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Lower Mainland home school programs in short supply as demand grows

Last Updated Aug 12, 2020 at 1:08 am PDT

Summary

One mother has been desperately searching for homeschool options

Interest in at-home learning has skyrocketed amid fears from families about allowing their children back to school

A Vancouver-based home-learning program has been overwhelmed by applicants recently

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It’s been rejection after rejection for a Maple Ridge mother of three trying to find a home-learning program for her kids.

Interest in at-home learning has skyrocketed amid fears from families concerned about sending their children back into the classrooms. But the majority of homeschooling programs are already filled up, and if your child is in a choice program like French immersion, things become even more difficult.

“I’ve called probably 15 different groups and each one of them was, ‘Sorry, I’m full,’ ‘Sorry I’m full,'” says Katie Clunn.

Like many parents across the province, Clunn says she has reservations about sending her children back into physical classrooms.

“I just don’t understand why we can’t have the choice with online schooling or brick and mortar. If you are comfortable with brick and mortar, go for it,” she tells CityNews. “But if you can encourage them to stay home, or make it a little easier, you’re just making it safer for those that are in the brick and mortar schools because you are at home, making class sizes smaller.”

Clunn says she would like to see online classrooms as an option for both teachers and students who are not comfortable attending school as normal this fall. Right now, she says she feels a lot of uncertainty as to what her children’s education will look like over the next year, particularly because they are in French immersion.

“We want to take our kids out and homeschool but there’s the worry we won’t be able to get our kids get back into their class. They won’t be able to be with their friends further.”

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Clunn has started a petition asking the province to freeze student placements because, in order for parents to enroll in a supported home school group, they need to unenroll their child from their current schools and choice programs, leaving them at risk of losing their spot when they return.

Adding to Clunn’s problems, she doesn’t speak French. So she says she’ll need to invest in an independent tutor.

“I had to look into finding tutors so my kids will stay up to date with their peers and I’m looking at over $6,000 for bi-weekly half-an-hour sessions with a tutor,” she says.

“It’s just not fair that they either have to go to school when they’re uncomfortable or drop out of their chosen programs that they’re working so hard for.”

Meanwhile, Vancouver-based home school learning program SelfDesign Learning Foundation has been overwhelmed with applicants this year, with a waitlist 10 times longer than previous years.

“Our waitlist has increased,” says Amber Papou, president of SelfDesign. “It’s generally around 50 in our K-9 program and it’s grown to well over 500 in the last week and a half.”

“The thing with self-design, in particular, is we’ve operated as a remote school for 18 years very successfully. So I feel that part of it is there’s a consistency in our program so it’s drawing people to it,” she adds.

The Sept. 8 start date for school will be delayed, however, the province has not said for how long.