SelfDesign Fall 2014 Newsletter
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SelfDesign Newsletter

Fall 2014

It has been an exciting and busy start to the new learning year. Now it is time for a breather, and we invite you to grab a cup of tea and explore the new learning adventures, inspirational stories and offerings from the SelfDesign Learning Community.

Newsletters are published quarterly; if you have a story that you would like to share for the next edition, please

Personalized Learning and SelfDesign 

The roots of SelfDesign are grounded in a personalized approach to learning. Personalized learning is a popular educational buzz word these days, but few people have a clear idea of what this means. Furthermore, expressions of personalized learning in one environment like a public school classroom may be quite different than a home learning, family-based setting.

In our learning community, the enthusiasm a learner feels towards a subject or activity is the primary gauge of how appropriate the learning is for that time. Moreover, because every learner and family in our program is supported by an educator who develops a relationship with them over time, the authentic voice of the learner has a prominent place in all conversations about his or her learning. By starting each year with the creation of a learning plan, learners are given the opportunity to create a map of their interests and engage their family, community, and educator in the pursuit and realization of individualized goals.

What does a learner's authentic voice sound like? Read Norman's reflection on his passion for reading and writing

Simi Goes to Junior Vet Day!

SelfDesign learning consultant, Jenny Hyde, observed her learner Simi’s dedication and zeal for horses continue to deepen and grow, as well as her desire to become a vet. Donning some of Simi's enthusiasm, she said “I totally wouldn’t be surprised if she does become a vet or farrier or something related - she is horse-crazy!”  Knowing that Simi and her mum were about to embark on travels to the UK, Jenny located a program called ‘Junior Vet Day’ at the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth in the south of England.

Simi and her mum Bronwyn had the exciting opportunity to include Junior Vet Day in their travel plans. Simi and other like-minded children spent the day in the paddocks and in the operating room alongside veterinarians and other specialists who gave their time to these young animal lovers; by the end of it she was hooked. Bronwyn joked that, because of their experience, she didn’t see the bill for the donkey that they then adopted at the Sanctuary to further Simi’s passions! Joking aside, she is elated by the sparkle this has brought to her daughter’s eyes. What a great example of the synergistic qualities that come alive when learners, parents, and educators connect through conversation to support learning!

Findhorn Story Summit - Weaving the Threads of a New Story

SelfDesign learners Linnea Sharelove and Keegan Kemp and their mentors Barbarah Nicoll and Jonathan Taylor had the extraordinary opportunity to travel to Scotland in September for the Findhorn New Story Summit. Recognizing the deep power that story has in guiding people and giving meaning to their lives around the globe, the purpose of the gathering was to inspire new stories for our planetary future. 

The summit included workshops, conversations and activities to explore a variety of themes including education, leadership, ecology and sustainability, economy and business, politics, law and governance, social, cultural and community evolution, healing, and consciousness in the creation of a new story. Summit participants from around the world were inspired to contribute to the gathering in a variety of ways, such as Linnea teaching the group a new song and Barbarah leading a â€˜Council of All Beings’ workshop.

Visit the group’s blog to see pictures and learn more about their wonderful experience. The group will also be doing a presentation (Nelson-based as well as online) on Tuesday, October 28 at 7pm. Contact Barbarah for more information.

A Witness to Growth - Becoming a Guiding Mentor

This summer, at SelfDesign’s Collaboratory - an annual professional development event for all contractors - the new guiding mentor program was introduced. The guiding mentor role will provide learners and their families the opportunity to receive continued, personalized support from the same educator throughout their high school journey, in addition to course specific mentor support. 

Kristina Leidums, who works as both a learning consultant and now a guiding mentor shares, â€œAs my learners move into high school and further into their teens, I feel our relationships shifting; I'm still a guide, a friend, and a cheerleader like I've always been, but I'm standing beside them as a mentor in a much more noticeable way.”

For many of our educators, the relationship they develop with a family will last for several years. Over that time, a deep bond is often created. Kristina notes “I am witnessing astounding growth in my learners as they move into high school. I can see that these learners understand what it means to be the 'authors of their own lives,' . . . It is exciting to see the determination of learners to have their course work match their life's passions as closely as possible, designing elective courses around music, fitness, culinary skills and art.”

Visit the SelfDesign website to learn more about guiding mentor support.

SelfDesign Graduate Institute Fall Webinar Series

This fall, SelfDesign Graduate Institute faculty - David Marshak, Michael Maser, Barbarah Nicoll and Pille Bunnell and are offering a series of free webinars on topics related to SelfDesign and lifelong learning. Webinar topics include:

  • Integral Learning and SelfDesign
  • Learning Breakthroughs linked to Personal Empowerment
  • Evocative Listening
  • Love and Learning

For dates, times, descriptions and to sign up, please go to the SelfDesign Graduate Institute website.


