Canada’s constitution does not explicitly recognize parents’ rights to choose to send children to schools outside the publicly funded system. However, there are sections regarding freedom of religion and right to liberty that the judiciary has indicated are the basis of parents’ constitutional rights to instruct their children at home. Regulations vary by province, but each Canadian province has an Education Act and recognizes parents’ rights to choose homeschooling or “home-based learning” for their children. All provinces have the right to end a homeschool program if it determined that a child is being denied his or her right to an education.
Parents are required to submit an application to prove their capability to homeschool their children. According to Section 29 of Alberta’ School Act, parents may choose to provide a home education program provided that it meets home education regulation requirements and is supervised by a board or accredited private school. Curricula must be approved, which affects how home educational programs are structured, developed, and delivered. If parents choose to follow the provincial “Programs of Study,” an associate board or private school must supervise and accept the program, which should include a list of activities, instructional methods, resources, and means of evaluating the student’s progress.
Student progress must also be reported annually to ensure a minimal level of education at each level. Alberta is the only province to require standardized testing and homeschooled children are required to take provincial achievement tests or another alternative form of assessment. Parents can, however, choose how their child’s performance is evaluated, such as if they want their child to write achievement tests in Grades 3, 6, and 9.
It is the responsibility of the school authority to offer support to parents, if it is requested. Together, both the parents and the school authority must make sure that the child is meeting the educational goals set by the parents. If the parents make a request, a teacher from the associate board or private school must advise and assist parents in preparing a written description of a home education program. Students are visited a minimum of two times per year by a teacher from the associate school board or private school. These teachers review samples of student work and observe students in order to measure progress.
Financial assistance of up to 16% of the per-pupil public school expenditure is available for parents who homeschool.
Permission from the government before beginning a homeschool program is not required. The government will only intervene if it is determined that the parents are irresponsible or incapable of providing an adequate education. Parents must report their children’s progress on a regular basis.
British Columbia offers considerable support for homeschoolers, especially for more isolated communities and families. It is covered by the School Act under Division 4, “Home Education.” According to Section 13, parents have three options for registering children for education: a local school, a distance education school, or an independent school. Failing to register a child is considered an offense.
Homeschoolers in British Columbia have the option of writing provincial exams at the school where they are registered. Schools that register children under section 13 must offer evaluation and assessment services, including authorized educational resource materials, to parents. These services are used to ensure that the child’s educational progress is equal to that of students of comparable in age and ability. Children who are registered are allowed to audit public educational programs, although this must be approved by a board, is subject to terms and conditions, and can include paying a fee.
British Columbia has a government-subsidized program called “E-Bus” that provides school boards with about CAN$4,000 per family interested in homeschooling. This money helps with the cost of homeschool computer hardware and software.
Exemption from compulsory public education is provided by Manitoba’s Public School Act only if a field representative confirms that the child’s standard of education is equivalent to a public school education. Permission from the government before beginning a homeschool program is not required.
Curricula must be approved, which affects how home educational programs are structured, developed, and delivered. Parents are given the choice of three different Curriculum Options: Child-Centered Instruction, Christian-Based Curricula, and Independent Study. They must also create an outline of each child’s education program. Student progress must be reported annually to ensure a minimal level of education at each level.
According to legislation, homeschooling is allowed where “the Minister is satisfied that the child is under effective instruction elsewhere.” Parents must request approval from the Minister of Education. A form must also be signed that accepts full responsibility for their child’s education and recognizes that the child is then ineligible for a New Brunswick High School Diploma.
In order to be considered “effective instruction,” a homeschool curriculum must contain specific subjects found in the public school curriculum: Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Technology, Social Studies, Health, Career Development, French, Music, Art, and Physical Education. It is up to each school district, however, to ultimately discern what is considered “effective instruction.” Parents are not required to submit reports of children’s progress, but are responsible for documenting the “effective instruction” that takes place in the home. They must also request an exemption and submit to a home visit and observation in order to evaluate their homeschooling curriculum.
Newfoundland and Labrador:
Although its population tends to be clustered in smaller isolated communities and offering reliable schooling has been a challenge, homeschooling is included in the province’s education legislation. Parents are required to submit an application to prove their capability to homeschool their children. Parents are not required to submit reports of children’s progress.
