Neurodivergence · Radical Unschooling

A Sea Change…

As PanKwake grows into a beautiful young woman, we are thinking more and more about her future. Beginning to plan for it. Trying to suss out what that may look like and how we can assist her to achieve her dreams.

That is what any parent should do. That should be the ultimate goal of education. But in this world that is not the case. All too often education is about uniformity and conformity. All children achieve the same scores on a standardized test that measures them against their peers.

Of course with Radical Unschooling nothing can be further from the truth. We do not test…at all. Because it is not required by law (UK/Welsh here) and it is not in the best interest of learning.

Further complicating the mix with PanKwake is of course her multiple neurodivergence. Autism…dyspraxia…dyslexia…and possibly ADHD. Until now most of our efforts have gone into her developmental milestones, emotional regulation and mental health. Our educational goal was simple…HAPPINESS.

That may seem simplistic if your view of education is measured by pages in workbooks and weekly spelling tests. But when your starting point is child with half a dozen or more violent meltdowns per day…likely to run off if given the chance…unable to even manage the smells and sounds of the world outside her home…unable to make and keep friends…who does not understand concepts like sequencing and time (now, next, then, later, before and after)…then life skills must be your first priority.

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PanKwake’s park bag. And sometimes we still forgot things.

School for PanKwake often looked like a trip to the park. Just getting there…organizing so that she had everything she could possibly need to play with…carrying a huge bag of toys with us…using the bubbles to attract children so that she could practice social skills…learning sharing and turn taking…things that young toddlers quickly just assimilate had to be taught to my child.

And communication? I had to follow her around…explaining to the other children why she just ran off when she got distracted…that she was not mad at them. Then explain to PanKwake why they were not still there, waiting to play when she came back…and sometimes that meant public meltdowns.

Social skills that others take for granted like being able to eat in a restaurant. Or go swimming at the local pool. Or to a museum. All of those things became education for us.

Teaching PanKwake to live in this world…and this world to ACCEPT PanKwake…that was and to a degree still is education for us!

But these days PanKwake can go to home ed group activities…she has a best friend…everyone at the leisure center nows her. She can manage the ups and downs of life and even sensations with only slightly more difficulties than neurotypical children.

And above all that…her mental health, self-esteem and confidence are excellent.

PanKwake is HAPPY!

So as my first goal as a parent and home educator is coming to fruition, I begin to look towards the second…PRODUCTIVE.

Notice the word is productive and not successful. I don’t believe in successful the way that many people do. I just don’t measure it the same way. Successful to me is doing what you love and being happy. To me caring for Cookie Monster and PanKwake…being there for friends…and blogging…is successful. But anyone looking at my bank account would not define me as a success.

That is why I use the word…PRODUCTIVE…meaning…Making a contribution.

What that contribution is though should be defined by PanKwake herself.

So what does that mean for our Radical Unschooling? Why use words like sea change?

While we will continue to work on improving and maintaining those social skills…and yes, slowly…very, very slowly…work on things like reading which for a dyslexic person is like climbing Mount Everest without a coat, let alone an oxygen mask. Our new focus is upon…

Career Exploration!

Yes, I said exploring career options…jobs…work.

For an eleven year old?

Yes. Not that long ago in human history, someone PanKwake’s age would have been apprenticed. Working for long hours each and every day for a master. Learning a craft…until eventually they became the master.

I am not advocating that. She is still a child. But she is a multi-talented one…with lots and lots and lots of dreams.

  • Chef…or at least a caterer…
  • Photographer…
  • Artist…
  • Extreme sports star…
  • Model…
  • Animal rescuer…
  • even a busker…she loved Bubble Man on the South Bank.

But above all those she has one enduring dream. One that may seem unreachable…until you consider how far PanKwake has come…

PanKwake’s dream is to become a YouTuber!

Since she discovered YouTube three or four years ago…Stampy, DanDTM, Cupquake, Aphmau, The Will It guys, Pickle Boy and Angry Grandpa, Pat and Jen, Shane and I am sure I am forgetting some very important ones…these have been her role models. Who and what she wants to become.

And honestly…it is a career choice that would fit in quite well with her Pathological Demand Avoidance. Since the need for control is the key feature of this form of autism in particular, self-employment makes the most sense.

Of course…few people make it to that level of ‘success’ on YouTube. Fewer still actually make a living at it. And even then…it takes YEARS…to build that kind of following.

So then when better to begin than…NOW!

Yesterday…PanKwake released her first YouTube video…

With some help from Cookie Monster as the camera man…and Mommy as the slapstick comedian…Prankwake was born. Yes…there is almost nothing I won’t do for my children. Being made a fool of for the world is small beans, folks. Of course, one video does not a channel or a YouTuber make. So the plan for now is to do weekly Prankwake ones…and a couple of ‘Would You Rather’ question every week. Then enlist her older brother’s help this summer with Minecraft videos.

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One of the photos that PanKwake took with her KidiZoom camera.

But of course…YouTube is just one of her options…dreams. We will be exploring the others too. Perhaps starting dog walking. Setting up a bubble stand on the Quadrant. Catering a friend’s birthday party. Posting photographs to her blog (I will need to move all my crap over here but I had planned to do that anyway). Having an actual art showing.

The possibilities are limitless.

And my role as ‘teacher’ is as always to be her facilitator. To give her resources and opportunities to shine. To be the best PanKwake that she can be.

That is the beauty of Radical Unschooling…the freedom to explore the limitless possibilities. I hope you will join us for this journey.

And please…pretty, pretty PLEASE watch and like her video.

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