Alternative Education

It’s back to school for me yet again. This year I’m working as a Vice Principal in an Alternative School, providing secondary school courses to students from grade 9 to 12. It’s an amazing place, and here’s why:

Safe Alternate Timetable

We have a consistent Monday to Friday timetable, rather than the hybrid model, with its two 2.5 hour classes each that run for a week and then switch with the other two for the following week. Our students attend either for two hours in person in the morning or two hours online in the afternoon, once a week for each credit. They are working independently for the balance of the week, with the goal being to complete two credits each quadmester.

This means that we have very few people in the building, with very small classes in person, so students and staff feel much less at risk of COVID exposure. And students always have the option to shift to online, should the degree of risk change.

No Deadlines

While the goal is to complete two credits each quadmester, our students have the option to “roll over” their students into the next. Our schedule will be the same from September to June, so students can anticipate support until they complete their credits. They can even roll their courses into the following school year, if needed. Our teachers have structured their course content to provide both direct instruction during their two-hour classes, and rich supportive materials in their Virtual Learning Environment (either D2L/Brightspace or Google Classroom). So control is truly in the hands of our students.

There is really no reason why this couldn’t be the case in our traditional secondary schools, but we have strong cultural norms that function to deny flexibility to our students.


Because we have intake at multiple points in the year, and students are progressing at different paces, our teachers provide individual programs and support to each student. Our class sizes are very small, and our teachers are able to customize the program for each student.

Our students thrive in this environment, with very few returning to a traditional secondary school, but remaining with us until graduation.

First Names

All of our staff are addressed by their first names. This serves to “flatten” the organization, and puts everyone on the same level. I may be the Vice Principal, but I’m “Terry”, not Dr. Whitmell. Our Principal oversees seven alternative program sites, so she is here only a few times a week, but she is known by her first name, as is our custodian, the office staff, and our educational assistants.

This is a strong cultural indication to our new students that they are not in a traditional school, and with that realization comes hope and optimism that the rest of the school will be different as well.


In all that we do, the focus is on success. Missing are detentions, penalties, suspensions, and many of the control mechanisms of a traditional secondary school. Instead our teachers can, as our school vision says, “Inspire Success, Confidence, and Hope”. Our students may remain with us until age twenty-one, and with a small teaching staff of two dozen they are able to forge strong relationships.


We provide a range of programs, from grades 7 to 12, serving students whose needs can be academic, social, emotional or just a need for a safe place. Despite what we read in the media, students who are suspended or expelled are not abandoned by the education system. Instead they are enrolled in one of our programs, and are able to access Child and Youth Workers, Social Workers, and a range of community agencies as well.

A Safe Harbour

With all the uncertainty and fear we have been experiencing in the past eighteen months, I am thankful that I am working and contributing in such an amazing place!

Crocheting and Math

My last post, Quilting and Math, was discussed this week by Doug Peterson in This Week in Ontario Edublogs, and with Chey, Pav and Stephen on VoicEd Radio. They made connections to other types of needlework, and they inspired me to look at my own projects for more connections to mathematics.

I’ve been crocheting (aka “hooking”) since I was about twelve. It appealed to me in the same way that Bach and ballet appealed to me: structured, beautiful, and satisfying.


My first crocheting projects were “granny squares”, which were very popular in the 1970’s. They begin with a central ring, into which you stitch clusters of three double crochet stitches, separated by single chain stitches. Here’s an afghan that I made in university for a boyfriend, who broke up with me as I was working on it. I decided to use it as my bedspread in residence, and it has travelled with me since.

Granny Square Afghan

You can see, in this detailed image, how there are four clusters in the first round, eight in the second, twelve in the third, and so on. The corners can be one to three chains, depending on how tight you crochet, and how flat you need your fabric to lay.

Granny Square Detail

Here’s a baby afghan, made from one very large granny square:

Baby Granny Square

By combining more than three double crochets in a cluster it is possible to create variations on the granny square, as seen in this city block pattern:


You don’t have to make squares when you work from a central ring. You can add chains, and other stitches, and create shapes borrowed from botany:

Doily Detail


Some crochet projects begin with a foundation chain, and then proceed in rows. These rows can then be made to “zigzag”, through the addition of clusters of stitches at the “zig”, and then skipping stitches on the “zag”.

