PAM: Hi everyone! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anne Boie. Hi, Anne!
PAM: Hello. It is wonderful to have you on the show. I came across the film Being and Becoming a while ago and knew that I wanted to chat with someone about it for the podcast.
And then recently you and I connected through an episode of Lainie Liberti’s For the Love of Learning show, which you produce, and I noticed that you’re also the US distribution coordinator for the film, so, I thought “Perfect!” Yay! And I want to thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me.
To start off …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and how you came to unschooling?
ANNE: We have four kids, and the oldest is 16, and we were pretty young when she was born. I didn’t even realize that you were supposed to research stuff. We just kind of blindly followed along what everyone else has done, you know, forever. You do the same thing your parents did at home. So, it wasn’t really even a question at first whether she would have rules to follow, go to school, and just other normal things that you do, right?
When she got to be like three or four and we actually had to start thinking about school, we toyed with the idea of homeschooling just because my husband and I both really hated school the whole time we were there. We kind of toyed with the idea but then when it got to be time—when she was five and it got to be time to make a decision, she really wanted to go and she wanted to ride the bus. She saw all the neighborhood kids getting on the bus and going to school. She wanted to go, so we were like, okay, and we let her go.
She liked it for a little while. She had a lot of friends, she liked riding the bus. And then a couple of months into it, we noticed some changes right away. She had just been a carefree, spirited, awesome three and four-year-old. Happy, tons of energy, always walking around singing. And then she started school and right away we noticed that she was so worn out from trying to be good all day. They had the reward system with stickers and all that that we had never done at home. She would just be so worn out at the end of the day from trying to be good that she would come home and just go to sleep. And you know, I was never seeing her.
So, long story short, a couple months into that we decided to pull her out and homeschool because just nobody was happy with the whole situation. And then, I started looking for a curriculum, because that’s what you do, right? You homeschool, you follow along with what everybody else does. You find a curriculum and you do school at home.
I ended up never really finding a curriculum that I liked and we played around with a few different things, just worksheets and computer programs and things. Then probably a few months after I pulled her out of kindergarten, we heard the word “unschooling” and learned about what it is. We went to the Rethinking Everything conference in Dallas, because that’s where we were living at the time.
We found a friend who was going to that conference and said, “Okay, let’s go.” I’ll go learn about unschooling. By the time we went to the conference, my oldest was eight and our second was four.
So that’s basically the story of how we got into unschooling. And since then we’ve had two more kids who haven’t been to school. (laughs)
PAM: I love hearing how all the little pieces that just kind of come up and it’s like, “well, I’ll look at that,” “I couldn’t find a curriculum that really quite fit,” etc. You keep asking questions when things don’t seem to be fitting together nicely, right?
ANNE: Right. Yeah.
PAM: Yeah, it’s all about questions. Very cool.
ANNE: Yeah, that’s pretty much what it was. We never found what perfectly fit for our family and so we went back to basically what we were doing before she was five. And it’s like, why did I have to change, just because she’s five?
PAM: I love that because that’s what I was doing, you know, even when my kids were in school and I was working with the schools—I was doing that because it wasn’t making sense in my mind, right? I still had to ask questions and I still had to try and figure out a way to make it work. It just took longer before I heard the word “homeschooling.” (laughs) “Well THAT makes sense!”
Okay. Let’s move on and start chatting about the film which is awesome. I really enjoyed watching it!
ANNE: Yeah, it is a beautiful film. I love it.
PAM: Beautiful is a great word to describe it. Okay, so, a quick little summary for people listening.
The film starts as Clara Bellar is about to have her first child—some beautiful shots there when she was pregnant—and not long after she and her husband realize they want to nurture their son’s creativity, authenticity, and self-esteem and want him to be a free thinker.
She said that the question that they started asking themselves was, “Were a place and time really necessary to learn?” And that is what they were seeking to answer through visiting a wide range of autonomous learning—because in Europe “autonomous learning” seems to be the more general term, I think, for unschooling, families.
Her first stop is with Naomi Aldort and her family. It was really fun to see some old home movies of the kids that they had to show how their interests began at a young age and wove their way into their adult lives, because their kids were older when the film began.
