PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca. And today I’m here with Alex Polikowsky. Hi, Alex.
ALEX: Hi Pam, it’s nice seeing you again.
PAM: So nice to see you too. And just to let people know, Alex was on the podcast just a bit over three years ago now.
ALEX: Has it been that long?!
PAM: It really, really has.
ALEX: That’s crazy.
PAM: I know, I know. And I’ll put the link in the show notes for people so if they want to go back and listen. But recently, a listener went back to that episode and posted a comment about how much she enjoyed it and she mentioned that she’d love to hear an update. And I thought that was an amazing idea. So, thank you very much for the inspiration Ashley.
To get us started Alex, just like a quick little review for people …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
ALEX: Sure. So, we are a family of four and we live on a dairy farm, a working dairy farm in Minnesota. I have a 17 year old son, Daniel, and a 13 year old daughter, Gigi, and we live out in the country. But it’s really close to town. So, when people hear about it, they think I live all the way in the country but I really just live like five miles from town so I get the best of all worlds. I’m out in the country but we’re also in town.
I am from Brazil. My husband is a Minnesotan farmer. We met online, on a dating site. I did live in North Carolina, so I could fly over here and meet him in person. And we’ve been unschooling since the beginning. I started reading about unschooling through Jan Hunt from the Natural Child Project when my son was probably like 6 months old. I didn’t know what unschooling was and I really didn’t have any idea but it sounded wonderful because I was already doing that kind of attachment parenting naturally when I found out about attachment parenting. Then when my son was about 2 years old, I found the discussions online, Yahoo Groups. That’s when, with time and discussions and reading about it and meeting so many wonderful people, I learned what was unschooling and how it worked and all that.
PAM: Yeah that’s spectacular. And I love that piece too about being rural and close to the city because you know it took us a while to find this spot. So, with five acres and some conservation land and 10 minutes away from a large enough city that meets 95 percent of our needs. That works out well, doesn’t it?
ALEX: It does. I guess if your whole family is very introverted and they don’t like town and they live out in the country very far away might work. But when your unschooling and you want to open up the world to your kids and bring them out. Even if they’re introverted, they still have that access. I think that we’re in the middle ground so we can run both ways.
PAM: That’s great.
ALEX: It helps.
PAM: So, in the last episode you talked with us about Gigi’s school experience. She chose to go for a few months when she was nine, so she went to grade 4. And you told us that she really enjoyed it at first. She satisfied her curiosity about it and then eventually a few months in, she found that she didn’t have enough time outside of school to pursue all her interests. So, I thought we’d start there.
If you could share a bit about what some of those interests were and the things that she dove into over the next couple of years?
ALEX: Sure. And I’m not going to go back and say everything because it’s in the first podcast if you want to learn what her thought process and why she went and then you can go back and listen to that. I’m sure Pam going to post a link to it. But she was really big into baking. Actually, from that age on as soon as she quit school. She was back to her cows. So, we have dairy cows. Gigi when she was eight years old, she bought her first Jersey with the money she made from working at the farm. And since then she has a little herd of Jerseys. She has five cows and with the young stock she might have like 10. She’s got about 15 animals.
ALEX: And she wanted to be with the cows all the time and wanted to be working and she loves to read and she wanted time to read and not the books necessarily that she found at school. She’s a voracious reader. And she started at that time to bake. And that was a huge passion. And she’s not baking as much now because it’s school again. But she’s still does, because she has a cottage license, she can actually sell her baking goods to the public.
She could bring to things she bakes to school, usually you can only bring store bought things. But because she has a cottage license she can bring it to school events and things. And she has sold her famous brownies to her friends. So, she brings it and sells it to them in school. Maybe she shouldn’t be do that but she does. When they order it at night and bring it in or bake it first thing in the morning, gets up early. She baked all day. She was in my kitchen for years. Incredible. She’s just a really good baker. She’s been baking with me since she was 2 years old. I would just give her the ingredients and she would do the rest. I have a video on my blog, she’s like two years old and she’s got the little hand mixer and I’m giving her stuff. She puts it in and bakes. She loves brownies. So, I used to give her the box brownies and she would make that. After she started watching the shows, she was not satisfied with making box brownies because they don’t taste as good. So, she started making real brownies and real this and that. She has a page Dairy Girl Delights on Facebook. We’re not offering a lot now. We’re not really advertising because she doesn’t have time anymore for that but she’s done wedding cakes and lots of different things.
PAM: I’ve seen some beautiful cakes on Facebook.
ALEX: So, between the basketball that she’s been doing. The fourth grade in school she started basketball which she would have done even home school because in Minnesota you can do sports for the school. So, the next year she still played basketball for school, a travelling team. Between bovines, basketball and baking she’s really busy.
PAM: The three Bs!
ALEX: She’s really, really busy all these years. Those are her main interests and reading and now a lot of social things, you know being with her friends.
PAM: Yeah. So, you talked about that a little bit. She chose to go back to school part time last year and then this school year she’s come back full time. Right? For grade eight.
ALEX: Yes. So last year she. Go ahead, go ahead.
PAM: I was just going to ask …
Could share the motivation behind that choice and how you felt about it?
ALEX: Yes. She’s been playing basketball very seriously since fourth grade. I mean every year it gets more and more and she’s an all year long play player. She does several leagues and she started playing a lot in the summer with the summer three on three and other tournaments with some girls from Stewartville. That’s the other school district. So, we are in the Byron school district, almost to the line of Stewartville.
