Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 141–154 | Cite as

Informal Home Education: Philosophical Aspirations put into Practice

  • Alan ThomasEmail author
  • Harriet Pattison


Informal home education occurs without much that is generally considered essential for formal education—including curriculum, learning plans, assessments, age related targets or planned and deliberate teaching. Our research into families conducting this kind of education enables us to consider learning away from such imposed structures and to explore how children go about learning for themselves within the context of their own socio-cultural setting. In this paper we consider what and how children learn when no educational agenda is arranged for them and we link this manner of learning to the Deweyan ideas of learning as transactional and learning-in-context. We also use our empirical evidence to explore the notion of ZPD with regard to informal learning and to consider how children, without specific guidance, go about charting a course of learning through the ZPD. We consider the quality of informal learning particularly with regard to the educational aim of developing reflective and critical thinking, showing how these are integral to informal learning. We suggest that a much wider conception of what learning is and how it happens is needed, away from the confines of formal educational structures.


Autonomous education Unschooling Transactional Socio-cultural Home education Informal learning Curriculum 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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