Sunday, May 1, 2011

About the money...

Home learning families often limp along on one income. It's the reality of choosing to have your children with you 24/7: someone needs to be available to be the caregiver for the children, to give them support and attention as fits their developmental and emotional needs. Often, depending on the ages of the kids, that's a full-time job right there.

Families have different ways of making it work, but it often comes down to figuring it out on a penny by penny basis.

This is one of the reasons why Distributed Learning (DL) schools, especially with the current cornucopia of choice, are so popular among home learners. Many parents cannot walk away from difference that $1000, $3000, or even $5000 (in large families!) can make in the lives of their children. I have often heard of children who would not be able to afford to pursue passions like music or dance or sports if it wasn't for the money provided through a DL school. UPDATE: As of 2014, DL programs are only able to provide $600 (or less) towards direct-access resources.

It's also a fact that there are home learning families who, if not "for the money", would gladly choose registration and the freedom from government oversight over enrollment. And, from time to time, people in this situation may feel that it's unfair that DLs appear to be receiving financial preferential treatment from the government, almost as though the registration option is not worth notice. These parents may wish to rattle some cages and ask the Ministry of Education to provide more money for registered families.

But that's because they may not understand this one vitally important thing: the money is never for the family.

School Funding

No DL or registering school in this province is required to give any home learning family any money in any form. In fact, they do not have the legal right, in the case of DL, to provide direct reimbursement, in the form of a cheque or cash, to parents.

Why? Because the money is not for the child or the family. It's for the school.

DL schools are obligated to use school funding to provide an educational program to a child (and that includes children eligible for a special education grant). It's up to them to determine how they will deliver that, including materials, resources, instruction, and support. Because home learning families are a choosy crowd, many DLs do the same thing -- they figure out a way to provide materials and services of a family's choosing through purchase orders or a reloadable Visa card or direct payment to a community-based service provider (like a dance school or music teacher). No money is to land directly in a parent's hand.

Why is that? In 2006, Bill 33 changed the School Act and made it legally clear that DL enrollment is not the same as section 13 registration.

Because, according to law, schools can reimburse section 13 families for home education related expenses--at their discretion. They don't have to, but they most certainly can.

Incentive-Free DL

Earlier in the 2000's, DL schools were competing for students by means of reimbursements. More learners means more money for their programs (and school districts).

Bill 33 clarified that money cannot go to parents by legally identifying Distributed Learning (DL) as a regular school program, bound by the requirements and expectations of every other school in the province. In addition, the DL school contracts with the Ministry clarified that no DLs are allowed to use funds as an enrollment incentive. The Independent DL school agreement, which covers the majority of K to 9 DL enrollment in this province, states that a DL "may not provide financial payments or reimbursements to students or the parents or guardians of Students" and "may not use any of the funding... as an incentive to have a Student enroll."

It's pretty clear. There is no money, not officially, for families enrolling in a DL program. The money is for the school alone. If they choose to supply materials or classes or resources and have figured out a way to pay for those things in a way that fits the law and their MinEd contract, then that's the way it currently works. And, as things currently stand, it means it works for a lot of families.

By the way, the law also says:
82 (1) A board must provide free of charge to every student of school age resident in British Columbia and enrolled in an educational program in a school operated by the board,
      (a) instruction in an educational program sufficient to meet the general requirements for graduation,...
      (c) educational resource materials necessary to participate in the educational program.
(I suspect this means your child should never have to pay additional fees to participate in a class or program offered by your child's DL, but you could check with the Ministry of Education to clarify.)

Registration and the Law

We often get as far as sections 12 through 14 in the School Act when it comes to registered home education in BC and that's where we stop. But there is a lot more there, including "the money" and what a school's responsibilities are to a registered homeschooler.

But there is nothing written that suggests that registered learners are entitled to any money at all.

In fact, as it stands, the Minister of Education, as per the School Act, has the jurisdiction to make orders:
168 (1) (j.2). establishing, for the purposes of section 168.1, the amount a student or a child registered under section 13 may be reimbursed, including
          (i) setting the maximum amount that may be paid,
          (ii) establishing a limit on the number of educational activities or categories of educational activities for which reimbursement may be made, and
         (iii) setting different amounts and different limits for different educational activities or different categories of educational activities,
It's all in the Minster of Education's hands.
168.1 The minister may reimburse a student or a child registered under section 13 for expenses incurred for instruction, examination or certification with respect to an educational activity or a category of educational activities designated by the minister, in the amount established by the minister, if the student or child
      (a) is of school age,
      (b) is resident in British Columbia, within the meaning of section 82 (2), and
      (c) demonstrates a standard of achievement, satisfactory to the minister, in the designated educational activity or category of educational activities.

Fees for Students Registered Under Section 13

Here's an interesting tidbit. According to the School Act, all schools, including those providing registration under section 13 of the School Act, can charge fees.
82 (6) A board must publish a schedule of the fees to be charged and deposits required and must make the schedule available to students and to children registered under section 13 and to the parents of those students and children before the beginning of the school year.
And...
82 (4) A board may require a deposit for educational resource materials provided to students and to children registered under section 13.
     (5) If a board requires a deposit under subsection (4), it must refund all or part of the deposit to the student or child on return of the educational resource materials.

What Must Schools Offer as Part of Section 13 Registration?

It's all in the School Regulation.
3. (1) A school or francophone school that registers a child under section 13 of the Act must offer
         (a) evaluation and assessment services sufficient to enable the parents of the child to determine the educational progress achieved by the child in relation to students of similar age and ability, and
         (b) the loan of educational resource materials that are authorized and recommended by the minister,
                  (i) which, in the board's opinion, are sufficient to enable the child to pursue his or her educational program, and
                 (ii) which will be offered to the child on a similar basis to the offer of such educational resource materials to students.

(2) With the permission of a board, a child registered in a school or francophone school under section 13 of the Act may audit educational programs offered by the board subject to any terms and conditions established by the board, including the payment of any fee.

