“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Much like Dovette, my story begins the same way. I sent my oldest daughter back to school after summer and my heart was broken for the fourth year in a row. I kept thinking that while I knew all mother’s feel some sort of sadness when the summer ends, that my heart felt differently. There was a restlessness growing in my heart that I knew I had to explore and homeschool wasn’t even on the radar yet. I began by checking out other programs offered at other local schools. I had interviews with principals at three different schools (including our own), trying to find what would satisfy my heart. It wasn’t until I sat with the principal at my daughter’s school that clarity began to take place. His words were simple. We are called to be the salt and the light in the world, but if we don’t have a solid foundation of what that means and who we are than how can we go out into the world and remain people of integrity who don’t bend and sway with the peer pressure? He was talking about growing our children within a Christian school, and yet God spoke with the utmost clarity to me in that moment. Next to God, who knows the needs of my children’s hearts better than us, their parents. Who knows their struggles, their strengths, and the way they think and behave better than us? And yet, each day I was depending on someone else to teach them to be the children, and one day young adults that God has called them to be. I knew in that moment that I wanted (along with my husband) to help my children grow their saltiness and burn the brightest light they can with a firm foundation that starts at home. It took some convincing to my husband that this was right, but after speaking to endless homeschoolers we were both convinced and began our journey. It’s now one year later, and I’m so thankful for this decision we made!
The moment we decided to homeschool opened up so many questions though. I can honestly say it was information overload leaving me with more and more questions, and a spinning head with where and how to start. Having just been there myself, I wanted to offer up what I learned in the first part of my journey in hopes of offering clarity to those of you just starting out or just beginning to think about homeschool. I apologize for the long winded post on this one, so my suggestion is to just keep to the questions you’re seeking clarity on and skip the rest.
Where do I begin?
Before you started signing papers and buying books take a minute to think about what you value. Maybe you’re a textbook lover who values facts and written knowledge and want to instill that in your kids. Perhaps the character of your child is more important to you than textbook knowledge. Maybe it’s faith, finances, creativity, of something else that you place value on in life. Whatever it is, write down the three most important foundations you think are most important for your child to learn. This will help you see where you want to invest the most time, money and effort into.
I keep hearing the terms traditional, blended, and aligned. What does this all mean?
In Alberta we have the option of choosing one the above mentioned options. Traditional means you are choosing all your curriculum based on what you want, without following any guidelines set out by Alberta Education for your child’s grade. It gives the least amount of funding (I believe it’s somewhere around the $850 mark this year)
Blended programs offer slightly more funding. The funding for this category this year sits around $1200. With blended you must be at least 50% aligned with Alberta Ed’s learning outcomes. One subject that must be fully aligned is either math or language arts, the rest is up to you and your board on where you wish to align. How you get the end objectives for the year is up to you and your board on what programs/ textbooks will work. You do not need Alberta schoolroom textbooks to achieve this.
Finally there’s aligned. As far as funding goes this category offers you the most funding (I believe it is around $1500 for this current year). Aligned means you’re matching all the required learning outcomes set out by Alberta Education. In much the same way blended programs work, you would need to discuss further with your board on programs /textbooks that would meet the standards.
Who holds me accountable?
Once you’ve got an idea of your values and have given some thought on the style of homeschooling you wish to do, begin your hunt for a school board. All students in Alberta are required to be part of a school board. This is not the same at the school your child attends daily. Homeschool boards are typically separate and there’s a long list of them. Quite often in the spring they will have open houses for you to come and check them out. Many offer school libraries, field trips, and plenty of help should your child need extra care. Take the time to explore them and speak with representatives to see if they make you feel comfortable. If you’re not comfortable with the facilitators or feel like you’re being pushed to teach something that doesn’t meet your core values than it’s not the right board for you and it’s time to keep looking. You can find a list of Alberta Homeschool boards here (click on #1 and download the Alberta boards).
Your board and facilitator will hold you accountable to the learning outcomes you desire to have for the year. It is their responsibility to make a report and send it to the government. Depending on whether you’ve decided tradition, blended or aligned will slightly change how they report back.
