Friday, 17 November 2017 04:17

Chinook reports small decrease in home-school student numbers

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There has been a small decrease in the number of students registered for home-based education in the Chinook School Division.


Superintendent of Learning Bob Vavra presented the home-based education status report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, Nov. 6.
Four fewer students are enrolled for home-based education in the current school year compared to the previous year. A total of 126 students are registered for homeschooling for 2017-18, while 130 students received home-based education in 2016-17. Vavra noted that the enrolment numbers for home-based education is similar to the overall enrolment trend in the school division.
“It's pretty much status quo with the homeschooling,” he said. “Our numbers are down slightly, but not much, and basically our data trends seem to be following the five-year trends across the board.”
There has been a general downward trend in enrolment for home-based education over a five-year period. There were 141 students in home-based education during the 2013-14 school year. Registration for home-based education dropped to 136 students in 2014-15 and to 123 students in 2015-16, but increased slightly to 130 students in 2016-17.
Families who registered students for homeschooling during the 2017-18 school year indicated two main reasons for their decision. In the case of 71 students the reason provided is programming and choice.
“They may wish to do some other things with their learning,” Vavra explained. “Sometimes they might be musically inclined as a family, they might be travelling a lot, and they would do their home-based program while they're on the road, those types of things. It's more of a lifestyle choice, I would think in a lot of cases.”
Faith was provided as a reason for home-based education with the registration of 54 students, and one family indicated safety and security was the reason for their decision.
The provincial legislation for home-based education requires that students between the ages of six and 15 are registered with their local school division or directly with the Ministry of Education. Parents or guardians have to provide a school division with an educational plan in four subject areas – English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.
“They're required to have an educational plan and we review it as a school division,” he said. “If they don't submit an educational plan, we will be contacting them and making sure that they do that before the end of the school year.”
They also have to submit an assessment or progress report to the school division at the end of the school year and before registration for the following year. The Chinook School Division will provide up to $300 per child per year for educational materials and resources. The quality of the education plans that are prepared by parents or guardians will vary. While some are impressive, others need to be improved.
“I think it is a challenge for parents who aren't trained as educators to understand the outcomes and the indicators and all of what's expected in the education system and how to create a great educational plan for their son or daughter,” he said. “So we'll do lots of work with parents to do the best job that they can in creating those plans.”
Parents or guardians might not realize what the expectations are when they decide to do homeschooling, and that it means they are now entirely responsible for the education of their children.
“We'll help where we can with resources, but it's really up to them to find resources suitable for their son or daughter and grade level,” he said.
The Chinook School Division cannot provide programming to home-based education students, but it will attempt to assist in other ways.
“I try to direct them as much as I can with resources that are available online,” he said. “We also try to get them to connect with their base school. So are there text books, are there resources that are available for them, and are there any opportunities in their base school. That will be extra curricular or other activities that they could tap into to enrich the education.”
According to Vavra the biggest challenge with homeschooling is the communication with parents or guardians. At the moment it is done through mail, which is slow and costly.
“We don't have the same avenues that we do with other parents in our regular system,” he said. “So just getting information to and from parents in a timely manner would be our biggest challenge.”
The Chinook School Division is therefore upgrading the communication procedures by moving to a digital format. Forms will be available online for completion, and communication will take place by e-mail and text messages.
“We're going to try to get into the 21st century with some of our changes and move away from some of the traditional mailing practices and get more into texting, maybe even into social media to get our information across to parents,” he said.
E-mail or text reminders will be send out to parents or guardians to remind them of upcoming deadlines for things such as registration, learning plans, and annual progress reports.
“We have to make more of an effort to connect with parents more frequently than we've done in the past,” he said. “I think if we use alternate forms of communication it will make it easier for parents and more likely that they'll connect with us as well.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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