PAM: Welcome to another Q and A episode! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca, and I’m so happy to be joined again by Anne Ohman and Anna Brown. Hi to you both!
PAM: Hello, hello, hello. I hope things are going well. I know Anna’s a little bit under the weather, but we’ll see how she does and we’ll cover for her if need be. So do you want to try the first question, Anna?
ANNA: I sure will. Okay. Alright. Question 1. This one is from Anonymous.
I consider us to be not just unschoolers, but radical unschoolers since we are life learners. It carries over to parenting and nearly every moment of our days. I would say that we are 95% radical, because of me coming from a public school background, I can’t totally free myself from this and just relax. Every time I turn around, I seem to be pulling out curriculum. Well, of course this never works for my kids! I have two adult children, whom I homeschooled. One actually unschooled. Both are doing great.
I have a teen who isn’t as driven as my previously unschooled child was and this concerns me. Hence, pulling out the curriculum. Again! Never works! I also have a 7yo and 2yo. I know that unschooling is the best fit for our family but how do I just relax?!! I’m sure that I need to deschool myself. It’s so hard though because at the end of the “school year,” we need to provide a portfolio in this state. I need to make sure that we have enough to submit for the year. I am looking forward to hearing what advice you may have.
Help! And thank you!
ANNA: Okay. Well at least we know what doesn’t work, so that was covered. I have two teens, and they are very, very different. So I would caution any type of comparison: “driven,” “not driven,” “motivated,” “not motivated.” I think exploration and learning can look very different in different personalities.
A couple things did come to mind reading your question, and of course we always come back to connection as first, and so, finding things that you enjoy doing together, learning more about what is interesting to your son. My guess is there are interests that may just not look like what you saw with your other child.
Sometimes we have children where their interests align with ours, and so it’s much easier to understand them, and then when another child comes along and it doesn’t, we’re kind of like, “Huh, what’s that about?” And so sometimes it just takes a few more minutes to dig into those things. Once you truly see him, I think you’ll see that he’s indeed motivated by things that interest him, be it friends, TV, books, video games, whatever his interests may be. And in all things there’s inherent value and learning. And I think a better understanding of his interests will help you to navigate the portfolio process. And so, I think there’s just some work of digging in there.
I would also focus on yourself and exploring the world around you. I think that really takes the pressure off for your son, and is also just an example of exploring things that bring joy. If your home is a place where everyone pursues and is supported in what they love, you create this climate for each person to live their best life. Trust in their journey and in your own, and finding ways to reconnect with that joy when you’re feeling worried—so that might be listening to a podcast, or talking to a friend, engaging in something you love. Finding whatever works to ground you, and your calm, grounded energy will set the tone. And I think you’ll find some of those niggling doubts and things that you’re worried about just kind of fall away because you’re grounded, you’re connected, and you’re seeing the learning and the beautiful process of life that’s happening around you.
And I’ll turn to Anne.
ANNE: Well that was very nice, thank you. I enjoyed listening to your answer so much. It’s funny because I was thinking of all the things that you could put in that space that is currently holding your curriculum, because you will be throwing that out, right? (Laughs)
You know, things like Pam’s books, John Holt’s books, some puzzles, magnets, Legos, DVDs, games, and as I kept thinking of things, I thought, “Wait a minute, actually you could replace it with anything else in the whole wide world besides a curriculum.” Because, that’s how limiting and intrusive a curriculum is to a child’s learning and to a child’s spirit. And when you replace it with something of the real world that you can enjoy together, the value is just so much more reaching into relationship and real world learning than anything a curriculum could ever provide.
Plus, it will shut your focus back to, as Anna was saying, your relationship and your connection with your child. Especially because when you come at this with a curriculum mindset, you’re only seeing lack, which I can hear in your question also. And that lack does need to be replaced with trust, just like the curriculum needs to be replaced with anything else of the real world that you can connect to your kids with, or they would enjoy.
And speaking of trust, as Anna was saying, as a part of honoring who your children are and celebrating them for who they are, it’s really important not to use comparative terms with them, even inside your own head. Because when you believe things like, “My teen isn’t as driven as my previously unschooled children,” even inside your own head, that can really drive a wedge between the two of you, because you are comparing, and you are seeing lack. It’s really important to see and honor and respect whatever it is your teen is interested in.
It also sounds to me like you’re looking for radical unschooling to look like school learning, where you can see motivation and result. That’s just not the case. I’m sure your teen is really wonderful just as he or she is, and is probably reacting to the fact that you keep pulling out a curriculum. And in doing so you haven’t shown trust in your child to follow their own interests or simply even to just be who they are. So, if instead you could be the student and be a student of your child, and see what makes your child shine, what makes your child light up. Honor, celebrate, and follow that.
And as far as the portfolio, once again it’s important to think and live outside the box. Once you see all the places that your children are shining, you can translate your lives for the portfolio. Perhaps keep notes and pictures of what you do together, the conversations you have, the places you visit, television shows and movies. There really is so much going on in our real lives that can fill up a portfolio, as long as you are able to look beyond society’s definitions of learning, and start reassessing your own doubts with the value of learning that is happening in your unschooling lives.
PAM: Yay! I love both those answers. And the one piece I was focusing in on a bit was that portfolio side. Because I think the anonymous person made a really important connection right there in their question, which was between the need to deschool and their fear of providing a portfolio for reporting in their state.
I was thinking it might help to shift your thinking from “my kids have to produce stuff for this portfolio” to “I will unobtrusively keep track of what my kids are up to,” and then see where that point of view might take you. Meaning, don’t let the need for documentation drive your children’s activities. Try to flip that around and just find ways, like Anne was saying, to document what your kids are choosing to do.
I’m going to post a link in the show notes to some good information about record keeping on the Unschooling Mom 2 Mom website. I was just looking there and Sue Patterson makes a similar point—she says “Focus on record keeping after the fact”—meaning after the activity. Because if you think of it first, you end up using it to drive or control or judge your children’s choices in activities, and that’s not unschooling.
As for your teen, I think a great question to ask yourself is, “Am I concerned he or she is less driven because it makes my record keeping harder?” Because you can just take on that little piece as a challenge. Or, is the question that you worry whether unschooling’s a good fit, because he or she seems less driven? That is also your work to do, but it’s a different kind of work. That’s once more about getting to know your teen better, as Anne and Anna were talking about.
I’m sure there is lots going on, it just maybe is less active, less visible for you. Maybe their personality is less vocal, more introspective. Maybe they are searching around to find really interesting things to engage themselves, because interests can come and go so they might be in a slower period as well. And that’s all perfectly fine. And plus, if you’re pulling out curriculum regularly, they may also be reacting to that, realizing that you’re not trusting them to figure out what it is they want to do, and at that point they can be reticent to share their interests with you in case they’re being judged as not worthy enough, you know, to show up in the portfolio. And then you’re losing out on some of that connection and not seeing as much of what’s going on in their world.