Home education is provided as an alternative to public school under the province’s Education Act, as long as the child’s education is provided in accordance with the regulations (Section 128 and Regulations 39 and 40). The ministry must be notified, the proposed home education program must be identified, and an annual report of the child’s progress must be provided. The minister may require parents to provide evidence of educational progress in the form of standardized test results, assessment from a qualified assessor, or a portfolio of the child’s work. Children that are homeschooled may attend courses offered by a public school.
Home education can be terminated by the province is the child is not making reasonable educational progress. Before termination, however, parents have the opportunity to make a case as to why the program should be continued.
Home education is allowed by the Education Act as long as the child receives a satisfactory instruction, either at home or elsewhere. It is the responsibility of school boards to determine what is considered satisfactory. According to the Ministry of Education, school boards should also accept written notifications from parents each year to serve as evidence that satisfactory instruction is being provided.
Parents are not required to submit reports of children’s progress, but if instruction is considered by school officials to be unsatisfactory, there is an inquiry procedure provided by the Education Act. According to Section 30, parents can be convicted and fined if they “neglect or refuse to cause the child to attend school.” If the child’s education is found to be unsatisfactory, officials are advised to focus on creating plans to educate the child, assess achievement, and ensure literacy and numeracy at levels that are developmentally appropriate. Memorandum No. 131’s Guidelines also advise officials to recognize that parents who homeschool may use different methodology, materials, schedules, and assessment techniques than those in Ontario’s school system.
Prince Edward Island:
Homeschooling is provided by PEI law, but notice is required, as is a proposed home education program. Parents are required to submit an application to prove their capability to homeschool their children and must report their children’s progress on a regular basis. Homeschooled children are allowed to attend courses offered by a school board.
The province of Quebec recognizes parental rights to organize homeschools. The school system has been reformed (in 2005) to become purely secular, and the Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms was amended to ensure parents' rights to provide moral and religious education “with proper regard for their children’s rights and interests.” This means that the state may be able to step in if parents advocate intolerance or values that are considered undemocratic.
According to Quebec’s Education Act, parents or a student of full age have the right to choose the school that best lines up with their preferences. Section 15 states that compulsory attendance at public school is required, but exemption is allowed for approved homeschooling or private schools. Students are considered exempt if they participate in homeschooling and benefit from an education equivalent to what is provided at school. This is decided after an evaluation made by the school board.
The Ministry or school boards are not required to support homeschooling, but often give support on a case-by-case basis.
According to the Education Act, students may be exempt from compulsory attendance at public schools if the student receives instruction in a registered homeschool program. Parents are free to choose methods and subject matters that reflect their religious beliefs. They are not required to include concepts, topics, or practices that conflict with conscientious beliefs or exclude any concept, topic, or practice that is consistent with conscientious beliefs.
Parents are required to submit an application to prove their capability to homeschool their children. Parents must also provide proof of a positive and constructive education by providing a written educational plan. Plans may be written to conform to the parents’ “moral convictions and pedagogical views” as long as a reason is provided, along with the areas of study, learning objectives, activities, methods, and resource materials.
A progress report must be submitted by parents every year. These materials help to assess the student’s ability to deal with and apply the material they have been taught according to their educational plan. After the annual progress report has been submitted, a conference with the home-based educator may be required in order to monitor and review the student’s progress. A portfolio must be kept to record to log the student’s educational activities. It must contain writing samples, worksheets, workbooks, and creative materials. The portfolio is required to be preserved for a minimum of two years. A collective record of the student’s work must be preserved until the student is eighteen years old.
The Canadian territories have small, spread-out populations made up almost entirely of people of the First Nations. This has made offering state-sponsored education difficult. As a result of pervasiveness of aboriginal traditions, education is largely a community activity where children can learn the wisdom of their people. The preambles to the Education Acts of the Northern Territories and Nunavut specify that communities should play a significant role in educating children in order to reflect the values and needs of the local people. Parents are recognized to have special responsibilities and Elders are able to contribute to the education process.
Parents must register with the local school district, which will supervise the home education program, and follow the curriculum standards set by the Minister. Curricula must be approved, which affects how home educational programs are structured, developed, and delivered. Samples of each student’s assessments and progress must be provided twice during each academic year.
According to Nunavut regulations, each district education authority must supervise homeschooling programs in agreement with Inuit values, principles, and traditional knowledge and institutions. Parents must register with the local school district, which will supervise the home education program.
Parents must register with the local school district, which will supervise the home education program.
Lagos, L. A. (2011). Parental education rights in the United states and Canada: Homeschooling and its legal protection. Retrieved from http://www.bibliotecanonica.net/docsag/btcagz.pdf.