Unschooling Neurodivergent Kids
Our family consists of mum, dad and two boys now six and three. We are unschoolers with our oldest going into ‘grade 1’ this year. Because we live in Victoria, we are lucky to have the flexibility and freedom to educate our children in a relaxed way that meets their needs.
My husband and I are both at home and studying part-time, borne out of necessity as our children are neurodivergent with complex medical needs. With multiple diagnoses and personalities that can only be described as strong-willed, unschooling was a natural fit for us. We found being respectful of the children, valuing their opinions and treating them as individuals made sense to us long before we had even heard about unschooling.
At first, we were adamant we wouldn’t home educate. It wasn’t until we tried kindergarten in 2020 that we realised we would perhaps have to change our plans. When the pandemic began, and we were in lockdown, we saw our oldest child blossom at home. He was thriving for the first time in his life because he wasn’t constantly feeling threatened by busy, different and strange environments. While many kids can become accustomed to kinder and school settings, some kids do not.
Over that year, we read more about unschooling and self- directed education. Our eldest has always been very focused on his path, and so at first, it seemed as if it were the only option. But once we began seeing the benefits, we realised it was more than just ‘the only option’ – it was an option perfectly suited to our child, and us. Our younger child was only a baby at the time, so it wasn’t on our minds about what we would do with him. However, now we feel strongly that unschooling is just a way of life.
Through home education, we have developed an appreciation for being at home and living a slower, more intentional life. We are so lucky to live in a small rural town with nature all around. We have been growing food, tinkering in the shed and slowly renovating our small, old house. Our lives are not Instagram-perfect; there is always a huge mess of toys and Lego everywhere, and the kids use screens far more than any professional would say is healthy.
But living with and guiding neurodivergent kids has taught me a lot about parenting. While I have much to pass on to my children, they have also taught me so much. I have gained a lot from taking a slower approach to being at home more. In allowing them to follow their interests, I have begun to pursue a much wider range of personal hobbies.
A day in our life involves a lot of snacks, TV, Lego and hours on the trampoline. For us, unschooling is about freedom and respect. We don’t have screen limits or set meal times. We live with a more relaxed approach to these things that yields so many benefits. It is different to mainstream parenting, but one of the main benefits is a more harmonious home.
Unschooling and home education is very varied and diverse for those who experience it, but one thing we have in common, is that we all recognise the unique ways our children learn, and how motivated they are when the experience is tailored to them or specifically aligned with their interests.
We don’t worry about grade levels, or the areas our children are not excelling in. We place importance on what they are interested in, what they feel confident doing, and the things they want to know. We are their guiding light, a facilitator of a rich learning environment in which every single moment is a learning opportunity and experience.
Otherways 171 (Feb 2022)Last updated on