“Do we have to homeschool French?”

Credits: see footnote

Information valid for Ontario at the time of publication - October 2018

Short answer: no. Longer answer: there are good reasons to learn French (some to do with social advantages, others to do with brain development), and certain things to be aware of when a child or youth enters the school system after a time of homeschooling.

In a recent email enquiry, a young teen who was about to homeschool grade 8 asked if French was a mandatory homeschool subject for getting accepted into high school when she returns to the school system for grade 9 and beyond. I told her homeschoolers don’t have to follow the Ontario curriculum, so many don’t study French, yet they still get accepted into high school if they decide to enter the system after homeschooling.

The reason is that attending public school is a child’s right under the Education Act (the flip side of education being mandatory), so the school has to accept any student who is a Canadian citizen (or permanent resident) and who lives in the school’s assigned area. As far as I know, getting placed in the requested grade is not usually a problem for grade 9, when prior OSSD credits haven’t yet come into the picture, it’s usually only in grade 10 and above that the school might require more proof of grade level, and place a youth in whichever grade corresponds to their overall level of learning rather than their age. Also as far as I know, being behind in one subject doesn’t necessarily jeopardize being accepted at grade level for the rest of the courses.

I didn’t go into those details with the teen who was asking about French requirements, but I did reassure her that the OSSD only requires one credit for French, and since she’d already taken it up to grade 7 and would presumably be taking it in grade 9 and beyond, she should be able to get that one credit fairly easily.

In seeking confirmation about all this on the higheredforhomelearners yahoogroup, I was given the following additional information and thoughts:

Know how to frame your eligibility:

“It is always good to ask what the requirements would be [if, instead of a homeschooler, it was] a family moving in from another part of the world. Would they let the student in? I think that would answer your question. If there is push-back just ask them what they would do in [that] situation.”

The French credit is not as mandatory for the OSSD as you think:

“Cultural credits are an option [as an alternative to French]. French is not required to graduate (just a strongly pushed agenda). Native Studies is an option. When my boys were briefly in high school, French Canadian culture was also an option. We refused to enrol them in French and after a bit of push back the guidance office gave us alternatives.”

Shortly after replying to this teen, I received another enquiry about teaching French as a homeschooler. This time it was about whether doing French immersion at home would qualify as meeting the minimum number of hours required for being accepted specifically into the Academic section of grade 9 French. The listed requirement is 600 hours of instruction by the end of grade 8. In helping this parent with this more specific question, I discovered the following, from page 16 of the French curriculum guidelines: (http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/fsl912curr2014.pdf)

"Generally, the program a student selects at the secondary school level is determined by the total number of hours of French instruction accumulated by the end of Grade 8 (a minimum of 600 for Core French, a minimum of 1260 for Extended French, and a minimum of 3800 for French Immersion). The principal has the right to permit individual students to enrol in a course for which they may not have the entrance requirements if they have achieved the necessary language competence through other means." [emphasis added]

The table of prerequisites is on page 17, but the last sentence above (and the use of the phrase "or equivalent") kind of makes them irrelevant.

Also (as you can see if you look at the table in the document), there are no prerequisites for the Open courses, only the Academic and Applied. So unless you're attached to the Academic or Applied option, you could always just opt for the Open courses.

So... MUST you homeschool French? No – especially if you’re homeschooling throughout high school.

Do you nevertheless have to homeschool French IF you want to go into the school system at the high school level? Not really – it depends on what you want. Open courses have no prerequisites.

But should you anyway? Here are some thoughts on that:

French is one of Canada’s official languages. If you want to work in certain sections of the Canadian government, you’ll need to be bilingual. Many non-governmental jobs may also require it. Here’s how one parent put it:

“Growing up in rural Ontario, I saw no need for French so I didn’t take it in high school. I ended up getting a job with a large Company with manufacturing facilities across the eastern part of the country including Quebec. So I ended up going on business trips to Quebec and kicking myself for not having learned French! As a home schooler, I thoroughly support parental choice in the education of their children with lots of input from the children. However, sometimes a story to help influence those choices is in order to encourage studying things that may be useful in later life, unforeseen at the time.”

Being bilingual is a good ability to have for social reasons, too: being able to communicate with a broader range of people, and exposure to another culture, are good ways to broaden one’s horizons.

Just as importantly, the fact of living bilingually, and the language learning process itself, are also helpful for developing cognitive abilities more generally.


So, in case you do want to help your child learn French (and develop more general cognitive abilities in the process), here are some resources we have listed in our Resource Directory:





https://www.lernsys.com/en/french-language-introductory-course – Lessons 125-135 are free to view – they’re later on in the course, after some foundations are already built, so you won’t be able to start learning French through them, but they’ll give you an idea of the way the lessons are presented.

Additional resources included after the original October 2018 publication in the OFTP Members' newsletter:




Background image of map of where French is an official language: by Underlying lk via wikimedia:
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
This map was created with GunnMap. GunnMap was created by Arthur Gunn and is available, free, at http://gunn.co.nz/map/ and .

© Marian Buchanan, 2018

Marian joined the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents a couple of decades ago, around the time PPM131 was being negotiated. Her unschooled son is all grown up now, but she remains involved in the homeschooling community through her volunteer work with the OFTP as well as running several homeschool-related websites, including the Canadian Home Based Learning Resource Page, University Admissions in Canada, and the Homeschool Media Network. She also offers a few downloadable activities for children through her Kids and Caboodles site.

Topics: What to Teach