Parents decide to homeschool their kids for many reasons: the desire to share and shape their children’s education, a failed experience with traditional schools, a belief that families should be at the heart of learning, etc. Whatever their reasons, homeschooling families often face a series of challenges when it comes to finding resources, be it math textbooks or lab equipment, as well as linking up with other families who share their passion.
But thanks to a website created by Montreal mom Sonya Olthof, homeschoolers have a new way to connect with each other. The site is called Montreal Homelearners (www.montrealhomelearners.ca) and is designed to make homeschooling easier for families.
“I wanted to make the (homeschooling) community more accessible and the Internet was such a logical place to start,” Olthof says. With help from her techno-savvy husband, she set up the site in early 2008. In addition to providing general information about homeschooling, Olthof uses a blog on the site to let readers know about the growing number of classes and activities organized for families who homeschool.
For example, there are science and art classes being held on weekday mornings in Pointe Claire, a mom is trying to organize French language classes for 6- to 9-year-olds and there is a free swim time available during the day at a local pool. The site includes an easy-to-use calendar, so visitors can click on a particular day to see what activities are happening around town. You can register to become a member and then participate in online discussion groups.
Montreal mom Kyla Matton has been homeschooling her three girls ages 11, 8 and 4 for over a year. She learned about the website through friends and says it provides a much-needed service to families.
“It’s a superb website with oodles of resources — great activities for the kids and meetings for parents. And now we’re seeing members beginning to organize study groups or offer classes to other families,” Matton says.
The site also helps parents connect and feel less like oddballs in the education world. “Without the other families and the wonderful group activities, a lot of families would feel too isolated and might decide they aren’t cut out to homeschool,” Matton says.
However, she adds, “once you discover a resource like Montreal Homelearners, you realize that there are people out there who can help with math or in finding a gym activity. You only have to ask and somebody will have an answer.”
Technology enriches homeschooling
The Internet and all its resources provide a wealth of material to homeschoolers, says Montreal mom Kyla Matton. Before she made the decision to homeschool her children, Matton spent almost a year reading up on homeschooling via the Internet.
“I learned everything I could about it — the laws, different approaches to home learning, where to get books and supplies, and what other families in the area were doing,” she says.
Matton also joined several mailing lists that put her in touch with some homeschooling families in the province. Now that her girls are at home, they keep the computer handy to look on sites like Wikipedia for information about topics under discussion.
For example, when the family delved into the science of bread making, various Internet sites provided them with facts about yeast as well as different recipes to try. “The girls have almost endless curiosity and being online allows us to follow up on a subject as much as they want,” says Matton.
Matton has found the following websites helpful in homeschooling her children:
Teaches various languages
Dance Mat Typing
A site that helps you learn how to type
Leon’s Math Dojo
Teaches math exercises
Old Fashioned Education
Has a list of textbooks and reading materials
Free, downloadable audio books
Offers a large selection of e-books for homeschoolers, from the old classics to modern texts and workbooks written by experienced teachers
The legalities of homeschooling
Under Quebec’s Education Act, children who turn 6 before the start of a school year and until they are age 16 must attend school. However, Section 15 (4) of the Act states “a student may receive at home instruction that, according to an evaluation made by or for the school board, is equivalent to what is provided at school.”
School boards may ask homeschooling families to register with the board and to provide a letter or other document outlining what children will be learning at home. However, boards differ in how closely they monitor homeschoolers and some families choose not to register at all.
The Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada (HSLDC), which provides legal services to homeschoolers, says parents are not required to register with their board. Information and discussion on homeschoolers’ legal rights can be found at the HSLDA website, www.hslda.ca, or at the Quebec Association for Home-Based Education (Association québecois pour l’éducation à domicile), www.aqed.qc.ca.