One thing that stood out for me was the point she made about how important it is for us to spend time with our children—to be aware and to be present with them. Because that allows us to know who they are—their personalities, their interests, their strengths, their challenges, so we can better engage with and support them as they pursue their goals and aspirations. That’s what stood out for me. I was wondering, what stood out for you from Clara’s conversations with the Aldort family?
ANNE: Well, it’s kind of funny, the thing that stuck out most for me in their conversation was when she was interviewing Naomi with her husband and he said something about how her approach is to trust and wait and his approach is to trust and wait and still in the background be nervous and worry and what-if.
In my experience, what I see in the unschooling community is how a lot of moms are kind of all-in and the dads, whether it’s just because they’re male or just because males have a different kind of mindset about success, or if it’s just because they’re working and away from the home for a few hours a day when the mom is home all day. But, anyway, that’s what I see a lot—the moms are kind of all-in and the dads, for the most part, are kind of “do what you want but I’m still nervous.”
PAM: Yeah, that stood out for me too and I kind of think that a piece of it is that so often they are working outside the home so the mom has more time to do the research, is the primary person making the choice, or driving the choice anyway. And, they get the time to see it in action and make all the connections and can just build that trust up a lot faster.
Plus, the other piece too, when I talked to my husband a couple of weeks ago, that because they are out of the home working they are also more surrounded with the conventional measures you talked about. Like how we define success and everything. I know for that first year or two, I cocooned kind of with the kids so that I didn’t constantly get bombarded with those messages reminding me how different it is, the thing that we’re doing.
ANNE: Yeah, still every time I go to a public park when conventional mainstream kids are there with their parents, it’s like a whole different world. And that’s just a playground, not a workplace. It’s just a playground!
ANNE: So yeah, I get it why a lot of dads are like that.
PAM: Yeah, and she smiled when he said that, I think. I was kind of watching to see what her reaction was from that because it’s reality for so many people, isn’t it?
ANNE: Yeah, and the reason it stood out for me is because I do see that a lot and my husband and I are both self-employed so we don’t see it in a job environment, we don’t see it in a workplace environment, but just because moms’ brains and dads’ brains sometimes just kind of work differently.
So, even my husband, this many years into it doesn’t really have doubts about the educational aspect of it at all because he knows from experience that you can learn a lot more without school than a lot of times you can learn with school, but the radical unschooling parts of it sometimes he still has issues with, after this long.
I see that a lot. And it was interesting to see that from a husband of somebody who’s kind of, I don’t want to say an authority of unschooling, because is there really such authority, but somebody who has written books…
PAM: Yeah, experienced.
ANNE: Experienced, right. And she’s written books, she speaks, all that. And her husband was feeling the same things that my husband feels.
PAM: Yeah. And that my husband felt too. That’s why I wanted to have him on the podcast. Our kids are all young adults now so he has that additional perspective, but definitely, there were challenging times over the years as he would process.
I guess it’s the expectations, but that even seems like kind of a strong word, just because it’s so ingrained, even for us, growing up. And the whole conventional male perspective of taking care of your family and for them to do conventionally well as a measurement of us doing well as parents. That’s all stuff we have to work through.
Clara also made another important distinction in the film that I loved, the idea of freedom, not licence. Naomi mentions a book by that name by A.S. Neill, and I did a quick search after and found it was published back in 1966. It was a compilation of his replies to letters that he received from people who had read his classic Summerhill and had questions around how the philosophy plays out “in real life.”
In Summerhill, he wrote, “It is this distinction between freedom and license that many parents cannot grasp. In the disciplined home, the children have no rights. In the spoiled home, they have all the rights. The proper home is one in which children and adults have equal rights.” Naomi describes it as protecting the child’s power over themselves—their autonomy—not their power over others.
In my mind, what it brought up was the idea of unparenting in relation to the spoiled home, as he called it, where they have all the rights. Where we are kind of sublimating ourselves to our children rather than living actively with them and keeping their autonomy, but working with them so that they are not exerting power or control over others in their environment.
However, most of us have grown up enmeshed in that total power-based relationships where power was the measure of how you can interact with people, so this is definitely a challenging shift for us, isn’t it?
