If you want to home educate in Alberta what do you need to do and know?
In Alberta, children who are between the ages of six and sixteen years of age on September 1 must attend school. Choosing to home educate is one of the options as a “school choice”.
In order to be legal and to receive funding (yes in Alberta you can get reimbursed for home education resources you purchase) you need to be registered with a “Willing Non-Resident” School Board by September 30 of the year you are planning to home educate.
What is a Willing Non-Resident School Board or sometimes called an associate board?
A school board that is willing (not all school boards facilitate home education so you need to find one that does, the term that is used for that is “willing”) and non-resident mean it doesn’t need to be in your “school district”, in fact you can register with any board you want to in Alberta. For example if I live in Calgary I could register with a Willing Non-Resident School Board that is out of Edmonton. The newer term for these boards is associate board. Each year you can choose any associate board you want.
In Alberta you also need to know these terms; basic/traditional, blended and fully aligned – and what they mean?
Basic or sometimes referred to as traditional home education is where the parent is fully responsible for the education of their child. That means they are required to use the General Learning Outcomes to determine and deliver their child’s education plan. The board can provide support but the parent delivers (teaches) the entire home education program to their child.
Blended is an option for each individual subject. For example you can be basic/traditional for your entire home education program except for say if you choose to blend Science. By blending Science you agree to follow Alberta’s Program of Studies for Science for whatever grade level you are teaching. The Alberta Program of Studies will detail which topics you are to teach for that grade level and in some cases what curriculum you need to use for those topics, sometimes you can choose but it has to meet all of the requirements stated in the Program of Studies. The law states that the board will deliver the program and may in fact offer “classes” or curriculum for the student to use however parents usually deliver the blended program as well, they just use resources agreed to by the board.
Fully aligned means that you are choosing to follow the Alberta Program of Studies for ALL subjects for whatever grade level you are home educating and that the board will provide the entire program to your child. This could be with printed materials/curriculum or on-line.
To get a better idea of what the General Learning Outcomes and what the Alberta Program of Studies are here is a sample of each?
The General Learning Outcomes is a list (from a-t) that basic/traditional homeschoolers must accomplish over the 12 years (or so) of education of their child. http://education.alberta.ca/media/1225757/home%20education%20handbook%20edit%20april%202010.pdf (page 38). Normally you choose 1, 2 or 3 that you want to work on for the year. For example for one year you may just focus on achieving the a) outcome; reading for information, knowledge and enjoyment.
The Alberta Program of Studies has the same general outcomes but each subject is broken down to more specific outcomes and you are given even more details about what you need to achieve for that particular subject. For example if you are blended for Science there will be 5 specific topics for each particular grade level for Science that you will need to achieve. Here is a link so you can see what that looks like. http://education.alberta.ca/media/654825/elemsci.pdf these are the Alberta Program of Studies for Elementary Science topics.
When you register with your chosen board you will sign the official notification form that you are going to home educate. You will indicate if you are choosing the basic/traditional program (General Learning Outcomes) or if you are blending any particular subject(s) and following the Alberta Program of Studies for those subjects).
Then you are responsible to have a minimum of 2 visits (3 or more if you are blended or fully aligned) with your facilitator (usually these happen at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year).
Who is your facilitator? Your facilitator is a certified teacher who is employed with the board you are registered with. Sometimes she is a homeschooler herself that happens to be a certified teacher. On your first visit of the year it is customary to put together an “education plan” for your child. You can write one up yourself or your facilitator can help you do it. This is a “living” document and you are free to change it anytime along the way as many times as you like. This is simply, a “this is what we plan to do” document. At the end of the year meeting you share what you actually did. Sometimes the facilitator will either take their own notes and/or take samples of your child(ren)s work for their files. Please note this is NOT to be a judgment on their part or is it a test that you fail or pass – they are simply recording what learning took place that year in order to meet the reporting requirements of the government.
Some frequently asked questions …and answers.
How much funding do I get and what can I spend my funding on and how do I get reimbursed? The amount of funding you get is determined by the “program” you choose. If you choose basic/traditional you usually get about $700. Blended is anywhere from $900-1200 and fully aligned you can receive as much $1500.00 per child. Please note that each board is different. Some boards only offer basic/traditional while some other boards don’t offer basic/traditional but offer the others – you really do need to be familiar with these terms in order to choose the program you want. Also each board has their own “requirements” of what they expect from a basic/traditional program and a fully-aligned – you need to have this information clearly laid out so that you know what is expected in order to fulfill their reporting requirements for any particular program. You can use the funding for any resources you deem “educational”, except traveling expenses. Again each board may choose to allow/disallow certain receipts so find this out before you spend the money and submit your receipt.
Do I have use certain curriculum? If you are basic/traditional you can use any resources you feel will met your goals/objectives. If you are blended in any particular subject your board will usually have a list of recommended resources to use for that subject that “align” with the Alberta Program of Studies. If you are fully aligned curriculum is usually assigned to you by the board you are registered with.
What if I want to pull my kids out of the public system during the year (i.e. after the September 30 deadline)? You absolutely can do that but you won’t receive any funding because the school you are currently registered with has received that funding and it’s not transferable. You should still contact a homeschooling board and they will do what is called a “rescue” (I know funny term but that is what they call it). They can still help and guide you with what to do for the remainder of the year and get the school files transferred for the following year if you choose to still homeschool with that board the following year, you are also free to go to any other board each year.
I’ve done all the legal stuff now what do I really need to do to do this thing called home schooling?
FIND a local support group (this is not usually a part of your school board but can be….). The school board should provide a good listing of local support groups for you. I can’t stress this enough – although this has nothing to do with the “legal” part of homeschooling it will mean the difference between a successful homeschooling journey versus one where you struggle on your own. If they don’t provide a listing for you, you can find a good listing here http://www.aheaonline.com/index.php/resources/support-groups or do a search on the internet that is location specific.
Finally please note, the Home Education Regulation http://www.qp.alberta.ca/574.cfm?page=2006_145.cfm&leg_type=Regs&isbncln=0779748387 which is what governs home education in Alberta is due to expire on August 31, 2013 – so requirements could change at that time, especially since a new School Act is being introduced into the legislative at the time of this writing, the School Act oversees the Home Education Regulation.
My opinion being added here…. Finding a support group is THE most important thing you will do in your home education journey. You will need to have a group of people who can answer your questions and concerns and you and your child will have friends to go on this journey with.
Also I usually recommend to new homeschoolers that they choose to go basic/traditional for at least the first year, until you have your feet wet – it gives you the most flexibility with the least amount of “requirements” and gives you time to learn what works for you and more importantly your child, this takes time.
I hope this helps in you having a successful and enjoyable start on your homeschooling journey!
Complied by: Lori Desrosiers
Lori Desrosiers has been home educating in Alberta for 11 years. She lives in the middle of everywhere and in the middle of nowhere on her tiny acreage with her husband, two boys and several critters. She supports home education with her various groups and activities and she believes in supporting home educators through the laughter and the tears and always having really good coffee on hand!