Radical Unschoolers Network

the network for radical unschooling families

just curious to know if there are any unschoolers with 'special needs' kids here..

we've been homeschooling since day 1 (our oldest will be 10 tomorrow): a slow morph from package curriculums to eclectic pick-&-choose unit studies to 'oh, screw all this structure' and our present unschool philosophy. that said, our biggest paradigm shift was because of our son who has asperger's syndrome...

it seems that most families with spectrum children tend to lean towards 'more structure' - whether this has to do with complementing a child's natural desire for structure or else off-setting a child's 'lack of structure', you pick. most families will seek the extra special ed. resources found in public & private schools, and some families will go the traditional homeschool route - where a child will get the 1:1 attention he/she needs.

when we realised that our son had AS, we knew that homeschooling with structured studies & written work was out of the question. both DH and i are already quirky individuals with quirky ideas, so unschool was the 'duh' choice for us. - and if we were going to unschool with our son, ofcourse we would unschool as a family.

giving our children equal partnership in family learning has been wonderful. it's been fascinating to see how their personal interests and giftings have developed. and the learning continues organically - at home and through outside life experience (art, violin, ballet, shopping, etc.)..

our family is somewhat defined by autism; we've recently adopted a gluten-free & casein-free diet, and we're seeking resources for having 2 more of our children evaluated for neurological syndromes. but that, i guess, is what makes our unschooling interesting; there's always something new for us to learn around the corner.

admittedly, i don't think we're particularly 'radical' in our unschooling; we're simply doing what we do, and we don't really care that much how you do it (no offense meant). but up to now, i haven't met any families with 'special needs' kids who've decided to go the unschool route... anyone out there?

Tags: Asperger's Syndrome, GFCF, autism, unschool

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Michelle Thedaker said:
My son Drew is about to turn 10 and was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism when he was 2.5. My second son Josh is 6 and is not autistic. We started Drew in public school at age 3, went to school-at-home mid-way through K, and then moved to unschooling in December of 2008. Josh has never been to school, and did a smidge of school-at-home for a few months but *refused* to do the work I set for him - I credit Josh for really opening our eyes to the joys of unschooling. :)

Drew is definitely still in deschooling mode (as are the rest of us!), but his sweetness and passion for life has come back *so* strongly since we started living this unschooling life. I won't say we are 100% radial unschoolers, we just do better each day than the day before and strive to be more connected to one another, repsectful of each other, and joyful in general.

I also used to believe that, because of his autism, Drew 'needed' structure and schedules. We've tried many types of ways to schedule our days, and what I found more often than not was that the constant transitioning - imposed by someone outside of himself - was horribly stressful for him. When he is allowed to go with his *own* flow, ah! Peace! We certainly still have to work around the needs of other people in the family, but he is *so* much more flexible now that he is in control of the majority of his day. We definitely still have our difficult times, unschooling hasn't 'fixed' the stresses, sensory challenges, social confusion, etc. But it *has* helped, because we're all more relaxed and connected.

I've also found that, in the past several months, I'm seeing just *Drew* almost all the time. I used to see 'my autistic son Drew'. He's just himself now, in my eyes. It's a beautiful thing for me to experience again.
Hi there,
yes, we have just started unschooling, but I would not say that we are 'radical'.
I have 8 year old twins, a girl and a boy. Ronan had great difficulties in school last year in 2nd grade, and was found to have auditory processing disorder, as well as high functioning aspergers.

School was a nightmare last year, and even though I am the OT for our school district, it was a battle from beginning to end of the year, with me trying to get him the support he needed in the classroom.
I could not stand the way that his 'behaviors' were not accepted, and that we were told again and again that he had to abide by the 'rules'.
Well as anyone who knows an aspie kid, they see things often in a much more black and white way, and are not afraid to ask about the logic behind illogical rules etc. That is unacceptable in the current prison system that our schools have become.
How coudl he learn, sitting at a desk for most of the day, with paper worksheet after paper worksheet placed on his desk. What was the meaning behind the stuff he was expected to 'learn' in school, and then take home to struggle through.
He would rock and hum before and after school, something that he stops doing during the summer, he would bite his lips until they bled, he would grind his teeth all night.
I just could not do this to him anymore, I became physically sick from the stress of the constant battle, the 'looks' from the teachers, who I feel saw me as a terrible mother, unable to 'control' my child.

