Harriet Pattison & Alan Thomas

Harriet Pattison

Harriet entered home education as a blissfully ignorant mother without a clue about how education was supposed to happen.  She found herself both baffled and captivated by watching her three children learn and took two Open University courses on child development and early learning in the hopes of fathoming the constant question of “how the heck do they know that?” 

Any kind of answer continues to be as slippery as a wet fish but collaboration with Alan Thomas has at least helped refine the question!  Their joint work was published in 2008 – “How Children Learn at Home

This work continues in the form of a research project on children learning to read at home.

Harriet has an academic background in social anthropology and science policy.  She is a PhD student researching home education and literacy at the University of Birmingham and a research associate of the Institute of Education, University of London. 


Dr Alan Thomas

Alan is a developmental psychologist. He has been a teacher at all levels, from primary school through to university in the UK, Holland, Spain and Australia. For the last 12 years he has been a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London, researching home education, especially informal/autonomous/unschooling/natural learning. He has written three books, the most recent one jointly with Harriet. Altogether he has worked with nearly 200 families in the UK, Australia and Ireland. 

A personal spin off has been his own informal learning. At primary school all he got was the 3 Rs. and at secondary school he didn’t listen. He mostly daydreamed except on the odd occasion when something startling captured his interest. Talking with home educating families about their activities has introduced him to a vast array of things he knew little or nothing about, sometimes surprising children with his ignorance, especially of the natural world. 

Alan and Harriet submitted evidence about the effectiveness of autonomous home education during the Badman Review of 2009.

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