PAM: I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca, and I’m here today with Kim and Jason Kotecki. Hi Guys!
JASON: Hi Pam!
KIM: Thanks for having us.
PAM: Thank you so much for joining me! Now, I know Kim is a longtime listener of the podcast, apparently in the car. We connected a little while ago, and when I checked out the work that Kim and Jason do in the world, it was so intertwined with their unschooling lives, that I reached out to ask if they’d come on the podcast to share their story. And obviously, happily, they said yes! So, to get us started …
Can you guys share with us a little bit about you and your family?
KIM: Sure. So, we are a family of five. We have three kiddos. Lucy, who is coming up on birthday season as we call it—we have all three kid’s birthdays in three weeks. So, we have Lucy who’s almost ten, Ben, who’s almost seven, and Rose, she goes by Ro, who’s almost 5, which is crazy.
JASON: Fact check is confirmed.
KIM: Thank you for confirming that. And we are kind of a work-at-home family. We have a home business that we run here and work together, and we’ve had our business for almost twenty years, so it’s crazy! We worked together for five years. I taught for five years- I taught kindergarten, and Jason was growing the business. And in 2005 I jumped ship and we went solo and did that for a couple of years before Lucy came along. So, we had about eight or nine years of living in married life without kids, and now a little bit more than the same with kids. So, it’s been a bit of a fun journey!
PAM: Very Good.
JASON: I guess we should say what we do. I’m an artist, and a speaker, and an author. Kim’s an author as well. And we have a message that we promote. It’s called Escape Adulthood, and we basically help people to fight what we have dubbed adultitis, which is what happens when you forget what it was like to be a kid and lose some of that curiosity, you get burnt out, things like that.
So, I go into organizations and companies and associations and help just bring that topic up, give them the enemy, let them label it. I think that tends to be a really big thing, to just let them be like, “Oh, that’s what it is!” And just give them ideas about how to be creative, how to have a little bit less stress and more fun.
And really my secret message is for people to remember what’s most important in life, which is usually relationships, family, kids, grandkids, things like that. That’s kind of the ulterior motive that I have is to get people to put things in perspective. I say it’s a 50,000 foot view. But yeah, Kim and I together, we are really passionate about this idea and this mission, so it’s been pretty cool to figure out how to make a living at it.
PAM: Yeah, yeah, that’s a big piece of it. And I’m really excited to dive into all sorts of aspects of it. Just before we get there …
I’m curious about how you guys along that path discovered unschooling, and what your family’s move to unschooling looked like, once the kids joined you?
JASON: I’ll let you fill in the details of that because we were talking about this this morning, and it’s funny how once you embrace something you just think—I’ve always felt this way.
“Yeah, I dunno, like whatever!” But then I remember that once, back when you were that teacher in that school, you used to make fun of homeschooled people, so, somewhere along the line, something shifted. It’s funny to remember that.
KIM: I didn’t make fun of them! I didn’t understand them. Just to clarify…
JASON: Well, that’s a nice way to put in NOW.
KIM: I didn’t understand what they were all about. Being formally educated as an early childhood teacher. I will say that early child is a different animal than elementary and middle school and all that stuff too because it’s very play based, right? You’ll see the foreshadowing now…
JASON: Less so now.
KIM: Yeah. But back in 2000, when I was teaching, you are kind of formally trained to not really understand homeschooling…
JASON: By the way, how gross is that phrase, “I was formally educated.” It’s like “ewwwww”- it sounds terrible!
KIM: Not to some!
JASON: I know, I know.
KIM: So anyway, when I went into teaching and got into the system of the public schools. There is definitely the divide between that mentality of systematic, organized teaching, versus the mentality of learning every day, like fun learning and all that. And so, when I was teaching, there were a couple of families that had a couple of kids that they were homeschooling, and you’re thinking, “Oh, what are they missing?” There’s this whole mentality!
So, I was ingrained big-time there, for those five years. But as those five years progressed and I saw all of the problems that systematized, organized education creates, it was very eye opening to realize it wasn’t working, at least my experience with it. You know?
And that’s 25 kindergarteners, all day kindergarteners, especially seeing the beginning of the year when kids are like, “Goodbye mom!” and then the attachment that gets broken, and then how they evolve through the year, and it’s not that it, the attachment is gone – it’s just a very interesting year for that, in kindergarten. A lot of the kids who were still at home for the most part, and then to see it change so much as they enter full time school. To see their behaviors change, to see their personalities change, to see what they are dealing with. So, that process actually helped me to understand, ‘Ahhhh, I can’t imagine putting a kid in this!’
JASON: And you also had the experience and the perspective for the kids that they went into first grade, to see how quickly it transitioned into, “I hate school”. It’s very fast. Because kindergarten, they like it because there is a lot of playfulness and it’s not as serious…
KIM: Again, twenty years ago…right.
JASON: Right. I know you talk about students who, now they are in first grade, they are coming back to you and the parents are talking about, “Oh my gosh, he hates school.” or whatever, so…
KIM: So, much more academic emphasis in first grade, then that changes their perspective on school, right? With the different interviews you do, Pam, of people and their experiences pulling kids out of school, I hear that in a lot of the examples people give, like, “It started ok, but then it kinda went downhill.” That’s kind of how my teaching experience went too. So, when I jumped ship and we started working together full time, we travelled all over. Jason was speaking all over. We got a chance to travel together just the two of us. And we got to keep evolving our message of. . . actually, back up one second, I saw the business of the families and what current adulthood looked like.
I was a very young teacher, right… So, I had the opportunity to sit with parents three times a year for conferences, and I would just sit there and listen and take it all in and would be thinking, “Wow, this is so hard!” Family after family confessing their struggles, and looking for advice from this 23 year old non-parent. You know, isn’t it funny!? I didn’t know anything, you know! I just took it all in, and I was processing it all, so I’d come home, and we’d go for walks around Madison and talk about it. And he was doing a comic book at the time about childhood, which is what we thought was going to be your career.
