Jody Lilley is an unschooling mom to three children, ages five to eleven. I’ve known Jody for years through unschooling conferences, and I reached out to her to chat about play because the pictures she posts online of her children at play always make me smile so big. It’s not so much that they’re busy doing lots of things, but that she captures such joy and engagement in her children even in the ordinary moments, like colouring, or playing with their toys.
In this episode, Jody shares stories about her chocolate epiphany, what she learned from a creative car enthusiast, and whittling by a winter campfire. We also chat about the creative ways she uses space in her home, the motivation behind her wonderful pictures of her children at play, and some of the ways she enjoys playing with her children.
Quote of the Week
“Fun is easy. It’s wherever you are, in whatever you are doing or sensing or thinking. It’s between you and the person you’re with or the machine you’re using or the table you’re sitting at or the path you’re walking down. It’s not something to strive for. But something to melt into, to sink into, to open up to. Fun isn’t the hard thing. The hard thing is letting yourself have it …” ~ Bernie De Koven
Questions for Jody
1. Can you share with us a bit about your background and your family?
2. How did you discover unschooling? What did your family’s move to unschooling look like?
3. There are two aspects of play I’d like to touch on: there’s the value of play itself and how we can support that, and there’s the value of parents engaging and connecting with our children through playing together. First, let’s focus on supporting our children’s play. As we come to unschooling, we know that play is fun, but we discover that so much real, deep learning is wrapped up in there as well. Was the connection between play and learning something you got instinctively? Or was it something you figured out as you as part of your unschooling journey?
4. I had so much fun looking through your pictures on Facebook of your kids at play as I prepared for the interview! How have you set up your home to support your children’s play?
5. I noticed that sometimes you guys also go out to play. I saw pictures from a trip to a ski hill, indoor skydiving, tobogganing, and a winter campfire. Are all of your children usually up for going out? Or do you guys usually have some back and forth conversations to come up with a plan around the outing that works for everyone?
6. I think a part of the journey is taking the time to notice our children’s fun, rather than just thinking, almost dismissively, “the kids are playing” and going about our own business. You have so many great pictures of your kids having fun and playing around the house, from tie-dying t-shirts to drawing to ribbon battles to building a computer to making candy, and the other day a stuffed puppy mud bath! Do you find that taking pictures helps you notice these joyful moments? Does taking note of them help you feel more comfortable about unschooling?
7. Now let’s shift to the value of us parents engaging and connecting WITH our children through play. Can you share some of the ways that you play with your children?
8. Many of us learned growing up that rules are hard and fast and changing them is tantamount to cheating. So changing the rules can be something that makes us uncomfortable. Yet changing the rules until everybody who wants to play can play is a great way not only to engage with our kids, but to learn even more about what makes them tick. It’s something children seem to do instinctively when they don’t have a history of fixed and unbending rules—I remember being amazed at the inventive ways my kids morphed games. This was a big paradigm shift for me that really helped me more easily play with them—it really isn’t about the rules. Everything opened up from there. Have you seen your children playing around with the rules?
9. And finally, do you have any tips for parents about ways to get more comfortable playing with their children?