Getting Started Homeschooling

When starting home-based education, there are both practical steps to be taken and pedagogical choices to be made.

  1. Choose your teaching style. The first thing to do is figure out what approach you'd like to take. See our page on teaching methods and learning philosophies and our page on learning styles.
  2. Choose your learning materials. Then you'll need materials to go with your chosen approach. See our page on curriculum and our list of suppliers of educational materials.
  3. Withdraw your child from school. If your child is currently attending school or registered to attend school, you'll need to give the school board written notification of your intent to homeschool instead. Out of courtesy and common sense, so that the school doesn't think the child is just truant, give a copy of your notice to the principal as well. See our page on the letter of intent. You do not need to send a letter of intent if your child has never attended school. See our FAQ about Policy/Program Memorandum No.131.
  4. Start your program. Implement your chosen approach and curriculum according to a schedule that works well for you, your child and the rest of the family.
  5. Network and socialize. To keep your child involved with peers, and for opportunities for field trips and other activities, and also for support for yourself, you may want to join a local support group.
  6. Help protect your rights. To help protect your rights and the rights of all parents to "choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26.3), join the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents.

Once you've started homeschooling, don't forget to adjust as needed as you go along. Remain responsive to how your child responds to the teaching method, materials used and schedule. If there is any aspect of your program that isn't working well, try something different. It's one of the main benefits of homeschooling that you can tailor everything to your own unique child and your own unique situation instead of being stuck with a rigid norm-based structure as children are in the school system.

Some thoughts on "starting" an education

A person's education does not begin at junior kindergarten and end at high school, college or university. Education is a lifelong process. As a parent you have been intimately involved in your child's education from day one. Let's look at some of the principles of home learning:

Principles of home learning

Principle One

Children are constantly learning--that is the name of the game--from initial body movement, to crawling, to walking, to talking. Children have an inner motivation to learn.

Principle Two

As a parent you provide a learning environment and a model. The environment that you help create is one of safety, challenge and opportunity particularly suited and ever-changing to meet the present abilities and needs of your child.

Principle Three

A child learns when a child is ready. We all learn at different rates. Some walk before their first year, some learn to walk later.....and so on. The important thing is to respect the child's timetable. Faster is not better if the child is not ready. You cannot make a child walk--the child will walk when the child is ready.

With these three general principles it can be seen that you have already been involved intimately in home-based education. As a person grows older, and reaches school age, the same three principles still apply.

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You CAN educate your child at home!

On this page we also provide some answers to the following questions:

"How can I find more homeschooling information and support?"

Here are some suggestions for a family to follow when they choose to homeschool their children:

  1. Read books about homeschooling to give yourself a better idea of the philosophy behind it and determine what type of homeschooling method will work best for you and your family.
  2. Join a local homeschooling support group in order to gather support and information from other homeschooling families. If a group does not exist in your area, consider starting one yourself.
  3. Maximize your use of the local library for curriculum ideas and resources.
  4. Subscribe to homeschooling magazines/newsletters.
  5. Consider joining a provincial homeschooling support organization, such as OFTP, for information and support.

"Whom should I notify of my intent to homeschool?"

The law, in the form of the Ontario Education Act, does not require that you notify anyone of your intent to homeschool. If, however, you are withdrawing your child from school, you will need to notify the principal so that he or she is aware that your child is not simply truant. Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131, which represents the government's current policy in regards to the law, directs parents to send a yearly notification of intent to homeschool to the school board in the jurisdiction in which the child last attended school. If your child has never attended school, or you do not wish to send a yearly letter of intent to the board, see our PPM131 FAQ for your options.

"Where do I find curriculum materials?"

First, a word about curriculum. Curriculum is merely a tool to assist a person in learning to deal with and manipulate ideas and concepts. Curriculum needs to be flexible; there is no one right curriculum for every child. As a home learner, you have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of alternatives, styles and learning models. Please note that there is nothing in the Ontario Education Act that states you must use curriculum. Therefore, the decision of whether or not to use curriculum is determined by each homeschooling family.