These afghans were stitched in continuous rows. The pink variegated afghan is sets of single crochets, and was made by my grandmother in the early 1970’s. The green stripes are half-double crochets, done in the back loop of the stitch to create a ribbed effect. The look of the “zigzag” is determined by the stitch height, with single crochet being the shortest, and double crochet the tallest. If you look closely you can see small triangular voids that are formed as the rows pivot.

You can also crochet in rows where you always begin at the same side, and cut the yarn at each end to create a fringe. In this case the pattern is based upon single crochet stitches, with double crochet stitches that extend down to previous rows to create the hearts. This technique layers stitches on top of those behind, creating a texture that is very unforgiving if you mis-count your stitches!

It’s also possible to create a mobius strip, by joining the foundation row of chains with a twist, and then crocheting a single spiraling row:

Mobius Strip Cowl


Working in the round is fun, and it even allows you to create three-dimensional works:

It’s fun to play with crochet in the round to create hats. Check out my son’s TikTok videos, where he explains how to create a wizard’s hat. Here’s Part 1:

I also like crocheting in layers, so that you get a different look on either side of the afghan:

The Math

Your building blocks are chains, single crochet, half-double crochet, and double crochet. The chains are wider than they are high, and create thin strands, or are the foundation into which you work your next stitches. Single crochet stitches are the closest to square, so you could imagine that you are adding small cubes. Half-double stitches are almost twice as high as they are wide. And double crochet stitches can stretch to three times higher than they are wide. These last two stitches are also “thicker” at the top, so several of them can be stitches into the same foundation stitch, and then curve around a corner, or create a cluster that begins to look like a trapezoid.

If you put chains between stitches you begin to get a lacy effect, and can create patterns of stitches and gaps. I have given away all of my filet crochet projects, so I don’t have any pictures to share. However, they can be designed in a similar way to the pixel images we create on computers, or on paper using grids. If you want to learn how to do this, check out the Spruce Crafts.

An example of Filet Crochet

Since crochet work involves only a single tool (hook) and a yarn, it’s a great technique for beginners. Preschoolers can learn to chain, and love making long strings. Older kids can easily learn row-based patterns, or simple granny squares. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube, and free patterns on Ravelry.

Data Representation

Because of its stitch structure, and the ability for several stitches to be made into a single foundation stitch, it’s a great way to illustrate concepts, and here are just a few examples from YouTube:

Math Concepts

In the Ontario Curriculum – Mathematics 2020 – Grades 1 – 8 there are many places where crochet might fit within Strand E – Spatial Sense:

“In this strand, students analyse the properties of shapes – the elements that define a shape and
make it unique – and use these properties to define, compare, and construct shapes and
objects, as well as to explore relationships among properties. Students begin with an intuition
about their surroundings and the objects in them, and learn to visualize objects from different
perspectives. Over time, students develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of size,
shape, location, movement, and change, in both two and three dimensions. They understand
and choose appropriate units to estimate, measure, and compare attributes, and they use
appropriate tools to make measurements. They apply their understanding of the relationships
between shapes and measurement to develop formulas to calculate length, area, volume, and

In addition to the obvious spatial skills, students can also estimate yardage required for a project, calculate yardage in a ball of yarn based upon weight, and scale patterns to fit. I’m sure that you will find many other applications, if you embark on crochet in your classroom.

Fidget Toys

And if all else fails, a crochet hook and yarn is the perfect fidget toy in a classroom. It is quiet, you can crochet out of sight under the desk, and it can result in beautiful works of art.

I believe I could continue to write for days on this topic…. so I’ll pause now. If you think mathematically while you “hook”, please share in the comments below.

Hiring in Education

Over the past two weeks I have been engaged in the process of application to a position at a Faculty of Education at one of our Ontario universities. It has been a very different experience than any other educational job application I’ve had, and has given me a great deal to think about.


Image of Terry Whitmell June 2021

The process began with what was called the “long short list” interview, which was 30 minutes long and conducted in a very traditional manner: five questions presented verbally, with a “hand wave” when I was nearing the end of the allotted time. I was invited to pose any questions I might have at the end.

