In this episode, Pam, Anna, and Erika dive deep into building community. As we regularly mention, people are different, and each member of your family will likely have different needs for community, friendship, and social time. We talk about in-person versus online connections, the value of interest-based communities, some of the many different ways we’ve found community during our unschooling years, and more.
It was really fun to discuss this topic and we hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey!
THINGS WE MENTION IN THIS EPISODE
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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. This month, we’re talking about Building Community. Come and be part of the conversation!
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. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player.
PAM: Hello everyone! I am Pam Laricchia from Living Joyfully and today I’m joined by my co-hosts, Anna Brown and Erika Ellis. Hello!
ANNA AND ERIKA: Hello!
PAM: So today, we’re going to talk about building community, and I am very excited to chat about it, because at first, it seems like a pretty simple idea, right? Find and connect with other people. But really, it’s so much more nuanced than that. So, I’m excited to dive into that. But before we get started, we just wanted to remind you about our shop.
There you can find my unschooling books, book coaching calls, or buy one of our courses, and our newest course is Validation, which is a transformational relationship tool for building understanding and connection in our most important relationships, like the ones with our kids and our partner. All our course content is available in both text and audio formats, whichever style works better for you.
So, maybe you want to listen on some days and you have a moment to read on other days. They can fit into the flow of your days, whatever they look like. You’ll find it in our store at livingjoyfullyshop.com or just follow the link in the show notes.
So, building community. Anna, would you like to get us started?
ANNA: I would. I’m pretty excited about this, because I have so many ideas bubbling around. So, we’ll see where it all goes.
But I think where I want to start, because this is a question that comes up a lot on the Network. It comes up just over the years. You hear a lot of, I need friends for my kids, or, what do we do about finding community? Or, there’s not a lot of unschoolers around me, or all these different pieces.
And so, I think the first, grounding place to be is we’re just going to slow it down and take a deep breath and just say, okay, where are the messages coming from? When I look at my kids, are they happy? Are they asking for more? Are they okay with the relationships that they have? Do I see that they’re wanting a little bit more? Is it me? Is it that I’m wanting more? Is it that I’m not wanting more?
And then I want us to talk about people are different in that way, so that we can recognize that this is going to look unique to each family, it’s going to look unique to each child. And so, just really recognizing that there are some cultural messages of ‘kids need to be with kids their own age.’ And it’s like, hey, let’s just pick that apart a little bit and see where it comes from. So, I want to throw that to you all first, but wanted to start there.
ERIKA: Yeah. I totally have heard that and felt that and all of those things. And right, if we’re looking at our experience, if we did go to school as kids, life as a kid looked absolutely packed full of time with other children. So, it makes sense if our children’s lives are looking quite different from that, that maybe that could be a little jarring or like, is this okay? And those questions can come up. But if we actually look at the personalities in our families, what our kids are asking us, how we are feeling, how they’re feeling. And it’s okay if I’m the one who is wanting more connection. And it’s okay if my kids are asking for more connection, but just tuning into, is it just that everyone else is in school and in all these activities and it’s feeling like maybe we need to be doing that too? Or is it really tuning into who are we? Are we happy with our lives right now?
ANNA: Yeah. I love that.
PAM: I do think it’s so valuable to take that moment and just really consider how much of it is stories and messages that we’ve absorbed growing up and over the years because, I found myself jumping to community as the first answer, as in, oh, you’re interested in this? Let’s join the sports team. Let’s go take a rec class. That community and that type of more conventional learning is the first answer that comes to mind.
And so, just really pulling apart that like, oh, okay. That doesn’t always have to be the answer. What actually is happening here? Is this something that I’m just pulling out? And then, even for our kids too, I think another thing that was always so helpful for me, even when my kids were looking for community or looking for friends, was to realize this really wasn’t about the unschooling at all. It’s really helpful to help them dig into it, too. What is their need that they’re actually looking to fulfill, because often we can, and our kids can too, jump to friends, other people, groups. Those are the answers. But to take that time to just really dig in and ask, well, what am I really trying to accomplish? What do I really want to do? And just to open things up again can be so, so helpful, I think.
