I watched the first in a new series about children’s development last week called Planet Child. Did you see it?
In it the twin doctors, Chris and Xand van Tulleken, were observing how children in other parts of the world are given greater independence at a very young age, having very different lifestyles from those in the UK, and how this impacts on their development.
As a result of these observations the doctors set up an experiment for three groups of seven year olds to simulate that experience of independence, where the children had to navigate their way across London on their own without their parents. (Safely under observation – although the kids didn’t know that).
It was dead scary watching!
Scary for me as a parent – not the kids – they seemed happy enough, and it was fascinating to watch.
Now, I know ‘it is telly’, as in it’s all very contrived, well edited to get us to believe what they want us to believe, and has many flaws as an experiment as such. And there were many unanswered questions.
However a fascinating premise that came out of it was that it seems the more time children spend on unstructured activities, the better it is for their overall development.
And this immediately made me think of all the home educating families who use less structure and more autonomy in their approach to their children’s learning and are often criticised for it, many educationists believing that kids learn nothing without a structured regime of learning. Yet it appears it is exactly this autonomy which gives the opportunity for the children to develop many essential personal skills, needed in order to be able to apply themselves and what they’ve learned to real life. Life-skills in other words. Skills which are often inhibited by an approach that spoon feeds them a curriculum in a structured environment where they’re told what to do, when and how to do it. Like school.
Ironic! Since it is so often this autonomous approach, often interpreted as the parents being uninvolved (so wrong!), which many professionals find so hard to get their so-called educated heads around, even though there is increasing proof as these home educators graduate that an autonomous approach works well.
Autonomous approaches to education don’t drill kids to follow an extrinsic curriculum, pass tests and get grades, as schools do, (even though most of the home schooled youngsters go on to choose to gain qualifications in their own autonomous way). What it does, is develop a broad-thinking, educated person with a wide range of skills that enable them to make appropriate independent choices.
Unstructured activities are good for kids, the programme concluded (although clearly within certain boundaries – ‘it is telly’ after all!) Unstructured education has the same advantages.
Just thought I’d say in case you’re having doubts about your autonomous home educating approach!