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May
24

British Columbia-The Best Place to Unschool?

Forgive my ignorance, but I have only just discovered that I live in one of the best places in the world to unschool my children.  I was reading a book on homeschooling and it had an entire chapter dedicated to the legalities of homeschooling country by country.  I was shocked to find out that homeschooling is actually illegal in some European countries!  And other countries make you jump through hoops for the right to homeschool, from having to ask permission from a government official, to having your children tested once per year, to being scrutinized through home visits!  So I thought I would write a post about how easy it is to homeschool/unschool  in  BC and also how much support there is for it!


The Bare Minimum

Every resident of BC has the right to educate their own children.  There is only one small formality that a homeschooling family must complete and that is registering their children through a local or independent school by September 30th of each year.  This involves filling out a form and providing a copy of your child’s birth certificate.  And that is it.  If a family wants to take complete control of their children’s education this is the way to go.  There is no one to report to and no one checking up on you.

Enrolling in a Distance Education Program

If the bare minimum doesn’t sit well with you and you are looking for more support you can enroll your child in any one of the numerous distance education programs.  Each program will have a different take on education and you can choose the one that fits your family.  This could be anything from a Christian school to a very traditional “school at home” type school.  These programs are free and will provide your family with textbooks, workbooks, literature, and teacher handbooks.  With most of these programs your child’s work will be turned in and graded, and there will be tests just like a regular school.  Most of these programs also provide your family with a small amount of money each year so that you can enroll your children in extra-circular activities that have, of course, first been approved by the teacher.

Self Design

Self Design is the program our family has chosen to go with.  Although technically, I suppose it could be classified as another Distance Education Program, it has been developed with Unschooling in mind.  Like the other programs it is recognized and funded by the BC Ministry of Education, except there are no textbooks, workbooks, or tests.  Each family gets to choose their own learning consultant, a BC certified teacher, based on an online profile.  Each family must also make their own profile and the learning consultant must in turn choose to work with the family.  Thus a mutually chosen relationship is born, ensuring that both consultant and family share the same educational philosophies.  Once a week the family provides a report online, outlining the learning highlights of the week (I will give you an example below so you can see the type of learning our family does).  The learning consultant responds to the report, giving encouragement, sharing insights, and making suggestions and then rewrites the learning into language the BC Ministry of Education can understand and give credit for.  This way, by the end of the year, we have pretty much covered everything that is required but we have gotten there with our own unschooling ways!  Families in this program also receive funding for supplies, field trips, courses, and anything the parents and learning consultant deem educational!

So how has it been for our family?

I chose Self Design for its flexibility and philosophy.  At first I thought that the weekly reports would be a pain in the arse but I soon began to enjoy them.  I love putting into words all of the learning that happens at our house, and the process really helped to solidify the unschooling philosophy for me.  We really do learn through living!  It also really helped to have our learning consultant rooting for us.  She was full of encouragement and praise and was instrumental in my growing unschooling confidence.


And What About Travel?

This was my big question before we committed to a program.  I have had nothing but support for our upcoming adventures!  Our learning consultant is well traveled (part of the reason why we chose her) and agrees that travel is one of the best ways to educate.  As long as I can keep up my end of the bargain of sending weekly reports (lateness will be tolerated if I don’t have Internet access) then we can continue the program when our family goes global.

Here is an example of a weekly report:

I have been sick for most of the week so the kids have been watching a bit too much TV. But I was happy when Lan whispered in my ear “Mommy, I love you to Pluto.  Pluto is very cold, if you took off your space helmet your head would freeze!” I said “I wonder why it is so cold there.”  He said “Because it is so far away from the sun.” I asked, “How do you know that?” He answered, “The Magic School Bus!”

The boys found two frogs at grandmas this week and got to hold them and observe them.  They were different sizes and shapes and colours. Now whenever we mention that we are going to float a log in the oxbow so turtles have a place to rest Lan says “and the frogs too!”

We were at a park  last night and there is an oxbow there.  We went over to see the ducks and we saw a beaver! It was sitting on the side of the bank chewing branches and we got about 10 feet from it and sat down to watch it. Lan thought it was the coolest thing and it really was!  After a few minutes observing it, it swam into the water and we followed it up the oxbow and watched it go into its house.  Lan has been telling everyone that we saw a real live beaver!

