I can’t tell you the number of posts that I have seen on home ed groups, even unschooling ones, about the issues of diet and sleep. While technically perhaps not home education issues, these are parenting concerns. And in home ed, parenting and education lines blur – not that they should exist at all.
What surprises me though are the number of even ‘radical’ unschoolers who feel the need to command and control their little humans bodily functions. Of course, they always say things like… But isn’t that my job? I just want what’s best for them. It’s about their health.
Of course, in a traditional school and parenting paradigm, those are absolutely valid comments. But why would parents who trust their little humans to learn what they want, when they want, and in the way that works best for him or her, suddenly feel alarmed over such things? Where is all that vaunted trust, respect, and freedom? Do you trust your little human to do what’s right for them or not?
Okay, I’m gonna make one caveat here. This is in terms of 99.99% of all little humans. Though that can be said of most everything. We have a friend whose daughter has Prader-Willi syndrome. The part of her brains which signals when she is full does not function properly. So, yes, if I were her mother then I would not listen to me either. I would make certain that our home only had a small supply of healthy foods to remove all temptation.
But back to the rest of us. Our @HomeCrazzyHome in particular. We do not regulate @PanKwake’s sleep or food. I used to. When she had seizures, the doctors even prescribed melatonin to help her sleep. I took her off it after trying it myself one night when I was having trouble with my sleep. It was the worst trip of my life. Remember that occasional feeling of falling to get as you drift towards sleep? Try that for over half an hour. Frightening to say the least. And when we stopped the meds and allowed her to sleep when she was tired, whenever that might be, her seizures actually got better, and eventually went away all together.
It wasn’t easy then, because I was a single parent, living in a small flat in the middle of London. I didn’t really sleep at all then. I just sort of dozed at night while she gamed on her iPad in the living room, ten feet across the hall. We had a chain lock, up high where she could not reach it. And we made it through.
Now, it is easy. I, touch wood, get to sleep through most nights, except for those potty breaks that comes with being a middle-aged, fat woman. I feed her before I go to bed. Alan, who goes to bed much later than I do, checks on her and feeds her again. Then she chats with her new friends on Discord until…. Whenever.
That’s a new thing and admittedly even her unusual sleep non-routine has been thrown off a bit by her new discovery. @PanKwake loves fan fiction. But since she is an ear reader, not an eye one, her creative outlets are more limited. Recently, she has discovered roleplay chatrooms on Discord. It gives her a creative freedom and outlet that she has been craving for some time. I am pleased with that.
But it has affected both her sleep and eating patterns. The thing is that even with her unusual schedule @PanKwake got those eight hours on average of sleep per night. Now, since most of her online friends are in America that is not as easily done. At least not in one go. These days she is getting a couple of smaller naps. And we have to remind her to eat.
It was so bad in the beginning that I asked her, ‘Can I do that parent thing?’ The answer was a resounding, ‘No.’ Though we have a bit with food. Now instead of waiting for ehr to ask, we offer at regular intervals. And that works. But sleep? I’ve just had to let that one go and trust that she’ll find her solid ground.
And it’s not just because she’s #ActuallyAutistic, either. I went through the same thing with my oldest when he discovered World of Warcraft. And though he was nineteen and living at home, I tried that ‘parent’ thing. It didn’t work and he moved out. At one point, he actually sold a character he had made and advanced for hundreds of pounds. He turned out pretty good: finished college, got a job, joined the US Navy, and is engaged.
Honestly, I went through something similar myself. I was a single working parent in an abusive relationship when I discovered a Yahoo fan fiction writing group. I was the most popular writer there, everyone wanted to have a storyline with me. Yes, I forgot to eat sometimes, and my blood sugar would crash. And I 100% lost sleep. But for the first time I discovered people liked my writing. And that sense of accomplishment got me through a bad breakup.
That’s the thing, we think that we’re doing them a favor. That we’re teaching them to self-regulate. When, in fact, we are teaching the opposite. We are teaching them to rely on others for their cues and routines. Alan tells the story of a friend whose mother always was on her case about her weight. The mother watched everything her daughter ate, especially chocolate. Then she went to university. And ate all the chocolate she had been denied for eighteen years. Because there was no one there to control her now. And she had not learned to self-regulate.
Yes, @PanKwake is already beginning to self-regulate. And she was always aware of the issues. She knew she needed more sleep. Her solution of a couple smaller naps while her friends are offline might not be my ideal but it’s working for her. And their solutions work best for them. In terms of bodily functions as well as learning.
Trust your child…and your gut.