PAM: Welcome I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown. Hi Anna.
PAM: I’m really happy to have Anna back on the Podcast because I always love her perspective and insight around unschooling. And that’s especially why I’m excited for this episode because what I want to tackle is defining unschooling. Which really isn’t an easy thing to do, which is why there is so much conversation around it and has been forever. Now that said, I am not thinking or talking about trying to come up with a short and snappy definition. There isn’t one because it is such a rich thing and it turns into a lifestyle etc. But what I want to do is add some context to the conversation by comparing and contrasting unschooling with some of the other alternative education options that are out there and some of the other terms that get tossed around as unschooling as well.
None of this is in a better or worse kind of way. I love that the alternative education options out there are growing. I love that people have more choices. But talking about the differences between them with an eye to helping parents make more informed choices around whether or not unschooling might be a great fit for their families, that’s what I’m trying to do with this conversation.
So, speaking about choices I do think one of the most fundamental and helpful shifts for all parents to make is the realization that our children’s education is our choice. I remember when my kids were going to school when I had never heard of unschooling, I said this isn’t an option and that was part of let’s figure out a way to make having to go to school work. It wasn’t until I realized there was a choice that the whole world opened up all of a sudden.
So, that’s one thing I wanted to talk about a little bit because when we understand that their education is a choice everything does open up doesn’t it? It’s not just about school or no school then all of a sudden, it’s like if I can question something as fundamental as that, the whole world opens up doesn’t it?
ANNA: I thinks so, because I think maybe it’s human nature to follow these conventional paths that have been laid out in front of us because well, it seems to be working, it seems to be fine. I think what we found as kind of leaders in our communities, I had so many people coming to me, there was a precipitous event and now it’s not working for their child and they were just throwing their hands up, “I don’t know what to do but this isn’t working.”
Then they see that choice piece and then once you see that choice piece there is this whole world, and it’s there, it’s been there but most aren’t aware of it. So, I think that is that first step to say, “Okay, we don’t have to do this.” More and more, certainly more over the 20 some years we’ve been doing it, it’s changed. I think it’s more common-place, you have a lot more resources—the internet and everything has helped all of those pieces be more at the forefront. That’s the first step, we’ve got a choice about what works for our family, what works for our kids.
PAM: Yeah absolutely when we started, I had obviously never heard of homeschooling. Nobody I knew was doing it. I only found it online and it’s like, “There are people that do this?!” And we’re in Ontario Canada, so I checked the legalities of it etc. and found out how to pull them from school. But this whole world opened up and as you were saying, now I can say homeschooling.
Back then if I mentioned homeschooling, ‘Is that legal?’ was the first question 95% of the time. But now most people have heard the term.
I was mentioning more and more alternative education options are starting to show up so it is really cool that way but as you said I think the most fundamental piece is now that we have the choice. Instead of trying to help our families fit into the system that we think we have to, now we can put our families first and see what will work better for us. And that may even change over the years, our circumstances change, people change. But that’s the wonderful thing, once you realize you have a choice you can’t take that back. Once you have that realization even if you choose school how you look at school is different now.
ANNA: Exactly, absolutely.
PAM: Yeah that’s very cool. Okay, so now let’s dive into terminology because often it’s helpful to choose different words to describe what we do depending on the circumstances. It can depend on who we’re talking to whether we’re inside or outside alternative education circles. For example, in social conversations, with a neighbour even now, at a grocery store when the school question came up, I very rarely used the word unschooling.
So, I was wondering was that your experience too? Did you often talk about unschooling when you were out and about with the world?
ANNA: Yeah, I think definitely, like you, in those casual check out conversations or you know with the neighbour, we just used homeschooling. Because basically, I feel like unschooling is a method of homeschooling in a lot of ways. But you would gauge is this person more interested or if it’s a homeschooling person then I would often say unschooling so that they understood in that circle. They would know those differences. We just used homeschooling in general.