And so, he is learning about childhood from this self-discovery/wonderment perspective as he was creating this comic strip. I was learning about childhood from the current state of society, and we just kept meshing this together and it created what we now have, which is our perspective of adultitis and what is missing in adult life, what is missing in family life, so eventually when we got to the point where we were like, ‘Let’s have kids and let’s do this!’, school wasn’t even an option. We know that doesn’t line up with anything we believe, it would take away all of the freedom that we talk about, that we want.
JASON: But even that took a while to get to that, because I don’t think we talked about homeschooling until we did homebirth, and the only reason we did that was because we were self-employed and didn’t have any insurance, so we had to look for…
JASON: Alternative options and what was on the table and there happened to be a birth center in Madison that was sort of like a hospital, felt more like a hospital, but actually not…It was like home birthing, but not at home, and so that was a transition for us, and it was way less expensive, and we thought, ‘Ok, we can do this.’ And so, it was kind of like getting our foot into the door, and then of course, once we did that, our first one was there, and then the other two were home births, and so that opened our eyes to different ways of looking at things, and a lot of people there homeschool, and it was just kind of a gradual exploration.
And I know you’ve talked about that for you, even after making the decision, there’s been way more necessity for deschooling for her than me, because she was in the system for, not even that long, but you know, college, and then five years of teaching, so it was kind of a gradual thing, but it’s funny now that it’s like, “Oh yeah, we’ve always been homeschooling, and that’s the way to go. Why, it’s common sense!” And well, yeah, that’s not really how we started.
KIM: And we met someone when Lucy was one and a half or so that was unschooling and introduced us to that term. So, as we were opening our hearts and our minds to homeschooling, that term got introduced pretty quickly. And we thought, that’s pretty extreme, “Woah, there’s the edge. Ok, there it is.”
The boundaries of ok, doing it at home with the desks is one thing and… And then there’s that! [Pam bursts out laughing] You know? It induced a little openness, And I actually have a journal that I reread recently. It was from maybe four years ago, I was making a list of, “What would I do if I had the courage?” in my life, it was the king of the mentality of living without regret, and unschooling was on there and so, it thought, “Woah, ok, so I have internalized this over and over and over again.” And thought, “I will regret it if we don’t do it this way”.
JASON: Well, the other thing too is that we live in Wisconsin, and we didn’t know this, but it’s very pro-homeschooling. There’s been lots of advocacy on behalf of the rights of homeschoolers. So, it’s a very homeschool friendly state.
And the first conference we went to was, Lucy was three, or something, three or four. And one of the blessings was that they gave grounds…gave a platform for all the types of homeschooling, and there really wasn’t a bias toward one or the other. So, it really gave you an opportunity to see all the pros and cons of all of it, and everyone was very welcoming of everyone else’s way of doing it. There wasn’t, at least I didn’t pick up on any sort of judgement or anything. So, that helped a lot. Because it could have easily been like, ‘Oh, this is the way everyone does it’, and it wasn’t that. So, it really gave us permission to explore what was best for us and our family. And then, as we went through it, unschooling was a no-brainer, because it matches our philosophy, it matches our life, and it seems like the most fun version of it! So…
PAM: That’s really cool. It’s so true that, once you understand it and once it all makes sense, it feels like it’s really you, right, but to remember looking back on how many little steps and little connections it took to get there. It’s fascinating to see all the little connections and pieces along the way, isn’t it?
JASON: And when you are faced with something that’s extreme, that felt extreme, it makes you ask the question, “Why?” And I think that’s one of the most valuable traits that kids have that we adults lose along the way. Why do we do it this way? Why is school set up this way? Why is this a priority for our society? Or whatever! And if you ask that question enough, you start to uncover what’s most important to you. And it opens up new questions. So, that’s the process of just forcing yourself to ask why and not just go with the status quo of, “Well, this is just how it is.”
PAM: And once you start why, like how you were talking about how you eventually got to the homebirth and all that kind of stuff, because once you start asking, you start seeing all sorts of different places to ask. “Oh, but WHY do we do that that way?” And then you look over there and can ask, ’Why do we do that that way?” over and over.
I think that’s one of the most fun things about unschooling, and how we talk about how it becomes a lifestyle is because of the way it helps you look at life and it has you questioning and learning and being curious about absolutely everything, doesn’t it!?
JASON: Yeah, totally.
KIM: You’ll get a kick out of this Pam. The number one thing that we get when they hear that we homeschool is, “Well, she’s a former teacher, of course you can homeschool!”…
PAM: Then it’s ok…
KIM: You don’t know how much work I’ve done to undo that!
JASON: Well, and that- frankly, when they are people that you don’t really want to get into a whole discussion with, we will just use that…she’s a former teacher, knowing that that’s one of our biggest disadvantages!
PAM: Oh, absolutely! Even how, your education, etc. That makes so many people comfortable. And you’re right, if they are not really open to it, and they are just looking for more comfort. You can give that to them quick and move on to something else that you are actually connecting with them over, right?
You mentioned Escape Adulthood, and I love your website, and I will put links to everything in the show notes, and I love your slogan, I’m just going to share that: “Break free of the life you’ve been told to live. Create the life you were made for.”
And I think that describes deschooling in a nutshell. Because we were just talking about questioning so many of those conventional rules that we’ve grown up with to see if they truly make sense to us, and whether or not they mesh with the life that we want to live, like that list you were making, Kim, you know, of what takes courage, right? So, I’d love to know the story behind how you guys actually chose to focus on this work, how you got into that Jason, and how you decided to join, Kim.
