PAM: Welcome to another Q&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 guys!
PAM: Here we are, got our four questions, would you like to get us started, Anne?
ANNE: I would love to.
Anonymous Question [TIME: 3:36]
My son just turned 7 and we have been Unschooling for 2 years. I love unschooling but the one little concern that keeps popping up once in a while from my husband is about his writing skills / penmanship. He struggles writing his name or has no desire to draw. He does the occasional backwards “N” and I know that I was dyslexic in my younger years so I wonder if he maybe as well, which is why I don’t like to pressure him. Now I loved drawing but hated reading. He on the other hand he is an amazing reader well beyond his age. That is what is keeping my husband relaxing about Unschooling.
So, I just want to hear from you of any cases where some children maybe natural great readers but had no desire in writing and once they reached a certain age they had the desire and picked up writing with ease. At least that is what I’m hoping for.
I do plan on sharing this with my husband so feel free to speak to him directly lol.
ANNE: Well hello and hello to your husband too. I’m so happy that you and your husband have given your son and yourselves this incredible gift that is unschooling.
I’d like you to go back and remember why you chose to unschool. Just take a moment and connect with those feelings that allowed you to walk away from sending your child to school and allowed him to walk toward being free and live and learn and his own way and his own time. And maybe when you’re holding on to those reasons take a look at that child. Maybe touch your cheek to his. Breathe in his wonderfulness.
I’m asking you to do this because your question holds school and society and expectations and language in it. I know you’re new to unschooling so this is a natural part of your journey learning about unschooling and your child and creating a life that allows him to shine his brightest. So, the way that we speak about our children and our lives is a huge part of creating the life we want to live. And it’s a huge part of creating that safe, sacred space that allows your child to be who he is and to focus on his joy.
Overall, to me, it feels like you’re looking for a society and school approved reason to trust in your child. And it also feels like perhaps both of you—you and your husband—are holding onto expectations of your son which are based on the definition of learning and life that society and school handed to you. Now again, it’s time to go back and look at your then five-year-old son and look at why you did not send him to school. You not only didn’t send him to school, you dove right into the wonderful world of unschooling. That is so fabulous! And that right there required a lot of trust.
So, building that foundation of trust is what you’ll be working on every time you look at your child and every time your brain tries to define him and put him in that box that school handed to you. I think you need to remember with your heart, not your head, why you chose to do that in the first place.
So, when you say you don’t like to pressure him to write because you were dyslexic, in our unschooling lives there is no pressure whatsoever in coercing our children to do anything. And when you say he’s an amazing reader well beyond his age, in our unschooling lives we don’t ever need to compare children to the school’s standard of how well they read or how they are not reading. Or how well they are writing or not writing. And when you say at least that’s what I I’m hoping for, that is an expectation that you have of your child that he should be writing by a certain age and unschooling children can never be truly free to live and learn in their own way and in their own time when they feel the expectations their parents have for them to be doing something within a timeframe—the timeframe that makes the parents feel good and really has nothing to do with the child.
When you hope for something in the future for your child, you’re missing out on celebrating him for being exactly who he is right now.
So, all of those things are part of the school mindset and all these things really don’t allow unschooling to live easily and flow easily in your home. You’re basically, with this mindset, bringing school home. Unschooling is first and foremost about trusting our child no matter what. And not paying attention to or caring where they fall on the school-defined grading system.
Unschooling is about following the child and nurturing and encouraging the things that he loves to do and with that there is no lack in unschooling. There’s only the abundance of your child’s gifts and his joy and everything that makes them shine.
It’s in following your child’s light and joy and questions and interests and curiosities and conversations where the learning happens. And that learning will happen in its own time and its own way only when the child knows that the parents trust in him in this path.
So, now having said all that, we do also see our children’s challenges in life and we, of course, learn from them and we are students of them. We can see if a challenge is getting in the way of our children’s joy.
In your case I’m not sure what you are saying is your child’s challenge and writing is getting in the way of the joy because you’re stating that’s a concern of yours and your husband’s. You say he struggles writing his name and he has no desire to draw and make a backwards ‘N’ and if these things are not getting in the way of doing what he loves to do everyday, and if these things are only being highlighted by you and your husband because of the school timeframe, then there’s really no need to continue to highlight those things at all in your life.
Again, what needs to be the focus in your everyday lives are the things that your child loves to do. That’s what you follow and that’s what you trusted. I have an essay on my Shine with Unschooling website where how I assisted my now 27-year-old son when he was younger and having writing challenges. It’s actually not an essay, it’s an excerpt from one of my conference talks from many years ago, about twelve years. The excerpt is called, on my website, I Was His Scribe. (Anne’s website is no longer active.)
If you could take some time to read that because the important thing to note is that it was my son who was frustrated with the fact that he couldn’t write when he really wanted to write. Here’s a little excerpt from the excerpt (that hurt to say! Haha!):
While Jake has always had something to say that deserved to be written down, he always found the actual writing to be challenging and difficult. More significantly than the fact that he wrote his letters backward, his biggest frustration lay in the fact that what came out of his pencil didn’t ever match the picture that was in his head.
Because of the high expectations that he placed on himself, the level of frustration that this caused was no small thing in his life. Jakes frustration often blocked his path to joy and peace and I knew from his earliest days that this meant that it also blocked his motivation to play with the world.
My child’s heart wasn’t at peace so quite naturally we came up with a solution.
So, you see that we came up with a solution to this particular challenge of his and wanting to write things down because he was frustrated with himself. He was not feeling good about himself. It’s always been my goal to help my children get to a place where they feel good about themselves.
Jacob did want to draw and he was frustrated that he couldn’t and he did want to write and he was frustrated that he couldn’t. In this particular story about Jacob, as the title says, I became his scribe and wrote and typed for him until he didn’t want me to do that anymore.
I actually have many other stories of solutions that we came up with to help him. If you’re in the Shine with Unschooling Yahoo list or want to join you can search the archives for dyslexia or whatever, or even the word Sculpey. That’s how I found my stories because I’ve written often about how I got the idea from the book, The Gift of Dyslexia, to have Jacob play with clay to help his brain make the connection between what he wanted to draw or write and what came out of his hands.
And here’s another excerpt from that conference talk; it’s really important to your questions:
I trusted in my child and I made sure joy was our compass. I didn’t tell him that he needed to write for himself because I wouldn’t always be around to write for him.
I didn’t shame my child or make him feel less than whole because he struggled with writing. I didn’t choose to distance my child from me by handing him the weight of any disapproval or judgment.
Instead I chose to ignore society’s and school’s imposed expectations on my child. I focused on the words that his mind and heart were weaving into a story.
