Homeschooling in Alberta
In Bill 3 of the Education Act, the Government of Alberta states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Alberta Education therefore endorses a variety of options for parents, including home education.1
Approximately ten thousand students are registered in a home education program in Alberta. Parents choose & notify a board2 of their intent to homeschool. Most homeschool parents choose an associate board which specializes in homeschooling (see local list on our Links page) and which best fits their homeschool goals. This board maintains a record of accountability to the province, and provides a homeschool facilitator to the family.
A facilitator must be an Alberta-certified teacher and should have a thorough understanding and appreciation for the family's philosophy of homeschooling. He or she maintains a relationship with the family, including two visits per year.
Parents may switch boards, facilitator, start homeschooling or stop homeschooling at any time during the year, but ideally all is settled well before the September Count Day3 when funding is established.
Homeschool parents pay resident school taxes just like everyone else! And the kids have to 'start school' if they are age 6 by September 1st. Students may continue homeschooling as long as they are under age 20 by September 1st and not enrolled in accredited post-secondary studies full-time. (This may increase to age 21 under the new Education Act.)
In addition to describing the government's role, the Alberta Home Education Handbook4 describes parental responsibilities when following a home education program. For example, parents must submit a yearly program plan, and may choose from an endless variety of activities &/or curricula tailoring them to the individual needs of each child and the family.
It is therefore not necessary to align program plans with public school counterparts; however, core topics (language arts, math, science, social studies) must be included. The Schedule of Learning Outcomes5 is a helpful tool when designing an overall homeschool experience.
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!
Social/educational support is available to families through groups like HSCF and other organizations offering field trips, park days, labs, fairs, forums, conventions, science "Home School Days", etc., in addition to community activities through churches, teams, music, sports, dance, volunteering, and so much more.
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 or others. Or maybe they get feeling burnt out, or lose their focus. Parent support groups such as HSCF can help to meet this need for support, as can well-matched facilitators & boards.
Academic support as needed is made available to parents through the facilitator, supervising board, curricula developers and a network of mentors. Apprenticeships and post-secondary schools accept homeschoolers basing admission on portfolios, work experience, credits and/or assessment, etc.
Funding6 support toward the reimbursement of supplies and enrichment is allotted by Alberta Education through the supervising boards for home-educated students. Funds reimbursed must reflect a well-rounded yearly program plan.
Despite being under more regulation than in other jurisdictions, parents choosing to direct their family's education are in good company in Alberta!
1 Home Education means that a parent retains full responsibility for the student's program in accordance with the Alberta Home Education Regulation. Often referred to as 'traditional' homeschooling.
2 The homeschool board will supply parents with the necessary paperwork, such as the notification form or sample program plans. See Handbook p. 20-23, and Appendix for more about boards & notification. Boards each have their own flavour - from fully supporting traditional home education to being entirely school directed. It's okay to 'meet & greet' before choosing a board & facilitator which best fits your family. Many homeschool boards have open houses or information sessions. It's not unusual for your needs to change along the way during your years of homeschooling.
3 The Count Day is Sept 30th or the last instructional day of the month 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.
4 The Home Education Handbook includes the Alberta Home Education Regulation (2006) in the Appendix. The new Regulation will be implemented Sept 2014 and law by Sept 2015. Updates will be posted on AHEA's website.
5 The one-page "A to T" list as it's sometimes called, in the Handbook p.35, is helpful when considering year-by-year goals or program plans over the entire course of a student's home education experience.
6 The 2014-2015 reimbursement amount offered to home educating parents is a maximum of $820.64 per student. The supervising board receives an equal amount.
Any program that offers parents substantially more funding than this is outside of the Home Education Regulation; it is a funded school program. These school-directed options (e.g. 'blended'7 or 'teacher led' or 'fully aligned') obligate paid teachers to plan and present either a portion or all of your child's education as responsibly as they would if your child were attending a brick & mortar school. The student is counted & fully funded as a public school student, not a homeschooler; the parent should never feel pressured to assume the responsibilities of 'teacher' for the school portion.
7 As defined by Alberta Education, a blended program consists of "two distinct parts:
- "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 2014-2015, Glossary of Terms, p. 129; see also p.136)