Bill 144: Get Ready for a Regeneration in Homeschooling
By Louise Frazer
(Note: The author is a member services assistant at HSLDA and has also served on the Québec-wide advisory panel on homeschooling.)
We may sometimes have the impression that laws are written and passed by stone-faced legislators in ivory towers. We think the laws and proposed bills pass by their grim faces as though they were bricks on an assembly line. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in the case of Québec’s Bill 144.
Legislators are as human as the rest of us with preconceived ideas, ideals, and passions which add colour and substance to the public debates as well as informal conversation in the hallways. Our elected representatives are bound by law to take into consideration the concerns of the public. The many phone calls, letters, emails, and visits to them from the homeschool community have made a powerful impact and invited lively debate. The reports and discussions with HSLDA, backed by hundreds of our Québec members, have helped give form and substance to the new legislation. Although far from perfect, it is workable.
Law is one thing, but applying it is another, and so our work is not done. One thing the regulation plans to put in place is giving a voice and face to the homeschooling movement. Although many parents are nervous about encountering any official for the end of the year evaluations (and consider this appointment an intrusion), this will further give the homeschooling community “en masse” an opportunity to continue to inform, influence, and challenge the preconceived notions of what homeschooling is about. We are called to be ambassadors and we’ll be able to do so knowing that homeschooling is a valid legal option right alongside public and private schooling. Let’s remind ourselves that we are intelligent, thoughtful, caring, and capable parent-educators who have taken on the responsibility and joy of educating our children in the way they should go. We will face the evaluators in a similar vein to how we faced our lawmakers and will continue to inform, influence, and challenge.
That is just the beginning. Now that homeschooling has been given renewed life, we will see exponential growth. For those who lead co-ops and support groups, prepare to expand. For those who were thinking of beginning a support group, prepare to implement your project. And, there are other ways in which we could see homeschooling expand.
A natural extension to many homeschooling families is reaching out and serving others. There are as many ways of fulfilling this as there are families, and with the wind under our wings many will be able to expand their current projects. Because the nature of home education is enriched and effective, many families find the time for volunteer work in their communities. It may be that in the future homeschool families will be known for not only their successful academics and stellar social skills, but also for their extensive, invaluable community service. As just one example of this opportunity, look at the coming crisis of an aging population with too few to care for them. Already, many homeschool families visit, sing, and send cards and artwork to forgotten elderly citizens, making a difference in their lonely lives. With our concentrated school days freeing up time and our hearts full of love and concern for others, service such as this could be on the rise and become, in fact, indispensable.
At that point, society at large would see the benefits, not only for the homeschooled individuals, but for the collective whole. What started out as a law to manage and control a growing and frequently misunderstood form of education, could become the catalyst to anchoring homeschooling in the bedrock of society.