- What Are Some Advantages of Home Schooling?
- What Are Some Difficulties in Home Schooling?
- Where Do I Start?
- Is Home Schooling Legal?
- What Are Willing Non-Resident School Boards?
- What About Socialization?
- How Do I Handle the Social Pressure of Family and Friends?
- Am I Qualified to Teach My Children?
- How Much Time Does It Take?
- How Do I Choose Curriculum?
- What Are The Different Teaching Styles?
- Where Do I Get Curriculum?
- How Much Does Curriculum Cost?
- How Do We Teach Several Children of Various Levels At Once?
- What About Children With Special Needs?
- Can I Home School Through High School?
- Can Home Schoolers Get a High School Diploma and Attend a University or College?
- How Can Organization Help?
- Quality time to train and influence children in all areas in an integrated way.
- Each child receives individual attention and has his unique needs met.
- Parents can control destructive influences such as negative peer pressure and offensive curriculum.
- The family experiences unity, closeness, and mutual enjoyment of each other.
- Children develop confidence and independent thinking, away from negative peer pressure to conform, in the security of their own home.
- Children have time to think and explore new interests.
- Communication between different age groups is enhanced.
- Tutorial-style education helps each child achieve his full potential.
- Flexible scheduling can accommodate parents’ work and vacation times and allow time for many activities.
- Lack of Confidence: Like many things, until you actually do it, home schooling can seem daunting. Have confidence in yourself to begin. It will no longer seem as big a task. Take it one day at a time. Also know that everyone who home schools has bad days, and it’s OK to put the books away till another day when you’re having a bad day. Tomorrow is a fresh start!
- Fear of being unable to work with your child: If you do not have your child’s respect, you will have trouble getting his or her cooperation. Gaining your child’s respect through proper discipline, training and example should be your top priority. Home schooling can provide the best setting to accomplish this, as you have the time to focus on the complete child, including character and attitude, not just academics.
- Inadequate time and energy: An investment of time and energy, especially by the primary educator (usually the mother) is definitely required when home schooling. Self discipline and good organization (tips included in this package) will help ensure a well-run household.
When deciding to home school, you may think that your first step is to head to the bookstore and search the shelves for all the books you need to begin home schooling. A much better place to start, however, is to examine your reasons for considering home schooling, what you hope to accomplish with your child, and what vision you have for your family. Consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses and set goals for your child in academic, behavioral and character areas. Also take into account what your beliefs are about learning. How does your child learn best? When you take this approach, you will be better equipped to choose which tools you want to use to accomplish your goals. Read, read, read many books on home schooling! (A list of suggested reading is included in this package.) Attend an information meeting, home education conference, or support group meeting. Talk to parents who are successfully home schooling. Most of us grew up in the school system and are comfortable with the traditional approach to learning. A word of caution, however, when you begin home schooling is not to try to bring “conventional school” home. If you are taking your child out of school, take the time to read to them, help them discover their interests, and try using a less structured approach.
Yes! Each province sets its own laws governing home education. Alberta Learning – Special Programs (Government of Alberta) has a Home Education Information Package available that gives a copy of the School Act, Alberta’s regulations on home education as well as other information. This package is available by calling the RITE number 310-0000 then 780-422-6326 or on the Internet at www.learning.gov.ab.ca/educationsystem/homeedinfo.pdf.
Constitutional rights to liberty and privacy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee parental rights to educate your child according to your convictions. However, legislation is continually being proposed and considered regarding home education. As home schoolers, we must be proactive to protect our right to home school our children. There are two associations that support home schooling in the political and legal arenas.
Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) is a province-wide association whose purpose is to support and encourage home educating parents. They successfully hold a large home school convention each year in April, with over 1800 people attending. AHEA also seeks to safeguard the freedom of parents to be able to home school through interaction at the government level. Consider becoming a member in order to have your voice heard to aid in the passage of favorable home education legislation. Their website is www.aheaonline.com.
Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada (HSLDA of Canada) is a national organization that exists to protect the legal right of parents to home educate their children. The goal of HSLDA of Canada is to give every parent who wants to home school the necessary confidence to start and continue home schooling with maximum freedom and minimal government interference. Prepaid legal assistance is available to member families. They also work together with other organizations in the courts to protect families’ rights and freedoms. HSLDA is an excellent ally in our home school defense, both politically and personally. Consider joining this association to be a part of their efforts by contacting them at www.hsldacanada.org.
To meet Alberta’s regulation requirements, you must register your child with your local school board or a willing non-resident school board indicating your intent to home educate. This can be done anytime throughout the year, but to be eligible for any funding, you must be registered with your school board of choice by the end of September. Also know that your child must be re-registered for each school year. Willing non-resident school boards are generally supportive of home schooling and can be public or private. A list of Willing Non-Resident School Boards is included here. This list is not exhaustive but these are the most popular for members of Cochrane Home Educators. You can check the Internet or other sources for more boards. Optional funding is available through the school board. The amount of the funding varies from school board to school board. Also, each board may be different in how you can access the funding so be sure to inquire about this. Other questions you may want to ask a potential board:
- What is the philosophy of the school board? Do they believe the parent is equipped to teach their child or that the parent needs the system’s assistance?
- How many other Home School families are registered? If there are few registered, this may indicate that the school board is not home school friendly.
- Is there a specialized department that deals with home schoolers?
- What kind of support do they provide? (i.e. help with program plans, obtaining resources, newsletters, etc.)
- What will the Facilitator or Educational Assistant do when visiting? What must I show him/her? What is his/her part in the home education process? Can I request a new facilitator if should I become dissatisfied with the one I’m assigned?
- Do my children have to write the Alberta Achievement Tests? What happens if they don’t?
In our western culture, we have come to assume that it is normal for children to spend a lot of their time with same age peers. However, consider that a family unit normally does not have children the same age. Also, as adults, in the workplace and in a social atmosphere, we do not group people into age groups. Both in the family and in adulthood, we interact daily with a wide variety of age groups. Home educating your child gives him or her the opportunity to participate in regular after school activities, home school activities, volunteer activities, work experience, and numerous other activities. Your child is able to interact with people of all ages and from all walks of life providing him or her with a varied learning experience and a sense of responsibility for the good of others. Once you have home schooled for a time, you will come to understand that the whole “socialization” issue is not really worth the fuss.
If you are bringing your children home after a few years in school, you need to expect a transition period. In the peer based environment of school they are trained to depend on their peers, to look to their peers for affirmation and approval and that to do what everyone else is doing is the easiest way to survive the culture. Their comfort zone is among those who look, think and act at the same maturity level they are at. It takes time to develop a personal independence and maturity to feel comfortable around different age groups. The evidence of social skills is apparent in home schooled children. They are able to relate to age groups other than their own, demonstrating good listening and interaction skills. In general they respond to other people more respectfully. These are the skills children need for life. Once school is over the peer survival skills won’t be necessary in everyday life.
When your decision to home school is made known, you may find mixed reactions among family and friends. If your family and friends are supportive of your decision, they can share in the enjoyable experience of educating your children. For example, a grandparent can teach the grandchild a subject or just spend time baking or fishing, etc with your child as you prepare lessons or get things organized at home or just have free time! Be creative and cash in on the resources your supportive family and friends have to offer. Some well-meaning friends or family, however, may not react positively to your choice to home school. This may be for various reasons. Try to figure out what the specific concern is so you can more easily address the issue:
Another option is to steer them to a veteran home schooler. Experienced advocates are only a phone call away, through your support group, or your board. Many times, after watching your family, these relatives and friends will begin to see a positive difference in your child and accept your decision.
- Are there socialization issues?
- See the previous section on socialization.
- Are they afraid the quality of education will not be there?
- Use the statistics available (which are very favorable to home schooling) from HSLDA, AHEA or your school board.
- Are they afraid of you and your child being different?
