The Legal Aspect of Alternative Forms of Education
The overriding law governing all education of young people in Ontario is the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.2. This act defines the boundaries of education that are legally acceptable and enforceable in the province of Ontario. The Education Act is often modified and adapted to the changing needs of the population. These modifications may be done by way of changes to the Act itself or by way of changes to the Regulations that support the Act. The most recent or current version has been in force since June 3, 2010. Other supporting documents generated by the Ministry of Education such as policy and program documents are developed in order to facilitate in the interpretation and implementation of the Law and Regulations. Policies developed by the Ministry of Education, individual school boards and related agencies should “march in step” with the law. When there is some legitimate question as to whether the law and regulations are being fairly interpreted or implemented, it may be challenged in court and case law is established.
Most students in Ontario attend school in the traditional format. This entails a prescribed school year, a scheduled school day, with teachers, administrators, peers, classes and extracurricular activities. However, not all students are educated in this customary way. Parents, teachers and other interested parties have developed and evolved alternative options for education for various reasons. As long as these fall within the limits of the Education Act then it is perfectly acceptable.
In this paper I am going to discuss homeschooling and equivalent learning as they currently exist in Ontario. For each topic there is a brief rationale, reference to the portions of the Education Act that apply and outlines of the policy documents that are used to support them. In the matter of homeschooling, there are three items of case law that have relevant portions and are presented.
Reasons for Homeschooling
Homeschooling is an alternative form of education that parents may choose for their school age children for a variety of reasons. When one does a search for resources for homeschooling parents there is an abundance of material available. Generally the source of the resource has a theme that is based on the particular ideology of the underlying factors for the choice for homeschooling. National and provincial support groups provide educational as well as legal advice such as: Association of Canadian Home-Based Educators (ACHBE), Canadian Centre for Home Education (CCHE), Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA), The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents – which has a list of local groups in 47 communities throughout Ontario, Ontario Christian Home Educators Connection (OCHEC) , and The Catholic Home Schoolers' Association-Ontario (CHSA-O) . There are also various groups that cater to specialized support, ethnic, and...