PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca. And today I’m here with Talia Bartoe. Hi, Talia.
TALIA: Hi, Pam.
PAM: I have really enjoyed glimpses into Talia’s unschooling days through Facebook and Instagram and I was thrilled when she agreed to come on the podcast to talk about her deschooling journey.
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
TALIA: Sure. I just want to say that I’m really happy to be here. I love listening to your podcast, so it feels like an honour to be on it myself.
PAM: Oh, thank you.
TALIA: I’m Talia, I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Mark. We’ve been married for 12 years. We have four kids. My husband’s the tech guy, the science guy, the “can fix anything” kind of guy.
He grew up not really fitting in well with the school system. So, he’s always been on board with trying to find a different path. And I was the opposite. I was the straight-A student, a good girl, never the rule breaker. So, this has been an interesting journey for me.
Then my oldest is Hailey but she has chosen to change her name right now. She specifically said, “Don’t forget to tell everybody my name is Neon right now.” So, for the past couple of months that’s what she’s been going by, Neon. She said that her name should represent her and that’s what she’s chosen. So, I might call her Hailey, I might call her Neon, same person.
PAM: That’s awesome.
TALIA: She’s the person who really got us started on this journey. She’s my artist, my creative one. She loves Anime and Pokemon and Minecraft and any sort of role-playing or imaginative games. She’s a lot of fun and keeps me on my toes. My next is Elijah. He is six. He is my more introverted one, like me, and he loves sharks and ocean creatures and Minecraft and he has the biggest sweetest heart for animals and other people. Then I have s three, almost four-year-old, Winter, and he is my sensory seeking kiddo. He is always on the move, has boundless energy, never stops or slows down. Then I have my baby, Dexter, who is one and he’s just at the fun stage where he’s the happiest thing in the world and everything makes him smile. He dances to music or anything he thinks is music like the fireworks. So, that’s us in a nutshell.
PAM: That’s awesome. I love the little glimpse that you shared, a little heart of each of them, that is wonderful. And you know I could really feel you, I was the straight-A student, totally conventional, doing what was expected of me.
So, it would be really cool to hear a bit about how you discovered unschooling and what your family’s journey to unschooling looked like for you.
Talia: Well, after I had my daughter, I really had no idea that we were going to be doing things differently. At first, I started going to La Leche League which was a really great introduction to a different style of parenting than what I had grown up in, there are a lot of attachment parents and stuff.
And it was really nice to see those people in her life. There are examples of people who are responding to the children’s needs right away and they just lived differently.
And I was like, ‘OK I want that. This is what I want to do. I want to be connected with my kids and I want to be present and I want to live like them.’ So, being the straight-A student I dove into research because that’s what I do. If I decide I’m interested in something I start researching it and read and read and read and study and join groups and ask questions and observe and I just full force head on dive in.
So, I did that and I started reading books. Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting. I read Connection Parenting by Pam Leo which was excellent for me to really give me some tools to put in practice all these ideas. I saw that it was creating the relationship with my daughter that I really liked. And then as she grew a little bit older all these people in the La Leche League were homeschooling and I was like, ‘Ha! Well, I had never thought about homeschooling but it seems to really fit with what we’re doing.’ So I decided to do some research there too.
I started reading and reading and as my daughter started to approach pre-school age we had my son. Things were really becoming obvious that she was one of the more spirited children, she’s supersensitive to lots of things. So, things that feel little to some people, feel really big to her. Her clothes had to fit just right and her food had to be just right and she could get her feelings hurt easily. Everything just felt so big and heavy to her. But at the same time, she had this light, this natural curiosity, this spark.
And she just sought whatever she wanted. She just went after it and people would ask me, “Are you doing flashcards with her or are you doing this?” And I would just say, “No, she’s just so interested, she just wants to know, she asked questions when we play.” And I thought, ‘Wow. I think if I send her to school, they’re not going to understand these sensitivities. They’re not going to understand this light and these questions. they’re going to need her to be quiet and listen.’
And that wouldn’t have gone well for her. That wasn’t in her nature. There’s no way, ‘I can’t send her there and risk dimming her light.’ So I dove right back into the research. I started reading more books and I read Joyce Fetteroll’s website. I probably read something every single day. I’m like, I have to read something every single day and read and watch. I found Jennifer McGrail’s Blog, “The Path Less Taken”, which I loved and I realized, this isn’t just education, this is really a lifestyle and this is what I want. And so, there I went, I researched and I researched until I just knew that right from the beginning this is what we’re going do. And that’s what we’ve always done.
