Ready, Set, Home School! A Quick Start Guide

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I never expected to home school, maybe you don't either. Heck, I couldn't even see myself as a home school mom or where to begin. Maybe, that's you. Through a set of circumstances we found ourselves in by Christmas of 1999, home school was becoming an idea we had to give serious consideration to. Our daughters, allergies and eczema had risen to a level that was no longer manageable. She was taking what seemed like endless doses of cortisone steroids, countless trips to Doctors (Dermatologist, Allergist, Nutritionist, Paediatrician's, ENT's, Dermatologist's, Homeopathic, Naturopath.. we utilized everything we could.... we were all beyond ourselves. Life was not good for her. Our daughter was reacting to stressor's in the school even though she enjoyed it. We loved her teacher and her assistant she was assigned to but our daughter's health was of considerable concern. She was super sensitive to sounds, touch, everything was an issue, reactions were constant. It hurt to see her like this.Being an avid note taker for my daughter's health, I saw her skin improve, on long weekends and school breaks, less redness, less oozing, fewer tears. It was suggested to us, we should look into home schooling. 

 MY REACTION
"ME, HOMESCHOOL?? Are you kidding??" 
My friend, Cheryl, told me to take a couple of books from the library and educate myself on this possibility. 
We did. We read. EVERYTHING we could. We thought about this idea, discussed it. Could I do this? If you're thinking this sounds familar.. check out your local library for home education books. I enjoyed authors like John Taylor Gatto, his books are still very much applicable today. Then we talked to other people, we were suddenly meeting random strangers in grocery stores during the day who home schooled as well. We'd chat and the idea became more tangible. 
By April, it was clear, this was what we needed to do and registered her for a new school board, come September we'd be on the home school path. We talked with our current school to give them a heads up, it was settled but now that we made this decision how does one start? You may be in a similar situation and wondering where to start and how to begin. 

Quick Start Guide

1. GIVE NOTIFICATION
Because our daughter had already been enrolled in Kindergarten, and I had already submitted her form that she was registered for Grade 1, I needed to let the school know she wasn't returning. If I was to pull her mid year, I'd have to do the same and so will you. No need if she had not been in school or yet registered for the following year. 

In Alberta, Kinder is optional, so need to do anything. There is No Funding available for Kindergarten. Children need to be registered in Alberta by the age of six.

2. FIND A SCHOOL BOARD, GET REGISTERED! 
This can be the daunting part because we have so many choices for school boards here in Alberta.  As a parent, you can register with any willing funded and accredited private or public school board. When you register before September 30th of the current year, you'll receive funding based on your choice to either be Parent Directed or Teacher Directed (aligned/blended/virtual). Our first few years we were with Edmonton Public, they had an excellent program at the time that offered families weekly programming and this suited our family perfectly. 

To Find a Board: Search for Home School Boards in Alberta. You're not limited to just your city or region. 
Once you've found a board, you'll choose to be either be Parent Directed (Traditional) or Blended (Teacher Directed). Each individual should decide what's best for their child and family. When you're looking for a school board ask yourself the following.

  • Does the school board share your goals you have for your child?
  • How much input do you have or they have? Expectations?
  • Do they have a home education background?
  • Philosophies? Learning styles?
  • Do they have regular activities, field trips, meet ups? Is this important for you?

All these questions may arise and can all come into play. Take some time to sit and think about what you like/don't like about your current situation. Think about what your child's learning needs are?  Know what you want and don't be afraid to discuss these things when talking to various school boards.

3. TRADITIONAL OR BLENDED .. HELP!!!
You've thought about your board but you'll also need to consider what educational avenue works for your family and what type of involvement you want from your school board.


Option A: Traditional/ Parent Directed: You the parent will choose the curriculum, the learning outcomes and write the education plan. Not as scary as it seems and there is plenty of help via the home school community here locally. (links listed at the bottom).  This option allows you to decide what your child will be learning and when. If your child is struggling with an area, this is a great avenue as you can slow the process down and hone in on developing a skill set. If your child is excelling in other areas, you can give them room to learn a skill set. In our case, we did traditional, as we wanted our children to have the best opportunity to learn and work on a skill regardless of age or level. This meant, if our daughter struggled with a math concept, we could give it time and work with her fully on this. It also meant, that her love of arts and creativity could really be cultivated and give her more learning opportunities in this area, sometimes finding a mentor that could guide her. 
  
Option B: Blended/Aligned:  Your child will follow the Alberta Program of Studies and fulfil the requirements for each grade level under the direction of the Teacher. The Teacher/Facilitator you'll work with through out the year and have regular contact to stay in tune with your child's progress, this is an excellent option for families that have a child that does well with a structured plan and can work independently.

3. FACILITATORS
I've worked with many families over the years, consulting them on their home education needs. One thing that often comes up is the facilitator/teacher, it's my personal belief that a facilitator can make or break your home education adventures. If you're butting heads and not seeing eye to eye, or have a strong difference of opinion, you may need to request to have a new one assigned. If you're struggling on boundaries, belief's, learning styles, it may not be a great fit.
 A good facilitator will be there to help, guide, answer questions and direct you when you face a challenge. Our facilitators over the years would be available when I had questions about a math concept that I was struggling to teach or we'd look for a resource together to solve a problem, or when I needed guidance on high school level courses at a younger age level, our facilitator would help us. She would direct and give me the resources and tools I'd need. 
You'll also meet your facilitator, a minimum of twice a year, going over what was accomplished, areas your child struggled with or excelled at. Notes will be taken and submitted to the government through the school board on your behalf. 

4. GET CONNECTED! 
Having support is crucial, you'll want to connect with other families, go on field trips together, have kids work together, library buddies, learning partners. We used to plan a weekly get together with other families to do science, nature activities. The kids loved seeing their friends each week and they even started coming up with their own projects over the years. (example: one year the kids made their own newspaper, interviewing people in the neighbourhood, creating cartoons, weather and playground reports) and would scan, copy, print and distribute to their local subscribers!  
 
I recommend joining one of the many groups that are available online. 

HOME LEARNING SOCIETY OF ALBERTA 
FACEBOOK GROUPs: There are many but here are two to start:
 EDMONTON AND AREA HOME SCHOOL GROUP // SHERWOOD PARK HOME SCHOOL GROUP

There are plenty of groups online that also support various faiths, beliefs and styles, find one that you can connect with for community, jump in and enjoy the adventure!