PAM: Yeah that was enough, basically saying they’re not in school. That was enough for most people we were touching out in the world. But when you were having a conversation talking to people that knew homeschooling exists and you may be talking about homeschooling, then you would say unschooling as the style or the method of homeschooling that we were choosing. In a conversation its meeting people where they are so you can best be understood. You’re trying to communicate with someone and understanding where they are helps your communication go more smoothly, I think.
ANNA: And to some extent that’s maybe not the only purpose but the most important purpose of the terminology for our day to day life and living, to help communication. I don’t think about, ‘Oh, we’re unschooling today.’ I don’t think about it at all, but I think it helps in terms of communication and I think it helps in terms of finding a community as well. So, I think it has those purposes. I think this conversation is important to understand those purposes.
PAM: That’s such a great point because it’s true when I was looking for information online it was amazing, I needed to use that. And also, a great point that I didn’t often use the term at home in our family there was no need to label what we were living, we were just doing our thing. It wasn’t until they were older that it came up once or twice. Because we didn’t need to define it for what we were doing, that wasn’t part of how we approached our days. When we were choosing to do something, when we were having conversations it wasn’t, ‘Oh is this unschooling’. I didn’t need to define or label it within our family. We were looking at other things, we were looking at what we were interested in doing. We were looking at what our needs were that day, that week, that month. What our plans were, that was the language of our conversations. Yeah when you’re out talking to people or looking for information yourself then it really is about the context and what terms you choose to use.
PAM: Okay, so speaking of terms, lately the term self-directed education has been growing in use. I suspect that’s part of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education work. Which is wonderful that they are reaching more people so I just wanted to pull this little bit from their about page “The organizers of the Alliance recognize there are many ways to practice and support self-directed education including several varieties of self-directed education aligned schools, learning centers and homeschooling”.
And by homeschooling or home-based self-directed education they basically mean unschooling. I’ve heard Peter Gray talk about that. I’ll find the link and put that in the show notes as well. But I have had some questions asked of me recently. Things like, “Should we not be using the term unschooling, should we call it self-directed education so that the term spreads wider?” And that brings us back to context again.
I think really understanding how all of these terms fit together will really help us understand what we mean when we’re using these terms. So basically, I’ll put this visual in the show notes for people. But think of it as two overlapping circles. One circle is homeschooling the other circle is self-directed education and where they overlap is unschooling. So, unschooling is a style of homeschooling. (NOTE: SEE THE EPISODE IMAGE AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE FOR THE VISUAL.)
Unschooling is a style of homeschooling in that it’s more family based rather than school based and it’s also a style of self-directed education in that the child is free to choose what they want to do and learn rather than having to follow a curriculum.
Unschooling’s got the home-based side of homeschooling and it’s got the self-directed learning side of self-directed education. So, in my mind that’s how I see all these terms kind of fitting together they’re not synonyms of each other but they have an overlap. I think that might be why it’s really confusing and it can be hard especially for newer people they come and they hear all these terms bandied about trying to figure out exactly what is unschooling. Does that make sense to you Anna?
ANNA: Right. Well yeah so, I loved the visual because I’m a visual person too and it helps with those nuances. So, you can see those really are separate terms, there is some overlap but the overlap doesn’t even define it, it has its own aspects but yet here’s where it overlaps with these other terms that maybe we’re more familiar with or this newer term that is coming into the picture. How does it fit, homeschooling having been around long time we know that but how does it fit there? I love that because I think it’s a great first step to understanding the nuances and the distinct differences because there are distinct differences.
PAM: I do love this. There’s the challenge of understanding the terms and people like to define the terms but I also love seeing how the language has developed. Because when you talk to older unschoolers they use the term homeschooling, because back when they began, homeschooling was the word for what we were doing. I’ve had a number of guests on who call what they do and speak of what they do as homeschooling even though when you look at what unschooling is that’s what they were doing. And eventually John Holt found that there was enough of a distinction of people doing other styles inside the homeschooling label if you want to call it that, that he said, “Oh well, let’s make a new term to describe what we’re doing so that it’s easier again for people to find information and for people to find each other for people to connect.”
ANNA: I think it helps with communication, it helps with conversations and it gives that framework and yeah, I do think it’s important for that.
