Saturday, March 24, 2007

Autonomous -vs- neglect - some points to be developed

Further to discussions in comments here, I'm making a start with some bullet points attempting to show the difference between autonomous learning and educational neglect.

I'm drawing the following from my own thoughts and experiences, brought about from observing the results in my children over the years, and also from my children's ideas - especially Ali's, outlined here. Looking back through blog archives, I see there's a previous post from two years ago, which might also be useful.

Input from other autonomous learners & facilitators on the following points will be invaluable. Please post thoughts & ideas in the comments box and we can hopefully use them to tweak/rewrite/extend the list into something that might be useful. I'm going to try to keep the points as simple and uncluttered as possible, to make it as easy as possible for someone unfamiliar with the learning style to be able to absorb the relevant info at a glance.


What does autonomous education look like?

  • There's at least one adult parent/facilitator who is available to help the child with learning at all times, on child's request.

  • Learning is completely child-led, so the adult is responsive to the child's interests without demanding a set result.

  • Child's expressed educational needs are met. This means access to books, internet, software, equipment, libraries, museums, courses, tutors etc., as and when child requests them.

  • Child is aware of the above points and options, as much as possible.

  • Learning can take place any time, anywhere, in any form and is not restricted to one area, room, house or building. It happens in all the child's waking moments, so it really is 'full-time' in every sense.*

  • Education is therefore uniquely personalised to suit each individual child.

  • Child learns only according to his/her interests, so is always fully engaged and working to full potential.

  • Child's wish to learn can be damaged by being held to account over issues like output and progress.*

  • Learning isn't usually divided into subject skills: these develop as and when the child requires them.*

  • Learning naturally ebbs and flows, so periods of rest and passive thinking or processing usually follow more active phases.

  • Low adult:child ratio enables constant assessment and feedback, so 'work' on paper (or any other format) is not an essential requirement of autonomous education and therefore may or may not result from learning.

  • The learning process is fully owned by the learner, and as such any work (should any exist) belongs to the child and not the parent/facilitator.*

  • Progress is not usually as predictable or regular as it is in schooled learning. It can be sometimes very fast and sometimes very slow, depending on the child and his/her stage in the process.*

  • Child is offered opportunities to socialise and is free to choose how and when this takes place.*


  • *Edited after input from comments

    54 Comments:

    Blogger Gill said...

    Hmm.. if I was an ignorant LA person, I might still be asking, yes but how can those points be checked/verified without:
    a. talking to the child;
    b. seeing work; and/or
    c. seeing the learning environment?

    To which, as a parent, I'd answer:

    a. as the child's parent, do you have reason to doubt my word?
    (Although this argument is becoming increasingly obsolete as the principle of Habeas Corpus magically disintegrates in front of our eyes.. So maybe we need more on that e.g. reports on progress etc.)

    b. autonomous learning is not meant to be comparable to schoolwork, so it's of no use for you to see the work, if indeed any exists. Also, if I was to show you 'work' you might be tempted to try to correct/criticise/assess it, which would be damaging to the autonomous process. Any output belongs to the child and is private. (I think there's a legal argument for this last point.)

    c. An autonomously-educated child's learning environment is everywhere and anywhere. Here is a list of places in which my child has learned in the past year. Which one would you like to see, and why?

    Perhaps the above can somehow be included in the bullet points, with different phraseology of course, but just to answer the arguments somehow. Maybe. Not sure how but will think about it.

    4:55 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy B said...

    Looking good, imo.

    I wonder if we need to try and at least vaguely touch on the literacy/numeracy things, in the most flexible sense possible. In a kind of "learning is not separated into specific categories, rather different skills are inherent to each learner's activities" ... sounds a bit blah-y though - I like your clear style you started with. Perhaps you can rephrase it in your own fab way.

    Also, the timetable aspect (isn't this something that they ask?) - perhaps could be an addition to your 'learning takes place any time ... " bit ... I'm just wondering if we ought to use the phrase 'full time' here, somehow - isn't that the magic words they look for? Also, perhaps here we could prempt some of the stuff you mentioned in your comment, and add something like: 'and is not restricted to one area, room, house or building." dunno. I've heard that sometimes they expect to see a 'schooly area'?

    And why not add the work belonging to the child bit right in there? ... "The learning process is fully owned by the learner, and as such any work (should any exist) belongs to the learner and not the parent/facilitator." again, bit blah-y, sorry.

    5:50 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    How do you get tutors in the UK for interests that are not academic?

    6:41 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    "autonomous learning is not meant to be comparable to schoolwork, so it's of no use for you to see the work, if indeed any exists."