So actually it doesn’t really matter which of those reasons it is, though. What matters is connecting with your child now and giving them the space and your full support to explore whatever they’re interested in, and show them that trust. And then, while you’re doing that, figure out some new record keeping skills, I think that would help.
Anyone else or do you want to go on to question 2, Anne?
ANNE: I’m ready. Question 2 is from anonymous again. Different anonymous I’m assuming. (laughs)
Hello, I am unschooling my two boys, 9 and 13 years old, and recently I am more relaxed about the fact that they were spending so much time on the computer. Before, I allowed them two hours playing Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Royal… I don’t like video games at all but they love to play. Because I got very tired every day standing up next to them repeating the same words all the time to switch off the computer, I stopped doing that because they were angry with me later. Now I allow them to spend all the time they want playing and they are happier, but my question is: after six hours watching the screen without stopping, is it ok for their eyes? I am worried about that.
So, here’s the thing—I’ll get to your question eventually, but I’m going to go around a way to getting there. (laughs)
First of all, I’m so glad you got to the point of allowing your children to do what they love to do without limits and without your judgement. The more you trust and follow their joy and their own interests, the freer they will be to explore that which has value to them, and thus, the stronger your relationship will be, because you are trusting in them.
I completely understand about not liking video games. It’s not that I don’t like video games, I tend to get motion sickness when I watch video games, and therefore have only played like Pokémon and Animal Crossing and various Wii games with my kids. But even with that, I’m able to find different ways to connect with my kids over their video games. And even my feeling motion sickness also is a way that we connected, because any time that I would come in to sit down by them and watch their gaming with them, sometimes they would say, “Oh don’t watch this part mom, it’ll make you sick.” (laughs) Which was very kind of them.
Again, there are still many ways to connect with them over the games that they love. Even to this day, they are 22 and 26, I still love listening to their stories about their games, the story that is the game, and their stories about playing the games. I ask them questions all the time about their games, still, because I want to understand the game itself, and I want to know more about my kids, and I want to know about their joy and their deep connection to the game.
They recently started playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m amazed by it. I’m loving watching the unfolding of it all and hearing of their joy and their brilliance in this game. And that is another point—their brilliance. I have always felt that my kids’ brains were so brilliant, their gaming brains have always amazed me. You know, the video games stem from mythology, and they have such wonderful elements of storytelling and history, and through our conversations we tend to connect them to current events. The things we’ve learned from Pokémon and Animal Crossing are unbelievable.
And besides that, they’re funny and clever. Sam and I just the other night were remembering something from years ago when he was playing Resident Evil 4, and we started saying, “What are ya buyin’? What are ya sellin’?” Because one day when he was younger, he was playing the game and for some reason he had that scene with that merchant up for the longest time while he was researching something else, and I was in the other room doing stuff and all I could hear for a very, very long time was, “What are ya buyin’? What are ya sellin’?” And we were out to dinner the other night and just laughing about that.
And not only that, he was telling me how it had relevance in his life now, and how it extended into other gaming things, because those words are so famous now, from Resident Evil 4. And my husband was there and he’s like, “What are you talking about?” And we’re like, “Resident Evil 4—don’t you know games?” (laughs)
It’s just really cool all the conversations you can have with your boys over their games. And so much you can do to support and honor their game playing by showing an interest in all of it, even if you don’t like to play them yourself. Just so they know for sure that you’re not going to try to take it away from them again by limiting it—that you really embrace and enjoy and trust them with their joy. And that’s how you build trust with each other. They will learn to trust in you, because of your interest and enthusiasm, and you will learn to trust in them, by exploring it more and seeing the depth of the real learning that’s happening through their joy. And let me tell you, that is a beautiful thing. Not only that—especially how they are sharing this together, as siblings—that is also a very beautiful thing.
As for your concern about their eyes—I just think that you can watch for clues from them, and see how they feel. Part of our trust in our children with radical unschooling is helping them to learn to listen to their bodies and understand what makes them feel good and what makes them feel bad. So, once again, we can be students of them and look for clues that they’re not feeling good—if they complain about their eyes hurting or headaches, we talk to them about that, offer suggestions if they’re open to it, bring food or whatever. If they’re fine and well, there’s no need for concern. Just continue to support, nurture, and encourage that which they love to do.
PAM: Yeah, picking up just on that point there, I thought that was interesting, because many adults spend at least that much time on their computers through work or whatever. I know most of my work happens to be done on the computer, from writing books to working on this podcast to working on my website. So, as Anne was talking about, that’s just something to pay attention to, and to help them listen to the messages that they may be getting from their own body.
We all can notice maybe eye strain at one point or another, and we can share helpful information about that. We can help our kids make those kinds of connections, say, talk about dry eyes or maybe headaches developing. But that’s really only going to be super helpful once they trust that you aren’t sharing that information with the intention of trying to get them to stop. So, once you’ve got that trusting relationship built with them, they’ll know that you’re sharing information to help them, you’re not trying to kind of manipulate them to get off.
So yes, definitely focus on that relationship first. And at the same time, keep learning about unschooling yourself. Right now it sounds like you’ve approached this from a kind of a “giving up” point of view, because you got tired of telling them to switch off the computer. And that’s great, that’s a great step, but now with that freedom you can now see your children in action, see them happily playing and learning, and you can take this time to explore why this is true.
As Anne was talking about, dig into gaming in all those different ways to see why this learning is so wonderful, see where their interests are. Because it’s not just gaming—that’s a really high level way to define it. There’s just so much that’s inside that interest—so many different ways that you can connect with them. So you can take this time to explore unschooling, explore gaming, get to know your kids’ interests better. And if there’s any physical challenges from the gaming, you guys are going to have a trusting relationship to be able to share that information with each other and help them be more comfortable pursuing their big interests right now.
ANNA: It’s funny because I wanted to say the same thing—I really do think it helps to remember that there are so many jobs and passions that have people in front of screens all the time. (Laughs) Financial analysts have multiple screens up, looking at the different things happening, so this is really a part of our culture and so it’s this idea that that isn’t happening elsewhere—seems that sometimes helps a lot.
You have said that things are more peaceful and happier and I think that’s such a great place to focus. That joy and trust will lead to more exploration. And once that foundation of trust is there, I think you’ll get a better sense of if video games are the true passion—and they may very well be. Or, it could be also that it’s a sense of scarcity that has them sitting there for those long periods of time thinking it may be taken away at any moment. And if it turns out it is the passion, then that gives you information. You can work together to find ways to support what they love and to encourage that passion. As your understanding of what they love deepens, you’ll see the inherent value in it.
