Many of us spent our more or less neuro-typical childhoods somewhat sad and depressed. It’s a sad fact that this is true for many of not most kids.
School for me meant bullying and being bullied, intense sarcasm from the 'masters' as we had to call our teachers, actual bodily harm and even death (one boy was killed on the compulsory rugby pitch in my year, another in our cadet maneuvers - we were all compulsory cadets - occasional beatings from the masters, and varying degrees of sexual abuse from older boys and others. on top of this I fought my way into school every day on a packed commuter train and regularly fist fought on the way home from school (as well as at school) because my school made us wear a striped blazer which other neighborhood kids thought was effeminate.
This was pretty normal for the late 1970s and early to mid-80s. every one of my contemporaries had the same experience. we simply accepted it. It didn’t stop us having fun sometimes. but only sometimes. the school also had very high academic standards so we worked hard. And add the training from the regular army to that and you didn’t have much free time.
The school wasn’t cheap - I went in there weak at math and science and came out weak at math and science. I wouldn’t say any of the masters of those subjects felt much of a vocational calling to help me understand, despite being paid quite well. Humiliation was the norm.
Ok as we know, most of us adults in our 40s or so have a similar story to tell. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not the world I want for my kid.
but it’s the path I was heading down all the same - automatically putting my kid into the school district - albeit special ed - as soon as I could, looking forward to the school bus picking him up and dropping him off so I could have time to work, catch up, breathe. I never considered home schooling. It’s not in my family culture and I always pictured it as a parent and a child locked in a room together each going nuts and hating it.
Only when the whole school thing imploded for us did I realize we were going to home school. It terrified me.
I had no answers to how to do this. So in the absence of answers I realized I must have questions. And the main question was - if I had my own schooling, my own childhood over again, what would that look like?
The answer was immediate - the sword in the stone of course! The wizard Merlin comes to the castle and educates you by turning you into animals and sending you off to adventures in fairy land. Ok that’s a fantasy.
But was there anything I could think of in reality that approximated to that? There was! The book by English author Gerald Durrell - my family and other animals. In that book, Durrell recounts how he and his family decamped from rainy England to the sunny island of Corfu for health reasons. There was no school. He had a boat, some dogs, and a mentor - a Greek professor of biology. He and the professor sailed all over the coast with test tubes and microscope. All the natural sciences came that way. And math through navigation. All done in Greek of course...
What the two stories had in common were one to one mentoring outside in nature with a constant sense of adventure, wonder and play. Now that, I thought, I could do...
And it’s what we’ve been doing ever since. Those of you who follow or have done out horse boy learning trainings know this approach works for the child. But it also works for us, the parents, allowing us to reclaim some of the lost happiness that was our birthright but which our town childhood was so short of.
Thank you autism.