When I made the “short list”, the process was very different. For our second interview I was asked for a 20-minute presentation to share my approach to a concept from one of the courses. This presentation was open to all faculty, and there were two attendees who weren’t on the committee who viewed my Zoom presentation, and could participate in the 10-minute Q&A that followed. Immediately after this session was an additional 30-minute interview, much like the first. And after a break I met with the Dean for a 20-minute conversation, which was unstructured and quite enjoyable.

I had provided the names of five references, of which three would be contacted. And then, based upon my CV, two interviews, and the references, I was told that a decision would be reached.


Ten days after the second interview I received an email indicating that I had not been successful, and sharing that “The APC was very impressed with your leadership background and your teaching skills. A key differentiator was that the candidate who was offered the position has worked in multiple university contexts in full-time roles and has a significant record of scholarship in curriculum studies.”

It is obvious that I cannot remedy my lack of full-time university teaching experience; I have been a K-12 teacher, leader and administrator since 1983, with only maternity leaves and my Ph.D. research as gaps in service. As a late-in-life academic (Masters in 2007, Ph.D. in 2020), my record of scholarship is sparse. And, as my colleagues will know, running a school leaves very little time for scholarship!

This area of scholarship is certainly one that I can augment, and so my goals this summer will be to look for opportunities to write. I have been told that I should be able to turn my dissertation into two or three articles, so I will look for some assistance to help me clarify how this might work. I am also going to look for colleagues to collaborate with, hopefully within their research at their institutions. And I will continue to speak at conferences, meet with teams, and support teachers directly where possible.

Making K-12 Interviews Better

One key learning for me from this process is the value of the second interview’s “presentation” component. By having to examine the curriculum, design an approach, and share my “lesson plan” with the committee, I was able to solidify my understanding of the course, and begin to prepare a framework that would have been very useful, had I been successful.

Perhaps, instead of reinstating Reg 274, we could work on a process for candidates to our teaching positions that includes “real teaching”? The presentation process was much closer to the real experience of teaching than is a traditional interview. And since I was given clear criteria, I embedded within my presentation what would have been the answers to many questions that would have been asked in the interview. Since I had time to prepare, as I would as a classroom teacher, I shared who I was and what I could do in a clearer, more effective and efficient manner.

I’m also wondering about the disconnect between the world of universities, and the reality of K-12 education. While “curriculum studies” is valuable work, I am not convinced that studying curriculum is better than delivering it. And I certainly do not believe that years of study are better than decades of supporting teachers as they work with the curriculum to plan, instruct, assess and evaluate. And the “action research” that every teacher undertakes each day in their classroom is in some cases more relevant than the research conducted by external parties. Perhaps this should become part of our criteria, so that we better prepare our young teachers to consider a move to higher education later in their careers.

I am not going to be able to change academia. But perhaps I can work with my K-12 colleagues to enhance our selection process, and do our best job to match teacher candidates to our teaching positions. The next time I am part of a hiring team, I will look to incorporate an aspect of the process from higher education, and “see our teachers in action”.

Our students will win, our schools will win, and our teachers will win.

First Nation, Métis and Inuit Studies AQ – Response #3 – Misconceptions and your Backpack

This week in our course we discussed three types of information: that which you know through experience (your backpack), that which you hear through the media (often misconceptions), and that which is the truth.


We began our class with a Backpack activity, shared with us by an educator who has used the activity to reveal what our students carry with them. By writing with a white crayon, and then painting over with a wash, hidden information is revealed. She talked about how some students chose to participate in the full activity, while others chose not to reveal what they are carrying with them. However, the process of writing served to validate, and focus their reflection. I could see this being a valuable minds-on activity, to set the tone for subsequent activities that might be triggering.

