Frequently Asked Questions About Home Schooling

The following questions were written by Judy Arnall, an international award-winning speaker and bestselling author of “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery.

Programs

Funding

Resources

Facilitator

Field trips, Classes and Workshops

School Board Policies

Why do families choose home education?

Every year, The Home Education Exchange polls member families to find out why they have chosen to home-school. Here are the top five reasons paraphrased from our parents:

a) “All education, by nature of what is taught and what is not taught, builds a child’s understanding of their world. We home school because as parents we are responsible to instill our faith, values, and morals into our children through education. We are handing to the next generation what was given to us.” This has traditionally been the primary reason for many families to home-educate.

b) “We can spend more time being a family.” Our hectic work lives mean some parents rarely see their children over the course of a week. Vacation times can be especially fragmented between school and work schedules. Home-education allows the family to organize their time together more effectively.

c) “Our child wasn’t doing well in the school, and we were doing so much homework. We thought it couldn’t be much more work to home-school!” Many parents are choosing to home-educate out of some frustration regarding their child’s progress in school. Often when there is a problem in school, the parent is the last to find out — at report card time! Home education offers parents the chance to observe and work with their child’s abilities. Parents appreciate knowing first-hand how their children are doing.

d) “Home-education affords us special opportunities for learning.” Hands-on learners can spend time in the kitchen or garage, creating their own understanding. Students can pursue topics that interest them, such as computer programming. Individual learners can excel in their strengths studying more advanced subjects than their in-school counter-parts.

e) “My kids have learned to get along with each other.” Many parents have reported that the relationship between siblings has improved as a result of spending time together in home-education. In traditional school, siblings are grouped according to their age, and often learn not to have anything to do with younger kids. Unfortunately such animosity continues even when they get home at night. Spending time together at home often undoes the social behavior learned at school.

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What about socialization?

This is a serious question, worthy of an intelligent response. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has a great response to this question, and you can read the response at their website at http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/2012/201205160.asp. The Huffington Post has a recent article that addresses this question, and you can read this article by clicking here.

Two additional webpages that provide excellent information regarding the socialization of home educated students are available here:

http://ontariohomeschool.org/socialization/

http://www.homeschool.com/articles/socialization/

Below is our response to this question.

Socialization is the process of learning the rules of behavior of the culture within which an individual is born and will live. Two relevant questions would be

(A) What currently are the strongest agents of socialization?

(B) Are traditional schools effect agents of socialization?

In a CBC interview, Neil Postman answered the first question by stating that the most powerful agent of socialization shaping the behavior of our youth is television advertising, followed by the influence of “mom and pop”. Our kids learn by watching and imitating the behaviors of others on TV or in person, therefore, socialization will be occurring every time children are around other people. Going to school contributes to socialization, but so does going to church, or going to movies for that matter. Attending church may involve many rules of behavior while attending a movie may involve fewer such rules; the better question might be, “what rules of socialization are learned at school?”

Many people are starting to realize that traditional schools may in-fact be poor places to learn positive social behavior. The artificial environment of age-segregation is reflected no where else in our society. The school experience offers very little opportunity to practice appropriate behavior with people older or younger than the student. While traditional day school students are preparing for “real life”, home-education students are living real life.

It seems common sense that students learn most effectively through modeling. Whatever children see others doing is what they themselves learn to do. Given a child’s predisposition to model the behavior of others, it seems a bit risky to expose a child to a roomful of other immature children with only one responsible adult as the “official” model. Certainly students learn much of their socialization from their peers–for better or worse!

Are schools taking the job seriously? In Alberta, schools are accountable to the Auditor General for their performance. What is the measure of performance? Academic achievement, NOT socialization. Socialization appears to be the goal nobody checks up on. If good socialization happens in schools, it is likely in spite of the lack of culture development on the part of educators.

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How do I get started with home schooling?

Administratively-speaking, your first steps are listed for you on our “How It Works” page. Here you’ll find the exact steps that you need to take to notify Alberta Education and/or the school that your child has been attending that you have decided to home educate your son(s) and/or daughters and to begin home educating with thee.

Practically-speaking in terms of your decision, reason, and beliefs for home educating, the decision to home-educate should not be taken lightly, but on the other hand, it should not be intimidating either. We at thee would value having the opportunity to provide our expertise and support to you and your family.

Home education is first and foremost a commitment. You must be prepared to put the time and energy in to home-education in order to reap the rewards. Usually this means one full-time stay at home parent. Some two-parent working families have been able to make home-schooling work although in these rare cases the student has usually been highly self-motivated. Obviously, an elementary student will require more parent involvement than a senior high student because it can be expected that older home-schoolers have become more independent in their studies.

If you have determined that you are prepared to put in the time and energy, obtaining the resources for your home-education program is relatively straight forward.

