Thursday, 6 August 2009


I never did get to chill out like I wanted to. The joy of genuinely choosing when I went to bed, rather than feeling the need to keep someone company or wait for someone to fall asleep, was somewhat lost as on the Monday dd2 wanted to watch tv downstairs until later than I would have liked, and on the Tuesday she was ill and I was cleaning, tidying and packing until later than I would have been if she'd been fit to help me. Also discovering that my bedding was damp in the dryer when I was intending to go to bed didn't help. There was much more cleaning and tidying to be done than I had thought and it didn't all get done, not by a long shot.

We got away safely on the Wednesday morning to catch our train. We had plenty of time in the end so I wished I hadn't rushed quite so much at home, as I accidentally shut a cat in my bedroom, doh. They had all been seen outside shortly before, but I'd gone back in to sort out an order. Thankfully she was found the next day so we didn't come home to a disaster. Meanwhile, as my Facebook friends will know, our first train of two was late, and we missed our connection by a bare handful of minutes. This was doubly frustrating as the platforms were back-to-back, we could have simply stepped off one and more or less onto the other without having to cross any tracks. (By the way, if anyone needs to know for some reason which platform a train is arriving at or departing from, try the National Rail website, though not all stations give platform information.) We waited for the next direct train, which was two hours later, in the Costa coffee shop (I do like Costa...) which at York station is in the old waiting room, a brilliantly-situated space at the end of the bridge, with a good view across the station. Fantastic for people-watching!

By missing our connection we also lost our reserved seats, and the next train was quite busy. We got two seats together, though not at a table, and also we were between windows, and settled in. At Newcastle we had a delightful addition to the carriage, a woman who proceeded to announce loudly over the phone that she was on the train with a can of beer and then spend most of the journey swearing down her phone. Thankfully that was the limit of her obnoxiousness so I read, and dd2 occupied herself, and we occasionally looked out of the bits of window that we could see. The view of Alnmouth in full sun from the train is stunning.

We did a lot of the same stuff we did last year at the same place but some was different... In the couple of days before we joined them, dh had taken the kids to shiver on North Berwick beach, and to pick fruit at Belhaven Fruit Farm but they mostly seem to have enjoyed the Burns' wii and trampoline, and the unfamiliar toys in the house.

Posting this now before I go away again! Will come and post some more another time...

autonomously learning to read...

This is prompted by another blog: Home Education Heretic - Real Books- learning to read autonomously

See what I did with the title? I think that I've just said what he meant to say. Or maybe not, it's hard to tell. I guess I could go and ask him but, well, as an autonomous educator I am clearly far too sloppy in my thinking to go "Hang on a minute, what did you actually mean here?" If Mr Webb means to discuss the process of an autodidactic child learning to read, that's one thing. If he means to discuss how a child learns to read and then uses the skills autonomously, that's something else. Isn't it? Let's be precise about this now.

Anywho. If I can rise above the snarkiness that such uneducated polemic produces, I'll try to get my words out straight...

Here's my problem with your supposition, Mr Webb, that learning to read by 'osmosis' is the preserve of the supposedly very special conditions that are described in that blog. The conditions required for such learning are supportive, interested caregivers and a written-language-rich environment that the child can explore more-or-less at will. Visible examples of the use of reading, for pleasure or for the benefit of the reader in some other way, will contribute to the child's interest and desire. These conditions are not, or at least should not, be that special in our culture, and they are not related to the education level or wealth of the parent(s.) I was one such child who does not remember learning to read, could certainly read before the age of 5, my parents are very averagely educated. I left school at 16, have a little bit of further ed under my belt, not what I would think Mr Webb would consider 'well educated' and my self-taught readers are doing just fine, thanks.

The real problem with 'Real Books' in the classroom setting that Mr Webb appears to have overlooked is that the conditions are so different to the individualised learning of home-ed, whether intended or otherwise, that there is no starting point for the osmosis of reading to spread from. The group setting is too large for the random 'what does this mean?' and the passive learning from watching someone read instructions or labels or directions because they need to understand something cannot occur. The teacher-pupil relationship and the scale of the setting is the problem, not the method.

Having got that out of the way, now I'm left wondering what prompted the blog in question. Because I can't imagine any autonomously home-educating parent suggesting that leaving a child completely to their own devices will automatically result in their learning to read. So who, exactly, is promoting this without the understanding/assumption that autonomous ed. is about facilitating when required? And what parent would deliberately say 'I'm not going to tell you what that word says, you'll have to learn it by yourself'?? It makes no sense. Perhaps I'm expecting too much clarity of thinking.