PAM: Wow. So, you found that before she hit school age and then you found unschooling before you started to try and bring in the homeschooling, the sitting down kind of lessons?
TALIA: Yes, we never really went down the regular homeschooling path at all. I as soon as I had found that stuff I said, “This just feels right.”
It just instinctively felt right. And so right from the beginning, I’m reading these books and thinking that there’s no reason not to try. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason, we can go back, we can change our minds but it feels right.
PAM: That’s spectacular because I remember, I hadn’t heard of homeschooling. I didn’t know it was a thing. I didn’t know was legal. I thought you had to send your kids to school. So, I know when my eldest first started, that was my thought, ‘I hope they see that spark.’ That’s what I wanted know, if they see the kid that I see, that will be awesome for him you know vs. not looking at you and expecting you to fit into that box. Those first few years, until I discovered homeschooling, were all about trying to help the teachers see the spark through this spiritedness, and to accommodate that as they could within the classroom etc. So, a year was super dependent on the teacher.
PAM: How open they were to that. So yeah, same thing, as soon as I discovered home schooling, I was devouring books and websites and everything. Finding out it was legal here and then we pulled them out in the middle of the school year, March break because it was ‘Well look, it’s not a legal thing that they have to be in school. We can try something else.’ And like you said we can try it and see how it goes.
TALIA: I just knew just from doing activities. We would take her to the Children’s Festival and there’d be like children’s yoga. And she loved yoga but she also loved it like, “Hey, I know yoga, here’s downward dog. You want to see what yoga pose, I made up?!” and she’s so excited. I’m like trying to dial her back.. We can’t let the teacher teach the class. No, she’s always, “I know stuff.” And she did.
OK, we’re going to put you in environments where you knowing stuff is encouraged and we’re excited about it right along with you.
PAM: Exactly. Oh, that’s awesome.
So, along the way, what did you find maybe to be a little bit more challenging as you were deschooling and figuring out this for yourself?
TALIA: Well the academic stuff was surprisingly easy for me to be okay with because despite being the good student that always got straight A’s and all that stuff, once I have decided to research and once I have asked enough questions and I have observed, once I really commit to something I’m all in. It might take me a while to get 100 percent. But when I’m in I’m in. So, there’s enough research out there about how kids learn best through play how they really retain knowledge when they’re interested in things and I just really believed that that research was sufficient enough for me to be comfortable knowing that they would learn what they needed to learn as they were interested. I’ve seen it with my eyes.
The things that were harder for me was all the lifestyle things around that. I knew that I couldn’t say, “Yes, you can learn to read on your own but you can’t learn what food makes your body feel good.” I knew in my head that it didn’t make sense that they could learn one thing and not the other but putting it into practice, beyond theory was a whole new thing for me.
I had been the follower, I’m like, ‘Wait there’s all these rules that everybody else is putting out there.’ Especially with the attachment parenting community which had offered me so much benefit. But as the kids got older it kind of transformed into something else and it was more control and more rules. And it was the media. The screen time was so strictly limited because it was bad for you and diet was so strict. I enjoy a lot of healthier quote unquote foods but the rules, the diets were the same for almost everybody. These healthy diets, you must avoid this and that. And the toys which were bad, wooden toys only. And so, it was really easy for me to automatically want to attach on to that because they were rules. I was good with rules, rules are where I shine.
But at the same time, I knew that I was trying to get away from these automatic, guaranteed, arbitrary rules and look at her and look at my second child who was there at that time by then and I was like, ‘Okay I have to question these rules the same way I was questioning the school and questioning all of those things.’ It was such a big process. Questioning basically everything that I had known my whole life all at once and throw out the arbitrary rules and finding out what actually works for us was a journey and still continues to be a journey.
PAM: Yeah, yeah. That’s so true. I was just smiling away here as you were talking. Because that’s completely it, it’s amazing all the rules. You have no idea all the rules you’re going question right. When you start with, “Well so she doesn’t need to go to school.”
TALIA: You pull that first thread and that spool keeps unraveling and unraveling and you’re like, “I didn’t realize there was so much yarn on this spool!” What an eye opener.
PAM: It’s so true. But you know as I think about it, that kind of straight Aness, like you were saying, once you know something you can’t unknow it. So, knowing that there was that illogical piece of we don’t need rules, curriculum on the academics we do need them over here and they’re all just learning. Once that didn’t quite fit, you can’t help but keep going right.