Determine your child’s ability level and interests. A rough approximation of what level your child is working at can be determined by talking with the child’s teachers, comparing notes with other parents that have children in those grades, and/or by having the child write placement tests. These placement tests may be general in nature, such as the Canadian Test of Basic Skills, as well there are program specific diagnostic tests that determine where a student should start a program. Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) and Saxon Math, are both examples of programs that have their own diagnostic tests to determine the best place for the child to begin working in their programs.

Once you understand your child’s ability levels and interests, there are a seemingly infinite variety of materials to choose from. The key is to keep looking for resources that are interesting for the student. Programs that are too easy or too hard quickly become frustrating! Browse stores that specialize in educational materials and network with other home-education families to find out what they’ve found useful. Not all materials have to be bought; local libraries can provide a lot of resources, if you are prepared to make library trips a regular part of your home-education endeavor.

To get started home schooling through thee, please click HERE to download the Notification Form which you will need to complete, sign, and then mail to thee at

thee
201, 2 Athabascan Ave.
Sherwood Park AB T8A 4E3

You may also fax the completed and signed Notification Form to thee at 1-780-467-5514. Another option is to scan your completed and signed Notification Form and then email it to us at office@thee.ca.

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What about post secondary opportunities?

The Home Education Exchange has been, and continues to be, successful in working with students at the high school levels. Seeing home school students enter post secondary education is evidence of our expertise in this area. Home-based learners can and most certainly do earn admission to top-tier universities and colleges, and we at thee would value helping you navigate through the details and preparation for post-secondary readiness and options.

Please see our “High School” webpage by clicking HERE to see more information on this topic.

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What if my son or daughter wants to earn Alberta Education credits or the Alberta Education high school diploma?

The Home Education Exchange actively supports our home educated learners who want to earn credits from Alberta Education. Our support includes academic advising, enrolment into the requested course(s) from the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC), and ordering the needed course materials for the requested course from the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC).

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Additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) resources

Please visit the “Canadian Home Based Learning Resource Page” to read their list of FAQ’s related to home education.

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Which programs does your board offer for my children?

Traditional home education, Correspondence courses from ADLC, Christian, and High School Programs: diploma, course challenges, and individual course credits.

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Who is responsible to Alberta Learning for the planning and actual delivery and evaluation of the curriculum and program that I’m choosing?

  • Traditional:  the parent(s) is/are responsible.
  • Blended: a blended program contains two “parts”:
    1. Parent-directed (home education) learning
    2. Teacher-directed (school) learning
  • Online courses: the teacher(s) is/are responsible
  • Correspondence courses: the teacher(s) is/are responsible

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What is the home education funding amount?

For the 2016-17 school year, the Home Education Funding amount per home educated student from our program is $836.00.

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Is there a registration fee or deposit charged for the Traditional program?

No.

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When does the home education funding arrive for parents?

Parents may receive reimbursement amounts for up to half of their Home Education funding during the first semester and then may receive reimbursements for the balance of their Home Education funds during the second semester. Reimbursements are based on receipts for learning materials or services that support the home educated student’s learning program.

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Will the board reserve the right to take back items bought with parent discretionary funding?

No.

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Will the board offer Purchase Orders?

Yes, we offer our home educating parents the ability to purchase learning materials by means of a purchase order from our program so that they do not have to purchase these items from their own personal funds and then have to wait to receive the reimbursement cheque later.

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When is the home education funding claim deadline for the year?

Parents or guardians need to submit their reimbursement request forms no later than the third week of May of a given school year.  For the deadline’s exact day in May, please consult your facilitator or your reimbursement account balance sheet that accompanies each reimbursement cheque that you receive from us. We do not carry over funding from one school year to another.

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Do purchased learning resources or private lessons considered for purchase require facilitator approval first?

No, but we in the office spend considerable time during the school year reviewing every request for reimbursement and the respective receipts before we send a reimbursement payment to the parent or guardian.

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What are items that will not be reimbursed?

According to the Home Education Regulation, we do not provide reimbursement to the parent(s) as “a form of personal remuneration” or “to pay for travel costs or other expenses usually required to be paid by a parent of a student who is enrolled in a school operated by a board or private school.” For specific details, please refer to our page which directly deals with this question.

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Are resources such as curriculum, equipment, and computers provided free or by rental, or will parents need to purchase such resources by using their home ed funding?

Parents will purchase such items as needed from their own home education funding.

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How big is your lending library?

We do not maintain a lending library.

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Does the board have a regular newsletter? Monthly, quarterly or yearly?

Yes, we share news and information with our home ed families each month.  For copies of last year’s newsletters and this year’s newsletters, please visit our newsletter page.

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Does the board have an email list?

Yes.

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Can I choose my facilitator?

Yes.

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Does the facilitator attend professional development training in the culture of home education philosophy and best practices?

Yes.

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How long does it take to receive help or callbacks from my facilitator?

Generally speaking, your facilitator will return your phone call or email within 48 hours (not counting holidays and weekends).

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Will my facilitator mark my child’s work or is that the parent’s responsibility on the program I choose?

No, the facilitator will not mark your child’s assignments or tests.

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How often does my facilitator request visits?

