We are very fortunate to be homeschooling in a rather liberal part of the world. We’re in a wonderful program called Self Design, which is classified by the Ministry of Education as a “Distributed Learning Program”, albeit an Independent one (all the others are Public). Technically, my daughter and all the other kids in the program are enrolled in school. But it is unlike any school out there.
As a novel, innovative, and ground-breaking program we are subject to excessive scrutiny by the Ministry. The founder of the Self Design movement is Brent Cameron and he has been working tirelessly for the last 25 years to change government attitudes towards “free learning”. The SD program is in its sixth year, having grown from just 100 families in the first couple of years to almost 700 families this year.
Every now and then the Ministry dumps these Notices on our executive team, rules and regulations that we are expected to comply with in order to continue to receive funding and recognition (learners in the SD program receive $500 per child for K and $1000 per grade-school level child each year). I’m new to the SD program this year, and am only just beginning to appreciate the amount of effort and negotiating that the SD exec team has undergone to bring us this wonderful program. Recently, the Ministry has added a new expectation – that of quantifying learner achievements in a way that generates data that can then be processed by the Minstry to demonstrate….something. It’s hard to apply our program to such requirements given we don’t have courses and we don’t assign grades. Still, the exec team has managed to figure out a way to keep the Ministry happy while sticking to the goals and philosophies of the SD program.
In a recent posting on one of the discussion forums at the SD Online Community (a place that parents and learners and all members of the community can gather to discuss all sorts of issues – a major plus to being in this program) our leader Brent Cameron wrote the following. I found his words so inspirational, and it made me feel so proud to be a part of this program, I just had to share:
Learning is a sacred right of every living being. Learning is a very special kind of thinking. Freedom of thought is a fundamental right of everyone and especially children as they are growing into a sense of what it is to be human. We want our children to feel free to discover their full potential. If they are spending all their time meeting the expectations of others they will not discover much about their own abilities and potential. Learning in freedom brings forth the essential nature of individuals – allows for authentic development of human potential….Given the climate of control, demands and expectations in education today – I think our program is astounding…There are hundreds of statements in the Learning Outcomes written by the Ministry for every subject which state – “It is expected that a student will ….” Every 4 to 5 learning outcomes are prefaced with the will of the student controlled by the expectations of authority … Many years ago we changed that line to … “It is an opportunity for a learner to ….”. We are a program that nurtures learning – not demands it. And good for us all.
Don’t you just wanna kiss the guy?