The new school year is just around the corner, and with COVID-19 cases on the rise many parents are wondering what they should do. Should they send their children back to classes or homeschool them instead?
My wife and I have homeschooled our two sons since 2011, so we’ve learned a lot about the options available. The good news is that parents in B.C. have a statutory right to educate their own children embedded in the BC School Act (Section 12), which makes B.C. one of the most flexible and generous education jurisdictions in the world.
Whether you take that route or not, here are your three main schooling options:
1) Register your child with a school, and send them to school
The school district gets the full basic allocation funds per student enrolled, plus any additional funding (such as special needs funding). The school is legally responsible for your child’s safety and education. When your child is enrolled as a full time student, it is expected that they will attend full time. Any alternate arrangements, such as keeping your child home part time, must be made in agreement with the school and teachers. Also keep in mind that some schools are more open to these arrangements than others.
This option gives you the least amount of flexibility but maintains the usual school experience that you and your children are most likely used to. My late father was a career teacher in the public system and described his job – which he loved – as a “glorified baby-sitter.” The main push to get these systems running again is to free up parents to re-enter the workforce. In other words, the main reason to re-start schools is economic rather than due to education principles.
2) Register your child with your local school as a homeschooling student
You can go in person, call in, or write to the school and register your children as homeschoolers. The school gets partial funding to cover administration costs. You have full control over your child’s education and schooling. This is how we’ve been “free schooling” our kids – we register our kids at the local school but keep them home and educate them our way. You typically also get access to school resources such as the library.
This option offers you the most flexibility but is the highest cost for parents. For stretched parents it is more feasible for older children that can be self-motivated and directed. We’ve only been able to homeschool our kids because we can live off my income while my wife has stayed home and done the much more difficult job of educating our kids.
3) Register your child with a “Distributed Learning” (DL) or Distance Education school.
The DL school gets partial funding, and your child is assigned a teacher who assists you with their schooling. There are a wide variety of DL schools that offer a range of schooling philosophies and options from remote learning that follows the BC curriculum to alternate education schools. Self Design and E-Bus are two popular DL schools that allow flexibility but also provide teacher support. Some DL schools offer you a small allowance for school supplies.
Currently most of the DL and DE schools are full and have full wait lists. With COVID19, there may be a shift in funding from conventional schools over to DL schools, and with more funding the DL schools can hire more teachers and accept more students. If you want to move in this direction, I recommend contacting the school that best fits your vision, values, and goals, and get on their wait list.
The above options are the three main education options available to you in BC. I’ve omitted private schools because they are a more expensive version of options #1 or #3. Please keep in mind that wherever you register your child, that is where the provincial “Basic Allocation” funding will go for your child – if your child attends or not. If you want teacher support, register your child somewhere where you still get that, even if you keep them at home. We’ve always registered our children at the local school.
Parents in BC have until September 30th to register their children in their school of choice or as homeschoolers.