Mike is building an arbour in our backyard and Lan has been helping him.  My dad gave him a little tool belt and some of his old tools and Lan wears it as he helps.  Really he just plays around and then fetches things when Mike asks for them but he did get practice on some scrap wood using a drill and he loves just being out there with Daddy. I’m sure he is picking up lots just by observing!


What is it Like Where You Live?

I would love to hear from other unschoolers or homeschoolers about how easy or hard it is to homeschool in your neck of the woods!  Is British Columbia the best place to unschool?  Please join the conversation by leaving your comments below!

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36 comments

4 pings

  1. Matt says:

    I like these reports on homeschooling as this is the route we are choosing to go with our kids even if we were not going overseas. Here in Oregon we need to register our kids with the local Education Service District of our intent to homeschool. They must be registered within 10 days of withdrawal from public school. Oregon State law allows for homeschoolers exemption from school attendance. Testing by the State is required at grades 3, 5, 8 and 10.

    With the recent budget crisis in our school district and the closing of local neighborhood schools (meaning larger class sizes) I hear more and more parents talking about going the homeschool route. It’s encouraging to hear about your success with it. I hope you will keep reporting your experiences.

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      Thanks Matt! The blog has kind of morphed into a travel blog with a large dose of unschooling. Unschooling has really become one of my passions this year so I find it fun to write about, and it is so nice to hear that you enjoy hearing about it!

      I think a lot of people turn to homeschooling because of growing dissatisfaction with public schools. I know a big issue for me when our family decided to homeschool was my own dissatisfaction with the public education I received. There are certainly a plethora of negatives in regards to sending children to underfunded, understaffed public schools.

      I am curious what type of programs there are for homeschoolers in Oregon. Or do you even have to go with a program?

      1. Matt says:

        We are just starting to look into homeschooling here but it is my understanding that you don’t need to go with any particular program. The State publishes academic guidelines which provide a framework for the grades they test at. So you are free to teach whatever program you feel is best for your kids. We are going to see about getting hooked up with a homeschooling group or network while we are overseas.

  2. Audrey says:

    Hi there, I came across your post through twitter. I don’t have children, but when I lived in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island I knew several people who homeschooled. There is quite a large homeschooling network in Nanaimo, I was amazed at the support system. They have all kinds of resources and even organized field trips. I think it sounds like B.C. is perhaps one of the best places for homeschooling.

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      The islands have a really great community of homeschoolers, as does the Kootenays. Not so much where I live, but there are a few. Most of the support I get is online. I keep thinking about starting my own support group but there is not much point considering we are hoping to be traveling very soon!

  3. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this. It is exactly what I needed to read. I live in BC and have two kids, 3 and 1. I am planning to homeschool my eldest to start, and have fallen in love with unschooling. Self Design was recommended to me, and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work. You have answered all my questions and more.
    Reading this confirms my “suspicions” that I am already unschooling =) and makes me want to do more. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      Wow Kelly, I am excited for you! I really can’t recommend Self Design enough. I have been so happy with it! I keep calling this year our Unschooling Journey because that is exactly what it has been, a journey. And not just for the boys but for me as well. It has been a year of reflecting and questioning everything for me!
      Now that our first year is officially over (we finished Kindergarten on April 30th!) I can’t see myself ever going back to my old paradigm of not questioning traditional school. I think it is so fabulous when parents find unschooling right from the start and their children never enter the public education system. If you have any questions or need support feel free to contact me!

  4. Justin says:

    Just one more reason why BC is such a good place to raise a family.

    This is helpful. I have so much research to do for our family when it comes to homeschooling and the legal aspects. Maybe we will just move to BC!

    I wonder if now, with the technology we have, homeschooling laws will become less restrictive in other places. Maybe soon if you’ll just be able to throw up blog posts as proof. Wouldn’t that be great!

    Thanks Amy!

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      I’m sure that when we are on the road I will be copying and pasting from my blog into the weekly reports! No point in writing the same thing twice! BC really is a great place to raise a family. Lots of open space, parks, wilderness, camping…..The best place on earth!

