PAM: Now let us dive into the later teen years. The second place where I typically see challenges come up for parents, is the transition into young adulthood. At this point, the societal expectations can get really daunting for both us and for them.
So, let us start with that ubiquitous, “What about college?” And let us ask this of ourselves first, right? Some parents who have chosen unschooling for their kids growing up do expect them to go to college, but we have been talking about expectations throughout this whole thing and that can sometimes cause friction.
And it is so important for us to ask, is college the necessity that it is made out to be? You know, and there is no right or wrong answer here, right? Certainly, from our children’s perspective, that is where we might be able to get to as parents.
How can we find our way through this question, of “What about college?”
SUE: Yeah, I think it is a lot of that personal work too, you know, that you have got to look at what you consider success. What do you think successful teen years end in? Do you think it ends in college? Do you think it ends in a great career? A great relationship?
Do you think that success…even as I am saying that, I am starting to think maybe we just need to pull that out of our language all together, because just like we went from childhood to teen years, from teen years to young adult, did we say, “That was a successful childhood!” We do not say that. So why can’t we just say, they are living and growing and loving and learning.
PAM: Why do we all of a sudden get to define what their success looks like?
SUE: Right. I think that is ego on our part. I like to think of Facebook as such an interesting view on a cross section of parents, you know. And clearly a lot of people view success as college to great career. Well, first of all we know that college does not mean great career. The fact of the matter is a lot of people do not even do what they went to college for, so I think that when we start to dismantle some of that societal expectation of what does success look like, and instead remember that from an unschooling standpoint, we do not get to pick for them what is going to be successful or not successful or what their path is going to be.
Next week I turn 58, and I can tell you that there will be many job changes all throughout life; careers, giant career shifts. So, let’s not get all bent out of shape over getting that college degree. And if you find yourself saying, “They have got to have that college degree.” Why? Does it matter to what they want to be? If they want to be a doctor; okay, they are going to have to have a college degree. So, then you do the stuff that needs to happen to get there, but you do not have to.
I think that college is such a huge topic, because the success part is huge, because we have to kind of dismantle that mentally for ourselves. That it is okay whatever they choose. It is okay that they do not choose. It is okay if they wait to choose. There is no pressure to make a decision until you are ready to make a decision. And when you take that pressure away, then you can make decisions.
Sometimes that pressure is what is immobilizing everybody, you know. And so, I think that we have to look at the reality of our lives in this society. Some careers need college degrees and some do not and one is not better than the other.
You know, I know people without college degrees and they make way more than the people I know with college degrees, so that is not a factor. I think that a lot of money in the world goes towards making sure we all think that college degrees are the answer and I think we have to be good consumers, you know. We have to really think about whether that is really how I want to spend my money. Is this really what we want? It may be! You might have money to burn and you just want them to have the experience and they want to do it, and okay, that is fine. I do not really know many people like that.
But I think we have to kind of try to get off that conveyer belt to college and really think about what are the next steps that are going to happen and what is necessary, because a lot of parents of teenagers end up thinking they have to spend those teen years prepping for college. That if they do not get ready, then that door will close and they will not have that as an option. So, they may be okay, so I am fine with the idea that college may be yes, may be no, but I do not want the door to close. I do not want them to come to me at 17 and say, “You did not prepare me and now I cannot be a doctor.”
PAM: Well that is a great point, you know.
That is kind of part of the next question; what if they do decide that they want to go to college?
How can we help with that? Because I know that is part of your experience and so I just want to, reintegrate your point, that I think again, is our work to do, just to question why we might be holding this expectation that college is “it,” like they need to go to college, that it is the only path forward and we go back to that word success, right?
SUE: I know, that is the hardest thing.
PAM: Yeah, and why is it the only way, why is it so important to you? These are all questions, and there are no right or wrong answers, truly. This is your own family; it is about understanding yourself and where these things are coming from.
SUE: I think a little of it though, is school conditioning. I think that school completely conditions us to stay in school, go to college, you will be the straight A student, you will be the one who succeeds in life.
PAM: Yeah, I think that is what you are going to find when you ask that question.
SUE: All the kids have heard that growing up and we have certainly heard that growing up, and then we have heard it reinforced year after year.
PAM: When your kids get to those late teen years, they are asked that all the time, right? What college are you going to? You know, what are you going to do? Like, you were talking about all the different careers and everything, we are still fixated with, “What are you going to be?” as in there is only ever one thing, you know; go to college, be whoever you are going to be.
