As a kid, I refused to wear jeans. From the ages of 9-13, stretchy pants were IT for me. It was a comfort thing, mostly. I’m ultra sensitive to the touch of scratchy fabric. Still. But, I also needed to express my differences. I spent most of my days just on the outskirts of the “in” crowd, and was totally okay with it. My husband grew up expressing his differences in the ways lots of boys do. I’m not at liberty to spill exactly what that means. But, somewhere in our charts de destiny — we have been dreamily aligned to raise a “different” child.
But, believe me — we didn’t set out to do anything outside the “norm” when it came to starting our family. We did the doctor appointments, the pampers, the birthing classes. Soon enough, that fizzled though. And, even before my little Dougie’s health began to decline — he was showing us that he was destined for something more.
When it came to schooling, at first we opted to have him evaluated for special services through the Chicago Public School system. It took them over a year to complete their evaluation, and by the time we had our first IEP meeting — his label of “severely autistic” was obviously invalid. He was healing through Body Ecology, Raw Foods, and the energy healing and sensory work that we do at home. Still, we took the label in hopes of getting him more education.
Dealing with the red tape, “autism specialists,” and trudging through the snow to get my child to one hour of speech therapy and occupational therapy each week was draining on him. After one year of speech therapy, he never talked for his teachers. And, just preparing him for the trip was hell on us. He tantrummed and begged not to go.
When I observed Dougie in class, I noticed all of the distractions present in the public school. Bells ringing, intercom going on and off, other teachers walking in, teachers stopping to discipline other kids and more.
We tried private school and absolutely loved their routine and core belief structure. But, then there was the price and the fact that Dougie still wasn’t THRIVING. By this time, we took lots more care to teach him at home.
Teachers were telling me that I should be worried that he wasn’t talking. I thought, “how could he talk when his gut is a mess?” He was healing, and all of the “teachers” and “authority figures” around him were trying to put information into him, and make him do things.
But, Dougie needs to express things, let go of things, be absorbed in positivity, live out loud. Dougie needs to be free. He knew from the start that only I understood that, and I think that’s why he chose me.
I remember being reminded over and over how important it is for children. “especially those on the spectrum” (ugh “the spectrum”… sheesh!) to have a strict routine. Yeah, I see how that can help settle an overactive mind. We all crave structure for balance. But, that sure doesn’t mean commanding your children to do certain things or be a certain way.
Our Daily Structure is Important to Us
My goal is to get out of Dougie’s way so that he can thrive without having to depend on me forever. I don’t want him fully dependent on a specific routine. Much of my own success comes from being able to handle change. It’s all I know. So, it’s how we roll here.
I know many children whose stories are similar to Dougie’s, and if one of these children calls you mama or dad — just know that they chose you for a reason. If the homeschool or unschool bus is honking its horn at you — you can jump on. Remember, I was told to worry because it’s well known that our kids crave even more structure than the “norm.” Worrying has never done me any good. Ever.
The Routine of No Routine
Unschooling is reteaching my family how to live and be with each other in deeper love and more productive ways. We feel we lost a lot of time worrying and working hard to do what was normal for our child. Here’s a glimpse into our day. maybe it will help you to:
- Make and eat breakfast together (Dougie helps cut veggies, scramble eggs, pour smoothies, push blender buttons and choose what he wants. He also helps clean up).
- Get dressed and spend some outdoor time at beach or park. We often bring toys or books and “work” outside.
- Go to the store or market (Dougie fills his own cart, asks for what he wants and orders at the juice bar or deli. He also pays the cashier and talks to the workers at our local store. We often eat lunch outside.
- Come home, light cleaning all together and play time for Dougie (he plays puppet show, Toy Story toys, paints, this is his alone time).
- Nap time
- More outdoor time, outside class like yoga or music, park or playdate.
- Reading, art, music, math through games, puppet show or whatever we feel like — so long as it’s fun and creative.
We sign Dougie up for a few low-key activities where he can get time away and explore. He loves his yoga class. We also try to help him forge relationships with other children. He has his favorite friends and loves to play with his cousins.
We take trips all over the city, show Dougie how to use the bus and read the signs, allow him to experience the different cultures we have here, and visit beautiful places. We walk, we climb, we never stop enjoying.
Dougie is kindergarten age, and has learned all of this kindergarten lessons through play and fun. What a life!