Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) is now an official home education provider, allowing local families the opportunity for their children to join in extracurricular activities and special courses within GYPSD schools while homeschooling.
“For example, a student in a Home Education program may want to come into the school to join the band or drama program or access a specialized course like Robotics or Work Experience. By accessing Home Education through GYPSD, families have the best of both - they have the freedom and flexibility they want in taking on their child’s education and opportunities for enrichment that a school provides,” stated Dr. Kelly Harding, assistant superintendent at GYPSD.
GYPSD received approval from Alberta Education to become an official Home Education provider in December and shared that news at their Jan. 13 public board meeting.
Evergreen Catholic Separate School Division (ECSRD) is not a home education provider, but roughly 100 of their students have moved into home education during the pandemic.
Parents in Alberta can choose how their children receive their education, this includes school-controlled learning, parent-controlled learning (home education), or a blended program.
In order to provide home education, parents must enroll their children at a school division that offers and supports home education.
Homeschooling or parent-directed learning varies widely depending on the parent’s chosen education style or curriculum and it gives parents the freedom to choose what, when, where, and how their children learn.
GYPSD’s board of trustees and superintendent Carolyn Lewis heard from families that they wanted to access Home Education within GYPSD rather than having to go to another provider in another community.
Parents who register for Home Education with GYPSD will have a GYPSD teacher to help them in their role as teacher and curriculum planner for their child’s education. The GYPSD teacher will be able to connect them with resources and materials and offer advice and guidance.
Education funding in Alberta is tied to student enrollment which is why GYPSD strives to offer world-class, responsive, innovative programming, stated Harding.
She noted that providing Home Education to GYPSD families is not about increasing funding to the Division and will not have a big impact on the budget; but is based on awareness and responsiveness to what families are asking for.
“The global pandemic has significantly shifted the ways that students have accessed their education over this past year. The shifts to virtual learning in response to COVID really illustrated that student learning is not tied to a school building,” Harding said.
Students can learn virtually from anywhere and Home Education is really about parents determining a learning plan and curriculum that encourages their child’s interests and passions, she added.
Offering home education allows families to continue accessing local programs that can enhance a Home Education learning plan and build connections in case they want to return to school. In addition to becoming an official Home Education provider, GYPSD also offers a Christian Learning pilot and the Learn-at-Home option that offers both virtual access and paper products.
COVID-19 forced parents across the province to assist their children in the learn-at-home option for two separate periods during the pandemic, which is virtual school-controlled learning. Since August, parents could choose to continue home learning with the option to return to in-class at any point.
“Teachers support these learners with daily check-ins and tutoring, encouragement, and can provide face-to-face appointments at the TLCs (the learning connections) if more support is needed,” Harding said.
GYPSD’s 2020-2021 learn-at-home option was well received by approximately 10 per cent of GYPSD families who were not comfortable returning to in-school learning because of COVID-19. Harding added that the numbers of families within the learn-at-home option has remained fairly stable this year.
ECSRD started the current school year with 554 students enrolled in online learning, which declined to 461 students in the second quarter of the school year.
Campus GYPSD is another initiative being developed that will house GYPSD’s new alternative program options into one centralized location. This campus will include the Learning at Home option, home education, and enrichment opportunities such as specialized courses and programs.
The Christian Learning option is one of those specialized courses that was launched as a pilot program in the fall. Though enrollment is small, GYPSD expects as word of the option grows, more parents will inquire.
Based out of Niton Central School, the teacher uses Google Classroom to provide faith-based learning, materials, and resources for students in Grades 1-6.
Student participants from across the Division join in virtually to the teacher-taught Alberta Education accredited courses that have been specifically developed to express a Christian worldview.
The idea for the pilot rose from community interest for families who want a strong academic foundation for their child with a Christian emphasis based on Biblical principles, Harding explained.
Families who are interested in registering for Home Education with GYPSD or who would like information about the Christian Learning pilot can email Carra Aschenmeier, managing director of learning services, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents who want to switch their children into or out of the learn-at-home option should email their principal for information.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice