PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and this week Anna Brown joins me to answer some of the questions that I received. Hi Anna.
PAM: Before we get started, I just want to remind you guys that our Q&A conversations aren’t about giving anyone a right answer. It’s about contemplating the situation from the different perspectives of those involved and getting a perspective from someone outside the situation.
I think of it as tilling the soil around the question, maybe picking up a rock or two that we find to examine with an eye to helping not only the questioner but anyone who’s listening find a connection to their lives or just in their understanding of how unschooling works because as we know everything is connected.
So, it’s really interesting to see things from different perspectives, something that you might not have considered, anything that might bubble up for either one of us as we contemplate these questions. So, Anna would you like to get started.
ANNA: Yes. I do. And I agree. I just want to say to I think it’s not even so much answering as discussing. We’re using these questions as just fodder for discussion that can maybe then help the person that originally posted it and the person listening too.
Question one is around missing our kids when they’re busy.
This particular mom has heard parents on your podcast talking about hanging out with their kids and how much fun they’re having now that they’re unschooling. And she feels like since she stopped limiting “screen time” back in January her boys who are 15, 13, and 10 are playing lots of online games. And so, her question is basically, will they ever stop playing computer games so we can hang out together? She feels like nothing is as enticing as disappearing off into “fantasy land” with their mates online all day. And she’s feeling a little fed up and seeing much less of them, she feels like, than when they were in school last year.
ANNA: I think this comes up a fair amount. We hear people talk about this and what does that look like? And I think maybe the first thing to check about ourselves is our own expectations because sometimes we start something with a picture of what it’s going to look like and the reality of our family and personalities is very different. So, I think that it’s good to set aside those expectations and look at what we have. But I also really do want to validate that it is hard when someone in the house has a really intense interest that doesn’t include us. So, we’re a family of four and I feel like at one time or another that’s happened to all of us. Where one or two are really into something that the other two aren’t or the others aren’t. Sometimes that can feel a little lonely or distancing. And that’s just a really good time to check in with yourself. “OK. How can I turn this around? How can we connect in a different way?”
She also mentioned in her original question that she isn’t really able to play the games at their level and I get that too because even when I would want to try to do some of the games, I was terrible at them. I just never could do it. It wasn’t really a fun way for us to connect. But one of the points I wanted to make is to take that time to understand the games. So, I could not play the games necessarily because I just wasn’t that great at it. But I did some reading and I watched some YouTube and I understood pieces about the games and I really listen. And there are some memes and funny things about listening to one more hour of the videogame talk but really I kind of got excited about it because they’re excited about it and so you just kind of feed off that energy. I think when you learn the terminology, when you’re not just saying, “Oh, you’re on that game again or you’re off in fantasy land.” If instead you can say, “Oh, so what happened with the quest today? Or did you guys get that level?” And they think, ‘Oh, she’s hearing me. She knows what I’m what we’re doing.” And then that opens them up to want to share more. Because if you keep it at that kind of generic, distancing language, I don’t want to share the details with you. That’s just a waste of my time.
I think that’s important but also the other aspect of this question is something we come back to a lot and that’s conversations. Talk, talk to your kids, tell them. I mean I would say, “Oh my gosh you know we haven’t done this in so long and I really miss doing this and can we do this?” And so, I think things like that are coming to mind. But what are you thinking?
PAM: One of the first things I want to point out too was that she mentioned it’s been since January and we’re right now at the mid-August point. So, still seven months and change and her kids are older and they’ve had things limited for years. You hear that in school for so many years/deschoolig. But it’s not even that, it’s how long things have been limited. So, it can take lots of time, well over a year from other unschooling parents too who have taken their kids out of school or changed up their parenting style that way for them to feast on whatever’s been in limited supply before they can really feel like they’ve got that choice to move on.
So, again we don’t know for sure if that’s part of this but it can be. So, that’s why I wanted to mention that. I want to mention the video gaming compilation episode that I put out a couple of months ago because it included some grown unschoolers talking about their passion for gaming growing up. How they spent the majority of their time gaming and they talk about what they got out of the experience and how it led to what they’re up to now. So, I’ll put links to that in the show notes.
