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A word from the Board

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It’s been a long winter and a season that has tested our limits like no other, for many reasons. As the days grow longer and the warmth of spring awakens the sleeping nature, we are also feeling a new burst of energy in our community, and that’s good! We also hear your despair, frustration, sadness, fear, anger and outrage about the changes that the homeschooling community has been undergoing over the past year. But rest assured, the Board and volunteers of AQED have not been hibernating for the past few months. It is precisely because we have been so busy that we may have given you less news than you would have liked. Here is some information…

Two Worlds Meet

Our homeschooling community has suddenly been inundated with new families, each with their own concerns and realities. We understand the contrast between these two worlds. The “pioneer” families may feel conflicted with these new families, who seem to be meeting all the demands of the DEM without being aware of the consequences and precedents this may set for homeschooling in Québec. The “new families” may feel excluded from this world and do not understand this refusal to cooperate. This, combined with the significant increase in the number of families who are members of AQED (2,400 to date!) and the explosion of users of its Facebook groups, has kept AQED and its volunteers very busy. Keeping the peace, making sure there is no misinformation, etc., are hours of fun! It’s not easy, but if we reach out and listen to each other, we can easily find the common goal we all have: the well-being and happiness of our children. Together, we must support each other to preserve and improve our fundamental right to homeschool!

Actions Taken

First of all, you can consult last year’s annual report (in French only) to become aware of the existing committees and the actions taken.

Currently, the relationship between AQED and DEM is extremely difficult. While it may seem that we are giving in to their demands and requirements, this is not the case. Among other things, here is a summary of the past few months.

  • We are exploring the possibility of going to court. This is a constant request from members, but it is an option that must be considered with great caution. Indeed, if we were to lose, a negative precedent would be set that would be very hard to reverse later on. We need a strong case, with one or more strong families and a valid reason. For example, having to take tests is not a harm under the law since children in schools do. So, we continue to look at different avenues and consult our lawyers.
  • We are often asked why we don’t use our lawyers to address the requirements of the DEM. First of all, it would mean going to court (which is not advisable, as mentioned in the previous point). Also, it would certainly damage the working relationship that AQED has with DEM (see next point on this topic). It should be noted, however, that legal support from AQED is always available to members who need it, when necessary and in accordance with the conditions for accessing legal support.
  • Another question from several members; why does AQED want to maintain a collaborative rather than confrontational relationship with the DEM? The reason is simple; by maintaining a cordial relationship, we are able to resolve many conflicts between member families and their contact person/follow-up agent. On social media, there can seem to be a lot of negative examples and abuse. Keep in mind that people are much more likely to feel the need to vent and talk when things are going badly than when they are going well. For all the negative cases mentioned on the networks, there are easily a dozen positive cases that have been resolved through our advice or intervention with the DEM.
  • In all meetings with the DEM, we address the issue of the time it takes them to get back to the families’ document submissions, as well as the issue of the differences in the requests made by the resource persons/follow-up agents. This is in constant discussion. We have to remember that the DEM is a government agency, so all changes take time! It’s a big boat that doesn’t turn easily.
  • Several meetings have been held between AQED and the other homeschooling associations (HSDLA, AEJEM and ACPEQ) to discuss strategy and concerted effort. Although our realities and missions are different, we all want the opportunity to educate our children in a family setting under appropriate conditions. When you add up the membership of all the associations, we have considerable weight.
  • There have been several meetings between the DEM and the homeschooling associations. The points discussed at the January meeting can be found here. Another meeting also took place in March. At this meeting, we once again raised awareness of the heavy demands on families and the negative consequences of the requirements on educational freedom. We also discussed the possibilities of improving the documents and templates of the DEM as well as the openness of the resource persons/follow-up agents towards certain educational practices that are further from the school-type educational model.
  • Our interventions also include educating certain school boards or school service centers and DYP employees when their requests or interactions with family educators are inappropriate. Several families have recently been helped in this regard.
  • Finally, the political action committee is in the process of working with several other actors or organizations in order to move the situation forward, find support and make our demands known. We can mention, for example, the members of the opposition in education, public health and various advisors in politics, lobbying and communication.