TALIA: No, I couldn’t. I was committed I already knew I started it. And sometimes I wish that I could just close my eyes back for a little bit you know. But I can’t. I’m in too deep now. I would have to do something, read something, ask some question every day. I’m like no matter how long it takes me a little bit at a time, lots of reading, lots to watch but I’m getting there because I can’t turn back now that I’m in.
PAM: Yeah, exactly right. And then it is so hard to not have that framework anymore right. Of those of those rules and to instead, I think deschooling is a huge journey in learning to trust ourselves. What we see and to say, I see this happening, I see them learning school ish things. I see them learning about food and what feels good and what doesn’t and sleep and stuff like that. And to trust that that’s true, that’s real, it’s right in front of us. That means something, that means more than the rules on the outside that just kind of fit for everybody in general.
TALIA: Yeah it does. It’s so individual and I couldn’t deny, it was before my own eyes. You know sometimes because I’m human and I would be like oh maybe I’ll take a little bit of that control back and my daughter who was raised this way and my son they would just be like, “Wait, but why?” “But why are you doing that now? Because you know you didn’t do that before.” I’d have to actually ask myself that instead of that default automatic response. “But why?” You know we still see it a lot. She still “but whys” me a lot.
“But why?” I guess I have to ask myself that and if there really isn’t a reason other than, “Well that’s what everybody else is doing. Or that’s what someone told me was good for us.” If that’s one of my reasons those aren’t good enough those aren’t scientific. They don’t meet my straight A researcher mind anyways so I still continue to do that.
PAM: I love that point because that’s so often when people have challenges and questions. No matter where they come from, so often my first question or one of my very first questions is, “Well, what are the kids thinking? Talk to the kids about it.” Because for exactly that reason because the preparation you have to do to be ready to have a conversation with them about the situation, so often as a parent we think I need to solve this and then I’ll let them know the best way for us to move through whatever this challenge is right. But yeah there’s that shift. It’s that “but why?” It’s that knowing that if I’m going have a conversation with them I’m going to have to be able to actually explain it.
TALIA: I know and they’re great at learning how to ask those critical questions. They know how to think for themselves and then they problem solve too. “OK Mom you don’t want me to eat in this room. You explained your reasons when I asked why. So, let’s come up with a compromise.” My daughter likes to find a compromise. “Can I bring the food tray in there and have a napkin right next to me so I can wipe my fingers? and I’m like, “You know what? That’s a really great idea.” That meets my “but why”. And she came up with something and we’re both happy with it and it works. And I would have never guessed that that is how it would work. But it does. And once you’ve lived it and seen it over and over again, you’re like, ‘I can’t deny this anymore.’ So, I’m going to continue right down this journey until we’re doing it for everything.
PAM: That’s spectacular. And it leads nicely into the next question. Through this whole process one of the biggest surprises for me, beyond how many threads we were going to start pulling at, was how much I learned about myself along the way. Because I needed to understand myself to be able to answer those kinds of “but why” questions. So, I needed to understand myself so much more than I had. It was surprising to me how I got to adulthood thinking I knew myself. But I really didn’t. There was so much more there and how that learning about myself became so valuable for the family because I could bring that to our conversations and that would encourage them to think at that level as well.
I just was wondering if you found that as well. If that was your kind of experience and how that went for you or is going for you because it’s always going, isn’t it?
TALIA: Always, forever. I will be here forever. Yes, I have learned a lot about myself, things that I wouldn’t have ever questioned before. I put myself in a box, the same box that I was probably put in when I was in school really.
And I’ve been stuck in this box and I thought I had myself all figured out until I look at my kids and how dynamic they really are and I realized it’s not black and white. I am dynamic too. I don’t fit in this box. This box is not big enough to contain a person, any person. And I was allowed to step out of the box and I would have never, ever questioned things to the depth that I have without watching them do it. Because when you’re watching them figure out, with your help, with partnership, what foods feel good and how much sleep feels good and how much time they need after an activity. Three days at home or a day at home. When you’re watching them figure out this stuff, you’re like, ‘Wait. But I have those things too. Certain foods make me feel good. And I actually feel better with this sleep. And you know what I do feel better when I turn down that or that invite.’
