Students from across the Chatham-Kent region gathered recently to share life and laughs with residents at The Meadows of Wheatley, a local retirement residence, nestled in the heart of the idyllic town. At the Meadows, students have an opportunity to polish up their esthetic skills by providing manicures to residents, while others perform in a monthly talent show. The show was produced through the WE Homeschool Group, which boasts members from across Chatham-Kent, Windsor and Essex County. The group is one of several that frequent the residence, under the direction of General Manager Anne Byrne.
Stephanie Pouget, a homeschooling mom, responsible for facilitating the event, is overheard instructing students when a senior is alone or appears to be disengaged from activities. Within moments, a student springs into action and begins a dialogue, while working with residents to create a dazzling Christmas ornament as part of the day’s craft.
Perhaps the most compelling displays of talent come from two very adept students, self-taught in their craft. Miranda Pouget stuns the crowd when she maneuvers her guitar over her tiny frame, onto her back and begins strumming out a tune. I listen intently as another student, Ada Fryer, describes how she learned to play the violin solely by watching YouTube videos.
For many students, including Miranda, a flexible school schedule is one of the many benefits of homeschooling. “The best part about being homeschooled is probably the ability to rearrange our school schedule to be able to do extra things, like the Meadows.”
Off the Charts, Not the Grid
From an onlooker’s perspective, these families may seem to be in the minority, but in reality, they’re part of a much larger movement. Home education has gained popularity in recent years for many notable reasons. From 2006-2012 homeschooling enrollment grew an astounding 29% in Canada (The Fraser Institute). Such growth may be due in part to the increased flexibility it provides. With employees largely veering away from the traditional 9-5 workweek, the ability to play a greater role in a child’s education is a tangible incentive for many parents. Online courses streamline the process and provide support for parents who are just starting out.
Homeschooling is legal in Canada and is regulated provincially. It is not a requirement for parents to obtain a teaching degree in order to instruct their child. Parents can choose from a variety of curricula and adjust the pace of their child’s studies to one that suits their needs best. A home setting also means greater volunteer opportunities and the ability to obtain part-time employment, which can make for a richer, more conducive learning environment for the student.
Students in the WE Homeschool group regularly hone their interpersonal skills through meetings like this one. Communicating with individuals outside their age bracket has resulted in many positive benefits for the teens and residents alike. “I think it’s important for our young people to be able to engage in a conversation that is not about themselves,” says Stephanie. To learn the art of listening and asking questions.”
Screen time can take up a large portion of a student’s day, leaving less room for them to garner key communication skills, but not at Meadows of Wheatley. Here, individuals of all ages see the value in learning from each other face to face.
Home Grown Advantage
Homeschooled students may even have more exposure to positive adult interactions since they’re able to engage with them in a one-on-one setting outside classroom walls. The maturity these students acquire may be indicative of the professions they choose to enter later on. A 2015 Fraser Institute study found homeschoolers were more likely than their peers to complete professional or doctoral degrees and to hold a managerial or professional occupation (The Fraser Institute).
Parents can be reassured that their child has the same postsecondary opportunities as their publicly educated peers. In fact, homeschooled students are quickly becoming the top choice for stateside Ivy League schools (Radsken). Harvard, MIT and Stanford are just a few of the decorated institutions who are recruiting these exceptional adolescents (Homeschool View).
So, why do homeschoolers have an advantage in both the workplace and inside institutional walls (especially when they’ve forgone the traditional classroom until such a point)? A recent study conducted by the Fraser Institute touches on one possible reason. In “Why Canadian Education Isn’t Improving,” the issue of compliance versus performance driven schools is examined. “The focus on compliance undermines the development and evaluation of new ideas. Not only should a good education system be able to offer the schooling options families want, it should also have the flexibility and incentive to experiment with new programs” (Merrifield, Dare, and Hepburn).
Could it be that the classroom is better geared towards compliance, rather than pure academic performance?
Whichever proves true, homeschooling, as these students demonstrated, can provide the perfect framework to connect with one’s local community and to gain valuable soft skills to propel forward in life.
Visit The Canadian Centre for Home Education’s website, www.cche.ca, to learn more about homeschooling in your area.