You may want your child to learn from home but due to work, travel, or other reasons, do not want to teach your child at home. We are lucky to live in Alberta where choice in education is enshrined in the Education Act and you have many education delivery choices. Read on for a list of choices and a guide to help you choose the best one for your unique learner.
Rest assured that your child can access university and colleges through all these choices:
1. Supported Home Education. This is what most people think of when they envision home education. Unique to Alberta, just because you have taken on the responsibility of providing your child’s education, doesn’t mean you have to do the teaching. You can procure the teaching from pods, coops, non-government online courses, such as Khan Academy, and a variety of learning experiences in the community offered by the Zoo, Science Centre, Libraries, and recreation centres.
Many parents “unschool” by empowering their child to learn through life experiences where relevancy increases learning motivation. This is the only option for supply and lesson reimbursement of $850 per child per year. You notify with a supportive home education school board that offers two facilitator support visits per year. You choose the activities, resources, and evaluation methods and do not have to give marks, nor follow the government’s Alberta Programs of Study. There is no testing unless you want to. This program is best for younger grades, kindergarten to Grade 6, where children’s brains are wired to learn most effectively through physical experiences and in-person activities rather than through a screen. It is also recommended for high school home education children who want to earn credits for a government diploma.
2. Unsupported Home Education. New for 2021 is the option to notify directly with the government and forego support, high school credits, and funding. All other benefits of the supported option are on this program. You send the form into the government and are left alone for the rest of the year. This option is best if you have the experience and confidence in home educating. You can outsource teaching, travel and use any resources you wish to provide your child’s education, and you do not have to send anything in or meet up with a facilitator. Children gain post-secondary admission by challenging the Grade 12 diploma exams; they study for them using any resources they wish.
3. Distance Education via Online and At-Home Learning. This is school but in your living room delivered through a screen. This is best when you want to be hands-off, just as you would be if your child was attending traditional school. The school is responsible for all delivery of the Alberta Programs of Study outcomes per grade. You make sure your child gets the assignments done (just like homework and tolerate the messy parts in your home). This program is best for teens from Grades 7 and up who have more abstract theoretical thinking power, a greater attention span, and can manage the digital world on their own with little supervision.
4. Distance Education via Teacher-Directed and Print-Based Programs. This is school also delivered to your home but with little teacher-child interaction. A big box of books is delivered to your door, and it is up to your child to unpack the books, organize the lessons, and self-teach from the materials. It is correspondence-based education delivery and tutorial-style teaching - the teacher is available by phone or email if your child reaches out for help. This type of program is best for independent and self-disciplined learners - ones who are motivated to get the assignments done without constant parental nagging. It requires parental supervision to break down schedules and adhere to them and help your child send in their assignments by the due date. This may have more freedom of due dates, but with that comes procrastination and worry. If you want flexibility, supported home education may be the best option where you control the assignments and due dates and activities. Not recommended for children younger than high school.
5. Shared Responsibility. This option is best if you want to take on a subject or two and leave the rest to the school to provide, or you want to outsource one or two subjects to the school and provide the rest (part Home Education, part Distance Education). Some school boards offer in-person classes for their share of the subject teaching. It’s the beginning of the hybrid model of education where students can learn best in the format and delivery model that works for their temperament, interests, age, and, most importantly, learning style in each subject area. It utilizes the best that schools, community venues, coops, other parents, and the online world have to offer. This is best for Grades 7 and up where children are taking on more independent responsibility to learn and get assignments done, but in gradual allocation of responsibility. This is also best when you do not wish to teach a certain subject or want to cover a certain subject, but not the whole curriculum.
Remember, you only commit to a program for the year. Children grow in brain capacity, and you can change programs each summer for the new ‘school’ year. You also have the option to put your child back into the classroom each fall. Enjoy the buffet of choices Alberta provides.
Judy Arnall, CCFE, DTM, is a certified brain and child development specialist and master of non-punitive parenting and education practices. She is the bestselling author of five books translated into five languages, including Discipline Without Distress and Parenting With Patience. Her latest bestselling books are Unschooling To University and The Happy Homeschooling Handbook - Alberta, available to purchase at albertahomeschooling.ca. Visit her at professionalparenting.ca, judyarnall.com, and unschoolinguniversity.com.
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