PAM: Hi, everyone. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca, and today, I’m here with Nikole Verde. Hi, Nikole!
NIKOLE: Hi Pam.
PAM: Hi! Just a brief introduction. I first connected with Nikole online a while ago, on Instagram, I believe. I enjoyed her pictures and her comments, and eventually enjoyed her writing as the home-ed columnist for JUNO magazine. With my interest piqued, I was excited to chat with her in-person and was so happy when she agreed to come on the podcast.
So, to get us started, Nikole …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
NIKOLE: I would be happy to, and thanks so much, it has been really interesting to connect with you and I am pleased to be on the podcast.
So, I will start with just talking a little bit about my life with my kids and then we can take it from there. I have been married to my husband, Anthony for 20 years, or almost 20 years, and he is my absolute best friend and without him I would not be able to do all of this.
We started our lives together as a couple that wanted to do something different than what we had already known our lives to be. We grew up in the suburbs and went to public school and it was a good life but we wanted to see what else was out there, so we pursued a lifestyle of slow, low-budget travel. We had an old Volkswagen bus that we fixed up and just wanted to experience life and pursue experiences over money and stability.
Eventually we got married after four years of being together and then four years after that we had our first child. So, we had a lot of time to establish how we wanted to experience life together and at that point, we decided we wanted more stability and we wanted to be able to provide a life that was going to feel secure and comfortable for our children, so that is the point where Camille came into our lives. She is now 14. We also call her Cam, so either one of those, I will probably be referring to her as. Then three years later, we had Sylvia who is now 11 and then Ayla came along, and she is a 7-year-old.
I have always known that I wanted to homeschool them, so that has always been a part of our lives, and about seven years ago, we all up and moved out to the country to an 11-acre parcel of land. None of us had ever lived in the country; we did not know a lot about how it was going to be. So, we started out renting, but eventually found that everyone really thrived out here and bought our little unfinished house and learned how to go about finishing a home and tiling floors and framing out walls, and sort of learning as we go.
So that is where we are at now, and it has been a really good journey to get here so far.
PAM: Yay. That sounds so interesting; I love the way you mention that you guys rented first just to get a sense for it. To see if that was something that is going to mesh with everybody before you decided to jump into it.
NIKOLE: Right, we were open to the possibility, but we did not want to commit to something that was not going to be what we had imagined that it could be.
PAM: I know, that is a brilliant way to go about it. Because everything does not have to go in one big leap. Often there is a, “Let’s try this out and see.” So, you can take in the experience and process it rather than feeling committed, when that often builds up resistance.
You said that you had always known that you guys would homeschool. How did you discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like?
NIKOLE: Yeah, well we had started out with our children. Two of them were born at home, and we always had a very attachment parenting style of raising them. They were co-sleeping and got carried around in baby carriers as much as they wanted, and you know, we really loved them up.
When Cam was school age and it came time to make the decision, I thought let’s just do this for this one year and see how that goes from there for kindergarten. I had not ever heard of unschooling. I didn’t know a lot of people who homeschooled. So, I got a curriculum. It was a Waldorf curriculum and I thought it looked really natural and lovely with all the beautiful wooden toys. I was like, “Yeah we are going to do this!”
And it did not last probably more than a week and a half. Because Cam is a very strong willed, amazing child and I realized it was starting to develop this coercive relationship not only between Cam and I, but with the idea of learning and what an education is. I was like, ‘Ok, this is not why I want to keep my child home from school and learning this way.’ We had been learning together all along so I realized we were just going to keep doing that.
And then I discovered unschooling—more as the online community of people who are like, “Yeah, we have been doing this for years and here are some ideas.” So that was helpful and fun to find too.
PAM: So, it was a reasonably easy shift then. It was just trying to bring in the curriculum, it did not fit well with your daughter and then it was a pretty easy shift for you recognize that that was getting in the way and we are going to do it another way?
NIKOLE: Yeah, I think it was a pretty natural progression, just from how we had been living and learning up until that point.
PAM: It sounds like you basically, after a couple of weeks, went back to the lifestyle you were already living, right?
NIKOLE: Right. More or less. Yup.
