This week, we’re back with another On the Journey episode. Pam, Anna, and Erika are joined by Living Joyfully Network member Cassie Emmott. Cassie is an unschooling mom with four children with diverse needs. She shares her path to unschooling and some insightful reflections about parenting and deschooling.
We talk about navigating challenging seasons and large families, the depth of inner work that unschooling encourages, and the choices we make to stay present and see the joy. Cassie also shares her beautiful poem about what processing feels like on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside. It’s so wonderful having her on the podcast and we hope you find our conversation inspiring on your unschooling journey!
Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube.
Mentioned in the Episode
Cassie’s podcast, Connecting The Dots – Because despite appearances, the dots are not placed at random: https://cassiehubert.com/podcast/#platform-pick
And her blog of poetry and essays: https://cassiehubert.com/blog/
Cassie on Instagram: @creativeperformermum
Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram.
Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram.
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We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. Our theme this month is Connection, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of trust and compassion.
So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. Listen to The Living Joyfully Podcast here, or find it in your favorite podcast player.
ERIKA: Hello, everyone! I’m Erika Ellis from Living Joyfully and this is episode number 346 of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts Pam Laricchia and Anna Brown, as well as our guest this week, Cassie Emmott. Welcome to you all!
ERIKA: Today we’re sharing another episode in our On the Journey series where we speak to our guests about their experiences, their a-ha moments, their challenges, and what they’ve learned on their unschooling journeys. Cassie is a member of the Living Joyfully Network and I have so enjoyed meeting her and getting to know her and her family. She’s a very inspiring thinker and I just always get so much out of the ideas she shares with everyone on the Network. And so, I’m so excited to have her here for this On the Journey episode.
And before we get started, I just wanted to share. One of my absolute favorite network features is one I was hesitant about initially, and that is the live weekly Zoom calls that we call our live conversations. So, I’m introverted. I get nervous when I’m speaking in front of people, and at first, I really wasn’t sure if it would feel too strange to listen to and talk to people I don’t really know or if I would be too nervous to share my thoughts, especially in front of Pam and Anna, who I’d been listening to on the podcast and the summit for years. And so, it’s fun to realize that now that call is one of my absolute favorite parts of my whole week.
We have different types of calls throughout the month. Sometimes we have breakout rooms to chat in small group. And most of the calls are just an open discussion and we end up talking and hearing about so many interesting things. And what I’ve really noticed is that the energy of being together is just so amazing. There’s this great feeling of support and connection.
And one of the ways that the calls have helped me grow in my own journey is that I just have this confidence now that I can handle big emotions and big problems, my own and other people’s. I can move through things that feel hard at first and sit with feelings that are challenging. And since I now have so much more experience hearing challenges and hearing all different ideas and perspectives about those challenges, it’s really helped me ground into the fact that there are always so many ways to approach a situation and that we can figure things out. And so, I just really value all of the collective insight and the experience that the community has to offer and love all the connections I’ve made.
And so, if you’re curious about what the Living Joyfully Network has to offer you, I really encourage you to give it a try. You can check out LivingJoyfully.ca/network to learn more, and also feel free to message me on the Exploring Unschooling Instagram account, which you can find @ExploringUnschooling with any questions you have about it.
And now I’d like to turn it over to Pam to start us off on this On the Journey episode. Pam?
PAM: Yay! Thank you. Hi, Cassie!
PAM: And I just want to echo Erika, that I, too, feel so lucky to have met you through the network and I’m really happy that you are here to share some of your thoughts and ideas. So first, to get us started, can you give us just a bit of an introduction to you and your family?
CASSIE: Yeah, sure. Thank you for having me. I’ve loved this podcast for some time, so it’s been really great and it’s been really lovely to meet all of you as well, so it’s been good.
So yeah, in our family we have me, Cassie, and Pete, and we are the grownups, arguably. And then we’ve also got Grace who is 11. Our birthdays all changed from sort of December through to March, so we’ve just had all the shift around. So, yeah, Grace is 11, Isaac’s 10, very much just, Olivia is eight, and Micah is three. And so, yeah, so that’s us lot.
And yeah, we’ve pretty much unschooled since the beginning. I had a friend who was considering pulling her kid out of school when he was quite a lot smaller and she looked at home education here in the UK and so she said, “Oh, would you consider doing it?” And my answer was, “No. I don’t like teaching children.” And that’s not true because I like teaching. I’m quite didactic, but I was like, hmm, I don’t really want to be in a classroom trying to make small people mind. It just doesn’t work. And so, I like my own and like kids I care about. And then it just went from there.