Media Misconceptions and the Truth

There are many misconceptions that are spread via the media, and then continued socially.  We listened to Wab Kinew’s “Soap Box” video from 2016, where he shared five stereotypes (the first five in the following table), and then examined many other sources of the following misconceptions.:

Alcohol as a Social IllThis issue is not unique to indigenous communities. It is when it is combined with poverty that it becomes visible to all.
Need to “Get Over It”You can be “over” something, and still need to remember it. In the case of Residential Schools, there is multi-generational trauma which must be addressed.
Long HairLong hair is worn by Indigenous people as a symbol of cultural pride. However not all indigenous hair matches the stereotypical long, straight ideal, so short hair does NOT indicate a lack of pride.
“7 Billion Dollars”The “7 Billion Dollars” that flows from Indian Affairs is less per capita than that provided to the citizens of New Brunswick.
TaxesStatus Indians pay taxes, except on property on their reserve. Those who qualify are only about 314,000 people, of which the employment rate is only 55%, so this represents a tiny portion of our tax revenues. Less than 1% are exempt from any tax at all.
First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples have similar systems of government.First Nations peoples are sovereign nations, who have never surrendered their right or title, and possess distinc tlaws and governance systems, language, culture, economic systems and social structures. The Indian Act establishes a limit form of local administration, and constrains movement towards self-governance.

The Métis Nation of Ontario has a democratic, province-wide governance structure.

Inuit peoples have united under the Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on the Sovereignty in the Arctic.
Post-secondary education is Free for all First Nations studentsOnly “status Indians” qualify, and they must apply for funding from their home community. The demand often exceeds the money that bands receive, with more than half of applicants turned away.
Education is funded equally to allThe Band-Operated Funding Formula came into effect in 1988, and is capped at an annual 2% increase, with few increases even approaching this cap. As a result current schools are now significantly underfunded.
Indigenous peoples are free to hunt and fishWhile these rights are inherent Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution, confirmed in court cases, and articulated in the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, they continue to be challenged by commercial enterprises. And a BC court ruled that governments have the power to declare moratoriums on hunting and fishing based upon conservation needs.
Band homes are not cared for by those in the communityBand housing is administered from Ottawa, with no local control. Bands cannot also use their own revenues to apply to housing. Those living off reserve, in search of better housing, face poverty and racism, and so are disproportionately affected.
Health care on reserve is equivalentFirst Nation citizens face high rates of chronic and communicable diseases, and are exposed to greater health risks because of poor housing, higher unemployment, contaminated water, and limited access to healthy foods. (Fact Sheet) Because of the complexity with federal, provincial, municipal and Aboriginal governments all playing a role, the system is difficult to navigate, with many roadblocks. Health Canada does not pay for palliative care or rehab therapies, and there is a shortage of mental health services.
There is plenty of reserve land0.2% of land in Canada is reserve land. 20% of the Indigenous population live on this 0.2% of the land. Of this land, coastal and tidal lands are not included, so access to waterways and fishing grounds are not included.
“Vanishing Indian”While goal of assimilation was to have Indigenous peoples “vanish”, they are now the fastest growing segment of the population.
Indigenous peoples have a lot of moneyThere is a significant gap in median income, even among highly educated Indigenous people.


We require significant revision to our Ontario curriculum, to begin to address the misconceptions held within our population.  Some are addressed within the compulsory curriculum, but only in a narrow sense. The Grade 6 Social Studies curriculum suggests consideration of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, as part of the strand on Canada and International Cooperation. In Grade 7 and 8 the perspectives of Aboriginal peoples are considered with respect to land development and the preservation of natural resources. And issues such as Residential Schools are now core to the Grade 10 History program.

The revised (2018) Canadian and World Studies document explicitly addresses the need to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action numbers 62 and 63, and emphasizes the need for cultural safety in terms of their cultural heritage. This need for sensitivity has, in my experience, led many teachers in the past to avoid issues, for fear of being unable to adequately support their students. This choice “not to go there” has resulted in inadequate attention within the limited curriculum expectations.

We must continue to educate our teachers, so that they can educate our students. I believe that students become better able to consider such issues in their senior years in school, where there are unfortunately fewer explicit expectations of Indigenous content within the remaining compulsory courses.  This is why the move to replace ENG3U/3C/3E with NBE3U/3C/3E (English: Contemporary Aboriginal Voices) is such a positive move. I would also like to see more offerings of NDW4M (Issues of Indigenous Peoples in a Global Context) in our schools, to challenge students with contemporary issues at a point in their lives where they are considering their roles as adult citizens of Canada.

It is only an educated population who can counter these misconceptions with the truth, and lighten the backpack for our Indigenous friends.