NIKOLE: And eventually, my eldest child did want to try out school for first grade, so she did that for maybe two months. Really enjoyed it for a little while there and then was like, “Yeah, I liked it better at home,” and just really enjoyed the freedom to pursue her own interests and to learn in a way that excited her about what she was interested in at the moment.
PAM: Yeah, that is really cool.
As I mentioned, I was checking out your column in Juno Magazine, and I really love the series you’ve been doing there, looking at how different topics, or subjects, from a more school-ish mindset, can weave into our unschooling lives. Eventually, we notice that all of those topics and subjects weave together into living as we come to see how everything’s connected. Especially when we first start unschooling, it can be helpful for parents to notice all the ways we can engage with different subjects, because a lot of us have not done the work before we decide to homeschool and unschool, and we still see learning in those subject-oriented ways.
I think it helps to open up our perspective beyond the classroom and teaching as the only way to learn. I’d love to touch on a few of them with you and wanted to start with unschooling and art. So, I was hoping you could talk about how might art organically weave into our days and how can we support that?
NIKOLE: Okay, I think that art is a really fun and easy one for people to grasp because it is such a creative process that it does not need to be a subject that is taught from a top-down perspective.
I think number one is just providing the supplies for the children. Setting out little invitations to create, like maybe putting some fabric scraps and some pieces from the recycling bin and some glue out and see if anybody’s interest gets sparked by it, and always having a drawer where the paint is available.
I think a lot of it is just making the supplies available to them. We have been enjoying making little sculptures out of wires and beads and sticks lately, it has been fun.
Also, beyond that, some things are harder to do that way, like my kids have taken art classes, like pottery is one that I was not able to provide easily and loosely. Cam had taken a blacksmithing class at one point and a little bit of wood-working. Some of those were things where I saw an interest and sought out either a mentor-type situation or a class; like a homeschool class or otherwise it is a community class, where kids could try those things out too. So yeah, I think art is just a fun one to incorporate in that organic way for sure.
PAM: Yeah, that’s why I thought we would start with an easy one. But it is so important, I think. I loved your idea of just putting things out—things you would not at first think of, right? Because at first when you come from a school-ish mindset you are thinking of art, you are thinking of painting, you are thinking of drawing.
So often we are so stuck in the mindset that there is like a right way to do it: “Oh, you should paint this first, and you should colour in the lines and if you want to be able to draw a person, let’s go look up how to do it.” So, to be able to just relax like you were talking about, just the creativity and letting it flow and putting out all sort of things, like sticks—wrapping sticks, decorating sticks. You just see a much bigger picture of what art and the creative arts can be. That really helps.
NIKOLE: Definitely, yeah.
I actually lead an art workshop at my library every Monday. I work at a library so when I lead this art workshop, the kids who come into it get really excited to take the materials that are available and run with them and that is really what I encourage. Every other week I do a teen and adult workshop and there is so much hesitation there and so much of looking to me as to what I expect them to do for their art and I am like, “This is for you,” and so many people say, “I am not creative, I am not artistic.”
I understand where that comes from. I know that somewhere along the way it got to be where there are these creative people and then there is everybody else, and it is sort of this special category. I just try to remind everyone that we are creative and artistic, it just comes out in different expressions for different people.
PAM: That is such a great example to share—how you see the difference between the kids and the adults, because I think I would be one of those adults. I would feel judged, that there was a right way to do something, and I would be like “Show me how to do it, tell me what colours to put here, how to draw this…” I am still so trained to look for directions that if I sat down with a blank sheet and was told to draw something, I would have to think for a while. Even those paint by number things, you know, that you can do, or the paint and sip things, you know, follow these directions and everything, okay, I would definitely be one of those people putting the pattern on my canvas and following the right colour.
NIKOLE: Well those are fun too. I do always try to have a prompt because people have gotten kind of stuck in that, you know. If it is not your expectation that you are going to come in and be really open-ended, it can be a hard transition to go from that blank piece of paper to creating something you feel good about. So yeah, I always try to have some kind of prompts there for the people who want them.
