Homeschooling in Alberta

 

**Political & provincial updates pertaining to home education may be found at AHEA's website.**


An Overview

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights declaring that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”1 is echoed under section 2(a) and section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and FreedomsAlberta Education therefore endorses a variety of options for parents, including home education.2  Over and above AB Education, the Canadian Charter & the UN, our God-given responsibility of directing our children's education is paramount.

Eleven thousand students (1.8% of the total student population)3 are in a traditional homeschool in Alberta. Their parents choose & notify a board (see list on our Links page) of their intent 'to homeschool under the Home Education Regulation' - the law governing the rules of homeschooling in Alberta. This board4 should match the family's homeschool goals & lifestyle and maintains a record of accountability to the province, administers funding, offers programs and/or other support, and provides a homeschool facilitator to the family. (Parents may alternatively choose to register with a school board where a teacher is responsible for a portion or all of this home-based program, under the other regulations in the School Act, same as students in schools. Read this article to compare parent-directed & school-directed programs - it's important to know where your family best fits.)

A homeschool facilitator must be an Alberta-certificated teacher and should have a thorough understanding and appreciation for the family's philosophy & style of homeschooling. He or she maintains a relationship with the family, including a minimum of two mandatory visits per year, as per the Home Education Regulation.

Parents may switch their board, facilitator, start homeschooling or stop homeschooling at any time during the year, although their funding may be affected. Ideally all is settled well before the September Count Day5 when funding is established for the school year. 

Homeschool parents pay resident school taxes just like everyone else. The kids must start 'school' if they are age six by or on September 1st - they may start six months earlier than that - and must stay in school until age 16. Students may continue homeschooling as long as they are less than age 20 by September 1st, residents of Alberta, and not enrolled in full-time accredited post-secondary studies. Parents with preschoolers will find much support in the homeschool community as well.

In addition to describing the government's role, the Alberta Home Education Handbook6 describes parental responsibilities when following a home education program. For example, parents must submit an approved yearly Education Program Plan. A homeschool board or facilitator will be happy to help with this, & your board may have samples posted on their website. Parents may choose from a huge variety of activities &/or curricula tailoring them to the individual needs of each child and the family. (In a school-provided home-based program, the teacher is responsible for this step & options are limited to following the Alberta Programs of Study.) There are plenty of helps for choosing curriculum - ask at HSCF or see our Links page for ideas.

In a parent-directed ("traditional") homeschool program under the Home Education Regulation, it is entirely possible, but not necessary, to follow ('align' with) the Alberta curriculum which is designed for classrooms. Other curriculum options most often fit better because of the tutoring & independent-study design of homeschooling. The four core subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies) must be included in the student EPP. The Schedule of Learning Outcomes7 found in the Home Education Regulation is a necessary reference when designing an overall homeschool experience that does not follow the Alberta Programs of Study.

This home-based model of education can become a rewarding lifestyle for the entire family as concepts are mastered year by year, interests are nurtured, and a love of learning is developed. 

Support

Social/enrichment support is available to families through groups like HSCF and other organizations offering field trips, park days, fairs, forums, conventions, co-ops, science "Homeschool Days", etc., in addition to community activities through churches, teams, music, sports, dance, volunteering, and so much more. Homeschooling quite literally takes place 'in the real world', not just locally, but also provincially, nationally and even globally.

Spiritual/emotional support can be a little harder to muster; some families may find themselves feeling like they have to defend their decision to homeschool to relatives, friends, government or school officials, and even the public. Or maybe these families get feeling intimidated, burnt out, or lose their focus. Parent support groups such as HSCF and AHEA can help to meet this need for support, as can well-matched facilitators & supervising boards who 'get' home education.

Academic support as needed is made available to parents through the facilitator, supervising authority, curriculum developers and a network of mentors. Apprenticeship programs and post-secondary institutions globally accept homeschoolers basing admission on equivalencies, portfolios, work experience, specific credits, academic assessment, etc. 

Funding support toward the reimbursement of instructional materials is allotted by Alberta Education through the supervising authorities for home-educated students.8 Funds submitted for reimbursement must reflect a well-rounded Education Program Plan and are subject to a restricted list of allowable items. Home education is both effective9 & cost-effective: homeschoolers save the Alberta government at least $88 million in education annually10 plus infrastructure costs.

Legal support regarding homeschool issues & fundamental freedoms is available to families who opt for a membership in the Home School Legal Defense Association. More information is available on our Links page or directly at HSLDA Canada. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is also active in supporting home education in Canada.

Alberta is arguably under more regulation than all other Canadian jurisdictions, but parents choosing to direct their family's education are in good company!

 


Footnotes 

1 UN Statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/InternationalStandards.aspx

Home Education, as defined in Alberta, means that a parent retains full responsibility for the student's program under the Home Education Regulation. A supervising authority is required to oversee the program; this where Albertans are more regulated than in other provinces. Of the 40+ school boards in the province, only a handful are knowledgeable about & equipped to oversee home education programs. You will hear parent-directed home education referred to in Alberta as 'traditional' homeschooling. (Not to be confused with 'traditional' as used outside of Alberta, often meaning a textbook/school-at-home/curricular approach to homeschooling.) 

