What is homeschooling?
We live in a very interesting time in history. In the last 30 years, there has been a great resurgence in new versions of an old movement- that of homeschooling, home education, learning at home, home-based learning or unschooling. As diverse are the families that embark on this journey, also are the reasons for doing so, and the ways that they do it!
There are always a few questions that come up when someone inquires about this type of education. Here are some of the more popular ones:
- Why do families choose to home educate their children?
- Are parents qualified to teach their children?
- Is home education legal in every province?
- What about socialization?
- What about higher education and career preparation?
- How much time does it take to home educate?
- What about children with special needs?
- What about a child’s special interests?
- What materials are available?
- How do you get started in home educating?
Try www.hslda.ca for a good overview of each of these questions.
The Home School Legal Defence Fund is an excellent source for discovering the safest way to approach this venture. With excellent and experienced lawyers on staff, they will let you know what the situation is in your province and how to best handle it.
Now that legalities are out of the way…
Is home schooling part of God’s plan for families?
Not everyone is able to home school their children for a variety of reasons. No one needs to feel guilty if they are unable to make this particular journey.
There are a few points to clarify that will help parents know what their role is, and in so doing, may consider that home schooling is a way to aid them in fulfilling that role.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
PART THREE : LIFE IN CHRIST
SECTION TWO: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
CHAPTER TWO: “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF”
ARTICLE 4: THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
I. THE FAMILY IN GOD’S PLAN: The nature of the family
2201 The conjugal community is established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. The love of the spouses and the begetting of children create among members of the same family personal relationships and primordial responsibilities.
2202 A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated.
2203 In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.
* The Christian family
2204 “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.”9 It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.10
2205 The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.
2206 The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a “sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing.”11
II. THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY
2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.
2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”12
2209 The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.
2210 The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society13 entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty “to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.”14
2211 The political community has a duty to honour the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially:
– the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions;
– the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;
– the freedom to profess one’s faith, to hand it on, and raise one’s children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;
– the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;
– in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;
– the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
– the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authority.15
What are the different methods of teaching your children at home?
We live in a age of high technology. When our family started homeschooling 21 years ago, personal computers were just starting to be known in the homeschooling field. There were few resources available compared to today. Most homeschooling pioneers bought textbooks, or used their own or public library resources. This led into the styles that differed from family to family.
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling in which, loosely speaking, education happens without the use of a schedule, curriculum, testing and grades.
For more information on this type, check www.unschooling.ca
Homeschooling under the local Board of Education differs from province to province. In several provinces, there is funding for homeschoolers from the government, but they require you to register with them, and follow existing regulations. For a clear picture of the different provincial requirements, visit
They may require you to follow the provincial curriculum standards with testing using textbooks or other resources.
Correspondence schools provide standard curriculums, in which the student completes assignments and testing and sends them to the school, which keeps records and may offer teacher instruction in varying levels. For Catholics, there are several schools in the United States with excellent materials. The main ones are:
- Seton Home Study School – www.setonhome.org
- Mother of Divine Grace – www.motherofdivinegrace.org
- Kolbe Academy – www.kolbe.org
- Our Lady of Victory – www.olvs.org
Some Catholic sites offer online curriculums:
- Angelicum Academy – www.angelicum.net/
- Regina Coeli – www.reginacoeli.org
Online Canadian Courses provide courses that can be obtained online for provincial credits.
You can check Google for several companies that offer online courses in your province.
Setting up your own course of instruction. In provinces that do not require you to register with a board, many people set up their own courses of study. You can use textbooks, unit studies, local library resources, homeschool support group activities, tutors, or even neighbours who have a particular talent they can share with your child.
Several of the home school vendors in Canada offer curriculums with testing and evaluations. The parent is then responsible for submitting the assignments once the student has completed them. Other variations include the parent submitting assignments quarterly for evaluation, but doing all the rest of the marking themselves.
There are many vendors available with a wide range of resources for different learning styles. In the spring, there are homeschool conferences in each province, which provide a venue for vendors to bring their products, and speakers in seminars to help parents discover the resources available as well as support for teaching their children at home. Check www.homeschooling.about.com for vendors in your province.
Homeschool Support Groups are invaluable to a homeschooler. Besides offering monthly meetings for mutual support, they often offer excursions at group rates, classes in various subjects for children such as French, geography etc., libraries with resources specifically for the use of homeschoolers, and a range of learning styles, learning difficulties, or simple sage advice from veterans. I urge you to find a local group- you will find much-needed support.