Why am I giving that to them but not giving it to myself? It was pretty eye opening for me. Especially with my oldest. She’s my, I always say she’s changed my life. They all have in their own way. But she’s the one who’s always took us down the trails first. Head on and she’s the “barrel on through head first” type of person and as she had all these big sensitivities for her going, especially when she was between probably 2 and 5. They were like at their at their thickest and that was when I was for sure saying there’s no way we can send her somewhere else.
But at the same and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I don’t know what I’m doing. Everything feels so big to her. We took her to a therapist at one point just to see. I need some tools, I need some resources. She’s feeling really sad very easily and I don’t know how to communicate with her in a way that is meeting those needs. And we found out pretty quickly that if we had sent her to school, they would have put her on the IEP track. She had this, does she have this? My husband was the ADHD kid and I go on, sensory processing disorder and possibly on the autism spectrum and all these other things going on and not that any of those were bad in and of themselves.
I took that information in and I’m like, “OK thanks. I have enough information now.” Let’s go home. Let me dive right back into that research. Let me read about “the out of sync child.” Let me read about “spirited children”, let me read about sensory stuff and let’s find out what I can do at home and all these therapy ideas and bring them to her. And as I learned how to help her and realize it’s OK to switch her up to the right cup. It’s OK to only buy these kinds of clothes. It’s OK to say we actually have to cancel this playdate today because she is she’s not feeling up to it.
Then I learned, I felt that way as a kid. I still feel that way as an adult. I was that kid who was told, “Hey, you cry way too easy.” Or “Get over it.” “Tough it up. “Why are you upset so easy?” “Why do you do this?” And I learned I don’t have to tough it out the same way I switched their cup and change their clothes. I’m allowed to honour my needs and my interests, which changed our whole life because I restructured things that fit me and I can put headphones on when things are too loud the same way she can and I can say, “I don’t want to eat that because it doesn’t feel good. I don’t care if it’s healthy. I’ll eat something else that I like that’s healthy.” I’m allowed to be who I am and I’m still discovering who that is because I’ve been told for years that I didn’t know who I was. So, I have to rediscover myself.
PAM: Yeah I mean we pick up the message that we’re wrong and that’s what we carried forward and we just figured out ways to adapt to the way we were supposed to be.
TALIA: Yes. Somebody else knew us best.
PAM: Yeah. And I could totally relate to how being with our kids and supporting their needs, all of a sudden opens up that window. It almost gives us permission to do it for ourselves. It’s this whole realization that, ‘Hey you know I’m a person too.’ These are ok. It’s totally OK.
TALIA: And I’m setting, I feel like I’m trying to set an example that this continues into adulthood. You’re allowed to change and grow and what feels good now, might not feel good in a few years and that’s ok cause you don’t have to stay in that box that you’re in when you were three or when you were 6 or when you were 9. Bust out of any box and find out who you are now! And that’s not easy for the rule follower and the obedient person. That box it’s easy and it’s simple but it also doesn’t let you live to your full joy, you’re full happiness. And I’ve been a lot happier, more tired sometimes, but a lot happier as I’ve discovered what really makes me thrive. Learning that I know myself best just like my kids are learning that they know themselves best. We’re learning it together.
PAM: Yes. And that’s the other thing I love about unschooling, no matter your personal makeup as an individual, you’re supported as an individual no matter your age. And that because we can play around with things and try different things. That’s how we can discover what meshes well for us. Like you were talking about, getting some ideas of changing up cups, changing up the clothes, whatever is that now when we’re actually listening to our children and listening to ourselves.
We’re noticing the things that are feeling uncomfortable and thinking, ‘Oh you know maybe I want to get a different kind of top or the headphones.” That it’s totally OK. That through this exploration we can more naturally find the things that work for us right.
TALIA: Yes we can and it’s OK if it didn’t work. And you try something else or it’s OK if it worked last month and it doesn’t work this month because they change and grow and hopefully I’m growing forever because you do want to become stagnant.
I don’t want them to become stagnant and they’re different. What meets my oldest needs and what meets my next one’s needs, they’re not the same thing. They don’t have to be the same thing. It’s kind of a juggling act sometimes of making sure everybody has what they need when they’re pretty diverse and different but it’s a worthwhile juggling act.
That’s the tired part that I mentioned earlier. But it’s worthwhile and they learn how to honour each other’s needs in a way that I never ever imagined either. The other day I went to the grocery store and we’re all going to go but it was very clear once we got into the grocery store that the kids were not up to go into the store. They had their tablets and my husband said he’d sit in the air conditioning in the van with them and they could play on their tablets.
