PAM: Welcome, I am Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I am here with Heather Clark. Hi Heather.
PAM: I first met Heather at an unschooling conference a few years ago, right? It was Unschoolers Platform, and I have really enjoyed glimpses into their unschooling lives ever since, because we connected online. And I am so happy that she agreed to chat with me and tell us a bit more about their unschooling lives.
To get us started, Heather, can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
HEATHER: Sure. So of course, we are the Clark family and I am Heather and we have my husband James and we have our son Jamie, and he is 12 years old. And then actually we also share households with my mother in law; her name is Sue. And so James is a software developer and his entire team works remotely, and he and I have been married for 19 years now and together for 23. We just had our anniversary last week.
PAM: Oh, that is sweet. Ours in coming up. 23, I think.
HEATHER: Yeah, once you think about it…
PAM: I know right. Just kind of living it and every once in awhile it is like, oh…by June I will figure it out.
HEATHER: Exactly. So I manage websites for a living. Like I said, James is a developer and then of course Jamie, our son, he just recently turned 12 years old and his big thing is also computer related. He is into game development right now, and digital art, so that is kind of his passion right now.
PAM; Oh, that is awesome. That is fun, isn’t it. The connections between everybody, right.
HEATHER: It is, yeah. And his is obviously kind of in a different direction from the two of us, but it is still somewhat related.
PAM: Yeah, I know. Mike has been doing some game development on the side too, and I used to program many years ago, but you know, it is completely different software and everything but it is the same approach right. The same solving a puzzle thing when you run into something that is not working and trying to debug it and figure out how things are going.
I would love to hear the story of how you guys discovered unschooling and what your family’s move to unschooling looked like.
HEATHER: Sure, well actually just a little bit about our parenting approach and how that went into our unschooling, if that is okay. So, from the beginning we have kind of been independent thinkers and I do not think it was any surprise at all to our family that we are doing things in a somewhat non-traditional way.
We started with our pregnancy. I was on a lot of forums and places for attachment parenting and unschooling had come up there. Homeschooling more specifically, but I had heard of unschooling, but we knew we wanted to homeschool because we knew we wanted to travel and also because our attachment parenting from the very beginning kind of lead things down a different path. We decided almost immediately that we wanted someone home with Jamie, we did not want to put him in daycare.
We were already letting him sleep and wake when he wanted, which was different from what everybody was telling us to do, and he was bed sharing with us which was different from what people thought we should be doing. And so, we were kind of already down that alternative path.
Then Jamie was about two years old and he still was not speaking, so we started to look into that and what might be going on there and we figured out that our state had an early intervention program, from birth to age three, where they will give free evaluations and offer services. So, we went down that route trying to figure out what was going on with his no talking and that kind of diverted us for a bit. They offered speech services at our house and that was going fine. Jamie was not getting a lot out of it, but he also was not disliking it, so we continued until right when he was about to turn three.
They pushed very hard for us to put him in preschool when he turned three. So, even though we had been planning to homeschool the whole time, they were pushing so hard on us, telling us how much that they thought that that would help, and just how important that they felt that that was. Because he was aging out of their early intervention services, they wanted him to go into this school based services. So, they really pushed on us for that.
So, probably as much to get them off of our backs more than anything, we thought well, let’s consider preschool. We will look at it. So, we looked around and we found a Montessori styled preschool that we thought about sending him to and so even though it felt so wrong, we decided to send him to preschool and see if it really helped like they said that it would. They thought that if we got him away from home, he would have to talk and if he had the other kids there, he would have the social motivation and he would want to talk all of a sudden. We quickly figured out that that was absolutely wrong and we should have trusted our instincts.
That was our only foray into school but immediately I started looking into sticking with our homeschooling plan. I started looking around and started finding out more about unschooling and that is when I started to look for resources. So, I joined some, at the time it was Yahoo groups, Always Unschooled and Unschooling Basics and some of those and we just kind of went from there and did not look back.
Unschooling came really naturally to our family, it already fit in with what we felt like we were doing with our Attachment Parenting, and so the more we learned, the more we stepped into radical unschooling. We started learning more and just little by little we just kept adding more and more of those pieces in and so Jamie has had like four days of school, and we have just continued our non-traditional path other than those few days and moved on with things from there.
