While most parents decide to homeschool when their children are in elementary school, some make the decision later in the schooling process for a variety of reasons:
poor academic performance;
bullying or discrimination;
stress, anxiety or depression;
medical conditions that cause them to miss many days of school;
having more flexibility to pursue a career in the arts or sports;
to encourage a young person who is gifted.
These families may not realize, though, that there are many options available to them. Graduating from high school after 5 years of study and a series of exams is not the only valid choice. There are many ways for your children to achieve their goals. The first thing to ask yourself is whether earning a high school diploma (HSD) is even important to your teen. This is why I will begin by explaining why a diploma may not be necessary.
Your child may, of course, decide to pursue a HSD even if it is not necessary for his or her career. However, there may be a difference, both psychologically (stress and anxiety) and in terms of planning (the possibility of changing plans), between choosing to and needing to get a diploma.
Whether the goal is to pursue post-secondary education or to go directly into the workforce, we believe, often mistakenly, that a HSD is a necessary step in pursuing higher education, getting a job, or achieving career goals. This is not always the case:
Another aspect to consider is that your teen may not want to enter the workforce right away.
Even if a HSD is a necessary step in achieving your teen’s goal, is it necessary to achieve it within a specific time frame? Sometimes we can slow down when we need to focus our energy on our child’s mental health, wait until a certain level of maturity is reached, or address any other environmental or personal factors that affect our teen's life.
Some families begin homeschooling in late elementary or high school because their teen is suffering from a problem caused by a situation at school or amplified by the school system:
Even when obtaining a diploma is necessary, it is important to take into account all of our adolescent's mental health needs and perhaps make the decision to seek a diploma at a later time or in a longer time frame.
Another reason to rethink the conventional timeline is that our teen may not have chosen a path yet, and may need a little more time to explore.
In addition, the teenager is not only preparing for the workforce, he or she is also preparing for life as an independent adult. From a practical standpoint, an adult needs to know how to cook, budget, pay bills, file taxes, register to vote, etc. Ideally, a newly independent adult should also have some degree of social autonomy and emotional maturity – knowing how to solve problems, negotiate agreements, resolve conflicts, have healthy relationships, etc.
So, even if you have determined that a HSD should be part of your plan, the goal of a teen's education must be more than just getting a degree. Degrees are no substitute for ingenuity, resilience, and know-how.
The purpose of identifying priorities (step 2) is to help plan what needs to be done (step 3) to achieve a goal. Before taking any concrete steps in your teen's educational journey, take the time to look at the person as a whole, where they are now and where they want to go, as well as the concept of education itself.
The organization of learning by dividing knowledge and skills into subjects and levels, and progressing at a specific pace through a specific curriculum, is rooted in the standardization of traditional education and based on the logistics of mass education. It is not based on what is best for a given individual, nor is it the essence of true education and learning.
Question any assumptions you may have about education and what it is supposed to be about. Rethink the relationship between education and learning. Determine with your teen what you think the purpose and role of education is, and what the short and long-term personal goals should be that should be met through education.
Depending on your short-and long-term goals, it can be helpful to have an action plan that outlines the goals and steps to get there. Having a plan of action helps to avoid making mistakes along the way and having to backtrack or make up for them in other ways.
Decisions and actions will depend on the preferred path:
If the career goal (or personal preference) involves earning a diploma, the only way for the teen to do this is to get credit for their courses through their school board (SB), school service center (SSC), or a private school. There are several options for doing this depending on the age of the teen.
The Education Act provides that "Every person is entitled to the preschool education services and elementary and secondary school instructional services...to the last day of the school calendar in the school year in which he attains 18 years of age, or 21 years of age in the case of a handicapped person" (Quebec Education Act, Article 1)
The same Act also provides that "Every child resident in Québec shall attend school…until the last day of the school calendar in the school year in which he attains 16 years of age or at the end of which he obtains a diploma awarded by the Minister, whichever occurs first.." (Quebec Education Act, Article 14).
The first thing to know is that the Direction de l'Enseignement à la Maison (DEM) does not have the authority to sanction studies. In homeschool, the DEM verifies that the child has progressed in his/her learning and that he/she has seen all the skills he/she needs to see in a school year, but he/she does not have the power to say whether the child passes the grade or not, let alone to credit a course.
It is the school board (SB), school service center (SSC) or private schools that have the power to sanction studies. You must therefore negotiate with the SB/SSC for the evaluation of credits. The first step is to contact the SB/SSC at the end of Secondary 3—or as soon as possible, if the student is already in Secondary 4 or 5—and to ask for a meeting with a guidance counselor in order to establish a certification plan. This involves establishing a list of courses that must be taken to obtain the right number of credits for a diploma.
It should be noted that each SB/SSC has its own modalities for evaluating credits. For example, some SB/SSCs will accept to evaluate certain subjects with a portfolio, while for others, an end-of-year exam, whose grade alone represents the entire school year, will be their preferred method of evaluation.
There are online schools that offer courses that take into account a portion of what was done during the year, much like in school. These are private schools, so it is a paid service. The Centre de Services Scolaire Beauce-Etchemin (CSBE) offers this kind of formula, as do Succès Scolaire, and Étude Secours, to name a few. You can also check ecolespriveesquebec.ca to find other private schools that offer this type of service. It is important to call each school directly to receive information about their evaluation procedures, their prices and their possible partnerships with your SB/SSC. Not all courses are offered online, so there is always some negotiation with your SB/SSC.
Finally, there is the possibility of enrolling in an online school outside of Quebec to obtain an equivalent degree. Quebec Online School offers a diploma program in association with a school in Ontario. There is also Blyth Academy, an online school in Ontario. Both of these organizations offer a discount to AQED members. Enrolling in an online school is not a substitute for following up with the DEM, so it is important to ensure that the required courses and related skills are seen by the student.
According to the above-mentioned law on public education, when a young person turns 16 before July 1, he or she is no longer obligated to attend school and therefore no longer has to be followed by the DEM.
Until the youth turns 18 (or 21 if they are disabled), they may choose to remain in the youth sector and have their courses accredited by their SB/SSC.
Also, students over the age of 16 may enroll in a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) program to complete their diploma if they meet the program requirements.
There is also an option for the adult sector. You must register with a SB/SSC, either in person or online, and check the registration procedures.
Some students decide to complete their degree in a school outside of Quebec to obtain a degree equivalent to a diploma.
Finally, it is possible to pursue one's studies as a self-taught student and have one's prior learning recognized with the American or Ontario SAT Reasoning Test, or even to register directly with a university at age 21 on the basis of experience. In the latter case, it is important to verify the selection criteria for this type of admission with the chosen university.
It's important to reiterate: in high school, the options depend not only on your teen's career goals, but also on their life goals and personal needs. Is it more important for your teen to follow a direct path to graduation? Is it more important for them to tailor their learning to their tastes, abilities and well-being while keeping their goal in mind? Are they comfortable with finding their own path to the goal they have set, even if it is unconventional and they won’t get a diploma in the end?
Only you and your teenager can choose, together, which option is best for you both. Hopefully, this information will give you enough facts and food for thought to make an informed decision.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as reflecting the position of AQED.