Preparing to start homeschooling through high school in Ontario can easily have this overwhelming and sudden sense of pressure. However, it doesn’t have to be stressful. You just have to come up with a plan that works for you and your child.
Step Zero: Follow the Regulations
If this is your first foray into homeschooling, you need to make sure that you are following the regulations surrounding homeschooling. In Ontario, homeschooling regulations are relatively easy – simply provide a letter of intent to the school board. From there, you are not required to do anything else. You do not have to complete any specific paperwork outlining curriculum plans or details to the school. You are completely free to teach how and what you would like.
Step One: Diploma or No Diploma
The very first decision you have to make is if you are going to work towards an “official government issued diploma” (an OSSD) or not. This is completely dependent on your child’s goals and plans and what works for your family. There are plenty of options here.
- Take accredited courses through correspondence or online programs.
- Do your own thing completely and, keeping well documented notes of programs and courses you do at home, issue your own homeschool graduation diploma.
- Do your own thing through grade 9 – 11, and complete officially accredited Grade 12 courses.
Pros to Getting an OSSD
- Getting a government-issued diploma might make it easier for post-secondary applications.
- It’s universally recognized.
Cons to Getting an OSSD
- You have to complete courses from accredited programs, which might not work to your method or delivery preference, budget, or worldview.
- You will need to jump through all the required hoops for qualification – including service hours, literacy test, and specific course credits.
Pros to Doing Your Own Thing
- You can study in a method that works for you with curriculum that you choose.
- You can choose subject areas that are more personalized and of interest to you.
Cons to Doing Your Own Thing
- You might need to jump through more hoops for post-secondary applications.
Step Two: Make a Plan
Once you’ve decided whether you will work towards a government official diploma or not, the next step is figuring out what you will learn over the next four years.
A word of advice: BE PROACTIVE.
In Ontario, high school students in the system are required to complete 30 credits, 40 hours of community service, and a literacy competency test in order to receive their diploma. If you plan to work toward an OSSD through an accredited program, or would like to have guideline for ideas as you work independently, you will need to complete the same requirements. A complete credit is 110-120 hours of work.
- 4 credits in English (1 credit per grade)*
- 3 credits in mathematics (1 credit in Grade 11 or 12)
- 2 credits in science
- 1 credit in Canadian history
- 1 credit in Canadian geography
- 1 credit in the arts
- 1 credit in health and physical education
- 1 credit in French as a second language
- ½ credit in career studies
- ½ credit in civics
- Plus 15 other credits of your choice.
With help from your student, figure out what subjects you want to complete each year so you have a complete path. If you are choosing to follow the plan for an OSSD, make sure you’ve got the full requirements covered. If you are doing your own thing, at least having a general idea of what topics you want to cover each year is a good plan.
Start with the core subjects: Math, Language Arts, Science, History / Geography. Once you’ve got the main subjects sorted out, decide what high school electives you would like to cover during the next four years. These can be everything from Japanese to photography to cooking to auto mechanics.
Step Three: Pick A Program
Now that you know which topics you want to cover during high school, it’s time to figure out what curriculum or program you are going to use.
If you want accredited courses, there are many different options available. Here are some programs to consider:
- Independent Learning Centre (ILC) – this is the official Ontario distance education program for high school hosted by TVO. Grades 9 to 12 students take correspondence courses online, either by PDF file or an online portal. Submitted work and quizzes are evaluated and graded by a teacher and final exam written under the watch of an approved supervisor. Courses are self-paced but must be completed within 10 months. The cost is $40 per course. If you have been homeschooling before applying the ILC, you will be required to provide proof of Canadian citizenship, proof of Ontario residency, a homeschool letter from the Superintendent of the school district you are in, and a course transcript / detailed course record of what your child has learned.
- Virtual Learning Centre (VLC) – this is an online school run through the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. Courses for grades 9 to 12 are offered on a semester basis. You apply to the courses you would like to take each semester and then do your classes through an online portal with a combination of live teaching presentations and modules of assignments and work. There is no cost if you are a resident of Ontario (other than a $50 fee for new students which is refunded at the end of the year.) Applying homeschoolers will be required to provide a homeschool letter.
- Virtual High School (VHS) – this is an online private school. Grade 9 through 12 students can register for a course at any time and work at their own pace, although courses should be completed within 18 months. Assignments and work are submitted for evaluation and a final exam is done online under the watch of an approved proctor. The cost per course is $479-$729 depending on the grade and options you choose.
- Blyth Academy Online – this is a private school that offers an online option. Grade 9 to 12 students can register for courses and work on them at their own pace, although they are expected to be completed within a maximum of 12 months. Course are presented through an online portal, with teacher office hours available for support. Submitted work and assignments are graded and a final exam can be done at a Blyth Academy school or under a proctor. Courses cost between $475-575 depending on the grade level.
- Nimbus Christian Education – this is an online private school for grades 5 – 12. Students can choose between a full-service option where they connect with a teacher weekly over video and/or text, or a basic service where they only connect over text with a teacher as they work independently. You can enrol anytime and have up to 12 months to complete a course. Courses range from $600 – $1000 depending on the grade and value of credit.
If you are choosing to work independently, you are able to use whichever resources you would like throughout high school. There are many options to choose from, so I won’t list them there, but I would recommend going through my How to Plan Your Homeschool Year guide that walks you through how to choose curriculum.
Some schools offer the option for Credit Equivalency – meaning that you can have the work you complete outside the official OSSD accredited programs assessed and counted towards an official diploma. Talk to staff at one of the above programs for more information on this option.
Step Four: Add Volunteering / Extras
Whether you are working towards getting an OSSD or not, providing teenagers with opportunities to volunteer and help in the community is a good idea. It helps them to think of others and to get out in the world. You can search for volunteer opportunities at SPARK Ontario. Also check at your local church, community centre, kids’ clubs, homeschool groups, retirement homes, and regional websites.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award offers high school students the opportunities to work on achieving goals and challenges in service, skills, physical activity, and adventure. There are different requirements for different age ranges and levels. Find out more at Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Step Five: Keep Records
Write down everything – the title of the resources you use, books you read, topics and units covered, activities done, etc to be able to put together a detailed transcript if needed.
Once you have these steps in place, from there it’s just about getting your teen to do the work. Using a planner or a digital tool like Trello to keep track of what they need to accomplish every day can be helpful.
Although at first, homeschooling through high school in Ontario can seem overwhelming, once you have a plan in place, you can breathe easily knowing you are setting your child up for the best they can be.