JASON: Well, as Kim mentioned, it started with a comic strip. And it… the characters were based on Kim and I and when we were dating. I drew cartoon versions of what we looked like when we were kids, and they ended up on very heartfelt and cheap gifts that I could make for her. Christmas gifts, anniversary…
KIM: We were poor…
JASON: …and in the early years you celebrate every week anniversary so you have to get a little creative, and so it was sort of just for us. But as we showed people the drawings they were saying, “Oh these are really cool.” And I had the idea of turning it into a comic strip about childhood, sort of a Peanuts slash Calvin and Hobbes thing, where you’re looking in on the kids without them knowing it and seeing how they address life and how they approach it, and so from that, things kind of evolved.
I had a friend who said, “You know, you should write a book about the philosophy that goes behind this and what you think about this.”
And that is kind of where it started, just really paying attention to why we adults are so stressed out all of the time, why are we not feeling fulfilled and joyful, and where did that go because kids have that.
So, addressing what are the things—the secrets—that children have that we sort of buried or lost along the way. And that was the basis for everything. And that led to giving speeches at churches and schools and things, and fairly early on, we realized that we liked talking to the adults more than the kids.
And that doesn’t mean that we didn’t like talking to the kids, but I know Kim can talk to this, but she felt like when she was a teacher, she could really only address the kids when they were at school, but that there were a whole host of issues that, if you could address the parents and get them to change their mindset, that would actually help the parents and the kids in the long run.
I think that’s sort of where we made the decision to shift that, and it’s funny, we were talking this morning about how in a lot of ways, my talks and our books and the things we write about is sort of like an attempt to deschool our society without them knowing it. It is like you mentioned, it is such a connected thing, unschooling and what we talk about- it’s almost the exact same thing, um, just, I suppose, in a different context.
KIM: And we also joke for our kids and our family that we are trying to basically help our kids so that they never have to escape adulthood. That they are basically going to live a life filled with their passions and interests and just keep living it, you know what I mean? And so, it’s preventing the need, and not that it’s foolproof because adult hood follows you. There’s going to be plenty of things to worry about, plan for, and adulting will happen, but maybe they are going to be a little more equipped to not have to fight it so hard like we do.
PAM: And to recognize, because the messages are still all over the place. The conventional messages are there, and that’s one nice thing about living this way with our children is we can discuss these messages. And talk about the different aspects and what we think about them and even brainstorm what the complications are and notice how they impact in our lives.
But even when they get older and they are out hanging out with friends – because I remember, there were so many messages that the other kids were bringing to my kids through their parents – we could tell what the other kids’ parents were thinking, about our homeschooling by the comments the kids would make to my kids, because they weren’t comments a child would be thinking about, right? In that joyful, carefree life. It’s not like, “How are you going to get into college?” No 12 year old is going to ask another 12 year old that!
KIM: That’s so funny.
PAM: Because obviously they’d run home and said, “She doesn’t go to school!” And then a whole conversation ensues. But yeah, it brings the opportunity to have so many of those conversations. And one of the things I found interesting as my have kids gotten older is that we are there to help them and to have these conversations and connect, but they still need to do the work themselves to understand it for themselves, to really absorb that message, to live that message for them.
They know our perspectives, they hear society’s perspective, and then they still need to process it and figure out what they believe. So, it’s not even about us instilling a different way for them, because they have wonderful experience living that kind of life. So, that’s why it’s so fascinating having conversations with them, isn’t it? Because they bring such an interesting and unique perspective that is just completely all their own, for each of the kids.
Do you find that?
JASON: Yeah, well, I was going to say that it’s interesting you bring that concept up, but hearing you say that, I think that I know why I do this, when we talk about other people’s choices about school, because they do have cousins and friends that are in traditional school, of not trying to indoctrinate, “They are doing the wrong thing and it’s stupid.” It’s trying to help them see the other side, and maybe the reason is so that then when they get older and can make their own choice. And it’s not a surprise why people choose the other thing, that they can have a little bit of a balanced perspective, maybe, that then they have more information for which to make their own decision, right?
JASON: Then it’s not, “I’ve never heard any of this stuff!” or “Why didn’t my parents tell me about this?” That would be a bit more confusing or shocking. So, I don’t know if that will help anything, but we do that, where we can. We do that to try to explain, “That’s what works for their family, and this is what happens in school, and this is what happens for us.” Trying to be as balanced as we can…
KIM: They are getting more curious as they get older, because they’ve never been in school. We never talk to them about being in school, it’s never been a discussion with them. So, this is all they know, but I do see, like Lucy, who’s almost ten, you know she’ll make comments on different observations. She makes these comments like, “Well, if I was in school, then I wouldn’t have been able to do this.” And we didn’t feed that to her. So, I see her processing that and trying to articulate her feelings about it, you know?
PAM: Exactly, by their comments, you can see the little pieces that they are taking in and putting together for themselves and building their own view, of how the world works. That’s such a great point, and we are not trying to shelter them, right, we are trying to share information about how the world works and that’s a part of the world, and that’s the way some parents choose to parent, the way they choose to use the school system, etc.
So, it’s not about saying, “That’s bad and we are trying to protect you from that.” But there are definitely consequences, right? This is why we’ve made the choices that we’ve made. But I also don’t want to make them feel bad about any choices that they’ve made! If in the future they make other kinds of choices, I will know that we have all come to a place that we are making the best choices that we can in that moment.
And that’s what they’ve been doing for so many years, and they are so much more experienced at it. So, if they are in a situation where, to them, the best choice may be not the same choice I would have made in the same situation, but they are not me! And I trust them and know them to be able to support them.
That’s another level. To even be able to support them when they are choosing things that maybe I wouldn’t choose in that situation, but to know that they are. To understand that they are a unique person and even once you get to know them well enough, you can see how they’ve come up to that choice, and I’m thinking, “Oh, I think they are going to learn something else out of that. It might not be what they are expecting.” But that’s theirs to learn! So interesting!
JASON: Yep. You can’t learn it for them!
