If you are in Ireland using some other style of home education you may still find the book recommendations and field trips useful. However, this is the approach my family have used for more than seven years. This is my experience, which is what I can share on this website. It is the experience of the mothers I ask for advice.
It can be difficult to connect with other structured and curriculum using mums in Facebook groups. These mothers, especially those with large families, generally don’t make time for commenting and posting online. Many of the loveliest Irish home educating families I know are not on Facebook. It took time and effort for me to find them, but it brought such rewards. I wanted to bring their experience into a place where those starting out could access it.
There are as many different ways of implementing home education as there are families home educating. Home educators are, overall, very independent and strong-willed.
Think about your why first
Cathy Duffy runs an extremely helpful curriculum review website, and her books ‘100/101/102 Top Picks for / How to choose Homeschool Curriculum’ (Amazon UK, library, ebook) begin by helping you understand and determine your family’s educational goals and needs. Cathy asks questions such as:
- What do you think is most important for your children to learn?
- Which of these are most important?
- How do you think learning should happen?
- How do you want to teach?
- How much confidence, experience, money, and time for working directly with your children do you have?
- How do your spiritual beliefs impact your homeschooling?
She asks more questions within these categories and gets you to really think things through. Here is an extract from the page asking ‘What do you think is most important for your children to learn?’
And here is Cathy giving how she would answer the first question.
I feel going through a process like this is so beneficial for you and your family.
Request some catalogues…
My next suggestion would be to take a moment to click over and request a catalogue from Memoria Press and one from Sonlight (if your Christian) or Bookshark (if your not). Then come straight back here while they wing their way across the ocean. I would send you to get catalogues from Beautiful Feet Books and Timberdoodle if I could but the former are the only ones I know that send their catalogues to Ireland. Memoria Press has Christian and charter (secular for schools) editions of their materials.
Why am I suggesting these catalogues?
- The middle of the Memoria Press catalogue has a chart with grades on one axis and subject area on the other. I think it is super helpful to give one an overview. A bit like looking over a town from a high point and seeing the layout with a bird’s eye view. It’s much easier to navigate websites when you have a big picture in mind.
- Being able to see that there are different ways to teach the same subject. Sonlight and Bookshark have several options for curriculum for each subject, mostly some of the best choices, in a nicely formatted catalogue. (Curricula can be used both for each subject – history or writing curriculum – or for an overall arrangement including many subjects. The use of the term in two ways can be a little confusing.)
- See the focus on mastery and reading excellent literature for delight, rather than grade level. This can be a mindset shift for some. You don’t have to start something in September and continue to June. You can start a curriculum anytime.
- Seeing modifying things to work for your family.
- Memoria Press’ catalogue includes useful articles.
- You can leave them out on the coffee table for the inevitable family member questioning your decision to pick up and read an article. Possibly even let them do some of your defending your decision, if needed.
- They are inspiring
When they arrive enjoy time on the couch with a cup of tea perusing them. I don’t personally use their guides or comprehension questions (I use narration), but you will soon see that the same classic literature books crop up in the various home education curricula. All of them will be getting you to read Narnia at some point. We do use Memoria Press’ Latin curriculum. I love how Alveary (the Charlotte Masaon curriculum we use) keeps children together in the same period of history and both encourage reading aloud together, whether snuggled on the couch or lying in the sun (when we get it 😉).
I am not suggesting you need to go and buy a full package. If one of their packages does suits your vision and your finances then enjoy! But please don’t feel you need to!
Get a quality book to think about what education means
I really feel this concise book should be the first step if you are thinking of implementing a Charlotte Mason approach. She gives an inspirational explanation of what education is, goes through Charlotte’s Mason principles – a flexible set of ideas that keep education in focus – and helps you think about your aims and how to implement in your home. It is currently only €5 on Kindle, so it is a very small investment for an excellent book.
Karen Glass was one of the mothers who developed, and is part of the Advisory of, AmblesideOnline (which we use somewhat modified for three years, before we smoothly moved across to Alveary). She has four children, one teen still at home, and the rest graduated. She has home educated “using Charlotte Mason’s methods from beginning to end” as she puts it. She has been studying and writing about Charlotte Mason and Classical Education for over twenty years, and so she is really knowledgeable and experienced.
There are lots of beautiful blogs out there but I want to hear from experienced mothers. Karen Glass is one of them. The other mother I follow is Brandy Vencel (mom of four with one graduated) who has a great blog Afterthoughts and a great podcast Schole Sisters with a few other moms which I regularly enjoy. Brandy is also on the advisory of AmblesideOnline.org. Naturally, we aren’t going to agree with everything someone else says and Brandy writes on lots of topics, but I have found her great to follow.
When I used AmblesideOnline.org one of my modifications was to keep my children together in history. In Ireland, we have such rich opportunities to experience history and my children love field trips, and I love taking them. This is an example of me being aware of what I desire for our home education approach. I find Mater Amabalis helpful for UK history literature lists – overview page and more books per period page. I’ll have something like this for Ireland in the future.
Having read In Vital Harmony, and obtained a clear overview, the best next step is to read Charlotte Mason’s own volumes.
HEN, the Home Education Network Ireland, is a group for all types of educators. Many of the hard-working volunteers may use a different approach to home education than the families to which this site is aimed, but they have a lovely A5 newsletter which home educated children can include their work Subscribe here.
If you are looking to do some more reading and research before your copy of In Vital Harmony arrives, if you ordered the paperback, download some of the excellent free resources at Simply Charlotte Mason.
When you decide to home educate, if your child is 6 years or older, you need to register with Tusla. You can find the application form here. You can type into their emailed application form. Save a copy in a memorable place on your PC!
If your oldest child is not yet 6 years of age, you do not need to inform Tusla. You just wait until your oldest child is 6.
The form comes with detailed guidelines. Just read them carefully. I suggest keeping your answers clear and concise. Reread your copy when you get your assessment date. The guidelines give clear details of the questions that will be asked when an assessor speaks to you. The assessor follows the questions in the form.
It is usually some number of months between sending in the form and being assessed, which takes between 1 and a few hours. The assessors understand that families may change their choices as they navigate their home education journey. Cliona Brophy of Young Language Learners (who runs French and German classes online for home educators) put together a concise, helpful article regarding assessment.
You are entitled to child benefit if you are home educating in Ireland. If you have questions about other allowances, the Facebook group Homeschoolers Ireland is an excellent place to ask. There is also a Charlotte Mason Ireland Facebook group.
You have a legal right to home educate in Ireland. Tusla is determining if you are providing a certain minimum standard of education. My experience is they have been happy with families using Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches.
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Enjoy the journey!