Well. I did not WANT to 'control' him, I wanted him to keep his beautiful free spirit, I wanted him to be able to play 'zombies' on the playground, withour fear of zero tolerance, I wanted him to do cartwheels, and sing when he felt like it throughout his day.
I started finding that I was having to curtail everything he did, so that he would 'fit in', and therefore avoid punishment at school. I did not want him to feel that he was a 'bad' child.
So I pulled them out a few weeks ago before 3rd grade started, and the decrease in stress has been huge. For us all!!
I have to work full time as does my husband, but so far, their Nanny who we had since they were 3 has come back to us, and the change in my kids has been amazing.
No biting lips, no grinding teeth, little rocking and humming, the return of imaginative play, increased confidence, less aversion to 'learning'.
I have my children back, they can be kids again.
It is wonderful.
I'm glad you bumped this, Louise. It was an interesting read. I'm unschooling my son (11) who has Aspergers, Tourettes and ADHD if you look at his medical records.

But to me, he's just a smart kid who runs at his own speed. We have a loose structure to our day. He likes a bit of structure, but nothing too rigid. We sort of go with the flow but we have certain predictable things built in to our day. It has taken 2 years of trial and error to figure out what works for us though and it changes as his needs and interests do.

I love the adventure of it though.
Hello Canuk,
nice to meet you. I'm glad you keep him out of school, it's so hard for most kids as it is. I know that many efforts are made for special needs kids in most schools, but the system just does not function for kids who don't fit 'The Mold'.
I work in our school district as an Occuptational Therapist, and although I'd rather be at home with my own kids, at least I get a chance to teach the kids through therapy some out of the box different ways of coping with their school work.
Ronan is going through an adjustment period right now, and feeling his way.
I can't wait for my own self doubts to go away. I know I did the right thing taking them both out, I just hope I can give them what they need.
The relief of not having to force my kids to dance to the school routine has been so refreshing that I can hardly believe it.
I love the fact that they can sleep as long as they want, eat when they want and never have to ask to use the bathroom, things we take for granted in our everyday lives, but are taken away from our kids in schools.
Honestly I could go on and on.
Good for you, and I wish you many great times together on your adventure.

Canuk said:
I'm glad you bumped this, Louise. It was an interesting read. I'm unschooling my son (11) who has Aspergers, Tourettes and ADHD if you look at his medical records.

But to me, he's just a smart kid who runs at his own speed. We have a loose structure to our day. He likes a bit of structure, but nothing too rigid. We sort of go with the flow but we have certain predictable things built in to our day. It has taken 2 years of trial and error to figure out what works for us though and it changes as his needs and interests do.

I love the adventure of it though.
Louise

Thanks for your "going on and on." I also work for the public schools, and have pulled out my 13-year-old son and my 11-year-old ADHD Asperger's son. Middle school was very hard on my younger son and I wish I had done it sooner. He was such a happy child, and school was torture for him (his description). I wish that I had pulled him out sooner.

School starts tomorrow here, and I have been a nervous wreck all day until I found this discussion. Your comment freed me. My son also has some of your sons behavior's, and believe me, it only gets worse as they get older.

BTW, I call the school a lock-down prison. Never look back.

Louise Gibson said:
Hello Canuk,
nice to meet you. I'm glad you keep him out of school, it's so hard for most kids as it is. I know that many efforts are made for special needs kids in most schools, but the system just does not function for kids who don't fit 'The Mold'.
I work in our school district as an Occuptational Therapist, and although I'd rather be at home with my own kids, at least I get a chance to teach the kids through therapy some out of the box different ways of coping with their school work.
Ronan is going through an adjustment period right now, and feeling his way.
I can't wait for my own self doubts to go away. I know I did the right thing taking them both out, I just hope I can give them what they need.
The relief of not having to force my kids to dance to the school routine has been so refreshing that I can hardly believe it.
I love the fact that they can sleep as long as they want, eat when they want and never have to ask to use the bathroom, things we take for granted in our everyday lives, but are taken away from our kids in schools.
Honestly I could go on and on.
Good for you, and I wish you many great times together on your adventure.

Canuk said:
I'm glad you bumped this, Louise. It was an interesting read. I'm unschooling my son (11) who has Aspergers, Tourettes and ADHD if you look at his medical records.

But to me, he's just a smart kid who runs at his own speed. We have a loose structure to our day. He likes a bit of structure, but nothing too rigid. We sort of go with the flow but we have certain predictable things built in to our day. It has taken 2 years of trial and error to figure out what works for us though and it changes as his needs and interests do.

I love the adventure of it though.
Hi Tina,
I'm so proud of you, I can't imagine what you have been through for so long. It's even harder sometimes when you work for a school district, the pressure on you as a parent is even worse to 'Control' your kids.
It is heartbreaking to go through.
Yahoo for you and your sons.
Please please Tina and Canuk, keep doing what is right for your kids.
Here is a quote that I saw in Valerie Fitzenreiter's book, the Unprocessed Child, Living without school.

