When parents choose to homeschool their children, they usually have a myriad of questions running through their heads. We've covered the basics in our answers to the frequently asked questions listed below, and outlined elsewhere the steps you need to take to Get Started. The rest of our website will help you explore each issue or topic in greater detail. If you have already thoroughly explored our website and you still can't find answers on these pages, please feel free to contact OFTP for information about any specific questions which still seem unclear or missing.
- What is homeschooling? How does it work?
- What are some of the benefits of homeschooling?
- What about socialization? How will my child learn to get along in the world?
- How many children are homeschooled?
- How long can you home school?
- Is homeschooling legal? What does the law say about it?
- I would like to start homeschooling my children. What do I need to do to make it legal? Do I need to register with the government?
- What about my JK child? Do I have to register my child with the school board first even though we intend to homeschool? Do I have to send a letter of intent?
- How do I remove my child from the school system?
- To whom should I send my letter of intent?
- Is there a sample letter of intent I could use?
- Do I have to send a letter of intent every year?
- Do I have to send a letter of intent even if my child has never attended school?
- Do I have to send a letter of intent to the school board even if my child has been attending a private school?
- We're moving. (or: We've just moved here). Do I need to send a letter of intent to the school board that's responsible for our new neighbourhood?
- Do I need to be a certified teacher to homeschool my children?
- Do I need to keep records of our homeschooling?
- Can we homeschool part-time? / Is part-time attendance allowed?
- I'd like to homeschool other people's children. Is that legal? How can I go about offering the service?
- Can my child enter (or re-enter) the school system sometime in the future after homeschooling? How does that work?
Teaching, Learning, and Testing
- How do I decide what approach to take?
- What is unschooling?
- What is deschooling?
- What do I teach? Must I follow a curriculum?
- What if my child wants to learn something I can't teach?
- How do I know if my child is learning? Should I test my child?
- I need or want to have my child tested. How do I go about doing that?
- How do I homeschool my preschooler?
- How many hours does it take? Do I have to follow school hours?
Resources and Materials
- Is homeschooling expensive?
- How do I know which materials and resources to use?
- Where can I get materials and resources?
Jobs, Ontario Works, ODSP, Special Needs
- Can I be on Ontario Works or ODSP and still homeschool my children?
- I can't quit my job to homeschool. Can I have my children homeschooled by someone else? Is that legal?
- Can I work at a job and still homeschool my own children?
- Can I homeschool a child with special needs? Where can I find more information, resources, and support for special needs homeschooling?
- Are homeschooled children eligible for the kind of health services that are available in schools? Is there any kind of assistance available for a speech therapist to work with my child?
Burnout and Support
Funding and Taxes
- Is there any funding for home-based education? Are there any tax credits?
- Shouldn't I be exempt from school support taxes if I don't use the system?
Secondary and Post-Secondary Education
What is homeschooling? How does it work?
"Homeschooling" is probably the most common term currently in use to describe parents taking direct responsibility for their children's education instead of sending the children to school. Other phrases used include: home-based education, home-based learning, family- and community-based learning, homelearning.
There are a number of different approaches that can be taken by homeschooling parents according to their values, beliefs and personal styles and also according to what works for their own individual children. On the spectrum between structure and freedom, at one end there is the structured approach of "school-at-home" in which the family follows a grade-based curriculum using textbooks and worksheets, and at the other end of the spectrum there is what is sometimes called "unschooling" or "child-led learning," which is more informal and integrated into daily life. There are also approaches in-between these two poles, that combine structure and natural learning in different measures, and for each of all these approaches there are variations according to the family's values and beliefs and particular philosophies of life.
It's up to you to decide what form homeschooling will take in your own family. We recommend you find out more about the different approaches before settling on one. You may find, as well, that your approach changes over time as you respond to the needs and interests of your children and the logistics and economics of providing for their education at home. For further exploration of your options, please see the question "How do I decide what approach to take?" and visit our page on Teaching Methods and Learning Philosophies.
What are some of the benefits of homeschooling?
In point form, the short-version list of benefits of homeschooling include:
- closer family bonds
- course of study can be tailored to the child's individual interests and abilities
- the learning environment is more relaxed and natural
- children can learn free from physical and psychological bullying
- diminished influence of peers and "peer pressure"
- more positive and broader socialization experiences with children of various ages as well as adults
For a more detailed response, read OFTP member Marian Buchanan's blog post: FAQ: What are some of the benefits of homeschooling?
What about socialization? How will my child learn to get along in the world?
One of the many benefits of homeschooling is positive socialization. See the blog post above on benefits, and our page on Socialization.
How many children are homeschooled?