It’s really important to remember that I did not possess the power to see into the future and see my child sitting at the computer writing for himself. I saw in that moment a child who struggled to write and I chose to trust that all was STILL well.
It’s important to have your son’s joy be your compass and trust following that joy to allow the learning to happen in its own time and its own way. Because the fact that he doesn’t want to draw or can’t write well matters as little as the fact that you feel he is reading way beyond his years. It doesn’t matter. And it can’t matter to us if we’re choosing to not bring school and definitions of learning and its expectations into our home. That’s not unschooling.
And so, I suggest you continue to read all you can about radical unschooling and keep listening to all of Pam’s podcasts and continue to make sure your focus is on being a student of your child and nurturing and encouraging and following that which makes him shine.
I have one more excerpt. He did not want to type for himself. I didn’t need to share that part because I said the trust had to come from that place where I could not see the future and see him eventually writing for himself. And so, this part of the excerpt is when I did a little Snoopy dance of Joy because Jacob asked me to get up from the computer chair because he wanted to type himself.
So, I wrote:
I did a Snoopy dance of joy!!
But not for the fact that my son was finally writing ~ just like Sam’s journey to reading the focus was never on the end product of the reading or the writing.
No, my heart did a little dance of Joy because my child had proven, yet again, that trust is the key element in allowing unschooling to live sweetly in our home. It proved yet again that my children will do what they need or desire to do when they are ready and when it has real meaning in their lives.
Okay, that’s all of my excerpts.
Pam, do you have anything?
PAM: That was lovely. Anne talked about the expectations that she saw inside your question and I thought that was really cool how she brought those out.
What I was thinking of doing was diving in and kind of unpacking those expectations that she saw and so maybe a little guidance into how you might dig into that.
First, I want to mention that I am not sure that it’s reasonable to think that those skills will be picked up with ease in the future. But when people are interested in figuring something out, like writing, that’s when their determination will see them through the time and effort of learning and practice to get the competency that they are comfortable with, that they’re looking for. Remember that point that Anne said that it’s all about helping him meet his own needs. Whether it’s with her own hands involved or our support etc.
So, one of the things I thought it might be worth chatting about with your husband to dig into what’s behind his concern around penmanship. Try to figure that out whether or not it’s a communication thing. Is he more concerned that he won’t be able to communicate in the future because he can’t write things down?
You can talk about how much of our communication nowadays had moved beyond penmanship to typing to speaking through videos and audio. So, teasing out the difference between communication or writing skills, as Anne was talking about on the computer and penmanship, might help your husband feel more comfortable. I have a blog post about that that I will link to in the show notes for you to look at.
If it actually is about penmanship, maybe you guys can chat about the wide range of skills in the adults you know to tease out the expectations around that. Are they really realistic? Because hard-to-read handwriting isn’t a sign of lack of intelligence. I bet the people that you guys know with “bad handwriting” likely all went to school, so it’s not so much an unschooling thing but a human thing.
Some of us have neater writing than others. Forcing handwriting practice will come with all the challenges of forcing anything—mainly building that frustration and resistance and feeling judged and shamed.
That doesn’t mean ignoring it—this is all part of your day. It means seeing things through his eyes and bringing your wishes and needs into it as well. If you and your husband truly value handwriting, you guys will be writing and it will be part of your lives. You can write your son notes by hand; you can use it as a communication tool in your family. Show him how you use that skill. Just don’t insist that he use that skill and join you. You’re just showing the usefulness of it to him, if that’s something that’s important to you guys. And when your son sees value in it, he may well become interested in writing by hand more often and his skill will develop over time.
I think that’s one of the biggest things, as Anne mentioned, seeing things from your son’s perspective. Seeing what he’s looking for. Seeing if this is an issue for him, digging into the expectations with your husband so you can also help him realize where this expectation for penmanship and writing skills comes from. Helping him work through it as well. And if it’s something you guys want to have more of in your lives, you and your husband can start bringing that and more.
How about you Anna?
ANNA: I think handwriting is one of the interesting things that people read a lot about for children and you hear a lot of talk about it. Yet the world is filled with adults who attended school who pretty much have illegible handwriting. I worked in a hospital when I was younger and it’s a stereotype, but I’m telling you it’s true. The doctors’ handwriting was the absolute worst. We would spend hours trying to crack what they were they trying to say.
I think it really helps to realize that perfect penmanship doesn’t really mean anything except that someone enjoys writing. My youngest decided that she wanted better handwriting and she proceeded to fill tons of paper with practice writing because that was something she was interested in and she likes her handwriting now. My oldest has motor skill issues and handwriting never came easy for her. When she’s in a situation when she’s using it more, it improves, but it’s not a priority for her. She’s noted that when she does it more her handwriting improves but she just doesn’t really care.
I have decent handwriting and my husband not so much. It just isn’t really something people worry about in the adult world so I think Pam spoke about this too, that it’s important to look at that bigger picture. In our current age being comfortable typing is probably a much more useful skill and I would imagine some would even argue that texting with your thumbs is more important. Not to mention voice-to-text technology.
You know, there’s just so many options right now and I feel like your child’s going to find what works for him in terms of handwriting and communication and getting his ideas on paper or communicated to another person. Handwriting may become an interest at some point or he may just do enough to get by like my daughter who knows how to sign her name or fill out a form when she needs to but it just isn’t that interesting to her.
I feel like just giving things time and stepping back and observing. Seven is really young. There’s plenty of time for all kinds of things to unfold around his interests or the things he is doing. I would remind yourself that sending him to school wouldn’t make handwriting an interest.
But allowing him time to approach it as he wants to and needs to will foster a much healthier relationship and I think that goes back to all the things that Anne was talking about. Just connecting with him and seeing his joy and not putting these outside expectations on him. When we step back and look at where those are coming from, where are these voices, where these beliefs we have that it ‘has to look like this’ and we can peel back those layers it’s really so easy to shed that stuff and focus on the relationship you have with your child.
So, that’s all I have to say. All those things that we said together will hopefully make you all feel better.
ANNE: I have one more thing. I was remembering when Jacob was little and he used to make his nugget comic strip. Nugget was my other son’s guinea pig and Jacob’s writing with dyslexia was not legible and he would bring me his comic strip that he made, so excited to have me read it. Sometimes I couldn’t read what the word said so I would say, “What does that say, Jake?” That was not the response that he wanted. He wanted to bring me his comic strip and have me read it and then react to the comic strip. He wouldn’t even want to tell me what it said. He would just take it back and understand that I couldn’t read his handwriting.
