Meeting at the MELS
The ministry’s major preoccupations are to ensure that each child receives the education to which he/she is entitled and to do so, they obviously want to know where to find the children who are not registered with a local school board. We submitted to the MELS a very simple proposal that would meet the requirements of the Education Act [Article 15(4)] and work towards better relationships between families and school boards. The goal of our proposal is to allow families the most possible freedom for their homeschool. It can be summarized as follows: Youth Protection Services (YPS) should not be involved in legitimate cases of homeschooling and families should have the latitude to homeschool with the curriculum of their choice as well as several options for the evaluation required by law.
Following are the details of the proposal submitted:
First of all, where it is strictly a question of administrative agreements between parent-educators and school officials, Youth Protection Services (YPS) involvement should be discontinued. Such a threat hanging over their heads does not contribute to good working relationships. Also, families will be loath to work with school boards that may refer them to YPS. Moreover, once Youth Protection Services gets involved in a homeschooling family’s life (and unfortunately, this does happen), the intrusion on privacy and intimidation can become overwhelming.
On this first issue, the MELS representatives did take note of those regions where such situations are ongoing and they seemed to agree with us that YPS interventions had to stop.
Secondly, families should have the latitude to homeschool with the curriculum of their choice. This should have an effect on the testing environment since options for evaluation must not discriminate against families who decide to teach their children according to different approaches and curricula. Following are the evaluation options we propose:
- presentation of child’s portfolio, that is, a sampling of academic
- work and activities, which are representative of the child’s progress;
- presentation of evaluations administered by the parents;
- presentation of evaluations administered by a third party ;
- participation in exams administered by the school board;
- any other means agreed to between parents and school board.
We noticed that the MELS reps were somewhat astonished when they realized that homeschooling families did not necessarily want their children to be evaluated according to procedures set out for the school system, even for high school. To this effect, we shared with them how resourceful families were in tapping into a network of professionals who could evaluate their children. They also learned that some homeschooled high schoolers had been admitted to college without the Secondary School Diploma (SSD) and they were, in fact, succeeding quite well.
In conclusion, the ministry representatives assured us that both ACPEQ and HSLDA would be consulted on any new homeschooling policy. Some of them mentioned that they had learned quite a bit during our discussions. J We sincerely thank those of you who actively contributed towards this meeting taking place.
Paul Faris of HSDLA and representatives of your Board of Directors met with MELS officials last November 28th. This meeting had again been scheduled to further discuss the MELS’ intention of establishing a province-wide policy for homeschooling families.
Essentially, we reiterated that Youth Protection Services involvement should be discontinued where it is solely an issue of home education, and that families should have the freedom to use the curriculum of their choice, as well as be offered a variety of options for evaluation purposes.
We felt this meeting was very convivial and efficient. Rest assuredthat we continue to monitor this situation closely, jointly with HSLDA
You will recall that, last June, the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (Ministry of Education…MELS) had rejected a common proposal submitted by the two provincial homeschooling associations. On October 7th, we finally received a copy of the Projet d’orientations pour la scolarisation à la maison (Draft orientations for homeschooling). A subsequent meeting was held on October 27th in Québec City, between representatives of the MELS, representatives of the two provincial associations, and the attorney who was jointly representing us. We shared with the officials our main concerns about their policy. We came out of this meeting with mixed feelings as to their intentions. Last November 14th, our Board of Directors sent a letter to the attorney who has represented us up until now, thanking him for his services. At this point, ACPEQ’s work continues, in close collaboration with Paul Faris of HSLDA. If you are not already a member of HSLDA, we encourage you to join this association.
As already mentioned in our previous Communiqué (Winter 2005), the MEQ (or rather the MELS – the ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport ), has been working these past few months on a policy whose objective is to more closely monitor homeschooled children. An update of this situation was provided at our conference on May 14th. Here is a summary of this presentation.
We responded to the policy proposal, which had been read to us January 6th (we were unable to obtain a copy of it), by submitting, on February 18th, a document outlining our position. This document was supported by a letter sent by a Québec attorney, whose services we had retained in order to represent us with MELS officials.
Our attorney then worked in our favour, so as to obtain another meeting at the MELS, while we were attempting to arrange a meeting with the board members of the other provincial association. This meeting took place on April 10th, where we were able to come to an agreement regarding a joint proposal. This document was presented to MELS officials at a meeting in Québec City on April 12th. Before this meeting and at his request, we had granted our attorney our consent to represent both associations at the MELS with regards to this particular issue.
A few weeks later, we were advised that our proposal had been rejected. At this point, procedures are ongoing…
« School »… at home
For some time, the Ministry of Education (MEQ) has been working on a policy proposal for children being homeschooled. Their objective is to further standardize current school board policies, which can vary greatly from one school board to the next.
Within this context, we (France and Daniel Maurais, Carole and Michel Cardinal) met with MEQ representatives last January 6th, in Québec City. During this meeting, we were presented with a preliminary document, which was read to us. The content thereof then served as a catalyst for discussion. Our meeting lasted about one and a half hours and was a cordial one, though quite intense. Unfortunately, we were unable to leave with a copy of this document, since it was only a draft at this point.
The information obtained could be modified in the final version and, therefore, cannot be considered as final. Also, neither this policy proposal nor its final version, constitute a change in legislation; however, it could be precursory to such a change. Furthermore, the information that follows applies to the elementary school level. As for high school, the MEQ seems to take it for granted that students will necessarily be evaluated at school during their high school years, in order to obtain the diploma (SSD).
Essentially, what we can retain from this document is that families must “school” their children at home, that is, they must follow the MEQ Program of study and have their children evaluated according to the guidelines established by the school boards. As for evaluation, it would seem that parents have a choice: formal exams, presentation of a portfolio by the child (see following article), or a blend of the two. However, these procedures would take place in school, or at the school board administrative offices.
Again, according to the policy proposed by the MEQ, some supervision, still undefined, could be provided by school personnel, to ensure that homeschooled children are followed up on. This last point is a contentious one between the MEQ and the school boards, since school boards presently receive no funding to carry out the responsibilities that the MEQ would like to entrust them with for homeschooled children.
With regards to supervision, we would like to present an example from one school board, who estimated that the average number of hours per year allotted for one homeschooled child, was more than 25 hours. Furthermore, hold on to your hats, according to this school board, this is not enough for them to fulfill all of the obligations of the mandate conferred upon them by the MEQ for homeschooled children!
In response to the two previous points regarding curriculum and evaluation, we hold that parents should have the freedom to use the curriculum of their choice for the education of their children, as well as the freedom to provide one evaluation themselves (portfolio, standardized tests or more formal testing).
There is definitely a cost to freedom, and we believe that it is preferable for families having chosen to homeschool, to steer clear of any services offered or imposed upon them by school boards (for evaluation or other purposes). This is definitely food for thought! We are actively working on this issue at the present time, jointly with HSLDA. You will be kept informed as to the developments.
We would like to remind you that being respectful with representatives of a school board or any other institution, will reflect on the reputation of all homeschooling families. Please contact HSLDA if you have any doubts with regards to your particular situation.