Many home educating parents do not register with local school officials so an exact number is not known. However, it is estimated that approximately 1% to 2% of all school-age children are homeschooled in North America, which translates to around 20,000 to 40,000 children in Ontario. The number for Canada as a whole is estimated at approximately 47,500 to 95,000 homeschooled children. Estimates for the United States range between 1 million to 2 million children being homeschooled.
See also the answer to this question in the FAQ of the Canadian Home Based Learning Resource Page.
How long can you home school?
From birth to whatever age the child leaves home.
Is homeschooling legal? What does the law say about it?
Yes, homeschooling is legal in all Canadian provinces and territories.
In Ontario, the Education Act states the following under Section 21(2)(a):
a person is excused from attendance at school if [...] the person is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere.
Satisfactory instruction is not defined in the Ontario Education Act nor does it say who should make this determination. In the past, school boards assumed it was up to them to make that determination, and therefore adopted a policy of making demands of homeschooling parents that OFTP believed exceeded the authority given them by the Education Act. Such demands included requesting forms be completed (detailing the curriculum used, activities engaged in, hours of instruction, methods of assessment, etc.), and/or having an attendance counsellor visit them in their home.
As a result of OFTP's efforts to have this non-legal policy changed, the Ministry of Education drafted a new official policy, released in June 2002 as Policy/Program Memorandum No.131, which directs school boards to accept a family's letter of intent to homeschool as sufficient evidence that the parents are providing satisfactory instruction. School boards are directed to investigate only if there are "reasonable grounds" to suspect that the instruction is not satisfactory, and are given to understand that homeschooling methods and schedules etc. may be very different from the kind of instruction provided in schools.
Some school boards continue to attempt a more routine monitoring of homeschooling families. If this is the case for you, you may wish to refer them to PPM131.
It should be emphasized that both the previous policy of routine monitoring and the current policy detailed in PPM131 are policies only, not laws. The only legally enforceable document is the Education Act. Therefore, if a homeschooling family chooses not to cooperate with a school board's attempts to monitor or investigate them, they are not breaking any laws. A provincial inquiry is the only investigation with which parents are obligated by law to comply.
The provincial inquiry is the procedure provided by the Education Act to be followed in cases where there is a dispute between the parents and the school attendance counsellor concerning the applicability of Section 21(2). Under Section 24, the procedure to be followed is a provincial inquiry by officials appointed by the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor. The Act states explicitly that these inquiry officials should not be from the school board that operates the school that the child has the right to attend.
Nevertheless, the policy outlined by PPM131 includes the possibility of a school board investigation. The decision about whether or not to cooperate with a school board investigation is up to each individual homeschooling family. You may wish to request assistance from OFTP if you ever find yourself in that situation.
See our pages on homeschooling legal issues for more details.
I would like to start homeschooling my children. What do I need to do to make it legal? Do I need to register with the government?
In Ontario there is no legal requirement to register with any government body in order to educate your children at home. If they have never been registered in school, you may simply proceed with your plans to provide for their education in whatever way you see fit. If the children have been attending government-funded school (English public, English Catholic, French public, or French Catholic) or are registered to attend such a school, you will, of course, need to let the principal and school board know of your decision to withdraw them (see below). If your children have been attending or registered to attend a private school, you should communicate with the school about your change of plans in whatever way is mutually suitable (in person, by phone, or in writing).
What about my JK child? Do I have to register my child with the school board first even though we intend to homeschool? Do I have to send a letter of intent?
No. Since you're not choosing a public school education, there's no need to act as if you are (by registering for enrolment in school), only to reverse that action right away (by withdrawing the child from enrolment). In Ontario there is no legal requirement to register with any government body in order to educate your child at home. If the child has never been registered in school, you may simply proceed with your plans to provide for their education in whatever way you see fit. In any case, JK and SK are not mandatory in Ontario, and your child is not considered of "compulsory school age"* until the September in which they're 6 years of age. So even if you choose to strictly follow the PPM131 policy of sending a letter of intent for any school-age child whether or not they're registered for school attendance, you still wouldn't start doing so until the child reaches compulsory school age.
*Note: "Compulsory school age" is the phrase used, but it doesn't mean school is compulsory, only that education is, and non-attendance at school requires a legal excuse such as receiving "satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere" — i.e. homeschooling.
How do I remove my child from the school system?
It is your parental prerogative to switch to home based education at any time of the year if you so choose. If your child is already attending or registered to attend a publicly funded school, you must notify the school authorities that you will be withdrawing your child from the school system in order to home school.
The government's current home schooling policy was released on June 17, 2002 as Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131 (PPM131). We recommend you read this document on the Ministry of Education website and OFTP's reaction to it as it sets ground rules and expectations for school boards in their dealings with parents who choose to home educate their children in Ontario.
