Recommended Resources for 2020-21

Recommended Resources for 2020-21

Recommended Resources for 2020-21

Educational resources. If you have any questions or have some candidates and you’d like an evaluation, please let me know. I’ll be happy to look into it. Some of the curricular items you might like to consider or look into.

  1. ADST: Don’t forget about coding as a key skill for youth:
    1. Code.org
    2. Tynker
  1. Math: Remember Math is a skill that requires practice and application. Problems and real-life applications are the main point, not an afterthought.
    1. Matific https://www.matific.com/ca/en-ca/home/
    2. Math: Free Projects from Teachers Pay Teachers along with Jump Math for exercises.
  2. Language Arts: Remember Language Arts is about reading and writing. American suppliers like to emphasize grammar but the BC School System wants children to learn reading with comprehension and writing to communicate with others.
    1. Well Trained Mind (Language Lessons and Writing with ease, not the rest.)
    2. Bravewriter (This gets rave reviews, order from The Learning House, look for funny names like “Jot it down”)
    3. Excellent Resources
  3. Social Studies: Remember these areas of study often require planning. Consider spending a year  Canadian Social Studies has more Civics. It’s quite different from American Social Studies, which is largely History.
    1. Kits from the HCOS Library, including digital kits. Check out http://bit.ly/hcospicks
    2. For Social Studies: Teachers Pay Teachers
    3. Suggested projects in Diana Waring
    4. Donna Ward’s projects (link is to an example) in combination with Real Canadian Curriculum
    5. Voices into Action
  4. Science
    1. Science in the Ancient World
    2. Mystery Science for specific topics or own subscription.
    3. Apologia material from Canadian Homeschool  You’ll need to browse for interesting products.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning has a sense of place

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning Has a Sense of Place

Learning Has a Sense of Place, by Rob Wahl

If there is one aspect of learning that we can look to First Nations People to teach us about is that way in which sense of place conditions our learning. Few grow up with any sense of connectedness to the land. My Mennonite ancestors tried to tell us through their own life's choices that they believed the land to be their spiritual mentor. But few have ever known this connection. Some who live on farms have some sense of it. Those of us who are the descendants of European settlers have this sense that places are about opportunities. We think of "place" in terms of opportunity for prosperity. But for our First Nations friends and neighbors, this has not been the case

Whenever people live for generations in one geographical area, they accumulate for themselves a sense of place. I recall a Rankin Family song on the Radio called Gilles Mountain. In it the family takes a four-wheel-drive vehicle to the top of Gilles Mountain on the coast of Nova Scotia. There they picked berries and reflected on their ancestors who "spent their blood and sweat and tears" to clear the land, build homes and grow hay. The presence of the berries depends on the forest being removed cleared fifty or even a hundred years before by ancestors they had never met. This is but a small example of how learning and place can be interwoven. It leads to a type of learning that is uniquely connected to place in a manner scarcely describable by words. And if the Rankins can so meaningfully reflect on a mere hundred-year history, imagine if that history were thousands of years.

First Nations people use mythology, for example, to teach children the right relationship between the person and the environment. Nisga’a oral tradition teaches children not to abuse animal life. As the story goes, a child caught a salmon in the Tseax River and slits back open with a sharp piece of shale. The shale so inserted caused the fish to swim erratically to the amusement of the children; upon which, the creator responded with the smoke and flame of the flowing lava. Such is the nature of learning, that it reflects as much the relational values around us, as it does the actual content of text so learned. It is a great example of how First Nations' sense of learning as connected to the land is a worthy exploration.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, a holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational approach to learning will condition learning every day. It will do so differently in each situation. One may feel attached to the safety of a familiar learning format from our youth. One may do what one remembers, but doing so will not guarantee the same result. To teach our children well requires us to be thoughtful and aware. It requires that we also learn and grow as examples to our children.

