So far, we have talked about
- what #Neurodivergence is
- what #RadiCoolUnschooling is
- the history of #RadiCoolUnschooling
- why schools cannot work for our neurodivergent little humans
But why exactly does #RadiCoolUnschooling work better for the neurodivergent?
In the US, when I put my special needs son in school…ironically because his father and I felt we were not qualified to teach him…he was given an IEP…Individualized Education Plan. The American equivalent of the UK Statement or EHCP (Education, Health, and Care Plan).
The problem was…it was not really all that individual. Even in special classes, it was one teacher and perhaps one assistant to twelve little humans with varying needs. The opportunity for those IEPs to be truly INDIVIDUALIZED was non-existent.
There and in the UK, these plans by whatever name you call them are written once a year…and most of the information is not even original but copied and pasted from old documents or other little human’s. Then there is sometimes or supposed to be a review during the year.
But if something is NOT working for this little human…there is no real opportunity to change it. Not for a year…if even then? After all, there are other little humans to consider, limited resources, and school rules. All those have to be weighed against the needs of the individual.
But this is not another chapter on WHY schools cannot educate your #neurodivergent little human. It is about WHY you, home ed, and #RadiCoolUnschooling can do it best.
This article by The Guardian newspaper says it best:
Children taught at home significantly outperform their contemporaries who go to school, the first comparative study has found.
It discovered that home-educated children of working-class parents achieved considerably higher marks in tests than the children of professional, middle-class parents and that gender differences in exam results disappear among home-taught children.
Do you get that? Even the children of poorer, less educated working class parents who are home educated outperform their middle class peers?!?!
Because aside from one-on-one attention, truly individualized education, and flexibility, parents do a better job than the best teacher in the world for the simple reason that…
They have a vested interest in their child.
Even the best trained and most caring teacher cannot equal the ‘average’ parent when it comes to genuinely caring about the success of the individual little human.
Now, I want to point out a couple of things…this study was not specific to either unschooling (which is much more challenging under Scottish law) or to the neurodivergent.
But I believe the same outcome would be shown…given peer to peer matching. In other words, don’t measure our neurodivergent little humans against ‘normal’ or neurotypical of similar age…a trick that education authorities like to use to disprove the benefits of home education.
Of course, the challenge is that those standardized tests used in this study are not accurate measures with the neurodivergent. And they certainly don’t look at the whole person…holistic learning…where happiness, self-confidence, and general well-being are just as important or more so than test scores.
As for #HomeEd versus #RadiCoolUnschooling, the home education pot is growing rapidly. Especially among the Additional Learning Needs and neurodivergent populations who are being failed by the schools, bullied, and at times even ‘off-rolled’ (excluded) in an effort to improve individual school’s performance on those standardized test scores.
Of those who are home educated, only a portion are unschooled and even of those fewer still are given the autonomy to control not just their educations but their lives as well including sleep and eating.
In fact, I must give the caveat that SOME neurodivergent little humans actually NEED a structured approach. Their minds work best when given schedules, routines, and those workbooks that I deplore. The problem is that schools, educators, and ‘experts’ have generalized this to ALL autistic/neurodivergent. And that is just NOT the case.
For many, most especially those with Pathological Demand Avoidance, the less structured and autonomous approach of #RadiCoolUnschooling works best for several reasons…
It does not focus exclusively upon their challenges. – It never makes sense to me why little humans are taken out classes they may enjoy like science or history for extra or remedial work in the ones that frustrate them like reading when you are dyslexic.
Yes, sometimes in a few cases such as my own, when issues are mild, that approach eventually works. I was ten when I first began to read and now consume mass quantities of books.
But more often than not this approach only disheartens the little humans and makes them feel even more of failure. In the end, many if not most simply give up on learning all together. It is called cognitive death. And is rampant in schools.
Instead you allow them to mature at their own pace. – When you are dealing with neurodivergent little humans, all those charts are out the window. Honestly, they should be anyway. But like I said before…how can any teacher provide individualized education for even ten or twelve Additional Learning Needs little humans? But you can.
I spent years…a good three of them just taking PanKwake to the park. Packing her park bags so that she had toys to share with others and enough bubbles to attract friends to play with. I hung close by so that I could interpret neurodivergence for others and others for her.
But now she has some of the best social skills on the autistic spectrum. She has even learned how to manage her sensory issues around others. On our Mommy Mondays, she takes the lead, teaching gaming to the younger little humans. This as opposed to a few minutes of social stories once a week. She thought those were stupid when we tried them.
You can focus on their strengths and build their self-confidence. – This is an incredibly powerful one. Something that even schools are being encouraged to do. But honestly it is not that practical in a school setting with all those differing talents and interests. With #RadiCoolUnschooling, PanKwake has learned maths, especially place value and ‘money’ with her gaming. The first question she always asks herself before buying anything in game is…is it worth it?
It has even extended to real life. When I take her shopping these days, she is meticulous in her decision making process. First looking at all her options, then narrowing it down slowly to just a view before selecting the final ones. We also spend a great deal of time on art and physical activities, two other strengths for PanKwake.
But clear and away her greatest strength is her logic and intellect. Yes, this little human who at almost twelve cannot read or write can think circles around even may adults. She makes excellent decisions and can defend her choices/beliefs in debates with adults. And confident? She glows. She shines. Adults as well as children are attracted to this young woman.
