To withdraw your child from the Ontario school system for homeschooling, you need to send a written notification of your parental decision to the school board. This is commonly referred to as the Letter of Intent. On this page we discuss in general terms what form to use for that purpose, to whom in your board you should send it, and what the school board's response should be.
Some school boards have their own Policies & Procedures documents rather than just relying directly on the Ministry's Policy/Program Memorandum N° 131 (PPM131). Any board policy is supposed to align with PPM131 but unfortunately not all of them do. This is in direct contradiction to one of the main purposes of PPM131, which was to establish one common, consistent policy for all school boards. We discuss below what to watch out for when reading board-specific documents and responses, and in your specific board's details, we'll alert you through red flags and caution notes, with links back to the relevant notes on this page.
You can either skip directly to the list of school boards to find yours by alphabetical order, or else read all the general notes and cautions before going to the section for your specific school board:
- "What notification form should I use?"
- "Where do I send the Letter of Intent?"
- "To whom do I address the Letter of Intent?"
- "How will the school board respond?"
- "What if they ask me to fill out more forms or provide more information?"
- What to watch out for
- Find your school board
"What notification form should I use?"
Theoretically, you can just write your own letter of notification however you want. But in practice, we've found that school boards often request you fill out their own form for their own bureaucratic process of record-keeping. As long as their form is similar to the sample provided by the Ministry of Education in PPM131 Appendix B (which we've made available as a standalone with the word "sample" removed), it doesn't hurt to accommodate your school board by using their form. For instance, if the only additional information they request is the name of the school your child last attended, that's a perfectly legitimate question for them to ask and there is no reason not to provide the answer.
However, if the school board's form indicates in any way that you should be providing information about your educational plan, please do not comply with this aspect of their request, nor be misled into thinking this is required. It is an overstepping of bounds that is in direct contradiction to the very purpose of PPM131, which was to revoke the kind of routine monitoring that was happening before PPM131 under the Johnson Memorandum. The OFTP and other organizations worked hard to have that intrusive practice changed (it was never the law and still is not), and we need school boards to comply with the PPM131 policy rather than misinform parents about what is and is not aligned with the policy, let alone the law. Fortunately, very few boards have stayed behind the times in this way (or resumed practices that were revoked by PPM131). We'll flag them in the board-specific details and let you know, in the notes below, how to respond to such requests.
Please note: sometimes parents think they're being asked to fill out a long questionnaire about their educational plans, when really they've simply been sent a copy of the entire PPM131 document, including its appendices of samples (templates). The appendix file includes the sample questionnaire for use in cases of investigation, which are to be well-warranted exceptions to the rule (no routine investigations). The appendix of forms is just for your information, not for you to fill out and return, which should become fairly obvious once you look more closely at the titles of the forms in question: they all say "sample" and, if nothing else, the inclusion of Appendix C, the sample response from the school board to the parent, should make it clear that you're not supposed to fill it out. Sometimes it's the principal, or another person sending the information package to the parent, who is the one who has misunderstood this fact and is mistakenly telling parents to fill out the forms. Know the facts so you don't get misled.
For boards that don't have their own version of the PPM131 template, you can use the OFTP's Letter of Intent templates. One is a standalone of PPM131 Appendix B but with the word "sample" removed. The other is a version of it that is modified in a few ways, such as including the wording of subsection 21(2)(a) of the Education Act.
"Where do I send the Letter of Intent?"
The Ministry of Education has a webpage that lists all the school boards and their general contact information, but it doesn't include email addresses and it doesn't specify the contact information of superintendents or other specific staff responsible for responding to letters of intent. So one of the purposes of this group of OFTP webpages on school boards is to provide that missing information, which can sometimes be hard to track down. To find out the address or email address of the person to whom you should send your letter of intent, find your board in the list below, ordered alphabetically.
"To whom do I address the Letter of Intent?"
It depends on the board. In the board-specific details, we let you know the title of the person to whom you should send your letter of intent. For most boards, the person who is charged with processing homeschool notifications is the Superintendent of Education for your child's school. Some boards have a dedicated homeschool liaison instead. Sometimes the person's title includes the words "Social Work" — do not be alarmed by this, it doesn't mean any intervention by social services like Children's Aid, it's simply the department that includes attendance counsellors.
"How will the school board respond?"
In the information we provide for each specific school board, we'll let you know about the school board's own template for replying to letters of intent (if they have one), and compare it (and their actual responses) to the PPM131 template's four paragraphs, which accomplish the following:
- acknowledging receipt
- confirming the child is excused from attendance
- informing about the availability of EQAO tests
- providing a copy of PPM131 (for the parent's information, not a request to fill out anything in it)
and are worded as follows in PPM131 appendix C:
Thank you for notifying the _________ (District) School Board of your intent to provide home schooling for your child(ren):
Your child(ren) is/are excused from attendance at school for the school year _____ under subsection 21(2),clause (a), of the Education Act, because your child(ren) is/are receiving satisfactory instruction at home.
If you would like your child(ren) to participate in the assessments for students in Grades 3, 6, and 9, and/or in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (normally given to students in Grade 10), that are administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), you should contact the school board by September 30 [or another date specified by the school board] for information about the dates, times, and locations.
Enclosed please find a copy of Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131, “Home Schooling”, issued by the Ministry of Education.
"What if they ask me to fill out more forms or provide more information?"
PPM131 directs school boards to accept the letter of intent as sufficient evidence of "satisfactory instruction" and not to investigate the matter under normal circumstances. In other words, no routine investigations or monitoring. If you receive any request for more information than what's in the basic letter of intent, please get in touch with us at OFTP before you respond, so we can help you make an informed decision about how to do so, if at all. (Please also read the note about misunderstanding what is being asked of you.)
There is one board (Dufferin-Peel Catholic) that has an additional form that's not a request for information about your educational plan. It's titled "Student Information: Home Schooling" and it's for providing information about the child's Catholic status, status of residence in Canada, education history, siblings, custody arrangements, as well as parent/guardian info that also includes Catholic status. It's not a legal requirement that you supply this kind of personal information, so it's up to you whether or not you want to accommodate them. The request comes from principals, who often present it as there being a need to "meet" for filling out some additional "paperwork" to "complete" the process. Even if you do decide to fill out the form, you do not have to meet in person, you can insist that the form be mailed or emailed to you instead. Know, as well, that this is not actually part of the process for having your child withdrawn from the system. Your notification of your parental decision to homeschool is the only necessary step on your side of the process. On their side, the school board is supposed to respond with a letter of acknowledgement (but even that is not necessary for you to receive) and direct the school to remove your child from the enrolment register. They will give the principal that direction even if you haven't filled out the additional form.
What to watch out for
The very existence of school board-specific policies & procedures for homeschooling is contrary to one of the main purposes of PPM131, namely, to replace the collection of practices that differed from one board to the next, with a single policy to be used consistently by all school boards. There is room for short Procedures documents specifying some of the things that are up to each board to decide, such as which school board official is to process notifications of intent to homeschool; what address or email address to use when sending the letter of intent; whether or not part-time attendance is allowed in the particular board; what the deadline is, at that board, for requesting EQAO testing; and other such details. But school board policies, as they are now, are at best redundant, and are often misleading both in how information is worded and in which information is omitted. The worst of them contain downright inaccurate statements, i.e. misinformation. Here's what to watch out for:
- "d) The Superintendent or designate will meet or be in contact with the home schooling parents on at least two occasions per school year, in order to maintain positive communication and to review, if requested, the programming being utilized. The notes of these discussions will be recorded in pupil files and/or on the “Home Schooling Visitation Record” form (see Attachment 1)." [OCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Regardless of the alleged intention ("maintain positive communication") and regardless of the qualifier about reviewing the homeschool program ("if requested"), this practice of checking in or checking up on homeschoolers is precisely the kind of overreach that PPM131 was established to revoke. Their legacy "Home Schooling Visitation Record" sheet (that existed before PPM131) remains as-is in their policy/procedure document instead of its title being re-worded to indicate that it's only for investigations, conducted only when there are "reasonable grounds" to do so. We'd give it the benefit of the doubt, as merely an oversight in the post-PPM131 re-wording of their document, if it weren't for the fact that their document retains the pre-PPM131 directive for the superintendent to contact the family at least twice a year, and the notion of home visits. Home visitations are intrusive and unwarranted even in an investigation. Contacting homeschooling families when they are not formally under investigation is overreach that could be construed as harassment. You do not have to agree to any meetings or conversations with the board. Remain amiable but assertive when declining to enable this overreach.