ANNE: Yeah, that reminds me of a time at my first unschooling conference, “Rethinking Everything” in Dallas, which would have been 2009. We were in a session, I don’t remember what the session was called exactly, but it had something to do with not the educational side of unschooling but the, I was going to say behavioral, but it’s not behavioral, it’s discipline or what’s the word I’m looking for?
PAM: I think of it kind of as “life-skills,” right? Living together.
ANNE: Right, and so it wasn’t about academic unschooling, it was a session about the unschooling discipline or partnership with your children or something like that.
I remember somebody brought up a question about she was just getting into unschooling with her son who was about six and they were still in the deschooling phase so she was trying to figure it all out and she had been pretty authoritarian before. But this one particular situation was that her son wanted to sit on her lap and play video games. Which is fine, you know, my kids will sit on my lap and play video games. But he wasn’t allowing her to get up. For hours and hours he wanted to sit on her lap and play video games and if she asked to get up because she wants to go get a snack or she has to go to the bathroom or whatever, he was exerting his control over her and saying “No! I want to stay on your lap.” Basically, “I want to sit on your lap or I’m going to throw a big fit.”
So, she was allowing him to do this because that’s what she thought unschooling was. And this was my first conference and I was like, if that’s unschooling, that’s not me! If I need to go to the bathroom, I’m not going to sit and negotiate with somebody who is sitting on my lap. I don’t want to be in that situation. So, it’s freedom, not license, and they should have worked that out before he sat on her lap.
PAM: Yeah, if that becomes an issue you talk with them after!
ANNE: Yeah, I don’t know what kind of advice I would give in that situation but it’s not a situation that I would want to be in so I would try to work that out beforehand.
PAM: Yeah, it seems, I mean, this isn’t a Q&A show, but it seems like that’s about something bigger. (laughs) That’s a need he’s expressing which you want to find a way to meet, but you don’t meet it at the expense of your personal comfort. That’s a conversation you guys can have to work out how can we make this work.
ANNE: Right, but that’s just what came to mind when you said “freedom, not license.” Unschooling isn’t about kids having power over the parents. It’s about a partnership. Freedom and partnership, not freedom and control.
PAM: Yeah, and in working through those things with their parents, those situations—that child isn’t wrong for wanting that—but in working out ways to meet the underlying need that he’s expressing through wanting to do that and taking into consideration the parent’s needs to be able to go to the washroom, to be able to not spend that many hours that they’re uncomfortable.
There is so much learning in there, isn’t there, about life skills and relating to people and figuring out ways to work together that everybody can get their needs met without needing to control other people. It takes time to learn that, but that’s so worth it, right? For me, that’s a big part of unschooling, but a big part of learning how to live together with people.
ANNE: Right, and from the outside people hear about unschooling and they think that’s what it’s like and it’s so not what it’s like.
PAM: Yeah, that’s why I wanted to bring it up, because I think that is an impression that people can get early on. We’re supporting them, we’re helping them pursue their goals, helping them meet their needs. But at first, when we’re thinking power and we’re not going to control them anymore, we don’t know yet what to replace that with. They don’t know how to have that conversation, they just know to stop controlling and don’t know what to replace it with. So yeah, I thought that was an important bit that she brought up. I like that.
She also visits with the Fadel-Renau family in France, and I really loved what the dad said when he likened school to a “school of thought.” Because just that little flip of phrase seemed to lessen the power of it, for me anyway. It reminded me that the compulsory education system as we know it has only been around for a hundred-odd years, so it is actually more of the new experiment on the block. We have been living and learning for thousands of years before that.
His point was to do what suits your family’s needs but not to do it blindly, to realize that sending your children to school is a choice. It’s so easy to forget that, isn’t it, in the grand scheme of things that school is new because the school system we have we’ve pretty much all grown up with it so it has permeated our lives to such a degree so quickly that it seems like the only option, doesn’t it?
ANNE: Yeah, yeah. It’s hard to not just follow along, like I was saying before about how we started school at five because that’s what everybody does. And now even, a lot of people would have considered my oldest behind because she didn’t start school when she was three. And that’s just crazy. They need to play.
There are just so many things that people just do because it’s how things are done and they don’t question anything. And that’s really what people need to do, is just question. If something doesn’t feel right, then just question it and do some research and figure out what works best for your family.