Junior Kindergarten Online – Journal – Days 17, 18 and 19

Despite our best intentions, our plans to go “screen-free” lasted until late in the day on Wednesday. By then we had been busy all day, and we needed a break from each other. And we decided that Netflix as a reward was working, so our screen time on Thursday and Friday featured “Go Dog. Go”, on repeat.

Wednesday began at 4:30, with C awake and ready for breakfast, likely due to his dinner decisions the previous evening. It took about 45 minutes to convince him to return to bed, and he successfully added a couple of hours to his sleep time.

But he did awake hungry, and so our first activity of the day was to dig out an old waffle iron, mix up some batter, and cook breakfast. The first batch didn’t meet with his approval, as I did not spread the batter to the corners, and so he didn’t have the four square waffles he expected.  As the second batch was cooking we took breakfast-in-bed to Grandpa, and confirmed that we would have having another “screen-free” day.

While he ate, we created a calendar for the month of February, entering all the important dates, including his birthday in three weeks. He enthusiastically crossed off 1, 2 and 3, and then later in the day checked off 4 as well! C spent the morning playing with Lego and his vehicles, and then making sandwiches for lunch.

We had a beautiful, clear day, so the afternoon was spent exploring nearby ditches, sliding down the snow, and keeping out of the wind. C has no idea that I might not have the flexibility and stamina that he has, and so it was a great workout.

In the evening, before bath time, we headed outdoors to examine two things: the electricity meter on the outside of the house, and the amazing display of stars. C’s idea to then play hide-and-seek in the snow was only partially effective: the temperature made the snow quite crunchy, so it was difficult not to hear where anyone walked. He did like the anticipation of hearing my footsteps, getting slowly closer and closer to his hiding spot, and I could hear him giggling as I approached.

Thursday we tried going back to the Virtual Classroom, but it consisted entirely of links to books about groundhogs, and a short memory game with photos of groundhogs. This engaged him for less than 30 minutes, and he then had a meltdown when I wouldn’t allow him to head to his toy videos on YouTube.

He was much happier playing with scissors and a small paper cutter, creating tiny squares of card-stock and then gluing them all together.

Since he had already put an X under February 4, we only checked the calendar to confirm that it was still several weeks to his birthday, and to note that his uncle’s would be the next day.

Friday was a snowy day, and C requested pasta for breakfast. He is very good at cooking Kraft Dinner, and I couldn’t think of a reason to say “no”. But before that he needed to make two small video messages for his uncle’s birthday and for his parents, to say he loved them. Both were improvised songs, and he ended the second with a heart made with his hands. I know that they will love them!

Then, because of the snow, we then relaxed with more “Go Dog. Go”, while I checked my email and the weather. We are hoping to drive south with him this weekend, but it’s looking like both days will possibly include snow squalls. Today promises 15 cm, with more tomorrow, and we have a 400-foot driveway to clear.

With the blowing snow, C is not keen to go outside, and neither am I. He asked for me to make a stuffed heart, and we worked together at the sewing machine to make it, and then he stuffed it. I added buttons, to his design, and it is now ready for him to give to his mother for Valentine’s Day. We also shortened the sleeves on a bathrobe, and he ran the pedal while I controlled the sleeve in the machine. Unfortunately these activities took minutes, not hours, and so we need to plan another eight to ten activities to fill out the day!

Looking back on our four weeks together, I am not at all worried about C’s learning. I wish that there had been some sort of social connection, both with his teachers and with his peers. However, we have been working on positive social interaction in all that we do, as well as independent work and self-regulation.

So, does Kindergarten really matter? As a university student I worked for an artist who chose to keep her children out of school until the law demanded it. She explained that schools killed creativity, and she wanted her children to be free to play until the last possible moment. The four-year-old that I cared for that summer is now a magazine editor, obviously not damaged by her lack of Kindergarten. My husband never went to Kindergarten, and began grade one in a one-room schoolhouse. He had a long career as an engineer, graduating near the top of his class both in high school and university. I attended half-day Kindergarten when I was five-years-old, and the requirements were much less detailed than today’s curriculum:

From this report card you will see that printing wasn’t even assessed until the last term of senior kindergarten.  I only counted to 10. And there are some characteristics you have learned about C that I also shared at the same age.