Re: proving satisfactory instruction
- "If you decide to continue to provide home schooling in subsequent years, you are required to provide written notification each year, prior to September 1st, of your intent and, in addition, submission of evidence that you are providing satisfactory instruction at home." [BGCDSB]
CORRECTION #1: You are not "required" to send a yearly notification. PPM131 (just a policy, not the law) states merely that you "should" send one (not that you "must"). The board can certainly request one in any given year, and there is no reason not to respond with one (as a written confirmation) if that request is made, but there is no legal requirement to notify anyone that your homeschooling status has not changed.
CORRECTION #2: You are not "required" to send "evidence" of satisfactory instruction, and in fact you should not do so, as it is in direct contravention of PPM131. PPM131 was established with the specific purpose of revoking routine monitoring of homeschooling. It explicitly tells school boards to accept the letter of intent as evidence of satisfactory instruction and not to investigate the matter under normal circumstances. Please do not enable or normalize this overreach with any compliance. If they insist you submit anything beyond the letter of intent, please get in touch with us at OFTP before you respond, so that we can help you make informed decisions and respond effectively.
Re: accessing School Health Support Services
- "Regulation 386/99 under the Long-Term Care Act sets out the eligibility criteria for these services. Again parents/guardians must provide the LHIN with a letter from the school board" [GEDSB]
- "Regulation 386/99 under the Long-Term Care Act sets out the eligibility criteria for these services. The first criteria [sic] is that “the person must be enrolled as a pupil at a school or be receiving satisfactory instruction at home in accordance with clause 21(2)(a) of the Education Act”. For a child who is receiving home schooling to be eligible for these services, the parent must provide the local CCAC with a letter from the school board" [OCDSB]
- "For a child who is receiving home schooling to be eligible for these services, the parent must provide a letter from the school board indicating that the child is excused from attendance at school because the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home." [PVNCCDSB]
- "Regulation 386/99 under the Long-Term Care Act sets out the eligibility criteria for these services. Again parents must provide the local LHIN with a letter from the school board (Appendix B) indicating that the child is excused from attendance at school" [WCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: the Act governing School Health Support Services, and of which Regulation 386/99 is a part, is the Home Care and Community Services Act. Homeschooled children are eligible for these services whether or not there is any letter from the school board, simply by virtue of receiving "satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere." While a school board letter is indeed the commonly requested documentation for proving your homeschooling status, it is not listed as an eligibility criterion nor mentioned in any other way in the Act. It is possible to receive these services without a school board letter. See our page on Health Services and Homeschooling.
- "Regulation 386/99 under the Long-Term Care Act"
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: the Act governing School Health Support Services, and of which Regulation 386/99 is a part, is the Home Care and Community Services Act.
- "Community Care Access Centres (CCAC)"
- "centres d’accès aux soins communautaires (CASC)"
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The PPM131 and many board-specific policy/procedures documents have not been updated to reflect the change relating to which agency to go through if you want to avail yourself of the School Health Support Services. CCACs have been discontinued, and services are now available through your Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
- "Monsieur Jim Sébastien" as Provincial School Attendance Counsellor (conseiller provincial en assiduité)
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Jim Sebastian (not "Sébastien") was the PSAC at the time PPM131 was negotiated and established. Some francophone school boards have a sample letter to the PSAC (for when they want to request a provincial inquiry to determine "satisfactory instruction") that is still addressed to that name even though there have since been others in that role. There is only one PSAC at a time, so they should be sending any such letter to the current PSAC, and not explicitly naming who that is in the template, since the name can change.
- "section 20(2)" of the Education Act
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: When referring to the section of the Education Act that relates to being excused from compulsory attendance, some school board documents are still labelling it "section 20(2)," as it was numbered at the time of the Johnson Memorandum of 1981. However, it was changed to 21(2) sometime as far back as the 1980s or 1990s. It has been numbered as 21(2) since at least 1997 (date of our earliest records after the Johnson Memorandum), and no doubt earlier.
- "21(2) A child is excused from attendance at school if
(a) the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere"
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The wording of the Education Act was changed from "child" to "person" in 2006 after the compulsory school age was raised to age 18 instead of 16.
- "Ministry of Education and Training" [OCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The former Ministry of Education and Training was separated into the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.
- date of policy/procedure document:
"Last revised: February 1999" [OCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: When the document is dated prior to June 17th 2002 but makes reference to PPM131, which was established on that date, it can also indicate that some of the original text of the policy/procedure document was not properly reviewed for consistency with PPM131.
- "Association of Canadian Home-Based Educators Connection (ACHBE)" [LKDSB administrative procedure for investigations]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: There was never the word "connection" in the name of the organization in question, but in any case it has been inactive for many years. Most of its members were themselves groups, especially provincial organizations, including the OFTP.
CAUTION: Don't be misled by the way schools and school boards sometimes express their role, their responsibilities, and the procedures they'd like you to follow when starting or continuing to homeschool. Here are some common misleading statements in board documents and communications [emphasis added below]:
Re: "requirement" to notify of intent to homeschool
CAUTION: sometimes the wording is misleading enough to be misinformation, in that it claims that written notification is required, and/or required yearly, even though there is nothing in the Education Act to that effect. The PPM131 policy only words it as "should" rather than "must."
- "Parents/Guardians who wish to provide instruction to their children at home are required to notify the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) in writing, of their intention to home school by submitting a Letter of Intent to Home School. Thereafter, parents/guardians must inform the DSBN, prior to September 1st of their intention to continue Home Schooling, by submitting a new Letter of Intent to Home School each and every year."
- "Parents/guardians must put their request [sic - see note about approving / excusing] in writing to the Principal, who will forward it to the Family of Schools Superintendent. [... ] When parents/guardians decide to provide home schooling in subsequent years, they must give notification each year in writing prior to September 1 to the Board in whose jurisdiction their child last attended school." [DCDSB]
- "This request [sic - see note about approving / excusing] for home schooling must be renewed on a yearly basis at the beginning of each school year." [DDSB]
- "Parents who decide to provide home schooling for their child(ren) must notify the Superintendent of Education with responsibilities for home schooling of their intent in writing. [...] Appendix A is the letter parents/guardians must use to notify the Superintendent of Education with responsibilities for home schooling." [GEDSB]
- "Please note that if you continue to provide home schooling in subsequent years, notification is required in writing each year prior to September 1st." [GEDSB letter of reply]
- "Parents must indicate to their home school Principal their intent to home school their child(ren)." [HDSB]
- "The parent/guardian must annually complete and sign the “Notification of Intent to Home School” (Appendix A)." [HDSB]
- "Form F398-1 Notification of Intent to Provide Home Schooling, which is attached, must be completed, signed and returned annually to signify acceptance of these responsibilities and understanding of Administrative Procedure 398 Home Schooling." [HPEDSB notification form info]
- "Parents, who decide to provide Home Schooling, must notify the Board of their intent in writing to the Superintendent of Education, with a copy to the School Principal on an annual basis prior to September 1 of the school year." [Niagara CDSB]
- "Kindly note that if you decide to continue to provide home schooling in subsequent years, you must give notification each year in writing prior to the beginning of the school year." [NCDSB letter of reply]
- "Parents/Guardians must notify the NCDSB of their intent to provide home schooling in writing" [NCDSB administrative procedure]
- "Please be advised that if you choose to home school in subsequent years, written notification to the Peel District School Board prior to September 1st is required." [PDSB letter of reply]
- "The “Notification of Intent to Provide Home Schooling” form must be signed and returnedto signify acceptance of these responsibilities and understanding of the procedure. (Ministry Policy and Procedures Memorandum, PPM 131, pg. 8)" [SCDSB]
- "If you decide to home school in subsequent years, the Ministry of Education requires that you notify the school Board each year." [TVDSB letter of reply]
- "Parent(s) wishing to Home School a child must obtain a Notice of Intent to Home School (Form 553A), from the Board’s Policies and Procedures website, their local home school, or by making a request from Superintendent of Education." [TDSB]
- "When the Principal is informed by a parent that they intend to withdraw a child from school for the purpose of Home Schooling, she/he should inform the parent of the requirement to submit written notice via Form 553A, Notice of Intent to Provide Home Schooling." [TDSB]
- "The notification form must be completed on a yearly basis until the student reaches the age of 18." [TLDSB letter of reply]
- "Please note that parent(s)/guardian(s) must complete a Home Schooling – Notice of Intention in each subsequent year that they choose to continue to provide home schooling." [WRDSB letter of reply]
- "3.3 Parents who wish to school their children at home are required to notify the Board, annually, in writing of their intention to do so." [WRDSB procedure]
- "Please be advised that if you decide to continue to provide home schooling in subsequent years, notification in writing prior to September 1st is required each year." [Wellington CDSB letter of reply]
- "Please note that yearly notification is necessary should you continue to home school your child in future years. This notification is required prior to September 1st of each school year (as per Memorandum No.131)." [YRDSB letter of reply]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Even PPM131, which is just a policy rather than the law, only expresses it as what parents "should" do, not what they "must" or are "required" to do. The Education Act itself (the law) does not contain any requirement of notification. A written notification at the time of withdrawing a child from the system is simply a necessary communication. Any form of written notification that includes all the needed information (child's name and DOB, parent's statement of intent to homeschool) is acceptable according to the policy, and the policy's sample letter of intent is just an offered template, not a mandatory form. Anything beyond that initial communication is merely a policy preference. It is not legally required.
