The necessity for homeschool community

First post in a four part series.

June marked the end of our third year of homeschool co-op. And like each year before, our family was part of the musical theatre production in May.

I need to tell you about that production because it's a HUGE part of our life each spring. But first I need to give some context to the role of homeschool co-op in our lives.

I can't tell you about our homeschool co-op or our amazing yearly theatre production without backing up all the way to the ministry of education and talking briefly about homeschooling in Quebec.

A new homeschool law and regulations are just coming into effect this summer in Quebec, it's been the big news in the homeschool community here. Things will be changing, and we're not sure to what extent, but up until this point, homeschooling in Quebec has been like homeschooling thirty years ago in the rest of North America.

Lots of families homeschool under-the-radar and for those of us who never had kids in school we don't register our kids with school boards (the previous law was vague about requirements). Because homeschooling existed in this weird "we're not sure who's responsible for these kids" space, homeschool families are known to get visits and sometimes more threatening actions by child protective services.

We faced that fear ourselves when we lived on the peninsula. It was all fine in the end and we were encouraged and affirmed by the social worker assigned to our file for doing such a good job, but it was still scary.

Homeschooling has existed in a grey zone of responsibility and authority in terms of the the law, the ministry of education, and local school boards. That's all about to change and I think, overall, things will improve in terms of visibility and perhaps resources for homeschoolers, but I'm near the end of this chapter of parenting and so the ramifications won't affect us, either way.

What all this has meant for years and years is that homeschooling families in Quebec are completely on our own in terms of services and support for educating our children. Quebec is so behind the times in education, and progressive education especially, it's unbelievable, but don't get me started down that path. There are many things I love about living in Quebec, the K-12 education system is not one of them!

To be completely on our own as homeschoolers means that anything the school system normally offers children, we must do ourselves.

I don't believe this is the best that society can do for children, families, and communities. This kind of fractured educational model does not align with my personal philosophy of education regarding how children of a society are to be educated, and what the ends and means of that education are. (My personal philosophy of education in specific terms of how I teach, facilitate, and provide education for my own children is a subset of that overall philosophy of education).

Perhaps in my next career I'll be some kind of advocate, policy maker, leader in education reform (I'm currently in a life phase of putting all the options on the table), but for now I'm just a homeschool mom raising and educating three kids without any help from tax-payer funded school resources.

But I'm not alone. Damien is an equal partner in this, committed and invested in different ways. And together, we're part of a community of strongly-committed parents similarly raising and educating their children.

This is why we come together, because we need each other. As a group, do see eye-to-eye on everything? Absolutely not. And I struggle with that sometimes. My particular situation is that I belong to a somewhat conservative Christian community with which my theology and practice of faith does not always align.

But like I said in this post, we believe "in the primacy of family, parents, and parent-facilitated community in the formation of the child. As parents we feel responsible to raise our children, to lead, guide, teach, mentor, educate, etc. And we want to be a part of a community that believes and does likewise. We need a village and our village is a Christian homeschool co-op."

There are shared core values and there are differences. We don't always see eye-to-eye, but we do stand shoulder-to-shoulder.

This is my context.

Every family I know, homeschooled and schooled alike, does the best they can for their children with the resources at hand. My friends, family, and extended community all happen to be great parents, homeschooling or not. But it behooves me to point out that homeschooling in a jurisdiction without any support (and sometimes significant push-back and harassment) requires a tremendous amount of dedication and sacrifice from parents.

I can't even begin to recount all the ways I see families making sacrifices, often at great personal cost, to homeschool their kids.

Please hear me, this is not "aren't homeschool parents great, all parents should be like us". We're very human parents, just like everyone else. And I'm also not saying homeschooling is better. It's one way of raising kids and it has to work for the family and work for the kids. But I believe the same can be said for schooling also, it has to work for the family and work for the kids.

There's no easy path to raising kids. But in a society where most kids go to school, choosing an alternative path necessarily brings more resistance and effort.

I think good parents expend incredible energy on their kids. Perhaps when you homeschool you just expend the energy in different ways. All I know is that our life raising teens and young adults revolves around our kids and being a part of a healthy community to support their spiritual, social, and academic well-being. And it's a sacrifice in many ways.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have made the same choice to homeschool had I known the level of commitment it would require. On those mornings when I wake up at 5:30, anxiety lurking at the edge of consciousness, a gnaw of regret about "something" lacking in my life or my children's life, when I feel I've failed as a mother, it's easy to look at homeschooling as the scapegoat.

But my answer to "would I do it again?" is yes, the same way it's yes (a million times over) to my husband Damien, the same way it's yes (a million times over) to the existence and lives of my children. The same way it's yes to the Spirit working in my life.

How do not say Yes to your life?

To be continued...

« A girl and her dress
The potential of community »

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