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Alberta Home Education Association

Keep up to date with everything going on in our province!

BREAKING NEWS! - Bill 15 Choice in Education Act!

breaking-news-blog-header

AHEA is very pleased to announce that the proposed Bill 15 Choice in Education Act, tabled today in the AB Legislature, will make significant steps in affirming parental choice. This work was the result of a platform mandate, as well as the processing of over 50,000 survey responses from Albertans. Home educators made significant efforts in responding and our voice, at 5.3% of the respondents, considering our volume, was noteworthy, showing that approx. 25% of home educators were active in this government survey of the community. This speaks to the active civil engagement that is so important to home educators.

Minister LaGrange has said, "If passed, the bill will amend the Education Act to affirm that parents, not politicians, have the right to choose the kind of education they feel is best for their children. It will strengthen Alberta's successful history of education choice, including public and separate schools, francophone schools, charter schools, independent (private) schools, home education and early childhood education."

Highlights of the changes significant to home education are as follows:

  • It adds a statement from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (section 26.3) to the preamble of the Education Act that states, "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."
  • It adds a statement to the preamble of the Education Act:
    WHEREAS the Government of Alberta recognizes: public schools, separate schools, francophone schools, private schools, charter schools, early childhood services programs, the provision of alternative programs, and home education programs as being valued and integral in providing choice in education to students and parents.
  • It amends the Home Education Programs section of the Education Act (section 20) to allow for an unsupervised, notification-only, non-funded home education program.
    Annual notification of the intent to homeschool will be required as well as submission (not approval) of a home education plan/program that demonstrates sufficient opportunity to achieve, to an acceptable level, appropriate learning outcomes.

Premier Kenney noted that, "This will be the first law in Canada that explicitly recognizes and enshrines that Universal Human Right."

We are gratified to see the steps taken today will strengthen a parent's inherent ability to care for their child's best interests. It should also put to rest the validity of that interest being intertwined with their child's, and not at odds with it.

You may read the full Alberta News Release here.

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What's in the Works for Home Education

What's in the Works for Home Education
This will be an exciting year on the home education front I believe. Hard work in advocating for the interests of home educators, over the last year and more, is bearing fruit. We are excited to tell you about some changes that are being implemented or proposed, as well as some ongoing concerns that we continue to pursue on your behalf.

  Done!!

  1.  Notification Only – No Funding. The expansion of home education notification to include this option for parents is especially gratifying after all the years that home educators have asked AHEA to advocate for it. The opportunity to press in on this issue with the introduction of the Choice in Education Act was fully utilized. We made a case for the validity of the choice, trusting parents, and the fiscal savings.
    • How it will work – Parents will provide a Notification form directly to the Minister, understanding that in doing so they forfeit the claim to the $850 grant they would be entitled to if they would have notified with an associate board. The parents will send in an Education Plan annually, for information only, with no further review or supports provided to them. This will be effective for the 2020/21 school year. More details will follow, but you can read the Minister's official news release here.
  2. Reduction of Receipts Required For Refund of Parental Grant. Parents will be required to submit receipts that equal only 75% of their grant of $850 in order to receive all of it. This will allow parents to stop worrying about purchases at a garage sale or from a friend. You must submit $637.50 worth of receipts before the deadline in order to qualify for the entire grant.
  3. Receipts Can Be Dated Up To August 31st. Parents can claim purchases up to this cutoff date for the 2020/21 school year. This standardized date should help all parents have equal access to their funding and not be driven by individual associate board policies. This is the same for everyone no matter who you are with if you are under the home education regulations.
  4. Funds Left Unspent Will Be Clawed Back. Any funding that you as a parent do not spend will be returned for Alberta Education to use these savings in another way. There will be no ability to 'donate or leave funds' with the associate board you notified with. Parents will either receive all of their part of the $850 grant or a portion. Any unspent portion will be returned to AB Education at the end of the year, after the August 31st receipt deadline. This eliminates associate boards pooling the parent portion of unused funds for any other purpose.
  5. The Final Count Deadline. We are pleased that this date will remain the same for the home education community, although not for other educational models. This means that you can notify as a home educator until September 30th, as usual.

TO-DO LIST! 