It’s very much like what Anne was just talking about. Once you dig in there and have those conversations and it leads to all these different places, suddenly you’re going, “Oh my gosh, these lead everywhere.” And then they will so appreciate your time and knowledge and understanding about something that they’re passionate about. I mean, those conversations are really precious to talk about when someone has this thing that they love and we see all the places it leads and connects. You know, video games especially, they have this mythology, they have all these different things grounded in different pieces of the world and of history and of different things, and I love all those puzzle pieces and how it fits together. So again, you may not want to sit in front of a video game—there’s only a few that I want to sit in front of myself—but I do enjoy just the story and the art and the different pieces and aspects of it, and that connection is a lot of fun. So I think that you can enjoy that more than you think you can.
PAM: Okay, question number three. This one is from Josh.
Hi Pam, my wife and I live in France and we are planning to unschool our two and a half year old son. We are a very environmentally concerned couple and take our principles very seriously when it comes to buying consumer products, especially food. We always try to know where it comes from, whether that particular industry or supplier or brand pollutes the environment, and of course how their workers are treated. We enjoy all your podcasts, but it seems you have a rather lax attitude toward how children eat. You basically say that “if they want to drink Coke, then let them.” But this conflicts with our principles, as well as the fact that Coke is pure sugar and chemicals and therefore quite bad for their health, not to mention the fact that Coke steals water from extremely poor regions of the world.
In other words, there are very simple facts about some foods and beverages that are undeniable: they are bad for a child’s growth, their health, their performance and brain development, etc. In addition, it is completely irresponsible to purchase them or support their companies and brands if you want to have a planet for our children. What do we do to unschool while trying to stay aware of these facts?
Thanks so much for your work and kind regards from France.
Hi Josh, from France! And I’m thinking I might actually add location to the question submission form, because it is really fun to hear where all people are from. That’s awesome. (laughs)
So, let’s step back. When your child is young, and you said your son is two and a half, you have a lot of control over what comes into your house. That is a given. The challenge comes when your child becomes aware that there are other options. And he will, at some point, because you guys are living in the world. You’re not locking him away. So, here’s where the challenge comes up: if you put your beliefs ahead of your child, if your deeply held principles, as you described, become rigid rules in an attempt to control your child, that’s when you can put your relationship at risk. And I have a blog post that I’ll link to in the show notes that is titled, Unschooling With Strong Beliefs, that speaks to this topic. Because you hold some very strong beliefs. And that’s great for you.
One shift that helped me around these kinds of issues was to realize that I have done a lot of exploring and learning over the years to come to my beliefs. These are truths for me, but it took me a long time to find them. So why would I expect my child to just adopt my beliefs wholesale? It’s good for my child to do their own exploration and learning and truly figure out what works for them. Now sure, this exploration at times has stretched my comfort zone. But it has been worth it. Every. Single. Time. Every time my child learned more about what works for them, and I learned more about the world itself, in that the world is bigger than just my perspective on things. Definitely, my view is right for me. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right for everyone else.
The other thing I wanted to do was break up your question into two distinct pieces that I found were wrapped up in there: the health piece, and then the corporate support piece. For the health piece—what you’re seeing as simple undeniable facts about food, while they make total sense to you, and even may align with your experience, they aren’t universal truths that apply to everyone.
So, for example, let’s take sugar. If sugar really is an addictive substance, all of us unschooling parents who have given our children freedom of choice around food over the years would have seen our children become addicted and always make that sweet choice rather than the choice that works best for them in the moment. Because, truly, that is what we are seeing.
It’s not that they never choose sweets. It’s that they listen to their bodies and make real choices about what they need in the moment. I’m going to share a link in the show notes to a page on Sandra Dodd’s website where she has a large collection of food moments that unschooling parents have shared.
I went to check it out because I remembered she had it, and saw that listed there was one that I wrote back when my daughter Lissy was probably 10, 11, 12—somewhere in there—and she’s 22 now.
Here’s what I wrote: “I went with my daughter to her Girl Guides enrollment ceremony last night. There was a table full of chips, donuts, cookies, cakes during the party afterwards, and she didn’t want any of it. But as soon as we got home, she said she was hungry and asked for a bowl of oatmeal. It’s not that she just doesn’t like donuts or cookies—I took her and her younger brother out to get some donuts the other day because they asked. But the great thing is that she doesn’t feel the need to eat them just because they are available.”
And that’s more my style, because I did not have that freedom growing up. If sugar was addictive, at that point she would have been helpless, apparently, to resist those sweets, not free to make a different choice. But she did make a different choice, and there are countless, countless, countless stories of unschooling parents who’ve given their children that freedom to make food choices where they are not controlled by the food around them but are free to choose. And they’re not plagued by ill health. We see them making solid food choices over the years. To help your child develop a healthy relationship with food, you may want to check out the book that Anne often recommends—Kids, Carrots, and Candy—and I will again put that link in the show notes.
As for the corporate support piece—again, this doesn’t mean that you need to compromise your principles, but you can creatively find ways to meet both your needs. So, when your son comes across pop in the world, maybe you buy a different brand that you’re more comfortable with. Maybe you get a seltzer machine and make your own. You can explore pop in so many ways beyond “I don’t want to buy him Coke.”
And if he’d really like to try Coke itself, you can share your perspective and principles with him, as information, not judgement, not that you’re going to make him feel horrible if he chooses it. You can say you’re not comfortable purchasing it, but he can try it next time he’s around it. Just be open to conversations around the topic rather than alarmist or judgmental, share your information, your personal perspective. You’re giving them good, solid information for them to learn and make the choices that work for them, and to develop their own perspective. Because if you vilify it, you’re going to most likely increase his curiosity. If he does really want to try it, at that point he knows he’s going to have to sneak it. And it’s your choice to make, definitely, but make it with the understanding that it will likely have an impact of some sort on your relationship.
Okay, sorry that was long, but I thought it was a great question, Josh. Thank you very much.
ANNA: It is a great question, and mine is long too, which you guys are surprised, I’m sure, because this is a topic that I love. (laughs)
I am really passionate about food and health, and it sounds like that I actually eat in a similar way to Josh and his family. But, I found that I can only know what’s best for my body. I can share what works for me and my concerns regarding manufacturing practices, the health of an item, the ingredients of an item, but it’s up to the individual to make the decision for themselves.
My girls have grown up in a home that talks a lot about food choices—farming, chemicals, these are common conversations that we have always had. Neither of my girls have actually ever had a soda, which is actually kind of a joke at this point, because one just turned 17 and one is about to be 19. And that’s not to say that they never will—they certainly could at any time, and that will be their choice—but it’s never something that they have sought out or were interested in.
And it’s the same with fast food. I have one of my girls who is very discriminating about her choices, and one who likes to try everything. But both are very aware of their body and how food affects their body. And that is much, much more important for me than them to adopt a particular stance, “because I said so.”
I think if you have an energy of joy about whole foods and finding farmers and knowing where your food comes from, then your kids will pick up on that. That’s the culture of our home is talking about the joy of food and farming and where food comes from. They may want to try different things along the way, but we’ll always have that foundation to come back to. I enjoy cooking, so my girls have grown up with me cooking food joyfully. And when we eat out, it’s typically ethnic food or something interesting that I can’t easily make at home.