SUE: Yeah, I have got to tell you, my daughter who is a hairstylist, she is actually making more money than my college graduates, but she often has clients sit in her chair and say, “Well this is all fine and good, but are you going to go back to school? Are you going to go to college? Like what she is doing is not good enough, or is not a legit career and it is a pretty legit career. I think it is weird.
PAM: I think it is a judgment.
SUE: I am just thinking, should I say it, but they are not going to watch this. It is so intrusive to make that kind of a judgment call on somebody and it is because we believe in society, that this is the right way and this is the “a” way and we just assume that everybody is in complete agreement with it, you know. And I think that when we think, “Well why do I think that?” That is one of the reasons why; because all of society inundates us with this idea that you better go to college if you want to amount to anything?
Let’s touch on that question of people that might be worried that they are closing the door. That their child as a teen needs to be prepping for this possibility. Can you speak to that?
SUE: Yeah, um no, you do not have to prep. You know, no prep required. So, somebody says, “Well they are not going to just learn algebra on their own,” kids that really love math probably will. Lots of us are actually learning algebra all the time. We are learning algebraic concepts all the time.
When we are deciding how long do we have until we have to get somewhere, and do I have enough gas in the car? I mean those are all algebraic equations that we are figuring out. We have somehow made them some big deal, but the truth of the matter is, that if somebody decides I want to be a such and such, and they really want to, they will do it. I mean, they can do an internship in it, they can talk to a lot of people, they can take classes, they can take classes online, they can take community college classes. They can do what they need to do.
They do not have to sit there and work their way through all the workbooks so they know percentages and they know where decimals are. Real life is giving them some opportunities to purchase things, and to add things up and to make guesses about stuff and when they go to take a community college class, and they have to do the placement exam, it will tell them where they need to be. And it may not be that you are going to start at this level up here. You may start down here, and that is okay too, because then they will teach it to you.
One of the things that Katie said, when she went and she did what she considered really poorly on the placement exams, because this was a kid who had jobs, she was making money and out in the world, but she also spent a lot of time on acting and dance and voice and theatre, and so she was doing nothing as far as that kind of prep that people would do for college, and so when she went to take the placement exam, she did not score that well.
And at first, she really felt bad and you know, I was trying to figure out how to handle this, so we went back the next year, and the counselor said, “You know, you can just take the classes, you do not even have to retake the test, and she said, “Well that is what I will do” and she did.
And she said, “Mom, I traded three semesters of developmental classes for 12 years of school, and I sat in a classroom filled with people who never got to be in a theatre production because they were so busy in school. And there they are, sitting in the same place that I am sitting.”
PAM: Yeah, that is one of the hugest things for people to remember. If you have been unschooling for years and you decide that you want to go to college, comparing yourself to people who have trained for this for 12 years, I mean, it is like apples and oranges, right. It is not like you were sitting around doing nothing. Like she said, she has been doing voice, theatre, and all these other things. Just because they are not things that are on this particular test, or curriculum, they are learning so much and they have been learning about themselves.
Adrian on a recent episode, she said that one of the big things she noticed is that she understood herself. She did not even really know through all of those years of unschooling that she was learning about herself but that is what she figured out when she was in an environment where kids, teens, young adults had not had the opportunity to have that time to understand themselves.
So, you know, thinking they are behind—never. They are not behind. They are only behind if you compare them to the school system, but they are just jumping in now and this is something they want to do now, and if they take some developmental courses to catch up, like she said, she will take these few courses over a year and a half versus 12 years of being in there. It is being able to make her choices in the moment instead of spending all that time, you know, prepping for what if.
SUE: And all that time before their brain is even ready, you know. So here you are saying, “Okay, I want a little college graduate. I do not care what he studies, I do not care what he does, but I want to raise a college graduate. So, we will start prepping at age 14 and what is happening is they might as well be in school. The point of unschooling is to help them direct their life course.
Now, as parents, we can kind of manipulate the situation so their only option for a successful life is that college path, so we have to guard against that. It is not the only option and so sometimes, as unschooling parents, we tend to prioritize the relationship, prioritize the idea that they are going to be making the choices they need to make.
I know that the question then comes up of, okay, but they do not even know what they do not know, so they do not realize they are going to be shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to becoming something because they did not do any of the prep work.