PAM: For the people like me. (laughter)
But yeah, that is one of the things. When you are first letting your kids take the reins, it was so valuable for me to catch myself and not try to direct and notice how incredibly creative my kids were. They were not used to that kind of direction, so they did not have the judgement that, ‘this is the way.’ Everything has a set way that it is supposed to be done. They had not ingrained that lesson yet, so you have hundreds and hundreds of pieces of art. They went through a phase where they wanted to sew and they made pillows. I went and got this huge bag of filling and we must have had a 100 pillows around with buttons and faces drawn on, and just a million things. It is like ‘Wow.’
So, part of that experience and seeing that they can do all these things without being directed is a really great piece of deschooling, I think.
NIKOLE: It is, it is really encouraging too, I think, as a parent, to see them expressing themselves in unexpected ways. It is fun.
PAM: Yeah, it is so fun!
How about unschooling and reading? Outside of school, learning to read can look so different, can’t it?
NIKOLE: It definitely does, and I think a lot of that is because in school, reading education is such a step by step, linear process. You feed children small bites of information and you expect them to incorporate that into their own reading ability but if you are stepping back from expecting it to look the same for each child, it can be so wildly varied how they come to the understanding of reading for themselves.
So, my first child, Camille, when she was three and a half, she pretty much started reading. I read to her all the time, I was available for her whenever she wondered “What is that word say, and why does it say that? And what do these letter sounds make?” But I never had the intention that I was teaching her to read, it was just part of our being together.
One day, she picked up the book and just started reading where I had left off, totally surprised and amazed and this was a process that she had directed and internalized and sort of brought forth one day. That was really unusual and really surprising to me, so it was fun to see them own that process for themselves, but it did not go that way for all of my children.
Sylvia, who is now 11 was not interested in reading for many years, not only not learning at three and a half, but seven, eight, still not really being that interested. We read together all the time, did the same types of activities that I had done with Camille. Sylvia was such a kinetic child and just loved to hear stories and act them out and be expressive, but the sitting down, eyes on the paper, making all of those word sounds come together to make sounds was not her focus.
Now, at the age of 11, she had kind of gone from that one point of not only not reading, but not wanting to read, feeling frustrated by that, to just seeing it as a useful tool in her life. Like, she loves to cook, so if she is able to look at a cookbook or a recipe online and figure out how to do that on her own to be able to be independent that way, that was really meaningful to her, so she took the time to sort that out.
Looking back, we did recognize that she had a lot of dyslexic traits that probably made it a slower path for her, but it was not a worse path. She was still learning so much every day and getting so much information and experimenting and observing and learning through just a different pathway. Reading was not the only source of that information for her for so long.
Ayla is still somewhere in that process. She is seven, knows all the letter sounds, can read words, but does not spend a lot of time with the nose in a book.
For each of them to have their own pathway to mastering that and finding its usefulness while also learning so much all the time, without it having to be just from that method, I think has been really empowering to each of them in their own way.
PAM: Yeah, I really love that. I love your point that it is not a worse path, just because it takes longer before they are interested and gain the skill or however you want to say it, until they are reading. I mean that was my experience as well, and that was something that I really loved.
Once the kids are out of school, and away from that curriculum, equal march, you know, everybody marching and learning the same thing supposedly on the same path, like ‘THIS is this year’ and being judged when they are not.
Once you are away from that, you discover the wide differences in different children and you come to embrace that. Some are reading at three and a half and some are 11 and neither one is a worse path, each path is the best for each of them.
PAM: I love that so much because outside of school, not reading is not a disadvantage to learning at all.
PAM: Because if you are not reading yet, you have other skills that are your forte and you are absorbing and learning through those pathways.
NIKOLE: Absolutely, yeah.
And Sylvia has a really strong vocabulary, is my most interested in story-telling child, and so pretty much devoured audio books in the way that a lot of other children would have been reading books. The thing is that it freed her up to be able to move around while she was listening to them and to think about it. Even now she talks about how an author structured a sentence or was able to describe an action in a way that was unexpected. She loves moments in storytelling and did not need to just be sitting, eyes on paper, in order to get that.