PAM: That is an awesome story and thank you for sharing that whole background, I really love how that flowed. I am curious how, during those four days of school, you said you quickly knew that it was not going to be a good fit for you guys and that dove you back into homeschooling and finding unschooling etc. I was just curious how that turn went. You know, was Jamie not enjoying it? Was it something that you saw? I was just curious about that.
HEATHER: Sure, from the very beginning we were concerned because he did not have the speech and so he would not be able to tell us if something was wrong, and we were not sure if he was going to be great at things like following directions. They had told us that he just had expressive speech issues. So, he was not talking, we knew that, but what we did not realize is that once we got him out of the home environment, we found out that he also had receptive speech issues.
So, he was not understanding what was going on and what was being said to him in the classroom, and so he obviously was not following their directions at all. And a lot of things just did not make sense to him or to us, for instance in some Montessori environments, and this just happened to be one, they are kind of rigid about how they have their things set up in stations. So, for instance, he wanted to use this spray bottle that was for the window washing task, but he wanted to use it for the plant watering task and spray the plants with the spray bottle, and he got in trouble for that, because that is not how they are meant to be used.
Or for instance they told us that he was moving through activities too quickly; he would do something and finish it, and he felt that was good enough. They wanted him to keep doing that activity over and over again, to master it and that was just not working.
So every single day they were telling us, you know, that he was doing things wrong and we just were not comfortable with that because, you know, it was his first foray into preschool, he had just turned three years old, and we were already getting reports that everything he was doing was wrong and needed to be changed. And then they started suggesting that we also change how things were going for us at home, and start to enforce their school based rules at home, and we were not at all comfortable with that.
PAM: Oh, no. Thank you very much for sharing that. That makes so much sense; that was part of our transition too, I mean, it took me way longer, but the person that they are at home, that we know and we understand. Like, you said, you knew him even though, you know, he was not able to express himself yet, or maybe even picking up not as many clues, or certainly in a whole new environment, right. And trusting them more than trusting the outside voices right, and what they were trying to mold. That is beautiful.
So, let us jump ahead now, I know you guys travel, and last I read you are doing about half of a year travelling and half a year back at your home base, with your husband’s mom, right? That is kind of where your home base is? That is awesome.
And I would love to hear the story about how you guys chose to embrace travel. Now when you were talking about your move to unschooling, you were thinking about travelling when Jamie was very young, right?
PAM: That is cool. I would love to hear the story about how that came about.
HEATHER: Sure, yes, so James and I had already done some travel before we ever had Jamie and right away after we had him, we almost immediately got him a passport. So, his first out of the country trip was when he was just a couple of months old, and so we knew that we liked to travel. For me, travel was a big thing; when I was growing up, I did not get to travel but I was really interested in the world and learning about the world, and so I did everything that I could basically except the travel.
We knew that we wanted to do that with him and so when he was about two years old, we actually came up with this crazy idea that we called our “Boat Plan.” James found out that there were people that lived aboard but there are also people who do that with kids, which is something that we had never even considered. I was a sailor and so we started to look into that and see if that would work for us. We went and took some lessons and started looking at boats and we kind of quickly decided that that was not our route.
Then we thought maybe we could be an RV family, because we know quite a few of those and there are a lot of homeschooling, RV’ing families that we know. That also did not feel quite right to us. So, then we found out that there were people that just travel with their families. Some have a home base, some give up their home base entirely, but that that was something that we totally could do. And we wanted to homeschool anyway, we would not necessary be constrained by the school system calendar and all of those things.
We thought that was doable for our family and so we started making plans to try to step in that direction. Obviously, the hardest thing is how will we afford that and how will we do that, and even though we were both in tech careers, we wanted to find something that we could do remotely from anywhere and so we started trying to form businesses. We tried a number of different things, and our entrepreneurial efforts were just not working out for us. So finally we thought, we just need to work remotely then, and so once my husband was able to find a remote development position, that was it for us. Then we were like, okay, we have no reason to be stuck at home. We can get out into the world now, and so that is what we did.
Our first foray was when we went to the Project World School Family Summit, we were at the first one they ever had in Puerto Morelos, Mexico and we took my mother in law with us for that. It was a week. So that was our first trip, and everybody loved it; we were all excited about it. And so we started stepping up into longer trips and then even longer trips, and so we started doing a month or two months somewhere and then finally last year, we did our longest trip yet, it was five months that we were away from home. So now that is kind of what we are aiming for again this year; I do not know if it will be five months straight or if it will be maybe three months and then another three-month trip, but again, I think it will be about half of the year away from home.
