Monday, October 10, 2011

Unschool & Aspergers? Unschool Monday

Our unschooling journey isn't going to work the way I thought it would because Iris has Aspergers. In one way it's positive because four years of strange social behaviour, tantrums and obsessions are explained. But I'm wondering what this means for unschooling and our family.

For the past couple of years I've wondered why following the traditional radical unschooling approach wasn't working. Why she wasn't self-moderating, why she wasn't initiating play,  why any activities we participated in and excursions ended in literal tears from both of us. With her diagnosis these things are beginning to make sense. 

But if radical unschooling isn't going to work in our family, what is our homeschooling going to look like? Is it possible to unschool a child with Aspergers?

Rationally I can see why she's with me. I have resources others don't have. But I'm still really sad about it. The Godmother I chose for Iris is perfect, she has resources to help, with her own child on the spectrum. We have people in our lives who can offer support, who have experience with children like Iris.

One of the ideas I have to let go of is that if I put in enough effort, enough activities, enough love and resources it would look like what other unschooling families seem to have. I wondered why our days didn't just flow like other families. In other families it seemed that if they gave their children enough freedom  there would be less conflict and more harmony. But it wasn't like that for us.

I wanted the flow, the natural rhythm of the day. There is no flow in our house. Right now I am sad, mourning what can't be in our family.

I'm joining in Owlet's Unschool Monday.


Lauren said...

Oh Sarah, such a huge grieving process you are going though... I wish you could hang out with a couple of the awesome mamas in my circle, parenting aspie kids and making homeschooling (and as part of that, unschooling) work. Structure within freedom seem to work beautifully and make for a more positive learning environment than school could provide. I'm sorry it's not working as planned. I hope you find positive and support in it all though. Love to you. xxx

Anonymous said...

Big loving to you, I hear ya..

I find that the more freedom I give the more intense he gets :/
He'd be at his absolute happiest, least demanding and anxious if I set out a rigid timetable for the day.. But it does my head in.

I find it hard to get the balance between structured enough to keep him happy and loose enough so that I don't feel like I have to forward plan every. bloody. second.

Right now I've given up on it because I'm so exhausted with being preggo, but it means I've had to accept his behaviour and I've just about had enough to push me back to structure, LOL.

And goddammit, it wasn't *supposed* to be like this!! ;)

He is amazing, but he wants SO SO much of me!!


Leesa said...

Sarah, this was given to me when M was first diagnosed it really spoke to me and helped me a lot.. I hope it brings you some encouragement, you are not on your own in this. Love love xxxx

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

* * *

Kimberley said...

I'm sorry for your grief, and I'm sorry this path is very hard for you and your daughter. I hope you can carve a path that works for your family with the support of your community who clearly love you all.

pasmit said...

Hi Sarah
I just started deschooling my 9yo. He was diagnosed at 4.5yrs. We took a few years to let our old son 'die' and to recognise our new son.
There is always a touch of grief there when you see the difficulties they encounter and wonder how things might turn out in the future despite your best efforts. I had to pull him out of school, pull him out of depression and pull my self out of social conformity. Thank goodness I 'had' to do these things.
Like you say we are given these young adults because we have something special to offer them back.
I have to remind myself that he does things when he is ready. And if that is a few years behind his peers then fine by me.
When all else fails just find your compassion again. Good Luck

Christa said...

Sarah, I feel your grief. It is something our family is going through at the moment too :( My eldest was diagnosed with 'Autistic Disorder' last year, he's now 4 and we need to make a decision about what path we will take re schooling. I always thought I would homeschool but now I'm really considering our options. The thought of sending him to school sickens me (I'm a bit anti-institutional ;) but I'm actually doubting my ability to fulfil his needs, especially considering I have 2 younger children - how do I juggle it all? Anyway, just wanted to express my empathy and I'll be following your blog coz I'd really like some inspiration for how I can homeschool my son too! xxx

Joan Concilio Otto said...

Just discovered your blog... I'm a mom, unschooling with my own daughter whose name is ... wait for it... SARAH! (She's Sarah Joan, and I'm Joan Sarah.) So I knew I'd like you from the start.

Meanwhile, though, she was diagnosed last year with Asperger's. She's 12 now... we pulled her out of public school this year, in the middle of sixth grade, and we're just deschooling and moving toward our "new reality."

The thing is, I firmly believe it can work, and I firmly believe my version of unschooling with Asperger's is going to result in my Sarah being much more self-reliant as an adult. It doesn't work quite like I read on other people's blogs... I mean, this is not a kid who is going to self-moderate; if you let her play video games for 12 hours a day, she'll play video games for 12 hours a day... for the next 12 years. But this IS someone who has interests of her own, and as such, if I'm willing to do some of the work, and a WHOLE LOTTA STREWING, I believe we can truly have interest-led learning. And isn't that the point?

I want to just take a moment, too, and empathize... I have felt a lot of my "mom dreams" dying over the last six years or so, with every year of school confusing me more and more, and making Sarah more and more unhappy. At least now I know why... and oddly, I'm beginning to dream again, now; for years, I wasn't sure what kind of future to expect for her, and now it's starting to brighten by the day.

I'm thinking of you - and I'll definitely be reading along!

Marianne Wilberforce said...

Gosh, this was just what I needed this morning. Thank you. <3