Making the decision to homeschool can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to begin. As providers of online homeschooling options, Virtual Elementary School and Virtual High School receive questions every day about homeschooling and how to begin. We’d like to share with you the top five things we think you should know before beginning your homeschooling journey in Ontario:
1. Contact Your Child’s Day School
Once you’ve made the decision to homeschool, the first step is to contact your child’s future or current school board. If you decide to homeschool your child starting in preschool or kindergarten, you do not have to contact the school board to inform them of your decision, but we still recommend that you send a letter of intent to homeschool to avoid any confusion later in the process (OFTP, 2016). If your child attends or has attended a government-funded school, then the Ontario Ministry of Education requests that a letter of intent be sent to the school board at the beginning of each school year in which you have chosen to homeschool. A template letter can be found here.
2. Contact Any Future Schools
Some parents may decide to homeschool with a plan to enrol their children in a public school at a later time, before the students begin Grade 9, for example. This process can differ for every school board and even among schools. If enrolment in a conventional school is a part of your future plan for your student, contact the school you are interested in enrolling your child in, and their administration will be able to give you specific information with regards to their requirements. For example, some schools may enrol the student based on age, some schools will require past report cards and samples of student work, and some schools may require that the student complete an entry test. Knowing this information ahead of time will help you document your child’s progress and make the transition from homeschool to public school as smooth as possible.
3. Seek Legal Protection and Insurance
The Home School Legal Defence Association of Canada (HSLDA Canada) is a national not-for-profit organization designed to support and to protect homeschooling families in Canada. By providing affordable legal services and fostering a community of support and encouragement, HSLDA makes homeschooling better. Membership with HSLDA is inexpensive and invaluable. Visit their website at www.hslda.ca. You can contact their office by phone at 519.913.0318 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Prepare all documentation prior to beginning the curriculum
Create a list of everything you plan to document before your children begin a program. For example, if you are using the Ontario curriculum, you can use the printable curriculum checklists, similar to the one found on The Canadian Homeschooler website. Additionally, many content providers will give you a comprehensive checklist such as this one from Virtual Elementary School which enables you to track student progress →
It is also important to plan how you will issue report cards and at what intervals. Some parents may choose to issue a report card every week, and other parents may issue report cards three time per year. Having these details in place will allow you to focus on the instruction rather than on the paperwork.
5. Document EVERYTHING!
Document, document, and then document some more. If you are following a curriculum, for example, track the standards you are covering, make copies of the tables of content you are using, and keep all student work. Documentation is important because you may be required to demonstrate that your child is receiving an adequate education. Such documentation will also be required if you plan to enrol your child in a public school board at a later date. It’s also beneficial to keep student work so you and your child can track achievements in learning from year to year.
If you have additional advice on how to start the homeschooling journey, comment below!
“Home School Legal Defence Association.” Home School Legal Defence Association. Web. 31 May 2016.
“The Canadian Homeschooler – Sharing and Providing Canadian Resources to Homeschooling Families.” The Canadian Homeschooler. Web. 31 May 2016.
“Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131.” Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131. Ontario Ministry of Education, 17 June 2002. Web. 31 May 2016.
“FAQ about Policy/Program Memorandum No.131.” The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents FAQ about PolicyProgram Memorandum No131 Comments. The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents. Web. 31 May 2016.