Our experience of homeschooling in Ontario began when we decided not to send our youngest daughter to Junior Kindergarten when she was four years old.
She stayed home with us and we spent a lot of time outdoors on our hobby farm, feeding and caring for our animals, going to the beach to collect shells and pebbles, to the woods to watch the wildlife and to hike the trails.
We sang songs, read aloud together, played board games and generally included her in whatever we were doing.
We were also fortunate that we were able to travel to other parts of Canada and the US, which was incredibly educational for our daughter.
We found that our daughter learned quickly and easily, so the following year we decided not to register her for Senior Kindergarten, and we kept her home and continued to let her learn at her own pace.
For some children, school classes go too slowly and they become bored, for other kids they need longer to absorb information and school may not be a good fit for either of these children.
Homeschooling in Ontario allows your child to progress at their own pace, to move on to the next topic when they feel they understand the current one completely.
I have found, on our homeschool journey, that my mantra is "Always encourage, never push" and that worked well for us.
Whether your child is "gifted" or takes much repetition to learn and understand a new concept, home-education may be a great fit for your family.
We encouraged her curiosity and we answered her questions and guided her along in her search for knowledge, which at that young age, was things such as "Why is the sky blue?" and "Why do fireflies flash?"
I must admit that her Dad and I learned a lot during those years!
Before I forget - you may want to know the rules and regulations of Homeschooling in Ontario. The rules are simple ... there are none!
There is something to keep in mind though, if your child has never attended public school you can just go ahead an homeschool.
However, if you child has been registered in the public school system, it will be necessary for you to send the Board of Education a "Letter of Intent to Homeschool" and you can also send a copy to the principal of the school.
You are free to homeschool in Ontario in any way you choose, so you can re-create "school-at-home" complete with a school-room, curriculum and fixed school hours. You can stick to typical school "subjects" and "grades".
You can also unschool your children, which means a more child-led learning approach, where your children are free to read and study whatever interests them, so their days may include playing with Lego, playing outside, taking care of pets, going fishing, watching the birds at the bird-feeder, going ice-skating, hanging out with friends and taking a lawn-mower engine apart.
You may also choose something in between those two models - perhaps you would like your children to follow a curriculum for Math and Science, but encourage them to read and research whatever interests them for other topics.
In fact, when you are homeschooling in Ontario it is as if you are the Principal of your own private school, you have complete freedom to choose how your children learn, what they learn, and when they learn. You can teach every morning if you wish, or you can do "school" for a month and then take a week's vacation, it is entirely up to you!
Homeschoolers observing an ant colony
During our daughter's elementary years, we did not have a strict schedule, but a relaxed routine where we would read aloud to her in the morning after breakfast, watch something educational that she enjoyed next, such as "Dogs with Jobs" or "The Dog Whisperer" or other kid friendly shows on TVO, and after that we might fold laundry and talk about our plans for the rest of the day before we made lunch together.
Some days we visited other homeschooling friends for play dates or visits to the park and I found that friendships were made and parents networked at these events, and we always made weekly visits to our local public library for books and DVDs.
At various times we belonged to a couple of Home School groups where we would meet once a week for "classes".
The first was was Science-based and the organizers had various people coming to talk to the kids - I remember "The Snake Lady" who brought a tarantula and assorted lizards and reptiles for the kids to see and handle.
The second group consisted of the amazing organizer and about 50 families with about 125 children. Instructors were hired to teach the children, who were in three age groups, and there were three time slots each Monday morning. Parents also taught some of the groups.
So, a youngster may take "Crafts" from 9:00 to 10:00 followed by "Knitting" from 10:00 to 11:00, then "Chess" from 11:00 to noon. There was an assortment of topics including Tennis, Archery, Cooking, Ballet, Rocks & Gemstones, Canadian Step Dancing, Soccer and Hockey.
We were fortunate to live near a skating arena that offered free skating on Wednesday mornings, and there were often a dozen or more home educated kids who went there every week through the winter months.
We also had parents in the group who were willing to organize field trips to local places of interest, and plan skiing outings for the kids.
If you are homeschooling in Ontario or are considering taking this route, I would suggest that you find local groups on Facebook and find out what is going on in your community - the other parents can be a great resource for you.
Some families decide to home-school up until high-school, others decide to continue to teach at home through the high-school years and I think this is a decision best made by the parents and the child.
Field trip to see HMCS Haida in Hamilton harbour
Our daughter had no desire to attend a B & M "bricks and mortar" high school and was enjoying self-studying at home - she was interested in Military History, European & British History, Genetics, Psychology, Music and Photography.
During her teen years whilst homeschooling in Ontario, we went to England each year to visit my elderly mother and other relatives, and that always included visiting lots of historic sites and places of interest.
