It's easier than you think to pull your child from school

Reva completes the legal and administrative requirements for home-schooling her child.

Photo: SteveStone/iStockphoto

Announcing my plan to home-school my eldest son on Today’s Parent feels like it should count as an official notice to the school board.

But of course, it doesn’t.

So this week, I finally got around to looking into what the actual legal and administrative requirements are if you want to formally remove a child from the public school system.

My initial Google search of “removing my son from the school system” led me to a series of US-based blogs and articles that heavily referenced liberty and the infringement of the state on the rights of parents.

A quick glance at these and I instantly became apprehensive about the bureaucratic hurdles that were just waiting to thwart my plan (paperwork not being my strong point).

But when I refined my search to Canada I found that, ironically, our government is not nearly as involved in parental education choices as it seems to be in US.

Home-schooling is legal across Canada although the specific requirements vary by province.

Under the Ontario Education Act, a child can be excused from attending public school if they are receiving “satisfactory” instruction at home or elsewhere.

I’ll be honest; a standard of “satisfactory” is a bit of a much-needed confidence booster. Yes, I’m aiming higher, but in a worst-case scenario, I’m pretty sure I can get us to “satisfactory.” Except that what qualifies for “satisfactory instruction” is actually not defined in the Act.

In the past, this meant that school boards often adopted a fairly proactive regulatory approach. Parents were required to submit curriculums, sample schedules, assessment plans and be prepared for home visits.

However, in June 2002 the Ministry of Education released a policy that completely reversed this framework. Now, unless school boards have reasonable grounds to suspect a child will not be receiving satisfactory instruction, they are instructed to just accept a family’s “Letter of Intent” as evidence that they will be providing a sufficient curriculum.

So really, it couldn’t be any easier. A sample copy of the Letter of Intent is even available on the Toronto District School Boards own website — so all I have to do is print, sign and mail.

The letter is sent to your school board, although most Canadian home-schooling sites suggest that, as a point of courtesy, parents should also send a copy of the letter to their child’s principal.

This makes me nervous.

Our school is very small and although I’ve only casually met our principal, we have been lucky to have extremely supportive teachers these past two years.

And while I have no problem announcing my decision on a blog or sending letters to anonymous school boards, I’m actually dreading telling the teachers I know that my son won’t be coming back — especially since his younger brother will be starting in JK next year.

I feel the need to keep re-stating that we were happy with the teachers and school but if I’m then choosing an alternative option, does it just sound hypocritical? A bit like the classic celebrity divorce statements, where “although they love and respect each other, they are deciding to go their separate ways.”

Even though I really believe that this is the right decision for my son, a part of me is still reluctant to dismiss the effort and experience that these teachers provided him.

In any case, I mailed both the school board and the principal — so there’s no going back now.