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Homeschooling- Step by Step Up to High School

Homeschooling- Step by Step Up to High School

By Cheryfa Jamal

Video

  1. Don't panic. It's not that hard, it's not an irreversible decision, it's not going to ruin your children's post-secondary education, and you're not going to fail. It's like painting; if you make a mistake, it's easy to redo and fix the errors.
  2. There are so many resources online to help you every step of the way. There are online schools that have live classes, or there are online schools that have videos and homework, or there are dozens of free online curriculums to choose from, or you can use the Ontario Ministry of Education's curriculum (listed below in Homeschooling Resources Websites), to make sure the main topics in each subject in each grade have been covered.
  3. There are many physical and online stores that sell everything you need that you can't get cheaper at the Dollar Store; I have also listed a few of those.

OK, now that you can breathe and sit back more comfortably, let me start with the first step you must take. 

Submitting a Letter of Intent. 

You can get this letter from your child's school or school board website. You fill it in. 

Please go to this page of the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (a god-send of resources!): https://ontariohomeschool.org/legal/letter-of-intent/, where you will learn more about this and even find a Letter of Intent you can submit if you haven't put your children into school yet, or you aren't getting your questions answered at the school your children attend.

I need to mention one critical detail here. When pulling your child out of public school, it must be done calmly and determined. Please DO NOT do it on the spur of the moment because you had an altercation with a teacher or vice principal. This allows them to refuse your Intent to Homeschool submission and call Children's Protective Services and accuse you of playing with your child's education, their right to change their pronouns, or your son's right to wear a girl's dress to school. This conflict, followed by withdrawal, was a problem with homeschooling 25 years ago, and it is a much bigger weapon today with this new cult indoctrination if the teacher or principal is a bully.

If you have an objection to a teacher showing the class inappropriate material, or telling your child they can be a boy or a girl or both, or you are upset with a disciplinary decision after your child was in an altercation with another child, or you child was bullied, walk away from the argument and wait until the end of the term, or the Winter Break, or March Break. Don't even go back to submit it to the school. Either email it or drop it off at the School Board. Avoid confrontation at all costs. Because they CAN use it against you if they can prove it is an emotional reaction to something you disagree with.

The thing is, Ontario is very supportive of homeschooling. They don't even ask you which curriculum, textbooks, testing process, or grading system you use. Because you don't ever have to prove you educated them at all, but a teacher can create a huge problem for you if they can verify you are not serious about homeschooling, that you are just using homeschooling to punish the school. 

So beware not to be reactionary if you withdraw your child during the active school year (September to June after they have already been in classes that year).

Here is the Ontario Ministry of Education's Policy on Homeschooling. Read through it and understand the reasons why a school would object to your Letter of Intent and how to redress that and reverse the objection (rare, but it has happened, especially under the circumstances I mentioned above). This should demonstrate why keeping records of your children's work and tests is very important. Take photographs and videos of their projects and save their workbooks, handouts, quizzes, and tests filed away as proof if you are not using an online resource. This will protect you from false accusations that you are not fulfilling your duty to educate your children. 

How to Homeschool???!!!

But you do want the best education for your children, and you want to protect them from this fasaad. So, let's look at the many avenues you can choose from. (I have listed online schools at the end of this article. You're welcome. I know! Alhamdulillah, right? Whew!)

You can purchase a program for each grade. Most programs give your child a passcode into an online portal, and there are videotaped lessons and games there to teach them, and there are quizzes and tests along the way. They even evaluate your child's progress. Some are accredited and will submit your child's grades to the Ministry of Education for their OSR (Ontario School Record).

Some programs will just sell you textbooks and workbooks, and you are the teacher. Each grade and subject can be purchased separately or as an entire school year.

Some homeschoolers are creative and ambitious enough to modify the Ministry of Education's curriculum and buy workbooks locally, per subject, per grade, from teacher supply stores. So many suppliers sell so many workbooks it will be a challenge for you to choose from among all of them.