  1. Multi-Year Claims – Currently home educators have generally experienced the ability to roll-over their funds to the following year if not fully utilized by advising their associate board, who they have notified with. At this time the changes to the funding manual by the department have reduced our spending time to a single year. We have highlighted this for the Minister's reconsideration, as we had asked for three years to allow for budgeting for larger items.
  2. Standards of Reimbursement – This is currently under discussion, as it has been an ongoing concern of AHEA members. We have highlighted this for the Minister's consideration after discussing it with the department and hope to see some movement on the guidelines that are unnecessarily concerned with percentages being broken down for the small amount of funding available to home education families.
  3. Funding for Special Needs Students Who Choose to Home Educate – We find it grievous that the special needs student who is home educated is deprived of all taxpayer funding dollars that are available if they were in a different educational model. We have been bringing this up in multiple meetings with the department and the Minister, advocating for a funding solution to be found. Parents, who are home educating because they feel it is the best environment for their child, and are taxpayers too, should not be lacking all real forms of support and services, as is currently the case. Efforts will continue in this vein until we are heard and some form of initial progress for this vulnerable segment of our community has been reached. We remain hopeful that the intent is not to take away from these children and their families but that there has not been sufficient effort in finding a way to make it happen. This is doable, and we will not give up in reaching an understanding with Alberta Education on these student's behalf.
  4. A Healthy Competitive Environment for Parents to Choose FromAHEA's job is to advocate for our membership and advance the cause of home education in Alberta. While AHEA clearly cannot be representing the interests of associate boards, since our parents are required to notify with them, it is in our interests to help ensure that a market driven equality exists. Parents should have the ability to see plainly their available funding dollars and the financial policy for whatever model they choose publicly stated and be able to focus more on the services, relationship and a good fit being offered by any associate board they are considering. Financial information shouldn't be a mystery.

The shift to a weighted moving average for the other educational models (which we negotiated out of this year) have meant that associate boards are experiencing a rather big shift in how they can manage their administrative and operating costs. AHEA has no role to play in how their finances play out, except to have made this apparent to AB Education - without an even playing field, as home education relates to the shared responsibility (blended) model, access to home education could be reduced if the associate boards cannot survive or thrive. How you are coded matters! Shared responsibility can be a confusing model for parents to consider and navigate as the funding seems to shift situationally and the teaching responsibility between parents and teachers can lack transparency. This grey area has been manipulated in the past and we are supporting efforts to bring clarity to the situation for the sake of parents, who need to have information plainly stated to make a good and fair decision. Boards that incentivize parents to leave home education, because of the promise of additional dollars for their child, will themselves plan on collecting on a substantially greater amount. Therefore parents should make sure that the parental responsibility and funding dollars correctly applying to them is abundantly clear. The health of the home education model, and its supports, lies with parents who understand the difference.

Ongoing advocacy is the year-round work of AHEA that parents may not always be aware of. The results of this continuous work can result in a peaceful experience for the home educator who has no idea of the bullets dodged, or can be the means by which a battle-cry is sounded to preserve this unique and amazing opportunity for our children and families. Either way, your vested interest in staying informed, and supporting this work, makes your life choice possible!

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Power in a Pandemic

2020.05 Power in a Pandemic

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of
a sound mind."

2 Timothy 1:7

Circumstances beyond our control tend to make us feel powerless, and it is fairly safe to say that most of the world has experienced this feeling to some degree over the last few months. Reactions have varied from docile to outrage. But as time wears on, it is apparent that the current situation also tests our underpinnings – what are we made of and in whom we trust. There is also the stark realization that we must question whether or not we are indeed powerless.

Having plans and purpose is a good thing. Knowing that our plans are subject to change is, perhaps, a necessary lesson for most of us. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." - Prov. 19:21. Now some may read this verse and think that there is no use in having a plan. To the contrary, it can actually be a wonderful reassurance that the purposes of God are being born out through our efforts, and that we cannot mess them up so badly that the end result is not His will. We know this is true because Prov. 16:9 says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps."

Being on the move helps us see how to accomplish these plans. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we are instructed to stay in one place and not take action. There is a time for everything, Ecclesiastes reminds us. This passage is wonderfully weighted with action verbs, and contains the thought that even at rest you will be accomplishing something. G.K. Chesterton had this observation, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." In response, you may ask, "What can I really do?"

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“We’re All in This Together, Right?” - Respecting the Freedom to Choose -

We're All in This Together, Right?

It has been interesting to see more people being news-watchers lately, since people-watching has fallen out of fashion. We were already used to slogans being used by companies to try to make us believe something or other about their product and convince us that we cannot live without it. Critical thought being applied to sloganeering was in vogue in many circles, as it should have been in all. However, recent events have taken this type of communication to a whole new level.

