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The Wild Learner

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The Wild Learner Blog

Mid-Winter Doldrums

The holiday period has passed, although with little of the usual fanfare. The lack of in-person socialization opportunities due to the pandemic is weighing on all of us. In terms of education, I find that the biggest impact for our learner is on second language acquisition. Grammar exercises and videos fail to provide the opportunity for spontaneous oral language production, and writing exercises feel particularly forced. In the first language, opportunities for writing to family and friends abound, and regular use of the language in the home supports an expanded knowledge base. But advances in first language skills make it even harder for a learner to persist in their more challenging, less familiar, language. If you are already reading chapter books in your first language, it’s difficult to go back down to graded readers in your second language.

We’ve tried video socializing, and will keep trying, but it’s tough. Our learner has played virtually with her grandparents for most of her life, but other kids may or may not have had the same experience. Coordinating amongst families with differing schedules, and communicating across varied platforms, complicates things even more. There are no easy fixes at the moment, but we are adding French language web-based group activities as we can, as well as returning to one-on-one tutoring sessions and actively scheduling one on one peer video time.

Like a transatlantic crossing, there are those times when the winds die down. Sometimes all you can do is wait it out, as the winds swirl and the seas abate. Breathe in, breathe out, make repairs, prepare for the changes to come. Perhaps that is where we are right now in this strange time. We’re making an effort to read out loud together in French, hoping that will help us when in future we can return to more normal relations.

Democracy under Threat

Sometimes events provide lessons that must be seized in the moment. The example of an American president encouraging a mob to assault a co-equal branch of government is one of those events. The opportunity to discuss loss & victory in an election, a peaceful transition of power, legal codes, and founding documents came crashing into our house this past week. Social change, political power, party politics… the opportunities for introducing important concepts are too many, and the emotional intensity great. It’s difficult to shift our gaze away from this spectacle, and we should not insist on following an unrelated lesson plan when history happens on our watch.

Homeschooling can be responsive to global events. Do not avoid facing into the difficulties we observe in the world, but acknowledge them and work through them with your own learner.

Around the World in 80 Days (or less)

Report from the doldrums

Every four years, the IMOCA class sailboats embark on an epic adventure racing solo, without stops, around the world. The race is called the Vendée Globe. The boats themselves are technological wonders, with the fastest foiling versions capable of speeds nearing 30 knots. The sponsoring organization provides a suite of free pedagogical materials for educators teaching from kindergarten through high school, touching on science, engineering, conservation, meteorology, cartography and, my favorite, emotional recognition and regulation. While the sailors don’t stop once they get underway, they can return to the starting port to make repairs and re-start the race within a window of time after the initial start date. This year, two boats returned to port to make repairs and have re-started the race. The deadline for re-starting has now passed, and the rest of the fleet is too far along to return and re-start at this point. In fact, the lead ship crossed the equator today at 1319 GMT.

One of the ships that returned and restarted had been in the lead group for several days before a series of damages occurred, forcing him to return to port. The skipper, Jérémie Béyou, had been a favorite to contend for a top three finish. His team managed to make the significant repairs, and return him to racing one day before the cut-off, and 9 days behind all the other ships. Here with the Wild Learner, we have been discussing what this must be like for him, the disappointment of returning, the uncertainty of whether or not the boat could be repaired in time, and what it would be like to start again, more than a thousand nautical miles behind the next boat. He is no longer competitive in the race, so why is he continuing? What kind of journey will it be, knowing that he cannot win, and might not even finish? The dangers of this circumnavigation are not minor, and lives have been lost in years past. Boats capsize, get dismasted, epic rescues have been attempted. Starting the journey so far behind the others means he will have entirely different weather systems to navigate, and no ship behind him in the event of disaster.