    We actually have one inspector here who agrees with this - pity she is not mine.

    I think mentioning the child owns their own learning is a good idea and the idea of their education being fulltime. Also putting in the idea that learning is not confined to a table.

    I don't think some L.A's will take a parents word for it the child has learnt certain things. They seem to view us from a standpoint we are lying and must be found out:( I am not sure how to address that without giving in to them. I didn't think we had to show progress only provision?

    It is a pity some inspectors are such dragons cos I think the greatest proof of autonomous ed working is the child. Not an option when they don't want to talk to them or have them in your home or anywhere else.

    6:51 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Lucy: "learning is not separated into specific categories, rather different skills are inherent to each learner's activities"

    Yes, good point. Hard to simplify though! Erm... Different subjects are covered of their own accord? No, too vague. How about: Numeracy and literacy skills develop by themselves as learning takes place. No that still doesn't sound right. Will think on it!

    Ah yes, of course 'full time' is actually there in section 7 isn't it? "Learning can take place any time, anywhere, in any form. It happens in all the child's waking moments, so it actually is 'full-time'." ?

    Certainly can't improve on your work ownership point - will bung that straight in, unless someone else manages to. Ditto "and is not restricted to one area, room, house or building."

    Ruth: Yes, we only have to show provision. But if they're not seeing the work or the child, I'd be stuck to find ways to demonstrate suitability of provision without talking about progress. To learn is to make progress, so if there's no progress, there's no learning? Very happy to be corrected on that! I have always been unnecessarily over-generous with our lot, I'm sure. Old habits die hard!

    I totally agree, seeing the child isn't an option if the child doesn't want it. Nor should it have to be, it's our job to protect them from that kind of unnecessary stress IMO.


    Anonymous: the local adult ed college is a good place to start looking. They always run non-academic courses, and often publish tutor's contact details in their prospectus. You can then either negotiate to get the child on the course (it's at the teacher's discretion) or pay extra for private tuition.

    7:33 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy b said...

    "Different subjects are covered of their own accord? No, too vague. How about: Numeracy and literacy skills develop by themselves as learning takes place. No that still doesn't sound right. Will think on it!"

    erm ... how about something like: "Autonomous learning does not recognise (or 'require'?) specific curriculum subjects: skills develop as and when the learner requires them." Or is that still not quite right?

    7:48 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy b said...

    "Learning can take place any time, anywhere, in any form. It happens in all the child's waking moments, so it actually is 'full-time'." ?

    sounds great, I reckon!

    7:54 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    "Learning isn't usually divided into subject skills: these develop as and when learner requires them." ?

    7:55 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy b said...

    Oh, and finally (before going off to watch a dvd, so you will have peace from me!), I was wondering earlier if it's worth getting anything pro-active about the dreaded 'soclialisation' question in there? I was even wondering if it could somehow go in the list of resources ... " other children, adults and tutors"? ... or whether it should have its own point? ... or whether its best left out of this kind of document? It's just such a bloomin' *universal* criticism of any kind of home ed :-(

    7:59 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy b said...

    "Learning isn't usually divided into subject skills: these develop as and when learner requires them." ?

    oooh yes, perfect :-)

    8:00 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    "I was wondering earlier if it's worth getting anything pro-active about the dreaded 'soclialisation' question in there?"

    Hmm. Not sure. What do you think, Ruth? Do we need that?

    8:01 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    "Oh, and finally (before going off to watch a dvd..)"
    Chocolat is on tonight! Have read the book, but not seen the film yet. Looking forward to that :-)

    8:07 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    Yes progress is evidence of learning but sometimes a child is learning so slowly in some areas they make no obvious progress. I am thinking of our D here and his difficulties with reading. He is trying hard but looking at it from an outsiders view they would say he had made little or no progress. Then we have the slippery slope of how much progress they will expect our children to have made. Will they moan if a 8 year old is not writing cursively e.t.c? Would school standards creep into their thinking. Would they be miffed by things our kids can do that is higher than their idea of levels?

    RE socialisation- difficult one really. Not all kids want or need to socialise in a "conventional" way. We could say our children are offered opportunities to socialise and it is up to them how and when it takes place. I would hate the L.A to think they have to socialise. I think it needs to be put as an option they have. Sorry if this is incoherant - D is baying to go on Habbo.

    9:10 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    We could perhaps use a bullet point then to say something about progress not always being linear or steady - can happen in fits and starts and take different routes, or something like that?

    Will put the socialisation point in also - nice one :-)

    9:15 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    Yes that is a good idea to put the progress angle like that.

