If you are a homeschooling family in Canada, then you probably already know that Canada has some of the most favourable homeschooling laws in the world.
Since education falls under provincial jurisdiction, the laws vary from province to province. Each province except Ontario requires that homeschooling families inform the local school board of their intent to homeschool each school year. Some provinces require that homeschooling plans be submitted to the local superintendent of education (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island). Just one province (Manitoba) requires the submission of two annual progress reports for each homeschooled child.
In each province, the laws or policies indicate that under circumstances where there is evidence that a family may not be providing satisfactory instruction at home, the Ministry of Education has the right to proceed with an investigation. While no family wants to be the subject of an investigation, there is no reason why it has to be scary or arduous. With a few preparations, you can easily handle any questions about your children’s academic progress.
If your province requires you to register with the Ministry of Education or to submit educational plans, do it. A little paperwork is a pretty good trade-off for the right to provide home-based learning for your child. It’s like having the right to drive: you have to follow the rules of the road, hold a valid licence, and buy insurance. Following a few rules can actually be a ticket to freedom.
2. Keep an Activity Record
Every day, record a short description of your family’s activities. You can just use a regular wall calendar with squares big enough to write in. Keep your notes short: Baked cookies. Playgroup at Withrow Park. Piano lessons. Went to Science Centre. Library. Made papier-mâché jack-o’-lanterns. If you ever have to prove that your children are learning history, science, or social studies you will have a handy reminder of all the different ways that your children learn.
3. Catalogue Progress
It can be overwhelming to keep every piece of art or writing that your children produce. Instead of keeping everything, consider photographing some very good examples of their work at least once per month. Be sure to date the work or to use the date stamp on your camera. Another thing I do is to give my children spiral-bound art pads to do their drawing and printing in. As each book is completed, I write the date on the front and toss it into a huge plastic bin in the storage room. If I ever needed to show evidence of their work, it would be available.
4. Respect Your Own Privacy
If an official from the Ministry of Education is in your home to determine if your children are being educated, don’t volunteer information that is not specifically related to their intellectual development. In other words, even though it is perfectly normal for you that your 4-year-old is still breastfeeding or that you share a family bed with your four children, it might not seem so normal for the person doing the investigation. Also, avoid discussions of vaccines, homebirth, natural healthcare, or other topics that are none of the investigator’s business.
5. Seek Support
Become of a member of your local homeschooling support group, even if you don’t intend to attend any events. Some groups, such as the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents, require a small annual fee, but in exchange they will give you support or legal advice if you are ever in need.
6. Be Confident
In Canada, your right to provide home-based learning is guaranteed. In fact, it is also guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26(3): “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” If you should find yourself dealing with an investigation, don’t approach it as if you have something to hide. You are providing a unique and special opportunity for your child and no one should ever make you feel that you are doing something subversive or reprehensible.
7. Get Professional Evidence
If your child has any type of exceptionality that might make it hard for him or her to experience success in a traditional school setting, be sure to make your family doctor aware of it. Update your doctor regularly on your child’s progress or limitations. It never hurts to have a second opinion that supports your approach with your child.
Our family doesn’t live in constant fear of being investigated for not sending our children to school, but it is something we’re aware of and we take some precautions.
Is there anything you do to protect your right to homeschool?
Patti lives and learns with her four children and partner in Toronto, Canada, where she practises radical unschooling, authentic parenting, and urban homesteading. She blogs about her adventures at Jazzy Mama.