Re: timing and content of notifications
- "RESPONSIBILITIES OF PARENT(S)/GUARDIAN(S)
1. Provide written notification to the Superintendent responsible or designate of their intention to home school their son(s)/daughter(s) prior to September 1st." [GECDSB]
- "The home-schooling parents/guardians will be advised that they should notify the appropriate superintendent in writing each year prior to September 1st if they intend to home-school their child(ren) (Appendix A)." [HSCDSB]
- "When parents/guardians choose to have their child(ren) of compulsory school age withdrawn from school to be home schooled,
1.1 The parents/guardians should:
1.2 provide written notification to the Director of Education, in whose jurisdiction their child(ren) last attended school, of their intent to provide home schooling for their child(ren) prior to September 1st each year;" [LKDSB "Regulations"]
- "Parents, who decide to provide Home Schooling, must notify the Board of their intent in writing to the Superintendent of Education, with a copy to the School Principal on an annual basis prior to September 1 of the school year." [Niagara CDSB]"
- "Parents will inform the Director of Education and School Principal in writing of their intent to provide home schooling prior to September 1 of the initial year and each subsequent year." [TNCDSB]
- "Please note that yearly notification is necessary should you continue to home school your child in future years. This notification is required prior to September 1st of each school year (as per Memorandum No.131)." [YRDSB letter of reply]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This way of expressing the timing of a letter of intent, without indicating that it's for subsequent years rather than the first year of homeschooling (and some boards explicitly stating that it applies to the initial year as well), could easily mislead parents into thinking they weren't allowed to start homeschooling in the middle of a school year. You can in fact withdraw your child from the school system to homeschool at any time. It's only if you will "continue to provide home schooling in subsequent years" that PPM131 says you "should" (not "must") give notification each [subsequent] year in writing "prior to September 1."
- "They must provide the name, gender, and date of birth for each son(s)/daughter(s) who is receiving home schooling as well as home telephone number and address." [GECDSB]
- "The parent(s)/guardian(s) must indicate the name, gender and date of birth of each child receiving home instruction, and the telephone number and address of the home." [KPRDSB]
- "Parents/Guardians must [...] provide the name, date of birth, gender, and grade of each child who is to receive home schooling, the parent/guardian telephone number, and address of the home." [NCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: A lot of the mentioned information is common sense communication to help identify which student is to be removed from the school register. But it's misleading to say you "must" provide all of it, since there is no legal requirement involved for parents (see note below) and the practical necessity for removing a child from the register should only involve a child's full name and date of birth.
NOTE: There is a legal requirement for school boards that they send a yearly report to the Minister of Education that lists the names and ages of all school-age children not enrolled in any public or private school, and the reasons therefor. It therefore makes sense for them to ask parents to send a written confirmation of ongoing homeschooling status in any given year, but the onus is legally on them to request it, and there is no legal requirement for boards to provide anything more than the names and ages, nor is there any legal requirement for parents to volunteer that information. PPM131 indicates parents "should" send a yearly letter of intent, not "must."
- "Provide written notification by September 30th of each school year to the Superintendent responsible or designate of their intention to have their son(s)/daughter(s) participate in the EQAO assessments/tests in Grades 3, 6, and 9, and/or the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (normally given to students in Grade 10)." [GECDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This way of wording the timing of a request to participate in EQAO testing could easily mislead parents into thinking they had to send some sort of notification about EQAO every single year. EQAO testing is not mandatory, but it is available to homeschoolers if they want it. Because there is a schedule involved, there is a deadline to indicate your interest in having your child participate in it in any given school year. That deadline is September 30th so that enough tests are ordered and enough seats provided for all who wish to participate. However, there is no need to provide notification, every single year, of an intention to participate in a future year. Timely notification is only needed in September of the school year for which participation is intended.
Re: satisfactory instruction / curriculum
- "RESPONSIBILITIES OF PARENT(S)/GUARDIAN(S)
4. Provide instruction that is appropriate to their son(s)/daughter(s) developmental and intellectual ability and is consistent with the curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education" [GECDSB]
- "Components of a Successful Home Schooling Program
3. Ontario curriculum documents are to be utilized to determine the program of studies;" [OCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Homeschoolers do not have to follow the Ontario curriculum, and there is no need to "determine the program of studies" relative to it. Your chosen curriculum (or lack thereof) does not need to be "consistent with" the Ontario curriculum. See the note on a frequently omitted, important aspect of PPM131. "Satisfactory instruction" implies the teaching or facilitation of literacy and numeracy skills, but those are broad areas of learning, and there are many more learning paths through that territory than the one imposed by the Ontario school system.
- "Components of a Successful Home Schooling Program
[the entire sheet, in particular:]
4. There is evidence of both long and short term lesson planning
12. A detailed and current record of student achievement is maintained." [OCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Satisfactory instruction is not defined in the Education Act nor in PPM131. The school board attempt to define it indirectly, by outlining what they believe constitutes a "successful home schooling program," betrays an institutional bias. There is no legal requirement to maintain detailed records of "student achievement" nor "evidence" of "lesson" planning, and homeschooling parents have successfully educated their children without them. They are institutional concepts, not intrinsic to a good education.
- "Principal [...] informs [parents] that they assume responsibility for the establishment of a satisfactory curriculum and the provision of learning materials including workbooks, texts, equipment and all other resources for the full day." [TNCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Homeschoolers do not have to follow a predetermined "curriculum" (unless the word is used in its very broadest sense of parents having a general sense of what kind of education they want to provide their child), nor do they need to use workbooks or necessarily provide anything that could be called "equipment." Nor does homeschooling have to occupy "the full day." The board's wording betrays an institutional bias about what education must look like or at the very least what they hope to convince parents it must look like, in spite of the important statement in PPM131 about how homeschooling differs from school education.
- "c) Make the parent aware of the following minimal expectations pertaining to satisfactory instruction.
Develop a plan that identifies timelines for instruction and assessing the child(ren)’s achievement." [KCDSB]
(a) Relating to Process
i. availability of a written plan for instructing the student “at home or elsewhere” showing how the program is to be organized, scheduled, and evaluated,
ii. availability in the “home or elsewhere” of texts and other learning materials appropriate to the developmental growth of the student,
iii. availability of samples of the student’s work, of a quantity and quality to indicate a regular and suitable program for instruction.
(b) Relating to Achievement
i. assessment of educational growth of the student is based on:
• review of program and materials;
• discussion with the student and parent/guardian;
• examination of written work of the student;
• evidence of socialization with peers in educational, social, or recreational settings." [PVNCCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: "Satisfactory instruction" is not defined in the Education Act nor in the policy. It is not up to school boards to define it. The expectations described in PPM131 do not involve "identifying timelines," merely having the following plans:
- a plan for educating the child
- plans to ensure literacy and numeracy at developmentally appropriate levels
- plans for assessing the child's achievement
A plan does not have to be written, nor have pre-determined timelines, in order to meet the above criteria outlined in PPM131. Detailed outlines of what the board considers "satisfactory instruction" are remnants from the Johnson Memorandum, revoked by PPM131 in 2002, and only serve to demonstrate that the board in question is still viewing homeschooling through an institutionally biased lens.
- "4.1.3 the Home School Facilitator will facilitate the ordering of curriculum materials from the Ministry of Education. [...]
4.4 may direct parents to the Ministry of Education to download curriculum policy documents free of charge" [UCDSB procedure]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: the Ministry of Education provides curriculum guideline documents (for which you have no need of the school's help to access directly online instead of ordering them as printed publications), but as far as we know, the Ministry does not have any educational materials for parents to order for implementing those guidelines (e.g. textbooks, workbooks, manipulatives or other such resources). For those, you will need to make your own choices and find your own sources — see our page on Curriculum and Materials (unless this board does indeed have a special arrangement with the Ministry for obtaining books and such that they can pass along to homeschooling families — but we doubt it. Let us know if you have successfully obtained "curriculum materials" from them that are not simply the curriculum guidelines but are genuinely educational materials that can be used directly in lessons.)