SelfDesign High Workshop Courses

When a group of youth got together to exercise their dramatic muscles and put together a theatre performance back in July, the mother of two of the youth saw an opportunity to bring their learning to the next level. Six high school learners completed an independent study with a focus on drama, receiving 4 credits for their upcoming performance The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard. Working with local mentor, Paul Prappas, and workshop coordinator and educator, Michelle Buck, learners will present this humorous and quirky 'whodunit' on October 24th and 25th at Central School in Nelson, BC.

SDH Workshops are a way for youth to design their high school experience with others that are interested in learning similar things.

If you can imagine something you want to learn more about and can find 5 other people to join you, contact Michelle Buck to start your own workshop in your community!


Learning in Community: K-12 at Manning Park

Due to the success and great location of the Manning Park retreat last May, parent volunteers and educators worked together to host three outings at the park over the last month. Learners from all over the province were able to spend lots of time together, some for the very first time!

With the beautiful mountain environment that Manning provides as a backdrop, everyone shared delightful times together filled with games, meals, hiking, stories, campfires and songs, and ideas - these camps were a hit! 

In thinking of her recent experience at Manning Park, learner Calista shared: “These camps have something truly extraordinary about them. The combination of everything together makes them memorable and well worth the many miles travelled. Complete strangers from all corners of British Columbia come together and share experiences that will be taken with us throughout life. We will look back and remember the laughs we shared, the personal growth we encountered and most certainly the friends we made.”

SelfDesign has already booked May 2015 for our next Manning Park event - watch for news about this in the spring. 

Discovering SelfDesign Global- Honouring a child's passions

Jen Mercer is a homeschooling mom and teacher from California, USA.  She had pretty much tried every homeschooling philosophy out there, and during her search for the means to learn at home with her children and supplement her family income, she came upon SelfDesign Global.

Jen began exploring SelfDesign with her two daughters, Sylvia the eldest who has a passion for ballet and drumming, and Sydney who is a competitive fencer and guitarist. They both thrived in the learner-directed, enthusiasm-based approach to learning. Having seen the success of the SelfDesign approach with her own daughters, Jen was eager to share SelfDesign with the world. She began working as a learning consultant for SelfDesign Global and now works with 10 learners ages 9-15 that span the globe from New Zealand and Australia to Bermuda, Winnipeg, Texas, Nevada SanDiego and France. She works both as a Guide Along The Side learning consultant, as well as a co-facilitator for a New Zealand parent learning circle.

Jen’s days can include the following: co-creating learning plans with families; online conferencing with learners to reflect on their learning journey and to offer support and intriguing learning resources (her latest favourite is Outbreak: Zombie Based Geography!); online conferencing with parents to provide updates, share observing for learning and provide nurturing support of the process of selfdesigning; and meeting with a group of parents to explore A SelfDesigning Path course together.  

Jen reflects on the families she works with,“The majority of families that come to the program are new to the SelfDesign philosophy, but something about it speaks to their heart. Maybe they have been an unschooling family, or maybe they are just starting their home learning journey. . . either way, they know that they want to honour the interests and passions of their child, and they know that there is more to learning then sitting down with a textbook.”

Jen’s latest initiative is to start one or more learning circles in SanDiego. She is currently getting parents as well as educators together to explore the exciting possibilities. . . stay tuned!

Learn more about SelfDesign Global, the Guide Along The Side Program, and the SelfDesigning Path


SelfDesign Inspired Free-School in Germany

The pollination of an idea can have more impact than one realizes at the moment of inspiration. This is a story about a teacher in training, Sebastian Deichmann, who was inspired by the idea of school being a place where adults and kids can respectfully be in a learning community, as he stumbled upon at SelfDesign in 2005.

Visiting a friend in Vancouver, Sebastien was captivated by what was happening at SelfDesign and how creative kids could be when they were free to pursue their curiosities. “I was quite critical at first and remember thinking, they don't have to do math, how does that work?” Sebastian dove deep into the philosophy of SelfDesign, writing his thesis on it and democratic education. He was excited about what could happen when kids steered their learning journey and wondered if this could exist in Germany.

Years later, Sebastian is now a teacher and part of a team at a democratic school in Germany, called Infinita, a Democratische Schule, the first of its kind in the province in which he resides. He states, “At our school the educators are supporting the kids, helping them find their voice with their ideas, and guaranteeing this goodwill through the structure of the school.” Infinita has been busy with learning activity and operating as a school for over a year, with twenty-two kids between the ages of 6 and 14. Sebastian reflects that he notices valuable shifts in the team of teachers and administrators who run the school, the learning community and in the children. The learners have been involved in the decision-making throughout, from discussions on clean-up and how to organize the art room to deciding how to spend their money on field trips.

Sebastien is excited about the current fundraising campaign in progress for a new building for Infinita, which will allow for further growth and many more great discussions and learning for all.

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