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Alberta Home Education Association

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Step 2: Update to Public Health Measures

Accessing Off-Site Facilities A door has opened... accessing off-site facilities.

AHEA continues to work with the Alberta Department of Education, voicing concerns and sharing examples of issues faced in the home education community. They are the ones interacting directly with Alberta Health Services on behalf of students across the province. Please note the wording is 'home education co-ops' and/or 'supportive group learning environments.'   You may wish to review prior articles on this blog for helpful clarification and action items. AHEA's work continues unabated and your joint efforts and action assist us greatly. 

Here is the latest update from the Deputy Minister of Education for your review...

"Step 2 of Alberta's four-step framework to carefully ease COVID-19 restrictions took effect on March 1. The changes to public health measures included the authorization of low-intensity indoor fitness activities and the reopening of libraries with restrictions.

On March 8, 2021, CMOH Order 05-2021 was signed to amend CMOH Order 04-2021. Both orders provide further clarity for local facilities to support student learning, and eases a number of restrictions for activities permitted under Steps 1 and 2 on The Path Forward for Albertans. For education, the new Order does not change the ability for school authorities and home education co-ops/supportive group learning environments outside of homes to access off-site facilities (public or otherwise) for physical education or performance/performance arts programs.

In addition, section 82.7 of CMOH Order 05-2021 provides home education co-ops/supportive group learning environments with the ability to meet in approved off-site facilities for an activity that is not curriculum based, but related to youth development.

As a reminder, in addition to monitoring hospitalizations, Alberta's government will also be monitoring other metrics, including case numbers, growth rate and the impacts of COVID-19 variants, to guide any decisions regarding the need to pause further steps or potentially increase restrictions.

Joint home education co-op activities/supportive group learning environments outside of their homes must continue to adhere to the following health measures that also apply to schools.

  • Parents and students engaging in joint learning activities with other home education families outside of their homes must use the appropriate Alberta Health Daily Checklist and adhere to recommendations of the Zone Medical Officer of Health or designate, including having a responsible adult within each cohort to identify close contacts should there be a case of COVID-19 identified within the cohort.
  • Parents and students choosing to engage in joint learning activities with other home education families outside of their homes, (e.g., community hall or rental facility) will be considered a cohort and must follow the cohorting guidance in the COVID-19 information: Guidance for schools on re-entry scenario 1.
  • Parents and students 10 years of age and older (Grades 4 and older) who choose to engage in joint learning activities with other home education families outside of their home must wear a non-medical face mask in accordance with the masking requirements in school (CMOH Order 33-2020).
  • Parents are required to develop procedures outlining hand hygiene requirements and follow enhanced cleaning, disinfecting guidance in the COVID-19 information: Guidance for schools on re-entry scenario 1.
  • Parents and students must follow the physical distancing guidelines in the COVID-19 information: Guidance for schools on re-entry scenario 1.

Please note that cohorts should be maintained for learning based on outdoor play, recess and outdoor learning activities. Indoor and outdoor learning activities must take place in facilities only and not in homes as the indoor and outdoor social gatherings and performance activities restrictions remain in place.

The safety of students remains our top priority throughout the school year."

REMINDER: Your continued and vocal efforts to draw attention to any concerns and hardships your families are experiencing are critical. They encourage those we are speaking with to continue evaluating and revising the current policies. Your ability to care for and educate your children is your responsibility as home education parents. AHEA encourages you to do all you can to make decisions for your family to function in the way that you deem best.

Help US Help YOU & Support AHEA Today!
AHEA works hard year-round to advocate for home education in Alberta. We are grateful to be able to speak to issues like this in a constructive way to government on your behalf. Your support of our organization allows us to focus on the issues that we face today and anticipate facing tomorrow.

Explore our website here and make financial contributions here.

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Home Educators Accessing Off-Site Facilities

Accessing Off-Site Facilities A door has opened... accessing off-site facilities.

AHEA was notified today of further changes to freedoms that home educating families have under the current guidelines. We continue to work with the Department of Education on your behalf. We are all functioning under the Department of Health's oversight in this matter.

The health orders can be difficult to follow and context is critical. I am pleased to note that the previous definition of 'school' in CMOH Order 42-2020 Sec. 33 (c) (i), which specifically excluded home education, has been amended. Today's CMOH Order 02-2021 Sec. 55 (b) and (c) corrects the misconception that home education and the children are 'social gatherings,' not learning environments and students as well. While AHEA prefers to see home education noted as being a unique educational model in most circumstances, it is being broadly associated with other educational models for clarity here. This is significant because we can now ensure that you are able to read the Orders as they apply to 'schools' as distinct from 'the public' and know that they apply to you. Items covered in our last advisory remain in place (like cohorting for recess) unless specifically changed.

