Friday, November 12, 2010

British Columbia Home Learners' Association

Written 2.5 years ago...

Prior to 1988, homeschooling in BC was something that parents did but without legal recognition - or support. These families were vulnerable to outside scrutiny or interference from government agencies simply because the family was homeschooling. In 1988, as a result of lobbying from the BC homeschooling community, the Royal Commission recognized homeschooling as a viable and legal educational option, providing some financial support to schools through school- based registration. Some schools, especially Independent schools, have always kicked back the major portion of this amount to home learning families. In the beginning this was a generous amount: $1200 per year for children registered in public schools, and $600 for children registered with Independent schools. This funding has decreased significantly through the years, especially after the advent of DL programs like eBus in the early 90s. Now, public schools receive $250 per registered learner and Independent schools receive $175, which is approximately .038% to .048% of the per learner funding grant the school receives for brick-and-mortar or DL learners.

It was the hard lobby work of members of the newly formed BC Home Learners' Association (BCHLA, then called CHEA - BC ) that helped to bring about changes to the School Act. The BCHLA still provides support to families who choose to register their home learning children (rather than enrolling them with a DL program). Children who are registered are not beholden to the Provincial Learning Outcomes or Performance Outcomes in any way (unlike children in DL programs). Parents, not a school or DL program, are responsible to provide the educational program. This allows a family 100% freedom to follow their own learn-at-home philosophy based on their family's values. BCHLA actively works to monitor and protect the freedoms we enjoy under Sections 12 and 13 of the school act, and also supports registered families when there are issues with school boards or social services.

There are about 2500 registered home schooling children in British Columbia. There are over 22,000 DL-enrolled home learning children in BC. The BCHLA only advocates on behalf of the registered learners and their families, and cannot, in light of its mandate, advocate for children enrolled in DL programs. Regardless, the BCHLA safeguards our parental right to choose to have our children learn at home without outside supervision or interference - and that's valuable to all of us, registered or enrolled.

If you care about having the option to register, even if you are currently choosing to enroll, and have been thinking about joining the BCHLA, this is a good time to do so. An AGM is coming up soon and there will be some new names put up for nomination to the Board. It would be great if interested and concerned people could take the time to join up so that the diversity of the BC home learning community is well represented - and perhaps interested folks could set up carpools to the meeting in the Lower Mainland.

You don't have to have registered homeschoolers in your house to join and have a vote (but you do if you'd like to sit on the Board of Directors). Please check out the membership information on the BCHLA website at http://bchla.bc.ca/about-us.html (there is some great information about the BCHLA on that page). The constitution and bylaws are here.

I know that we sometimes forget about the BCHLA as we live our busy home learning lives... and it is the group that has enabled us to have so many homeschooling choices and freedoms in this province.

If you've ever contemplated joining the BCHLA, now is a really good time to get involved.