Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Self regulation and the home educated child

I'm going to preface this:

if you're secure in your life choices, the education of your children, or anything else I might trigger in you, then rock on! I'm genuinely happy for you, I would love to have what you have. Wobbly times of wondering if I'm fucking this all up could then be a thing of the past and I wouldn't have to feel in competition with everyone and every buggering thing they do.

So this post is one quiet, wobbly voice in what feels like a crowd of people celebrating autonomous education.

And I understand why it (autonomous education or unschooling) needs to be celebrated: mainstream don't like it, so there needs to be constant advocacy against the tide of negativity.

But, once in a while, I myself someone in a wobble might need to read something like this. So, here we go...

Fair enough. I won't call it self regulating. I admit to having expectations concerning ability and potential and I admit to feelings of unease when my child's self-chosen activities appear repetitive and restrictive. This may or may not be a schooled hangover. It is definitely based on my experience of 7 years plugging away through various approaches as a home educator of one child.

So, accepting the above, there must in turn be a recognition that some children need help with appropriate decision making in at least two situations:

  • When their choices have a negative impact on themselves; and
  • When their choices have a negative impact on others.

Here I will adress the issue of when their choices have a negative impact on themselves, because I personally feel uncomfortable with a philosophy that appears to suggest we stand by as our children make choices that make them unhappy, unmotivated and unwell.

I'm talking about situations where, when left to regulate their own time, they choose a path of least resistance that causes them negative emotional, social and interpersonal experiences. Where those experiences don't teach natural consequences, but instead the child repeats the same behaviours time and again, compounding the negative impact.

When, in comparison, a parent led structure, involving (for example) to do lists and direction, allows them to break past their own negative or destructive habits. When having a goal or incentive motivates a child to break past the anxiety of starting something so that they can discover new passions and abilities.

You see, some children really don't know how to regulate. They need to learn executive functions, because those skills don't come naturally. And these children don't always have a diagnosis (and might, or might not, be given one, if tested). And they don't always organically learn what they need, when they need it (or know how to ask for it.)

Applying a one-size-fits-all philosophy is exactly the antithesis of home education. Making a choice to home educate is a decision to move away from square pegs and round holes, and if something is destructive, or limiting for a child then it is wrong for that child. Trying to force it to be any other way is as ludicrous as throwing them unprepared into the authoritarian system we've rejected.