Calgary is a great place to home school, largely due to the endless array of choices regarding how to home school and the many supplementary activities available to enrich your home schooling experience. Sometimes, though, all those choices can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out. If you’re confused over what to do and how to do it, it’s time to simplify.
Here are some first steps that will help you get your bearings and connect with the support you need:
1. Choose one activity you will do daily to keep your own personal balance. It can be anything from an early morning run to an evening yoga wind-down. Maybe it’s 10 minutes at the start of the day for reading, prayer or meditation, or connecting with your girlfriend for a phone chat. For some, it’s watching a favorite TV show and for others, it’s catching up with their social media world. So many of the things parents try to do fall right into place if we, as parents, start by taking care of ourselves first.
2. Get a rough idea of how you want to initially home school. The word ‘initially’ is important. It reminds us we are starting out on a journey that will inevitably have detours. And here’s the best part: you don’t have to have the whole journey mapped out when you start.
If you prefer a structured approach that covers the bases, you may choose to follow the Alberta Program of Studies and have a home school program that is fully aligned with the provincial curriculum (Aligned).
Or maybe you know you and your child will work better with a more flexible, child-led program that is less structured (Traditional with child-led or Unschooling approach).
Then again, you may have heard about or researched some other curriculum that sounds absolutely wonderful (Traditional with structured curriculum approach).
And finally, there are home school programs that include the elements listed above. Perhaps doing Alberta curriculum for math, using other curriculums for Language Learning and following your child’s interests in another subject. Depending on your individual mix, you might be considered Aligned, Traditional or Blended (a mix of the other two).
Each of these is a valid way to start. The main thing is it suits you and your child, and it’s working. Keep in mind if something isn’t working, you can change it - that’s the beauty of home schooling.
3. Choose a home schooling board or authority and, if possible, sign up before September 30 (the cut-off date when boards count their students and, based on these numbers, are allocated government funds for the year). If you have a rough idea (from point #2) of how you wish to home school, you can discuss this with school boards you are considering to see if it’s a good fit. Some boards support all kinds of home schooling while others specialize more in one type than the other. So be sure to have that conversation. Registration with a board is a legal requirement and can also be a valuable resource.
Boards are given money by Alberta Learning for your child’s education; some of which they retain to pay for teaching and administrative costs, and some of which is made available to reimburse you for learning resources.
Boards hire certified teachers who must meet with you twice a year to help set your learning plan in motion and to evaluate your child’s progress at end of year. They are also available to help you throughout the year should you need ideas, help or resources.
Many boards offer classes in a school setting on a part-time basis, which is a great way to meet other home schoolers and a great way to expose your child to a variety of learning experiences. Some of these programs are comprehensive enough to cover one or more Alberta Program of Studies courses.
Most boards set up field trips and/or social activities for their home schooling families and some allow students from a different board to participate as well.
An easy way to choose a board is to go where your friends are if you already have home schooling friends. Ask for their advice and see what they recommend for your family.
4. Build your home schooling network; you’ll be so glad you did. Calgary is a home schooling hub with many groups that meet online and/or in person.
General groups are a great way to find other home schoolers, field trips and activities, and ask questions you may have about everything home schooling.
Geographically-based groups will help you find home schoolers closer to home.
Home schooling groups within a certain religious affiliation are great for finding others who share your beliefs and values.
Groups that support a specialized learning situation (such as a learning disability, ASD or giftedness) are a sure way to find a supportive community. If there isn’t a specific home schooling group already, connect instead with a parent support group that includes all kinds of schoolers. You may find some home schoolers within the group and in any case, you’ll be building a crucial support network with others who face similar challenges. Also, if you get involved in a North American or international group, you may get lucky and find a few locals as well.
Home schooling coffee groups - usually a bunch of moms who meet to talk their faces off one evening a month - are a sure-fire way to meet other home schooling families and to get answers for all your newbie questions. Join online groups to find the coffee moms!
5. Start learning! If you remember from point #2 to expect detours, you can dive in and try an online course or curriculum without that awful ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ worry. Really, some things are not going to work and that’s okay. The most seasoned home schoolers will tell you every year is different, every child is different and changing things up as you go is just how it is.
Finding your home schooling homies
This list is just a tiny sample of what’s available. Follow these links to find even more awesome groups:
Run by a veteran home schooling father, this site is a treasure trove of home schooling links - calgaryhomeschool.com/int-groups.shtml
A general home schooling group, ask questions, share resources, get informed - groups.yahoo.com/group/calgary-hs
A general home schooling group focused on activities available. Find an activity or create one and invite others to join - facebook.com/CalgaryHomeschoolActivities
A Yahoo group for those home schooling children with special-needs or who are considering home schooling - groups.yahoo.com/group/calgary-hsspecialkids
Undogmatic Unschoolers (another site with great links) - undogmaticunschoolers.wordpress.com/unschooling-in-calgary/connect/
Cochrane Home Educators - cochranehomeeducators.com
Support for adults and children with ADD or ADHD - members.shaw.ca/chaddcalgary
Support for individuals with ASD - autismcalgary.com
Teresa is an author and educator living a lifelong learning adventure as she home schools her youngest child.
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