I’ve often heard it said that if you want to homeschool in Canada, BC is the place to do it. Here in British Columbia, we have a government that seems quite supportive of home education. There are many options available to families here. You can be a registered homeschooler, an enrolled homeschooler, or you can send your child to some classes at a public school and do some at home.
Since I am not familiar with what is and isn’t allowed in other provinces, I will explain some fundamentals about how we ‘do homeschool’ here.
When you register as a homeschooler, the government sees your child as an official homeschooler and you as his/her teacher. There is a small amount of money that you can receive (around $150-250 per student per year) and there are no strings attached, you just have to be registered to prove that your student is not truant. If you choose this option you have full freedom to choose your child’s course of education. Being a registered homeschooler, your child will not receive a Dogwood diploma upon graduation. To find out more about the registering option for homeschooling go to: http://www.bchla.bc.ca
When you enroll, the government sees you as a distance learner or an online learner. Enrolled students received a larger amount of money (around $1000-$1200 per student per year), but there are strings attached. You are assigned to a support teacher, whom you must be in contact with weekly or biweekly. You are required to either submit a portfolio of the student’s work or have your support teacher do a ‘portfolio visit’ 3 times a year. You are also required to fulfill the BC Provincial Learning Outcomes. By doing it this way, your student will receive a Dogwood diploma upon high school completion.
There are many options regarding which school you can enroll with. Some of the most popular independent options are Anchor Academy, Heritage Christian Online School, Regent Christian Online Academy, and Traditional Learning Academy (TLA). Public options vary by region. Some popular ones that are local to me are Lochiel U-Connect (Langley) and Surrey Connect (Surrey). For a full list go to: http://www.learnnowbc.ca/schools/default.aspx . One thing that many families find beneficial about enrolling with a school that is in their area, is that many of these schools have classes that students can attend 1 day a week. So, your child could take a class in French or Chemistry for example.
Many parents choose to enroll because of the monetary incentive, which for our family is $4000 a year! The distribution of the funds is done through a purchase order system. Each student is assigned a purchase order number (PO#) and can use the PO# to buy educational resources (or services such as sports or music lessons) from an approved vendor. Each school has their own list of approved vendors and most have quite lengthy lists. If you want to purchase an item or service from a vendor who is not approved, you can either have the vendor submit a simple form to become an approved vendor, or you can get your support teacher to purchase for you using a special school credit card. If you are already enrolled and are re-enrolling for the following year, you can access ½ of your funding as early as the end of April for some schools.
Other benefits vary from school to school, but Heritage Christian Online School where we are enrolled, offers many different field trips each year, with some of them being overnight trips. Earlier this year we went on a field trip to the Vancouver Symphony with other HCOS families and my son just took a rocketry course through the school. They also have Learning Camps. These are theme based and often involve several field trips, group planning sessions and a project and presentation day. Near the end of the school year many of the schools offer a Sports Day too.
Here is a link to a chart that goes into more detail regarding the differences between registering and enrolling: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/dist_learning/dl_vs_homeschool.htm
Whether registered or enrolled, most homeschoolers enjoy the support and community that can be found in a local support group. A list of local support groups for different areas in BC can be found at http://www.bchomeschool.net/ , click on the ‘support’ tab. Local support groups vary as much as the members of each group. Often they will plan field trips together and co-ops for different school subjects or whatever group members are interested in doing.
Our family has been homeschooling in BC since our children were born. They are now 13, 12, 10, and 8. We are excited for all the opportunities that homeschooling has given us so far and we look forward to many more adventures in homeschooling in the years to come.
Compiled by: Natasha Millard