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 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!