PPM131 includes an Appendix B: Sample Letter Indicating Notification of Intent to Provide Home Schooling, but all the appendices are included in a single PDF, which has misled some parents to think they need to fill out the Appendix D form as well. You should not fill out Appendix D. (If you're asked or "told" to do so, please get in touch with the OFTP before you do anything). To make things easier, we've created a stand-alone sample letter of intent for you to use instead. You can use this to notify the school board that you will be homeschooling your child. Just print a copy of the sample letter, complete it and send it to the local school board. (Out of courtesy, if you wish, you could also send a copy to the principal of the school.)
To whom should I send my letter of intent?
When withdrawing children from the publicly-funded school system with the intention of homeschooling them instead, a written notification should be sent to the school board so that the children are not considered truant, and to have them removed from the enrolment register. For the same reason, and out of common courtesy, it makes sense for you to inform the principal as well. You might, for instance, provide the principal with a copy of the notice to the school board.
On our webpage about the Letter of Intent, we've included a link to the Ministry of Education webpage that lists all the Ontario school boards, with addresses and phone numbers. But their list doesn't provide the title and email address of the official at your particular school board to whom you should send the letter of intent, so we've compiled our own list of all of the relevant contact information for all of the school boards.
When withdrawing a child from a private school, you don't need to send a letter of intent anywhere, just communicate with the school itself in whatever way you usually do. If they request your decision be communicated in writing, provide a letter and keep a copy for yourself. If the public school board contacts you while you're homeschooling, asking about your child's non-attendance at school, reply with a letter of intent and keep a copy for yourself.
Is there a sample letter of intent I could use?
Yes. See our page on the Letter of Intent.
Do I have to send a letter of intent every year?
As per the policy document, PPM131, the government would prefer that all parents notify the school board in each school year that they will be homeschooling a child of compulsory school age (age 6 to 18). This is not technically a requirement, however, since it is merely a policy rather than the law. See our PPM131 FAQ.
Do I have to send a letter of intent even if my child has never attended school?
No. Because PPM131 is a policy rather than the law, many parents whose children have never attended school do not notify the school board. However, if you are contacted by the school or school board authorities asking why your child is not attending school, it makes sense for you to reply in writing or fill out the basic notification form they may wish you to fill out for their official records. While a request for any detailed information (about curriculum, schedules, assessment techniques, etc.) would amount to an investigation, a request for a written statement confirming your intention to homeschool would be a perfectly reasonable request. Refusing to comply with it would create an adversarial dynamic unnecessarily and could escalate it to an investigation. See our PPM131 FAQ.
Do I have to send a letter of intent to the school board even if my child has been attending a private school?
No, you're already outside of the public school system and the Education Act does not require that you notify any government body about your decision to homeschool. Just communicate your change of educational plans to the private school itself, in whatever way you usually communicate with them (in person, by phone, or in writing). If the public school board contacts you once you're homeschooling, asking about your child's non-attendance, give your reply in writing as a letter of intent.
We're moving. (or: We've just moved here). Do I need to send a letter of intent to the school board that's responsible for our new neighbourhood?
No, not unless they request one. What you need to do depends on where you're going to live:
- If you're moving to a new province or country, the Ontario law and policy will no longer apply and you'll need to follow the homeschooling laws and regulations that govern your new place of residence instead.
- If you're moving within Ontario, you can choose whether to follow the policy strictly (PPM131) or just stick only to what is required by law (Education Act):
- If you choose to follow PPM131, you do not send a letter of intent to the new board. You continue to send a yearly letter of intent to "the school board in whose jurisdiction [your] child last attended school" (or was last registered to attend — for instance, if you already registered at the new school and then decided to homeschool before the first day of school, it's still the new school that's the "school of record" even though there may not have been any days of actual attendance).
- If you choose not to do anything that is not required by law, you don't send any letters of intent to any school board (after the initial one withdrawing your child from enrollment) unless it is requested directly.
- If you've just moved here from outside of Ontario and never registered your child for school here, see the FAQ about never having registered.
Do I need to be a certified teacher to homeschool my children?
No, there is no requirement in the Ontario Education Act for a parent to be a certified teacher in order to homeschool their children. Although many teachers have chosen home schooling for their children, parents from a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds successfully educate their children at home. Research has shown that homeschooling parents who are not professional teachers do just as well, if not better, than homeschooling parents who are certified teachers. [Private schools are also not required to have teachers who are certified.]
Do I need to keep records of our homeschooling?
No. There is no legal requirement in Ontario to keep home education records, and no one to submit anything to. No grading unless you choose to, no homemade report cards unless you choose to, no tests unless you choose to, and none of those would be recognized within the school system. No tests or documentation are required for entering or re-entering the school system after homeschooling. (See the FAQ about switching to school.)