KIM: I read one of your books recently, Pam about the trust, is it fear/trust continuum? And the courage that it takes to ride that continuum back and forth. I think it has evolved in our parenting in so many different ways. You know, take the bus, the first fall that the bus goes by and your kid isn’t on it, right? I’m thinking, the fear-trust continuum is pretty huge, you know!
JASON: I immediately regret this decision!
KIM: You know? And then it just evolves and then there’s the timeframe of when you think, every other child is reading, but they’re not, it just evolves. It’s the deschooling. I actually drew it in my little journal, and kind of internalized it in a way that kind of empowers the process, it takes courage. We have borrowed a lot of courage from others that’ve done it, like yourself, and whose kids are grown adults and functioning in society, somehow. It is very, very much a gift to be not the first generation of unschoolers. You know?
JASON: Well, and I also was going to say that phrase ‘borrowing courage’. That was a phrase that we heard at one of our homeschooling conferences from another parent, who said that, “I felt like I wanted to homeschool, but I was very uncertain and very fearful, but coming here to see other parents who have been through it, even if they are twenty years into it and their kids are grown, productive members of society that got into college somehow, or they are just five years along beyond where you are is the idea of, borrowing courage from them until you have enough of it yourself to keep moving forward.”
And I think that’s what your show does, and for anyone listening that’s maybe not that far along. You know, our kids, we’ve only been doing it for, what, eight years? But if where we are compared to where you are, you know, they’re doing it and it’s working, I can borrow that courage until I’m where they’re at. And you know, I think that’s a really huge concept when it comes to something that’s different from the status quo, and maybe a little scary to talk about.
PAM: Yeah, I love that idea. What a great phrase, and it… because it just quickly grabs what you are getting from that, getting from hearing people who have had more experience, and you’re saying, “I like where you are and I would like to take steps in that direction.” And borrowing that courage from their experience/resolve, you know what I mean? And using that to move forward? That’s great!
JASON: Yeah, the cool thing is that it only takes one person. Like when we, like Kim said, we didn’t have kids, we were eight years into our marriage and doing our business and we were traveling, and then Kim got pregnant, people would say, “Oh,I guess your travelling is over. You won’t be able to do that anymore.” And we thought, “Aww man, disappointing! We liked that lifestyle!” But we had one family that had two boys and they told us, “Oh, we travelled all the time when our kids were young! They walked down into the Grand Canyon when they were five years old!” We only needed that one person to borrow courage from, one person for us to say, “Ok, they may not look exactly the same, and they may have different circumstances, but if one person has done it, that means that it’s possible.”
And you may have to be creative about how it works for you, but you don’t need a whole smorgasbord of people to prove that it’s possible. You just need one person to be able to borrow courage from.
PAM: Oh wow, I love that. And it’s so true. It reminds me of when I had just discovered homeschooling is a thing. I had never heard of it before. So, my kids were in school, and I had seen mention of it in an article written in the states and I’m thinking, “Is this legal in Canada?”
I found online a forum, back when they were like bulletin boards, and it was people homeschooling in Ontario, and it was active, as in, you know, the dates weren’t years and years ago, and they were doing…and that’s was it! BOOM! I didn’t know anyone in real life, who was doing this, but I found that one place where I knew there were really people who were doing it here and that was just enough to give me the courage to do it. That’s really cool.
KIM: I think we also borrow courage from our past experiences, right? How often are you wondering, “Should we be doing this? Should we? And then you remember, “Wait, wait, wait, two years ago, when I thought this, and then we let it go, and then it just …
JASON: worked out…
KIM: So, looking back does help on this unschooling journey to say, “We didn’t teach them how to learn that and they learned it!”
My big thing with being a former educator has been around teaching versus learning, so my deschooling has been in that cycle forever, of teaching versus learning. Learning happens without teaching! Right? (mind blown noise) That’s the whole premise of school- you teach them what they need to learn, there’s a curriculum, there’s a list of things, and then…And so, that’s been a process.
Poor Jason has had to endure many a conversation that is just me looping, you know life, here we go again, we are doing the exact same thing we did six months ago.
PAM: That’s something I talk about quite a bit because I found that the most valuable tool was to, take a snapshot, remember when you see those moments happening, because you’ll need those moments later. When you finally discovered why it was that they were so interested in that thing. Why they were so focused on that thing, or how you noticed that they learned that thing.
So, that you’ll know that next time that you’re in a situation that you are wondering, “Why are they…Why are they making that choice in this moment? Why are they so interested in that?” To realize, if I have patience just like last time, I will find out in the future. That’s where trust comes in, right? That’s how you develop that trust in how it works, basically. To trust that in the moments that you don’t know exactly why people are doing what they’re doing, you trust that it’ll be clear later, or even just that I don’t even need to know exactly why, but to trust that they are still making the best choices for them just like they did the last time and the time before.
But yeah, you have to remember those fresh experiences, not just toss them out, or else you are going to have to learn that fresh every single time.
JASON: The other thing that we do sometimes, I don’t know what you’d call it, maybe it’s like an absurd absolute. So, you go to the extreme with something you’re still afraid of like potty training. One of the things I’ll always say is, “Is he going to college in a diaper?” and obviously the answer is no. So then, I don’t need to worry too much, I know that this is going to work out. And we do that all the time. Are they going to be 25 years old and not know how to tie their shoe?
KIM: Not know how to tie their shoe?
JASON: No probably not, so maybe I can give myself or them a little grace or a little patience and know that it will work itself out.
I know reading is a big thing that freaks people out a lot, “Do I really believe they will be 30 years old and illiterate?” No, I do not! Well, then, chill a little bit. And so sometimes going to the extreme of what you’re so fearful of helps you realize how ridiculous it really is.