She was looking into some stuff and I ended up finding John Holt as most people seem to and it just opened a total paradigm shift. So, we went sort of that route and Pete has been with me since the beginning. I tend to do the reading and then I disseminate to him and it’s fun. We’ve gotten more kind of open as time’s gone on. I think they were so small. Grace was two when we first really considered this, so it’s still infancy really anyway. But it’s watching them grow and flourish and marking their own time and so that’s been really interesting.
So, Grace is currently, if that’s cool, I’ll share a bit about what they’re into.
ANNA: Yes, please!
CASSIE: So, Grace is into everything. She reminds me a lot of me at her age, books, the hind leg off a donkey, but also loves performing, loves making scripts, loves messing around for comic effect. She’s got cracking comic timing, always has had, and has always got some massive project on the go.
At the moment, she’s currently making about four films and several series, and she’s just decided she’s going to start a club, ironically, a school club, which is hilarious about krakens and things. And so, she’s been doing loads of editing and stop motion and she keeps diving into going a new script.
And literally this week, she’s suddenly got into baking, which she’s never been interested beyond the cakes. And so, she’s like, “I’m going to write a recipe book.” And so, she’s been doing that and she’s very sweet, very kind, incredibly good, big sister, really lovely and fun and really fabulous company. Very empathetic.
And then Isaac. So, Isaac is 10, but I should probably mention my middle two are both autistic. And that does make a big difference in our family, because Isaac is largely nonverbal. Doesn’t really talk. He sings though, and boy can that kid sing. He’s got a beautiful voice and an amazing ability to hear music and pick up melody like that.
And so, he’s also still in nappies, as is Olivia. So, it’s a very different setup to having a ten- and an eight-year-old who may be on a usual path. And so, he’s recently got into Sonic the Hedgehog and running games on his tablet, which is really fun. And it’s so funny hearing him kind of play stuff and when he crashes, he then just turns the whole thing off and flings it across the room.
And he’s very affectionate and cuddly. Loves music, loves bouncing and smushing his face to us, which is always lovely. And singing and if you sing something he’ll pick up really fast and sing it back to you for weeks. So, I used to set Psalms for church and I’d be making up a new tune and he’d just be singing it for the next two weeks, the bit that I wrote. He’s amazing like that. It’s so cool.
And he’s got loads of energy and used to escape a lot. Doesn’t so much now, but runs. See, he’s got a lot of energy, so he’s definitely kept us on our toes.
And then Olivia, who is eight now, she’s so sweet, too. She is loving dolls. Over Christmas, we got loads of dolls and she’s just been exploring looking after babies and she has a tablet most of the time and is always listening to a movie or something in the background. Currently, as of the last couple of days, she’s discovered recording herself, so she’s been doing microphone stuff, and recording herself, and all the tablets get nicked.
So, they’ve all got one and she keeps nicking them in order to use the extra storage. And so, she’s singing and recording herself. And she’s really artistic, creative. Grace is really artistic as well, likes drawing, but like she keeps tearing little characters or draws around the house, which is both not ideal but beautiful and is very affectionate and cuddly and again, also autistic. And that comes out for her more in the need to have all the lights off or all the lights on and certain things and just timings needed to be clear for her. But ever since she was a teeny tiny baby, she’s just really sweet and that’s lovely.
And then Micah. Micah is three and very loud. I call him Captain Shouty-Pants, because he loves to shout and at the moment he’s into numbers. There’s a program on BBC called Numberblocks and he’s been counting like crazy. So much fun and so funny. He’s also very dramatic, he gets it from his mum, and likes to sort of recite stories and he waits till he has your attention and then performs it for you. And he does this weird gesticulating thing, like he’s doing some kind of hammy Shakespeare. It’s so funny. And yeah, he’s very boisterous, loves to climb, fling himself across the room, build stuff. He’s really into building with Magna-Tiles at the moment, so he’s lots of fun.
And then Pete and I, what to say? Lots of things. He’s my best friend. I’m really blessed to have him. He’s an amazing dad and husband, so I’m very glad to have him in my life and the kids. He’s got back into Dungeons and Dragons more recently. He works as a chaplain at a school, so sort of a Christian school. And he’s a Christian chaplain, but he’s not like a minister or anything. He’s amazingly empathetic and carries this unschooling energy into his schoolwork and the office, and holds space for people and also gets excited about sharing faith, but it’s also the combination of that and the pastoral care. And he’s very playful and silly and we like riffing with words. So, that’s fun.
