Sandwiched around their months in the islands, the Gonsalves and Zani kids attended fall classes before their trip, and the last month of the school year at its conclusion, at their respective schools: Friends Academy in Massachusetts and Melville Elementary in Rhode Island. Friends, a private school, only billed the Zanis for the time the children were in school and provided workbooks for the various curriculum.
The Smiths took a slightly less orthodox approach. They used the framework of SelfDesign.org, a homeschooling cooperative created to match at-home learning with Canada’s British Columbia Ministry of Education standards. They initially worked with a learning consultant for the two girls the summer before their trip and used the program throughout the fall in Rhode Island until moving aboard. Once sailing, they engaged the children’s former teachers and librarians to act as consultants on the learning experience along the way.
The SelfDesign program is much like the Waldorf School approach where knowledge is drawn from exposure to nature and hands-on activities, fostering critical reasoning. According to the website, SelfDesign works like this:
A learning consultant is chosen for one-on-one interaction based on a student’s interests and temperament.
A learning plan is created to facilitate teaching and meet the state educational standards required for the student.
The consultant coaches the family in how to observe daily activities with all senses to recognize how learning unfolds.Advertisement
Weekly reflections are written about the learning observed and submitted to the consultant. Videos and images can also be used and the consultant provides feedback, asks questions and provides resources to clarify and deepen the student’s reflections.
Annice Kenan says, “What I liked about the SelfDesign program was that we could follow the interests as they surfaced while we journeyed around, to help deepen the experiences we found and weave them into lessons. We turned in their portfolios of finished work to th Rhode Island Department of Education at the year’s end, and all was well.”