Thursday, 6 August 2015

Educational overview

I often find myself at the scrutiny of others for the choices I make especially with regards to diet, child rearing  and the main one; educational practice. I don't go out of my way to go against the 'norm' but I do go with what I believe to be right.

I am often told that I must be mad wanting my children at home all the time. To be completely honest that may well be the case. Perhaps I am mad! It isn't the easy option but it is the one that works for us.
I've been home educating for nine years now. What started off as one child out of the system for a year or so has become three children full out! I can honestly say that apart from in those first few months when I was finding my feet, deciding what to do and an approach that worked for us. I really haven't looked back. Not at all :-)

I love having my children around, I rise to the challenge of stimulating them and providing for their needs and most of all, I relish the fact that I have the opportunity to educate them and expose them to so many wonderful opportunities that schools couldn't possibly provide.

We're all in total 'holiday mode' right now....late nights, late mornings, relaxed days.....arrr blissful wonders! Apart from the annual 'clear up' of the past years educational stuff (which is filed away just in case we should one day feel the need to look back). We do very little during the Summer, it's fabulous! Life at its best!

In those early days, I was quite structured in my approach to educating but these days apart from Miss P who has started working quite seriously towards 'exam stuff' we're really rather relaxed and tend to be more autonomous. I have to admit that many years back when I first heard about autonomous learning I was very slightly horrified at the thought. You see, 'autonomous' quite literally means allowing the child to find their own way. In those early days I wasn't at all confident and had to follow the traditional system of ridged subjects that I myself had been subjected to as a child. It didn't occur to me that it was possible for someone to learn without actually being taught. Over the years I've witnessed first hand how this autonomous approach actually (dare I say it?) 'works!'
I don't suppose I even considered an autonomous approach until my disaster of 2011. Understandably, following such a traumatic event my head was in no clear space to think about anything other than survival and getting through each day. This became the pattern for well over a year until such a time when I was once more emotionally available and in a strong enough place to consider the educational needs of the children. I am grateful for our togetherness at that time, we needed each other at a time where in reality no one else could really help. Amazingly enough, although we did very little 'school' work, the children didn't regress but actually progressed. They learned a lot about death (not so cool) but also about each other.
On my journey so far I have encountered many children who have been autonomously educated and......have gone to university! Yes, it's don't have to go to school to make it to uni!

Last year I was fortunate enough to meet a lovely family with five children, all of whom were and are autonomously educated. They were amazing! Delightful children and a truly inspiring family. You can find out more about them here Christian Unschooling
Well after realizing that these children were actually okay and others I know who had traveled a similar path, I began to research the idea further. Last Summer everything seemed to be pointing towards an even more relaxed way of approaching learning. Structure was not welcome by my youngest two. They moaned and groaned when I suggested 'educational' activities and unless I (almost quite literally) tied them to the ground, they disappeared to escape the bore of the whole affair. I don't blame them. Can you imagine being forced to learn something that is of no real interest to you? We learn at our best when we are free to chose what we want. There is a 'right time' for most things; sometimes perhaps a little later than might be considered 'the norm' but nether the less if it is meant to be, it will.
This year at Hesfes; our wonderful home educators Summer festival, one of the many talks that took place was on the subject of autonomous education. I can honestly say that I was blown away and totally convinced by the approach. There on the stage sat around ten teenagers all very different in looks and all with a story to tell. One talked of a typical days as 'get up, play X box, go to bed'.....he's studying Physics and Economics at Uni and was incredibly funny, literate and intelligent and a totally charming and inspiring young man. Another young lady recalled the years her sister and her played with Sylvanian families probably way beyond the age that those exposed to peer pressure would use them as they lived in a remote area in France. Once again a knowledgeable and intelligent young lady. In fact, everyone of those young people very confidently sat there bombarded with questions and all very confidently answered. I felt so proud of each and every one of them :-)....does make you question the system!

Quote taken from The Natural Child Project:-
'Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Finally, since many unschooling families have definite plans for college, unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of a school'.

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