PAM: That is wonderful. I love how you guys just kept trying things, and trying things, right, because that is the point. So many people worrying about failing; worried that I have chosen this thing and I need to make it work and and I need to make it work. Rather than learning little bits from what is going on and then taking another step.
We tried the RV thing too; we thought about that as well after the first couple of years when they were home. We realized we can totally redo and choose how we do our life. And we went to a few RV shows and we did a vacation where we rented one as well, and had that for a week and tried living in it and everything and we too decided that that was not for us, but that was the fun part about it, is exploring it. Explore it enough so that you do not feel like, “Oh gee, I wish…” you know that you are always looking back and wondering. Because you do not know, right? And I did not want that in the back of my head, thinking, maybe life would have been wonderful if we had just done this or whatever.
But to take that and then try something else, and so you went through the boat and the RV, and then trying little trips and I love that you brought your mother in law, so that she is totally bought in and understands why this is important to you and is part of that family picture, right?
HEATHER: She absolutely is and I feel like we are very fortunate on that front, because so many times when you see things about unschooling, you see people in non-supportive families and we have always been blessed to have a very supportive family. We actually combined households a couple of years ago in part to help facilitate our travel plans because if we decide to go somewhere, sometimes she will stay behind, sometimes she will go with us but it just worked out well for us, and so right now we each have a floor of the house. She has the upper floor and we have the lower floor; they are even decorated differently. It kind of worked out together, and she is very supportive and involved in Jamie’s life, and she also really likes to travel with us and so it has worked out really well for us.
PAM: Aw that is beautiful; I love hearing that. And like you said right at the beginning, you know. So much of your life has been alternative right. And to just be open to that, doing things differently now even at that level, at that living together level, which is…the conventional judgment that you need to have your own home to be acceptable, or whatever, so I think that works so well for all of you, doesn’t it?
HEATHER: It does.
I would love to hear a little bit about how your unschooling days look like when you are travelling.
HEATHER: Sure. So, I should say that when we travel it is different from what people think of when they think of vacation. So, we are able to slow our travel. We usually rent places. So, we will rent a house or rent an apartment, so we usually have full access to all of the things that we would have home as far as furniture and space and a kitchen and all of those things. That makes a huge difference, because we are able to set up an environment similar to what we have at home. And since our son’s passions really are…he wakes up every day driven to work on his stuff. He really does; he has the idea in his head of what he is going to work on next and so he has got his art or his game or whatever he is working on, and so we really need to allow time for that when we travel.
So, it is different from vacation. We are not trying to cram activities in every day. What we do is that we try to plan, so the afternoons we are always doing something outside of the house. We are out exploring or we are out going to something or we are on an excursion. But then he still has the evenings to do his activities and so he always knows that he has time for that.
What our days typically look like is kind of a slow wake up in the morning and then outside activities for the afternoon, and then evenings kind of in work mode for myself and for him, and then my husband.
Unfortunately, because he still is in full time work, often his full days are working just like they would be at home. And so again, it is almost just like living in a different place, not how you would think of it as going on a vacation.
PAM: Yeah, and that was something I was hoping to bring out because
vacations are a very different thing and they can be more high stress and also
sometimes I will see people comment, like, “Oh we were away on vacation for a
week or two weeks and they did not play their games,” or whatever it is that
people are stressing about, and they are like, back home, I want them to be
this person too, but we are kind of different people on vacation, right?
Whereas when you are talking about longer term travelling, you are living there. You are setting up your life there, and you are not trying to squeeze in what you are trying to squeeze into a vacation, when you are there for a limited time. With vacation you kind of have the whole week or two weeks planned out. The things that people want to visit. And you know, that is fun and awesome too, and I am already happily planning what we are going to do, but this is a different thing, right?
What you are talking about is embracing this travel and embracing the idea of living your life, just in a different area and you have got new things to look at, you have new foods. It is kind of like meshing your life and your lifestyle along with this whole new environment. Does that make sense?
HEATHER: It is, yeah. It absolutely is like that, and so that is one of the really nice things that we like about travelling is that it is kind of like the ultimate form of strewing.
It just puts new things in your path all of the time, because you cannot help but have everything be different when you are in a new place. You have the different language, the different foods, the different style of dress, you know. People speaking differently, and all of that is just calling for your attention because it is different from how it is at home.