ANNA: Yeah. And I think maybe not to romanticize the past, because I did live in a neighborhood where we were out and we were playing and there were kids around, but it had its challenges. I’m an introvert. There were challenges to it. And thinking of school, segregating us by geography and age into a box of a room, it didn’t always work. Those weren’t always the people that I’d connect with.
And I think of my life now where I have friends 15 years younger and 15 years older. And so, I think really we’re so lucky in our life that we can really lean into what works for our children and for ourselves in terms of connection and relationship and learning. Because, like you said, Pam, if we go to, well, we need to do a kids’ class on science, that’s its own thing, versus maybe it’s being mentored by somebody that’s really interested in the field that you’re interested in and they’re an adult and it’s more of a one-on-one. So, yeah, I love that idea of just unpacking all of those pieces.
ERIKA: Right. There’s not one right way for community. So, just like everything else we talk about, there’s not just one right path for, I’m interested in dance. Okay. It has to be this group class. That’s not necessarily the thing. And I love that idea of like. In many cases, socializing with an adult who’s super interested in the things that they’re interested in, that might feel like a way more suitable community in certain moments. So, I really love that.
And I was thinking about some of our experiences with kind of in-person community for my kids. And so, a couple of things that we tried just based on what I was looking for, what the kids were looking for, and again, just playing with all the possibilities. We really liked hosting park days because I found just kind of going to that same location at the same time each week was a way to have time for those kind of connections to develop. Because I have found that if we do these one-off activities like a class or, let’s all go to the museum, there’s not enough free time for the kids to really have a chance to interact.
And so, since my kids are very introverted, slow to warm, we laugh about it with Oliver’s best friend, that it took just months and months of this child following Oliver around and trying to talk to him before they finally really had a strong connection. It just took all that time to warm up and make that connection. And so, having that regular park day was something that helped us develop friendships.
And while most other groups that we saw were doing things like a planned, adult-led activity at the park, I was careful to make mine more just an open playtime so that the kids could find their buddies and make connections that way. And I advertised it in early days as just a parenting group. And then as the kids got older, we turned it into a homeschooling group, because then that way, we were finding the kids who were available during school hours.
ANNA: Yeah, I mean that’s definitely our experience, too. So, we were at the time in a fairly large city on the east coast and so, there were a lot of homeschoolers in the area, but we found that consistency of the park date was exactly that. It was just this known. It felt good. We could do different things.
And the only thing I kind of wanted to add to that is thinking about the different ages. I always found this kind of fascinating, because with the younger kids, it’s a lot more physical in nature. They like to have physical things, the playground equipment, the whatever, and then you get to this teen age where they want to sit. They want to sit and they’re chatting. Or sometimes they need like a side by side kind of thing. None of the people that that came to this were particularly sporty, but we would play kickball and it’s not super sporty. Pretty much anybody can play. But it did allow for a little bit of kind of parallel time for the teens and for those pre-teens to have something that you’re focusing on that’s outside yourself, but also it’s not super involved or competitive. It’s just kind of fun. So, that was something that worked well for us.
But yeah, having that open park day where people could hang out in a place that had different places to sit, places to climb, places to do, really worked well.
I think another piece that was important for kind of our in-person thing is I did a lot of driving. Our city was large and I just was okay with driving to connect with other people and to do. So, it wasn’t the neighborhood kids, it was driving to find people that were available during the day and that we do. So, letting go of some of those tapes of like, oh, you should just be able to swing open the door and there’s a pack of kids. Thankfully we didn’t have that. Actually, I didn’t want that. We didn’t have it. I was glad.
But for some people that’s a stumbling block to realize like, okay, there’s going to be a little bit more facilitation. But I think this may lead into your experience, too, Pam, the interest-driven pieces. We did do the pieces of homeschool groups and homeschool things, but we found a lot of connections were made via interest, and I think that was kind of your experience.