  5. Rebeca says:

    I’m so happy to have found your site. We’re a home educating, “real life learning” family with four kids, also planning and dreaming about world travel. We live in Oregon, where, like other commenters said, homeschooling is pretty doable. We have a great community of like minded homeschoolers and tons of resources and opportunities for the kids and support for the parents. I love it!
    It’s good to know BC is such a good place too. I’m Canadian, and the kids are in process with their paperwork. We’ve talked about moving there at some point so my husband can get his too, especially with the direction the US seems to be heading these days. Besides, it’s just so much nicer to travel on a Canadian passport!
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog. I move more toward “unschooling” the further I get. (My oldest is 8 1/2) It just seems that as I watch them learn and discover things, I grow more confident in how natural the process is, and am more willing to trust their innate desire to learn.

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      Thanks Rebeca, so glad you found my blog!

      I think it would be a great service for your kids to get them dual citizenship. It would open up a whole lot of opportunities for them. And yes, I agree about traveling on a Canadian passport being more desirable!

      Isn’t watching your child’s learning one of the most amazing things! The other day we were at the library and Lan picked out a non-fiction book about bees and said “I think I want to learn more about bees now.” as he put it into the pile of books to take home. I smiled from ear to ear!

  6. Aina says:

    Even though you found many defects in your schooling, you still managed to turn out to be a well rounded and educated young lady, with an unlimited talent to recognize what you want from life and your family. I applaud every new task you undertake and am proud that you don’t sway with outside influence. You learn, process, and proceed, always in a forward direction.
    I am thrilled when I see Lan and Kayden learn with an enthusiasm and ease of learning ( not always associated or obvious with school curriculum).
    It may not be right or attainable for everyone, but in my eyes it is working well for the boys, (even though Lan is the one in school, Kayden seems to be soaking up education as well).
    Keep up the good work

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      Thank you mama, you don’t know how much it means to me to have your support. This is why I turned out so good!

  7. Nadine Hudson says:

    Dear Amy
    This is so wonderful to read! I think we’ll move to BC, too. You even get money for the education. This is so incredible to read for a Swiss family. In Switzerland, homeschooling is difficult and rather than support you get hurdles as high as mountains and looks from people who think you are in a sect, just because you homeshool. There are TV documentaries that portrait homeschooling families and of course they choose all “bad” examples. Saying this, most public schools in Switzerland are still “good” places for children: no fences, no cameras, walking to school, outings to the forest etc.
    If I had a choice where I’d want to be reborn, it would be in BC!
    Interesting article, encouraging for the world, thank you Amy.

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      Thanks Nadine! I am beginning to realize just how lucky we are for living here. Even in other parts of Canada there are a few hoops to jump through, BC is the most liberal province when it comes to homeschooling.

  8. Danielle says:

    Wow I almost cried when reading this!
    I have been so stressed because my children and I were attempting the ACE paces program and I was shocked to get the bill for over 1200 dollars! I know I get 2090 dollars from the girls school money but i was only expecting to have spent 600 max. Now we are waiting for the girls new curriculum to come(Abeka) which costs only 250 to 300 for both girls grade 2 and k. I know as we build our house ( and chicken run)our girls learn about measurement and building they learn about gravity ( how the roof holds with out screws) they are also learning about space and how much each person needs. They learn about building materials, but until I read this I would have said we were wasting our days doing nothing. Thank you so much for inspiring my schooling.

    1. worldschooled says:

      Danielle, thank you so much for taking the time to write this. If you almost cried while you were reading the post, I almost cried while reading your comment! It is receiving comments like this when I feel so good about writing my blog. That I could influence someone by writing about our lives is just an amazing gift. If you need any help or encouragement, please drop me a line and we can connect.

  9. with2kidsintow says:

    Very enlightening Amy! I recently met a German family who said that it was illegal not to send your child to school in that country, and that distance ed/homeschooling was not allowed. I was shocked–thought that parents had more rights than that. Again, makes me proud have my roots there!

    1. worldschooled says:

      Now that we have made our decision to unschool I can’t imagine it being any other way. If our government told us we could not do it I don’t know what I would do. It is our freedom of choice to educate how we see fit and it is sad that not all parents have that freedom.