Re: approving / excusing
- "It is the responsibility of the Board to excuse children from attendance at school"
- "Your request to apply for home schooling has been approved"
- "A student of compulsory school age may be excused from attendance at school if receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere."
- "The superintendent of education will acknowledge, in writing, the request for home schooling"
- "Parents/guardians must put their request in writing" [DCDSB]
- "This request for home schooling must be renewed on a yearly basis at the beginning of each school year." [DDSB]
- "Once the investigation is complete, the superintendent will notify the parents/guardians about the status of their request for home-schooling." [HSCDSB]
- "le processus de demande"
- "Procedure to Access Home Schooling" [KPRDSB]
- "[...] the parent(s) submit a letter to the Director of Education requesting home schooling" [LKDSB administrative procedure]
- "It is the responsibility of the Lambton Kent District School Board to excuse children from attendance at school when home schooling is provided, in accordance with subsection 21(2), clause (a), of the Education Act." [LKDSB administrative procedure for investigations]
- "Request to Home School [family’s last name] (Approved)" [Niagara CDSB email subject line]
- "I’m pleased to report that Mr. [name] Superintendent of Education has approved your application to home school your children [...] I’ve attached the letter of approval [...]" [Niagara CDSB email]
- "Should parents/guardians choose to provide home schooling for their children, the NCDSB will excuse a student of compulsory age from attendance at school so long as the student is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere." [NCDSB]
- "Role of Superintendent with Responsibility for Home Schooling
a) The Superintendent or designate is responsible for determining whether a student is excused from school by reason of receiving satisfactory instruction elsewhere." [OCDSB]
- "It is the policy of the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board that a student of compulsory age may be excused from attendance at school if the student is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere, in accordance with procedures outlined in the Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131." [PVNCCDSB]
- "It is the responsibility of the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) to excuse your child(ren) from attendance at school when satisfactory home schooling is provided, in accordance with the Education Act Section 21(2)(a)." [SCDSB]
- "Your request to switch to home schooling was forwarded to the board and they are requesting that you complete the attached Notice of Intent and return to school. Once received we will forward to the superintendent for approval." [SMCDSB email reply from school]
- "If the parents are prepared to comply with suggested criteria, [the board's notification form] is to be completed and signed by the parents." [SNCDSB]
- "Your request has been approved" [TCDSB email reply]
- "Once a completed letter has been submitted, the Superintendent of Education will: (i) Keep a record of the request" [TDSB]
- "Parent(s) who choose to provide a Home Schooling program for their child(ren) should inform the school board and have their child legally excused from attendance at school in accordance with Subsection 20(2) (a) of the Education Act." [TDSB]
- "THE PARENTS
Should register for home schooling through the Upper Canada District School Board of their intent in writing that the student is entitled to attend." [sic] [UCDSB procedure]
- "THE REGIONAL SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION [...] will provide the Information For Parents sheet which outlines requirements (UCDSB Procedure 109.1 Appendix B)" [UCDSB procedure]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The board does not have the legal authority to "approve" or grant or deny permission to homeschool (or to "access" homeschooling). Parents do not have to "register" for homeschooling nor "have" their child legally excused by any process. The Education Act is what automatically excuses children from attendance when they're receiving "satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere," without any approval process. The PPM131 policy (rather than the law) gives the school board the responsibility to acknowledge receipt of a letter of intent to homeschool, and to "consider the child to be excused from attendance at school" [emphasis added] under section 21(2)(a) of the Education Act when they receive that notification.
- The letter of intent is not a request for permission or approval, it's a notification of your parental decision.
- The notification is not what makes it legal.
- The acknowledgment of the notification is not what makes it legal.
- The simple fact itself, of providing satisfactory instruction at home, is what makes a family's homeschooling legal.
- The written notification is simply the policy (i.e. the government's preferred way) for parents to communicate their homeschooling status, which is only a necessary communication for removing a child from the enrolment register.
When requesting feels like requiring
- "Parents planning to provide instruction for their child at home or elsewhere are encouraged to [...] submit an educational plan" [AMDSB]
- "Le formulaire doit être soumis avant le premier septembre de l’année scolaire en cours et il est fortement recommandé au parent, à la tutrice ou au tuteur de fournir le plan d’enseignement à tous." [CECCE]
- "Parent(s)/guardian(s) are requested to submit a brief written program plan to be reviewed by the school Superintendent." [KPRDSB guide]
CLARIFICATION: In this case, it's not the words in themselves that are misleading — in fact, a close reading reveals the truth that parents are not being required to do certain things (like routinely submit an educational plan). But many parents do interpret these directives as requirements even when they're expressed as suggestions or preferences or requests. Parents often don't trust that they can, with impunity, decline to comply. This anxiety happens so often that one has to wonder if board and school officials are aware of this psychological tendency and perhaps even counting on it to obtain extra information in a way they can claim is not coerced but voluntary on the part of parents. If they're not aware of this tendency, it's important for them to become aware of it and change the wording of their documents accordingly — or rather, drop the practices in the first place and scrap their board-specific documents to rely directly on PPM131 instead.
Re: investigating / ensuring "satisfactory instruction"
CAUTION: sometimes the wording is misleading enough to be misinformation, in that it claims school board authority / responsibility / obligation to determine or ensure "satisfactory instruction" even though there is nothing in the Education Act to support that stance.
- "School boards have an obligation to ensure that students of compulsory school age are receiving satisfactory instruction" [DSBONE]
- "Parent(s)/guardian(s) are requested to submit a brief written program plan to be reviewed by the school Superintendent. The school Superintendent will indicate whether or not there is a satisfactory program planned for your child(ren).
Submit, with the Notice of Intent to Home School, a brief, written program plan. (This plan will be reviewed by the school Superintendent.) You will be contacted by the school Superintendent in writing after the Notice of Intent to Home School and the program plan have been reviewed." [KPRDSB guide]
- "The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has the responsibility to ensure that young people of compulsory school age are receiving satisfactory education, at home or elsewhere." [OCDSB]
- "The Superior North Catholic District School Board will fulfil the Ministry of Education’s expectation re: Home Schooling, by implementing procedures to assure that each student involved in such an undertaking is receiving “satisfactory instruction”." [SNCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION [emphasis added in any following excerpts]: The Education Act (the law) does not give school boards the authority to evaluate a family's homeschooling. It only gives school attendance counsellors the responsibility to "inquire into every case of failure to attend school within his or her knowledge" (which means: find out if the child is indeed illegally absent, i.e. truant, or is simply legally non-attendant, i.e. going to private school, or homeschooling, or has simply moved). The law also gives the attendance counsellor a legal process to follow in cases where they're "of the opinion" that a given child "should not be excused from attendance" even though the parent of the child "considers that the child is excused from attendance at school under subsection 21 (2)." The legal process is to request a provincial inquiry under section 24(2). If one is ordered (not every request is acted upon), the appointed inquiry officers can only be "persons who are not employees of the board that operates the school that the child has the right to attend," and the process is to hold a hearing.
As for PPM131 (a policy, not a law), it says, "The board should accept the written notification of the parents each year as evidence that the parents are providing satisfactory instruction at home" and "Normally, the board should not investigate the matter." In other words, the default scenario implied by the law and spelled out by PPM131 is to take a parent's word for it that they're homeschooling or going to homeschool (and are not just enabling truancy) and that homeschooling means giving their child an adequate education ("satisfactory instruction" is the phrase used in both the Education Act and the policy). This is a far cry from an "obligation to ensure" anything about the kind of education received by all "students of compulsory school age." The Education Act does not support the notion that school boards are allowed, let alone obligated, to investigate homeschooling, any more than they investigate the education received by children attending private schools. Their legal responsibility is only to enforce compulsory attendance of any children who are not excused from attendance under section 21(2).
Despite the opposition of OFTP and other organizations during the negotiations that led to PPM131, the policy unfortunately does present school board investigations as a pre-inquiry option. The Ministry included it in the policy merely to try to address the tendency of school boards to request provincial inquiries without sufficient cause. The idea was to get them to make sure there really was a problem before resorting to an actual inquiry. For more on this issue, see our page about investigations and inquiries.
- "Si le Conseil a des motifs raisonnables de croire que l’enseignement fourni à domicile n’est pas satisfaisant, il doit enquêter sur la question."
