Like many educational programs that offer alternatives to traditional, brick-and-mortar schools, SelfDesign is seeing increased interest from families seeking to have their kids learn independently at home this year. Many of these families are considering our homeschooling program, SelfDesign Home Learning.

Best suited for families who wish to take on the responsibility for their children’s education, SelfDesign Home Learning differs from our regular kindergarten to grade 12 program in several key ways. For example, Home Learning families don’t work with an educator, and parents take responsibility for their children’s learning program and do not report to the school. In addition, learners neither earn credit for courses in grades 10 to 12 nor graduate and earn a high-school diploma, although homeschoolers in grades 10 to 12 can take online credit courses through a different school while they remain registered with SelfDesign Home Learning. And even though homeschooling families accept responsibility for their children’s learning, under the B.C. School Act, parents who wish to homeschool their children are required to register their children in a recognized school, such as SelfDesign Learning Community.

Because it is different, families considering SelfDesign Home Learning often have many questions.

There to help answer those questions is Suzanne Gregory, our Home Learning Coordinator. Since 2002, she has been responding to inquiries about the program and welcoming families who register for SelfDesign Home Learning.

We asked Suzanne to tell us about her work, how she came to SelfDesign, and what inspires her.

SelfDesign (SD): Please describe what you do at SelfDesign.

Suzanne Gregory (SG): When newcomers register in SelfDesign Home Learning, I welcome them with an email explaining what SelfDesign Home Learning is and is not, to make sure that they know what to expect. In the fall, I send each family a more formal registration confirmation email. Then, throughout the learning year, colleagues and I send families a number of newsletters that include optional resource ideas, information on opportunities such as SelfDesign camps and Indigenous learning resources, and strategies for accessing post-secondary education without a B.C. Certificate of Graduation.

I also respond to parents’ questions and concerns and to inquiries from prospective new families. Come spring and summer, we remind families to re-register for the fall, and I work with our Records people to account for every learner. I also keep up to date on changes in the BC Ministry of Education’s homeschooling policies.

SD: What brought you to SelfDesign? 

SG: For several years, my son was registered as a homeschooler with Wondertree (SelfDesign’s predecessor). Maureen Cameron, who originally took care of the program, mentioned one day that she was leaving and that a replacement was being sought. I sent in my resume, went for an interview, and was invited to share the position with another parent. The other parent left the position after a couple of years.

Although I have some background in education, it was my son’s switch to homeschooling that led to this work. I also have a background in administrative work.

SD: What are some of the best experiences you’ve had working as the Home Learning Coordinator?

SG: Although the Ministry of Education states that the registering school “does not have the authority to supervise the Educational Program” of homeschoolers, parents sometimes share what learners are doing.

Over the years, for example, we’ve had learners who planted an orchard, made a suit of chain-mail armour, rescued 2,000 cattle from a wildfire, played music, observed pollinators and reported the data, learned Japanese, and passed their SATs [standardized tests to assess students’ college-specific skills] with flying colours. One pair of siblings went on to become assistant organ tuners. (I had no idea such an occupation existed!)

SD: What one tip would you share with Home Learning families to help them make the most of their learning experience?

SG: Make as many learning experiences available as you can; then do everything you can to facilitate the ones that spark the learner’s interest – without pushing and without neglecting learning that is necessary for good citizenship and life skills. If a particular subject seems boring or difficult, see if you can find a way into it from another angle.

SD: What interests you outside of work?

SG: Since childhood, I have been concerned about various environmental issues. Going forward, I’d like to do volunteer citizen science work on biodiversity, because it is one of the things that will determine the kind of future that our children and grandchildren can expect to have.

SD: Is there anything else you would like to share?

SG: If the COVD-19 pandemic has any sort of silver lining, perhaps it is that the news offers many real-life opportunities to learn about certain aspects of science, math, and social studies. If we learn the lessons well, they may help us to envision, and work for, a better future.

Read a parents’ perspective on SelfDesign Home Learning

Learn more about the program

Download the SelfDesign Home Learning information package