When most people think of homeschooling, they usually imagine a child sitting down at a table with their parents diving into a textbook, but it is so much more than that.
Jen Chiasson is part of one of the homeschooling groups in the community called the Strathmore Homeschool Explorers and says her group, along with many other homeschooling groups in the community, has a lot of parents that frequently collaborate to create opportunities for their students to learn and play together.
"There's a mom who does multi-age sports group out of the George Freeman gym, every week there's a nature journaling club, there's another mom who does kind of a Co-op where the kids come and share their talents, like they sign up for a week to teach chess, or to teach a painting lesson. There’s also a team of experienced moms that lead an inclusive and inquisitive meet-up group at Kinsmen Park," Chiasson said.
Beyond the work they do together, Chiasson explained homeschooling is way more community oriented than you may think, as there are many groups that offer various supports.
"The Wheatland Society of Art offers homeschool specific art lessons that let families with home school children have art lessons during the day. To connect their children with friends that are in a similar learning situation to them, the Strathmore Gymnastics Centre also offers homeschool specific gymnastics classes, and the library is also very supportive in their programming towards the homeschooled kids."
Saying homeschooling is a natural extension of parenting, Chiasson enjoys homeschooling her kids and the "very natural progression" of doing things like colouring together and taking them to the library.
The flexibility of homeschooling is one of many benefits Chiasson highlighted, saying you can tailor how you educate your child based on what could be best for them. For example, in a regular school students are all the same age in a class and are expected to have the same results, but Chiasson says that may not work for some.
"Families within their homes are able to tailor their child's education based on their own learning style, how mature they are at a certain time, their natural interests, and to emphasize on their strengths rather than comparing them to peers who will be gifted in different ways. I actually think that leads to stronger outcomes."
This focus on the individual child has benefits beyond education, as Chiasson said she's seen her children thrive in other aspects.
"Our kids have avoided the pressure of kind of a societal conformity by peer pressuring or bullying, those kinds of things. They've been able to really grow a strong sense of self-worth, their personal identity and their confidence."
What Chiasson has learned from her children on their homeschool journey is that they are way more intentional with their friendship.
"Rather than just having the person sit next to them, become their buddy, they're seeking out kids that have similar interests or similar abilities, regardless of their age, regardless of the neighborhood they live in, kind of outside of that school model."
"My son actually organizes an online chess club from home that has become quite successful and has been growing."
The homeschooling group that Chiasson and her children are a part of is a really diverse group of families who have decided to home school for a variety of reasons.
"We have working parents in our groups, single parents, large families, families with only children, parents who were previously teachers. We have faith-based families. We have secular families. We have French and Spanish speaking families so we are really diverse."
This particular group of kids has weekly meetups with a lot of field trips along the way that helps them learn and explore.
"We do a field trip almost every month, We did some programming at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Bar U Ranch, we also had seasonal parties like we had a Christmas party and a Saint Patrick's Day Hall type party, so we do all sorts of stuff together as a group."
Chiasson's group and other groups often overlap and coordinate together, meaning field trips and meetups can have anywhere from 40-120 people. While there's many possible reasons why these parents may have chosen to homeschool, they all share one common goal: preparing their children for the future as best as they can.
"It is a vibrant and thriving community with a group of parents who are just committed to collaborating together to grow something really beautiful for their children. "
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