Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Article 26 (3)
Homeschooling in Canada has always been legal; the rights for parents to choose to home-educate their children has been protected since confederation. In those very early years of Canadian history, schooling was considered unimportant. Indeed most people in Lower Canada were illiterate – only around 1 in 7 people could sign their name in the 18th century – and children were raised to help their parents earn a living through farming, gardening, spinning, and apprenticeships. The Common School Act of 1846 did little to change the perception of parents that education was not of much value. By the 19th century the idea of schooling gained more traction and became mandatory. Consequently, with the involvement of government in the raising of children, parents rights of deciding on the kind of education their children were to receive needed to be asserted.
Although home education was protected by residual regulations from pioneer times, during the first phase of modern homeschooling in the 60’s and 70’s parents who chose to home-educate their children were frequently subject to hostile interrogation and marginalization. By the 1980’s to mid 90’s there was a steep increase in families choosing to homeschool. School boards dealt with such families on an individual basis, treating them anywhere between invasive and lenient. There were few provincial policies and uneven application of policies where they existed. This unevenness gave rise to increasing hesitancy of parents to declare their homeschooling status with a school board out of fear of investigations or harassment. This variation in policies led to provincial inquiries, several of which moved into the courts, necessitated a more sustainable approach by the Ministries.
Enter the modern era of homeschooling in Canada. From the mid to late 90’s homeschooling had not only become normalized, but policies and regulations were standardized within each province. One important factor that led to the acceptance and normalization was the Ministries endeavour not only to record how many families were choosing to home-educate, but in some provinces even offer financial and resource support to families.
Since the 1990’s each Canadian province’s legislation makes mention of home-education in some form. Most Canadian provinces now offer a generally accepting disposition toward homeschooling, with the strict and inhospitable policies of Quebec and Newfoundland lagging behind.
For Ontario the 2002 Ministry of Education Policy Program Memorandum (PPM 131) has been a major gain for homeschooling families. Educational authorities in this province are instructed in PPM 131 to accept from parents a notification of intent to homeschool as evidence of “satisfactory instruction.” The Ontario Education Act states in section 21(2) A person is excused from attendance at school if they are receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere.
Another significant milestone for homeschoolers in Ontario was the provision of funding for homeschooled students at the post-secondary level:
“The government will eliminate the institutional bias against home schooling. The Ministry of Education will facilitate homeschool parents’ access to standard tests and other learning tools”.Once this throne speech was delivered, one of the first actions the government embarked on was to address institutional bias at the post-secondary level for homeschooled students. Changes in May 2001 to the funding policy, now allows universities to receive provincial funding for homeschooled students. As a consequence of this policy change, the persistent lobbying by OFTP volunteers, and the efforts of OFTP’s Post-secondary Admissions project, every Ontario university has committed to creating an admission policy for homeschooled students.
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