- "Where the Board has reasonable grounds to be concerned that the instruction provided in the home may not be satisfactory, the Board must investigate the matter." [DCDSB]
- "If the Board has reasonable grounds to believe that the instruction being provided in the home may not be satisfactory, the Board is required to investigate the matter." [KPRDSB]
- "If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that [satisfactory instruction] is not occurring, it is the duty of the NCDSB to investigate." [NCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This wording is also misleading enough to be considered misinformation. The way PPM131 words this part of the policy (when the board has "reasonable grounds to be concerned that the instruction provided in the home may not be satisfactory") is that the school board "should" ("devrait") investigate, not that they "must" ("doit"). Indeed, there is nothing in the Education Act that would give them the obligation or "duty" or perhaps even the authority to do so.
While the school attendance counsellor is "responsible for the enforcement of compulsory school attendance in respect of every child who is required to attend school" [emphasis added] (section 25 of the Education Act), the fact is that homeschooled children are not "required to attend school," since the section on "compulsory attendance" (section 21) starts with "unless excused under this section" and homeschooling comes under subsection 21(2)(a): "(2) A person is excused from attendance at school if, (a) the person is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere." Under section 24(2), the Education Act has a procedure to follow in cases where "the parent or guardian of a child considers that the child is excused from attendance at school under subsection 21 (2), and the appropriate school attendance counsellor [...] is of the opinion that the child should not be excused from attendance" [emphasis added]. The procedure in question is the provincial inquiry, for which employees of the local school board are not eligible to be appointed as inquiry officers. The reason school board investigations are in the PPM131 policy but not in the Education Act, is that the government doesn't want attendance counsellors requesting provincial inquiries frivolously, and therefore wants them to make sure they've first determined if an inquiry is really warranted. The problem is that PPM131 gives examples of "reasonable grounds" that are not at all reasonable, and gives school boards the impression that it's up to them to "determine satisfactory instruction" in certain circumstances. OFTP's position is that this goes beyond what is required or authorized by law, and that the sample investigation questionnaire betrays the very same "institutional bias" that the Harris government promised to eliminate through the policy that ended up as PPM131.
- "Where a home visit is required, the Principal will notify the parents. See Appendix C for Gathering Information in an Investigation." [SNCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This wording is also misleading enough to be considered misinformation. The way PPM131 words this part of the policy (when the board has "reasonable grounds to be concerned that the instruction provided in the home may not be satisfactory") is that the school board "should" ("devrait") investigate, not that they "must" ("doit"). Indeed, there is nothing in the Education Act that would give them the obligation or "duty" or perhaps even the authority to do so. Even if they choose to conduct an investigation, there is no obligation nor even a need for it to happen through a home visit. Parents are not required to comply with such a request for a visit.
- "Inquiries By The Provincial School Attendance Counsellor
When a School Board is unable to determine whether a child is receiving satisfactory instruction, it may request that the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor inquires into the case under Subsection 24(2) of the Education Act. [...]" [HWDSB information sheet]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The above paragraph is a verbatim excerpt of PPM131, but when it's communicated to parents out of context, it can be very negatively misleading, in a way that causes parents anxiety. The lack of context happens especially when this paragraph is included in an "Information Sheet" that has no other mention of investigations but only mentions resources that are available to homeschoolers. The wording taken out of context makes it sound like the school board always has to determine whether or not a homeschooled child is receiving satisfactory instruction, and otherwise call for a provincial inquiry. This is not the case. In fact, one of the main purposes of PPM131 was to make it clear that homeschooling should not be monitored or investigated under normal circumstances. The context of the rest of PPM131 makes this more clear.
- "8.Where the Board has reasonable grounds to be concerned that the instruction provided in the home may not be satisfactory, the Board will investigate the matter as per Ministry of Education Policy and Program Memorandum No. 131.
9.When the school board is unable to determine whether a child is receiving satisfactory instruction, it may request that the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor inquire into the case under subsection 24(2) if the Education Act." [TNCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The way the paragraphs are numbered (as items of equal footing) makes this potentially misleading. If the paragraph about provincial inquiries were, instead, a sub-item of the paragraph about school board investigations, it would make it more clear that provincial inquiries are part of the process that requires "reasonable grounds" for an investigation, and that, under normal circumstances, school boards should not be trying to determine whether or not a homeschooled child is receiving satisfactory instruction.
- "CLARIFICATION BY THE PROVINCIAL SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COUNSELLOR
When a School Superintendent is unable to determine whether a child is receiving satisfactory instruction, a request to the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor can be made." [WCDSB procedure]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The heading of the paragraph, given equal hierarchical footing as the earlier section on Board Investigations but placed at the end of the document rather than immediately following the section on investigations, makes this potentially misleading. If the paragraph about provincial inquiries were, instead, a sub-item in the section about school board investigations, it would make it more clear that provincial inquiries are part of the process that requires "reasonable grounds" for an investigation, and that, under normal circumstances, school boards should not be trying to determine whether or not a homeschooled child is receiving satisfactory instruction.
Re: entering or returning to the school system
- "Parents are responsible for:
- should they wish their child to enrol in school, providing the principal with a transcript from ILC showing successfully completed courses;
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: The way this is worded, as a separate point rather than included in the preceding paragraph about ILC, it could be misconstrued to mean that a transcript from ILC courses is a requirement for entering or returning to the school system. This is not the case. Providing ILC transcripts only applies if the learner did in fact take ILC courses while homeschooling.
Re: OSSD credits and post-secondary opportunities
- "Please be advised that the home schooling of a secondary student may not result in credit accumulation which, in turn, may affect post-secondary education opportunities. You are advised to consult with the Guidance Department at your child(ren)'s home secondary school for more information on this matter." [TVDSB letter of reply]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: While it's true that only accredited schools can grant OSSD credits, the board's wording could be misleading and the guidance is likely to be biased as well. Many universities and colleges accept homeschoolers without an OSSD, and if the OSSD is important to you, there are ways to obtain one even after homeschooling most of high school. Please see our blog post for more details about homeschooling in the teen years.
Prejudicial or patronizing wording
- "We wish you well in this challenging endeavour." [BGCDSB letter of reply]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: While this sentence may be intended to convey genuine well-wishing and recognize the confinement-related challenges faced by parents keeping their children safe at home during the pandemic, it could just as well be taken (consciously or not) to convey that homeschooling is what's challenging. The truth is, homeschooling is not intrinsically any more challenging than any other aspect of parenting. To convey that it is, is prejudicial against it.
- "If a student is likely to need program adjustment or support in order to successfully meet curriculum expectations, consultation with Curriculum Support Services, Special Education Support Services or other DSBN personnel may be necessary prior to registration and placement." [DSBN]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: While the need for help getting to grade level is expressed as a possibility rather than always the case, bringing up the topic at all conveys an expectation that homeschooled children might be behind. This is ironic, given how many children are removed from the school system precisely because they're struggling to keep pace with the class yet still being moved to each new grade with their age peers, and given how many of them blossom and progress once given a chance through homeschooling, and end up ahead of their peers rather than behind. If the board genuinely does experience this as a recurring problem, they could easily word this as help being offered rather than consultation being necessary.
- "If you decide to teach your child(ren) at home, you should be aware of the following information in order to provide a worthwhile learning experience for your child(ren)" [HPEDSB notification form info]
COMMENT: This could be taken to imply that homeschooling may potentially not provide "a worthwhile learning experience" — in other words, either an institutional bias or else a patronizing view of parents' capabilities. The information they're referring to, that follows the statement, relates mostly to the availability of part-time attendance — which seems to imply they believe they can offer a more worthwhile learning experience through the school than parents can at home.
- "The Near North District School Board is committed to the goal of quality education for each child within its area and we expect that you will follow through with the same commitment." [NNDSB letter of reply]
COMMENT: There is no reason to state something self-evident, so the word "expect" implies that they consider it not to be self-evident, but rather a directive they want to give — which is redundant, given that the Education Act is what supplies that directive by its phrase "satisfactory instruction." It seems patronizing to doubt parents' interest in providing "quality education" for their homeschooled children, and to presume to have a greater interest in it than the parents themselves.
- "The Greater Essex County District School Board believes that a student’s needs are best met in a school setting that offers a full complement of programs, services and activities." [GECDSB policy statement]
COMMENT: This conveys very explicitly a bias against homeschooling.
- "In reply to your notification [...], I bring to your attention [...quote of section 21(2)(a)...] Your decision to home school is a significant one and you should be aware that:" [HDSB letter of reply]
COMMENT: This wording has a very different feel from the tone of PPM131's sample, which says, "Thank you for notifying […]. Your child is excused under section 21 [...] because [...] receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere."
