January 22nd, 2021 the Department of Education announced the new details of what home educators can and cannot do under the current lockdown orders given by Dr. Hinshaw, which will go into effect Monday, January 25th. The home education community must note that the Ministry is limited in its response by the current State of Emergency in Alberta. That said, the clarity is welcomed as it gives AHEA the opportunity to reiterate that home education is not the same educational model as what occurs in a brick-and-mortar school, and attempts to make us fit that mold will always sit, and fit, wrong. There is obviously more work to do in ensuring that our educational model is not seen in the light of 'social gatherings' in the eyes of AHS and that the Dept. of Education is well equipped to rebuff that type of qualification from the outset. AHEA will continue to respectfully work with all parties to ensure that the interests and understanding of home education increase.
As a home education community, we need to ensure we are paying attention, focusing our collective efforts and are prepared to work. So carefully review what we have gained and what is challenging. Then, let's address what is really required to solve the issue we face – that our children, all children, are really suffering. The main source document that you need to cross-reference to is found here, being the Guidance for Schools on Re-Entry – Scenario 1.
- Home education students can participate in joint home education co-op activities / supportive group learning environments outside of their homes. Note that this applies to either situation. (You must adhere to the health measures that also apply to schools.)
- Supportive learning environments are what works for your learning and are self-determined.
- Home educators can be in cohort groups. Caveats are:
o They must follow the cohort guidance (see cross-reference document on cohorting).
- Note: A responsible adult is required within each group that can identify close contacts in the event of a case.
o Use the appropriate Alberta Health Daily Checklist.
- You determine your size or number. There are no defined parameters for either from the Ministry, and home educators appreciate the flexibility.
- Recess with cohorts is allowed. Outdoor play-based learning or other learning activities are allowed in cohorts. (50 maximum for sports, phys ed, and recreation cohorting. See details here.)
- Being in multiple cohorts is allowed for those in multiple classes (see cross-reference document section on cohorting). In schools, this situation would normally be limited to high school, but home education is different and students of all ages are in multiple learning environments as required.
The Hard Reality
- Meeting inside a home remains prohibited. - You may meet outside. You may meet in a facility. The indoor and outdoor social gathering restrictions remain in place.
- Mandated masking - Parents and students 10 years of age and older (Grades 4 and older) choosing to engage in joint learning activities with other home education families outside their home must wear a non-medical face mask in accordance with the masking requirements in school (CMOH Order 33-2020 (see cross-reference document section on non-medical face masks)).
o NOT applicable to those under 10 years old
o "Exceptions to the mask requirement include:
- "Persons engaged in physical exercise"
- "Persons seated at a desk or table in a place where instruction is taking place and where the desks/tables/chairs are arranged in a manner to prevent persons who are seated from facing each other, and to allow the greatest possible distance between seated persons."
- Parents and students must follow the physical distancing guidelines.
o Please see cross-reference document section on physical distancing guidance on when 2 metres is not possible between desks or in a classroom.
- Parents are required to develop procedures outlining hand hygiene requirements and follow enhanced cleaning, disinfecting guidance (see cross-reference document).
The Work Left To Do
ALL parents in the province of Alberta, or in Canada for that matter, have little need of further scientific confirmation about the negative effects of lockdowns on their children. The truth of the matter is right before their eyes, looking back at them in the familiar faces of their beloved children. After ten months parents know that there is a distinct difference between teaching them how to endure, to be careful and considerate, to learn and adjust and to put the needs of others before themselves and what is being required. This is not like a short time out, or learning to give up a toy to a younger sibling, although I'm sure plenty of those lessons are being taught while in lockdown. Parents are prepared to parent, but we are not okay with being the enforcers of what is equaling a government mandated action that would be seen as abuse in any other situation. Children are not meant to be locked up and deprived of stimulation – physical/sensory, emotional, social, religious or communal.
AHEA parents believe in rights and freedoms, individual liberty and doing what is best for our children, for these rights come with responsibilities. Cause and effect are true in any life being lived, as it was for those whose lives have been lost. Death is a reality we all face, and we cannot and do not accept that we must live like we are 'dead' in order to survive. Our children should not be forced to give up their childhoods, friendships, normalcy, social skills or aspirations. We need to get back to dealing in reality so it needs to be said – what is happening is wrong and causing harm day in and day out.
What You CAN Do
- Pray. This is the first and most effective response of God's people. Pray against fear and apathy.
- You can continue to help AHEA advocate on your behalf by continuing to protest the status quo. One or more emails a day would be impactful, so keep emailing or writing about your concerns. If you only want to do one email a day, draft one and CC everyone else – easy! Parents have been advised that they should contact Dr. Hinshaw directly instead of their elected official by the officials. That is advice with interesting implications that parents should think about as well, since our elected officials are responsible.
#SaveOurYouth This is a social media campaign spearheaded by mothers to raise awareness of the consequences of these restrictions on our youth. Post with this hashtag stories and comments that will change the media narrative and the dialogue around it. Children of all ages are suffering under this lockdown and the harms are real. You can join the Alberta Chapter here.
TYPES OF POSTS TO SHARE:
- News Needing a Response – Jump onto media articles and use the hashtag #SaveOurYouth. Share personal stories. Share data.
- Data, Studies and Stories – Post data for others to use, share studies and heartfelt stories.
Read this article in full when you have time.
"Young Canadians have reached out to Kids Help Phone more than 4 million times in 2020, signalling a sharp uptick in calls for help compared to previous years and a growing chorus of youth who continue to struggle under the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Still, the volume of calls is unlike anything Kids Help Phone has experienced since its inception in 1989. Calls have been pouring in from children as young as five to young adults as old as 28, mainly to seek help for their mental and emotional health."
4. It is time the parents of the province united their efforts and demand that the cost of the current actions be weighed against the assumed benefits. There is a legal obligation on the government to prove that their actions, which impact our Charter freedoms, are justifiable. The following are references that you may find helpful in your own considerations and in putting forward your concerns.
Section 2 – Fundamental Freedoms
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
"Section 7 also protects a sphere of personal autonomy involving "inherently private choices" that go to the "core of what it means to enjoy individual dignity and independence" (Godbout v. Longueuil (City),  3 S.C.R. 844 at paragraph 66; Association of Justice Counsel v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 SCC 55 at paragraph 49). Where state compulsions or prohibitions affect such choices, s. 7 may be engaged (A.C. v. Manitoba (Director of Child and Family Services), 2009 SCC 30, at paragraphs 100-102; Blencoe, supra at paragraphs 49-54; Siemens v. Manitoba (Attorney General),  1 S.C.R. 6 at paragraph 45) This aspect of liberty includes the right to refuse medical treatment (A.C., supra, at paragraphs 100-102, 136) and the right to make "reasonable medical choices" without threat of criminal prosecution: R. v. Smith, 2015 SCC 34 at paragraph 18. It may also include the ability to choose where one intends to live (Godbout, supra), as well as a protected sphere of parental decision-making for parents to ensure their children's well-being, e.g., a right to make decisions concerning a child's education and health (B.(R.), supra, at paragraph 80)."
"This paper argues that: 1) Canadian governments at all three levels did not properly and adequately consider the specific nature and the full extent of lockdown harms that would result from the Charter infringements that governments initiated. Governments assumed, based on speculation and predictions, not on evidence, that the Charter violations would prevent large numbers of deaths; they assumed that the number of people who would otherwise have died was huge; they did not think much (or at all) about lockdown harms, nor whether these harms would be greater than the benefits."
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