Pam Sorooshian is a veteran unschooling mom of three now adult daughters. Originally broadcast as the second episode of the podcast, I wanted to bring this gem back into the light!
In our conversation, Pam shares so many incredible insights from her experience. She talks about the early years of unschooling, tips on navigating sibling conflicts and reluctant spouses, how she worked through her bias against TV by exploring her husband’s love for it, and we also dive into her well-known essay, ‘Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children,’ about the law of diminishing marginal utility.
In prepping to re-share this episode, I found some notes I made a while ago when I was reading the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much about how it wove together so clearly with Pam’s essay. Here’s a quote from the book, written by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir:
“Scarcity is not just a physical constraint. It is also a mindset. When scarcity captures our attention, it changes how we think—whether it is at the level of milliseconds, hours, or days and weeks. By staying top of mind, it affects what we notice, how we weigh our choices, how we deliberate, and ultimately what we decide and how we behave. When we function under scarcity, we represent, manage, and deal with problems differently.”
It’s really fascinating stuff! The scarcity mindset can effect everyone—not just children, and not just around TV watching. But it is a great example, and one that often comes up in unschooling circles.
Even if you’ve listened to this episode in the past, I strongly encourage you to listen in again. I suspect you’ll find yourself making all sorts of cool connections and maybe even gaining some new insights and ideas.
Ten Questions for Pam
1. Jumping back a few years, how did you first hear about unschooling and what spurred you to begin exploring unschooling with your family?
2. Let’s talk a bit about what learning looks like with unschooling. When one of your children was actively pursuing an interest, what are some of the things you did to support their exploration? And how did you weave together pursuing the interests of all three children?
3. One of the wonderful things about unschooling is the time we spend together. We get to know each other very well, strengthening our family’s connections and relationships, and part of that process, especially with siblings, is figuring out ways to move through moments when they are frustrated and angry with each other. When your children were younger, how did you help them move through conflicts?
4. I understand that your husband was a bit wary of unschooling for a few years, as was mine. How did you approach that?
5. One of the topics that regularly trips up newcomers to unschooling is TV watching. I’ve always loved your clear explanation of how restricting TV actually causes children to become more strongly attracted to it, the opposite of what the parent is trying to accomplish. Can you take us through that?
6. As an economics and statistics professor, you are pretty comfortable with math, but it’s an area that can be challenging for some people to figure out as they explore unschooling, especially since school has mostly boiled math down to worksheets. I have two questions for you about math. The first is, can you talk about how you see learning math through unschooling?
7. The second question is, can you suggest, especially for parents who are feeling a bit math phobic, some activities can they do with their children?
8. You’ve been actively involved with Homeschool Association of California’s annual conference for many years. What are some the benefits of going to a conference that you’ve seen for newer unschooling families?
9. All three of your daughters chose to go to college, and you see lots of schooled kids in your college classes. Have you seen any advantages in college from growing up unschooling?
10. Looking back now, what, for you, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling?
Links to things mentioned in the show
Pam’s blog: learninghappens.wordpress.com
Pam’s classic piece: ‘Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children‘
Read more about Pam’s daughters’ college experience: sandradodd.com/college