- "[...] you should be aware that" is followed by a list of 8 things that include wording like the phrases highlighted below [emphasis added]:
"a) As required under the Education Act, Regulations, and Requirements for Maintaining the Attendance Register, your child will be shown as having retired from the public education system;
b) Part-time attendance at school will not be permitted by the Halton District School Board;
c) Responsibility for program planning, assessment and evaluation rests with you as the teaching parent;
d) Learning materials and/or resources are not provided by the Halton District School Board;
e) Staff resources provided for speech therapy, special education assistance, vision, hearing, counseling and individual assessments will not be accessible through the Halton District School Board;
f) Credits cannot be earned towards a high school diploma through home schooling;
g) Access to a universal vaccination program through the school is not available. Please contact the Halton Region Health Department for assistance and information regarding this program.
h) Should you choose to register your child with the Halton District School Board at some point in the future your child will be accepted as a new registrant and will be placed in the age-appropriate grade (elementary) or prior learning will be assessed and appropriate placement determined by the Principal (secondary)." [HDSB letter of reply]
COMMENT: All this negative wording could mislead you into thinking you're sacrificing a lot, if you're not aware of the ways in which services and resources are accessed differently for homeschoolers than for children attending school (e.g. School Health Support Services) or of the broadening of your resource options as a homeschooler.
- "Please be advised that if you have a change of heart and wish to have your child/ren return to a school setting, we will accommodate (her/him/them) in every way we can." [NCDSB letter of reply]
COMMENT: By using the phrase "a change of heart" instead of "if you change your mind" or "if your plans change," it could be taken to imply that they believe your decision to homeschool must have been made out of bad feelings or a negative attitude that you might later think of as a mistake or too harsh. What is much more common is that parents simply make a decision to do what they believe is best for their child at any given time. Deciding to return a child to school after homeschooling does not indicate any belief that the original decision to homeschool was a mistake, it merely indicates that the situation has changed. It can be that what has changed is what is best for the child as they develop, or it can be practical family matters that make it difficult to continue homeschooling even if that would be best for the child. It's more of a change of plans than changing one's mind about homeschooling or school, let alone "a change of heart."
- "THE REGIONAL SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION [...]
3.5 will monitor the attendance of a student that has been returned to school due to unsatisfactory instruction at home." [UCDSB procedure]
COMMENT: While some other boards address the very rare scenario in which a child is truant after a legal order to attend school, this is the only board we've come across that describes a procedure to follow when such an order has been made and the child does attend as ordered. Most boards presumably treat the child as any other enrolled pupil, which is as it should be. The practice of suspiciously monitoring their attendance betrays a prejudiced mindset. To be clear: since the establishment of PPM131, it has been extremely rare in the first place for a provincial inquiry to lead to a finding of "unsatisfactory instruction" and an order to attend school. In fact, the only cases of orders to attend school that have come to our attention since PPM131 have involved Children's Aid and more general issues of neglect of care.
Others ways of overreaching
CAUTION: Some schools or boards try to insert themselves too much into the parents' decisions about homeschooling, either trying to dissuade from the decision in the first place, or else offering them additional help or resources that could mislead unsuspecting parents to open themselves up to more scrutiny than they bargained for.
Unnecessary steps and attempts to dissuade
- "The principal will meet with the parent/guardian to:
a) explain the Home Schooling Procedures and ensure that all alternatives, including remaining at school have been explored" [KCDSB]
- "When a parent(s)/guardian(s) indicates their intention to withdraw their child(ren) from school to provide home schooling, the principal must offer the parent/guardian the opportunity to discuss their choice." [DCDSB]
- "When a parent/guardian indicates their intention to withdraw their child(ren) from school to provide home schooling, the Principal or designate will offer the parent/guardian an opportunity to discuss their choice (the purpose of this is to ascertain whether the child has been experiencing problems of which the principal is unaware, whether the parent is dissatisfied with anything related to the education provided to date, or whether there are alternative reasons a parent chooses to play a direct role in their child’s education)." [HDSB]
- "Principals are requested to [...] - encourage the parent to enroll their child(ren) in one of our public schools. [...]
Parents who indicate to the principal that they wish to teach their children at home should be encouraged not to withdraw their child(ren) from school. Principals should emphasize the social and emotional needs of children are best met through interaction with their peers and that teachers are trained educators who have the best interest of child(ren) at heart." [LKDSB administrative procedure]
- "During the process of deciding whether or not to pursue home schooling as an option, parents should be encouraged to consider all available and practical options, such as meetings with teachers and principal; testing; and class or program change, where possible. Principals should encourage regular day school attendance." [OCDSB Protocol]
- "In conjunction with the parish priest in each community, the Board commits to providing leadership and support to these parents, through administrators and staff in our schools, as we work as partners in Catholic Education." [SNCDSB policy]
- "2. A conference will be arranged by the Principal and the parents, to review the parents’ responsibility regarding appropriate instruction." [SNCDSB procedure]
- "When the reasons are due to conflict with the school or chronic absenteeism the Superintendent of Education may request that staff from Social Work & Attendance Services consult with the parent to discuss additional options." [TDSB]
- "4.0 THE PRINCIPAL (as Designate of the Superintendent)
4.1 will act as a Home School Facilitator to review program options available to students and their families
4.1.1 the Home School Facilitator will provide a detailed tour of the school site to families of home schooled children.
4.1.2 the Home School Facilitator will work collaboratively with families of home schooled children to determine program services that the school might provide.[...]
4.1.4 the Home School Facilitator will share the school vision with families of home schooled children to provide them with a transparent view of the school to help their decision making.[...]
4.2 will meet with parents and explain their obligation as per section 21(2) of the Education Act and will encourage regular day school as the preferred option;" [UCDSB procedure]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: You do not have to meet with the principal. You do not have to discuss with the principal or attendance counselor any ways of staying in the school system if you don't wish to. This is your parental decision and there is no obligation to explore any other alternatives nor to discuss your thoughts or plans or reasons or anything else with any school or school board official. Notification of your decision via the letter of intent is merely a necessary communication (since you have to get your child removed from the enrolment register), not a legal requirement, nor is there any other legal requirement or process involved in choosing to homeschool.
Unnecessary or excessive contact with the board
- "If [child's first name] returns to school, it is important that you let us know so that we can update our records accordingly." [OCDSB letter of reply]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This is unnecessary, since it's the school's responsibility to keep the board up to date with who is registered, who is no longer registered, and who is re-registered to attend school.
- "It is very important that parents continue to keep in touch with school or school board officials in order to ensure that any changes to the system at the school, board or provincial level are made available to home schooling families. These changes might occur, for example, in curriculum, school boundaries, provincial testing schedules, and any number of other areas." [OCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: There is no reason for homeschooling families to become aware of any changes to the school system unless and until they're looking into participating in that system in some way, at which point they have enough common sense to initiate any necessary communication.
Unnecessary steps: redundant notification forms
- "Thank you for your email. There is a process for parents to follow:
Please find attached the PPM 131 which explains the process and the Notification Intent to Provide Home Schooling is the form families must fill out."
"Your request to switch to home schooling was forwarded to the board and they are requesting that you complete the attached Notice of Intent and return to school. Once received we will forward to the superintendent for approval." [SMCDSB email reply from school]
- "Parent(s) wishing to Home School a child must obtain a Notice of Intent to Home School (Form 553A), from the Board’s Policies and Procedures website, their local home school, or by making a request from Superintendent of Education." [TDSB]
"When the Principal is informed by a parent that they intend to withdraw a child from school for the purpose of Home Schooling, she/he should inform the parent of the requirement to submit written notice via Form 553A, Notice of Intent to Provide Home Schooling." [TDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This is unnecessary, redundant, and in contradiction to PPM131's directive that school boards accept a parent's written notification as sufficient (i.e. any letter from the parents, that contains the child's identification information and a statement of intent to homeschool, should be accepted — it does not need to be the board's own form).
Offers of help or resources = possibility of strings attached
- "Please feel free to make contact at any time with your local school principal to discuss your child’s program, or to explore ways of accessing curriculum and resources."
- "The principal may invite home-schooled students to participate in school related activities, as appropriate."
- "Part-time enrolment can result in access to the following programs and services: access to any course for completion of a grade or subject, access to facilities, libraries, computer labs, learning materials, kits, texts, excursions, or enrichment activities where the parent or guardian is seeking support in the delivery of the home schooling program. [...] Home schoolers who are enrolled on a part-time register are then covered by the board’s policies and liability for the time they access a program or service." [HPEDSB notification form info]
- "Parents should be encouraged to visit the home school for consultations." [LKDSB administrative procedure]
- "Over the course of the next few months, should you request any desire [sic] for our administration to review your course of study and/or progress of your child/ren, we would be pleased to do so." [NCDSB letter of reply]
- "4.3 The supervisory officer or designate:
a) may conduct discussions with the parent(s)/guardian(s) and the student at least twice per year in order to maintain contact;
b) may meet with the parent(s)/guardian(s), if requested, in order to provide feedback and assistance with respect to the establishment of an educationally appropriate home schooling program;" [OCDSB]
CLARIFICATION: While it may seem helpful for the school to offer to stay involved in a child's education through consultations or resources, the truth is that involvement often means strings attached, or attempts to control and monitor. If your homeschooling doesn't meet their own (institutionally biased) sense of what constitutes "satisfactory instruction," they may be more likely to initiate an investigation than, for instance, schools that don't offer as much involvement. There are plenty of other ways to get educational advice without involving the school system.