(3) A child in grade 10, 11, or 12 registered in school francophone school, or independent school under section 13 of the Act may enroll in all or part of an educational program that is
         (a) offered by a board or an independent school, and
         (b) delivered through distributed learning.

Note: If your child in grade 10, 11, or 12 enrolls in a class in a Brick and Mortar school, he will lose his registered status. Your child in those grades can, however, take as many DL courses as she likes without losing her registered status.

There is additional Ministry of Education policy about the responsibilities of Registering Schools (although policies are much easier to change than statutes).

Bottom Line

The government does not want to directly give DL families financial compensation for learning at home.

DL money is for the DL school, so the school can provide an educational program to the enrolled students.

Why? Because it's not fair to the Brick and Mortar families. The Ministry doesn't want to differentiate between the two types of enrollment in terms of services, administration, or relationship to families. The only difference is mode of delivery or "venue".

Unlike DL, however, registered families can receive compensation for educational expenses. But only to a point. When Sections 12 and 13 became part of the School Act in 1989, public schools received $1200 for each registered homeschooler and independent schools received $600. By 1994, that number had been decreased to its current levels of $250 per learner for a public school and $175 per learner for an independent school. Why?

Registration money is for the registering school so it can do the administrivial tasks required and be compensated for the time involved.

I suspect that public schools were not providing much in the way of access to resources to home educating students, so the amounts were dialed down to cover administration costs only. It may also have been that the government was thinking that more money required greater accountability and, instead of increasing oversight, decided to decrease funding. I don't know for sure.

The Alberta government, however, minces no words on the matter. As per the Alberta Home Education Handbook: "The Alberta government uses public dollars to fund education. Funding varies according to the level of public accountability in the program. School authority programs are subject to a higher level of public accountability than home education programs and so receive a higher level of funding."

I'm always amazed at registering independent schools in BC who, at their own discretion, provide up to $150 to compensate home learning families for materials and resources. I'm very grateful to them. And I know that independent schools offer this reimbursement to families as it then takes care of their obligation to loan materials (a headache to administer). Money, however, is not something that registered homeschoolers are entitled to receive. In fact, independent schools, unlike public schools, don't even have to register anyone if they don't want to. They provide this service as a kindness.

No More Money

Most currently registered homeschooling families would balk at "more money". Here's why.

More money for registering schools would very likely mean more oversight for registered families. Money always requires increased accountability to government and to tax payers -- not just for how the money is used, but how effectively the money is being used.

We don't want that.

We don't want to go the way of Alberta where even the least intrusive option (where parents do not follow the Alberta Programs of Studies) requires two home visits a year from certified teachers who "measure progress" based on parent developed learning outcomes as well as basic provincially determined learning outcomes.

This is not even the "online learning program" option, which would be the equivalent to DL in our province. This is the equivalent to our sections 12 and 13, and is much more intrusive than many BC DL options. Sure, home educators get more money per child, but is it worth the price?

It's the same in the Yukon, which once had laws similar to ours that were changed in 2002... and where there is no financial compensation for home educators in any form. Now, "as part of registration, parents are required to submit an education plan. The plan includes the methods of teaching and the resources you will use for the subjects of literacy and numeracy [including "the skills of literacy, listening, speaking, reading, writing, numeracy, mathematics, analysis, problem solving, information processing computing"]. There is no requirement to provide this information for other subject areas." In addition, the children are subject to testing and "the Minister may, in writing, terminate the home education program if the Minister is of the opinion... that the student has failed to meet standards of student achievement, as measured by achievement testing, comparable to schools operated by the Minister or a School Board."

This is very different from BC where it's stated in both law and policy "The school has no authority to approve or supervise the educational program of a homeschooled child."

This is the beauty of registration in BC. This is why our legal status under sections 12 through 14 of the School Act is so precious and deserves to be protected as is. Parents truly are in charge of their children's learning without having to submit plans and learning outcomes to schools or Ministry officials. Our children are not poked and prodded with respect to what and how much they know (and neither are their parents). It is educational freedom at its best.

If preserving our statutory rights to educate our children free of government oversight and involvement means not taking "the money", so be it!

______________________________

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Trends


click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report

click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report


click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report

click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report

click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report

In 2006/07, you will see a small dip in public DL enrollments and a small rise in registration numbers. This was likely due to Bill 33 and the fact that DLs could no longer write cheques directly to parents for reimbursement purposes, the exception being internet costs.

Some people, by looking at the column that compares the number of registered homeschoolers in the province to the overall number of students, may think that the decrease in registration matches the overall decrease in enrollment the province has been facing over the past 10 years: 0.6% in 2000/01 to 0.4% in 2009/10.

I'm not sure that those registration "percentages" tell the whole story. Some additional decimal points provide a clearer picture. For example, in 2009/10, it was really 0.379%, where as in 2006/07, it was 0.422%, even though both are reported as a rounded figure 0.4% of all students. For 2010/11, the figure is 0.343%.

It's also a matter of scale, which is clearly shown in the graphs. If the 2000/01 figures are included, it will be even more pronounced when the data comes out for 2010/2011 as the registration numbers are now just over 2200.

When I look at the overall numbers, yes, school enrollment for both public and independent has dropped (except for last year when it increased by 0.2%). In 2000/01, there were 692,148 students enrolled. In 2009/10, there were 640,952 enrolled: a net decrease of 42,196 or 6.1%.


click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report


click image to enlarge
from the BC Ministry of Education's Summary of Key Information report


When I look at the registration numbers in the same way, in 2000/01, there were 4134 registered children. In 2009/10, there were 2463: a net decrease of 1671 or 40%.

If you compare the rates of change (6.1% overall to 40% registered), you can see that the trend isn't quite as innocuous as 0.2% might seem on paper.

And, if you compare the rate of change to the highest level of registration ever, 1996/97, when there were 4925, to the numbers this year, 2228, then the net decrease over the past 15 years is 2697 or 55%.

