Monday, January 24, 2011

Homeschooler? Home Learner?

In BC, it’s more than a matter of semantics.

by Rebecca McClure

Once you make the decision for your child to learn at home, outside of a school setting, you may consider yourself a homeschooler. This makes perfect sense as the term “homeschooling” is used worldwide to describe home-based learning. The “school” is not in the neighbourhood—it’s in the home! Home-school. It’s a matter of location.

In BC, however, our government uses this term in a way that confuses many people: “homeschooling” indicates the presence of a home-based school. The word “school”, in this instance, means that someone in the home is responsible for the determination and oversight of a child's educational program, not the Ministry of Education through the usual vehicle of a publicly funded school (public or independent). The term is no longer about location as it is about who is ultimately (and legally) in-charge of a child’s education: the parent or a teacher. It’s a matter of responsibility.

To add to the confusion, the term “homeschooling” isn’t even in the School Act. The School Act uses the words “home education” in Section 12 to describe parent-in-charge home learning. We aren't certain who first decided to use the term "homeschooling" to describe Section 12 in government policy statements, but since 2004, the Ministry of Education has made its position clear.
Homeschooling is an alternative method of teaching where the parent delivers an educational program to children at home. The School Act, (section 12) provides parents with the statutory right to educate their children at home.

Homeschooling is the full responsibility of the parent, is not supervised by a British Columbia certified teacher, is not required to meet provincial standards, and is not inspected by the Ministry of Education.

Distributed Learning (DL) should not be confused with Homeschooling...
To be fair to the Ministry, their use of terminology reflects their efforts to regulate and evaluate Distributed Learning (DL) programs, which came on the scene after Section 12 was written into BC law. DL programs have a checkered past in terms of accountability around the use of public funds and the provision of an educational program to students enrolled in their programs. A DL is a school, under law, and receives almost the same amount of funding for an enrolled “home-based learner” as it does for a child attending their school district or independent school. Regardless of learner location, a DL is required to ensure that the children in the program are following the BC curriculum.

By reserving the term “homeschooling” for Section 12 registration, the government is telling DL programs and enrolling parents that DL participation is, in fact, regular school. As far as the government is concerned, legally, the only difference is that the child isn’t occupying a desk at the local school building. So when a parent chooses to enroll a child in a DL program, it is also a choice to hand the control of a child's education over to someone else. And it's the DL program's responsibility to demonstrate that they are in charge of that child's education.

Those of us in the home learning trenches know that DL programs vary in terms of what they require from learners and their parents. We know that the resource money is awfully helpful with providing our kids with access to activities and materials. But we've also seen the tightening of requirements since EBUS first opened its doors in 1993 and every year or two, there are a few more hoops to jump through simply because enrolled parents are not officially in charge of their children's education.

The Ministry of Education has provided a useful chart that clearly demonstrates the difference between being enrolled as a DL student and being a registered homeschooler. If you have a chance to review it, it will help you to become clear in your own mind what the difference is between being registered and enrolled and which option is the best fit for you and your family.

© 2011 Rebecca McClure, All Rights Reserved

Sources:

The School Act
BC Ministry of Education :: Homeschooling
BC Ministry of Education :: Distributed Learning vs. Homeschooling