Okay, if you have a kid and say the kid wants to be a vet or say the kid, in the end, is going to be a vet. What probably happened during those teen years is that they did a lot of stuff with animals. And maybe they showed up at a vet clinic or maybe they worked at the humane society, or maybe they worked at an animal hospital and walked the dogs, or maybe they rubbed shoulders with other vets, you know.
They started to see other ways that they could do that. So, they were logging in real life experiences that you do not get at all if you go to school. But they get to start to amass those where they can feel good about, like, this part of it but not this part of it. Well, I thought I wanted that, but I do not really want that, I want it more like this. And then when they decide okay, I am 17 or 18, I would like to become a whatever, they can take the community college class, and they will teach it to them, so that they can then transfer over.
Nobody at vet school cares what your 14 year old was doing, although, if when you are doing an admissions thing, and you get to say, “I worked at this dog training place. I did all of these animal things,” you suddenly stand out. You look great. You look like a person with a much higher likelihood that you are going to be successful in their college because you know what you are after, as opposed to some kid that just sat through school for 12 years and they said, “Oh, I want to be a marine biologist, even thought I live in Kansas, and I have never been out on the ocean.”
The odds are, we do not really know whether you are going to be successful at this. So, I think that when they get to do the things that are interesting to them, and then they move in that direction, and then they take the higher-level courses that they need to take. They did not have to take percentages, and they did not have to write a research paper. They will write them in college. It will be okay, they will do fine.
PAM: They will figure it out because that is what they have been doing their whole life.
SUE: You have until age 80. Or at age 8, write a book report because that is the first step towards the research paper, which is the only way to get into the college. No. This is all totally artificial. This is all just something school made up and sold to us. It is not true; anybody can be anything and they did not have to do years and years of prep work to get there.
Even if at 17 they decide to take an SAT, that they want the freshmen year experience. Maybe they would want that, maybe. And if they do, then they would take the SAT and they would just work their way through it. It is okay; it does not take that long to do.
PAM: Because now it is their choice.
SUE: Yeah, and if you are in June and you are like, “I want the freshmen experience this fall,” um no, you probably are not going to be able to pull that off.
PAM: That is a little less likely, because as you say, you know, it organically grows in that direction over years. As you look back, you can see the threads that are leading in that direction. It is unlikely that it is going to be a last minute, 90-degree turn. And I mean if it is, it is, and you deal with it, but it is highly unlikely.
Something else probably came in that influenced that 90-degree turn, like it is not just going to happen out of the blue. Something will have motivated it and you might not see that for ages, but I mean, when it is their choice, even if it is not something super fun, they have a goal, they have an aspiration, they have a reason for wanting to get through that and that is the motivation and they will learn so much faster, rather than seeing it as an obligation or something I need to do to prepare.
SUE: Well, in fact, you end up creating obstacles if you make a kid do something way before they are ready to, way before they see value in it, then when the time comes that they need to do it, then they kind of have all that resistance to it, because they have had all these years of having this really unfun thing going on in their world.
And you know, I think that sometimes people think, well how are going to buckle down and do it, if they have never had to do that before, and the truth is, all of us buckle down and do whatever we have to do if we decide we want it.
PAM: And you know what, I bet they have, and we just have not recognized it. They have buckled down to finish that game.
SUE: Yes, even when they are playing their computer games, they beat something because they wanted the next level. It was not because they really liked this part of it, but they stayed with it, because they knew there was something on the other side that they wanted. They are learning how to do that, all the time.
PAM: That is not something that you have to train for. That is something that happens naturally.
SUE: I love that phrase you are using, about training for it. There is no training. You do not have to train for it.
SUE: And in fact, the only thing, Kathy Early wrote this great article about how we have this chunking that happens in our brains and it allows us to have hooks, so that if we have had lots of life experiences as a child and as a younger teen, then when we are older teens, and we are taking a more abstract approach at learning something, we have all of these real life experiences to hook into. To have it make more sense to us.
And that is what school kids do not have a lot of, and that is why a lot of us can remember our school experience as, “Oh, I was just trying to make it through, it makes no sense to me whatsoever,” because there was not something to hook it into, you know.
PAM: Yeah, no connection to your real life. Okay, that is a great point, that is a huge piece because, you know, when they are choosing college as something that they want to do, not as something like here are all the college courses and you get to choose which one you do, but choosing it because I want to pursue it and it looks like I might enjoy taking that path.