And then I’m kind of into everything all the time and oh, just all sorts. So, I’m an actor by trade and training, although for the last decade or so, I’ve very much been full-time mothering and home educating or not, and so I love performing and singing and writing songs and writing poems and just all sorts. I love anything that’s to do with people and how people tick and connecting and communicating and getting people to kind of get unstuck and all of that.
I love to bake, so the creativity comes out in loads of ways. And lately I have been deep diving into Minecraft, and I’ve currently spent a lot of the last few hours building a city out of a mountain, which has been great fun. So, I’m figuring out how to do that and it kind of plays with my design love. So, that’s a lot, but that’s kind of us. It’s a lot of us in the house, so, yeah. Hope that’s not too much.
ANNA: Oh my goodness. No, I love it so much and I think it just paints such a lovely picture and I just love it. And it kind of fits into what I want to talk about and I’m going to give just a quick background.
So, on the Network, we have a Marco Polo group, which is a video messaging app. And it’s so fun to get that glimpse into people’s homes and lives and just have that connection.
And gosh, I mean, what stood out for me from the beginning, Cassie, is just how you delight in your children, and it’s just this love and care and joy that just is so evident, and that is even in the midst of all the challenges that life throws because life throws challenges as we know. But there is just this deep connection and love and joy, and I feel like you’ve created an environment where all of your children with very diverse needs can thrive. And I just think it’d be really fun if you could tell us just a bit about some strategies or your journey as it came with that and what’s kind of helped you do that. And I know part of it is just who you are and what you bring to it, but I know you’ve had lots of learning along the way as we all have to create that environment that just feels so good.
CASSIE: Yeah. So, I’ve been thinking about it and so that I don’t give you like an epic thesis worthy of a giant document, I will do my best to nutshell it, because I have lots of words.
It’s funny. I was really thinking about this and it kind of hinges on like creativity, connection, and communication, which are starting to become my buzzwords in everything else that I’m doing as well. And it’s not deliberate. I’m not like marketing, but it’s like surrendering to who you actually have.
And I was chatting to Pete about it and just said, “Is there anything you want to add to that?” when I was sharing some of my thoughts, and he said, “Surrender.” And I think that is such a big word in so many aspects, in our faith journey, like surrendering to trusting that God’s got us, but also surrendering to who you actually have in front of you, who you’re dealing, with who they actually are, who you are at this precise moment in time, which changes, and then getting creative with how you work with that. So, I mean, there’s so many facets to this family, because, like the big diverse needs. I didn’t expect, for example, to have three kids in nappies when my youngest is three and the others are that much older. It’s fine. Do I wish at some point that they’d be in a position where they’re no longer in them? Of course. I’d love them to be free. But at the same time, to serve them in that way by loving them and just helping them is actually a different kind of joy and it’s slowed me down.
I think I was never a major stress head when it came to the kids. I think part of my actor training part of a lot of things, of just being where you are and learning how to really see where you are actually at and unpick that and ask the questions. That’s been really important. So, I came to motherhood I think with a bunch of that already, but not trying to propel us on this journey. And so, changing things up.
Sorry, this is going to go around and around because this is how my brain works. So, I hope you’re still following. Shout if it’s unclear. So, I think Pete and I joke that we get some things in place and we feel like we’ve got a rhythm and everything’s working and everyone’s needs are being met and then it’s usually about six weeks and it has to change all over again. And we just think we’ve got a pattern down or we know what we are doing.
And so, the surrender to change, which isn’t always easy, is really hard. And yet when we do and we lean into it, rather than fighting this uphill battle against what isn’t going to work anyway, it’s like, well, let’s just try this a different way and just see, and then it’ll probably change in another six weeks’ time.
I mean, it’s not as neat as that. That would be lovely.
Leaning into the dull and the mundane has meant that, where I dream of big and dramatic and life changing and world changing, has helped me to really see and helped us to really see the incredible beauty that is right in front of me. And it’s a bit like the macrocosm/microcosm thing. You know, you can walk out into a woods or a forest and go, “Wow, the whole thing!” and that is one part of it. Or you can then hone in right on the small things and and learn to delight in the beauty that is right in front of you in the teeny tiny.
