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"Radical autonomous learning" Can someone talk me through it?

(30 Posts)
organiccarrotcake Mon 01-Aug-11 11:38:39

Phrase pinched from another HE thread which I think means what I'm trying to understand. I read in a blog that a mum was reading a book about elephants, and she (to her shame) asked her daughter, "what else begins the 'E'?".

What's wrong with this?

Jamillalliamilli Mon 01-Aug-11 13:40:33

This is just a guess, (am structured) but interested to see if I get it right; I think it's because that method of h/e is entirely child lead, and this is deflecting interest in the elphants/book to try and 'push' to the 'next' thing, rather than following the child's interest?

julienoshoes Mon 01-Aug-11 14:04:42

Autonomous HE is bound to mean different things to different people....
and it took me much longer to 'get' it than it took my children

Now faced with that situation, I'd talk about elephants for as long as the child wanted to talk/learn about them, and not try and convert it into any sort of 'educational experience' as defined by me.

julienoshoes Mon 01-Aug-11 14:09:38

to my mind Joyfully Rejoycing answers lots of autonomous/unschooling questions

CareyHunt Mon 01-Aug-11 14:22:13

I think this is what we do! If pushed, I would tend to call it 'Radical unschooling', or (more likely) child led learning.

As far as we are concerned, it's about following the lead of your child rather than making value judgements regarding what qualifies as 'educational'. Our kids choose what to do/ when to do it.

However, I do on occasion recommend a book/ suggest an activity....I just wouldn't push it if they didn't want to do it. In the 'elephant' situation, I can definitely see the temptation grin but I would try not to lead the learning in that way-I know this sounds a bit hmm but for me it's about respecting what the child feels is important about an activity; in this case, elephants rather than spelling!

ommmward Mon 01-Aug-11 15:12:49

For me, radical unschooling is about backing off from the product mentality, and allowing for a lot of the child's learning to be going on in their own heads, their own private business, to be shared on their agenda not mine.

It doesn't mean I don't keep an eye out for books and activities that might interest them. And it doesn't mean that I don't offer some fun activity if I have the time and energy.

But it means that I don't try to push some educational agenda of my own onto their interests. If they are playing happily with cars, I might turn it into a colour sorting game for my own gratification blush but I have no business doing so because I think it will help them learn about colours. And I have no business trying to force them to use the car wheels as the basis for learning the 4xtable when all they wanted to do was race the cars down the car slide already.

Something that really interests me is the extent to which older children will often enjoy playing EXACTLY the same games as little ones, at the same level. There is a lot of learning to be gained, at all sorts of levels, from activities that we adults are often too quick to deride as "babyish".

organiccarrotcake Mon 01-Aug-11 16:27:37

OK, that I understand (I think). Now how does that follow through?

I mean, I totally understand that I never have needed to know, say, the names of all of Henry 8th's wives that I had to learn by rote. But I did learn trig at school (and hated it) and then totally randomly needed it at work. Of course, if I'd not known it then I would have just learnt it as an adult. But if I'd gone for the job and said I didn't know it, I wouldn't have got the job. Does that make sense?

Further, given total freedom of choice, my DS (6) will "just play". I see no learning in his play. What if he wants to be a doctor? (I do understand "what if he doesn't...").

I am absolutely fascinated by all these ways of HE and very keen to learn what people do. I do appreciate that I am probably asking all the newbie questions (although I never worried how they'd be socialised grin so haven't embarassed myself with that one!!!).

Thanks all for your replies. Keep them coming. I'm learning loads (even if DS isn't at the moment grin).

ommmward Mon 01-Aug-11 16:33:50

Oh - it doesn't mean the children don't learn their times tables, it means that they learn them on their own agenda at the time that is right for them. What it really really means is that almost everything they learn either frighteningly late or precociously early IME :D But it's just-in-time education, following their intrinsic motivation and, as such, is fabulously efficient.

organiccarrotcake Mon 01-Aug-11 16:57:35

Hmm, just-in-time education. I like that - I understand that.