PAM: That reminded me, because Lissy, too, before she was reading, went through a huge time when she was listening to audio books. She was listening to the Harry Potter audio books over and over, as much of the series that was there. At the same time, she was making those pillows, doing a lot of sewing, she had little vignettes or scenes set up around her room. Like she was doing a million other things at the same time that she was constantly listening to them. So, for her, that was a vital and fun and fascinating part of her journey.
PAM: It is so fun to just watch them and see how things develop isn’t it?
NIKOLE: It really is.
PAM: It really is.
So now we are going to get a little bit more technical here, how about unschooling and science? Because really, science is everywhere, isn’t it?
NIKOLE: It definitely is, and I think science is another one of those that can feel sort of stressful, maybe, to a parent, if they think, ‘Oh, now I have to teach my child science,’ but essentially science is following curiosity—like, asking a question, and then thinking about that question, forming a hypothesis is just coming up with possible answers. And then testing out those ideas that you come up with. That is a natural process, I think, for children, from why is the sky blue, to why does my kite fly, or any of those things.
There are different ways of approaching that, you can just play with the ideas for a while, come up with your own ideas. You can look up those answers right away, and sometimes that is a really valuable way to go about it, but I think science can be so hands on, even just from growing crystals. We grew crystals in an eggshell one year around Easter time, because we had looked up this experiment and it was really fun to do. Then, after that, we started playing with how else we can grow crystals, and for a while—like you with the pillows—we had crystals growing everywhere; different types, different colours. Some of them were salt, and some of them were alum powder and they were just kind of proliferating all over the place.
PAM: I remember our rock candy phase.
NIKOLE: Yeah, I think science is so approachable if it is not looked at as a separate subject from the rest of learning. If it’s just looked at as a way to find more information in your life and try to satisfy that curiosity.
PAM: Yeah, I think that that curiosity is the key, isn’t it? The curiosity is what drives our kids and we are not snuffing it out trying to put them on the path of the science curriculum. Once you get past that curriculum thing and you just see them exploring the world, you see the times when they are diving into crystals, you see the times when you are out flying kites and you are enjoying and chatting about how that works.
This is often why I talk about when you come to unschooling and to really dive into it for a year. You can see a few of those times come up in the flow and you can see whatever they dive into, they probably cover three or four years’ worth of that topic if you were to relate it to a curriculum, because they just dive in and like sponges just suck it all in because they so curious. They want more and more.
And some things they just pass by and they are not interested. Once you see over six months or year, that pattern that there will always be things if you are not trying to direct them, that they feel really free to follow their curiosity, they will. They pick up so much and when you take away the topic direction—I guess how one defines science—you start to see aspects of it everywhere.
Like you said, just something comes up, and “Oh, I wonder how that is going to happen? What is going to happen after I do this?” You’ve got your hypothesis right there, you have got the experiment as they figure it out, you know, if you want to. At some point if they want that more particular language, they will realize, “Oh, I have been doing that for years.”
Sometimes you start out flying kites and you are later talking about velocity and lift and all of a sudden looking at how airplanes fly or looking up a Mythbusters episode. Those pathways can go pretty deep sometimes, and really engage their curiosity. I think because it is not sort of a dry textbook example, they really do get a lot out of it.
PAM: Yeah, I mean, that hands on nature is so key. Just because that is how they are engaged in the moment. Because with the textbook, it is so much harder to engage with the content, and then it does not connect with things for you because it’s not part of your day. I mean, the learning is just so much deeper with unschooling.
That is one thing that can trip us up earlier on too, is because they look like they are just playing, right? Because the learning looks, quote, “easy,” because you are not “I am going to do this to learn.” I am just doing this. But the learning happens almost as a side effect of just doing things, because they are engaged with it and they are enjoying it, and it is making sense to them, it is just naturally connecting to the knowledge they already have and growing their understanding of what it is.
Does that make sense?
NIKOLE: Absolutely, yeah.
I think learning becomes viewed as a tedious sort of process if you are looking at it from outside but then that is where sometimes people maybe fail to see what they are learning when they are quote “playing”—that learning does not have to be difficult or drudgery, that it is exciting and just a natural part of life.