    9:58 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Hmm I want to simplify it more. Some of the other points towards the end of the list need to be simplified too. Will sleep on it & look again in the morning.

    11:29 pm, March 24, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    "Progress is not usually predictable or regular as it is in schooled learning. It can be sometimes very fast and sometimes very slow, depending on the child and his/her stage in the process."
    ?

    I also think we need to say something about the damaging effects of monitoring and assessing progress on the learning process:

    "Child's wish to learn can be damaged by being held to account over issues like output and progress."?

    Can/should we cross-reference all this? I think it will carry more weight if we do.

    10:38 am, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    Brilliant idea to cross reference it Gill. They like to hear from experts don' t they ie not us lol It looks really good - thanks for doing it:)

    3:05 pm, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Will certainly try re: cross referencing - the problem will be lack of authoritative sources I think. But we could certainly use what there is.

    Thing is, Ruth - in the field of autonomous home education the only experts really are the people who are doing it, i.e. all of us!

    7:43 pm, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    Yes sorry the expert comment was meant to be sarcastic but I didn't emphasise.

    8:35 pm, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    LOL, I should have known :-)

    8:47 pm, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    :)

    9:08 pm, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Tech said...

    OOh lovely, it's such a delicious film! Book is a bit different, but it's a good film none the less :D

    9:27 pm, March 25, 2007  
    Blogger Carlotta said...

    Great stuff, Gill. Thanks. Will be referring to this for a long time, I suspect.

    7:18 am, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Anyone got any thoughts about the 'quality' of cross-referencing that might be appropriate?

    Would it be ok to cite:

    1. Anything written anywhere: blogs, speeches, articles, websites, books?
    2. Only printed work: books or academic papers?
    3. Only peer-reviewed academic theses?

    I'm inclined towards the 2nd option, because although the first would be easier, it wouldn't really carry much cloud, because we might get the 'anyone could just say that' argument.

    The third option would only really be necessary if we were submitting it for peer review, which I can't see the point in even attempting TBH. It probably would qualify as new thinking, but I can't imagine it finding a welcome reception there. Maybe that's unduly pessimistic?

    Also, the material of that calibre on this subject is so thin on the ground that it would be very difficult.

    If we just cite paper-published work, we can use the books at least..

    Hmm, then again, there is so much useful stuff on sites and in blogland.

    LOL, totally undecided on this atm.

    8:28 am, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Schuyler said...

    I was looking at Neuropsychology papers on the difference between boys and girls writing patterns, boys are late starters when compared with girls and there are brain differences that frame that sort of thing. It would seem, in the light of that kind of information, that one could argue very easily, very scientifically, against the one-size fits all approach of examining a child's output. Howard Gardner's learning styles stuff might be a good cross-reference as well.

    12:15 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Thanks Schuyler :-)

    & did I really type 'carry much cloud'?

    ^^

    1:01 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    I've just been talking this through with Tom. He reckons it definitely does need to look 'official' to have any proper effect. We need to become an autonomous education org he reckons, even just in name only. Maybe a name and a website would do it. Just something to 'sanction' the document.

    1:13 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy B said...

    I loved the idea of carrying a cloud :-)

    I quite like the idea of cross references. I was also thinking that we should add a 'further reading' list to the bottom ... very short perhaps with our top 5 titles, or something ...

    This document could easily be put up on a website and be the beginnings of an organisation, couldn't it?
    Or is there another organisation we could link with and be an 'autonomous' branch of? dunno.

    1:58 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    We need to become an autonomous education org he reckons, even just in name only.

    Oh yes - great idea Tom. I also think we need to look official to back up our our claims autonomy works or it will fall on very deaf ears. A book list is a god idea too Lucy. Shuylers link looks interesting a well:)

    2:46 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Suggested names for org then? And volunteers to be linked to it/part of it/ whatever, please?

    And this is an org in name only, right? Cos I'm allergic to committees ;-)

    3:30 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Tibetan Star said...

    Nice post! I was needing to read that! Thanks

    5:00 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy b said...

    I'll volunteer to be involved if there's a way I can help without the family becoming 'known' to any LEA, and also if it doesn't get too weighty in terms of time, and def, yes, no committee type thingies, please!

    a name ... erm ... something about pathways/journeys without maps, in a following our noses kind of way? (but not actually that!) Or a without boundaries/limits kind of thing? Oooh I dunno. Rubbish at that kind of stuff, really!

    8:17 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    How about ALF?
    The Autonomous Learning Foundation.
    I could work with an org called Alf ;-)

    9:59 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Journeys Without Maps is good though.. Hmm

    10:01 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Gah, getting sidetracked.. *must* cross ref the list..

