Sunday, March 25, 2007

An Autonomous Educator's Answer to LEA Inspector

From Sometimes It's Peaceful:

"So have home educating families with autonomous learning children got anything to fear from their LEAs, really?

One LEA visitor to our house, early in our autonomous provision, asked to see samples of the children's work. "I've stopped insisting on them producing work," I said, "Because their interest in learning shut down whenever I did. Is the LEA interested in my children's learning, or in their work? Because the two things are mutually exclusive, so it can't have both."

"Erm... well I suppose learning is the important thing," said the visitor and the LEA has been happy to take my word for it that the children are learning, ever since - though I accept that some LEAs might just never be so amenable. "

Whilst trying not to reveal too much about our family, I should say that not having to produce work for the inspection of anybody else, to meet anyone's externally imposed criteria, to meet anyone's else's expectations, has been enormously beneficial for our family in so many ways:

It has meant that we can tackle the problems we are genuinely interested in.

We can do this when our bodies and minds feel ready.

It has meant that we can give our whole minds to solving the problem.

Having time and no pressure to present work has meant that we can mull over problems, thinking around them, paying attention to issues such as when we think best, eg: not just when we are obviously dealing with the problem directly, but when we are doing the gardening, jumping on a trampoline, lying on a sofa, ie: learning about the value of walking away from a problem, taking time out to think, playing with ideas, coming back when you are ready with new and valuable connections, creative solutions, and we can do this all because we don't have to foreclose upon a problem to present our work at a prescribed time and to meet another person's set of expectations.

Having said all of which, I do make a deadline for myself, usually to write at least one blog post a day, and yet probably because this is freely chosen, I have no problem at all with this.

In the course of studying the problems that interest us, we absorb information deeply. It isn't held superficially to be used in a test for the next day. The sort of information that is eagerly sought is likely to become embedded in long-term memory.

Also in the course of studying problems which interest us, we come across all sorts of other information which we absorb often without consciously so-doing. For example, a child may learn to do long division or to multiply large numbers when playing an on-line game. He finds out about from global warming watching the Simpsons, say.

Children can deal with the problem of presentation as a last and trivial problem in the course of solving the other more pertinent problems, but this will be the last and often most trivial consideration.

We don't waste time struggling with problems that don't interest us.

We don't become completely unnecessarily disheartened because the situation of meeting other people's extenally imposed agendas happens so rarely. It is our conviction that numerous children are labelled with problems which simply would not exist if these absurd and unproven benchmarks were not imposed upon them. For example, many HE children don't learn to read until they are 7 or 8, yet within a few weeks of starting and with minimal effort, they can be reading at the same level as schooled children who have spent hours and hours slaving laboriously over their literacy skills.

Yep, this is where true learning really is at. It works for me and it seems to work for my children. Perhaps we suffer from some kind of genetic learning anomaly, but I suspect this is not the case, and that many other people would benefit from this kind of genuine learning.


Gill said...

That's all really useful stuff, Carlotta. I think all our blogs will be invaluable from a research POV: I've been googling for papers on autonomous home ed to cross reference this, and they seem to be very thin on the ground. Do you know if there's a list anywhere?

Carlotta said...

I will certainly go off and look, though I don't know of any, I have to say. V. interesting that there appears to be a dearth of such articles.

Also am feeling v. glad you have put me in mind to write again on this subject. The theories of knowledge that provide the explanatory force for autonomous learning have been articles of faith for me for a longish time now, and I have often taken them as read, but it is proving well worth the time to re-examine them, and to see if these theories match the experience. Am finding that they definitely do!

Gill said...

Yes, I'm feeling that it's very important for us to write about it *now*, in the present climate.

This method of learning does work, it is valid, highly efficient and effective, so it's crucial that our children continue to be allowed to learn that way if they choose, IMO.

Anonymous said...

One criticism frequently levelled at autonomous home educators is that the children are not being prepared for the 'real world'.

Thanks to the insight of my current job(office based work) and, indeed, of other jobs, I can see that this opinion is not entirely unfounded. The office workplace amongst others *are* much like school (and as a comment mentions elsewhere, bullying therefore is prevalent in most places).

So, if a child wishes to participate in this world and is not some sort of genius who will float to the top without a struggle, perhaps school would offer some sort of preparation.