Getting you to sign extra promises on the letter of intent form
- "Nous attestons que la langue d’enseignement est le français." [Viamonde]
- "Nous nous engageons à fournir au Conseil scolaire Viamonde tout avis de changement d’adresse" [Viamonde]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: You do not have to promise to teach in any specific language. There is no such requirement in the Education Act. You also do not have to promise to let the board know of any future changes of address. Again, no such requirement in the Education Act. The PPM131 policy words it as you "should" let the school board know if you move while you're homeschooling. But "should" is simply a statement of their preference and guideline, it does not mean "shall" or "must" or "are required to." Since a letter of intent is supposed to be your notification to them, rather than their imposed conditions on you, you should feel free to cross off any statement to which you do not wish to sign your consent. Or simply use the Ministry's standard template for the parental notification (also available in French).
Asking for your reasons for homeschooling
- "Our reasons for taking this action are:
3. _______________" [TNCDSB letter of intent form]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: This is intrusive. You do not need to explain yourself to the board. If they want feedback so as to know what they could do to improve the school environment, they should extend an invitation to that effect when replying to a letter of intent, not make it part of the notification form. The letter of intent is supposed to be your notification to them, not an application that can be granted or denied. Do not be misled into thinking this is required information just because it's presented as something for you to fill out. In order not to enable and normalize this overreach, you can leave this part of the form blank, or just use the standard letter of intent template instead.
Asking for an educational plan to be voluntarily submitted
- "Parents planning to provide instruction for their child at home or elsewhere are encouraged to [...] submit an educational plan"
- "Le formulaire doit être soumis avant le premier septembre de l’année scolaire en cours et il est fortement recommandé au parent, à la tutrice ou au tuteur de fournir le plan d’enseignement à tous." [CECCE]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Aside from playing on parents' insecurities about compliance with authorities (see the note on misleading wording: when requesting feels like requiring), the very notion of even asking routinely for an educational plan is contrary to what PPM131 was created for, namely to eliminate practices of routine, unwarranted monitoring and oversight.
Please note: If the board's request (that you provide them with a program outline or samples of work) is expressed as a requirement rather than something you're only "encouraged" to do, it's not only contrary to PPM131, it is in direct contravention of PPM131, the very purpose of which was to revoke not only routine monitoring but also routine or unwarranted investigation of homeschoolers. In other words, such a request/demand constitutes an actual investigation, which PPM131 tells them not to conduct without "reasonable grounds," i.e. it must be warranted. If you find yourself in this situation, please get in touch with us at OFTP before you respond, so that we can help you make informed decisions and respond effectively.
Unreasonable grounds for an investigation
- "[...] parents do not submit or refuse to submit a Letter of Intent to Provide Home Schooling" [DDSB]
- "A parent has not notified the Board in writing of the intent to provide Home Schooling." [Niagara CDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Refusing to provide a letter of intent when asked for one is one thing: it's unnecessarily adversarial and non-cooperative (although not necessarily indicative of anything warranting an investigation). Omitting to send one in the first place is quite another: it could be that the parent is unaware of the policy, or it could be that they've chosen not to go beyond what is required by law but would respond to a question in writing if asked to do so. Unless by "investigation" the board means simply asking parents to clarify whether or not they're homeschooling, this reason to investigate is even less "reasonable" than the rest of them (which are the ones listed in PPM131, and with which we also take issue).
Additional "grounds" for an investigation
- "a student is suddenly withdrawn from school to be instructed at home and there is reason to believe that instruction at home is not the reason for the withdrawal." [SCDSB]
CORRECTION / CLARIFICATION: Unless by "investigation" the board means simply asking parents to clarify whether or not they're homeschooling, this reason to investigate is no more "reasonable" than the rest of them (which are the ones listed in PPM131, and with which we also take issue). When a parent has signed a letter of intent to homeschool, including a statement to the effect that they understand their responsibility under the law to provide satisfactory instruction, it doesn't matter what the reason was for withdrawing the child, the intent remains the same: to switch to homeschooling. Whether homeschooling is the reason for withdrawing or withdrawing is the reason for homeschooling, the result is the same. Either way, to investigate after receiving a letter of intent is to doubt the parent's word that they do indeed intend to provide satisfactory instruction at home.
Taking drastic measures
- [After a "curriculum query," i.e. a school board investigation into "satisfactory instruction":] "When the Superintendent of Education is unable to determine whether a child is receiving satisfactory instruction, further action may be taken in accordance with subsection 24(2) of the Education Act (Inquiry by Provincial Attendance Counsellor) or by referral to the Children’s Aid." [TDSB]
- [After a provincial inquiry:] "if the Provincial Attendance Counsellor completes an inquiry and orders that the child attend school; [...]
• give consideration to proceeding to court with respect to section 30 of the Education Act and/or referring the matter to the Children’s Aid Society." [YRDSB]
COMMENT: No school board should ever be referring any family to the Children's Aid Society just for their own inability to determine whether or not the family is homeschooling or their homeschooling constitutes "satisfactory instruction." PPM131 does not include this as one of the possible actions to be taken in such a situation, and only directs the board to refer the determination to the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor for a provincial inquiry if need be. Likewise, no board should be referring any family to the Children's Aid Society just because a provincial inquiry has resulted in an order that the child attend school. There is a clear protocol in the Education for how to proceed in cases of truancy (i.e. refusing to attend when required to attend), involving court and fines. It has nothing to do with Children's Aid. (In practice, we have not been made aware of any cases where a board has taken this step, but it should not be included in their policy document either way. The purpose of CAS is to deal with situations of child abuse or severe neglect. Homeschooling — even if deemed nonsatisfactory by inquiry officers — does not constitute a child protection issue, and should not be used as an excuse to involve CAS without any other, independently sufficient, reason to be concerned about the way a child is being treated or parented at home.)
- "if the Provincial Attendance Counsellor completes an inquiry and orders that the child attend school; [...]
• give consideration to proceeding to court with respect to section 30 of the Education Act [...]." [YRDSB]
COMMENT: There is no reason to proceed to court for truancy charges in cases where a child is ordered to attend school and does so. The wording is misleading by omission of a qualifying phrase to that effect.
Telling parents how to parent or how to homeschool
- "RESPONSIBILITIES OF PARENT(S)/GUARDIAN(S)
7. Provide constructive feedback to their son(s)/daughter(s) regarding achievement and future educational planning." [GECDSB]
- "Components of a Successful Home Schooling Program
[the entire document but in particular:]
10. The student is provided with constructive feedback on his or her accomplishments" [OCDSB]
COMMENT: This comes across as a patronizing attempt to influence the parents' pedagogy and child-rearing practices. It is not the place of the school board to tell parents how to homeschool nor how to parent.
- "RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE BOARD
3. Inform the parent(s)/guardian(s) that their son(s)/daughter(s) will not be allowed to participate or attend some of the classes on a part-time basis"
- "Parents must be informed that:
a) children taught at home will not be allowed to participate or attend classes (ie. French, Music) on a part-time basis if they are not registered students.
b) similarly, a student enrolled in any e-learning course(s) offered by the board or in partnership with the board is not considered home schooling." [LKDSB administrative procedure]
COMMENT: Part-time attendance is one of the few potential supports allowed by the Ministry of Education and mentioned in PPM131. However, some boards explicitly disallow it, in spite of the fact that they could get partial funding for it. See our page on part-time attendance.
There are important aspects of PPM131 that are not always included in school board Procedures documents:
- "[...] board officials should recognize that the methodology, materials, schedules, and assessment techniques used by parents who provide home schooling may differ from those used by educators in the school system. For example, the parent may not be following the Ontario curriculum, using standard classroom practices in the home, or teaching within the standard school day or school year."
Please note: the above excerpt from PPM131 is one of the most important messages that it was established to convey, yet is often missing from the school board procedures documents that otherwise reproduce or paraphrase PPM131 extensively. By this omission, some boards even truncate the semantic logic itself, by including the PPM131 wording that follows the above: "Determining whether instruction is satisfactory should therefore focus on [...]." That word "therefore" is left referring to nothing once the previous sentence is omitted.