The Key is Cohorting Groups

When we are interacting as a cohort group, like a classroom that exceeds 10 students, we are able to take certain actions that are not permissible for the general public. This means that if you are able to maintain your learning bubble, not intermingling with the public, you can be in the places that are prohibited under Appendix A Sections 1-3 for the purposes of your educational learning/activities. Some discretion will be required of course, but a business that is closed to the public that has space you could utilize may be open to your creative educational use. As long as you are able to maintain your cohorting group and not be mingling with the public, you are allowed to book and use facilities. If you note a school can be in a facility, you may as well.

The Deputy Minister helpfully advised of the changes to public health measures for education relate to indoor and outdoor children's sport and performance activities, and provides additional clarity on their application to home education. You may quote this in your interactions with facilities/businesses or AHS staff as needed:

"School authorities and home education co-ops / supportive group learning environments outside of homes will now have the flexibility to access off-site facilities (public or otherwise) where access is limited to home students and parents from home education co-ops / supportive group learning environments. Activities are split into two distinct categories:

Home education or course-based activities

Physical education or performance/performance arts programs that are taking place in off-site facilities (e.g. curling rinks, skating rinks, community halls, auditoriums, community theatres, museums and galleries) where students remain in their cohort. These activities must follow all health protocols in place since the beginning of the school year.

Non-home education or course-based group physical activities including athletics

Extra-curricular activities where students are mixing with other students who are not part of their regular cohort. Restrictions on these activities are:

  • A maximum of 10 individuals, including all coaches, trainers and participants, can participate.
  • All participants must maintain physical distancing from each other at all times.
  • Participants must be masked at all times, except when engaged in the physical activity.
  • Coaches and trainers must remain masked at all times.
  • There must be limited access to change rooms, including for accelerated and strictly distanced arrival and departure, for emergencies and for washroom use.

The complete list of approved off-site facilities is provided in sections 1, 2 and 3 of Appendix A of CMOH Order 02-2021 CMOH Order 02-2021 .

Additional information on these changes can be found within the new CMOH Order 02-2021. Metrics based on cases and growth, including COVID-19 variants, are being monitored and will also be used to guide any decisions around the need to pause further steps or potentially increase restrictions.

Please note that the health measures for joint home education co-op activities / supportive group learning environments outside of their homes previously articulated must continue to be adhered to.

The safety of students remains our top priority throughout the school year."

AHEA NOTES: Your continued and vocal efforts to draw attention to any concerns and hardships your families are experiencing are critical. They encourage those we are speaking with to continue evaluating and revising the current policies. Your ability to care for and educate your children is your responsibility as home education parents. AHEA encourages you to do all you can to make decisions for your family to function in the way that you deem best. 

Help US Help YOU & Support AHEA Today!
AHEA works hard year-round to advocate for home education in Alberta. We are grateful to be able to speak to issues like this in a constructive way to government on your behalf. Your support of our organization allows us to focus on the issues that we face today and anticipate facing tomorrow.
Explore our website here and make financial contributions here.

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Living Within A Lockdown

21.01.Living-Within-A-Lockdown Children are struggling with isolation, and parents are worried.

Parents have not only been processing the demands of the lockdown personally but assessing how it has been affecting their family – and more specifically, their children. The costs have been real in a multitude of ways throughout our society. And there is a very specific concern about the effects of the drawn-out lockdown on children that we need to address.

"According to pediatric disease specialist Dr. Ari Joffe, children living through the COVID-19 lockdowns are often facing family financial stress, family violence, loneliness, hunger, inactivity, and disrupted educational opportunities. This will result in "permanent profound impacts on their future quality of life, educational achievement, earning potential, lifespan, and health care utilization.""[i]

No one is living a 'normal' life – including home educators. Although we all are generally used to being together more than most families, and have likely coped better because of it, my son quipped that all the worry about home educated students not getting socialized has now become a government enforced mandate. A lack of socialization is hardly something that any home educating parent ever intends to be true, and in fact, it has been proven to be false for decades, even though the question is often still something we get asked. Studies have shown that the civic participation of adults that were home educated are higher than the comparable population.[ii] These activities do not suddenly start after they graduate, but are instilled in our children as they are brought up, covering participation areas that include political, sports, cultural, religious and community, service and more.