Over the years we also visited Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway and of course these were amazing educational experiences.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo
She was fortunate while homeschooling in Ontario to have the time and freedom to start her own business when she was 15, funded by a $3,000 government grant through The Summer Company. This program is open to young people who are continuing their full time education (including homeschoolers).
During her teen years our daughter also became part of a Home-school Theatre group where she learned not only acting skills but how to work with lights and sound systems.
At 16 she joined a local chapter of Sweet Adelines and has enjoyed many happy years singing in the chorus at performances and competitions.
When the time came for her to think about further education we learned about the W.I.S.E. Program at Western University which is a scheme where students in grades 11 and 12 can take one, free, university course which will count toward their degree.
Western University, London, Ontario
Normally, the school would apply to this program on behalf of the student, but as her School Principal, I applied for her!
The university required course outlines and a transcript of the subjects she had studied and passed, which posed a problem as she had never taken a course, nor had she ever followed a curriculum, so after consulting the admissions office, who suggested that we look at everything she had self-studied and make those into "Courses", we did that and they accepted her application and she took her first university course when she was 17.
Her first course at university was "Medieval Studies" and she passed the course with a great mark. The following year she took two courses, and since then she has taken three courses each year and graduated with her BA in History in 2022.
What I love about Homeschooling in Ontario
I love the complete freedom of content, we can teach Robotics to a six year old, explore historic monuments, if they are interested, or help an eight year old understand the various cloud formations, and perhaps thus fuel a love of climatology.
I love that we can teach anywhere we are. Visiting somewhere interesting can lead to ongoing research which doesn't have to stop when the bell rings at the end of 40 minutes.
I love that teaching your own allows a child to progress at their own pace, whether that is learning quickly and progressing fast, or being able to take longer to really grasp and understand a concept before moving on to the next.
I love that kids learning at home have more time to "day-dream" and relax when they need to, and are not controlled by a bell ringing every 40 minutes, all day, every day.
I love that there is little, or no, peer pressure.
I love that homeschooled kids don't have to spend up to an hour each morning and afternoon, on the school bus.
I love that homeschooled kids don't have to have "back-to-school" clothes, backpacks or supplies, they just keep using what they had last year! This saves a fortune when September comes.
I love the way we can school year-round if we wish which helps our children to remember what they learned and doesn't require the weeks of review when they return to school for the next grade.
I love that as an unschooling parent, my role is not necessarily that of "teacher", but rather as mentor, facilitator, guide, encourager and finder-of-resources.
I love the way home-schooled children mix with children of all ages, not just their same-age cohort.
I love the way that home-schooled kids can be part of their community as volunteers, because they have the time to do so.
I love the way that homeschooling families can make their faith a bigger part of their lives, and conversely, those who choose not to include religion in their learning are free to do so.
I love the way home-schooling gives young people time to pursue their passions, whether that be music, gymnastics, animals or anything else - in particular unschooling allows a youngster the freedom to play the drums all day if they choose (perhaps not the best example!).
Some terminology that may be of interest if you are new to the Homeschooling life!
Homeschooling means all types of home education, including Unschooling.
Traditional Homeschooling is an approach to homeschooling that recreates what happens in a traditional school setting, and is often called School-At-Home
B & M means "Bricks and Mortar" often used when referring to "real" school
Covid-Schoolers refers to those who are homeschooling due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but who will be returning their children to school when the crisis is over.
De-schooling means the time taken to get the school's way of doing things out of your child's system, to get to a point when learning becomes a pleasure again.
Unschooling is often called Child-led Learning or Free-Range Learning where children are allowed to learn what interests them with little, to no, direction from the parents.
Faith-Based Homeschool is a homeschool that focuses on faith-based curriculum and may have been formed for religious reasons
World Schooling is a term used when people travel to other countries while teaching their children.
Road Schooling is also used for those travelling as they educate their kids.
The W.I.S.E Program at Western University - WISE
The Summer Company for students - Summer Company
Schoolio - curricula with Canadian content - Schoolio
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS
M Turnbull from St Thomas writes ... Great article with helpful tips. I love the relaxed laid back approach, you describe it very well.
Carmen A from Waterloo said ... Thank you! I found this today as I was searching for information about having to send a Letter of Intent to our School Board or not. I want to continue teaching him at home after Covid, so I will be sending the letter soon.
Marj G from North Bay asked ... I was wondering whether I was obligated to keep records of my kids' progress when we home-school and if I have to keep a paper copy or a computer file. We are following a curriculum. I just read that I can keep records or not as I like, which takes a lot of pressure off me as we have four children. Thanks!
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