- Not all school boards mention PPM131 itself in their procedures documents or letters of response to parental notifications.
Please note: It is misleading and inappropriate for school boards to give parents only a board-specific policy document instead of letting them know that there is a Ministry policy. Although PPM131 is still just a policy rather than the law, it is more official that board policies and is intended to be followed consistently by all school boards. PPM131 states at the very beginning that, "School boards should bring this memorandum to the attention of parents who are providing home schooling."
- "Parents providing Home Schooling may access curriculum policy documents produced by the Ministry of Education free of charge through the Publications Ontario web site, at www.publications.gov.on.ca or by calling the toll free number 1-800-668-9938." [TDSB]
Please note: It's a lot easier to access the free curriculum guidelines through the Ministry of Education website instead: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/curricul/curricul.html
If a school board investigation is attempted
First be sure that you really are being subjected to a school board investigation. Sometimes it's simply a matter of parents misunderstanding — thinking they're being asked to fill out an investigation form when really it's just part of a document package (like the full text of PPM131, including the appendices of sample forms) given to you FYI. If it's not absolutely explicit that you are being directly told to submit an educational plan or fill out a detailed questionnaire about your homeschooling, then you can ignore the matter.
If, on the other hand, you really are being subjected to an attempted school board investigation, see more information and your options on our page about School Board Investigations and the Provincial Inquiry.
Cautions about PPM131 itself
PPM131 is just a policy, not the law. The Education Act supersedes PPM131. Anything in the Act that contradicts anything in the policy should be taken to invalidate that policy directive. Anything not explicitly mentioned in the Act goes beyond what is required by law.
Although the OFTP has always considered PPM131 to be a positive improvement over the previous, more informal policy known as the Johnson Memorandum, our positions on the remaining issues never changed:
- We agree that an initial notification is a necessary communication when withdrawing an enrolled child from the school system to homeschool instead, and it makes sense to give that communication in writing so everyone has a record of it. However, the least intrusive way to implement this policy would have been to accept the initial notification as serving "until further notice" rather than requesting that a new one be sent on a yearly basis thereafter. We support parents making their own decisions about whether or not to send a yearly letter after the initial notification, and we recommend parents do send a letter of intent to school boards when it is directly requested at the beginning of a given school year. However, since a yearly notification goes beyond what is required by law, we have concerns about this part of the policy enabling and reinforcing a school board attitude of entitlement to oversee homeschooling, which they often seem to have in spite of the policy directive that they should accept the letter of intent as sufficient, consider the child excused, and normally not investigate the matter.
- The policy also prescribes the following: "If the home address changes, parents should notify the school board of the change of address." This, too, goes beyond what is required by law. While it may be a school board's responsibility to report to the Ministry of Education regarding the school attendance status of all school-age children residing in its jurisdiction, it is not a parent's legal responsibility to report to the school board once their children are not attending a school operated by the school board in question. We're not aware of any equivalent policy for the parents of children attending private schools.
School board investigations
- PPM131's wording that, "it is the responsibility of school boards to excuse children from attendance at school when home schooling is provided," seems to be taken by some school boards to mean that a child is not excused from attendance unless it goes through the board. Given that the Education Act mentions no such conditions or protocol, this cannot have been the intended meaning. As participants in the discussions with the Ministry of Education that led to PPM131, it is our understanding that the intention was to convey instead that it is not the board's responsibility to determine whether or not a homeschooled child is excused, but rather to recognize and acknowledge that the child is excused by virtue of section 21(2)(a). But regardless of intended meaning, the way it's commonly interpreted by school boards enables and reinforces their notion that they're in charge of excusing a child's non-attendance. This is not the letter of the law.
- The policy's wording that, "if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the child is not receiving satisfactory instruction at home, the board should take steps to determine whether the instruction is satisfactory," enables and reinforces the notion that it is at all appropriate for an institutionally-biased official from within the school system to evaluate a non-institutional alternative to that kind of education. "Satisfactory instruction" is not defined in the Education Act nor in the policy. When negotiating the drafting of PPM131, the Ministry acknowledged that they could not give it a definition without opening up a can of worms about the school system's own failure to ensure all school children receive an education that is satisfactory and adequate for their needs. We maintain our original position, that it should not be handed to school boards, with such a vested interest in the institutional system, to "determine satisfactory instruction" for anyone outside that system, and that it is only parents who can make such a determination for their own children — as indeed they do by withdrawing their children from school when they deem it unsatisfactory.
- The examples given in PPM131 as "reasonable grounds" for an investigation are not at all reasonable. It is absolutely appropriate for a parent to switch to homeschooling if their child has had issues at school, whether or not that has led, at any time, to absenteeism or conflicts with school personnel. These circumstances do not invalidate the parent's legitimate intent to homeschool. They are, on the contrary, an indication that the school is not a satisfactory educational solution for the child in question. That the parent steps up to homeschool instead, should be taken as evidence of their parental engagement and commitment to attending to their child's needs — the opposite of neglect, educational or otherwise.
- The questionnaire provided as PPM131 appendix D, offered as a sample of what could be used in school board investigations, has the opposite effect from what the original goal of PPM131 was to be, namely to "eliminate institutional bias against homeschooling" (as per the Harris government's Action Plan called "21 Steps into the 21st Century"). On the contrary, the investigation questionnaire merely reinforces the institutionally-biased idea that it is at all relevant to ask for detailed information about educational practices and resources that are not relevant to many successful homeschooling approaches.
For all of the above reasons, we continue to oppose school board investigations. In responding to attempted investigations, we have to remind school boards of three main things:
- One of the most important messages expressed in the main text of the policy document itself (i.e. not including the appendices) conveys the kind of non-institutional understanding of learning that the OFTP and other consulted organizations were trying to transmit and have the policy convey: "Whether meeting with the family or reviewing information submitted in writing, board officials should recognize that the methodology, materials, schedules, and assessment techniques used by parents who provide home schooling may differ from those used by educators in the school system. [emphasis added] For example, the parent 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 is therefore irrelevant to ask whether or not the family is following the Ontario curriculum, or try to determine in any other way how closely the homeschooling resembles institutional education.
- Routine monitoring and routine investigations were revoked by PPM131 when it explicitly revoked the Johnson Memorandum. Through PPM131, the Ministry of Education recognizes that investigations are supposed to be exceptions to the rule, and only conducted when there are legitimate, warranted reasons to look into the possibility that a given child's non-attendance doesn't meet the criteria for being legally excused under section 21(2). Investigations are not supposed to be fishing expeditions to find something wrong, they're supposed to be initiated only when there is enough evidence or credible suspicion of something specific to begin with. In the Mireille Beauchamp court case of 1979, the judge ruled that the onus was on school boards to prove the parents were not providing satisfactory instruction, not on parents to prove they were. In that light, questionnaires like PPM131 appendix D are inappropriate tools for an investigation, since they ask parents to explain themselves in detail, giving answers to be evaluated based on unspecified criteria (since "satisfactory instruction" is not defined anywhere), to questions that only determine how closely their approach resembles the institutional model of education, not how well their approach satisfies the learning needs of their child or addresses the concerns that led to the suspicion of unsatisfactory instruction in the first place. In keeping with the principles of justice, parents have a moral right to know what the charges or suspicions are and, instead of being interrogated in broad and irrelevant ways, should rather be given an opportunity to respond to the specific charges. A school board "investigation" should therefore simply be a simple, non-adversarial request for clarification about a specific, clearly-stated concern. If, after receiving the parent's response, the board official still believed there was wrong-doing, and still believed they had enough evidence of that wrong-doing to warrant further action, the principles of justice require that it should take the form of an impartial hearing.
- A hearing is indeed what the Education Act prescribes as the protocol to be followed, as a provincial inquiry, in cases where the parent "considers that the child is excused from attendance at school under subsection 21(2)" and the attendance counsellor is "of the opinion that the child should not be excused from attendance." A hearing is not a questionnaire, nor is it the accusing party one-sidedly interrogating the accused party, but rather a third, impartial party hearing both sides of the disagreement. In order to ensure school boards don't request provincial inquiries frivolously or when they're otherwise unwarranted, PPM131 directs school boards to look into the matter before requesting the Ministry get involved. However, we would contend that if a school board does not have enough unsolicited evidence of wrong-doing to request a provincial inquiry, or has not sufficiently screened a third-party report to establish that it is credible and relates to actual wrong-doing, then neither do they have enough "reasonable grounds" to conduct a pre-inquiry investigation of the homeschooling parents. As mentioned above, a simple, non-adversarial request for clarification about a specific, clearly-stated concern, could avoid the need for both a more formal school board investigation and a provincial inquiry.
See also our pages on PPM131.
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