With #RadiCoolUnschooling, PanKwake gained autonomy of her sleep schedule a few years ago. Once it was relatively safe for her to be left up alone. She will call me when she needs something now but otherwise she entertains herself with gaming or her art projects. One of her favorite things to do is go out on the flat roof of our vestibule and watch the sunrise. The other week as I was going out, I ran into the elderly next door neighbor. He was telling me what a wonderful conversation he had with her that morning. He was most impressed with her manners. He had finished by saying…it was nice talking with you. And my little human replied…and you too. Impeccable manners and respect that genuine. She attracts attention and crowds wherever she goes these days.
You can make true accommodations for your little humans. – The major purpose of IEPs or EHCPs or whatever they are called by the time you read this or in our area is to define the ACCOMMODATIONS that your little human needs to learn and succeed. In this context, accommodation is defined as the process of adapting or adjusting to someone or something. (Google)
The problem is…there are limits to what schools can accommodate. Think about most school buildings for a moment. Bright, florescent lighting. Cold, hard tile floors that project sounds down the corridors anytime someone walks on them. Desks or tables with hard chairs packed tightly together. A sensory nightmare for many neurodivergent.
Where is the money to come to change all that? Assuming it is even possible to retrofit some facilities. Yes, some new special schools are designed to be more sensory friendly. But there are very few places in such facilities. And those are not always the best options for your little human.
Yes, sometimes your little human can be offered special seating like balls instead of chairs or special cushions. Yes, ear defenders can sometimes be worn to block out the worst of those background noises.
BUT all too often, schools do not want to offer these. They do not want to single out a specific child. Take fidget spinners and other sensory toys. Most schools forbid such things claiming they are a distraction to others.
But it goes beyond just sensory. Dyslexia for example. In the world in which we live today, reading truly is optional. Audible and other audio books. Instructional videos. Siri, Echo, and Google can all do your research for you with voice. And memorizing multiplication tables? No one does that anymore. When there is a calculator on your phone. Spelling? That’s why god or Microsoft invented spellcheck. And good thing to for this dyslexic writer.
Yet schools remain wedded to all those antiquated ideas. They demand that all children fulfill certain age specific milestones…and the accommodations that they are actually willing to make are far and few between.
But with #RadiCoolUnschooling, you can not only do all of those, but you can search out cutting edge new ones. You can become an early adopter. Heck, some can even invent new ones for their little humans. There are no limits to what you can do to encourage your little human’s thirst for knowledge…rather than extinguish it.
You truly can provide a 100% Zero Tolerance Bullying policy. – No, I admit that once you leave your home, you cannot stop bullying from happening. Our experiences not only with other little humans on playgrounds but nastier big humans on busses, Tubes, and the like could fill a journal…and have if you read others of my blog.
BUT you can model for your little human that this behavior is NOT acceptable or to be tolerated. And there is perhaps more value in teaching them to stand up for themselves than in trying to keep them ‘safe’.
How? How do you show them that it is not acceptable? By calling the ignorant on their bad behavior…every single time. Yes, letting nothing go. Being militant at times about your little human’s rights and your own.
Yes, that is exhausting. Which is why a cornerstone of #RadiCoolUnschooling Your Neurodivergent little human is to create a safe space for them…and you…to be yourself within your home. A space where those sensory issues are minimized. Where unrealistic expectations and demands are kept to a minimum. Where they receive praise for effort more than outcome. Where their unique needs are understood, accepted, respected, and yes, accommodated. Where love is UNCONDITIONAL on performance.
When you give them that then tehy are freed to blossoom into the most wonderful flowers of humanity. Yes, like the rose, there will always be thorns. But, heck, that is true of ALL of us…not just the neurodivergent. At times, I honestly think they have fewer thorns than ‘normal’ people.
And no, I do not believe that either schools or even more structured approaches to home education can do these things.
You can capture those ‘teachable’ moments. – This is perhaps one of the biggest of those accommodations. This idea that ‘learning’ only happens in a certain environment (schools) and during certain hours is a relatively modern invention of the Industrial Age. Less than two hundred years old in fact. And not even universal. Among indigenous peoples through out the world, little humans still learn through play and mimicking of adult behaviors.
Oh, the number of nights that I have sat up at 3 or 4 AM…yes…AM…to help PanKwake with her gaming chats. Why? Because chats were the ONLY time she was interested in letters or reading. Would any teacher do that?
But isn’t that your responsibility as a parent anyway? Yes, but it is all too often one abdicated by modern parents…and schools encourage that.
Besides when you are caught up in the schooling system…with what time? You get up before 7 AM to get your little human ready to learn. You most often spend an hour arguing, badgering, and fighting to get them fed, dressed, and out the door. You then don’t see them until after 3 PM. Seven hours or more. Then it is homework, dinner, baths, and bed…because of course you must do it all again tomorrow. And by the weekend you are both exhausted and antsy.
We simply don’t have the time in our modern world to connect with our little humans. Let alone all the extras like our beliefs/morals, art, music, shared hobbies, walks, and sadly, most important of all…just talking to them. We are hamsters on a treadmill of schools and work.
#RadiCoolUnschooling stops that wheel. It allows you time and space to do all that…and more. It is a HUGE responsibility. A humbling experience. And an adventure like none other you will ever have.
And no, it is not for everyone. But we need to stop the misinformation, the judgemental attitudes, and the misconceptions. We need those people for whom this is a viable option to get the correct information…and we need our society to understand that rather than negligent or permissive parents we are some of the most responsible and involved there are in this world.