So that is it. We get out and we do not necessarily do a lot of big, major excursions all of the time, either. You know we might do one or two a week at most. A lot of it is just trying to explore where we are and trying to live like the locals live and actually finding out what it is like to live in the new place that we are in. And so even something like going to the grocery store if you are in a country that you have never been in before is like a big adventure.
PAM: That is a big adventure.
HEATHER: Right. And just wandering around those neighborhoods that you have never been in before, you know, each day we can just walk in a different direction and a lot of times, we will play Pokémon Go, and that will lead us to new spots, which is really nice.
PAM: That is brilliant, I love that. Because that is a little piece of consistency too, but a whole new way to explore.
HEATHER: Exactly. And it points out for you some things that you would never think to look for. A lot of times the stops are attached to a statue or street art or something like that, that it brings your attention to all sorts of things.
PAM: Oh wow, yeah, that is brilliant, I love that. And yeah, just ordinary life things, like you said, like just the grocery store, just going for a walk around the neighborhood in different directions, I imagine just going to local parks…it feels like that can be just as much fun and just as interesting and doing the bigger attraction kind of stuff, right.
HEATHER: Yeah, a lot of times it is, and a lot of times the things that you remember the most or that turn out to be the most fun are those kinds of things that were not necessarily that you know, we went to the museum.
PAM: And even the local restaurants, and just the whole atmosphere of it, right?
HEATHER: The other thing is that because Jamie is an only child, we try to plan our travels a lot of times around connecting with other home education or world schooling groups, if the location that we are going to happens to have one of those, so a lot of times we pick based on that. So then, similar to at home when we have homeschool bowling or homeschool swimming each week then, we might join up with the activities from that group. It’s another great way to get to know the area and experience unique things there.
So, for instance, you know, we have the beach day when we are with the world schooling Andalusia group and it is quite different from the swimming that we have at home or whatever, so that is another thing that we try to do.
PAM: Yeah. I did not even think of that; that whole world schooling network right and local unschooling groups, and the whole other way to get into and connect with the community that you are in, right.
So, if long-term travels or long distance travels are not really in families’ mindset right now, I would say, we have been talking about how cool it is just exploring where you are. I think that exploration, that curiosity, that kind of mindset can be valuable for people even when they are not doing all of this kind of travelling. It is really just about embracing curiosity. I think of it as embracing curiosity, because I think to myself, I can stay home, but all of a sudden three weeks pass by.
But if I take that extra little push to be curious, go find out, it opens up my day so much more. And I especially remember being sure to do that when my kids were younger and we were doing more things together, is to use that and knowing that we were choosing unschooling to give myself that little bit extra energy to say, “Hey let’s go explore,” and it always turned out so well when I did that, so I was just wondering if you could speak to that a little bit.
HEATHER: Sure, I definitely think that the curiosity aspect is huge and that is one of the only things that I really try to focus on with our son. I do not necessarily have any goals or educational philosophy, but one of the things is that I try to instill is that curiosity in him and try to bring up those questions and point those things out to him.
So, when we think about it, we are all global citizens now and everything is closer together. So with him, we have specifically tried to emphasize some of those points, but you can see that in your daily life if you just start to look for it. For instance, I am a Splatoon II player, which is just a Nintendo video game. If you start to pay attention to it, you notice that there are people who are on it at different times a day, they are in different time zones, and their names are using different character sets, and all of these different tiny little things that you see that you might now be looking for, but just reinforce those kinds of things.
In the same way, one that we always did at my house when we were growing up, which may seem silly, but we would look at where things were made. So for instance, at supper we would be like, “Where is our ketchup made?” or whatever, you know, just talk about the different places. We just try to keep that curiosity, and so you are absolutely right that you can do that wherever you are.
And sometimes even in your own town or by going one town over, you see and experience things that you never would have thought of and that are so different from home. You are like, “Oh, their streets signs are a different colour from ours and the police cars are different from ours, and whatever, like why is it different here? And so, if you are curious about it, you start to see those differences right away.
But then also, if you are interested in the travel aspects, and you cannot travel, there is a lot that you can do from home and those are the kinds of things that I did when I was growing up. So, for instance, one thing that you can do is, is you can order free brochures from the travel and convention and visitors bureaus, and they will just mail you tons of things. They will mail you these big flashy brochures and postcards and maps and all of this stuff, for free, because they want you to have it.