PAM: Yeah. Because we did not have lot of park days yet, 20-odd years ago here in Canada. There were just less numbers of homeschoolers, so there really wasn’t that kind of activity to participate in. Yet, like you said, we really went through interests.
So, the nice thing about connecting with people through an interest is you’ve already got that point of connection, right? You don’t have to find something to come up in conversation with. The other fascinating piece, too, that ties in with what you were saying with the driving piece is like, okay, you’ve got an interest and you’ve decided that actually participating in that interest around other people and with other people is something that they want to try out, or you want to try out, and then it was about finding a place that connected for them.
So it wasn’t, oh, you wanna take dance class? Here’s the closest dance studio. We’ve signed you up. Here we go. No. There were times when I was driving an hour, hour and a half, but to a place that really spoke to them and that really helped them get that experience that they were looking for. So, that was a very helpful thing to kind of unpack for myself that, oh no, why would I go and drive a distance when I’ve got one around the corner?
But when you go back to what the desire is, when you go back to this child or myself, like we’re a unique person and we’re looking for a specific thing. When you can find that and find the environment where that can thrive, it just makes a whole world of difference.
I remember Lissy and Girl Guides. For a number of years, she was looking for some more connection and activities, but not a particular one. She was looking more for that engagement, so that served for her for many years. And then when we wanted that space that you were talking about, Erika, because yeah, that space to just hang out and see how things unfold and to just let conversations and activities grow, when they found someone that they would like to connect more deeply with at the activity, then I would talk to the parents and invite them back to our house.
And that was the thing, too, is being open to being the place where people would hang out. Maybe I needed to drive and pick up the child and bring them to our house for that to happen, because the parents were maybe busy with a sibling or something else. They didn’t have time. And for them, it wasn’t a huge priority to drive their kid to some other kid’s house. Because their kid’s in a class with 30 other kids. They see other kids all the time. They weren’t prioritizing that. But if the other child wanted to come for a visit, I would say, ‘I’ll happily go pick them up and bring them over and drop them home whenever you need. And yes, they can stay over or they can stay for meal, blah, blah, blah.’
But I was open to doing that extra little bit, because it was accomplishing what we were wanting to do. It was meeting a desire. It was something to try out and some lifelong friendships have grown out of that. And it’s just so fascinating to see it in action and to realize that, when we talk about building community, we don’t need to know that there is a community at the end of this path and I just have to quickly walk it as fast as possible.
But when I’m open and curious and I see possibilities and ask what feels good in this moment, what feels like it might help us walk towards this pull that we’re feeling and then seeing how it unfolds is just so much more serendipitous. Things happen, I think, when we’re open to that versus, we must build community right now. Here we go.
ERIKA: I feel like that’s something we talked about in the Network a bit, this kind of playing around with setting up activities for a group and seeing what could come from it. And that was something that, as someone who was organizing events for a number of years, I had to really come to terms with being okay with people not showing up or being okay with things not going according to plan and just trying again.
And so, one thing that I learned was just to choose activities that I would be happy and our family would be happy to just do, even if no one was there. And so, if you are a family with some extroverts or with some people who do like doing activities in groups, it does make a big difference if you’re the one willing to plan things, because people are always looking for things to do and then my advice about that would be to just choose things that you’d be happy to do, even if no one shows up. Because then there’s really no disappointment. You get to do something fun. And if other people come, you’ve chosen an activity and then met someone who enjoys the same thing you do.
ANNA: That is exactly what I was going to say, because we got to a place where we had a pretty good sized group, but there were certainly fits and starts and that was the key. Talking to my kids, okay, is this something you want to do? I’ll put something together. Because you’re so right in that that’s the part people don’t want to do. And partly it’s time and extra kids and all the things. And it’s something that I don’t mind doing.
And so, when I would build it, they really would come, because they were so grateful. And again, we lived in a city with a lot of homeschoolers so we could get homeschool deals. I could make that call and get a super cheap price at the trampoline place or at those things. And people were so happy to participate in that. And it did give us just people to share things with.
