September is upon us all with the 'Bang!' of a starting gun in a marathon! Students are refocusing on their studies, moms and dads are re-calibrating their days for fall activities and AHEA continues in its multiple pursuits on your behalf. Let's look at some of the challenges we are currently facing, foresee and the solutions that we are working for.
We must first note that AHEA is blessed to have so many veteran home educators amongst us. A multitude of the parents who are new to home educating already know or have been in touch with others who know home education intimately, and that it is a wonderful testimony to the synergy in the home education community. AHEA works to support the efforts of our community as many of you reach out and open your homes and hearts to those who are finally taking that step or have considered and made the decision in a very short time. An abundance of resources and information can be gleaned from the AHEA website or our AHEA Facebook page. You also can subscribe in the right-hand column on the Political Updates page to receive updates directly to your mailbox. Keep checking for news on the upcoming April 8-10, 2021 AHEA Convention here.
Many associate and independent associate school boards that provide supervision to home educators have been advising that their numbers and staff have doubled in size, if not more. Taking on new families and students have found a very competitive market in the last couple of months. Last year home education was 1% of education stats in Alberta, so we all anticipate with excitement the September 30th Count Day figures, but we realize that is not the end of the story.
AHEA has been advocating for several months with the Minister and the Education Department as a whole to work on a plan to anticipate the potential capacity and demand issues for home education in the current environment. We are so pleased that home education will see so many new families joining us and want to ensure that even more families continue to have the choice to move to home education during the rest of the year even if they receive no funding due to moving after September 30th. While the home education community has for years adopted this type of family with no qualms and just a gracious eye to the future of home education, this seems unlikely to be as manageable or simple this year. Home education must be a viable option year-round!
Many changes and exceptions have been granted the other educational models due to the need to be flexible this year, including the fact that additional funds have been flowing to ease and accommodate the unusual needs and situations. While AHEA does not typically ask for extra funding, this may be a year where it is necessary to look at some compensation mid-year for associate boards to continue onboarding anyone changing their educational decision during the year as they are being offered quarterly choices in the public system. AHEA not only wants families to be able to start home educating if they decide to opt out of the public system, but we want to ensure that they have the choice to start with an ideologically aligned supervising authority who will support them in the ways that they may need.
Of course, this fall also brought in the Notification Only, No Funding (NONF) option, effective September 1, 2020. AHEA was pleased to see the fruition of its advocacy and the implementation of the unsupervised option. The new Parents for Choice in Education Executive Director, Jeff Park, correctly notes in their last article that NONF is a huge win and Alberta is now the best place to home educate in North America due to the variety of choices! AHEA advocates for something that money cannot buy – the freedom of parents to make the best choices for their child.
Now that the option itself has been made a reality, it is time for us to work on honing the verbiage around it in the recently released and updated Home Education Regulations. There was so much activity this fall that sufficient attention to the wording of the regulations around this option within the department may have overlooked important clarifications. However, AHEA had already started addressing this and will continue to do so, along with other Alberta partners in education like Parents for Choice in Education, who concur that while checks and balances are to be expected, there is room and a need to refine the current regulations.
Overall, it's been an exceptional year of progress for the provincial advocacy work of AHEA, and we look forward to continuing to interact with the government on behalf of home education families who highly value their ability to home educate and the freedom to deliver a customized program for their children. One of the items that AHEA has already started pursuing is the funding for special needs children who are home educated. More information will be coming out on this as work progresses and as we collect information from our families.
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