And I think, whereas my heart dreams of massive stuff at the same time, it’s been a real journey for me, especially with the ongoing needs of the family, to keep looking at what’s there in the small. So, for example, Olivia started drawing on the walls. Now that I live in a rental property with landlords who aren’t wildly amenable to redecorating every 10 minutes, if at all. So, it’s that natural, very real fear of going, I don’t have loads of money. I don’t want to be repainting 95 times. This is tricky.
But then I looked at what she was drawing, and to be fair, I’ve been looking at what she was drawing anyway, so I got there quicker than that. But this was a few years ago, she was drawing these beautiful little Tinkerbell fairies and the quality of artwork was just so stunning.
And she’s not like a child-prodigy-stunning, but when you looked at the drawing, it’s just beautiful and really clear and she’s got a real style and a flare. And seeing that has meant that I could go, “Oh wow, but look at what she’s drawing.” It will probably wash off the walls eventually, and if not, we’ll have to paint before we leave. But it’s like, in doing that, I could have yelled and I have my human moments when I’m much more shouty pants myself. But instead going, she really needed to draw. And evidently the canvases I was offering her of a small piece of paper were not sufficient. She needed a big space, and so therefore, giving her that option to do that, has, I guess, taken the pressure of her needing to be a particular way.
And the same for Isaac. Just constantly being creative, finding space where they can all have little chill out spaces. Figuring out that we were all sleeping in the same room except for Isaac anyway, that maybe we needed to just move rooms and put loads of beds together, which we did just before Christmas. And so, we’re all in there because Grace at 10 and now 11, still needed us. And so, she needed to thrive and feel safe by knowing she was safe at night. And did I, again, dream that I would be sharing a family bed with a whole room like a giant dormitory? No.
I guess it’s just been this whole creative thing and respecting them as individual people and who they are and enjoying them for who they are and surrendering to the tablet stuff of giving them all a tablet and, you know, paying it off when we can. Or Olivia wanting to go to the shops and buy a doll and she got a load of Christmas money, so we took her to the shop every time and she just wanted to get all the things. And rather than going, “No, you must have one,” it’s like, okay, well we have this fund at the minute, let’s just use it for that. And her delight has been so rich and gorgeous and she’s playing with them and then she moves to something else.
And it is tricky sometimes trying to navigate lots of people in her family anyway, but lots of people with different needs. I just think keep being open to trying and trying something else and forgiving one another and apologizing when you screw up and then just being playful with it. And bedtimes went out the window a while ago, but we have a rhythm. Again, it’s just not rigid.
And I think the other big thing that I’ve been constantly working through in this whole aspect of parenting and with our kids is the need for permission. It’s a really real thing for that sense of outside permission that you’re not going to have someone turn around and tell you, “You’re doing it wrong.” And there’s so much cultural messaging around how to parent and what is the right way and what your kids should be learning. And when you don’t go to the school route, I have my wobbles and I’m going, are they going to learn anything? And then suddenly, Grace decides she’s baking, or she’s making these amazing short films and doing loads of editing and then showing them to anybody she just meets. And it’s just like, wow. And so, realizing that I don’t necessarily need permission from outside if I’m confident in the choice itself. And the same for Pete.
Just building a nest and building what we need. And at the moment, we’ve been in a long season of colds, but also of being very much in our house because it’s trickier to get out. We’ve now got some help and that that helps. But it’s still wet and horrible and everyone’s still under the weather and we are very much hibernating and surrendering the whole idea we should be going out and doing stuff is not where we’re at right now. And that’s okay, too. And maybe the reason I don’t go out and get out in the woods all the time, even though that’s what I imagined I’d be doing if I home educated my kids, I swear I was going to have a woodland life. It’s not been that at all, but it’s been a cuddle on the sofa, surrounded by toys, children bundling on you and squashing you, and then trying to Minecraft and not knock all your blocks off at the same time. And it’s been great. It’s been really fun.
And in the harder times, it’s, keep leaning back into that who they are and the delight that they give us because they’re flipping amazing. They’re really fun as well, and they’re funny and playful and silly and then I can be my playful silly self, which sometimes involves some daft dancing or weird wordplay. It’s not meant to be alliterative, but anyway. And it’s really fun. And I think that answers, but, you know,
ANNA: Right! I mean, I think what I love about that is, I do think you hit those big pieces, because surrender. I mean, that’s a beautiful word. And I think what I see is that element that’s in in you, that light in you, is really in that moment. And I think that surrender helps you be in that moment. And in that moment you are seeing the joy and the beauty, because you’re right when we’re in our head thinking about what other people are wanting for us or these other things, they’re not with these beautiful children. They’re not there.
