After a few difficult situations I have found myself in, in these last few months, I thought it would be useful to write some of my thoughts down on the topic of autonomous learning.
I did not wake up one morning and decided: I will home educate! In fact I will eliminate any sort of structure and go for this groovy thing called Radical Unschooling!! This has been a very long and laborious process with a lot of thinking, reading and living involved. What I have at the moment is an outlook on life and my fellow humans that seems to work and helps to make us happy, creative and productive people.
So what are we doing exactly? My journey started with a very valuable book called The Continuum Concept, it argued that we have lost our connection to our basic human continuum and that the way we relate to babies and small children is extremely important, it is not up to us to decide what the baby needs, the baby knows, we just have to tune in. So breastfeeding, carrying in a sling or in arms, cosleeping, are all things a newborn human will expect. This idea of trusting my children (opposed to trusting a book from Waterstones) was so obvious and so revolutionary for someone like me who grew up relatively unattached from her parents. So attachment parenting was the next step but this didn't seem to go far enough. Why trust a baby but not a toddler? When my eldest was 2 I started feeling really panicky about sending him to school. He would still be so little, who would hug him if he was upset? Would anyone care? And by the age of 2 it was clear that Reuben was extremely self motivated, creative and very very sharp!! What were they going to do with him anyway? I looked at the curriculum for the reception year and he knew it all by the time he was 3. But this is not really relevant to my choices, it was just the spark the started the fire.
So we decided to home educate, from my experience as an English teacher for the British Council I knew I wouldn't write lesson plans or decide what the children were going to learn. The wonderful books by John Holt were very helpful and introduced me to the idea of Unschooling, trusting in the children's natural love of learning and giving them the space to pursue their own interests in their own time.
And this led to more thinking and reading... Alfie Kohn had made me think about unconditional love, about giving the children the respect they deserve and have a (human) right to. Jan Fortune-Wood made me think that this respect is all encompassing, that non coercion is the true way to go if I want to nurture free spirited children.
So every day I watch them, listen to them, feel with them and find solutions where everybody wins. I am trying to move away from a family unit where one (or both) parents holds all the power, in fact I am trying to move away from power struggles altogether. A problem comes up and we say: how can we solve it? What would make us all happy? Everyone's wishes are listened to, if Isaac doesn't want to take his pyjamas off, he can put a jumper over them and go out regardless. If Reuben wants to eat at a different time from the others, he should have the freedom to do so. If the children have their clothes on back to front I won't say anything as not to detract from the joy of having dressed themselves. If the biscuits are not shaped "properly" I will bake them as they are, because what is "properly" anyway? I feel a deep respect for all they say and do, if they ask me for an opinion or for help I will happily give it to them but I don't force my experience and opinions on them.
So it goes well beyond education, I didn't see how I could trust the children to know best when it comes to reading and writing and not know best with basic human functions like eating or sleeping. Or for anything else for that matter.
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