Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St Brievels castle

Just over a month ago we had the most amazing opportunity to go and stay in a castle with 50+ home educated children (and parents). I write the word amazing, but that doesn't do it justice.

Never have I been with a group of such diversity and felt so completely at ease. Every family was different. Some were structured, some radical unschoolers. Some were single parent families, some were singe child families, others were larger families. There were teenagers and 2 year olds dressing up in medieval clothes and playing board games together. All the children were completely inclusive of each other and within just a few short minutes, the children had left their parents and were not seen again until we left 2 days later. There were no arguments, no nastiness, no "go away you're only 2 and we're 6". It was truly a pleasure to spend time with those wonderful families. I really hope I get to do it again one day!

Autonomous Home Education

I never thought at the beginning that I would become an autonomous home educator. I always thought that structure would be vital. I even wrote a post about it a year or so ago. I felt then that I was drowning in autonomy. I think, looking back, that I was just missing the point. We learn amazing things through living. There's a link here to an autonomous educational philosophy which makes some interesting reading if you're not sure what I'm talking about. http://www.home-education.org.uk/articles/article-autonomous-education.pdf

I wrote a comment this week in response to a question on one of the Facebook groups I belong to. I bought I'd share that same comment with you as it pretty much sums up our days.

'This morning, my autonomously HE son (6) who has never been 'taught' to read or write, wrote a lovely letter to his little brother on a paper aeroplane. All the spelling was correct and the handwriting was beautiful. My older son (8) who was in school and came out hating anything to do with learning anything at all, came down the stairs having read a chapter from Murderous Maths, with a wonderful drawing of a septagon drawn inside a circle. Then he went outside and built himself a catapult using some bits of old wood. He measured it all, drew a diagram and labelled it all, then built it. He then tested different items to see how far they travelled etc. We then found some worms which led to discussion about habitats and what worms eat and the fact that soil on our carrots it in fact worm poo!

We have 7 days a week just like this. It's hard to trust that so much freedom can lead to so much learning, and like I say, it took me about a year to relax into it. I don't intend for it to change much as they get older, and I'm hoping (trusting) that their own desire to study for formal exams etc will win out. I'm already starting to see such a difference in the way they learn from when they were in school.'

Autonomous education isn't about letting children just sit around doing nothing. It's about providing and grasping every available learning opportunity every day. It's exhausting, exhaustive and completely engaging. It's about sharing learning moments together. This morning over breakfast I was telling George 1 about an article I had read in the readers digest about how the Romans told the time. It's about reading stories at bedtime about WW2 and recognising that they're not just bedtime stories. It's about recognising that any writing they do is handwriting practise, even if it's not in a workbook or copying out poems. It's about that moment when your child who vowed never to write another word ever, asks you to do a daily spelling test for him and seeing him get every word right, first time, without hours of failing practise.

It's about TRUST. Trust in your child, trust in yourself and trust in the world.

It's about LOVE. Love of your child, love of learning, love of the world.

It's about JOY. Joy in your child, joy in learning, joy in the world.