Have just come across this article on informal learning by Dr. Alan Thomas (thanks Fiona N). It's good to keep reminding myself why we are bothering to fight to protect this way of educating our children.
"In school, the curriculum determines the process of teaching and learning. It is structured logically in easily digestible steps in order to facilitate learning. Essentially, the job of the student is to follow a learning sequence that is predetermined. But when children learn informally, they seem to do the opposite and impose their own sequence on what they learn. Curriculum logic and child logic do not equate. Child logic is individual and determined by the complex and dynamic interplay between the child’s existing level of knowledge and incoming information, mediated by interest, motivation, curiosity or desire to take on a challenge.
"It’s as if each child has his or her own theory of learning. It is quite efficient because new knowledge and understanding are only assimilated when they extend existing knowledge. The converse equally contributes to the efficiency of informal learning – when new material is unlikely to dovetail into and extend knowledge or understanding it is discarded. This utterly contradicts conventional school learning in which students are expected to persevere when they do not comprehend, often acquiring no more than a superficial level of understanding, what has been called surface learning (Biggs, 1987). Informal learning therefore follows a kind of fuzzy and non-linear logic that is particular to each child. It has a parallel in the child’s acquisition of language, learned in a similar fashion and equally individualistic (Crystal, 1976). Perhaps informal learning is better suited to the innumerable connections and networks in the cerebral cortex. Whatever the case, it works, and without all the effort associated with formal learning as these two parents found."