Combining education with care
As a young carer, you might find school a place where you can forget about your caring responsibilities and feel “normal” for a while. But it can also be a place where you’re under extra pressure or where people don’t understand what your life is like outside school. It can sometimes be hard to juggle all your responsibilities as a young carer with the demands of teachers, friends and homework.
There are lots of ways your school can help but for it to happen somebody at school needs to know about your situation!
This Saturday my older brother will graduate magna cum laude from Volunteer State Community College with his Associate’s degree in Computer Information Technology. While every degree is special, this one is particularly significant. Earning this degree was a hard-fought battle, requiring perseverance, inner strength, and tenacity. 18 years ago, my brother made a decision that put his entire life on hold. When our mother was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, she underwent a spinal surgery...read more→
I believe that teachers should be prepared for what it means to have young caregivers among their students to know how to approach them and learn about them signals to watch out for. Young caregivers need to feel in a safe environment and that they know they can count on teachers interested in their well-being, available to listen to their problems and ready to direct them to the professional more adequate for them. If my...read more→
You deserve to have an education and you should be allowed to pursue any qualifications you want.
If you sacrifice your education due to your caring role it will cause problems later in your life (it can be more difficult to find a job, you can have financial problems and you can feel not fulfilled and excluded from society).
Your right to have an education means that teachers cannot discriminate against you because you are a carer. On the contrary, they have to put in place some adjustments to ensure that you can go to school, have good grades and finalise your education.
Talk to someone in school about what you do at home. This person can be a teacher, a year coordinator, a lecturer, a school counsellor, the pastoral service.
Only if somebody at school knows your situation, you can receive support. Examples of support you can get:
- more time for assignments,
- quiet time out of class to think,
- someone to help you work out a study plan,
- permission to use a phone during breaks and lunchtime so you can check on the person you’re looking after,
- possibility to join lunchtime groups or homework support groups for young carers (in some schools)
- The school could also put you in touch with a service who can organise more support at home to help you concentrate on school or college.
You might find it difficult to talk about your home life with a teacher, so you could ask someone in your family to write a letter to the school, perhaps to the head of year.
Remember that some teachers don’t know what a young carer is! Let them know about this website (or the websites in the section “Who can help?”) so they can find out more information and become aware of what it means to be in your situation.
Write down a list of things you do to help the person you care for. If you feel comfortable, show it to your teachers so they know about the extra responsibilities you have at home.
Don’t feel that you need to say everything. Start by only sharing what you want to.
Come up with a plan with your teacher about how you’re going to deal with homework and assignments. In your plan, talk about what you might need to do in case of a crisis, e.g. if your relative is very unwell and you need to be absent for long time from school. For instance, the school could you send homework at home and provide you with any other support so that you remain engaged.
Understand that if you’re off your game, it’s not because you’re a bad student. It is not easy to combine school work with the extra responsibilities you have at home.
Some teachers may understand your situation better than others.
If you feel like you’re not heard, seek the support of someone else.