Lessons Learned - Getting Started in Alberta Home Schooling

Congratulations! You are thinking about home educating one or more of your children. Actually, everyone home schools their child until age six because every parent facilitates an education whether it is preschool, playgroups or informal reading and playing at home. Home schoolers just continue it into the school-aged years. According to the new Fraser report, Homeschooling in Canada (2015), home schooling and home-based education increases an average of 14.4 per cent per year in Canada. With the prevalence and tremendous growth of the popularity of online courses, which are not included in most statistics for traditional home schooling, the trend of “home” education is growing exponentially.

Many parents wonder where they should start, especially if they are beginning mid-year. Here are some simple steps to follow:

Step 1: Notify. If you are pulling your child out of their school mid-year, you need to let the school know your child won’t be coming back. You don’t need to tell the school what you are doing or where your child is going. The receiving school board or private school will take care of that.

Step 2: Register. The next step is to register your child with a school board or private school for help, guidance and supervision. If you register before September 30 every year, you will be eligible for funding, which includes reimbursement for supplies, facility passes and lesson receipts. If you register after September 30, you will have to either stay with your current school board and hopefully sign out their resources as a home schooler, or switch boards and ask if they would supervise your home education program as a rescue home schooler. You do not have to stay with your local school board, and you can register with any of the other 20 school boards or private schools in the province that is willing to accept supervision of home education students. Private, public and non-resident boards all accept home education students and most offer Traditional and/or Blended/Aligned programs.

Step 3: Traditional program, home-based school or a blend of both. You will need to decide what program the board offers that best fits with your goals, level of control and education philosophy. If you are confident and want to do your own thing with minimal interference, you are best to register with a parent-directed traditional program. You will have full power to choose your resources, philosophy and if/what curriculum you may want to use. You will plan, deliver and evaluate the program. You are fully accountable to Alberta Education through your school board. You must meet with your school board twice per year, once in the Fall to plan the year, and once in the Spring to self-evaluate the year. Many self-directed students use this program because of its flexibility. The school board will not give marks or credits and will just sign the certificate assuring that the child has met the Schedule of Learning Outcomes for Students Receiving Home Education Programs That Do Not Follow the Alberta Program of Study. The resource funding for this program is around $850 per child per year.

If you don’t want to home school or teach your child yourself, you can choose home-based school. This is the school delivering the classes via correspondence courses or online courses. This is called a blended or aligned program. A blended program must be at least 50 per cent school delivered on a home-based program with the remaining portion being parent delivered on a Traditional program.

If the blended program is 100 per cent school delivered, it is called aligned or virtual school. The parent is not responsible to the government or the school board on a school-directed home-based program. The student is responsible to a teacher and not you. Your job is like the parent volunteer in a physical classroom. You can help but you are not responsible for delivering the course. You can volunteer to help the teacher by ensuring your child gets to the computer to ‘take the class’ and does the homework and submits it to the school for marking. The school is totally responsible for and funded to do the planning, delivery and evaluation of the course and, therefore, must follow the Alberta Program of Studies. Many of these schools provide live e-classes on the subjects.

A high school blended program must be at least 20 per cent parent-directed traditional delivered on a home schooling program, but it can be 100 per cent school-directed home-based through online or correspondence via many virtual schools. Many parents also do a parent-directed traditional program but if the student wants marks and credits for post-secondary admission, they need to write the same Grade 12 diploma exams as all students in the province write. Thus, it might be helpful to follow the Alberta Program of Studies for the parent-directed home schooling program in Grade 12 so the child knows the material for the diploma exams.

Step 4: Curriculum or no curriculum. Once you have chosen a school board, and you have decided on the home schooling, parent-directed, traditional program, you need to choose resources. I would suggest for the first year, while you are discovering what works for you and your child, you buy only a library card and have an Internet connection. There are many good websites that offer free printable worksheets, videos and games for every grade, interest and topic. The library also offers textbooks for parents to try and if they don’t work for your family, you haven’t spent any money. Or, you may wish to take a more free-learning approach and let the child learn through what they discover around the house. The world is their classroom and curriculum is the what and how learning is delivered. The world can provide many sources of learning.

Step 5: Get connected. Lastly, seek support. No one goes it alone and everyone needs an informal mentor or group to ask questions and seek support. Type in ‘home schooling’ and your province in the Facebook search engine and you will find many support groups. There are many groups on Yahoo too. Take it a year at a time and remember, the first year is mostly to discover who your children are as learners and how best to live and learn together as a family. As a home schooling (unschooling) parent of five children (three of whom are attending university), I can’t begin to regale the tales of unfettered curiosity, learning, initiative, maturity, confidence and opportunities home schooling has created.

I have not yet met one parent who has regretted their decision. They enjoy their time together as a family of learners. Happy home schooling!

Judy Arnall, DTM, Certified Family Life Educator, has founded a Facebook group, Alberta Homeschooling, to help new home schoolers get started. She is the unschooling mom of five children, and author of the upcoming book, Free-learning to University. For more information, contact 403-714-6766, email jarnall@shaw.ca or visit professionalparenting.ca

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