NaNoWriMo 17 – History of RadiCool Unschooling

If Jean Jacques Rousseau was inspirational WHY of #RadiCoolUnschooling it is another Jean that provides the basis of HOW.

The father of Child Development theory…Jean Piaget.

That is a far better description of Piaget and his work than anything I could offer. But for those of you not willing to click and read…this is the important bit…

What Piaget wanted to do was not to measure how well children could count, spell or solve problems as a way of grading their I.Q. What he was more interested in was the way in which fundamental concepts like the very idea of number, time, quantity, causality, justice and so on emerged.

While much of 20th century education theory itself came out of Paiget’s work, including the Plowden Report that formed the basis of primary school education in the UK since 1967, there is one key misconception…

Piaget himself was NOT in favor of assigning arbitrary timelines to children’s development. In other words, all those ‘ages’ you see listed were NOT his idea. He felt that each little human progressed at a timeline unique to himself.

And THAT, folks, is one of the key problems with educational systems. They stuck those ages on Piaget’s stages and then designed ways to ‘teach’ and ‘measure’ all children against those imaginary timelines.

RadiCool Unschooling on the other hand is more interested in was the way in which fundamental concepts like the very idea of number, time, quantity, causality, justice and so on emerged. 

The WAY in which Fundamental Concepts Emerge…

Not teaching…not interfering…

In Piaget’s case it was observational…and with RadiCool Unschooling it still is…but with a mindset of enabling, fostering an environment and opportunity for learning to happen in the way those fundamental concepts emerge with YOUR little human.

With the #neurodivergent this is especially important in order to avoid that Cognitive Death…a situation where the learner has lost any motivation for learning. (Dr Vincent Goetry, Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing, University College London and Coursera)

It is a fascinating process and teaches you more about your little human than the mere facts and principles they learn.

Last night, Cookie Monster and I had to go searching for materials so PanKwake could make pet rocks. She had seen a video on YouTube (of course…where else?) on how to make them. Now for YEARS she has had an obsession with collecting rocks and shells where ever we go. When we moved here, there were two 10 liter paint buckets FULL of rocks and shells that were her ‘collection’. I am sure that the movers laughed when we instructed them in carefully wrapping and preserving…rocks and shells.

Nonetheless, at 9 PM, suddenly knowing where those were and getting them became the most important thing in PanKwake’s life. So off Cookie goes around the corner to the old house to retrieve the bucket off the patio at the old house. Unfortunately, being covered for over a year, bacteria had grown on them to the point that Cookie gagged at the smell. So instead of moving on to making her pet rocks right away, he had to soak and clean them in bleach over night.

Here is the thing…as part of that they had to fill containers with water and carry them outside. For the first time, PanKwake realized that the taller container did not necessarily contain more water than the shorter one. Cookie and she experimented with filling one and pouring it into the other to actually measure which contained more.

This is HUGE! It is called the conservation of mass…Piaget saw it as core to the Operational Stage of Development. Educational theorists put an age limit of 7-ish on this skill. PanKwake is almost twelve…and this is a moment I have been waiting and looking for years.

Not as some check on her developmental chart, but as a general indicator of her continued development…and an indicator that she may be progressing towards others as well.

For me…Piaget’s stages and milestones like that one…are the red markings in the workbook of life. How I know that PanKwake is progressing.

Oh, one thing that I do think Piaget got wrong…especially with #neurodivergent little humans is… those stages are not sequential or linear.

One marker of #autism is called a Spiky Profile. In other words, on cognitive tests an #autistic person will score low in some areas…perhaps so low as to be considered ‘learning disabled’. But then they will score ‘genius’ in others. Around average in others.

While all humans have strengths and challenges, the basis of those cognitive tests is ‘intelligence’ is linear across the board. While someone may score lower in spatial than verbal areas, it will not be significantly lower. The score will be within the same range…i.e. ‘learning disabled’, ‘normal’, ‘above average’, or ‘genius’.

The #neurodivergent mind blows that whole theory right out of the water.

PanKwake’s speech and language assessment at age seven illustrates this point ideally. When tested her vocabulary scored that of a teen or young adult. PanKwake can hear a word ONCE…and be able to use it in the proper context there after. It is one of her ‘gifts’. In fact, she scored off the charts on that component.

But this same little human could not follow simple directions such as…ON the table, NEXT TO the chair, BESIDE the book, or UNDER the coat. While at almost twelve, she has a much better grasp of those concepts…on/under/next to/beside and the like…it is still not consistent. It depends a great deal upon how tired or over-stimulated she is.

And she certainly cannot follow COMPLEX ones like…the bottom drawer of your pink organizer next to your computer. In fact, I had to get out of bed last night to get her beads out of that very drawer for that very reason.

In Piaget language… PanKwake…

Remains in the SensoriMotor stage as she does not have object permanence – knowing that an object still exists, even if it is hidden. This is due to the complex issues of visual memory associated with her autism…especially in females.

In terms of Pre-Operational, PanKwake lacks the ability to make one thing – a word or an object – stand for something other than itself. While she can use Emojis like the ancient Egyptians did hieroglyphics, letters and words are gibberish to her. And difficulty of taking the viewpoint of others…well, that too is spotty.

Yet as I mentioned last night marked the key turning point in terms of Concrete Operational with the conservation of mass.

But here, folks, is the kicker…PanKwake is and has been in the Formal Operational stage for years. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts, and logically test hypotheses. Complex issues such as causality, justice, and the like come EASY almost natural to her #ActuallyAutistic mind. She sees things with a clarity that some adults never achieve.

Take this conversation from a few days ago…

I walk into her bedroom to hear a YouTube video…Society will always judge you.

RadiCool Unschooling mindset says…So how does that make you feel?

Without missing a beat, PanKwake replies…What do I care? I don’t know them.

I probe deeper…But what about the ones you do know?

PanKwake once more without even considering it…Then they don’t need to be my friends.

How many people do you know that has that DEPTH of thought? That understanding of themselves and the world in which we live?

The difference between how education applies Piaget’s child development theories and how I use them with #RadiCoolUnschooling is just that…

Age limited linear progression with children measured against one another…some being ‘slow’ and other ‘gifted’…


Seeing every little human as GIFTED…in one way or another.

Piaget’s Stages of Development are just one way which as a RadiCool Unschooler I am able to document progress.

For myself…in those moments when I doubt (and we all have those)…

For PanKwake…to build her up after being broken down by school and society…(I took the time that morning to point out her ‘genius’ and that some adults live their whole lives and never understand that)…

And for the doubters, especially if or when I am asked to ‘prove’ that ‘education’ is happening. I can bury these people in reports that even they cannot understand…using their own jargon. Not that that is necessary to #RadiCoolUnschooling…but it sure can be fun.



Published by Tara Cox

Writer of Literary Erotica Real-life, hot sex, deep meaning... In my day job, I am homemaker, home educator, urban farmer, and homesteader at our @HomeCrazzyHome.

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