And it is really fun and there is a lot of look at and to learn about there. In the same way, if you start to think about planning a trip, you can get just as excited and learn just as much sometimes as if you actually went on the trip. And so, we are learning a lot of things when we are planning for our trips.
For instance, Google Maps, in addition to having street view of everywhere, they actually have virtual tours of almost all the major museums around the world. So, you can go in and actually get a better view than when you went to that museum because there is no one in there, and they filmed the whole thing and you can go step by step in every room, you can zoom in on the pictures. So, there is a lot of things that you can do like that if you are curious, without ever leaving your house.
PAM: I love that, yes. Lissy and Michael are very much into travel; enjoy travelling and the idea of travelling. And Joseph is not. You know what he said to me awhile ago, he is like, “I am really good with my imagination, I do not need to be anywhere else in body because I am going all of these places in my imagination.” Which is totally awesome.
But Lissy has had maps for years all around her room of the places that she would like to go; she loves Vegas. And so, for like a year we planned her 18th birthday trip to Las Vegas. Like you said, we got all of this stuff mailed to us, you can go crazy online now, right. And I found these really funky maps; a company that did really cool maps. So, I got the Las Vegas one, and I got the London one, you know, she wants to go to Europe, and surrounded herself. And then she had a big North America one, because we would do driving trips and stuff, and like I said, our RV trip was to the Grand Canyon, and so she is always putting pins or little markers all of the places where we have been.
So, you do not need to be literally travelling to embrace that interest, right. And like you said, you are travelling and you can still embrace your son’s interests that are not specifically about it. Last fall Michael took a trip over and went to Norway and the UK and a few weeks ago, he has a virtual reality set and we did the Google VR street view stuff in Norway and so I had this on and he is beside me, telling me, “Oh yeah, I went there, I walked down that street,” like I was literally beside him enjoying his trip as he was describing it to me, like, “Oh yeah, I went in there and then they had this in there and oh I went to this part,” and I was recognizing landmarks from his pictures and everything, so there are just so many ways to embrace that isn’t there, without leaving home at all.
HEATHER: Exactly. And you are right. It is just about that curiosity and that mindset to look for those things and for me, I guess to also point those things out, I guess…
PAM: Because that is what you are interested in, right. Because you are interested not only just in travel, but as you said, in being curious and noticing the things around you. Like you said, it is not like I have a learning plan in mind that I want them to learn, but I am a person who notices all of these things and that is interesting to me. So, it is okay to share the things that we are interested in. Pointing it out. We do not expect them to go, “Oh my gosh, mom, what a great find.” Or anything like that, you know what I mean. Maybe they say, “Oh cool,” maybe they take it and point something else out. You do not know. But being ourselves and sharing the things that we find interesting is great.
They get to know us better that way too, don’t they, because they say the things that are interesting, and then they start bringing those things and pointing them out to us if we missed them.
HEATHER: Right, yeah I think that is one of the things that I love the most now that my son is getting older, is that you see more of that, and they start to bring more of those interests to you, and so you get that peek into their head and the things that they are interested in about. So now we see him coming to us with that, and he is starting to express those things to us, which is so neat.
PAM: Yeah, it is so fun and us being able to point out things that we think would be interesting for them, too, right. It just keeps us more open; that being curious just keeps us in a more open mindset where we are are noticing things around us. Because sometimes we can be fixed on whatever it is we are trying to do, we are trying to go out here, we are trying to accomplish this, and not notice all those other things around us.
But that is what fills up life, you know. We always talked about adventure, not that we literally went, like I said. We went on vacations, right. We did not do any longer term travelling yet, anyway, but that is what made our world feel big and interesting.
Rather than being focused on accomplishing A, B, and C, with unschooling, we could slow down and not need to be so focused on the goals, but enjoy the journey along the way, if that makes sense.
HEATHER: That makes sense, yes. We have our blog for our family and we were trying to figure out what to call it, the one that talks about our travels and talks about our plans and everything from the beginning.
We ended up calling it our “Right Size Life,” because you are always trying to find that fit, so what is the right size? You try something and it might be not quite right in one way or another and so you pivot; you are just always looking for what is that fit, what feels good?
