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  • Author or Editor: Peter Kraftl x
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Diverse learning spaces for children and young people
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This book offers a comparative analysis of alternative education in the UK, focusing on learning spaces that cater for children and young people. It constitutes one of the first book-length explorations of alternative learning spaces outside mainstream education - including Steiner, human scale and forest schools, care farms and homeschooling.Based on original research with teachers, parents and young people at over 50 learning spaces, Geographies of alternative education demonstrates the importance of a geographical lens for understanding alternative education. In so doing, it develops contemporary theories of autonomy, emotion/affect, habit, intergenerational relations and life-itself. The book will appeal to academics and postgraduates in the fields of geography, sociology, education and youth studies. Given ongoing concerns about the state’s role in providing children’s education, and an increase in the number of alternative education providers in the UK and elsewhere, the book also highlights several critical questions for policy makers and practitioners.

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Building on chapter 5, this chapter examines a distinct set of ways in which alternative learning spaces may be enlivened: in the movement of human bodies within and between learning spaces. Many alternative educators argue that children in their learning spaces should cultivate different kinds of bodily movements from learners in mainstream schools. These diverse movements include combination, movement-between places, stillness, walking, repetition and gradual withdrawal. Thereafter, the chapter demonstrates how some educators are engaged in the production of particular learning habits, which flow from those bodily movements. The work of Félix Ravaisson on habit is developed to explore how habits are channelled and worked-out in interpersonal relations in alternative learning spaces. In so doing, this chapter provides a key bridging point to the book's remaining chapters. It also contributes to recent theorisations of mobility and habit in the social sciences.

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This chapter introduces the key conceptual frameworks that are deployed and developed in the book. It begins by situating the book within recent geographies of education and childhood, sub-disciplinary concerns that form the immediate context for this book and my own research. It then highlights three theoretical strands that inform the analysis and which each defy simple labels: ‘radical’ theories of education, informal education, and alternative education; diverse economic and autonomous geographies; nonrepresentational geographies and the politics of life-itself. Cross-reference to longer-standing work on sociologies of education and education studies is also made throughout this chapter. Attention is also paid to critiques of ‘radical’ and alternative education approaches.

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This chapter provides a systematic overview of the case studies discussed in this book. It is divided into rough ‘types’, focusing, in turn, on: Care Farms; Forest Schools; Homeschooling; Democratic and Human-Scale Schooling; Steiner Schooling; Montessori Schooling. The chapter is a touchstone for the later, thematic chapters. Each section includes an outline of the following with regard to each type: history, development and key proponents (where appropriate); main pedagogical principles and practices; academic research concerning that approach; significant ‘moments’ where that approach appears in this book. Each section ends with a note on the distribution of each type of alternative education in the UK (and elsewhere, where appropriate) and a note on the kinds of examples visited in the course of the research for this book. There is relatively little academic research regarding some educational types (e.g. Care Farms) whilst there exist significant bodies of research on others (e.g. Homeschooling). The conclusion highlights some significant areas for further research on alternative learning spaces, making the case for more comparative, multi-site studies.

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This chapter is about some of the selected spatialities – the co-implicated spaces-and-times – that characterise alternative learning spaces. It focuses on how alternative educators combine spatial and temporal techniques to make learning happen within their respective settings. Empirically, it attends to three aspects of the learning environment: the creation of order, the absence of uniformity and material objects, and the presence of material and temporal mess. Taking inspiration from Actor-Network Theory, the argument is for a greater attention to mess, whilst acknowledging that alternative learning spaces are characterised by an interplay between mess and order (or ‘dis/order’). Finally, it is argued that material dis/order is often geared to the production of particular modes of feeling – not only emotions, but affects and atmospheres. It is in creating those modes of feeling that capacities for children to learn are constituted. In doing so, the chapter develops recent work in geography and education studies on emotion, affect and feeling.

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This chapter builds on and extends previous definitions of ‘alternative education’. By drawing directly upon the views of educators and learners involved in alternative learning spaces, a key spatial frame of reference is introduced: connection/disconnection. The chapter considers diverse ways which organisations and individuals position themselves in respect of the mainstream: from how alternative educators ‘distance’ themselves from the mainstream schools, to how they try to relate to local communities and policy-makers. The positioning of ‘alternative’ learning spaces is often multiple and shifting, incorporating many kinds of connection and disconnection. The chapter concludes by arguing that it is sensible to understand these multiple forms of connection and disconnection as the first of several versions of autonomy that, as suggested throughout the book, should be an important way to theorise the geographies of alternative education.

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This chapter introduces the main arguments and structure of the book. It sets out a broad definition of ‘alternative education’. It maps some of the social, economic and political contexts in which alternative education takes place, and especially trends in UK education policy-making. The chapter also provides an introduction to the theoretical frameworks employed in the book, before discussing the author's methodology and choice of case studies.

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This chapter focuses on some of the interpersonal relations that sustain alternative learning spaces. It asks what kinds of interpersonal relationships are appropriate for learning, looking initially at how these relationships are characterised – especially as ‘friendship’ or ‘family’-like relations. The chapter focuses upon the feelings that constitute those relationships, particularly empathy, care and love. Thereafter, the chapter returns to the question of habit. Rather than thinking about how habits are internalised within young people (Chapter 6), it considers how habits can be understood as outward-facing. That is, some educators advocate spiritual conceptions of love, which are integral to the production of habits of generosity, care and responsibility to others. Thus, this chapter also provides some reflection on that most geographical of terms: scale. Despite an emphasis on ‘smallness’ in many alternative learning spaces, the chapter explores how interpersonal love can also be manifested as a kind of readiness to empathise with (often) unknown others, located physically and conceptually ‘outside’ the immediacy of a particular learning space; sometimes, on the other side of the world. Thus, the chapter's closing argument is that loving habits maybe spatialised beyond immediacy, in an intermingling of spatial scales.

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The argument of this chapter is that alternative learning spaces offer alternative versions and visions of life-itself. That is, they do not just proffer alternative approaches to education, but to the very thinking and doing of life. This argument is inspired by a trans-disciplinary series of thinkers who have propounded distinct but overlapping theories of life-itself. Their theories have, in some circles, come to be termed ‘vital materialisms’ – inspired by poststructural theories of materiality, diverse economic practices, and ongoing developments in biology, neuroscience and social psychology. Significantly, these theorists say little about education, explicitly. Using extended empirical evidence from alternative learning spaces, the chapter explores how the social and the biological are interwoven in the constitution of autonomy as something that is more-than-social and collaborative. An emphasis on the biological and material represents a departure from previous theorisations of autonomy. The chapter also examines how alternative educators are intimately involved with other attempts to live life differently – from local food networks to (inter)national developments in sustainable building. Thus, the chapter closes by understanding some alternative learning spaces as utopian – but in ways that are more obdurate than the prefigurative, experimental utopias favoured by poststructural utopian theorists.

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This chapter summarises the key arguments of the book, focusing upon mess, feeling, habit, love, life-itself and autonomy. Broadly, the chapter posits a theory of more-than-social, collaborative autonomy that is not all-encompassing, but which provides a nuanced way in which to critically interrogate both mainstream and alternative learning spaces. Critically, it places these theoretical developments within the context of contemporary policy and practice. It outlines a series of implications for educators, policy-makers and others working with young people (in both mainstream and alternative settings). It reflects on recent developments in the UK and elsewhere – in particular, the ever-intensifying overlaps between mainstream and alternative learning spaces. It also asks readers to think critically about the potential uses and abuses of (for instance) habit in education.

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