PAM: Yeah, I always like the phrase “check your premises” because if something doesn’t feel right there may be something that I’m working on that might not be quite so true. (laughs)
ANNE: Right, right. And really for me, that’s what’s so beautiful about this movie is that it’s not somebody who claims to have all the answers and is an expert on unschooling. Like you wrote a book and a couple of other people write books and you have the experience already. And I don’t know if you don’t want to call yourself an expert or not, or just experienced.
PAM: Yeah, I prefer experienced. (laughs)
ANNE: Right. She’s not claiming to be experienced at all about these things she’s researching, but that’s what it is and you follow along on her journey to question all the dogmas that are surrounding her and figure out what’s going to work best for her family.
PAM: Yeah, and you know what I loved? She just seems so beautifully curious and open, right?
PAM: She just wanted to explore!
ANNE: Yeah, and that’s really what the whole film is. She’s not claiming to have all the answers. She has a lot of questions and she goes around and tries to figure out the answers for her family and what’s going to work best for her and her son.
PAM: Yeah, and that really comes across very nicely, that you know they have in mind that they want to, I guess for lack of a better phrase, keep their son “whole.” Keep his curiosity intact and his free thinking, his critical thinking, and not impose a framework on top of him.
But they are still exploring to see what their days might look like when he becomes school age. It’s so fun just to see him running around in all these different places! I assume they travelled around from place to place having connected with people and they show up and ask questions and hang out and just hear what the different families have to share. I thought that was a really fun way to approach it. There isn’t a lot of judgement in any direction but there’s people happily sharing their experience and what they think about it, right?
ANNE: Right, right. Exactly.
PAM: Arno and André Stern were in there and I met them a few years ago when they came to Montreal, Canada. It was fun to hear from them in the film.
I loved André’s point—and that was cool about the film, because everybody comes at it from a different perspective, what pieces are important to them about this lifestyle. That’s a fascinating piece too because we’re all so different.
André’s point—one of his points—was that people often mistakenly assume that a child who is free lives in chaos. I thought that was interesting. Arno, his dad, made the point that, “Freedom arises out of structure, not out of chaos. A child knows there are limits—not restrictions, limits.”
After I watched that and thought a bit more, I realized it can be hard for people who’ve never been free to control their own days to imagine that children—people, in general—when given the freedom of choice, will explore their personal need for structure and routine. That they will find the ways they prefer to do things and make those choices more consistently. It’s not like a chaotic free-for-all all the time.
And that there are natural limits to things, though, of course, those vary by individual—it’s just that so many of us have rarely encountered those kind of limits because the restrictions we’ve lived within have made our world even smaller than that, right? We haven’t often explored the edges of our comfort zones, where we would find that we want to say “Oh, no thanks, we don’t want to go any further.”
It’s like when parents are coming to unschooling and they’re thinking, “if I let them eat sweets that’s all they’ll ever eat,” or “if I don’t restrict TV, they’ll watch it all day, every day.” That’s such a fascinating piece and it’s something I love about coming to unschooling and about talking with people that are new to it: that children who are free are almost completely different beings than the ones that we see who are trying to live within the framework of restrictions.
So, I wanted to hear what you thought of their point that freedom doesn’t equal chaos and whether that’s been your experience.
ANNE: Yeah, it’s always the first thing that people say whenever the subject of rules comes up. Like, if I don’t control what my kid eats then they’ll eat junk food all day and they’ll sit and play Mario Kart and never do anything else.
And, of course they might do that at first if you’re deschooling and switching over from authoritarian parenting to unschooling. But, in my experience, they will eat junk food when they want to, just like I do, and they’ll eat good food when they want to, just like I do. I tried to make sure my kids have the same freedom that I do. I don’t want to be told, “No, you’ve had enough chocolate,” or whatever I feel like eating. And I don’t want to be told, “No, you need to eat your steak before you eat your dessert.” I don’t want to be told that, so I try not to tell my kids that.
Of course, the old programing comes back once in awhile, but I do my best. (laughs) But no, it’s not chaos at all, it’s partnership. And I wouldn’t say we have a whole lot of structure, I think Arno said “structure,” but I personally don’t do well with a whole lot of structure, so that’s just me and it’s not forced on me because I’m an adult and so I don’t force it onto my kids either because I don’t want it to be forced on me.
