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I know its the wrong time of year but we need some help getting started with HE

(9 Posts)
FionaJNicholson Sun 23-Dec-12 09:28:41

You might find you need to make plans for your own peace of mind so that you don't get worried, and also that you need to have a plan so that your son knows it's not just free-fall. I don't see any obligation to stick to the plan, though.

We keep going back and reassessing our core values and long-term objectives and we are quite obsessive about not committing to something which drives my son down a particular path and close doors behind him so that he couldn't take a different path if he needed or wanted to.

This can look like "not having a plan" and does mean we get a bit of hassle from family members wanting something that looks more like a plan, but to be honest they've learned by now that I'm too obstinate to argue with, and for our part, we've learned that if we DO divulge a possible plan and then don't take it up, we keep getting asked whatever happened to blah, so we tend to keep quiet.

To take just one example, my son's twin interests are music and computing. I thought he could use the raspberry pi mini-computer for various embryonic business ideas, so I ordered one of the very first pis available and if you'd asked me at the time what the plan was, it would have involved software development. In my head he was a serial entrepreneur.

What I hadn't really taken on board was that every second he wasn't doing something else, he was playing musical instruments. So the pi idea went on the backburner. I'm glad I followed it up and provided the kit, and if my son could ever be made to do anything I could undoubtedly have got a profitable business out of it all, but to take him away from music would be...not OK.

stilllearnin Sun 23-Dec-12 05:51:51

Thank you for taking the time to reply Saracen. I could see my son learning like that. He too seeks out staff or uni lecturers and I'm often taken aback by their willingness to stand in a lecture for adults and explain things to an 11 year old. He too says he doesn't get on with being told what to learn and not be allowed to question it.

My daughter 'gets' school and feels comfortable with lessons and timetables. That's how I know my son isn't just being a lazy toad - its so obvious when you compare their experiences.

I was trying to think what core skills your daughter may have missed. But it occurred to me she'd probably miss more core skills by being in

I would like him to get some exams and I don't think he'd bother with Maths, but when and if it mattered it wouldn't be impossible to achieve.

Saracen Sat 22-Dec-12 16:38:59

"I'd love to ask, Saracen - you must find lots of people scared by autonomous learning - what's it actually like and are you ever scared by it at all?"

What's it like? Well, for my 13yo it seems to involve elements of 1) everyday life, 2) one long holiday and 3) the best bits I remember of school.

By "everyday life" I mean all the mundane things like supermarket shopping and playing with her little sister and helping with the DIY. She has done more of all of these things by virtue of just being around more.

When I say "one long holiday" I don't just mean the travelling kind, although we do travel more because we aren't tied to school schedules (at this moment we are on a month-long visit to my sister, for example). I mean having great long stretches of time in which to read novels or play or daydream. This apparently unproductive time does worry some people but it seems to give rise to bursts of energy and creativity and ambition too. My dd and her teenaged HE friends seem to have a deep sense of calm and contentment. It's hard to be sure where that comes from but I suspect that having so much time contributes to it.

I remember some good bits at school. Not many, because I wasn't a child who enjoyed school, but there were things that stood out. There were days out and visiting teachers who were fired up with enthusiasm for a subject which they successfully communicated to me. The funny thing was that I never asked to go back to those places nor did I carry on with the interesting subjects outside of school after the visiting teacher had gone. No time, for one thing, but mostly it just did not occur to me. Education was something that was done to me at school. After 3pm I did other things. My dd doesn't see it that way. If she likes a museum we go back again and again and again. She often seeks the staff out to talk to them, then asks me to take her to similar places. When she finds a subject she likes, she stays with it, sometimes for a day and sometimes for many months, then moves on to something else not because she is bored of the first topic but because something else has attracted her even more. Most things interest her. I think this is because nothing is forced upon her. (Occasionally she does have to sit through a dull lecture or even a day-long activity because it would be rude to walk out.)

For my 6yo who has special needs, at this moment autonomous education means just exploring her world through playing, in the same way that preschool-aged children do. That is the right stage for her now. It's key for me that she should be free to do what is right for her and not what would be right for the average child of her age. She's very into baby dolls and making wild Heath Robinson contraptions out of bits of household rubbish. I estimate she would be considered two years "behind" at maths if she were at school but since she isn't, she is cheerfully oblivious to the fact that some people would consider her mathematical skills deficient and would want to try to get her to "catch up". Why is it that pushing an academically advanced child to achieve even more when he isn't interested is called "hothousing" and is deplored, while pushing a child with learning delays to achieve what she isn't ready to do is considered an appropriate and necessary intervention? I don't buy it. I'm letting her play. The academic skills will come when she is developmentally ready and interested.

Am I scared by it? I think I might be if my children needed to go to school quite soon, especially if they had not yet acquired some skill which is important at school. For instance, it could be hard for an autonomously educated eight year old who hadn't yet learned to read to be dropped into school without that skill. Suddenly it would become a major issue since education at school is delivered and assessed in large part through reading and writing. But since I'm in it for the long run, I don't have to care at what age my kids acquire any particular skill, so I can afford to be laid back. When they are ready they learn astonishingly fast so there is no hurry.

My confidence in the effectiveness of autonomous education is based largely on seeing older children who have followed this path and thrived. Without exception the older teens are in education or work and are on course to achieve what they want to do. They have sometimes followed unusual paths to get there, which is no bad thing. They believe in themselves. They are used to taking responsibility for their own learning and are not daunted by the transition to adulthood.

