First, do no harm: “Unschooling” a Neurodivergent Child (Part 4)

Final thoughts

Today’s guest author is Ann Gaydos. 

Ann worked in the software industry in a former life, but she decided to homeschool her four children after her daughter Paige was abused by a teacher within the Cupertino Union School District in California, and she could get no help from the administration or school board. Her interests include reading, traveling, cooking, writing, and spending time with her family and their many pets. Today Ann is a volunteer with the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint.

Homeschooling always raises questions about socialization. Many of my children’s friends were other homeschooled students they met through group activities and summer camps. One of my children played varsity sport for her local high school while homeschooling, which meant she made many friends on her team.

My children weren’t lonely. They had friends and each other. They had many sleepovers, and some of their homeschooled friends virtually moved in with us for extended periods. My extroverted children had many friends, while my introverted ones had just a few special friends. At school, they would have been exposed to many more people and would have maintained contact with the same group of people over several years, which I think would have benefitted them. Some school districts now offer partial schooling as an option, meaning students can attend a few classes at school while homeschooling in others. I think homeschool/public school partnerships will continue to develop.

No educational path is perfect, but some are less imperfect than others.

For my neurodivergent child, anything would have been vastly better than her public school, which was a place of sheltered employment for child abusers and their enablers and was extremely destructive to her academic education. My daughter has developed many interests through unschooling. She took music performance in college, graduated summa cum laude from an honors program, studied music theory in graduate school, and is currently working toward another degree in math and computer science while simultaneously working for a non-profit.

Our journey has been fun but not ideal.

With an autistic child and another who was often very ill, I sometimes found it difficult to give all four of my children their due. This was, at times, a strain on my children. On the other hand, they have all grown up with unusual empathy for other people’s challenges. I sometimes felt overwhelmed, and my dreams of law or graduate school had to be deferred as I was busy with my kids. Homeschooling is expensive. Not only are learning materials, tutors, and classes costly, but families usually forgo the homeschooling parent’s income. If I were to do it again, I would certainly do some things differently, although I would begin by never putting my neurodivergent child in a public school in the first place. I always gave my children the choice of homeschooling or regular school, and they consistently chose to homeschool. Nevertheless, one of them might have benefitted from regular school, and I would have appreciated more support for my neurodivergent child. For all the challenges, the opportunity to spend so much time with the people I love most in the world has been an incredible privilege and an enormous source of joy.

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