PAM: In the last few years now, another term has come into the picture—radical unschooling to further define within unschooling. And I think it’s cool, what this means is there are more people in these areas and there’s more and more conversations and more and more people trying to connect. We love to place things and find patterns. And that’s awesome. So that term has become more prevalent too over the years.
So, I thought it would be great for us take a moment to talk about some differences between unschooling and Radical unschooling.
ANNA: Yeah, I think that is an important one. I feel like that term has caused questions for years now, but we’ll take a stab.
For me, what I feel like, because we’ve talked about earlier as unschooling as a style or method of homeschooling and I feel like radical unschooling is taking that self-directed aspect and moving it into sleep and food and play and parenting and more. It takes it outside of the education realm and becomes more about the whole life.
So, I think it’s interesting, I don’t really consider it all that radical to treat children as human beings and to live in harmony and to figure out needs and that kind of stuff. I guess it was and so that’s kind of where that came from and people could get more comfortably to the educational philosophy piece and I felt like they were making this radical leap to bring it to the rest of the lives.
And to talk to children about all of these things and have sovereignty over their body and all these different pieces and that’s where that term came in and you know that for me personally, that’s where I came up with consensual living. For me consensual living was the umbrella and then unschooling was our educational piece and how we lived with each other to meet these and to communicate, ideas like no punishing and not talk down to children became about that. And I mention that not to make it more complicated but, in some ways, to say it is complicated. There are separate layers. So not trying to start a whole new thing but that’s the piece of it. So how was radical unschooling for you?
PAM: Well yeah that’s a piece and see I, we definitely radical unschooled. And for me I kind of have seen that as a journey. I found unschooling through the education piece and as we adopted that and I saw them learning on their own and how well that worked.
For me it just gradually grew to incorporate more and more. Well, if they can choose this and they’re learning so much having the freedom to make those choices, how does it work when you relate it to choices around food. Why are those choices different from other educational choices? So, for me it was more of a journey.
That’s why this is not Exploring Radical unschooling. The podcast is Exploring unschooling. If I’m in a bunch of unschoolers and having a conversation I can toss it up to more definitively explain what we do. But it’s not something I have taken on in normal conversation when I talk about normal unschooling, I just use the term unschooling.
And for me I see it more as just kind of where people are on their unschooling journey. You saw Consensual Living, I saw unschooling journey.
ANNA: I get that and I wonder too because this is another difference in our journeys and it’s also been mirrored on the podcast recently and in the past—basically coming from attachment parenting to unschooling. So, in our culture attachment parenting would be viewed as radical. This idea of connecting to your child and feeding them when their hungry, sleep cycles and all those different pieces. And so, I think for those of us that came from that background maybe that’s why I don’t see it as radical, it doesn’t fit with that terminology. We radical unschooled in the way people talk about radical unschooling but we began with attachment parenting.
PAM: Yeah that’s such a great point too because you can start with that life parenting side. You’re an attachment parent and sthen you’re adding in the education piece. It depends on your journey and where you started and the context of it. I love that it’s so individual. It really is about us and our choices our learning and growing.
So, another term that sometimes gets used interchangeably with unschooling is Child Led Learning. I’ve seen that around for years as well. And you totally get where they’re coming from with that term right. Our children are choosing what they’re doing and what they’re learning etc. But I think that can also lead to a lot of misunderstandings about how unschooling really works. Right?
ANNA: Yes. I’m jumping in I’m sorry I’m talking on top of you because this one really is a problem because I think it causes so many misconceptions. And I think it leads to something that we’ve called and maybe you hear in other places too, unparenting. And so honestly, whenever I’m talking about unschooling, especially when someone is just getting first exposed to it or are kind of new to the idea, the first thing I throw out there—this is not the lazy path or the easy path. This is not just kids leading the way and nobody’s with them. Unschooling is engaged and connected and facilitatory and I think you lose those pieces of it when you just have child led as the term.
