Homeschooling Parents: Diploma Required?

Gavel

Do I need a high school diploma to homeschool my child in Quebec? (Credit: morguefile.com/holder)

I sometimes get requests for information from parents who would like to homeschool. While I am certainly not a lawyer, I have done a certain amount of research into the laws applicable to homeschooling in Quebec, and when asked I try to share. My hope is that parents will supplement this information with their own research, and that they’ll also seek out assistance from a lawyer or a homeschool group that offers legal services.

Today I encountered a question I’ve never personally been asked before, but one I’m sure is of interest to a number of parents in the Montreal area:

Can I homeschool my child if I don’t have a high school diploma?

The short answer is: Technically, there is nothing in the Quebec Education Act that specifically requires a parent to have any type of educational qualifications to teach a child at home.

The longer answer is: it’s complicated….

Quebec Education Act

The law that addresses home based education in Quebec is the Education Act, which says:

14. Every child resident in Québec shall attend school from the first day of the school calendar in the school year following that in which he attains 6 years of age until the last day of the school calendar in the school year in which he attains 16 years of age or at the end of which he obtains a diploma awarded by the Minister, whichever occurs first.
The Act then goes on to list several exceptions to compulsory school attendance – attending a vocational training facility or a private school, illness, handicap or social maladjustment that prevents the child from attending school, expulsion, etc.
It also says:
15. The following students are exempt from compulsory school attendance:
(4) a student who receives home schooling and benefits from an educational experience which, according to an evaluation made by or for the school board, are equivalent to what is provided at school.

You will note that there is no specific ban on homeschooling by parents who lack a high school diploma.

But….

Evaluating the Educational Experience

The law doesn’t require parents to register with the school board, nor to fulfill any specific educational requirements (high school or college diplomas, teaching credentials, etc.) or to submit applications asking for permission to educate their children at home. In fact the Youth Protection Act places the primary responsibility for educating a child with his parents, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

But notice that the evaluation of the child’s educational experience is to be made “by or for the school board.”

The law implies school boards are responsible for evaluation of homeschooled children, and the ministry of education (MELS) has put school boards on notice that they are directly responsible for following these students. School boards are expected to:

  • Register home scholars;
  • Take annual homeschooling applications from parents, including an education plan for each child;
  • Work with parents to make any necessary changes to the plan, such that the student is expected to receive an equivalent to school education;
  • Approve or reject homeschool applications, based in large part on the education plan;
  • Evaluate student performance, and keep relevant data on file.

The tricky part of homeschooling is that the school board is responsible to see that students don’t fall behind or miss any of the required elements of their education, but they have very little idea how well prepared parents are to deliver this education. They get a very quick snapshot of what parents are planning to do, but at best it’s a gamble, especially with a family in their first year or so of homeschooling.

The school board prefers to gamble on parents they feel are best prepared to deliver an adequate education to their children. Parents will potentially be seeing their children right through the end of high school, so it’s easy to see why the minimum requirement for a school board would be that the parent have demonstrated the ability to learn all the things they will have to teach to their child.

Montreal Area School Boards

I have come across homeschooling applications from Quebec school boards in the past that stated a parent should possess at least a high school diploma. At present neither the Lester B Pearson School Board nor the English Montreal School Board even inquires about parents’ education on their applications.

Both require parents “to demonstrate that they can provide an educational experience comparable to that provided by the school board.” Emphasis is placed on teaching the required subjects, and on submitting an education plan and learning portfolio NOT on the parents’ personal educational achievements.

Teaching Tough Subjects

A parent with any level of education will occasionally encounter a subject he or she feels ill-prepared to teach. Some ways of dealing with this obstacle are:

  • Work with other homeschooling families, so all the children can benefit from the talents of each available adult. This can be a co-op that meets on a regular basis, an informal agreement for occasional assistance;
  • Take advantage of learning activities like art classes and sports in the community, or join a homeschool group that organizes workshops and regular classes;
  • Purchase a curriculum intended for homeschool use. These usually do not assume expertise in the topic area, and often provide extra support;
  • Engage a tutor as needed;
  • Prepare for difficult subjects by taking a class in advance of teaching it. Look to your local college or adult education facility, distance learning or OpenCourseWare, or simply study the course using the student book yourself;
  • Learn along with your child! You will both gain from the experience.

For More Help

Parents who need more assistance are advised to engage a lawyer or educational consultant. Look for a homeschool support group. They often provide legal assistance to members.

Cheers! Kyla

© 2010 Kyla Matton. All rights reserved. Many thanks to Holder for the graphic!

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