Twice per school year, as is required by the Home Education Regulation.

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How many other families does my facilitator need to facilitate?

The answer is relative to the individual facilitator; our facilitators do not all have the same number of families to facilitate.

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Do your facilitators have knowledge of, and fully support, all forms and philosophies of home education: Classical, Traditional, Waldorf, Reggio, Montessori, Un-schooling, Thomas Jefferson, Charlotte Mason, Eclectic, etc?

We don’t believe anyone can say that they have knowledge of “all forms and philosophies of home education,” but our facilitators definitely have a broad knowledge of the “forms and philosophies” that exist within home education and are supportive of the same.

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Is there a charge for facilitator visits?

No.

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Are the required home education student evaluations conducted at my home or your center? (You have the right to insist upon your home.)

At your home or at the location of your choosing (within reason, of course).

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If the visits are at your center, what accommodations for younger siblings do you offer? (Some boards provide toys and play centres so you can concentrate on the meeting.)

Not applicable. We do not have a child play area.

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Are visits phone-based, or in person?

Our two visits are done in person as the general rule, but we do make exceptions.

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How are the expectations/agendas of the visits communicated to me beforehand?

The facilitator will communicate this information to you when she is arranging with you the time and date for your visit.  Our facilitators do not have any personal or organizational agendas that they would try to advance. The facilitator’s main role is to support and encourage the home educating parent(s) and child/ren.

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Will they need to speak with/see the children?

Our facilitators follow the Home Education Regulation requirement which states that a home educating parent “must ensure that the student is available in order that the associate board or associate private school may conduct an evaluation of the progress of the student in the presence of the parent, if the parent chooses to be present”. Most often, the child is eager to show to the facilitator examples of all that he/she has been accomplishing and learning.

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Will the facilitator need to orally test the children in my presence?

Our approach to these visits and times with each family is to listen, ask, and see regarding the student’s learning and accomplishments.  While the official purpose of the visit is, in the words of Alberta Ed, to “assess” or “evaluate,” and while the facilitator accomplishes this official purpose, the facilitator does so not from a spirit of “testing” but from a spirit of  “show me.”

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What records/portfolio requirements will the facilitators wish to see? (Traditional program only)

The facilitator will ask to see examples of the student’s learning.  Such examples include, but are certainly not limited to recital of a piece of music, memorized passages from scripture or poetry, artwork, projects of all sorts, completed workbook or parent-created assignments, written works of poetry or prose, etc.

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Does the facilitator help write the educational plan in the beginning of the year and offer leads and recommendations for resources?

The parent will receive such help if the parent requests it.

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What field trips/classes do you offer?

We offer field trips, workshops, and classes mainly in the Edmonton, Ponoka, and Sangudo areas.

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Are they mandatory attendance?

No.

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Are my child’s friends not registered with your board allowed to participate with payment?

Yes.

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What social (non-academic) programs such as dances, free time, do you offer?

We do not offer socializing programs.

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Are the workshops taught by Alberta certified teachers or under the supervision of certified teachers?

The informal workshops are taught by either community members or by Alberta certified teachers.

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What is the organizational structure of the school board?

Our school board has a Board Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Bussing, Fund Raising, and Pastoral Chair.

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Who or what organization is the highest responsible person?

The board chair person is the highest responsible person.

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Can you refuse any students/families for any particular reason?

Yes. We rarely need to refuse admission to our home education program to a family, but when we do, the reason is typically because the parent(s) are not acting in good faith toward the education of their child/ren.

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Can the school board insist on a student’s change of program from Traditional to Blended or vice versa?

No.

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Does the school board have a Parent (School) Advisory Council that parents can provide input on important topics of funding and policy?

Yes.

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Does any of your funding come from gambling sources such as bingos, lotteries, or casinos?

No, the funding comes directly from Alberta Education.

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How do you accommodate parents that refuse school board tests and Provincial Achievement Tests (PAT)?

Our school board has never required home educated students to write “school board tests,” and the home educating parent has the right to choose to not have his/her home ed son or daughter write the PAT or the SLA..

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What alternate methods of evaluation will you accept?

We do not require any formal standardized tests of our home educated students.

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Can I get refunds for classes that I cancel with minimum notice?

The answer depends on the class and when the “minimal notice” occurs.

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Does your board have a Special Needs facilitator and resources available to help parents with special needs?

No.

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Can the facilitator do a special-needs Individual Program Plan (IPP)?

An IPP is a school-based program plan and therefor does not apply within a home education program.  Our facilitators can help the parent, who has a special needs child, to create a program plan that includes the learning plans and needs of the child (just like the facilitator would do for any other home educated child).

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The above questions were written by Judy Arnall, an international award-winning peaceful parenting speaker, and bestselling author of “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery.” www.professionalparenting.ca 403-714-6766 or jarnall@shaw.ca Judy is also co-founder of Attachment Parenting Canada www.attachmentparenting.ca 403-667-4557. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the byline is reproduced in its entirety. Article content may be edited for publication space limitations.