Many people new to the world of learning-at-home in British Columbia are confused by the difference between the terms “registered” and “enrolled”. As parents, it is important that we distinguish between the two terms and fully understand how these options impact our children's educational choices.
By September 30th of each year (until the fall the child turns 16 on or before December 31), school-aged children in British Columbia are legally required to be registered as independent homeschoolers (under Section 12 of the BC School Act) or enrolled as students in a school-based program, either in a physical school or through a Distributed Learning (DL) program.
What does “Registered” mean?
When parents register their children as homeschoolers, they are removing their children from the expectations of the provincial curriculum. The parents are the educational authority in the home and officially oversee their children’s educational program. They are not expected to abide by or even be concerned about the Provincial Learning Outcomes (PLOs) or the “widely held expectations” of the Ministry of Education.
Why would I choose to register my children?
Registration is a great option for families who wish to be fully autonomous in their home education program. Parents can either ignore or exceed the provincial curriculum and can follow any educational philosophy they choose. This is the option that provides the most freedom and flexibility for learning at home.
Parents who choose to register their children as homeschoolers also choose to provide an educational program for their children without financial support. Some programs that offer registration, such as Pacific Spirit (formally Life Song) or Regent Christian Online Academy, also offer a small stipend ($120.00 to $150.00) to parents for resources or activities. Children who are registered with a public school may be able to access school facilities or resources at the discretion of the school administrator but will not receive money to put toward resources.
The BC Home Learner’s Association (BCHLA) is an important advocacy group for registered homeschooling families and provides support on different levels. For more information about the BCHLA and the services they offer to BC homeschooling families, please consult their website. If you wish to continue to have the option to be a registered homeschooling family in BC, with no government strings attached, you may want to join the BCHLA and support them in their role as advocates for homeschooling in BC.
What does “Enrolled” mean?
Children who attend an educational program or school, either physically, electronically, or through correspondence, are “enrolled”. Many parents who provide a learn-at-home environment for their children choose to enroll their children with Distributed Learning (DL) programs (formally called Distributed Electronic Learning). These children are not “homeschoolers” as per the Ministry of Education’s legal definition and their educational programs are officially under the direction of a BC Certified teacher, not the parent. As far as the Ministry of Education is concerned, the only difference between these home-based children and children who attend school is location.
As Distributed Learning or DL programs have grown in popularity, so have the expectations of the Ministry of Education. These programs are required to account for the PLOs in both planning and assessment, demonstrate adequate teacher to learner contact, have their students participate in province-wide testing (grades 4 and 7) and must pay vendors directly for services and goods. For more information about the Ministry’s DL policy, please consult this website. For independent schools, please check here.
Why would I choose to enroll my children?
Parents who wish for their children to learn at home may choose the DL option because of the financial support they receive. Some parents enjoy having access to the resources some programs provide, and some parents are happy to have access to a teacher who can field their questions and provide guidance as needed.
DL programs widely vary in terms of perks provided (from $0 to $1200 for resources), expectations (from weekly parent contact to parent reports submitted three times a year), requirements (from substantial amounts of specific work samples to none required), and level of assessment (from traditional letter grades on reports to none). All programs are required to demonstrate frequent teacher-student contact starting in 2007. Please check out your program of interest carefully (most have websites with FAQs) and feel free to call the program administration in order to have your questions answered fully before you commit.
You can find a list of Public DL programs at this site. Public DL programs are required to provide a secular-based, parallel-to-school program.
A listing of Independent DL programs can be found here. Independent DL programs are required to follow the PLOs for core subjects, but are able to adjust materials, presentation, and even organization based on program philosophy. A faith-based school is allowed to provide faith-based materials (whereas a public DL is not). A school whose philosophy is based on natural learning is able to offer learner-centred educational planning and anecdotal assessment without letter grades.
How do I choose?
The Ministry of Education has a webpage that clearly outlines the differences between enrollment and registration in a chart format. This may be helpful when making your final decision about whether or not you want to register your child as a homeschooler or enroll her as a DL student.
If you decide to pursue the DL option, you may want to talk to other home learning families to find out about their experiences. Remember that just because a friend or aquaintance did not like a particular program does not mean it will not be a good fit for your family - and vice versa. Talk to a number of people and get a sense of what the program requires and whether or not that will work for you. For example, if you are a good writer, you may enjoy a program with a weekly reporting requirement (even if a friend didn't). If your children do not like to produce written work, then you may decide to avoid a program where work samples form the core of assessment.
The bottom line: It is important to assess your family's needs, educational philosophy, and availability as you consider the various options that are open to you.
What if I change my mind?
After September 30th, you can still change your mind. If you choose to leave a DL program and you wish to officially homeschool, you can unenroll from the program and either register your child as a home schooler with your local school or with another school authority, such as Pacific Spirit. Or you can enroll him in a different DL program if they are accepting applications after September 30th (check with the DL program about their enrollment policies and availability). If you have registered your child as a homeschooler, you can choose to enroll him in a DL program at any point in the school year. You can also enroll your child in a "brick and mortar" school at any time or if your child is currently attending a physical school, you can enroll him in a DL program or choose to register him as a homeschooler. It’s up to you.
In British Columbia, we parents of learn-at-home kids have a phenomenal range of educational choice available to us. We are envied by homeschooling families across North America. These choices can feel overwhelming at first, but as we read through the information, chat with other families, and come to a decision about what program best suits our family’s needs, we tend to find a good fit. And if not, we can always change our minds - at any time.
BC Home Learners' Association (BCHLA, formerly CHEA) is a registered non-profit society formed in 1987 to promote and protect homeschooling freedoms in British Columbia. BCHLA is dedicated to the protection of the family's freedom to educate children at home with minimal government intervention. The organization represents BC home educators from many walks of life with differing religious and philosophical backgrounds. If you are interested in preserving your option to register-only (under Sections 12 and 13 of the School Act), then please consider a membership in the BCHLA (by donation).
Some links of interest from the site: