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Homeschooling is definitely NOT simply “school at home” ‒ it’s much more than that. At ACPEQ we believe homeschooling is a calling where each family weaves life moments into an educational experience through their worldview. From practicing fractions while baking cookies to learning history through an immersive family holiday, homeschooling provides children an unparalleled opportunity to learn in creative ways that cater to their specific passions and needs. While the basic skills of math, reading and writing are taught, homeschooling brings families together. Operating on a schedule that works well with Mom and Dad’s livelihood, parents can be more involved in the nurturing of their child’s character and development of life skills. Relationships are strengthened and problems are worked out together. In short, homeschooling is a way of life.
~ Ivan Cyr, ACPEQ President
Why should you choose to teach your children; why embark on such a family adventure? The reasons and motivations that influence a family to opt for the legal educational path of homeschooling are varied.
Some children experience learning difficulties, for various of reasons, or are, on the contrary, gifted, and suffer in the school environment. Other parent-educators feel that the philosophy of education and the values conveyed in public schools do not correspond to the expectations and/or needs of parents and/or children. Finally, some parents would like to enrol their children in an alternative school (Christian school, Waldorf, or Montessori pedagogy school, etc.), but there are none nearby.
Other parent-educators live and travel with their families and are looking for an educational framework that remains coherent in the midst of external changes. Finally, for a large proportion of parent-teachers, the choice to teach at home stems from the desire to be an integral part of their children’s journey toward their full human potential within the family setting. The home-schooling movement is a reality that is sometimes difficult to define as it is multifaceted
The important thing is to ask yourself what motivates you. Why are you considering home-schooling? What is your educational philosophy? Each family will have its own experience depending on its philosophy of education. It is important to respect each other in this matter by avoiding comparisons.
Ask yourself what your goals are in the short, medium, and long term? Also, try to formulate your motivations in a positive way, because it is much more stimulating to move forward “toward” a beautiful goal, rather than rowing “against” a problem.
This will help you to stay on course. Granted, it may have been a problem that lead you to home-schooling in the first place, but you can turn it into something beautiful and worth working for. For example, you may have opted for home schooling because your child needed an intervention plan for some issue, and the network to implement it was lacking (a common situation!). This is a real, negative side to your experience. Taking up the plan yourself allows you to arrange a schedule necessary to carry out the plan, making for a very different experience. The difference would be palpable, positive and stimulating.
Be sure that all members of your family are ready to get involved in this project before you begin. Educating at home is an encompassing life project. It is essential that both parents be in agreement about this. It is important to discuss the expectations in depth (goals, educational philosophy, values to be transmitted, etc.) between husband and wife. Sometimes it will be necessary to reconsider the paid work of the father, mother or both parents. You will probably have to rethink your daily functioning (learning sequence, tasks, outside interruptions, etc.). Depending on the age of your children, you will certainly have to discuss this choice with them as well. Their full cooperation in their education is a valuable asset. Also be aware that it takes time to adapt perfectly to this lifestyle, often one to two years, especially if it is a school withdrawal. So, give yourself some slack!
Once you have looked at the issue and formulated your priorities in a positive way, we suggest that you write them down, so that you can come back to them later, either to re-evaluate them or to remember your goals when you experience challenging days. Ideally, your children should also know and share these goals so that they are aware why their education happens within a family setting.
You know you want to teach your children. You have thought about your family and educational priorities, and you have written down your goals. So far, you have answered the “why” of homeschooling for your family. Now you have to deal with the “how”.
Initially, many parents wonder about how the physical space should organised. Should they build a classroom and expand the family home? Don’t worry about that. While some families do opt for a room dedicated to learning, for most it is not a necessity. So, see what works best for your family, your possibilities, and your budget. A separate room makes it possible to leave current projects in place, and this is appreciated by some families. However, others will prefer to work at the kitchen table and tidy up before meals. Storage space can be set up close to the workplace. To give just one example, it is possible to place school supplies in a few kitchen cupboards, instead of storing little-used dishes.
