Saturday, January 20, 2007

With apologies to Manda...

... I hope she won't mind, but I thought I'd borrow a quote from her great blog and bring it over here for discussion, instead of writing a great long blog-post comment over there!

"Well I have been thinking and thinking. I love the idea of autonomy- but what I don't get, but really admire in those who have done it. is the ability to let go and trust that your children will learn. You see I wonder if in part it really means you don't actually care about what your child learns. That you don't care if they feel it is important to learn all about Spongebob Squarepants. I don't know if i will ever reach the point of just letting go."

Well yes, for me it was a pure leap of faith. A very scary thing to do, but I didn't have much choice. School obviously, after 5 years of trying (in Tom's case. 4 in Ali's and 2 in Zara's) hadn't done enough to interest them in learning. On the contrary: it had actively put them off learning. Six months of every possible kind of educational stimulation at home after deregistration hadn't worked either. I was still looking at three glassy-eyed, bored, unself-motivated children who only wanted to get to the end of learning time so they could go do their own thing. Yes, it probably was Spongebob Squarepants or the equivalent.

I wanted my curious, motivated, interested-in-the-world preschool brightsparks back! What I'd got in exchange, after a few years of schooling, was intellectual shutdown. They'd gone on brain-strike. Knowing what I do now about educational motivation I can well understand why.

So it was sheer desperation that made me study educational theory and led me to the theory of autonomous learning, and we'd tried absolutely everything else I knew about, so we didn't have much to lose.

And it worked - very slowly and definitely. Well, they watched rubbish TV nonstop for about 3 months, then one by one they got bored with that and started looking for other things to interest them. At first they were very careful to avoid anything even vaguely schooly or educational, but when they realised they could do learning stuff without me getting visibly excited about it and starting to take control, they got more confident and now they spend most of their time working and learning in easily as academic a sense as school, but without the coercion. And they're interested again! The vital spark of curiosity came back: that was the thing the schooling had extinguished, which I knew was necessary to get back in order for them to be able to lead fun, interesting, real lives.

Allowing my children to become autonomous learners was possibly the most frightening and yet, with hindsight, the best thing I ever did for them.

10 Comments:

Blogger skypainter said...

So amazing you managed to do it...all part of the journey i suppose. We do have Sky TV, so there are endless cartoons for J to watch!!! I think she would go beyond 3 months endless watching.

I am reading more about autonomy, and learning, just wish my kids would too haa haaaa

It is sooo scary and there is always the worry for me- well it worked for them (because the mum enjoys life, is fun and motivated)- but I am different so maybe it won't work for my family.

7:00 pm, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

" I think she would go beyond 3 months endless watching."

6 months max is my bet, if you didn't limit it. I don't think anyone could do more than that! My Ali watched wall-to-wall Sky for about 6 months, then started wondering what the Japanese language on his Pokemon cards meant, then became fluent in Japanese, then started learning Russian, hasn't watched any TV at all for years! And he was definitely the worst with the goggle-box. He'd set his alarm clock so he could wake up and watch a programme!

7:04 pm, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

I agree 6 months tops and then they are fed up to the back teeth of it:) We have also tried everything but nothing works unless they agree to it, want it or ask me to find it for them so they can do it. I thought autonomy didn't work until I looked at my 12 years beautiful handwriting the other day and realised she has been out of school since before she could write much more than her name. She did it with no repetition, spelling tests or copy writing practice.

9:30 pm, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Louise said...

Thanks for that Gill, I shall add that to the many fab autonomous articles you have blogged :o)

11:21 pm, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

I had a conversation with the parent of a fairly newly pulled out of school 15 year old the other night, the guy was open mouthed that a child's natural inclination is to learn, if they don't have that bashed out of them by those day prison places ;-) I have honestly never seen anyone so completely shocked and amazed at the idea, but you could see the lightbulb moment going on behind his eyes. Quite something :-)

12:13 pm, January 21, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

I see it more and more in our kids. L has never been to school and so never learned any distinction between 'work' and 'play'. We have never made that distinction so, for him, reading and writing is just another thing you do, like watching tv or playing in the mud. For P it has been a bit different. I think that, bit by bit, she has re-claimed some of the things that had become the property of school - like drawing and writing - and made them her own again.

1:16 pm, January 21, 2007  
Blogger skypainter said...

Mmmmm maybe she would watch tv solid for 6 months- I couldn't allow her cos dh would go mad!!!! Shame really as it would be great to try. She watched an awful lot when Thee was born and dh hated it- said the TV was educating her not me. But you should see my dad in his 60's and still never moves from it, permanently attached to that sofa !!

3:08 pm, January 21, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

"I couldn't allow her cos dh would go mad!!!!"

Well evil me told dh he either H.E them himself - fulltime - or butted out. He butted out lol. He is the biggest fan of autonomous ed now:)

5:16 pm, January 21, 2007  
Blogger mamadillo said...

Ruth, absolutely! Though i wasn't that blunt myself... The only reason we don't do compelte autonomy here is because I have a low threshold for noise and eventually get really naffed off with the constant cartoons... Oh and the 1 telly/6 people thing...

Gill I think I've figured out what makes your house feel bigger than ours, it's the number of rooms. The ability to shut doors. And the lack of ginormous telly, LOL.

6:16 pm, January 21, 2007  
Blogger Baz said...

Well, I don't think anyone should underestimate the educational value of Spongebob to be honest, or the laughter side of it :)

To be honest, in some respects Sky have done kids a favour. By repeating the same stuff over and over its very very easy to get bored of it very quickly, and once the boredom sets it then its out the window.

Sadly, its the same on the Discovery channels these days, but they are still worth watching for the occasional gem.

1:41 pm, January 22, 2007  

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