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Alberta Home Education Association

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A Special Report

A Special Report "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a quotation from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. On this topic, no matter what terminology is used, it has been a privilege to focus time and effort on some very special people in our home education family. Webster's website says that the word special stresses having a quality, character, identity... of its own.

AHEA knows that those of you who have these exceptional children in your home have faced extra challenges because of your choice and commitment to home educate, since you've felt it provides the best environment for your child. We, in turn, made a commitment to you to seek to address this issue, and we have. It has been a regular discussion point in our advocacy work with the government for over a year now.

Last fall we invited families with special needs to participate in a survey on this topic. We collaborated with another stakeholder so that we could gather data from a wider group. The resulting information from respondents confirmed what we had heard and seen. As was shared in a Political Update blog last November, "There is no funding for diagnosis and support for children with diverse learning needs under The Home Education Regulations, The Guide to Education, and the Funding Manual." This is a serious problem that affects a great many of our home education families.

  • 38% had more than one child with special needs
  • 11% were single parent/caregivers
  • 90% were traditional, parent-directed home educators
  • 77% were formerly in the public system
    • 59% left within 1-3 years and another 27% left after 4-6 years

Everyone AHEA has spoken to about the topic has been very kind and cares about the needs that we are discussing. People have not been calloused, whether or not they personally have a child that may require additional support. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, caring needs to result in some very specific actions in order to be of help. Families don't want empathy - they want the kind of support that will make a real difference in their life. 

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The Improvements, The Hard Reality And The Work We Have To Do

the-improvements-the-hard-reality-and-the-work-we-have-to-do Children are not meant to be locked up or locked down....

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.

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Observing and Remembering Are Different

Lest-We-Forget

The lens through which we look at the world informs our decisions/actions. This year's Remembrance Day was especially poignant for that reason. As our last surviving war veterans leave us, what they risked their lives for may be leaving us too. It is said that every generation has to defend the freedoms they have inherited or fight for the freedom they want. Failure means loss. And who in our land knows what they would risk their lives for today? Our country? Our beliefs?

Observation is mostly passive. Watching a ceremony can become part of a routine that slowly, but surely, loses its meaning. The importance that something has can be underestimated when it is not on a individual level. Passivity, in either a personal or cultural sense, means a lack of resistance that may result in submissiveness, reliance and a retreat into inaction.

Remembering in itself is a personal action. It means that we have internalized something, whether we have participated directly or not. We develop a deep appreciation for the reasoning, action and the resulting cost. Our understanding means that we are willing to pay a price for something that we value.

God asked the Israelites to remember constantly. It was a multi-generational action that was to enable them to translate history into their current situation, imbibing them with the ability to react correctly on a personal level. The beauty of the Christian faith is that it inherently challenges us to think. Questions are welcomed because there are answers. And because there are answers, we can take heart.

Today we are at a serious point in history. And because we are living history, it is vital that we take the time to remember – very carefully remember – before we take action or respond in a way that is reflexive. Though each of us have our own personal history and memories to draw from, we also have our biblical and world-wide shared history to examine and recall. We should be able to read, watch, and consider information in order to come to a conclusion for ourselves and our families, and to influence what happens in our cities, province and country. We are also starting to sense, even more critically, that our action or inaction have the ability to affect things on a world-wide scale.

Censorship is a real threat today. The Government of Canada is actively seeking ways to control what you are able to see and read, in order to affect your response to politics. This censorship will deprive you of important information – information you are entitled to as a citizen in a free country. Only in a country that is in the process of losing its freedoms, or in one that is no longer free, does the government decide what you get to base your decisions on. The next step, of course, is that you will not have to consider your position at all, for it will be provided to you.

Home educators should be aware of this tendency towards censorship, as we have fought it on a provincial level in recent years. Do you recall the efforts to have the Human Rights Code instilled in the Education Act? This would have resulted in creating an expectation about what you could teach that may have conflicted with what you explained on a personal belief level to your children. Do you recall the efforts to dictate to the independent Christian schools that they could not use biblical language in their policies? Many home educating families, who notified with these schools that had to go to court to defend their right to hold and/or teach from a religious perspective, will remember this significant battle. Yes, the threat to freedom is real in our own province.

