Part of the series The Problem
Written by Léo Gaumont, published on 2016-03-28.
If there are too many registration options for home education, a competitive environment is created where survival becomes more important than function.
We are generally all ignorant of what is actually happening around us. This ignorance can either be perpetuated and capitalized upon or fixed to empower the masses. It is time to enlighten home educators who have generally been kept in the dark respecting what is occurring within their community. (Ephesians 4: 11-16)
Bible Reference: 1 Peter 5:8
In Alberta, every child between the ages of six and sixteen must be registered for “education”, somewhere. There are really only two choices provided. Either children are registered to attend some kind of school or they are registered to be educated at home. There is presently no option for simply notifying the government of the intent to home educate without government interference, in Alberta.
Home educating parents have a choice of either registering their children with the local school board, or with some other willing non-resident school board in the province. Willing school boards can be public schools, catholic schools, or private schools which can either be providing home education programs directly or through what has come to be known as Independent Contracted Home Education Specialists (ICHES).
Alberta is one of very few jurisdictions that provides funding for home education. Therefore, aside from a legal obligation a local school board has for the education of all of its resident students, there is only one reason a non-resident board could have for wanting to provide home education services for students outside of its geographical area and that would have to be…money. The funding of home educated students has created a rather peculiar situation that involves competition for students as well as a few variations on the theme of home-based education that is truly unique to Alberta. Besides the age old debate among home-based educators as to whether one should school, home school, home educate or un-school, Alberta also provides mixes of these involving blending, aligning or partially complying to public programming. All these options are not actually offered to meet every family’s needs, but are specifically designed marketing techniques for attracting clients and/or increasing the provider’s income.
In addition to confusing the question of what a home education is, the desire to attract students because they represent money has also created opportunity for questionable behaviours. A board making no claim to religious affiliation could be expected to behave in ways that could be considered contrary to what would be expected of a board claiming to be Christian, which would naturally be held to a higher standard. When considering that the vast majority of home educating parents are coming from a Christian perspective, home education providers know that in order to attract these people, they also have to be “Christian”, however this talk is often disassociated from the walk, so to speak. I don’t suppose this is the time, nor the place to list the questionable practices that I have witnessed coming from home education providers claiming to be of a Christian persuasion, but let me assure you that not everything could be considered moral, ethical or even decent.
Aside from the potential for giving Christianity an even worse reputation than what it already has in the western world, the most unfortunate consequence of this focus on money is that it has divided the home education community. Consider this: when the survival of providers becomes of bigger concern than that of home education itself; when one provider is willing to destroy another to gain a larger market share; or when providers are willing to risk having all home educators suspected of their own misconducts; are we not becoming increasingly more vulnerable to being destroyed from within? Few parents are actually aware of what is going on as providers make self-centred, short-sighted decisions seemingly without regard for the potential casualties or for the future welfare of home education in this province.
I cannot help but wonder how many of these organizations would suddenly lose their “love for home educators” and promptly disappear should the funding of such be ended. Could it be time to seriously reconsider participating in funded home education? While parents may indeed be benefiting in the short term, could it be that the providers are actually benefiting more?