how to start homeschooling in British Columbia

We’re a homeschool family with four kids living in the Kootenays.

Our two oldest daughters are all grown up, our third daughter is soon to fly the coop, and we’re now only homeschooling our teenage son.

And I’m here to tell you that you can homeschool too!

I’m here to help you learn how to start homeschooling in British Columbia. And I’m here to help you decide registered homeschooling versus distributed learning.

Learn to homeschool in British Columbia

Our family has had our unique take on home education throughout the years.

I share why we came to homeschooling here. I’d love to hear why you’re considering homeschooling too.

Our homeschool has had as many variations as kids multiplied by the number of homeschool books I’ve read (bajillions) and quadrupled by the homeschool philosophies I’ve tried (so many) and the places we’ve moved or traveled (a lot).

In other words, it changed a lot.

For a season of our homeschool, when all four kids were homeschooling, every morning we’d meet at 8:30 to discuss our plans for the day. Maybe, one kiddo would head to dance at 3. Another daughter would need to be brought to the bus stop for a college English class (even though she was high school age). Two kiddos would be dropped off at extracurriculars in the afternoon too.

You can be a fly on the wall and see a full day in our life here.

Throughout the day, the kids had fairly traditional homeschool activities between mid-September to the end of May (our formal learning season, though very child-directed).

But you can guarantee that by May, we were enjoying the Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy, then unschooling by June.

We’ve included most homeschool philosophies in our home at some point. We’ve tried them all, then picked and chosen the elements we wanted to keep.

Add four unique learners, two uniquely educated parents, and an approach to life (& education) all our own and we’ve made it as unique as you can make yours.

You just have to decide what you think an education is anyway.

I hope you can do this for your homeschool family too! (In fact, I KNOW you can. If you want help doing it, you can schedule a consultation with me here.)

Homeschooling in the Kootenays British Columbia

When you first get off the beaten path, leaving the conventional schooled path, you might have uncertainties and doubts; you might research & read more than wiki itself.

And of course, it is a rite of passage for all new homeschoolers to do that, as one should (we are taking responsibility for our children’s education, of course).

And that is a huge responsibility.

But I’m here to equip you to get clear, confident, and intentional so you don’t have to be uncertain.

Here are a few things every homeschool mama should know:

If you have any questions, you’re welcome to send a message here.

Schedule a consultation with Teresa Wiedrick, the Homeschool Life Coach
My youngest and I planning a field trip in Vancouver

And of course, you’ll want to know the legalities according to provincial law too.

In my part of the world, many kids distance learn from home (because they do it at home, they identify as homeschoolers, but the BC government doesn’t acknowledge these distance learners as homeschoolers). The BC government maintains a connection to the distance learner with a distance learning school, a teacher, and learning outcomes, which might include grades, exams, and all that jazz.

It looks like homeschooling to the schooled world, because the kids are typically at home doing that work, but the government does not acknowledge it as such.

Everyone chooses different approaches for different reasons, to each their own, of course.

But since I went into this lifestyle for a whole lot of freedom.

  • Freedom to learn what we want to learn.
  • Freedom to live a less constrained life.
  • Freedom to live a family-centric life.
  • Freedom to travel.
  • Freedom to enable an individualized education.
  • Freedom to choose our social connections.
  • Freedom to live a life on purpose.
  • Freedom, freedom, freedom…

…And now that I’ve done this for as long as I have, I know I don’t need outside intervention to direct my children’s education.

And I know that Section 12/13 Registered homeschooling of the British Columbia School Act maximizes my family’s home learning freedoms too.

I share more about how Registered homeschooling in British Columbia below (the kind the government acknowledges as homeschooling).

But first I want you to know how I first perceived what homeschooling would be like.

Once upon a time, I had an expectation my family would experience utopia via a homeschool life.

Early on, I wrote about my three little girls in white dresses, slamming screen doors as they ran in from our Prince Edward Island homestead garden, enjoying readalouds with tea in the afternoon, reading classics like Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, on our white couch, and living happily ever after.

You know, utopia.

And yes, for some reason, it had to happen in Prince Edward Island, not British Columbia.

And why a white couch? Because I already purchased one from Ikea (which I might add is the antithesis of homeschool utopia: a white couch in any family home is unwise!)