Anyone, including home educators, who thinks that they need not concern themselves with life outside their home is committing a grave error in judgement. "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean that politics won't take an interest in you," said Pericles. Edward R. Murrow was blunter, "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." We do ourselves, and our community, a disservice by disengaging. This is true in the normal day-to-day, and even more so in a time of unease, strain, change and crisis. Now is when we must do our best work to affect governmental responses and to see that our interests are preserved and protected.

AHEA has long stood as an independent voice for home educating families in the province of Alberta. Within the education community, we have a 35-year history of speaking up for families that are affected by government action. This has allowed us to advocate for positive change and to resist the negative. We must never forget that ongoing actions are constantly required in both circumstances. And we must constantly be preparing for next steps, because there are always other groups preparing theirs.

Your direct connection with AHEA is critical to our ability to protect and speak up for your interests. The home educating family that supports AHEA's work through donations enables us to provide a voice for their interests. You can observe the work being done, or you can remember what is being done by internalizing and seeing how you are directly affected by this work… And remembering will lead to action. We need your direct financial support today, so that we can continue to support the work you do each and every day in your home. Please see our website for information on work being done on your behalf and to make a donation to keep our voice loud and strong. We need you just as much as you need us!

God gave you the rights that we are all endowed with, and men died for the freedoms you have enjoyed. Let us ensure that we work hard to have an informed, nuanced, biblical and educated perspective in order to take appropriate actions today. We need to remember and take action, instead of just being observers. 

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Welcome to the Web

Welcome to the Web

Alberta Education's Home Education webpage has been updated in response to AHEA's feedback. Home educators should find the refreshed information reflective of the current options available to them. AHEA has been pleased to collaborate with the Alberta Department of Education to ensure that families starting to consider home education will have the clarity of content they need, provided in a welcoming expression that reflects our community. Stay tuned for an update on the Home Education Handbook this fall!

Please make sure to refer new home educators to AHEA's own website for more helpful information and to stay up-to-date on the advocacy work that AHEA does year-round on their behalf. They will also want to be informed about future events like the annual AHEA Convention, looked forward to by families from across the province, with inspiring speakers and a large exhibit hall to browse.

AHEA is a not-for-profit organization that appreciates the support of the community.
Donations to AHEA can be made here

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~ FUNDING UPDATE ~

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                                           AHEA – Working for You!

AHEA is very pleased to announce that the updated version of the Alberta Education Funding Manual for the 2020/21 school year released on June 18th, 2020 contains many of the great improvements for home educators which we have been busy advocating for. Considering where the discussion started, which was that home education would be included in the weighted moving average policies like school based model funding, we have come a long way. Home education funding, therefore, has managed to successfully maintain many of the necessary considerations for our unique model, and has changes in several areas.

The following are basically quoted from the guide itself, with comments by AHEA's Government Liaison italicized, if given. Some of the information is repeated for your information and clarity in general.

Retained/Maintained
  • September 30th enrollment deadline for home education.
  • Must reside in Alberta on the September count date of the current school year.
  • 50% of the funding grant is available directly to parents/guardians as reimbursement for instructional materials and services that support the instructional program at home.
  • Education plans must be consistent with the learning outcomes… in the Alberta Program of Study or stated in the schedule attached to the Home Education Regulations. Further information will be provided in the coming weeks after the Home Education Regulations are updated, pending the passing of Bill 15 and the clarification on a new option for Notification Only, No Funding (NONF). Currently you can wait or register under any option available, and feel free to move before the Sept. 30th cutoff date.
  • The associate board (that you notify with) must provide the resident board information through PASI and Student records. This is not new, but all home educators should know that their student information and funding is processed this way, without exception.
  • An associate board or associate accredited funded private school must offer to the parents of a home educated student no less than 50% of the home education funding for the purchase of instructional materials.