Daily repetition of anything makes it hard to process. Reservations that you may initially have had are submerged below the constant restatement of information by the press or others ad nauseum, until it seems that you must be the only one questioning the message. And that is only looking at the bald face of it. What of the intent, purpose and result of the message which may not be obvious? Do you even have time to think it through between hearings?

There are two things I think we need to consider as we realize there is a challenge with the current day's messaging. Then, I'd like to address the costs that we are seeing and how they relate to home education. We need to be awake, aware, and well-informed citizens.

Propaganda Has Never Gone Out of Style

We are too often ignorant of the propaganda which constantly surrounds us and its varying levels of access and success. Currently we have reached an interesting point in the history of the free world, as we see the government using the 'free press' as a proxy to carry a government's message. We have seen the government issue bailout packages to press that are carrying the 'right message' and withhold funding from those who carry the counter-cultural message. Not that these groups would even accept funding from the government because it makes them vulnerable to influence and they wish to be free, and seen as free, from any obligation to toe a party line.

Where the free press used to be the watchdog of government and act in the assumed interest of the people, it has slowly transformed into a producer of opinion-driven news articles which do not hide their biases. When I was a child in school, we were taught to eliminate the bias from our factual writing, and save our opinions for the proper assignment. This was the mandate of journalism, but even journalists have seen this as a professional debate. As journalist Jen Gerson observed in an article published in Nov. 2018 titled 'Canada's media bailout will weaken trust in journalism. We should reject it.' "How this system is expected to strengthen press freedom, I have no idea. From what I can see, it will only lead to a national professional standard or credential that will inevitably centralize control over the media in a country where the media is already profoundly consolidated." Sadly, the ones getting the money, and more likely to survive, are those who have compromised.

So how can you spot propaganda? There was a book written in 1965 by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes that was partially covered in a 2015 article called 8 Frightening Characteristics of Propaganda on Intellectual Takeout's website. I'd suggest that you take the time to read it to understand how each of the eight characteristics mentioned are used. However, here is the short list – see what is all too familiar.

Propaganda:

  1. Prevents dialogue – no time for details, excludes contradiction.
  2. Focuses on the mass – an isolated unit presents too much resistance to external action.
  3. Is total – utilize all technical means of media at their disposal.
  4. Takes over education – no contrast to propaganda. Utilize to condition to what comes later.
  5. Takes over literature and history – rewritten (past and present) according to need.
  6. Must be subtle at first – seeks to create a favorable preliminary attitude before direct prompting.
  7. Must be nonstop – eliminate outside points of reference, filling a citizen's whole, and all, days.
  8. Aims at irrational action – the aim of modern propaganda is to provoke action not modify ideas.

Please note that this list is not new, nor is the objective observation on the subject matter. The use, and the effectiveness, of propaganda is very, very real. And left unchecked, it is a world-changer. Spotting it, and calling it what it is, gives us the ability to think outside a rapidly shrinking box that prohibits free thought. This is critical to preserving what we hold as personally important, as all things become subject to government objectives instead of personal objectives.

Freedoms Are at Stake

There have been numerous articles that highlight the rapid changes coming provincially, federally and internationally. But we must realize that this didn't just start. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has a section on their home page titled "Freedom Under Attack – Canadians Tell Their Stories" where you can watch videos going back to 2013. There is also a section now dedicated to Covid-19 and Constitutional Concerns, which means that within the last two months there has been an extreme uptick in Constitutional concerns that warrant legal attention. And the team at the JCCF is not alone, as there other firms just as busy, and alarms being sounded from numerous sectors. As I write on May 3rd I count four hundred and fifty five (455) separate emergency measures that have been enacted and are being tracked on this site, or you could follow this Repository of Canadian Covid-19 Emergency Orders. One of the best articles I've read lately that lays out the need to stand for freedoms is by a law professor named Bruce Pardy titled Even During a Pandemic, the Needs of the Many Do Not Outweigh the Rights of the Few. He states that "Rights protect individuals from the whims of public opinion."

Home educators can relate to this, as our decision to educate our children at home has never been that of the majority. The right to home educate relies on the other rights we have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2 of the Charter outlines the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Given that every freedom challenged puts the others at risk, it is beholden on us to support them all, for our own sake. In this spirit I say that no matter our personal opinion on different topics, we need to see that freedom truly is being threatened and this issue deserves our most sincere support if we want to see our home education rights survive in the scrum freedoms are now involved in.

