It's very important to have a community collective to help unschool our children. We cannot do this work in isolation, especially if you're a disabled, chronically ill family. It's hard work to commit yourself to unschooling, deschooling, indigeschooling. Although it's hard, I see it as a way to teach history, kinship, consent, social awareness, healing, self care and collective care, and creating a culturally safe space for our children and for us as adults.
I'll tell you what, it hasn't been easy the first month of unschooling since I unenrolled my kids (3rd and 6th grade) from online school. This past month has been TOUGH. So many days I wanted to throw up my hands and send them back to public charter school. But I remember why I decided to do this work. I remember that as an ADHD, autistic, disabled and Black & Akimel O'Otham family there is no space for us in the American education system that is not a space for liberation.
We began this journey with sleeping. Yes, sleeping. My kids have spent the past month getting their sleep schedule on track. There's been lots of late nights/early mornings, naps and no sleeping. They now seem to have a better sleep, going to bed before midnight and waking up before 8 a.m. If you parent ADHD & autistic, neurodivergent kids, then you know how difficult getting them to sleep can be. You also understand the late night feedings, the sneaking of food and drinks into their rooms, the wild encounters in the hallway, decisions to wash the dog's bedding and making his space a home with dog pictures at 3 a.m., and the rearranging of their bedroom several times every single night.
Aside from regulating their own sleep, my kids have come to understand what unschooling means and the ability they have to regulate their learning and behavior. At first they just sat in their schooling area and waited for me to give them things to do, lessons to learn and when they didn't get anything from me, they were hella confused. We had made morning baskets that consisted of history booklets and activity pages, chapter books, flash cards, math coloring worksheets etc. They figured out that they could utilize these resources to make learning what they want it to be. So off they went to create collages, comics, zines and games out of the resources on the plantation system, Black women in history, Akimel O'Otham language and on and on and on.
BUT. Everything has come to a halt. Nothing seems to work. I'm also not getting out of bed as I'm sick physically and mentally. They're learning by themselves (I hope?) through Legos, art, play and are outside doing yard work. I have my better days and I'm listening to podcasts and reading up on unschooling as well as working on The People's Zine Library, obtaining memberships, and Decolonizing Parenting zine (this issue on autistic parents with autistic children). I don't want to be just listening and reading up on unschooling, I want to actually help my kids to unschool, to self direct. And that's where I had to do something about it by asking community to help.
A Twitter follower had suggested that we have sessions online in peoples' respective disciplines to help unschool my kids. I posted about it and asked people if they could help. The amount of support is amazing. So far I've confirmed lessons for next week on digital storytelling, reading & writing and macaw behavior. I need to schedule sessions with people on computer science, Africana studies, math, chemistry, art conservation, digital storytelling, and music to name a few. Other things in the works: a friend and I are creating a healing workbook on cultural reclamation and responsibilities of parenting; Decolonizing Parenting zine issue 2 on autistic parenting with autistic kids will hopefully debut at a zine fest/book fair in a few months in a different country (!!!).
This is community in action. It is the beginning of something great and I'm beyond excited, it's unspeakable. I spoke to my kids about it of course and they are so hyped! We are meeting friends and new friends and supporters through this action. Stay tuned for all the great things!
"I believe now is the time for us to center ourselves and our children and our stories so that when we look out, we're the standard. I think that that's one of the beautiful things I've been able to give my children through all of the experience is centering yourself. You are the standard." - Leslie Bray, Community Collective Founder, Kid Cultivators space holder.