Is our family able to home school?
Each family is comprised of unique individuals with differing personalities, circumstances, and economic situations. Many can’t home school, even if they wished, because of financial or other obligations. But don’t be discouraged. If you feel you may be called to try this adventure of learning, I would encourage you to look for ways that may be “outside the box.”
For example, a typical school day in the public or Catholic school system has a set routine of times, days and classes of uniform length. The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to worry about moving from class to class, bus times, recesses, etc. Once the child has completed his or her assignments whether it takes an hour or eight, he or she is free to do other things. Grade One and Two students do not need to put as much time into formal studying as their siblings in grade eight or nine.
Homeschooling can take place on any day of the week, or time of day. It can be arranged around parents’ work schedules, course availabilities or local events. It may take the form of projects, texts and workbooks, unit studies, oral presentations or hands-on activities.
For example, one family did a unit on space. They obtained a dryer-sized cardboard box and made it into a “spaceship” with windows. Their grandparents were invited to sit inside while the children took them on a “guided tour through space” using mobiles for the planets and stars.
One day, our family had an “Aboriginal Day.” We were outside cooking our “buffalo chops” (which tasted suspiciously like pork chops) over a fire, with our war paint on. That would be the day, of course, that the men came to empty our septic tank!
Children have differing ways of learning- some are auditory and like to have everything explained to them. Others learn best by reading, and still others are very hands-on. Many children, particularly boys, are very active and find it hard to sit still for lengths of time. There was an article in an American newspaper several years ago stating that 1 out of every 7 American students were on Ritalin, a psychostimulant drug often used in the treatment of hyperactivity and most of those children were boys. Are there really that many children who need to be drugged or is there a better way to harness that energy into positive outlets?
A good explanation of how boys and girls learn differently can be found on a CD or DVD by Andrew Pudewa on www.excellenceinwriting.com/tb-d
Because of the lack of time constraints, children who need more time to understand their studies will not feel pressured. Therefore, the studies can be tailored to the needs of each child’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Many children have been diagnosed with learning disabilitites such as dyslexia, ADHD or ADD and struggle with the current methods. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of finding another approach, and sometimes it is necessary to diagnose exactly what the problem areas are so that the method most beneficial can be applied.
For more information, check the following links:
Excellence in Writing.com – Summer 2011 e-newsletter
Extra-curricular activities or outside jobs can also be incorporated into a homeschool day. Sports, recreational activities, hobbies, community concerns and charity work are good avenues for children to participate. It gives them a chance to learn about different age groups, the needs of the world around them, teamwork, and their place in society. Our support group was invited by the Town Council to submit some ideas for beautifying the main street in our town. When the ideas were submitted, a local official took us on a tour of the new community complex being built. Many of the ideas were implemented. Perhaps they were already in the planning stages, but it was an affirmation for the children to see that they were appreciated.
Family interests can also be an important part of the day. For example gardening, housework, farming, carpentry or other projects that support the family are important skills to instil in children. By working alongside Mom and/or Dad, a child gets a sense of importance and identity in the family unit, basic life skills, and a security in identifying his or her role in life. Participating as a family in pro-life marches, or serving meals for the homeless or a local food bank help the child to get the “bigger” picture, and to learn social justice.
What used to be considered commonplace or even just common sense, can no longer be taken for granted in this high-tech world.
Here is an interesting article that demonstrates how far Canadians have ventured from their roots…
Part-time jobs also provide an opportunity for outside activity and meeting with others. Our family took turns working at neighbouring farms with horses, sheep, and chickens as well as babysitting. Another young girl in the country, started a dog-walking business, walking her neighbours’ dogs at noon. When she went on to high school, first one brother, than the other took over, spanning the course of several years.
How about errands for the elderly, shovelling snow, raking leaves, etc. ? You do not need to be sixteen years to be able to do any of these. There are valuable skills in handling money and responsibility that is learned while dealing with other people outside the home. It also encourages the child to be an entrepreneur- to recognize the needs of those around him and to try to meet hose needs using his own talents and gifts.
For young people who would like to start their own businesses, here is a link that may interest them- www.excellenceinwriting.com Fall 2011 e-newletter
Trading homeschooling activities also is a popular way. One mom may have trade a half-day or day of activities or subjects for a child or group of children with another mom. That gives both moms a “free day” or chance to do a part-time job.