BC Homeschooling FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Home Based Learning in British Columbia

The following answers to Frequently Asked Questions about homeschooling legalities in B.C. are updated versions of those provided by Diana Sandberg in 1996. While Diana is not legally trained, she is a respected and experienced homeschooler.

All citations are from the School Act. Relevant sections are 1 (for definitions), 3 (for school age and compulsory education), and sections 12, 13, and 14 (for Home Education).

Homelearning and Legal Considerations

By Diana Sandberg

What am I required to do?

1. All children in B.C. are required by law to be provided with an “educational program”.

What is an “educational program” supposed to be?

Legal definition follows (sorry): “…educational program’ means an organized set of learning activities that , in the opinion of …the parent ( my emphasis – ds), in the case of [homeschooling] is designed to enable learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy ” (Section 1) .

Is someone checking up on this?

Note that it is the parent’s responsibility to determine what works best as an educational program in the homelearning setting. In practice, a wide variety of approaches have been found to work, from quite structured to entirely child-directed. You are not required to explain or describe your program to anyone. There is a provision in the act (Section 14) for people to report to the superintendent of schools if they feel a child is not receiving an educational program at all – forced to work instead, for example. The Superintendant is then obliged to investigate. This has only happened very rarely, and has not resulted in any dire consequences. A family under investigation could expect a great deal of support from other homeschoolers and, one would hope, from their registering school (see below).

2. You must register your child as homeschooled, preferably before September 30. Funding is allotted to schools on the basis of the number of children enrolled (or registered as homelearners) as of that date.

Please Note: If you decide to homeschool after Sept. 30, you can still pull your child out of school – and you should still register. However, because of the funding question, some schools may be disinclined to provide any services for your child if you register after September 30. See below for a discussion of funding and services provided by schools.

Do I have to register my 5-year-old?

Maybe. The law regarding enrollment and (registration mirrors this) is that a child may be enrolled in September of the calendar year in which he/she turns 5, but the parent may decide to defer enrollment for one year only – meaning a child must be enrolled (or registered) by September of the calendar year in which he/she turns 6. A child who is 5 in September but turns 6 before December 31 of that year must be enrolled in school or registered as a home learner.

Do I have to register my 16yo?

Nope. Section 3, subsection(1)(b) of the School Act says: a child must “participate in an educational program […] until he or she reaches the age of 16 years.” You may, however, want to do so, in order to receive such assistance as may be available to you (see below). Participation is permitted until the end of the school year in which the person turns 19.

Do I have to pay to register my child as homeschooled?

NO! The school, public or private, gets money from the government. Funding goes like this: A public school gets a fixed amount, which varies from year to year, for each child enrolled. In 2003/2004, this amount was $5308. Independent schools get either 50% or 35% of what public schools receive, depending on their status. For children registered as homelearners, the school gets a much smaller amount – in the 2003/2004 school year, this was $250 for public schools, $175 for either level of independent schools. Independent schools (but not public schools, as far as I know) often remit some of this to the families.

I know someone who’s getting a lot more than that for homeschooling her

Not exactly. Many school districts and some independent schools are now offering a choice to families to enroll their children in what is known as a Distributed Learning option. The schools get full funding for these children, but the children do their schoolwork from home, rather than in the school building. Often, this represents a sizeable financial saving to the schools and they pass some of this on to the families as an inducement to take part. HOWEVER, it is essential to understand that, under this model, the delivery of the “educational program”, (see above) is not under the authority and control of the parent, but completely in the hands of the school. That is, the school can, and in fact must, dictate what the child learns, how and when. The student must be under the supervision of a certified teacher, and receive regular evaluations, including standardized testing. Some families do find this an acceptable arrangement, but it is important to realize that “homeschooling” is actually something quite different.

What do the schools do with the registration money?

Good question. They are supposed to provide services to homelearning families registered with them – notably “resource materials” (on loan) and “evaluation and assessment” – in other words, texts and testing (but only at the families’ request). We have found public schools to be quite variable as to their interpretation of this. Some districts require a deposit for the loan of “authorized supplies”. Some individual schools will allow children to take part in certain classes – like sports teams or musical groups, or events – like field trips. Others definitely won’t; some will, but charge a fee. Which ones are which changes from year to year. Districts which offer a DL option (see above) are even less inclined to allow participation to homeschoolers. Much depends on the attitude of the individual principal and teachers, and on the relationship you have or can build with them. In the unlikely event of your being investigated (see above), it can certainly be helpful to have the school on your side. This leads to the next question…

Where do I register?

You may register with:

(a) any public school in the district where you reside.
(b) an independent school anywhere in the province.
(c) the regional correspondence school if your district has one, or directly with the Correspondence Branch in Victoria.

For lists of and contact information about Distance Education (correspondence) school and independent schools friendly to homeschoolers, follow this link. These schools offer different services for homelearners. It is best to phone them and discuss your situation with them to determine if any will suit your needs. Registration with the Correspondence Branch does not mean that you must use the Correspondence service. In fact, if you do use Correspondence, you’re not, technically, homeschooling since your child is enrolled with Correspondence (though many Correspondence families do consider themselves homelearners).

What information do I need to provide when registering?

Just the child’s name, address, birthdate and gender. That’s all. If you are presented with a form that asks for more (e.g., details of your educational program), be aware that you are not required to answer. You are not asking permission to homeschool, you are notifying the Ministry of your intent.

To see the actual wording of the relevant sections of the School Act, follow the link.