And I think all of those things that you talked about are what get you into that moment where you can just be amazed and in awe of how wonderful they are. So yeah, I loved that so much. Thank you.
ERIKA: I was just going to pull out that six weeks at a time little thing that she had mentioned. I thought that was so great. Because it’s like, I mean, that is another type of surrender I think to just like realize, even when we feel like we’ve got it, it’s going to change again. They’re going to grow, something’s going to change, the next thing’s going to happen.
And so, just to kind of keep yourself from attaching too strongly to something that’s working, I think, has been a really fun thing to hear about.
PAM: Yeah. What bubbled up for me, and again, back to the surrender piece, and as you mentioned, Cassie, this is not what I imagined my life was going to look like back then. But that surrender piece and what you made so evident is that yes, it’s very different and it’s so amazing. Right? It’s not like I gave that up for something different, for a nebulous reason for myself. But this is also, in my experience, many times, was actually so much better and richer and just more fun than that steady path that I thought I was going to go on. So, the surrender piece, such a huge part.
But what kept me surrendering day after day was learning so many times, wow, this was even better than what I could have come up with on my own.
CASSIE: Yeah. And I think there’s dreams. Like, I still have big dreams. So, my heart still is very much in acting, but it was realizing that you can’t have two priorities. One has to always be slightly prior and it’s been the family, and I’ve said this so many times, but I’ve never regretted. I miss acting and performing and doing that whole thing like I’d miss a limb. But I’ve never missed it more than I have valued being able to be fully present with my family. And it’s like the two things can be held in tension. The desire for both the big dreams that I still have as a person on my own right and the passion that just will not die in this whole area and yet, maybe that’ll come in the future, but meanwhile I’m not giving up for something that’s just drudgery. I’m actually giving it up for something that’s so life giving and it might not be forever either.
PAM: That’s beautiful.
ERIKA: I love that. And I was thinking, too, that step forward path that Pam was talking about. It’s so freeing to be able to think of life as more of a journey metaphor, which does not look like a predictable line, but has all of these kind of unexpected twists and turns.
So, I had a thought that I wanted to talk about, because you shared a poem that you wrote about doing deep inner work that’s so much a part of deschooling and unschooling and I was wondering if you would share it with us and maybe some of your thoughts about that aspect of your life.
CASSIE: Sure. Okay. I’ll bring it up on my phone, because I didn’t print it out yet.
That deep work that brings us out into the light,
enabling us to really see,
To know ourselves –
This work of unpicking and unpacking our story,
Of tentatively claiming kinship
With those orphaned experiences,
those parts of our childlike character we were trained to reject –
This is the work that goes unseen.
Looking as though nothing is happening,
With no obvious shoot or bloom –
But, the seeming opposite,
That of a shrinking,
A reducing of capacity and strength,
Becoming more pathetic –
Is less attractive,
To those on the outside.
Yet the excavation underway below the surface –
Unearthing great caverns of beauty,
Geodes of pain,
Hidden rivers of strength –
This is where the refining and reforming
is at its most ambitious.
Here, the understanding
and redefinition of beauty,
is both infant and infinite.
Re-tuning to that holy note,
Becoming more crystalline,
We begin to resonate,
Growing in clarity,
Anchored in rock.
No errand for those whose hunger for hope is quenched,
This downward, uphill struggle will break you open,
Cutting to the quick,
Where every nerve vibrates,
And grief threatens to drown.
Yet here is where peace is found.
In the turmoil of stillness,
At the edge of the abyss,
And wake to new life,
And more whole.
This deep work –
Which none can know,
But the one on the inside who bears witness,
And tends the wounds with love –
This work is love made flesh,
And freedom follows.
There you go. That’s the end. You can talk again.
PAM: I know. So beautiful.
CASSIE: Thank you. Yeah. What was the question again? It’s funny, so yeah, just thinking about I think many of us are really afraid to truly see ourselves. I think we’re afraid of shame or rejection. We’re afraid of actually realizing our stories are full of shame, because maybe they are. Maybe we’re ashamed of things we’ve done or things we’ve been, or how we’ve been. Maybe we don’t know how to unpack that and we can often feel powerless to change.
And I think a lot of us are content to sleepwalk and we just won’t look too closely. It’s safer this way, and yet it really isn’t safer, because you don’t know what you’re going to bump into.
