By Colin McGregor
As the family way of learning, homeschooling is an alternative educational choice that empowers parents to take charge of their children’s education, replacing traditional school attendance.
It brings a full life of discovery that both parents and children can share in at home.
Marine Dumond is the president of the Association Québécoise pour l’éducation à domicile (AQED), Quebec’s homeschooling association. Their ambition is to democratize home schooling, as Dumond explains: “We want a world where the educational choice to hold school at home is recognized at its fair value, and where parents are confident about offering a tailor-made education to their children.”
During the pandemic, as one might imagine, the number of students being homeschooled more than doubled. Before Covid there were 5,000; at the height of the pandemic there were 12,000 Quebec children being homeschooled. Today, Dumond says there are between 7,000 and 8,000.
Across North America it is estimated that between 1% and 4% of all children are homeschooled.
To become a homeschooling family, there are a lot of documents to be filled out. “Lots of paperwork,” says Dumond, including a learning project – a game plan outlining how the child is to be educated at home, including resources and activities that will be used to develop their skills and competences… Learning projects can be as short as two pages.
The government wants students to follow their program as closely as possible. “There’s a whole vocabulary for parents to learn,” says Dumond. “They have to show how they will educate their child. The parent has to prove what they can put in place to get their child to progress.”
The AQED helps parents out in this process. At the provincial education ministry, the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES), there is a section devoted to overseeing homeschooling, the Direction d’Enseignement à la Maison (DEM). The DEM will read all documents to ensure they comply with government standards. The AQED can help, in French or in English, by answering all parent questions and by “demystifying” the vocabulary involved. “A parent’s time is best spent with their child” says Dumond. Often homeschooling parents will help each other out. The AQED supplies educational materials and even examples of learning projects.
Parents who choose home schooling have to send out a written notice to the DEM and to their local school board (for Anglophones) or service centre no later than July 1st. A parent can obtain resources, including textbooks, at their school board or service centre. Dumond warns that some boards are more accommodating than others.
What’s more, the parent has to carry out an evaluation of their child every year. Their options include putting together a portfolio to show the work the child has done over the course of the year; they can have the child sit ministerial exams; or they can ask the local school board to do the evaluation.
There are five subjects that have to be taught every year, from grade 1 to secondary 5: English/French (first language and second language); math; the social universe; and science and technology. The parent has to grasp the objectives of each course as they are taught in Quebec schools. The learning project is a guide as to how the parent will accompany the child. Each family brings their own approach to organizing each learning day. There are as many different approaches as there are families.
“There are families that will create a workbook for each class,” says Dumond. It’s more common for families to reach out for outside help around secondary 4 and 5, since the courses become more complex. And these are they years during which the student is obliged to write all provincial exams.
The learning project must include a budget. When a homeschool student is enrolled with the local school board or service centre, that organization gets $1,500 from the education ministry.
Equal or Superior To
How do homeschooled students perform when compared to their traditionally schooled counterparts? “In general, homeschooled kids are equal or superior” says Dumond. A lot of scientific research has been carried out on the benefits of homeschooling, but most of it in Anglophone contexts and almost none of it in Quebec.
“We have the latitude and the beauty to follow the rhythm of our children. There’s no typical day,” boasts Dumond, who homeschools her own children and teaches at the education faculty of the Université de Montréal. Some parents keep daily notes. Some do activities that leave traces, including writing or art. Some parents take a lot of photos. In terms of on-line resources, Alloprof is frequently cited.
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