This year's and last year's registration numbers are the lowest since the very first year registration became a legal option. The number of registered homeschoolers in 1989/90 (1695) was likely more a figure of compliance than a true indication of the number of homeschoolers in the province. I'm sure there were many people digging in their heels at the change as they understood that their children's education was already their responsibility under the previous School Act.

Back to numbers:

The rate of change for both last year and this year is - 9.5% for registration.

The rate of change, however, for 2009/10 for overall numbers was +0.2% and for this year it is -0.09%. I think that's significantly different than -9.5% in terms of overall change. Not that I plan to dust off my rusty statistics background to do proper calculations. I believe the numbers speak for themselves and demonstrate a trend that I suspect will continue on the same trajectory as registered learners "graduate" and fewer families with young children register.

Sources:

http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reporting/docs/ski.pdf
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reports/pdfs/student_stats/prov.pdf

__________________________________

UPDATE: Trends for 2011/12 from the BC Ministry of Education, plus numbers for Registered Homeschoolers for 2013/14.

click image to enlarge
Number of Registered Homeschoolers in BC in 2012/14

click image to enlarge
Number of Registered Homeschoolers in BC in 2011/12
Percent Change from 2010/11: -6.5%


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Chart for number of Registered Homeschoolers up to and including 2011/12

click image to enlarge
Includes Percent Change for 2011/12

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Graph showing growth of Distributed Learning Enrolment including 2010/11


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Graph showing growth of Distributed Learning Enrolment including 2011/12


click image to enlarge
Comparison of DL enrolment numbers for public and independent schools (up to 2011/12)


Sources:
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reports/pdfs/student_stats/prov.pdf
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reporting/docs/SoK_2011.pdf
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reporting/docs/SoK_2012.pdf

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Submission to the Royal Commission on Education

According to this notice (while the link lasts), the British Columbia Home Learners' Association (formerly CHEA - BC) is meeting on November 16 to dissolve the society.

The BCHLA has had an important function in maintaining a positive relationship with the government regarding homeschooling law in BC, but has lost support of many homeschoolers over the past couple of years. It's my understanding that the BC Home School Association may now take over the role of government liaison for homeschoolers. This is the group that puts on the convention each June in Surrey.

I have mixed feelings about this as it is my understanding that the BCHSA is not a non-sectarian group. I have to do a little more research before I can declare that to be so, but it is my recollection. It may be the time has come to set up a formal non-sectarian group to represent all homeschooling families to the Ministry of Education.

Because the BCHLA website may be closing down very soon, I wanted to make sure there was a copy of Vicki Livingstone's submission to the 1988 Royal Commission on Education available on the internet for future reference.

Here it is.
______________


A Submission to:
THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON EDUCATION
Presented by:
CANADIAN HOME EDUCATORS' ASSOCIATION OF B.C.
Vicki Livingstone, President
(address omitted)
True education throughout time has always been the harmonious development of the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of a person's being. The methodologies of education have traditionally diversified to meet the needs of society and this trend is still occurring today. As the variety of educational alternatives are viewed today, one is struck with the "full-circle" phenomenon which has been burgeoning in the past few decades - education coming back to the roots where it historically started: the home.
This brief looks at home education from four interrelated perspectives: 1. the Child; 2. the parent; 3. the school district; and 4. the Ministry of Education. After focussing upon home education from these four perspectives, recommendations will be presented in the summary.

1. The Child's Perspective

Each child is unique and matures according to his/her own individual internal clock. This is true whether dealing with the physical, intellectual, emotional, social or spiritual aspects of that child. Because it is customized to meet each child's individual needs, home education most consistently is able to allow the child to achieve his/her highest potential in each of the following five aspects.
1. Physically, research has proven that a child's eye development is detrimentally affected by too much close work, ie: looking at pictures, drawing, cutting and pasting, reading, etc., often resulting in increased cases of Myopia. (Better Late Than Early, pp. 68-73)1
"The tissues of young children's eyes up to about age 8 or 9 are softer or more plastic than older eyes. For example, the sclera, or the outer covering of the eyeball can be drawn out of normal shape by undue strain (Hilgarten, Henry L. The Frequency of Myopia in Individuals under 21 Years of Age. Paper presented to the Texas Medical Society, Austin, Texas, 1962.) Until the young child's eyes have moved beyond this stage of plasticity, he should not read much, but should wait until his vision system is stabilized. And considering the possibility of damage to his eyes and his nervous system, not to mention his motivation, the brighter the child is the greater may be the risk of a regular reading program before the age of 8."2
Likewise, the development of hearing (also important in learning to read) and intersensory perception (necessary for true learning to occur) is not optimal until age 8 or beyond.3
2. Intellectually, it is expedient to retain a high level of motivation in the child. It is important that the child does not experience failure simply because of starting when he/she is not ready. Problems inevitably occur because of the numbers in the regular public school classroom. There a teacher in the primary grades, teaching to the "average student" is not able to tailor the 'learning-to-read' timetable to accommodate a child who is a late-bloomer or simply not physically or intellectually ready to learn to read. Often an "I'm a failure" or "I'm dumb" attitude in the child is produced because he/she is slower than the others in the class. Such problems are avoided in the home school where the child's own pace of progression is the norm. For instance, when we remember that reading is mainly a thinking process, Malcolm Douglas has stated that:
"We could probably reduce our reading problems to about 2% if we would delay formal reading instruction to the age of 9 or 10. (Douglas, Malcolm P. Innovation and the Credibility Gap. Address to California Elementary School Administratros Association and the California Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Palo Alto, January 19, 1968) This view is consistent with the experience of Scandinavian schools, where children have historically entered no earlier than age 7 and where reading problems are relatively rare."4
3. Emotionally, the term 'burn-out' has only had application to school children in the past few decades as the trend to lowering the starting age for school as blossomed. It is reasonable to anticipate that children who start attending a play-school at age 3, a pre-school at age 4, kindergarten at age 5 and grade one at age 6 will suffer from burn-out by the middle or higher school greades. Home education has a positivie effect on the child's 'learning threshold'. Smaller doses of formalized schoolwork ranging from 1 to 3 hours are daily integrated with all of the other activities undertaken by the family within the home setting and community. A clearer perception of what education really is can be beautifully achieved in a home school. We never stop learning; each activity undertaken is teaching us something, in the cognitive, psycho-motor and affective domains.
The pure joy of learning has a chance to survive longer in the home setting. Concerned parents, with a far more personal interest in the child than can be found from any other adult, even a caring teacher, are able to 1.) positively reinforce the child continually throughout the day, and 2.) also take advantage of the opportunities that arise to reinforce the learning. For example, what was studied in the morning science lesson is applied as the family sets out on a nature hike later in the day. The home-educated child effectually gains optimum education. In the home school, more efficient learning can occur than would otherwise when home and school are separate. In the school the teacher does not fully know what the child is learning/doing at home and the parent does not fully know what the child is learning/doing at school.
Learning truly becomes a lifelong attitude in the home school, not something that is artificially imposed on a child. Learning is not separated into an isolated process that is labelled school: in other words, it is not compartmentalized. Boundaries between school and home overlap in many areas.
If the child has a negative attitude towards school, he likely will develop a negative attitude towards learning. Many school drop-outs are not in the lower half of the intelligence quotient but are simply turned off to learning and the conventional system. learning should be part of daily living and when school is in the home, learning tends to stay meaningful and practically applied.
A child who is home schooled generally has no doubt as to the love and affection his parents have for him. Home schooling parents will most likely be committed to their child's best interests and education. It is obvious that home schooling parents enjoy their children - they like having their children around, otherwise they would not commit the time, energy and everything else required for home educating. The nurturing environment of the home school does much to promote learning and to produce "a better balanced, more stable, more sociable and higher achieving child, and very likely, a better adjusted person than the child who must leave the home for other care."5
4. Socially, the home school is able to avoid most of the negative influence that exist when age-peer socialization occurs. The negative influences exerted by peer group pressure (e.g. experimentation with drugs, sex, crime, rebellion against authority, etc.) is negligible in a home school where the child has grown up having a strong identity, knows who he is, and has the stability afforded in a closely knit family.
Are we optimally socializing our children by segregating them with age-peers for possibly more than a dozen years of their lives, for the better portion of waking hours, 5 days out of every 7? Which is the more artificial socialization? Cornell's Urie Bronfenbrenner point out that:
"Children who are more with their peers than their parents at least until the fifth or sixth grade will become peer dependent. These youngsters lose self-worth, optimism, respect for parents and even trust in their peers; in short, lost are key ingredients for a positive sociability. Instead kids become negatively socialized and so segregated from adults and other age groups that they can get along only with their age mates."6
5. Spiritually, the child's needs are not to be met in a public school setting. The mandate of public education dictates leaving the spiritual education to the home and churches for fear of being accused of "religious indoctrination." Yet the existence of a spiritual dimension to a human being is less likely to be denied today than ever before. Schools have been pushed more and more into the arena of moral issues and methods such as values clarification and courses like Family Life have been designed in answer to the abdication of many parents in teaching their children moral principles in the home.
When home educated, a child has a better opportunity to acquire strong values and a clearer conception of what right and wrong are. Whether the home school is built upon Christian principles or not, the child kept in the home environment for schooling will not encounter any conflict of interest between what is being lived at home and taught at school. The home school is conducive to the child learning to make proper choices and sound decisions, internalizing the values as lived by his parents.

2. The Parent's Perspective

In a democratic society, there exists the fundamental right for parents to determine the kind of education they wish for their children. Parents' reasons for home educating will be as diverse as the lifestyles of the various families doing it, yet in this diversity is a reality based upon the fact that the greatest responsibility for the child rests with the parents. Where the parents' values and belief system are passed on to the children (the principles with the rules!), society is more stable and healthy. It is when the opposite situation occurs that societies eventually crumble and perish, as history only too vividly bears witness.
It is important for parents to maintain control over what their child is taught. Because this right of control becomes more distanced from parents in the school system, the frustrations and impotency many parents feel result either in apathy or friction between parents and educational professionals who display the attitude that because of their training, they know what is best for the child. Home educating parents perceive their role as teaching their child 'how-to' learn. Therefore, they are teaching skills rather than content. The skills include literacy skills, study and research skills, application and practical skills and discipline skills. The home educating parent becomes a preceptor, teaching by precept and example, facilitating and initiating the learning process, but ever realizing that their child, as he masters the skills and application of learning, will likely far surpass the parent-teacher. It is not necessary for the parents who choose to home educate to be experts in everything they teach; rather than teaching things, they teach how to learn and in turn, the child applies what he learns, not to earn marks or to regurgitate what a teacher expects to hear, but as a natural fruit of true education.
Following are some of the concerns of home educating parents within British Columbia.
One reason for home schooling is the desire to avoid regimentation in a system (regardless of whether it could be labelled good or bad) and the moulding of the child to conform according to uniform dictates of what is perceived to be the societal norm. When the topic of testing or monitoring of home educated children is addressed, these parents have a genuine concern that the testing procedure accommodate the flexibility of customized home teaching. The rationale behind the testing needs to be set out. There will be no fear amongst home educating parents in having their children tested using a standardized test if it is being done for the positive purpose of (i) establishing at what lefvel(s) the child is working; (ii) pinpointing areas of weakness that need more attention; and (iii) acting as a diagnostic tool in recognizing various learning dysfuntions. The negative rationale would demand testing for the purpose of proving home education as inferior. Enclosed please find research proving the value of home education. Home schooling is a tutorial situation, one to one or one to few, and thusly requires little, if any, testing.
Parents who want a strictly Christian curriculum for their child are concerned that this right be upheld. Christian parents opting to home school will assuredly be teaching their child 'reading, writing, and 'rithmetic' but the aducation will as well go into the spiritual realm. These parents would like the assurance that basic knowledge and skills alone will be evaluated when testing is employed, not content or values. No discrimination between Christian or non-Christian curriculum, state-school or homeschool should be allowed to creep in.
Many parents who choose to home educate are convinced that 'later is better than earlier' in regards to starting their children in a formal learning program. These parents are concerned that their child wil be forced into an earlier starting schedule than is in the child's best interest. In the home school the child operates on a readiness program. He is neither pushed nor started before signs of readiness are apparent.
The parents of learning disabled and/or physically handicapped children have special concerns. Diagnosis of mental or physical disabilities is important and often may need to be made outside the home by trained medical or educational staff. Parents of these special needs children may still choose to home school with the support of the community and its services. In fact, generally, the paramount concern of these parents is how to have their child integrated into the public or separate school classroom so the child has the opportunity to learn to interact normally with other children. Many of these parents may choose home educating only as a part-time or short term option for their child.
Parents who have already been home educating their child for the pre-high school years and who choose to continue through the high school years generally have no concerns about not receiving a diploma. Taking one year at a time, at each step along their child's educational ladder they've done what has been in the child's best interests, and the high school years are no different.