So when they think of going out, McDonald’s never even enters their mind, because it would be more likely the Indian place or the Middle Eastern place or the Thai place, because that’s what they know—that’s the culture that we’ve had growing up.
I will also say that I have learned with age that there isn’t really one right way. Diet is just one example of that. If you put two people in a room and one is a strict vegan and the other eats a paleo diet, they will both be equally convinced that their way is the right way. And those strong beliefs are fine, just like Pam said—until they cross the line of insisting their right way is the only right way. Then relationships are harmed. And for me, there is no food or food principle worth harming my relationship with my child, or with my friends for that matter.
I will continue to evolve, and I feel sure that health and wellness will always be a part of my passion, and I will continue to share what I know and trust that everyone will take what works and leave the rest. I trust my girls on their journey with food and eating—they have taught me so many things along the way too, and that’s again what I love about unschooling, is we’re in this together, and we’re learning from each other and how each other’s body reacts and I just find that so fascinating.
And I’ll just share a quick story: We have been dealing with a little illness this week—maybe not so little, it’s been a little bit of a bear—but it also happens to have been my youngest’s 17th birthday, so I made her requested cake—all organic, no refined sugar—but on the day she decided she didn’t want to even risk eating the non-refined sugar, and asked that we freeze it for later, when we all felt better. My husband and oldest daughter chose to have a piece before we froze the rest, and that was okay too. She had seen me make the same choice for my January birthday—not wanting to eat excess sugar during flu times.
My point is that your child will grow up learning how you do things, just from how you do them. They don’t have to have things forced upon them, and I would argue that forcing is the fastest way to ensure that you are ignored. Trust in his ability to know his body and to take in the information from you and from other sources and to find his own path, just like Pam said, because that’s part of this amazing journey, is finding our path.
Okay, before I choke again, I’ll hand it to Anne.
ANNE: Hi. (laughs) You know, I’m so glad I was third on this question. I didn’t even do any homework for it at all, and I did Snapchat while I was listening to you guys, because I knew you would cover everything, and you did it so beautifully and so well.
And I have nothing more to add, except for perhaps an ending note of the relationship piece where I feel it is extremely important to hear what your children feel, think, and desire and need, about food, and respond with “I hear you” and not respond with, “Yeah, but, I’m right about this.” So, that’s the piece that I just want to stress after the beautiful pieces you got from both Pam and Anna.
PAM: Okay, question number four is from Liz.
Hi Pam, Anna, and Anne,
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I absolutely love hearing your podcast and wait patiently every week for the next one. I really love the Q&A episodes because every question seems to answer so many of my worries and concerns as I continue to deschool. Your answers are so thoughtfully prepared and I just loving hearing the soothing calm and feeling that energy as I listen.
A little background. We have four boys, ages seven, five, three and a half, and 18 months. Our house is very busy and chaotic, but in a good way. We came to unschooling after researching alternatives to mainstream schooling. My now 7 year old had spent one year at Kindy. He did very well academically, but he struggled emotionally when at home, he seemed overwhelmed and exhausted. I started looking into other schools in the area, Steiner, Montessori, and then unfortunately we ended up moving with my husband’s work to a remote place and schooling options were dismal.
My son seemed to show lots of signs at home that he was finding it too much. The pressure of reading and writing and five full days of school with very limited outdoor play or play of any sort. The days he was at home he would be exhausted and turn to TV to relax, he also started to show signs of aggression and lots of frustration. I researched homeschooling, and shortly after we pulled my son out and started homeschooling, which within weeks turned to unschooling.
This was seven months ago and we have been really enjoying learning with each other and spending our days together. My son is still struggling with his emotions however; he has become more and more aggressive at home, so much so that it is frightening for everyone and must be frightening for him too. Since starting unschooling we have released our controls and limits on TV, computers, and so on. My son has been exploring these with such passion. He lights up when he talks about Terraria and Minecraft, and is learning so many things. I definitely have done lots of inner work in this area and am confident in his learning.
The only thing that does worry me as I find the days that he does spend a significant amount of time on his computer or watching YouTube, his aggression hits a high, he also complains of headaches frequently. We have discussed taking breaks, and getting fresh air and I am making snacks and drinks for him to keep him topped up. But he gets frustrated if I suggest that maybe he needs to have a stretch and to move around for a few minutes. With having three other young boys to care for, who are very busy and are always creating and coming up with all sorts of things they need me to help them with, I don’t get to spend as much time connecting with my seven year old. I sit with him and ask him about his games, and try to play along as best I can; I admit I am not very good, he is miles ahead of me.
However, my other children tend to be much more needing of my time. I miss my son and worry that I am failing him, especially because he seems to have such extreme emotions which I feel must be an unmet need. He is very confident, I would say he is extroverted and thrives off being around people talking, and he is always telling jokes and making people laugh. So I am always trying to organise situations where he can shine. He loves the ocean too. When he spends a day at the beach or a day playing with friends out and about, he seems to be thriving and his aggression seems to mellow. However he quite often doesn’t want to come. He will say he has a headache and wants to stay at home, then he seems frustrated and angry. Could his time in front of the computer be aggravating him, or could it be that he is using the computer as an escape from deeper emotions that are troubling him.
We have moved a lot recently with my husband’s work, and my husband has also been suffering from depression as a direct result of his work. This has affected our family in a big way, and we have been living apart recently because it was no longer a healthy or safe environment for our children. My son has always been very big hearted and emotional, he comes across as very confident, but is quite soft and tender inside. I worry that I am not meeting his needs, that he is using these things to escape his feelings. We spent a day together recently, just the two of us and it was magic; we swam at the beach for hours, crashing through the waves while he eagerly said come out further mum come on, telling me about the dangers of rips, telling me about how we can tell the time by the sun. He is amazing and I can completely see all the amazing things that he is learning and seeing and doing.
I remember Pam in one of your podcast you mentioned how you son could only have so many things happen in a day before his cup overflowed and things would go downhill from there. This seems to be my son, it seems if one or two things happen after another, he can’t cope and he will lose his temper. He will throw things, break things, pour food, water, anything on the carpet. If someone is in his way he will push them over or hit them. I will tell him that I have to hold him, to keep him safe, until he feels better. He eventually does after lots of screaming and lashing out at me, but it can take up to 20 minutes. We have tried meditation together and talk about breathing and how else I can help him. I feel like he can’t release much of his frustration in front of a computer; before he would run around, and wrestle with his brother or scoot around, kick a ball, all those things released the endorphins and he seemed to be calmer after he had been active.