But... they don't know what they don't know... and presumably some guidance is needed within the process?

It's all so TOTALLY up-ended compared to "the norm" so do forgive my ignorance - although I'm sure you're used to it smile

organiccarrotcake Mon 01-Aug-11 16:57:53

Call it "just in time" learning about HE grin

notatschool Mon 01-Aug-11 17:00:08

I don't think that there's anything wrong with it exactly, I don't know that with HE you should worry if you're doing anything "right". One of the fantastic things about it is that you can just do what works for your family, and that really is trial and error.

I think I would probably ask the "E" question, but only go with it if the child is happy to participate, for as long as they are. I wouldn't say we are autonomous, but I do try and be respectful of them.

(BTW I've found it quite useful knowing who Henry VIII's wives were! grin )

ommmward Mon 01-Aug-11 17:19:45

I don't know. There are all sorts of things that it would not occur to me that one of my children was ready to learn about, and then there we are randomly reading some very very basic how-your-body-works book aimed at 2 year olds, and next thing I know we're off to the library to look for books on blood, and we are having deep involved conversations about germs travelling round in our blood and white blood cells shooting them with shotguns and gawd knows what all. Not on the National Curriculum for this week, but it'll be remembered, I guarantee. Must borrow that wonderful Usborne How your body works book from Mum where, IIRC, the blood cells are represented by brave knights...

See, my children might not know what they need to know, but I am damn sure they have a better idea about what they need to know than anyone else does. They need to know about the things where the gaps in their knowledge worry them, or intrigue them, or irritate them. And they'll do whatever they can to fill those gaps.

Did I tell you about how I found myself on Google translate turning English versions of Chinese proverbs into Cantonese the other day, so that we could read out the characters using google's phonetic thingy? Not something I would have expected anyone to want to know, but there's all sorts of implicit stuff going on there about the existence of multiple languages, and visual representations of language, and symbol and all sorts of Chomsky shit smile

julienoshoes Mon 01-Aug-11 18:48:18

The concept of gaps in an education worried my dd2, when she started college after years of radical unschooling/autonomous HE.
What she discovered is that everyone has gaps in their knowledge, it's just that we all have different gaps............

She was the one able to debate the rights and wrongs of the BNP for instance and was astounded how little her schooled peers knew about politics and the justice system in this country.

organiccarrotcake Mon 01-Aug-11 19:10:18

Ooooh you guys are great. This makes so much sense. I can see how my DS, who is always in trouble at school for not concentrating, spent several hours today writing, coding and de-coding stuff with his friend after I bought him a spy-code kit. Lots of writing practise. If he asks a question I always try to run with it to his satsfaction and if possible push him a bit, hopefully judging it right for when he's had enough. He learns loads of stuff when he's "engaged".

I think I need to learn that there's no right or wrong way. What I'm struggling to learn is what's the right way for us, but you are really helping me to work it through.

Jamillalliamilli Mon 01-Aug-11 19:14:36

they have a better idea about what they need to know than anyone else does. They need to know about the things where the gaps in their knowledge worry them, or intrigue them, or irritate them. And they'll do whatever they can to fill those gaps. Brilliantly put.

Hope it’s ok to join in as I don’t know that much about totally autonomous h/e but am interested. We’re structured h/e as in studying specific syllabuses in order to be examined on them, but the massive difference from doing this in school, is being able to go investigate all those questions that arise that aren’t part of the syllabus, as you go, that ‘worry, intrigue, or irritate them’ (an awful lot), and not to be met with the dreaded words: “you don’t need to know that.”

I listened to teen son holding his own in a university debate on quantum physics recently (he then had to explain it all to me) and none of it came from the physics syllabus he’s being examined on, it was all the gaps he’d sought to fill in, and he had, and understood, and was able to apply it all. I’d suggest they also find what they need to know through being interested and not having education hived off as something separate from the rest of life.