But one of the other things I want to talk about, too, in relation to this in-person piece is our own needs as adults and as parents, because I think we’re all introverts here, but we have varying needs of wanting to be around people.
But I guess one of the things I want to say is that sometimes we think we’re going to go to the park day and we’re going to get our needs met to talk to parents. What I found was that that was not true, that I needed to let that part go, because I wanted to be there for the kids. I was really creating that particular environment for the kids to make connections, enjoy themselves and whatever. And often I did need to be even peripherally involved, aware of it. It wasn’t really my time.
So, then it was like, okay, then what do I do for my time? So, then it was finding ways. I had a friend that we did grocery store dates. And I found sometimes parenting conversations were hard for me, because I can get a little worked up about children and all of that. So, I actually found, for me, interest-based was better, too. So, if I was going to something that maybe was a group about rocks or a group about singing bowls or something else, that’s what we were talking about. We weren’t talking about the curriculum they were using or, what are your kids doing about this, or that kind of thing.
And so, I think the big lesson for me, and it’s not going to be a surprise to you two, it’s just open and curious. Don’t get tunneled in on it looking one way or a certain way. Just really start opening it up to, okay, what are the needs? There’s a million different ways to meet it. What can we do?
PAM: I think it is so valuable and helpful to realize that when I think of building community, I want a community, I don’t need a community that meets all my needs. One group doesn’t need to meet all my things. I can have various groups that support me when I want to talk about singing bowls and maybe another group is where I come for parenting stuff.
I remember when I was wanting to build a community and there really wasn’t, I decided to start a conference and I ran a conference for six years. I kind of forget that now. It’s like, oh yeah, that’s right. I did that thing. And that was great for bringing some unschooling families out of the woodwork and gathering them in a spot for a couple of days. So, that was a lovely way to meet some people that were local-ish. Because people would definitely drive to come. But it was nice to just be surrounded for a couple of days with other like-minded parents who at least who were open and curious and wanting to learn.
So, that was actually a nice connection for parents. And then we had kid-focused activities alongside it and what was beautiful was the shared parenting style, where we were totally comfortable with parents coming and going from talks and hanging out with their kids’ activities, kids running in, looking for their parents, et cetera.
So, yeah, when you’re open, like, what could I do? There are all sorts of possibilities, from letting people know that you’re at the trampoline place to running a conference.
ERIKA: That idea that we don’t have to find a whole family that fits our whole family as a friend group. That does give us a little bit of freedom then, so we can really look at the individual members of our family, what are we all looking for? And what I did as far as finding in-person community for myself that ended up working out so well, was doing a book club. Because I wanted to find other people who like diving into ideas. I wanted to find people who are curious and want to learn. And so, a book club is something that draws that type of personality.
And then the books I chose were things like How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and books by Alfie Kohn. And so, it was like, this is what we’re going to be talking about. And then I could start to see, who is that resonating with? Those are the people who kept coming. Then we started reading Pam’s books and it became just a fully unschooling book club. And so, for a few years, that was a really good place for me to connect with people in person who really were having the kinds of conversations that I wanted to be having. And it really filled my cup. So, yeah, I loved that.
PAM: I love that. You can just choose the books and somebody can pass and say, oh yeah, no, that’s not something I’m interested in. They’re moving on. It’s not a judgment at all, but it’s just this kind of call that says, hey, over here we’re chatting about these kinds of things. Are you interested? Yeah, I love that.
ANNA: Yeah, so much. But I think that leads us to that we all live in different types of places, some smaller, some bigger, all across the world, when we’re talking about who’s listening to this podcast and even who’s with us on the Network.
And so, I guess the Network brings to mind just this idea of how important online communities were for me. And I think we all will have our stories to share about that. But I feel like the online communities, I mean this is even way back in the day, were critical. Back then, it was Yahoo Groups, a little bit primitive. And Pam and I have been friends for almost 20 years, probably, meeting on an online group and it’s just incredible.
