We’ve enjoyed unprecedented flexibility and co-operation from our local school for many years. At first we were merely registered homeschoolers with no official school affiliation, yet we were welcome to attend special events, use the library and participate in assemblies and field trips. When Erin enrolled in high school they enthusiastically supported her unschooled learning, worked around her third-world travel, her out-of-town music commitments, her part-time job and her biweekly absences due to her Calgary violin lessons. Then the instant we became affiliated with a district-run DL (home-based learning support) program, a whole range of new possibilities were thrown open to us: homeschool art classes, part-time school attendance, participation in electives, grade advancement, loan of texts and tools and sports equipment, and so on.
I could be cynical and say that the school and district benefit from the funding they receive on Fiona’s behalf as long as they can keep us happily enrolled with them, so it’s in their best interest to be accommodating. But it’s not just that, I know it’s not just that. They really, genuinely, enthusiastically like supporting home-learning kids and their families. They have a big-hearted holistic view of education, one that includes home learning and all sorts of variations on it.
And thus, while I have occasional twinges of guilt, I am very happy about all the benefit Fiona is reaping from our relationship with the local public school and its DL program. Why the guilty twinges? Well, there’s no doubt we’re cherry-picking. She does all the things at school that interest, challenge and excite her, and she does none of the rest of it. Should that really be allowed? Surely if you’re going to do the cool stuff you should have to suck it up and deal with the rest of it too?
But no. She’s a unique, asynchronous kid with wide-ranging interests and abilities, and we’re primarily child-led home-based learners because she needs an education that makes sense for who she is. They’re getting full funding for her. They only directly administer part of her education. She’s getting something that suits her well, is enthusiastic and capable. How can there be anything wrong with supporting that?
Last spring we talked to the DL teacher about moving her declared grade level up a couple of years to better match the level she was at. He agreed that it would make his job of reporting on her learning easier and more meaningful, so she was “promoted” into Grade 7 this past fall. This has allowed her to take part in the Grade 7/8/9 math class, where she is rollicking through the Grade 9 curriculum ahead of schedule. And it has enabled her to enrol in any of the immersion-week electives for Grades 7 through 12 that happen to interest her. So far she has done Digital Film (November) and Dance (December). In addition because she is on the DL roster she gets to participate in the awesome homeschool art classes (this year including Fiona plus a lovely cluster of K-5 kids). And because she’s Grade 5 by age and size, she’s been welcomed to take part in the ski lessons and ski days offered to the K-6 school-kids.
Basically she’s doing the best/favourite/coolest parts of the elementary school, high school and homeschool programs. And spending the rest of her time hanging out and pursuing her interests at home and elsewhere: violin, gymnastics, sitting in front of the fire, messing around with cooking and photography, backpacking and trail-running, sleeping in, watching movies, reading in bed.
Dance has been something she always had an interest in, but we had never found a way to make it happen for her. Although the average age in the Dance immersion week elective was probably 15, she seemed to fit in really well and loved it. The teacher raved about her focus, athleticism, musical smarts and enthusiasm. Another cherry, successfully picked. Here’s their end-of-week collaborative performance. Fiona is front and centre when the lights come up.