Often when exploring the unknown there comes a benefit from the questions so generated. What is the relationship between what is learned and how it is learned? Similarly, do you suppose where we learn could change what we learn? By reaching out to others around us we find points of agreement and shared interest. These become starting points for reconciliation. When people are unable to agree, perhaps on key matters of life and faith, we can at least make peace through mutual appreciation.

Nobody has more interest in healing and reconciliation than Christians. Peace with God is a message of healing and reconciliation. Therefore, we must understand how people around us think. We want to know how people arrive at the conclusions they do. Knowing and appreciating this allows us to build the kind of relationships that will allow us to reflect God’s values to others. When Christianity first came to the Nisga’a People most saw it as a gift from their creator, embracing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ immediately. Many First Nations people have a form of Christianity that is still a remnant of that time. If we pray for the renewal of faith in the Northwest, then pray also that through healing and reconciliation. Pray for freedom among the First Nations people to find the faith of their forefathers.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Relational

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Relational

Learning is Relational, by Rob Wahl

More and more we are learning how a key humans need is connectedness. Some have demonstrated, for example, that addictions are well predicted by connection. Gordon Neufeld has been one of the best advocates for those who school their children at home. He describes how learning has a context and perhaps the most important part of that context is the relationship between learner and teacher. Neufeld describes in terms of an “attachment”; and he asserts how attachments are fundamental to how Such a relationship sets up the emotional state (neurotransmitters, hormones and even epigenetic controls) that prepares the young brain for new thoughts and ideas. Their young brains are making sense of that complex world they now apprehend but do not understand. And so, it is that what we believe the world to depend more on the social and emotional environment in which we view the world than what exactly we view in the world.

A decade earlier psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, a later convert to the Christian Faith, wrote about how the social and emotional environment of a child becomes the foundation for how children make sense of the world. The way he put it this: the child assumes the whole world is the way the family is. If the family is loving and caring, then so is the world. If the family is unpredictable and at times hostile and dangerous, then so is the world. If love and affection in short supply, then assume that you must do everything to find it.

I spent more than a decade working with many challenged youths. Many of them came from homes where addiction, abuse, and family dysfunction led to children who saw the world as truly hostile. I remembered as a teen how life-changing it was to have a connection with a teacher. Amid turmoil and neglect at home, I became emotionally attached to these teachers, which at the time I kept hidden, for to me it was a little embarrassing. But I discovered as a teacher that I needed to be emotionally available to my students so that I could build a professional relationship with them. Students experience this relationship as a form of emotional attachment, and it is secure because it does not depend on their performance. I would offer each student a professional relationship by deliberately taking time to learn about their lives and signaling that I care as one human to another. One cannot compel another human being into a relationship, but must students to accept the offer. The relationship becomes reciprocal and profoundly powerful. With such a relationship, I was also able to talk to them about functional and dysfunctional conduct that was affecting them as learners. I have a love/hate relationship with teacher movies. (Who can live up to them?) But I must say, To Sir with Love, Mr. Hollands Opus, and School of Rock certainly do well in portraying the power of reciprocal relationships in education.

There are many examples of how learning is relational in our own experiences. We know of Jesus that he fostered master/disciple relationships as a foundation for learning. We think of the close relationship between journeyman and apprentice. There is an academic relationship between students and their academic advisors. All these are emotional attachments that we remember throughout our lives. None of these relationships is anything like the parent/child relationship. We know that this relationship will help children navigate the complexities of life; but we should also consider how our relationship affects what our children are learning academically as well.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Exeriential

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Experiential

Learning is Experiential, by Rob Wahl

It's a matter of frequent discussion, among Christian scholars and those who read their work, as to what it means to know. Biblical knowledge is always knowledge-as-experienced, and sometimes we use the words 'book learning' or 'academic learning' to make the distinction. Although I have no particular First Nations heritage, I would like to share on this portion of my essay, my own experiences upon which I base my understanding of experiential learning. The First Nations Principles of Learning states that learning is experiential. This is wonderful because we can all greatly benefit from experiential learning.

