By Tim Kalinowski on January 7, 2017.
Local homeschoolers are breathing a sigh of relief after the provincial government’s decision Thursday to end its dispute with Trinity Christian School Association.
“We are grateful this whole thing has been resolved,” Forty Mile Christian Education Society chair Craig Funston told the News on Friday. “We know all the facilitators and staff at Trinity, and they are just people trying to put food on the table. We had one guy call us almost in tears thanking us for our involvement and support. We are relieved for them.”
Forty Mile, like Trinity, provides an accredited body for homeschoolers to link into to have their children’s education credentials regulated and validated.
Funston and wife Gwynne have homeschooled nine of their own children, and have close ties to other homeschooling organizations across the province. The Funstons, who both have teaching degrees, also work as homeschool facilitators checking in on homeschoolers to ensure they are meeting the curriculum and requirements set out by the province. In this capacity, they have had plenty of contact with Trinity parents upset by the recent dispute.
“These parents want to do what is right. They were being penalized for something that was not within their control. There was the whole spectrum of shock, distrust, disbelief and fear. There were tears. It stirred up a whole range of emotions. You felt (as a homeschooler) personally under attack,” says Funston.
Wife Gwynne agrees.
“(Trinity homeschoolers) were alarmed because they felt the government was taking away parental choice of having homeschoolers as a legal option,” she says. “We felt the NDP was intentionally antagonistic. Because it felt like this was a very heavy-handed thing to do on the basis of an audit; and based on the statements the NDP government had made in the past as well. That would have been the perception of many homeschoolers across the province.”
Funston says many misconceptions continue to exist about homeschoolers in Alberta.
“We are not just religious hermits,” states Funston. “We believe it is the parent’s right to choose what mode of education they want for their kids. If parent ‘X’ wants public, and parent ‘Y’ wants private, Christian education, we feel it’s their right … There is at least 10,000 students in Alberta who are homeschooled, and it is a very tight community.”
Gwynne is relieved cooler heads have prevailed in this current dispute, but also feels it’s going to take a long time to rebuild trust between the province and homeschoolers.
“The (government) was very heavy-handed when they came down and said let’s just shut everything down. This decision on Thursday is showing they are being a bit more reasonable, but there is still a distrust which has been created.”