One of the great difficulties one finds when debating with some home educating parents is in the definition of terms. In other words, being sure that you are both talking of the same thing and mean the same thing by the same words. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than with the use of the expression 'autonomous education'. I am regularly denounced for not understanding this concept and many proponents of the practice undertake to explain in simple language exactly what it is. Unfortunately, their definitions are not all identical.
I have been moved to reflect upon this recently by the suggestion made by a few people commenting here that I am myself an autonomous educator! This is an astounding proposition, but one which I am quite prepared to entertain. Let me first outline my educational philosophy. I believe that there exists a body of knowledge and canon of literature which it is my duty to impart to my child. I decided what was important and set out to get her to learn what I had chosen in the most effective ways that I could find. Sometimes this was by means of conversation and experiment; at other times by use of books and visits to lectures and museums. Although I was always happy to explore any by-ways of knowledge which took her fancy, I worked strictly to a curriculum of my own devising. That this system could possibly be described as 'autonomous education', I find astonishing! If it is, then I fear that the very expression is essentially meaningless, or rather can have so many meanings that it is pointless to use it.
For what it is worth, my own understanding of autonomous education is that the child herself is in control of her learning and decides for herself which direction the education should take. This is why so many autonomous educators were opposed to the idea contained in both the Badman report and the CSF BIll, that an annual plan of education should be provided by parents. Since the education was directed by the child, how could the parent predict what would be happening? I would be very interested to hear any other definitions of autonomous education which readers wish to provide. I cannot think it true that I really am, as some suggested a couple of days ago, an autonomous educator, but I am open minded about this.
Perhaps using conversation as the primary educational tool qualifies one to be described in this way, or being prepared to allow the child to investigate all sorts of other areas outside the planned curriculum. It would, after some of the harsh things which I have had to say about this pedagogical technique, be ironic in the extreme should I turn out to be such an educator myself!