And so, what I love is that now we have things like the Network, where it’s just so much more rich in the tools and how to connect and how it brings us together and having those conversations. Because it’s very much like you alluded to, Pam, but it’s like when we have maybe a more parenting question or something that’s happening with our kids, I really wanted to take that to people that got it. If I was going to ask a co-sleeping question, I wanted somebody that would go, ‘Okay, the bolster here and the thing there, and this is how I did it,’ versus, ‘Oh, just put them in a crib and you won’t have that problem.’ Because for me, that wasn’t what I was interested in. And so just finding that community of people that are thinking about the ideas that are going through similar pieces, I just felt like that online community was such a rich part of my life and I have traveled, really, the world, meeting them since and that has enriched my life in so many ways.
ERIKA: Well, I was just going to say, online community is real community, which I know sometimes people can kind of poo poo it. It’s like, these aren’t real friendships. But oh my gosh, with my kids and their connections and with me and my connections, we know that this is real. And we have such better tools now for connecting online with Marco Polo and Discord videos and video calling and everything. And so, I feel like online connections can be so deep and rich and just provide access to a whole world of people in order for us to make better and deeper connections.
PAM: Yeah, I remember back when we were first connecting, Anna, online, it was like, those aren’t very meaningful when you’re an online friend. And like, oh my gosh, you’re going to go meet someone that you only know online? That’s scary. Those were the stories at the time.
But yes, I have found them to be such rich and meaningful connections that have lasted for many, many years. But as I was thinking about the value of community, for me personally, I just found that being in community with others who are on that same journey, a similar journey, really just helped me learn more. So, maybe it’s about what that journey may look like from somebody who’s further along. I learned so much about myself, about different things that I might want to ponder, where my blocks are. I find it inspiring to hear how things are going for people who are further along.
Like you said, Anna, that’s a place where I can take questions and get ideas that I would really like to think about versus having to discard the first six or seven, because it’s like, yeah, no, that’s not my path. So often, if I would ask parenting or even learning kinds of questions in my more conventional friend group, et cetera, it would be, send them to school or send them to their room. And fine, I can completely understand why those are your answers. But I found it would be a little bit of a disconnect in that relationship if they, out of the goodness of their heart, were trying to help me with my issue and I was going to completely ignore all their suggestions every time.
So, I wanted to find different communities where I wanted to bring different thoughts, different questions, and I would get different things out of them. So yeah, it wasn’t holding one and it wasn’t that it had to be in person. There was so much value all over the place.
ANNA: And I guess that’s making me think, too, just, we have this vast world. And finding people, Erika, like you were talking about, who like to think about the nuances or the ideas, for all three of us that’s important.
And when Erika and I connected, which was also online, it was just like, ah! Oh my gosh! There’s so many things that we can talk about and do and want to process. And that connection was so deep, so quickly. And I just think, how lucky are we? Because I live in kind of the mid of the United States on the East Coast, and she lives in Miami as far as you can get away and still be on the east coast there. And yet, it’s this relationship that has been so valuable to me and there’s been so much personal growth.
And one of the things I love about the Network is that very piece. There’s so much personal growth for me, because obviously our kids are grown, Pam and mine, yet it’s such a process of understanding ourselves. We still obviously have our kids in our lives, thankfully. And, I just feel like it’s so rich to learn from these other parents that are being so intentional and so interested in talking about the nuances and connecting and just loving up our kids and all of those pieces.
And I love the cultural aspects that that opens up to us from people all over the world and what’s different for them. I just think that cannot be beat. It’s just such a gift of being alive in this time right now. And so, I love that piece. Erika, you go and then I want to say something about kids.
PAM: Yeah, that’s where I was going, too.
ERIKA: Oh yeah. I was just going to say one more thing about the Network. Online communities are so great because they draw the people in according to what that community is. And so, if you can find a community that fits you, it’s just filled with people who you’re going to have fun connecting with.