Despite this rather unimpressive beginning to my education I excelled at school, and achieved well in my post-secondary programs. It’s perhaps not surprising that I studied music initially, nor that I ended up as a Principal. However, I am sure that this report card would be received with little enthusiasm by today’s parents. It might not be surprising as well to hear that I spent much of grade one with my desk at the end of the last row, facing the back of the room. Nor that in grade 7 I had a desk by the window, with hand-made “blinders” to keep me from talking with the others, who were in groups of four or five.

My home at C’s age had only one black-and-white television set, which received one station only. There was at most an hour of children’s programming each morning: The Friendly Giant, Chez Helene, and Mr. Dressup. We had a few books, but depended upon the library for most of our reading material. We owned a couple of children’s records, but I had to ask my parents to play them for me on the “hi-fi”. And most days we played unsupervised with the other children in the neighbourhood while our mothers did laundry with a wringer-washer, nursed our younger siblings, and prepared meals without a microwave or food processor.

The world that C inhabits is infinitely richer than I experienced as a child, and his school experience has demanded far more from him already than was asked of me at a much greater age.

I am not worried about his development. And I don’t think that other parents should either. Providing a secure, caring home is much more important. Our kids will learn. Our kids will grow. Despite us!

Junior Kindergarten Online – Journal – Day 10

So we’re back for week three, and trying a different approach.  Kindergarten in Ontario is “play-based in a culture of inquiry”, and I am going to do my best to support this. If you’ve been reading my blog you will know that I am an experienced secondary school teacher and administrator who has most recently been teaching at the university level, so this is not within my comfort zone.  However, I did go to Kindergarten myself (and, you know, this is what makes everyone an expert in education), and I successfully raised two children of my own.  I’m hoping that this will give me some of the resources I need!

In preparation, I downloaded the curriculum document and began to deconstruct it, to make sense of the policy that C’s teachers are working with.  As a proponent of backward-design, or Understanding by Design, I began with the curriculum expectations, and discovered that the program has 31 overall expectations, and 126 more specific expectations.  While policy indicates that only overall expectations are evaluated, having 157 articulations of criteria is overwhelming!

The backward design process begins with expectations, considers what might be evidence that the expectations have been met, invites creation of essential questions, and then develops instruction to support this learning. So, over the next couple of weeks I will be examining expectations, considering how C might demonstrate them, and then selecting from the class resources, internet sources, and my own experiences, to support his learning.  Each day we will join the class in the morning, and stay as long as he is able.  We’ll make use of the Bitmoji classroom, ensuring that we look at each suggestion, and then modifying them to fit.  I will attempt some “pedagogical documentation”, beginning with a printed paper list of expectations, and then hopefully figuring out a better technological solution.

Our first challenge of the day was managing the transition to the Chromebook, and preparing for attendance.  C asked me to cut letters for him to glue to a piece of paper, and then was immediately upset that I created his full name; he only wanted his first name.  Then, because he finished this five minutes before the Google Meet link appeared, we went into the Bitmoji classroom to explore.  He chose a link to an Arkansas Zoo presentation that was almost 12 minutes long. Needless to say we battled over “pausing” this, and I chose to allow him to continue to view, making C “late” for class.  

I know that the Education Act requires that teachers be in their classrooms 15 minutes before the start of the school day, so this allows some flexibility, and a gentler transition into the work of the day.  However, that doesn’t seem to be required in our new online setting, and the transitions are much more abrupt. In the 15 minutes before class, in my experience, the room is prepared, music might be playing, and teachers can ensure that they are ready.  Since we arrived eight minutes late to the class, we could hear them beginning the land acknowledgement, before our connection dropped.

Back into the Google Meet, using a different internet connection, we arrived in time for the national anthem.  Because of the need to stand still, we turned the camera off. This was followed by their physical education session, beginning with the warmup.  C was being a T-rex, and so was unwilling to follow along. It would seem that we missed attendance, but his presence was acknowledged verbally.  The second activity was “Zookeeper”, where the teacher held up a picture of an animal to the camera, the students were moving like the animal, and then the teacher tried to guess which animal the kids could see.  C said he hadn’t learned how to be a bear yet.  The second was penguin, and C was able to “waddle” and the teacher guessed almost immediately.  Third came a seal, and this was difficult both for the children and the teacher! The giraffe invited “tall necks”, and then the panda generated an “eating bamboo”.

