Old-school homeschool

Home education isn’t just bookwork at home, it’s lifelong learning

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

PATRICIA D’SOUZA

This fall, several students in Nunavut didn’t return to school. They didn’t drop out, they decided to give homeschooling a try. This week, Nunatsiaq News presents the final part of a three-part series about this alternative method of education.

The Wood schoolhouse in Iqaluit’s Upper Tundra Valley neighbourhood is exactly that: a cross between a school and a house. Inside, a group of kids clear textbooks off the kitchen table and start setting the table for lunch.

In Guelph, Ontario, where the family lived for eight years, the five school-aged Wood children all had their own desks. In Iqaluit, everyone gathers at the large wooden table where, at the moment, pasta is being served.

The Woods are old-school homeschoolers. “I’m the principal,” says Stephan Wood.

They began about 10 years ago, when their eldest son Joshua was only four years old. Through the years, they’ve learned a few things about putting together a curriculm and following it through.

“We try to make learning fun, but not all learning is fun,” Stephan says.

“The concept of education used to be the father taught the sons the skills of life and the mother taught the daughters skills of life and the children would learn,” he says. “That works whether the culture is Inuit or whatever.”

Though times have changed and education isn’t broken down according to gender roles any more, that basic system of parents teaching children is still in use today — especially in the North.

“We try to expose the children to different philosophies and make them critical thinkers,” Stephan says. “Education for us is understanding life.”

Caroline admits she was a little concerned about homeschooling in Iqaluit after the family moved North about a year ago. “I wasn’t sure what problems I would run into, I wasn’t sure if it would be legal, I didn’t know how others would view us,” she says.

“In Ontario it was very free. Here it is a little bit more closely supervised.”

The family had to submit a curriculum plan to the Iqaluit District Education Authority, but otherwise, they were on their own. Caroline chooses the materials the kids use, and some subjects, such as geography and history, the family learns together.

“I’ve made some mistakes,” she says. “I’ve bought some things I don’t like. Some books require too much teacher attention.”

The emphasis, Stephan says, isn’t on testing, but on learning. “When you’re working day by day with a child, evaluation is not as important. When a child sits down to do a math lesson, you know if they can do it,” he says.

“If they’re having problems, we don’t make it a big issue. It’s not a matter of passing or failing.”

Homeschooling for them is not just an experiment, it’s a lifestyle.

“We’re teaching them to enjoy learning,” Stephan says, “so that when they leave our home they can continue to learn and they’ll know how to learn because they’ve been learning all their lives.”

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