PAM: Yeah, exactly, I think that is a huge piece of deschooling for people.
We come to it often expecting that learning is hard, because it is hard so often in school, precisely because you are not engaged with it, it is not meaningful to you in that moment, it is like a random thing that you have to memorize. You cannot understand it because it does not fit in with your particular understanding of things, so it literally is a lot harder in school. So, it is a huge shift to see how learning just naturally, like, “What do you mean you let them play all day?”
But that’s what I mean, that experience. Let them go at it, see what you see. You will see them learning amazing things because like you said, your daughter’s extensive vocabulary because she enjoys listening to stories. Even though she is not reading, over a few months, you see her using all of these new words and using them in the right context and it is like, ‘Oh, I noticed this,’ but it is not something you can sit and measure.
So often you don’t even know what it is that they are learning particularly from it, because that is all happening in their mind. It’s maybe a few days, a few weeks, even a few months later, as you see them using that knowledge. Like, ‘Oh, hey, look, they picked that up.’
NIKOLE: Right, and I think a lot of that is learning to let go of the idea that we need to be controlling everything they do. That they can own those moments of discovery. Like, we’re not sitting there saying, “This is a metamorphosis rock,” or whatever would be the right term, you know? They are like, “Look! How did this come to be formed?”
One of my children is really interested in foraging for her food, like she loves to go out in the woods and we have obviously been very careful about not eating anything unless you can positively identify it a hundred times, you know it is edible. She knows so much about what plants are medicinal, you know, if somebody gets a bee sting, she is the first one there with the plantain to put on it.
So, when people are like, “What do you do for science?” At first when I was early on in unschooling, I would not really know how to answer that question. I would try to describe what we had been doing recently, maybe we had played with snap circuits, or we had gone foraging for wild edibles or something. I would usually just try to come up with an example of what our most recent discoveries were but a lot of that was following their interests because their focus is so powerful. If they are not interested in the information that somebody is trying to impart to them, they are not going to be taking it in.
PAM: Now, earlier this week, I came across a Neil DeGrasse Tyson quote, which I loved, so I thought it would fit in very nicely here. I am just going to share it for a second.
NIKOLE: Okay, great.
PAM: Okay, he wrote:
“I’m often asked by parents what advice can I give them to help get kids interested in science? And I have only one bit of advice. Get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period. I don’t care about your economic background. I don’t care what town you’re born in, what city, what country. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.
And so then what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….” Everything is a don’t. We spend the first year teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.
So, you get out of their way. And you know what you do? You put things in their midst that help them explore. Help ‘em explore. Why don’t you get a pair of binoculars, just leave it there one day? Watch ‘em pick it up. And watch ‘em look around. They’ll do all kinds of things with it.” ~ Neil DeGrasse Tyson
I thought that was just amazing because that is exactly what we are talking about, right?
NIKOLE: It is, that is perfect, yes.
PAM: And then they send them to school, but that’s it. Even if school is part of your life, you know, that’s fine. You can still be exploring the world and putting interesting things down. Like, I still remember when I got this little plastic circle thing that made a hologram. We used to love going to the science centre and we would just play around there, and we always left like a half hour to look around the store after, because it was always fun to see all the cool things that they had there. I would just put it out and every couple of weeks, I would change up whatever was inside for the hologram and they would be like, “Oh, cool.” They would see something else showing up.
Even little puzzle games and just binoculars, we have three or four pairs of those lying around, you know, just putting fun stuff around. And, maybe at first, we are thinking this is something science-related, but eventually you can get past that to the point that this is something that is going to be fun. That I think will be fun. That even if my kids don’t pick it up, I think it’s fun.
Like, I was the one changing the things in the hologram, because I thought it was so cool. And they would walk by and go, “Oh nice, mom.”
NIKOLE: You know, I think that is so key though, really, because if we are looking at science as this curiosity-based exciting way to discover new things about the world, like, as the adults and parents in their lives, we maintain that for ourselves, that curiosity, that way of looking at life. Like, “Oh, I wonder what will happen if I do this, or I wonder what will happen if I do this, or I wonder why that works the way it does?”