Along the same lines as what Anna was talking about, there’s a few things that you can do now just to help acknowledge that this is definitely an uncomfortable time. This is a new way of being together so it does really help to take some time to acknowledge the different pieces. One is noticing that your boys are having fun and really enjoying themselves. And reminding yourself that it is really important. Reminding yourself why that’s really important, why engaging with things that we love is a valuable thing to be doing.
She mentioned that right now while they’re playing she’s doing gardening and reading and listening to podcasts and stuff. Those are the things that she’s enjoying and she’s having this time to pursue her interests and realizing how that’s valuable.
And you alluded to what I called making learning about their games a project of my own basically. Learning about this bigger picture stuff because so often a lot of us aren’t that good at games because we haven’t grown up with them. So, it may not be an interest or passion of ours as you said but that’s not the only way to engage with them. You can hang out with them, figuring out what they’re doing, seeing them in action. Googling the games and you mentioned learning more about what’s going on the games you can have those conversations because truly when you can ask how’d your quest go? Or they can come in and say hey mom so-and-so finally joined our party or whatever it is, you’re just showing that deep respect for that interest, for what they’re up to.
It’s even not for the interest itself but deep respect for the fact that they’re so interested in it. And just imagine how different that feels versus you just not restricting their time. OK. Not restricting their time is great. That’s a great first step. But when you’re actually respecting and appreciating what it is they’re choosing to do with their time, now that it’s not limited. That takes it that next level of connection and depth.
As you were talking about now they’re going be excited to come and share with you. And it’s just a whole new way to connect and to live alongside each other. And then again, go ahead.
ANNA: Well, I just want to say too that it’s not just about video games. I think video games are kind of the buzzword that gets people amped up. But honestly what we’re talking about is just communicating, whether they have a deep interest in theatre or they have a deep interest in archaeology. Those would still be things that for me are not necessarily my thing but you know I could learn about it and know the terminology and be able to understand what they’re saying. And then that shows my interest in what they’re doing just like when maybe they go, “Oh, Pam I saw this cool thing about this podcast.”
So, I think video games can cause kind of a visceral reaction in people and it’s not about that. It’s just about passions and interests that sometimes differ.
PAM: Exactly. I love that piece because you’re right it can be anything that they’re interested in and this is a way to connect with them and to have that kind of close and respectful relationship whatever it is. And I loved your idea of talking to them about this as well. It’s not just walking in and saying, “Hey will you come do this with me?” No, you can go to that deeper level of understanding yourself and saying, “Hey I’m missing you. I’m missing you guys. I miss when we, you know you may say when we did this or this but it’s not even about the thing really, what you’re looking for is that connection right? So, it can be like, “Is there something we can do? Is there a time when the four of us or five of us or however many can do something together?”
Even if it’s gaming related, I mean they know that you’re not very good at the game itself but it may be a gaming related thing. Maybe come watch us when we’re all trying to do this because this is a big piece or maybe we can all go for a walk. I know there’s that travelling orchestra that goes around playing gaming music. It might be something related but different. Maybe you find a documentary about creating a game or maybe there’s a movie set in the world of the game. You know there’s just so many possibilities where you can connect and just sharing that you’re missing them that you’d like to do something that you can all do together and ask them for ideas. It’s just fodder for conversation and now they realize, “Hey, she is just wanting to connect with me.” And then they’ll have that in their head and they might not be available right in the moment but a few days later they may say, “Hey Mom what about this.”
ANNA: They’re getting that insight into the why behind because I think if you come at it “Why are you playing another game? Or haven’t you been doing that a long time?” They’re thinking, “Oh, she’s trying to stop me from playing.” She’s judging how I’m spending my time. That’s just kind of defense mechanism of how we react to things as opposed to if you make it about you that I message of, “Gosh, I’m missing you, I loved when we watch that show or hey I want to hear more about this.” or whatever they can go “Oh, she’s wanting to connect with me.” And I have seen time and time again kids and people of all ages they want to connect so that is a draw. So not dangling, “Let’s go to the park.” That might not be the draw but it’s when they know you truly want to connect and hear them and be with them. That is a draw for people.
