13 July 2012

Autonomy

When I embarked officially on our home educating journey in September 2009, I tried some structured learning time. Over the course of a month I managed this about twice and then gave up. It was not working for either of us. I didn't have a plan B and I had not, at that time, heard of autonomous learning or unschooling. So I carried on as we were. Reading books together, doing stuff together and, just as importantly, independently but in the same room too.

I would be lying if I was at all doubtful that putting all learning in the hands of a child would lead to results. I hung onto the fact that up until now learning had been happening, he had crawled, was now walking, had signed and was now talking. Part of me was doubting but it was a small part and the doubt did not last long.

My role soon became clear to be there for support, to answer questions, to read to him, to take him out and explore the world beyond our house, to provide an environment within which he felt secure and safe so that learning could happen. And happen it does.

He learnt some of the letters through asking about them in books, signs, anything with words, from this reading developed, and he now reads books independently. I would not be able to explain the exact process of development and neither have I any desire too. Some folks I speak too are baffled that it could just happen. We are too ingrained that it must be taught.

He learnt to count to ten at an early age, but his interest in numbers beyond that has only developed more recently. He can now read numbers in the thousands and knows that there are numbers beyond that but has not mastered them yet. He can add up and take away. Again we have not taught this, merely engaged in his interest and answered his questioning to the best of his understanding.

We have explored many subjects or topics and I love how they can develop. We found a book on Castles in a charity shop which sparked a long period of investigation into castles. He read and we read together many books on castles, knights and life generally during that period in history. We looked up castles in our area and visited many. Drawing after drawing of castles and battles were drawn. At the moment we are investigating World War Two, this came about after a discussion with his Grandma about rationing during and after the war.

I have mentioned already the drawings. Not a day goes by without a drawing of some sorted started, completed or added to. Around the age of five he had virtually given up on drawing. He felt that his drawings were no good and they kept going wrong. I racked my brains for ways to support him, to build his confidence. For Christmas that year my husband made him a big blackboard which is mounted on the wall in the dining room at his height. He also got some chalk and he was off. For the next year the blackboard was covered in elaborate drawings. It was easier to rub out and correct than pencil and paper. The blackboard gets used less by him these days. We have bought him a set of good pencils and paper is his preferred surface.

I have had two affirmations this week that we made the right decision to home education and do so in the route we have chosen. He has read a complete story book on his own through the course of a day. One evening this week after settling my youngest to sleep, I came downstairs to find him and my husband adding up very long numbers, I think they had got to about eight digits, after each sum he would ask for another until he announced he had had enough and was off to bed!

I am so grateful that our situation has enabled us to home educate. I am aware that for some this is the path that they would like to follow but are unable to or choose not to for their own reasons. I have never regretted our decision for a moment and look forward to many more weeks like the one I have just had.

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