Radical Unschooling

#100 Days of Home Ed…Day 36

Yesterday, we looked at the rules governing home education in England and Wales (slight variation in reporting in Wales as I am learning). The Four A’s as I’ll call them…

  • Age
  • Ability
  • Aptitude
  • and Additional Learning Needs.

Today, I’ll begin to explain WHY and HOW this combo is perfect for PanKwake’s unique learning needs.

As for AGE…I might as well just skip this one. PanKwake is four going on forty and some times with the wisdom of the ages. Cookie Monster just gets that…one of the reasons I love the man so.

When his parents were coming to stay with us, just a week after PanKwake and I moved in, his mother who had been a teacher asked about PanKwake and her autism (something that was unknown in her day). He told her…Just treat her like an adult. 

That really is the key. At the old house, it was a row type house with neighbors on either side. The elderly gentleman on one side totally adored PanKwake…always asking about her and even bringing her a ginger bread house for Christmas. One day she was being too loud (no such thing when she is the one making the noise). Rather than scold her, he simply asked her if she could please keep it down and said he was still trying to sleep. She immediately obeyed…because he ASKED and not told.

So treating her like a child in school would NOT work for this one. We do our best to include her in all decisions…or as many as she can manage anyway. The more control she has the happier she will be.

ABILITY – Oh how I love this one. It is ALL the difference. The recognition that not all children of the same age has the same abilities.

While PanKwake can reason, think critically and debate with the best of them, she cannot read. Yes, even at eleven, she struggles to recognize all the letters of the alphabet. Part of it is the visual and short term memory issues…no matter how many times you show or remind her…the pathway that turns visual cues from short term to long term memory is faulty. And, yes, it bothers this writer that at eleven my child cannot conquer reading.

Her older sister Mere-Mere calls her…the new type of reader. She pointed out that while we (society – Western in particular) narrowly define reading as decoding and comprehending letters and words at the its core reading is more about comprehension and acquiring knowledge and joy through the process.

Mere-Mere pointed to PanKwake’s YouTube stories…Aphmau in particular. They are complex storylines worthy of any fantasy writer. In fact, it was Minecraft Diaries and Ninjago that finally allowed PanKwake to conquer sequencing, something that the speech & language therapist and I had tried to do for months. But suddenly words like before, next, then and after meant something to PanKwake…because it was important to HER to know the order of things in those series.

The thing was that PanKwake has near perfect comprehension. And for someone on the autistic spectrum, she is remarkably good at extrapolating. Not just what might happen next, but even how the characters might feel and act. As for facts and learning…never underestimate the quality of information on YouTube. The sheer volume of knowledge that child has acquired through videos is astounding.

Yes, my PanKwake may struggle with words on a paper or computer screen, but even that is coming along…slowly. I keep going back to the fact that PanKwake hits all her milestones…she learns…AT HER OWN PACE. And that is what ability is all about.

But that is enough for today. I need to rush over to the old house and clean up the study. With the workmen here, we may need the study for PanKwake’s Minecraft…and that too is a brilliant teacher.

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