As the days shorten toward winter Solstice, I find myself in a more reflective place than is often true in the pursuits of summer or the activity of fall months. The shortening days of this season lend themselves to quiet, inner dialogue that leads me to gratitude in all the aspects of my life. And in that process I begin to see how much of my daily approach and outcome has been shaped by this practice we call SelfDesign.

lia_riverphotoboothSelfDesign, when I consider it as a parent of a child now entering young adulthood, graduated from our program and flying passionately into her own future, is an interesting combination of philosophy and praxis  —  a sort of theory turned into methodology, formed around ideas of putting the learner at centre and supporting her as she designs her own learning and life. It places importance on the process of learning more than the products, and it places relationship and conversation as central vehicles for that process.  Those vehicles lead us naturally into the arenas of collaboration, acceptance of each other’s legitimate ‘being’, mutual respect, and a growing understanding of all of us being learners regardless of age or position.

Translated into SelfDesign Learning Community as a living example of these core elements, we celebrate and affirm family as the cornerstone of our model and parents as the most important guides for their children. Those of us who steward our program collaborate with educators who initiate a one-to-one, often quite intimate relationship with the family and who support the learner toward her emerging sense of self in relationship with others, be they peers or mentors. We bring forward tools, conferences, and conversations aimed toward creating confirmation of the choice parents have made to join our program, understanding that the decision to be learning at home and in community is such a significant one for many families. And, perhaps in less visible ways, we continually work to strengthen our professional development, to deepen our understandings of the learning model, and to improve the technologies that help us deliver our program. This is part of our organizational commitment, always humming in the background.

The most interesting and valuable part for me is to notice what comes out of all of it. We begin with an idea shaped around a model for natural learning, we translate that into a program based around our core elements, we foster a community that shares a vision of what self-directed learning and living can truly be . . . and each of those ingredients seems important on its own. Yet what seems to emerge from the integration of the components is perhaps the most vital aspect and is certainly the part that sparks my gratitude upon reflection. The way I’ve come to think of it can be summarized in phrases like ‘a way of being’ or ‘a manner of living’, and it’s here that I notice how infused my life has become, over the years, with a SelfDesign approach.

Being in SelfDesign with my daughter set a model for our days that lives on in me today. I awaken into a natural flow and rhythm not determined by external demands . . . I am much more influenced by the sky’s light than I am by a clock or a schedule. I am tuned to human connection rather than to the accumulation of material goods. I see learning as something that happens all the time, whether I drop into an unexpected discussion with a store clerk or observe nature as I walk through the woods at midday.

I see it in my daughter as well, watching her converse with people of all ages in a respectful and genuinely curious way. She is continually designing her life from a place of interest, relevance, self-agency, and self-responsibility. And, most important to me, I see the strength and love within our relationship, nurtured by all the time we’ve spent together as we both learned at home and in community.

I am grateful for the choice I made, so long ago now, for us to become a SelfDesign family, and in this season of natural reflection I hope you feel that way too.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-16-53-50Warm Solstice wishes to you all,

River Meyer

Director of Organizational Learning, SDLF