Thanks to the joint efforts of CHENL and HSLDA Canada, Paul Faris, of HSLDA Canada, and CHENL board member Pam Hynes traveled across Newfoundland during October 19-23. The purpose of the trip was twofold: 1) to meet with school board officials to help them better understand homeschooling and to discuss the homeschool policies; and 2) to meet with homeschoolers and help them to better understand their rights and responsibilities.
Paul, himself a homeschool graduate, joined HSLDA as legal counsel in 2003 and became executive director in 2005. Since joining HSLDA, Paul has been serving and defending homeschooling families across Canada in the courtroom, in Parliament and provincial legislatures, and in the media. Paul lives in London, Ontario.
Pam has been homeschooling for 17 years and has helped establish the foundation of homeschooling in our province. She is familiar with meeting school board officials and was with Paul in his meetings with the Western and Eastern District Boards. Unfortunately a meeting with the Central School District officials was not possible at this time.
Monday afternoon, October 19th, Lorne Robinson, Chair of CHENL and his wife, Cathy joined Paul and Pam for a very successful meeting with officials from the Western District School Board. The result of the meeting was that the cumbersome paperwork once required by the board was pared down to just two things - a letter of intent to homeschool and a report card.
Cathy offered the following report of the meeting with the board and the meeting with homeschoolers in the area:
"Mr. Thompson spoke about the board's duty to follow provincial government regulations and stressed the need that families register with their respective boards. Mr. May pointed out that they have approved 22 families to homeschool and said it was their to duty to ensure that children being homeschooled in their district are indeed being satisfactorily educated. Paul Faris brought up the fact that most of our children do not use the prescribed provincial curriculum and that the list of "approved" curriculum by the board only touches the surface of what is available. This creates a problem when the homeschooled parents are asked to have their children complete the province's Criterion Reference Testing (CRT's) in Grades 3, 6 and 9. Near the end of the meeting, Mr. May assured us that our children would not be required to complete this testing if indeed, they were not doing the provincial curriculum. Also, they were very open to having CHENL provide them with any pertinent homeschooling information about our association and offered to include our brochure in their Homeschool Packets which are sent out in the fall. Paul provided both Mr. Thompson and Mr. May with information and studies that have been completed on homeschooled students. Paul felt that a good relationship has been established with the Western Board.
On the evening of October 19th, we had a meeting in Corner Brook with about a dozen Western district homeschoolers. Paul did a Power Point presentation on basic areas of concern: socialization, legalities, post secondary education."
Tuesday, October 20th, Paul, Pam, and Cathy traveled to Springdale where they had a meeting with local homeschoolers that evening. Paul once again did a Power Point Presentation and the presentation was followed by a hearty discussion amongst all attenders.
Wednesday, October 21st, Paul and Pam traveled to Gander for a meeting with homeschoolers in that area. Joanne, an attendee, offered this report of the evening:
"The Home School Legal Defense Association held an informative meeting in Gander during the month of October, opened to those who are currently homeschooling but also for those who are thinking of it or have concerns about it. Paul Faris made a precise presentation to encourage and support homeschoolers and answer questions for those who are beginning or considering it. His presentation was based upon four key concerns people have about homeschooling. He dispelled the myth that homeschool children are not socialized and will not adapt well to society. Rather they are more adept at communicating to a wide array of people of different ages and backgrounds. Secondly, Mr. Faris discussed the qualification that parents have in teaching their own children. Homeschooling is not about simply knowing information but it is about guiding and advising children to find it, thus eventually instilling the self motivation to search for and acquire knowledge independently. Thirdly Mr. Faris affirmed that homeschooled children are statistically known for their high academics and are commonly accepted into universities and colleges and integrate into society as strong contributors. The last key concern Mr. Faris spoke of quite passionately was the legal standing of homeschooling, concluding that YES homeschooling is perfectly legal under the Constitution, but that homeschoolers should be in contact with the Home School Legal Defense Association to promote understanding between homeschoolers and school boards. Ultimately the HSLDA is there to empower those parents and guardians who are homeschooling, and to educate them about their rights, thus giving them confidence to continue to homeschool. This meeting declared the many advantages of homeschooling such as: building a strong foundation for our children, passing along our faith to continue a strong legacy in Christ, and binding those special relationships between parent and child while preparing them to go out and serve within their strengths and be strengthened by their failings. Thank you HSLDA for your support and encouragement!"
Another attendee, Shauna, offered these comments:
"It was so good to have Paul Farris make a visit to the Gander area. There were about 12 people that came to the meeting and 3 or four of those included potential home educators. Paul was great at explaining the legal side of things for us. As a graduate of home schooling himself - we saw first hand the benefits of a home educated child who is now in the adult world. I think some of those who were interested in home schooling were happy to see that there were home educators there whose children had already graduated from a home education and had gone on to university. Thanks to HSLDA and CHENL for arranging this mini-conference."
And Sarah, yet another attendee, offered these comments:
"I was glad both my husband and I could attend this meeting in Gander. It was very informative, encouraging, and helpful. Paul was a great speaker and you could tell he had a passion for homeschooling. It was great to have the "legal side" of some of the issues explained to us. I came away from the meeting with a little more confidence to keep doing what I'm doing!"
Thursday, October 22nd, there was a meeting held with officials of the Eastern District School Board. According to attendees most of discussion was about following provincial curriculum, which really means meeting the outcomes of the curriculum, and many different resources may be used to do that. The books you use are actually resources. The outcome of the meeting was that CHENL has decided to work on a province-wide notification form and Paul suggested sticking to one page evaluations. Pam can help anyone that might need help with that. There was also a meeting held with homeschoolers in the area that evening.
The feedback regarding this tour across our province has all been quite positive. The CHENL board is very appreciative of the fact that HSLDA is putting a strong effort into helping our provincial association build healthy relationships and a strong foundation for present and future homeschooling families in NL.