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Welcome to our Winter Newsletter

January is always a time of forward-thinking in our home. The darkest days of winter behind us, the slow return of the light brings new possibilities and a focus on progress, new learning, and stretching toward new goals.

Each of the learners in our family will typically, naturally and without prompting, begin a new activity in January. We’ve seen yoga and guitar come and go, new books devoured in weeks, and this year, an unprompted study of the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Truly, January is a time that brings new experiences to a selfdesigning family.

Some of my favourite stories of selfdesigning involve families engaging in something completely new and foreign, and finding valuable lessons along the way. Others illustrate how something old can be new again through progress, whether that is in the learning, the activity, or simply the changing in perspectives that come as we grow.

In this, our winter newsletter, you’ll find two of these stories - along with many other stories, tips, and updates on what is happening in our community. Hopefully you’ll find inspiration to sow new seeds of possibility in your family’s learning. You never know what adventures a new interest might hold!

 - Cheryl, SelfDesign Communications and mom of 3 selfdesigning kids!


Gateways (Grades 7-9) Winter Workshops are underway! Three times each year, this incredible set of workshops run to allow Gateways learners to collaborate, share ideas, learn, and grow in a supportive learning environment.

The Gateways program itself evolved in response to learner and mentor feedback, to help ease the transition between the K-9 learning and the more independent structure of our high-school (10-12) offering. These workshops are one way that these learners are supported during their transition from young learner to young adult.

In ArtClues, one of the most popular workshops, learners discuss and explore what art teaches us about the past, and about ourselves:

Experience selfdesigning . . .

This is an excerpt from an essay by SelfDesign learner Saphren Ma, shared with the learner and parent’s permission. This essay was written as part of an English 11 course assignment and, for me, demonstrates how some of the most amazing learning can come from the most unexpected places. In learning about music, Saphren demonstrates knowledge of ancient history and civilizations, discoveries about drama, music, and modernism, and more. Beyond the surface of an essay about opera, a whole world of learning is uncovered. 

The history of opera dates back 2,500 years to the birth of democracy in ancient Greece, as the Athenians used performances to celebrate their identity.  The performances consisted of dance, music, songs, speech and grand spectacle.  This form of art was the predecessor and the inspiration for modern opera.  Modern opera along with ballet were born from royal entertainment in Italy and France in the 17th-century.  

Generally, operas were used to celebrate political visits, marriages, or to display wealth and status.  Productions like these were often used by the nobility in order to impress royals or foreign dignitaries.  In the early years of opera, stories were often drawn from Greek myths or ancient Roman stories.  

Click here to read the complete essay.

magicflute.jpgTo conclude, the vast array of techniques portrayed in the many different operatic styles are completely unique and have their own sound and feeling.  Whether you’re watching Mozart’s Magic Flute, John Adams’ El Nino or Chinese opera’s 相認, you will be captivated, intrigued, and amazed by the outstanding and captivating performances that have been around for centuries.  Learning about the different operatic performances around the world has made me want to open up my eyes and start listening to more than just one style.

Upcoming dates

  • Gateways Winter Workshops - January 2-22
  • Spring Session (Grades 10-12) Begins - January 30
  • Gateways Spring Workshops - March 20-April 14

Learning to lead: Ayanna’s black belt story . . .

SelfDesign learner Ayanna earned her black belt in Taekwondo at just 9 years old. This impressive young learner has written here about her experience, and for me, this is a perfect illustration of how even something we’ve achieved mastery in can be new again when we stretch higher and reach farther than we ever have before. 

ayannablackbelt.pngHi! My name is Ayanna Anderson and I am 9 years old. I started Taekwondo in Tiny Tigers when I was 3. I remember in my first few classes when the instructors would bring out the big fluffy dog and tell us not to wake him up so that we would learn to jump over him. I was so scared of waking him that I would walk around him and pet him on the head. I have learned a lot since then.

As a self-directed learner I have never had to write a formal essay so this is very scary, but Taekwondo has taught me that even if it is scary to keep at it. One of my goals was to have a black belt by the time I was ten or younger and I am happy that I will be achieving my goal.

I like Taekwondo because all of the instructors are nice and fun and it isn’t just about kicking and punching. There is self-defense and it has the tenets and the Taekwondo oath. By following the tenets I can learn to be a kinder person. Taekwondo has taught me to be more confident. I am stronger and not just physically. When I first started, I was shy and quiet and now I am more comfortable speaking and performing. When I do tournaments and belt tests, I am always really nervous but when I start performing I usually feel fine because I have learned to face my fears.

I help teach Tiny Tigers and I started when I was 9 so I haven’t been doing it for long. When I first started teaching I was unsure how to be a leader, especially when they would run around being crazy. I wonder if I was like that when I was in Tiny Tigers! Now I see how hard it must be for the instructors to remember all of the kids names and teach them self-control. Over time I have become more confident in being a leader to other kids who are just learning.

When I started helping to teach I realized that I would like to be an instructor when I am older. My ultimate goal is to move up the ranks and get my 9th dan. I would like to thank my instructors for helping me get to this level and carry on my training in Taekwondo.

Around our community

From learners sharing their projects to educators sharing their perspectives, we have many contributors at the SelfDesign blog. Here are some of their recent stories:

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