PAM: Yeah, no, that’s a great point, actually digging into it instead of taking our fears and getting frozen with them, playing with them. I love that. I did that quite a bit too, with all the things. They are going to figure it out! The timeline doesn’t matter. When you get to that at 25, at 30, at 35…You know, they are going to…l when you give them that kind of window, they are going to have figured it out in there. It’s not a big deal.
OK, we should probably move on! Thank you for that conversation!
In your book “The Escape Plan Journal”, which was really cool, you make the point that this is about reprogramming our grownup selves to see life through a different lens. And it’s about becoming more childlike, and I love the distinction you make between childlike and childish, right, because childish is just judgement, just a negative judgement of children.
So, I’d like to know some of the benefits you guys have seen from recapturing that spirit of childhood and living your grown up lives today through that lens. Why has that been such a valuable shift for you guys to make?
JASON: Boy, the first thing that comes to mind for me, is that one of the eight secrets that I talk about in my first book about childhood is curiosity, and like we said, we were talking about this before we even had kids, before homeschooling was even on the radar, and I think bringing that spirit of curiosity back into our lives was what made us open to homebirth and homeschooling and unschooling and all the things we’ve done. And that’s just one of them. Curiosity.
Delighting in the little things is another concept. Kids get excited about small things, and the older and older we get, the more it takes to impress us. But the older I get, the more I realize the magic is still in the little things. The intricacy of a snowflake, the smile of a baby, just the little things. You know again, to me, that’s where the magic is, the joy comes from us bringing back some of those childlike traits.
KIM: I think that we…
PAM: Can I hop in for one second?
JASON: Of course! You’re the interviewer!
PAM: I have a story about the magic all around you. Lissy was visiting last week. So, we saw the sun had been coming up through the trees, so we went outside and we kept hearing this little trickling noise, and we noticed, we went over to one of the big maple trees, I dunno, 30, 40 feet away…and it had frozen, it had frost overnight. And the leaves were falling like rain. And they weren’t stopping, and there was no wind. And we were fascinated!
We stood, under this maple tree, just looking up, with the leaves falling down on us, for ten minutes. After five minutes, and it was still going, and it was totally quiet and you could just hear them all breaking off the branch and just coming down, twirling down, and so I grabbed my phone and texted Mike, “Come on out here!” So, he came out, and we were just out there for 10 or 15 minutes, standing under that tree with the same amount of leaves- it looked like, the leaves were falling, but it didn’t look like it had lost any leaves, you know what I mean? It was still, it looked as full as it was, just all these yellow leaves falling down on us, And, oh my gosh, the joy in that moment and noticing those small things! It was a really special, fun time for the three of us, just that connection, just spending that time. Sorry to interrupt, but you’re mentioning that….
KIM: Well, what’s neat about that Pam, is that you had never seen something like that before, I have never experienced it. So, the concept of children, that’s how their entire life is. You know, you take them out into the woods, and they have never experienced a red leaf. They’ve never seen a caterpillar. These things that as adults we tend to be like, “Come on, come on, let’s go.” We race by, but they are experiencing everything new, and so being childlike is being open to what is new all around us, or maybe not new, but just something we’ve never noticed in this way, right?
JASON: Well, and then you think about how many thousands of dollars adults spend on going to Disney World, which we love, which is a magical place, and that’s why you go because you want to experience magic, and yet, you can experience magic 30 feet outside your backyard.
You know, and being able to address that and realize that and own that, is why we do what we do. Because we are rushing around trying to capture things that we had when we were children and it’s not that hard to go back. We just need to stop and be mindful and intentional. That’s one of our biggest things, is trying to help people be more mindful and intentional of the choices that they make and why they make them.
KIM: The other piece of being childlike I think is not taking yourself too seriously. So, you know, this is something that doesn’t take long to be an adult. You know, as you’re transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, you want to take yourself more seriously, you want people to take you more seriously, you want to show your independence, and so there’s this desire to be more grown up, which is very admirable, and it makes a lot of sense why we want to be that way.
Especially if you’re out getting a job, or you’re out in a real world for the first time, you want to be taken seriously.
And then the slippery slope of that transitions into making choices that maybe don’t even align with your passions. We have the philosophy that most schooled children, from our experience being schooled children, don’t have much opportunity to explore those passions, so here you are, 20, 23, and you’re not sure what you want to do, rightfully so. You never really had the space to explore that. So, now you’re sort of on this route through your twenties and you’re getting more and more serious because the bills are there and more responsible. . .
JASON: School loans are piled up and…
KIM: And it doesn’t take long to realize that most people by age 30 are
KIM: And throw some kids in there!
JASON: Panicked, depressed, all of it, because they are getting to the point that they realize, “This is not what I wanted my life to be, this is not what I thought it was going to be.”
KIM: Not a lot of options, seemingly.
Taking yourself too seriously is a natural process that by the time you are maybe 40, 50, 60, you are trying to rebel against. We are trying to meet people where they are at in the spectrum. I don’t care if you’re 23 and we can keep you in that mindset of where you were 10 years ago or, if you’re 45 and think there’s no hope. Wherever you are at in that process, you can see with new eyes again, you can relive that.
PAM: Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s one of those things that once you start to see it, you start to see it all over the place. But it depends, where they are on their journey before it makes a connection, makes that first connection for them to become curious about it. Yeah, that’s cool.
You mentioned curiosity there too, and I think that’s such a big thing. That’s another one of the unwritten rules, right? Is being curious, being imaginative, is another thing that is just for childhood, right? That you should set that aside once you start to become serious. And I need to take responsibility for this, and accomplish all of the things I’m supposed to accomplish.
And I really enjoyed the story you shared last month in one of your newsletters, and you made a great case as to why curiosity is still so valuable in adulthood. And we talk about that so much, I was hoping you might share that insight/story.
