Happy Birthday, my firstborn, Darragh!

My 6 babies have made me a mother. Just as well there’s more than a handful of them and they are all so different, as I’m such a slow learner!
Here are just a few photos from the years, as Darragh turns 28 tomorrow and celebrates halfway around the world, on Maui, Hawaii, where he lives.
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But this is us, before we got home from the National Maternity hospital.
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This is my mother with Darragh, her first grandchild.
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Here’s Darragh, aged 9 months.
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Darragh (7) and Oisín, 2 weeks.
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Darragh’s Turtle phase!
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A sunny day in Tullow, at Nanny’s and Granda’s home.
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In our kitchen in Summerhill, Co. Meath… November 1994, just a week before Oisín’s 1st birthday, and 11 days before Darragh’s 8th.
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All the lads, on holidays in Courtown.
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Browneshill Dolmen near Carlow town, a favourite (free!) spot to bring visitors.
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Darragh (16) with Oran (2). So heartening to see the children loving each other.
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Eddie and Darragh, at Darragh’s Graduation in Cork.

Making an example of oneself

You might not believe this, but we are actually a fairly “let’s keep to ourselves” family.

I know…

…we have a facebook page Home Education Support Fund which recounts our various media forays since our court case began rumbling…

…we have  a YouTube documentary “Homegrown Knowledge” (but we were being filmed to help film student Eoghan McQuinn in his final year assignment, and never thought it would be on the screen of the Irish Film Institute – as part of their “Stranger than Fiction” series)…

… a month ago, I began a blog…

but we are genuinely quite private, actually.

Sometimes, you just feel you have to make a stand.

And if publicity and an amount of public debate (plenty of it negative) is the result, well, then  you just read some quotes by Gandhi or other inspiring people or better still, do some finger painting, snuggle on the couch and read to a small child, make a cup of tea, breath deeply and remind yourself that “other people’s opinion of you is none of your business”.

A quick summary: we have home educated since finding out about it when eldest child (28 this month) was 9 months old… so really, we just continued facilitating his learning, as we’d done since his birth in 1986. Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland, Article 42, specifically names parents as primary educators and says parents “shall be free” to provide education at home. A “new” law, (well, it came half way through our home educating journey) the Education Welfare Act 2000, says parents must apply for assessment, and if they are deemed to be providing “a certain minimum education”, then they are ALLOWED to educate at home… so the state asks us to request permission… which can (and has been) refused.

We can discuss whether you believe the state should ask parents to prove their fitness to home educate (but seeing as education is for us, a seamless continuation of our parenting, then you might as well require all people, hoping to have children, to prove their fitness to be parents).

I could offer the idea that what has happened to our family is evidence of a heavy handed approach by authorities to make lines-be-toed.. to what end, exactly?

How is one “educationally” neglected child in this state better off because we went through a court process, were convicted of “failing to cause” 2 children to attend schools, were fined and imprisoned?

I know people are afraid that we will make things worse and scare off potential home educators.

What I can say is this:

a mother in another county read about our court case, dropped her two children to school, drove to Tullow, enquired in a coffee shop, from a postman, from a man walking his dog and finally found our neighbours, who directed her to our home.

We sat for an hour over coffee and shared stories, She borrowed 2 books and left somewhat reassured, that home educating might be possible for her family.

Maybe she won’t home educate.

Maybe she would have anyway.

But she turned up at our door with doubts and questions, and we did our best to assure her that the ONLY requirement you need to home educate is

TO ENJOY BEING WITH YOUR CHILDREN..

There.

That’s our secret.

Your own success at school. college or life is fairly irrelevant.

Your (lack of) teaching qualification is irrelevant.

But your love for your child and joy of being on a learning journey together is the key.