Welcome to the second in the ‘Schooling and the Highly Sensitive Child’ interview series. This week I am talking to Katie*, a mother in Ireland who took her child out of the formal setting of school to educate him herself at home.
It’s a big decision to make such a change, but one that seems fairly common (reading through parenting forums) when it comes to schooling highly sensitive children. In some countries, choosing to homeschool your child is a straight forward process. In others, like the Netherlands, it is nigh on impossible to do. Believe me, it’s something I have looked in to!
In Ireland however, homeschooling is allowed, and I am delighted that Katie has kindly agreed to share her story with us.
HSK: Why did you decide to homeschool your son?
Katie: Because we weren’t happy with the overly structured, one-size-fits-all, overstimulating environments of the schools that were available to us.
HSK: What behaviours did you see in him previous to home schooling that caused concern?
Katie: At preschool it was clear that he didn’t feel nearly as safe and happy in the environment as he was at home and with friends and family. He was very anxious about attending. We tried 2. Same applied to each.
HSK: What support did you get from others whilst making a decision about how to educate your son? (School, family, third parties)
Katie: Most support came in the form of encouragement from friends. My friend, a former teacher also had an HSC whom she felt would learn better outside of school. Other home educators were also supportive.
HSK: How did you come to the final decision to home school? What options did you consider?
Katie: The (pre)school environment was making him too unhappy. Even though I did find the staff approachable and accommodating there, the environment was too overstimulating and overly structured for him, so we took him out. It was a relief to decide to forgo school. He joined various classes and groups and we were lucky in that he had a core group of friends whom he saw regularly, so the decision came from giving it a go and then the feeling that that was what worked best for us.
HSK: Were there any legal implications or requirements you needed to meet to homeschool in Ireland?
We needed to go through a registration process which involved completing a detailed application form outlining all aspect of our approach and providing evidence of learning. Then an assessor came to the house to examine the education provision. It was pretty straightforward. There was a follow up after a few years.
You can find out more about home education in Ireland here.
HSK: What changes did you see in your son once you started home educating?
What advice would you offer other parents in the same situation?
Katie: His early school experience was a few months at pre-school so it’s more a case of we tried it and it didn’t work for him. He was far happier not having to go and therefore learning more in the safety of the home environment. I would say, trust your child. They tell us in very clear ways what nurtures them and what doesn’t.
My son has just turned 15. He decided to go to school at secondary level (age 13) and he’s doing great there (receiving the student of the year award). He finds the bombardment of the school environment a challenge but knowing his trait, tries to do what he heeds to counteract this with quiet downtime etc, but I feel because he chooses to be there and has oodles of HSC conscientiousness that overall he manages well.
HSK: Were there any downsides to homeschooling?
We weren’t living close to other home educators so it sometimes involved quite a bit of travel to get together with other home educators. That could be a a drag at times. We got criticism from other family members. My mother in law was very against it. That was hard as it wasn’t a decision we took lightly.
Also it was hard at times to carve out some downtime, getting time alone to recharge.
Lessons from Katie’s Story
- Choosing to homeschool your child does not been they will never attend a school. One day your child may decide they want to go to a school, because they can cope with the busy environment better than when they were younger.
- Once a child understands themselves better they develop coping tools for things that overwhelmed them when they were small.
- If you are highly sensitive yourself then taking on the role of homeschooler means you need to find a way to carve out the time you need to recharge and empty your own bucket.
- Trust your child.