Just yesterday, he woke up after going to bed with a headache and I suggested that he have a nice warm soothing bath while I get his breakfast ready—he said sounds good. After that I said would he mind trying a couple minutes of meditation with me, he said ok. It literally lasted a few minutes as he was itching to go play. He then played with his brother running around, wrestling, playing with the dog, building Lego and he just looked so refreshed and happy and he said he felt good. He then got the computer out and within an hour he was grumpy, and said his head hurt again. I mentioned taking a break for a few minutes even just readjusting his eyes and he just said no.
I feel like a bad parent just sitting by and watching but at the same time imposing a limit just doesn’t sit with me either. Is this just something he will learn if I support him and not push it.
I also have lots of concerned family saying that he is on the computer too much. I don’t find myself answering confidently enough, which shows me that I am still concerned about it myself.
Sorry if my question is a bit disjointed, but thank you again. Lots of blessings from Australia.
You want to go, Anna?
ANNA: Sure. So, well, there was a lot there. (laughs) Thank you for that. But I also feel like there may be some things that were missing that might be helpful to know, but I’m just going to go ahead and kind of start with what we have.
It sounds like the games are important to him, and that he could be using them as a bit of an escape, and that’s okay. That may be exactly what he is needing. It sounds like you are also giving him opportunities to connect with you and to talk through if there’s more. I do hear that it’s hard at times, and that you have the other small children. And this time of everyone being so small will go by very quickly. Four is a lot, and so finding resources to help meet your needs, that allows you to have the time with him, is probably worth looking into, especially as it sounds like in general the family is in transition.
And as that, it sounds like you may have had a family change recently, and that can create a lot of internal struggles for kids. Not really understanding what’s happening, which can also lead to these kind of “acting out” behaviors, these acting out of feelings in ways that are hard to understand on the surface. So, it looks as a behavior, but really it’s these feelings that are being kind of worked out and trying to be made sense of. Creating a safe space for those feelings is important, and bringing up that you know it’s hard right now in this transition, and helping him find the words, having those kinds of conversations. And you know your son and how he will respond to that, but I think sometimes it’s just that permission to say, “This is hard, and here’s how I’m feeling. How are you feeling?”
But again, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, so it’s hard to say, but it sounds like there might be a bit more there.
As for the headaches, I’m wondering if the two of you can approach solving those by looking at the myriad of possible triggers. I’m guessing that he shuts down about the headaches when you suggest that they’re only related to the games. As a person who’s dealt with migraines most of my life, I can say they can be from all sorts of things: food triggers, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, food allergies, lack of food, lack of sleep, hormones, stress, and the list goes on and on. So if you could talk about solving the puzzle of the headaches, looking at all the possible causes, you might find that he’ll engage in that with you, so he’s not feeling it as a judgement, but that as you’re a partner to try to figure out the headaches, because headaches are no fun, trust me. It really colors your world.
And so, it helps to have a partner in that to figure those things out. But it doesn’t help to have someone judging what you’re doing and telling you what you’re doing is causing the headache. Just trust me from experience on that. (laughs)
And so I just wanted to say that about the headache. But I appreciate your question, and I do just want to say what Pam said too, it’s really fun to see how we have questions coming from all over the world, and it’s fun to think of how our community is being brought together by this, and the internet. And I don’t know, that just makes me happy.
So, okay, I’m going to pass to Anne now.
ANNE: (laughs) That is really cool. I love that.
Hi Liz. I wanted to just address your feelings, where you continually say that you feel like a bad parent. I think the first thing that will benefit you, you and your family and your son, immensely, is for you to recognize that you keep saying that, and you keep owning this weight of feeling like a bad parent. Your child is who he is, and to accept that and to not blame it on yourself and your parenting will really open up much more possibilities for your connection and your relationship. Because, it’s kind of a lot of weight on a child when a parent feels like the child’s behavior is their fault. That’s really a place you don’t want to go to, whether it’s behavior you find to be so-called “bad” behavior, or in a way that they shine and are doing something one would think is wonderful. Just want to really see your child for who he is, and not blame your parenting, especially with how you seem to be connecting with your kids really, really well.
With everything else I wanted to offer radical validation. It kind of goes along with Anna talking about a safe space for sharing feelings and stuff. I want to go a little deeper because when he’s feeling frustrated and upset, you probably are doing what you can to get him to shift out and away from those feelings. I can see that you are already saying, “Well how about you take a break, you can do this and this and this.” And I don’t know if you’re going in and seeing him and completely and deeply validating his frustration that he’s feeling, if it’s from the game or whatever. But that’s really a necessary place to go. If he’s frustrated by the game, frustrated by something that he can’t do, listen to him, without trying to move him away from those uncomfortable feelings. Go there with him in those feelings. Say things like, “Oh my gosh, I so understand, that can be so frustrating.” Or, “I get frustrated too when I can’t do something. I so understand.”
By radically validating something, a piece where he’s reacting to something in a game and yet maybe burying something deeper, at least that releases that one little piece. Parents are usually afraid that when you radically validate children’s uncomfortable feelings and frustration and anger, that their children will kind of lose themselves and go deeper and deeper into those uncomfortable feelings and the parents are kind of scared of what that may look like because they’re already wanting this uncomfortable space to go away. But the truth is that when children are seen and heard, and someone not only understands but validates that it’s okay to feel that way, then they’re really able to release it much more easily, and also kind of opens up a pathway for more communication and conversation.
Beyond that, when you’re having those good and happy and peaceful times together, you can bring up the topic again, validate those times when he was frustrated and talk about how he feels about it while it’s happening. Maybe talk about what you both might be able to do to help him get to a place of feeling better. Not at the time when it’s happening. And I know you said that you do that sometimes, you talk about it, but if you approach it from the place of radical validation again, instead of just continuing to want him to shift away from it, really letting him know that you understand how he feels so that he doesn’t feel like an awful person for feeling that way. Then that might just open up, like I said, more communication.
One other thing, I’m really one about watching our words. Because you used the word “grumpy” to describe him, and I think with our communication we want to offer them words that can help our children understand what they’re feeling and understand that it’s—I don’t know, “grumpy” just seems like something like you have a choice like it’s a bad day, and I actually looked up the word “grumpy,” where is it… “Grumpy” means bad tempered and sulky, and I don’t think that’s really appropriate, where, like, “frustrated,” when you’re talking about frustrated, that’s something that you can connect to much more easily, more authentically, and validate better also. And I look up what “frustrated” means and it says, “Feeling or expressing distress and annoyance, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.” So that’s really good to even use that word, and talk about what it means, and there’s just so many possibilities with your deep, authentic, radical validating. Seeing it from his perspective and letting him know that it’s okay to feel that way, and you understand. And see where it goes from there.
PAM: Hi Liz from Australia! I will say one thing that I really learned over the years, something that really helped me when challenges came up, was to learn not to jump to solutions. Both Anne and Anna kind of touched on it. Because truly, so many times the solution that I think up is certainly a possibility, but it’s often the one that I think would work best for me, because that’s why I’m suggesting it, but it’s really not the only one. So, when Anne was talking about meeting your child where they are, and validating, rather than jumping to, “Oh, let’s try and fix this.” Right? Let’s not jump to solutions first.