That's where other homeschoolers are the best resource. They've already been there and done that. They will tell you all the shortcuts and best deals out there. I have listed below in the Homeschooling Resources Websites table an organization called Toronto Muslim Homeschoolers, a group of many (over 400 since it was started) mothers who homeschool. They have a small membership fee and a chat platform where you can ask for advice and read the comments other mothers post. Sometimes, they have get-togethers so the children can socialize and celebrate Eid. They occasionally plan field trips and carpool. It is an invaluable resource for all homeschooling Muslim families in the GTA, Masha'Allah.

Sometimes, several families will homeschool together; it is called a Homeschooling Pod. One parent teaches this subject or grade; another parent teaches that subject or grade; it is another support system that helps parents stay on track and encourage each other. It needn't be a classroom in one house; it can be remote on a platform that separates each grade (more than five students in one home from more than one family needs a special permit process). Some children don't listen to their mother as a teacher. Sometimes, they are more attentive and productive if someone else is the teacher part of the day. Having other children learning beside them gives them a sense of healthy competition to encourage them to strive.

We've all had a trial run at this during the Covid lockdowns. I know it was traumatic at the time, but you've already learned a lot, and all of you managed to get as much as possible done. This time it will be easier because you want to do this and you've prepared for it.

I did homeschooling for one year in 2009. Yes, one. There wasn't any support like today, nothing much online, and no parent support groups like OFTP or TMH. There are no schools online. Only TVO ILC. And we got the workbooks and submitted the work in the mail. We had a phone number we could call for an appointment if we needed clarification, guidance, or religious accommodation. But Alhamdulillah, they were accredited for Elementary grades back then.

I had put my two young sons into a Hifz program for a year to accomplish Juz Amma with proper tajweed (I am a convert). I had planned that after that year, they would return to Islamic School, and I wanted to ensure they wouldn't fall behind in their new grade, having skipped one year (all schools put children into age-specific grades, not ability-specific grades).

So, this meant I had to teach each of them two grades in one year. I set up my homeschool at my dining room table. That way, I could still cook and fold laundry, all the while making sure they were actually doing their work and not fighting in silence.

I had wall maps and, charts, books with interactive, updated, and current websites on each page. I had extra grade-level reading books for each subject, like early Canadian History or geology (rocks and volcanoes), English Grammar posters like Parts of a Sentence, and the multiplication chart. Masha'Allah, I was so proud of myself. I had Islamic Studies workbooks, an Ibn Battuta's travels workbook, Ramadhan workbooks, you name it, I had it.

I was teaching grades 3 and 4 and the other grades 5 and 6. So, half the year was for the first grade, and the other half of the year was for the second. That was a lot of resources in one year. Usually, a family would buy the resources for the oldest child, which each child would use over the years. 

To save money and to be able to share such excellent resources later, I took each workbook and carefully cut off the front and back covers and glued them onto the front and back of large envelopes (big manila or white document envelopes) that the workbook could fit into. Then, I carefully removed each page from the glue binding and cut the raw edge. Then I put each workbook into each envelope, and now I had a reusable resource.

With these loose-paged workbooks, I could photocopy the specific pages I wanted them to work from each day in the order I preferred because not all pages were relevant or mandatory. It's just a book; I can use it any way I want to teach what makes sense with what we just covered. And I didn't have to buy the workbook twice, thrice, or four times for each of my children. And I could shuffle and repeat lessons that hadn't sunk into their memories later in the month or year. 

They also made for good quizzes, which weren't written on yet. Alhamdulillah, I passed these invaluable resources to another homeschooling mother when I was done with them.

So, my obsessive-compulsive resource library and new living room décor of maps and posters all over the walls made me feel like I was a master at this. I was a TEACHER MOMMY! 

But every day, after 20 minutes of lesson teaching, poster pointing, internet surfing, and printer handout organizing, I would look at my sons and ask them, "Tell me something about what you just learned." Silence. Blinking. Squirming. Staring at the wall. Playing with the pencil. Nothing.