Having said that, your child might choose to document their learning during the 'high school years,' in other words once they get within a few years of applying for university if that is the route they decide to take. The documentation needed for the admissions process changes from one university to another. We recommend the young person find out specifically what is required for admissions at the particular universities to which they will be applying, with enough advance to have time to tailor their studies accordingly and gather the documentation together. The university admissions policies listed on our site are not just for Ontario, but for all of Canada.
Can we homeschool part-time? / Is part-time attendance allowed?
Part-time attendance is legal but is at the discretion of the principal, sometimes overridden by the school board. For details, see our page on Part-Time Attendance and our blog post "Can We Homeschool Part-Time?"
I'd like to homeschool other people's children. Is that legal? How can I go about offering the service?
Tutoring is, of course, legal, and so is babysitting. They’re personal arrangements that only involve one or a few children at a time, for short periods of time, and are a supplement rather than a replacement for parents homeschooling their own children. There’s nothing in the Education Act nor PPM131 that would disallow such arrangements. Homeschooling parents still retain responsibility for ensuring the children receive "satisfactory instruction," and hiring a tutor or an educationally-minded babysitter is one way they can do that. It can happen "at home or elsewhere."
If, however, what you had in mind goes beyond that, and you want to offer a full-day, more than once a week, educational solution for parents who (whether because they work full-time or don't feel confident or any other reason) want their children to be “homeschooled” by someone else, you have to be careful to follow the laws that govern daycare providers and private schools. Count your own children in the following tallies:
If you are providing care for any children under the age of 4, you must abide by any relevant rules and ratios in the Child Care and Early Years Act.
If there are more than 4 pupils of compulsory school age (and assuming you’re teaching any subjects that are part of the school curriculum and are doing so at any time during school hours), you may be required to register as a private school.
A private school is defined in the Education Act as “an institution at which instruction is provided at any time between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any school day for five or more pupils who are of or over compulsory school age in any of the subjects of the elementary or secondary school courses of study” (and is not a government-funded school).
It’s unclear whether or not an educational program operating out of a home is considered an “institution” in this context (consult a lawyer for legal clarification on that) but assuming it is, you need to determine whether you meet any of the other criteria for being considered a school. There are fines for failing to register as a private school when you meet the criteria of the definition. (See http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/privsch/ and http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/privsch/PrivateSchools_PolicyManual.pdf)
You would not be considered a private school if any of the following apply:
- you have fewer than 5 students of compulsory school age (including your own children)
- or you only teach subjects that are not part of the Ontario curriculum
- or your classes are before 9am or after 4pm or on the weekend
Whether you’re registering as a private school or are just homeschooling fewer than 5 school-age children that aren’t all your own, make sure you draw up a contract for parents to sign, that describes your pedagogical approach and requires agreement from the parents not to hold you responsible for ensuring any specific learning outcomes on any specific timeline. We’ve heard of at least one situation where there were unreasonable parental expectations that were not met (and couldn’t have been guaranteed anyway) but hadn’t been spelled out ahead of time. Better if everyone involved knows up front that it’s still up to the parents to stay on top of whether the arrangement continues to suit their purposes, and if it doesn’t, to make another choice in a timely manner.
To offer any of the above services to parents (tutoring, babysitting, private schooling in your home), you may submit your information to the OFTP Resource Directory, and we will also pass it along to parents who enquire about options in their area.
Can my child enter (or re-enter) the school system sometime in the future after homeschooling? How does that work?
Yes, at any time of the school year. [For 2020-2021, see the COVID note below this paragraph]. To enter (or re-enter) the system, you just enroll your child in school (for the first time or again). In the elementary grades, they'll most likely be placed by age, without a test. At the high school level, there may be a placement test to make sure they're at grade level, and if it's after grade 9 there will be a need to grant the missed credits through Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) or some other way to catch up with credits (e.g. taking the missed credit courses online). Grade placement and OSSD credits are up to the principal, but the right to attend is enshrined in the Education Act, so the only reason they can refuse admission to a student is if the student was expelled or suspended, not if they were homeschooled. You can start homeschooling at any time during the school year. You can also enter or re-enter the school system at any time of the school year (except in unusual circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic — see below). Obviously, however, you should avoid trying to go back and forth multiple times in a single school year — in that case, look for part-time attendance options instead.