And so, for me, the learning that I’ve had in the last three years, I feel like it’s been just exponential, because I’m now in this online community that really fits like what I like to think about and talk about and just all these amazing things come up.
So, I think, being able to travel around the world, finding these individual people who are such a good fit would be just this impossible thing if it were not for online groups.
And really, it’s the same in other groups that I’ve been on on Facebook or just different places on the internet about certain things. So, finding people that love to talk about the things that you’re interested in is just super great and you can’t always find that in person where you live. And so, yeah, I just love what we have available.
ANNA: Yeah. And so, where I’m going to go with that, and then Pam, to you, is that it’s the same for kids. Because realistically, again, the geographic location, the age, wherever we happen to live, that can be a very small pool of people. But both of my kids have met people from all over the world, still have relationships a decade late that they connected with over gaming or other interests, in different ways. And so, there are so many tools to help our kids take advantage of this rich, online environment that, like you said, Pam, can sometimes get this kind of scary rap. But there really are ways to navigate that world in a way that is super enriching.
PAM: Yeah. And we’ve talked about it in many episodes before. We can just go back to our navigating technology episode. But it’s like a night and day difference, because we’re cultivating connected relationships with our kids.
And our kids know that when they want to do something, we’re going to help them figure out ways to do it. So, they’re not worried about sharing pieces so much when they’re ready to share them. It’s not an expectation, but when they need your help to try and go meet another family, meet up with a friend, we’re there helping them, trying to figure that out and connecting with the other parents and all those pieces.
But yes, that’s where I was going. That’s the interesting thing, like the same way we’ve found that it’s so fun to connect with other people who want to think about whatever the particular interest is that we want to dive into. And maybe it goes from just following some people on Instagram or on Facebook just to start getting an idea and then maybe digging a bit deeper, maybe finding a group that starts talking about it, and then maybe more of a private group. There are different levels to it, and it depends on how connected we would like that community to become.
So, it’s not that I have to dive into the deep end right away. I can dip my toe in and start having an idea. And it’s the same with our kids. Our kids can have interests that maybe there aren’t a lot of people locally that are interested in that same thing. So, they can find that connection and that conversation that they’re looking for, that enriches their lives, that helps them learn, that helps them feel part of a community. They are part of a community.
I look at Lissy. She connected online around photography. There weren’t a lot of high school aged kids around who were interested and had the time. There were some who were interested in it, but they were just busy with classes and things. So, she found online community at the time, that was through Flickr and that really sustained her for a number of years.
And then she was like, oh, I really want in person. I want to start finding my tribe, face-to-face, which initiated her moving to New York City when she was 18 because that’s what she was looking for. But oh my gosh, we just set that up as kind of a two-month thing. Let’s try it out. Go see what it’s like. And she was very excited with what she found and they wanted to stay there.
So, working that out for her, it’s a journey. We always go back to it’s a journey. You don’t know where it’s going to end up, but it’s like, I’m going to try this next step. This next step looks really interesting. I’m really curious about it. Open and curious. Oh, here’s a way that we can kind of make that happen. And you work together and the thing happens. And then how did that unfold? How did people feel? Did we want to take the next step into the pool or whatever metaphor you want to use. But that’s just an example of how community can grow and how online community can be beautifully enriching at times.
And then at times you’re like, I’m looking for in-person community, and oh my gosh, I need to go to another country. I mean, she had an agent here who told her. I’ll never forget that at our first meeting, I don’t know, she was 15 or whatever. But she said, if you really want to work, it needs to be New York or LA. And that seed was planted. It’s true. That is where the vibrant communities are.
And she spent eight years or so in New York, and then a year in change ago she moved to LA and is finding another vibrant community. And literally the other week she was telling me about the difference between the creative communities in those two cities and LA is vibing for her right now. It’s really fitting who she feels she’s become and she just loves it there. And so, her community has changed yet she’s had New York people fly out and stay with her and hang out with her and LA people. It’s just so fun to watch how our communities can unfold and how we can cultivate them and how we can find new ones.