3  Student population stats are available in a variety of ways from Alberta Education. Contact them via 310-0000 for the most current information. As of 2015,  there were 11,520 students under the Home Education Regulation (including 1871 blended students), and another approx 10,000 students in a fully-funded, teacher-directed program from home. For comparison, the total student population in 2015-16 was 636,698. 

4 The supervising authority will supply parents with the necessary paperwork, such as the notification form or sample program plans. Supervising authorities each have their own flavour - from home education administrations which fully support traditional/parent-directed home education under the Home Ed Reg, to boards which fully support school/teacher-directed programs. Most boards in Alberta are this latter kind, which makes sense, because over 98% of Albertan kids are in a school program. It's okay to 'meet & greet' before choosing a supervising authority & facilitator which best fits your family. Many homeschool boards have open houses or information sessions about the programs and supports they offer. Never feel stuck with a board that is not a good fit.

5  The Count Day is Sept 30th or the last instructional day of Sept if the 30th is on a weekend. Where your child is enrolled on this day determines where their funding is allotted, and therefore, their eligibility for home education reimbursement. It's best if the decision to home educate is made well in advance.

6  The Home Education Handbook (2010) includes the Alberta Home Education Regulation (2006) in the Appendix. The School Act was set to become the new Education Act in Sept 2015, but has not yet been proclaimed by the NDP government. The School Act has 21 regulations, one of which is the Home Education Regulation - you are encouraged to read it! The Funding Manual gives further clarity regarding Home Educated Students on pp 20, 126, 135-136. 

7  The one-page Schedule of Learning Outcomes "A to T" list as it's sometimes called, is used when considering year-by-year goals or program plans throughout the entire course of a student's home education experience through grade twelve. The family's worldview, whether faith-based or not, is overarching. The province has a compelling interest in the education of its citizens; however, this interest does not supercede the prior right of parents & fundamental freedoms.

8  The 2016-2017 funding rate for a parent-provided program is $1670.81. Half ($835.40) must go to the parents for the student's allowable needs; the supervising board receives the other half for administrative & program purposes and providing a facilitator as per the Home Education Regulation. In October 2016, Alberta Education Finances significantly restricted the list of allowable items: Standards for Home Education Reimbursement. In a parent-provided program, parents retain responsibility for the formal education of their child, subject to the Home Education Regulation.

In contrast, school-provided programs for home learners are not under the Home Education Regulation, but are under all the other regulations in the School Act. School-directed programs obligate paid teachers to plan, select resources aligned with provincial curriculum, deliver, assess and evaluate your child's education as responsibly as they would if your child were attending a brick & mortar school. The school board is responsible for the student's formal instruction under the School Act; the parent at home with the kids should therefore not feel pressured to assume the duties of 'delegated teacher'. Boards offering school-directed programs have never been obligated to provide funding to parents, though most were offering $1500 or more of the full base funding they received. As of August 31, 2016 this practice was discontinued, as per the Education Grants Regulation. This change is clarified enforcement; it is not a new law.

A Blended program by definition consists of the two distinct parts, so may be partially funded (e.g. $417 for a 50% blended program):

  1. "A School-Provided Program where a teacher employed by a school board...is responsible for providing the planning, resource selection, instructional delivery, assessment and evaluation of student progress in selected courses that follow the Alberta Programs of Study with the following minimum requirements: Grades 1-9 Minimum of 50% school-provided program; Grades 10-12 Minimum of 20% school-provided program. 
  2. "A Home Education Program that meets the requirements of the Home Education Regulation for the remaining portion." (Funding Manual for School Authorities 2016-2017, Glossary of Terms, p.126; also see pp 20, 135-136.)

 Current research regarding Home Education is available online at:

  • Fifteen Years Later - a longitudinal study of Canadian homeschoolers, including some HSCF participant families
  • Fraser Institute - a 2015 compilation of Canadian contributions
  • NHERI - American research by Dr. Brian Ray, who spoke at HSCF in 2015 while in Edmonton as an expert witness

10  Underestimated as $8,000 per student x 11,000 homeschoolers. Fees & allowances, infrastructure, transportation, other capital expenses, etc. are not included. Using stats from 2014-2015 of funds provided by Alberta Education divided by enrolment, an HSCF member calculated the average cost to taxpayers of basic education in Alberta using four samples as follows:

  • Home Education $1,641.27 per student
  • Catholic School $8,589.41 per student
  • Charter School $9761.25 per student
  • Calgary Public School $10,026.95 per student

Legal case in the history of 'home instruction' in AB. Homeschooling is well over 30 years old in Alberta! Our group, HSCF, has been serving homeschool families for 32 years.

 

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