Alberta, Canada
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Research

Helping people navigate the school system

Thinking of Homeschooling?

More and more people are homeschooling their kids now. They have become disillusioned with the school system, their child or children have had difficulties in some way (usually bullying, anxiety, or some other change in them that alarms their parents) and sometimes parents are starting to question what we teach in school and whether or not it’s valuable. Where I live (Alberta, Canada), there are 12,000 people who are homeschooling their kids in our province and the number grows every year. So the question is, should YOU homeschool? And how do you do it?

We all agree that kids, well people in general, should learn. The question is what should they learn? What is the philosophy behind each subject that we teach in school? Here is my suggested list of things that people ‘should’ learn:

Math: people should be able to do basic math and should have fluency of math facts that make it easier to use math in everyday life. (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and working with fractions and decimals) They should be able to exchange money for goods and services, measure things for building and baking (another essential skill) and do those math questions required to win contests (skill testing questions are a grade 7 skill). They should have a basic knowledge of geometry and shapes. They should be able to understand basic accounting principles.

Language arts: people should be able to read fluently and easily. They should be able to read all kinds of text, not just books. (reading a magazine or a newspaper is a different skill than reading a book because the text is broken up in different ways). They should be able to listen to an oral story and understand and track it. Writing is also an important skill. People should be able to express themselves using text/writing so that they can fully participate in our society. They should be able to write letters, especially business letters. They can explore language through learning a new one too because once you realize the differences, you can see your own language much clearer (in my opinion).

Science: people should understand how science works. The process of coming up with an answer to a question is very different than in other things we do so this is an essential skill. Having knowledge about how science works helps people to be able to protect themselves from scam artists. Being able to question someone’s hypothesis is an essential skill in the 21st century when so much false and misleading information is circulating.

Social studies: the purpose of “social studies” and history is to teach people who they are in our society in relation to everyone else. Learning about other cultures, learning about who is in our own community, historical figures and what happened in our history and who we are in relationship to all that is why we teach social studies in schools. Having a sense of self is at the core of every social studies program and includes basic ideas of how you should behave in society, what kinds of qualities are desirable in a member of your society, and what qualities are not desirable. That last part (character education) is done automatically in most families.

The arts: Music, art and crafting helps people express the feelings they have that do not have words. If a person is drawn to this, this could be an essential part of a program of learning.

Computers and technology: This hopefully goes without saying. In the 21st century we are going to know how to use computers for almost everything. We need more people who can work with and create code, people who can create programs and solutions for our issues in technology. So being familiar with various types of programs and how to navigate them, use them and change them is now an essential skill.

Most provinces in Canada let you come up with your own program of studies for your own children if you home school. I would suggest you use the above list as a basis for coming up with a program that fits your child/ren because it will meet the requirements of most provincial standards for homeschooling.

So I haven’t answered the question: should you home school your child/ren? This is, of course, a highly personal decision that involves way more than just wanting to teach them yourself. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your child be happier if homeschooled?
  • Can you find support in homeschooling for when you are feeling a lack of confidence and need support?
  • What is your child’s natural strengths and do you think you can work with them?
  • For the things you think they should learn that you don’t feel that you can teach, where are the resources to help you? (There are tons online now!)
  • If your child is being bullied at school, what do you think the impact will be on their well being if you pull them out of school and remove them from the situation?
  • If they experience extreme anxiety, do you think a home school program might help with their mental wellness now and in the future?
  • If they are having trouble with an adult in the school that they go to, what is the impact of that in the future?

You can see that this list is quite biased towards homeschooling! I can say to you that I have seen enormous and quite speedy changes in children who have been pulled out of school. When I arrive for my first visit children are often suspicious of me (I am a person from a school division, after all), they are sometimes hostile and sometimes painfully shy around my visit. In short, they are afraid. When I come back a month later I often see a completely different child. Relaxed, happier, confident and not at all afraid of me anymore. My own child experienced a change too after I removed him from school in the middle of grade 3. He hated learning and thought it was boring. Within a few months, he started to feel excited about learning and was no longer experiencing anxiety around his reading ability.

Good luck in your decision making process! It’s a journey that is worth taking and can be quite exciting once you start and defeat your fears.

Research papers

PowerPoints with Audio (Pechakucha)