Indigenous parent sees benefits to land-based homeschooling
- EFN Staff | October 17, 2018
An educator decided to pull her son out of the city to homeschool him to live and learn off the lands in a northern Indigenous community. JoLee Sasakamoose isn’t your typical homeschooler, she is making learning fun and culturally inclusive. From living in a city house to a cabin with no electricity and running water, Sasakamoose is also including the necessary survival tools for her son.
“There’s challenges everyday…I think it teaches resiliency and how to adapt a certain way,” she said. “We come [back] to the city and I have to deal with him being on the iPad or computer. Those the challenges I face as an urban parent. As a land-based parent, I’m telling my son ‘don’t play with the worms that we’re going out fishing with’. I’d rather be saying that than ‘get off the iPad’. To me, the challenges living on the land is way less than the challenges we face in the city.”
When Sasakamoose, a tenured Indigenous professor at the University of Regina, found out that she was getting a sabbatical from her faculty position, she had planned to use the time to homeschool her 6-year-old son Hunter in his home community of Ahtahkakoop First Nation to learn and live off the land. In doing so, he has learned through experiences both in rights of passage in ceremony, traditional culture, language and also life skills such as hunting, fishing, canning, harvesting and planting things that is needed to live everyday. Hunter is also provided with subjects of science, writing, critical thinking, physical education and culture-based learning.
“It gives us the space to focus on our well-being and mostly Hunter’s education,” she said. “The western system is the opposite way of living…when we’re really nature-based people.”
She calls their educational journey ‘Hunter and Mama’s Aski (land/earth) School’. On a day to day basis, Sasakamoose and her son go hiking to see what they can find. Hunter had learned where to pick berries and how to can them for preservation. This summer, after a tornado had touched down in the community, the duo noticed it took out a huge section of trees. To their discovery, they had observed the ravens and the magpies haven’t returned since. This has led them to document the process of how a tornado came in and wiped out the birds in the area.
“He’s really keen on being able to pick out high level concepts and ideas with discovery and conversation,” she said.
As an educator, Sasakamoose utilizes her skills to teach her son academics such as math – a subject that he really enjoys doing. Everyday, she watches her son grow and excel in learning in all forms. It was an important decision worth making.
“To me, a homeschooler is an invested parent. It’s a lot of time. If someone is homeschooling, I would think there would be more interaction,” Sasakamoose said. “A lot of thought goes into it and I would think this child would come out better on the other end.”
Sasakamoose has been homeschooling Hunter since July and will continue doing so for the next six months. After that, she will decide if she plans on homeschooling him permanently or if he will return to school in Regina.
“For us, it was important that we spend as a time as a family on the land to navigate a healthy daily schedule that is manageable,” she said. “We struggle living in the urban city, it’s hard on all of us as a family.”
Homeschooling children is a right that parents and caregivers have. According to the Ministry of Education, parents who wish to homeschool their child are responsible for choosing and directing the program and to ensure the program is age appropriate for their child. It is also required for the homeschoolers to report to a supervising school, which Sasakamoose has done with the Prairie Sky School. Since Sasakamoose is an educator, her curriculum of the home-based education program was approved.
The time she is using to educate her son out on the land is a unique journey that she and her family will forever savour.