PAM: And like you said too, what fits changes over time, right. I love that idea of right size, because it is right size now and we are always stepping towards things and enjoying things and then maybe something changes along the way and you get a new clue and then you do that little pivot. Like, oh, it looks like this is going to feel right for us now, you know. That is so fun.
There was something else I wanted to dive into; going back to the learning aspect. So with unschooling, we often talk about how learning flows from following our children’s interests, right, instead of trying to direct it more with a curriculum. That is something that is quite easy to understand; intellectually understand that, “Oh yeah, our interests can take us places and we are going to learn things,” vs. trying to tell them.
But in practice it can be harder. I know it was harder for me to actually see, because in your mind, you are imagining okay, yeah, we are doing this, we are doing that, right, but my kids got really into some interests, like deeply into particular interests, and then I started worrying.
I thought when we began unschooling our world was going to be so big, we were going to be doing this, this and this, and yet when they became super interested in something, it felt like their world was getting smaller and smaller, and I started to worry about that. But as I started thinking through that, I realized that when they were focused on a passion and we embraced that and dove into it, it actually became a window to the world so that was a huge kind of paradigm shift for me.
So, I am wondering if that has been your experience with Jamie as well because you have been talking about how he has really got that focused interest in game development and games and art that way.
HEATHER: Sure, yeah, and his interests have obviously changed over time. When he was little, initially it was toys. He was big into toys and he liked those channels on YouTube that a lot of people complain about where they look at new toys and they do toy reviews and all of that.
Then his interests’ kind of pivoted from there, so that is definitely been our experience and I can think of a really good example there, from when he was about five or six years old, he pivoted away from the toys more specifically into Mario and Nintendo, and the Nintendo toys and the plushes and what they call Plush Tubers, which are the people that make the videos with the plushes. And so, he was really interested in that, so it seemed like that was all he wanted to do was. He was watching these on YouTube; these Plush tubers with these Mario toys, as they are acting out these stories.
His entire being is about creativity and story telling; that has always been his point of reference by which he does everything else. So he was interested in this, and he was interested in both the toy aspects but also the storytelling aspects. So when he said he wanted to start the YouTube channel, we were like, “Of course, that would be great,” and so even though a lot of people were telling us, “Oh my gosh, no you do not want to do that, you do not want to let him do that, you do not want to put him online when he’s six years old…” Instead, we decided to help him embrace that, and that lead into so many other things.
So, examples that I can give there. Obviously, there are all of the aspects of filming and recording and the YouTube aspects there, but from watching those channels, all of a sudden he became interested in sewing, because there was a channel where they were sewing custom things to go along with their plushes. And so all of a sudden, he wanted to learn how to sew, and so I am learning with him and we are learning how to sew and so then he started sewing things for conventions for the kids’ market things at the unschooling conventions that we went to.
So that turned into this big aspect for us there. But also, that turned into he started doing all of his reviews and unboxing’s, finding good sources for the plushes as well was the challenge, making sure we got the quality ones and not the knock-off ones that took six weeks to get here from Taiwan or whatever and then ended up being really messed up. We kind of looked into that and we helped him to start an Amazon affiliate shop. So he actually had his own store online and he picked out all the toys that were in it, he started dictating some blog posts to go along with his little store and so he started to earn money from that. So, that was another route that that took us, and then he started to want to story-board his videos. He had never been that interested in drawing or reading or writing things out by hand, but all of a sudden he started to do that.
We started to see all of these different layers that came just from saying yes to letting him have his YouTube channel. And it also helped with his speech because he needed the help with his speech, then he started to hear how he was pronouncing things from seeing it recorded on video and so it just started to move into all of these different areas. Just from saying yes to the Plush YouTube channel.
PAM: Oh my goodness, that is spectacular.
HEATHER: I know, right?!
PAM: Yeah, you have no idea. That is the thing. And I think that is where the trust piece comes in and I think that is what can be hard, right. Because beforehand, we just have very conventional ideas about what things are. You know, for us, it was video games. When he was young the thing my eldest wanted to dive into was video games and you had all of the conventional messages, just like you got with “Oh my gosh, do not let your young child create a YouTube channel,” “Oh my gosh, do not let your kid play video games for a long time,” and then there was that trust piece and the paying attention to where that went.
I think that is a key. That trust piece does not mean, okay trust hands off, let them just go off and do whatever they want. No, it is trust and engage more. Help them more. Help them accomplish what they are trying to accomplish, because not only do you help them, you learn so much. You learn so much about them, you see all these different things and you can support them.
