Anita Rios-Sherman has six children under the age of 18, and five of them are on the autism spectrum. When the local school system failed to meet the needs of her oldest son, Rios-Sherman decided to try a homeschooling curriculum. When one of her kids resisted, she took a more radical step: drop the curriculum altogether, and let her son decide what he wanted to spend his time learning. In her view, he benefited from a totally unstructured approach. Next, she tried the same method with her other children. It’s an education philosophy known as “unschooling.”

On a typical weekday, the Rios-Shermans might visit a local museum, go to the park, watch a documentary, play with each other at home, or surf the internet.

“Most days we just kind of finish up where we left up the day before on a project, or sometimes we’re just spontaneous,” says Rios-Sherman. “There are many things about the unschooling philosophy that work well for kids on the autism spectrum. A lot of it has to do with allowing them to explore their passions and them not having to earn that time.”