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A simple fact about history is that it becomes increasingly more interesting with age. That is, as we get older, we have more of it on which to reflect. I must admit that I have been accumulating a fair bit of history, which I believe is saying I am aging! However, aging also grants me credibility when describing something that may have occurred long before the majority of my “listeners” were even born. I was actually there and really did experience those events at that time.
I want to share some history with you, hoping to help you understand how we have come to our current situation in home education and to encourage you to actively defend your rightful authority in the education of your children. I also desire to prevent returning to the past practices we wanted escape those many years ago, when home education first began.
Home education has always been part of Alberta’s story. Indeed, what do you think happened before the creation of public schools? Even after the advent of compulsory schools, some folks didn’t want their children leaving home or were just too isolated to send them. These students were either “home schooled” or “schooled” at home using a distance learning approach called Correspondence School which later morphed into the soon-to-be-defunct Alberta Distance Learning, which is being replaced with modern online programming.
I believe it is fair to say there have always been parents who simply did not trust the government to educate their children. However, following the secularization of the public system in the 60s & 70s, the province underwent a bit of a revolution in education that saw not only the creation of many private schools, but what can be accurately described as the beginning of the home education movement of the 1980s.
In the beginning, parents who chose to train and teach their own children at home had to be under the “supervision” of the local school board, which, at the time, was bordered within the local municipality. Most of these “authorities” were either ambivalent about or tolerant of this new movement as it was relatively small. The best schools provided books, but funding never was offered.
Most schools believed home education was, or should be, “school” at home, however some local boards were genuinely confused as to what to do with those demanding the right to home educate. Other boards were openly hostile and there grew a real need to do something regarding the persecution of parents choosing to home educate.
This was the environment in which and the time when the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) was created. There was a reason or a purpose for the creation of this provincial agency, which was primarily to find or encourage a solution to the unpredictable ways home educators were being treated, some of which bordered on abusive.
It should be noted that there was another agency created to represent the home educating community of the 1980s. The two competing agencies can best be delineated by their respective understanding of parental versus governmental authority. The other agency advocated for the separation of the two, while AHEA simply accepted the government’s claims to having the authority in the education of the province’s children.
Needless to say, the winner ended up being AHEA as, like today, most people simply accepted, indeed normalized government schools and programs as the standard, without so much as questioning why or how government came to have this authority.
So, while the Alberta Home Education Association may have had good intentions when representing the home educated, it has never challenged the government’s claim to having greater authority than parents in education. In fact, AHEA started with a subservient, albeit demanding approach to seeking from the government greater autonomy respecting home education. Still, it should be clear that from the start, AHEA has sought permission from the government to do what God has clearly intended to be a parental prerogative and responsibility.
It is important for today’s home educator to know this bit of history as it allows us to understand why and for what purpose AHEA was created.