Same with the headaches. So, if he seems to be consistently getting headaches, maybe after being on the computer, but as Anna mentioned, maybe that’s just a coincidence. Maybe it is something that he ate or drank or whatever. Just make that suggestion rather than jumping right to, “Maybe you should take a break.” Approach it from the perspective that you want to help him enjoy his computer time headache-free. Especially in conversations when he’s not in the middle of a headache and playing. As Anne said, talking when things are good. Just have conversations around it at those points, so that he doesn’t feel like you’re trying to manipulate him to get off the computer, but that you’re really trying to support him not having headaches all the time.
What about having his eyes checked, maybe? The other thing, I know with Joseph, one thing that we figured out was it was an ergonomic thing. It was how he was sitting on the computer at a time when he was getting headaches, and they stemmed from that. So maybe help him set up his computer space so that it’s as comfortable as possible for him. So just don’t presuppose the answer to any situation. Be open and creative, not just thinking that the one solution that we first see is going to be the one and only answer.
Especially with his computer time right now, if it’s maybe his comfort time during these big life changes that you’ve been talking about, that you mentioned in general. And when you notice that he’s already dealt with a few challenging things in his day—remember you were talking about how it seems like his cup may be full, getting frustrated, or that last straw that broke the camel’s back—when you notice he’s had a couple of challenges, try extra hard to help things go extra smoothly for the next while, so that you’re giving him the space to build up his reserves again. Like even, when I knew Joseph had had a few things go wrong already, I was extra sure to keep his younger brother and sister away for a while so that he had some nice, calm focused time to do what he was trying to do. And that would help.
It could also help to remember that when he’s playing on the computer, he’s doing his hard work. Yes, all the other stuff that you were talking about is fun and awesome, and I loved hearing all the different ways that you were connecting with him. But, because when he’s on the computer, one of the reasons why he can get into the flow of it is precisely because right at that limit—it’s challenging him and interesting him. So while it’s frustrating, it’s kind of like a good frustration. As Anne was talking about, the difference between frustration and grumpy, because he’s trying to achieve something, he’s trying to do something, he’s playing on that line of competence. So, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can help not to think of it as something you need to stop, but something you want to support him in figuring a way through.
It’s at those points for Joseph I remember when he was younger that I became the walk-through researcher. You know, finding information that could help him move through those frustrating moments, and that was helping him figure out ways for himself. What are all the different ways that I can approach this moment, what else can I do? Sure, taking a break was an option, but it wasn’t like the first option. It was finding information, and trying again, and eventually he found the tools that worked well for him, and he started doing them himself. But at first, I was helping him a lot. It sounds like your son is so deep into learning so much from what you describe. He’s learning about the things that comfort him, about ways to deal with frustration, about the ways that he likes to learn, and then about all the skills and things themselves that he’s doing. So I think it sounds really awesome.
ANNE: Are you done Pam?
PAM: I am, I am.
ANNE: I wanted to reinforce what you were saying about thinking of it as their work. That is so incredibly important. Because it is their hard work. Their hard play is their hard work. And when I framed it that way, it just helped so much, because then my response is, “What can I do to help you? How can I help you? How can I serve you?”
When I just thought of that, my husband spent all morning snow-moving. (laughs) Plowing and snow-blowing, and then our driveway—we have a very long, steep driveway, on top of a mountain, and it was very icy, and he had to go to the village and get sand, and used a shovel—one shovel-full at a time—to sand our driveway. And my response was, “How can I help you? What can I do for you? Can I make you a cup of coffee? Can I make you lunch?”
So, when we see our children in their game, this is their job, to be radical unschoolers, to love what they love with the depths of their being. This comes naturally to them because we’re allowing space for it. And when we see it as their work, that puts it all into perspective, and we can be their partner, as Pam so beautifully showed us the example with her doing research for Joseph and everything. So, thank you.
So, I’m going to read question five, that is from Susan. She writes:
Hello ladies! I look forward every month to hearing your lovely wisdom!
Aw, thank you, Susan.
Today, or these days in general, I think I just need some reassurance. I have two children, a 22-year-old daughter who is in college in the US, and a 9-year-old son. We live in a small town in Argentina.
ANNE: We are covering the map.
My son went to public kindergarten for two years and had a very hard time adapting to some aspects. We helped start a new school that he went to for first grade and second grade, based on an Argentine system similar to Montessori or Waldorf, which he seemed to like at first. But although they were very lenient in their teaching, allowing children to learn reading and math at their own pace, they were very strict about their own social norms, and my son eventually started having a very hard time with that. Last year we took him out and formed a small (six families, seven kids) cooperative that we started thinking of as an unschooling experience, although we didn’t really understand what that meant when we started.
In our home we have worked very hard at developing an unschooling lifestyle over the last year, which has involved mostly a lot of internal work on my part, and it all feels very right to me. Each of the families sort of went its own way during the year, and only three of us are planning to continue next year. My son loves the cooperative, even though he complains about the attitudes and activities of the parents who never really got into unschooling, and he is very sad that half of the group will not be there next year (this is the end of the school year down here).
So…my doubts and need for reassurance…he spent 14 hours yesterday watching you-tubers on his kindle. That is his go-to activity lately, and he rarely accepts invitations from us to do anything else. It was a beautiful day outside, and I could see out the window behind him where he was lying on the couch, kids out with their parents playing by the river where we live. He doesn’t even stop to eat, preferring to eat while he watches. He even takes it to the bathroom. And usually wants to watch one more additional episode before he goes to bed.
The only thing that draws him away regularly (lately) is participation in the cooperative that meets at our house every afternoon, or playing with his new best friend, who is in the cooperative and lives next door. He does not like to be in groups of children where he does not know each child intimately. He is not interested in doing any outside activities—no sports, art or music classes that are provided by the government here and that the children in the cooperative who are leaving do. So after this week when the cooperative school year ends, his social circle will shrink even further.
I get Sandra Dodd’s daily “Just Add Light and Stir” words of wisdom, and today she talked about how if he is happy and engaged in what he is doing, he is learning. Well, he is CHOOSING to watch all day, and he certainly doesn’t seem to be bored. I can see some of the things he learns, and enjoy watching some of the videos with him. I know and love his favorite you-tubers, who share their hearts as well as their games with their viewers. So I don’t doubt that he is learning and happy with what he is doing, but I still have so much trouble on a day like yesterday accepting that it is okay for him to do that ALL day and not do anything else…oh, he did take a 15 minute break to shell pecans for me with a big hammer, and he told me thank you for asking me to do that because he had so much fun with it. But other than that, he literally spent the rest of his waking hours watching The Diamond Minecart!
He tends to be obsessive about things in spurts, and has gone through phases such as Sponge Bob and Spanish-speaking you-tubers, for example. He eats that way, too, some days wanting only oranges all day, and others peanut butter, or blueberries, or bread, etc. Some days he turns down his favorite foods, just says he doesn’t feel like eating them right then.
