Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fiona's Learning Plan

For the past two years various of my children have been part of the Wondertree SelfDesign program. It's a BC Independent school program that supports homelearners, particularly unschoolers. In exchange for some virtual paperwork, learners and their families are supported with a Virtual Village of Conversations, the sounding board services of unschooling-friendly Learning Consultants (known to the government as certified teachers, but playing a very different role indeed), and a thousand bucks per child for learning materials. The anecdotal reporting has been more or less onerous depending on the child, the stage of life, and the time of year, but I've consistently found the Learning Plan process to be valuable for both me and the children.

And so, with only two kids aboard the SelfDesign program this year, I'm still going ahead with the creation of Learning Plans for all four. Last year the Learning Plans were done in the back of the van during our long drive to Texada Island. This year we're at home until the middle of September at least, so our Learning Plans will be fleshed out at Panini's, a local café. One at a time I take the kids out to the café for a hot chocolate or decaf-au-latté, and we take a precious special hour to chat about their interests and ambitions for the next few months.

Today it was Fiona's turn. Because she wants to be treated like all the older siblings. Here's what we decided upon.

Physical Education: Fiona wants to work on her 'dunking head' ability in the pool and on the 'waving your arms kind of swimming.' She knows that this requires bravery, but believes she is brave. She wants more opportunity for learning to rappel. She also wants to play outside lots, now that our dog is gone, and will enjoy two-wheeling, swinging, and running about.

Math: She will continue with Miquon Orange. She is interested in formal math bookwork any time her elder siblings are, and will likely pull out her own math book two to four times a week. She hasn't touched any written math work in over 7 weeks, and it will be totally up to her whether she gets it out again. She enjoys playing with the FlashMaster electronic math drill gizmo that no one else in our family has every found any use for and will likely make use of this, as well as enjoying numerous family board games, pattern games and card games. She will continue to experiment with origami and other forms of 3D papercraft.

Reading: She will listen alongside her siblings to nightly readalouds of young adult novels and non-fiction at a challenging level of grammar and vocabulary. She would like to have read to her daily some simpler books closer to her level, and would also like to do some reading practice with her mom perhaps once or twice a week. She currently reads at an early first-grade level, but is far from fluent. We will use simple phonetic readers and home-created stories to practice as she desires.

Writing: Fiona will continue to write with pencil and paper in an interest-driven manner. She will continue to blog on a semi-regular basis.

Humanities: Involvement in home and community will provide copious real-life exposure to topics in the humanities. In addition, listening to historical fiction readalouds, viewing documentaries and participating in our homeschool group's "World Tour" geo-cultural co-op will provide additional stimulation.

Sciences: Fiona will continue to participate in the GRUBS gardening and environmental club, which meets weekly except through the coldest months. She will watch documentaries about the natural world, play, camp and travel within the wilderness that surrounds her home, and help with the tending of our flock of laying hens. She'll continue to enjoy access to a variety of construction toys and scientific tools (eg. K'nex, SnapCircuits, Brio train track, Digital Blue microscope, building blocks, marble run kit).

Arts: Fiona will continue her self-motivated exploration of watercolour and acrylic painting. She will continue with violin studies and wishes to continue to work at music theory and sight-reading skills in this context. Although she hopes to study piano formally in the future, she will not start lessons for at least another year. In the meantime she will explore the piano keyboard with the aid of Alice Kay Kanack's "Musical Improvisation for Children" book and CD set.

Life Skills: As usual Fiona will participate in family and household tasks. She enjoys increasing her capabilities with housecleaning, dinner preparation (including chopping, peeling and grating), baking (kneading, mixing) and the consumer skils involved in the weekly family grocery shopping.

There it is. The idea is that we'll revisit this plan in about 3-4 months' time and decide whether areas we've neglected need renewed focus, striking from the plan, or replacement with something else. I find these learning plans particularly helpful with my kids once they reach the age of 9 or so. I certainly wouldn't engage in this sort of formal process with a child this young if she weren't clamouring for inclusion in a family ritual (and the allure of the Panini's hot chocolate is not to be underestimated).


  1. Anonymous9:57 pm

    I love this idea! I think I'll be scheduling some one-on-one time with my daughters this week. :-)


  2. This is really cool!

    Although N. and I have had some planning conversations, I had not thought to make it a "special occasion" that highlights its importance! Here I am, stealing another idea from you. We have been feeling a sense of let down this week since returning from our trip, and there is a sense of not being part of things, as we have watched the other kids return to school. No "back to school" shopping or new clothes here.

    Thanks for the great idea!

  3. I love it!

    It's a wonderful detailed outline and I like that you have shared it with us. I also think it is WonderTree is great--I read about their start in a book not too long ago.

    I have a child a bit like Fiona, who is often too young for some of what we do but because she wants to be included in family events and efforts often gets to start things early :-)


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