Neurodiverse Unschooling Adventures: Step 1 – The Decision

I didn’t have kids to be a school teacher. Straight. Up. Facts.

Teacher of life lessons? Yes. Obvs.

But a teacher of school subjects? I am a writer. But that doesn’t mean I know HOW to write….in the way the current education system demands of students at least.

I write conversationally…..not academically. I am terrible at Mad Libs because I can’t remember for the life of me without googling what a verb, or an adverb, or an adjective even is…..

But here we are.

In 2021.

The world is falling apart around us and sending kids to school means worrying about school shootings AND a pandemic on top of the daily bullying…

March 13th, 2020 – our life as we knew it – was dismantled. Slowly at first. We held onto hope that it would get better.

2 weeks.

Then 2 months.

And now we are entering our 3rd school year interrupted by a pandemic.

We figured the 2020-2021 school year would just be a bump in the road.

For some kids – that’s exactly what it was. Virtual learning wasn’t a shitshow.

For others – Zoom meetings were anxiety-inducing (even with the camera off) and the cookie-cutter “read 2 pages and answer 10 questions” for every subject – triggered epic storm level meltdowns. 

This last April (2021) – after intense debate – my husband and I decided to pull the girls from their online academy – and begin unschooling them.

We enrolled the girls in our community online academy because they did not have daily zoom meetings. There was no way in hell was I going to deal with daily fights to log in to Zoom. Besides – I still had a energy sucking 9-to-5.

The online academy allowed us to do school work on our own time. It was the best option.

Now – nothing against the online academy. They were my anchors and were 1000000% supportive of our girls AND our entire family.

But it just wasn’t working.

E has SPD, Anxiety, all the ADHD’s, communication disorder, and is on the spectrum. B has SPD, Anxiety, and ADHD.

Both of our girls are neurodiverse. They both are wicked smart… in their own respective curiosities.

But the pandemic hit them hard. Being neurodiverse – they were already at a disadvantage going INTO the pandemic. The online academy assignments were just fuel to their academic pit of hell experience. Something had to change.

So one day – I just stopped. I gave them space to try new things. We started turning every interaction into some sort of educational activity.

We started noticing that for once in their academic careers thus far – they were happy. And thriving.

And learning…

B was bullied constantly from Kindergarten to 4th grade. At one point the school counselor told her she was lying TO HER FACE…I still don’t know I kept my shit together. Still miffed at that…4 years later.

ohplusalso – it wasn’t until this last school year began when I sat down with B to help her with her school work – that I realized how far behind she was academically. For 4 years – we were told over and over and over and over again that B has a huge heart, and is a great friend and student, and is willing to help.

They also kept telling me that she was catching up and to not worry about it.

The first week of the last school – I sat down to help her navigate her virtual education – and I cried. My heart broke.

I had failed my kiddo.

I had to focus so much on E over the years that my worst fear came true. I started beating myself up for forgetting I had another child.

E spent most of her days in small learning groups because she would either shut down in the main classroom or have a meltdown that caused room clears. There was very little in-between.

2nd grade – right before the pandemic hit – she was FINALLY headed in a positive direction. But before that – I was either picking her up early from school, becoming a hostage negotiator over the principal’s phone to get her to unlock the bathroom door, OR going into a PTSD-fueled panic attack whenever my phone rang because of how often the school called.

At one point – I was almost fired from my job because of how many attendance points I had because I had to get her away from school immediately and I was a 30-minute drive going the speed limit – away.

We talked to the girls before we made our decision to pull them and start homeschooling. This was their life after all.

We have friends who do every variation from traditional school to homeschooling to unschooling. We may have intensely debated but the husband and I already knew the answer. We have been discussing this for years. Never thought we would actually end up doing it though.

“Do you want to go back to in-person learning?” I asked, multiple times over a few months.

“Nope.” They immediately responded each time.

And I don’t blame them. They were only 9 and 11 but the trauma had already happened.

Sending them back to school to watch their friends get sick and possibly die? Not to mention the still-present threat of active shooter drills… I can’t.

We are failing our kids on so many levels. Not just our kids – but America is failing her kids.

In-person learning – the traditional education system that we know today – is not built for kids like mine.

Look – this may not be a popular take – but as the Delta Variant rages like an eternal flame from the depths of hell – the normal we were living… never coming back.

We were blissfully unaware and/or ignorant of the hardships of our fellow humans. The pandemic awoke something in all of us. Well….most of us.

In fact – the way things used to be – before the pandemic, hell – before Trump – was not a way of living. It was a way of surviving being cogs in the machine.

I understand the privilege that my husband and I have to be able to unschool our kids. I own my own business and work from home.

Pre-pandemic – the thought of homeschooling at least E was always in the back of our minds. The end of 2nd grade was actually going to be the grade we made a decision. Logistically – we couldn’t pull it off. I was at an office with odd hours and there was just no way.

Funny how the pandemic made the decision for us in the end.

Now…that doesn’t mean I miss public school and think unschooling is the way to go for every family. You HAVE to do what is RIGHT for YOUR family. For YOUR kids.

Soooooo…..What is unschooling? And how the heck will it look like for our family?

Good questions – stay tuned. Because I need to go do some research now…..seeing as how Oregon’s school year is 2 weeks away.

Adventure on with Curiosity,
~ Mama Wolf to 2 chaotically wonderfully kiddos

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