- Show statistics of the number of home school families in Cochrane, Alberta and Canada and of the rates of growth for home schooling.
- Are they threatened by your boldness and readiness to be different?
- Affirm them.
- Do they have a lack of confidence in your parenting or organizational skills?
- You were your child’s primary teacher through his or her preschool years. Did the child learn to look after himself, be kind, obey, etc.? Why should it be any different now?
If you live in a town or city, your neighbors will most likely wonder why your child is not at school. It is a good idea to casually advise neighbors and others who may see your child during school hours that your family home schools to avoid a call from a social worker or police about truancy.
- Are there socialization issues?
Absolutely! You have been the primary educator of your child since he was born, teaching him to walk, and talk, etc. Why stop now? Research has proven that the academic achievement of parents has no bearing upon the success achieved by their home-schooled children. As a loving parent, you provide the nurturing that can bring your child to his or her full potential. Home schooled children average at or above the 80th percentile in all subject areas compared to the 50th percentile for conventionally schooled children. Also, evaluate your child in specific areas, such as character and academics, and re-evaluate after a period of time (a month, quarter or year) and see the improvements! Prove it to yourself. You can teach your child! Have confidence in your abilities.
Although home schooling does require a time commitment, it isn’t as demanding as you might expect. You can achieve a great deal more in far less time than is normally required in a traditional school setting. The time required to home school will vary with the approach you take and the resources you use. However, because of the focused environment, most families tend to complete standard curriculum in the mornings, freeing up time for pursuing other interests and exploring them more in-depth for the rest of the day. You will find that learning continues all day, every day, 365 days per year for life.
Choosing a curriculum or program can be a daunting task to a new home educator. It will get easier as you become more familiar with what is available. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Curriculum is a tool used to build on your goals for your child. Choose curriculum only after you have set your objectives.
- Consider your child’s personality and learning style (auditory, visual, tactile or multi-sensory learner).
- Consider the teaching style as outlined on the next page.
- The personality of the primary educator should also be taken into consideration. “If it works for Mom, it will generally work!”
- There are lots of choices out there but don’t over-buy.
- Decide on curriculum for core subjects (Math and Language) first.
- Don’t feel obligated to use the curriculum you’ve chosen if you find, after using it awhile, that it just isn’t working for you or your child.
- Each child will have his/her own unique learning style. If a certain curriculum worked for one child, it may not work for the next one.
- Use grade levels on curriculum as a guideline only. Your child may excel at a higher level or need to work at a more basic level.
- Talk with other home educating parents about curriculum they use – they can provide good feedback of what worked for them and why.
- Take advantage of those teachable moments that happen outside of a “program” – this is learning at its best!
- Remember to use those normal everyday activities such as laundry, baking, or gardening to teach skills and character development.
- Set realistic goals but be flexible enough to change “the plan” if needs be.
- If it is important to you to know what is being studied in the school system, Curriculum Handbooks, from Alberta Learning, give a breakdown by grade of the Alberta Program of Studies. These are available online at www.learning.gov.ab.ca/parents/handbooks/
- Above all, relax and enjoy learning with your child.
There are various methods that a family can use in order to home educate their children. Some families use strictly one method while others use an eclectic approach, using a combination of any of the methods below. The true beauty of home educating is the opportunity to tailor-make your child’s educational experience. Below is a brief summary of some of the teaching methods:
- Unit Studies: This interdisciplinary method captures a particular interest of a family or student and then incorporates the study of this interest into several subjects for various levels of children.
- Classical: Using this method, children progress from memory skills of the Grammar stage in earlier years, through the Dialectic stage of the middle years learning reasoning and logic, to learning articulation through debate in the Rhetoric stage of the older years.
- Conventional: This is the more “traditional” method that we think of when we think of school. It includes textbooks, workbooks, and a program that is sequentially laid out.
- Unschooling: This method allows the child to naturally take the initiative in learning about things of interest to them. Unschoolers feel that a formal educational program can actually hinder the learning process.
