Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What might autonomous education look like?

The most important thing is finding a style that suits both parents and children. Some people buy a curriculum "in a box". Some people use workbooks. Some people follow the national curriculum. And I think those things are fine as long as the child is up for it - and it can be very reassuring for the parents to see obvious "educational product" on a regular basis.

But it doesn't have to be like that!

Some families would say that their main educational activities are those they undertake in various HE groups and other group activities.

Some families don't do anything that looks like a schoolroom at all.

Everything happens through play in our house, with parents trying to run with what the children are interested in anyway, following their lead, maybe offering alternatives or next steps, maybe just washing the paint brushes when requested.

People thinking of trying out an autonomous approach could just spend a few days or weeks where the only "education" they undertake is to try to answer all of the children's questions, or help them find answers. Or they could stand back and observe what the children are wanting to do left to their own devices, and see if they can recognise the educational value of it. Or see what the children are doing and help as desired.

The interests shift over time - maybe it's all crafty things one week, or it's all about cooking, or the children are desperate to go to the local city farm 4 times a week for a month or who knows what else - some children often like to concentrate on one activity to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.

Our neighbour said the other day "you're going to sainsburys AGAIN???" with an incredulous smile, but we had a little chat about the sorts of things that can happen in sainsburys at appropriate level for my children - and I think he began to grasp the concept of the world being a classroom.

Depending on a child's age and stage, there are all sorts of literacy things in making lists and finding items, maths in counting items or doing a running total of the shop, or doing times tables with those massive multipacks of crisps, the social skills of explaining to the store staff why there is a heap of multipacks of crisps all over aisle 8 which you are in the process of reshelving [ahem]. Or for children at a suitable age and stage, they can make the list themselves, with a budget, and take responsibility for the whole thing. Or it might be a conversation about why this packet of tuna not the other sort, or why you're buying the veges that are in season, or why the whole place is full of pumpkins this week, or whatever it is - there can be conversations about your values and about politics and geography and history and who knows what all else.

I am praying that Brave Sir Ralph will save our bacon with his conservative chums but, if he doesn't, I might just invite the LEA numpty to come and do his compulsory annual interview and welfare check in the supermarket. And I'll buy him a packet of jammy dodgers if he's civilized about the whole thing.


Maire said...

Lovely explanation of Autonomous education.

Lynn said...

Really enjoyed this post:-)

Giggled at the crisps in aisle 8:-)