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North Island Distance Education School

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Blended Learning Programs  Comox Valley, Nanaimo, Qualicum - an alternative to homeschooling

Heartwood Learning Community

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Heartwood Learning empowers families to set up and operate (in partnership with us) their own learning communities based on our attachment philosophy and the interests of your own community, family, and children. If there are enough kids enrolled in a community who want this, we will hire a teacher or teachers to support these classes locally and set up funding for resources and supplies, too.

Founding Principles

A number of founding principles guided the initial design of the program, and continue to inform the long term planning for the program as well as day-to-day decisions.

Partnership

The teacher, parent and child are partners working together to develop and support a learning plan for the child and to provide/engage in enriching learning experiences for the child. Parents and children are also part of the process of evaluating learning that has taken place. Teachers, parents and children are partners in running and supporting this program. We each have specific roles and responsibilities as well as a shared sense of enriching the program and building a healthy learning community together.

Inviting Learning and Engaging Curiosity

Children will be invited and encouraged to participate through the enthusiasm, engagement and skilled leadership of the teachers and mentors. Children will not be forced to participate or to 'learn'. Instead, teachers build on and engage the children's natural curiosity and joy of learning and build and support critical thinking skills. In our classes, learning as something we do with the children rather than to them. It is our experience that when children are invited to participate and truly experience partnership in learning – they flourish – intellectually, emotionally and socially. Children experience the classes as a place of exploration, a place to share feelings and ideas, a safe and exciting place where each child is recognized and valued. This teaching approach provides an education that prepares children to continue to enjoy and have success in learning throughout their lives. They also learn to relate well to others and themselves, be creative, flexible and venturesome and have empathy for others.

Respect

We aim to respect each person's feelings and individuality as we interact and work together (adults and children alike). We also respect the integrity of each person and their individual learning styles and differences. This is reflected in Individualized learning plans and appropriate learning support in the way that each child is taught, heard and evaluated. Each person is treated with empathy and caring by teachers, parents and each other. Our goal is to do this, and to model and teach these skills to the children and ourselves. Conflict resolution processes are based on respect for all involved and on building positive skills for all involved.

Parent Participation

Parent Participation is a key element of the program, both for practical and philosophical reasons. Parent help in the classroom allows for small group focused activity and allows the teacher more energy to focus on the children. Parent involvement in the classroom also helps to create mentoring relationships for the children with adults other than their parents and a stronger sense of community. This also allows parents to have a direct experience of their children's learning in the classroom and a deeper understanding of the classroom program, which enables them to more deeply support their own child's learning and more fully participate in the conversations about program development. In addition to scheduled “parent helper days” parents are always welcome to spend time in classes.

Home Learning (and learning in the wide world)

The time spent outside the class is a valued part of the child's learning experience, and parents engage in supporting their children's learning at home and in the community. Families have freedom to approach this part of the program in a way that suits the learning styles and interests of the child. Teachers will provide guidance for creating learning plans and for record keeping requirements.

Family

We value the role of family involvement in a child's learning and healthy development. We also value the ways that a community of families can support each other, both practically and by enriching the mentorship and learning opportunities available to our children. This value is reflected in welcoming parents in the classroom; providing time for family involvement in each child's learning plan; involving families in the running of the classes; partnership in developing learning plans and evaluation; and in including families in special events, celebrations, (some) fieldtrips and workshops.

Small Group Learning

Our group size is kept small (13 or less) in order to allow for a calm, focused atmosphere, lots of teacher attention and the chance for a high level of discussion and hands on work. It also allows the teacher to connect with each child and build strong relationships and a deeper understanding of and support for unique learning styles.

Multi-age Setting

In order to create a socially and developmentally healthy learning environment and to allow each child to experience themselves both as a mentor and as a learner (both proven to be key elements of deeper learning), the classroom groupings cover an age range of 2-4 years. This also allows the teacher to group children based on readiness rather than age. Smaller group activity ensures that all ages are appropriately challenged.

Optional Attendance

Children are invited to attend the classes at scheduled times. They may (in consultation with parents) choose to attend less, or miss class-time when they are pursuing other interests. Commitment for specific lengths of time may be required to take part in some classroom activities in order for groups to work together effectively.

Part-time classroom component

Each student is invited to attend classroom time part time, rather than 5 days a week. This allows for small group focused classroom learning where more children are likely to bring their full attention and enthusiasm to group learning. It also allows families to meet the unique needs and interests of their child outside of the program time – making for a more meaningful, Individualized learning experience for each child. From a program planning perspective it allows us each to meet our own family needs without trying to build a program that tries to "do it all" for everyone.

Community Partnerships/Mentors

We understand that our community is rich with real-life experiences and mentors with specialized areas of expertise. Involvement in and connection with our wider community provides children and families with an invaluable resource for learning. Finding ways for our children to contribute to our community builds a strong sense of confidence and responsibility as well as hands on, real life experience as citizens.

Learning Plans

In our model, these classes are only part of the comprehensive learning which happens at home and in the community. Each family is responsible for following the B.C. Curriculum, and will need to follow a certified learning plan, created by your teacher, with input from you. Much of the learning plan will involve activities planned by the teacher during her time together with the children, but will be complemented by things you do at home. In September a meeting will be set up where the learning plan will be discussed and finalized. The teacher will give you an overview of things they will be doing in class, and a clear guideline as to how you can complement the class time with work at home in order to create a comprehensive curriculum for your child. There will be ample opportunity to customize the plan to suit the interests of your child! We understand that when children follow their passions, it is incredible how much and how quickly they can learn.

Assessment and Reporting

Because your child will be seeing a teacher at least once every week, most on-going assessment can easily be done by the teacher during class time, mostly through observation, portfolio assessment, and discussion, especially since classes are small and the teacher will have developed a close relationship with your child. The teacher will also be available to meet before or after class to help you with the learning at home, and to share feedback about how things are going. Of course you are always welcome to attend class sessions at any time, too. Doing so can give you a clear indication of your child's progress in all areas.

At the end of each term, the teacher will meet with you to discuss progress to date, and to hear about all the learning adventures you have been having at home and in the community. After this meeting the teacher will finalize a report card. Reports are done in early December, March, and June.