FionaJNicholson Mon 01-Aug-11 19:44:48

For me, the thing that's a bit off about "what else begins with an E" is that it isn't a request for information; it's a test to check up on the other person (who is presumed to know less) which is suddenly changing the rules of the conversation. As a child, I think I would be less bothered if someone themselves volunteered out of the blue some more words that began with an E. I'd probably just think oh, that's their thing, hopefully they'll be finished in a minute.

notatschool Mon 01-Aug-11 19:49:08

FJN, I think in this case it would be more about the parent than the child, the parent wanting to reassure themselves that they were doing an ok job, rather than being condescending.

All HE, but I think unschooling especially, takes a huge am

organiccarrotcake Mon 01-Aug-11 21:20:57

I think what seems to be interesting is that there is material which is "suitable" for (in my case) a 6 year old, at a certain educational level. But when we start to go into discussions about things, he sometimes actually gets quickly to the limits of my knowledge of subjects that I may have studied even to University level - and he understands. But he can't write properly yet, or read even half fluently. Does that make sense?

And I know that I learn best when I'm able to truly understand something. I found it frustrating at school when we couldn't discuss something which was of interest to me, and which would have really helped my understanding if I'd been able to go into it properly, but with 30 kids, or whatever, in a class, this isn't possible I suppose.

I think I'm getting my head around it a bit.

So how do colleges and universities view HEd kids?

julienoshoes Mon 01-Aug-11 21:49:30

"So how do colleges and universities view HEd kids?"

From our experience, with interest. My son calls it 'playing the home ed card'

They are different from the usual applicants, there through their own motivation -nobody has spoon fed them information. Plus as a general rule they are very confident and articulate when talking to adults, with a very wide range of interests that they are well able to talk about.

Saracen Mon 01-Aug-11 23:13:02

"So how do colleges and universities view HEd kids?"

I don't know the general answer to that. I do know that when I worked in the admissions department of a radical little college abroad, we shamelessly hounded potential applicants who'd been home educated, hoping to attract them to our doors.

Students who had been educated at school typically needed about a year at the college to learn how to read texts with an open mind, ask meaningful questions, write about their ideas, and contribute productively to discussions. They also often needed time to get used to participating in a democratic community.

New students who had been home educated hit the ground running. We sometimes commented that first-year students with an HE background bore a strong resemblance to second-year students who'd come from school.

notatschool Mon 01-Aug-11 23:33:48

... amount of faith in the child's innate ability to learn, and that takes time to develop.

OMG sorry no idea where the rest of that post went confused

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Tue 02-Aug-11 00:32:58

Hi rots <waves> i normally just lurk round here a bit but we are planning on doing unschooling so thought i'd shout.... smile

LastSummer Tue 02-Aug-11 07:02:30

I think parents who autonomously home school or unschool must love their children very much. They create a utopian, highly supportive and playful environment in which their offspring can discover, research and learn. What kid wouldn't want to attend a "school" like that? Eventually, though, most of our children will want to prepare themselves for entry to university. For many degree courses, that means acquiring three or four good A levels or the equivalent and often in a specified range of subjects. At what point should random/intuitive learning give way to something more structured that will help them to achieve such a goal? At 11+, 13+, 16+? Knowledge of many examined subjects, like languages and maths, is acquired incrementally and cannot easily be crammed into to, say, the last couple of years before university. How and when, if at all, should autonomous home schoolers encourage their children to make the shift to a more formal approach to education?

msbuggywinkle Tue 02-Aug-11 08:47:24

Last summer when the child says so. So, if they have a burning desire to become a doctor, they'll look into how you become one. They'll find out which A levels you need and decide whether they would like to do them at home, or go to a school 6th form, or go to college. The beauty of it is that they have the time to decide when they are ready, rather than the course of their career being decided at 14 when they choose single, double or triple science.

organiccarrotcake Tue 02-Aug-11 12:55:30

Hey moon!!! Are you on the WY Yahoo e-group? It seems really nice and quite active.

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