300% increase in homeschooling

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Added: Wed, 09/09/2020 - 9:55pm
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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC & PONTIAC – With school back in session, it appears homeschooling is becoming more popular during the COVID pandemic. Although the Centre de services
scolaire des Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais said it’s difficult to provide precise numbers, the Western Quebec School Board witnessed an estimated 300% increase in parents opting to homeschool their children; about 180 students this year compared to 67 last year, with approximately 75% in elementary school. 
Stewart Aitken, WQSB Director of Education, said the numbers will likely rise as the school year progresses, and according to one Municipality of Pontiac mother who has homeschooled her children for many years, actual figures are probably higher. “Some parents may have decided to keep their children home instead of sending them to Pre-K or Kindergarten; these numbers wouldn’t be recorded because the children weren’t in the school system yet and the parents may not have registered,” she said.
“There’s a lot of nervousness about the unknown and what to expect this school year, so for the people who were considering homeschooling but were on the fence, the pandemic gave them the motivation and edged them over,” she added.
Homeschooling and virtual schooling due to medical exemptions are very different. When a student is deemed medically vulnerable to COVID-19 or they reside with someone deemed so, a medical exemption exists, and those students will receive virtual schooling, or online learning, which the school board organizes and provides. The WQSB currently has 179 students registered in virtual school with 21 applications pending.
Shawville mother Angie Zacharias decided to keep all three of her children
home this year because her youngest, Logan, suffers from a genetic disorder called Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, which compromises his immune system; he’s in grade one. “I knew there was no point keeping Logan home if the others (grade eight and nine) would be going to school and could potentially bring the virus home,” she said. All three were granted a medical exemption. 
Zacharias had a Zoom conference with the school board to receive all of the details before online classes began on September 8.
“I’m lucky I’m home to be able to do this. I feel really bad for parents who have to work and don’t have the option,” she told the Journal.       
When choosing homeschooling, a parent (or someone hired) coordinates and carries out an educational plan and the teaching, although some resources are available through the school board and Ministry of Education (MEES). To begin, parents must send a written notice of intent for homeschooling to the MEES and school board before submitting an educational plan for each student to the Ministry; modifications may be requested before approval is granted.
Shawville mother Michaela Corrigan decided to homeschool her two children, age four and seven this year because of the uncertainty of schools closing again. “I don’t want their routine disrupted again and I also worry about their mental health [because of the stress of the situation],” she explained. 
Corrigan has connected with a few other mothers who are either homeschooling for the first time this year or have been for a while. “It’s great to have the extra support and help of people going through the same thing,” she said.
The Pontiac homeschooling mother is a member of a homeschooling community in Aylmer who not only provide each other with support, but also coordinate group activities and classes. This support is very helpful when navigating through government requirements, which she said have become more challenging in recent years.
“Putting together an educational plan can be stressful, and it’s one of the barriers to homeschooling. Some parents may question if they can adequately teach their children, but you really can invent it. If you feel it’s not working out, you can choose at any time to send your children back into the school system,” she concluded.
Those wanting more information about homeschooling can visit http://www.education.
gouv.qc.ca/commissions-scolaires/aide-et-soutien/enseignement-a-la-maison/. The WQSB also provides information at https://westernquebec.ca/
registration/homeschooling/.