Monday, 12 March 2012

Learning the old fashioned way; autonomous education, the oldest method in the world

One of the most endearing features of autonomous home educators in both this country and the USA is the way that many of them seem to be convinced that they are doing something daring and revolutionary by leaving their kids to learn what they wish. They apparently believe that this is a radical idea; that they are on the cutting edge of educational theory! Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact there is something rather quaint about those who choose to adopt this antiquated method of educating their children.

Modern humans have been around for at least 10,000 years. Until perhaps 3000 years ago, there was nothing at all like a modern school. For the first 97% of humanity’s existence, home education was the only game in town. Gradually, the idea of sending children to be educated by strangers became popular. It was a slow process. In Elizabethan England, only about one child in eight attended school; all of them boys. In other words, as recently as the 16th century, only one child in sixteen in this country went to school. Things continued in this way for another three hundred years or so. Most children were educated at home. One of the commonest ways of undertaking this was to let the children themselves choose what to learn; or indeed whether they wished to learn anything at all. The best way to see how this worked is to look at a fictionalised account of home education in the early part of the 19th century. Pride and Prejudice is generally reckoned to give a good picture of life among the upper classes at that time. Here is Elizabeth Bennet describing the education which she and her four sisters received;

Such of us as wished to learn, never wanted the means. We were always
Encouraged to read…those who chose to be idle, certainly might.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this sort of education, especially for girls, was very common at that time. As for the ordinary working class child; home education was almost universal.

As a matter of fact, it is universal, compulsory schooling which is the radical alternative in education; not home education, which has been around for at least a hundred thousand years. Those who choose this path are not blazing some new trail, but turning backwards to an older way of life. They put one in mind of the American Amish, who prefer to follow a deliberately archaic way of life. The one thing that radical unschoolers and autonomous educators are not is revolutionary.


  1. Those unschoolers and autonomous educators are pretty selective in what they tell you about their methods. When you can enquire deeper into methods and techniques used in the autonomous and unschooling approach to education, children appear to be left to spend hour after hour at the PC.
    The Amish comparison is interesting, particularly when you consider the increasingly popular use of right wing religious computer resourses in home ed.

  2. 'radical unschoolers and autonomous educators'
    IMHE...hardly, they haven't got the drive, imagination or the financial resourses.

  3. The main proponent of unschooling and autonomy MF-W. He's more than happy to flog you a book or two on the pays his rent.

  4. "They put one in mind of the American Amish"

    Good point.

    You couldn't help but notice the home educating mothers sporting some rather impressive facial hair.

  5. Yeah, chattering class network convinced they're doing something daring and revolutionary and then discussing it ad nauseam on he-uk.

  6. Those unschooling and autonomous 'educating' parents also turn out to be the most aggressive. There is certainly more than just a hint of sociopathic behaviour when you encounter them.

  7. I've come across some very judgemental autonomous home ed families and their kids seem to be hideous bullies. Of course this is allowed, as long as their child isn't on the receiving end!

  8. Of course, MF-W would never collate the statistics of autonoumously educated children being such horrendous bullies, he'd only do that regarding the school system.
    Many people do know the unquestionable truth in what you say but it's the dirty little secret of HE and the issue stays hidden often squashed..It's plain to see that the parents of such children are right up there on the sociopath/psychopath score chart, they'll openly admit that they believe society's rules don't apply to them or their offspring. MF-W has said such things. Some of those parents managed to climb pretty high up in home ed circles, through attending the camps, meets and conferences and creating cliques and gangs and gossip circles.
    MF_W has been pretty snide and aggressive himself, during his long lasting mission to become a HE internet guru. I've witnessed him play in a very nasty manipulative manner, the guy will lie through his teeth when it suits him.
    The sad truth is, he's been playing the home ed community for fools for years, and it would've been rather profitable for him if he'd had better business skills and advice..

  9. The truth is that the home ed scene was taken over by 'right on' home education politics..and amateur HE politicians. That 'right on' manifesto was quickly replaced by a developing form of home ed fascism, where you must be seen to agree with the TCS, vegetarian and autonomous HE direction rigorously stipulated by MF-W and others. It targeted the families that were new to home ed and was spread by a relatively new electronic media..the net. If you didn't agree with them by 100% they couldn't really handle the dissent and took to using class barriers, stonewalling and isolation tactics.

  10. Bear in mind that some of these amateur HE politicians are still very, very active. They've been behind the consultation meetings in many areas and have supplanted their opinions and voices over those of the people living in the area, there has been no consultation with the grass roots home ed community and a home ed cabal with a 'left/right wing' agenda has been running riot, high on their own delusions of self grandeur.
    Badman was never an issue or threat to HE, the socioeconomic climate ensured that Badman nor anyone else was ever a threat to was easy to spot a political bluff led by MPs who needed to be seen to be 'acting in the interests of child welfare', but it was only acting..if the MPs had been really serious they'd have had all the loopholes sewn tight.