Good thing I figured out why I homeschool.

Turns out my three little girls are way past wearing white dresses now: they’re 21, 19, and 16. They’re more likely to wear lulu lemons and waist-high jean cut-offs.

What my reality is and what my original vision was definitely aren’t the same, but freedom most certainly remains a constant companion.

Here are a few of the challenges I’ve had to overcome:

No question, it hasn’t been utopia, but what an amazing lifestyle for family living!

Now to the legalities of homeschooling in British Columbia.

Though many distributed home learning families choose it for similar reasons, anyone entering the home learning world in British Columbia must know that there are two ways to enter it. 

One way to homeschool in British Columbia is considered registered homeschooling and one is considered distance learning

Learning to homeschool in British Columbia

Melanie Wilkins-Ho, BCHEA board member, homeschool mom and advocate wrote this in the BC Home Learners: homeschoolers, DLers, unschoolers Facebook group:

Many folks aren’t aware that there are two separate paths you can take with home learning in BC.

REGISTERED HOMESCHOOLING: One path is to completely opt-out of the school system, other than registering your child, via a school or Distributed Learning (DL) program, as a section 12/13 homeschooler.

If you choose the Registered option, you are not required to follow the BC curriculum, there is no mandatory testing at any point, and your child is not required to work toward grade 12 “graduation” with a Dogwood Certificate (despite what school officials will tell you).

The only thing you as the parent must do is provide an “educational program” that YOU believe will sufficiently prepare your child to be a fulfilled, contributing member of society (see the definitions section of the School Act as well as sections 3, 12, 13 & 14 for exact wording).

The flip side of having this kind of freedom is that you do not receive any government funding — there are many good reasons for this that have been explored elsewhere, but essentially public monies can’t be spent without accountability, and everyone pays into the tax pool that funds education, whether or not you are/have a student in your family.

One thing to note is that Registered Homeschoolers can enter the school system at any time they wish, with no testing.

They just get placed with their age mates. So there is no need to start with a DL school in order to “keep options open”. In fact, only grades 10-12 count for a high school diploma in BC.

DISTRIBUTED LEARNING: The other home learning route in BC is to enroll in a Distributed Learning program, all of which are authorized by the Ministry of Education and are simply another method of curriculum delivery within the education system.

As a Distributed Learner, the student is expected to follow the BC curriculum and meet the learning outcomes more or less at grade level, and you are assigned a teacher who is considered by the Ministry to be in charge of your child’s education, not you.

Regular reporting is required, report cards are issued, and the Ministry considers DLs to be the same as brick & mortar schools in terms of rights and obligations. There is a fair amount of variation in the DLs, and there are both public and independent ones — one of the main differences is that independent ones are allowed to include religious materials in the curriculum, although there are also secular independent DLs.

The website LearnNowBC has a complete listing of the public DL programs, although polling other families via Facebook or email groups for their experience is more valuable than just reading the program descriptions.

The Ministry of Education website also has a link to both public DLs and independent ones (it moves around, so search “Distributed Learning Programs BC” to find its current location).

One of the biggest draws to DLs has been the allotment the programs provide to families for third-party services like music lessons or sports activities that the programs can’t provide directly.

Until recently that allotment was generally around $1,000 per child per year, but the Ministry has now capped third-party spending at $600. The total amount hasn’t changed, but the programs are expected to provide more stuff rather than letting families spend funds on outside services.

As well, many DLs organize classes, field trips, and activities for their students that fall within curriculum requirements. It’s important to note that DLs are not obligated to provide an allotment to families at all; if they choose to put all the funding toward their programming, that’s their prerogative.

Another draw has been the access to special needs funding that a number of the DLs are known for handling very effectively, and many families have benefited from individualized access to therapies that otherwise aren’t available via the regular school system.

So, bottom line: section 12/13 registration = not part of the school system, create your own educational program, no strings attached and the government considers you a Homeschooler; OR Distributed Learning = part of the school system, just not a regular brick & mortar school, expected to follow BC curriculum but also funding for classes and activities provided in varying amounts.

For further information on all the rules and options:

If you’re new to homeschooling, I have options to help you transition toward clarity, confidence & vision in your homeschool life.

Get help to determine how you want to homeschool in British Columbia.

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.