3. The School District

The school districts formally bear the responsibility of administering the BC Public Schools Act. Parents and school districts agree that the legality of home education needs to be clearly defined. There appears to be an underlying fear by certain authorities that by legalizing home education there will be a dramatic decrease in enrollment in the public system and already strained budgets will collapse from decreased funding. This fear is unfounded as the majority of parents will continue to support the public and separate school systems. The minority that choose to home school then, however, will do so without the stigma of being in a gray area of the law. Public and private systems will be better able to offer assistance to the home educator within defined areas.
At present, some school districts are very open to home educating parents. The superintendent encourages informal use of the school facilities. Even in these areas however, the districts are clearly looking to the Ministry of Education for leadership.
Dispelling the gray area will:
Many school officials worry about integrating children from home schools into the public school system. This really is no different than trying to integrate a child from another province into the curriculum. Again standardized testing as well as district testing can be used to place a child with little fuss. Research tends to prove that home educated children generally are high achievers and have superior work habits. Most are self-motivated and this will stand them in good stead as they fit into the system.

4. The Ministry of Education

Home educators recognize that society demands that children receive a certain level of education. It is the mandate of the Ministry of Education to ensure that this level of adequate education is met both in the public and private school systems as well as the home school. This assessment of education in the home could range from a highly regulated, state-imposed reporting and testing process to a de-regulated, flexible evaluation system where the parent works as a team with the officials. The real concern must be what will benefit the child the most.
Home educators feel that the current Ministry of Education has taken a positive step in establishing a Royal Commission to address all the concerns in respect to education. The Canadian Home Educators Association of B.C. would like to present the following recommendations:
1. What is meant by home education needs to be defined. Home education is an alternative form of education where the child is taught the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic by a parent in the child's home using a curriculum either designed by the parent or purchased from a supplier. A home school is not the same as an independent school. As soon as a parent is agreeing to educate other than his/her own children at home, he/she has gone outside the definition of home education into the area of running an independent school.
2. The parents alone should determine the starting age for their child to begin a formal academic program. The parents know best the readiness of their child by appraising all aspects of his being (physical, mental, spiritual). The Ministry should not impose an uniform starting age and relatedly, testing should not be carried out in a formal way in the primary years.
3. No policy should be set out in respect of home educating that will dictate: a) time commitment - a minimum amount of hours each day, remembering that this is a tutorial system and time commitments are vastly different than the classroom system; b) curriculum - aside from teaching the basic three R's parents should be responsible for setting the curriculum content for their child, maintaining the flexibility in a home school conducive to differing interests, lifestyles, and belief systems.
4. There is a need to legalize home education so that parents and school personnel can work together as colleagues.
5. Testing should be conducted for the reasons already discussed and that it be of a skills rather than content orientation. Testing of primary age children should be done using informal methods already recognized in many districts.
In short, the BC Association urges the Commission to take home education out of the grey area, into the partnership that it should be with the school districts. Our goals are common - the education of children to become stable, productive, valuable members of society. Children are our future. Let's work together to give them the quality and alternatives that they need.
Footnotes
1 Raymond S. Moore and Dorthy N. Moore, Better Late Than Early (Berrien Spring, MI: Reader's Digest Press, 1975), pp. 68-73.
2 Moore, p. 70.
3 Moore, pp. 73-76.
4 Moore, p. 86.
5 Moore, p. 87.
6 Urie Bronfenbrenner, Two Worlds of Childhood, p. 169. (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1970)

Friday, July 2, 2010

How Will Your Child Get Into University?

By Kathryn Harcourt

I've worked part-time for many years as a counsellor at the Victoria School District's Continuing Education Program. Over the years I've learned a few things about the education system that have helped me relax about being an "unschooling" family. And even families whose children are doing course work might find this interesting. There are many, many ways of approaching education and of formalizing education that are not generally known.

The Two Dogwoods

There are two graduation diplomas authorized by the Ministry of Education. One is the diploma that high school kids work on called the Secondary Dogwood Diploma. The other is the Adult Dogwood Diploma. The Adult Grad diploma is much shorter than the Secondary Diploma. One needs EN 12, a grade 11 Math course, and three grade 12 level courses to receive the Adult Dogwood diploma. If a student wants to go directly to UVic a few other things are required. There are a few rules with the Adult Dogwood. The student must be 19 to be on the program and the student must complete at least 3 courses after their 19th birthday.*

Credit for Experiential Learning

Here's where it gets interesting! The Ministry has opened its doors to other learning experience. If someone comes to us with documented experience that we can match up to learning outcomes for high school level courses, we can give the student credit for that experience. We give credit to many students for sports activities, art activities, work experience etc. etc. Often people come to us to complete their English 12 and Math 11 (these are the two most common prerequisites for Camosun courses) and we can complete their grad with other prior-learning credits.

