A practical guide to getting started homeschooling in Alberta.
By Samantha MacLeod
Here are the steps you need to take, or the things you need to know, in order to home school in our province.
Number 1, in Alberta, you should look into the funding dates. In this province, you need to be enrolled with a School Authority by September 30 of any given school year in order to garner funding. Missing this deadline means that your options become more limited. A public school (bricks and mortar school, that is) is required to take you after this funding cut off, but when it comes to homeschooling, some boards will require you to pay the amount they would have received in order to accept you. You will need to phone around in order to figure out what services are offered. You do need to actually register with an authority, or you can be found truant, so knowing your dates can make your life a lot easier.
The next essential item is to learn what Boards are available to you, and what they offer. Each board has a slightly different “flavour” so it is worth investigating which families are happiest with which boards. One way to do this is to join local Facebook groups and search posts asking about various boards – or simply ask! It is also worth knowing that you do not have to stay with any given board, as each year you can register with a new one if you like. I am currently with 2, one for my high schooler, and one for my not high schooled kids. A few boards do require you to be in their catchment area, so not every board will be an option for you. Some common boards (in no particular order) are:
• Calgary Board of Education Home Education
• Golden Hills Home Education
• Willow Home Education
• Phoenix Foundation
• E2 Academy
• Centre For Learning (CFL)
• The Calgary Catholic Board of Education offers a home ed program, but it is limited in capacity – if you are with them for school, it is worth looking into.
When choosing a board, it is worth thinking about what your homeschooling goals are, whether you want the option to be blended – which is a mix of teacher and parent responsibility for teaching material, it is the more “school-like option” which may have in-class time required, or be online school with attendance hours (CBE, CFL and Phoenix offer this). Consider also whether you want a lot of options for classes (CFL is renowned for offering a wide variety of extra-curriculars as is Roots), whether you want the option to be self-directed (if your child is in high school this is a significant question) – Willow, Wisdom and E2 offer this, but it is worth asking about. Also, it is worth looking into how hands-on they are, and whether they support your homeschool philosophy. For many unschoolers, they find some boards rigid, and others very flexible.
When you choose a board you will have to fill out forms. At this point, you will decide whether you wish to be aligned, blended or parent-directed. This refers to how much family independence you wish to have. Fully aligned means that your program is entirely school directed. Not many boards offer this unless you are completing everything online. The school chooses what your child studies, it is just that the time is more flexible. On the other end, you have Parent directed: you choose the material and how it is covered and simply provide your board with evidence that learning is happening. They do not assign you work, but you still have to show that work has been done. If you are aligned or blended, the portion that is school directed falls under the school act, and not the home education act. Families only receive funding for the portion of studies that fall under the home education act. Under the school act, schools receive funding and are expected to comply with school act regulations.
If you do decide to be parent-directed, a further choice is to decide to follow the Alberta education program of studies or to use the Home education outcomes. If you choose the Alberta Program of studies, you are opting to teach your child, through your own methods, what children in school in Alberta would learn. This is a good option if you are thinking to return your child to school, but it isn’t the only option. The other option is to follow the Home Education Learning outcomes. They are:
1. read for information, understanding and enjoyment,
2. write and speak clearly, accurately and appropriately for the context,
3. use mathematics to solve problems in business, science and daily life situations,
4. understand the physical world, ecology and the diversity of life,
5. understand the scientific method, the nature of science and technology and their application to daily life,
6. know the history and geography of Canada and have a general understanding of world history and geography,
7. understand Canada’s political, social and economic systems within a global context,
8. respect the cultural diversity, the religious diversity and the common values of Canada,
9. demonstrate desirable personal characteristics such as respect, responsibility, fairness, honesty, caring, loyalty and commitment to democratic ideals,
10. recognize the importance of personal well-being and appreciate how family and others contribute to that well-being,
11. know the basic requirements of an active, healthful lifestyle, understand and appreciate literature, the arts and the creative process
12. research an issue thoroughly and evaluate the credibility and reliability of information sources,
13. demonstrate critical and creative thinking skills in problem-solving and decision making,
14. demonstrate competence in using information technologies,
15. know how to work independently and as part of a team,
16. manage time and other resources needed to complete a task,
17. demonstrate initiative, leadership, flexibility and persistence,
18. evaluate their own endeavours and continually strive to improve, and
19. have the desire and realize the need for life-long learning
Next, you will need to develop a relationship with your facilitator. Your facilitator is full of information and can be a great support to you. It is worth really getting to know whether this is a person you mesh with. You will need to meet with your facilitator 2x a year (though I find it is typically 3x, once for the initial intake, once for mid-year, and once at the end of the year, though only two are required). Your facilitator will give you the guidelines that your board requires of you for writing a program plan. You will likely need to provide a program plan regardless of what sort of schooling you choose (aligned, blended or parent-directed). Each board will have different requirements and will offer varying levels of assistance to complete this plan. Some boards do it for you in the intake interview. Others have fairly extensive requirements. Most are somewhere in the middle.
I also recommend joining a few Facebook groups. There is a group for homeschooling events in each major city and for Central Alberta – this is very helpful for figuring out what sort of social commitments you would like to have. Field trips are typically sorted out here, as are lessons like skiing lessons – often offered at a discount due to parents sorting out group homeschooling classes. Do join your board’s local Facebook group if there is one: this is where you can meet and greet with other families who use your board, and where notices are provided. I also recommend joining a few different groups based on different “styles” of homeschooling. There are Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers, Classical Homeschoolers, Waldorf Homeschoolers, Unschoolers, Eclectic Homeschoolers etc. And for each of these types, there are secular and non-secular versions. I would recommend looking into a variety of types and figuring out what works for you and your family. You do NOT have to pick any style and stick with it, you can shake it up year to year and figure out what works best 😉
With a topic as broad as homeschooling, there are certainly many rabbit trails to go down, but these tips are good starting points. I wish you happy learning!