Appalled, I would ask more anxiously, "Didn't you understand ANYTHING I just taught you? What about this thing? Tell me about this one basic thing here." Silence. Blinking, Squirming…

OK, so it's not THAT easy. Especially boys. Pretty sure the entire time I was in my starring role as TEACHER MOMMY! They were thinking about Minecraft or when they go to the bathroom again.

So, it takes A LOT of patience. 

I learned from that year that one of my sons processes information differently than most other children. He can't quickly see an abstract lesson in his head. He has first to absorb the words, then translate them into what he can imagine them to be referring to; when I ask him about that thing, he has to reverse engineer the imagined thing into the right words again. It's not just automatic like his brother. 

I mistook empty stares for his brain working slower than I expected, but if I just waited and didn't feed him the answer, he eventually popped out a pretty good and accurate one himself IF I WAITED long enough for him to get through the process.

It's incredible what you will learn about each of your children that you never noticed before because they weren't home all day learning their subjects with you. Someone else was seeing their strengths and weaknesses.

You don't have to be their teacher; you can be their tutor to help them with their work after the teacher finishes online or they finish a video you gave them. You understand what they just learned because you hear the teacher, read the instructions, and help them along the way. It was pretty much homeschooling when Covid shut the schools down, right?

I advise you to keep them in the house's main area, never in a private area. They will never get anything done and waste their time watching videos and playing games, or worse.

May Allah guide all of you and make it easy. Ameen, Ameen, Ameen.

HOMESCHOOLING RESOURCES WEBSITES

Ont. Ministry of Education Curriculums

Public School Curriculums of all subjects JK – 12.

Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents

Everything you need to know about homeschooling in Ontario.

Toronto Muslim Homeschoolers

Exchanging ideas and resources, group day trips, socializing your children, and working with other families.

Ummati Kids

Homeschooling support.

Parents as First Educators

Online resources for homeschooling families. Provincial Regulations, too!

Homeschool Canada

Books and websites about homeschooling, articles, LOTS of information for homeschoolers.

The Canadian Homeschooler

Books, curriculums, websites, printables.

GA Educational Books and Toys

Workbooks, math supplies, posters, educational toys, fun school supplies, experiments, lots of great stuff.

Learning Tree Canada

Basically everything you ever wanted in a homeschooling bookstore.

Sonsuh Educational Supplies

All the supplies you need plus furniture for your little school.

Alpha Textbooks

Textbooks, workbooks, school supplies, etc.

Scholar's Choice

Workbooks, educational toys, games, puzzles, etc. from toddler to teenager.

Spectrum Educational Supplies

Curricular workbooks for every subject and every grade, Special Ed. Products.

Kidsource Inc.

Books, Special Needs tools, educational games.

Wintergreen Learning Materials

Science Kits, math resources, early literacy, reading and writing tools.

Learning House

Curriculums, books by school subject, courses, homeschooling help.

Canadian Home Education Resources

Curriculums, books, textbook/workbooks, LOTS of math workbooks, language workbooks.

Heritage Resources

Lots and lots of workbooks, curricular packs, advanced flashcards, reading kits.

Khan Academy Youtube

Videos of EVERY subject from Pre-K to university!

Math Project

K-8 Customized math tutoring programs

Al Barakah Books

Islamic curriculums and books

Noorart

Islamic curriculums, books, and toys

 

The Ontario Ministry of Education's Curriculums

When you look at the Ontario Ministry Curriculums, you will find a page listing Elementary and Secondary tabs. Once you choose which you need, you will find rectangular blocks with the school subjects.

Once you choose the subject, you will again find rectangular blocks with the grade levels. (This is so much easier now than it was in 2009!) Choose the grade level you want to see; you will find new links to course descriptions and expectations to be met at the end of each grade.