  11. Anonymous (who, going by their IP address, is talking to themselves) said,

    "vegetarian and autonomous HE direction rigorously stipulated by MF-W and others."

    MF-W isn't vegetarian! How well do you know him?

  12. 'MF-W isn't vegetarian! How well do you know him?'
    Well enough to remember him when he was..wore it on his sleeve as I recall, and down his chest.
    This IP snooping hobby of yours really proves the point I was making about HE fascism. In the EU it's considered as a breach of data protection law.

  13. But not well enough to know that he is no longer vegetarian? And I certainly don't remember him being aggressive about vegetarianism. I met him several times at barbecues that involved meat and vegetarian choices whilst he was still vegetarian and he didn't say a word about other people eating meat.

    Maybe you should have a word with Simon if you are concerned about access to IP addresses, since he chooses to make them available. I notice you don't dispute the fact that you are talking to yourself.

    I doubt it would be considered a breach of data protection law, otherwise how is it freely available to anyone who bothers to look? I didn't have to break any laws to find out that you are talking to yourself. The IP address of anyone who visits a UK web site is made available to the web site owner by their ISP (unless the visitor takes measures to hide their IP address), so you are either wrong, or all UK ISPs are breaking the law.

    I think you are confusing people stating and discussing their own views with someone who has the power to control what others say and do. The most MF-W and other email list owners can do is throw someone off an email list. They cannot force you to agree with them or do anything you don't want to do, so how are they fascists? I'd be interested to hear how MF-W managed to force you to become vegetarian against your will!

  14. 'well enough to remember him when he was'

  15. Talking to myself eh?
    I can understand why you MF-W followers/fans might like to try to paint that picture.
    However, some might say I was putting forward a point of view or a warning that many home educators are getting increasingly aggressive and their children bullies. Some might recognise that I was raising a point or warning about HE control freaks and their sociopathic behaviour.
    And...commenting regarding experience about not trusting someone who lies through his teeth and is more than prepared to throw someone off 'his' list merely because they don't follow an unwritten doctrine.

    By the way...the point above, made on April 13th, that comment made it all worthwhile.

  16. you might care to explain just what you're doing with all the ISPs that you're looking up.

  17. Anonymous wrote,
    "throw someone off 'his' list"

    Why the apostrophes around his? Are you suggesting it's not his list? If you hadn't already realised, that's the way the internet, and email lists in particular, work. You can throw anyone of a list you start for any reason you like or for no reason at all. But for what it's worth, every time I've heard that someone has been thrown off his list and is crying foul, it's always turned out that they broke one of the rules that are made clear when you sign up to the list. He doesn't need to lie, it has always been there in black and white (or whatever colours you have your screen set to) in the list archives, available for anyone to read.

    It's probably true that some people manage to avoid ejection despite not following the rules to the letter, but that's the way the world works. People often get away with crime in the real world but it doesn't mean that those that get sent to prison don't deserve it.

    I'm not doing anything with the ISPs I've looked up. There's not a lot anyone can do with such details without a court order. It's not that useful to know that someone uses Blueyonder as their ISP, or that their ISP's computer is in Birmingham, for instance, so it's not information I would bother to gather and keep. Why not have a look yourself if you are interested. You can also read such thrilling details such as the web browser people use or their screen resolution. ;-)

  18. You, by obtaining ISPs are able to access/hack E-mail accounts, possibly personal data, financial data and addresses. It's quite disturbing that you're now able to steal my identity and commit fraud. You state that you have a working knowledge regarding ISPs, browsers and using websites that are tools for phishing. I consider it a clear threat that you're involved in cyberstalking and initiating online mobbing.
    Far from being interested in screen resoloution I presume that you feel the need to gather ISP information to intimidate and initiate/organise criminal activity against me.
    A clear indication of HE bullying.

  19. Cant say I really understand the point most of the other Anonymous posters are making. I agree with: "The one thing that radical unschoolers and autonomous educators are not is revolutionary."

    Its true that within the history of education these ideas arent particularly radical at all. BUT, it is a radical stance in our current circumstances where people are more likely to follow the herd

  20. Ive just stumbled on this site and am confused by its tone and purpose. It seems that the blogger stands in judgement if everyone andni one breath states autonomous education is cult-like and in the next breadth it's the way we all lived for thousands of years. Seems contradictory as cults are usually a minority pursuit.

    Anyway, I am new to HE and have decided to go the autonomous route because it's right for my son. I have other children in school, although I'd prefer they weren't but they have made their decision. I have no interest in what others do or what they think of me, I merely trawl the Internet for ideas and advice. As far as bullying goes, well it is perfectly possible and I would add, the norm, to have an autonomous household and still hold dear to conventional moral values and socially acceptable behaviour.

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