Local Journalism Initiative reporter
With school about to commence in Alberta, some parents are exploring alternatives to a classroom setting to provide education for their children.
Understanding that not all children fit in one mold, there are several options available that are partially or fully funded by the Alberta government that caregivers can explore to decide which method is best for their children.
One such option is one that is gaining popularity in the province, with a notable intake increase through pandemic years.
Homeschooling is an option that is chosen for many reasons, this may include providing a more comfortable or suitable environment for a child, to better accommodate a family’s lifestyle, or to give parents the option to have more involvement in how and what their child is learning.
Since 2004, Golda David has worked in five different provinces and territories and overseas in China.
Her experience has been mainly in high school classrooms, but she was also a school principal for two years where she says she gained valuable experience.
Recognizing the importance of alternate forms of education, David switched four years ago to being a home education coordinator and facilitator.
She explains her experience has opened her eyes to a number of factors that she may have not originally considered.
“It’s a great opportunity to explore a child’s true talents, interests and strengths,” says David about homeschooling.
“Many kids experience as a leg up in the world as they have time to amass unique experiences that truly serve them in their life and work later on.”
In order to get funding from the province, families must agree to having two visits per year from a facilitator.
David explains that a home education facilitator in Alberta, is a certified teacher who provides support to families that home educate their children.
She says in the visits with families, education plans are created that work for the child. Facilitators provide support, experience, and wisdom to the families when they require assistance through the year.
“Many families that I work with have removed their child from school because the school environment either didn’t fit their learning style or they had experienced very severe forms of bullying or emotional distress from situations that would break your heart if you heard their stories,” says David.
“In those situations, a child and their parents are often desperate for a solution to accessing education. Many people in our society have been traumatized from their schooling experience, I think access to home education is extremely important for those children and families and is a very important form of alternative education.”
David notes that home education gives some children the flexibility to learn when, how and what they want to learn, which sometimes suits them better.
She says other families choose home education because they want their children taught things that align with their values.
“Sometimes parents allow their children to choose the materials, learning styles and topics that interest them, leading to more engagement and buy-in,” says David.
“They can learn at their own pace with a parent that cares about them, who is able to really work closely with them to help them progress.”
A paper published by the Fraser Institute using peer reviewed literature explains that there is a widespread belief that home educated students are not adequately socialized, however they say research suggests otherwise.
The paper notes that Canadian home- schooled students are often involved with up to eight social activities outside the home, and they watch less television than other children.
“Many home educators also give their children very rich experiences during the day and you can find them at art classes, doing volunteer work, foraging for wild foods, going out in nature, planning a building project, gardening, learning to fix a car or do tax returns, visiting science centres and many, many other activities that will enrich someone’s life and lead to more learning and more opportunities,” says David.
David has also been accumulating resources on her website to help people who are currently or considering educating their children at home.
She is also writing a book about the school system and how it works to help parents gain confidence in their ability to home educate their child.
“I find that parents lack the confidence because they don’t know what teachers actually do,” says David.
“So, I am going to demystify all of that so they can see it’s not as difficult as they are imagining.”
She points out that while homeschooling may not be a suitable option for all families, it is vital that parents and students have options to provide education in an environment that is conducive to the best possible outcome for the child.
She adds that she has seen some families send their child back to the standard schooling system because they had very little time or it just didn’t suit their lifestyle, and that is okay to recognize too.
“I have seen many children grow in ways that surprised them and their parents because they didn’t think they were capable until they were given the opportunity to learn in a way that actually suited them,” she says.
“I have seen gifted children able to go as fast and as far as they wanted to go in their learning and I have seen young people go to college early and start on a road that looks like it might lead to something amazing.”