The following answers to Frequently Asked Questions about homeschooling legalities
in B.C. were 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, RSBC 1996, Chapter 412; individual
sections noted as cited.
By Diana Sandberg***
What am I required to do?
1. All children in B.C. are required by law to be provided with an
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 develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge,
skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy 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
expesct 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
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
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
$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 - as of 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 Education Act,
follow this link.
Thanks to Diana Sandberg for allowing us to put this information on the pages.
Page created April 1997 by Sandy Keane
Revised January 2005
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