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Is home school where the heart is? Add to ...

The Globe has assembled more than 100 bright minds from across the country – teachers, parents, policy-makers, even a few brilliant students – to weigh in on education issues throughout the school year. Our “School Council” will bring a multitude of perspectives on complex issues, helping to inform our stories going into the school year ahead. This week, we look at homeschooling: What happens when the parent becomes the teacher and the home is the classroom? How do teachers feel about parents who assume their role? How can homeschooling get better? Here’s what School Council members had to say:

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Tara Colbourne, mom, online teacher, Comox, B.C.:

I have been thoroughly impressed by the social, emotional and intellectual development of the children who are learning at home. So much so, that my husband will be leaving his job in two years to home school our children during their grade 8 and 9 years.

Parents who elect to homeschool, whether religious or dealing with a severely challenging child or parenting a gifted child or fairly leftist in philosophy, are all home-schooling to protect their children from the perceived/real threats in the public school system. Boredom, bullying, sex, drugs, idiocy, lousy teachers, hyperactive classroom behaviour, shallow curriculum... I have heard all of these reasons for having a parent stay home and set up a school room. I confess, I’m a teacher and I find myself saying, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep... it’s all true.

Homeschooling can fail.

When parents are not plugged in and students are left to sort of muddle through, say, online courses all by themselves, motivation dwindles, loneliness sets in and students start to learn how to level up in a video game instead.

Stephen Hurley, dad, Catholic school teacher, Milton, Ont.:

Given that a good deal of the social values, visions and ideals that we have are shaped and communicated through our social institutions, it would be interesting to ponder what might happen if a large percentage of families took up the home-schooling banner and became their own mini school districts.

I tend to think that a significant portion of our social fabric would begin to unravel, and we might end up with a degree of instability.

Dan Grassick, elementary school teacher, Calgary:

I have worked with many bright home-schooled students in my career. There is nothing academically wrong with them. I’ve never met a home-schooled student who wasn’t going to university.

Where they lack is in their social interactions with others. They are weak when there is conflict or disagreement.

Carmel Suttor, mom and teacher, Toronto:

I can think of a number of circumstances where home schooling might be the better option:

One – in the kindergarten years, some children really hate school, cry every morning, don’t make friends, and get a negative label from frustrated teachers.

These are important years when many teachers label kids, and kids start to internalize those labels.

Two–any point in elementary school where a child is miserable and he or she is misunderstood by a teacher or getting an inordinate amount of bullying.

“First, do no harm” should be the principle to follow.

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