I became a teacher too young, having been granted a lifetime certificate at the age of 23. My immaturity was something of a grievance to my Faculty Supervisor. I was meeting all the requirements; but, it just seemed wrong to her that this overgrown child should be so soon admitted to the profession. The result was that she challenged me endlessly, nearly driving me to exhaustion. I, being both stubborn and conscientious, met every demand and completed my program, and it was life-changing, not because of the content (much of it would now be wrong or irrelevant), but because of the experience.
In my early career as an Outdoor Education teacher, between the ages of 23 and 27, it began when I was a student. I was offered a rare opportunity to take six weeks out of classes to be part of an emersion program in the newly minted BC Conservation and Outdoor Recreation (CORE) program. I learned mountaineering, rappelling, canoe racing, survival, cooking and wild foods, fish and wildlife identification. I was quite a thing to rappel from the side of your school’s gym roof. That was life-changing, that was experiential learning.

In church also served as a leader in Christian Service Brigade. It was something like a blend of Awana, Scouts, and Cadets, with a strong leadership training component. The paramilitary-style program has largely fallen out of use, but it’s a powerful learning experience intended for boys and men. There I earned “Woodsman” credentials on my way to graduating from their achievement program. I planned and executed my trips, typically three or four days. I learned maps and compass, wilderness safety, and regular backpacking skills.

It was no wonder then that I was able to gain seasonal employment as a teacher in various outdoor programs in West Vancouver. I guided children through the forests and into the mountains. I taught them to canoe, pace themselves on an eight-hour hike, and collaborate on planning, food, clothing, and equipment. Together we faced the bears, the rain, and the terrain. We faced wet, cold, heat, fatigue, blisters, and even sickness. Together we forded rivers, stood on the peak of Mount Frosty, stood overlooking the Upper Stein River Valley. These years were formative for me as much as they were for my students. I was learning through experience.

Experiential learning carries with it the real risk of failure. It is more than driving to the Firehall or getting a guided tour of a museum. Experiential learning is gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, and exhausting. I won’t soon forget the sound of an avalanche on the mountain above or the earth-shaking rumble of a landslide just a few kilometers across the valley. It is the learning that takes place when at times we do not know what will occur until it does, and we have a problem to solve, and we do, and we steal success from failure. Experiential learning stretches and enlarges that wagon called self, and in so doing expands was passes for things we ought to know, and skills we want to have. It makes so many other things relevant, meaningful, interesting, and desirable. Such are the stories you may hear from your First Nations friends. People whose lives and culture are fully interwoven with the local environment, a context for stories of personal journey and growth. We do well to connect with the journey's others take, such that we might share our own and grow by them all, for we too are people who believe that the Creator Spirit will meet us there.

So my point is this: although we are not all First Nations by heritage, we can all place value on learning as experienced, and in so doing, share this in common. I will say this, that a truly educated mind can express and share what they know through writing, speaking, and various art forms. And as home-schooling folks, we truly have the advantage in appreciating the benefits of both experiential learning and the sharing of it. I certainly have asked if learning we can't share or express truly learning? Perhaps it is, we could call it tacit learning, and there's plenty of it, but let's not settle for that. We in the homeschooling lifestyle have many great opportunities to enjoy experiential learning and to share it. I would encourage us all to do it with energy and passion.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Reflective

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Reflective

Learning is Reflective, by Rob Wahl

It is often said that you won’t learn by experience; rather, you learn by reflecting on experience. I do occasionally preach sermons, but I have not mastered the art. I find that contrary to what people say, just getting up in front of people more often won’t make me a better preacher. I prepare, I deliver, and I go onto something else, and nothing changes. The only way I’m going to get better is if I reflect on what I learn. I have to ask myself what worked well, what didn’t work well, and what I have to do differently. Last time I spoke I got mixed up in the drafts of my message. I ended up with a chunk missing from my notes and had to ‘wing it’. Not good. Note to self: have a plan for the storage of the text of the message. That’s reflective learning.