Persistence, fortitude, resilience in the face of disaster, commitment to a goal, and the importance of being adaptable to circumstances – these are just some of the lessons to be gleaned from following this race.  Homeschooling allows us the opportunity to do a deep dive on character development, something that feels even more important in these pandemic days, when caring for others often means being alone, where uncertainty has become ordinary, and adaptability to changing conditions the rule of the day, all while focusing on the connections we can forge and nurture even at a distance; for me, to be following the Vendée Globe provides a condensed reflection of our larger pandemic reality. The skippers, at least some of them, should finish their journey in about another 60 or so days. The rest of us will continue the pandemic journey for much longer, until some new social reality emerges, whether as a result of a successful globally distributed vaccine, or by a wholesale restructuring of how humanity operates, or by something much less dramatic somewhere between those two points.

Fair winds, and fair skies to all.  

The Wild Learner Reads

Rethinking School as We Re-imagine Society

Last month I had the opportunity to participate in a panel hosted by the American Institute of Architects New England as part of their annual design awards event. We had a diverse group of thoughtful people engaged in thinking about how the pandemic pushes us to re-think the work of architects and the built environment.

Instead of giving you the details, I'll link to the panel discussion here

Homeschooling has pushed me to think critically about how we organize schools in society, what purposes they serve, and how they can be creatively adapted in these challenging times. I touch on this during the panel conversation, without explicitly addressing homeschooling per se. 

School's back in session

While we don't tightly conform to the annual school year calendar, the arrival of Labor Day often marks key changes for our family. The annual agricultural fairs were cancelled this year, but those events mark the shift from long summer days and extra liberty to more structured weekdays in our household. We've gotten our routine back on track, with a focus on formal learning activities between 9 and 11 most mornings.

Newcomers to homeschooling are often curious about scheduling their days. We allow a great deal of flexibility, but have a standard expectation for those times of the year when most other kids attend schools outside the home. Our learner works on French and Math at least four days a week, and selects from English, Social Studies, and/or Science each day.  She logs her daily work, with indications of which subjects and materials she has used, and responds to a series of written prompts. This ensure that we have a record of her work, and a handy sample of her progress in writing in both of her languages of education. We parents can also use her log to direct her activities by listing expected items, and we can record our observations on the back of each log sheet. 

Because motivation sometimes flags, we have recently instituted a reward system where she earns tickets for outstanding work (either the quality of something she has been working on, or a level of attention or effort at a task that is noteworthy). Once she earns five tickets, she can trade them in for a day "off" from "school". Our schedules this year also allow us to have some flexibility for the occasional Friday field trip, and we'll go apple-picking, visit a science/nature museum, hit the library, and attend community events as the opportunities arise.

Many enrichment activities are geared towards kids in school, so we can usually find group activities in the late afternoons if we want particular extracurricular classes. I personally like being able to engage in outdoor activities as a family at times when fewer people are on the trails, lakes, and rivers. This season is still developing, and the constraints of a slowly rising case count in the pandemic have made us reluctant to fill our calendar with group classes to the degree we would have in the past. 

Welcome from the Wild Learner!

                     Welcome!

There are so many things to explore! There will be competitions soon. Maybe in a few weeks in our blog. Like for drawing, writing, and more!( Not to mention specific topics.) Wait there's more, the gallery if you were wondering, is a place where you can find art! If you find that there is not enough art, don’t worry there’ll be more! If you have any questions email coach@thewildlearner.com.

 

                                                                                          

                                                                                                 ELAH

Homeschooling vs. School from Home: influences from remote-schooling during a pandemic

August has arrived. For experienced homeschoolers, the later days of summer don’t carry the same meaning as they do for those families with children in traditional schools. However, this year, due to the global coronavirus pandemic, circumstances are different for all families. Homeschooling groups on Facebook are seeing an uptick in “newbies”, but many of these folks have very different orientations to homeschooling and seek information that doesn’t always align with the approaches to homeschooling that were prevalent pre-pandemic. They have been impacted by the remote “school at home” that was rolled out in the spring of 2020 – an experience that influences how they conceive of learning at home that contrasts with that of families who have chosen homeschooling prior to the pandemic. Many of these new arrivals are seeking online schools, in-home educators, caregivers, or learning centers which can provide supervision of learning while the parent(s) work – often from home, where the child may also be learning. Our own experience pre-dates the pandemic, but I well remember the struggle of trying to support and direct our child’s learning in the first few months after pulling her from school mid-year and having to make the mental shift out of “school at home” thinking. From my perspective, these pandemic “school at home” homeschoolers may fail to realize the advantage of student-directed learning that can occur in the homeschooling environment when we let go of some of these past approaches.