Find Overall Expectations in each strand, and you will see lists of what those students should understand by the end of that semester. Adjust what you feel is necessary. You can add next year's curricular expectations if you think your child is absorbing the material quickly, or you can modify some a grade to make it easier for them. YOU can tailor their learning; you don't have to follow the curriculum religiously anymore than you have to finish every single page and exercise in every single workbook. All of these are guidelines (which is why I suggest investing in a good printer).

So, amongst these Overall Expectations, find the bare essentials of the course; what does your child need to learn this grade? Which parts of algebra, which aspects of English grammar, which sections of history, or which level of geography do they need to understand? Copy and paste this onto a Word document so that you don't have to run THAT gauntlet again soon. 

Then, make yourself a nice cup of chai. Well done. You've slain the dragon.

Rinse and repeat for each of your children. Modify their learning abilities.

How to Apply to Post-Secondary Institutions Without Having Accreditation Schooling (No High School Credits)

Without accreditation (your child's Ontario School Record not recording your homeschooling or private school high school credits), you can still apply for many Ontario university and college programs through the OUAC (Ontario Universities Application Center) and OCAS (Ontario Colleges) online portals, You don't need an OSR (Ontario School Record) like public, Catholic, and accredited private school graduates. But this also means the application process is much more detailed than normal. 

Some post-secondary schools have special accommodations for homeschooled and adult students without accreditation. Please do your research far ahead of time so that your child has all the necessary paperwork and perhaps even a biography of their educational experience. 

Keep documentation of especially good projects, papers, and exams they may have completed in grades 11 and 12; scanned or digital copies of projects and any awards they won in online or local competitions. These are good additions to the bio. Keep these files for every one of your children.

Most institutions that accept homeschoolers or adult students have their own pathway to apply. They usually entail a testing process to ensure aptitude, like SAT scores and English proficiency testing. It would be wise to begin your research when your child is in Grade 8 so that you prepare them for this type of testing throughout high school, and it won't come as a shock after graduation.

One means of preparing to qualify for admission into university or college without accreditation is to enroll them into an online program that gives your child regular testing and report cards throughout Grades 9 to 12 and a final transcript of their courses, just as public school does. 

If your child is not in a supervised program, and you are their teacher, you need to grade your child yourself, per subject, per grade, and create your final transcript as it may be a requirement. An excellent resource explaining the admissions requirements of many universities and colleges in Canada, and a list of which ones accept homeschooled students is on the website I referred to earlier, called the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents, on this specific page - OFTP Admissions Information

Another hurdle for acceptance into university and college might be prerequisite courses for that specific program, especially in university programs. Accredited classes, whether online or in person, for Grade 12, some need Grade 11 prerequisite credits to enroll in the Grade 12 credit classes such as Grade 11 Functions to qualify for Grade 12 Advanced Functions, and the same applies to other subjects like Chemistry ), adds to the need to research early, at the grade 10 year. 

One method in attaining these is to take Grade 11-12 night school and summer school courses for the necessary prerequisites, but be aware that your child can only take two courses per summer. You would have to register in your local public school AND your local Catholic school to obtain both student ID numbers to access these courses (they don't need to attend school; they just need the student number to apply for the night or summer credit courses.) Some courses are only available that semester in the Public Board, and some are only available in the Catholic Board, all depending on how many teachers are available and how many students apply each term. 

Plan ahead because the courses fill up quickly months before they begin, so begin registering for student numbers in the Fall of your child's Grade 10 year and ask for the proper links to the night school and summer school courses both in the public school board and the Catholic school board, AND the dates when these courses come online for registration. MARK THE DATE and apply on the first day. Your Grade 10 graduate can take Grade 11U Chemistry and Functions, both prerequisites for Grade 12U Chemistry and Advanced Functions THAT SUMMER. 

Getting what you want is a real challenge as so many students are upgrading to bump up their marks or repeat a failed subject. 

