Written by: Denise Davy
As parents come to terms with the new reality that COVID-19 will be a long-term fixture in our lives, they are having to make a tough decision about whether to homeschool some or all of their kids.
Even if schools take the necessary precautions, many parents are concerned about their child’s close contact with others, especially if their child is immune-compromised. Joni Bowman is the owner of the Learning Tree Educational Store in Burlington and has worked with many new and seasoned homeschoolers. She is also a former teacher and mother of four, so she understands how difficult the decision is.
“I always say to my customers that you, as the parent, know your child the best,” said Bowman. “Homeschooling is an incredibly rewarding experience and a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your child, watching them learn, grow, and flourish.”
Bowman said one of the main benefits of homeschooling is that parents have access to the Ontario curriculum online. Using this resource, parents can help their children learn at their own pace and can also tailor their teaching to their child’s learning style. That is especially important if their child has special needs.
The biggest challenge of homeschooling, said Bowman, is that parents have to balance the role of being the parent and teacher plus their child will have less social interaction. There’s also the issue of figuring out which resources or learning materials to use. “It requires knowledge, organization, and patience,” said Bowman. “But if you feel homeschooling your child will enrich, not put a strain on your relationship, then go for it!”
The good news is that there are tons of resources to make the task easier. When it comes to lesson planning and what to teach, Bowman said The Learning Tree has materials for students in JK to grade 12, including resource books for writing, reading comprehension, grammar/spelling, science and technology, math, and social studies, all based on the Ontario curriculum. “We regularly meet with interested families to walk them through suggested resources, including books, teaching tools, games, etc. that would be appropriate for their children,” said Bowman.
This year, the store will also offer basic and comprehensive homeschool learning kits that will provide a well-balanced collection of learning resources for each grade.
When it comes to social interaction, the Chickadee Kid’s Company can help with that. The toy and book store in north Burlington has a cafe-like space where moms can hang out, plus a small space for children to play. Located on Mountain Grove Avenue, the built-in cafe serves locally roasted coffee and espresso drinks for moms and a special drink for kids called “babyccinos.”
While moms get together, the kids can colour at the colouring table or browse through the used book section. There’s also a marketplace for young children that features local handmade products that change with the season.
Chickadee also carries a wide range of educational and developmentally appropriate toys and books for children ages 0 to 6. They include flashcards, learning activity books, and educational toys. They also offer educational programs, including parenting workshops.
The Teacher Supply Outlet in Oakville also carries numerous resources, including classroom decorations, educational games, puzzles, workbooks, flashcards, arts and craft supplies, stationery, and building toys.
Parents new to the issue of homeschooling may find it helpful to contact the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP), which was formed in 1987 to provide homeschooling resources to people seeking support and encouragement. For those concerned about the social interaction component, the OFTP cites studies that show the social development of homeschooled children is the same as that of their public-schooled peers.
Homeschooling may not be an affordable choice for many families, and it may not be right for every child, but it is good to know that there are so many resources available for parents considering this option for the 2020/2021 school year.
Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents – https://ontariohomeschool.org
The Canadian Homeschooler – https://thecanadianhomeschooler.com
Chickadee Kids Company – Chickadeekidsco.com
Teacher Supply Outlet – teacherssupplyoutlet.ca
The Learning Tree Educational Store – learningtreecanada.com