In a decision that Pam Sidhu-Mahal mulled over for months, she ultimately felt that keeping her and her family safe amid the coronavirus pandemic was the main reason to homeschool her son.
She knew that her son, Manraj, would have fewer opportunities to socialize, but since the red zone measures took effect earlier this month in Vaudreuil, where the family lives, he lost most of his peer-to-peer interactions.
“I completely understand that we have to protect ourselves, we have to protect our neighbours and friends. We do understand that. But I wish there was a way to be able to socialize without penalizing the kids,” she said.
Mahal is one of the 12,000 children in Quebec who are being homeschooled this year.
That number is about double what it was last year.
Quebec’s homeschooling association said many of those children are part of bubbles, where in small groups, they’d enjoy the company of other homeschooling children. But since gatherings have been banned, most of those activities have been cancelled.
“The government decided to keep the schools open because they felt that children’s mental health required that they socialize, and now the rules are making it as such that we have to choose between our children’s health, our family’s health and our children’s socialization,” said Noémi Berlus, Quebec Homeschooling Association director.
The association said it has reached out to public health officials for guidance on the issue, but has yet to receive a response.
France Gagnon’s nine-year-old daughter, Juliette, was part of a bubble that consisted of eight other families.
But recently, they haven’t been allowed to gather, and so have moved their interactions online.
“At least once a week she would see that bubble and she would get very excited about that,” said Gagnon. “She would be excited and say, ‘I’m going to tell this to this friend, I’m going to do this with this friend,’ and now she doesn’t have that.
“She still has me, but I’m not her friend, I’m her mom.”
Quebec’s homeschooling association says they just want homeschooled children to be given the same rights as those who decided to go to school.
Global News reached out to Quebec’s Education Ministry and the ministry of health and social services for comment, but has yet to hear back.