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How to Begin Your Homeschooling Journey

Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Come join the fastest growing educational alternative in North America. Here are the 10 first steps to begin your homeschooling journey:

Step 1: Do your homework! Talk to home education families. Attend a ‘Thinking about Homeschooling’ class or webinar.

Step 2: Find a private school or a public school board to register with. Go to their information sessions to hear what their requirements and responsibilities are. They vary with each organization and may not necessarily be Alberta Education requirements. You can register your child with any non-resident school authority within Alberta that is willing to accept your child. There are at least 50 willing authorities. To view the list of private schools and associate boards that register and supervise Alberta Home Education programs, regardless of location for 2017 to 2018, visit my website, professionalparenting.ca/articles/PPHomeeducationschoolboards2017-2018.pdf.

Step 3: Explore what your teaching/learning philosophy is. Do you believe in rote learning, discovery learning, or experiential learning? Do you think your child learns best independently, or does your child need direct teaching? Is your parenting style authoritarian or more relaxed? Is your child a visual or a hands-on learner? You know best what works for you and your family, and all of these considerations are supported within home education in Alberta.

You do not have to follow the Alberta Program of Studies (APS) or use the Alberta Education curriculum. Your child just needs to know 22 items of a basic education before they turn 20 (http://aheps.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Scheduleoflearningoutcomes.pdf). Your child will not undergo testing unless they want marks and credit for the Grade 12 core subjects. If they want marks and credit for the Grade 12 core subjects, they will have to write the same Diploma Exams as every other child.

Step 4: Decide on the program you want. 

There are only three program choices when considering education at home:

1. Home Education. This is Parent-Directed (Parent-Controlled) home education; also informally called “Traditional.”

2. Blended-Home Education and Distance Education. This is half parent-controlled traditional home education for some subjects and half school-controlled distance education for the other subjects that are delivered via online, correspondence, or classroom. This blend can be 20/80 per cent for high school either way.

3. Distance Education. This is not home education. This is school-controlled education at home. There is no “aligned” program according to Alberta Education. When schools use the term “aligned” or “teacher-directed,” they mean it is school-provided education based in the home but selected, controlled, taught, and assessed by the school. Distance Education is also called Virtual School, Distance Learning, Distributed Learning, or Online Learning. How the school teaches the Alberta Program of Studies, which is about 1,400 outcomes per grade, depends on which methods (screen text, videos, textbook readings) and materials they choose. In distance education, your child will have a teacher that assigns and marks their work (not you), and will be fully responsible for teaching the course.

As a parent, you have the same rights and responsibilities of a child in a physical school. You do not control the ‘classroom’ and you also do not get reimbursement funding or resource allocation because you are not providing a home education program. The government gives resource allocation funding and instructional grants to hire the teachers to teach the program provided by the school, so you do not get any funding nor do you get technology hardware. In fact, you will pay school fees and have parent-teacher interviews, just as a parent with a child in a physical school does.

Step 5: Register with a school authority by filling out the Home Education Notification Form and submit a Learning/Education Plan by September 30, 2017. Plan your goals, resources, and assessment methods. Be sure that any resource you wish to buy with reimbursement funding is mentioned in the plan. Plan Template: aheps.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Sample-Learning-Plan-AHEPS.pdf.

Step 6: If you are going to use, purchase curriculum. Many unschoolers do not use prescribed curriculum. A library card and Internet access is all you really need to start the homeschooling year until you discover how your child learns best (through workbooks or hands-on kits, videos, field trips, etc.). Your school will help you with resources and choices. Many children, especially in the younger grades, dislike workbooks and textbooks, and there are many hands-on activities downloadable from the Internet that make learning fun.

Step 7: Find your community support. Be sure to ask for help and advice. Type in the keywords ‘homeschooling and [your city]’ in Facebook and you will find community support groups. Two of the biggest Alberta parent support groups are the Alberta Home Education Parents Society, aheps.ca, and the Alberta Home Education Association (Christian-based), aheaonline.com.

Step 8: Continue your home educationprofessional development! Keep learning about this wonderful alternative to school. Did you know that home education for an elementary-aged child only takes about 20 minutes of seatwork a day? That is less than what most parents spend on helping their child with homework each evening.

Step 9: Educate others. Is your partner or family not completely on board with homeschooling? This excellent article on up-to-date research may convince them! Check out the Fraser Institute Report on Canadian Homeschooling, 2015 Edition, fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/home-schooling-in-canada-2015-rev2.pdf.

Step 10: Enjoy the journey! The first year of homeschooling is always a learning year for you and your child. But rest assured, in time you will enjoy the many benefits of homeschooling to come: amazing learning, confidence, relaxed family time, and a lifelong love of learning. 

The Alberta Home Education Parents Society (AHEPS), provides advice, information, and advocacy for its members through regular monthly webinars, surveys, and an annual online conference. Join them for only $11 at aheps.ca.

Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE (Certified Family Life Educator), teaches parenting at the University of Calgary, Continuing Education, and has taught for Chinook Learning, Families Matter, and Alberta Health Services for over 13 years. Judy is the author of the international bestseller, Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery, and Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps. For more information, contact 403-714-6766 or email jarnall@shaw.ca. To join the list for monthly notification of her free parenting webinars, proudly sponsored by Calgary’s Child Magazine, visit professionalparenting.ca.

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