PAM: Yeah as you know the overarching description. You lose that whole piece of how the parent is involved. So often we’ll see people commenting, ‘I thought unschooling was more hands off. I was supposed to just sit back and wait for them to ask—I wanna learn to read now Mom or I want to learn maths now’. You know life is not subjects. So, when you put child led in someone’s mind it’s understandable that they think, ‘Oh, I should be following along behind keeping my hands off not interfering.’ It leaves the impression that any conversation we have with them would be interfering with what path that they would choose.
So, I think you lose that entire piece and then that leads to what you were talking about what has been labelled as unparenting, which is when you’re not connecting with them. And what you lose for the child, the child also loses in that situation because they don’t learn, they have no experience with what is a better way to put it—with the context of situations, of environments of other people.
There’s this whole big picture of the world and how they navigate the world and how they understand the world. If you’re not there with them it’s so hard for them to pick up, it’s so much harder for them to figure out that whole piece, figuring out getting along with other people, figuring out how to engage with the world. It is harder on the child too. It’s the parent’s journey to figure out how to engage with them without imposing our own ideas or our expectations on it. But that is the journey of unschooling and understanding how it works, it’s how to be in a relationship.
ANNA: Right that’s the journey for the parent to figure out that nuance and those different pieces like you said, I don’t think it serves a child to be placed out here with everyone in the background. I feel as humans, we are in community. I feel like where we thrive is in relationships and through connections and feeding and growing with each other. So, it’s not a one way thing.
I think that’s the other piece that can feed the misconception of child led. We’re all just looking at the child letting them do this and I know in our family and yours too, we’re learning from each other it’s arrows all over the place, not one straight path or just one direction. I’m learning from them, they’re learning from me, from their dad, we’re learning from their grandparents, we’re learning from the community.
And so, it’s so much more circular than child led would appear and I would think it ties people’s hands when they hang onto that. Like you said they’re stepping back and maybe even holding back some impulses to be connected and involved because they think that’s the right way to do it and that’s where I think the danger comes to play with that term. Because no. Connect with your child, talk to them, be a part with them, learn together and grow together cause that to me is the beauty of unschooling.
PAM: Because it’s not only in figuring out the world, you use the term facilitating before, awesome way to describe how we help our kids because if we’re not connecting with them, we’re not gaining enough information to help facilitate what they’re trying to pursue. So, not only is it more challenging with relationships and figuring out the world but the learning they are doing may not be jumping forward and the things they are interested in pursuing and trying to accomplish just may not happen as quickly because they don’t have us with them to facilitate that, to help them with things.
It’s like the whole picture. You understand where it came from in that yes, we’re facilitating our child as we follow their interests, but when that becomes a focus there is just so much that’s implied in there that can get in the way of unschooling fully, for unschooling to thrive.
ANNA: Right and I think you’re right, maybe it came from people leaving their traditional school environment where you have teacher imparting knowledge or curriculum laying out the path. No, we want to stop that, we want to go this way but again I think the reality of unschooling is not linear, you know.
PAM: Yeah, I know I love that.
I always love to describe unschooling as swirling. Our lives are swirling and we’re finding connections and we’re moving forward and taking little steps and then maybe pivoting. Curriculum really is a straight path but whatever the path is you follow this, you follow this.
Child led can really leave the impression that it’s a straight path, just follow the child instead of the curriculum. Whereas the swirl of unschooling and connection and of seeing where you are in the context, in the moment of what you are trying to accomplish and using that to choose your next step is a much better description of what it’s like.
Okay, so another term that I’ve heard that can be confusing for people. I’ve often heard Democratic Schools like those based on the Sudbury model referred to as unschooling schools. And again, you can understand where they were coming from with that term because there was a commonality in that they both fit under that self-directed education umbrella like we talked about before but they really aren’t synonymous. They are definitely two distinct learning environments. And I do think it is really helpful to understand the differences.
So, I would like to chat a little bit about that. How do you see the differences between unschooling and Democratic schools like the Sudbury model?
