Friday, 31 July 2009

Thinking about autonomous mongooses

Since autonomous learning appears to be under attack in the Home Education review (I refuse to give the shoddy report a large R for review), I thought I'd tell you about a rather good example I ran into today.

Eldest is assimilating the Japanese language as fast as she can, while bemoaning the apparent lack of information online about Japanese history. That's a job for later - tracking down good sources about Japanese history. E has a tutor (F) whom she sees once a week for an hour to imbibe the intricacies of the Land of the Rising Sun. F is a lovely woman who has become a friend too.

F has gone to Japan for a few weeks well-deserved break. She took with her my daughter's request that she buy my eldest two games - one of which was a Japanese Dictionary and her pupil will pay her for them when she returns. My daughter (E) emerged from her studies an hour or so ago and asked 'when will the pound come down?' That started a long and interesting discussion about exchange rates and I was glad her father was there - one of his university courses was Economics - and he was magnificent in his explanations, and hunted out some rather thick books for E to peruse later. Naturally, she was keen to ascertain how much she would have to pay for her games which had sparked off the query.

So, that's it. The core of it for me. Purposive conversation. The ground we've travelled in the last four years has been amazing. And it's astounding how much each of us has squirreled away in our brains, and incredible how we are able to have ranging and fascinating conversations about weird and wonderful, neutral and ordinary, fashionable and unfashionable, historical and modern... Well, I'm sure you get the picture. About anything.

If I know little about a topic, I find myself drawn to find out. One of my children often beats me to the meat of the subject or I delve and burrow myself to tease out the best bits and gobble them down.

And it is so exciting. Books, chats, films, pictures, internet, DVDs, CDs... anything and everything. All deeply fulfilling. Another great thing is that I don't have to pretend to know a subject inside out. I can truly say, "Great mongooses! I never thought about that. Let's look it up!"

And off we go. And go. And learn and learn and learn some more. And more and more and it never stops. And I hope it never stops for me, but I know it will never stop for my children because they've started thinking and comparing and planning and assessing and reassessing and philosophising and recasting and remembering and...

How extraordinarily fortunate we all are to live in a world where knowledge is spread out in front of us like a massive, ever-bountiful banquet.

You need never be hungry for knowledge again. Or, if you are, you can satisfy your desire to consume the goodies whenever you like.

Viva, autonomous! Long live child-led education! Long live learner-centred knowledge. Whatever you call it it works.

The surge of curiosity and crackling of interest sizzles in the air.

And, because my younger daughter (Y) asked a question about those fuzzy little fellas a few days ago I now know a lot more about mongooses (yes, they can be called mongeese but aren't usually)!

Mongooses and the exchange rate. An unbeatable combination.


  1. Aye aye captain! Long live autonomy!


    But I would say that, wouldn't I? ;)

  2. Love it! Did you try to learn nothing on July 24th (Learn Nothing Day)? We tried really hard by going to a shopping centre (surely not a font of knowledge) and still couldn't avoid discovering a few new things!

  3. We attempted learn nothing day here... failed within the first few minutes when DS (5) said that he had learnt how to be bored.....