One of the big difference I noticed between home education in the US circa 1990s and the UK (2011 – present) is the WHY.
In the US, home education is a choice. A true choice that many families make either for academic, philosophical, or religious reasons. It is a passion and a life-style.
Whereas, in the UK, for many home education is a last resort. Whether it is a posh family in London who did not get their first choice of primary schools or the single mother of an autistic person that has been horribly failed by schools, many of them begin this journey as parents are now with the Covid crisis – because they don’t feel they have any other option. Now, to be fair, many of those parents become just as passionate about it as their American counter-parts.
I was a bit of both. Knowing that @PanKwake was my last child, I wanted to home educate from the beginning. I hated those lines of children in identical uniforms marching to school every morning. It was indoctrination, pure and simple to me. But @PanKwake’s father had been well indoctrinated. He was having no part of it. Until one year in reception extinguished his child’s light. And the school told us that bullying was just how the world works.
For me though, the most important question is…
Does home education work for the little human?
Especially the neurodivergent…
I was chatting with an acquaintance the other night. Her oldest son is 20 now, and we saw him for the first time in years this weekend. I was shocked. Like @PanKwake, he is autistic. School was a nightmare. She deregistered him around thirteen because she was facing heavy fines due to school refusal. Yes, even though he was bullied at school, the school was bullying her to send him anyway.
When I meet them, he had been out of school for about a year. But he would not do any work or would not go to any groups. He just wanted to stay on his computer gaming. He and his brother did not get along. And he melted down often, breaking chairs, computer monitors, and doors. He refused to bath, was overweight, and his hair was long and unkempt.
The man I met this weekend was at least fifty pounds lighter. His hair cut, his beard termed. Honestly, my first comment to Alan was, ‘he could be on one of the mountain men romance covers.’ He was polite, funny, and engaged. Night and day.
His mom messaged me later to thank us for the beds we had given them. We got to talk and I did something I tell everyone NOT to do. I got to comparing @PanKwake to her son.
Right now, @PanKwake is on her sleep all day/up all night schedule. Those are always tough on me. While she no longer needs to be supervised as she did when she was younger, she still needs to be fed. Yes, we have made HUGE strides even with that. Now, I can leave things prepared and Alan, who stays up much later anyway, can warm it for her. Of course, my dream is…the day when she can warm it herself in the microwave.
That was my question to our friend…could her son feed himself. I know that sounds like parents of toddlers comparing milestones, but it is a genuine concern when it comes to the autonomy of an autistic person. You can hire maids to clean. You buy ready meals (heaven forbid). Heck, most of the things that @PanKwake eats is ready meal-ish anyway. But if you can’t operate or don’t have the spoons to warm them, then the level of care necessary is significantly higher.
My friend said that yes, he could operate the microwave. He could even use the stove to make porridge, but sometimes left the gas burner on. That struck home with me since that morning, I had woken to find the freezer door open. @PanKwake had gotten an ice cream in the middle of the night and left it open. I didn’t say anything to her though because that is a MAJOR accomplishment. I don’t want to trigger her PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) by nit picking on it. She got her own food and water. That’s a win. And a sign that one day she will live autonomously.
Notice I did not say ‘independently.’ None of us do that. We all depend on others to one degree or another. But autonomously means that she’ll be in a place to make her own choices about where and how she lives.
That is a huge part of education that schools have forgotten in the last half a century. One class in home economics in year 7 is not enough. Yes, perhaps that should be taught in the home? But if the parents did not learn those skills themselves, how are they to teach it?
For most indigenous cultures, that is the purpose and focus of education – to prepare the child for life. Whether that be farming, hunting, gathering, weaving, woodwork, or any other number of skills, including caring for the young. But rather than try to convince you myself, I’ll let the expert do that:
The Wisdom of Hunter-Gatherers by Dr. Peter Gray
Dr. Gray is one of my favorite resources on Self-Directed Learning. I will referring to his work often in these next 98 days.
So, to answer that question, can home education and specifically self-directed learning work for autistic young people?
As we were comparing our offspring (something we should not have done, but oh well, we are human), my friend said that @PanKwake was so far ahead of her son at the same the age. But what she said next is what I think is most telling…
That’s because she was not exposed to school for as long.
Yes, my friend (and I and @PanKwake) feel that my daughter is where she is now…a #HappilyAutistic #ProudlyPDA person…because she was not in school.
@PanKwake and I spoke about this yesterday. She feels strongly that self-directed learning is a major contributing factor to her happiness. So, yes, neurodivergence and SDL make a good combination in our @HomeCrazzyHome. And in our friends. Could it in yours, too?