Autonomous Learning

What it looks like on a daily basis!

"Kids who are in school just visit life sometimes, and then they have to stop to do homework or go to sleep early or get to school on time. They're constantly reminded they are preparing "for real life," while being isolated from it."
Sandra Dodd

On a forum recently there was a discussion about children who 'did nothing' all day - and in particular the effects of computer games.

Many homeschoolers shared their typical day to show that learning takes place even when 'nothing appears to be being done!'.

I enjoyed Louisa's reply, and she has kindly given me permission to share it here.

A Look at Unschooling

By Louisa Herbs, UK

H (13) and R (11) have been testing my faith in autonomous learning to it's limits and beyond just lately.

We got hold of a complete set of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and they have both been watching Sabrina for what seemed like (but wasn't) 18 hours a day for weeks.

I was starting to get in a major panic about this of course, guilt trip, bad mum, kids not learning etc etc - but I found when I paid really close attention, they were doing loads of other things too, it's just that I was only noticing the Sabrina watching!

In between Sabrina, R has completely re-decorated the interior of her doll's house - making furniture, curtains, bedding, posters and a heap of little accessories, making dolls' and bears' clothes, modelling with clay we dug up from the garden, cooking and reading, plus rehearsing for the panto that her drama school is putting on in December. She's been busy writing a story too.


The other day she started talking to me about Jacqueline Wilson books and how she thought that many of the stories actually featured the same characters over and over again, but with different names and circumstances. I asked her if she thought Jacqueline Wilson's characters in these books were, in fact, just archetypes and she thought they probably were. A bit later she came back with a list of the different archetypes she'd found in Jacqueline Wilson's books and other examples of the same archetype from different stories. We talked a bit about how an author could create a fully formed character instead of an archetype, how people are complex and multi-layered and how children's stories often have archetypes rather than fully formed characters because people think children's stories should have some kind of moral message.

H has taken up chess again in a small way, playing rated chess games online, and has been building K'nex models and reading. In between watching episodes of Sabrina, he was working on the code to build his own DVD player software for his PC, after becoming frustrated with commercial ones that didn't have the features he wanted. He also imported all those Sabrina episodes into film editing software and re-edited them into a mini show telling the story of Salem the Cat!

And of course we were still spending time in purposive conversation about all sorts of topics, and this is after all is the thing that drives the success of autonomous learning!!

Autonomous Learning Panics!

The Sabrina thing has now run it's course as these things do!

In fact, H rejected the programme completely in the end after coming to the conclusion that the characters used magic in a way that constituted a gross mis-use of power. We've been Homeschooling a long time now, but I still get these panics whenever they seem to be doing one thing exclusively.

I had a similar panic over Runescape a few years ago. But my rational self knows it's only because, as a society or perhaps as a generation, we regard computers and tv with some suspicion and don't really value them as a learning resource. If my kids had had their noses in books instead of being glued to the TV, I doubt I would have worried at all.

Silly isn't it!

And of course the more I worried about it, the more I noticed it, to the point where it seemed to me as if they didn't do anything else. But when I paid close attention, there was still loads of other stuff going on. I thought they were obsessed with Sabrina, but it wasn't them it was me! Will that stop me panicking and wondering if I'm ruining my kids' lives next time? Probably not!!!

Homeschooling Math

One of the principles of our Homeschooling since the beginning has been no maths.

At least I mean, no abstract maths. I have always firmly believed that maths is concrete, real-life and everyday and I have never taught it as a discrete subject. Funny then how at this moment R is sitting down absorbedly completing Miquon Maths workbooks, which she insisted I buy for her, using Cuisenaire Rods and H is working his way through the GCSE curriculum using Conquer Maths online curriculum, (which he chose and which is brilliant by the way if anyone's looking for an online maths tutor). R can't wait for the younger curriculum to come online.

These self directed learning, autonomous learning kids. Don't they realise I don't believe in maths as an abstract concept? ....apparently not!

More stories

How autonomous education works for us - by Sonya, UK.
J's son and how he has learned through computer games
My experiences with computer games

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