By Louise Frazer

Most of our Quebec members have probably already heard the announcement by the Québec Minister of Education to significantly increase the amount allotted to school boards for each homeschooled child. This was prompted by the sudden influx of several hundred children from illegal Hasidic Jewish schools opting for homeschool in order to align with Ministry of Education requirements. The concern is that some or all of these children might be behind academically since it seems they have been given a mainly religious education. Therefore, the Ministry wishes to ensure that the school board can adequately monitor their progress.

The fact that the Ministry is giving more money to school boards for homeschoolers makes homeschooling more legitimate and gives more of a “reward” to the school boards for having homeschoolers. On the other hand, it also gives them more resources to chase homeschoolers for evaluation.

Although this new group is fairly numerous, they are not at all representative of homeschoolers in general. Yet, anyone labeled as “homeschooler” could be scrutinized with the same lens. This could spell a greater desire to control homeschooling, possibly limiting the freedom that spells success for homeschoolers.

Freedom of both curriculum and evaluation are essential ingredients for an effective homeschool. Often, parents have withdrawn children from school because the mainstream curriculum did not meet their children’s needs. For example, dyslexic or autistic children can require special curriculum tailored to their particular challenges. Not only do curriculum needs to be appropriate for the child, but the method of teaching and learning also can vary from child to child, even within the same family. It is this ability to adapt learning content and style that makes all the difference to the thousands of homeschoolers across the country.

Since choice of curriculum and instruction methods are varied, it is natural that evaluation methods must also be varied. It bears repeating that curriculum and evaluation go hand-in-hand. A child from Quebec would never be expected to be tested on Ontario curriculum in an Ontario school. The test results would be inaccurate and unhelpful. However, the two provinces would be considered to have equivalent curricula.

Equivalent does not mean identical. The Ministry of Education’s Home Schooling Policy Framework has defined “equivalent” as follows:

“Equivalent” may be interpreted to mean that the instruction and educational experience must give the child sufficient knowledge and competencies so that the child may enter or reenter the public or private school system.

So, for example if students from another part of the country moved to Quebec and enrolled in school, they would be able to function, having learned academic subjects under a different, yet equivalent, education system.

Homeschoolers have no desire to try to replicate “school at home”. Homeschooling’s secret to success and growth is due to being able to adapt to and meet the needs of each child. With all of our diverse methods and experiences, it is clear that homeschoolers strive to give our children the best, individualized education possible. As we continue to do so, it is our goal that the Ministry of Education will see and recognize the legitimacy and success of the homeschooling lifestyle in all of its variations.