Dear fellow parents,

Welcome to the SEAN section of the website. I hope you find the following information useful.

A little-known fact, a survey completed by parents showed over 40% of the children in the Home Educating Community have some additional learning needs. This number has now increased since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic as more parents saw how their children thrived being educated (my son included) in the home environment.

There are many benefits to home educating children with additional needs. Some of these include:

  • The freedom to create a curriculum which suits the child’s needs and focuses more on their strengths and interests.
  • Being allowed to schedule many therapies and medical appointments around your child’s learning schedule without pressure from schools about attendance.
  • Offering a safer and healthier environment for medically complex children who may be more susceptible to getting ill from common childhood illnesses.
  • Being able to control the pace which your child learns at. This can be very beneficial for some children who may get left behind in a mainstream setting.
  • Protecting the child from situations such as bullying.
  • Taking the pressure off a child who feels the burden of comparison and competition in the mainstream classroom.

In Ireland under Article 42 of the constitution it is a parent’s right to provide an education outside the regular school environment. The State’s duty is to ensure that children receive a certain minimum education, but parents are free to decide how this education is provided.
The government set out broad guidelines as to what counts as a minimum education. These include:

  • Making certain that your child’s personal potential is enhanced and not suppressed.
  • Addressing the immediate and future needs of your child, in the context of the cultural, economic and social environment.
  • Contributing to the child’s moral development.
  • The curriculum you set is suited to your child in regards to age, ability personality and aptitude.

Teaching your child at home is an article from the Citizen’s Information website.

The following are some ways children in Ireland with additional needs can be educated.

Structured Learning

Some educators choose to follow the mainstream Irish curriculum (I chose this option for my son) whilst others choose an alternative curriculum from which there are many options available worldwide. There are pros and cons – some of which are:

The Pros:

  • The ability to see the progress being made by your child in important areas such as reading, writing and maths.
  • Being able to show proof to Túsla assessors that your child’s minimum educational needs are being met.
  • A potentially easier route to follow if a child is likely to return to school to do the Junior and Leaving Cert.

The Cons:

  • In personal experience the biggest obstacle is the expense. There is no government funding available to assist with the cost of school books, equipment (such as sand/water trays) and specialised equipment to assist with special needs.

De-Schooling

In the Home-schooling community, a very well-known word is De-schooling. It can be defined as A transition period for the process of adjusting to the non-school environment of everyday life after leaving the education system.

Túsla are accepting of this, especially for children with Special Educational Needs who may need time to adjust to their new normal.

Un-schooling

At the polar end of the scale is unschooling. In this education style, workbooks can be uncommon. Unschooling is more free flowing and gives the child the opportunity to learn what they want and when. The vast majority of Home Educators choose to educate this way. Again, there are pros and cons to this style of educating. Some of which are outlined as follows:

The Pros:

  • Freedom of choice. In this learning style the child is free to choose what and how they learn as well as when they do it.
  • Life skills are learned naturally.

The Cons:

  • There can be a lack of structure to the day. This may be difficult for some children with additional learning needs who need structure to thrive and develop.
  • It can be hard to prove a basic education is being met.

Eclectic

This is like a buffet of home schooling. This particular style of learning falls in the middle of structured learning and unschooling. It can be defined as a highly individualised education method resulting from mixing and matching a variety of home-schooling resources. It is an exceptionally personalised approach for every child based on their strengths, learning styles, and interests.

Eclectic Home school: Curriculum That Works is an article from Time4Learning website.

Again, the pros and cons include:

The Pros:

  • Eclectic learning is the most unique just like everybody. This style of learning is tailor made by you for your child. It also is considered the most flexible approach.
  • Would be a very suitable education style for children with additional learning needs.
  • There are a lot of online resources to bring variety to your child’s specific curriculum.
  • It is considered inexpensive when compared to paying for an all-inclusive curriculum.

The Cons:

  • There is a lot of research and dedication needed. It involves studying how your child learns best over a period of time.
  • You made need to change direction in response to your child’s developing interests and abilities.

Registration

The registration process for a Special Educational Needs child simply requires an additional section to be filled out on the Túsla Home Education application form. In the section provided you are required to include all relevant diagnoses in detail. This makes it easier when it comes to having your preliminary assessment. The assessors appreciate having all information at hand.

For more information on the Túsla registration process, please visit our Legalities page.

Conclusion

The decision to Home Educate can be a very daunting one, especially if your child has additional learning needs, but as a parent with over two years’ experience in home educating my son I can say with great confidence that it was the right decision for us.

It is extremely helpful to have in place support networks like H.E.N and also Special needs home education (Ireland) | Facebook which is a private home-schooling group for parents with over 1000 members.

I hope you find this information useful. If you need any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me on my H.E.N email : sean@henireland.org.

Also a huge thank you to Lynda who had an input into this article.

Lindsey Lambe,

Special Educational Additional Needs Representative