Whenever I meet a new couple and introduce myself as a homeschooling mom, I get asked the same questions almost every time. The depth of the conversation can vary depending on how interested (or not) the couple is and if they are also considering the homeschooling path for their children.
Below are the most common questions that come up in the conversations I’ve had, and my usual answers for each one.
1. Is homeschooling allowed in Canada?
Yes, it is allowed in all provinces in Canada. Each province has its own laws and requirements regarding home schooling. For some provinces it is as simple as submitting a letter of intent to homeschool to your respective school board before the beginning of every school year. For others, there could be requirements to have the children tested or for the parents to provide details of the curriculum being used at home.
2. Do you have to be a teacher to be able to homeschool?
No, you don’t have to. I love teachers and are always amazed at their ability and dedication to their work. I am not a professional teacher and often wondered in the beginning of our journey if I would be able to do a good enough role as primary educator for our children. What I’ve discovered is that our deep love and desire to form our children to become the best that God intended them to be is the only “degree” we needed to fulfill the homeschool teaching role.
3. Where do you get your teaching materials?
There are a multitude of choices from where you could get materials from. Our family has chosen to use materials from a Catholic curriculum provider from the U.S., which supplies everything from lesson plans to texts and workbooks. This could be a personal choice since curriculum providers vary in the way the lessons are presented and evaluated, and each family would have to understand what structure fits their family’s learning styles.
4. How long do you do school work every day?
Our normal school day can run from 2 to 4 hours, depending on what we have going on that day. For example, if my assignments were mostly exercises to be completed as a review of previous lessons, then they get finished faster than if the day consists of arts and crafts or lengthy science experiments.
5. Is it possible to give each child individual teaching attention?
Not only is it possible, but they are more likely to receive individualized attention in this setting than in a standard school setting. In our family’s case, I’ve never taught less than four children every school year. I try to prepare the school work for the next day before I go to bed, and if I see a certain topic that requires one-on-one time, I write a note (sticky notes come in handy!) for the child to come to me for further explanation.
Every now and then a child will have a question while I am working with another. They will just be asked to wait for a few minutes (if I know I’m done in 1 or 2 minutes) or to move on to another subject until I am free to come and help them.
6. Do you teach when you have small babies or toddlers?
Yes. However, when you have a newborn, it is a homeschool blessing to be able to take a step back and put the books away temporarily while mommy rests and cares for herself and the baby. It is also a time for the other children to enjoy this special moment of welcoming their new sibling and learning to care for him/her without the distraction of homework and school activities.
It was during the first year of our family’s homeschooling journey when I gave birth to my twins. What a relief to not have to worry about waking up early (especially when you haven’t slept the whole night) to get the kids ready to leave for school on time. We simply took a break from our textbooks for about six weeks, just long enough for our daily activities to go back into some sort of routine.
With toddlers, I try to have a box of activities ready for me to reach into when they start to interrupt teaching time. This box can have anything from picture books and colouring pages to large beads and simple puzzles. Sometimes, I let the curious toddler sit with us at the table so he can “do school” too.
7. Can we homeschool through high school?
Yes, you can! The requirements to be able to homeschool through high school are the same as in elementary grades for each province.
Each family is different and decisions on how long to homeschool can vary. For us, we decided that our children will eventually go back to traditional institutions by high school. So we decided to have grade 7 as our last homeschool year for each child and have them enrolled at the local Catholic school by grade 8.
I personally know other families who homeschool right through high school, and others who have their kids enrolled in institutions during elementary and then transition to homeschool during the high school years.
8. Do we need to take the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) Test if we live in Ontario?
Homeschoolers do not need to take the EQAO Test. But if you wish to have your child tested to see if they are at the same level of learning with their peers from other institutions, then you just need to inform your local school board so they could accommodate your child at the nearest school during testing time. For homeschoolers in other provinces and states, please check your local education department for similar standardized achievement tests given to certain grades in elementary school.
9. Does the government have to check on your progress?
This depends where you live and what your provincial or state laws require. For Ontario homeschoolers, the only requirement the ministry states is to provide the letter of intent to homeschool for your respective school board to receive before the beginning of every school year.
10. What about socializing? Do the children have friends?
This seems to be the question all homeschoolers hear at least once during their years of educating at home. My short answer is this: we teach them at home, we don’t keep them at home.
Society seems to have programmed us to believe that if children do not spend 6 to 7 hours in school with their peers, they will fail to get along socially with others. Teaching children at home won’t make them social misfits.
Many people have commented on how well-behaved, well-mannered, yet outgoing my children are. They are comfortable carrying a conversation with adults just as well as they would with their peers or those younger than them.
As part of our children’s education, we have some of them take part in music instruction such as piano and violin lessons, and others have taken ballet lessons. They all sing in the church choir and two are altar servers. I know other homeschool families are involved in various fields of interest such as sports leagues and coop service. The activities that homeschooled children can join in are so varied that most people’s perception of eliminating socialization is simply unfounded.
“The right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed…those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable.” — St. Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio.
Particularly in the first year or two of homeschooling, the decisions can certainly be overwhelming. Just understand that your homeschool will never look exactly like another family’s homeschool. Not only is that okay to have, but I believe it’s the way homeschooling is supposed to be.
Do you have more questions or thoughts about homeschooling that you’d like to ask or share with us?
Please write them down in the comments below. We would like to hear from you!