ANNA: I see big, big differences but I think that an important piece for me is around the relationships. So, I think one of the benefits and you’ll hear it time and time again, you have on your podcast, when you’re asking them about what was your favorite part or what surprised them about unschooling—it’s the relationships because the relationships that we’re allowed to develop with unschooling, there really is no comparison. It’s time, it’s exposure, it’s the day to day with each other, it’s the getting to know each other and all of those different pieces. And not only the relationship that you have with your child but the relationship your child has with their siblings, if there are siblings. Those are taking place in our family home and then as we branch out into the community it is so different than what would happen in a school environment even if it’s Sudbury.
And I think the other big difference and then I want to hear what you have to say and then we’ll keep talking. Is it’s this idea that there is a place of learning and I’m not even sure they think of it that way. I think because they’re excited about the children leading the way, but you’re physically taking children to a place and saying this is where you’re going to learn and figure out these pieces. What I love about unschooling, again, we talked about it earlier, we’re not talking about methods at home, we’re just doing it. You know learning is happening at midnight, it’s happening at seven in the morning, it’s happening when we’re walking in the forest, it’s happening when we’re in a big city. It’s happening all the time.
So, there is not this idea of going somewhere to then acquire knowledge. Those would be the two big pieces for me but tell me what you’re thinking?
PAM: Well yes, I want to dive deep into those. That location piece is big and you know what, I think it really has to do with where the parent is on their journey. It depends on how they see learning. While their child goes to Sudbury School during the day, yet you know learning continues in the evenings and all around. They still see the learning happen everywhere, they just happen to do it at the Sudbury School or the Democratic school or the learning centre during these certain hours.
But we’re back to choice, we’re back to understanding your child and what works for them. Understanding what works for your family, and understanding your available options. But for some kids that isn’t a good fit—having to go out to a different place during certain hours. I believe that varies by school and learning center but you know they need some attendance. So, that is a piece that your adding to it and that’s a difference. One way or the other that’s a difference between unschooling and having to be at a physical location. Right?
ANNA: And possibly expectations, wouldn’t you think? I feel like even though there’s free flowing ideas/approach, there is somewhat of an expectation that you’re coming there and that you’re going to spark on something that’s interesting or you’re going to get a group together to look at something or do and so again that expectation on a timetable.
I think that is maybe where I feel the biggest difference. With unschooling, I feel like we don’t have that timetable with expectations. Things bubble up in different ways and very organically. But I do agree with you that I’m thrilled that these options are out there because I think they are so helpful to families to have choices who are in different situations.
I think also sometimes for kids that have been in school for a long time having this little bit of structure that’s familiar and yet to have this ability to branch off and take control of that themselves, democratic schools are a really comfortable way to do that. So, I’m thrilled that these options are out there but don’t love that they’re calling it unschooling. It’s not the same.
PAM: The commonality is the self-directed learning piece. It’s the learning side and that leads so nicely into the point you were talking about regarding the relationships with unschooling. You know and when I came to it, it was about replacing school, that was my first piece. That’s what we were doing, we were leaving and okay you’re not going to school anymore. I need to replace that with what? How am I going to do that?
So, we all know my story, that I started in the education piece but yes as I came to see their learning and as I came to understand learning better that relationship piece bubbled up more. I came to realize that if I focused on the relationship and staying connected and just being in solid relationship with them and working through things together, the learning just followed. I eventually didn’t need to think about the learning at all. The relationship became the forefront, became what we focused on and like you mentioned that can be a little bit more challenging, it can definitely be more challenging if you’re not spending that time with them. If you’re not seeing what they’re doing, if you’re not having those conversations with them.
Now you know at these locations they have adults there, they have peers there etc. but it’s not the relationship with the parent, with the siblings and they only have that for the hours when they’re at the building. So, it does make it more challenging to develop those and to maintain them because you don’t have all these clues. Then it becomes harder to facilitate them ourselves. It is kind of saying, okay most of your learning is happening there even though it’s under your control and it’s self-directed its outside of the family vs inside.
PAM: And I guess the other piece for me that I came to see over the years was how important that feeling of safety in the family was and I’m sure that you can find that in other locations but it’s harder because you’re not as close. Now you’re trying to develop really close relationships in two different places. The safety to be able to do things and fail because failing is a huge part of learning and to be in a safe spot where you don’t feel like you’re going to be ridiculed or even just feel embarrassed.