We have long moved on from behaviourism in education, but I hold to the behaviourist definition of learning I was taught, not as the truth, but as a handy way of recognizing learning. Learning, I was taught, is a change in behaviour following experience. So, by this definition, a learner who reads a book and can’t say, do, or ponder a single thing about it hasn’t learned at all—or have they? Actually they probably have, but you don't know for sure.

Between Terrace and Prince Rupert, there is the Exchamsiks River. The river is beautiful and serene when seen in the Provincial Park. For those who brave the four-wheel-drive road and the 45-minute hike, there is a glorious waterfall to visit. The river simply spills over the cliff. The sounds, sights, and feelings almost defy description. Suppose a learner visits the Exchamsiks Waterfall. Afterward, they can’t say anything to describe this experience. We can still insist that by being there they must have learned. We might be able to infer something of what they learned, but we don’t know. When we reflect on the experience. The sighs, sounds and cool mist; the smooth rock and clear pools, then we begin to take it from a mere experience to true learning. Write a poem, a story, or an essay. Think and reflect. Then you will truly learn from the experience, for learning is reflective.

What a great principle of learning. How much more powerful would it be if it was second nature. That is to say, when embarking on such a trip, why would not one expect to reflect on the experience. We tell our grandparents, our aunt, and our baby brother. Each person gets a story tailored to their interest, all of which are true, but each story special in its way. We share our lives and we are connected through our experience. People share what they noticed and the learning experience becomes whole, complete, and reflective. We would all do well by including as much reflectivity in our experiences as possible.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Reflexive

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Reflexive

Learning is Reflexive

What we learn and know affects who we are. True learning is more, much more, than adding to yourself knowledge and skills. A true learner engages the full person, body, soul (mind) and spirit. A growing child has behind them a cute wagon called “self” to which they add each new learning experience. The contents of this wagon further inspire, direct and enables their learning, in a process sometimes said to be “more like lighting a fire than filling a bucket”.  But the great miracle of learning takes place, also very well stated in the axiom, “When the learning is ready, a teacher will appear”.

Learners and learning moving back and forth, each affecting the other in a growth process is what has been called reflexive learning. Such learning cannot be superficial but it need not be left to chase. Such learning is enhanced by being deliberate about it. A learner ought rightly to know themselves, including who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, and particularly attitudes, because all of these profoundly condition learning. We often resist learning important lessons because, as my father often said, “Pardon me, but your attitude is showing”. An open attitude toward learning and a growing sense of self is essential to growing up strong and wise. This is where all of us can make life changing contributions to our children, our grandchildren, and all those that God might put in our paths.

When it comes to healing and reconciliation, we ought to know our history and our place in it because it goes to who we are and who we are seen to be. We ought rightly to appreciate the poverty and desperation that led our own forefathers to settle in the so-called “New World”, and the goodwill, the trusting partnership, early settlers and traders established with local First Nations. A Part of who I am is the result of 19th-century events on the banks of the Manitoba Red River. It is a story of drastic change that took as little as 20 years. It is a story of massacre, disease, and famine that left a once active buffalo hunting grounds relatively empty and ready for settlement.  It is a story that did not seem important enough to me to hear until I went there. I'm not a Social Studies specialist, but I enjoy learning history backward from the present to the past by asking why. It allows me to identify my own place in the stream of history, and engage in rich, reflexive learning.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Holistic

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: Learning is Holistic

Learning is Holistic

Holistic is a rather strange word for us and rarely used however much we may crave it. Holism is not an ideology that competes with the Christian faith. Suppose you wanted to learn about the moose. You could certainly take a moose down to its components: its antlers, hoofs, and internal body organs. But as west-coasters, we all know that the moose cannot be understood in isolation. Moose compete with deer, are preyed upon by wolves, feed in wetlands, and are vulnerable to parasitism. Without this larger context, we’ll never understand the moose. Learning must indeed be holistic to be complete.
There’s something about breaking something down that to the western mind seems like knowledge. We feel like we’ve done our job. When it comes to anthropology, we might say humans are body, soul, and spirit. Our bodies are composed or organ systems, which themselves have tissues composed of cells. These cells carry out the functions of life at the chemical level. But we know intuitively that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And as such, the lesson seems complete, but strangely empty. We are products of our history, and each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to family, friends and their local community. Our function and purpose are conditioned by our faith, our relationship to the natural world, and our values such as compassion and peace with God and others. We long to be whole and integrated, so that the parts of our lives are meaningful in their greater contexts. I’m not just doing dishes; I’m loving my wife.

