Unschooling PDAers

PDA is a profile of autism called Pathological Demand Avoidance… officially. But recently a term of Persistent Drive for Autonomy has been circulating which seems a better and less medical fit.

Unschooling is child-led, natural learning at home and in the community. For some, there is still an emphasis on education but for others, who use the term radical unschooling, there are no school-type resources, and unschooling philosophies merge into all areas of life. Radical unschoolers don’t set limits on food choices, bedtimes and behaviour. That doesn’t mean it is permissive, it just means that radical unschoolers acknowledge the fullness and completeness of a child’s life and being and that they are capable of making decisions.

We are radical unschoolers and I personally find the term and the philosophy very empowering. My children do need help to get to sleep, but we don’t coerce them to go to bed, they go through a rhythm of food, bath, TV, play and then book but there isn’t a set time limit for each activity and they can choose the order, or skip certain parts. This can be really challenging as our eldest can sometimes not fall asleep until 12am, but ultimately what we believe, is that being empathetic and reciprocal is more important than force and coercion.

Our children don’t have to eat at set times, and they are allowed to eat when they are hungry. In fact, this is a very foundational aspect of intuitive eating, and it is important to develop healthy habits about food. Yes, sometimes they will want to eat lollies all day, but generally, they choose healthier options. Restricting the treats only makes them want them more.

There is a common belief that we have to stamp out bad behaviour in children so that when they grow up they will conform and be proper, law-abiding adults. The problem with this premise is that it doesn’t always work, authoritarian parenting has been shown to create relationship problems, society lacks empathy for others, individualistic communities tend to focus only on personal success with no consideration of the impact on others… all of these problems can be somewhat abated by the idea that we treat children as full humans. Of course, they are not adults and they need guidance to know what is dangerous, but they know who they are and they have their own interests. Unschooling is about listening to them and helping them when they need it.

We choose to do it differently and we know it isn’t popular. But we know it’s right for us and our kids, and that is simply all that matters.

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