The lockdown mandates have been very stressful for some home educating families from the beginning due to various circumstances, but concern has been growing as the health orders have been extended from the initial two-week request. A parent's patience and desire to be a good citizen has been challenged by the isolation effects they are seeing in their children. AHEA parents are used to being able to make wise decisions about the welfare of their children. Having their ability to help them thrive curtailed, and in a way that lacked the civic process we are proud to regularly participate in, has been chaffing. Always an active population, this has now resulted in calls to their MLA's and various government offices in increasing numbers.

AHEA has been in communication with the Education Department and the Education Minister's office to highlight the concerns we have for our home education community's children. Our efforts have focused on a realistic, specific and healthy solution to this problem of isolation. Home education is a different model than the public-school model, and we require clear direction that applies to us. Interestingly, we are joined in this grey zone by another group that is being forced to experience this – public school distance learners. Therefore, we feel that there should be language that allows for different supportive learning situations. This includes more than 'a co-op,' as the current exceptions for those going to the school buildings or in school co-ops are not unquestioningly applicable to other scenarios.

AHEA has also stated that we would be unwilling to have home education families required to agree to further regulations or oversight for their children to have the freedom to interact with other children. Some families have been concerned that this is the cost that may be required to regain their ability to interact. AHEA believes in the individual, God-given responsibility of parents to do what is in the best interests of our children, and appreciate our Section 2 Charter Rights to our freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. Home education children are used to going to extra-curricular activities, music lessons, sports, clubs, and things as simple as the playground. Children of all ages need to interact, not only those in some models on a school playground.

Home education has received no covid related supports yet that AHEA is aware of. While we have been patiently waiting are response on our outstanding request for support due to the unprecedented growth, we feel that this reasonable request to address our children's social interactions is critical to see movement on shortly. We have further asked that the government speak in terms of a number of families, not a specific number of people, to accommodate different family sizes. Each family is unique and we support a range from those with a single child to those with larger families. We note that the government's guidelines in the school re-entry documents define a cohort as, "A COVID-19 cohort, also referred to as a bubble, circle, or safe squad, is a small group whose members are always the same people, and who do not always keep two meters apart. Cohorts in schools will generally be the size of one class."[iii] We need similar flexibility for our children so we can fulfill education plans made in the fall.

AHEA has been informed that the Minister and her staff at the Alberta Education department are currently working out the details to address this. They have said that they have received polite and respectful, yet firm and persistent, calls from parents. You are making a difference by reaching out to them, as well as calling your MLA's to lay the groundwork of support that is needed to ensure this is actionable.

AHEA is determined and expectant, and will be informed of a decision in short order. We are all working together to address the issue, and where there is a will there is a way. Stay tuned for the next turn in what has become our 'corporate life story,' and please continue to push for changes that will let us get back to our individual ones. It was ever so much more interesting when there was not a common narrator!


HELP US HELP YOU – SUPPORT AHEA TODAY!


[i] https://tnc.news/2021/01/17/just-the-facts-the-harms-of-the-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR2lXGlj3BXapPxLFQKn6Eq8lHjhErtkKByXXfS8GMFufNG1jiEQPrYy9DQ

[ii] https://cche.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2009StudyPrint-1.pdf, pg. 4

[iii] https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/41e1a5ec-7069-45cc-a3a5-6ff0b26a98a6/resource/ecf3c2c9-b3f5-4c8a-b076-0237cf95d720/download/edc-resource-guide-covid-19-cases-school-settings-2021-01.pdf pg. 5.

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Home Education Accessibility Needs To Be Addressed

20.10.Home-Education-Accessibility

AHEA knows that becoming a home educator is supposed to be accessible all year round. We started discussing the fact that the volume of people looking at home education was going to create a bottle neck at our July meeting with Minister LaGrange. We observed that covid was creating waves in the education world. There had already been an influx of interest by families who liked their child learning at home with them, now followed by those who are nervous, and potentially more who are unwilling or unable to work within the new school context for many reasons. The normal trickle of 'rescue' families by boards that are not eligible for funding may be a steady flow during this unusual year. We asked the Minister to have a plan in place to adjust funding after Sept. 30th.

