Help for those thinking about keeping their child home this fall
By Stuart Benson
When the province announced in June that students preschool to Grade 9 would be heading back to class in September in spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Stephanie Sewell began to notice an uptick in interest in homeschooling children.
“Every time I check in on one of the homeschooling Facebook groups, there's another three or four people who are newbies,” Sewell said. “There’s definitely a lot of interest.”
Sewell, who is the conductor and founder of the Chelsea Youth Choir, coordinated the Chelsea Homeschooling Co-op, and chaired the Board of Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning, consults and coaches families seeking guidance and support for their child’s education, including strategies for success in homeschooling.
"The most important thing, I believe, is the notion of de-schooling,” Sewell said. “This is the term I use to describe the period between leaving traditional schooling and the point where you become settled in your life outside of school.”
Sewell explained that ‘de-schooling’ is a transition where she advises parents to breathe and take time not doing schoolwork or worrying about keeping their children busy, rather paying attention to what they do when their time is their own.
“I think that's such an important first step,” Sewell said. “It gives permission for families to read and learn and talk to [each other] and not feel like they need to have a perfect lesson plan ready for September 1st.”
Sewell explained that parents should recognize that homeschooling is going to look different for every family and that there won’t be only one correct approach. Sewell also advised to resist the urge to structure lessons to be identical to that of a traditional school — even for those families who find that is the best option, she cautioned that they will discover it takes far less time than six or seven hours a day, five days a week.
“Learning and [academia] don't need to take up the majority of the day or week, and it doesn't require parents to stay up all night designing the perfect lesson,” Sewell said. “[Learning that] is a big part of the de-schooling.”
Sewell said she also encourages families to become members of The Quebec Association for Home-based Education (aqed.qc.ca/en), which offers additional support and resources for families to navigate the legal requirements from the province for homeschooling.
Sewell also offers various workshops and webinars throughout the year, as well as working one-on-one or in groups of parents to help guide them through the process of de-schooling and figuring out what they want their programs to look like.
“I also run online groups for teens because it can be a really big shift for them,” Sewell added. “They really need that social aspect still and a way to work through their feelings about switching gears.”
If you would like more information or to inquire about one of Sewell’s workshops, visit stephaniesewell.ca.