Compiled by Melanie Wilkins-Ho, Summer 2020
For BC Home Learners: homeschoolers, DLers, unschoolers Facebook group
*With thanks to the many, many home learning parents who've generously and freely shared their expertise for decades, helping to build a thriving home learning community in BC*
© 2020 Melanie Wilkins-Ho. Any redistribution of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited other than the following:
you may print or download to a local storage device for your personal and non-commercial use only;
you may copy the content to individual third parties for their personal use only if you acknowledge the website and this document as the source of the material.
Republication or electronic embedding of this document requires explicit written permission from the author.
First: Don’t panic. You got this.
Second: Be prepared to do a lot of reading to get your bearings. There is a lot to absorb at first, so take your time and get a handle on the basics. Seriously, please read all the linked documents listed here. “Quick start” is a misnomer (sorry), but it’s worth investing the time to know your options and make informed choices.
Third: Home learning is not the same as the crisis schooling everyone was dealing with in the spring of this year. Distributed Learning and registered homeschooling supports of all kinds have been in place for many years and have the flexibility to suit just about any learning style or family situation.
Fourth: A tidal wave of folks are looking into home learning right now due to the pandemic, and it can be difficult to find timely answers. Please go through this guide and consider joining our Facebook group for more discussion and support.
1. Decide which of the two legal options for home learning in BC you want to use. One is inside the school system (aka "Distributed Learning") and the other is outside the school system (aka "registered homeschooling"). Both are legal and effective modes of delivering an educational program, but they have different obligations and entitlements, so you should know what the differences are. Please read our documents for discussion:
Introduction to Home Learning in BC https://abb4337d-d3ce-4041-9763-d60e51bfc272.usrfiles.com/ugd/abb433_262baca43ef94d29a113012d69e57455.pdf
Getting Started? Register as a Homeschooler? Enrol in a DL? What Does it All Mean?
NOTE: If your child has a special needs designation, especially a low incidence one (A-H), please join the following Facebook groups for guidance. The extra funding for SN supports while home learning is only available through Distributed Learning programs, not registered homeschooling. There are only 15 Distributed Learning programs with special education departments, and there is a whole different system of expectations and separate waitlists. These programs can not accept students with SN designations into their regular streams if they run out of room in their SN programs.
BC Home Learners: Special Education/Special Needs Edition
SN Homelearning Families BC
The Ministry of Education also has information on home learning. Their website tends to change frequently, but their initial page on Distributed Learning is here:
They also have a page on registered homeschooling, but please note that their statement at the top of it saying registered homeschoolers are not eligible for a Dogwood graduation certificate is only sort of accurate: graduation credits are earned in grades 10-12 and registered homeschoolers can jump into the school system for grade 10 and graduate like and other student if they choose. Other than that, their page is a decent summary of the differences:
For all the info on registered homeschooling, from the legislation, to post-secondary access, to support groups, see the website for the BC Home Educators’ Association, the advocacy organization for registered homeschoolers in BC:
2. Utilize our Facebook group to help you decide between the options if needed. There have been many, many discussions of almost every kind of question there already, and you will likely find an answer with a keyword search or by using the Topic tags. There are also many, many veteran home learners in the group more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with new folks. You can join us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BCunschool/
This document from our Files offers some perspective about life in a Distributed Learning program:
Life Under the DL Umbrella
This document from our Files is a summary of the legislation relating to the rights and responsibilities that go along with registered homeschooling:
Summary of BC Homeschool Legislation
3. Once you decide between Distributed Learning (aka "DL") and registered homeschooling, you need to enrol (DL) or register (homeschooling).
If you choose DL, you need to find a program that suits your family’s needs and contact them to enrol. The Ministry of Education has links to lists of both public and independent DLs on their site, linked below. The main difference between public and independent is that independents can incorporate faith based material and content, while public DLs must be secular. Both must adhere to the BC curriculum. Public DLs are tuition-free, but independent DLs have recently started introducing fees due to a funding change. When you’ve decided on a program, contact them and they will handle the enrolment process, including requesting your child’s records from their current school. It’s a good idea to do this now and if programs have waitlists, get on them. Programs may be able to hire more teachers if they have enough waitlisted people to justify expanding.
If you choose registered homeschooling, you have until Sept 30 (but maybe aim for Sept 15) to contact either any public school in the province, or one of the independent programs on the list below, and request that they register your child as a homeschooler. Sometimes public schools don’t know much about homeschooling and will refer folks to DL instead, but they are actually obligated by law to register homeschoolers when requested to do so. Many people just find it easier to use a program on this list, most of which offer access to some resources like online subscriptions, and a small number of which offer around $130 in lieu of such resources:
4. Consider a period of de-schooling, especially if conventional school has been a negative experience. There is lots of information on de-schooling out there, but basically it means removing expectations around what “school” and “learning” are, and allowing for time to decompress and, sometimes, heal. This gives parents a chance to unpack their own assumptions about education and really observe their child to see what works and doesn’t work, and lets a child’s natural curiosities, passions and strengths emerge. Some say one month for each year you’ve been in the school system, but everyone is different. The home learning setting is fundamentally different from a classroom environment, and does not have to replicate brick and mortar school. The time spent de-schooling can be unnerving for parents worried about “falling behind”, but allowing for a total reset can make a huge difference, whether it means wearing pyjamas while doing workbooks or completely upending how you approach learning with your child. Some DL programs may accommodate such an adjustment period as you get started with home learning. If you’re a registered homeschooler, de-schooling is no problem, as you are in charge of the educational program.
5. Think about what kinds of resources and activities would suit your child’s needs and your own philosophy of learning. If you choose DL, many programs expect parent input on the learning plan for the year and can be very flexible about materials and activities used to meet grade expectations. Many also allow parents to direct up to $600 worth of the DL’s resource purchasing per child. If you choose registered homeschooling, then you are completely in charge of designing the educational program and can use whatever approach you think works best. There are numerous well established methodologies, or styles, in the home learning world, each with their own framework of recommended resources, evaluation techniques and milestones. As a starting point, a quiz like this one can give you an idea of what might be a good fit for your family, and you can explore from there:
6. Find local support groups, to connect with other home learners in your community and find out what’s going on in your area. There’s a certain amount of “if you build it, they will come” in the home learning world, so don’t be afraid to organize activities and post them in your local groups to get things happening. You can find lists here:
7. Know where to find “the rules”. The BC School Act and Regulations, and the Independent School Act and Regulations, along with occasional Ministerial Orders, govern pretty much everything about mandated education for children ages 6 to 16 in BC, whether it’s in brick & mortar schools, Distributed Learning programs, or registered homeschooling. The more familiar you are with the legislation, the better able you will be to navigate the options and advocate for your child. The Ministry of Education website gets adjusted a lot, so this particular link may expire at some point, but you can always look up the names of the Acts separately.
Welcome to the world of home learning!
We have tremendous flexibility in our educational choices in BC, so relax, take advantage of the freedoms we have here, and keep in mind that students can move in and out of the different options as needed. Nothing is set in stone, so if something isn’t working for your family, don’t be afraid to change things up. Remember that there is a huge global community of home learners who can help, in this group and many others.
Best wishes for your explorations!