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers.
The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.
But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things.
They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius. Because people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do."

"Think Different" Advertisment-Apple Computers

So here's to all of us 'crazy' parents and our wonderfully crazy kids.
Tina Workman said:
Louise

Thanks for your "going on and on." I also work for the public schools, and have pulled out my 13-year-old son and my 11-year-old ADHD Asperger's son. Middle school was very hard on my younger son and I wish I had done it sooner. He was such a happy child, and school was torture for him (his description). I wish that I had pulled him out sooner.

School starts tomorrow here, and I have been a nervous wreck all day until I found this discussion. Your comment freed me. My son also has some of your sons behavior's, and believe me, it only gets worse as they get older.

BTW, I call the school a lock-down prison. Never look back.

Louise Gibson said:
Hello Canuk,
nice to meet you. I'm glad you keep him out of school, it's so hard for most kids as it is. I know that many efforts are made for special needs kids in most schools, but the system just does not function for kids who don't fit 'The Mold'.
I work in our school district as an Occuptational Therapist, and although I'd rather be at home with my own kids, at least I get a chance to teach the kids through therapy some out of the box different ways of coping with their school work.
Ronan is going through an adjustment period right now, and feeling his way.
I can't wait for my own self doubts to go away. I know I did the right thing taking them both out, I just hope I can give them what they need.
The relief of not having to force my kids to dance to the school routine has been so refreshing that I can hardly believe it.
I love the fact that they can sleep as long as they want, eat when they want and never have to ask to use the bathroom, things we take for granted in our everyday lives, but are taken away from our kids in schools.
Honestly I could go on and on.
Good for you, and I wish you many great times together on your adventure.

Canuk said:
I'm glad you bumped this, Louise. It was an interesting read. I'm unschooling my son (11) who has Aspergers, Tourettes and ADHD if you look at his medical records.

But to me, he's just a smart kid who runs at his own speed. We have a loose structure to our day. He likes a bit of structure, but nothing too rigid. We sort of go with the flow but we have certain predictable things built in to our day. It has taken 2 years of trial and error to figure out what works for us though and it changes as his needs and interests do.

I love the adventure of it though.
Hi! I am currently unschooling triplets and two more. One of the triplets has asperger's syndrome. I know without a doubt that public school would kill his spirit and make him an introvert. Unschooling gives him the chance to be himself and learn what He is interested in.I have to admit there have been times that I tried to force an issue like adding and subtracting but when I see the look of horror and confusion on his face i realized that it wasn't time for him to learn that. If he has to carry around a calculator to do his math then so be it. I can see where his interests are and I try to focus on that. Right now he is currently obsessed with Google Earth and Sky and Bing maps. He is a curious character who loves to learn, but on his own terms and his own way! Good Luck.....It will be worth it all in the end!
Hi Melanie~

My son (nearing 12) has learned his math simply by absorbing what's going on in his surroundings and through regular life skills. Fractions, division, addition, subtraction....the whole lot has been learned through cooking, baking, telling time, cutting pizza, cake. I didn't have to physically teach it in wrote, it just happened on his own. It still floors me when he figures out a math problem in his head because he's developed a new skill that I didn't even have a clue that he knew! I love those moments because it gives you a little boost to remind you that you're doing right by them.

Google earth was a huge obsession with him for the longest time. That is one of the coolest tools ever!!

My son was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old.  We started with INTENSIVE therapy and he was in school until this year (2nd grade).  We decided to pull him out and homeschool because he was very overstimulated, picked on, did not fit in, and the list goes on and on and on.  I just wanted to share the beautiful experience of our experience.  When I brought him home in September, I started reasearching homeschooling and different methods of homeschool.  While doing this I let him deschool and just be.  What I found is that all of a sudden the 'label' of autism doesn't seem so important.  He is a child, like any other child, and is unique and beautiful.  If I had not brought him home and started to see education and the world differently I may have been stuck in that place for the rest of my life.  I am still struggling to get out of the mindset of 'structure' and 'what he needs', but he is flourishing.  I will say, however, that I am not afraid to say my son autism.  It does not define him, but it is a part of who he is.  It is something to be aware of and understand.  I do not label him as 'autistic', but I am not afraid to say he has autism.  Autism gives him many strengths and abilities.  He is beautiful, and I am so proud to watch him grow and learn his own way.

My daughter is 13 and has autism.

WOW!!! A lot of special needs kids on here. What on Earth is in the water?

That sounds rude Janine!
This is a thread about kids with special needs ! Of course that is what you will find.
This group has over 4,000 members and less than a dozen are in this thread.

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