Improved
  • Parents who submit receipts for at least 75% of eligible expenses will receive the entire $850.00. This will allow purchases between people, garage sales, etc. to focus more on the purchase than the paperwork. Just note that it will not be allowed if you don't provide the first 75% of documented receipts.
  • The Standards for Home Education Reimbursement have been updated and are good for you to reference while planning for next year. You should note that items need to be necessary for and related to your student's program (this is important to qualify for the funding) and paid for and supported by invoices. You may reference them anytime, but important to note now are the following items which have been made 100% eligible. (Keep in mind the note about regarding 75% back up provided and 25% backup note required IF the 75% is documented.)
    • Lessons – including, but not limited to, music, swimming and language…
    • Tangible assets – e.g. cameras, telescopes, musical instruments, physical education equipment, sewing machines.
  • Parents have up to two years to access the parental portion of home education funding. Parents are guaranteed the option of rolling over their funding by the government, not their associate board. This should not be seen as an allowance but as a right you are entitled to everywhere you may choose to register without exception.
  • Parents will be allowed to transfer some or all of the parental portion of the home education funding (your $850) to the associate school authority for education supports should they choose to. If parents decide to transfer their funding, they will be required to sign a Parent Declaration Form to facilitate this transfer. This option allows you to allocate your funding to an associate board instead of having unused funds return to AB Education. Some may choose to easy the tax payer burden. Others may wish to support an associate board, which will be limited in their use of the funds to educational supports, not general or discretionary use. This is important for us all, as we desire clear accountability to parents and the government for funding usage, critical in the reputation of our home education model.
  • If parents decline or do not claim the parent portion of the Home Education funding, Alberta Education will recover the unclaimed/declined portion, the year following the previous two year period. You don't have to worry about this, as your associate board will handle the paperwork based on your choice and submissions. Do be aware, however, that the carry-forward allotment should always be considered 'used first' by your associate board, so that you have the maximum flexibility and use of your funds.

Problem Areas – Still Under Discussion
  • Home education / Shared Responsibility students are not eligible for severe disabilities funding. We continue to work on special needs funding as an item that should be dealt with apart from their educational model choice. Students should not be discriminated against because of their preference.

                                          OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST

New – Shared Responsibility Funding Clarified

This is a significant clarification by Alberta Education. Many people considering home education, and weighing the choice of parent directed versus teacher directed, have looked at funding differences as a deciding factor. The clarification by the government that NO additional funding be provided by ANY method, was necessary and closes a loophole that had been abused. Any additional funds that a shared responsibility program receives are to be used to pay for the teacher portion only. Parents are not eligible for extra perks – so getting them should make us stop and look harder, not away.

  • Students that are coded as shared responsibility students and meet the program requirement outlined in The Guide to Education will be funded at the shared responsibility rate. Shared responsibility programs receive additional funding to address instructional costs.
  • In order to qualify for shared responsibility funding, at least 20 percent of the program must be delivered by the school authority, up to a maximum of 80 percent, and be teacher-directed. Below this range, the student should be enrolled as a regular home education student. Above this range, the student should be enrolled as a regular/online student, with the school authority responsible for 100 percent of the program and the parents not eligible for any home education funding.
  • School authorities that provide shared responsibility program may use some or all of the parents' 50 per cent funding, only with parent's signed agreement, to pay for the cost of these courses and required instructional materials.
  • Reimbursements to parents of students in a Home Education or Shared Responsibility program, may not exceed $850.00 in value per year and are subject to the same reimbursement interpretations as the Standards for Home Education Reimbursement, whether they are reimbursements, ordered by purchase order or directly procured by school or district. Note the lack of exception for payments by another means. Going around direct funding for you as the parents is no longer a loophole to be exploited.

Online and Regular School Models

This is critical to understand, given the recent impact on choices to educate at home. Online school is not the same as home education. There should be no funds provided to the families when the teacher directed program is the model chosen. There should be no exceptions. 

  • School authorities are not permitted to provide funding, whether by reimbursement, purchase order or direct procurement, to students or families in cases where a student is enrolled in an online or regular school program.


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Overall, the clarification for home educators in all matters of funding is not only necessary to understand, but critical to ensure that proper stewardship is maintained by everyone. AHEA families would be wise to seek to ensure that there are not instances of exceptions to these guidelines, as that reflects badly on our community, deteriorating trust internally and externally. Help us help you!

AHEA is pleased with the efforts of Education Minister LaGrange and her office to listen well to the comments and the concerns presented. If you have suggestions or recommendations for changes you'd like to see advocated for, you should approach AHEA directly for us to be able to respond appropriately and through the proper channels. We have witnessed and see before us the results of good advocacy and listening by an Education department who wished to ensure parental choice in the system based on respect for all the models under its care. Home education is a valid and valuable choice that all Albertans can and should consider when making education choices for their children.  

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