In the office, the politics and hierarchy reflect school. Everything one does has to not only achieve its result but be turned into a report, ie a finished piece of work, that people will judge to assess the process and the person. Probably, the better a person has learnt to manage the school system, the better (s)he will manage the work hierarchy.

Is it true that lots of autonomously home edded children (who do not go to university necessarily - something which would slot them in higher up in the work institution) end up opting for more creative/alternative careers instead? If so, I wouldn't be surprised. Not, let me add quickly, a bad option necessarily!

Perhaps all the autonomously home educated children will have the fortunate effect (as some of them will choose to start organisation style like work places of their own) of transforming this horrible expansion of the current school system that fills most of our lives and turning it into something better.


Carlotta said...

The thing is, I am not sure that school is the best preparation for this type of environment. For a start, why do we accept that an office work has to be like this? The fact that it often is, doesn't prove that it has to be, and it is the case that in many of the jobs I had, office-based and otherwise, there was no bullying or if there was, people regarded it as wrong and tried to sort it out, rather than acquiesce in the hopeless and miserable belief that "this is real life."

It is also not necessarily the case that AEHE kids do not come across bullying in some contexts, though they usually have far more options than schooled children in how to deal with it.

And it is also the case that an AEd child can be very well prepared for life in the office. Some do exactly that sort of work experience, for example, though many do go down the college route first, which isn't necessarily a brilliant preparation for real life as we are hearing from employers atm, who are expressing strong dissatisfaction with the level of graduate and school leaver skills in everything from literacy and numeracy to interpersonal skills.

Ron R said...

you should submit this to unschooling voices.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carlotta,

I wasn't really referring mainly to the problem of bullying more to the school/work environment and how work is monitored, reported upon and assessed.

My thought was that AEd children might change for the better what we are failing to change in our organisations. There is no doubt that while it *is* possible to run them differently, we simply don't do it.

They might in fact produce a better future.


Anonymous said...

I would argue that an AEd child, incidentally, *isn't* well prepared for a hierarchical (can't remember the spelling and am in a rush!) and school replicating workplace! Bullying isn't the only feature of the workplace that replicates school life - far from it!

I would be interested to know what actually happens to these children. I think if they have had lengthy periods in college etc prior to working than they will not really be the sort of AEd children I am thinking of. They will have agreed to fit into the system perhaps.

D Anyway am late...

Carlotta said...

One of the things that I have seen happening to AEd kids is that because they are in charge of their learning, and if they have been well advised about the likely nature of a workplace, they will be aware that many workplaces are organised in hierarchical ways and that they will need to develop strategies to help them cope with this.

The thing is, I often suspect that they have an advantage over schooled children, because they are aware that they are freely choosing these environments, that these environments are not necessarily optimal, but that they can use their ingenuity and creativity to try to solve the problems that hierarchical structures create.

Because they understand that they have freely chosen to be there, and can see a good reason for being so, and because they can envisage a better way of doing things and since they still do feel empowered,they can actually cope with it better than the schooled child who has lost all hope of a better life, who feels compelled to continue in a miserable existence, who cannot imagine a better future and who does not try to solve the problems he faces in the workplace because he is not familiar with acting autonomously.

I have seen a few AHE children manage happen, though I do admit that my evidence base is limited, as most of the children I knew who were AED have only just made it to college level, or who have chosen autonomy respecting or non-coercive workplaces in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Umm. I suspect that you are right - but, as you indicate, it is all hypothesis. I expect that they will just choose more flexible environments and will simply not tolerate what so many put up with because they are used to it.

One day though (I stick to my fantasy challenge in the future!) some of these alternatively ecucated children will choose to radically change the life of organisations and institutions. I've mentioned before the theorist, Wheatley, who sort of looks at such changes but it is only a superficial adjustment, it seems.


Gill said...

Hmm, I can't really imagine any of mine wanting to work in a office tbh. But if they did want to, they'd manage ok I think.

Yes, school has the same kind of hierarchies as offices, but being immersed in them full-time from an early age possibly isn't the best preparation for them, as Carlotta said.

I think it's more likely to reduce a person's resistance to being sucked into an office power structure to the detriment of their own best interests.

My 3 teens seem to be able to socialise easily with all kinds of people, without needing to belong to social groups, I think.

There's a post about their career ideas here, and one that includes an employer's opinions of them here.