With apologies to Manda...
"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.