Sunday, August 26, 2007

Erin's Learning Plan

Erin is the most private and self-directed of my children. Not to mention that she's hardly a child anymore. She's also no longer part of the SelfDesign program which sparked our whole foray into Learning Plans. So our brainstorming session had a somewhat different flavour. I try to be careful not to get in the way of the learning she does by asking too many questions, observing her too closely, or giving voice to my own preferences and biases. A certain amount of our discussion explored ways to cope with the isolation and lack of opportunities in a town of 600 when you're 13 and can't work or travel independently. Erin is feeling the limitations of her small-town life keenly, especially in the wake of three weeks of intensive music stuff where our town gets much bigger both in number of people and opportunities. Things sure feel small and limited after all that stimluation. But reaching out for more opportunities involves big steps that she's maybe not ready for ... It's a tough place to be.

Math: She would like to finish up the Teaching Textbooks Algebra I program she worked through the first half of last June. She'd like me to be available if she needs help sorting through the word problem at the end of each lesson, but will mostly do it independently from the text. Doesn't want to aim for any particular schedule or pace.

Sciences: Will take a look at the CyberEd courses we've subscribed to (Physics, Earth & Space, Life Sciences) but since these are likely mostly below her level she'd like to investigate the high school courses that are offered in Chem and Biology. As always, most of Erin's science learning will proceed through self-directed interest-led reading from books and the internet. Will watch documentaries according to her interests.

Humanities: Willing to participate in our homeschool World Tour Co-op program this fall, especially because much of it will centre around food preparation. As always, most of Erin's learning in the humanities will proceed through self-directed interest-led reading from books and the internet. Will watch documentaries according to her interests.

Languaging: Reads and writes voraciously at a high level. Self-challenges easily. Does not want any structured learning in this area.

Second Language: Wishes to review and expand her understanding of Japanese kana and kanji. Will use the SlimeForest software that she enjoyed and found so addicting this past winter. Will continue with self-structured learning of Latin using Cambridge Latin, Rosetta Stone and Latin translations of popular books. Not interested in guided language learning in either case.

Arts: Would happily participate in art classes if offered locally again by M.. Otherwise not particularly interested in doing anything to pursue visual arts in any systematic way. Would like to explore possible ways of studying music harmony without a teacher. The MIT OpenCourseware Harmony & Counterpoint I Course is something she'd be interested in looking into. Alternatively, a workbook-like program in harmony might be welcome. Will continue piano lessons on a weekly basis with her current teacher. Will continue formal study of violin, mostly self-directed but with monthly or bimonthly input from Theresa, her Calgary-based mentor. Might be willing to consider occasionally submitting a video for e-mail feedback from T., though at this point she is quite reluctant on this count. Would like to perform the Schubert String Quintet in C Major this year. Happy to continue with community orchestra and violin group classes, though she pines for more opportunity to work on challenging group / ensemble music.

Physical Education: Wants to get to know some of the challenging single-track mountain-bike trails in the area. Would love to do more rock-climbing. Gymnastics, figure skating and swimming are all pursuits in which she would love some instruction, but which would involve copious extra travel which is currently impractical.

Technology: Enjoys a high degree of comfort with information technology in general. Will enjoy working with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premiere image- and video-editing software. Would like to do more work with stop-motion animation.

Life Skills: More interested in baking desserts than meal prep. Would like more experience with wilderness survival / camping, and kayaking and canoeing skills. Comfortable managing her own living arrangements in the little cabin, her own spending money finances via our ledger system and her own daily learning / music practicing schedule as she sees fit. Would like a job. Discussed opportunities for volunteering prior to next summer so that she might (once she's reached the employable age of 14) have references. We will investigate this further together and via networking with friends and acquaintances. Will continue with community service activities as they arise -- providing musical entertainment, helping out with Valhalla Fine Arts organizational and set-up volunteerism, volunteering with the GRUBS FruitSmart brigade to pick and process surplus fruit, participating in landscaping / gardening workbees and the Kohan Garden and elsewhere. We discussed the possibility of her taking the bus to Nelson on her own some of the time for piano lessons. This would require some rescheduling of piano lessons, a significant walk, and a test run or two with me along for the ride, and would mean she'd have to dedicate a full day to the trip rather than the half day we can fit it into if I drive her. The bus route is considered "local transit" (though the trip is 2 hours long one-way) and therefore children are allowed to ride prior to age 14.


