Almost one year ago, a small group of home educators from across the country got together on the Internet to form a Canadian national homeschool organization. The Association of Canadian Home-Based Education (ACHBE) has been functioning online since March of 1996, and in November, membership became open to the public.
"It is a place where Canadian homeschoolers facing regulation difficulties can discuss it with others, find support and a collective voice... after all, the squeaky wheel gets the oil!" says Jill Campbell, one of ACHBE's founding members. OFTP is now representing this new association in Ontario and this means that all OFTP members are also members of ACHBE. Along with Ontario, other provinces have been quick to join the organization and are serving as the provincial branches for the national association.
Given that the organization began online, it is no surprise that it has grown so quickly and gathered so much information. The Internet has become an important resource for home educators. The Canadian Resource Page located on the World Wide Web at http://www.flora.org/homeschool-ca is full of information and resources for homeschoolers. The only two Canadian mailing lists offering support for home-based educators can be accessed from this page. The first is the general mailing list where you can share your ideas, thoughts and experiences concerning home education. The second is the ACHBE mailing list. The purpose of this list is to provide a forum for Canadians to discuss legal and regulatory issues affecting the rights of parents to make educational choices for their children.
Members do not have to have access to the Internet in order to find out what is going on in Ontario and across Canada. As membership increases, ACHBE will be producing an newsletter to keep in touch with its off-line members. With this organization, whether online or not, members can have immediate access to a national support network with an e-mail message, a phone call, fax, or a letter.
This is not an organization where you will find ideas for curriculum planning or discussions on "how-to" issues with respect to home education. These kinds of support groups for home-based educators can be found just about everywhere now, and the general mailing list on the net serves this function. Few, however, are set up to assist you with regulation difficulties and government lobbies. OFTP already does this in Ontario, and now, ACHBE will help to strengthen this role.
ACHBE's Mission Statement: It is an association committed to providing support, advice and information to individuals and organizations; to acting as a special interest group nationally and regionally, and to protecting the rights of all Canadians to educate their children at home. The organization has no political or religious affiliation.
It is important for those interested in providing educational alternatives for their children to have access to the developments in other provinces and territories. In this way, we can be more informed about how to proceed. "When a province wants to change education legislation, the organization will lend its support and voice to those facing the changes. It is harder to make unfavourable changes to education acts if you are dealing with thousands of people rather than the few hundred that exist in some provinces." (ACHBE, new member information package)
Recently, ACHBE has been actively working with homeschoolers in Newfoundland who must seek approval from the Ministry of Education to educate their children at home. This is direct opposition to what is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights. Concerned parents in Newfoundland, together with ACHBE, are developing strategies to influence new regulations concerning homeschoolers.
Another issue being addressed by ACHBE is standardized testing. This is becoming an increasingly important issue to home educators across the country. ACHBE has compiled a great deal of information on this issue and it will be available online at the ACHBE home page in the very near future.
Schools are often able to take advantage of special educational offers and discounts. As a verified and registered member of Schoolnet, ACHBE can offer members some of these special educational offers, like computer and software discounts, access to university databases, and finding online learning partners for children.
A national organization like ACHBE will be instrumental in increasing awareness about home schooling and securing the rights of those who choose have their children educated at home. ACHBE welcomes memberships from both individuals and groups. There are no membership fees for joining. If you are interested in becoming an ACHBE member, you can do so in one of two ways: simply notify a contact person in your province and they will add you to the membership, or send an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org and include a paragraph explaining a bit about yourself and why you would like to become involved in the organization.