When he was younger, I tried to “mold” him, get him to eat regular meals at the table with us, nudged him towards what I considered to be “good” activities such as playing outside and getting some exercise every day, but it just didn’t work with him. He refused to be molded and I finally realized about a year ago that I could either continue those battles in order to try to get him to fit in and succeed in school and society, or back off and lovingly embrace who he is, and re-construct the bond with him that was beginning to crack.
Then I have these days and these doubts…Does it sound like what I am doing is okay? Am I doing him well by letting him do what he wants all day when all he wants to do is lie around and watch YouTube, or am I letting him down by not helping him find other things that he can enjoy and that could be good for his health and well-being? Is it okay that he is not exposed regularly to a wide variety of children and people?
Sorry this ended up being so long! I go in cycles with this, so by the time you answer I may even be out of this “doubting” slump, but today I feel I need encouragement and reassurance!
Hi Susan. I got tears in my eyes on my first read-through of your question, because I see your son. He sounds familiar to me. In many ways, he sounds like my Jacob who is now 26. And your loving desire to do well for him speaks to my heart. If you haven’t read my essay I Am What I Am, you might want to do that. It is on my website shinewithunschooling.com, and it is on Pam’s website as well.
This that you wrote, I kind of believe that you know this to be true in your heart, but you let your head get in the way of it. You said, “He refused to be molded, and I finally realized about a year ago that I could either continue those battles in order to try to get him to fit in and succeed in school and society, or back off and lovingly embrace who he is, and re-construct the bond with him that was beginning to crack.”
Oh my goodness, what a gift, Susan. What a gift, that he refuses to be molded! What a gift that is to all of us, really. Because when we recognize that, when we see our children refusing to be molded, boy—that’s when we can take a good look at ourselves. And we can ask ourselves why we would want to mold them, instead of allowing them to unfold. And we can look at ourselves and maybe we can see what part of ourselves that got lost to other people molding us into compliant citizens and students, instead of accepting and celebrating us for being who we are. And allowing us to pave and follow our own paths, instead of walking down someone else’s.
And what kind of world are we trying to get them to fit into by molding them anyway? The biggest gift of radical unschooling is that our lives have the glorious freedom and space to celebrate our children for being who they are. This is why they came into the world—to be who they are—and this is how they shine.
Just this morning I saw a quote that said, “When you’re born in a world you don’t fit in, it’s because you were born to help create a new one.” That’s what unschooled kids are doing. That’s what unschooled families do. We create our own worlds. We, in our family, began creating our world the moment Jacob first rejected something that I thought I was supposed to be doing as a parent, from mainstream messages. From that moment on, when he rejected it, I was there, seeing him and listening to him, believing him and following him. And that’s how we created our own world.
So your choice to not continue battling with him and molding him was a good one. And yet you do lose sight of it, because it seems there are times when you are still looking at him through society’s eyes. The eyes that use standardized measurements to determine a child’s worth. And I believe strongly that your son can feel this, and it may feel like your disapproval of what he’s choosing to do with his time. So, that could be why he’s staying behind the screen. Because the screen is this place in his life where his world is expanded and he’s receiving joy, and he’s not feeling anything else out there.
Seems like he’s got a lot of weight coming on him now, losing your cooperative group and everything, and perhaps feeling your disapproval of him watching the screen. I suggest you get behind your boy’s eyes and not see him through society’s eyes. See his amazing, wonderful world, and see him for the sensitive, beautiful, brilliant soul that he is. And feel that weight that I said he’s already owning, from all that’s happening in his world. And then, maybe you can tell yourself to trust in him, and understand that what he is choosing to do right now could be the best thing for him to be doing in this moment of his life. Exactly what he’s doing. And then you can go on to celebrate that. You said you see the value in it and you watch the videos and everything; it’s all part of something that needs to be celebrated and connecting with each other even more, in a fun, light, joyful way, as well as who he is to begin with. His entire being-ness.
And this part that you wrote, “Am I doing him well by letting him do what he wants all day when all he wants to do is lie around and watch YouTube, or am I letting him down by not helping him find other things that he can enjoy and that could be good for his health and well-being? Is it okay that he is not exposed regularly to a wide variety of children and people?” Oh my goodness.
The answer is neither of those things. Because from what I see, those choices don’t come close to honoring who your child is and what he loves to do. He is not simply lying around watching YouTube all day. He is really expanding his world, taking in information, finding his joy, as I said, right there, right where he is. Nine years old is a very tough time for children, especially boys. And I was always grateful that when I saw the heaviness that my boys were experiencing in their own hearts at that age, that they didn’t have all of the weight that is school on top of them, on top of this time of great growth and questioning.
And I made sure I didn’t hand them any more weight than they were already carrying. I made sure they didn’t feel any judgment from me about what they were choosing to do. I was just grateful that they had something that was familiar to them, where they felt safe. And here’s the biggest thing of all—I trusted in them. Completely. I honored them and I loved them so much, and I was there to support, nurture, and encourage what they wanted to do. Because that’s our choice; that’s part of our trust in them. That’s where your son’s health and well-being-ness will reside, in feeling safe to be who he is, and in feeling safe and supported to do exactly what he wants to be doing.
PAM: That was lovely. (laughs) And so true. And I too really love the “refuse to be molded” piece, because it was Joseph refusing to be molded that started our family on this whole journey. So, that is a great place to start. And I love your description of how you finally realize that you didn’t want to continue down that path. I thought that was awesome.
The other observation about going in cycles—that’s very common too. I think almost all of us experience that. And I know what worked for me in those times, when I was feeling a pull to try and coax my children to be a bit different, to mesh with the more conventional lenses, to mold them as you say, was to remind myself that this is who they are, and that I wanted to help them explore how they could be themselves in the world. Because really, to try to be anyone else would be such a draining and negative experience, throughout their lifetime. And that was not something that I wanted to hand them. Realizing that the world truly does need all kinds, and that in those moments, I was caught up in that conventional definition of success, and trying to put that on my kids.
It’s like those lenses kind of sneak on, and you don’t realize it, and then all of a sudden you start to see your kids differently. So it’s at that moment where those are great clues that it’s time to take off those glasses. To put the focus back on our kids and see how brilliantly they’re shining when they’re doing the things that they love.
There’s one little piece that, as soon as you said, “Laying on the couch all day,” I remember when I was a kid, I would love, love, love, love, love spending my days lying on the couch reading books. I have a very distinct memory of the soft, dark, royal blue couch with flowers on it, and exactly where it was in our living room, and the light coming in from the big bay window, and how my parents would try to coax me outside. Nope, stop reading, go outside and play.
I remember that often, after that, I would choose to read in my bedroom, even though it was less comfy and I’d already spent all night there and it was less bright because the window was smaller. But if they didn’t see me, they were less likely to try and chase me outside. I knew if I stayed out of the way, I had a better chance to keep reading.