C then decided he was too hot, and he had to go upstairs where it was cooler.  He signed out of the Google Classroom, having been there for only 15 minutes, and headed up the stairs.  While there he saw my sewing machine, and asked we could sew. This turned into a literacy and numeracy activity, since the sewing machine has codes to sew shapes and letters, and he was able to identify the letters of his name and enter the code into the machine, then press the pedal to have the machine sew each letter in turn.  The code for A was 11, so he correctly read and keyed two-digit numbers up to 37, and spelled his name from memory.

A bit of laundry had him reading “Power” and “Start”, and then he decided that going outside would be a good solution for the mud in his monster truck’s wheels. So, we headed out into the snow. My new snowshoes worked perfectly, and I was able to pull C on a sled through the fields to say “hello” to neighbours.  We discussed how different each of the three homes we passed looked, from how they had appeared in the summer.  We noticed tracks, and considered who might have made them.  And then we headed back for a slide down the hill and then lunch.  (The monster truck was accompanied on the trip by his skid-steer and a windshield scraper, which made a great ice axe.)

Lunch included “Abby Hatcher” on his tablet while he ate.  TVOkids lists this program as kindergarten, and it certainly engages C! Nickelodeon says that the program supports “problem solving, being a good friend, and persistence”. Glad to see Overall Expectation: “4. demonstrate an ability to use problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts, including social contexts” and “23. use problem-solving strategies, on their own and with others, when experimenting with the skills, materials, processes, and techniques used in drama, dance, music, and visual arts”, among others. Abby certainly supports Specific Expectation: “3.3 demonstrate an awareness of ways of making and keeping friends”.  Although this is viewing, not doing, there is modelling of Specific Expectation: “7.2 demonstrate persistence while engaged in activities that require the use of both large and small muscles (e.g., tossing and catching beanbags, skipping, lacing, drawing).” There is certainly a great deal of creative play that is inspired by C’s viewing of this program, including his singing of the theme song!

Among his afternoon activities was a visit to my desk (while I was in the other room) where he found my Cricut paper cutter (which he has seen me use, and shouldn’t have accessed without permission….) and offcuts of cardstock.  He also asked for post-its, which I gave to him to use to create labels.  Instead of making labels he drew lines, and then cut along the lines, to create four squares out of each larger post-it note.  He cut triangles off the corners of a rectangle, and began gluing pieces together.  When he needed eyes, nose, and mouth, he drew these on a post-it, and then came to me to ask for assistance to cut them out. The tail required a larger piece of paper, but again he drew and I cut.  You can see the results at the top of this post.

When looking back on the day, I am pleased to see that he demonstrated a lot of expectation 7.2, with persistence throughout.  Never once did he give up, even when arguing this morning for “gummies” for breakfast!

His impromptu artwork certainly addressed “31.3 explore different elements of design (e.g., colour, line, shape, texture, form) in visual arts”, and “8.4 demonstrate control of small muscles (e.g., use a functional grip when writing) while working in a variety of learning areas (e.g., sand table, water table, visual arts area) and when using a variety of materials or equipment (e.g., using salt trays, stringing beads, painting with paintbrushes, drawing, cutting paper, using a keyboard, using bug viewers, using a mouse, writing with a crayon or pencil)”. But I guess I am going to have to order some safe scissors, for him to continue on this creative path.

Our school day ended by making beds, where C chose to be under the fitted sheet, rather than on top. He enjoyed being “trapped”, and how everything looked red from within his burgundy tent.

We had a visit in the afternoon from C’s great-aunt, whose own grandchildren are now almost all fully grown. Our conversation connected what we were seeing with our own rather narrow experiences at the same age. We identified skills and knowledge far beyond that which we had at age four, and expressed our wonder at how much C knows.

So, I will continue our “follow the child” approach, and connect what I see back to what we are “supposed to be doing” in the curriculum

Want to bet that we hit most of the curriculum expectations without a “plan”?