Go Straight to College, Get Dual-Credit

Here's another trick. Students do their English and Math and go on to college. When they have a transcript of grades after the first semester or two, they bring that back to us and we give them credits to complete the high school grad using the course work they have done at post secondary. (This is called dual-credit). This works very well for people who don't want to spend a lot of time doing high school courses and just want to get on to college. The beauty of this option is that young people can do the English and Math before they are 19 and head to college. As long as they bring their transcripts back to us AFTER they are 19, we can give them credit for the Adult Graduation Diploma. This means that while they are in College they are also completing the Adult Dogwood Diploma.

This Adult Dogwood is not a lesser grad than the other, it is a full Ministry approved graduation. It is not a G.E.D.

Also, if a student goes to Camosun never having done any high school courses (students can get into Camosun by writing their assessment tests), we can still use the college transcript to give the Adult Grad just as long as there are college level English and Math courses and the student is over the age of 19.

So the important things to remember are:
  • Students don't need to be high school grads to go to college. They need the prerequisite high school courses or they need to pass the assessment.
  • We can use all sorts of learning, including college courses, to complete the Adult Grad Diploma. We mix and match this according to the students needs.
  • Many kids use the university transfer program at Camosum to get to UVic. Once again, they don't need to be graduated to get into this program, they just need the prerequisites for what they want to do. It is possible to go through to a doctorate level and never have a high school graduation. But why not apply for it anyway using the college transcripts. It's just bureaucracy!

Accessing Continuing Education

Each school district has a continuing education program for adults and young adults. At our school we have been accepting kids as young as 16 years old. I expect this is the same for the programs in the other districts as well. There are usually day and evening courses and students can take one course or have a full schedule. Courses might be self-paced or follow a classroom format. There is usually a registration fee, but no tuition fee for anyone who hasn't graduated from high school. The atmosphere in these schools tends not to be the same as a typical high school because the school caters to adults and young adults who have jobs and families.

We have had a number of homeschooled kids come to our school. A few years ago a 19 year old completely unschooled young man showed up. He began with grade 10 work and last year went directly to UVic to study sciences. Others have come to do English and Math and move on to college.

Free Access to High School Courses Regardless of Age

The provincial government is now funding high school level courses for all BC residents. In the past, anyone who had graduated from high school and was over the age of 19, had to pay a tuition fee of $395 a course. These courses are now tuition free. So if anyone out there wants to get ready for a college course, or wants to learn keyboarding or the Microsoft office packages, the cost will only be the $40 registration fee and the refundable $60 book deposit. You can access the Continuing Education website through www.sd61.bc.ca.

I hope this information may be helpful to some of you who are looking at post-secondary in the next few years. And I hope it helps those of you with younger children. Those of us who choose to be home-learners are always a little more anxious about how it's going to go with our children. For us, it's a grand experiment and it's nice to know that there are a lot of options. By the way, one of the teachers at our school said that the home learners might have gaps in what they know, but boy do they know how to learn! What more can we ask for!

Reprinted with Kathryn's kind permission.

*More information about the Adult Graduation Program.

Also: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/graduation/adult_graduation.htm and
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/graduation/adult_graduation_qa.htm

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Home Education in BC: A historical perspective

Choice regarding our children’s education is a topic that is dear to the hearts of parents everywhere. In British Columbia, we are particularly fortunate in the variety of options available to us that support our children’s learning. One of these opportunities, homeschooling, has been around for a long time, although it was not considered a statutory right until the revision of the School Act in 1989.

Correspondence school (pencil and paper work) has existed for almost 100 years (created at the request of a lighthouse keeper). Another home-based option, distributed electronic learning, arrived on the scene in the early 1990s and grew into a booming edu-business for school districts and independent schools.
At one point in the not-so-distant past, every home learning family in BC had a sense of the history behind these home learning options. But as kids have grown up and veteran homeschooling families have moved on to other things, detailed information about the origins of our choices has been forgotten or misplaced. Without that background information, today's home learning parents have lost the ability to make a fully informed choice and may default to the learn-at-home option that seems easiest or most popular, or that provides the most financial benefits.

The following is my attempt to fill in any gaps there may be in our collective understanding and knowledge of home learning in British Columbia so that parents can engage in an informed decision-making process.

Homeschooling Becomes “Legal”

In 1989, the BC government passed changes to the School Act (Bill 67) that gave parents the legal right to educate their children at home as per Sections 12 and 13. The only requirements were that the parent register (not enroll) a child as home educated through either a public or independent school and that the parent provide an educational program, although the program did not have to adhere to the provincial curriculum set by the Ministry of Education. This new law was a result of the findings of the Sullivan Royal Commission on Education (1988), influenced by the submission of a homeschooling mother, Vicki Livingstone, on behalf of the Canadian Home Educator’s Association of BC (CHEA). It is this law that still protects our ability to educate our children at home under our own authority.

During the first year that registration was legally required of home learning families (1989/90), 1695 children were identified as homeschoolers. At that time, public schools received $1200 for each child registered and independent schools received $600. Independent schools quickly became the popular registration option as they provided families with financial reimbursement for learning materials and activities, whereas public school sometimes offered access to school resources but were often not accommodating. By 1992 the number of registered homeschoolers had almost doubled.

The Advent of Distributed Learning

In 1993, School District No. 91 (Nechako Lakes) created the first Distributed Electronic Learning (DEL) program: EBUS Academy. Nechako Lakes covers a vast, sparsely populated area located north and west of Prince George in the BC interior. The school district began their “electronic busing” program because there were children living in isolated areas where no schools existed. Instead of losing these learners to one of the province’s nine Distance Education Schools (DES), electronic busing allowed the school district to provide educational support through computer and resource loans with remote access to a BC certified teacher as required. This was a cost effective solution for the school district as these children qualified for full-time equivalent student funding from the Ministry of Education and the monies stayed within the school district.

This was a different solution than the usual “correspondence school” model that had been operational in BC since 1919 (Correspondence Branch) and was revamped between 1984 and 1990 when the Ministry of Education created the regional distance education schools (DES). All nine distance education schools worked together to provide a similar program and served specific school districts according to geographical location. In 1998, the DES programs (in conjunction with the Open Learning Agency) offered an online component though their joint CoNNect program, but they continued to provide set course materials for enrolled learners of all grade levels.