When I remembered that, it reminds me that it’s not about the context—whether it’s watching YouTube or reading books—it’s about trusting the child to make the choices that work best for them each moment and each day. And yes, absolutely, if they’re happy and engaged, they are learning. And it helped me at those times to look at the bigger picture; much bigger than those fourteen hours. Much bigger than a day, or even a week. Even more than a month. Especially since you mentioned that with his personality, his tendency is to dive deep, to immerse himself in things for a longer period of time. So instead, it helps to look back over the last six months to a year and it’s at that timeline that we can really see learning and growth patterns happening. We can see how one thing connected to another, to another. It’s super cool when you start looking back over the longer time frames.
One other suggestion—you mentioned right now he rarely accepts invitations to do other things. So my suggestion would be, don’t just offer up things that would take him away from his favorite activity. Mix it up with things that would bring him to it. Over time, they’re going to see your suggestions are really, truly about wanting to make their days more fun, not about surreptitiously trying to get them away from whatever it is—technology, or books in my case, or whatever. Try and offer up all sorts of fun things, whether it’s maybe you find a new YouTuber or a new video or a new something and you bring that to him to show that you trust and love that he loves that stuff, and that you’re supporting him. That’s going to go a long way to helping build that trust with him.
ANNA: Hey, Susan. It’s interesting because I know your question kind of focused around your son watching YouTube all day, but what I got out of your description was all of the things that he enjoys. And so I’m wondering if maybe part of the issue is where you’re putting your focus, and that it has this kind of unintended judgements are creeping in about how he’s spending time.
And I just love what Anne and Pam both said about just finding a way to trust him and see the joy and the comfort he feels. And I loved Pam’s story and I can just picture the couch and the reading, and that I too had moments like that and days like that where that was so valuable to me.
It sounds like he is introverted, which I am also introverted, as is my family, and we all have bits of that in us, but for some it’s stronger than others. And I know for me I need to retreat into solitary activities to balance out social times. And what you’re describing as co-op every day, a best friend next door—that sounds like a lot. I can just tell you right now that kind of gave me palpitations, like, “Co-op every day?” (laughs)
It may be that that sounds great to you and that we want to be with friends every day, and do. But for some of us, that’s a lot. Like, we love being with our friends, we love having those activities, but then we really do need to retreat and have this kind of solitary time to recharge. I’m guessing that he’s really enjoying this time of recharging, and that when he feels recharged he’ll be ready to head out again.
So, as Pam said, look at those longer patterns and realize that we all have kind of different personalities and different needs when it comes to social time and alone time and time to pursue our needs. And if you’re a person that really likes to dive deep in things, as I can be too—you know, I want to read that book and read it all—it will be all day, and through the night, and when I probably should be sleeping, and I’ll be reading because that’s just how I like to do it. So, it’s kind of looking at: okay, it’s not good or bad, it’s just how people process information and how they want to spend their time and how they take in information and how they learn, because it can be different. So, all those things swirl together with the things that Pam and Anne said, that it sounds like he’s amazing. I really enjoyed reading about him.
ANNE: I wanted to add, one more way that he sounds familiar, like my Jacob, because the friends coming over—we had a period where we were taking care of other homeschooled kids for a while, and we had to stop because Jacob, along with your son, not being able to focus on more than one thing at a time, you know, gets caught up in one thing—Jacob would not be able to do anything except kind of wait for these friends to come over.
That’s what was happening that day so he felt like he couldn’t start anything else, he couldn’t do anything else. He would either just watching something or literally sit and look out the window and wait for them. So that is another aspect of it also.
And Pam and Anna, isn’t this thing about it being nice outside come up a lot with parents? (laughs) It’s like, I think it’s what we were told as kids, like you said Pam, “It’s so nice outside.” And so many parents struggle with that. That it’s nice outside, my kid’s in watching TV, my kid’s inside playing video games or whatever. Okay, it’s not the only nice day outside in an entire year.
ANNA: It’s nice inside too!
ANNE: Exactly! And we have windows we can open and breathe fresh air and everything. It’s just important to not get stuck on these things that kind of don’t make sense but were something we were told so we believe it. So, that too.
PAM: I know, it’s true. You can kind of tell when those phrases come out, right? “It’s nice outside!” It’s like, yeah, you’ve heard that over and over.
ANNE: Yeah, you can just see—I can feel every child in the world shutting down. (laughs)
ANNA: But I think another thing too is, or is it coming through your filter? Like, I do like being outside, it makes me feel good. But then I can walk outside. That doesn’t mean that someone else needs to go outside. So, is it really that maybe the person writing is saying, “You know what, I want to see the river, I want to do.” And that’s a whole different problem to solve, which is easily solved.
PAM: Yeah, exactly. I do that all the time. I’ll say, “Oh, you know, when I see the sun come out, it looks so nice through the trees, I’m going to go out and look.” Or, “The moon’s almost full tonight. I’m going to go to the end of the driveway and see it.” Or, today, “There’s so much snow outside. It’s so cool to just go look. I’m going to take the dogs. Oh my gosh!” (laughs)
ANNA: Really? I didn’t know. (laughs)
PAM: So, you know, that’s it. And I’m still seeing that—it’s so nice outside—but I’m seeing it for myself. Instead of seeing it like, oh gee, everybody else. I think that’s part of the shift, to not try and put all the things that I see on to somebody else. To expect that they’re going to see it the same way that I see it.
ANNA: Be it food, or outside, or how you spend your time.
ANNE: And if they get to it on their own, it might hold a little resentment because they’ve been told their whole lives, “Get outside. Get outside.” So, if they really wanted to get outside, they might even not want to, because that’s what we’ve been trying to do is get them outside. So, I can see the rebellion in that also.
PAM: Yeah, because now it’s not their choice, right?
PAM: It’s like, “Oh, I’m doing what they were bugging me to do.”
ANNE: Yeah, that’s it. They’re not free to make it their own decision to do it. It’s because they don’t want to make it seem like they’re doing it because somebody else told them to do it. It’s a vicious cycle, so let’s let it go people.
PAM: And that is the last question for this month, for this year! Yay! Thanks so much to both of you for answering questions with me, because it is always super fun to chat unschooling with you guys.
ANNA: And has it been the whole year, Pam? Like, didn’t we start in January?
PAM: Yeah, we did.
ANNA: Which is kind of cool, isn’t it?
PAM: I think it’s awesome cool. Yay!
And just a reminder for everyone, there are links in the show notes for all the things we’ve mentioned in this episode. And as always, if you would like to submit a question for next year’s Q and A episodes, just go to livingjoyfully.ca/podcast and click on the “Submit a Question” link. And wishing everybody a wonderful day. Hopefully our sun will come out. (laughs)
ANNE: Bye, see you next year!
ANNA: Bye, thank you!