By Jean jr. Landry, with contributions by Peter Stock, Megen Zelinka and Manon Fortin

It’s official. The 45 days to submit our observations and final recommendations regarding the Regulations on homeschooling have come to  an end. Another big step has been completed and the ball is now in the government’s side of the court. Now they will take all the comments they received into consideration and write the final version of the text. By June 1, the homeschool community will have the official Regulation that will determine how home education will operate for years to come.

This is an opportune moment to give a report of the work accomplished so far and to understand where we are going. Bill 144 has mobilized many different players in the educational milieu and HSLDA has been actively involved on behalf of our members. In this optic, we will present, beginning today, a series of three articles summarizing what has been accomplished publicly (and behind the scenes) to protect and highlight the rights and freedoms of parent-educators.

Today, we will give a brief review of the 2016 events when the Minister of Education announced his intention to better supervise homeschooling in Québec. Tomorrow we will concentrate on the legislative process leading to passing Bill 144, as well as setting up the Québec Advisory Panel for homeschooling. We will then conclude the week by discussing the Regulation on homeschooling, the various political issues involved in its elaboration, and the disappointment of many parent-educators. To conclude this series, we will summarize what to expect this fall and how we will assist you during this transition period.

The Underdog Fight

First of all, we must remember that although homeschooling is a constantly expanding movement, it remains very marginal, particularly in Québec. According to the official figures provided by the Ministry of Education, 0.1% of Québec children are educated at home. Even if we add to this number families who have not declared themselves to school authorities, the proportion of parents who choose this educational option remains extremely modest. Therefore, when the Minister of Education publicly announced his intention to amend the Education Act and provide new provisions regarding homeschooling, the issues were enormous and the risks very grave for our community. Not only were parent-educators a tiny minority, but in general their reputation was tainted by numerous prejudices and by the highly publicized phenomenon of illegal schools. Unfortunately, too often this reputation was associated with homeschooling in the public opinion.

For the Minister of Education, it was a golden opportunity for political gain. He could create a bulldozer law that would ignore our demands and win praise from school boards as well as a large section of the public. His actions were also appeasing to the opposition parties’ protests, which always seem to view homeschool as a thorn in the foot and not as the priceless blessing it really is. Naturally, the intention of the government to modify the legislation was received with much apprehension by parent-educators … and with good reason! Our rights and freedoms were in danger and the winds did not seem at all favorable to us.

A Pleasant Surprise

Despite the fears stirred up by the government’s reform, that first event displayed a glimmer of hope: Minister Sébastien Proulx invited HSLDA as well as several other associations and groups to personally meet him so that he could better understand homeschooling. From the time of this first encounter on September 13, 2016, the Minister proved to be favorable to homeschooling and demonstrated that he understood the distinction between this form of legitimate education and the illegal schools that made headlines. Moreover, Mr. Proulx was conscious of the existing tensions between parent-educators and the school boards, and he wanted to find a solution.  

HSLDA took advantage of this private meeting to insist on what would be our battle cry throughout the legislative process to come: the distinct character of homeschooling. The new law simply must not make parents reproduce at home what is done in schools. It must recognize parents’ freedom to choose their own course of learning. This is an essential condition since it encapsulates the essence of home education. In the same vein, the law must also permit parents to choose the method of evaluating their child’s progress.

At the end of this encounter, the Minister invited HSLDA to submit in writing our recommendations for home education.

During the Fall of 2016, the Minister launched his sweeping public consultation aimed at reforming the education system. In November, HSLDA submitted our first written recommendations regarding home education to the Minister. This first document painted a global portrait of homeschooling in Canada and the world. It also brought up some issues encountered by Québec parent-educators with regard to school boards; and, it made recommendations so that parents could fully enjoy the rights and freedoms that the law conferred on them, as it was then written.

Tomorrow, we will continue this series and cover the 2017 announcement by the Minister of Education of his intention to modify the education law. We will see what the strategy of HSLDA was regarding this announcement and in what way we have been actively involved in the Advisory Panel.