Every once in a while, someone gets inspired to fix a problem and, with much effort, accomplishes the task. The big questions are: what problem was being solved and was it really a problem in the first place? Furthermore, was consideration given to the fact that each new development comes with its winners and losers? How much did the losers lose and how are the winners really benefiting? Sometimes, victories are shallow. When truly evaluated, did the “solution” end up causing more harm than good, in the long run?
Take Alberta’s new home education option for Notification Only as an example. Had this been offered in 1988, it would have been a spectacular triumph. Thirty years later, however, with parents having full choice in where to register for home education, we must ask why we needed to solve a problem that essentially no longer existed. Today, anybody unhappy with their existing situation need only request a change of facilitator or find another willing non-resident board to work with.
Considering that since the early 1990s there has been a facilitator, a school and a board buffering parents from the government, one should question how the new Notification Only option is an improvement when it makes the government the direct family supervisor. The winner is clearly the government, while the home educator’s benefits are debatable.
If AHEA is informing us that it has taken decades to get the Notification Only option passed, is it possible that it is no longer needed? Or does it indicate a level of ineptitude on AHEA’s part or intransigence on the government’s part? Perhaps all of the above.
Until I did my facilitation visits this year, I was completely at a loss as to why anybody could see Notification Only, with no funding and no school supervision, as a positive option. Now that I have come to see just how abusive some of the home education providers can be, I can understand why some parents would want to escape the tyranny of schools and agencies who believe they know better than parents.
What a heart breaker! Once upon a time I saw my “competitors” as colleagues with the common goal of validating parental claims to authority and responsibility in education. Now I see them more as compromisers, far more interested in leading their “flock” back to the better paying public programming we were all wanting to escape at the dawn of this province’s home education movement.
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.
Before proceeding with this presentation, I really must take the time to make a few things more clear.
To start, I am at a loss as to what or who I am having issues with. AHEA is a corporate entity, a not-for-profit society and as such is a bloodless, heartless, gutless, spineless, brainless “something” that cannot think, feel or act on its own. It requires people to create it in the first place and people to provide it with the human characteristics we often find ourselves at odds with.
It is therefore useless, even silly to accuse me of any emotion towards this “thing”. However, it is noteworthy that I have had issue with the folks acting in leadership capacities since AHEA’s inception. After all these years, I have come to see why I have mostly opposed the Alberta Home Education Association’s positions and actions throughout its history.
Who Are Home Education’s Enemies and Friends? On the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) (Part 4)
History clearly shows that home education has not really been in danger or threatened in this province. From the government’s perspective, the biggest issue has actually been how to best deal with this educational option, but never how to eliminate it. Indeed, although the Government of Alberta had to eventually reduce and allocate its distribution of funding, it has never refused it for home educated students. This shows at least some evidence of support, even though some see funding more as the government “buying” access to greater influence, rather than a help.
To be sure, home education has its enemies, in particular the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) which advances home education as inferior to public education, as it likely sees it as robbing them of dues-paying members. However, I believe the greatest threat has always been from the inside, not from the government or the ATA who can only complain.
There has always been opposition from within the church and religious agencies which have succumbed to the notion of government having greater authority over children than parents.
Foundations of Alberta’s Home Education Movement: On the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) (Part 3)
Last time, I discussed the environment and time in which the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) was created. I also briefly mentioned the history of another agency that had a completely different approach to helping the home education community in this province. This agency was the Home Education Corporation of Alberta (HECA).
HECA drifted off into the annals of history but while in existence, it was very different from AHEA. HECA wanted to completely separate the home educated from the authority and control of the government while AHEA negotiated with the government to obtain greater freedom and protection which ultimately proved to be the more successful approach. The debate continues as to whether or not it was the best approach and alas, we have what we have.
AHEA was successful in advancing protection for the home educated and I would be remiss if I did not applaud AHEA’s influence in the formation of the 1988 School Act. This was the first piece of legislation in the province’s history to even mention home education. AHEA’s insistence on protecting home educators from undue persecution or unreasonable demands resulted in the creation and entrenchment of a unique educational phenomenon, that of the willing non-resident board which continues to this day.
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.
A friend of mine, a well known (and aging) wordsmith of notable repute by the name of Ted Byfield, has repeatedly encouraged me with his understanding of history. He often repeats that we cannot possibly understand where we are without at least being somewhat aware of where we have been. He has written a great deal on this topic, which I recommend that you read.
The Jewish culture and writings clearly understood the importance of history by repeatedly making reference to the past, particularly through genealogy, which was used to establish the authenticity of the narrative being presented. Indeed, every one of our lives is based on past events. That’s why we also reflect on parents, grandparents, relationships, genealogy and family trees.
It is important to understand that history cannot be changed and should never be revised to suit or accommodate recent understandings. Agree or not, history is history. Those who revise history are likely to infuse the past with modern mistakes and render it useless, while those who ignore it are likely to repeat its mistakes.
In the last two blogs, I discussed how a nearly twenty-year-old presentation on home “schooling” affected me, both nostalgically and philosophically. It was good to be reminded of what home “schooling” was like and to be able to compare those times with what is going on today.
Indeed, what I observed reminded me of some of the wisdom Solomon shared with us in the Bible, particularly his statement “that there is nothing new under the sun.” It brought me sadness to see that in spite of having gained many victories in home education, much has really not changed.
This is largely due to the fact that school has been so internalized as the way to educate. In spite of the great strides made to bring home education to the forefront of educational approaches, many, if not most, people continue to practice some variation of schooling at home. Even when claiming to be unschooling, parents make references to curriculum, grades and standards.
Continue reading “Wisdom is Simple: Why Complicate Things? (Part 3)”
Last week, I discussed how nostalgia made my listening to a nearly twenty-year-old broadcast session about home “schooling” interesting. Today, I would like to share the other reason this experience grabbed my attention.
I must admit that when I initially listened to these sessions in 2002, I was, well, nearly twenty years younger and also twenty years less experienced in the field of education.
Now, approaching thirty-five years’ experience in the home education venture, I have come to know things I did not know or believe in 2002, which would have been about half way through the approximately forty-year history of the modern day North American home education movement.