When I came out, my six year old had been having a pretty tough time and my husband said he was having a really tough time so I asked him. Just asked him, “Hey buddy what’s going on?” “And he said, “Well my tablet died and I was bored and it’s getting hot even though the air is on and I’m just ready to go home.” And I was like, “Well I appreciated you waiting in the van. I picked up some cupcakes in the store because I appreciate how hard it is to wait in the van.” My daughter who had her headphones on. She takes them everywhere she goes. She pulled them off she said, “What was bothering him?” and I said his tablet died and she said, “Oh, I have my extra my extra DS, you can you can use it in the car.” And she’s not one that easily shares her things on her own. But she recognized that she struggles when she doesn’t have something to keep her busy and she honoured that. And it was, “Hey do you want to use this until we get home?” And it was just so sweet to see the exchange because her needs are so important and that we try to prioritize them. That she wanted to offer the same thing to him, which isn’t always the case. But that day it was, she heard about cupcakes and she knew we thought about her and she wanted to pass that along that same thought.
PAM: That’s a lovely story and a wonderful example of the whole process right. Just following the flow, recognizing somebody’s needs, seeing how they might be able to be met and how the kids sometimes can pitch in. Depending on where they are in their space. And they just flow into it. It’s really beautiful and it leads very nicely to the next question doesn’t it. Look at that, I like when that happens. But anyway.
So, you mentioned four kids and you shared a great example there. I was hoping you might share some tips on the way you guys navigate your unschooling days with four young children because you know that is something that comes up often in the questions. So, any tips? What works for you.? How do you approach those days, those moments really?
TALIA: Oh yeah. Well, I would say I’m still constantly learning. I would google unschooling multiple children. I feel like there I was right there in the thick of things. But learning to be flexible and adaptable has been something that is not my nature but it’s something that’s offered us a lot of benefit. Expectations for me, I’m the planner. I’m organized. I’ve researched it ahead of time. I know every single thing. I know this route and I know a backup route. And I plan it and I expect it and it goes well. But when you have kids there’s only so much planning you can do because they wake up and they didn’t sleep good or they just didn’t feel good or their breakfast isn’t all right or they’re just having a day where the plans that you just spent a really long time putting together didn’t work or you get there and they find the activity is kind of lame and you’re thinking, ‘Wait I planned it and I knew that outcome. I knew how it was going to go because I’ve researched it.’ So, learning that my expectations can be relaxed and let go. Because the most important thing is that we’re connected, that our day is as peaceful as it can be which sometimes that’s a lot.
And sometimes it’s not going to be a lot but as much as it can be by learning to let go of the outcome by saying, “OK my plans are this but we can switch that to another day.”
Having people in our lives that understand last minute, “Hey we’re having an off day. We can switch to next week.” And they’re saying yeah ok because we do the same thing for them. And just knowing that I can’t control the outcome. Which is mighty schooling, the control stuff but it has made such a difference in our day when I just know that I can let that go and we can still have a good day and it’s not a bust because I had to reschedule our plans. The kids are learning by watching that it’s OK that they can say honestly, “Nope, not happening today,” and that is not the end of the world. Learning that plans change, that things adapt and that makes our days go a lot smoother for us.
PAM: Yeah for me, I remember that little revelation because I was a big planner. I still am a big planner. I’m already in the midst of planning our November trip.
TALIA: I so relate.
PAM: Yeah, exactly right.
But for me what changed was the outcome is the plan rather than the outcome being the execution of the plan.
TALIA: Yes the journey.
PAM: Exactly, these are the things in my backpack for the journey and it’s just one of the things. That’s a great way to look at it. And that because that other thing you mentioned, the flexibility. That these are the plans and I don’t even put date days on them. These things will flow together nicely into a day and these things will flow together nicely into a day and when we wake up in the morning what’s the weather, how are people feeling? Which of these days do we want to live today?
TALIA: I would have never imagined that that’s where I’m at. I used the phrase, “We’ll play it by ear,” the other day to my mom and my mom was like, “I thought I knew you.” (Laughing)
I have to, I have to. I’m evolving. You know I’m evolving. It’s not easy but I’m doing.
OK. All right. So yeah, I don’t know what day we’re seeing fireworks. I’ve got four options of days because I have to play it by ear.
It’s not easy but it’s OK. So, we go with the flow. And then if we don’t go with the flow and the days get messed up and I make a mistake or the kids are tired and grumpy, I apologize. Learning how to apologize which I do more than I ever thought that I would do, has made a difference.
