Monday, September 14, 2009

autonomous home education - what is it (copy of article)

As I mentioned in our introduction and another post, we don't school and the children get educated in an autonomous way.
I'm just going to copy and paste 3 articles into the next blog entries now, which explain very well, what autonomous education actually is. I'm posting them here, so you know what our children are 'doing', how they are living, and when you see them and be with them (and us :-) ), you know the reason then why we say or don't say certain things, why we don't quizz them about counting, letters, reading, timetables or something else, except if they would ask us to. And maybe when you read this, you will understand the rationale behind it and might see the beauty of it - and maybe not, and that's fine too :-).
So, here is the first arcticle, from the following website:

Home Education
What is autonomous home education? Well, if your personal philosophy of education tends more to the “child led” end of the spectrum, you will probably naturally give your child a degree of autonomy – in their life, and in their learning.

What does this mean? This is what the Oxford English Dictionary says:


Autonomous: “self-governing or independent”
Autonomy: “1. self-government and 2. freedom of action.”

Autonomous learning, whether home-based or in school, is learning that is driven by the learner, not by someone else. It’s all about the motivation to learn, and where that comes from. The crucial difference is between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.


Intrinsic Motivation

(c) Anita Patterson

Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within, driven by the person’s own interests and passions.

For example, I’ve built this website partly because I wanted to create a future where I can support myself without waged work, and partly because I am passionate about home education and want to provide people with the information they need to make choices about it. In order to do this, I’ve learnt how to build a website. That is intrinsic motivation.

Autonomous home education is based on the assumption that children will direct their own learning in the same way - given sufficiently interesting and stimulating opportunities , things, people etc around them, and help and support as and when they need it.

A good example is learning to read - in the same way that learning the language of website building for me is a means to an end, autonomously home educated children will learn to read as a means to end, i.e. because they want to read a particular thing. You (might) be amazed to see quite how much a child can learn through their passions , in this case football - an apparently endless source of rich and involving things to learn about.

Children and young people will also learn other skills and knowledge sets, from an infinite range depending on their interests, and with the support and facilitation of their parents, and other involved adults and older kids.


Extrinsic Motivation
By contrast extrinsic motivation is the type that is imposed from outside, for example by a parent, school, or government. It is based on a system of rewards, and the punishments that are the flip side of rewards. So for example: learn this curriculum in order to get your GCSEs, which will win you the approval of your parents, teachers, and society in general.
On a day-to-day basis, you (attempt to) impose extrinsic motivation whenever you offer a reward for completing a worksheet, or being nice to a sibling, or whatever.

At this point I need to put my cards on the table and say I don’t really believe in extrinsic motivation. What do I mean by this?

(c) Leah-Anne Thompson.

Well, I think it’s obvious that people other than the child can try to impose extrinsic motivation. However, I don’t believe that it is possible for one person to make another take on their motivation.

If I tell you I will give you five pounds if you fill in a survey for me, you may well fill in the survey – but not because you were intrinsically motivated to fill it in. Instead, you are doing it – probably, though I won’t know unless you tell me - because you want the fiver.

What sort of motivation is this? Well it’s intrinsic – because it is your motivation, i.e. to get the £5. In the same way, if I ask my child to work through a handwriting worksheet, the only way I could persuade him to do it would be to promise him some treat that he wouldn’t otherwise get. Only then would he do it.

So, when an extrinsic reward is offered, you get a mismatch between the motivations of the two people. My motivation is to get you to fill in my survey, or my son to do a worksheet; whereas yours is to get £5 (or to please me; or whatever), and my son’s is to get some treat or other.

BUT - neither you, nor he, are doing what I want you to do for the same reason that I want you to do it.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask?
Everyone gets something they want.

(c) Dawn Hudson

Well, yes – but in the limited sense that you have altered what you wanted (perhaps you wanted to go outside and play football – oops, no that’s my son) to fit in with what I wanted (by the way, this is what kids in school have to do all the time).

This is why I say that all motivation is intrinsic. But, what changes for the child (or any learner) when another person tries to impose their goals on them, is that the learner invariably learns something different to what the "imposer" wants them to learn.

My survey filler learns that sometimes it pays to tick a few boxes.

My son learns how important handwriting is to me, and that he can use this to his advantage to get ice cream after his tea.


The Problem Is....

....that he does NOT learn to enjoy writing by hand for it's own sake. In fact he may well learn, if I've timed my request wrong in terms of his neurological development, that handwriting is difficult and that he can't do it very well, and that he doesn't want to learn to do it for these reasons.
By imposing my extrinsic motivation onto him, I have actually damaged his intrinsic motivation.

This does not matter so much when it is between you and me, as adults in an equal power relationship - because you can simply choose to take the £5, or not. It is not so clear with a child who is dependent on you, for many things but most importantly, for your love and approval. This dependence is part of what leads them to accede to your request.

These dynamics take over in the mind of the learner, pushing intrinsic motivation to the side. The fact is, that imposing external motivation damages internal motivation, because it persuades the child to shift the focus away from what they originally wanted, onto what you wanted - and then work out their best response given the limits of what you have imposed on then. This is the complete opposite of enabling the autonomous learner - in fact it takes their autonomy away.

I recommend you have a look at Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards for more information on this; he covers a lot of the available research on motivation. Also invaluable if you are interested in Autonomous Home Education is Jan Fortune-Wood's Doing it their way: home based education and autonomous learning. This book impressively sets out the full theoretical and philosophical place of autonomous home education as a sound theory of learning.

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I'm a mother of two beautiful children. We are parenting in an autonomous way, not schooling and learning by living, taking each other seriously and all of our needs into account. So our life is very rich and exciting as we have the time to 'smell the roses' :-) and live in the moment, 'going with the flow'. We are part of a sustainable community. It's wonderful to live in harmony with the earth and for the children to grow up conscious of their environment. I'm a Yoga Instructor and BodyTalk Practitioner ( BodyTalk stimulates your body’s innate ability to heal itself on all levels and no other modality has ever made that much sense to me...hence why I've become a practitioner:-). I also work as an independent Sales Advisor for the Learning Ladder, promoting and selling educational books and toys, facilitating get togethers in people's homes or public centres, as the products are only available via direct selling and it's something that the kids and I do together to 'earn' our home library. With two little children, my main yoga practice is 'living my yoga' in whatever I do.

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