On top of the drama camp, one more thing of note occurred last week. This one’s pretty Alberta-specific, full disclosure.
Last week I had my initial home visit with my facilitator (the lovely lady who was busily engaged in running a drama camp for a motley crew of whippersnappers by day).
So if you’re considering unschooling in Alberta and are nervously wondering whether it’s even possible (flash back to me two years ago), let me assuage your fears and curiosity by telling you aaaaaall about it (or ‘alllll’?).
I’m feeling like we need to do some prep though. Just to make sure we’re alllllll on the same page (see what I did there? It’s late. I’m feeling silly (by late I mean 9:28 pm (E would probably call that early (it’s daylight savings so it’s kind of 8:28 right now which is even lamer)))). So here in ‘wild rose country’, homeschooling is somewhat more regulated than anywhere else in Canada. BC does have a pretty extensive “distance education” system that many homeschoolers take advantage of, but even they have a “registered homeschooler” option that basically entails indicating on a yearly basis that your children still exist and you’re still taking charge of their education and nice chatting see ya next year (note: there is no chatting. It’s a form). Sunny Alberta, however, has no such “hands off” option. There are three: aligned (basically distance ed); blended; and traditional. You can look those up if you’re interested in the intricacies.
Anyone who unschools is probably going with the “traditional” option, which means that all that is required of you is to demonstrate with a yearly “education plan” that you’re working toward the government’s several broad learning outcomes, have a start of the year meeting with your facilitator, an end of the year meeting, and a phone call half way through. In exchange, you get funding for what the government agrees are educational expenses. Currently the yearly allotment is between $800-$900 per child.
SO. I had already created and submitted my education plans for E and G back in August (probably took an hour total. This being my first time with this board, I expect it to be quicker next year). This visit, then, was entirely for answering my questions and filling out the government’s paperwork (why do governments love paperwork so?).
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, since for my first two years here I was with THEE. And they were great. Super laid back, no pressure, easy to please. Frankly the only reason I left was because of the drama camp–students with the school board got first dibs on parts and my kids were left out last year. I wasn’t taking chances this year, so we switched! I had spoken to our facilitator on the phone, and I’d heard great things about her, but then I’m not sure anyone around here is unschooling, so I was aware their expectations might be different than my own.
But it went very well! For the initial visit, mostly what must be done is to fill out these forms that list a bunch of qualities, and you have to rate your kid for each one. Sort of like I remember my own elementary report cards being (I always got D’s in “listening skills”. But I was getting A’s in everything else, so what exactly was there to listen to?). The kids never have to see or hear about them, and we never talk about them again. Also, I’m not really clear on their function or value. But the government loves them, so that’s fine, I don’t want to wreck a bureaucrat’s day. When I was with THEE, they would just pass over the papers to me and kind of sit there shuffling papers and looking busy while I filled them out. This time she asked me the questions and recorded them on her computer. E was actually hanging about this time (she loves guests), so she gave her input on the answers. She also showed off a few things she’s been working on, which is more a “final visit” kind of activity, but the facilitator was all for it. She’s just as great as everyone said she’d be!
The only other significant thing that happens at this meeting is the facilitator must let you know that there is testing available to your child, and ask if you want it–kind of in the same way my midwives would inform me about epidurals. Like, they were happy to support you if you wanted to plan for that, but they weren’t exactly endorsing it. So we did that little dance, I said, “No thanks!” and she said, “K great see you tomorrow!” (on account of the drama camp still running its course), and that was it. Frankly, a lovely little visit, nearly painless, and we created some beautiful paperwork for those quirky bureaucrats to sniff and feel and lovingly embrace.