So, he would take it back and erase it and he would put more effort into writing more clearly and then he would bring it to me again and usually I would be able to read it. But what’s really important about the story is to make sure that we redefine what comprises success in conveying a message by way of the written word. Your son is making N’s backward. Jacob had the spelling, the creative spelling. The letters were backwards and yet I was able to read and understand what he was conveying. So that was it. I didn’t say this is backwards, this is spelled wrong. That again would have crushed him again and probably would have discouraged him from ever wanting to show me his comic strip again. If I can read it and he was successful in conveying what he wanted to say that was enough. That was fantastic.
PAM: I just want to pop in here because you know what, I completely forgot about this when I was answering the question because it was a long time ago, but you reminded me with that story. Writing was actually one of our big tweaks along the journey while my kids were in school. Joe was in grade four and doing a worksheet. His teacher took his worksheet and said this is too messy. She erased it in front of him and told him to do it all over again and from that moment on he refused to write for her. He did not write another letter in her class because of that. He didn’t stay in that class very long. I just wanted to say that’s an example, even in school. School isn’t your solution.
ANNE: We’re talking about keeping the child’s spirit whole again, keeping them whole. School will do what they can to not do that. They’ll make sure the writing is absolutely perfect. The same with typing. I always said that typing was the only thing I really learned from school. That’s in a typing class where your hands go in the right place so your fingers go to the right letters and yet my kids prove that is not even true because they typed so fast with any way they wanted to. So, I have these memories of being told how to sit and hold my hands and they just type. It’s just keeping them whole.
PAM: The first year home after they left school, we didn’t ask him to write it all. I remember it was about a year later that he picked up the pencil for the first time and wrote something. He’s like, “Hey, I don’t think I’ve done that in about a year.” It was a cool observation. It was zero pressure. Somewhere in that year he wanted to participate in an online game and he was typing fluently in a couple of weeks.
Well, I guess we should go into the next question!
Nikki’s Question [TIME: 27:17]
Hello Pam, Anne and Anna! Prepare yourself because I am about to gush! Thank you SO much for your time and wisdom and knowledge and for sharing your experiences. I absolutely love your podcast Pam, and your books and your website, what incredible resources. And I especially love the Q & A episodes, which are so rich with insight and love! All of your support has been pivotal in our Unschooling journey. SO MUCH GRATITUDE!!!!
Ok, some background first before I ask my question; I have 3 daughters, 8,6,4, all of which have never been to school. I was a teacher for 10 years (and to quote Sandra Dodd, I was “made of school”). After the birth of my third daughter I decided to leave the teaching profession to *be unschooled by the experience of Unschooling! I have been deschooling myself for the last 4/5 years soaking up all kinds of Unschooling and life experiences and resources (honestly, *millions of Unschooling books, articles, EVERY PODCAST ON UNSCHOOLING EVER RECORDED! Ha ha, quite seriously!) and still feel like I have a lot of work to do. But I am so passionate about this way of living and it has begun an incredible journey (for me especially) of changing paradigms in our life. My girls and I have incredible relationships, and they are very bonded to each other as well. I deeply believe in what we are doing and I am aware I still get pulled back into my old ways. I continue to examine new perspectives and I have been paying attention to things that make me uncomfortable, as I am learning that things that make me uncomfortable are things that I can look deeper at, unpack and examine.
We have a wonderful small community of Unschooling families who we have bonded with over the past 4 years, and there are many children of all ages who play together and it’s incredible to witness. We also see many friends who are not Unschoolers. I find that the times I feel uncomfortable in these social situations is when someone feels left out, or when a child seems to be intentionally discluded from some sort of play. (The “reporting” of this usually comes from my 6-year-old who is quite sensitive, but it also happens with my 4-year-old with her own sisters at home, and for other kids as well). Situations like these (and they seem to happen a lot) really get to me. I feel fiercely protective to the one being left out and my initial “instinct” is to want to stand up for them and help them be heard. I am aware where this uncomfortableness and strong reaction comes from (I had an overall horrible, very damaging experience throughout all of grade school and was bullied very badly and excluded from many things, I hated school and never wanted to go mainly because of the social aspect.) These are things I am examining through therapy and have been deeply scarred by and still struggle with in my own social circle as a 36-year-old woman. It has deeply affected my self confidence and sadly has shaped me in many ways. (Not all sadly, because it has contributed to many wonderful qualities of mine like my empathetic nature and sensitive super powers!)
I am aware these experiences often creep into my experience now as a mother. (They crept into my experience as a teacher and I had such a hard time navigating the social atmosphere of school as a teacher, I truly despised it).
When it is brought to my attention (either by observation or from a child), I listen to my daughter’s concerns, I am truly empathetic, I suggest things she can say or do (I am not really sure what she should do sometimes), or if it persists, I go over to the situation with her to be present and I attempt to mediate but usually end up trying to resolve it. This doesn’t feel right, and I feel very emotionally charged when this happens (I struggle to remain neutral). I am even close to or in tears after when I discuss it with my husband trying to get his perspective. I am afraid I get too involved and am making to big a deal of it? I know her experience is not my experience but it’s so hard to separate in the moment. I am continuing to work on that. I am looking for suggestions on how to handle these experiences better for my daughter(s). I think my perspective is so clouded with my school experiences (as a child and a teacher) that I am missing an opportunity to grow from it and support my daughters through these social experiences. Am I resting this from a “schoolish” perspective still? I need some outside perspective. Much appreciated!
ANNA: Oh, Nikki. I hear you! I just want to hold that space for that child that you were and how difficult that time was for you and how it’s still something that you’re processing and I think we all have a bit of that in our lives.
I feel like sometimes these social situations can be tough to navigate for all of us. I too am sensitive to a child that is being left out. I have to watch my triggers and make sure that I’m not reacting from that place. What I like about in unschooling and our homeschooling community is there’s more flexibility to find the right fit and ebb and flow with feelings. The forced daily aspect of school really intensifies social situations and doesn’t leave much room for the individual.
Sometimes I think it’s helpful to look at the energy of the children involved. We found big groups, even if close friends, didn’t work for my oldest. She needed more one-on-one interactions to shine. The big group energy didn’t work and she had a hard time finding people with whom she clicked. For others, even my youngest at times, big group energy was great. She felt comfortable in that group energy. So, realizing it doesn’t have to be about one side or the other, being right or wrong, but finding solutions and situations that help your child connect and shine can be helpful.
I’m not clear if it’s your daughter who’s feeling left out or she’s noticing another. If it’s noticing another I would talk to my girls about ways to include someone who was off to the side, realizing that they might be looking for a more quiet connection or conversation. They could approach them in that way. Other times, the person just wants an invitation and they’ll hop right in. That was easy enough to solve. So, I would connect with the kids involved and try to get a read on what’s going on without putting it through your school filter if at all possible.
