Last Tuesday, September 13, 2016, Manon Fortin, legal assistant for HSLDA, went to the Montreal offices of the Minister of Education to meet the Minister, Sébastien Proulx. Although this was not HSLDA’s first meeting with the government, this was the first opportunity that HSLDA has had to have an audience with the Minister himself. Mr. Proulx wanted to meet with the different representatives of the homeschooling community in person, in order to have a better idea of the situation and problems encountered in the field. HSLDA’s presence last Tuesday was particularly important for the minister, given that HSLDA plays a major role in the homeschooling file, and given that HSLDA is so familiar with the legal aspects of homeschooling.

The general overview of the meeting was positive, the Minister seeming to be favorable towards homeschooling. “For the Minister,” confirmed Manon Fortin, “it is clear that homeschooling is a right.” Moreover, the proposals of Minister Proulx showed that he knew how to make the distinction between homeschooling and the clandestine schools that do not respect the laws and make headlines. This point is reassuring since it indicates that the present government is not looking to throw themselves into a witch hunt for those who choose alternatives routes for their children’s’ education. Rather, the minister is trying to understand the global portrait of the situation, his primary objective being to ensure that all children receive an adequate education, while respecting the rights of those who wish to travel a different path.

Acting as the representative of HSLDA, Manon Fortin took advantage of this discussion to establish the distinction that must be made between homeschooling (where the home is a unique place of learning adapted for the child) and school at home, (where the teaching provided in public or private schools is simply reproduced at home). “Understanding this is the key,” explains Manon. “This distinction helps the Minister to understand the problem of school boards who want to impose on homeschooling parents, which then explains why families do not register.”

If the school boards would make this distinction and understand that the parents do not want to simply do school at home, “they would be more open and will act according to the reality that these families are experiencing,” she says. “Families will therefore be less reticent to be known by authorities. And in consequence, the school boards will be in a better position to know where the homeschooling children are.”

But at the moment, the battle is far from over in this regard. Although the school boards use an orientation document produced by the government that invites them to show flexibility with homeschooling families, they tend, nevertheless, to develop rigid internal policies incompatible with this type of schooling. They often demand that the parent adopt the Ministry-approved programs and that the children submit to exams that reflect that. Therefore, the parents cannot make such a commitment when the law only obligates them to produce teaching equivalent to what is given at school. These legal provisions give them considerable latitude, which they want to fully enjoy, while the school boards are often not inclined to grant them this same flexibility.

Minister Proulx displayed that he was conscious of the problem and the tensions that arise. He knows that many parents experience difficult relations with the school board and that such a situation undermines the confidence in the school boards, and even further dissuades the parents from notifying the school boards. For the Minister, who considers it essential to know where the home educated children are, it is a real problem that must be solved.

For now, the Minister is in the beginning of the analytical process and no solution has been put forward. Caught between parents who clamor for the respect of their legal rights and school boards who demand clearer guidelines, will the minister rewrite the policy designed for the school boards? Or will he simply bring in clarifications to ensure better consistency among the school boards and more harmonious relations with parents?

In order to fuel his reflection, the Minister invited Manon Fortin to submit her suggestions and recommendations. HSLDA is therefore well-positioned to follow the development of this file and to exercise its influence in the government’s decision-making.The openness of the Ministry of Education is promising for the Quebec homeschool community. It leads us to believe that the present government is resolved to take things in hand while taking into consideration the needs and concerns of parents. HSLDA is actively representing you in this regard.