Flexibility, family time: Why these families stuck to homeschooling during COVID-19

The vast majority of the 5.7 million school-age children and teens in Canada attend public school, but the number of students enrolled in homeschooling has doubled after the arrival of COVID-19.

The 2020-2021 academic year saw enrollment rise to nearly 84,000 from about 41,000 in the previous academic year, according to Statistics Canada. Recent survey on primary and secondary education.

This period was marked by a difficult and unexpected time for in-person education, with administrators and students experiencing changing protocols and procedures, new learning schedules, little or no extracurricular activities, and waves of disruption.

Uncertainty has been one of the main reasons many have given for choosing homeschooling during the pandemic. Three parents who adopted the practice two years ago explain why they stick to it.

A “gift” of family time

Laurie Kent remembers her son’s reaction to the prospect of going to school in the fall of 2020: No sports, no music, no trips, no options.

said Kent, who then plunged into the world of homeschooling her son Cameron, who is now nearly 14 years old.

Laurie Kent, seen here with her husband Bruce and their son Cameron, in Venice in 2022. The couple took mixed trips to many countries while homeschooling their teenage son. (Provided by Laurie Kent)

And it no longer only takes place in the Chestermere family home, Alberta. As the epidemic becomes more severe, Cameron’s family is confusing their studies with travel. Learning takes place in Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Scotland, the United States, and some of the countries that Kents visited last year.

swimming in cenote In Mexico, for example, it sparked a lesson for nearly 14 years about how these sewers form. The family watches documentaries and researches historical sites before the visits, as they did before visiting the Acropolis. Converting foreign currency to Canadian dollars is an ongoing hands-on math lesson. A long train ride provides time to pursue work based on textbooks.

“[Home-schooling is] Difficult. “It can be frustrating for sure, but it’s definitely worth it,” Kent said from a rickshaw near Edinburgh last week.

“When he went to school, we didn’t see him much, and when we did, he would rush into school, from school, into some kind of after-school activity…. Spending that time together is a gift.”

Cameron, son of Kent, in the ninth grade, tried to discover an ancient method of making pottery in Goreme, Turkey. (Provided by Laurie Kent)

Kent retired last year and her husband Bruce followed suit in early 2022. They feel the support of friends, family, and the Alberta School Board Coordinator, who they communicate with regularly. They cover language arts, social studies, health and cooking with Cameron, for example, while Bruce covers math, science, business, and economics.

Although the home schooling process was a learning experience for all of them, their families often appreciated the flexibility. During a lull last year, when Cameron grew weary of workbooks, they turned to independent study — for a few weeks he studied how artificial intelligence is used in medicine today, today and where the industry is headed. Then he presented it to his parents.

Kent said that strict adherence to the standard way of doing things “doesn’t work for everyone and there was a lot that didn’t work for him”.

“So now we can do what works for him and adapt it.”

‘Education’ approach

Self-proclaimed “Crunchy Mom” ​​Amanda Laiko has always had an interest in homeschooling, but the Toronto dad didn’t try her son Riker until he contracted COVID-19, when schools personally initially closed, and a series of setbacks followed, including job loss, illness and multiple relocations. .

“The only thing to worry about is putting him on another school board and getting him registered with the school,” said the single parent.

A mother sits on a sofa next to her son while reading a book together.
Lajko says she was surprised by how much Ryker had learned through her own interests. “The more you try to force him to learn the least and learn and learn, he learns on his own,” said one Toronto parent. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

After finding out that Ryker was frustrated by the exercise manuals’ association with the Ontario curriculum, Lajko turned to the interest-driven “no education” model. While she views the program’s expectations as “simple evidence in the background,” she’s allowing the now eight-year-old to take the lead.

She describes her son as an avid reader, helped by regular library visits and fun, text-filled video games. Other interests at the moment include learning Japanese and anime.

“Whenever I try to at least force him and instill in him learning and learning and learning, he learns on his own,” said Laiko. “Sometimes he tells me something and I believe him, but my mind is like, ‘Are you sure? Let’s check twice. And every time I check again, he was right.'”

Reading, cooking together, nature walks daily, going to the food bank or doing the laundry are part of the week, while Ryker enjoys playing with friends on the weekends. According to Lajko, he also enjoys quiet times: he does not like loud noises or crowded places.

Although she doesn’t object to her son returning to school in person, Laiko is looking for an alternative approach that values ​​”learning outside the classroom,” she says.

“A school that takes into account all the differences of children is what we need to move forward, because the school is right now? The system is very simple.”

Flexibility for farm life

After learning about emergencies at the start of the pandemic, Martina Page wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of a rolling school year, or an unexpected bus schedule for the hour-long commute every morning and evening for his young son. So she and her husband David Page, who are raising their four children on a farm in rural Alberta, chose to study at home.

A smiling family of six—mother, father, and four children aged six months to eight years—stand outside in a large grass field beside a stream.
Martina Page is homeschooled by her two oldest children, James and Madeline, while looking after her youngest daughter Millicent and baby Merida, with her husband David. (sent by Martina Page)

Based on her success in educating her eldest son, James, from their home near Sunnyslope, Alta. Their second child — Madeleine, now six — followed suit this fall.

“I’ve never thought I’d be homeschooled in my life. I was like, ‘The homeschooled kids are weird.’ “We don’t want weird kids,” Page recalls. “We are here.”

Drawing on Alberta Education’s learning expectations, it takes a parent-led approach and covers topics such as reading, spelling and math, as well as history and geography for James, who is currently eight and in his third year. They spend their mornings learning, with breaks now and then. For Page to take care of little Millicent or Little Merida.

School work usually ends by noon, when the kids have lunch with Dad, who takes a break from working on the farm so they can eat together. Afternoons are often spent in the library or on various activities (piano lessons, gymnastics or hockey) in a nearby town. During the busy agricultural months of May and September, Paige said, homeschooling might drop a bit, but it also continues with math and reading lessons for kids during the summer.

Three children making funny faces as they stand behind a cut-out picture board, their faces contemplating a painting of a goat, a cow and a pig.  Farm buildings and structures are shown in the background.
James, Madeleine and Millicent Page stand on a cutting board for farm animals at a Calgary farm. Although it is difficult to reconcile two school-age children, a toddler and a baby, their mother’s interest is ultimately to educate her four children at home. (sent by Martina Page)

We get a lot of comments

“Don’t your kids need to be social? Shouldn’t they be with other kids their age? We do a lot of activities,” Page noted. [in neighbouring town Three Hills]…you can do pretty much anything public school kids do.”

Although his current style of play is challenging, Paige’s biggest concern is ultimately to educate the four children at home. “As they get older and their interests begin to diverge, it’s going to be hard to please everyone,” she said.

Returning to regular school remains a possibility, but will depend on a more predictable experience. High school, for example, can be a good time.

“They can still graduate and graduate from Alberta—something you can still get with homeschooling, but it’s easier to do in a real school,” Page said. “[We] Waiting, I think, until everything calms down.”

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