I loved your math example way back, because I had Alec Traaseth on the podcast and he just went to college, he did not prep for it, and now I think he is doing his masters in a math related program, you know, you do not need all of that prep work, just in case. Wanting something for yourself is a great motivation to get through it, and I think he started at a pre-college and then moved to a different college, that is the whole thing. There is no one right way. There is no wrong way to do it. If things come up, we find a way for them to work for us, and we are so motivated at that point.
Okay, now I want to jump to the bigger picture. That was a pretty big picture but another common and, I love this question that comes from unschooling parents of teens:
How can we help and support them as they grow up and into the world?
So yes, we just dove deep into that college question, but there are so many other possibilities right, like getting a job or travelling or transitioning into paid work in their interest or passion field and so on. There are so many other choices and possibilities. And this is something that is really interesting for me, not only around choosing what to do, but exploring who they are as a person and young adult.
So, I was hoping you could share a bit about how you supported your kids as they moved through these choices and transitions. It is not all about college. I think generally it is kind of the same, because as unschooling parents, we are supporting them and helping them through all of their different choices, but let us just talk a little bit about how we can do that. How we can help them.
SUE: Well, and I think that a lot of that is kind of a continuation of what we always have done, in that you look at that kid in front of you, whether that kid is 14 or 24. You look at that kid in front of you and you see what do they need? What do they need to do for themselves? What do I need to help them with? What is interesting to them? What exposure? Because I still have more life experience than them. What exposure do I need to give to them so that they can start to make some choices for their life?
I think that transitioning can look really different and sometimes it is a super long path and it has to do with just living together and being okay with their choices, and helping them figure out, “Where do you want to go next?” “What do you want to do?” Without actually asking that, because I think that sometimes we think of that and then it is, “I dunno.” So instead, our job is to observe enough that we can kind of toss something out there and say, “Hey, let’s go to such and such,” and they can be “Alright,” and then you get to see, are they interested in it, or not interested in it?
And I think that all three of my kids; they knew where they wanted to go. It was just my job to help give them resources for how to do that. And for me to not try to say, “I think you should do this,” you know, and I think that that is truly undermining when you do that, because what happens is that their choice, what they would like to do, they realize that you are not crazy about that choice, and so they either have to risk not getting your approval or being the rebel, and depending on their personality, I guess it depends on which way that will go.
I am just trying to think of each of the courses that each of them took. I just supported where they wanted to go and I did not have my own agenda of what should happen next, because really nature takes care of that. Nature moves them out of the house, even if finances move them back in sometimes. Because that happens too, but it is okay, you just support them where they are and the more they get used to making decisions for themselves, then you are just there to help them, you know.
So, I think that Michael wanted to travel from early age, we had an exchange student when he was 12 and so by 16 he was going to Japan because he wanted to be an exchange student and then he wanted to do more cultural community service stuff and then decided he wanted to be in the peace core and then he discovered he really had to have college for that, because they require a college degree, and so he got one. And so, my job was to kind of help him figure out how to make those paths.
Katie wanted to be an actress, always wanted to be an actress, and you know that is not a career that somebody that is looking for something that is a nice, steady, stable career. But does it make her happy? Yes. So, is that the goal to help them have a happy life? Yeah, and so does she have some skills to make enough money if there is no acting gig, yeah. Is she driving an Uber sometimes? Yeah. That is okay, you know.
Something about when you think back about your own 20’s, you made all kinds of choices that led you to where you are right now. Your kids are going to too, and that is okay and it is far more important that they have a parent that supports them and says, “Hey, you can make that choice, let’s go that way.” And that works.
PAM: Well, I think one thing, you know, the different possibilities, as the question was getting a job or travelling or that kind of stuff, how do we support that? It is supporting them all the same way, it is not actually doing something different and it is not like you need to sit them down and say, “Okay, what do you want to do? Do you want to get a job now? Do you want to go travelling?”
SUE: “It is time for adulthood.”
PAM: These things are just growing up. They are growing up and they are going to have different things that they want to do and like you said, it is all about supporting whatever it is that they are trying to accomplish. Maybe it is helping them.
For Lissy, it was figuring out finding that first apartment for her in New York City, and after that she found her own apartments after that. Not that I would not have helped her, but that was something she took over when she got there. It was something new she wanted to explore, she was 18, and she wanted to go try it out. We found a great place for her for two months, you know, we worked through all sorts of things to try to figure out how to make it work and everything. She went and she loved it and she wanted to stay, right, but she made connections and she knew people there, and then she found that she could be a roommate there, so she moved. It is not something that you can think about and solve ahead of time; it is all in the moment.
