April 17, 2016
“Illegal” Issues in Homeschooling: Be informed and stay in touch
By Louise Frazer.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is the diversity‐‐diverse families, diverse curriculum, diverse methods of evaluation, and there is even a certain diversity across Canada. We are fortunate to enjoy a great deal of freedom. Freedom does not mean anything goes, however. But how do we distinguish between what is legal and what is not? Here are some important guidelines to consider.
Across Canada, homeschooling is a right and a privilege given to parents for their own children’s benefit. Parents must take the onus of their child’s education on themselves. Co‐ops and homeschool support groups, while helpful for enrichment of a child’s program and a social outlet for both mom and child, cannot substitute for actual instruction at home. Generally speaking, no homeschooler should attend such a group during school hours for more than 1 ½ days per week. We will underline this point more carefully for Québec, a province that must pay particular attention to any semblance of an “illegal school’’.
All of Canada benefits from an almost limitless range of curriculum options. Our members use a variety of methods and materials ranging from unschooling to text books. Parents are free to choose curriculum that best fits their family’s needs as long as the children demonstrate reasonable progress. That said, evaluation goes with a given curriculum, which is why HSLDA vehemently opposes any push towards evaluation with in‐school testing. Those evaluations are designed to test curriculum taught in school, and children in school are prepared accordingly. Since homeschooling allows a wide choice of curriculum, evaluation methods need to vary accordingly. For example, evaluation could be in the form of standardized tests or portfolio evaluation. Monitoring progress is key.
In recent months, HSLDA has been to Québec City to negotiate with the Ministry of Education on behalf of our members, and so it is especially important that our Québec families conduct themselves in a professional manner as the Ministry’s eye is trained on them. It is imperative that our Québec families keep informed of their rights and obligations so they can interact as calmly and confidently as possible when dealing with schools and/or youth protection.
As in the rest of Canada, Québec families enjoy great freedom in choosing curriculum and, consequently, in evaluation. The Ministry recognizes that homeschooling functions differently than institutions. Unfortunately, local school boards are not so knowledgeable and regularly challenge parents’ choice of educational approach and/or curriculum. Our members, in return, regularly dig in their heels, and as a result we are seeing progress in several school boards. In the case of learning disabilities, it is important to have professional support, such as a Québec accredited special education teacher who can validate the reasons for slower progress and provide input on how the parent can better help their child.
It is critical that we underline that Québec parents must take on the greater majority of their child’s education themselves. Generally speaking, actual teaching cannot be delegated to a third party. However, HSLDA will consider situations where a family has certain challenges over a period of time and will advise accordingly, on a case‐by‐case basis. Nonetheless, parents can use tutors to enhance and aid instruction, and friends, relatives, or neighbours could fall under the tutor category if they have some expertise in a given subject. It is paramount to note that this is not to be confused with ‘’group homeschooling,’’ where more than one family gets together for the majority of the time during school hours. Such situations are considered “illegal schools’’ in Québec. The Ministry, and undoubtedly some neighbours, are watching out for any resemblance of “going to school’’ somewhere else than in one’s own home on a regular basis. Any such arrangement is susceptible to thorough investigation.
While “illegal schools” in Québec are of a particular concern due to the provincial Ministry’s attention to them, homeschoolers in all other provinces and territories should be careful that their efforts to educate at home do not begin to look like a private or independent school effort. As always, knowing the homeschooling laws in your province is critical. HSLDA is always available to counsel and to direct you in your understanding of how to abide by those laws.
*This article is intended to give general guidelines and is not exhaustive. If you have any questions with regard to curriculum, evaluations, or any other homeschooling‐related topic, please contact the HSLDA office. We’re always happy to speak to our members.