ANNA: There is an unconditionality to our family lives, there’s an unconditional love and connection piece that we develop with unschooling and it is this beautiful base with which to launch ideas and thoughts and journeys and pieces.
And I think that while a school, and you can certainly develop relationships and there can be beautiful people mentors and things there that are lovely, I think it is very different. What I like about unschooling is that you have this base, this unconditional love, these connections, these relationships and we can still have mentors and community and people outside but we have this home base and so for me it worked better for my family to have the home base be home and unschooling and then we branched out verses going somewhere else and having that be the focus.
PAM: Yeah and then there is that location constraint in that yeah, we could go out anywhere at any time during the day, verses having to try and have maybe some supplies there or arrange trips etc. There was freedom of movement, maybe that’s what I’m going for, you know what I mean? That we could just pick up and go wherever we wanted at the time.
ANNA: I think another thing that is helpful with unschooling is. . . trying to figure out how to word this. I feel it flows with life more maybe. Because it doesn’t have its schedule and the Sudbury schools that I’m familiar with, its not exactly like that. You have to go there a certain amount of time. You can kind of make that time look like you want to within their framework but there is still a certain amount of time you have to go. But I think with unschooling I’m thinking of times in life when my Dad was dying in hospice and we were as a family coming together to tend to that moment and how rich and special and filled with learning and love and amazement that was. I think that that’s something unschooling allows us, to flow with life whether it’s something that is challenging like that or something that is oh my gosh an opportunity to spend a month in Italy or to do whatever, you know we have these different opportunities too. I like how it gave us that freedom over the years.
PAM: Yeah, I love that and it takes us back to that diagram right, of those two overlapping circles. It really is what is important to you and your family and your choices and your circumstances. With unschooling there’s that homeschooling piece where that home and that family connection/relationships, family-based freedom to do things is important right. Is that your overriding or your overarching goal or choice for choosing this alternative lifestyle? Or is it the learning piece the self-directed piece, is that the most important thing for you. You know cause then maybe a Sudbury style school a democratic style school fits well for your circumstances. If that’s the most important piece and it’s not a judgement as to which is right for you. For me and other people who have chosen unschooling for a long time over the years, the family-based side has been the most important piece.
ANNA: Right. I’m interested in that a little more too because I think maybe this will help people see how individual it is, so to really look inside. When you were saying that I was thinking, ‘Yes, I know why we made the choice we did.’ Those that have heard me on the podcast before know that I had a child that was hospitalized at birth for an extended period of time and wasn’t expected to survive. Even when we got out, she wasn’t expected to survive long after that.
Our choice, my husband and my choice, was that we are going to live every day with this child and with each other and enjoy and love as long as we can. That was everything that mattered to us and really, we just kept doing that. We just kept doing that and making that choice and so the education to me is so secondary, because what I saw with both my kids is that that was taking care of itself. You know they were learning and doing whatever, but it was that connection with each other and with our family and with our extended family and with our community that I wanted to be the priority in our lives because I feel like we can learn things, we are meant to learn, as humans we are meant to learn and I think we’re meant to be in relationship but that takes some practice sometimes.
So, I think that giving that opportunity to be in a community and focus on relationships, that has served my kids so much as they’ve grown into their adulthood, way more than a workbook or a cool project or a whatever would have done.
But again, I think you’re right, it’s so individual. It’s all about that individual’s journey. I think those watching/listening can consider different options. Just look inside and talk to each other and figure out as a family what are your priorities and what are you looking for here, because there are so many amazing opportunities out there now. So, again, there is not one right way at all, you’ll find your right way, if you look inside.
PAM: I love that yeah. Cause it so made me think about. Because I found homeschooling I brought them home and yes for me I discovered the relationships that we developed became my highest priority. But I did also in my will or telling other people, the self-directed learning part was very important to me. But the relationships were more important, but you know I said if pass away or if Rocco and I pass away, there was a democratic school it was a little bit further from us but that would be my next choice. Because that was my prioritization, because the relationships and the family like you said the learning follows all of that.