So, not only does it bring new things into their environment if we are bringing home things that we think are exciting and they might get an interest in it, but it is sort of an example to them that the learning does not stop at a certain point—the curiosity and excitement about life can continue.
I’ve told my kids several times, especially my teenager, like these are not necessarily the best years of your life. It can be hard to be this age, I understand, but life continues to get exciting and I am probably happier now than I have been at other years, and hopefully I will be happier again next year.
PAM: I really love that Nikole, that is such a great point!
Like, if we’re choosing to unschool our children, choosing that lifelong learning is something we want them to be able to live their lives, but if we’re not living it? This is for us too, if this is the lifestyle we want for our children, why don’t we want it for ourselves, right?
PAM: Yeah, we want them to grow up and continue to be curious and learning all the time and everything. Well, if that is the kind of adulthood we are wishing for our children, it is not too late for us. We too can do it.
NIKOLE: I think it is easy to forget that, but it is good to have that reminder too.
PAM: So often I talk about my children being my guides, because they are my reminder when I see them enthusiastically diving into something, or enjoying something, you are just having fun. That is that quick reminder: ‘Oh, am I still doing that in my life?’
NIKOLE: Yeah, enthusiasm is contagious if you let it be.
PAM: Exactly. I am not trying to tamp it down.
I think that is a huge shift when you first come to it, because we have learned haven’t we, just growing up, not to show so much enthusiasm. As adults, now you are supposed to know everything. All those conventional messages that we have to work through and go, ‘No, it’s okay that I don’t know everything. It’s okay to say I do not know that, it’s okay to be curious and excited.’
The other adults may look at you funny when you are excited out there, when you dive in. “Maybe I’ll even try the trampoline.” But that’s okay, because it’s a much more fun life.
NIKOLE: And you know, sometimes it gives those other adults that permission to be playful too, I have definitely been that one at the playground, or the children’s museum or something, just like, too excited for other people’s comfort. Sometimes they join in, you know…sometimes they are like, “Yeah…”
PAM: It is like they were waiting for permission, right? And then all of a sudden everybody is having fun.
NIKOLE: Right, for sure.
So your eldest, Cam, chose to go to an alternative school last year, so I just thought you might share with us a bit about how has she found the experience?
NIKOLE: Yeah, well first of all, she really likes it, and as far as it being an alternative public school, it is really ideal for our situation. It is about self-directed learning, which is what we have been talking about a lot. Very project-based, interest-led, so essentially the students at the school design their own schedule. They do get credit for it, they are getting high school credit, so there is that separating things into subjects, you know, you do something for a history project, but they choose what they are doing.
If you walk into this school at any given point in time, one student might be taking apart a lawn mower, somebody else might be editing a music video that they created, some students might be working on papers and doing things that look school-y, but it is by their choice how they want to approach that.
As far as Cam goes, some of the projects that she has been working on this year are she took a woodworking class, she has been playing the alto saxophone for about four or five years, so she does participate in a high school band that is part a larger high school, and jazz band. She has decided to try wrestling as a freshman in high school, after never having done any adult organized competitive sport. She just really took it on and was weightlifting and gaining all the skills to go out there and wrestle people who had been wrestling since they were kindergarteners, so you know that takes a lot of guts. I was proud of her for doing that.
So, it has been really in keeping with the way that Cam has been learning as an unschooler, but in a different environment. In an environment where you are accountable for hours spent, but you still get to choose how you are spending those hours. She actually wrote a research paper on transgender people in different countries throughout history, and what that identity was for them. And so she was able to then get partial history credit and partial English credit for that, because it is a subject that she is interested in.
PAM: Ah, that is really interesting, that sounds like a pretty cool place if you are choosing school. That is a nice step, a nice environment.
So, time-wise, like you said, they define their schedule, so is there a certain number of hours a week that they need to be there, certain set of hours per day? How does that work?
NIKOLE: She goes during regular school hours. They have the option to work from home at times if they choose, or to do volunteer work as part of their hours, or even start a business as part of it, so they have a lot of freedom, but a lot of the children do go there during normal school hours and spend their time in that environment working on their projects. They have 3D printers and music editing equipment, and microscopes and access to all of that.
