Thursday, 6 August 2009

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.

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