Radical Unschooling Day 1
The first thing to know is that radical unschooling like the website said is not neglect. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is 24/7…365. Total full-on. It is being available to PanKwake whenever she needs me…day or night. And with her…it really does mean just that.
You see like many on the autistic spectrum PanKwake has always had sleep disturbance issues. This means that she CANNOT keep a regular sleep schedule.
When she was small we had the perfect bedtime routine…and it still took her two hours or more to fall asleep. And no, I did not or would not Ferberize her. But I read books. We tried baths. Even those products touted to ‘calm.’ Nothing worked.
When she was in school, she was so exhausted physically and emotionally that she collapsed into bed. She slept twelve plus hours, had trouble waking up in the morning and still fell asleep in class. Of course, at the time she was also on heavy narcotic meds for her seizures…so who knows?
Then when she came out I tried my best to keep her on some sort of a routine. Even if she did go to bed and wake up later…I kept all those routines. And it still took hours for her to go to sleep. In fact, the older she got the worse it got.
Under the auspices of the top children’s hospital in the UK, we even tried medication. Melatonin like most others meds with her was a limited success…it took more and more of the drug and longer and longer for it to work.
As she got older and more mature, I experimented with allowing her to control her sleep. I discovered that left to her own devices she could and would fall asleep without all the fights, stress and meltdowns. In fact, her night time seizures DISAPPEARED…except under extreme stress.
Of course…yes, I still had to make sure she was SAFE. That she could not get out or anyone get in. We had a deadbolt. And I was less than 15 feet away at any time…in our small London flat.
And when we came here and moved into a larger house, Cookie Monster and I both did all we could…including walkie-talkies and webcams. I am a light sleeper…and so is he. Even in that big house we heard every time she went up the stairs to her bathroom.
And now at #HomeCrazzyHome, we are back to being only 20 feet away from her. And she has a creaky bed too. Best seizure alarm system I have ever seen. But loads of false alarms.
The thing is that PanKwake’s body is not on a 24-hour circadin rhythm. Hers is something more in the lines of 26 or 27-hour. So over the course of a month, she circles the clock with her sleep schedule.
Right now she is on her sleep all day and up all night one. So she did not wake up until 4 PM. I use these times to get things done. And I certainly did yesterday. 1 tablecloth sewn, 2 of her skirts, Sunday dinner cooked, the house cleaned and 5 or maybe even 6 loads of laundry. As well as blogging and reading.
But when she does wake up…we and especially me are on-call. Last night was not too bad. Three or perhaps four times…mostly making her food and once to do with the computers. That was a GOOD night though. There have been times…many of them…when I was up a dozen or more times during the night. Other times when I just had to stay up with her.
After all she still needs attention and care. Sometimes she just needs to company…but does not know how to ask so unfortunately it comes out as needy, demanding or meltdowns. But once I saw it for what it was…needing me…I did not resent it.
I sometimes nap while she sleeps during the day…if it has been bad. But lately things are better. She is growing up…and becoming more independent.
Even then though…unschooling goes on. For one thing, much of PanKwake’s education remains life skills and emotional regulation. The things that come naturally for other children but must be taught to her and others like her. Skills that she and all others need to master before the business of reading or maths is possible.
Home education allows me with that age, ability, aptitude and additional learning needs to lay that solid foundation of child development based on those last three and not merely the first one.
I can and do monitor her development using tools like Jean Piaget’s Four Stages of Cognitive Development. More importantly it allows me to accommodate her complexity. You see PanKwake does not fit even that simplistic model.
Because of her visual and short term memory loss, she lacks even the object permanence markers of Sensori-motor development (babies and toddlers). She certainly continues to exhibit the egocentricity of Pre-operational. Yet her reasoning and critical thinking skills are at the Formal Operational stage. About the only one who box she does not tick is the age-appropriate Operational Thinker.
Unschooling allows us the flexibility to treat her as an adult-toddler. To accommodate those areas of weakness such as her visual memory that are slow to develop and make reading impossible at this point in her development. While we can orally ‘teach’ her using other resources.
Last night, she and Cookie spent time in Minecraft. He is great at challenging her by withholding information. For instance, she likes to capture and train llamas (don’t ask me). He knows easy/cheat ways of doing this. But by NOT showing her these, she is forced to think critically, plan and organize. She has learned the items she will need to take with her, what she must do to prepare before capturing her animal and even how to estimate how long and the best rout back home.
All from a video game that many parents erroneously assume has no value. Thank you goddess for bringing one of the greatest computer geniuses of our time into our lives who understands and just gets the value of what I do.
These are skills that in schools Ed Psychs, Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language try to teach. And we have had those attempt in vain to do just that. But because their methods are neither practical, hands-on or fun, none of it stuck. We ended up just fighting with her to ‘make’ her do it (not really possible).
But this level of thought organization has come about….BECAUSE OF A VIDEO GAME!!!!
In fact, we have a bank of computers in the new Gaming/Art/School room. Three of them. She, her friends and Cookie…even me when I get desperate play not just Minecraft, but Sims and Roblox as well as many others. In fact, technology has always been the major the expense associated with home educating PanKwake.
When we do try ‘conventional’ subject even those are best introduced as video games. Her ‘curriculum’ are all either computer or iPad based games. Thus if you ask her, she will not even think she did any ‘school work’. Even though she did with the games. And using the mouse and her fingers to swipe means that her fine motor skills are coming along too.
As for that Formal Operational Thinking, how about this one? I said something about needing some sleep. Her response was classic…You should have thought about that before having kids, Mommy.
Sweet goddess, I love her autistic super-powers.
Well, no telling what tonight…I mean today…oh whatever…is going to be. So I better try for that nap before PanKwake is back up…and rearing to go…to learn…to live…to laugh (there is loads of that here)…and to love.