Finding an Educational Philosophy

Resistance to teaching

As I listen more to what Kai wants, I come to realise that he utterly detests uninvited direct teaching and will do all he can to resist it. Sometimes it is a complete refusal,  such as  when he is asked to do handwriting  or  showing no interest when I try to explain how to do a maths problem.

Kai’s learning is generally self motivated, though he is happy to involve me as a spectator or facilitator, but only on his terms. As a result I have become increasingly interested in the autonomous learning approach.

Can I not teach?

This is a misnomer, since I we all teach all the time. I guess what I really mean is: can I allow the process of learning to take place naturally in an uncontrived way?

Prior to home-educating, I regularly coerced Kai to work on spelling and grammar, and occasionally maths. I’m a fairly liberal mum so I didn’t require much from him, but it was important to me that he did something in addition to school. I felt that he would get left behind if we didn’t do some “work” after school. This was exacerbated by the fact that all around me other parents were talking of 11+ exams, boarding schools and Kumon.

The current system is highly persuasive because it produces results, but at what cost? A damaged mind according to John Holt and the inability to see the benefits of learning for the love of it; learning becomes  what Jan Fortune Wood describes as “an object with which to court affection and notice.” ( Doing it There way, page 87)

Perhaps I should focus less on trying to teach Kai and concentrate on my own learning and development. Kai often shows a great willingness to participate in activities that I’m engaged in, but perhaps school’s pedagogical style has interfered with this ancient way of learning. This silent and unobtrusive method enabled Kai to perfectly learn the intricacies of speech and movement.

In fact, some educational theorists argue that most real learning is a natural and innately driven activity.(I didn’t need an expert to tell me that!). Roland Meighan states that:

“Parents soon find out that young children are natural learners…most of this learning is not the result of teaching, but rather a constant and universal learning activity as natural as breathing.”(From Roland Meighan’s column in Natural Parent no.2 December 1997.)

In the Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff notes how children in the Yequana tribe often watched the males in the village cutting down trees and used the same equipment to mimic the adults’ behaviour, completely autonomously: the children simply walked away when they wished.

In light of these observations, I resisted the desire to put out maths sheets for Kai today, or do any other educational planning. Today Kai had the freedom to choose; the only proviso was no computer games or DVDS.

So how did he use his time?

Due to a late night he was a little sleepy(reading until late) and spent a large part of the day lying on the couch; however, he also spent 2 hours on BBC Bite size doing maths and learning about debating. These activities are designed for key stage 3(yr 7, 8 and 9). It was interesting watching him answer questions for which he had received no teaching: questions such as ∛64 which he answered correctly and understood, though others I’m sure were guesses.

These observations suggest that an autonomous education may be the most suitable method for Kai.


About SJ

A mother, writer and free-spirited home-educator with a passion for challenging the norm.
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