    10:11 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    I will help:)

    11:31 pm, March 26, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Thanks Ruth :-)

    There's an article here on Mike's site which might be useful...

    Am googling for references this morning: there is a lot on unschooling - horrible term IMO!

    Anyone got useful books to check for appropriate refs? Anyone know how much we can quote without seeking permission? Seeking permission for a lot of quotes would be a huge job.

    9:50 am, March 27, 2007  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the course information, but I was thinking of younger children.

    1:50 pm, March 27, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Adult ed tutors will often agree to tutor younger children. They also tend to have contacts in their field.

    Another approach would be to museums etc. who often employ experts you could approach for tuition.

    What age children? What specific interests?

    1:55 pm, March 27, 2007  
    Blogger Tech said...

    Apologies if I'm spectacularly thick here, and you have your tongue in your cheek, but there is already an ALF - the animal liberation front!

    3:43 pm, March 27, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    LOL thanks Tech xx

    3:51 pm, March 27, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    That had me howling with laughter Tech:)Dh says it also means Alien Life Form:)

    9:04 pm, March 27, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    "Dh says it also means Alien Life Form:) "

    ROFL that's more like it ;-)

    9:07 pm, March 27, 2007  
    Blogger Ruth said...

    I saw this today
    http://www.alternative-learning.org/ There is also a yahoo group. It seems similar to what we had in mind.

    12:28 pm, March 28, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    What a great site! Yes, that would do the job :-)

    10:02 am, March 29, 2007  
    Anonymous Lucy B said...

    I've heard *rumours* that autonomous learning is being currently experimented with within the mainstream school environment (which is weird, really, innit?) ... so maybe we need to make it clear that we're talking about *home ed* autonomous learning? Unless we don't mind any potential cross-overs?

    10:16 am, March 30, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    That is weird. I wonder what context they're using it in and exactly what they mean by it.

    Someone looked at the concept of autonomous learning in schools once - I forget who - Illich or Gatto or Holt or someone. They were looking at Sudbury and trying to work out whether 'You have to go to school, but can choose whether to learn or not when you get there,' qualified as autonomy. They decided it didn't in the end I think.

    On the other hand, teacher-led learning in 'normal' schools could be considered autonomous if the child was freely choosing to attend.

    So all govt has to do to make all schools autonomous is remove the compulsion to attend!

    I wonder if they know that...!

    12:10 pm, March 30, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy B said...

    just a little thought: wondering if the list should contain refrence to 'age ability and aptitude', or not? Simply cos it's part of the text of Sec 7, and so addressing it head on, right from the start might be good for home edding parents? What do you think?

    8:27 am, March 31, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    I think that's very good thinking Lucy. Autonomous learning is as close as you can get to age, ability & aptitude-appropriate education, of course. How to phrase that for this list?

    "Learning is perfectly tailored [have we used tailored before?] to the child's age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs he or she may have, because children learn naturally only within those parameters. A child will not voluntarily seek to be under- or over-stimulated, as both are unpleasant situations and counter-productive to the child's best interests."

    Hmmm. A bit too wordy?

    10:45 am, March 31, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy B said...

    "Hmmm. A bit too wordy?"

    Maybe we should stop after the word 'parameters'? The rest of the paragraph - thought completely true, natch! - sounds to me more like a 'fuller explanation' or justification, whereas we've steered away from that in the rest of the points.

    But I'm also wondering we've moved away from the 'this is what it looks like' thing, and onto something a bit more in depth ... which I think is great, but wondering if the 'this is what it looks like' bit needs adapting to something like "features of autonomous home education are:" or something. hmmmmm .... what do you think?

    But have we now ended up with something generally much more wordy, because we're trying to cover so much, and lost the beauty of simplicity?? ARGH! impossible task, perhaps ...

    Which is more useful to home edding parents, I wonder ... a very simple checkpoint list, or a - still quite simple for what it covers - side of A4 that gives a more complete overview and that may answer many of the LEAs possible "concerns" without the parent needing to do too much in depth explanation?? any thoughts?

    12:03 pm, March 31, 2007  
    Anonymous lucy B said...

    (forgive typos - pressed the 'publish' button instead of preview!)

    12:05 pm, March 31, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    Not sure - it's hard to say, without being in the position of really needing this stuff. Will wait for Ruth's input, see what she thinks.

    Stopping after 'parameters' - agreed. I very nearly did, but then waffle-itis kicked in ;-)

    1:27 pm, March 31, 2007  
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