This fall, the Nova Scotia Department of Education adopted new regulations for home schoolers that lift most legal restrictions on home schooling.
“The new Nova Scotia regulations are the best in Canada, and rank as one of the top laws in all of North America,” said Home School Legal Defense Association attorney Jordan Lorence. “The department of education has taken a permissive attitude towards home schoolers and has imposed only minimal regulations.”
The new regulations require home schoolers to submit an annual notice of intent that asks for basic information about the home school. Twice a year, parents must submit a progress report on their children’s educations. The parents select what information should be submitted to show academic progress.
The only problem with the regulations from HSLDA’s point of view is the twice-annual progress report requirement. “I think progress reports once a year would be sufficient,” Lorence said. “I doubt that the school officials would want to review progress reports more frequently than once a year.”
Lorence added that the new regulations show an informed and tolerant view towards home school families. “HSLDA urges other Canadian provinces to consider adopting regulations similar to Nova Scotia’s in their own provinces.”
HSLDA Writes Position Paper Opposing Home Visits
In October, HSLDA published a position paper opposing “home visits” in Canada, showing that they are unauthorized by any provincial statute and violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In some of the provinces, especially Ontario, school boards require that home school families allow school officials to enter their homes and observe the home school in action. Some school officials demand to interview the children during the home visit, sometimes outside of the presence of the parents.
Because of the large number of Canadian families facing the threat of home visits, HSLDA researched the issue to show that the home visits are illegal under Canadian law. The paper points out that no law in any of the provinces authorizes home visits in the first place. The school officials simply assume they have the authority to require the home visits. In fact, the new Saskatchewan regulations promulgated this fall specifically prohibit home visits unless the family consents to the visit.
The HSLDA paper then argues that Article 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms places significant restraints on government officials who attempt to enter a home without a search warrant and without consent. It is HSLDA’s position, therefore, that home visits without a search warrant violate the families' rights under the Charter.
If you would like a copy of the Canadian home visit analysis, please contact HSLDA.
HSLDA’s Statement on the New Saskatchewan Regulations
Released on October 22, 1993, in response to the new Saskatchewan home school regulations passed in September.
The new home-schooling regulations in Saskatchewan are a significant step forward toward the goal of maximizing the freedom of parents to oversee the education of their children. HSLDA rates the regulations, when compared to other provincial and state laws in Canada and the United States, as somewhere in the middle. The Saskatchewan regulations are not the most restrictive in North America, but there are provincial and state laws which grant more freedom to home schoolers than the Saskatchewan regulations, such as the new regulations in Nova Scotia.
The regulations contain some major features benefiting home schoolers. Families do not have to submit to home visits by school officials. Families can choose how their children will be evaluated academically. The regulations do not permit school officials to approve home instruction. The regulations contain no teaching qualifications for home school parents. Parents do not have to teach the curriculum used in Saskatchewan schools, and there are no restrictions on what curriculum parents can choose.
HSLDA thinks that it is a major improvement for home schoolers in Saskatchewan that the vague law of the past that gave unbridled authority to the local school boards has been replaced by a specific set of regulations that guarantees definite, substantive rights for home school families. It is HSLDA’s experience over its ten years of existence that it is better for home schoolers to live under a specific law rather than a vague law that expresses no standards and gives total power to government officials to determine what is an acceptable home school. Vague laws result in arbitrary (and frequently, oppressive) interpretations and applications by local school boards.
However, most provinces and states have replaced their vague “approval” laws with short laws that detail a specific procedure for home school families to follow. Saskatchewan is unique in that it has drafted lengthy regulations that contain specific rights for families. This is unprecedented in both Canada and the United States.
HSLDA thinks the Saskatchewan regulations could be shortened. At 17 pages, the Saskatchewan regulations are the longest set of home school laws or regulations in Canada or the United States. In contrast, Nova Scotia issued a new set of home school regulations that are favorable to home schoolers in late summer that consist of two pages, with two additional pages attached (a notice of intent form and a statement of the educational goals for Nova Scotia’s public schools). Although the Saskatchewan regulations contain significant protections for home schoolers, HSLDA prefers the shorter laws passed by other provinces and states.
HSLDA believes that home schoolers in Saskatchewan should work in the long term to shorten the regulations by reducing the interaction between the government and the home school families. HSLDA believes that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, so the governmental role can be reduced in home schooling, as it has been successfully reduced in other provinces and states. One suggested change would be for the regulations to give parents the choice to select a non-governmental entity to oversee the family’s home schooling, or at least have a choice among several governmental bodies for the oversight (e.g., the local school board or the provincial department of education).
Some home schoolers may not agree with HSLDA’s statements on the new Saskatchewan regulations. It should be remembered that HSLDA will represent a member family according to the member’s view of the law, and HSLDA will defend that position in court, if need be. HSLDA does not require its members to adhere to a certain philosophical or legal position.
Therefore, it is HSLDA’s opinion that the Saskatchewan regulations advance the cause of home schooling and are an important step forward to the goal of recognizing parental control over the education of their children.