Home Based Education FAQ

With much unease and uncertainty regarding return to school this fall, I felt the topic of Home Based Education was an important one to discuss. I have also been receiving questions about homeschooling and hearing many people's frustrations about all of the unknowns with regards to schools reopening. Therefore, I skipped my chores tonight and wrote this blog post instead. This blog post is intended to be an overview of our family's experience homeschooling in Saskatchewan. I will share resources throughout on online learning options as well as how to set up your own home based education program. You were your child's first and most loving teacher and you are more than qualified to set up a home based learning program for them! 

Accredited Online School (i.e. a home based education program that teaches the curriculum just as in school)

If you are looking to homeschool just until COVID passes you may want to check in with your school / school division and see if online or remote learning will be offered and consider if that would work well for your family. If they aren’t offering an online/remote option and you aren’t able or inclined to teach, gather materials, pick a curriculum etc., you may want to enroll in an accredited online school. Many provinces and states offer this option to students. In Saskatchewan, Flex Ed and SunWest are accredited online schools with Saskatchewan Teachers teaching the Saskatchewan curriculum so your child can move back into the school with ease. It is $200 registration fee and the tuition is free to SK residents. They do all of the necessary paperwork. You can learn more at: https://www.flexed.ca/.

Another similar option is SunWest but I have heard on homeschool forums that there are waiting lists. You can learn more at: https://www.sunwestdlc.ca/. These two online schools have a lot of experience teaching online so I think the delivery would be much more streamlined than what occurred when teachers were forced into online learning. 

Also, consider that for grades 10-12, students enrolled in school are earning credits toward a diploma and to get those credits they would need to be accredited by attending their physical school or through an online accredited option like Flex Ed or SunWest. Homeschoolers doing their own home based program don't get credits per se but can write their GED to get their grade 12 equivalent and still enter university just the same. The key for homeschoolers doing their own program is to document their learning. 

Creating your own Home Based Education Program: How does homeschooling work?

However, if you did the whole online school when schools closed and it wasn't for you, keep reading for registering your own home based education program. I know it feels daunting to start but the paperwork is straightforward - just two forms that are each 2 pages to get started. And, deciding to do your own home based education program is wonderful in that it gives you creative freedom to focus on topics of interest to your child/family and also to direct attention to areas that are more difficult as well. You can spend more time on math if needed but move through sciences more quickly if grasped easily. You also do not need to spend as much time when doing your homeschool program as a lot of time in the classroom is classroom management, etc.

So much 'school' can and should be playful and enjoyable - card and board games, reading books, building models, art, watching documentaries, nature walks, learning family history, talking with family, gardening, cooking, sewing, journaling, playing sports - you name it!

Think of how useful it would be for a high school student to have a part time job or create a small business (mowing lawns, shoveling snow, babysitting, making an Etsy shop etc.). They can write a resume, set up a bank account and learn how to balance their books, learn how to best communicate with their customers, develop a web or social media page, etc. Home based learning gives you immense freedom to really focus on what your child enjoys and is passionate about!

So, if you choose home education, don't try to just replicate school at home, think about what your children love to learn about and let that guide you. Language arts can be reading books and writing about dinosaurs, fairies, cowboys, cars, farming, anything! When your child is interested in what they are learning, there is deeper, more meaningful learning happening! You can use a curriculum to help guide you or for them to work on for part of the day but then allow lots of time for creative freedom. Living is learning and learning is living.

Legalities of Homeschooling

In Saskatchewan, children are required to attend school from age 7 up until age 16. During these years, if you choose to homeschool, you have to register your children in a home based education program through your school division. You can contact your school division for information or they may have info on their website. For example, you can learn more about the Prairie Valley School Division's Home Based Education program at: http://www.pvsd.ca/

I would also encourage you to visit the Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada or Home School Legal Defense Association USA as they have a wide variety of resources and the correct legal requirements and forms for every province/state. Some states may not require any registration, others may have specific requirements. They are also available to call if you have any questions regarding homeschooling, paperwork, legal requirements, etc. If you choose to get a HSLDA membership, let them know that Amy Sanderson (#5007148) referred you and you will receive a $25 rebate on your membership (mailed to you after your membership is processed). 

In Saskatchewan, another excellent resource is Saskatchewan Home Based Educators. Membership is $35 for the school year per family. They will help answer your home education questions, give tips on filling out forms, and more. They also host a convention each year with a wide variety of resources. Check out their page on How to Get Started at: http://www.shbe.info/Help/gettingstarted.html.