COVID note: Under normal circumstances, a child can start attending school in person at any time of the school year. During the special circumstances of the pandemic, however, you will have to confirm with the school what is and is not possible — not about whether your child can receive public education (which they definitely can, since that is indeed enshrined in the law), but about which options for receiving it are available, and during which windows of timing any switches can be made. There are logistics involved whereby the physical presence aspect of school "attendance" may not be available if the school has already filled their in-person capacity by the time you want to send your child. The schools' plans for the 2020-2021 school year involve ascertaining numbers so as to implement physical distancing and other measures accordingly, and they may or may not be able to make accommodations for in-person attendance after the fact. You have the right to the education itself, but the extraordinary circumstances could mean that you may have to take the school's at-home "remote learning" program instead of physical presence in the school building. Virtual learning options also have capacity issues. There are supposed to be asynchronous (on the student's own schedule) non-screen options for remote learning as well as the default synchronous online classes (everyone "attending" the virtual class at the same time). Please check with your school.
Teaching, Learning, and Testing
How do I decide what approach to take?
A number of approaches to homeschooling are described on our webpage about teaching methods and learning philosophies. To choose the one that's the most aligned with your own beliefs and overall parenting philosophy and goals, you can explore the questions in our blog post, "How do I decide what approach to take?"
Unschooling is one of the educational approaches that can be taken when choosing to withdraw a child from the school system, or not to send a child to school in the first place. See more details on our Unschooling page.
For parents, deschooling is a deconditioning of one’s way of thinking about education. It involves reevaluating what education is really about, what the learning process looks like in real life as opposed to just the institutional setting of school, what knowledge and skills are important to learn as opposed to just assigned by the standardized curriculum of the school system of mass instruction.
For children, deschooling is a time of decompression (sometimes de-tox or recovery) from the school environment they’ve been in, so that they can relax out of their school-related stress and re-discover their natural curiosity and love of learning. When used as a transition to homeschooling, it’s also a time of adjustment as they move into new ways of doing things.
For links to articles with more details and tips, see our page on Deschooling.
What do I teach? Must I follow a curriculum?
Homeschoolers in Ontario are not required to follow any particular curriculum, use any particular curriculum materials, nor teach any particular subject as such. The main expectation is that the education result in adequate literacy, numeracy, and general knowledge and culture. How that is accomplished is up to each family.
For more details on what a curriculum is and how to choose one (if any), see our page on Curriculum. For ideas and suppliers, see our pages of Resources. If you wish to follow the same grade-by-grade sequence as the public school system, see the Ministry of Education's Ontario curriculum guidelines.
What if my child wants to learn something I can't teach?
If there's a topic of knowledge or a skill you haven't acquired yourself, or if you just don't feel able to present something in a way that helps your child learn it, don't be afraid to delegate the task to someone else who has more experience or ability. There are tutors, courses and workshops offered through community centres and colleges, correspondence or online courses, and video tutorials. Even some textbooks are well enough written that a child or teen can learn from them without assistance. In fact, you might be surprised at what your youngsters will learn on their own if you let them do their own exploring and research. You might also like to learn right alongside them — not only to acquire the same knowledge and skills, but to demonstrate lifelong learning in action and show them how one goes about figuring out how to learn something one has decided to learn. And if you or your child or both of you do need a little extra help, ask among your family members, friends, and acquaintances, including fellow homeschooling parents from your local support group.
How do I know if my child is learning? Should I test my child?
Children are always learning, all you have to do is observe their progress as it shows up in what they do and say. Conventional testing and quizzing may be more efficient for a classroom teacher than direct observation, but only because the child-to-adult ratio is so high — usually 25:1 or 30:1 or even higher. For a parent at home with their own children, however, the child-to-adult ratio is much smaller and the relationship is much more intimate, so direct observation is easier and more accurate.
Whether you're trying to assess what your children have learned naturally on their own or how well they've acquired the knowledge and skills you've tried to teach them, in a homeschooling environment it's easy to notice when an individual child is catching on and when they're not. If you use a curriculum package with your child, you'll know whether or not they understand the material they're learning when you review the lessons with them and look at their work. If you're not using conventional curricula and a schedule of learning expectations, you can easily use non-intrusive methods of finding out what they know: direct observation, conversations that solicit their input, activities that put their knowledge and skills into practice, and games that make use of their learning.
Children are constantly asking questions, so we know that they are thinking and curious. But everyone has their own internal schedule for learning. For instance, not every child is ready to read at the age of 5 — some may start to read as early as age 3 and others may not be ready until they're 8 or 9, or as late as 13.
The usefulness of standardized testing is being questioned by educators themselves, and there are ways in which it can even be harmful. For one thing, it can mislead you into thinking you have a clear picture of a child's ability based only on their one-time performance on an artificial test of their competencies, taken out of the natural context of how their learning will serve them in real life. The premise of testing, and its environment of restricting access to aids, is stressful to children and can cause them anxiety, especially if they feel it's intended to evaluate whether they're failing to perform to your satisfaction. Anxiety, in turn, can cause them to perform poorly. Depending on how you react to that, it can lead to a snowball of stress. Do you really need to know if your child is "at grade level"? You should be able to tell through your teaching itself whether or not your child is "getting" what you're teaching.