PAM: And I found so often that when I think about it I realized I jumped to a solution.
ANNA: Yeah, yeah.
PAM: And I’m offering or I’m asking about a solution when rather I can just bring the problem. I’m missing you. And then we can all come up with ways to do it. I mean we think we’re being helpful because we figured out here’s a solution. I want you to get off the game and let’s go do this. And it’s a yes/no thing. That’s not a conversation. That’s are you going to stop now and come do this? But I’m sure you can sense the difference between that. Just like sharing the root of it and then everybody just having a conversation moving forward.
Our second question is about how the parents’ personality might help or hinder unschooling.
Dad is wondering if it’s safe/wise/possible for parents who are themselves very laid back and relaxed to unschool their kids. What if the parents lack that motivation or drive and leave it to the kids to find their own way?
PAM: Now, I found this to be such an interesting question. I really liked it. Thanks very much for asking. Because in one sense laid back and relaxed sounds really helpful in that we’re not bringing our expectations into our relationships with our kids. We’re not expecting things. We’re pretty laid back and relaxed about the things that they’re choosing. Yet, I also don’t see leaving it to the kids to find their own way as unschooling at all. When you phrase it that way, it just seems neglectful. So, I think there is this whole world between being laid back and leaving the kids to figure it all out. So, that’s really curious to think about.
If you’re not excited and interested in hanging out with your kids and exploring the world with them, I’m just curious what’s inspiring you to choose unschooling in the first place. Because that’s kind of the draw, from my perspective. That’s also where being laid back can be an advantage, in that without that overlay of our expectations of how and what our kids should explore in the world we can dive into exploring it through their eyes in the ways that they’re curious about.
I don’t think unschooling parents need to feel driven to introduce all the random things in the world to their kids. But I do think they need to feel motivated to provide their kids with the experiences that the kids are seeking out.
If they want to go to the museum or the park in the next town you need to be motivated enough to do that. Or even just to figure out a way for it to happen. It doesn’t literally always need to be you doing all these things but if there’s something they want to do you can figure out a way to make that happen for them. So, I don’t think being laid back, personality wise, is a hindrance to unschooling but not wanting to actively engage with your kids and help them explore the world is. So that’s kind of how I see those two, not as opposites like you do this or you do this but living in that whole world in between.
ANNA: Right. And for me it was the same. Something I do when I talk to people about unschooling, whether it’s a conference or just one on one. Really early on I’m express that unschooling is not the easy way out. Because I think there were lots of times when you know my kids were younger that I thought, ‘Gosh if I just put him at a table with a curriculum I could be over here doing this other thing and that would be easier in some ways.’ But what I found for me is that the work of unschooling is joyful work because it’s connecting with these people that I love. And so that’s what I love because I never really wanted to be a teacher, that wasn’t a career that I was really inspired by. And so that’s what I loved about unschooling, we were exploring together. It wasn’t me imparting knowledge, it wasn’t me sitting people down. But it is still work. Because especially for me I felt like, as an introvert, it stretched me in a lot of ways to be able to create opportunities and to follow through on things that they were interested in. And so yeah, I’m pretty laid back but I had to engage in order to create an unschooling environment that I felt like where my kids could thrive.
Something I just want to caution about this question is because I don’t know the reason behind it. I think if we’re looking at ourselves and asking that question, great. So, happy about that. But, if you’re looking at someone else and making that judgment and saying “They’re laid back, they’re not doing enough. They’re not an active enough parent.” Then I would say let’s just pull back from that just a little bit because that’s not helpful. And I think we’ve seen through the podcast and through our experience with other unschoolers, from the outside there can be long stretches of time where kids are doing very internal work. Where we’re home bodies and we’re really absorbed in things at home. And so, from the outside perspective it’d be like, “Well gosh this family’s doing field trips and going to the zoo and they’re doing this and they’re in this class and look at how active they are. Then here’s this family that’s not.” But really that’s all being driven by the internal work that’s happening with those kids.
And so, I would just say yeah absolutely ask yourself these questions, is this something I want to do? Is this how I want to be engaged with my children and my family? Is this what I want for myself? But let’s not put that lens onto someone else because we really don’t know what’s happening in anybody’s family and with any child at a particular time and what they’re having to deal with.
So, I guess I just wanted to throw that out there because as I reread the question I thought, ‘Are we talking about somebody else or are we asking about ourselves?’
PAM: So, that is brilliant. That didn’t even cross my mind. And that is such an important point because that’s it. Like I mentioned before, it’s seeing the world through their eyes and the way they want to pursue it. And the whole point behind saying that is sometimes they are introverted. Sometimes they are feeling like a cocooning period, you don’t know. That’s why as parents not putting our expectations on that they will be forever a certain level of active, is not useful etc. So, that’s why laid back really isn’t a measure of usefulness as a parent but then definitely not looking at somebody else’s lives because there you have no clue what’s going on inside. Not in the parents, not in the kids, not in the connection between them.
For me, the connection with my child is a better barometer of most things. Because then I’m understanding, maybe not to the level of detail because maybe they are a private child. They may be going through a time where they’re feeling more private about things. Maybe they are still processing and figuring out things that they don’t really understand yet. So, it’s all being respectful of their needs but seeing it through their eyes. And when you’re a step outside of that, outside that family, you can’t have that knowledge.
ANNA: You just have no idea at all. And I think just to reiterate for everybody listening too, so often we’ve seen that time of inward, where maybe they’re not going out has been a time of incredible growth. Leaps will happen as soon as we get through the stage. It is such a valuable time.
So, it’s not a time to be judging yourself or your kids or anyone else about, “Oh we’re not doing enough.” As long as you’re checking in and staying connected with each other and that’s what everybody’s needing at that time, we have found major growth happen from turning really inward for a couple months even. It’s just a season of needing to and again what we’ve seen is this just leap afterwards in different directions, growing, doing—maybe not that it’s super active but just growth and change and development happens and all these different ways and one of the beautiful gifts of unschooling is to have the time for that.
PAM: And the space. Without all that stuff that you’re putting on top of it because that’s totally what we’ve seen as well. And it’s the learning and the growth. I’m thinking of those leaps in self-awareness, those leaps in understanding, in the way they engage with things, all come from those periods of quietness.
I do like the cocoon metaphor because you can’t see what’s inside, you don’t know what’s going on but you know something’s going on, it’s a quieter season. And patience and trust and just connecting to see that they’re not looking for something more and even to help them with that cocooning. To make sure they’ve got the foods, the comfort, the whatever, the quietness, the whatever it is that they’re seeking out, making sure that they have more of that so they can embrace the stage that they’re in it at the time. It’s like you said it’s something that you only see looking back.
ANNA: Exactly. I don’t want to ever make anyone feel bad about that. So, you don’t want that kind of cajoling, “Oh, let’s just do this, let’s just do that.” Like you said, I love that, let’s dive into that, let’s help make sure they have that space and that cocooning that you need. And if maybe that’s not where you personally are then you can get those needs met elsewhere. And that’s something we’ve talked about before. You can go get those needs met elsewhere but still protecting this cocoon because there are things happening in there, there are. Again, maybe it’s leaps I, self-awareness, it may be developmental leaps, even physical leaps. We’ll see that sometimes with little babies and kids you know they’ll be in this really different space and all of a sudden, they’re walking or they start a new language, it’s the same for all of us throughout these stages. We come in and we grow.
PAM: Then I wonder if we look back on that first question for a moment, you can maybe think of this time as a cocooning time for them too. They’re embracing and diving into something that has been limited before. And they’re just immersing themselves in that for now and to try to predict when they may come out of it or what they may be gaining from it really is a futile game because you’re going to see eventually how it develops.
It always helped me in those times and to just become more curious as in patient and curious. ‘I wonder where this is going to go. I wonder what this is going to look like in six months.’ And you know what, I almost always gave it at least a six month window because we need that time. It’s not it’s not like bells and test periods and all that kind of stuff. Human beings don’t progress along a ladder. It’s all over the place and that’s the cool thing. But remembering patience and giving it space.