But if something happened with that, that was my other choice. And not to say that that needs to be a back-up or anything like that. Like you said we’re figuring out what works best. You know what for some people maybe the relationships are really challenging. You know when you’re working through things, because there is a lot of personal work to get to that, developing those types of relationships with our children right.
It is a lot of work for us to do to get there and maybe our child really likes a big group to hang out. And loves learning that way and some kids don’t. That large numbers of people are overwhelming, having to go to a place on a certain schedule maybe those things are a challenge.
It’s all about figuring out our priorities, what works for us as individual. Understanding our strengths weaknesses and the situations that we like, how we like to learn. All of that comes in and bubbles up and that swirl that we talked about, not one path or the other, these things are all part of the swirl of our lives and figuring ourselves out and how we want to put our lives together.
ANNA: And I think something you said very early on was and it can change. You know I think that is really important. So, make the decisions…figuring out how to word this, when you make the decisions, when you’re looking at it, make the decisions based on what’s best for you right now and knowing that can change.
I think that’s sometimes a stumbling block for people. Like okay this seems so great now and everything’s going so great now. But I don’t know if it’s going to work forever so we’re not going to do it at all. But you can change your mind later! So, if it’s working for you right now do it, and you may find like Pam and I did it keeps growing and working and it’s amazing or you may find yourself saying, “You know what? We’re at a different stage, they have some different needs that are going to be served by these particular mentors or by this particular peer group.” And recognizing that is great. Because again there is no one right answer, no one straight path, so don’t stretch that too far out in the future, you know, just look at what works right now.
PAM: Yeah to add on to that, realizing that things can change, they don’t feel fixed, that’s something right? I chose unschooling, you know, let’s say and it’s not working well but I will look bad. You know we carry that baggage, like when I talked about when a lot of it is our journey. I made this choice, I have to make this work. But maybe it really isn’t, maybe right now the best fit for your family with your circumstances with whatever is going on is something else.
To lose that piece or work through that piece we feel the right or wrong judgement that I made this choice so I have to make it work not matter what. That’s why I talk about when families who are choosing school realizing that your choosing school, ‘Wow, the weight that can come off just knowing this is the choice right now, I don’t have to buy into it all. I don’t have to bring it home. This is just what works well for our family right now and we’ll see you know in six months we’ll see.’
ANNA: I was going to say the same thing and that just knowing your options just understanding what’s happening at the different places like the democratic schools, homeschooling families, unschooling families all that, just knowing that gives you so much more power and information to then create what you need. Be it in the structure of the school bit and the structure of the democratic school bit and the structure in your own home.
That’s why I just feel this knowledge and these nuances of all these things are so important because it gives you all these tools and information to create the perfect situation for you and to adjust as you need to. So, it’s such a critical point, I think.
PAM: Yeah because you know understanding it all is not about choosing the label. It’s not about saying, “Oh, I’m unschooling or homeschooling. I’m doing this alternative education.” But it’s about this understanding of our choices. It’s about getting more understanding of the differences, the nuances, you’re better understanding your options. It’s asking you to better learn how people learn. It’s asking you to better understand your child. It’s asking you to better understand your priorities. There is no downside to better understanding all the nuances between all of it.
ANNA: Whatever choice you make. No downside and so it’s just an important discussion to have in your families and have with your friends and to talk it through. As you’re talking through those pieces, I think what you’ll see is that your priorities will start bubbling up. And also, some baggage may bubble up, so there may be some things you need to kind of sort out. Okay is this about me? Is this about them? I think I’ve talked about this before, when you get into teenage years, suddenly I think because it’s a time I think we remember more strongly as adults, that suddenly we’re right back in it, we’re feeling some of the pressure we may have felt. And so, I think all these discussions do bubble up some things from our past.
But that’s a great time to look at it and sort it out, set it aside and then refocus back on the family you have now, the one that’s in front of you and what would serve you all the best. There’s just so much great learning and growth through this process. One of the other side benefits of unschooling is just how we learn more about ourselves and how we can realize we’re the creators of our own stories.