So unless there's an external reason for testing (see below), you might want to respect the internal schedule of each child, trust that they will indeed eventually learn a given topic or skill if given the kind of encouragement and stimulation and resources they need, and monitor their progress as unobtrusively as possible. In this way, your child can retain a love of learning and not have it subverted to learning for a test score.
I need or want to have my child tested. How do I go about doing that?
Sometimes there's some external requirement for a child to be "at grade level" or a teen to have SAT scores in their portfolio — for instance, if they're preparing for entering or re-entering the school system; or there may be a court order on behalf of Children's Aid. If there is no such requirement, please be sure you've considered the possible effects of testing on your child's psychological well-being before deciding whether or not to proceed (see the above FAQ, "Should I test my child?").
If you still must or want to have your child tested, you have the right to have it done through the EQAO along with the school-children at the local school. If it needs to be immediate rather than on the EQAO's schedule, there are businesses that offer testing services for a fee. See our Resource Directory and the article about testing your children.
How do I homeschool my preschooler?
See the blog post on "How do I homeschool my 3-year-old?" In spite of the specific age mentioned in the title, it is relevant for any child under age 7.
How many hours does it take? Do I have to follow school hours?
There are no requirements for how many hours, or which hours of the day, to spend on homeschooling. The government's policy (PPM131) recognizes that homeschooling parents "may not be following the Ontario curriculum, using standard classroom practices in the home, or teaching within the standard school day or school year." It takes much less time for a child to learn something when they're getting one-on-one attention in a loving home environment where they can learn at their own pace, than it does when they're in a classroom of 30 children in an institutional environment where most of the time is spent on behaviour management, busywork, and keeping everyone learning at the same pace. Readiness is also an important factor. When you allow a child to learn at their own pace, there's no need to rush them through a given lesson just because it's on the artificial schedule of a standardized curriculum. Conversely, there's no need to hold them back from zipping through material for which they have a high interest or ability. If you choose to allow natural learning rather than imposing formal lessons, the question of hours spent on learning becomes moot: children are learning all the time, whether or not you recognize their development as such, and whether or not the acquisition of a particular knowledge, skill, habit, or worldview, was on your agenda to teach them deliberately or at all.
Resources and Materials
Is homeschooling expensive?
Homeschooling doesn't have to be expensive, although it certainly can be if you take advantage of all the educational products and services that are available on the market.
Your homeschooling costs can be tailored to your budget and the approach you have chosen, and can depend as well on what your children's interests are (if your child is going to be a computer programmer when she grows up, she will need a computer; if he hopes to be a research scientist, a microscope might be a worthwhile investment). If you have decided to buy a ready-made curriculum package for each grade, you will of course spend a lot more than if you use only free or low cost resources such as the library, the internet, or learning opportunities that are available in the community (museums, tours, demonstrations, field trips) or through your local support group. Even with prepackaged materials, though, you can often buy them second hand, either online or from other homeschoolers, used book stores, garage sales and curriculum fairs.
Expect to pay a few hundred dollars a year if you use mostly free or low cost resources, and several thousand if you are buying prepackaged curriculum for a family of several children at different grade levels.
Please note that in Ontario the Ministry of Education does not provide any funding to homeschooling families. Therefore, if you plan to purchase any curriculum materials or resources you will have to pay for them yourself.
How do I know which materials and resources to use?
The place to start is to decide what approach you'd like to take — see the above FAQ on choosing an approach. (It will likely change over time as you observe how your children respond to your methods and materials, but you have to start somewhere.) The reason to consider the question of approach first, is that it will make a difference in your choice of materials. There's no point in investing in expensive materials if it turns out you won't be using them after all.
If you haven't explored the question of approach yet, consider the following: education as provided in schools is institutional mass education, in other words it is based on delivering instruction towards a predetermined set of knowledge and skills, to a group of 25 to 35 children simultaneously, on a set schedule, in a set order. The standardized curriculum that informs that instruction is designed to conform to the logistics of that type of mass education, not to the interests, abilities and readiness of any particular individual child. As a parent, you have the opportunity to tailor your child's education to his or her own style of learning, growing abilities, state of readiness, and personal interests. You may or may not be able to do that with a standard curriculum and the materials that support it. You will need to decide what your parental and educational priorities are and how best to fulfill them in practical terms.
No matter what your approach, your children will learn through daily life, conversations and exploration of the world around them — it's just a natural part of their development. The materials that support this type of learning will therefore naturally include household objects, toys and boardgames, bikes and baseballs, tools and gadgets, CDs, DVDs and books, and whatever else you already own or have access to (e.g. through the library or the internet). If you choose to, you can supplement this natural learning with deliberately educational materials to whatever extent you feel is needed or desired.
