One of the biggest misconceptions among new home educators is that learning is something that happens at a desk or table between the hours of nine and three. They may even seek out a set curriculum to ensure that their little human ‘stays on track.’
Especially those families who have begun this journey from the ‘school at home’ of lockdown. These families may feel insecure without that structure and support from the schools. They may seek to duplicate it.
And that is OK – if that is what your little human wants and needs. If that is your little human, stop here. And good luck. Goodness knows, I am the queen of self-imposed routines and structures. So, I can completely appreciate the need for that structure.
But that is NOT @PanKwake. Her PDA (Pathological Demand Awe-ti-some) balks at anything so structured.
Like many of you, though, that is the standpoint from which I began our home education journey. When I homeschooled my older offspring in the US, we spent loads of money on an ‘official’ curriculum. They sat at the dining room table until their ‘school work’ was done every day. Of course, even then, they had far more time for free play. Even structured lessons can be covered in only two to four hours in a home setting.
So, when I deregistered @PanKwake from Year 1, I assumed that would be how our life went too. I spent money on curriculum. Though, the online subscriptions that are paid for monthly are far less of an initial outlay than all those workbooks were. I set up a desk for her.
But every single time I tried to enforce my routine on her, she melted down. I tried doing it in smaller segments of one ten to fifteen minute lesson interspersed with play. No luck. Eventually, I decided that a bit of ‘de-schooling’ would not hurt and I abandoned the structured approach. At least until we had a diagnosis for her challenges and got the ‘proper’ help…
That day never came. Yes, we got our labels. But there was little support offered. And what we were offered was so structured that it triggered those same avoidance tendencies and melt downs.
I stubbornly held onto to that dream of a structured educational program. It would happen – when @PanKwake matured a bit. After all, some of the countries, such as Finland, which consistently are ranked as top in terms of education don’t begin formal learning until seven. Seven came and went. Ten? Surely she would have developed the attention span by then? No. Thirteen, for certain.
And that is the point that I gave up my dreams, my need for structure. It is also when I began to appreciate just how effective Self-Directed Learning was for @PanKwake. How much she had taught herself. How valuable the skills of critical thinking, debate, and self-advocacy was for a multi-cultural, #ActuallyAutistic, asexual young woman. Honestly, @PanKwake’s ‘studies’ have prepared for the challenges that she will face in life more than schools or even my structured program ever could.
So, what curriculum do we use?
YouTube is her primary resource.
And trust me, suspend ALL your judgments. The quality of information on there is as good or better than those textbooks. Definitely better. For instance, most history books and curriculum is still ‘whitewashed.’ Meaning Columbus ‘discovered’ America. Native Americans were savages that white settlers ‘civilized.’ Ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. YouTube offers a platform that encourages alternative view points.
The information on YouTube is more current, too. Relevant videos can be recorded and uploaded in hours. Those textbooks can take years, if not decades, to be updated.
YouTube offers more varied content to accommodate different learning styles. @PanKwake requires animated videos. Alan postulates this is because her autistic brain finds it hard to read body language and facial expressions. In other words, it is difficult for her to focus on the information while also trying to assimilate those hidden messages. Cartons don’t have those same issues.
But what about those crap videos out there?
‘I don’t want my child exposed to misinformation, sexualized content, or offensive material,‘ is a common parental concern. A couple of weeks ago, @PanKwake came out with one of her ‘holy crap’ comments, the ones that make me realize what an amazing human being she is and how awesome self-directed learning is. She said:
YouTube has taught me the most important lesson – how to filter information and fact check.
Spend two minutes watching the news or on Twitter and you’ll realize how vital that skill is. And how lacking those opportunities are in schools, where you are taught to never question authority, regurgitate the information you are given, and certainly never speak up for yourself or others.
But beyond just YouTube, the best curriculum is…
And engaged parenting/mentoring.
That’s how they learn those critical thinking and advocacy skills is by practicing them on you. Always know what your little human is watching. Not so you can censor it, but so you can engage in debate with them about it.
So, before you spend all that money on ‘official’ curriculum, check on the free resources all around you…
- Internet, including YouTube
Humans are passionate about learning. Until we send them to school. So give yourself and your little human a break. Honestly, it is usually you, the parent, who needs to be de-schooled more than your young person. Most of us are the products of that oppressive school regime which invariably led to an oppressive work environment. We were indoctrinated into that 9-to-5 mentality well.
More about that one…next week.