JASON: And, if I recall what you’re thinking about, I remember when I was growing up, I had two younger brothers, and I was the artsy one, and my brother was the science-y one. I was always so focused on seeing how different we are, that I didn’t see that art and science are connected by curiosity and imagination.
That the same curiosity and imagination that’s there when an artist is making a painting or creating a sculpture or writing a play, is there when a scientist is trying to figure out a cure for cancer.
You have to figure out what is everything we’ve tried so far, what else could we try? We want to do that, why can’t we do that? When we wanted to try how to figure out how to go to space, it’s like, ok, what could work? What kind of vehicle could work. You have to imagine yourself being there first, and then work backwards.
And so, yeah, I think one of the things that adults who think imagination is for kids don’t realize, is how much they actually use imagination in their own life, but it tends to be on the negative side. It doesn’t take any kind of effort for us as adults to imagine our kids growing up to be living in a van down by the river, or our portfolio to be upside down or to lose everything. Those worst case scenarios we can imagine as vividly as a kid could imagine a tour through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. So…
PAM: That’s a great point!
JASON: To say that imagination is for kids is kind of missing it. So, my point is to say, why can’t we use our imagination for good, instead of just imagining worst case scenarios? Think about what could happen, what is our ideal life, and then to work backwards like see, “Ok, what would be a good first step to go in that direction.”
One of the things I do with people in workshops is I give them permission, tell them that they are in the land of make-believe with Mr. Rogers. So, if you could have the perfect life, anything, what would it be?! Don’t let your imagination be limited, whether it’s, “I win the lottery” or “I don’t have to work,” or whatever, I give them permission to do that, and then once they’ve spent some time imagining that, and again, a lot of adults have a hard time going all in, they say, “Well, that could never happen.” And I just say, “I don’t care! Just imagine it!” And I make the point, that, OK, now let’s get back to real world.
I will acknowledge that you probably aren’t going to win the lottery. I will acknowledge you’re not probably going to achieve all of these things, but the important thing is now you know which direction to started going. And that’s crazy, probably not going to happen, but at least is my life better if I’m half way between where I am now and that amazing vision? Heck yeah!
So, now we know what steps that we can start making. But you have to use that crazy imagination to get there first. And when we started unschooling, that is part of what we did. We thought, “What do we want our kids to become? What do we imagine them to be when they are thirty years old?” And we made an entire list of what traits do we hope they have, and what things do we hope, what memories do we want to make and we realized how few of them actually have anything to do with traditional schooling or certain subjects…
JASON: And it was things like, I want my kids to be curious. I want them to be problem solvers. I want them to be whatever…I want them to be grateful. You don’t take Grateful 101 in high school, that’s not a thing!
KIM: That would be awesome though.
JASON: That was imagination too, imagining what we wanted our kids to be, and then taking it back to the now, about what do we need to do. And that’s what helped make unschooling an obvious choice. Well, that’s the ideal. This seems to be the best path for us to get there.
PAM: Such a great point. What a way to open up, just to realize how valuable imagination can be, to give them that permission. Now, the other piece that I wanted to touch on that you mentioned earlier was how creativity is really valuable in everything. Whether you’re a scientist …because we conventionally just think of creative people as artists. But really there is creativity in so much!
For example, math, that’s something when growing up, we are so trained that there’s no creativity. There’s a right answer. There’s a wrong answer. There’s a formula that you plug your numbers into and that’s that. And then you hear so much about working mathematicians where they say, well, that’s just fodder. Those are the little lego pieces to building your creation, and mathematically, it’s still about thinking so creatively and about how you may be able to, say, represent something. Mathematically.
I was computer programming for years. There is so much creativity in that, in how you want your code to work, how you want to set up the different objects, not even just visually creative, but how efficiently you can make it go in the background. And how you can make one small piece that can be used by so many different bits of it. Everything that you do has a creative piece to it, and I think that’s something that we’ve lost along the way.
And I think your work helps bring back that fun piece – that work, and the fun things that we do, don’t have to be just black and white and uncreative and just show up, do it, and then you get to do all the fun stuff. No matter what you’re doing, no matter what you love doing, no matter what you happen to be doing, even if you don’t think you love it, you can find so many creative and fun aspects to it, if you’re open to that. If you decide that’s what you are looking for down there, and you can take that next step in that direction.
JASON: Yeah. I love that concept It’s weird that we do say some fields as being creative, because you are totally right about math. And I think about most of the math we are exposed to is just fundamentals, which isn’t necessarily creative. But neither is learning the alphabet, you need to learn the alphabet, that’s a fundamental
KIM: That’s not fundamental!
JASON: But then, you know, a mathematician who is at the highest level of figuring out big things is using the fundamentals. The cool thing is, like you said, wherever you are on the spectrum, like our daughter Lucy, or even Ben now, he is starting to learn to read, and now he can write little stories, which are very creative, using fundamentals. But it’s still not at the level of Harry Potter or you know “Catcher in the Rye’ or whatever. And yet, it can still be creative with fundamentals, but for some reason I think of math and science as all fundamentals, no, it’s really not. Maybe it’s just that it takes a while to get to the creative stuff. But anyways, in school, little kids doing experiments, little kids, chemistry, that’s creative and fun, and it’s learning fundamentals. Anyways
KIM: One of the side notes of his speaking is that we kind of get to take a deep dive into different industries. So, he recently gave a program for government accountants, engineers are very common, you know, different industries that we don’t have any background personally with, but this concept applies across the board, so it’s not just for health care and education and these more kind of human services type professions, but some of the more mathematical based, scientific based organizations need this as much as anyone, right? So, it’s been kind of eye-opening for us I think to keep learning and unlearning
JASON: The ones who are least likely to see themselves as artists are the ones we remind, “Actually, you really are still an artist, whether or not you can draw a perfect circle or a straight line or a stick figure or whatever.”