- Living Book Approach: This incorporates “real” books into the learning environment as opposed to textbooks. Children are encouraged to read a wide variety of literature and in doing so, learn much about their world.
- Alberta Distance Learning: These are correspondence courses that are sometimes used for older students right up through adulthood. They are essentially the same material, or similar to, the curriculum that is offered in the school system.
There is an enormous amount of curricula available, with many suppliers locally, nationally, and internationally. Our list Curriculum Suppliers will give you a list of some of the curriculum suppliers. Some programs are designed for home schoolers and some for school settings that can be adapted for use at home.
Although buying new books and programs can be expensive, the school board with whom you register does offer to reimburse each family for their educational expenses up to a certain amount. As mentioned previously, the funding is optional and amounts vary from board to board, as do the type of expenses allowed. However, you can find ways to keep costs down. Make use of the many other resources available, including the library, Internet, borrowing and sharing with friends, and buying items second-hand. Everyday living also provides a surprising variety of opportunities.
Multi-level teaching can be done by choosing curriculum that facilitates this approach. Older children can study independently while younger children get Mom’s attention. Also, the older children can help teach their younger siblings and ease Mom’s load. Subjects such as Social Studies, Language, and Science can be taught to several children of various ages by giving the older children more in-depth study and the younger children a simpler approach. In the old days, this was called the one room schoolhouse approach.
Special needs are an area that has met with much success in the homeschooling realm. Whether the child is gifted or has learning difficulties, home education works well because the child can work at his or her own pace and not feel the pressure of working too slow or too fast. Material is available for all of the learner’s needs as well as support groups for parents with children that fit into any of these categories. Please contact the Alberta Home Education Association for more information on the special needs support group (contact information is elsewhere in this package).
Yes, you can. Some of the advantages of homeschooling through high school are:
- You stay on top of your child’s educational needs.
- You have a good knowledge of your child’s abilities and will be better able to counsel them on their career plans.
- You can maintain a very close relationship with your teens. This is one of the most beneficial aspects of home schooling through high school. Your teen becomes your friend, and this means that the channel of communication remains open between adult and young adult. The parenting role changes to more of a mentoring role.
Within the realm of home schooling a family can make their own decisions about the educational path their children take and it is no different in the high school years. Some families choose not to pursue a high school diploma and instead use a portfolio of their achievements and challenged test scores to gain acceptance into post-secondary institutions and/or job situations. Other students do choose the diploma route, and take Alberta Learning courses or other courses that meet the criteria for credits. The school board that you are registered with can assist you in mapping out a plan for your high school students, regardless of the route you choose.
Organization within the home can make life easier for everyone but especially for the home educating mom. Although each family has its own unique way of operating, below are some general tips that you may want to incorporate.
- Have a sense of routine, including schooling times, meal times and bedtime. Well-rested children are much easier to teach and well-rested parents don’t feel so overwhelmed. Also, children, as a rule, like knowing what to expect. Be sure to leave room for those spontaneous trips to the park on a beautiful day, or a play date with a friend.
- De-clutter your home. Having many “things” that are unused, old, or just taking up space take time and energy to maintain, clean, or move around from place to place. De-cluttering will allow you more space for interesting books and special projects if not, just more room for your family to move around!
- Have a specific cupboard/bin/shelf/closet for schoolbooks and supplies. Arrange the resources you and your children need so they are easily accessible. Keep it tidy and inviting.
- Just as a carpenter gathers tools for the job, ensure that you have everything you need for the school year. Whether it’s books or science supplies, organize and gather what you need so there’s no last minute scrambling.
- Provide a comfortable place for your child to do schoolwork. You, too, will need to be comfortable as you spend time teaching, talking and discussing the things you are learning. Make it a place that has minimal distractions, if possible.
- Make use of your answering machine. Phone calls during teaching time can be huge time-vacuums and cause frustration among your children.
- Keep a calendar of events that you need to or would like to attend. Beware of over-scheduling yourself and your children. Almost every activity has merit but be wise in avoiding over-commitment and burnout!