PAM: That’s it, I think! That’s the beauty! I don’t do well with structure. The more I try to put structure on myself, the more I resist it. (laughs) But that’s how I explore and figure out how I tick, right?
You know, there are some routines that I like. When I get up in the morning I do four or five things in a row pretty darn consistently and I like doing those things and same in the evenings. So, there are some routines that I like.
Structure always has two components that turn me off. Often structure has a time component so I’m not working with myself how I am in the moment. I’m looking at the clock and that hardly ever works for me. And the other piece of structure that turns me off is that so often there’s like a guilt component if you don’t follow it, if you know what I mean. Don’t try to guilt me—and I’m talking to myself here! Because as soon as I say I want to do X by Y time when Y plus 2 appears and I haven’t done X, I start to feel bad. So it’s like, no, that doesn’t work for me at all.
ANNE: I actually just remembered something that I wanted to bring up about structure.
So, as unschoolers, we’re not structured or scheduled or all that and there was a time when my third son who is now almost six, when he was just around one, I believe, because my third and fourth are pretty close together.
I was pregnant with the fourth, so he was right around 12, 13, 14 months old and he just wasn’t sleeping. Literally, he didn’t nap during the day, he didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours at night, he was just not sleeping at all. I was trying to figure it out and so I decided to try out a schedule, because, you know, I did some research and did some reading, and I figured out that sometimes if they don’t nap during the day then they won’t sleep as well at night because they’re sleep deprived and then it spirals and they get more sleep deprived.
So, I wrote out a schedule and I based it on what he was already doing, like when he had breakfast and when he seemed to get tired during the day even though he didn’t sleep. It felt completely non-unschooly at all but he wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t sleeping and I had to do something, right?
Like I said before, I don’t do well with structure or schedules or things, but I wrote it all out and we followed this schedule strictly for probably a week or two. And he actually loved it! He would be sitting in his high-chair having his breakfast and he would—I don’t remember exactly how much he was talking at that point—but he would start pointing at the bathtub because it was time for his bath now, he had his bath after breakfast.
And so for a little while he loved it and that somehow reset him and I was able to get rid of the schedule after a couple of weeks. But yeah, it felt terribly not un-schooly but I couldn’t follow the unschooling dogma, I had to do what worked for him, right?
PAM: Yeah! And when I think about it, I don’t like the idea of unschooling dogma anyway. (laughs) But you were taking the situation for him and trying out something to help him feel better because he was sleep deprived, right? He wasn’t getting the sleep that you knew that his body needed so you were trying out different ways to help him click. Being more focused on regular sleeping for him for a week or two helped him switch out of the spiral that he was in.
To me that’s working with your child and trying to figure things out and for them individually. Because your point was not to impose a framework on top of him, you were trying to help him by saying “Hey, maybe this might work for you.” You see the difference?
ANNE: Yeah, yeah.
PAM: Yeah. That is a very cool story. Thank you.
ANNE: It was kind of a funny time because like I said, I’m not a schedule person, I wasn’t at all. So even as I was writing the schedule I was like, this is funny. Because I have to follow the schedule too!
PAM: I know! And isn’t it funny how our kids are so different from us? I learn so much from helping out my kids.
I know when Lissy was doing her 365 she thought of it as work and she gave herself a schedule at the time. She said I have my mornings off to play and then I start at noon and I work until I’m done even if it takes me until midnight. And sometimes it did and sometimes she was done in a couple of hours. But that was a structure that she felt good about that worked for her. So something like that, it doesn’t work that well for me, but I could still support her and say “Hey, it’s noon,” and she would appreciate being reminded because maybe if she lost track of time and she would feel bad about it later. I never did it with the expectation that had to but she was appreciative of the reminder.
It’s so fun, living with your children and actually paying attention to those things because you’re helping them explore all these different possibilities and see which work well for them.