PAM: Well, you know, that’s probably why your piece spoke to me so much, because I had to take that journey. As an engineer to this place here. Yeah, I thought…I was positive I wasn’t creative, or fun or any of those things, they were just not my bailiwick. And I had accepted that. But unschooling took me on this huge journey and I started asking why and started being curious about all this stuff. It really connected with me and reminded me of that journey of finding creativity and fun in everything, everything!
From the outside looking in, absolutely, your work encouraging people to create the life they were made for seems to weave together so beautifully with unschooling. So, I just wanted to see if that has actually been your experience, and maybe some of the ways that you find that weaving into your unschooling lives.
JASON: Well, like I said earlier about the deschooling people without them realizing it is a lot of what we do. One of the things that I think about how it has bled over, and is sort of a selfish thing that I love about unschooling, it makes our life more fun and allows me to learn stuff.
So, I had a couple speaking engagements in the Pacific Northwest, and they were two weeks apart. We decided that instead of me flying out there and back twice, we would just take the whole family, and we spent the middle two weeks on a little vacation. And what was cool was that the second week we were there, we rented a house on the bay on the Olympic Peninsula. One of the things that we realized was that, even though it felt like a lake, which we were used to, it was actually connected to the ocean, and therefore the tide would come in and out, so it was weird, it took us two days to realize. . . wait, this is tidal!
KIM: It took us a long time to figure this out.
JASON: But the water is in a different place than it was!
KIM: Because it looks just like a lake so it messed with your head.
JASON: So, at dinner one night the kids were asking, “What is the tide? What makes that happen?” And we looked at each other like, “Uh, I have no idea!” So, we were, “Google, let’s check this out!” And we learned about the moon and gravity and the cycles of the moon, and so we looked up what moon each of us was born under was it a full moon or a crescent moon or whatever.
KIM: And we were talking about the myths that go along with full moons and childbirth, and we were talking about each of their births and how they were birthed in terms of fast or slow and what connection that might have with the moon. It was really fun!
JASON: And that has just become a very natural part of our life, is we get to learn. We get to be curious. I think that people that are fearful of homeschooling are thinking, “I don’t know everything I need to teach them!” And I think that is what we’ve modeled is that neither do we, and we don’t have all the answers, but thankfully, google does!
PAM: The fundamentals, right? Just the facts!
JASON: Yeah, you know, and it’s ok to not know something, but how do you find the answer!
Because when you get out into the real world, I don’t care how long you go to school, you aren’t going to know everything. So, the more important thing is to figure out how to get an answer. And to not be ashamed that I don’t know it.
So, I really like how that process of the principles we talk about with our work have also informed our unschooling, but how unschooling has also then informed our work even more because then it helps me to see more things to talk about. Just like your concept of math being creative and that, I’m thinking, I’m going to write a post about that and that’s something that I’m going to continue to affirm with people. That’s something that I thought of, was my experience in the pacific northwest and how the tide goes back and forth.
KIM: I think the coolest thing too, so we are sitting there on the edge of that bay for a week, just doing campfires, smores, building relationships, which I know you talk about a lot Pam, and the midst of it, Jason got three different paintings out of it. That inspired three different paintings out of that shoreline.
JASON: I had my sketchbook there, and there will actually be more, but three so far that came from being there.
KIM: The interweaving is so… The fact that you asked that question helps us to actually look at it, because it’s so tight now, it’s hard to know where one ends and one begins.
PAM: Oh, that’s such a great point. When you can’t even tell, right? It’s in your bones. That’s when you’ve gotten to the point where you’re just living, learning, engaging with each other, it’s so fun.
OK, last question.
I’m really excited about this one, because many listeners are definitely in the early stages of the unschooling journey, and are kind of in the midst of discovering the extent of this adultitis, did I say that right, epidemic, I love that word.
KIM: YEAH, yeah!
PAM: Because once you see it, you can’t unsee it, you start seeing its impact all around you.
So, to help them get started on the road to recovery, I was hoping that each of you could share something that they could each do over the next few days to shake this up a bit.
KIM: We were brainstorming at breakfast, “Which one are you going to share?”. Because there are so many good ones. The “Escape Adulthood Journal”, that’s actually all online, and we will share that link through you, Pam. There are so many cool challenges. It’s almost like a deschooling book really, that process.
So, one of the cool ones with the holidays coming up, and all of the coziness of the winter and the seasons changing, you know you kind of feel like baking more. At least we do, we do a lot of baking this time of year.
JASON: Not me.
KIM: He does a lot of eating the baking that we do.
JASON: I’m good with that, yeah!
KIM: We got introduced to a family that, and I won’t make a huge story out of it, but this family had a tradition of making ugly cookies at the holiday time. So, instead of putting the trees, the santas and all this stuff and the perfect frosting and the perfect colors, they made ugly cookie. So, they would take really random cookie cutters, we always talk about this, who knows, all the weird ones, right?
JASON: Dump truck.
KIM: And then make really ugly frosting colors like nasty greens and purples and black and um…
JASON: You know, traditional Christmas black, right?
KIM: And then basically go to town with nasty sprinkles or whatever, and you know what’s funny…
JASON: Halloween candy that’s leftover…
KIM: One time we made them and we put pickles and we started raiding the fridge and just like pretzels, like…
JASON: Goldfish crackers.
KIM: Cut up bananas. Kids would behave this way anyways, we just don’t allow them. So, as the empowerment of, ‘let’s make ugly cookies’, the ugly sweater phenomenon is still happening. Let’s own this, and them serve them to people, or eat them ourselves, and have fun with it. And this can translate into ugly cakes- ugly cakes are big for this family as well. So, that’s just a really easy one that gets you thinking in a fresh new way and it really, the possibilities are endless.
JASON: Yeah. One of the other ones that I like is called pajama run. And it’s basically, after you’ve put the kids to bed, you go into their room with pots and pans and wooden spoons and make a big to do and then everyone has to get up and you get in the car still in your pajamas and you go to the local ice cream place. And it’s just a random thing.