  1. Sounds like she is definitely on that edge of of growing up...and she is truly beautiful. Volunteering sounds like a good plan, as does the bus...that solo bus trip and getting to lessons alone really does something for the self-esteem.

  2. She sounds very disciplined. It sounds as if she is doing the same thing I would do if I had been unschooled as a teen- planned everything out like that, and still worked at lessons from books. Have you been on a lot of unschooling things on the internet? They would say that a lot of this is "not really" unschooling. But, in my opinion, if she's choosing it, it is.

  3. LOL, Danielle, I'd say single-minded more than disciplined. Like all these learning plans, it sounds more organized than it really is. She has a strongly visual - text-based learning style and so her resources tend to be books. She doesn't work through such things systematically, though, nor does she generally actually put pencil to paper in workbook programs. She browses, skims and ponders, and not systematically at all. I would not be the slightest bit surprised if she didn't touch the music harmony or math at all this year, for instance. We shall see.

    You're right that some would write us off as unschoolers simply because we own the Teaching Textbooks algebra program (though I think the "no textbook" moratorium is usually relaxed at the high school level). But I agree with you. These are simply resources my kids have asked for that they have access to. Any expectations that they'll actually use them are their own alone.

  4. momto3boys9:56 am

    I really enjoy your blog and your thoughtful approach to your children. I wonder, however, about the contrast in your approach to music education and all other education. Not meaning to question your choices (which seem to be working very well) but curious. Why the need for a teacher of music but not for other disciplines? Would Erin's writing blossom in the same way if she went to summer writing wokrshop program with other kids and instructors that are as into writing as she is? Or even an online class that shares writing? Why is music not an unschooled disicpline yet all academics can be? Do you envision a point at which your children will need to have a teacher or mentor or will you wait until they make that choice? Really a philosophical question on unschooling and music, not at all meant as critical.

  5. momto3boys, I see absolutely no difference on a philosophical level between what my children do for music and what they do for their academics. My kids get the structure and direct teaching they want, in all areas. Erin, for example, has been offered all manner of writing instructional opportunities, from on-line courses to mentorships to real-life workshops, writers' clubs and the like. You'll notice that I wrote "does not want any structured learning in this area." She has stalwartly and vehemently opposed any such approach with her writing. Believe me, I've offered / suggested / strewed many many times over the years.

    By contrast, she is desperate for a real violin teacher. For the past six months she hasn't had one, and I left her alone to practice or not as she saw fit, just as I leave her to do her writing. She knew that she could continue to be involved in violin group classes, orchestra and quartet if she liked simply by working on her own as necessary. But no, she is desperate for real lessons with a real teacher.

    She has done art classes in the past and loved them (the teacher is no longer offering them). There used to be gymnastics and figure skating offered that we could take advantage of, and she loved those. She's using a variety of structured resources to learn Latin, and is considering using on-line science courses from CyberEd. Last year we did some gently structured Science Club classes; this year it will be cultural geography. In every area she has the choice to partake of unstructured, self-structured or other-structured learning as she prefers. Totally her choice. And the way it's all shaking down this year, her music is mostly other-structured, her science, math and Latin are likely to be self-structured and her other learning is likely to be unstructured. The common thread is that it's all driven by her desires and her choices.

  6. momtothreeboys6:14 pm

    Thanks. I didn't realize that the music education was their choice as well. Thinking about it, I am not sure where I got the impression that music lessons were somehow your choice for them (although I know the practicing was their choice). I hope Erin continues to shine and has a great year.


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