Seeing if it’s a situational issue, does the child that’s being left out really just have a hard time negotiating big groups and needs a different environment. If it’s your child, perhaps you would be better served by smaller groups or friends coming over for that type of thing. It’s separating it from the right or wrong, the one situation of being bullied or not being included—just do what works for the children involved. What can you do to help them create that environment?
And I do want to take just a moment to say that sometimes things can go off track, and you may witness behavior that is hurtful to another child. I feel very comfortable stepping in and making sure that any hurtful behavior is stopped. And that we try to figure out a way to move forward and caring for everyone’s needs.
Kids come to group events with all kinds of experiences and feelings. If one is lashing out against another and even trying to get others to go along, that’s the time we could share information and help the child being targeted feel heard and protected. We may not be able to change the child’s behavior but we can let the child who is hurting know that they are important and heard. And show the other children witnessing how we can be compassionate and inclusive. Providing information and feedback helps them navigate the tricky waters. I try to keep in mind that the child who is exhibiting bullying behaviors is often hurt or reflecting something that has happened to him or her. So, finding a way to connect and re-center everyone can be really helpful.
That went off on a bit of a tangent but the whole playground dynamics got me thinking and I think it’s something that as parents we run across when we’re in this larger environment.
I will pass on to Anne.
ANNE: That gave me goosebumps and made me tear up so thank you so much for sharing that.
Hi, Nikki! We all touched upon this topic of a similar question in podcast episode 69 with Tracy’s question, so you might want to listen to that if you haven’t already or you can listen to it again.
I know you want help in handling these situations but I’m going to back up and review. In our family, we’ve always been proactive and we’ve not gotten together in group settings because they just didn’t work well for any of us. We prefer getting together with one family at a time or maybe two. My youngest son Sam is the most extroverted of all of us introverts, so we had conversations about what we could do to meet everyone’s social needs and desires were being met, making sure that we chose things that allowed everyone to be happy.
There were rare occasions where we all used to go ahead and attend a group gathering. For those times, we would talk ahead of time about what we would do if a challenge arose. If a challenge might come up where one was feeling bad, we would talk about what we wanted to bring so that my husband and I could continue to have fun with the child who didn’t want to be with the kids anymore.
And because we would have a plan in place that allowed our kids to walk away from a situation where they were uncomfortable or feeling like they were left out, that allowed them to look forward to shifting to doing whatever it was we brought to do together. The boys called this process briefing and debriefing.
The briefing happens before we go to be in a group setting. We talked about if a challenge came up. We talked about how long we thought we might want to stay. We talked about who was going to be there and if my children have anything to talk about concerning any person who was going to be there. So, we always went into group situations with information and knowledge and really, most importantly, a solid foundation that we built from our connection with each other through these briefings. That’s what made us feel good and confident knowing that we were stepping out of our vehicle really happily and joyfully having had that briefing and that we would know how to go forward in most any situation.
Also, my children knew that my husband and I would rather be playing with our kids than talking to the adults. So, they knew that there was no kind of separation in that way. We were always swirling in and out of each other’s spaces. If my kids were off having fun with others for an extended amount of time, my husband and I would go to them and connect with them. My oldest tended to be the one who started to feel overwhelmed and anxious, so we would always go to him with some water and connect with him. We’d be so happy to see him and talk to him about what he was playing and touch him in some way. Maybe rub his back a little. Offer him a drink of water. All of these things would help ground and center him. Our presence and connection helped him to connect with himself so he could stop the swirlingness of play that he tended to lose himself in and he could see if he wanted to keep going with the play or shift to something else, something with us.
But my children have always felt best when we got together with friends individually and in our own home. And this way we were the ones who created the energy and the atmosphere and plan the play or activities. This always flowed much better for us because we created the play experience that my children wanted to have. This is a really good example of what I mean when I so often say that we create our wonderful unschooling lives. In this small example we, being students of our children, and knowing in which environments they shine, go forward with exactly that: creating play space and gatherings to make sure that my children and their friends have a positive experience.
And anytime we follow that which allows our children to shine, it is a win-win for everyone because it allows the right space for people to come into our lives. By removing something that was causing pain and anxiety that group gatherings did for my children, we found other ways to satisfy their social desires. They would both just shine. Those who also prefer to gather with just a family or two would gravitate toward us. We ended up meeting people of similar energies and enjoy spending time together.
So, as far as your perspective based on your experiences, I so hear you. I so get what you’re saying. I was the same way. Yet that doesn’t belong anywhere in my children’s lives. That is my story and I can choose to carry that around or not. I most certainly don’t want to hand that to my children because that’s our focus: the children and their story that they’re writing and living. So, we take each situation and our lives as they are. We don’t add to that situation with any extra weight from our experience. We walk forward toward those things that allow them to shine. We walk away from those things that bring about bad feelings. Or we talk about those things that bring bad feelings and decide what the children want to do. That’s part of the debriefing.
I just realized I didn’t talk about the debriefing part! After a social gathering of any kind, once it was over and we’re in the car driving home or after our guests left our house, we would talk about how everyone was feeling. How they thought it went. It created this sacred space to talk about anything. Something maybe someone said that didn’t feel good to a child, about what they thought was fantastic or, in Anna’s situation, where bullying was happening. Or what was really wonderful and what they thought worked and would like to do again. The debriefing gives us more information and insight to go forward toward our next decision, whether or not to accept a group gathering invitation. We would all know ourselves better for having these briefings and debriefings. That’s how you fine tune what works for you and your family. We come to what feels good and right for all of us from doing that.
PAM: Thank you, Nikki, for your beautiful enthusiasm! It’s so lovely to know that you find my books podcast and website very helpful, especially these Q&A episodes because I love that Anne and Anna so graciously give their time to answer questions. Thank you both of you.
To get to the question, it’s wonderful that you’re working so hard Nicki to tease out how much of this might be your childhood experiences, filtering how you’re interpreting what you’re seeing. That will take some time, so keep at it. I know Anne talks about choosing not to do it, so it’s being patient with yourself while actively finding your way to that choice.
What I thought I’d do is I’d share some things that I do, what I’ve done before in certain similar situations and that might spark some ideas for you. As always, for me, this is where I go when anything comes up. When I’m worried about being too involved in a situation I look to my kids.
There were times when they wanted me to be more involved than I was comfortable being, but knowing that they wanted me there beside them gave me that extra bit of courage to stay involved. And then there were other times that I could tell that they wanted less of my involvement so I found ways to keep myself otherwise occupied and would keep an eye on things to see if they change their mind before things were escalating. But again, within that zone I also considered my own comfort level and this is where you are doing your work to tease out what is in reaction to your school experience.