Comparatively, students enrolled with EBUS were not required to complete packaged pencil-and-paper coursework or even specified electronic assignments. Instead of using a prepared curriculum package, parents could access or purchase the resources they wanted to use to support their children’s learning. The EBUS teachers did not assign specific work, but parents were asked to send in representative samples of their children’s work for assessment purposes.

Homeschooling vs. DL

EBUS soon realized that there was another group of students who could benefit from their distance-learning program: homeschoolers. Instead of registering these children under Sections 12 and 13 of the school act, School District No. 91 enrolled these children as full-time distance learners. The families were provided with a computer, access to the internet, resources (as requested) and a resource allowance. Nechako was able to channel surplus funds from EBUS to other programs in the district that needed an influx of monies. For awhile, it seemed unclear whether or not Nechako would be allowed to enroll students who lived in other school districts around the province, but eventually the Ministry of Education gave them the green light to continue.

That same year, the Ministry of Education began to decrease the amount of money that schools received for registered homeschooled students. The independent schools who registered learners had to decrease the amount of money they could reimburse families for resources and materials. As EBUS did not require a great deal of accountability from families who enrolled with the program but provided access to a computer and funding for resources, some families who were registered as homeschoolers decided to enroll instead.

It is clear that when EBUS opened its doors in 1993, the learners in their program were enrolled (not registered) and they were not considered homeschoolers by the Nechako school district or the Ministry of Education. In 1994, on behalf of CHEA (now BCHLA), Debbie Leroy created a two-sided yellow fact sheet (that was part of the regional representatives package) based on her conversations with the Ministry of Education. The directors of CHEA were concerned that EBUS may be confused as homeschooling and wanted to make sure that everyone understood the difference between enrollment through a DEL and registration as a homeschooler. These terms were clearly defined with the Ministry of Education at that time, although Nechako was not required to differentiate between their students enrolled in a brick and mortar school and those enrolled in EBUS until 1997.

In 2004, the Ministry of Education, due to an incident at a DL program and at the urging of the BCHLA, clearly communicated the distinction between registered and enrolled on its website. The terms "home education" (as per the school act) and "home school" (as per MinEd policy) were reserved for Section 12 registration only.

The Numbers Game

Nechako Lakes School District received full per student funding for EBUS learners until 1997 when the Ministry of Education limited it to $3500/per learner and put a cap on the enrollment numbers. By that time, several other school districts either had or were developing programs for home-based students as they could see the financial benefits of applying unused funds in other areas of the school district. Programs for home-based learners were fast becoming a solution for the declining enrollments school districts were experiencing province-wide. The Ministry of Education responded to the increased interest by creating a “pilot” program for DEL and limited the total number of learners who could participate to 2200.

Homeschoolers who were "registered" with a public school district were now “worth” $250/learner to the school. The grant amount allotted to children who were registered with an independent school was $175. It was no longer possible for schools that provided a registration option to compete financially with what a DEL program could offer. Families who chose to educate their children as registered homeschoolers did so for philosophical reasons. Registration numbers began to drop and enrollment numbers began to rise. DEL programs began to offer more incentives for families to enroll and home learning families became an educational market niche.

Some school districts took the “all gain, no pain” route to DL administration. In 2001/02, Gold Trail, School District No. 74, experienced a Ministry of Education funding clawback in the amount $2,549,063 because they enrolled 648 home-based learners under the supervision of one certified teacher. Although they provided a resource allowance of $500 per student, the Ministry determined that they did not provide adequate oversight for the learners’ educational programs. In addition, most of the enrolled learners resided outside of the school district, so the Ministry re-classified these students as registered homeschoolers and deducted the enrolled per-learner grants from the following year's funding.

At some point, the “E” in DEL was dropped (likely as a way to bring the DES programs under the same umbrella) and in 2000/01, EBUS and other public Distributed Learning (DL) programs had their enrollment caps removed. Provisions of Bill 34, The School Amendment Act, 2002, allowed school districts to enroll non-school district learners in their DL programs. This meant that school districts were now competing for DL enrollments and started to structure their programs accordingly. Also in 2002, an independent school DL pilot project was initiated with 6 independent schools and 500 students participating. In 2003/04, all public school DL programs received full DL funding ($5308) for their learners and the five remaining independent DLs received 50% funding ($2654).

It seems important to note that thirteen years later, the grants for registered homeschoolers remain the same ($250 for public schools, $175 for independent schools), although public school districts now receive the same amount of funding per DL learner as they do students who attend their brick and mortar schools. EBUS may have received $3500 for a home-based learner in 1997, but in 2009/10 they received $10,111 for each DL student enrolled. As EBUS currently enrolls over 1000 students, this means that their program budget for 2009/10 was over $10,000,000 for a staff of 35 (administrators, counsellors, teachers, and support staff). An independent school receives half of the amount of the funding for the school district they are located in. This means that an independent DL program located in the Nechako Lakes area would receive $5,055.50 per student. If that program happened to have an enrollment of 1000 students, that program would be receiving over $5,000,000 in public funds.

It is easy to see the financial benefits that a DL program enjoys once enrollment reaches a certain number of students. If a DL program pays their staff approximately 1/3 of the total budget, and provides each child with a resource allowance of $1000 to $1200, then it is reasonable to assume that most of the large DL programs will have anywhere from 35% to 50% of the funding left to use for program infrastructure and other “related projects”.

