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Homeschooling: ‘It’s part of our everyday. It’s part of our family culture’

Catherine Monaghan is educating her son Theo (14) at home

Photograph: iStock

For most children, education is an activity that takes place between 9am and 3pm, from Monday to Friday. But for Catherine Monaghan and her son Theo (14), education is simply a part of their lifestyle.

Ms Monaghan decided to homeschool her son when he was four, and while she acknowledges that some families undertake that decision out of necessity, for her family, it was simply because it felt right.

“It probably just started off really being a gut feeling that I had this little four-year-old who was very happy and thriving at home with me,” she said.

“At that point in time I didn’t think there was a lot that he was going to get in school that he wasn’t already getting at home. Why would we not take advantage to have that time together when we could?”

Theo is one of 1,483 children in Ireland currently being educated at home, and Ms Monaghan said the flexibility of homeschooling has allowed her son to flourish.

The family moved back to Ireland from Australia two years ago, and said the prominence of homeschooling across the State has really grown during that time.

She believes this is because it allows children to learn at a speed and in a manner which suits them best.

“He’s free to learn at his own pace, he’s free to follow his interests, he’s fascinated with the moon and the stars so he can spend as much time as he wants looking into that. He doesn’t have to turn off to do English; he has a lot of freedom,” she said.

“Also, the materials that we use; I can tailor them to his needs and his desires.”

The pair have adopted a flexible schedule in which they could be reading or googling new things at night, as opposed to following a strict schedule of subjects to study at certain times.

“It’s a more normal part of life. It’s part of our everyday. It’s part of our family culture,” she added.

Ms Monaghan does not grade or examine Theo in any way.

“I don’t really see any need for testing because I know where he’s at with everything because we’re working together. But if he wanted to do the Junior Cert, he could. If he wanted to do the Leaving Cert, he could,” she said.

The family loosely follow the school terms because they say it is easier for Theo to meet up with friends when they’re all on a break from school at the same time.

They do not believe he is missing out on any social interaction, as he has “plenty of friends, of all ages”.

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