So, if things got to a place where I was not comfortable with the way things were happening, I would try to find ways to diffuse things. Rather than trying to step in and ask the kids involved to change their behavior, or to take over and try and solve it for them, I would try to actively be involved in the play and just be an example of another way to approach the situation.
And Anna touched on that as well. If things seem to be getting heated in a game I would ask if I could join in because pretty often the kids were happy to have an adult play with them. Sometimes the answer was ‘when this round is done you can play with us in the next round.’ And that gave me a good reason to hang around and wait until they finished up, and especially when school kids are involved, having an adult around helps temper their behavior.
Or if I thought a child was feeling left out and was feeling unhappy about it, instead of asking the other kid about it to get them to play and getting caught up in the tug of war of trying to bring them together, I’d offer something up to the only child, “Hey, you want to go kick a ball around?” “Would you like me to push you on the swing?” “You want to come in and get a freezee?” if there were some kids playing at my house. Something that I thought that individual child might genuinely enjoy. So now they’re having fun and they aren’t feeling so left out.
And what happens is that sometimes the other kids see what fun things we were doing and then they would come and join us and it would be a way to bring the group back together. Sometimes as we chatted, the child would mention wanting to join the other kids and I would help them figure out a way to make that work. “What was it that you didn’t like about what they were playing?” Why are you not playing right now?” I’m helping them find ways that they might mesh that play back together.
And I can also validate them at that point. If it was something they didn’t want to play, “I can see why you wouldn’t like that game. When I was young I didn’t like to play hide-and-go-seek either.” Whatever it was, you can have a conversation with them. Maybe I’d ask what game they would like to play with the other kids when that was done and I could help them facilitate a transition when one game was done into the next one.
I figured out a way that I could feel more comfortable in the situation without blaming the other kids or creating a big scene out of it; just by being an example of ways to move through that kind of situation for next time. So often I found that it was just a mismatch of who wants to do what in that moment. Or someone just feeling off kilter and needing some one-on-one time to ground. So, I could be that one-on-one person with them.
As Anne mentioned, they would go up to Jake and just spend a little time with him to ground him and to see where he was. Around here we didn’t have any local unschooling families so our local play was with school kids and often their parents aren’t paying attention, so I could help things go more smoothly just by grounding and connecting with a kid who was feeling uncomfortable or left out or starting to get over-exuberant. When you can see the energy getting too much for the group, “Hey would you like to come get a freezee?” Etc, etc.
And as Anne mentioned, the debriefing is a huge thing. After, I would chat with my kids. I would tell them what I saw, what I did, what their take was, because their perspective is different. They would have another interesting insight to bring into the whole thing and we’d bounce around ideas for next time. Things that I could do, things that they could do, and just getting to know those other kids better—that way we’d understand them better.
My goal, when I was part of that group, was just to try and help everyone have fun. Not putting expectations on the other kids to make it happen. I could be part of the whole thing and try to help make it happen on my own without any expectations on others.
ANNE: I’m so happy you expanded on that because that’s so good, all of your little methods and stuff, that’s what we would do also. It’s so hard to fit it all in so I’m glad you said all that. And the main point is when you said kids are happy to have an adult join them—when they are as fun adults as we are, then yeah.
Yesterday Dave and I were sitting in the river and I don’t know what I was thinking about but I said out loud to him, “Be the fun that you want to have!” That’s my new thing!
But that’s exactly it, that’s what we do. We are the parents that kids get excited about seeing and joining in because we are searching for the positive answer to everything. And admitting, as Pam said, if it’s not working out, I can see why you wouldn’t want to do that kind of thing. I just loved all your details and needed to instill my new quote there.
ANNA: I love that new quote! I think it’s good to know yourself. I’m not great with big groups and sometimes I would probably not push myself in the middle of a lot of kids but I definitely can be that person that connects one-on-one. I love to talk and chat and be fun in that environment. It’s just knowing how you can relate best and where you can help that energy overall. So, I love that.
ANNE: I loved it Pam, when you said, like I talked about, that we would bring stuff to do with our kids and that would always attract other kids.
The other day Dave and I were at a restaurant that had a balcony in this gorgeous yard. There were these two little girls playing and I said to Dave we always used to bring stuff for the kids to play with and we used to have that ball that had the long tail. And wherever we went whether it was a park or whatever, I always had that with me and I always bring out the fox tail and everyone was so drawn to that and everybody wanted to join in. Again, be the fun that you want to have. Carry around the thing that you want to do and it attracts other people that want to be a part of it.
PAM: It just shifts the energy! When things are starting to get out-of-sorts, it’s usually an energy thing, so, if you can shift the energy, you can bring it all back and it kind of just gets a fresh start for everyone.
ANNA: It doesn’t have to be about solving the problem or forcing something. I might bring coloring pages or have art supplies over on the side and sometimes it’s quiet children that are feeling left out, but really, they don’t even want to be in the big thing and they might enjoy that. And then this draws new people and then you have this group of people that are enjoying that same energy level who are connecting on a quiet level. I just think of all those pieces and it’s just a much more positive approach than, “Okay I’m going to go in and I’m going to solve it and make sure they’re including somebody.” That they’re doing it this way or that way, you know?
ANNE: it reminds me of winter time when we’re in our small house for so long and Jake and Sam have started to get on each others’ nerves. Instead of sitting down and saying, “Oh my gosh, what’s the issue here?” I’d say, “Hey guys, let’s go outside.” It’s a change of scenery, a change of energy and it starts everything anew. It’s so cool.
Sarah’s Question [TIME: 52:20]
I’ve recently taken away all limits around TV for my 5.5-year-old daughter. Previously she was watching around 2 hours a day although we were fairly flexible. Since taking away the limits she is pretty much watching TV all day. She’ll stop only if we’re going out somewhere or if a friend comes to play. I know this is normal in the beginning however I’m uncomfortable with how much she is watching. She is incredibly bright, I suspect gifted although she has never been tested. She is a perfectionist, has low tolerance of frustration and sensory issues. I’m worried she is using TV as an escape from all of that, to avoid situations that are frustrating or uncomfortable for her. Whilst this is ok some of the time I question whether it’s good for her to watch so much.
So, my question is, are there situations where certain children may need limits around screens?
PAM: Thanks so much for your question, Sarah!
The short answer is no. I don’t think there are certain kinds of children that need imposed limits on TV watching. But really there’s so much more to it. It’s not a yes/no, ‘limit them, or leave them be’ question. There’s a whole world of things to do in between those choices.
