Thursday, 19 February 2009

our approach

We are following an 'autonomous' approach to home education (known as 'unschooling' in the US). This means that we try to follow the children's individual interests rather than imposing a structured curriculum on them.

Our basic premise is that real learning only occurs if the person is interested, engaged and involved. We are particularly keen to encourage Tess & Brodie's individuality, creativity and personal passions, and for them to have a childhood filled with fun and adventure. 

We agree with the view that education should light (or fan) fires and 'draw out, rather than fill up'. There is little point in memorising a load of facts that have no interest or relevance to the child's current or future life, and that will be forgotten once the test is done. It is better to learn how to learn, then the person is well equipped to find any answers that are needed in the future. We also believe that it is more meaningful to learn through real world experiences and within a relevant context.

We are therefore not seeking to 'teach' Tess & Brodie, but to facilitate their learning. We see ourselves as coaches rather than teachers, helping them to direct their own learning, observing and offering ideas about what they might find interesting, how to take something to the next stage, but letting them set the direction and trusting that they will take out of each experience or activity what is of interest of relevance to them. 

We will not be acquiring knowledge ourselves in order to impart it to Tess & Brodie (though they may choose to learn directly from experts on occasion). In fact, we expect to be learning alongside them. From what we have read of others taking this approach, and also from our experience already, much of the learning will come through conversations and discussion - amongst ourselves and with other people. Testing - formal or informal - is completely irrelevant in this context. As are age-based learning goals or targets. And timetables - learning happens all the time, it is not something that needs to be scheduled in to the day. 

On a day-to-day basis, what this means is that we try to expose the children to new experiences, to follow through on areas of interest, to take advantage of trips & activities organised by the local home ed groups, to encourage questions and answer them honestly and directly and to find out the answers if we don't know them, to work on individual projects in areas of interest, and to help Tess & Brodie to do activities when they specifically ask for them. It's hard to give a definitive list as we cannot predict what direction we will follow. Hopefully this blog will build over time to give a better insight into our approach and how Tess & Brodie's interests develop over the coming years.   

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