I think I had someone describe it once as a bit like walking into a room filled with cluttered furniture, but with the lights off and then you’re like, but it’s safer. I can’t see what’s there. But you crash into everything. You turn the lights on, you see everything that’s there.
(Cassie shared that the reference to the cluttered room came from Aundi Kolber’s book Try Softer and her IG handle is @aundikolber.)
I think saying you turn the lights on and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, there’s so much there,” But you’re less likely to crash in and stab yourself in the eye from something you’ve stored. And I think the nature of all work that connects us with our sense of story, whatever that is, because everyone’s had pain, everyone’s had trauma, whether it’s big or small. I’ve had some pretty big ones, like one I’ll share briefly.
We lost a baby in a late term miscarriage and so that was a pretty big one, but then there’s others like looking at my family background and stuff that was beautiful and then going, oh, but some things that didn’t quite work for me and starting to realize that now. And that’s scary, because then you go, but I had a happy childhood and in many ways I really did. But looking slightly deeper is scary, because then you have to go, but what about the bits that maybe weren’t so great? And I didn’t have a terrible childhood at all. I had loving parents and a very supportive family in so many ways.
But it’s that nature of looking deeply can be really scary. And I think when I was writing this poem, I’d been writing it because I’d been processing a whole bunch of things about so many bits and pieces, but in the process of doing that, it’s exhausting. And physically, I’ve had five babies, but four babies, and then we had a lockdown and all the things, and so, physically I’m pretty drained and exhausted and yet also all this processing takes physical energy and that isn’t visible and it’s not visible because I still haven’t unpacked half of it. And so, it’s still messy on the inside. And so, that’s still taking energy. And then it looks like, whereas I used to be the super capable person, I mean I think I just ran too fast anyway. I’d be doing millions of classes and dancing and performing and used to be able to run on all of that.
And now it’s like if I’ve had one outing in a week, I’m done for the week. And it’s really crazy how much, I think from the outside, to people who knew me more at that point, it probably looks like I’m a bit useless now, or I just want to hole up in my comfort zone. And yet the nature of really asking the questions about, well, what was that like? How do I feel about that now? Is that still who I want to be? Does bring up pain? And allowing yourself to really feel that pain is sometimes almost as scary as the fact that there might be some.
But like with grief, which has been a theme that’s run a lot through my life, you can’t circumvent it. You can hide it, you can squash it, you can suppress it, but you can’t move through it if you don’t allow it to take the space it’s going to take.
And I don’t know, with unschooling, we’ve gone off a beaten path, or at least a beaten path I’ve known growing up with my kids and what I was parented like, and in lots of ways there was a certain amount of freedom too. And they were supportive from being an actor without telling me I had to get a trade behind me. I mean, that’s a big deal for a lot of people. And yet, things like expecting certain levels of respect or putting boundaries in place that mean, well, it’s the parent’s time now and it’s the kid’s bedtime and going, well, why? Is that really an important boundary? And sometimes those boundaries really are. Maybe Pete and I haven’t spoken to each other properly all week, and so actually we need that time. So, finding someone to create that to work for us. It’s not that the thing itself isn’t necessarily a good thing, but just the nature of unschooling as I’ve dived into it more as we’ve dived into it more as our kids have grown, I have wobbles every so often that what if they’re not reading in time? What if I’m not doing it right? And yet asking those questions, taking the space, allowing myself to feel what I’m feeling, and then also just connecting.
My interest in people, especially as a performer, as an actor, like I love the story. I love getting into the head and the heart of somebody, and it’s an incredible privilege when I’ve got to do that work to stand in effectively stand in somebody else’s body and walk out their journey. And that sounds a bit weird, but it’s like you are. You are offering your body to be a conduit to tell that story, to connect with the people in the audience, whether on screen or in person. And so, you are sharing that. And you have to allow them to be them, whoever that character is. And so, you have to know where you stop or start in order to be able to tell someone else’s story without just making it all about you.
And so that was good grounding. But with parenting and unschooling, it’s been a lot of, keep asking questions. And sometimes when we are tired or we snappish or you just want to do something or, “Well, they should really eat this.” I love to cook and it really annoys me when my kids won’t eat my food. And I’m like, “But I made it particularly. Why don’t you want it?” And yet, actually, hang on a minute. Does she need to? Is it really a value judgment on my worth and my cooking skills if she doesn’t? Is it really the end of the world if they eat nothing but bread and I have a family of ducks forever? Maybe I can cook something nice. I swear at one point we did have a family of ducks. We’d just get through bread. They’d just eat bread. I’m like, “Oh, the Emmett Quackers.” It was hilarious.
I just think we do not in our culture, and I think as people we are a bit scared of story being messy. And we’d like to wrap it in a nice bow. There’s nothing wrong with a lovely bow, but there’s no point in wrapping bow around something that’s really not actually at a point there’s some wholeness.
And yet, asking those questions, allowing yourself to sit with the you you’re not so sure you like until you come out the other side. Not necessarily going, “And I’m fixed!” at all, but going, do you know what? I like her. I don’t always like what I can do or can’t do. I get very frustrated or disappointed with my lack of energy or the fact that I feel that, what if I’m not getting my kids out enough? Or what if they’re only going to be on their tablets now forever? Of course they’re not. And then I see that they don’t but it, but I like who I’m becoming. I like the person.
It’s really funny. So, as a performer, voice is important, and that command of your voice and being able to do that. I mean, I once told someone off the stealing in my bike because I shouted at them and told them off. It was brilliant. I still have that. So, I went, “Ah, excuse me. Do you mind not stealing my bike, please!?” I just sort of yelled at him and all the adrenaline was pumping. It was hilarious.
And so, commanding voice and knowing that you can set a boundary by saying to your child, “No,” it’s very powerful. Except it gets in the way of connection and it gets in the way of that being a person. And so, when people say, well, if you just say no, I’m like, seriously? I can say no really authoritatively, till the cows come home. Believe me. I do old-school mom fantastically. I’ve played Russian matriarchs. I’m good at that. I’m not even that old, but I’ve played old ladies. It’s funny. But there’s that, do I want to do that? Or I insist on something and I watch my kid’s face fall or I watch the light go out their eyes or I get too teachery, because I like to get excited and tell you all about it and try and get you to get it with me. And then I watch Grace just switch off and glaze over and be like, “Mommy. I just want to play with the letters my way. I just want to make up words that are gibberish and then get you to say them. I don’t care what they spell.”
And it’s been challenging, but it’s been a real, again, journey of surrender, I guess, a journey of grace. And I think the idea that giving grace to yourself is a really good phrase, but it can be hard to know what that means and how to do that. And I think sometimes that means when you’re tired yet again, not feeling like you are less than for not, well get up and have a walk and it’ll make a difference. Because sometimes it will, but sometimes it isn’t what you need and it’s maybe you just need to sit and Minecraft for three hours and that’s self-care.
And it sounds really weird, but it’s something that brings you joy. And again, trusting that when you see yourself, you actually become more tender. Or you can choose to get hard and get bitter, but I think it brings you to the end of yourself. And for me, that means coming to God and going, I need, I need your love. And that encourages me to actually be kinder, because God’s way kinder with me than I ever am, and actually becoming more tenderhearted, more vulnerable, more open, which means you get hurt. But I’m so much more receptive for that. And I think that means I’m more receptive to my kids and to their pain and to their joys, and I think that. I don’t know if that answers your question.
ERIKA: I think that I love the part that you brought up about there being a physical toll from doing the mental inner work, because I have found that to be the case and it’s something where looking at me, you wouldn’t know why I have this face on right now. What’s going on? But it’s because of the internal work. And how common it is for unschooling to be a path into doing that work. And you don’t have to get there through unschooling. I think, as far as what I’ve seen, it’s pretty common for people in their forties to start looking at things on the inside and figuring out things. But I think unschooling, it almost boosts you forward on that internal journey, because you’re questioning everything. It has started the path of questioning everything. And so, I don’t know. I liked thinking about how big of a deal it is to do that and really giving yourself some credit, giving yourself some space and kindness and compassion for that work that you’re doing.
ANNA: Yeah. And I think, too, how that work, how we’ve seen it kind of interplay with unschooling families and other people is, like you said, it’s a deepening, because you understand yourself more as you look at those dark corners and the hard things, and not just gloss over it. I think it expands our heart. I think we’re able to open to other people. We’re able to see that they have their own unique journey, because we’re not just cramming our journey into some kind of a box or some kind of a stereotype. So, I just think all of that interplay of the unschooling and being in such close relationship with people every day, all the things. It creates this environment where we can really learn so much about ourselves and the people around us. I really love that so much.