You mentioned that you suspect that she may be watching TV rather than confronting situations that are frustrating for her or uncomfortable right now. And that’s okay. It’s great even. She’s exploring ways to care for herself. Maybe cocooning until she feels ready to step back into those kinds of situations. So, dive in and help her. Give her tons of love and support so she can experience the most awesome cocooning time ever. Lots of blankets, pillows, snacks, drinks and just hang out with her so she’s not alone. She can see and feel your active support and maybe she’ll enjoy playing some games with you or chatting as the TV plays in the background. Over time and lots of conversations, if she’s feeling frustrated or stressed about something it’ll probably come up at some point and you guys will be able to chat about it.
And maybe she’s not avoiding things. Maybe she’s really enjoying what she’s watching. But again, by hanging out with her you’ll discover what she’s watching what she’s enjoying about the shows, you’ll know enough detail about it to have a real conversation with her about it, not just a perfunctory ‘h yeah, that was funny, hahaha.’ Maybe she is figuring out some really cool stuff about people or animals or whatever. You’re going to discover what’s so fascinating for her.
The interest isn’t likely the TV itself, it’s whatever thoughts and ideas she’s able to engage with through the medium of TV. So, whether or not she’s using TV as a way to escape from challenges, I think by hanging out with her you’re going to find that you learn so much more about her and be better able to help her move forward than you would be if you just started putting limits on her. So, see again, back to the kids. What are they experiencing? See what they’re doing, see what they’re feeling through their perspective, through their eyes instead of through ours.
ANNA: Just like Pam said, I think finding ways to connect with this interest of hers would really help bring the two of you together. I also think the short answer is no.
I don’t think that people in general are served by others limiting them. I think we can decide about limiting something for ourselves but when it’s an imposed limitation it changes the dynamics of the relationship to the person who’s imposing and also into the activity or the item that’s being limited, sometimes making it more attractive or a reaction to go toward versus kind of bubbling up organically. I’m just very cautious about any outside limits because I don’t like people doing that to me.
As you mentioned, it’s very common for a bounce back after limitations because they’re testing and wondering if this is going to last and, if it’s not going to last, I’m going to get it all in right now; I’m going to do as much as I can right now. Only when they begin to trust that the limits are gone for good can they walk away, knowing that they can come back whenever they’re ready. It really takes that power away.
And, as we’ve cautioned here before, and I know there are other related Q&A questions, the word “screen” is not representative of what is happening. Even when we’re talking about TV. What shows does she love? What does she love about them? What ideas are being sparked? What draws her to it? Talk to her, watch with her, find things that relate to the shows to share with her. Our lives have been really enriched by the shows we’ve watched and the books we’ve read, sending us down incredible rabbit trails and all kinds of interesting places.
I think it’s always fun in the situation to ask yourself if she were reading all day would your reaction be the same? Because reading is an escape, but we tend to value it differently. And if we just look at things like computers, TVs, books, magazines as tools it really changes the charged energy that we hold around it. They’re equal tools that serve different purposes at different times. And then that can really change that charged energy.
ANNE: The difference in your energy between completely joining her and because you’re interested in who she is, because you love her and she’s your daughter and you want to know what makes her mind work, you want to know what makes it light up versus standing back and saying, “Oh I’m feeling tense, she’s watching TV all the time.” Can you see that she feels the difference there? If you are judging it from afar then that is going to make her feel like it is going to be taken away. That is not the best way to allow her to build trust in you and to connect with her and have a relationship be where you want it to be as an unschooling family.
I just second everything they said about joining her in her wonderful space and seeing the value and most of all focusing on your relationship.
ANNA: I love what you added there. The tool that the three of us use a lot which is just, how does that feel? When we’re going into something, that energy that Anne’s talking about, that feeling of connecting with your child. Follow that feeling of joy and connection and it really does lead you to this relationship and all of this stuff that we’re talking about. I think it’s just a tool that we use unconsciously and I just love how she said it out loud in that way. It was helpful.
PAM: The other piece that jumped out for me from what you said, Anne, was, be curious about our kids. To me that was something that I could just always go back to. If I didn’t understand something or I was a bit uncomfortable or, ‘what’s going on here?’ it that overriding feeling of curiosity about how my child saw it.
Because I knew they were making choices and doing things that made sense to them. They were enjoying doing something. My basic assumption was that I was missing something, not that they were missing something. So, being curious and trying to figure that out and spending time with them and seeing what it was all about from their perspective, that was not once—and now my kids are all 20 and older—there was not once where that was the wrong move. Things always worked out well when I gave that trust and followed my own curiosity about them.
ANNE: I’ve described it in talks before where they are in the driver seat and we’re along for the ride, that expands our world, even if it’s something that we know but we’re seeing it from a different perspective.
I know my mother used to get mad when we would be watching too much TV and she start vacuuming around us. So, to dive in and just go with the join to connect is a really wonderful thing.
Anonymous Question [TIME: 61:13]
I’ve been homeschooling for 12 years. I have 4 kids. We have tried many different things. My oldest is will be 17 tomorrow. I discovered quickly back in kindergarten that school at home didn’t work. We have always been relaxed but not true unschooling.
I’ve been reading and listening to your podcast.
So, a couple of fears that I would love others prospective on.
#1) We have friends who homeschool and they are definitely school at home. The mom was a public school teacher. So, my 12yo gets upset that she doesn’t know things that her friends knows. She still struggles with multiplication and most all math. So how do you handle or help your kids with issues like this. I keep telling her she will get it not to worry. She is embarrassed that and feels behind.
#2) I know in unschooling you don’t worry if they read really late according to society. What if something happed to the mom and the kids had no choice but go to public school. I would be so worried how they would make it. Does that even make sense?
ANNE: Hello! I am so glad you’re learning about radical and schooling by listening to Pam’s podcast. I so appreciate you asking about the things that bring up fear in you, that is perfect to bring up.
With your question number one, I’m feeling like if you really want to give this unschooling life a chance you may want to examine who you’re choosing to surround your children with. That school-at-home family with a former teacher might not be the most supportive people at this point in your journey. Like in my response to Nicki in question two, you can see that it’s our job as unschooling parents to actively create the world that allows our children to thrive and shine. As I spoke in question one our language and mindset matters so much and creating an environment in which unschooling can flow beautifully.
I think it’s important to separate ourselves from the definition and expectations that society and school impose on our children at all. What your daughter is feeling actually does come up in unschooled children as well but, because I feel like you’re so new to unschooling, it’s important to simply focus on the things that your children love to do. The things that bring them joy and the things that allow them to feel so good about themselves. The complete removal of the school mindset from your lives.
As I said before, the school system is successful in one thing and that’s making our children feel less than whole. When the focus is on getting them to a place where they know that they are perfectly wonderful as they are with no school definitions anywhere near their lives, that’s the place where you want to be. You do that by celebrating them for exactly who they are. Nurturing and encouraging everything that makes them light up and filling your space with their shine so that it almost feels like there’s no space for them to feel less than whole in there.
