Civitas blog post revisited: Amazing autonomy
I'm particularly impressed by Janet Ford's children, about whom she says:
"My two children have been lucky enough to decide on their own education, and an inspector making judgements about my son at 13 would have been horrified at this child who had not yet decided writing was an important thing in his life, or maths. However my son was recently the youngest entrant ever at the Manchester School of Medicine's PhD programme, following his degree. My 11 year old daughter is currently writing her first novel, but has not yet decided that maths is interesting enough to spend time on. She will, because it will be a necessary skill that she will realise she needs, and at that time, because she herself sees the need, she will cover it quickly and thoroughly, just as my son did when he was 14, taking a GCSE in Higher maths after 6 months study."
This is an amazing testimony of autonomous learning - in fact I think Janet was one of the people with whom I was exchanging list posts with when I was first thinking about deschooling for Tom, Ali and Zara, 7/8 years ago. So far mine haven't gone down the route of exams and qualifications and it doesn't seem as if the boys ever will. But they still push themselves hard to develop their skills, widen their business contacts and stretch their abilities, so their respective careers are definitely on track.
I love the fact that they don't worry about 'earning a living' - though they can and do earn money. Instead, they're far more focused on pursuing their intellectual and creative passions. One thing leads to another: they work on developing a project then get talking with people who are doing similar things, which feeds in different ideas so they in turn develop some more. I don't think they could switch their minds off if they wanted to, and it seems that they don't want to.
I worry sometimes whether they missed out on some necessary structure - some vital information, perhaps, needed to underpin their current work but when I ask specific questions along those lines it turned out that of course they learned everything necessary to get to where they are, because it was the natural order of learning. They wouldn't be at the stage they were at without doing everything along the way to get there. I didn't notice them learning it but they learned so much, so fast that I couldn't possibly witness it all, or even most of it. But learn it they did.
So what are they doing, exactly? I'm not 100% sure, to be honest! They don't need, and wouldn't want, me to pry into their activities all the time and they're past the age of [pointless, counterproductive] compulsory education so I don't have to, thank goodness. But Ali "does bits of coding" for some people and "bits of translation" for others, for which he apparently randomly receives cheques through the post and payment by various other means. Tom "does bits of building work" when he needs money and spends the rest of his time developing his graphic arts skills. He sometimes shows me what he's working on and it is amazing.
The other thing I like is that they work together. Usually this happens when Ali is stuck with a hardware issue, which Tom always sorts out for him; or when Tom is stuck on a piece of coding, which Ali solves and further explains. Tom will quite happily go and ask his younger brother for coding tuition and Ali quite happily supplies it without arrogance and vice versa with hardware, compatability or platform issues.
Zara is also 'working hard' - though it seems strange to call it that when it's fun and completely voluntary. But she's also into graphic art - adapting rather than creating, which (they tell me) is a completely different thing to what Tom does. And she reads and posts to all kinds of forums and develops her thinking and her ideas in that way.
It's just natural living. I wish it wasn't so unusual and under such threat of extinction that those of us who dare, have to publicly write about it. Perhaps one day it won't be and we can quietly get on with living our lives in complete, protected, accepted and safe privacy.