Ten years ago, I was living in B.C. and had delightful little girl who was 5. She was bright, intuitive, and incredibly artistic. She was deeply attached to her family, and very happy at home. And she made it very clear to us that there was no way she was going to school. I had taught junior high and was unsettled about the deep disinterest and jaded attitudes of my students. So I began to research alternatives in education, and stumbled upon SelfDesign (formerly Wondertree).
SelfDesign is a B.C. based organization that supports home learners. They employ a squadron of mentors who work families, and report on their learning to the Ministry of Education. They stand in the gap between the amazing learning that goes on naturally in SelfDesign families, and the B.C. Ministry of Education's need to tick off learning outcomes based on curriculum. As an added bonus, B.C. families receive funding for their children's education (yes, Manitobans, funding!).
Over the years, we have had some amazing SelfDesign mentors become a part of our family. I observed and reported weekly on what I noticed my children were doing, thinking, learning, pondering, and exploring. My mentor wrote back with observations, encouragement, and ideas. I loved having a partner who was keenly interested in my children, and it certainly helped that they really trusted my kids to learn and grow in their own way, at their own pace. It takes courage to choose the path less travelled. I can't remember how many times our mentor grounded me and helped me to really see the incredible unfolding of my children.
SelfDesign has grown exponentially since I first began my journey with them. They began with a K - 9 program, but are currently also a global community, and have offerings for high schoolers through Self Design High. My daughter is now in grade 10, and participates in a beautiful online high school program called EOS, offered by SelfDesign. She is loving her current mentors and the way they are opening up the world to her, and is engaged with the work because it feels like her own exploration, not an imposed one. And although I don't believe a high school diploma is essential to a productive and healthy life, SelfDesign High will be offering her an internationally accredited diploma.
I can honestly say that every single person I have met that works as a part of SelfDesign has inspired me to be a better person. I don't know how the organization has managed to attract such an array of beautiful people, but perhaps it has something to do with this: SelfDesign has a track record of saying yes when a need is encountered. Yes to be the support, the inspiration, and the courage to embark on new and wonderful things. And here is the truly exciting part.... they have said Yes to us! To helping Winnipeg create it's own learning community, shored up by the bigger and growing community of Self Design.
So my deepest and heartfelt thanks goes out to SelfDesign... for believing in my kids, for making things possible, for partnering with us here in Winnipeg, and for giving strength and courage to follow the path less traveled.