Clara ends the film by saying, “After all these encounters, the path is only beginning. I no longer need to understand everything. I can see that it’s about letting everyone simply live their own life so that they’re being and becoming their best.” I loved that. But it takes a while to get that place of trust, doesn’t it? That place where you’re comfortable knowing that you don’t need to know all the answers and that you don’t need to understand everything up front before you start down the path. Did you find that as well?
ANNE: Yeah, definitely. It starts when they’re five and school-aged and one of the first questions you get when people find out you’re unschooling is “what about college,” or “what about algebra,” and they’re five! But those kinds of questions then make you start wondering too.
It definitely takes a long time to get to that place of trust. I didn’t learn about deschooling until after we were already unschooling for a couple of years. So, we kind of unschooled, and then deschooled, and then got back into unschooling, and that was kind of weird.
I can’t say exactly when we got to that place of trust, but we definitely are there now because with my four and five-year-olds I have no worries at all about them learning, and learning to read. And they’re learning so much on their own, they would be held back by going to school, I have no doubts at all. But I can’t say that about my older two, that I had no doubts at all when we got into it.
PAM: I find too, and maybe it’s because they’re your younger ones now too, but I found when my eldest hit certain ages different ideas popped back up that kind of knocked my trust for a minute that I had to revisit. Because I hadn’t really thought of them.
We get the “what about college” thing early, but when they start hitting high school age or when they start hitting college age, the questions come up again so you kind of have to revisit it. And I felt that it was at least a year before I could comfortably say that typical day in and day out I’m very relaxed and we’re just unschooling and living.
It took a long time to get through the day-to-day conventional assumptions that we have. And realizing, it took a few times through having the questions and needing to see it in action before I could trust enough that I didn’t need to always keep looking for the learning.
At first, I needed to look for it because I needed to trust for myself and I needed to see that it was happening. But eventually I saw that, you know what, this stuff is going to play out this way again and again and that helped me when I couldn’t quickly see what was going on but I could trust knowing that there was a reason and that this would have a purpose that would come out somewhere down the road. You know what I mean?
I’ve kind of come to the point where the whole deschooling conversation is not so much a month for every year that a child has been in school it’s really mostly about the parents. Sure, if kids have had a rough time in school, they will need some recovery time. Like you said, your daughter, even though she was only there for a few months before you took her out, you noticed a change in her. But I think that often they recover that pretty fast, and of course we’ll help them through that, but I think as adults we’ve had the longer school career by far so we’re the one who’s going to need to do so much more work.
ANNE: Yeah, definitely. And it’s kind of a constant work. Because some kind of stress comes up or some kind of question comes up, or anything and you automatically go back to that place when you’re a kid. So yeah, it takes constant work. It’s not just a one-time deschooling, it’s a constant kind of re-centering and remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it differently.
PAM: It kind of comes back to something that I hear all over the internet—in places where I am, anyway—it comes back to knowing your WHY.
Because these questions come up and you’re like, “Oh, oh, oh, what?!” and then I go back and look at my kids when I’m stressed and unsure and I found that that was something that really helped me, was to go back and spend more time with my kids.
So often I would be off was when I was getting disconnected because I wasn’t remembering my WHY. But when I watched them in action and remember how much they’re learning and how joyful they are and seeing them engage so deeply in their day, in whatever activity it is, it reminded my why we were doing this and then that trust came flooding back.
So, last question.
All these questions were basically the pieces of film that stood out for me, so I was wondering if there was something I didn’t cover. What piece of the film stood out most for you?
ANNE: There are a couple of things that stood out most for me.
One of them was when André Stern was talking about trying to find an instrument maker that he could apprentice under and learn how to make an instrument, the one that he found, I don’t remember his name, but the Swiss instrument maker that he found that allowed him to apprentice said, “I can show you everything but I can’t teach you anything.”
And that just stood out to me as kind of profound. That’s what I try to do with my kids. And of course, there was a point when we started homeschooling—because that’s what everybody does—there was a point where I tried to teach. But I’m not a teacher and my kids don’t want to be taught by me.
PAM: They probably don’t want to be taught! (laughs)
ANNE: Well, yeah! So that’s what I try to do. I try to show them everything and I live my life.
Back to what Naomi Aldort said: I live my life and I share what I’m doing with my kids. And that’s how you learn to live your life, that’s how you learn any academic type stuff that you need, too.
