Secular home and online school options for BC parents

As the Government of British Columbia rolls out its Education Restart Plan, some students and parents are considering their own options for their return to school in September. A popular option is some form of homeschooling.

Parents in BC have three main options for homeschooling their children: Enrolling in a public or independent distributed learning (DL) program or registering as a traditional homeschooler.

Homeschoolers must be registered with the province and parents have complete control over their child's curriculum. These students will not receive a BC Dogwood Graduation Certificate (a high school diploma) and parents will not have their students supervised by a certified teacher.

Online & Distributed Learning programs are delivered remotely by certified teachers and students can earn a Dogwood diploma.

Unfortunately, many parents are discovering that their local public school district's DL programs are already oversubscribed and they have to sit on a waiting list. This is leaving many to consider the independent or private options.

Using the BC Humanist Association's database of independent schools, we can take a slightly closer look at the 16 different independent DL programs.

School Name Grades Religion
ASCEND Online K-12 Catholic
Anchor Academy K-12 Christian
Bulkley Valley Christian K-12 Christian
CHEK-ABC K-12 Christian
Christian Homelearners eStreams K-12 Christian
Heritage Christian Online School K-12 Christian
Pathways Academy K-12 Christian
Regent Christian Online Academy K-12 Christian
Traditional Learning Academy Online K-12 Christian
Valley Christian School K-8 Christian
West Coast Adventist K-12 Seventh Day Adventist
Fawkes Academy K-12 Secular
KLEOS Open Learning K-12 Secular
Oak & Orca School K-12 Secular
SelfDesign Learning Community K-12 Secular
iLearn DL Secondary School 8-12 Secular

As you can see, the majority of independent DLs are run by Christian organizations. The largest DL school is Heritage Christian, with over 4300 students (in 2018) followed by secular SelfDesign Learning Community with 2100 and Christian Traditional Learning Academy with 1200.

The BCHA has previously documented that Heritage Christian Online School has said that they do not "take a stance on whether [evolution] is correct" and would compare "ideas about creation and evolution" in high school science classes.

One of the secular DL schools, Fawkes Academy, is for students with autism spectrum disorder or other complex developmental disabilities.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education announced changes to funding for private DL programs, bringing them in line with brick-and-mortar schools. The BCHA spoke favourably of those changes at the time and we maintain the position that public funds should not go to private education systems.

Given the demand from parents who want to choose remote options for their children, we reiterate our call for the Government of BC to invest in public, secular education options, including expanding public distributed learning programs.

We don't have the expertise to vet the various secular DL options that are out there but I'm hopeful that the above list will help inform parents who are trying to make the best education choices for their children.

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