How does home-schooling work in Manitoba? Your back-to-school COVID-19 questions answered

Many parents responding to a CBC News survey about concerns around the return to school during the pandemic have asked how they can home-school their kids. Here are the answers we found.

The Manitoba Association for Schooling at Home says its membership has doubled over the last month

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving an increase in interest in home-schooling among parents worried about sending their children back to school, says the Manitoba Association for Schooling at Home. (Juliya Shangarey/Shutterstock)

Some Manitoba parents who feel anxious about sending their children to school during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but who don't qualify for remote learning, have begun exploring the option of teaching their kids at home themselves.

The Manitoba Association for Schooling at Home says its membership doubled to more than 800 families over the last month, as the number of COVID-19 infections in the province spiked in August.

Jennifer Gehman, online liaison for the association, said there was a lot of anxiety among the parents reaching out for information.

She said she's heard from parents who "didn't even know where to start" with home-schooling. "They didn't know if they could do it."

CBC Manitoba launched an online survey asking parents for their most pressing COVID-19 back-to-school questions. Home-schooling was among the top areas of inquiry. 

CBC News reached out to the provincial government, as well as home-schooling experts, to find the answers. 

You can still take our survey here if you have any other questions you want answered.

Where do I start?

Gehman recommends parents interested in exploring home-schooling consult the Manitoba Department of Education's frequently asked questions online

If a parent decides to go the home-schooling route, the next step is to notify the department's home-schooling office. The notification package can be downloaded from the website

If parents have already registered their children at a school, they aren't required to provide notification to the school about their plans, but Gehman recommends parents let administrators know about their intention to withdraw. 

When do I need to decide?

Parents can decide to home-school at any time. If a student is already enrolled, parents withdraw them from the school. They then have 30 days to notify the province of their future plans.

What's the difference between home-schooling and remote learning?

Remote learning is done by teachers through a combination of take-home packages and online instruction, following the standard Manitoba curriculum. 

Home-schooling is directed entirely by parents or a designate, who make all decisions regarding subject matter and lesson outlines. 

What materials do I need?

"There's as many flavours of home-schooling as there are home-schoolers," said Gehman — from the child-led approach, which follows children's desires and interests, to school-at-home, where kids follow along with the public school curriculum.

"We are entirely up to our discretion as to how we engage in teaching our children," she said.

Many parents have asked the association how they can follow the provincial curriculum, in hopes that their children will later be able to return to in-classroom learning, said Gehman.

A member of the association's advisory team who teaches at the University of Manitoba's faculty of education created a YouTube video walkthrough of resources available online for families who want to go that route.

"We've been looking for ways to support this influx of new home-schoolers that we've seen coming in sort of since the beginning of August," said Rachael Fecyk-Lamb.

Many home-schoolers already use the Manitoba provincial curriculum, which is available online.

Although much of the provincial curriculum is designed around teaching larger groups, parents can adapt resources to suit their needs, she said.

How much does it cost to home-school?

There is no cost to register a child for home-schooling.

"Costs to acquire the resources to ensure an appropriate education vary according to the curriculum selected, the subjects taken, and the grade level of the student," said a spokesperson for the provincial government.

Gehman said the most important thing a parent needs to home-school their child is "a willing heart."

Some people will buy curriculum and work resources, but home-schooling can also be done on a limited budget. Gehman says she has relied almost exclusively on the public library system for home-schooling resources.

Some people travel, others use board games.

"We live in a wonderful time right now where the online world offers an amazing plethora of ideas and resources," she said.

How are evaluations done?

There are no standardized tests for home-schoolers, although parents can choose to have their children write provincial tests. 

Parents must submit progress reports in January and June.

Although families can home-school students in grades 9 to 12, the province's home-schooling office cannot issue Manitoba high school credits.

Home-schooled students cannot receive a high school diploma unless they've completed Manitoba's graduation requirements, which include earning at least 30 high school course credits.

Can more than one family home-school together?

The province's rules say up to two families can home-school together.

What if I change my mind?

School divisions are required to accept students back into the public school system, as long as the parents live within the division's boundaries. Parents might not get their choice of school, however, Gehman said. 

If my child was in French immersion, can I still put them back in?

It is entirely up to the administration at the school.

Gehman said the home-schooling association has heard from parents who said their kids weren't allowed to re-enter French immersion programs. Other parents were told their children had to wait for later entry (entry points are at kindergarten, Grade 4 and Grade 7).

Some schools want to give the kids a vocabulary and reading assessment, and some schools don't allow them back in at all.

If you have a child who was in French immersion and want to send them back, "you really do need to get in contact with your school administration," Gehman says, "and figure out if they're going to be willing to work with you around that."

This story was made possible thanks to Manitobans who filled out CBC's back-to-school survey. In it, we asked parents, teachers and students to send us their top questions and concerns about the unprecedented school year ahead. 


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