ANNA: I love your point and I think you’re really onto something with the first question because looking at their ages and how it’s been a short amount of time, diving into that interest of video games or sometimes it’s watching television or it’s reading books or whatever. It’s a way for kids that have been maybe overwhelmed by school and pressures and whatever they’ve had to deal with to really focus in and take control of their environment. And so that could absolutely be a play, so you don’t want to be changing that. Still great to have that discussion of I’m missing you or what can we do together to figure this out but also really protecting that space for them.
PAM: Hmm. Sweet.
Question three is about starting unschooling with an older child.
This mom is considering unschooling her 14-year-old. She describes it as he hates school and has trouble with critical thinking and reading comprehension and a lot of school type measures and she’s just wondering if it’s too late to get started. And to clarify I believe they, yes, they’ve been homeschooling. So, I don’t think he’s in school, they’ve actually just been doing a very traditional model of homeschooling but she’s seen this resistance and him not enjoying this time.
ANNA: My short answer is it’s never too late to move unschooling. Because in the question she mentioned these school type deficits and measurements and that type of thing. But she also said that he works hard in things that interest him. And you know it’s kind of ding, ding, ding. That’s pretty much the case for all of us.
When something interests us or strikes this light in us, we want to do it.
But this would be a dramatic change, from how she described their homeschooling life to this. So, my suggestion would be to start with just open conversations, talk about it. “I see you’re not happy. I see you don’t like school, that this isn’t working.” And start having conversations about what could it look like. “What would you like it to look like instead?” We’re talking about a 14-year-old, he’s going to have lots of ideas about how he’d like to spend his time and what that would look like. What excites him? Are there things he wants to learn more about?
So, have more conversations versus just staying either imposing the homeschool like you are now or we’re throwing that out the window because I think that could be pretty confusing. We’ve seen that come up before but I think as you have as open conversations, again when we share what we’re seeing, those observations, that person feels seen and they feel heard. “She’s hearing me. I’ve been telling her I don’t like this and I don’t like school and I don’t like these pieces. And we’ve just kept pushing through but now she’s seeing me, now she’s hearing what I’m saying.”
And then that slowly builds that trust to say, “Well yeah I don’t like this but I don’t mind this. I’m kind of interested in this.” And you know then you just start to really learn about the person versus you know having these two people in conflict. I’m going to dig in and say I hate school and I’m gonna dig in and say we’re gonna do it anyway because school, what a weird term is that anyway when you look at learning—what does that even mean? It’s kind of like the term “screen time”, if you mean learning we all want that. We’re just learning creatures.
So, if you can set those definitions aside and that deficit focus that school has and instead build up the things that are interests and that get them excited and I think it would just be a really different dynamic between the two of them that would change very easily. But I do think if you just throw everything out the window without a conversation there’s going to be a lot of confusion and maybe some hurt feelings really on both sides but that’s just kind of what came to mind.
PAM: Yeah and something that came to mind early on when she was talking about the critical thinking and the reading comprehension and stuff like that. It’s the lens through which you see those as well. Because if he were to fully engage with the things that he finds interesting, like she said, he’s really smart and he can remember things his way. He remembers them visually. Not the way a curriculum wants him to remember these things.
I’ll never forget because Joseph was in school for a few years. And I would go to school in the teacher’s meetings and they would be saying, “Well you know he struggles to read these books, these early readers.” And I’d be saying, “Well you know at home, I’ve got these video game walkthroughs that are literally 80 pages on a dot matrix printer and he’s reading and comprehending all of that.” It wasn’t the skill persay, it was a situation. It was the environment. It was, that is boring to me and I’m not interested in that story. So, I’m struggling to read that for you because this is something I don’t want to do.
ANNA: It doesn’t hold your interest and so then how do you show your comprehension of something that you can barely get through it because it doesn’t hold your interest?
PAM: Exactly, so I think just like you were saying having conversations and shifting the focus to the things that he enjoys and that he’s interested in, you may see so much more because these are really background skills, this critical thinking in this reading comprehension, stuff like that. They are going to be pertinent no matter what the topic is.
You can be thinking critically as you’re looking through resources for the thing that you’re interested in. You can be reading and comprehending and figuring out how to pick out the important bits again through doing research of the things that you’re interested in.
These kinds of skills are useful and that’s one of the basics as you explore how learning happens in unschooling, even through a passion when you think, “Oh my gosh you know their world is going to be so small because they’re only interested in this one little thing.” But no, the skills and the world open up. That’s just the lens through which you’re exploring. There is so much to everything. There’s so much context for everything there. Your skills, your reading, your writing, your communicating, your critical thinking all those things can be done through the lens of anything.
PAM: Yep, yep. And then I love that piece too. I think as you shift and look more through his interests, I think it can be really helpful to just think of starting to have fun, more fun. How can we have more fun together? Because that’s where you’re going to start seeing this stuff in action, not a test or not a module that’s telling you how to think critically through this window. But you’re going to start seeing this stuff in action. So, that’s the part where you’re going to start moving from understanding unschooling to actually seeing it in action and trusting that it works and being able to let go of some of those more formal pieces and seeing how it happens and how it works in everyday situations.
I think you’re going to find answers to all those questions that you have right now and discover that awesome person that your kid is just by releasing some of that and letting the interests start to lead your days and lead your ways and seeing it in action.
ANNA: And I guess, back to her question. I think now’s a great time because here you have him 14 years old, he still has some more years at home. And so how great for him to take this responsibility for what he’s interested in and what he’s wanting to do. But while you’re there to share it with him and to figure things out and to answer questions and to do all that together. So, I think what a perfect time to start moving that. Because it’s so bizarre to me this idea that 18 comes or whatever arbitrary age a family decides and then now, you’re on your own and you need to be deciding all these things you’re interested in and what you want to do. And we see that floundering 20 something that’s really never had a moment to do that because they’ve been just doing what they’re told all along. So, yeah 14, 15 that’s a great time to just really start and connect with each other and figure out what it is he enjoys doing and help him do that.
PAM: Yeah. That’s a great point. It is. Anytime because it’s a lifestyle right. It’s not, like you said, it’s not that it ends at 18. It’s a lifestyle for the parent as well. It’s the way we as a family are now choosing to live. So, it goes well beyond the compulsory school years. You could shift this at any age, when your kids are college age, whenever you discover, “Jeepers I’m not going to use these conventional measures so much anymore and that who we are as people is more important and connecting on a real level is what’s valuable to us.” So, anytime is fine.
But the teen years are awesome, aren’t they?
ANNA: I love them!
PAM: They really are great.
Our last question connects back to the second question about parent’s personalities.
Mom says that she’s a Type A personality and an avid rule follower and they started homeschooling last year. She’d love to dive fully into unschooling but is struggling with falling back on her old beliefs and fears.
PAM: So, I think the most helpful way to work through this is to do that work to question those rules, those old beliefs, those fears. Just one at a time. One little thing at a time. So, what is that rule or belief trying to accomplish here? You’re going to do a little bit digging for yourself. What assumptions does it make? There are assumptions built into a lot of these rules. Do those seem valid to me? See this is where we’re bringing our piece in instead of conventional wisdom telling us what we should think. What do I think? Does it seem valid to me? Does it seem valid to our kids? Does it seem valid to our lives as a family in general? Are there situations in which that rule might not be the best path forward? Can I explain the reason behind the rule? Does it make sense?
I love that piece because the next question then becomes, ‘Is it enough to just share the explanation behind it?’ I don’t need the rule now that I understand it at its root, what it’s about. I can just share what it’s about and we can have that conversation and see what it looks like for us, for each of us, in our lives. Because I think so many times rules and beliefs are shortcuts to communicating those deeper ideas. We summarize it, we quickly throw out the rule and let’s move on. But with unschooling, part of that is that we have that time to share and to talk about those deeper ideas and through those conversations we all become more self-aware.
We have the time and the space to make choices that align with the kind of person we want to be. We have that space just to think about that. Not you must follow all the rules and here’s the rules and boom. No discussion, no thought. And if you don’t do it, you’re a bad person. We don’t need those shortcuts in our lives. We can actually figure out who we want to be, how we want to live and why those things exist in the world.