Now that the September 30th Count Date has passed it has clearly become more difficult for families to access home education. AHEA has seen messages going up each day, looking for groups that are willing to accept families. It concerns us greatly that there has not been an official and public answer that addresses this disparity in access. The need for access was brought up early in order to head off the problem which is now being experienced by potential home education families. We are seeing 'registration closed' or acceptances with a fee or donation required, if a home can be found at all. This is certainly far from providing equal access or access to ideologically aligned supervision if it is desired. Notification only, no funding is but one of the choices that Alberta Education offers. We'd like to see parents continue to have ALL their choices in educational matters for their children.

Parents should know that the home education model is a valid, accessible, year-round choice. AHEA is counting on AB Education and the Minister working together with the home education community to ensure that this is the message being sent or perceived, publicly or within our community. The current logjam must be resolved quickly so as to not dishearten those who wish to become home educators this year. That is why AHEA is making this exceptional request regarding funding and has given a proposal for their consideration. Stay tuned.

                            *               *               *               *               *               *               *               *
 

Did you know... that you do not have to talk to the school or previous place you had your children with? 

NOTIFYING WITH SOMEONE NEW IS ALL YOU NEED TO DO!

Many parents get talked out of their decision when they advise someone that they are leaving. This results in an attempt to retain their 'business.' When your notification is entered into the PASI system, the old place you were with will no longer be able to count you - the files will be transferred automatically.  Spread the word! 

*This year it was a courtesy to advise any home education associate board if you were making a change as they have been flooded with inquiries. Public schools had been making personal calls to ask families what they are choosing. Remember, the choice is totally yours - there is no requirement to disclose your choice to anyone except as required by your new notification recipient.


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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Welcome to Teaching Your Children At Home

welcome-to-ahea-header

Welcome to AHEA, the Alberta Home Education Association. We are here to help those of you who are new to teaching your children at home on account of the restrictions our province has made related to the COVID-19 virus. We've been around since 1986 promoting home education, defending freedoms to do so, and providing various resources, such as an annual convention, a website, a Facebook page and a magazine called Home Matters.

I realize many of you are newly experiencing a full time endeavor of teaching your children at home. Most of you in this situation are in the unenvious position of bringing school home. Hopefully you will see from this article, as well as various helpful links on our site, that there is another excellent option, if not for the remainder of this school year, than for the upcoming fall: home education.

Back in the fall of 2009 I shared an article with AHEA members. I've included the start of it below. It should give you an initial feel for what we mean by the distinction between home education and bringing school home.

"Summer has come and gone, and now it's time for most of use to get into the groove of more formal education. Mind you if your family is like ours, learning did not stop during the summer, whether it was history and geology discovered on a family vacation, some math or music studies that continued part way into the summer months, or skills learned gardening and running lemonade stands. I recall from a couple of years ago at this time where our local public school had its large sign announcing: 'Welcome back to learning.' My eldest daughter, 8 at the time, remarked on that being a silly message. She figures that learning takes place whether or not formal school is in session. I concur."

Fast forward eleven years, and that daughter and my second have graduated and we are still home educating our five other kids ages 7 to 17. What is it about home education, teaching our kids at home, that draws my family and a growing number of other families to persist in this practice year after year? And why is it that a number of families who try to bring school home, rather than try out home educating, tend to send their kids back to school? In short, home education, although really tough at times, is a joy, while trying to replicate school at home is too tall an order for most folks to do over the long haul. Rather than further tackle these questions in this article, I will point you to several pages on our site that will get you to strongly question that the school model is the only or preferred method of providing learning to our children when they are at home.

Here is the key landing page to start with About Home Education.

From there I'd head to the New to Home Education section.

If you wish to dig deeper into what I mean by home education, head here: Defining Home Education.

To find out more how home education differs from simply bringing school home, read the information on the Home Education in Alberta Compared to Home-Based School Programs page.

Does home education get tougher in the high school years? Sure, but those of us who do it really think it's worth it. Check out our High School page. And if your children are approaching graduation, check out our Post Secondary and Apprentice and Mentoring pages.

If the above information convinces you to move from bringing school home to home education you will need to notify of your intent to home educate. For more freedom and a best fit for your family we suggest doing it with a private school. Check out this page for more details.

In closing, yes, learning doesn't just happen from September to June in a public school building. It can also happen at home and be a joyful family endeavor. Please join me and thousands of other Alberta families by embarking on home education. As well, feel free to reach out to us with particular questions.

Ted Tederoff

AHEA President

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