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Education, Home-based

Home-based Education in Saskatchewan was predominantly distance education for Children who could not attend school; the Saskatchewan Correspondence School was established in 1925 to serve this group. Nowadays, some parents are choosing to educate their children at home for ideological reasons. While there exists a broad continuum of perspectives among home-based educators in Saskatchewan, three major perspectives prevail: child-initiated learning; late introduction to academic learning; and a traditional back-to-basics approach to learning, with a Christian philosophical base. Saskatchewan’s home-based education parents are educating their children at home in a new legal climate, represented by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982. The powers and responsibilities of provincial governments with respect to both Independent Schools and home-based education were clarified in 1987, when the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision in the 1986 Alberta case, Jones v. The Queen.

When parents choose to educate their children at home, they are exercising a constitutional right to educate their children in accordance with their conscientious beliefs. No rights, however, are absolute. In particular, the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their conscientious beliefs must be balanced against both the right of every child to an education and the compelling interest of the state in the education of all children. This balance, envisaged by the Supreme Court of Canada in Jones v. The Queen, required a new legal framework for home-based education. In 1987, the provincial government appointed Gordon Dirks to examine both private or independent schools and home-based education in Saskatchewan. The Minister of Education released the Review of Private Schooling in Saskatchewan in 1987; it announced that home-based education would continue to be permitted, but with stronger supervisory procedures to ensure that home-schooled children receive a good education.

In 1989 the Minister of Education established an Independent Schools Branch, which was given administrative responsibility to develop new legislation, regulations, and policies with respect to independent schools and home-based education.

Saskatchewan has long had a reputation for the development of education policy through a collaborative process. In keeping with this collaborative process, the Minister then appointed independent schools and home-based education advisory boards to make recommendations concerning regulations, policies, and procedures governing the operation of Independent Schools and home-based education. The Home-Based Education Advisory Committee was established in 1990; chaired by Ernie Cychmistruk and representing all the major educational organizations, it submitted its report to the Minister in 1992. The report included recommendations and a new legal framework that acknowledged rights, freedoms, and legal principles regarding home-based education.

Implementation of the new legal framework involved amending the Education Act and establishing the Home-Based Education Program Regulations in 1993. In 1994, the Home-Based Education Policy Manual and Home-Based Education Parent Handbook were released.

While the new regulations and provincial-level policies provided a constant policy framework for home-based education in the province, boards of education retained local autonomy to administer this framework according to their own local circumstances. Boards of Education were given the responsibility for registering, monitoring, and providing services to home-based education students. As a result of this delegated responsibility, school divisions receive 50% of the per-pupil recognized expenditure for home-based education pupils. Home-based education student enrolment as a percentage of total provincial student enrolment is 1%; this enrolment increased from 1,021 in 1994 to 1,798 in 2003. The Minister of Education also established a Home-Based Education Review Board in 1993 to review the implementation of the new legal framework. This Review Board has met annually since 1993.

Eugene Hodgson

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