By Naomi Knoch, SEARCH Apprentice Writer[TheChristians.com] Jason Kenney’s recent vow to support parental choice in education, along with his rejection of the “nanny state” dictating curriculum with alarming and increasing secrecy, was met with thunderous applause at a Feb. 16 United Conservative Party (UPC) convention.
VIDEO: [CityNews] Jason Kenney at the UCP election readiness conference, promises end to carbon tax, repeal of Bill 6 and “modern curriculum, focussed on essential knowledge and skills…” [Feb. 18, 2019]
“We will expand the horizons of freedom in Alberta, pushing back against the nanny state and without apology defending fundamental Charter rights like the freedoms of conscience, religion and speech. We’ll expand school choice because Conservatives recognize that parents and not politicians are the primary educators of their children,” said the UPC leader. “We’ll stop the NDP’s ideological rewrite of the school curriculum and we will consult with parents and experts – and parents are experts by the way – to develop a modern curriculum that is focused on essential knowledge and skills instead of political agendas and failed teaching fads.”
Whether or not Kenney can follow through on his promises to empower parents depends on the outcome of the provincial election that must be held by May 31 .
Kenney’s support is a relief to beleaguered parents who have been at the mercy of a government steadily undermining their rights over their children.
That includes Alberta’s home educators who are preparing for their annual conference designed to help them refine their skills and figure out how to tackle current issues.
The homeschooling movement has come a long way since its inception in the 1970s. Factors that contribute to a slow but steady growth include flexibility with scheduling and activities, control over what children are taught and an ability to specifically tailor the education needs of each child.
As well, home educators share a camaraderie that empowers them. They care deeply about what is going on politically and culturally and band together over controversies arising when government tries to dictate form and content of education. High on the list is a determination to protect their children from sexually explicit propaganda and leftist ideologies steadily creeping into the system.
What started out as a small and secluded form of education now sees more than 26,000 children homeschooled across Canada, nearly 10,000 of them in Alberta, representing 1.4% of the province’s students.
The Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA), founded in 1986, lends support and hosts an annual conference. The 2019 event scheduled April 11th-13th in Red Deer will draw home educators of all beliefs and backgrounds and attract people exploring the option.
AHEA’s 2019 theme is: Transforming Minds. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. (Romans 12:2.) Convention Director Korien Sampson, of Morinville AB, says diverse issues are on the agenda. “We make sure that the speakers we choose understand the current political climate, there is a focus on God in all of our sessions, and our Christian worldview permeates our keynotes.”
Home educators adamantly oppose government interference with their right to choose how and what their children are taught. Protection of the prerogative to homeschool and present material of their choice is a priority. They’ve followed, with trepidation, a controversial push by the Alberta New Democrats that has raised the ire of many throughout the provincial school system.
Bill 24, a 2017 amendment to the School Act, will be a hot topic. It makes it illegal for a school principal to notify parents about their child’s involvement in student organizations, including Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), or “activities” established under section 16.1 of the School Act.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), representing faith-based private schools and individual parents, has legally challenged this and will offer an update on the court application at the conference. If Bill 24 is not repealed homeschoolers fear it will impact them.
David MacKenzie of Devon, AB, with the Evangelical Office of the Public Square, says the government disregards rights and religious freedoms. “A government who doesn’t respect parental rights, plus the legislation and projected ideology will not equal homeschoolers being protected. They are next on the agenda.”
MacKenzie notes that legislative changes began with Conservative party “sexual progressivists” and is “even more manifest” with the NDP government. “It won’t stop. Parental rights are being eroded. The evidence both historically and in the present is fairly clear if you extrapolate what you see, it suggests that there is something coming.”
After surveying the quality of education in the public system, Edmonton AB’s Joe Shandera chose homeschooling for his six children aged four to 13. “The populace is steered through education, and we wanted our kids to be able to think for themselves, to find their place in God and the created world, not in their peers. Education is a family role. Our goal is to build relationship and character with our kids, and grow as a family instead of becoming separated.”
The veteran AHEA conference attendee leaves the event “refreshed, charged, and politically informed” every year. “There are awesome speakers who are a huge source of inspiration and encouragement.”
Rev. Dr. Joseph Boot (M.A., PhD) is one of three keynote speakers at this year’s conference. Boot, Christian thinker, cultural theologian, and noted Christian apologist lectures worldwide. His topics are: The Crisis of Man and the Death of Social Order; Christ and Culture; A Christian heritage and Calling: The History of Christian Education; and The Myth of Neutrality: The Purpose and Content of Education.
Jojo Ruba, executive director of Faith Beyond Belief, is the keynote speaker for youth. He equips them to defend and explain their faith using reasonable arguments, deal with issues they face today and present truth in a loving manner.
Steve Demme, creator of Math-U-See curriculum and founder of Building Faith Families, will share his testimony on the joys and difficulties of educating and caring for a special needs child, drawing off his experiences with his Downs Syndrome son.
Suzanne DeGroot, of Lethbridge AB, loves the flexibility homeschooling offers. She chose this route because of sensory/developmental challenges with her eldest child. This is DeGroot’s third year attending AHEA. “The speakers are experienced and inspire me with confidence that we’re not doing something crazy. There are rough days and moments, but I’m so thankful to be doing this with my kids, especially the oldest who’d be so lost in a classroom.”
Conference details can be found at aheaonline.com.