Here are some reading suggestions to help with the :
Organization of your home
Organization of your time
Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule — and Your Life, by Julie Morgenstern
Organizing your meals
Fix, Freeze, Feast, 2nd Edition: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family; Stock Your Freezer with Ready-to-Cook Meals; 150 Recipes, by Kati Neville & Lindsay Ahrens
In reality, the most important thing to do when planning your school is to choose the teaching approach, or combination of approaches, that best suits your goals and your family’s life. Feel free to explore several of these approaches and imagine how they might work for you. Also know that you don’t have to keep an approach if you find that it doesn’t work well in your situation.
One of the advantages of home-schooling is that children’s talents and interests develop fully as they are given time to explore them in depth. Different learning styles determine the pedagogical approach chosen (working in individualized workbooks, project-based learning, etc.) — “Tailor-made” for your child, what could be better?
Of course, the number of children, their ages, and their involvement in daily tasks influence the choice of pedagogical approach. If a new baby is expected, it is important to know that home-schooling allows you to fully savour this moment. Planning more projects and independent reading with other children can ease the transition. With homeschooling, parents can use the available latitude necessary to develop their children’s autonomy. Identifying “non-negotiable” aspects that are understood by the child and reinforced by the parents is also part of the learning process. Children imitate each other but are not all alike, so avoid comparing children to each other. The speed of learning is unique to each child. Health challenges, both for parents and children, can also become an education in itself, enabling concrete learning about respect for others and their well-being.
Here are a few pedagogical approaches, namely un-schooling, Charlotte Mason’s literary approach, thematic or unit teaching, interest-led teaching, the classical approach and the more traditional school-at-home. There are many others (Montessori, Forest School, eclectic approach, etc.)!
The child plans and organizes his or her own activities and learning in his or her natural environment. No fixed schedule. Multiple resources are available (i.e. many books). The parent becomes a mentor by responding to the desire to learn when the child shows interest and aptitude. For more information, here are two titles by John Holt:
Learning is done with “real books” (not textbooks) and through life experiences. Formal education is aimed at the acquisition of reading, writing and mathematical skills. For all other subjects, learning takes place through contact with multiple resources, such as walks in the forest, visits to museums and the reading of classical works. Storytelling and narration of complete book passages are part of the approach. Discussions on the readings lead the child to draw his or her own conclusions, allowing the development of critical thinking .
The subjects are integrated and revolve around the same theme and/or character trait. For example: “the sense of order” will exploit the theme of space, the classification of plants, the seasons; “being attentive” will focus on the ear, music, birds, etc. The themes can easily be chosen according to the children’s interests and passions. It is simply a matter of adding a math program and some tools for grammar and syntax as it is very easy to integrate English or other languages into the projects. It promotes multi-age learning as well as curiosity and critical thinking in children.
The principle is similar to thematic teaching, but the child chooses the theme himself according to his passions and interests. This is an interesting approach for a child who is unmotivated or who has lost the desire to learn.
Until the age of 16, the classical approach favours learning the tools of the “Trivium”. These tools are the skills of language and thought, with which all subjects can be approached. This approach is divided into three phases:
6 to 10 years: the Grammar Stage phase includes learning to read and write, studying Latin, developing observation, listening and memorization, reading classic books in addition to a basic mathematics program.
10 to 12 or 14 years: the Dialectic Stage includes independent and abstract thinking, debate, the study of Latin and sometimes Greek and Hebrew, reading essays and critical works: in short, interpreting history.
Ages 14 and up: the Rhetoric Stage leads the student to express what he or she thinks, both orally and in writing, in an eloquent and persuasive way.
“Is not the great defect of our education today—a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned—that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.” ( Dorothy L. Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning)
It can be difficult to find a ready-to-use curriculum for this pedagogical approach. More often than not, you’ll have to do a lot of research and build your own curriculum.