“I really did push on those plans too hard and everyone got grumpy. And that was avoidable, so apologize.” Then I learn from it and try to take it to the next time and not repeat the same things. That’s a big thing. I don’t think a lot of people apologized to me or my siblings because it wasn’t what we heard from adults. I guess at the time that wasn’t something people talked about but I think it’s really important. And if you have four kids and everything’s busy and loud, you’re going and you’re getting overwhelmed, you’re going to do things sometimes and then you need to apologize a lot, often. Every time.
PAM: Yeah. Well because I mean to me that helps with the whole connection, the trust. Building the trust. Right. It’s not about trying to be a perfect parent. Just give that dream up. (laughing).
PAM: It is back in that box there, just to be so much more open. That we are individuals with likes dislikes and things that go wrong and we’re part of that too. It’s a great example even to your kids that we can do things that when we look back it’s like, ‘Huh, you know I can see how that contributed to the challenges that we ended up with. And I’m sorry about that.’ And you’re honest and you’re learning from it and yes it may happen again and again a few times until that lesson sinks deep enough in so that you catch it before you do it. I find for me that’s something, I just catch it a little quicker and a little quicker. And then eventually I catch it before I do it completely. You know what I mean it’s not an on off switch.
TALIA: It’s not. It’s not that simple a and b/black and white point. There’s so much grey area and my brain, my rule follower brain wants to know why there’s so much grey area?! But there is. You just go with it. And you accept it because if you resist it, then it’s just, who needs more resistance? I want more connection and resistance does not breed connections. So, we just accept it.
PAM: Oh, I love that. I love that. It’s so true. And then they see it by example and they see that it’s not something to be ashamed of.
TALIA: Yeah it’s not. It’s OK to be where you’re at whether that’s the beginning of your journey, in the middle or the end or if you’re in a busy season or if you’re in a slow season learning that they’re all a part of the process.
I liked to be in a busy season sometimes. It’s fun to post pictures on Instagram when, “Oh we went to the aquarium. We went to the amusement park.” It’s also ok to not be in that season. I had my fourth baby last year and our last year was a lot slower than the years before because that’s where we are at and our days are so much peaceful when we sense that that’s where I am. And there’s nothing wrong with having more days of YouTube and Minecraft and reading books and making play dough versus those aquarium and amusement park days. You accept where you’re at and as long as you’re partnering and you’re keeping the conversations going and you’re connecting, all of those seasons are OK. You just honour what season. And things flow better and you have to apologize less.
PAM: That’s right. I love that word “season”. I hadn’t really thought of it as seasons but yes. When you look back and you see the flow and realize why you were a little busier then. That’s why we weren’t so much then. The seasons around bigger changes like having a baby or moving or things like that. The focus and the flow changes to adapt really. But as you said, when you’re keeping the conversations open and everybody knows what’s going on it’s not a surprise. If somebody wants a bit more of something, we do what we can to help them figure it out a different way. Right.
TALIA: Right. We were in this season we were already taking it kind of slow and then it was winter time and winter is always a little slower. We spend more days indoors and then we had some vehicle issues, so we went down to one vehicle for a few months. It was the worst timing with the winter already being there and my husband needing to take the vehicle to work. So, every day I would ask each kid when they woke up, we’d have our morning cuddles, and I would ask if there something you want to do today. And if they would say I really want to play Roblox with you today or can we go ahead and make slime today. And I would try my best to incorporate it into our days, each request because I couldn’t take them out of the house when Poppa wasn’t home, even if they wanted to but I still wanted to make their needs a priority. So, I would ask and we would keep that conversation going and we made the best of the situation that we had and we made it through. We had a lot of good days, a lot of good home days.
PAM: That’s great. I love that approach and I’ve done that too. I would do that to a lot with the kids when they got up. In that little transition, quiet time, “Is there anything in particular you want to make sure that we do today?” It’s nice touch point and it shows you’re thinking of them and it helps you help them have a good day.
TALIA: I mean 5 people in my household. Sometimes there are some big emotions and feelings and everyone needs their own space so if you say, “You know what? I don’t want to do anything today. But mostly I just want to chill away from my brother.”
I’ll be like, “OK do you want me to set you up in your room with a movie and some popcorn?” That’s OK. I get it.
PAM: Exactly. That’s totally it. And then as the day starts, it also helps you have things for some of those transition moments. Is now a good time to make the sign or play the game?