NOTE: In 2012, the Ministry of Education changed the way that DL programs are funded. All public school DLs in the province now receive the same rate of $5851 per FTE student and all independent schools receive 62% of that amount per student ($3628), regardless of where they are located. In addition, the province has capped the learning resources allowance at a maximum of $600 (a DL does not have to provide this amount). A DL is not allowed to reimburse a family directly, but may use a purchase order system or a reloadable credit card to get around that problem.

http://www.fisabc.ca/sites/default/files/Fed%20News%20June%202012.pdf

Bill 33

In 2006, Bill 33 (Education (Learning Enhancement) Statutes Amendment) was introduced to the BC Legislative Assembly. It contained guidelines for Distributed Learning programs, including the new policy that the per student grant amounts had to be used within the DL program and could not be used for other schools or programs in the school district (or umbrella organization, in the case of an independent school). Bill 33 also made it illegal for parents to be reimbursed directly for resource purchases, so all DL programs had to create different ways to allocate the money set aside as a resource allowance. Some went with a purchase order system and some introduced re-loadable Visa cards. Regardless of the system the DL chose, there was an increase in the amount of administrative work involved, and due to this and the restriction in how the funding could be used outside the program, some school districts decided it was no longer worth their while to continue operating their DL programs.

Despite tighter regulation on the part of the Ministry of Education, enrollment numbers for DL programs were relatively unaffected. After a slight enrollment dip in 2006/07, numbers continued to climb. As of 2009/10, there were 22,481 full-time enrollments in DL programs provincially and a total of 44,042 children participating in some aspect of a DL program.

In stark contrast, the number of registered homeschooling children peaked in 1996/97 with 4925 home-educated learners and has decreased in number each subsequent year, with a total of 2463 for 2009/10.

Table 1
89/90
90/91
91/92
92/93
93/94
94/95
95/96
96/97
97/98
98/99
99/00
DL public
0
0
0
0
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
8362
7368
7713
DL Ind.
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Registered
1695
2496
2880
3225
4253
4391
4805
4925
4813
4643
4539


00/01
01/02
02/03
03/04
04/05
05/06
06/07
07/08
08/09
09/10
DL public
7791
7497
8305
9872
10,432
10,282
9,190
12,357
13,616
DL Ind.
0
0
448
466
1546
2191
2548
3454
4061
DL Total
7791
7497
8753
10,338
11,978
12,473
11,738
15,811
17,677
22,481*
Registered
4142
3662
3689
3330
3068
2710
2811
2789
2722
2463


*FTE. There are currently 44,042 students (total) who are accessing courses through DL programs either on a full-time or part-time basis. High school DL programs are funded on a per course basis.

Sources:
The Future of Homeschooling

When we look at the decreasing numbers of registered homeschoolers and the increasing numbers of enrolled DL learners, some of us worry about the future of homeschooling as defined by Sections 12 and 13 of the School Act. It’s easy to let a little paranoia slide into our ruminations over the future of educational choice and to wonder if, perhaps, there is a conspiracy "out there" to turn the remaining handful of homeschoolers into school-at-homers, supervised by a BC Certified teacher.

It’s my opinion that we can relax and take a deep breath. And once we’re relaxed and calm, we need to act.

The first thing we need to do is inform ourselves of the importance of Sections 12 and 13 of the School Act. We have it so good right now that most of us are a bit complacent. Sections 12 and 13, however, allow us the ultimate freedom of choice in education in our province, and it’s worth the effort to preserve and protect them. We need to make sure we know why it’s important to do so.

Once we are convinced that these sections are important, we can casually share this information with other home learning families within our sphere of influence. If they are enrolled in a DL program and are happy with their choice, that’s fantastic. But it doesn’t hurt for all parents who have their children learning at home to understand how things got to the place they are now and to value our current laws.

The last thing we need to do is keep our ears to the ground. We need to be listening and watching for any signs that change is in the wind. If change does come, we need to be prepared to meet it with an informed and reasoned response. And we need to have a way to come together as a group so that we can speak with one voice in support of registration, regardless of whether our children are registered or enrolled.

The Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools has an overview document that contains this section on “Choice in Education”:

Government strongly supports a public system of education that provides a publicly funded quality education for all. However, parents have a right to choose from various educational alternatives for the education of their children, such as distributed learning, homeschooling and independent schools.

• Partial funding of independent schools recognizes the contributions these schools have made to the education of children in our province. It also impacts tuition fees set by authorities, thereby increasing options for more parents to select schools of their choice. These choices often reflect the goals, educational pedagogy, culture/religion and values parents desire for their child(ren).
• Parents are increasingly demanding more choices regarding their children's education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), cosigned by Canada, states: "Parents have the prior right to choose the kinds of education that shall be given to their children." First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, co-signed by Canada states: "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure that such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."
• The Sullivan Royal Commission concluded that, "We therefore deem it proper that nonpublic schools should continue to receive provincial financial assistance, such aid we believe to be a normal tangible manifestation of the freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To assume otherwise would be to deny accommodation of social diversity and multiculturalism, the recognition of individual differences and the rights of parents to participate in educational choice - all principles which remain fundamental parts of the democratic system we hold dear."
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/independentschools/geninfo.pdf

This is the assurance we need that there are laws and provisions in place that support our continued freedom of educational choice for our children. And, as reassuring as that is, we still need to be vigilant in monitoring these rights and freedoms, as we cannot take them for granted.
_____________________________________________

In addition to the resources linked above, I am indebted to Colleen Erzinger, past-president of the British Columbia Home Learners’ Association (BCHLA), and Ernie Mannering, past-principal of EBUS Academy, both of whom I spoke to in June, 2008 regarding the development of DL programs in the province of British Columbia. Marty Layne and I have had a number of conversations where she clarified that homeschooling has never been illegal in BC, even if it wasn't specifically mentioned in school law prior to 1989. I have also drawn from my own experiences working as an independent school administrator from 1993 to 1996 (when Nechako EBUS was flexing its wings) and as the director of Special Education for an independent DL program from 2004 to 2009.

Please note that there may be some minor errors in dates and numbers. The dates and numbers provided by the different sources I accessed did not always match up exactly, although they were usually very close. If you have accurate information to add to this history of home-based learning in BC or you have a suggested correction, please feel free to let me know. I welcome your input.

Further information about homeschooling and DL programs from the BC Ministry of Education:



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