 

In Quebec, homeschooling families are required (since 2018) to submit an annual learning plan by September 30 that indicates how the child will meet certain required subject area content, how much time they will spend on educational activities, what materials and activities are planned, as well as how the child’s progress will be evaluated. For our child, this website hosts our most frequently used resources, which are listed on her learning plan. This allows our learner to be independently active in her learning activities. She has been deeply involved in planning the site, and in selecting the imagery. Soon, as we return to our non-summer learning schedule, she will start contributing to this blog. She will blog in both French and English, as she is learning in both languages. 

 

For our family, we do return to a different structure after Labor Day, as it helps with social-emotional development and self-care, as well as allows us as parents uninterrupted time that we need for our own work, currently in work-from-home mode. The expectation we have for her requires her to focus in on our selected curricular materials for two hours every weekday morning, from 9:00 to 11:00, with an occasional Friday or Monday off. That’s more than sufficient time to meet all the Provincial requirements in her case. In reality, she does far more learning in her unstructured “free time”, when she reads, writes, creates, plays, and helps with chores (chickens, dogs, and household). She spends some of her free time following her interests while using links from this website.

 

Going forward, more of these posts will be authored by her. I’ll likely post once or twice a month if I feel so moved. Best wishes to all of you going into the new academic year. 

 

Class year & Curriculum Selection for Homeschooling

One of the tremendous challenges for homeschooling families is finding suitable curricular resources. In jurisdictions with stringent requirements for student progression, choosing resources acceptable to the authorities remains key to successfully navigating the bureaucratic elements of the homeschool experience. However, even in rigid environments, homeschooling families frequently utilize a wider variety of materials, with a learner-centered focus, than a traditional school environment provides.

 

During the Covid-19 pandemic immediate response in Spring 2020, many tremendously valuable curricular resources became suddenly available. These resources may or may not continue to be readily available, and in some cases, there may be substantial costs to maintaining access to them. However, the richness of materials that suddenly flooded the internet has been priceless for our family, and many of the items shared on this website, or that we have adopted, only recently became available.

 

We select curriculum in both English and French. We try to use resources from a variety of sources, and you’ll find links to sites that are Canadian, French, British, American, Belgian and more on thewildlearner.com. As a result, I’ve had to learn a bit about the grade equivalencies for primary education across a number of jurisdictions. Here’s a chart that illustrates some of the equivalents at the primary level:

 

Age

Québec

France

England

Belgium

5

Maternelle

Grand section

Year 1 (KS1)

Prescolaire

6

1 (cycle 1)

CP

Year 2 (KS1)

1 (cycle 1)

7

2 (cycle 1)

CE1

Year 3 (KS2)

2 (cycle 1)

8

3 (cycle 2)

CE2

Year 4 (KS2)

3 (cycle 2)

9

4 (cycle 2)

CM1

Year 5 (KS2)

4 (cycle 2)

10

5 (cycle 3)

CM2

Year 6 (KS2)

5 (cycle 3)

11

6 (cycle 3) 

sixième

Year 7 (KS3)

6 (cycle 3)

 

Knowing these equivalencies helps in selecting appropriate materials in the event that a placement exam for a particular resource is not available. We’re currently starting cycle 2, year 1 (grade 3) under the Quebec progression of learning requirements. On our Learning Resource page for AY2020/2021, the linked materials are specific to that grade level. Many of the linked items also have materials at levels above or below that class level. 


I wish you all the best as you seek out the rich resources that best serve your own wild learner!

 

-Aimee

The Adventure

This is a quick post, simply to get started on this journey. We’re building this site to help make it easier for our wild learner to take her learning anywhere she goes. We’re sharing this stuff with the world to help other families as they embark on their own learning adventures, wherever those may be. 

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