A school board policy on homeschooling - what should it say?
At the present time, almost without exception, school board policies reflect the wording of the Johnson Memorandum of 1981. That this is so indicates to home educating parents that school boards prefer to entertain policies that have some support from a former Provincial School Attendance Counsellor. There is no legal obligation on the school board to follow the Johnson Memorandum of 1981 guideline of which we are aware. One PSAC stated to OFTP that the nature of a school board's homeschooling policy is "entirely a local matter."
With this in mind and with the fact that many home educating parents are not following school board policies for reasons discussed in the previous section, OFTP encourages school boards to revisit their homeschooling policies with a view to developing more effective and friendly relations with parents who home educate.
At present, homeschooling parents pay the same taxes as everyone else and forego the opportunity of accessing school programs and activities, even part time or occasionally. A few school boards have included home learners in their programs on a limited basis. Boards have received no specific funding for any aspect of their relationship with homeschoolers. It is reasonable to expect the Ministry to use some of the homeschooling parents' tax dollars to offer part time, voluntary exposure to the public system.
A trustee might ask, "What financial support will the Ministry provide for the inclusion of home learners in regular school programming and activities?" To promote an excellent quality of learning experience, Boards need to do more to explore ways in which their existing framework can easily accommodate students who are receiving instruction at home from their parents.
These can be formal arrangements which permit the schools to obtain funding from the Ministry of Education for the particular student. This enables schools to make more readily available some resources to the homeschooling student.
Alternately these can be informal arrangements which do not involve questions of funding. Parents of homeschooled students are typically extremely resourceful and creative in finding ways to meet the educational needs of their children.
Some families find that the resources which they are able to provide at home and through the community at large outside of the school are completely sufficient. Finding everything they need to enable their child to fully develop their potential, they opt out entirely of the publicly funded school system.
These parents require only that the professional educators have an awareness of the option of homeschooling and respect their role in making choices pertaining to their children's education. They need policies which recognize a diversity of educational philosophies and the features of home based learning programs.
Some families do opt to have some involvement with their local schools. These parents and professional educators are finding practical and exciting ways to build meaningful learning opportunities for homeschooled students and to plan for the future of the student together.
Some boards have welcomed home learners into selected programs offered by the board. There are cases of homeschooled children participating in enrichment programming in which children are segregated into special classes for one school day or part of a school day per week.
There is a tremendous opportunity to enable the homeschooled student to extend their learning. Mutual respect and a desire to keep the potential of the student in the forefront, coupled with the knowledge of the resources which are available make for a powerful combination.
Bridges are built for the homeschooled student into the community of learners at the school. The student gains a transition or entry point into the school setting. As well, the school community gains from the involvement of these enthusiastic students and their parents who are committed to education.
The OFTP would like to encourage school boards to consider emphasizing the potential role of the local school to work with the learner and their family in all goodwill in these types of ways. In general, we suggest Boards consider establishing homeschooling policies which promote taking advantage of the possibilities easily created through the current mechanisms in place.
For reasons we have discussed, the involvement of the public school in this manner will have the best likelihood of succeeding when it comes at the request of the homeschooling family. The provisions for the students in question also need to be appropriate and applied in a logical way. For example, some of the resources extended to students on independent study programs for other reasons can be made available. Part time enrollment also provides wonderful possibilities.
As well, we suggest exploring the potential to enable allocating resources through: correspondence and online education, other forms of continuing education, facilitated opportunities for community service and co-op placements, field trips, extracurricular activities, and creative sharing or sale of supplies.
We think it is altogether appropriate for Boards to move to a model that seeks to maximize the educational opportunities made available to the homeschooled student. We know that Boards wish to take their responsibilities seriously with respect to the students in their jurisdiction and that their bottom line is ensuring that all Ontario students are receiving an education of high caliber.
We are all interested in the welfare of our children. The OFTP would strongly endorse school boards adopt an open door policy such as that encouraged by many public institutions.
It is desirable that there be a relationship between school boards and homeschooling parents which is collegial and open. To achieve this, OFTP suggests that school boards develop policies which invite home educated children into the school to participate in programs such as physical education, music, french and extra curricular activities such as special events and outings.
We believe that homeschooling policies with a primary focus of facilitating sharing of resources will yield by far more assurance to the board of the quality of homeschooling students' learning than has been obtained using previous policies.
Ministry of Education documents pertaining to registry of student who are not full time:
Part Time Enrolment
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Continuing education correspondence/self study
Correspondence and online education centres which grant Ontario credits
ILC - Independent Learning Centre
The EDEN project - Electronic Distributive Education Network
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