If you're planning on following a child-led approach, you likely won't be looking at curriculum packages (although you might if your child asks for them) but you still might want to have certain reference books on hand (e.g. dictionary, atlas). You might also find some of the hands-on educational supplies (math manipulatives, science kits) fit in with your perspective on how to stimulate your child's creativity, curiosity and experimentation.
If you're planning on following a curriculum-based approach, you'll be wondering which brand is best suited to your own philosophy and beliefs and to your child's learning style and interests. Eventually we hope to provide product reviews of some of the materials available, to help you in your decision. Meanwhile, you can ask fellow homeschoolers to share their opinions, advice and experience of what worked well for their own children, and this might give you an idea of what could work well for yours. You can contact fellow homeschooling parents through local and online support groups. If you're an OFTP member, you can ask on the OFTP-members-only forums and Facebook groups.
Where can I get materials and resources?
No matter what your approach, your children will learn through daily life, conversations and exploration of the world around them. The materials that support this type of learning will therefore naturally include household objects, toys and boardgames, bikes and baseballs, tools and gadgets, CDs, DVDs and books, and whatever else you already own or have access to (e.g. through the library or the internet).
If you choose to, you can supplement this natural learning with deliberately educational materials to whatever extent you feel is needed or desired. See our pages of resources for ideas and suppliers. Aside from being sold through brick-and-mortar stores and online, materials are also available from vendors at Home Education conferences and curriculum fairs. There are also Facebook groups dedicated to the buying and selling of homeschool resources.
Jobs, Ontario Works, ODSP, Special Needs
Can I be on Ontario Works or ODSP and still homeschool my children?
Yes, as long as you meet all the benefit eligibility requirements. If you're on Ontario Works, you must still remain available for work or training, and will need to find a "babysitting" solution for the hours you are involved in OW job-related activities. See the FAQ's on homeschooling while working (below), and our pages about homeschooling while on Ontario Works and ODSP.
I can't quit my job to homeschool. Can I have my children homeschooled by someone else? Is that legal?
There is nothing in the Education Act nor PPM131 that would disallow it. The educational part of it is covered by "at home or elsewhere" and it would be like attending a non-registered private school or hiring a tutor. For the care-provider aspect of it, it depends on the ages of the children. If there are children under age 4, the person providing the service has to abide by the rules and ratios in the Child Care and Early Years Act. Assuming all the children are of school age, though, the situation is similar to that of the many after-school daycare providers who take several children into their own homes after school while waiting for their parents to be off work. The only difference, aside from which hours are involved, is the fact that the care-provider would be taking care of their education as well.
Can I work at a job and still homeschool my own children?
Yes. If you work but still wish to be the one homeschooling your children, you will simply need to find a "babysitting" solution for the hours you work. Then, during your free hours at home, you can provide any instructional or non-instructional learning opportunities you wish. Your children will, of course, still be learning during their other hours as well, but if you want to provide a specific education and you want to be the one to provide it, it doesn't matter what hours of the day the "official" homeschooling happens — within the boundaries of what's healthy for them getting enough sleep at a time that's appropriate for their own circadian rhythm.
Can I homeschool a child with special needs? Where can I find more information, resources, and support for special needs homeschooling?
Yes, you may homeschool a child with special needs. We have a section of the Resource Directory dedicated to Special Needs resources, and a volunteer able to help you with your questions about homeschooling a special needs child. To contact our volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. OFTP also hosts a Facebook group for Special Needs Homeschooling in Ontario.
Burnout and Support
How do home schooling parents avoid burnout?
Academic pursuits take fewer hours a week than in school because of the one-on-one tutoring, therefore a homeschooling parent does not need to spend the same amount of time as the school system to teach their children. Learning to work independently teaches children how to fill their time wisely which is more feasible in the homeschooling environment with the parent acting as a resource and facilitator. It has often been noticed that when a child is ready, many concepts that can take years to learn in the school system are mastered within a matter of weeks. Readiness is everything. Here are some ways to avoid burnout:
- join a local support group to participate in activities and field trips and network with other parents;
- have other parents teach material to your child that you may find difficult or are not familiar with;
- in order to allow some free time for the parent who is home with the children on a regular basis, have the parent who is gone during the day for "paid employment" (if this is the situation that exists in your home) interact and spend as much time as possible with their children when they are at home - i.e. talk to and/or play with them, read or teach some curriculum material to their children in the evening or weekends (note: learning doesn't just happen between 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, September to June). Many families do not experience the feeling of burnout since they fall into a natural rhythm of being home with their children on a regular basis. When children attend school, the family usually follows the schedule of the school - i.e. getting their children to school, picking them up at the end of the day, finding alternative child care on school closure days, March break, summer break, staying home from work with sick children and taking paid vacation days or unpaid days, etc. In the homeschool environment, the family can set their own schedule. If a child is sick then any activities that were scheduled can be canceled with minimum fuss. Parents do not have to worry about who is going to watch their children when they are not in school due to illness or school closure days since they are home with their children on a daily basis and have taken full responsibility for the care and education of their children.
