The ADLC Anomaly
History is complicated and the Alberta Distance Learning Center's (ADLC) relationship to home education, now history, is no exception. They started out simply enough, providing print resources (curriculum) to students across the province of Alberta. That simple plan grew over time into a service that provided not only print-based material to distance-learners, but online classes as well. In essence, both methods delivered teacher-directed materials with the possibility of the grades that would be recognized as fulfilling the Alberta Program of Studies, resulting in credits for an Alberta diploma.
Home educators have been told for a long time that this access fit within their home education mandate. This was very true from the sense that a parent could access many teacher resources (curriculum) for free. You actually still can find these government resources on LearnAlberta.ca. This was a boon for those parents who were looking to save money when they purchased their resources for any given year. The subtle shift of becoming a student of a teacher for credits, instead of a home education student that used the Alberta Program of Studies material and then challenged for the credits through a supervising authority, happened over time and without the implications being fully scrutinized by all the parties.
Misunderstandings were bound to happen when the terms the home education community used varied greatly in definition. When it sounded right and 'homeschooly,' it must be okay. As long as parents were deciding, wasn't that still home educating? If parents were told that it was covered by Alberta Education and didn't reduce funding, wasn't that fine? If a student, your child, could earn credits while distance-learning at home with you, weren't all paths to that goal equally acceptable?
Sadly, a failure to address these questions has led to a bit of a quandary today. Home education has a pretty clear functioning set of boundaries and definitions if we would take the time to unpack them. Using common terms would help us avoid misunderstanding and we probably would be a little gentler with our use of labels and the implication of them… Not at the cost of the truth, but in the exercise of the love of liberty that allows each family to make their own decisions within the framework we have.
Taking a step back will help us take a step forward. Let's try and put it in simple terms using this diagram.
When people decide to home educate, they have either left the system that they had their children in or they decided to never be in it to start with. Parents who take on the responsibility of teaching their children directly are called parent-directed for a reason and this is typically referred to as traditional home educating. This is not to say that there cannot be help with lessons, but the curriculum is all decided on and paid for by the parents out of their $850 portion of the Home Education Grant – that is only 50% as the other 50% is retained by the associate board/school that they notify with. Any additional costs are out of pocket – the parent's pocket. More curriculum, piano lessons, sports, or an online class are yours to choose and pay for. This might include expenses that cannot be claimed, like trips abroad. Highschool students can also challenge for credits after being taught at home by their parents (or themselves) if they choose to follow the Alberta Program of Studies and are with a supervising authority.
Having an accredited teacher-directed class that is teaching the Alberta Program of Studies to a student that parents have advised is being home educated is a different ball game. Shared responsibility is the next clearly outlined structure for a parent to consider. If parents develop an education plan, and want/need to farm out 20-80% of the classes in order to meet the desired goals, you have the ability to do that. Responsibility and funding are split at a decided percentage.
The teacher-directed portion falls under a school, and must follow the Alberta Program of Studies. They cannot allow the parent to 'take on' or 'take over' these classes, as they are being paid to do the job. If you hear of someone who is 'allowed to home educate' by the school, you have probably bumped into a problem in understanding how things are to properly function and it should be addressed for the health of the home education community at large. 'Extra funding' or 'allowances' shouldn't be happening in our current models. Everyone's funding and expectations/processes should be consistent and transparent.
Alberta Education itself realizes now that what evolved in practice was not intended. The Minister has stated, "During its time in operation, the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) provided families that home educated their children access to teacher instruction for distance/online education high school courses which was outside of the ADLC grant agreement, and not consistent with regulations on homeschooling." That's because the methodology that home educators have to access teacher-directed classes with funding is within the shared-responsibility model. However, being sincere in her efforts to not reduce the access that ADLC had been providing to the province's learning community as promised, Minister LaGrange determined last week to give access to a one credit course, worth up to five credits, to the home educating community in the upcoming '21/'22 school year. This has to be claimed through a supervising authority and can be a maximum refund of $650. ADLC has effectively been replaced with a competitive group of providers. Those who are opting for the unsupervised model (NONF) do not qualify on either count and have steered clear of the inherent complications.
Parents have to decide if this one class serves to help them maintain an almost traditional home education program for their child, or if it is a step backward by putting the public system into the niche carved out for home education. The funding is not a full support of parental choice in home education as it must be used in the Alberta Program of Studies school network, not any curriculum you pick. AHEA has a strong stance on avoiding the strings that come with funding, and this is an example where parents who might want the funding find their choices dictated by the access requirements to get it. We will have to save a discussion on how the credit system impacts home educators for another time.
The home education community and all of its participants must be brave enough to look at this issue fairly and squarely in order to correct it in a way that protects home education interests. We need to be prepared to address this going forward, making the case that the value of home education is so much deeper than funding – it is about the philosophy that drives your understanding and reasoning for home educating. Without this, there is no basis for withdrawing from the public system. If one wants their child to just be physically present in the home, distance learning is there and fully funded. Or you can do that part-time through shared responsibility and know that you are home educating part-time too. There need not be judgment for the choices people make, but there should be honesty and clarity.
As for traditional home education… How pleasant it is to not only have your child with you, but to have the freedom to respond to them as you see the needs and opportunities in a day, teaching as you go. Let's keep the heart of our homes our priority in home education, and realize that it has a value that money cannot buy.
Keep your lives free from the love of money
and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."