And it really does, I think, just help, like we talked about the beginning, to take the expectations off it and to understand what our true desires are. What are we really looking for? And then, not like we have to beeline right there. It’s like, okay, so this is kind of what I think I’m looking for. What’s a step I can take now in that direction? And valuing whether that’s online or in person, it really doesn’t matter, because you can get value out of that. And it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck there forever. It’s not a feeling of stuck. It’s like, let me try this out and see what I discover about myself and about the other people. Oh my gosh. I just love the idea.
ERIKA: It’s such a valuable way to look at it, no one right way. It’s just a journey. And it was reminding me of something I heard about the more true to yourself that you are being, the easier it is to connect with community that will actually suit you.
So, if you’re being true about your interests and what you like to do and, and the kind of conversations you like to have and all of that kind of stuff, then you’re more easily able to find the connections that fit. And so, I think the way that our kids’ lives are, is really set up perfectly to be able to follow that, because they can really just be themselves and follow the things that they’re interested in and what they want to do. And we have this whole world of potential community online and in person.
And the fact that my kids have seen me make online friends and then go visit them, they’re like, oh, so that’s possible too. Really the whole world is open for us. And since I’ve visited Virginia and visited Anna, Maya keeps saying, “I’m gonna live in Virginia one day. It’s so beautiful.” And so, I don’t know, it just opens up the world. We’re not just in this one place. And really, as long as we are following what our inner voice is telling us, it’s awesome.
ANNA: Right. And I love that.
And just a funny story from our lives, so Raelin was 13 and the two years prior to that had been on an unschooling gamers group and had made connections. And so, a mom that I had met in person but actually lived in Maine, so we were in North Carolina at the time, the other mom was in Maine, we decided to fly, sight unseen, to meet these boys that they had been gaming with on the west coast in Washington state. It’s a huge flight. It’s a big deal. And people thought we were nuts at the time. What are you doing? You don’t know these people at all.
And these boys’ parents were like, this is a little bit weird. And yet they’re now 10 years, 11 years later, they’re getting married, they’re still in touch. These were these rich friendships. And I think that comes from just, again, opening it up. There’s not one right way. There’s not one avenue to making friends and making connections.
And so, as unschoolers, we have this whole world to choose from and to explore and to be a part of. And like you saw with Maya, it just opens up this idea of, I can be friends anywhere. We can travel anywhere. We can meet people. We can figure things out. And I love that. The energy of that is so much more expansive.
So, I think one of the things I want to end on for me is, if you feel yourself feeling constricted about community, listen to this, breathe this in, because it’s really expansive. It really can be this expansive idea of all the different options, so many different ways to make connections locally, online, in person, with travel, all of these things.
And when we come from that expansive place, that’s when we see the opportunities just start appearing.
ERIKA: I had one other thing pop to mind that I forgot to mention earlier with the kids stuff. Sometimes there are kids who are super extroverted who will play with anyone they meet at any time, and that’s okay too.
I’ve seen parents worry about, but they don’t have friends. But if you’re going to the park and they’re playing with kids and they’re having a great time, if that’s not something that the child is worrying about, it’s the no one right way thing again about that too.
And just really listening to what the individual members of the family are saying and just knowing there’s lots of options.
PAM: Yes. I love that piece. It is the individual person. What are their needs? And again, like you were saying, if they’re enjoying whatever it is they’re doing, there’s your answer for now, right there.
So, that’s just another piece of the puzzle. That’s who my child is, you know? And that’s how they like to engage with the world right now. We can get ourselves in our head, worried about the other thing, the other way.
Well thank you so much! That was so much fun.
ANNA: Yes. Loved it.
PAM: And thanks everyone listening, for joining us. We hope you, too, have enjoyed our conversation about building community and will find it helpful on your unschooling journey. Wishing you a lovely day. Bye!
ANNA AND ERIKA: Bye!