Is there a support group in my area?
OFTP maintains a list of local support groups that we are aware of. If you do not see a group in your area on the OFTP list, then perhaps you could place a notice in your library or community centre indicating that you are looking for a homeschooling support group. If one does not exist in your community then perhaps you may want to consider starting one. Post a notice in your local library indicating that you are wanting to start a support group and invite other homeschoolers in your area to join you. If you know of a group, or are forming a new group, please encourage them to email us the details so we can post a listing in our Resource Directory.
Funding and Taxes
Is there any funding for home-based education? Are there any tax credits?
In provinces where funding is available to homeschoolers, it goes hand-in-hand with compulsory registration and government supervision. In Ontario, there is no funding nor tax credits but there is also no routine monitoring. Many parents prefer greater autonomy over funding. The government can still conduct investigations if need be, but that's a lot different from routine supervision and related requirements.
For students who attend school part-time and do homeschooling the rest of the time, school boards do receive proportionate funding for the part-time attendance. The funding is for the school board, not the family. (The Ministry of Education does allow homeschoolers to attend school part-time; however, it is at the principal's discretion whether or not to accept a homeschooled student for part-time attendance. Please see our page on Part Time Attendance for more details.)
If your child has special needs, you can consult the free guide on the Disability Credit Canada website to find out if your family is eligible for a disability tax credit. The credit has nothing to do with homeschooling or education but is mentioned as a possible source of funds for those who are eligible.
Homeschoolers have been eligible for all of Ontario's COVID-19 relief benefits that were for supporting children's education. There may also be other pandemic relief supports available to you that are independent of your children. See the Ontario government's webpage on COVID-19: Support for People.
Shouldn't I be exempt from school support taxes if I don't use the system?
Homeschoolers are in the same position as anyone else. Everyone pays taxes for roads and bridges, even those who have no cars. In the same way, everyone pays for public schools, even those who have no children or whose children attend private schools or homeschool. We are not paying for schools as homeschoolers but as taxpaying citizens, supporting the infrastructure of services that our government provides.
Secondary and Post-Secondary Education
What about highschool?
Some families homeschool during the elementary years and send their children to school for high school. Others homeschool throughout K-12. See out page about highschool options.
What about higher education?
Homeschooled children can and do attend college and university. Some homeschool through the elementary years and then attend high school to get their diploma or obtain credits through correspondence schools and virtual schools. Others homeschool through the high school years and are accepted at post-secondary institutions without an official high school diploma. Many universities and colleges in Ontario now have admissions policies for homeschoolers. However, even if a college or university does not yet have a specific policy, homeschoolers have still been able to gain admittance to many of these institutions. It is recommended that you determine what the admissions policy is for homeschoolers (if a policy exists) or determine what the general admissions policy is, for any particular college or university that you are interested in attending. It is also a good idea to speak to the Registrar to inform them of your particular situation in order to determine what criteria are necessary for you to gain admittance.
Universities like Harvard and Stanford actively recruit homelearners because of the creativity, independence and motivation that comes from being a self-directed learner at home. These universities are more interested in the student's actual ability and attitude than in the formal documents (transcripts, diplomas,...) that are meant to serve as evidence of these qualities.
Many teens will find their chosen career does not require them to attend a post-secondary institution but is much more quickly and appropriately accessed through a different venue: apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and career colleges are some of the other options.
It's also never too late to pursue higher education, as universities and colleges welcome older applicants as "mature students" without the need for a secondary school diploma. An option for homeschoolers who do not have a secondary school diploma, is therefore to wait to attend college or university until they can do so as a mature student - age 21 for university and age 19 for college - since the criteria for the admission of a mature student are different from those for a student under the age of 19 or 21.
See our pages on University/College Information for more details.
Cafi Cohen's book "And What About College?" (Holt Associates, 1998) and Grace Llewellyn's "Teenage Liberation Handbook" can be great helps to families working through these decisions.
Some well-known homeschoolers include: John Quincy Adams, Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie , Astronaut Sally Ride, Noel Coward, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.
"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." ~ Albert Einstein
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." ~ Mark Twain
Other FAQ pages
Please note that the legal requirements and information are different in the U.S. than in Canada, and even from province to province within Canada, so any specific legal information on the following pages should be disregarded if it's not geared directly to your province.