However, AQED’s mission is not limited to political representation and support for the DEM. Many other projects have been offered and are still ongoing:

  • Regional Representatives (RRs) have created contests to entertain children (you can find them on AQED’s blog).
  • RRs have developed science workshops and lectures in collaboration with various organizations (you can find them in the newsletters and on our social networks).
  • RRs have initiated the circulation of sets of manipulatives in several regions of Quebec. Thousands of dollars worth of materials are being moved from house to house.
  • We are actively working to get the DidAQED back online, as simply as possible, despite the closure of the AQED community center.
  • Support volunteers and RRs provide accompaniment at meetings (annual or otherwise) with the DEM.
  • The Teacher evaluation assistance service, which now has about 10 teachers, offers a discount to members and an early registration period before it is available to non-members, as availability is limited.
  • Support volunteers respond to a high volume of emails and phone calls on a variety of topics.
  • Newsletters and the Portfolio contain all the latest information related to legal obligations, AQED positions and recommendations, RR news, media releases and more.
  • Regular work is done to establish partnerships with different companies and thus offer interesting discounts.
  • Conferences on various subjects (legal aspects, socialization, CAPS program, etc.), given by volunteers have been filmed and are available at all times for viewing on the AQED website.
  • Templates for completing your legal documentation are constantly updated.
  • The website is updated regularly to remain a reliable source of information and support.
  • Zoom meetings are organized by the Board members to provide an opportunity for members to discuss and ask questions.
  • A revisited congress, due to the pandemic, is being set up in the form of webinars.

The AQED position

This message would not be complete without mentioning the direction taken by the AQED Board of Directors in recent months. With our knowledge of the reality and history of homeschooling in Quebec, and with the confidence of our members, we firmly believe that we have a crucial role to play in preserving educational freedom and in ensuring that the DEM has a reasonable follow-up of the educating families, ideally in the short term, but especially in the long term.

We measure every day the gap between the current situation and the “ideal” situation towards which we wish to strive; our interventions are thought out in this sense. Our official positions are based on our interpretation of the regulation, validated by our lawyers, on the intent of the Education Act and on the gap observed between these, the interpretation of the DEM and the practical application made by the resource persons/follow-up agents with the families-educators. The suggestions associated with our positions (do not improvise yourself as an education professional, do not send written records before the meeting, do not sign a document allowing the DEM to contact the person responsible for the evaluation at the end of the year, limit yourself to what is required by the Act, use the AQED templates, etc.) are elements that allow us to use the strength of numbers to assert our rights.

We are also aware that our actions must respect the educational intentions of each family-educator and their willingness, more or less high, to oppose the educational authorities. We are certain that each family can do its part to contribute to a better future and we reiterate AQED’s mission to represent homeschooling families in their diversity.

How can you help

  • Continue the complaint process if you feel concerned, remember to copy AQED: [email protected]
  • Notify support when the DEM makes exaggerated or unreasonable requests of you, even if you feel comfortable responding to those requests. The more information we have, the more credible and accurate our responses are.
  • Passively resist; ask questions of your contact/follow-up person when additional requests are made regarding your documents,
  • Use the AQED templates or your own documents.
  • Do not send written learning records BEFORE the meeting. In general, oral records are acceptable.
  • Limit yourselves to fulfilling your legal obligations to the DEM, but do not do more (despite the richness of what we offer our children).
  • Do not sign any document allowing the DEM to contact the evaluator at the end of the year (climate of trust of the parent).
  • Have someone accompany you to your annual meeting when necessary.

Thanks to our volunteers

Without volunteers, AQED would not exist. In these tumultuous times, it is easy to forget the countless hours that are donated each week by our volunteers. If you’ve had any positive interactions recently, please take two minutes to say thank you to the editorial, communication, moderation, translation, support, political and technical teams, etc. We also give a special shout out to Maude, our great admin staff.

Finally, thank you to each and every one of our 2,400 members! The association is your association. Thank you for trusting us to support you with what is most precious: your children.

We invite you on Wednesday March 31st from 19:00-20:00 in French and 20:00-21:00 in English to come and discuss with us during our next zoom.