And I think that, being open to spontaneity is a big thing, and I think a lot of adults are actually very creative and very open to fun things, the problem is that adultitis is right there to nip it in the bud, and they feel like, “Oh that’s dumb…that will never work….what will people think…?” And just to, if you can give yourself permission to just go with it once or twice, eventually you start to expand your comfort zone of fun, and it gives you bravery to continue doing it.
I mean one thing that is very easy to do, and I challenge you to do it. Next time you go to a restaurant, a sit down restaurant, not a fast food one, something that has a waiter or waitress, and literally order a dessert first, with full intention of buying a meal, you’re not like, “Oh, we are just going out to get some pie.” You are literally going to dinner, but you order dessert first. You will be amazed at the reaction that the waiter or waitress has, cause, their head blows up, they are like, “Wait, wait, what?”
KIM: This woman almost didn’t allow me to do it. She was so confused!
JASON: But it will be fun to see their reaction, but there will also be a part of you that feels like a total rebel, you are just owning life right now it’s just a little thing that you can do that…
KIM: Expand that zone a little bit.
JASON: Expanding that zone, makes you feel like you’re just kicking butt and you’re the man or woman…
KIM: And heaven forbid you let all the kids- like if you got the family deal, they will talk about that for decades.
JASON: But that’s a total easy thing that you can do and it’s amazing to see what comes out of it.
PAM: Ok, those two are awesome, so I encourage everyone, as you are listening, watching, whatever, please try to do one, two of these things, and we’ll share the links to your website even more, and come in the comments and let us know what you’ve done, and how it works out for you. I can just see…Those sound like so much fun. Like the cookies, I can just see having so much fun all together as a family just trying to see who can make the most disgusting looking cookie, and I’m just imagining the waiter or waitresses’ reaction when you go and order dessert first. Oh, thank you so much. Oh, go ahead!
KIM: It’s not like rocket science, right, it’s so simple, it’s just…
JASON: And I know you’ll be sharing the links, and that’s what I encourage people to do. We have a newsletter, it’s called the “Escape Adulthood Insider.” We have such a cool community of people, a lot of them are homeschooling, but we are always sharing fun ideas like this. That’s the place sign up for that, it’s totally free. Most of our best ideas come from our community and then we share them in our speaking programs and newsletter and things like that. So, we are always excited to share some of the fun things that people come up with.
PAM: And like you said, those are so simple, aren’t they, and they are so easy to do, it’s not like you have to get supplies or be prepared or anything like that.
JASON: Or permission!
PAM: It’s just like a little light switch in your head that says, of course, we can try that, we can do that! Like you said, it’s just getting over those voices in our heads that say, “That’s silly. That’s stupid. Don’t do that. You’re going to look silly. They are going to think badly of you.” And that’s really just all in our head, and what you’re doing to that waiter or waitress is just flicking that light a little bit for them too, that light switch.
KIM: It’s contagious, it is!
JASON: We do, we have that voice, that they are gonna laugh at you, they are gonna think weird of you, but we never stop to consider that maybe we will be the bright point in that person’s day. Maybe we will give them permission to do the same. Maybe we will be that lightbulb moment for them. Why don’t we consider that? That might be a valid reason…I use that with car dancing, you can dance, and then you get to the stop light. Whenever I see car dancing or see someone belting out, you just know that they are singing, I’m like, “You GO!” It makes me feel good to see them just going for it! So, I think we need to have that on the same level as a valid thing that could happen when you’re willing to have a bit of fun ourselves.
PAM: I love that way. I talked quite a bit about that when we are just out there just living unschooling out in the world. We have different relationships with our children. People notice that, right? We are just out there planting seeds, and for me, all the work that you’re doing and seeds you are planting, not only are they fun and freeing for us, and bring some joy back into our world but they open up our perspective on things.
We see more when we are more open because we are not always trying to protect ourselves from being judged by other people. Once we can release that, we see so much more and we have so much more fun, doing the same things. We are still going out to dinner! But we are also planting seeds. Like you said, when we see it in other people, we’re not judging them, but we think everybody else is judging us if we do it. But no, you get out there and we plant those seeds and oh, that’s so fun. I love that. I love that idea.
PAM: Thank you so much for chatting with me! It was such a fun conversation, guys! Thanks for making the time.
JASON: Our pleasure. Our very great pleasure to be with you, and you know, the homeschooling and unschooling, it’s not something that we get to talk about that much.
We love it, because it is so passionate, and to be able to talk to an audience who is interested in it is exciting, because again you don’t have to worry so much about, “Oh, I don’t want to offend them,” or whatever. It’s very passionate for us and I can see us doing that even more as we go forward as we ambassador in some way for that. So, thank you for having us.
KIM: Thanks for the work that you do Pam.
PAM: Thank you, thank you! And thanks again, and please, tell us the links, I mean I will put them all in the show notes, but tell us again where people can connect with you online.
JASON: Yeah, you can go to escapeadulthood.com, that’s our home base where we have everything. On the social media channels, it’s basically the same thing, it’s escape adulthood. And we also have a cool community that we just launched, and it’s called escapeadulthood.me, and it’s what we call our escape adulthood league and it’s a free community of people from all over the world who are sharing their tips and ideas. And we just recently started a homeschooling group within it, so we are hoping that people who are listening to this will jump into that group and talk about how adultitis sneaks into homeschooling and unschooling and what are some of our stories to share and things like that and so we invite people to check us out there as well. So yeah, that’s the big thing
KIM: Yeah, thanks for asking.
PAM: No problem at all, and I love all the stuff that you guys have been doing, And your art is amazing, Jason. I really enjoyed looking at that for ages. I encourage anyone at all who’s interested in that to go check it out. I think it’s awesome.
KIM: Thanks. You too Pam.