A Cautionary Tale

"It has been pointed out that very different events took place in France and England in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. The French Revolution was a revolution of power. The French citizens drove out the aristocratic rascals and put their own leaders in. But the Age of Reason gave birth to the Reign of Terror and finally led to the tyranny of the Napoleonic era. At about the same time, when England could have fallen into a parallel situation, the Wesleyan and Whitefield revivals took place. As the Word of God had its sway in the hearts of thousands and thousands of people, instead of violence and bloodshed, a moral transformation of the land eventually expressed itself in the laws and culture. But those changes did not happen in the world's way."[i]

A friend shared an observation on that quote and how it relates to our current situation. "These are two concepts of liberty. France was the god of reason. England was liberty of conscience as bestowed by the God of the Bible. France's path results in bloodshed and we are treading that path again."

I would advocate for the moral transformation that is possible when we have the personal liberty to teach our children our values. I would advocate for us being able to speak in the public square with all of the conviction that having a biblical basis for our conviction allows us, and that we speak not just for ourselves but for our fellow man. I implore us to not be passively apathetic or fatalistic, as action is surely the point of being the hands and feet. I pray that during this time, when we are living history instead of studying it, that we will set an example for our children in doing what we ought. What we can do, as we are each called, is to be the voice of faithful confidence in our circles, knowing that God holds our lives and days in His hands, and thus we need not be afraid of anything.

                                                   "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90: 12)


[i] James Montgomery Boice, The Life of Moses: God's First Deliverer of Israel, p. 47. 

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Shawna Sundal
A follow-up article for those who are interested, where propaganda is referred to as another epidemic - the virus of the social ne... Read More
Monday, 25 May 2020 00:10
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Contribute to Alberta’s Vision for Student Learning

Feedback-in-Scrabble-Tiles

Background

The Minister of Education has invited parent and guardian input on the draft ministerial order on student learning to help shape the direction of education by February 24th, 2020 which will be in place for the 2020/2021 school year. It will replace the current ministerial order from 2013. This draft was the result of the Curriculum Advisory Panel (CAP) that AHEA met with last year. (Members can read about our meeting in our last HOME Matters edition – available online.) This committee has provided recommendations to Minister LaGrange on the direction of Alberta's K-12 curriculum and priorities. The previous curriculum work has been paused to ensure that it meets with the updated ministerial order.

Why Home Educators Should Participate

As home educating parents, it is important to keep fully informed and involved in education in Alberta. Anything 'education' – we care about participating in! Our presence and input can keep the Minister aware of our care and concern for our greater community and the priorities of Albertans. We believe in the rights of all parents in the province to contribute to what is understood in the Education Act to be the "visions, principles and values" that "are the foundation of the education system in Alberta."

If parents want to be heard, and AB Education is looking for your input, you will have to speak up. You should prepare a response in advance, as on-the-spot answers may be more difficult to provide. 

What You Can Do

The Minister has provided several imminent opportunities for you to share your opinion of this draft order. Please consider participating in one of the following:

  • Online Survey

  • Written Survey in English or French
    • Email them in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail them to:
    • Executive Director, Curriculum Coordination and Implementation
      Alberta Education
      9 Floor, 10044 108 Street, 44 Capital Boulevard
      Edmonton, AB T5J 5E6

  • In Person Sessions – I was specifically told that if you want to go to one of the in person sessions, which are table discussions, you should attend even if it says it is full, as they are set up for overflow. The in person sessions have a high turnout by teachers (who are also parents, I realize) that have come prepared with their ATA suggested comments/responses.
    • Feb. 18th – Calgary is FULL, but address is Sandman Hotel, 8001 11th Street SE
    • Feb. 19th – Calgary can register here. Edmonton can register here.

What You Need to Know Before

You need to read the draft in full to consider your responses to the following questions:

  1. Having read the draft Ministerial Order on student learning, does it accurately represent the goals for student learning in Alberta?
    (Y or N) (Why/why not?)

  2. What are the strengths of the draft Ministerial Order on Student Learning? 
    (Why do you consider these strengths?)

  3. What are the gaps in the draft Ministerial Order on Student Learning?
    (Why is it important to address these gaps?)

Additional Reading

If you would like to know more about what the CAP Recommendations on Direction for Curriculum to Minister LaGrange, read their report here. This is actually very helpful in understanding the basis for the draft Ministerial Order. 

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Education Act Amendments Forthcoming

Education Act Amendments Forthcoming

While most school work is wrapping up, Hon. Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange is getting down to business after these first few weeks of settling into her office and up to speed. She continues to have as her Deputy Minister Curtis Clark, who has been in this ministry for quite some time.

