A Basis for Notification Only: On the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) (Part 6)

Categories: Léo’s Insights 2020-2021, On The Alberta Home Education Association

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As a school teacher, my all-time favourite principal was a great fellow with a big heart for education. Even though he was the leader of a large school in Edmonton, he insisted that everyone in possession of a teaching certificate teach at least one class. He himself taught two, one at a grade ten level and another at grade twelve. He simply did not want to have an educational environment where people were out of touch with the purpose of the school, namely the children and their education. To him, they were more than just a commodity that brought income. He saw them as real people in need of a service he intended to make sure everybody in the school delivered.

I also believe everyone with a teaching certificate who works with Education Unlimited should be involved in facilitation. Of course that is silly, since all our teachers are facilitators and they most certainly are well aware of who the “clients” are! This rule actually applies to me. I never want to lose touch with who we are, who we serve and what is needed to make our facilitators’ jobs as easy and stress free as possible.

The truth is the parents are our clients, even though, technically speaking, they are not the ones being funded. We stress the importance of family and the authority of the parents, especially fathers, while those with a greater focus on the students and the associated funding normalize the claim of government authority in education.

One of the advantages to still being “out in the field” so to speak, is that I continue to have my ear to the ground. I hear all kinds of things I would never hear otherwise. Most people simply act as sounding boards when parents complain about their past experiences with other boards, however I listen and ponder how this could be affecting home education in general.

During our recent facilitation visits, a number of things came to my attention. Firstly, a number of home education “providers” did not make personal visits this fall. Perhaps it is my cynicism at work, but I could not help but think that these “providers in absentia” saw an excellent way to cut back on expenses and increase their bottom line. Are we in this… to engage with the family?… or for the money? I wish I were kidding, but I often wonder where most of the home education industry would land if funding were eliminated!

Secondly, I was very disappointed to hear stories respecting former facilitators from parents who had determined to change “schools”. Perhaps I naively assumed other agencies, particularly ones associated with private Christian schools or those claiming to have a Christian base, were all advancing parental authority, but I was dead wrong!

This year of Covid19 issues as well as other major events, such as the relocation of the biggest home education provider to a Catholic school in Calgary, along with other major shifts, created a lot of confusion in the home education world. Parents took the opportunity to change school boards.

I assumed it was because of the changing demographics of the providers which was indeed the case with many families, but one glaring thing came at me. Many folks were simply done with their facilitators telling them what to do, how to do it, what should be expected, as well as generally discouraging parents from doing what they wanted. Parents no longer wanted to answer to the self-proclaimed authority of these government representatives.

It is critically important to understand that the minute your facilitator or school exercises authority over you, they are coming from a school perspective where government is god. Regardless of claims to Christianity, anyone exercising authority over parents is not coming from a Christian understanding and should be immediately fired!

Parents’ complaints helped me gain a bit of perspective on why the newly minted Notification Only option might be attractive. If the school is exercising authority over parents, if facilitators are demonstrating a top-down authoritarian approach, if the school does not offer anything of value, if parents are made to feel that they answer to something other than God, it is easy to understand that Notification Only might be attractive. Anything to get rid of the problem, I suppose.

Understand that since most providers also provide government programming, which grants them significant additional income, it is not in the best interest of providers to honour the authority of parents. It is much more lucrative to frustrate parents’ programs and offer “help” in the form of shared responsibility and online public programming. I should have followed the money!

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