Usually, this approach consists of completing a number of books and/or workbooks according to a pre-established timeline. The child works according to a predetermined schedule to eventually develop a certain degree of autonomy. Not suitable for children who need to move and/or touch to learn. Distance learning courses also fall into this category. Exercises are provided, with a schedule for work and handing in assignments.
When you know why you want to experience education in the family setting, and you have decided how, by determining the physical organization of the premises and choosing one or more pedagogical approaches, you still have to implement your project.
Even though ACPEQ believes that it is first and foremost up to parents to see to the well-being, socialization, and education of their children, regardless of their educational philosophy, you must be aware of the laws in effect if you want to home school with serenity.
In Canada, teaching children at home is legal in all provinces and territories. However, since education is a provincial jurisdiction, your home school experience will be very different depending on where you live. In fact, for parent-educators who travel around the world, this is an important consideration! Be sure to find out about the laws that would affect your situation!
This is why, when implementing your educational project, ACPEQ recommends that you seek legal support in your various endeavours. To this end, our association is affiliated with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), our main partner. HSLDA ensures that its members receive the most up-to-date legal advice, keeps them well informed of their legal rights and obligations, and enables them to benefit from a team of lawyers experienced in this field. We strongly recommend that our members and, more generally, all those who wish to home school, also become members of the HSLDA.
Since november 9th 2017, a legal framework has been implemented. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education created new management responsible for follow-ups: The Direction de l’Enseignement à la maison (DEM). Therefore, homeschooling parents are required to send their follow-up paperwork through the secure site of the Ministry website : : https://formulaires.education.gouv.qc.ca/dev_ti/enseignement_a_la_maison_2019_2020/en/a/login
You will find more information on the paperwork and the deadlines in our Member’s section.
To get you started, here are a few tips in your choice of educational materials. First of all, we suggest that you regularly invest in quality basic materials, such as a good dictionary, grammar, atlas, classic books, perhaps a few posters, etc.
Get information from a support group or via the private Facebook group of ACPEQ members.
Above all, choose educational materials that you want to work with, not just based on an educational reform or program. Keep your goals in mind and avoid the trap of trying to reproduce “public school at home”. Even if you want to follow what is done in some educational institution as much as possible, be aware that some textbooks are more suitable for teaching groups than for “private” teaching at home. Moreover, in some cases, the teacher’s guide is not available for parent-educators. Some research will probably be necessary, but don’t worry! Interesting and appropriate resources abound, and your biggest problem will probably be choosing among them.
Of course, you can get advice from a support group or via the private Facebook group of ACPEQ members. However, keep in mind that everyone is different, and what works for one family may not work as well for you, so be careful with your purchases to avoid putting a strain on your budget. Once you’ve found the material you plan to use, it’s sometimes better to start by buying only one notebook in a series, to “test drive” it.
Also, don’t forget the advantage of a good public library. It can be a real goldmine! You may not even need textbooks other than math, grammar and syntax books. Your children can acquire all other knowledge in real books! The project-based approach is the perfect way to do this.
ACPEQ members can join the private ACPEQ Facebook group and also participate in virtual support groups on all subjects that affect the reality of homeschooling. In addition to this virtual support, ACPEQ has a network of local support groups with which it can put its new members in touch. A local support group generally allows for parent-educators to share resources and help each other along. Ask ACPEQ about these meetings, which are gaining in popularity in many regions.
Each group operates autonomously, according to the interests and needs of local members; some will want to organize group outings, scientific exhibitions, oral presentations, cooking workshops, discussion clubs, etc. The popular belief is that homeschooling is a source of isolation, but with a support group you will find that activities abound so much, in fact, that you will have to make choices. Weigh the pros and cons of group outings. Some outings require a minimum number of participants, but other activities are more suitable for a smaller group – allowing you to stop without affecting others who otherwise might depend on you. Be alert to avoid an overdose of organized activities. Burnout from too many outings can affect both parents and children. Don’t try to duplicate the school system!
Finally, know how to involve the resource people around you, leveraging their skills: grandparents, neighbours, friends, etc.