With the Leaving Cert murder machine in full flow, teenagers across the country are engaged in coffee fuelled cramming sessions. Here’s an interesting mini-documentary on one antidote to the exam madness – home schooling.
It’s definitely not for every family, but the documentary gives a sharp insight to the process nonetheless. Sadly, the O’Neill-O’Connor family from Tullow featured in the piece are stuck in the middle of a nasty court case with the National Education Welfare Board at the moment. Yesterday was judgement day for them, after court concluded Monica O’Connor circulated a message to her supporters and friends:
“We were in court 10.30am – 5pm and were convicted of “failing to cause” Elva and Oran to attend school, fined €1,000 each with 180 days to pay. We have been offered help to appeal or seek judicial review so will explore our options. It was wonderful to feel the support from people. Eddie did an amazing job representing us and cross-examining NEWB witnesses. When we shook hands with the NEWB team, their solicitor said he had missed a vocation in law!”
The family are sticking to their guns and disputing it on the basis that it’s diluting their constitutional rights to home educate. Monica had issued a statement explaining the background to the cause some while ago.
“Among our network of home educating families are many who are not registered. Some of them have welcomed NEWB assessors to their homes, to discuss their approach to home education and to meet their children, when these assessors were being trained, yet these families have not been followed up for assessment. We believe we are being harassed by a state agency which knows our children are not being neglected.”
In the mini-documentary, Eddie O’Neill, himself a secondary school teacher goes into his own educational philosophy.
“In many regards there’s a disconnect between young people and adults, in modern society and a lot of that is down to the opportunities that adults have to listen to children, and what’s driving them. In schools a lot of those opportunities are not there, they are neglected. The children listen to the adults and that’s really it.”
He critiques the exam system for exerting an undue mental pressure across those involved in education.
“Schools are stressed buildings, I’ve worked in one for a long time. Where as home educated children they want to learn. Where as I go round to schools and I ask sixth years how they are feeling and they are stressed and the words ‘terrified’ comes up a lot. For an exam. which may or may not give them a job, which may or may not give them a job that they like doing. Their parents are stressed. Their teachers are stressed and that seems to be okay.”
rabble just got off the phone with Eddie, he’s in good humour but obviously taken aback. I asked him if he could ascribe motivation for their harassment.
“What’s the motivation? We are mystified, it’s clearly written in the constitution. We don’t really understand the legal system, it’s confusing, either the constitution is the law of the land or it’s not. If someone can explain how we were convicted, we’d love to know. Six hours spent in court on a day like that. You’d be better off at the sea side.”
There are 6 children in the gang, aged from 26 to 5 years. All of whom were home schooled for their primary years. Two of the older boys did some secondary and sat the Leaving Cert. Their 17 year old is finishing the first year of a classical music degree in DIT having never sat the leaving. Another son is engaged in a two year FETAC Level 6 course in acting.
The family previously featured on RTE’s Meet The Family in 2005.