We reached the end of the academic year with the SelfDesign program and hadn’t managed to spend the kids’ Learning Allowances. There’s a rule that the government sets that says that homeschooling families enrolled in DL programs can’t directly receive funds allocated for learning resources. It used to be just fine to spend the money, save and submit receipts and get reimbursed, but that’s no longer allowed. Most DLs responded to this new rule by setting up purchase order systems with curriculum providers but that didn’t fit well with the unschooling-friendly philosophy at the SelfDesign program. So they hit on a unique solution. They load a credit card with each student’s learning allowance and give the parent signing privileges on that card. The money thereby goes directly from a SelfDesign Visa account into the vendors’ accounts. If we need to pay someone who doesn’t take Visa, we requisition a cheque made out to that person, and SelfDesign debits the amount of the cheque from the appropriate Visa account.

It works beautifully. But as I say, we just hadn’t managed to spend the money yet. We’d paid for piano lessons, aikido, viola lessons and a few books but there was still a fair chunk on each kid’s account. Homeschooling isn’t very expensive for us. Violin lessons are free, so is orchestra, quartet, group class, Summit Strings.

So this week we had a bit of a spending spree. Craft supplies, proper running shoes, fiction and non-fiction books, writing journals, sketchbooks. And each of the three SelfDesign kids got a gadget.

Sophie got a TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator. Truth be told it’ll be most useful for Erin over the next little while, but both Noah and Sophie will benefit from it, and it has prompted Sophie to develop a serious interest in the connection between the early algebra she’s doing and the graphing of functions. It’s great fun playing with trigonometric functions and trying to create wild-looking curvy graphs.

Noah got a Flip UltraHD camcorder. Our camcorder broke before Christmas. We’ve been able to borrow my mom’s from time to time, but Noah is our digital media guy and he’s been sorely pining for something like this. We also know that recording his far-too-infrequent lessons in Calgary on video will allow him to get a fair bit more mileage out of them. And being able to record and review rehearsals is going to be lovely. We recorded this one last night and while the audio quality suffered a fair bit from the compression of uploading, on our home computer the audio is great and the video sharpness is absolutely amazing — true HD.

Fiona got the ultimate metronome. We have two or three little metronomes kicking around, but this was our excuse to get something multi-talented, loud and versatile. It does things we haven’t even explored yet, including counting vocally aloud “one-ee-and-a-two-ee-and-a-three-ee …,” recording and measuring tapped tempos, subdividing and grouping beats in a variety of ways and varying the emphasis of beats and sub-beats any way you want. Fiona just loves rhythmic reading and the methodical discipline of metronome work while practicing, so she is thrilled.

It’s raining gadgets!

2 thoughts on “It’s raining gadgets!

  • May 28, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Don’t you just love Self Design?! My youngest had $200 left that he just didn’t know how to spend, so we sent in our internet bill and we received a cheque for the last of it.
    By the way, I’m still hoping you can email me with the info about those odd-shaped white cabins that I believe are in your area. I’m sure I saw them on your blog. Please email me at nicolaknits@gmail.com


  • May 29, 2009 at 8:45 am

    i sure hope something like SelfDesign happens here by the time dmitri is old enough we could use it. it sounds like an amazing program!

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