HALIFAX, Nov. 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Nova Scotia would become the “worst” jurisdiction in Canada for homeschooling if the government adopts a set of recommendations calling for increased oversight of families, says a homeschooling leader.

In his fall report, Auditor General Jacques Lapointe says the province’s Department of Education is “failing in its responsibility” to homeschooled students, and “has no way of knowing with any degree of certainty whether all these children are being educated properly, or at all.”

He called for increased monitoring and evaluation of homeschooled students, including “independent assessments,” and recommended the Department of Education make use of health records to ensure children are being registered when they reach school age.

But Paul Faris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, says the report indicates Lapointe is “completely ignorant” of the research on homeschooling and is trying to fit it into a public school model.

“Nova Scotia already has a higher than average amount of regulation,” he said. “If this report went through, Nova Scotia would be the worst place in Canada to home educate.”

Currently, Nova Scotia requires a report from homeschoolers at the beginning of the year describing the projected program and then a progress report at the end of the year. In Ontario, on the other hand, parents simply notify the government that they are homeschooling, and the government must presume that they are providing satisfactory instruction.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex, in an interview with LifeSiteNews, said she had not had a chance to read the Attorney General’s report but that the Department is “open” to the recommendations and will be reviewing it.

“One of the most important things is, as you know, parents have a right to make decisions about their children’s education,” she said. “It’s incumbent on us to ensure that we’re working together in collaboration with homeschoolers as we go through the recommendations of the Auditor General.”

Regarding the independent assessments, she said homeschoolers “would probably appreciate having assessments provided or worked with so that they know where their children are in terms of the outcomes that they need to be successful.”

But she added that it’s “too preliminary” to say whether such assessments would be mandatory. “I don’t look at the assessments as being punitive, I look at them as being supportive,” she said.

She also said the government has no intention of preventing parents from teaching controversial moral beliefs, such as Christian teaching on homosexuality, as had been discussed in Alberta. “That’s not on our agenda.”

Faris, however, said independent assessments are a “terrible idea” because it would probably mean bringing children into school to write public school tests. “People homeschool because their children are not doing well often on public school tests and public school curriculum,” he said. “There’s no point in testing someone on curriculum they’re not studying, right?”

He said there’s no research suggesting that increased monitoring and evaluation are indicators of success for homeschooling. “The reason people home educate is because they want to get away from more evaluation and more curriculum focus,” said Faris.

Homeschooling works because the strong relationship between parent and child allows them to tailor the program, he said. “What he’s looking at is standardization and evaluation. And if he succeeds, which I hope he doesn’t, it will make homeschooling less successful.”

“Even aside from that, homeschooling’s already doing better than public education,” Faris added. “We know that the failure rate amongst homeschooled students is lower than in the public school system, so why are they focusing on homeschooling? And why are they using methods of accountability from the public school system, which has a higher failure rate?”

Contact Information:

Education Minister Ramona Jennex
Phone: (902) 681-3741
Fax: (902) 681-6261
E-mail: ramonajennexmla@bellaliant.com

Premier Darrell Dexter
Telephone: 902-424-6600
Fax: 902-424-7648
Toll-free Message Line: 1-800-267-1993
E-mail Address: premier@gov.ns.ca

Stephen McNeil, Liberal Leader
Phone: (902) 825-2093
Toll Free: 1-800-317-8533
Fax: 825-6306
E-mail: stephenmcneil@ns.aliantzinc.ca

Jamie Baillie, Progressive Conservative Leader
Phone: (902) 597-1998
E-mail: jamiebaillie@bellaliant.com

Find contact information for all Members of the Legislative Assembly.