PAM: I love that, that was just a beautiful place to take it. Our self-awareness grows insanely because it needs to. To not only understand ourselves but to understand the world better, understand our families better. And like you said we are the creators of our family’s lives. Understanding that we have that power and those choices it’s everything isn’t it? You are the creator of your life.
Okay, alright, I hope we hit things for you guys. You’re welcome to comment on the episode if you have questions but I think this was a great start to bring some context. Because I love that there are more and more opportunities, more and more choices. But yes, that’s more and more for us to figure out. It gives us more information about the possibilities. More possibilities that can bubble up.
ANNA: And they don’t have to be competing. It doesn’t have to be an either/or thing, it doesn’t have to be a one is better than the other. I think if we can just go back to the individuals and a family and just find what works best and know that it may change at any given time. That just feels better to me than pitting the different methods against each other. It’s just not necessary, it’s not necessary at all.
PAM: No, it’s not necessary at all. And then there’s the whole piece where it’s so easy, especially as you’re learning new things, to feel defensive when people are explaining things. It can feel like an attack. When people say no unschooling with x y and z and when an experienced unschooling parent is talking, they’re talking about the roots the fundamentals of it. That’s another piece I guess we can hit on, the language right. Because the language means different things depending on where you are on your journey. Because when you tell somebody new that our kids don’t have bed times the picture that that creates in their mind its entirely different picture than the person who said that.
PAM: But it’s true.
ANNA: When I would say, when my kids, who are now 19 and 21, have never been punished, people are like, “What?! How did you do that?” You know when you are in that life, it just flows when you are talking to each other and communicating and solving problems together, but yeah, so the language and some of those little snippets are kind of hard for people to take out of context and they may need more information. But that’s the beauty of the journey too.
PAM: Yeah. So, I mean if you feel defensive it’s not that they’re trying, I certainly don’t believe when I am talking, I certainly don’t mean for anyone to feel like they’re being attacked, to feel like your definitions wrong, we’re all learning. We’re all sharing our experiences, sharing our insights, learning more about it. I continued to learn, that’s part of what I love about doing the podcast, you know hearing about other people’s experiences. I love sharing that kind of stuff.
But its great and helpful to understand that when we’re new to these ideas it can feel maybe a bit of an attack. As if, ‘You’re not doing unschooling right’. No, they’re really trying to communicate so that you can better understand. If you take it with that view it’s not a competition between any choices, it’s helping you better understand those choices, so that you can play around with them with your family. Swirl them in, try them out see what works for you. See what connects with you, right? For me it’s, what makes the most sense.
What is the next little step and it doesn’t have to be, “Oh, I’ve chosen unschooling, I need to run there as fast as I can.” It’s not rules of unschooling or anything like that. It’s okay, this next baby step to understanding, oh gee they’re asking about different food things. Or they’re asking about maths. You know it’s not subjects, that’s a whole other paradigm shift as you’re learning about unschooling learning how people learn and dividing the world in subjects, it’s a beautiful journey.
ANNA: You’ve seen it play out with so many people where they do those baby steps and then they are really like, “Oh my gosh, this really changes things. It’s really changing the energy of my house, this is really changing the energy of those different pieces and some of these things that they were worried about or things that weren’t taking care of themselves. Suddenly, its falling into place now because we’re working together. I think just being aware, having those conversations with yourself and your family and thinking about it, will lead you to a beautiful place really again no matter where you end up or what you end up trying and doing because it’s that awareness and that understanding that just brings so much beauty to the journey.
PAM: Yep, we are the creators. Oh, my goodness, thank you so much Anna that was a lot of fun.
ANNA: So fun, thanks. And we’ll probably have more questions, so I am happy for people to ask questions or you know start a new conversation and we can talk about it some more.
PAM: Yeah, it’s really interesting. So, I hope this was helpful, a good start, a little more context to some of the terminology that comes up in conversations and more fodder right. Thanks, have a wonderful day Anna.