Oh, To Homeschool- The Genius of autism Education

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My six year old Bliss Burger is sitting next to me right now at the breakfast table yumming it up on a sweet potato. He slept so well last night. Like he does every night- sometimes between his dad and me, and sometimes in his own bed.

Waking him up for school last year, holding hands on the way to the $10,000 preschool was a dream of mine. Not his. To be honest, we sought out that school for their child-focused  learning, natural, outdoor setting, and amazing diet. The children helped raise chickens, bunnies, and plants. They cooked.  climbed. Did puppet shows. It was oh so cute, but the little man kept telling me he didn’t like it.

Here’s the thing. I was seeking a  school that would help nurture the values we have at home, allow Dougie to socialize, and um — give me a break from being his only caregiver, teacher, mommy and medicine woman. I felt  he  needed to explore. And boy was I right. But, the truth is that  even in their open-mindendness, that school we chose was way too rigid for Dougie.

His teacher didn’t really understand him, and always had issues with what he was saying (like when he would talk about Buzz Lightyear). She falsely “accused” us of owning a TV (oh no!). As if that mattered! Our boy was talking and trying to make friends. We were ecstatic.  If he’d had an awesome teacher, we may still be at that school. So, I’m stoked it  worked out this way.

Ask Dougie now how much he loves his Toy Story School (which he named our at-home un-learning), and he probably won’t be able to stop talking. In fact, he’s reading this now and tells me that he wants me to invite you to join him here.

I grew up in a world that said school was necessary. I learned that education is what is necessary. I grew up in a world that said “choose a career.” I learned to choose a journey and experience many careers. I was molded by a system that said we can’t teach our kids at home, lest they turn into hermit weirdos who wear corduroy in summer. And, I learned to say,  “Whatevha!”

Unschooling is peeling away at what the system has taught us for centuries. And, now is the time for re-awakening anyway. The old systems are no longer working.

But,  I gotta admit, regardless of how well I know my purpose here to help others and blah blah blah –the decision to  home school my son was all about him. I worried about the socialization thing first, as he was once diagnosed with autism, and well — the system tells me to worry about socialization. Then, I worried he would resent me, or he wouldn’t have enough challenge, fun, activities, friends– all that. I spent weeks and months considering this and researching my buns off.

This is what Dougie wants and needs now, and this is what’s best for him now. We all have our purposes, and those of us with children who require unschooling or home schooling have the balls and the guts to do it. Worried about socialization? Your kids will lead you. Worried about teaching subjects that you don’t know too well? Goodness, you will be surprised at how amazing new brains are. Dougie is typing, writing, spelling and reading. He can count money, pay for things at the store, make scrambled eggs, and pretty much run the place if we need him to.

We’ve been bitten by the adventure bug again, and are taking this Unschooling organic life of ours on the road. We can’t wait to spread the bliss with all of you. Take a gander at this blog for more info on our upcoming tour de love.

Gina

UnSchool of Life: Undoing the Mundane Routine

As a kid, I refused to wear jeans. From the ages of 9-13, stretchy pants were IT for me. It was a comfort thing, mostly.  I’m ultra sensitive to the touch of scratchy fabric. Still. But,  I also  needed to express my differences. I spent most of my days just on the outskirts of the “in” crowd, and was totally okay with it.  My husband grew up expressing his differences in the ways lots of boys do. I’m not at liberty to spill exactly what that means. But,  somewhere in our charts de destiny — we have been dreamily aligned to raise a “different” child. But, believe me — we didn’t set out to do anything outside the “norm” when it came to starting our family. We did the doctor appointments, the pampers, the birthing classes. Soon enough, that fizzled though. And, even before my little Dougie’s health began to decline — he was showing us that he was destined for something more. When it came to schooling, at first we opted to have him evaluated  for special services through the Chicago Public School system. It took them over a year to complete their evaluation, and by the time we had our  first IEP meeting — his label of “severely autistic” was obviously invalid. He was healing through Body Ecology, Raw Foods, and the energy healing and sensory work that we do at home.  Still,  we took the label in hopes of getting him more education. Dealing with  the red tape, “autism specialists,” and trudging through the snow to get my child to one hour of speech therapy and occupational therapy each week was draining on him.  After one year of speech therapy, he never talked for his teachers. And, just preparing him for the trip was hell on us. He tantrummed and begged not to go. When I observed Dougie in class, I noticed all of the distractions present in the public school. Bells ringing, intercom going on and off, other teachers walking in, teachers stopping to discipline other kids and more. We tried private school and absolutely loved their routine and core belief structure. But, then there was the price and the fact that Dougie still wasn’t THRIVING. By this time, we took lots more care to teach him at home. Teachers were telling me that I should be worried that he wasn’t talking. I thought, “how could he talk when his gut is a mess?” He was healing, and all of the “teachers” and “authority figures” around him were trying to put information into him, and make him do things. But, Dougie needs to express things, let go of things, be absorbed in positivity, live out loud. Dougie needs to be free. He knew from the start that only I understood that, and I think that’s why he chose me. I remember being reminded over and over how important it is for children. “especially those on the spectrum” (ugh “the spectrum”… sheesh!) to have a  strict routine. Yeah, I see how that can help settle an overactive mind. We all crave structure for balance. But, that sure doesn’t mean commanding your children to do certain things or be a certain way. Our Daily Structure is Important to Us My goal is to get out of Dougie’s way so that he can thrive without having to depend on me forever. I don’t want him fully dependent on a specific routine. Much of my own success comes from being able to handle change. It’s all I know. So, it’s how we roll here. I know many children whose stories are similar to Dougie’s, and if  one of these children calls you mama or dad — just know that they chose you for a reason. If the homeschool or unschool bus is honking its horn at you — you can jump on.  Remember, I was told to worry because it’s well known that our  kids crave even more structure than the “norm.” Worrying has never done me any good. Ever. The Routine of No Routine Unschooling is reteaching my family how to live and be  with each other in deeper love and more productive ways. We feel we lost a lot of time worrying and working hard to do what was normal for our child. Here’s a glimpse into our day. maybe it will help you to:

  • Make and eat breakfast together (Dougie helps cut veggies, scramble eggs, pour smoothies, push blender buttons and choose what he wants. He also helps clean up).
  • Get dressed and spend some outdoor time at beach or park. We often bring toys or books and “work” outside.
  • Go to the store or market (Dougie fills his own cart, asks for what he wants and orders at the juice bar or deli. He also pays the cashier and talks to the workers at our local store. We often eat lunch outside.
  • Come home, light cleaning all together and play time for Dougie (he plays puppet show, Toy Story toys, paints, this is his alone time).
  • Nap time
  • More outdoor time, outside class like yoga or music, park or playdate.
  • Reading, art, music, math through games, puppet show or whatever we feel like — so long as it’s fun and creative.

We sign Dougie up for a few low-key activities where he can get time away and explore. He loves his yoga class. We also try to help him forge relationships with other children. He has his favorite friends and loves to play with his cousins. We take trips all over the city, show Dougie how to use the bus and read the signs, allow him to experience the different cultures we have here, and visit beautiful places. We walk, we climb, we never stop enjoying. Dougie is kindergarten age, and has learned all of this kindergarten lessons through play and fun. What a life! xoxo Gina