TALIA: That’s a great time to for me to play Roblox with you because the baby will be napping and I can totally focus on that and this is what time approximately we’ll do that. They know I follow through which helps build that trust that they know “OK. I told mom I wanted to play Roblox but then we haven’t in three weeks.” That doesn’t happen. I try my best to follow through and then they trust that I will. And so, they honour that we’re doing the best that we can because we do.
PAM: Now that’s beautiful. So recently you did an interview with Collectingadventures.com and I really enjoyed reading it. She asked you what the passion was that drives you to collect adventures. And you said you had to think about that for a little bit and after some thinking you landed on the idea that it was your kids, that your joy is multiplied tenfold when you see the adventure through their eyes. And I thought that was such a cool insight because it ties back to what we were talking about before. Doesn’t it? This a reawakening period for us. I can pursue fun. I can enjoy things and seeing it through my kids’ eyes is what opened the world back up for me. Because I was just in that box doing what I was supposed to do. And it got rid of those sides and reopened the world.
So, I thought it would be great if you could talk a little bit about that aspect because I think it’s a really big piece of deschooling.
TALIA: It is and I found Collecting Adventures on Instagram and there are all these amazing pictures. Pictures of people taking these huge adventures. They’re kayaking on this river and they’re mountain climbing and they’re travelling. And I loved them all but then when they said, “Hey, do you want to do an interview from your perspective?” I was nervous because my perspective is a lot smaller, closer to home adventures.
Our adventures are more like, we went hiking and we see this waterfall on the trail and then we went and got ice cream or we build a Minecraft world together and you told me all about this animal centre you built and then we wrote a story about it because you asked me to. My adventures and these close to home things. So, I really did have to think about it. I do like the word adventure and as a young person I would have never called myself an adventurer. I was really focused, school, research grades. Rule following. But now I’m like I really enjoy adventure but I didn’t know why until they asked so I thought about it and it is the kids.
When they go to the farmer’s market and they see a tomato that looks funny. And they don’t even eat tomatoes but they just have this curiosity about it, about them and it’s beautiful. Or we come in and we see that waterfall and they’re like, “Take my picture it’s beautiful, its huge, how fast do you think it’s moving?” And they just have this zest for life over something that you’re like, “Yeah I’ve seen that waterfall 30 times blah blah blah.” But they’re not there. It’s beautiful. And all of a sudden that waterfall is the most beautiful thing that you could have seen that day because it was so amazing to them and it opens something inside of you and you’re like, I need more of that. I need to see more of that zest, that curiosity, that love.
And so, you do more things. Whatever thing it is that brings it about. It might be the splash pad and running around the water and the sprinklers or it might be making edible slime together, let’s see what changes we can mix in and come up with our own thing. Whatever it is that gets a spark going. Silly dance parties.
My daughter challenged me to a dance battle the other day. You know I look ridiculous. But we’re laughing and having a good time and making up her own dance moves and it’s like, “This is it.” This is what I’m looking for whether it’s out of the house or inside of the house. It’s learning how to connect with that playful self again and wherever that is. And I never thought I would have again. I was done, I was past playing. Playing was for children. But they have changed my whole outlook on that.
PAM: Yes, it is that curiosity. I love that word zest, zest for life. I mean just look at your kids. You can see it in action they’re just exploring and enjoying. Adventure was a word that we used a lot in the morning, “What adventures would you like to get up to today?” It was often how we would phrase things and talk about things. An adventure to us didn’t mean you had to travel far. It was all those things. It was going to the park and seeing how high the river is because it hasn’t rained in a few days or you know just little things like that. Adventures could be building a fort in the basement.
TALIA: It doesn’t have to cost lot of money and be exotic. You can find adventure five minutes from home or in your backyard catching lightning bugs at night.
My kids love to catch lightning bugs and they think they’re building them a home and they put chopped up bell pepper and grass and they put it in its home until it finds a way out and they are just so excited. As excited as if we did some amazing crazy wild thing you see pictures of on Instagram. They have the same excitement.
It’s more like honouring that and being excited with them through everything that they can learn that it doesn’t have to be extravagant to be amazing.
PAM: Yeah exactly. And it really is so much of our shift because they’re already doing that. It is already exciting for them and it’s us realizing that is an adventure, that the world is cool. Jaded is the word that just jumped into my head because we so often become so jaded. “Yeah, I’ve seen that waterfall 50 times.” “I’ve walked this path a hundred times.”
