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Does your child need to be a certain personality to "go autonomous"?

(18 Posts)
organiccarrotcake Mon 08-Aug-11 17:26:18

Are there kids who just learn more when they're pushed, sometimes, to do stuff that's not interesting but still needs to be learnt?

I'm trying to figure this out because I was pretty lazy as a kid and I think I would have done bugger all if I was given the chance. But am I still misunderstanding AL?

ommmward Mon 08-Aug-11 18:06:03

I don't think so.

Turn it around.

Who is it with the omniscient understanding of what "needs to be learnt" and, more importantly, "needs to be learnt right now"?

In reality, not many of us are Sandra Dodd. There are certain areas in which we allow our children to be completely autonomous, and then there are areas about which we are SO anxious about the extent to which our children are behind the curve that we just can't leave that bit alone. For that bit - and it will be different for each of us, and different at different times - I think it's important for a parent to

a) recognise that this is their issue not their child's issue
b) forgive themselves
c) put all their creativity into finding ways of breaking down that bit into tiny steps - no, not that tiny, even smaller - that will not distress their child but will make the parent feel like some progress is being made, and avoid coercion around that area at all costs.

I actually think it really helps if there is some life skill that seems really important to you - independent toileting, maybe, or being able to do a grocery shop, or being able to ride a bike or swim, or something else non-"academic" - and persuade yourself that you'll back off the academic anxiety until they've grasped whatever that life skill was. This has really helped me, personally. I concentrate on finding ways of, say, getting a child as far as looking at swimming pools, or sitting on the edge pretending to be a life guard, or putting on their swim suit, or paddling in a stream blah blah blah and before I know it they've learned all kinds of things about Japanese history, which is what I might have been agonising over had I not been concentrating on unlocking the swimming thing. THis is a hypothetical by the way, but I hope it's a useful example :-D

northernmumto3 Mon 08-Aug-11 18:08:22

I don't think so because autonomous education isn't about just leaving children to figure things out for themselves, its also about creating lots of interesting opportunities for them.

Would you have never read?, would you have never watched TV? or agreed to go to the theatre? or a museum? or the park?

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Mon 08-Aug-11 22:49:03

I'm just stabbing in the dark here but there could be some interesting thinking for you around how you were motivated as a kid, what you valued vs what your parents and teachers etc did. If you were somehow (subconsciencely) reacting against being pushed encouraged in certain directions etc. How rewards were used etc.

I suppose what i'm saying i that i'm a firm (though thus far fairly theoretical) believer in autonomous learning. I really believe that kids can and will be self motivated and driven...but that this is easily turned off by adults (think of it as being a bit like the mw trying to force a newborn on to the draw an analogy i know you'll appreciate)

I find it hard to believe that you really would have done nothing all the time, but perhaps you needed a break or what you did choose to do wasn't valued, or was labeled as nothing. Sorry if that sounds negative and judgey re your upbringing. Personally i was really highly motivated as a kid but now realise it wasn't very healthy. So i'm interested in sort of reassessing my childhood experiences and am reading your post through that prism.

I've seen kids in school labeled as difficult, who really blossom when allowed to persue their own agenda a little bit, and can see how this can work as an approach on a broader, exclusive level. I trust we can get to every subject my ds/dc's will need by following their lead.

(Btw will be in touch soon. I'm not on fb but MD is and i'm seeing her tomorrow. smile )

Continuum Tue 09-Aug-11 12:07:02

I think one needs to unwrap societal assumptions and as others have said, look at your own past.

Why were you labeled as lazy? Would you really have done "nothing" otherwise? Was the desire to do "bugger all" a symptom of being forced to do things you didn't want to or saw no relevance in? Lots of questions to ask yourself. It can be really interesting and thought provoking to reassess your own educational experience.

Then there's societal assumptions about children, one is the idea they are inherently "lazy" and will do nothing without force, or the other, which I subscribe to, is their natural curiosity just needs to be nurtured. And there's a big difference between learning things for someone else and learning things for yourself. I think it's wrong to expect kids to be wildly enthusiastic for things they have to do, what adult is like that?! Doesn't make them lazy!

organiccarrotcake Tue 09-Aug-11 13:28:46

hmm OK, so I'm now re-evaluating my own perception of myself. To be fair to me I'm often labelled as someone who does loads yet I frequently get to the end of a week and think I've done nothing. Or NOT ENOUGH, which is maybe different. My DH goes mad at me for not resting, and tells me that it's ok to have a day off sometimes... I don't know though... and it makes holidays hard as he wants to R&R and I want to VISIT stuff and DO stuff and SEE stuff!!!

I was never a morning person - but then I suppose most teenagers/young people aren't, so I think of myself as lazy because of that as much as anything. I also know that at school I would only really work on the things that interested me. No way I would have learnt stuff that I wasn't interested in... does that mean I don't need it? I don't know.

I did and do give up on things too easily if they're too hard - unless I REALLY need to do them in which case I procrastinate until they really need doing.

On the other hand, I have been successfully self employed for 14 years, so pretty much out of Uni, give or take a couple of years.

Would I really have done bugger all? Well, probably not as I was a competitive horse rider but I prob would have spent my life riding!!!

ommmward I can't get past the concept that there are SOME things which NEED to be learnt, and I'm best to decide What Those Are. It's a leap of faith to far ATM to change that - although I suppose that the purpose of HE isn't to actually do autonomous learning (necessarily), but there are many reasons to HE, and being terrified of DS going through the state secondary system is as good a reason as any, wouldn't you say?

Not used to this sensation of not quite knowing what I'm doing. sad

I suppose, having typed that, AL would prob have worked well for me grin

organiccarrotcake Tue 09-Aug-11 13:31:10

too far. Darn it.

ommmward Tue 09-Aug-11 17:14:41

It's really important that your children learn to walk, right?