Visit the Ontario Ministry of Education website to view what the achievements/outcomes are for each grade level and for each subject in the Elementary and Secondary grades. The Ministry of Education does not provide curriculum to homeschooling families. However, as stated in a Ministry of Education policy document - Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131 (issued June 2002) - homeschooling families may download curriculum policy documents and curriculum support material produced by the Ministry of Education free of charge from the Ministry of Education website. This material may also be purchased through Publications Ontario (1-800-668-9938). Some documents may be available in your local library. If you are interested in knowing whether or not your child is meeting the Ontario curriculum then the Ministry of Education curriculum policy documents can provide some assistance. In this way, homeschooling parents will be aware of what children are being taught in the public schools and can determine if their children are at grade level.

If a homeschooling family chooses to use curriculum then they will have to purchase this material themselves. There are many companies who sell textbooks, workbooks and packaged curriculum in all subject areas and at all grade levels. For a less traditional approach, your local library has books in a variety of subject areas and at many ability levels. In this way, a homeschooling parent can design curriculum for their children. This is by far the least expensive and most diversified approach. A variety of workbooks in various subject areas can also be purchased in book stores.

"What about socialization?
Is my child going to miss socialization experiences if they do not attend school?"

Yes, many negative ones. If you keep your child at home they will miss the type of socializing experience which is common when sending your child to a public education institution. There are many ways to socialize and the school environment is just one way that your child can socialize with others. At home your child will be able to move freely, follow the family's timetable, meet people in different walks of life, visit interesting places, play with other home learners of various ages (instead of the same age only) and have the time to work out and understand how people live and behave in the "real world". Many homeschooling families join or start a local homeschooling support group. In this way, their children can socialize with children of various ages as well as adults and participate in many activities. Research on homeschooling has shown that homeschooled children are not lacking in the area of socialization and are just as busy if not busier than their schooled counterparts.

"Can you recommend some books to read?"

There is a proliferation of material available today on the subject of home-based education. A few suggestions are listed below as well as on our page on suggested books to read on homeschooling and education.

"What about readiness to learn?
Could this explain why my child is having trouble in school?"

Everyone is different. When a school system attempts to grade learning into levels, there are bound to be people who do not fit them. It is well known among home learners that one child will teach themselves to read at age three with no one in particular helping them while a sibling will not show any interest in reading until age nine, ten or later. Child psychologists tell us that as children we move through stages of readiness - for example, performing abstract math problems is best left until puberty. Before then manipulatives are what makes the most sense - the child can see that 1/8 of the pie is the same as 1/2 of 1/4. For more information about the variety of learning styles that exist, please read In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong.

"What is the legal status of home education in Ontario?"

Home learning is a legal alternative to public schooling. The Ontario Education Act states under the following section: Section 21(2)(a) a child is excused from attendance at school if, the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere. Satisfactory instruction is not defined in the Ontario Education Act nor does it say who should make this determination. The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents has spent countless hours of volunteer time dealing with misunderstandings between school board officials and home learners. We continue to stress that the Ontario Education Act gives support to parents to choose the education model for their children. More in-depth information and discussion on the legalities of homeschooling is available on the OFTP website under the heading "Legal Issues"

Please review a new document - Policy/Program Memorandum No. 131 -- on the Ministry of Education website that was released in June 2002. This document provides direction to parents and school boards concerning policies relating to homeschooling. Please read OFTP's position on PPM No. 131 and question and answer section.

Essentially, homeschooling parents are asked to send a letter of intent to their school board on a yearly basis indicating that they will be homeschooling their child(ren). The letter should include the name, gender and date of birth for each child who is being homeschooled, plus the telephone number and mailing address of the home. A sample is provided in PPM No. 131 as Appendix B. OFTP recommends that you keep a copy of the letter that you send to the school board for your records.

In turn, once the school board receives this letter of intent they are to assume that satisfactory instruction is taking place and that the child is excused from attendance at school. The board should send a letter to the parents acknowledging that they have received the letter of intent. A sample is provided in PPM No. 131 as Appendix C. School boards should not ask for any further information or send any forms to the parents to be completed and returned to the school board. Therefore, if a school board asks parents to complete forms indicating what curriculum they use, what activities they do, how many hours of instruction do they give per day, etc. the parent is not required, by law, to complete these forms. For more information and guidance please contact OFTP.


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