Because a lot of them boil down to common sense but because they’ve been so generalized and just thrown in there, they lose that common sense. There’s that critical thinking piece again from that last question. That critical thinking about whatever it is we want to do in the moment. And I really think after you’ve done the first, it seems like, “Oh my gosh. Every old rule and belief that I have I have to process that?” What we’re talking about right at the root of things, they are the same thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s an interest in gaming or if it’s an interest in whatever. Here too when you dig into these rules and beliefs, you find a very common foundation in them. So after a few, I think it will get a lot easier. You’ll find the similarity and you’ll be like five minutes, “Oh that’s really just all about this and we already think this about that.”.
And the same thing with processing our fears because so often fears are based around not following rules or expectations. “Oh, if we don’t do this what’s going to happen in the future?” It’s projecting not following rules into the future. I think that’s where so many of our fears come from.
So, I think this process is going to tackle all that stuff and rule following is fine, that type A personality, that’s not a bad thing in this situation, you’re just getting to the root, you get into the base of those rules. This is the person I want to be, a person who does X Y and Z or who believes X Y and Z. Part of your rules can be that I incorporate, we figure out a way to make it work for everybody in the family. So, it’s not, “Don’t throw balls in the house kind of rule.” But at its root is that we want to try not to break things. So, we make choices moving forward, we don’t follow the rules but we make choices that help things not get broken.
ANNA: Definitely. And I don’t have it right in front of me but I’m reminded of the episode with I believe it’s Amy Martinez that maybe just came out. Because she talks about how that was their core personality, this kind of rule following and do it this one way. And she said from the outside she’s sure everybody thinks they’ve thrown all the rules out the window. But she feels like they’ve done this process just like you said.
ANNA: That they really started to look at, “How do we feel about that rule? Is that still serving us?” And they still take things very seriously. So, I think it might be interesting for this person to listen to that episode if they haven’t.
But something I wanted to say was that I feel like we have talked about how much unschooling brings up for us as parents. So, it does bring up these issues that we maybe had from childhood or our teens years.
Personally, I find when I get mired and worry about the future or what someone else is thinking, I just stop and I turn inward and I prioritize. What are my priorities? Because that helps ground me in the present but also it grounds me to who I want to be. That’s where I always come back to. Who do I want to be in the world? How do I want to relate to people and my priorities? Time and time again it’s my relationships.
It’s the connections with my husband, with my children, with my friends and so that helps me set aside any of this fear or worry because I know I’m tending to what’s most important to me. And what I’ve seen is that when I am tending to those things, the rest works itself out. I don’t have to carry these fears because when we’re connected, we’re working things out. And so that doesn’t mean that everything is perfectly smooth all the time. So, I don’t want that to be the take away from that.
We have this foundational relationship and this connection and that because of that we’re able to handle what comes our way. And honestly when we think about that that’s so much more powerful because this worry and trying to control the future which is kind of what this piece is talking about. ‘I’m going to make sure they study this or do this so they don’t have this problem.’ This is a false belief that we can control the future but what’s so much more valuable and incredible is when we have this relationship and foundation. Then it doesn’t matter what the future holds because tough as it is, whatever happens, even catastrophes because we’ve all had them, we’ve all had tragedies and terrible things happen but what I have seen time and time again is with our foundation and our connection we get through it.
We get through it together. And I don’t need to be fearful of those things. So, that’s where I want to put my focus is on that connection and on building relationships and on communication and on talking. Because that is what, that’s the only thing we can do. We can take care of this moment in front of us and me worrying about the future isn’t going to change it or make it better. So, I think to get there you just have to trust. We’ve talked about that so many times, do some of the work to peel back the layers and look at the mirror and look at your children and see where are all of these things coming from and tune back inside and back to your connections. And I think it will just be so much clearer. That’s my true belief.
PAM: Yeah. It really is about the process right. It’s not about the thing.
Because once you see time and again that taking this space, this time to sit with the discomfort of whatever is going wrong in the moment or whatever fear you’re having, whatever rule is bubbling up for you that you really want to just shout out. It’s OK to take that time. We don’t need an answer, a right answer and it doesn’t need to be fast. Those are the conventional beliefs that get in the way. So, those are the things that you’re going to find that you’re going to be working on. But once you see time and again like you said taking that time, that process to think things through, to talk to each other to stay connected, you find that’s the foundation on which you can move through all those times, the good times, the bad times, all the times. Because I know it does seem so often that people think that life must be so easy when you’re, when you see it this way. But that’s what we have, a process. Because life happens right.