  10. Christine says:

    Hi Amy,
    I found your blog today while I “played” with google. We are a German family, living in Stuttgart. It is very difficult to homeschool your children here, but there are very few families who got the allowance (or do it nevertheless). I am mother to three boys (5, 10 and almost 12 year old). They attend an unschooling school based on the work of Rebecca and Mauricio Wild, wich has similar approaches to democratic learning as Sudbury Valley or Summerhill. For summer 2013 to summer 2014 we plan year of worldschooling (I love that word). The school will grant us a leave without any problems. Democratic schools are a relatively young phenomenom in Germany and not available everywhere, but in most states it is possible for parents to found a new one.
    Are there jobs available in BC for agriculture scientists? Maybe we should move…

    Thank you so much for your blog, it is GREAT
    Christine

    1. worldschooled says:

      Christine I am so glad you found us! I am happy to hear that there are ways around Germany’s hard stance on homeschooling. I was actually part of a discussion on this just the other day with a bunch of families discussing the legalities of homeschooling in their own countries.

      That is so wonderful you will be taking a year off to worldschool, and that your school will be supportive of you. I seriously think it is the best education a parent can give a child.

      As for work in BC I am not too sure. I don’t know any agriculture scientists personally so I don’t know how easy it is to get a job in the field but I am sure with a little research you could figure out if immigrating would be right for your family. Our country is so underpopulated, and so many people immigrate here. It is a lovely place to live! Keep in touch, if you make it to Canada on your worldschool adventure, and we are home when you do, you have a place to couch surf with us!

      1. Christine says:

        Hi,

        thank you so much for your answer.
        We have an old truck which is changed into a mobile home. As we cannot afford the shipping to Canada we will travel via Scandinavia and Balticum to Russia, Mongolia and then south to Turkey and whatever near-east and Maghrebian country is safe for travelling. We have been to Senegal, Mauretania, Morocco and Tunesia before (with kids) and we love it so much.
        We have the emmigragion-talk every now and then because it is so difficult to find a job for me here, but it is soo cool to live two hours to France or Swizzerland. Also, we can go to the African continent in an two-week vacation by car.
        Anyway, it would be great to meet you!
        Christine

        1. worldschooled says:

          You definitely have a lot of options for driving overland! We have driven a few times down to Central America and it is so nice to be able to see places in your own vehicle at your own speed, stopping when you want to.

  11. Maria =) says:

    I have recently begin to read about unschooling and homeschooling, in my country, Sweden, this is ilegal, so when I become older I want to move to some country where i can unschool my children.

    It´s really amazing for me to read about what you and your family does.

    1. Mette says:

      Hi there,

      we considered moving to BC about 5 or 6 years ago, precisely because of the great law on homeschooling. We ended up abandoning the project though, for a variety of reasons but it still spooks around my mind from time to time – and who kows, someday we might just end up doing it afterall :)

      Anyway, I’m in Denmark – the homeschooling possibilities are quite good here. A law that is not too strict, though not completely piece-of.cake either when you choose to unschool. There is a mandatory inspection from one to several times a year depending on which part of the country you live in and currently a few families are experiencing some problems. The general atmosphere regarding education has changed over the last couple of years, national tests have been introduced in the public school system and kindergarten class (which used to be optional) has been made compulsive :(

      Homeschooling is extremely rare though, as this country has a long and well rooted history of alternative schools, so most parents opting out of public school are choosing those. I would say that Denmark is a pretty good place to be homeschooling still, overall.

      And to the last commenter from Sweden: Maria – well you won’t have to move that far then, Denmark could be a good choice. Currently several Swedish families have done just that, moved just over the border to Copenhagen :)

      And to the writer of this blog; sounds great being able to divide up the year like that :) I have just found your blog, and am looking forward to browsing around and reading more about just how you organize yourself :)

      Greetings from Mette

  12. Yashmin Khan says:

    Hi, thank you so much for the insite. I am trying to figure all this out and it is so new to me. How does this homeschooling work when the child is completed 12th grade and would like to go to University, Do they give and exam of entry, since there will be no dogwood diploma?

