Homeschooling in Canada continues to grow
Every province in Canada over the 15-year period since 2000 showed a decline in the share of students attending a public school—while at the same time, the share of students attending independent schools increased.
But it wasn’t only independent schools that attracted more students, homeschooling did as well.
A recent study of student enrolments in Canada found that homeschooling enrolments, although modest in size, are growing across Canada. In fact, nine of 10 provinces saw increases in the numbers of students being homeschooled between 2007/08 and 2014/15 (the latest years of available comparable data).
Homeschooling, like independent schooling (which is also attracting more students) occurs outside of the public school systems, and according to Statistics Canada, “parents choosing homeschooling have the primary responsibility of managing, delivering, and supervising their children’s courses and program of learning.”
Homeschooling parents, according to another recent study Home Schooling in Canada: The Current Picture, 2015 Edition, “take final responsibility for the selection, management, provision, and supervision of their children’s educational program and that education occurs largely outside of an institutional setting."
Ministry data from each province, when aggregated, show the modest total of 26,646 students officially enrolled as homeschooled in Canada (in 2014/15)—an increase from 19,504 students just seven years earlier.
Alberta (just under 10,000) and Ontario (about 6,500) have the largest numbers of enrolled homeschooled students.
As a share of a province’s total student enrolments, Manitoba has the highest share of homeschooled students (1.5 per cent), followed by Alberta (1.4 per cent) and Saskatchewan (1.2 per cent). Manitoba also has the highest growth (140 per cent increase) in homeschool numbers between 2007/08 and 2014/15.
The forms of homeschooling are also growing, as are the reasons parents choose to homeschool. Homeschooling varies from family to family and can range from very structured to highly free-form. The curriculum chosen, usually eclectically curated by parents, often includes online courses, classes or programs at schools or homeschool cooperatives, and various grouped or single-subject curricula designed especially for the self-educating or home-educated student. When homeschooling became popular again in the mid-1980s (it was the norm in pre-Confederation days), parents usually cited religious or pedagogical motivations, often desiring more religiously-oriented curricula or more freedom for their families and children than schools offered.
Today, some still choose homeschooling because of concerns with government curriculum or a desire for a particular religious emphasis in their child’s education. But many families now chose homeschooling simply because it’s possible and practical in ways it has never been before.
Parents working from home, families that frequently travel, children with elite athletics, arts pursuits or particular special needs, combined with the rise of educational options via digital technology, are just some of the reasons parents today choose homeschooling.
While it’s always been legal in every province in Canada for parents to take the primary responsibility for the education of their children when they are of compulsory school age, only three provinces—Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia—provide any financial support to parents who choose this educational option.
Even so, student enrolment data from across Canada show that homeschooling is the choice for an increasing number of parents.