PAM: I really love the word tender. It really does speak to that feeling. And as Erika mentioned, I think one of the things that we really don’t give a lot of credence to when we’re doing that deep work, that tender work, that vulnerable work, we don’t give credit or recognize how much of a physical toll it takes, like how much physical energy it takes to think like our body needs to feed our brain to do all this processing, to ask these questions, to just see how they feel in our bones, see how they feel inside.
I just loved the imagery of your poem, because it just brought to mind how so much of that processing can feel from, from little healing rivers to deep chasms, to all those pieces and coming through the other side more tender.
And I loved your point, too, about really, it’s worth it and it’s valuable to see what grace and compassion for ourselves looks like and feels like, because the words are valuable and helpful and everything, but what does that look like? Does it look like three hours of Minecraft is self-care? And literally knowing that, not just telling yourself that, but feeling it in your bones, knowing through experience that this feels good. This deserves to be on my list of things that can help me maybe recover some of that energy from processing.
You talked before about in and out, I forget the word you used, but maybe when it’s a transition time, like I have looked at this deep stuff up close in the forest. I’ve looked at this leaf for a long time. To me, the clue was kind of, I feel like I’m circling now. I’m not really making progress as I stare at this leaf. I’m not getting any more out of it. But yeah, to transition to, you know what? I’m going to look up now doesn’t mean I’m never going to look back at the leaf. That leaf is going to be carried with me now as I look up right and see different perspectives and start putting the puzzle together in a different way.
We don’t lose that, but for me, those are the pieces where grace and compassion for myself come in. It’s not judgment of myself. Maybe that’s part of it, like understanding that all these pieces are okay. Even if, I feel like I told somebody what I was doing, I haven’t been out for a week, that they may bring judgment with that, because we do hear those stories outside of us so much. But to really lean into what it means to be us and how we tick and giving ourselves that grace and compassion instead of judgment. Imagine if we supported ourselves like we support our children. Often, it’s easier to get to through supporting our children, but oh my gosh, it is so helpful to be able to give that to ourselves, too, as part of our journey. Anyway, thank you so much for the poem. It brought up so much for me!
CASSIE: Pleasure. Do you mind if I just add one thing? I was just thinking when you’re saying about the, just telling yourself, but not necessarily believing, I think that’s also a process from outside to in often and sometimes it comes inside out. And I think we can move inside out or outside in with a lot of realizations and understanding.
But I think sometimes, I would rather work inside out when I’m trying to figure out a journey or a character, because it’s like, what’s here and then what feels more honest as I go forward. But sometimes you just get stuck and so you say, move here, say this, do this, say it in this way. And then the feeling life catches up. And I just think it’s also okay for us to remember that when we know something is true, like there’s a truth about it, but maybe it hasn’t resonated or landed with us, like the whole, “It’s okay to say this is self-care,” when you’re secretly going, “But I feel like a fraud.”
It’s like, hearing that and going, “It’s okay that I have spoken this as a truth. I know this is true. My emotions, my feeling life will catch up. They’re just not there yet.” And trusting that by doing it and by giving yourself the space to do it more, whatever it is, gradually your feeling life or your sense of the reality of it and the validity of it will catch up and then you’ll be able to fully inhabit that.
But we can’t always do that straight away. So, if we’re waiting till we really believe it before we do it, we’ll never do it. But sometimes it’s like, I know this is good for me and I’m enjoying it. It is honestly good self-care. It’s not me just being lazy.
And so, then you start to believe it more as time catches up, that’s just something I’ve found really helpful to remember as well.
ERIKA: That’s really interesting. I feel like when Pam was talking, too, and with that most recent bit too, I like the kind of being playful about the inner work, too, like keeping that kind of sense of curiosity and play about it as well. Because then, right, it can be easy to get kind of trapped in judgment or the external judgment and internal judgment, but if we’re more playful about it, then it can just be, “Well, I can play Minecraft if I want, and then we’ll just see. We’ll see how I feel after,” and so then there’s less judgment I think helps us along that internal work path.
CASSIE: Yeah, and YouTube rabbit holes do the same for me, as well. Watching other actors talking about stuff, and watching a whole bunch of round tables, I just physically feel myself coming back to myself. I’m like, YouTube rabbit holes are actually a good thing sometimes.
ANNA: Yes, yes.
ERIKA: They definitely can be. Thank you so much, Cassie, for spending time with us today. It was great to be able to share some of your journey with everyone, and thanks so much to everyone for listening, and we wish you a wonderful day. Bye!
ANNA: Thank you!