    1. worldschooled says:

      It all depends on how you homeschool. If you do it with a program then your child will get a dogwood diploma just like they would in regular school. If you choose to not use a program then it is still possible to go to University. Many universities are very interested in homeschooling students because they tend to think so differently from their conventionally schooled peers. Often a resume and portfolio are enough requirements. I also know of several teenaged homeschoolers who have started to take community college courses….those courses will get them into the university level.

  13. Yvonne Hutton says:

    hi
    I recently moved to BC from alberta where I homeschooled my 5 adopted kids for 3 yrs..I have put them back in school when I moved here in November 2012 as it was a quick job move and I didn’t know how it all worked in BC, but I am not happy with what my kids are doing at all
    Do you know if there are any groups in Williams Lake BC that homeschool or can you recommend someone I can talk to please..im not even sure which school I would register with here? In alberta I was with Wisdom homeschooling and it was easy!
    Help please??
    thanks Yvonne
    my kids are at present 3 x grade 4 and a grade 6 & 7

    1. worldschooled says:

      Hi Yvonne,
      I am not sure of any homeschooling groups in your area but I am sure if you search and ask around you will find something. If not, you should start your own group because there are bound to be other people looking for connection. Check out Self Design if their philosophy appeals to you, we are really happy with them.

    2. Amy says:

      Hi Yvonne, I’m a homeschooling mom of four and live in Williams Lake too. You’ve probably figure out the answers to your questions by now :) but in case you haven’t I thought I would reply. I register with a Christian school in Prince George because we lived there when I started homeschooling. You can register with any school in the province that is willing to accept homeschool registrations. I think Maranatha Christian School here in town will do that. The school I register with even refunds some of my curriculum expenses.
      There is a homeschool group in WL I believe it was meeting Thursday mornings. That didn’t work with my schedule last year but I’ve known a few of the families who go.

  14. Mischell Poitras says:

    I am so happy to have come across your page!! We are in the decision/researching phase of homeschooling our 5 1/2 year old in Squamish, BC.

    I appreciate all your input and local knowledge!! Thank you! :)

    1. worldschooled says:

      Yay! Glad you found us! Good luck with your journey into homeschooling.

  15. Jen says:

    I have recently started homeschooling my 2nd and 3rd grader in Arizona. I am from BC originally so was curious what there was available there and while I was looking I came across your post. Arizona is similar to Oregon where you only have to state your intention (formally to the government) to homeschool and then you can do what you want. We are currently enrolled in K12.com – I had never considered homeschooling and ended up pulling my kids rather abruptly and needed a solution fast! We are enjoying the K12 but just finished a week of standardized testing which makes anything else look appealing :(

    Other research I have done regarding homeschooling in the US has made it seem like there are definately states where homeschooling is not so free and easy – from home visits to regularly turned in assignments and even teacher qualification of parents! I am feeling quite lucky to have the freedom to do what I want – even if I am currently choosing to do something a bit more structured.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on things in BC…you never know when we’ll end up back there. Curious – where are you located? We were on the Sunshine Coast…

    I would also love to hear more about the logistics of traveling 6 months of the year…that is a huge dream of my husband’s but I just don’t see how to make it work.

    1. worldschooled says:

      Hi Jen,
      I do have a bunch of posts of how we make traveling half the year work for us. Browse under preparation and finances. I really should be doing a new one as an overview for the new eyes on my blog though.
      We actually might be heading down to Arizona next winter. Driving through America in our motorhome is high on our maybe list for next year! It would be great to connect with you!

  16. Megan says:

    BC is the place to be for us Unschoolers! I feel so lucky to be able to register with a program like self-design. We will be registering this year with a program at our local school on Pender Island that runs exactly the same way as self-design but allows us to join our local homeschooling group two days a week.
    It seems we have it all. Who knew?

  17. Jacqui says:

    Just wanted to thank you for this post! I am an unschooler returning to BC in a few months and have been wondering whether I really could reconcile enrolling with unchooling. I was recommended self design, but was concerned about a couple things, one being the weekly reports. Your insights and examples have set me at ease and now I’m excited! Currently I’m in Nova Scotia, which basically leaves you alone to educate as you wish, which is good, but has no programs at all to support you in anyway. It’s basically a fend for yourself situation, which works great for me, but if I can have a little funding to open a couple more doors, all the better! Thanks again for writing this!

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