To register your child(ren) for home based education in Saskatchewan, you need to submit two items:

1. Notice of Intent and Registration of a Home-based Education Program Form

2. Written Education Plan 

As part of Saskatchewan's Written Education Plan, you will be asked for your reasoning and philosophical approach. This is what I include for that section: "To provide a nurturing and supportive atmosphere for our children, to ensure close family connection, and to allow for personalized instruction, academic achievement, social development, and safety and welfare (physical and emotional)."

In Saskatchewan, children must receive education in 4 subject areas, as requested in the Written Education Plan: 

1. Language Arts

2. Science

3. Social Studies

4. Math

You can teach a wide array of other subjects but you aren't required to report on them. To begin each homeschooling year, by August 15th* I submit a Notice of Intent (two page form with contact details) and a Written Education Plan that outlines 3 broad annual goals for each of the 4 subject areas outlined above. Then, in June I submit an Annual Progress Report summarizing the things we learned and how we met each of the broad goals we set. I will also submit photographs of samples of work.

*Note, however, that in SK you can begin a home based education program at any time, even in the middle of the school year. You just may not receive funding if you don't meet the timelines.

So, what should the Broad Annual Goals look like?

The broad goals will be immensely unique from child to child and family to family. I'm providing our approved goals from Grade 1 simply as an example since I know this would have been helpful to me when I was starting out homeschooling. SHBE also provides examples on their website when you purchase a membership. 

 What do I record for year end reporting?

Using my day timer, I record what we learned each day so that it is easy to do my monthly paragraph summary and also note the learning activities we did to meet the 12 broad goals we set for the school year. I also take a bunch of photos of our learning activities and samples of work. We keep all work in lesson books. We either do the work right in the blank notebook or glue in our work. I also try to date the work. In this way, it is easy to see the progression of learning from the start to the end of the academic year. At the end of the month, I sit down and type up the activities we did using MS Word. I create a monthly summary (called a periodic log / detailed summative record) and also include a few photos (i.e. samples of work / portfolio of work).

Example:

A daily entry in  my day timer may look like:

- Hiked at Wascana Trails and observed the changing seasons
- Covered the AT word family, 'child name' wrote a list of AT words and drew a picture of a fat cat who sat on a mat
- Played Chutes and Ladders and practiced addition and subtraction using two dice (added going up and subtracted going down)
- Watched a documentary on Mars and talked about space travel

After the month end, I will review my month of notes and photos. My monthly summary may look like: 

Language Arts:
- Covered word families (AT, AP, AD, ACK, AM, AN); practiced writing word families and drawing associated picture
- Read aloud daily as a family for 30 min+
- Practiced letter sounds

Science:
- Studied space: watched documentaries, read books, drew the planets, and built a mars rover

Social: 

- Learned the cardinal directions by using a compass while out hiking throughout the month; after week one of learning the cardinal directions, child was able to confidently use the compass and locate the cardinal directions
- Learned to use a globe and found locations in the world where our friends and family live
- Read books about children around the world and talked about how our lives are similar and different

Math:

- Played board games, did puzzles, and used math in day to day life (baking, matching clothes, counting place settings at table)

- Continued single digit addition and subtraction (can add notes such as child grasped addition well but has more difficulty with subtraction - then maybe in a couple months after more practice you write, child is now understanding and able to complete single digit subtraction - just make notes about their progression, specifically with respect to the goals you set)

Along with my monthly summary, I add a few photos, perhaps one of a field trip, one showing the materials we've been using (photo of books, picture of the curriculum if using, DVDs, puzzles, etc.) and one of a sample of work. By the end of the year, I just try to have a few progression photos for each broad goal. I document family based learning (activities we did together) and then specifics for each child. Such as for language arts, my kindergartener learned letters A to C in September and my grade 2 worked on spelling, writing sentences and practiced reading phonics books. 

For older children that are independently reading and writing, they could keep their own day timer and each day log what they learned. They could then also write up their monthly summary. 

Does my school division provide any support beyond funding?

Yes, most school divisions provide additional supports if requested. On the Written Education Plan, there is a section to check off whether or not you are requesting services. For our school division, they note the following Services and Supports available to home based education students:

 

**Note: You can request access to individual courses. So, for example, if your child wants to attend music, chemistry, or art, they can access those individual courses while home educating the remaining courses. This is something you would organize with your school division / school but want to indicate on your Written Education Plan. 