And even separating math out of life and making it a subject that your daughter feels she’s not good at is making her feel less than whole. Here’s what math has looked like in our radical unschooling home: there was never any test to measure or even know if a child struggles with math or not; math was simply a part of our Lives. Any math that needed to be done was most likely a part of a conversation or a project or something else that we were doing. We would just discuss the math portion of life just as easily, flowingly as we discussed everything else. If my child needed to know some answer to a math issue I would give them an answer or would use a calculator together or we discuss how to get the answer because maybe I didn’t even know how to do and we’d have to look it up. If they asked how to do something I would show them or again we would look it up.
For a few years we volunteered at our local fair trade store and my kids would love being in this completely different space. They used to love joining me behind the checkout counter. They would play with all the calculators back there. I remember them asking what the square root symbol was and then they proceeded to make up their own square root games. My children and their wonderful free, always unschooled brains, they always used math methods that were far better than any taught in school anyway.
Once I remember when I showed them the process of multiplying, you know, like 35 times 5, okay 5 times 5 is 25 write down the five carry the two, they thought that was the most bizarre thing in the world. They could do math in their heads in their own way and come up with the right answer in their own way. You know, they were right that the method I learned in school was bizarre.
Not only the method itself but definitely the fact that school students are told that this is the way you have to do math. You know how we always have to show our work? To make sure that we did it the way they told us and not any other way. When math is just a part of life, honestly just like buttering toast or turning on the TV or sharpening a pencil or doing a craft there’s no test no measure, really no focus on any lack at all. The focus is as always is on life and ease and flow and connection and that is where the learning happens.
An unschooling child’s life is so very rich and very full of things that they do know, that they do love, so that’s what you want to fill their lives with. Again, maybe not so much with a family with a mom who was a teacher. But, if you do want to continue to get together with these friends, maybe just do something like being proactive with briefing and debriefing and bring along an activity or craft or game that your daughter loves that allows her to shine and be with her guiding the energy and flow of, maybe not the entire gathering, but at least her space at the gathering so there’s not space for her to feel bad about herself. She can feel like she is shining and doing what she loves, even there.
When we would go to my in-laws house for dinner I would write down things to talk about that the kids were doing to keep the conversation flowing toward the things that made my kids light up and adults gravitate towards that so easily. Because they love to do things in their lives too but sometimes all they have are school questions for kids. That’s another good thing to do.
But also, she needs to feel like she is shining, especially in your eyes. That’s why it’s important that you are the guide and creator of the space that allows her to feel that way.
Your question number two, I feel you so much. I feel that fear in a lot of people. The answer is that simple for me. I choose to not live in that fear. I especially don’t live in the fear of what may happen one day, or may or may not happen one day. That actually is a very school way of thinking also because school forces teaching on children in case they need it someday.
All those grades you have to go through for all those years is in case you need it someday, when, as we all know, you forget it the minute the test is over unless it’s something you’re really interested in. That’s just not necessary for our lives at all. Life is what’s happening right now right in this moment and that’s our focus. We have no idea what tomorrow brings, so why try to prepare for something that may never happen?
When you live in an unschooling mindset there’s not only a trust that children learning from doing whatever it is they love to do, but there’s a deep trust in the fact that, no matter what life brings to us, we’ll be able to walk through it together and figure it out as it comes along. Because that’s what we’ve been doing. That’s what we learn from: our experiences from yesterday and last month and everything else. It’s everything we’ve collected along the path of our lives, where children have had needs or desires and challenges and joys and we’ve always walked through them together as a deeply connected family.
And I just want to say one last thing. With my always unschooled adult children being ages 23 and 27 I’m able to back up and see the bigger picture, which is really cool. I get to see this beautiful tapestry that we have together with all of our lives. And what I want to share about that is this: these things that new unschoolers tend to worry about, that the child is not reading or writing or drawing or not good at math, these things are such small, miniscule, microscopic threads in this huge vast glorious tapestry that is life that we’ve created together. The bigger picture will show you that the energy that’s being used in worry and fear could have been used towards joy in creating your beautiful sacred space that allows your children to shine and to feel safe and free and to be exactly who they are. And free to do that which they love to do.
Because there will already be challenges in your lives. And that’s life. Challenges will arise. So, these fears and worries the parents tend to manufacture come from a school perspective. Honestly, they won’t even matter. Because the challenges that our children face will simply be from growing and stretching and becoming more of who they are. These are the things that will require our energy and creativity. The thing that will get us through those times is the fact that for all of the other moments of our lives together we have a built this incredible foundation of joy and love and connection with each other. Most of all trust. Trust in each other. And in our lives.
PAM: That was a great reminder. And just to see with that longer-term perspective. The energy that we put into fears and worries, if we can make that shift to use that energy to connect and find joy in that moment, in that day with our kids, it just gives so many more rewards moving forward.
Okay, I just wanted to share a couple of things that I’ve done with my kids when they were feeling a bit frustrated or feeling behind in something. I want to say that what might help is very individualized and personal to the child, so things I share are not universal and I’m not saying, ‘go off and do these things,’ but they’re just some ideas that might spark something for you.
Over the years I have mentioned to them—that’s the other nice thing about having all this time. When something comes up, a fear of theirs or ours, we always feel like we need to solve it so quickly, but we have this time, these moments bubble up, these things will come up in conversations or in moments. We don’t need to force a moment.
That’s why the big thing for family meetings never worked for us because that puts everybody on the defensive to start with, it’s not a natural flow. When it comes up in the flow, this is when people are more willing to share information, they are ready for the conversation and the things that you share with them will connect with them because that’s where they are in that moment. We’re most helpful and supportive when we’re with them where they are. In that moment. Join them where they are.
If I think I have something interesting and share, more often than not I’m going to wait until a moment shows up where that has value and connection, not pull them out of what they’re doing and say, “Hey, I just had this thought about this other thing that you mentioned three days ago.” Being in the flow and being with them is always the best place for these conversations.
But anyway, over the years I have mentioned how people learn things at different rates and different times. I remember when one of my kids was feeling frustrated about not reading yet, while his cousin, who was close to him in age, was. We were hanging out and when we came home he probably mentioned it to me then. I think he was starting to worry, ‘that something I need to go to school for, to learn how to read.’ But soon after when they came to visit us we were all playing Monopoly together and I noticed that he was faster with the numbers than she was, adding up the dice and handling the money etc. So, later that day when we are chatting I mentioned it to him in passing and did he notice? It was just an example of how, ‘look, you pick up numbers pretty fast, she picked up reading pretty fast and neither one is better than the other, just different.’ We’re all individuals and it was a great example. I shared it with him and it has taken me longer to explain it here then it did at the time in the conversation with him (haha) because I just pointed it out, it was like a little light bulb, a connection, and we just went on about our business.