Do I need a membership of some sort as well as a school board to make it all legal?
One of the hardest things I struggled with was what and who I needed to sign up for. All you need is a school board, everything else is extra and YOUR choice on what to be part of pr not to be part of. Alberta Home Education Association (aka AHEA) is a great group with a wealth of homeschool information (seriously! go check out their website!), but not a requirement to join. They do offer a great annual conference with plenty of information and encouragement that I highly recommend attending if this this your first year (side note- plan on going to listen, but don’t buy anything, trust me it’s gets overwhelming). But again, the government does not require to be part of this association, or a local association either. These are more for social support. Another you may hear of is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (aka HSLDA). Again, it’s a great group and does have many benefits, but not a requirement (note: some memberships will also require you to have a membership with HSLDA).
Memberships aside, there are also many online social media groups for homeschoolers. And guess what? They’re free! They are groups of people who collectively get together for field trips (the more people you have the better the discount you may get :) ). I encourage you to join one of these. It’s a great way to make friends (for your kids and yourself), and offers great support when you need it (and trust me, there will be days when you’ll need support of some sort).
What’s the time commitment as a parent for all this?
When I first got started I had envisioned a 9am-3pm type of day with me standing at a chalkboard and teaching my children Monday to Friday from September to July. If you want the honest truth, I also envisioned myself in a long skirt, with perfectly curled hair, a table full of kids (FYI- we only have 2 kids plus one of the way), and they were also in well pressed clothes and washed, happy, and angelically peaceful. Ok, I pictured myself as Mrs. Duggar, because I was pretty sure that’s how homeschooling must look.
When I shared this with other moms they began to laugh and tell me how it actually goes.
- We work from about 9:30-11:30am on actual textbooks and then we are done for the day, with the exception of 15 minutes of reading before bed at night, and the fact that since we’re traditional I teach my kids all day using life. (ie- how to make cookies, how to take responsibility of pets, write and send an email to Grandma and tell her about your morning etc.). Do I stress about making sure that every minute after 11:30am is a teaching moment? Nope, sure don’t. Kids are smart! And having fun and playing and free time teaches them just as much!
- We didn’t start until October, it’s now December and we are halfway through all our textbooks. Since we are expecting a new baby in February, my daughter wanted to get as much done before then because, and I quote, “I want more time to help you and the baby, Mom!” (sweet kid hey?)
- Most homeschoolers are done by April, and that includes breaks at Christmas, Easter etc.
- You don’t need to look or be a Duggar to homeschool. We learn in our pj’s most days, it’s how we are most comfortable, and when you’re comfortable you’re brain works its best. Also, I am no where near as patient as the vision you may have of a homeschool mom. There have been many times I find myself forehead on the table counting to 10 wondering why she can’t grasp a simple concept.
What does it really all cost?
When I started hearing about funding and which route to take one of the things that I really wanted to know was what would it cost me and could I afford to not only be a stay-home mom, but also make all the purchases needed on one income? I knew I wanted to do traditional for an assortment of reasons, which also gave me plenty of flexibility, but I wanted numbers! So, for those of you who are number freaks like myself, here’s the breakdown of how our spending for this year has gone:
Language Arts 3 – program from A Beka…price: $80 (inc the workbook, teacher guide and shipping)
Math 3 – program from Bob Jones…price $100 (inc the workbook, teacher guide, and no shipping b/c I bought it at the store in town)
Geography book (not part of a program)…price: $20 (has all the countries and landmarks from the world, so it will be used for the next few years to say the least).
I also bought a few exercise books (the $1 kind for extra writing and math help).
Total for textbooks: $200 (all of which is covered by our funding)
My daughter is also in dance, which we chose and are able to use as physical education and get reimbursed for.
We use the library for many resources, and go on mini field trips (costing from free-$10).
There are also many free resources as well, like the following:
All our books were purchased new, but you can often find the teacher guides used at your local homeschool stores, which can save you a bit. And, I do highly recommend you get the teacher guide so you can quickly mark your child’s workbook and move on.
So there you have it, some answers to those frequently asked homeschool questions. I hope it helps you, and if you have more questions feel free to included them in the comments section.