Orwell in British Columbia

In British Columbia, home-schooling parents who get online assistance from the public schools have been told they can’t use faith-based materials at home, even if they’re bought with the parents’ money. Even non-religious parents are threatening to pull out of the distance education program, which serves 6,800 students in the province. The Vancouver Sun reports:

Home-schooling parents are fuming after the B.C. Education Ministry ordered thousands of them to stop using faith-based materials — or any other “unofficial” resource — when teaching their children at home.

Parents were promised a link to experienced teachers and free books if they signed up with the online program. Children who met provincial learning standards would graduate with a certificate.

To encourage the electronic programs, the ministry boosted its per-pupil funding of distance-education students in public schools to the same level as regular students ($5,408 in 2003-04). Cash-hungry districts responded by aggressively courting home-schooling families.

The districts don’t want to lose their profits from the distance education students, who don’t really require much support. But now parents are deciding the help isn’t worth the loss of independence.

“I’m definitely not going back and I don’t know anyone who is,” said Anita Kosovic, who has two children in U-Connect. Although her family isn’t religious, she said she doesn’t want to be held to B.C.-approved resources, some of which she says are awful.

“I don’t think anyone should be able to tell me what I can do in my own home and that’s what they’re telling us.”

Frankly, I don’t see how districts possibly could “ensure that students are not using religious materials or resources as part of the educational program.” It’s an Orwellian idea. And what about all those children who attend public schools? Their parents also may be using unauthorized or religious teaching materials at home. They may be trying to teach the parents’ values and beliefs. Can’t have that.

About Joanne


  1. After physical safety, the ability to choose the educational materials would seem to be the most important reason to home school.

  2. Richard Heddleson says:

    To what extent do they have a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion in Canada? Is the CoE the established religion?

  3. Fuzzy Rider says:

    Why are the powers-that-be in Canada so afraid of traditional values? It seems that they are guided more by political correctness than anything else. One of the underlying tenets of PC is the illegitimacy of ANY opposing point of view.

    I think homeschoolers in any country should be circumspect if offered too much ‘official’ legitimacy!!

  4. Richard,
    A principle similar to the 1st Amendment has evolved largely through popular custom in Canada.
    Freedom of religion is explicitly and unambiguously in the consitution. There is no established religion.

    I don’t read this as PC: it’s a straight power play. The BC educational establishment probably thought that if they tried this and got away with it, they would have (de facto) taken over home schooling.

  5. PJ/Maryland says:

    The Education Ministry said the rules were clear in September 2002 when the cap on enrolment in distance education was lifted. But by January 2004, it realized several were being ignored.

    It sent out a “clarification” stating that distance-education programs had to follow the same rules as public schools and notified 10 districts that they would be audited this spring.

    “If a district receives full funding for a student, the student is not being home-schooled,” the ministry stated. With regard to faith-based resources, it stated: “Districts must ensure that students are not using religious materials or resources as part of the educational program and that parents are not being reimbursed for using religious materials or resources with students.”

    Not only weren’t the rules clear in September 2002, they’re not clear after the “clarification”. If home schools are supposed to follow the same rules as public schools, shouldn’t they have fire drills, and recess, and gym? What about snow days? Are they required to follow the same vacation schedule, or be teaching same number of hours per year?

    Sounds like a straightforward power grab to me, using a series of “clarifications” to gradually bring the home schoolers into line.

    I also thought the money angle was revealing. The district gets $5400, and the parent sees $600 of that for textbooks and supplies. With 6800 kids in the program, that leaves more than $32 million unaccounted for.

  6. Tammy in Texas says:

    According to a Canadian homeschooler on a message board I visited, the families in question are not considered by the province to be homeschoolers. When they chose to enroll in the government-offered program, their legal status changed from that of homeschooler to public schooler, and public schools have every right to expect that all of the children enrolled in its system use the same set of curriculum.

  7. Yikes! This is much more restrictive than comparable US programs! The years I home schooled my kids I did it through the local school district’s Independent Study Program. My reason for doing it that way was to maintain my oldest son’s status as a public school student, thereby keeping his access to services like speech and occupational therapy. We were free to use our own materials or the district-provided ones. And we certainly included religion as part of our “school day” at home, although that was not part of the work packet the kids turned in every month. But if I had been required to use the same stupid academic materials that I’d pulled them out of regular school to get away from, it would have defeated the whole purpose…

    In the public school my kids hadn’t gotten challenging spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, math, etc. so I made sure I selected curricula that met my (more demanding) standards. The BC approach seems wildly intrusive and would have cancelled out much of my own reason for home schooling.

  8. Tammy in Texas says:

    from Margaret: The BC approach seems wildly intrusive and would have cancelled out much of my own reason for home schooling.

    Which is probably one of the reasons so many of the participants are opting out now. Seems like the school officials may have shot themselves in the foot.

  9. Margaret, your child has a right to services even if he/she is not a public school student.

  10. Margaret says:

    Rita, that has actually gotten pretty dicey in the last few years. My understanding of the regs is that, at least in California, the district only has to allocate a percentage of funds comparable to the special needs students not in the public school system. They can also decide how that x% of funds is to be spent– speech but not physical therapy, or whatever. If a non-public school student needs more than the district’s formula allocates, too bad. The major advantage of being a recognized public school student under IDEA (the federal law regulation special ed services) is that, at least in theory, the student’s needs drive the services, not the district’s pre-determined calculations of things. I have a friend in a nearby district where Independent Study was not offered and she has had to fight tooth and nail to get her son what he needs… I had better things to do with my time than file due process papers, so I took the painless route of Independent Study.

  11. Homeschooling is one way of bypassing the indoctrination machinations of the education monolith. The BC bureaucracy seems to have figured that out and is seeking to tighten the stranglehold.
    A money grab and a power grab, certainly. The BC brown shirts are at it again.

  12. Mark Odell says:

    When will these homeschooling parents finally figure out that government schools will always run on a policy of “embrace and extend”? This attempt to “regulate that which it subsidizes” should have been foreseen long before.

  13. The IDEA situation is even more complicated than that. When the law was passed, COngress wrote that all public and private school students were eligible for services under IDEA. In several states, though, homeschools are neither (for instance, in DE we are “non-public” schools). Courts have held that in these states, homeschoolers are not necessarily eligible for IDEA services. Of course, nothing prevents the states from allowing homeschoolers to participate. But, that would cost them money.



    I’ve been warning for awhile now about western society’s drift towards totalitarianism and the dangers of government controlled education. This is why. Also, see the another discussion of this topic here.