Would you like to take a walk down memory lane with me? We will start in 1992, when my husband and I were first introduced to homeschooling by a friend who had attended a Gregg Harris conference in British Columbia. We both had children entering grade one, plus two more younger ones, and decided that if the other would homeschool, then they would too. My friend knew a homeschooler who lived 45 minutes away; we visited her to learn more about this strange thing, and we were won over by her enthusiasm and especially that of her children. That woman knew of another family who lived an hour the other direction. We decided to get together every 6-8 weeks in the evening to talk about what homeschooling was and could be, and planned a few outings with our children. In those beginning years, filled with both fear and excitement, we really supported each other, emotionally and practically. We experienced scepticism, doubt, criticism, and sometimes ostracism about our decision to home educate instead of sending our children to the Christian schools our church denomination started. We were even afraid to let our children play outside during school hours, or take our children grocery shopping without preparing them with questions they might receive and how to answer them. The most asked question we received in these first years was, “Is it legal?” So our meetings – we started to call them support meetings — really helped to strengthen our goals and resolve, and alleviate our fears and doubts. Many of us subscribed to The Teaching Home magazine, and read books by Mary Pride, Gregg Harris, Michael Farris, Chris Klika and Richard Fugate… we even bought our curriculum from the United States after we’d opened up American bank accounts in order to pay for it because there was very little available in Canada.

Fast forward about ten years. . The question about the legality of homeschooling was still asked, but now a second one also came: “What about university?” and on its heels, “What about socialization?” Eagerly anticipated, OCHEC’s convention was THE event of the homeschool year, and its keynote speaker’s message discussed long after it was over. We could even buy curriculum from Canada! New, local homeschool support groups were starting up and our first group disbanded (although a cross-Canada egroup still exists as far as I know), leaving me with many fond memories and lasting friendships. Our family grew to six children over seventeen years, and those years when all the children were at home were also very precious. We joined a small, local support group with many families homeschooling through high school, which provided much appreciated friendships, support and activities for us. Every few years we would organize six-week sessions of co-op days, getting together for arts and crafts or ice skating or knitting instruction; sometimes even some academic courses. It was during these years that many regular events for homeschoolers were started: CYWAL worldview camp; FOCUS Day; year-long co-ops; track and field meets; Strings, Etc.! and its offshoot OCC (formerly called AOC); these are just the ones in my area that I know about.

The year that our youngest child was born was also the year our eldest applied to university in the double-cohort year – the year grade 12 and 13 students graduated from high school. There were twice as many applicants to college or university. With the help of our close friends whose son also was applying to university, our son (and theirs) were the first two of three home educated students to be accepted into the University of Waterloo in the engineering disciplines. I don’t mention this to brag, but to show that we were still “pioneering” in home education. Our homeschool graduation ceremony for these children that year was attended by a representative from 100 Huntley Street, who was moved to tears and talked about homeschooling and that graduation ceremony on a show. Later in the summer these two young men were interviewed by the local newspaper for an article describing their homeschool experience and acceptance into university.

Fast forward another ten years. Our oldest is married with two children, the oldest whom is being homeschooled. He had graduated from University and is now a civil engineer working in his field. Our second child is also married and has three children; he works in his field of Architectural Technology after graduating from college. Our third child, also married and with two children, chose to travel instead of going to university or college, and so received a different kind of post-secondary education; then she and another homeschooler started up Canadian Bible Quizzing. Our fourth and fifth children are in second-year college and university in mechanical engineering and environmental science, respectively. Our sixth child is doing Grade 11 at home. Having moved closer to Brantford, we are now members of T.E.A.C.H, a large support group which offers, among other things, a sports program which our youngest three children have really appreciated. Homeschooling for me now means more of driving to activities and less sit-down-let’s-do-school-together since my youngest is very independent. And now, the question I am most often asked when told we home school is, “Oh — do you know so-and-so, who also homeschools?”

Yes, homeschooling has really taken root and grown in Ontario. From driving one or two hours to get to a support group, many people have more than one local group they could join. From fears about not making it into university, our children are being wooed by universities at best, or at least they have a special application form. From feeling that people thought we were crazy to homeschool, we now feel accepted and sometimes even encouraged to continue in trying times. From ordering books from the United States, we can buy Canadian curriculum and take Canadian correspondence courses, and even attend used curriculum fairs! From US homeschooling magazines, we can read Internet blogs and join facebook groups and attend online conventions. From a few activities or events a year, we have to limit how many “outside” activities our children can join so that we do indeed keep the home in homeschooling.

I am so thankful to God for giving my husband and I children, for leading us to educate them at home as a means of leading them to Him; for bringing like-minded people into our lives; for organizations like OCHEC and HSLDA and homeschool support groups; for the freedoms we enjoy in Ontario. Let us keep vigilant for we know that these freedoms are not to be taken for granted, and many would prefer home schooling to be illegal here as in other countries. It is indeed a privilege as well as a huge responsibility to home educate our children. May God get the glory.

Written by Elaine Togeretz

You can contact Elaine by emailing her at area_5@ochec.org