And, unless there is a medical reason why they can't, they actually will, in their own time. You didn't have to take charge of it. It is something that is clearly going to be useful, everyone else is doing it, they do it, sometimes before they are A YEAR OLD. I mean, how amazing is that?


With AL, you need to be aware of the possibility of a medical reason why some things might not be happening on schedule (so, language delay or something), and then you might need to think in terms of something therapeutic to help that aspect of a child's life.

But otherwise, everything can be lumped in the same category as learning to walk and talk IMO.

Do you think there are things people need to know that are so godawful that your child won't want to learn them unless forced? I've not found any of those yet with my children.

julienoshoes Tue 09-Aug-11 21:25:21

So OP whatare the " things which NEED to be learnt"?

I have three autonomously HE young people, all three will be in Higher Ed by the autumn and I seem to know well over a couple of hundred HE teens and young people in real life, if my FB friends are anything to go by, so I am happy to see if I'd agree with you now.

although I have to say that you are way out in front of me in considering Autonomous HE than I was at the same stage..............wink I had a long journey to do before I could get my head round autonomy at first!

organiccarrotcake Wed 10-Aug-11 12:44:41

LOL julie. Maybe I'M trying to run before I can walk, never mind my 1YO wink.

Dunno what needs to be learnt. I assumed that this was there the NATCUR came in but now I know better wink. Which leaves me reaching out into the dark and throwing out questions to you guys what know more than me.

Hey, there's an example of only learning something when you need to!!! smile

I asked my husband last night whether he thought I was lazy and he nearly choked with laughter. Which is interesting. I think I need to re-evaluate my own perception of myself.

I tell you what, whether I end up HE or not, this has been a great exercise in self-evaluation!!!

julienoshoes Wed 10-Aug-11 16:48:52

LOL finding out about autonmous HE has made me re evaluate very many things in life!

The very first time I heard someone talking about such things-I was so sceptical! I came back and said to my friend "I don't agree with that" she said "That's quite obvious Julie!"

Thank goodness my friends had patience with me, because as it became obvious that 'school at home' didn't suit my kids at all, I was suddenly on a steep learning curve................

We have been 'radical unschoolers/autonomous living people' for so long now, it's my natural position now and colours so many things in our lives.

I can't now think of a single thing I'd say that children HAVE to learn. I have three schooled step children and three autonomously HE children and I can't say either lot are in front of the other where they are now, educationally, intellectually or socially now they are all grown.

The IS a difference in the way they went through their teenage years (when our three had been taken out of school) and young adulthood though.

The schooled three hated school, and didn't learn what they needed for life at all. They were stressed and made to conform to what other people said MUST be learnt.
It took them another 15+ years to throw off the effects of schooling/angst/stress and begin to enjoy education for it's own sake.

In contrast the autonomously HE three went through their teenage years enjoying their lives, away from the stresses of imposed curriculums/exams/targets.............until they chose to engage with FE colleges, when they were ready.

As a college friend of dd2 said
"So.....I have spent the last 12/13 years being told what to do and when to do it, told to sit still, be quiet. Years of working at subjects that didn't interest me, getting into trouble, being bored out of my skull. Years of exams and tests.
and you have spent the years playing and camping in a field, hanging out with friends, doing what you wanted- when you wanted to, watching TV, going to Musicals, doing crafts.......and we have both ended up in the same place on the same course and you are the one getting straight Distinctions?"

dd2 said "yes"

TimeWasting Thu 11-Aug-11 11:57:22

Julie, I love it. grin

Is it our attitudes as schooled parents that are the biggest barrier to autonomous education then?

julienoshoes Thu 11-Aug-11 15:30:24

Can't speak for all parents TimeWasting.............but it was for our family!

ontherainbow Sat 13-Aug-11 07:37:42

I have always worried about the 'un structuredness' of AL as my child has SEN and completely crumbles without knowing what he is doing every 5 minutes...

Any ideas on how I can structure a week of AL learning AND be able to draw it out on a visual timetable?!

streakybacon Sat 13-Aug-11 08:59:57

Me too, ontherainbow. Ds has AS and ADHD and has no idea how to organise himself, has no ambition, or motivation, no plans for his future or ideas for how to achieve for himself. He would gladly sit all day attached to a screen or book if he wasn't pointed in a direction a few times a day and given something to do.

I do like the idea of autonomous education, but while I wouldn't go as far as to say that a child needs a certain personality to be able to do it, I do think there are certain people that it's not suited for, and it seems that your child and mine are among them.

ontherainbow Sat 13-Aug-11 09:58:40

There's reasons I think it would suit my children. First being, they are very inclined to engage in what they are passionate about and also learn best when they are able to continue with a topic for as long and with as much depth as they can so that aspect of AL is suited for them.

Has anyone else tried and tested AL with s

ontherainbow Sat 13-Aug-11 09:59:33

Sorry. Finger slipped!

Anyone tried it with a timetable?

Saracen Sat 13-Aug-11 13:40:51

I know that many people whose children prefer structure do autonomous education. The timetable is drawn up in consultation with the child, or maybe entirely by the child. There might be a loose structure which the family always sticks with, but the child's interests change the details change.

For example if getting out of the house every morning after breakfast seems like a good idea, they might do the shopping every Monday at 10am and the child might decide it's a good idea to do swimming every Tuesday at 10am etc. And after a few months the child might decide swimming is no longer his cup of tea and now wants to do cycling every Tuesday at 10am. Similarly, the parent might suggest that chill-out time is needed before dinner, and the child would decide to timetable reading or computer games or listening to music at that time.

At least, that is my understanding from conversations with friends. Our family lives in a totally haphazard way except for external activities.

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