And so, it is with learning. That learning is part and parcel of life together with the physical, social and emotional world. This is why so many of us school at home. We do not want our children simply to know stuff. We want their knowledge to be connected to who we are as people living in families, churches, and communities. We want our learners to know who they are and who they are. We want them to know what they know, how they know it, and how they can, therefore, act in the world are not separate from it. We want learners to see themselves as interdependent rather than dependent, and as empowered agents of action rather than mere cogs in the wheel of some all-powerful system. We have heard about the “three R’s”, reading, writing, and arithmetic, but perhaps the real three R’s are relationship, responsibility, and reverence.

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: How Learning Is

From the First Nations Principles of Learning: How Learning Is

Introduction

How we go about learning depends on our culture and our context. Piano learned in a Jazz Band simply sounds different than Piano playing learned alone. So it is with all learning. This is the learning context. We think of learning as developing skills or acquiring content. We are thinking of the “what” of learning. But learning has a “how”, a “who”, a “why”, and a “where”. All of these are the context of learning. I think we feel confident that learning to bake cookies with your mother is different from learning to bake cookies at the Vancouver School of Culinary Arts. Our physical surroundings, social and emotional context, and the particular learning task we engage in, condition the knowledge, skills, and attitudes so gained.

“No man”, wrote the poet, priest, and lawyer John Donne, “is an island unto himself”. Our children grow and learn as parts of a larger community, a community which here on the west coast of British Columbia, is particularly broken by a historical rift between First Nations peoples and those whose ancestors settled here from other places. The history of this rift in British Columbia is particularly interesting. Once, a mere 150 years ago, there was a respectful and collaborative relationship among the various people-groups. Goldrush, smallpox, colonialism, joining confederation, residential schools, and land use conflict have all taken an incalculable toll. And as our nation's highest authorities have stated, the time has come for healing and reconciliation; and education must be a part of that. Furthermore, people of faith such as ourselves, ought rightly to have a particular interest in healing and reconciliation, for we all benefit from mutual understanding.

In recent years educators have gathered to consider how educators such as myself and yourself can contribute to healing and reconciliation. They set for themselves the task of describing the principles that guide learning in the First Nations context so that we can all learn those principles and be the richer for it. Learning is part of our common inheritance as human beings. Looking into First Nations principles of learning will also elucidate our own; and, afford us a path toward growing appreciation.

Among the First People’s Principles of Learning, there is this statement. Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational (focussed on connectedness, reciprocal relationships and a sense of place). In the words that follow, I consider these attributes of learning as a guide to new ways of learning by which we are all enriched, and by which appreciation can grow.

First Nations Principles of Learning

First Nations Principles of Learning

I have a vague sense that this is something some of us would rather not talk about. We live here in the Northwest in two solitudes: ourselves and our First Nations friends. The silence is a little awkward for us all. It’s time we have reconciliation among us. So said Prime Minister Steven Harper when he offered a formal apology from the Government of Canada for the idea of residential schools. He said, “The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage, and language.” A glance at the history says that was the idea because it was thought, those children would be better off. Healing and reconciliation are the Government's prescription. They are also the way of Christians. I like to believe Steven Harper’s faith led him there. We sometimes talk about transforming culture. Here’s our chance.
So, I want to do a small thing. I want to write several articles on First Nations principles of learning. But I want to do so because I believe we all have something to learn from them. I promise everything I say will be from a Christian perspective.
The first of these is “Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.” To me, this says leaning is more than personal. When we learn we enhance our future, but we also enhance the future lives of others. Show me a learned person and I’ll show you a small cloud of individuals who have grown strong under that person’s influence. We also know that God has charged us with stewarding the earth. What we learn enables us to do that well. And we know that what we learn leaves a legacy for others, something so powerful and profound that one might even call it a spirit.
So, join me in an exploration of First Nations principles of learning. Principles can mean a few things, but I think in this case it means an idea that can be used as a foundation for many other ideas. I’ve always loved to talk about learning. I would love to expand my understanding of learning. I hope you join.