The UCP had promised pre-election to read in the Education Act that had already passed the required three readings and was ready to be enacted. However, it will not be introduced as is. This Monday, the Minister is scheduled to introduce Bill 8 – Education Amendment Act, 2019 with a second reading scheduled for this Thursday afternoon. What will these amendments entail? We have yet to find out.

What we do know is that everyone is brushing up on their familiarity with the Education Act. Interestingly, the President of the Public School Board's Assoc. for Alberta is publically calling on the Minister to delay the implementation for 1 year, as they would like more time to review it and further consultations. The issue of growth funding for increased student counts is looming large as well, and that is anticipated to be tackled on Monday as well with Bill 6 being introduced – the Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, 2019 by Hon. Minister of Finance Travis Toews. Again, we shall see.

The AHEA Board is reviewing the Education Act and looking forward to seeing what type of amendments Minister LaGrange is going to table. This will be a revealing indication of the direction that she is going to pursue. I encourage you to be in prayer for us as we look to advance the interests of home education and resist bad law being enshrined. We also ask that you pray for Minister LaGrange, that she is able to be a strong advocate for the parental rights and responsibilities that she has worked so hard on over the years.

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Our New Minister of Education

Adriana LaGrange - AB Minister of Education

Jason Kenney's choice for Education Minister was greatly anticipated since the news that the people of Alberta elected a UCP majority government. Tuesday's revelation that this post was going to be filled by Adriana LaGrange, a MLA from Red Deer, was greeted with enthusiastic support by the members of the home education community. As a mother of seven children, which include a set of identical twins, and grandmother of three, Minister LaGrange has a strong connection to family that our home education community can relate to. She is also a role model to young ladies as the second female Education Minister of Alberta. The passion and strength she has already demonstrated in her work as a Trustee of the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division and as the President of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association, confirm she is someone who is a seasoned defender of choice and parental rights. These shared foundations give us a common base to work and collaborate from.  

AHEA looks forward to working with Minister LaGrange in her new role and congratulates her on her appointment!

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Bill 24 Injunction Appeal Decision Reached

The decision by the Court of Appeal has been reached. One dissenting judge, of three, saw the risk of schools losing their funding before the case is actually heard later this year. Stay tuned for further updates as decisions will be made by the government, the lawyers and the parties involved. Prayers and politics are a good mix... both will be needed.  

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A New Day in Government

A New Day in Government

​On April 16th, 2019 the UCP government won a majority victory in Alberta. AHEA looks forward to knowing who the new Education Minister will be so that we can begin to build relationship and work together. Good news from the speech:

"The silent majority has spoken. . . not the loud and angry voices on social media. But average Albertans who simply spoke today. Those folks who simply want their common sense values reflected in their government. Who want high quality health, education and public services, but who understand that we need a vibrant public sector economy to help pay for those things. . . Albertans who believe in our great tradition of school choice because they understand that parents know better than politicians what's best for their kids."

Jason Kenney, Premier-designate
4/16/19, Victory Speech

Hands down - the winning point! Now let's see the policies that will reflect this. . .

If the 2014 Education Act is proclaimed as promised by the UCP, replacing the School Act we are currently operating under, we still need to be aware of the outstanding implications of the law contained therein. Please consider the latest article by John Carpay, titled "Battle over parental rights continues after Alberta election." The outstanding court cases are very relevant and important. We continue to encourage you to pray for the judges from the Alberta Court of Appeal that are currently deliberating on the Bill 24 Injunction, as well as the lawyers preparing for the Bill 24 case itself, which is anticipated at the end of the year if nothing changes.

Parental rights are very much still being debated in the public square, and we encourage you to be informed and engaged on this issue, as home education is directly related.

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Bill 24 Injunction Appeal - Court and Continuing to Pray

Bill 24 Injunction

 Last Monday morning was our long awaited day in court for the Bill 24 Injunction Appeal at the highest court in Alberta. I appreciate that you may or may not have read my brief and quickly written report right after being in court. You may have seen some of the news reports, which I will include for your reference below as well. I realized that one of the things that people may be less familiar with is that being in the Court of Appeal has a different focus than an initial hearing. The focus of the case is typically to convince the panel of three justices that they have grounds to overturn the decision of the lower court judge. Thus, it is more of a technical argument than you would have heard at the lower court, although the Appellants had applied to introduce a significant amount of new evidence.

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