TALIA: We’re told, “That’s for children.” It’s OK. It’s a kid thing. And so,being a kid could be fun. So why can’t be an adult thing to? And I wasn’t a very good kid. I wasn’t getting dirty and playing.
I guess I get to do it right along with my kids now and they are showing me how to do it. I’m not showing them. They are showing me. I’m watching them learn and I think that looks fun. My husband’s great at it. He’s playful. He’s the adventurous type. Whatever it is he is the person that is easy going and laughing and the opposite of me in a lot of ways. So, he’s so good. Let’s blow this big bubble and trying to jump inside of it. And I’m like, “Well, you’re going to get sticky.” He reminds me, “The kids, they wash off.” I’m like, “Oh yeah, I guess we will be OK, you’re so wise.”
PAM: I know it’s so true, it’s so true. We could talk about that forever. And that’s a thing too when I see that out and about. I’m thinking of the word the difference between being child ish you know we don’t have to revert. We don’t have to turn off our brains to do it. That’s not it. It’s more childlike, embracing that curiosity, that zest for life, the zest for this moment. It doesn’t matter if we’ve done it 50 times before this is the time we’re doing it now.
TALIA: Right today, with these people in this situation.
People automatically have associated child with bad, with immaturity. It’s not. That needs to be changed and worked because that is a toxic idea that’s not serving anybody. Play is good just like rest is good. They’re all good. They all serve a purpose and it’s OK.
And I’m talking to myself because I’m bad at it but I’m learning and I’m getting better at it. And I have the best people in the world to guide me, four little ones that dive headfirst with the biggest smiles and show me. And I love it.
PAM: Oh that’s awesome. Yeah. I love that.
So what is your favourite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now. What’s the favourite thing right now?
TALIA: I really had to think about this one because I just I just really love our life. You know I really love our lifestyle. I love how it’s changed. I have kids with four different ages. I’ve gone through all these different stages and my oldest is always entering the next stage for the first time and I get to look at the next ones and think, ‘Oh you’re going to enter these stages too.’ If we’re going through a hard season I can go. We did this. I know that.
My 3 year old he’s so busy and sometimes I’m exhausted. I’m know it won’t always be like that. And so, it’s so fun to watch them and to develop these relationships. I get to spend so much time with them. So, we have inside jokes, stuff that’s ours because we’re spending time together and we’re watching shows together and we’re playing games together. We develop this connection and this relationship where there’s things that are ours or we see something and we’re like oh wait, “Doesn’t that remind you of this?” And it’s our story and it’s our thing or we have our favourite foods that we get to make together.
We just develop this level of connection that I knew was possible with adults and friendships. I have a good relationship with my mom now but I never knew it was possible to have that when the kids were young. It isn’t something you have to wait for. They don’t have to get to a certain age and then you go, “OK now we can do that together.” You can learn it now. They’re amazing people who they are right now. They’re amazing and they make great people to do life with.
And it’s so fun. It’s so fun to have all these special moments that we would be missing out on if they were in school. And I can’t imagine living a life where I didn’t see them do these things for the first time. It’s literally the best thing in the world to spend time with my kids. I love them so much. I never knew that our life could feel this way outside of the box, the box was comforting. And this was scary but this is the best. Amazing.
My son says scary but fun when he does something new and it is scary sometimes but it’s so fun and rewarding and I’m excited to see what happens next.
PAM: Wow “scary but fun.” I love that. That is a beautiful place to stop because that was an amazing summary of what it can look like. Right. And how capable and real people young kids are too. Yes.
TALIA: Yes, real people, right now.
PAM: Right now, right this instant. Absolutely.
Well thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Talia. It was so much fun. Thank you.
TALIA: You’re welcome and you made it so easy.
PAM: Well good. And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
TALIA: Sure. I blog occasionally. I try to show our unschooling days inside the house and outside the house at my wordpress blog which is Crazy Joyful Mama and I have a Facebook page where I share lots of stuff under the same name. CrazyJoyful Mama and actually it’s Our Crazy Joyful Life. Both of those things are Our Crazy Joyful Life on WordPress and Facebook. My Instagram is Crazy Joyful Mama because that’s me and I’m also on Twitter but I’m never on Twitter. I don’t know how to use it. One day maybe, I don’t know this is enough social media for me so Crazy Joyful Life WordPress, Facebook and Crazy Joyful Mama on Instagram.
PAM: I’ll be sure to put all those links in the show notes. So, people can go and find them there as well. Thanks again so much and have a great day. Thank you.