But knowing that he was frustrated and was thinking about it, I was on the lookout for things that happened around us that were related and that I could mention—point out without making a big deal about it but just giving him more fodder for the connections that he was making.
And, as the questioner said, I would point out not to worry about it. That I was confident that they would figure it out, but I also offered to help them be more proactive about it if they wanted to. It wasn’t like I would say don’t worry about it and then I would leave them alone. Sometimes they would want me to be more proactive with them and help them out.
I remember this one time when I was with Michael and we wrote out some words that he wanted to know how to read along with ones he already knew on some Post-its. We did a little bit of flash card type games and then I would arrange them in funny sentences for him to figure out, stuff like that. And I would be on the lookout for ways that we could play with words a bit more actively during the day. But it was important not to expect him to do it or to pressure him. Not to go up to him and say, ‘you wanted to learn how to read so come on let’s go do those Post-it notes or the flash cards.’ That can trigger resistance and that will literally make it harder for them to learn whatever it is they’re interested in because they’re not in that moment. You’re trying to pull them into that moment. That’s the difference.
I think that maybe lasted for about a week and we had fun. We did it before we went to bed, I would make funny sentences and he would laugh and it was a great connecting time. Remember, we’re always talking about connections and making connections and if there’s some information that they’re interested in at the time, make connections for them and with them around that but no expectations. Because that breaks the connection.
So, in this particular question, what is your daughter trying to do with multiplication? Don’t ask her. You don’t need to directly ask what is it that you want? You can observe. You can see what’s going on around when she brings that up? What are the situations where she says she’s feeling embarrassed? What’s happening at that time? Does she have a calculator or a phone handy to figure out the answer and move on? Maybe she’s in a particular situation where they need to do some calculations so just make sure she has her phone at that time.
The whole memorization thing for multiplication isn’t a really big deal anymore. She may be looking for a quick explanation of what multiplication actually means, what it does. Maybe you could give her a super quick easy demonstration of three groups of five things on a table and in 10 seconds or less just show her how that works. ‘Here’s how we add it up, here’s what the multiplication sentence looks like around that particular fact.’ Maybe making it concrete might help.
Maybe I’ll find a funny video online that explains it and send her the link especially when you’re first building that trust and connection in the relationship you don’t want to be hovering over it because that can be interpreted as expectations, so you really want to give them lots of space to choose the way that they want to approach things.
As for the second question, the worried about something happening, and them having to go to school, I totally get that too. These are skills that kids pick up over time, at a different rate, and it’s only a problem in school. But they’re still a range—not all the kids are reading by a certain grade. It’s not going to be a shock to the teachers, if that’s what you’re worried about.
And really, if we keep ruminating on those fears and we start going down that path, where would it end? We could use that excuse to subject our kids all sorts of things that we would do in the name of “getting them to fit in and toughen up,” just in case. And we would lose that connected and trusted relationship that we are building with them, the lifestyle that we’ve chosen and believe will serve them better today and in the long run.
If you just kind of step back a little further you might see that that’s not a path you want to go on. So, when I thought about that question I just did my best in the moment to choose a reasonable guardian, let them know about alternative schools that were nearby that I think are a better fit for my kids, and then I just got on with my unschooling days.
ANNA: For question one, I found that over the years there’s an ebb and flow to those feelings and, because of the depths which my girls go into their interests, there are just as many more times where they know things that school kids don’t know because of the time that they have to explore the things that they’re interested in. We all bring different gifts and interests to the table.
I personally feel that we’re far better served as a society by people digging in and sharing what they love as opposed to all becoming kind of mediocre at the same subjects. Helping your child find what she shines in and explore what brings her joy to share and celebrate with her friends, and that will become connecting opportunities for her friends.
Regarding question two, I try really hard not to make decisions out of fear and I think it’s a really fast way to lose track of ourselves. So, just like Anne was saying, keep my focus on today and on creating the best life that we can right now. That foundation gives us the strength and skills to face whatever comes our way. We have seen this over and over again, that our foundation and our connection when things have happened—tragic things or difficult things—we’re ready. We have the skills and ability to to move through whatever those things are even when they’re big and scary.
As Pam said, there are plenty of people in school who don’t read well or don’t do well in math and I think the idea that everyone in school knows everything might be tripping you up a little bit and it just isn’t true. So, the gift of connecting as a family and living your best life right now is the greatest gift that you can give them and really give each other.
PAM: I love that. That point about our kids, unschooling kids, knowing other things that school kids don’t know, I think that’s awesome. And, as Anne was saying, bringing that to the table so that she has ways to shine in those situations with those other kids.
And the other pieces, that when our kids dive into their interests—when we talk about the basic skills, reading, math and all that kind of stuff—that’s when they’re going to passionately find a reason to want to learn it. They going to find value in those skills. It’s not “learning to read,” it’s not “learning math or multiplication.” They’re going to come across the moment when those skills have value in the pursuit of the thing that they love.
ANNE: In their real lives, not some arbitrary moment that school manufacturers. It’s all about their real lives. I wasn’t around 24-hours a day to read Jacob the first Harry Potter book and so he picked it up and it was the first book he ever read when he wanted to learn to read, so that’s life. When they are wanting something, we help them get it and that’s when it happens.
ANNA: I think something happens when the briefing and debriefing happens that we shared earlier. Pam said it, to talk to her when things are happening in those moments and maybe there’s ways to just have that conversation, “Okay, maybe this child is just sharing her math work that she had to do because she’s in a school-at-home environment.”
And next time she can say, “Interesting. I haven’t looked at it that way, but here’s what I’ve been doing this week. I’ve been looking up photography and took these cool pictures, would you like to see them?” Just help her to have some words around sharing what she’s been doing and enjoying versus accepting what this child is doing. What we found over and over again is those kids were quick to leave behind the work they were doing to talk about what we were doing because it was usually more interesting. Whatever that new hobby or passion was.
ANNE: My perspective, is and my answer came from, when kids found out that my kids didn’t go to school then they started testing them, and that’s where I came from. If that’s what’s happening, do you really want to be around these people?
But then again, if they tested my kids, my boys would ask them what the answer to the question was and then say, “Well I didn’t have to be in school for 12 years to learn that. I just learned that from you telling me.” Haha!
The other thing is with our homeschooling lives we have to do homeschooling reports in New York and if you don’t do them right they force the kids to go to school. But if in school and kids fail in school do they kick the kids out of school? So, there you go! Haha!
PAM: And that’s the last question for this month! Thank you both so much for answering questions with me and just thank you very much. And just a reminder to listeners there are links in the show notes for everything that we’ve mentioned in the episode.