A third method is for your child to write a GED (General Equivalency Diploma) exam at 19 years of age, Ontario.ca GED, and enter as an adult student. However, they might still need the prerequisite courses for their post-secondary program choices. You are only losing one year. It is a pressure release if your child is not ready. It's fine. It works, too. You can even wait until they are fully prepared, maybe at age 20. Every homeschooled student has a different rate of getting through the courses and being prepared to pass exams and testing.

Visit the universities and colleges in your area within your vision for your child. You can pick up or ask for a mailed copy of the admissions booklets featuring their faculties and programs offered within each faculty (it's much easier to navigate the book first). Or check the schools you are interested in for the programs you are considering online.

Whether you are using the book or the website, you can check for the prerequisites within each faculty and each course (depending on the school). This is why the night school courses and summer courses are important if you cannot afford to send them through an accredited online high school (only the prerequisites are necessary for accredited courses).

Two new local Islamic online accredited schools have just opened.

MAC Olive Grove offers a new online school for grades 4 - 8. 

ISNA High School offers a new online school for grades 9 - 12. 

You will find them listed in the table below. They will grow each year to include more grades.

Another non-accredited strategy is hiring a tutor or tutor service to write up exams for high school grades, including these Grade 11 and 12 prerequisite subjects, so you can submit them to the university or college if required. This will also make it easy for them to take the possible SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and Language Proficiency test, which I mentioned above may also be required for the program of your child's choice, so that they are well prepared and ready to pass them in the first go. 

You can register for SAT exams here: SATs for Ontario Students. And here is a website offering Language Proficiency tests: IELTS Official Test Center.

Deadlines are so stressful when you haven't prepared. You cannot apply for a student grant, bursary, or loan until your child has been accepted into a post-secondary program. 

You don't have to accept the student loan; you can decline it and accept the bursary, but you have to go through the process of applying through OSAP: How to apply to OSAP for Ontario Students

Grants are another article that someone else might write, Insha'Allah, as I don't have experience with that massive subject.

The application process for a homeschooled student is much longer and more complicated than for a public, Catholic, or accredited private school student, so you must diligently research the schools and programs your child hopes to be accepted into. 

March and April are the months post-secondary schools commonly open for admissions applications through OUAC and OCAS, so ensure your child has all necessary documents and the Grade 12 first-term transcript by the end of February!

It is doable. It takes time to navigate everything and learn how to teach your children yourself or find the best programs. You can begin your first year "riding bareback," meaning going it alone without enrolling in one of the choices if your child isn't near high school grades yet. Or you can begin with a paid program to get the feel of the first year and take on the challenge when you feel ready.

Nothing will fall apart the first year as you get your sea legs and your children adjust to the new learning models.

But it would be best if you supplemented their social life. And not JUST by putting them into evening or weekend Qur'an and Islamic Studies programs. They need friends, and they need play time with no learning pressure. 

Make connections with other homeschooling Moms. Organize local playdates with Moms in your area. Playgrounds, beaches, and waterparks are perfect for picnics. 

It would help if you had this socialization, too. You are adding a tremendous amount of work to your regular routine, and you will burn out if you don't have Relaxation.

Take another deep breath and make dua. Masha'Allah, you can do this!

Online Academic Islamic Schools

ACCREDITED

SCHOOL

GRADES

MAC Olive Grove Virtual School  

4 – 8

IHS International (scroll down)

9 - 11

American Islamic School

KG - 10

Saba's Academy

1 - 8

 

NOT ACCREDITED

SCHOOL

GRADES

Wali ul Asr Learning Institute (Shia)

JK - 7

 

Online Academic Other Schools

ACCREDITED

SCHOOL

GRADES

Ontario Virtual School

7-12

TVO ILC (Independant Learning Center)

9-12

VLC (Virtual Learning Center)

9-12

Ontario eSecondary School

9-12

Flexi Academy

K-12

 

NOT ACCREDITED

SCHOOL

GRADES

Power Homeschool

PreK-12

Acellus Academy (U.S. accreditation)

1 - 12

Scholar Within (reading, writing only)

K - 8

 

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