Dates and Resources

SLPs are completed, please sign off.

Please complete the self-assessemnt survey in Encom.

October 1 to 15 Proof of Work Samples

 Rob Wahl recommended resources

 

In Praise of Forgetting

In Praise of Forgetting

As we enter into the summer ambitious and obviously well-meaning parents are eager to continue learning through the summer. I would suggest you don’t. In the first place, children are always learning anyway. Learning is a basic biological function, so unless their unconscious, they are learning.

And herein lies the rub and why it is we forget. Fact is we learn too much. Everything you experience is stored at least momentarily in the brain. But the brain isn’t merely a storage system. The brain is (among other things) a set of neurons that let you model the outside world inside your head. And that’s handy because then you can predict future experiences, find your way around, and understand how things around you affect you. That model is your real knowledge.

A good example might be if you have a park or green space near your house and you often walk there. You know the trails and where they lead. You know which one is faster and how they are different. You have actually seen a lot more, but you’ve forgotten, and this is the key. If you want to learn to navigate the park, that is to know it, you’ll need to do a lot of forgetting.

The way your brain makes that model of the world as follows. First, a lot of information goes in. Think of all that information as a dark haze. Some of the information comes up more than once, so the haze is darker in some places than others. Do this five, ten or a hundred times. Outlines start to appear in the haze. Then, mostly as you sleep, and especially while you dream, the light areas get erased and the dark areas get connected. Think of it like brushing pencil all over a paper and then drawing with the eraser. The brain also tends to erase things that it can’t make part of the picture. What emerges is a picture of the world. We see a forest and a trail instead of tree branches and rocks. We have made all that sensory experience meaningful, and we have done it by forgetting.

Have you ever thought about what a story is? At first, all we know is the events 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. But then we look for what connects the events. Like a game of Mousetrap, we find out that 1, 2, and 4 are connected, but there’s no way to connect 3. And so, we tell a story about 1 met 2 and then there were 4. What shall we do with three? Oh, forget it, that’s what. Stories are particularly important in helping us remember and forget. The stories we tell ourselves make us the people we become.

So, there you have it. Your brain needs to forget in order to make what you have learned truly meaningful, or what we might call common sense. If someone is truly educated their common sense actually works for them. What you learn becomes common sense as you put it to use in your daily life. Never learn for grades, or to please someone else. Learn because by doing it you become a stronger person. Don’t be afraid to forget what doesn’t mean anything. If it’s important, it will come back to you.

So go ahead, take the summer off, and forget boldly.

Dates and Resources

If you're back next year

It's wise to have a few things prepared for next fall. A few resource materials for Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science are all you need. I recommend having about two months worth of those resources in place for September.  During the summer you have some lead time, it's a great time to master the HCOS Learning Commons Library. It's a great way to save a lot of money. I highly recommend any Unit Studies they have that might interest you. It's a great way to start the year.

Also, summer is a good time to think of your routines for next September. Routines can make all the difference in how well children learn. Discuss the routines together, what they will be, why they are important. Time-on-task and attention span are worthy goals. Routines can help children own their own learning. What could be better than that?

Purchasing Department shutdown: May 15  to July 1 (This means no special orders-- the ones that go through Purchasing. You can still use your 2019-2020 Purchase Order number directly with vendors who take HCOS Purchase Orders.) 

Dates and Links:  

June 7 Deadline for new work samples.

June 24 Report Cards are complete and available.

June 26 Rob goes to Germany

You may be interested in my recommended resources page. I only add to these resources when I see a learner has done well using it within the BC curriculum. I hope to add a few more links this year.

 Rob Wahl recommended resources