The Family Project is a new six-part TV series that follows families from around Ireland working together to overcome educational issues that affect their lives. They work with experts and well-known mentors to overcome the problem, bringing them closer as a family.
In next week’s episode (Monday 27 May), single parent Kieran O’Brien will look to find ways to support his three children’s education in what is a very busy routine. “You do everything I suppose a single parent does – washing, cooking, cleaning, buying clothes, shopping – to squeeze all that in and then do the homework, you know it’s challenging,” says Kieran. “If I can get any tips on parenting or ways of enhancing their education I’m up for it,” he says.
To help him along the way will be ex-TD and Minister for Education, Mary O’Rourke. “Parents are the first educators of their children so I think the best marriage you can have is the marriage between school and home, so that the child constantly as he or she goes through school is getting the best out of that, and is able to marry that with the very best that parents can give a child in the home” says Mary.
In the programme we see Mary travel from her home in Westmeath to meet Kieran and his three children, Saoirse, Sean and Shannon at their home in the suburb of Turners Cross, Cork. Mary has nothing but praise for Kieran and encourages him not to beat himself up as a parent. “Lone parents tend to do that – they don’t think they’re doing enough but you’re doing plenty, you’re doing really well,” she says.
She arranges for Kieran to meet Mary Horgan, a family education expert with City of Cork VEC. She shows him how easy it is to introduce learning into every day activities and gives him lots of handy tips for helping the children at home after school. “The key is to get them involved and give them an active role in their own learning, for example getting the eldest girl Saoirse to read a story to the younger ones as this will give her confidence in reading as well,” she says.
“(I’ve learnt) the whole concept of family learning is really not the amount that you do for the children but the amount you teach them to do for themselves – you know the kids find it fun and I do the best I can and at the end of the day that’s all a parent can do,” says Kieran.
Throughout the programme Mary O’Rourke is on hand to support Kieran and encourages him to make more time for himself. “He’s just a model Dad,” says Mary, “but I’d also like to see that he is able to have some free time for himself”.
“It was completely out of my comfort zone but it’s been very beneficial for me and the kids – I was just kind of caught up in the kids and the domestic workload but we’re conscious of it now. I’ll try and make time for myself when I get the opportunity and I’m starting to educate them about doing things for themselves more as well, and you know they’re very confident, very outgoing, very happy kids,” says Kieran
The Family Projectis on RTÉ ONE at 7.30pm every Monday. It showcases the educational tools and techniques that are available to all families and how they can apply these methods to activities that involve the whole gang. With the passion and involvement of some of Ireland’s most respected personalities, the series will both inspire and inform families on how easy it is to enrich their lives by learning together.
Since 2000, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has been using the mass medium of television to highlight literacy issues, outline supports that are available, motivate people to return to education and provide opportunities for learning in the privacy of their own home.
NALA has also developed a website to help parents support their children’s education called www.helpmykidlearn.ie. It includes general information, fun activities and useful tips. Help My Kid Learn is a website where people can see that supporting a child’s literacy and numeracy development is a natural, easy and fun activity that can be integrated into any part of their day.