Rebecca Kuhn is getting antsy for school to start.
“She had been looking at her school books on the shelf saying, ‘Mom, mom is it time to do school yet,’” the 6-year-old’s mom Erin Kuhn said.
Rebecca won’t be hopping on a yellow school bus come September though.
She is one of hundreds of children across PEI who will receive their education through home schooling.
For the 2019/2020 school year 232 students were home schooled in PEI, according to government statistics. Enrollment in the province’s private and public schools totals 21,208.
Ms Kuhn was home schooled herself, which is a big reason the Sturgeon family is choosing that route.
“I want to have control over my daughter’s education,” Ms Kuhn said.
“Public school is kind of a one size fits all and I want to be able to tailor her curriculum to her specific needs and strengths.”
Claire Arthur of Valleyfield agrees with that philosophy. Her daughter Holly is home schooled.
“I really wanted Holly to learn how to love learning and to do it in a way that is suited her,” Ms Arthur said.
Holly, age 8, has developed a deep love of reading in her years of learning.
“I see myself as a facilitator rather than a teacher,” Ms Arthur said.
She has teaching experience as does Ms Kuhn who looks forward to helping shape her children’s learning. Rebecca is the oldest of four children in the Kuhn household.
“The beauty of home schooling is you can be a bit flexible, but we will be following a fairly structured schedule,” Ms Kuhn said.
“Everyone has their own method that suits their own lifestyle,” Ms Arthur added.
There are extremes where some people have a rigid schedule and others choose the learning through lifestyle.
Most follow in between those two, setting aside time for “book learning” and using the everyday lifestyle to teach, Ms Arthur said.
When schools across the province were shuttered in March due to COVID-19 restrictions,students in home schooling didn’t miss out on academics.
But they did miss out, Denise Bowman of Belle River said.
“There is a huge community.”
“Pre-COVID-19 we could have been out every day of the week doing an enrichment course of one type or another.”
There is a lot of camaraderie for parents as well, Ms Arthur said.
“Having a large home school group in PEI is a huge plus,” Ms Kuhn said.
Art and music classes and several scheduled field trips are among some of the outings Sam and Ben Bowman were disappointed to miss when COVID restrictions came into play.
Since the easing of restrictions home school families have been able to get together again albeit in smaller groups than usual.
Connecting online has become another method of keeping in touch.
Sam,10, and Ben, 8, are both avid learners. Sam can’t wait to delve into the experimental side of science and math is Ben’s passion.
“I wanted to be able to give the boys individualized education, one in which we could go at their own pace,
explore interests as they came up and go more in-depth into certain subjects,” Ms Bowman said.
For Anne Vandonkergoed, in Valleyfield, home schooling was a necessity from the beginning.
When her daughter Emma was three she had health issues and doctors strongly recommended the family keep their
bubble small. While the family’s bubble has been able to expand over the years, Emma, who is almost 10 and her sister Gracie,11,are very much settled into their home schooling routine.
Ms Vandonkersgoed and her husband Ed share in the teaching.
They spend two hours a day (a little more for Gracie) on what they describe as “book work” and the rest of the day is divided into other activities which very much depend on the time of year.
“We could be doing piano lessons,spending time outside or in the kitchen,” Ms Van Donkersgoed said.
“I have never been of the mind children should be sitting at a desk during the best hours of the day,”she added.
Teaching her own children wasn’t an entirely foreign concept for Ms Vandonkergoed who finished her own high school education through correspondence courses.
She too is quick to dispel the myth of home schooling as an isolated lifestyle.
“My kids have a bigger social calendar than most adults I know,” Ms Vandonkersgoed said.
“The advantage is they don’t just have relationships with kids their own age.”
All the mothers agree. This year there are more than a few new families interested in home schooling.
From March to June when parents were thrust into helping their children navigate the world of learning at home, it put home schooling on the radar.
“In talking to some of my friends they see the children definitely respond well to the one-on-one,” Ms Kuhn said. “If they are not in the position that they have to go back to work full- time, some are considering home schooling.”
There are plenty of newcomer questions on the various social media groups, Ms Arthur said.
She has heard from some parents who are leery about sending their kids back to school with the pandemic situation and others who were planning on home schooling regardless.
“They are just trying to feel their way into it by finding out what other home schoolers do,” Ms Arthur said.
Whether a family is looking at home schooling for a year or for the long-term, Ms Vandonkergoed has a few words of advice.
“It is a big commitment and you have to be invested and disciplined,” she said.
Ms Bowman researched several teaching methods to come up with the right combination for their family’s lifestyle and she suggests anyone starting out does the same.
“Every single family I know home schools in a different way,” Ms Arthur said.
“You do it the way it suits your family.”
“People know how their children learn best.” The Facebook group ‘So you’re thinking about home schooling (PEI)’ has plenty of information.