Like you said, you guys learned sewing together, you guys helped him with the filming, you know. Is is trust AND help, not trust and let them do whatever, right.
HEATHER: Right. I think that has always been a thing for us. We have always tried, instead of just thinking, we tried to encourage MORE, so we tried to bring in MORE of whatever the interest was, rather than trying to get him away from something because we thought he was watching too many cartoons or whatever.
We started to embrace those interests more and to bring in related things from there and sort of scaffold from there. And actually, that is how we helped him to learn how to talk, is by embracing those interests and actually using that for our speech therapy, instead of sitting down and doing the flashcards and the speech sounds.
I would sit with him and we would role-play or back and forth as SpongeBob, you know. And those kinds of things worked so much better by leaning into those interests instead of away from and trying to discourage him from those things. We have always found that it is so much better to go with those interests and to get engaged and involved and to go in that direction instead.
PAM: Yeah, absolutely. And you know what else I love about that? Because this is one of my passions, I love this aspect of it because I think it is so important. Also, by doing more with them and diving in with them, you are also helping them explore and pivot with their interests. They will find what speaks to their soul so much faster when you are helping them explore their interests more deeply.
I am sure that it would have taken me so much longer and maybe even my son longer, because we found too through embracing his video game interests, eventually that what was at the heart of it, was the story-telling, right. And when we look back, you can see through all of his interests and all of the things that he has done, story was at the route of it. But if I said, “Sure, play all the video games that you want,” and stepped back, I would never have found that and then our conversations would not have ended up focusing on that, so it would not have been as obvious to him as quickly as it was, that “Ooh it’s story,” and that is the kind of things to bring in and embrace and all that kind of stuff. It just helped us in Innumerable ways.
HEATHER: Right, I absolutely agree with that, and I think that is that connection piece that is just so important, and when you have that connection, you work with them and you start to see those things where it is much different from when you talk to people who are upset because their kid is just playing video games all the time.
They do not know what they like about it or what aspects of it are catching their attention and so I think you kind of need to know those things to know how to help them, to steer where their interests are going to go. So it has definitely been the case for us that has been so valuable, focusing on that connection piece and just getting to know what they like about it.
PAM: Yeah…” All my kid does is watch YouTube,” it is like, YouTube is not the interest. There is an entire world on YouTube, right. You need a little bit more. Same with video games; “My kid plays video games,” well what kind of video games, what does he like? You know, it goes so much deeper than my kid likes video games or YouTube, right.
Okay, so I would love to know what your favorite thing about your unschooling days is right now. Just now, a little snapshot for posterity.
HEATHER: So, I guess my favorite thing right now is that I get to spend a lot of time with Jamie as he is working on his projects. It is just seeing where he takes them because all of a sudden he comes up with this new art or these new concepts for his games and he is running them past me and it is stuff that I never would have thought of and it is just interesting and fascinating to me to see how his mind works and how it is different from mine and he is coming to me with these words that he needs help to spell or whatever, and you are wondering when did you learn about that? Or where did you pick up that information?
It is so fascinating and fun for me to see how he is making those connections and what that is turning into for him and how that plays into his interests and what he is producing. That is the best part right now.
PAM: Yeah, that is so amazing just to see where their mind is and where it is going and how they are connecting things. It is being curious about your own child, right. And it is so much more, for me anyway, than we could have imagined, right. Or I keep thinking what if I had tried to pour in or tried to mold that. I could never have done as good of a job as the awesome places that they are taking their lives themselves, right.
HEATHER: Yeah, I totally agree with that.
PAM: And it is just so fun to talk with them.
HEATHER: It is, yeah. And that, like I said, it is different from when they are little right. As they start to get older and then you are starting to see that and to see those glimpses of what they might be like as an adult.
PAM: Yeah, it is fascinating. Kids are fascinating. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Heather. It was so much fun, I appreciate it.
HEATHER: Thank you so much for having me on.
PAM: Oh, that is lovely. And before we go, where is the best place for people to connect with you online?
HEATHER: Well, so I guess the easiest way is our website, which is arightsizedlife.com but also Facebook or Instagram, if you just look me up by name, Heather Clark, it is pretty easy to find me on either of those.
PAM: Awesome. Thank you so much and have a great day.
HEATHER: Yeah, thank you so much, Pam.