Calvin Neubert turns a model tank around in his hands.
Tiny containers are strapped to the tank’s top, all of them glued in place with care. Minute details have been painstakingly painted on the vehicle’s body and the tank looks muddied from war.
“I was on the Canadian side,” the 15-year-old says.
The soldiers came armless, Corum Goodwin chimes in. It took a long time to assemble their bodies. In fact, there was two days’ worth of preparation to get the sets and thumb-sized army personal ready for the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.
Hitler’s front line was comprised of old and young men, Calvin adds.
“They knew they couldn’t hold [the Canadians] off,” he says.
The battle re-enactment was a part of a history class for 10 homeschooled Squamish youth. Led by Second World War historian Todd Farion, the six- to 15-year-olds stood on either side of the displays and followed through with the battle plans.
“It was awesome,” Corum says.
The lesson was backed by Squamish’s Homeschool Support Group. Started nine years ago, the group has grown from four families to 23.
“People just keep coming and joining to the group,” Calvin’s mother Trudie says.
Squamish seems to be bucking the provincial trend. Last school year, there were 2,084 students throughout B.C. that were classified as homeschooled — a figure that has dropped 705 pupils over the past five years.
But the numbers can be misleading, warned Ministry of Education spokesperson Hannah Lawrie. The dip could be explained by the number of homeschool children taking courses through Distributed Learning. Students in the program are assigned a B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch-certified instructor who leads their education program, including assignment of activities and assessment of work. They receive formal report cards and participate in provincial evaluations, such as provincial exams.
“Once a child is enrolled in Distributed Learning, they become classified as an enrolled student, not a homeschool child,” Lawrie wrote in an email.
C.J. Pelland choose that route for her son, Jack.
“I wanted to follow the provincial learning outcomes,” she says, noting the province provides $1,000 a year to aid with resources, such as books, curriculum work and field trips.
Homeschooling isn’t right for every family, but it’s right for Jack, Pelland said. Since taking her son out of school she says she’s seen positive changes in his personality. He’s less worried about what brands he wears, he’s not so influenced by his peers and he’s more focused on his work.
“Now, I have my son back,” Pelland says.
Religious freedom is often a common thread for parents who decide to teach their children at home, she says, noting it was in her case. Homeschooling allows Pelland to focus on their family’s world views, which is based on scripture.
Jewel Goodwin, Corum’s mother, has one son in public school, while Corum learns at home. It was a forced decision for their family, she says, noting that Corum went through six school systems before she took him out. The teachers’ lack of time to aid students was one of the main reasons for the switch, Goodwin says.
Calvin says he likes the freedom to learn what he wants, when he wants. He usually studies in the morning, leaving the afternoons free to explore.
For Trudie, the system has allowed her to spend more time with her children. It’s a lot of work, she notes, but she feels it’s easier for her to aid their education when she’s a part of the learning process.
A couple of homeschooling families recently moved away from Squamish, she notes, adding that if local history continues, more homeschooling families will likely take their place.
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