Why did we decide to homeschool?

Prior to having children, my husband and I had no inclination to homeschool. It wasn't even an idea we had considered. Then upon having children, we decided that we wanted one of us to stay home with them so we took turns working. During our time at home with our kids, we did a ton with them from painting, hiking, gardening, crafts, you name it. And, we loved it! Preschool time rolled around and we did that at home along with lots of play dates, story times, craft times, etc. Around this time, we realized that not only did we love being home with our children but that they were thriving and we were thriving as a family as a whole. They were learning a lot and we were able to give them one on one individualized education. We thought, well let's try kindergarten at home and soon after realized that we most definitely were going to homeschool long term. It was just a natural extension of parenting and we knew that we could give our children a unique, individual education that catered to their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. 

What resources do we use?

We have been using Oak Meadow School curriculum for preschool to grade 1 and we really enjoyed it. While focusing on academic learning, it also incorporates lots of life skills, crafts, art, movement, and play based learning. It also guides you to realize that every child is unique and will learn in his or her own way. It is an easy to follow complete curriculum that also gives you space to add your own creative aspects. This year, for kindergarten and grade 2, I am using Wild Math Curriculum for Math and then gathering a variety of resources and creating our own curriculum for Social, Science, and Language Arts. By following a curriculum for two years, it helped me figure out our homeschool structure and daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms and how to organize learning topics. 

Books! We read a ton of books. We read aloud daily for 30 min to an hour at minimum. When the weather is dreary or cold, we will often read books for 2+ hours a day. We will read a few books after breakfast, again after lunch for quiet time, and then again before bed. You learn a ton from books. We check out 50+ books a week at our local library and also have a large library of books as well. We read picture books and also age appropriate chapter books. With the libraries reopened, they are an amazing resource. Get a library card for yourself and your kids and start checking out books! They also have many homeschool resources, including curriculums for various ages. So, you can try before you buy by borrowing them from the library first. 

Nature! Nature is our greatest teacher. Observing nature allows us to absorb so much knowledge. Getting outside daily is a great gift to our body and soul. From feeling the weather to observing the seasonal changes to the phases of the moon, the more time you spend in nature, the more you absorb and the better you understand our earth and its rhythms. It is also very calming to be in nature. So, for science, we spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, gardening, bird watching, canoeing, skiing, playing in the snow, playing at the beach.... everywhere you go you learn. Living is learning. Learning is living. 

Science centres, museums, art galleries, libraries, websites, Art Hub and so much more. There is so much public programming available during school hours and outside of the typical school hours that your child can engage in. We took part in many science times at our local science centre, story times at your libraries and museum, art activities at the art gallery, and various programs offered by Sask Parks, libraries, and our communities. This year, this programming may or may not happen in person but these places are still offering virtual programming so check in and see what the are offering. I also have a section on my website for online learning resources, available at: https://www.acornecoliving.ca/pages/learning-resources

How much does homeschooling cost?

This is a difficult questions as it can cost you as much or as little as you wish. Just like parenting, you can buy your child every gadget, book, and toy and register them in a whole host of sports and activities.  For our school division, we are reimbursed at the end of the school year $250 for kindergarten and $500/year/student for grades 1-12. We have to submit receipts showing our purchases which are then reimbursed. 

For our family, we are very active outdoors going hiking, swimming, biking, skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, playing basketball, walking, playing at the park, playing catch, etc. and other than the basic gear to do these activities, there is no cost. We also visit local libraries and check out a lot of books rather than buying many books. We often visit the art gallery, and museums and take part in various free events. We also volunteer with various organizations which have great learning opportunities. None of these things cost a lot of money. So, homeschooling can cost a lot or a little depending on what kinds of things you want to do. You will need some money to buy basic school supplies but it doesn't have to be expensive. I also have a lot of learning ideas on this blog.

Resources:

The Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada and the Home School Legal Defense Association USA are great places to start. You can submit questions to them and they have a database of all of the forms and information you would need for homeschooling in Canada and the USA.

In Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Home Based Educators is another great resource.

If you have questions, feel free to contact me. You can also find me on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/acornecoliving/.

For another blog post on setting up daily rhythm and flow in your homeschool, go to: https://www.acornecoliving.ca/blogs/homeschool/daily-rhythm.

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