An updated homeschooling policy released in June 2010 was met with dismay on the part of Quebec homeschoolers. Some were confused, most were angered. After several years of hard work homeschool support groups had put into informing the government and meeting with education ministry representatives, the document remained essentially unchanged from the white paper issued to school boards in 2005. Had the parents not been heard at all?
1) Quebec’s new homeschooling policy gives school boards almost total control
While the policy recognizes the primacy of parental responsibility over all matters including the education of the child (p5) it still puts the school boards in the driver’s seat.
Parents must register children with their local school board (p8) and must furnish them with an educational plan that includes a list of educational materials to be used. (p7) Only the school board can grant exemption from compulsory school attendance. (p8) Homeschoolers must submit to direct evaluation by the board. (p7) Even the time and place of evaluation are left completely to the discretion of the board. (p9)
There is no provision in the new homeschooling policy for alternative assessment, despite the fact that the Education Act calls for an evaluation made “by or for the school board.” This oversight is particularly troubling because a number of homeschoolers have withdrawn their children from school after negative experiences with their school board.
2) Quebec’s new homeschooling policy makes no provisions for unschoolers
Unschooling is a popular form of home-based education that is driven by student interests, and very often stems from deeply held convictions that children have the right to develop emotionally and intellectually according to their own natural rhythms.
This is the sort of conscientious belief to which reference is made in the admonition to respect charter rights and freedoms. (p9) As unschooling is vastly different from any educational approach most classroom teachers have encountered, any effective homeschooling policy should make mention of its effectiveness and offer guidance to school boards on how to approach assessment of unschooled children and teens.
3) Under Quebec’s new homeschooling policy there is no perceived benefit to homeschooling “on the radar”
In Western Canada, parents clearly benefit fro, registering their children with local educational authorities. They receive stipends, are provided an educational consultant, and can enrol their children in certain school-based activities. In some jurisdictions homeschooling families have free access to textbooks and teacher’s guides, computers, distance learning programs or specialized learning centres.
Quebec’s new policy makes reference to materials and services school boards may offer, but only to say they are not required (pp8,9) or that fees may not be charged for them. (p10) Yet despite the fact that school boards receive funding for each homeschooler they register, they are required to provide only yearly assessments. With nothing to gain from registering, and a good deal to lose, a large percentage of homeschoolers will choose to remain under the proverbial radar.
4) Quebec’s new homeschooling policy offers no mechanism for settling disputes
Parents must register with the school board in their jurisdiction. (p8) There is no mention of a procedure to follow for filing appeals or grievances if parents and board officials cannot come to an agreement. Worse still is the fact that the policy’s opening words (pp5,6) are a legal justification for school board officials who involve Youth Protection workers in situations that essentially amount to a stalemate or breakdown of communication between homeschoolers and school board staff.
Quebec would do well to follow the lead of provinces like Ontario, where homeschooling parents are automatically assumed to be providing their children an adequate education, and where any concern to the contrary must be addressed by educational officials from outside the home school district. Alberta can also be proud of its homeschooling policy: in that province the parents and educational professionals share the common goal of ensuring that homeschooled children meet the educational objectives set by their parents.
“Education Act. Government of Quebec
“Home Schooling – Policy Framework.” Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport