The state of homeschooling in Canada

This is fantastic news, via the Fraser Institute. Although still very small, the proportion of Canadian students who are homeschooled is growing at a rather impressive pace. And just form personal experience (i.e. friends and acquaintances asking homeschoolers like me for advice and resources), more and more people are considering it as well. True, homeschooling isn't for everybody. Some kids do better in an institutional setting, and this is where they ought to be. Each family is responsible for its own fate, and I would never presume to know better than a parent what is best for her brood. But I'm also here to tell you homeschooling isn't nearly as complicated as some people think. It's also not just for the weirdly religious or the pathologically reclusive. And yes, homeschooled children learn to socialize. They do it by going out into the world with their parents and, as they grow older, other kids and families. Socializing is rather a lot more than spending 40 hours a week with a bunch of same-aged children and a handful of teachers.

Homeschooling is hard work, for sure. It will make you doubt your sanity. But, um, so does parenting. There are all kinds of resources out there, many of them free or very inexpensive, to get you started. Personally I *love* this book as a rough guide. I also use Khan Academy a lot, as well as the fantastic Crash Course video series, library books, Google, occasionally the contents of my own head, etc. Starfall was also wonderful for very early education - especially useful for those of us relatively less gifted with patience who would prefer to have their little ones singing along with a computer rather than repeat the alphabet song 74578343823753824 times (and that's just before lunch). If you live in Ontario you can also consult the very handy Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents and their list of resources. Heck, you can even ask me for pointers. I'm kind of an evangelist on that one, as perhaps some of you might have noticed.

I have nothing (well, not much) against teachers. There are plenty great people in that profession, who get up every morning determined to be the kind of teacher their students will remember when they're considering where to send their own kids to school. But unfortunately the system is a bit of a lottery; if you're lucky your kid gets a great teacher. If you're out of luck, you have to wait a year and hope for something better. Do you realize how long a school year is when you're eight and your teacher stinks?

Also, teachers don't have much say over the curriculum, and that's where most of the problems are. And no, I don't mean sex-ed. I mean fifth-graders who struggle to read. I mean teenagers who cannot read let alone write cursive. I mean young adults who have no idea what the elements of a logical argument are. I mean math exercises that make no sense. Reading exercises that are dull, "practical" texts about recycling instead of classic old tales that engage the imagination and whose prose sings. I mean no poetry, which children love. And constant, incessant, often pointless testing. And no time to play the kinds of unstructured games that are unique to childhood and very much necessary to the development of healthy people.

No time to play in great part because homework. The kids spend hours each day in school and they have to spend hours more each night doing homework and they still can't solve 3 X 4 + (5-2) + ? without a video game? What do they spend their time doing, then? Our homeschooling takes half the day. Then there's free reading, free exploring, free drawing, free story-writing, other activities like biking, swimming, karate, time to travel or go to the museum, learn to knit, cook, do domestic chores, etc., etc., etc. And at the end of it we have kids who can read, write, argue, interact with people of all ages, and do boring old traditional math problems... well, not necessarily joyfully, but competently enough.

I don't want to sound like I think it's easy. It's not. It takes a lot of work. But so does getting kids ready for school every morning, dealing with bullying, school trips, lunches, homework, parent-teacher meetings, and so on. Every option has its advantages and disadvantages, for sure. But for a growing number of people, homeschooling wins out and I couldn't be happier.

Among the things parents miss when their kids are in school

Because life is a (wet) adventure