PAM: Yeah, that is very cool. they have got some supplies there that they can play with.
And it is nice to see because we live in a rural, fairly conservative community in the Midwest, and this is part of a larger public high school. It is a smaller charter school within a larger high school and they are looking to expand and getting support and people are recognizing that this is a valid way to learn, where students are able to really engage with their own interests, so that is exciting to me.
PAM: Yeah, that sounds wonderful.
You also work part-time as a librarian. So, I know some people are looking at weaving work into their lives too, so I just thought maybe you can you share a bit about how that works for you guys?
NIKOLE: Sure, so before I started working at the library, Cam had been volunteering there once a week. I was not actually looking for a job at the time, I don’t have a degree in library sciences or anything. I had worked at a library before, at a larger city library, where I was primarily just shelving books.
So one day when I walk into the library, I think I was picking Cam up from her volunteer job or I was bringing the other girls in to get some books or something, the library director came up and was like, “So, we are going to have a position open, you know, would you be interested in applying?”
I try to be really open to possibilities and things coming my way and balancing that out though, because everything that you do take on, there is a time and energy exchange for that, so I thought about it for a little while and I was like, “Yeah, I think that is something I am interested in.”
My kids now are at an age where they do not need my focused attention as many hours of the day, you know. They are more in the independent learning stage than when they were younger. The library director is just a really fun and outgoing woman with purple hair and she was like, “So we will really work with you. You can help decide what hours are going to work, and if something comes up in your family…”
So, basically, the flexibility of the position is why I was able to take it on. I work three afternoons per week and like I said, I lead an art workshop on Mondays, so that is one of my afternoons and my children often come and participate in that with me, so they are there during that time. I can bring them with me to work at anytime, but they sometimes do not want to spend four and a half straight hours at the library, so I am also able to leave them home with my husband because he works from home most days as a full time software developer. That really allows a lot of flexibility in our lives, where he is here and available if they need him. So yeah, we are lucky to have kind of a flexible situation where we can make it work in that way.
PAM: Yeah, that is really cool. I love your point about being open to the possibilities because you never know where little things are going to come up.
PAM: And to just think, Oh, that is interesting, how might that work? So, I thought that was a really neat point. Because so often we do not know, right?
NIKOLE: It is true, yeah.
It has been interesting because some of the things that I had to let go of to make time for that in my life, my children have been interested in picking up. I used to grow a decent size organic garden, and now my 11-year-old is like, “Can I have all of the garden space? Since the garden grew so terribly last summer.” So yeah, because I made the choice that, you know, I could not do it all, and I could support the farmers market if I could not grow it myself that year. She is now stepping up and wanting to take over that, and that is pretty exciting to me.
PAM: Yeah, oh I love that. It is the ripples, right? As we make choices, like you said, while I am choosing this, other things I am going to let go of and then as that ripples out. There are so many other possibilities for things to happen. And I’m sure it would have been fine if nobody took it over, but it opens that possibilities for other people—you never really know.
That’s what’s so exciting about this life, isn’t it?
NIKOLE: It is, and I think if we were trying to control all of these aspects, it would not have had nearly the sort of excitement of the learning and the possibilities.
PAM: That’s the thing. The hardest thing is letting go of the control, but after some experience you realize that so often things go in directions that are even better and more exciting that we could never have predicted or controlled things in that direction, you know what I mean? They turn out even better than we can envision.
NIKOLE: I do find that happening often.
PAM: I know, it is amazing.
Well thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Nikole, I had a lot of fun and I hope you did.
NIKOLE: Thank you, Pam, I did too.
PAM: Yay! And before we go, where’s the best place for people to connect with you online?
NIKOLE: Okay, so these days I mostly just post a little on Instagram where I am verde.mama and I also have a blog that I had started seven or eight years ago, it is verdemama.blogspot.com and I do not post on there very often these days, but there are years’ worth of me sharing my thoughts and photos of our days on there if anybody is interested.
PAM: That is awesome! Thank you so much, have a great day!
NIKOLE: Thanks, you too, Pam. Bye.