SUE: That is so true.
PAM: Yeah, you cannot think too far ahead.
SUE: But you know, so you are there. I am just thinking that it worked like that for my guys too, and then there would be something, because nothing is ever like a straight line, you know. So, Katie was off at an acting conservatory, and next thing you know, she has the flu. So, she has this roommate that she is not really connecting well with, and that is okay, they were in this little dorm, and she gets sick. She throws up in the elevator, and who is going to take care of her? She is in New York, and I am in Texas. So, I discover how to do food delivery to her and get her some soup. Next thing you know, she texts a friend who picks something up and says, “Oh, that was you who threw up in the elevator?” And you know, she is like, “Oh, I am so embarrassed,” and you are there to help when they ask for help. And you provide the help. And I did not need to say, “See? You should have gone to university because then you would have been in Austin and I could have just come on over there and helped you.”
PAM: No, you do not do that.
SUE: No. Instead you are like, “Okay, so let’s figure this out. Let me look online and see food delivery,” you know because it was a few years ago. Now it is super easy to have all kind of deliveries, but back then it was just starting and it was complicated. But we figured it out, and so I think that is the perfect example of how you continue to meet them where they are and help without an expectation of “You ought to be able to do this.”
PAM: Yeah, the point too that is really interesting, because our kids are different too. Like, people, teens, young adults. They are all different. So, with my daughter, I knew she wanted to go to New York City, and we talked about it a lot, and over the months we figured out this plan and everything. With Michael wanting to travel, and I mean, I knew he talked about that, but then it is like, “Hey mom, come here and look. I found these flights. Maps of the whole thing.” He says, “I am going to buy them now,” because it is all about their process, right. So, it is coming into that minute, and it is like, “Did you think about this? What about this?” We have a 20-minute conversation and then he books the flights. It is just different processes. So, who we are is whom they need.
SUE: And sometimes they are going to mess up. Sometimes they are not going to do it perfectly or they could have done a different flight that would have been a better price. That is okay; you do not have to get in there and fix it all and make it all better.
PAM: Yes. It is theirs. They own it because this is what they want to do. This is how they learn about it if I want to go in and say, “Let me go look at flights,” implicitly saying, “I can find a better price for you,” no it is like, you want to buy it.
SUE: Maybe you can. That could be actually true, but do they then doubt themselves? The price you pay is way more than the price of the flight, you know. The price is that they do not have confidence in their own ability and you just keep cutting them out at the knees.
PAM: Because you know what? We do not do everything perfectly.
PAM: And we are always making our choices, right.
SUE: And I think it is really important to think back to your early 20’s and all the mistakes you made and how you were able, as a parent, to grow from that. So, you might say, “I do not want them to have to make the mistakes I made,’ well they are not going to. They have a completely different agenda of mistakes ahead of them. And that is okay, because it is theirs and they will figure it out and they will move forward and you just have to be okay with it.
And that to me was one of the hardest things, as they got older, their decisions were bigger. Their decisions were sometimes harder to deal with, but I guess that is why all of parenting is a good on ramp for the next level that you are coming to. You know, it is all the same, really. It is about meeting them where they are, valuing their decisions, seeing that even though those decisions may not be your choice. Part of choice is that they get to say no, you know. Or else it is not a choice.
PAM: That is a huge piece, is understanding that our kids are different from us and that a choice that they make, may be very good for them and may not turn out, and it may be completely different from the one that we would make if it was us in that position, but it is not us, it is them.
So, you can see how they are getting to the decision and the choice they are making, right. You know, if you understand them enough, you will see how they are coming to that, and even if you think, “Well, I am not sure…” but it again is not my choice to make it.
Michael called me and asked me for my input at that point in his process. Lissy asked earlier in her process. It is being there for whenever you can be helpful for them and adding your two cents. I think one of the differences maybe, we talked about this a little bit before the call. When parents are asking, when my kids are teens, how am I going to support them, because it can look different?