So no, it doesn't worry me at all but that is only because I have been lucky enough to know so many kids who are learning in this way. It has come to seem entirely normal to me. If it appeals to you, then maybe meeting some older teens would be helpful to you too.

Other people don't seem too bothered by what we are doing anymore. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it is plain to see that my 13yo hasn't had a deficient education so far. Or perhaps they have stopped questioning it because we all seem so confident and appear to know what we are doing. Perhaps they now think I am such a confirmed nutter that they don't bother trying to tell me I am getting it wrong smile

stilllearnin Fri 21-Dec-12 15:03:39

Thank you, every time I get too worried I am going to play that fruit bowl banjo piece- loved it! So I need to calm down and direct my energy where it can be put to better use- I know this, it just takes me time to see the wood for the trees. My boy needs more love and understanding and less stress.

FionaJNicholson Fri 21-Dec-12 14:08:15

Y7? So he's 12?

Most young people need exams by 16 though my son now 19 didn't do any, prefers ICT projects and playing music instead, autonomously home ed from the start and throughout ( not updated for a while)

He could do a couple of IGCSEs next year, and a few more the year after.

I can worry for England but even I think you are fretting unnecessarily...

stilllearnin Fri 21-Dec-12 13:15:57

Yes, clarifying the question is a good start!! I think that is what I need help with because I feel like I am going round in circles. Ok so I can sort resources and places to go - I'm reasonably good at that and we've always done stuff like talks at university or science fairs, so that's good. He is bright enough to 'catch up' (feel mean putting like he needs to be at a certain level decided by someone else etc etc.). But the SAT tests may put his mind at rest - I sailed through school so I have literally no idea what it is like to sit in a class and not get it because i have missed nearly all the previous lessons.

So really it is about motivation possibly and about my attitude as well. He has been very motivated in the past. He gets unbelievable breaks with music and he writes for a national website aimed at adult music fans. So what am I worried about? Having been ill - (it is horrible eczema and a reflux that makes him vomit twice a day so he is very tired and run down), he spends a lot of time now sitting doing nothing - literally. It is a bit like when someone is unemployed and they do less and less. On top of this he has a tendency to think something will do itself - even stuff he lives for, like writing up an interview or sorting a set for a gig. I know that it is human but I worry it will get worse and we have just now had an almighty row because he would not stand up to let me put his cream on - that should have been on 1st thing!

I think he needs structure to help with the getting going again? And I need someone to calm me the hell down and help me see it from his point of view! I have some good friends - one had chronic fatigue for 16 years, and she knows you have to keep going or stop completely. Another supports people with depression. He loves both of them -so I may see if they can spend some time with him without me to gently talk about what he wants and needs. Or is that a terrible idea.

I'd love to ask, Saracen - you must find lots of people scared by autonomous learning - what's it actually like and are you ever scared by it at all?

sorry people i have waffled again!

morethanpotatoprints Thu 20-Dec-12 22:51:50

Hello stillearnin

We were in a similar position with dd missing alot of school, although not through illness. I am sorry your ds has been so ill this year.
FWIW the autonomous route scared us as well, even though I would love to do this with dd.
Anyway, what I did was do a thorough assessment with past sats papers. You don't have to do it under test conditions to get a reliable result/level. From there you can see what is missing or where his weaknesses lie.
I agree with saracen regarding trips to a museum or place he shows an interest.
I think the most important thing to remember is that learning is fun or supposed to be. Perhaps you could use the xmas holiday to find local groups to begin in January, some get together for science subjects. As for your style of supporting, teaching or facilitating I think you find your own way of what suits you and your ds.
Above all, don't worry. He will soon catch up anything he has missed as you can cover far more at home in a few hours than all day at school.
Good luck, and please keep us posted how you are going on.

Saracen Thu 20-Dec-12 22:06:59

I'm probably not going to be much help because we do autonomous learning but maybe I can help to clarify your question. I'm not sure what you are asking. Did you want suggestions on specific resources and if so in which subjects?

You say your son doesn't have much motivation at the moment - what kinds of things has he done in the past which have motivated him? Or looking at it in another way, what things has he done which really turn him off, which you are going to rule out?

My quick-fix solution which I keep trotting out blush is to go somewhere interesting such as a museum you think he'd like in order to get a jump start. Do you think that might be fun for the time being while you figure out the right way forward? Or are you looking more long-term?

stilllearnin Thu 20-Dec-12 19:57:57


We have decided to take our son from school a bit earlier than planned. I love the idea of autonomous learning but it terrifies me and I think he needs more structure - he has been unable to go to school much due to ill health this term and he feels he hasn't got much motivation or idea of what he's missed.

The plan is to enrol him with some online tutoring for Maths and Science because he is behind with these. But he is good at English and likes history and so wants to keep these going and then we'll look at enrolling him for these too if it seems like a good idea. This means he wants to keep up with the curriculum to some extent.

He is Year 7 (but a bit ahead in English) and I am NOT going to teach him in a schooly way for lots of reasons (his sister at school will get jealous, our relationship could suffer etc). I can find resources & have some great friends who are willing to help, but we're not sure on approaches to learning- except he needs to be involved in the plans. I am not sure this makes sense, but any ideas at all?

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