It’s not like things are smooth and everybody’s, everything’s going well for everybody all the time and la la la. But it’s still a perspective. It’s still you get to a point where you trust that you’ll get to the other side.
Yes. Knowing that there is another side that is what helps. And knowing you’ve done it so many times. And that’s one of the biggest things, one of the most important things I think for my kids growing up with unschooling and this kind of lifestyle is knowing that, “I have no clue how I’m going to get through this but I know I will.”
Understanding themselves just however it works for them to think about it to process it, to figure out what they think about it, to brainstorm ways they might try moving through it, to take a little step and see what happens. You know it’s all about the process not about the rule or the expectation or anything around it. It’s it’s more just about gaining the experience in moving through things. Does that make sense?
ANNA: It does. I think again, it may feel different and I think it might feel like a little bit of a different paradigm for people coming at it from a different way. But again, I think just look in and find those priorities and tend to those connections. And I think you’ll just see. “Oh OK. Wow. Yeah. This thing that used to be a stumbling block now that we have this connection, we’re able to talk to each other and move through it much faster.” Then you’ll start building those experiences, both of you, building those experiences so just like you said, when you hit this brick wall you both are like “OK this is tough and hurts and stings and I don’t like it but you know what? We’re going to figure it out because we know that we’re trusted partners.” And that’s the difference. So, in that way our lives are easier because we have these foundations and trusted partners and these connections.
But that doesn’t mean that life is necessarily easier to us, you know what I mean?
PAM: Yeah, yeah, Exactly.
ANNA: I’m still grateful for it because I feel very joyful about my life and all those things but there are hard moments and difficult times and all of that. But I know I have this trust of my kids and my husband and my friends and that’s what gets you through those tough times.
PAM: Yeah, the thought that occurred to me as you’re saying that because that is awesome because I would have considered myself a rule follower and I don’t feel like I’ve changed fundamentally as a person.
I think maybe what I’ve done is just included more people. Included my kids, and my family in the lens through which I look at things. Like rule following when things make sense right.
At first, when I was younger, the rules made sense because that’s what I knew. So, fundamentally I was a person who really needed things to make sense. At one time that was rules. Right.
ANNA: Right. So, this is interesting. Yes. So, I too would consider myself a rule follower. I am never late. I always do these things like that, these are important things to me. But there is this critical thinking piece. I feel like what we have because I want it to make sense. So, the underlying piece is not to follow anybody’s arbitrary rule. It’s ‘Does this make sense to me?’ And I have continued because that’s the questioning. And so maybe things that people consider rules, “You have to send your kids to school.” Well that’s not a rule. You can see that’s not a rule. But so maybe then it’s stepping back and going, ‘Where does that rule come from? What are the origins of that? Why is it there? What is the purpose of it? And does it serve me and my family and my children?’
And so yeah, I don’t think that to be an unschoolers you have to be throwing everything out. And I love that about the Amy Martinez interview as well because she is very conventional in a lot of ways and yet she’s doing this thing that some people consider unconventional. But you and I both have talked about this before, we don’t get it. What’s unconventional about having these relationships? We’re humans, that’s what we’re here for. So, anyway that’s a little aside but I think that’s an interesting point. So, it’s not throwing the rules out it’s just maybe pulling that lens, that new lens to look at it.
PAM: Exactly. I love that. And that’s a great place to wrap it up.
Those are questions to ask yourself. And it really is all about seeing things, figuring out how they make sense to you. Because how can you live any other way? Living any other way is going to feel fragile really. You’re going to be buffeted around by other people’s opinion because if you’re not understanding and living in ways that make sense to you, you’re always going to be looking outside for someone to tell you what to do because you need somebody else to have it make sense.
PAM: Thank you so much Anna. I really appreciate it.
ANNA: I’m always happy to be here.
PAM: It is so much fun. And thanks everybody for the questions and I wish everybody a lovely day.
ANNA: Bye, take care!