When you have younger kids, a lot of our support is helping them get to the place, helping them learn about the thing, you know. They want to play soccer or they want to learn about robots. It is a lot of fact-based stuff, activity-based stuff, play. It is a lot of supporting of the doing, and then when they get older, when they hit the teen years and the young adult years, it is so much more about the being. About who they want to be, about making choices, about developing that level of self-awareness and understanding of themselves. It is so much more philosophical, so much more emotional. It is so much more relationship-based. Understanding how they mesh with other people, how they mesh with things in the world. What is it that they like to do? How can they accomplish that?
SUE: And developmentally, that is where they are. They were not developmentally able to do that at eight.
PAM: Yeah, I know, so it was a lot more hands on when they were younger, so I think now maybe part of the question too, is now there is a lot more conversation. And it is a lot more being that other person that they can bounce things off of, that person that can give them some feedback for a situation when they are looking for some feedback on it, right, versus stepping in.
So, I think maybe that may be some of the answers that they are looking for, that that is kind of the difference between unschooling in the childhood years, versus unschooling in the teen years. Of course, we support them by driving them places and getting them things, but that becomes less part of our job. As I was saying earlier, at this point, they do not need us to look up a lot of information for them, to help them find things and learn specific things. They know how to do that now. They know how to learn. They are Googling things, they are tinkering with things, they are figuring things out. They are learning about things and all that kind of stuff they can take care of learning on their own, and just ask when they have a question.
So, we are less involved when they get older, in that side of their learning and so much more as they are weighing things out, do I want to be the person that acts like this, or says this, or you know, what sort of choices can I make in this decision. Who is going to feel bad if I do this? You know, it is so much more moral, philosophic, so many more of our conversations.
SUE: Well, you are much more in kind of a friend status, even as it evolves. Lots of time you hear “You are not their friend,” well you kind of are, you know. If you can do this in a way that is not manipulative.
If you can just be the friend that listens and bounces ideas off of, and “have you thought about this?” and you know, watches to see how they reacted to that? Did they prefer that I not give them input at this time? Maybe it is the kind of thing that you can say, “Are you just looking to bounce the ideas off or do you want input?” And maybe they will say, “No, I just really want to talk it out loud and then I will be able to know what to do next. Great, be that person for them.
PAM: Yeah, when they say, “Do not be their friend, it is ridiculous. But you know it is not a friend, as in “Ra ra ra, whatever you want to do.”
SUE: Well and it is not a friend, like I am going to tell them my problems about something. It is not a two-way normal friendship. It is an “I give” friendship.
PAM: Well now, I mean, if I am having challenges about something…
SUE: That is true, I have many times gone to them and said, “What would you do about this?” and they give their input, and that is cool, you know.
PAM: It is about knowing the person. There are some friends you do not take some things to, because they are not going to be able to give you any useful feedback or it is going to change something for them, you know, it is understanding the person.
SUE: I feel like that anti-friend thing has to do with keeping it in a real authority, keeping everybody in their casts. Make sure you know where you are, and where I am.
PAM: The hierarchy, yeah. I feel that is where it comes from, but then when you say, “No, I am their friend,” if they are looking in that hierarchal way, they are saying, “Oh, well then you are just a permissive kind of person,” they do not understand what we mean when we say be friends with our kids. They are imagining something completely different too.
SUE: Well and they are thinking that you are going to be drinking buddies or something. It is not exactly what we mean.
PAM: It is still a different relationship.
SUE: I think just the whole unschooling parenting gig is so different than what anybody thinks it is and we cannot even really firm it up, you know.
PAM: Because we are all individual people.
SUE: It is so individualized. I think that when we say individualized, we mean it. As opposed to school that says it is individualized. School’s individualizing is like saying, “Which shirt do you want to wear, the red one or the blue one?” and calling that individualizing. While we are like, “Naked today?” you know, let’s wear whatever. PJs all day?
PAM: It goes back to when we were talking earlier about all the additional things that might be in the constellation of that individual, you know. Whether it is physical challenges, all the kind of things that make them individual.
PAM: All of those, because you are engaging with them as that whole person that they are. And whatever it is that they are having challenges with, want a little bit of help with, or just you notice they are having challenges with. Those are the kinds of things they are going to bring to the table, it is not just about academics or normal things or anything like that. Whatever—it is life, right. And we are helping each other with life.
Okay. One last question…
SUE: Well, I was just going to say that I just want to go back to that part about prepping them, because lots of times when we think about unschooling and teenage years, we think that we have to shift from that way that they were and I think that when we really understand unschooling, and we understand that we are connecting to this person in front of us, and looking all of their nuances and relating and connecting and helping and fueling, and it is that dance of sometimes we lead and sometimes we let them, and it continues on through the teen years.
