Saturday, 30 March 2013
The converts to autonomous education
I was interested to see yesterday one of my most vociferous critics here, a keen autonomous educator, mention in passing that he or she had tried to teach a child to read at the age of two. We saw the same thing with David Hough up in Cambridge; the education begins in a way that many people would call hot-housing and then later, the parents are converted to autonomous education. This even happened with Mike Fortune-Wood, that arch apostle of the autonomous home education movement. He writes that at first he did ‘home at school’, and only later become a convert to autonomy. I have seen this sort of thing many times before, not only among home educators, but also with friends of ours who sent their children to school. One notable case was that of a man who began with ante-natal education, involving a loudspeaker pressed against his wife’s belly during pregnancy. (No, honestly, this was not me!) When the kid was born, he stuck labels on everything, so that the kid was seeing words like table and door at baby eye level. What is curious is that he gave all this up after six months and became strongly opposed to this sort of game.
I have remarked many times before that there is something a little fanatical and cult-like about some of the more enthusiastic autonomous types. It seems to be less a pedagogy and more a philosophy of life; almost a religion. Now as I am sure that readers know, converts are the very devil for being keen as mustard about their new faith. We see this with Catholics and I have also encountered it with those who convert to Islam and Judaism. Often, these characters are ten times more strict about their faith than those who were born into it. I am wondering if something of the sort might happen with those who are, as it were, converts to autonomous education? Anybody reading what Jan Fortune-Wood has to say about the education of children would surely think that her faith in autonomous education was bred in the bone, but it is nothing of the sort. A few years ago, she too was dead keen on ‘school at home’. She had an epiphany and was converted to the cause of autonomy; of which she is now a champion.
All this would make sense really. One notices that those who send their children to school and then change to home education are frequently more fanatical about the business than people like me who have been involved for decades. There definitely seems to be a different mindset among those who deregister their children, which sets them apart from those who did not send their children in the first place. This too has the feeling of a conversion.
I am not being dogmatic about this, it is just something which I have noticed over the years. Do readers know of any other well known autonomous educators who began by doing ‘school at home’?