And another thing that stood out was when Arno Stern was talking about how learning never ends and how he is 80 and still loves to learn. Things come up every day and you’re still learning new things. It so ingrained in society that you graduate school and then you’re done learning. But of course we know it’s not true and I’m sure there are plenty of people who know it’s not true, but that’s kind of the impression that’s out there—that you learn at school and then you’re done. Or you’re done with your school day and you come home and play but you’re not learning when you play.
PAM: I know! It’s such a constrained definition of learning.
ANNE: But yeah, here’s this guy, 80 years old, who still loves learning and learns new things every day.
PAM: When he said that, I remember thinking, I can’t wait until I’m 80 and still learning! I thought, that’s going to be awesome. I’m going to remember this moment then! Crossing fingers and all. (laughter)
ANNE: And the other thing that stood out for me because it was a personal experience, I guess. I’m horrible at remembering names, but the mom and the two girls who are living out in the country and fix up this house.
The mom was talking about how they brought their cat home to their new house and there was a place where it could escape. So, the mom was panicking, “We need to fix this, we need to call the guys and have them fix this.” And the girls, since they had been watching all this construction, they had kind of learned how to do everything even though they had never touched a tool. They learn how to do everything and how to look at everything and say, “Okay, we need this and we need this.” And they did and they fixed it.
That reminded me of a time when my son was about six years old and we lived out in the country and they had this long piece of lumber, like a two by six board like 12 feet long. And they’re playing with it and putting it on top of a planter that I had and made a teeter-totter thing. My son and my daughter were playing with it and they were roughly the same size so it was pretty easy to set up a teeter-totter.
He came in and wanted me to play on the teeter-totter with him so right away, back in my old-school thoughts, I’m thinking this is going to be a great teachable moment. We can have a big long discussion about physics and fulcrums and I can teach him how to properly make a teeter-totter with a heavy thing on one side and a light thing on the other side and different lengths and all that.
So, we went out there and I’m working on this whole lesson in my head, right, because this is going to be great! I have this great unschooling teachable moment because I wasn’t at that place of trust yet. I was still looking for those moments. And so we went out there and he looks at the planter, the fulcrum, and the board and he moves it around a little bit, he looks down at himself, he looks over at me and he adjusts it a little bit more and we stand on the teeter-totter and it worked perfectly. (laughter). And I go, “Well, there goes that lesson.” I could tell him the words for it, but he knows it.
PAM: He already knew it. That’s beautiful! There is so much going on in their heads that we don’t know, that for us to presume that we know what they know really gets in the way, doesn’t it? Because if we don’t give them that space, if we jump over them we can really kind of get in the way and discourage all that thinking and processing that they’re doing all on their own, can’t we?
ANNE: Yeah. Imagine if I would have sat him down and made him do a lesson first and learn all the words for it and figure out formulas before we go out, he’d be like, “Nevermind, I don’t want to do it.”
PAM: Exactly! That’s a beautiful story.
Well, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Anne. I loved the film, and I loved having a conversation about it!
ANNE: I had fun!
PAM: I’m glad you had fun! And before we go, where’s the best place for people to connect with you online?
ANNE: Okay, so people can find me on Facebook just with my name, Anne Boie, or I have a website for this new show that I am producing, we’re working on our fourth episode so far, it’s called Youth on Subjects of the World and it’s on Facebook and it’s also on a website called youthonsubjectsoftheworld.weebly.com.
PAM: Excellent! Yeah, I saw that on Facebook and it looks really interesting. I love the way you’re having them sharing their viewpoints. And it’s just a few kids for each episode talking about ongoing subjects?
ANNE: Yep! Subjects of the world.
PAM: Wow, look! A self-explanatory title! (laughs)
ANNE: Sometimes it will be current events. The first episode was on the U.S. election and the second two episodes were more on broad topics. We did adultism, and internet culture was the third episode. So yeah, we’re mixing it up. Sometimes it’s big topics, sometimes it’s current events, and the kids on the show choose the topics and they choose which topics they want to talk about. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun!
PAM: That’s terrific! I will definitely share the links for that in the show notes.
Thank you very much and I hope you have a great day, Anne!
ANNE: Yep, thanks!