When I found out that my first baby was girl, almost 5 years ago, the thought of homeschooling her had crossed my mind. The local news and Facebook feeds back then were rampant with real stories of school bullies, abuse by babysitters and school teachers. However, the research I did led me to a website that relayed incorrect information that homeschooling was not legal in Trinidad and Tobago.
This misinformation, led me down a path to my worst fears when my daughter was badly neglected by her babysitters. Then, when she started preschool she developed a chronic respiratory illness that always lead to hospitalizations, then on top of that she was physically abused by a teacher at that same preschool.
This particular post will focus on all I’ve learnt about the legalities of homeschooling so that parents who are considering the path of homeschooling can be properly informed and not be afraid to start their journey.
I must start off with a warning: PLEASE DO NOT be eager to join any associations that requests money as a membership fee – join at your own risk! I experienced and have seen a couple of serious reasons of such an association and I refuse to be a part of something that does not consider the safety and welfare of the children involved as most important. You are safer following the guidelines of the Ministry of Education.
Please note the difference between unschooling (no rules, no curriculum) and homeschooling. Those two words cannot be used interchangeably.
“Unschooling means learning what one wants, when one wants, in the way one wants, for one’s own reasons,” states Mary Griffith, author of “The Unschooling Handbook.”
“In a homeschooling environment, parents act like teachers in the classroom. Guided by state and national standards, they plan lessons, assign homework, and grade assignments.” – How Is Unschooling Different From Homeschooling?
REASONS WHY HOMESCHOOLING IS LEGAL IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Homeschooling in Trinidad and Tobago is completely LEGAL. The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Chapter 1 Part 1, Article 4f (page 33) states that it is “the right of a parent or guardian to provide a school of his own choice for the education of his child or ward;“
The Education Act Chapter 39:01 Article 77-78 (page 52) as seen from the excerpt below talks about two things “compulsory age” and “A child is excused from attendance at school— (a) if, in the opinion of the Minister, he is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere;”
Compulsory age, as seen in the excerpt from the Education Act, Chapter 39:01, Part 3, Article 76 (1) below, is defined as “any age between five and sixteen years”. This means that between these ages your child needs to be either registered in a public or private school or is “receiving satisfactory instruction at home” in the opinion of the Minister.
HOW TO START HOMESCHOOLING
1. How does one know if the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home? Well the Ministry of Education has some guidelines for that (which will soon be made into an official policy):
PARENTS OR TUTOR FOR PRIMARY LEVEL CHILDREN: The minimum qualifications to be able to homeschool a child at the primary level are the same as those to register as a teacher (5 CXC/O Levels inclusive of Mathematics, English A and one of the Natural Sciences). You don’t have to register as a teacher, you or the tutor just need to be qualified.
PARENTS OR TUTOR FOR SECONDARY LEVEL:
For the full document you can click the link below (remember you do not need to be registered to teach, you just need to be qualified):
2. REGISTER WITH THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION (MoE): To register with the MoE, you are required to write a letter of your intention to homeschool to the Chief Education Officer and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
If your child is already in the public school system, you need to give a copy of that letter to the school’s Principal as well.
The letter must include:
- Reasons for removing the child from the public school system to be homeschooled OR reasons for wanting to homeschool (if child was never in the public school system)
- The names and ages of the children to be homeschooled
- The name and qualifications of the person doing the teaching
- The address of where the homeschooling will be taking place
- The days and Times of Instruction
- The start date and duration you intend to homeschool for
- The curriculum to be used. The Curriculum must be at the same standard as the Ministry of Education (or better). *
*Now, one important part to note is: “….it shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude“. Aptitude here means “a natural ability to do something”, if your child is on the Autistic Spectrum, then for obvious reasons a curriculum suitable to that child other than the one prescribed by the MoE can be used. It is obvious that this child can be excused from not attending public school and homeschooled instead because there are NO special needs classes or teachers available at public schools. However, you still need to inform the MoE via a letter emailed to the address above.
3. Once approved, you will receive a letter from the Ministry of Education stating that they acknowledge that your child is being homeschooled. This letter you can present to the Police, Social Workers, Pediatrician or any other person who although they may have the best interest of your children in mind, they too may be misinformed about homeschooling. Please note: The only legal way for the Police to search one’s premises, other than in effecting an arrest, is with a search warrant or the expressed permission of the owner. Please do not give them your original copy of your acknowledgement letter to keep, make copies and have them ready! You never know when that ‘fass’ neighbour is gonna report you because they’re seeing your child home all year round and not in school.
The requirements to legally homeschool may seem harsh, but it is for the protection and safety of the children that will be ‘homeschooled’.
The wait time to receive your letter of acknowledgement will vary, I assume the MoE will deal with the cases of children who are close to writing SEA and who were removed from public schools first, over children who are not yet of compulsory school age (that is, 5 years old). Below is a sample acknowledgement letter, your letter contents may vary, the important thing to note is that it exists.
YOU’RE APPROVED! SO WHAT’S NEXT?
If you’re homeschooling from preschool level you may find something useful in my previous post here: Preschool/Infant Level Resources that I use (2017-2018)
My good friend over at the Mindful Learning Academy: A homeschool blog has local homeschool packages (Primary School Level) for sale that follows the MoE’s curriculum with lesson plans and textbooks to be used that you may want to check out. This can also be used as an after school program for children who attend public schools. You can contact her by emailing email@example.com or Call/Whatsapp 1868-330-7119.
Visit the CXC website and download for free the syllabus and other useful documents to help you or the tutor follow in preparation for CSEC examinations.
To register as a Private Candidate to write SEA you would need to send in the application form the October in the year before the child is due to write. For example if you wish for your child to write SEA in 2019 as a private candidate then you need to visit the Ministry of Education or one of their district offices in October 2018 to apply. The two documents is an example of 2016-2017 public press release and application form for private SEA candidates.
SEA Registration for Private Candidates 2017 (Please note that the CAC component of SEA is no longer being done.)
Homeschooling requires enormous amounts discipline by the parent, especially if you are the one doing the teaching. Both parents need to be in agreement with regards to your financial management if only one parent will become the breadwinner. The cost of hiring a homeschooling tutor varies from person to institution, and price is not synonymous with quality, so choose wisely.
My next post will discuss the most frequently asked question by persons when they discover that you are homeschooling “What about socialization?”
I hope this post has been useful to you and has given you the confidence to push forward with your homeschooling journey.
Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment with your suggestions and questions.
All the best!