How to homeschool to post secondary in Alberta?

By Samantha MacLeod

Nearly every parent worries about whether home educating limits children. Will my child be able to enter university or other post secondary institution is one of the very frequent questions people have. Whether you are looking at homeschooing a high schooler in the next year or two, or whether you are looking at your grade 1 child with worry about whether this will ultimately close doors, I would like to reassure you that, in Alberta, there are a great many pathways to ANY post secondary of your choice through home schooling. You do NOT have to limit your child’s dreams because of a homeschooling choice. Not only is it “if there is a will there is a way”… but ‘there are MANY MANY paths to the goals and dreams of your child’

Here are several options, but this will be more bullet form, because there are quite a lot of different streams. Please note the diploma route AND the non diploma route both lead to university and other post secondary options. When I say that you need to check with the institution you wish to attend, you should do this ANYWAY because different programs will have different prerequisites. Stating to contact the university simply outlines that there are specific questions to ask of this method of university entry, not that you would not have to check with the institution if you took another route.

Also, the path to post secondary can feel overwhelming and confusing, but please consider that the challenge in explaining the route has to do with how MANY options there are.

1. Diploma route: If you go the diploma route, you will achieve and Alberta Diploma just as if you attended high school, achieved your 100 credits and going on to post secondary will be entirely the same as if you had attended a bricks and mortar high school. In Alberta, you need 100 credits to graduate, and each credit is approximately 25 hours of class time. To graduate, you need to have the required courses for graduation (English, Science, Social studies, Math – and for university, you need to check with your university of choice, but a good idea is to have at least English 30, Social 30, Math 30 and 2 Sciences plus whatever other courses to total 100 credits – if you would like to go into a science field in university. A non science field will have different prerequisites). To garner a diploma, PhysEd 10 and CALM are also required courses.

There are several different options to achieve this, and they can be mixed and matched according to your needs, depending on what board you are with. Not every board offers every option, so when you reach high school, check and see what options are available through your board:

a. Online route: There are a couple of online options for acquiring course credit. One online option is ADLC and another is CBE Learn. You do not have to be with CBE to use CBE Learn, but you do pay a little more per class if your student is not enrolled with CBE. Alberta Distance Learning Centre and Vista Virtual School offers a wide variety of online courses to students, as does CBE Learn. CFL and Northstar are other boards that also offer their own in-house online courses. You would need to check with your board to see what they recommend and what you have access to. Shop around: people have distinct preferences for online programs – and just because one does not work for your child or family doesn’t mean that another one won’t work also.

b. Not online:

i. Self Directed learning: A few boards offer self directed courses as options for garnering credit. What this means is that the student looks over the Alberta Education requirements for any given course, drafts up a proposal, and then submits the work at the end of the term. What this can in fact look like, is a student coming up with an idea, a parent then drafting a proposal and then going through with the student the work for the term. I use this method, and it is fairly parent intensive, although my board does have available template proposals for courses that are frequently done this way. Any Level 30 courses that have diploma exams that are done this way still require the diploma exam to be taken.

ii. Alternative programs in a bricks and mortar school: There are a variety of schools offering alternative programs through the boards of education. In Calgary, there is Bishop Carroll which offers self directed study. There are more schools like this throughout Alberta.

iii. Taking occasional courses at Bow Valley or Chinook Learning. These resources may be limited by age, so a student may need to be 18 or over. It might be a route to garner credit at these schools to contribute to or to finish a diploma. This is not easy to accomplish, and shouldn’t be a main route for a diploma. That said, some families have been successful getting credit this way. Mostly this is a route for adult students – but it is important that everyone (even those with kids in bricks and mortar school) knows these resources are available, as adult upgrading is often a reality, and many people think that school is a “pass/fail” endeavor. There ARE ALWAYS ways to make up for a rough high school transcript.

iv. Challenge diploma courses for grade 12 credit to instead of taking the grade 12 course. This is not advisable for a full diploma – but if a student had CALM and Phys Ed, as well as 75 credits total, a student could challenge, say, 5 departmental exams for the rest of the credits required for the diploma. This is also an option for getting specific university entrance requirements, or for getting course prerequisites at university. Note again, that because back credit is truly aThis challenging exams is not a method to use on its own. If your child does need these back credits, check with your board as to whether back credit will be given BEFORE taking the course. This method will definitely work as a university prerequisite, but it may not be the route to get 15 credits.

It must be said that most people do a mix of some or all of the above. High school is not necessarily a time to be a purist 😉

The convenience of a Diploma is that you do not have as much research to do on whether a given university will accept the non diploma options below. That said, in Alberta, most universities only care that you have the appropriate prerequisites, so a child need not acquire all 100 credits in order to attend university:

2. Non Diploma route:

a. To attend any post secondary, including university, typically a student only needs the prerequisite courses for their field of study. These vary depending on what the student wishes to take, but, for example, a program of study may require English 30, Math 30 and a 30 level science. For that program, these are what you would require. Please note that a certain mark will be required in specific courses, and that the marks required may vary for different programs at a given institution. So, check both the entrance requirements for the institution AND the requirements for the program you are looking at. You will need to check with your university registrar’s office to ensure this is all that is required.

b. IF the institution requires a GED, another option is to get those prerequisites and then a GED. Here is the information for getting a GED: https://education.alberta.ca/general-educational-development-ged/?searchMode=3

c. Take the SAT and the Subtests required for your program. For this one, you will need to ensure that the university your child wishes to attend accepts this. Most institutions do. There are SAT science, language and math subtests. The benefit of this is that the age limitations on challenging diploma exams are not there for the SAT.

d. Finally, the other option is to have your child attend a non accredited institution or to find an institution that will accept a portfolio.
There are universities in the US and Canada that offer this option, though I do not have a list. Many that accept a portfolio also require some sort of standardized test (SAT or ACT or provincial exams)

As you can see, there are a wide variety of options to homeschool through to university in Alberta. It is a very viable option and very supported. Alberta is one of the few provinces in Canada where you can receive a “regular, run of the mill diploma” via homeschooling, and this makes it even easier to apply to university. That said, one does NOT have to go the full diploma route to still have the full range of post secondary options. A very hopeful thing about homeschooling is that your child may learn that one method of achieving their goals is not working for them – so they can simply take another route. If a child’s goal is university, it is very hard to close the door to university all together. If one method does not work, simply try another. This is DOABLE. And remember, you are NOT alone. Your facilitator is there to assist and support, they have seen this before, and other homsechoolers are doing research too. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

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