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COVID-19: Lethbridge parents, professionals give advice on homeschooling as classroom education looms

Coronavirus: Interest in homeschooling spikes as return to normal classes looms in Alberta
Home education is an option more and more parents or guardians are looking into, according to the Alberta Homeschooling Association. Some Lethbridge parents are looking into all options possible to ensure a safe return to learning this fall. Eloise Therien has more.

Many parents and guardians are exploring alternate options for their children’s education, following Alberta’s announcement that schools will resume under “near-normal” conditions in September.

Experienced home-schooling parents in Lethbridge said the first step is to research options and reach out to those who know the ins and outs of the process.

“When I first thought about homeschooling… it’s quite overwhelming,” said a mother of four, Andrea Seright. “I had a seasoned homeschooling friend who kind of broke it down for me.”

Seright’s children range from age seven to 14 and they’ve tried both public school and home education.  Based on her experience, she said some ages react to homeschooling better than others, but it’s different for every child.

“It’s really child dependent,” Seright said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Here’s how each province, territory is handling back-to-school

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Located in Calgary, the Alberta Homeschooling Assoication helps parents with the process of a move into home education and away from learning through a local school board.

“We’re kind of like the first stop when parents decide they don’t want to put their kids in school,” said Judy Arnall, AHA president.

Arnall said the home education process can be executed a variety of different ways, where parents have varying levels of involvement.

“Parents don’t have to go with their local school, they don’t have to go with the major school boards. They can pick any willing school board in the province to notify with,” Arnall explained.

As the reality of a return to normal classes grows nearer, Arnall said they have been extremely busy communicating with concerned parents in Lethbridge and across the province.

“We have had people join our Facebook group, our page, and emailing us, contacting us wanting to know what options are other than the classroom this fall.”

On Friday, the Lethbridge School Division annouced the Aug. 10 deadline for a parent survey to determine re-entry preferences. For most students, the school year will resume on Sept. 1.

“We will need to put at-home learning students into cohorts based on your response, assign at-home learning teachers, and then reconfigure in-school assignments based on how many students will be in class at each school site,” the survey reads in part.

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Read more: Some students and parents oppose in-person exams at Dawson College

Those who choose at-home learning through the school district are not in the same situation as those who opt for home education.

According to the Government of Alberta website, parents who opt to homeschool their children will be responsible for developing a home education program and submiting it to the supervising school authority.

Below are the home education statistics for the past three school years:

  • 13,564 students for the 2019/20 school year.
  • 12,652 students for the 2018/19 school year.
  • 11,952 students for the 2017/18 school year.

There is no deadline to register for home education, however funding can only be provided if done so by Sept. 30.