You do not have to have a big shift; you do not have to suddenly turn all academic. You do not suddenly turn into let’s prep them for this other thing. It is just not necessary, and I think that sometimes people think that, but I do not. I do not even know why I wanted to say that. I just visualize this whole childhood thing and I do not want to think you are doing it like this and then we turn and do it like this; no you do not have to do that.
SUE: And doors do not close. Did we ever finish the idea that we are afraid doors are going to close; doors are not going to close. They really are not. They are all open.
If anything you are opening more doors because now you have a kid who is starting to be more confident in their own choices and they are given all kinds of opportunities to explore because if you are busy saying, “Okay, now we are shifting to this more academic way,” that is time they do not get to explore the other stuff, and that is really critical. That getting to know yourself and getting to know what you would like to do and be and not just get on some conveyer belt, you know, suddenly unschooled until the conveyer belt onramp.
PAM: I love that point. I love the point that when you get to the point in unschooling where it is about helping them as a person do what they want to do, right and you see yourself as that extra set of hands, that person that they can bounce things off of and you are just there to help them figure these things out.
And sometimes it does not look hands on. It looks very different because it depends on the individual, but that is what carries you from that moment you figure that out until you are both in the old age home, or whatever. Until you are at the end of your lives because that is a relationship between two people and you know, things are going to change.
Like I was talking about earlier, the help that they are going to need when they are younger is more likely going to look this way, and the help that they need as they get older is going to kind of look like this way. And as adults, the help is going to look totally different too.
SUE: Because you are so connected to them. Michael turns 30 next month and I am still having conversations with him about work or about our neighborhood or you know, it is just different, it is more.
PAM: That is being in relationship with them. It does not look the same, I do not know every last detail of their lives now, because they are older, but we are still connected, we still have conversations, we still connect and enjoy things. We still bring each other questions when we have questions or challenges, and sometimes we go through a time when we are helping them more when they are going through bigger challenging times and sometimes things are going smoothly and we are all kind of doing our own thing and vice versa, you know, as they get older, they help us too and we can bounce things off of them.
It is just being in relationship with another person. So, when you look at the root, at the foundation, it looks the same throughout. How it literally looks day to day over the seasons and over the years changes, but the root of it never does. It is being in relationship and helping each other out, does that make sense?
SUE: Yeah, that is it exactly.
PAM: Awesome, okay. Phew, thank you so much Sue.
SUE: Thank you for letting me meander all over the place. Like now we are going back, now we are going here.
PAM: I think they will see the connections. I think mostly we have a thread through there. Sue, I really appreciate you taking the time; it is a big topic but I think it is so important and we get a lot of questions about it, so I wanted to really dive into it for people.
So, everybody listening, I hope you found something helpful in there, whether you have teens now, or you still have young kids, or whatever, it will give you a bit of an idea of how things might go, etc. You can always comment with questions on the website, on the blog post for the podcast episode, I am sure we will both happily be in there too, if we maybe missed something.
SUE: Yeah, I am already thinking of something….
PAM: Anyway, would you like to tell people how they could get in touch with you online?
SUE: Yeah, they can get in touch with me at suepatterson.com or at unschoolingmom2mom.com and there are lots of ways to get support. Even in my group coaching program and Pam is coming to talk with us this month about what to do when unschooling does not look the way you thought it was going to look, or maybe you are making a lot of comparisons still, what is that about? So, you could join us over there, that is happening at the end of this month and I just find that I really like creating more things for unschoolers.
PAM: I know…
SUE: I just feel like all of these years of information, I just want to find a way to get it to people so that they can have a happier life, so that they do not think, “I have got to do this and duplicate school,” no, you do not have to. So, between a monthly unschooling guide and the group coaching and then one to one coaching, which is really great, because then that just helps you to get on the right track.
There is also Unschoolingmom2mom on Facebook, we have that, and YouTube, and Instagram. It sounds kind of insane really, when I say it all. It did not all start in one year, so that is why. It is a culmination of a lot of things and so you can always reach out and we will see what we can do, because I do an Q and A over on the unschooling Facebook group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if you have a couple of questions; get a little free advice.
Thank you for having me, this is always so fun. We went on and on didn’t we?
PAM: We did, it was awesome. Okay, I will talk to you soon.
SUE: Okay, bye.