Sunday, December 14, 2008

How we do things

Blogging is very difficult for me now, as since my big splurge of postings last week our baby has been introduced to BBC iplayer, specifically this programme, which she wants to watch over and over again on my computer. It's on right now - we're sharing the same screen. She's got the top left hand corner and I've got the bottom right for this blog post - about 6"x4" - with frequent interruptions to agree that Sarah-Jane has indeed got a hula hoop, etc.

I think, nice though it is to have her sitting on my knee so much, this baby might be nearly ready for her own computer. There are just a few issues like the lack of available desk space (but if we tidied up some junk books here, I suspect we'd find some); lack of network cabling (but we could just buy some more); I think lack of a spare working monitor, but I'll have to check through all the old ones in the basement and see if any can be persuaded to work with my old PC. We might manage to rig something up.

Oh, and she can't drive a mouse yet, though I get the feeling she's on the brink of 'getting it'. She had her hand on it yesterday, and I think she realised that she was moving the arrow around the screen. And she did some clicking, but it was very random. But she watches us very closely and copies what we do, so I don't think it will take her very long to learn. Perhaps she needs to sit on my knee with the screen divided into little boxes for a few more weeks, although there would always be someone sitting next to her to do the necessary mouse-driving..

Anyway, scrolling through various home education list daily digests this morning, I came across the comment that home educators using the autonomous method don't often chat about how they do things. Well, I think we're about as autonomous as you can get (I notice there are varying degrees of it, which doesn't really fit with my tendency towards black and white thinking, but never mind) and talking about what we do and how we do things is supposed to be what this blog is about, but it does often get sidetracked, so I thought I'd write a post today specifically about how we do things.

It wasn't the plan, but the first three paragraphs above actually explain really well how we do things. Everything springs from someone - invariably the child - finding an interest and wanting to explore it. We make sure we have the free time (that's possibly the most difficult aspect for some families) for this to happen. And then we just go with their interests, and this leads to endless active learning, quite definitely full-time and always exactly suitable to the child's age, aptitude, ability and any special education needs they may have. It's far more suitable than a preset curriculum can ever be, because children are all unique in their interests and their learning requirements, even day-to-day, minute by minute. You can't possibly plan for what they might exactly need, educationally, because you can't know exactly what that will be.

Perhaps home educators using the autonomous method don't often chat about how they do things because they tend to veer off towards the theory whenever they're trying to discuss the method, as I just did. This could be because the actual practice is so varied from one moment to the next that it's quite difficult to provide an overview and much easier to give examples.

Take Lyddie's reading: she's been going back over her old books, which we're now reading to the baby, and carefully, quietly, reading the words to herself. I noticed her doing it with a nursery rhyme book the other day, so she knew the words and was systematically checking what she knew of the rhymes against what she could actually read. It would never have occurred to me to suggest this, and if I'd tried to adopt it as a teaching method she might have been insulted, but as a self-directed learning process, it's perfect for her just now - obviously, or she wouldn't be doing it.

I didn't get involved, or even show that I'd noticed what she was doing because it would have interrupted her flow. My job as her educational facilitator is to (try to!) know when to interject and when to just let things happen. Again, that's learner-directed: when she wants my help with something - which is often - she comes to ask me, then I go to help straight away. But in a way I did facilitate her nursery rhyme book learning, by leaving the books around and allowing her the freedom, peace and privacy to pick them up and start looking at them.

I didn't leave the books around on purpose in the hope that she would make use of them in this way. I don't really do strewing because even that feels too controlling and contrived to me. Also I did try it for a while, but it seemed to put the children off learning rather than turn them onto it. They can't really explore on their own terms if their path is deliberately littered with obvious signposts making it quite clear that someone has been there already and marked it out for them, can they?

10 Comments:

Blogger Gill said...

Grit has linked to me, in a much more entertaining post than I ever write.

5:13 pm, December 14, 2008  
Blogger Grit said...

gill, i truly am in full admiration of what you take on and what you achieve. i am glad that you write about your approaches so eloquently and honestly, and hope you continue to do so because seriously they are inspiring!

8:21 am, December 15, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Grit - same to you!

I find it difficult not to be overly defensive of autonomous learning sometimes and I think a lot of my posts reflect that. But a few weeks ago I read someone saying that nobody ever seems to present a 'warts and all' picture of it, so I'm planning to try and work towards that now, especially since the older children seem to have grown up relatively unscathed!

If the new business and the off-grid plan is successful, I'll feel even more confident that their upbringing was a "success". No pressure or anything, kids ;-)

8:34 am, December 15, 2008  
Blogger emma said...

Lovely. Nothing like a small child autonomously getting themselves computer (and internet) literate!

And I'm agin strewing myself - because the agenda of something-which-an-adult-can-define-comfortably-as-educational is too close to the surface. Naturally my home is liberally strewn with objects of all sorts, many of which seem to serve an educational purpose at some time or another, but it's not me who did the strewing - I just do sufficient tidying up to faciliate the next strewing!

2:14 pm, December 15, 2008  
Blogger Allie said...

At one point we did used to put some activities in specific boxes for the children, as things to do when they were bored enough to bicker. I don't think anyone ever went and got anything from their box. Clearly, they needed to bicker at that point in their lives and not do wordsearches ;-)

I notice that there is a natural busy flow when everyone feels free and happy to pursue their own interests. When people feel obligated (past their own comfort levels) then that becomes a sticky drag. I recognise it as the state in which I did most of my secondary school homework. We try to avoid it. It is less and less (in my head) about educational 'method' and more and more about how I want my family life to be. That's why I find it hard to blog it. It's too personal.

8:04 pm, December 15, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

"I just do sufficient tidying up to faciliate the next strewing!"

Ahh, so that's what I've been doing all these years! LOL, I knew there was a reason for it.

8:19 pm, December 15, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

" We try to avoid it. It is less and less (in my head) about educational 'method' and more and more about how I want my family life to be. That's why I find it hard to blog it. It's too personal."

Yep, it is personal. Perhaps that's why I struggle with it too.

8:26 pm, December 15, 2008  
Blogger Mieke said...

Ahh Gill, you sure know how to put it in words!
I read your post this morning and have been thinking about it all through the day. Coming back here now to comment I see that Allie said much of what I wanted to say. I'm too slow for this medium ;)). Still, I'll add a few of my words to it.
I, too, find much of what we as a family do, and what might be called autonomous learning, often too private to blog.
And that's because autonomous learning is a holistic thing - in my view - it is indeed part of a way of life.
There are as many sides to learning as there are to living. Because the way I see it, there is no difference between living and learning.
By 'allowing' learning to be part of the wholeness of living - instead of ripping it out of its natural flow and balance and dividing it into controlable units - it can become a much stronger process.
So learning to read has not only to do with a child recognizing certain shapes as letters that can be shaped into words, it has also to do with a child discovering a new part of the world, a new form of communication, another form of art, another source of information, another way to exercise their eyes, etcetera etcetera.
The way Liddy discovered reading is completely different to how my children started and all three of them did it in a different way... But it was the way that fitted their individual personalities and fitted that moment in time in their lives.
So describing how that learning process works in a more than theoretical way cannot be anything else than quite personal.
To do that on a public blog takes courage and self-confidence and also the strength to accept that people don't always respond with the respect this kind of sharing deserves. I'm glad you dare to stick your neck out, Gill!

12:06 am, December 16, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

I think you just put it better than I did, Mieke!

Thanks for your kind words xx

7:01 am, December 22, 2008  
Blogger Lori said...

really interesting!

3:14 am, January 04, 2009  

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