So, we’re in between physically but it’s still in the Byron district but it’s open enrolment here. But for you to play for the school you have to be, as a homeschooler, you have to be in the district. So, she can play for Byron without going to school there, as a homeschooler all the way to graduation. But if she wanted to play for Stewartville, she would have to be enrolled in Stewartville. Even if it’s for a little bit. But she started playing with some girls from Stewartville, both teams are really good. But she really liked the girls Stewartville and became friends with them. She really wanted to hang out with them. So, she said and she wanted to be in the school with them not just at the tournaments.
Then she just was becoming very social wanting to be with friends and do things and be more independent. Before she was always with me. And then just becoming a teenager, an outgoing teenager. And so, she asked to go and she told me and her dad and I said “Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t want to stay in Byron? You don’t have to go to school. You might join Stewartville. And then you might quit and then you can’t play for them.” And she’s like “No, no, I want to go. I want to go.” I said “OK well, let’s enroll.” So, we went to school and enrolled in half day. And that was enough. She picked the classes she wanted with a counsellor and they’re very open, very happy to have her, wonderful just like Byron was and she started going. After the first semester she added two more classes. So, she was going six periods instead of four. And she said all along that next year she’ll go full time.
So, this year she’s enrolled full time. She’s happy. She really is. She’s now at school for a lot of hours. Last year, I had to go pick her up and bring her back to practice. So, this year she stays in school so many hours because they go from 7:50 in the morning. She likes to be there at 7:00. And she’s done with practice at least by 5:30 in the afternoon. She’s with her friends and she’ll spend the summer going to the pool and doing things with her friends. So, she’s getting all that social. That unfortunately I could not provide as a homeschooler, where we are.
And I might have been able if I lived in a town that was bigger and had more homeschooling kids, that had the same interests as her.
PAM: That’s the thing.
ALEX: She has friends. We actually do 4-H and did girl scouts, we had friends from school, basketball friends. But she wanted to just be with them. And there were not the same interests in their friends. And cow show friends they only get together during the cow show things because they’re all from different schools and different areas in different cities. She wanted that. That’s the biggest motivation, was being with friends and she’s enjoying.
PAM: Yeah. Because her overriding interest being basketball right? That is where that sport is. To participate, you’re with the school and she found a group of kids that she enjoys even more than your local system. So, it’s worth it to her.
ALEX: Yes, that’s exactly what happened. She wanted to be with those kids.
PAM: That’s cool. And so that actually leads us very nicely into our next question because last time when we spoke about her going to school you talked about how you would continue to weave your unschooling principles into your days even while she was at school because it is a really different experience when they’re choosing to go to school, when she knows she can leave. And when the parent is continuing to choose connection rather than control, we’re not shifting the kind of parent we are just because they’re choosing to go to school. So, I was just hoping you could talk about that.
Have you been able to continue to weave your unschooling principles into your days?
ALEX: Absolutely. It’s amazing how my experience is so much better. I hear from the other parents who are punishing their kids. I mean these are wonderful girls that I know. They’re great girls, they do well in school, do sports, they’re busy, they’re good girls. Yet, they constantly have their phones taken away or they can’t do this or they can’t do that because their parents are punishing them for little things. I’m not doing any of it.
Just this morning for example, she’s playing tennis this fall for the first time. She’s loving tennis, just loving the girls, the coaches are wonderful. There’s a lot of social in tennis because they play the match but there’s a lot of social. That part is making her really happy to hang out with those kids and do this and do that.
So, she wasn’t feeling very good last night after the match. And this morning I went to wake her up and she’s like, “I don’t know. I have a sore throat this morning.” “Well let me know. Do you want to call in?” And she said “I don’t know.” I said, “Do you remember you might have to catch up on your things if you don’t go. But if you’re not feeling good, just let me know.”
Not even five minutes later she was getting dressed to go. It’s her choice. I know parents will push and say well unless you have a fever, you’re going. But she’s making her decision. She probably thought ‘Oh man I have a test today.’ She had a maths test today. ‘I’m going to have to catch up and all that. I’d rather go.’ And I said “If you don’t feel good later just go to the nurse and they can call me and I can pick you up.” But I have done no pushing.
When she says something about a class or a teacher how bored she was I said, “Well, there’s a lot of time wasted in school.” She picks up things really fast. And I said when I was in school, the same thing happened to me. I chose to doodle or read my book under the table. But it’s something that I present to her as an experience and as choices and she’s going to make the decisions and the consequences are going to be what’s going to be. I have not pressure her for good grades or anything. I joke with her. I said “My God Gigi you’ve got B+. That’s terrible. That’s so bad. I can’t believe that.” (laughing) So, there’s joking, but it’s completely different. She’s choosing to go. She does what she’s set out to do.
PAM: Well yeah. Because she knows not going is always a choice. Right?
ALEX: It is. It is completely, whenever she wants to.
PAM: Exactly. Every time when there’s something that’s boring or annoying or she’s not feeling well she’s weighing up all those things together with what she’s also getting out of it. So, she’s weighing the pros …
ALEX: Is it worth it or not?
PAM: Exactly. Exactly which is an amazing skill and ability to bring with you forward into life all the time. That’s what our days are all about. All our possibility, what we want to accomplish even if it’s going to be annoying. I hear the same thing when they talk about unschoolers not being able to make decisions because they always got to choose what they want to do or they’ll never make hard decisions or hard choices.
ALEX: That’s not what I see at all. You’ve got a girl that went to fourth grade for six months not even and now she goes in at 12. She’s 13 now. And she’s making all her decisions. She’s carrying on with things she’s never had to. She was worried about maths.
If you remember from last podcast she was “genius Gigi” in maths, her teacher loved her and said she was wonderful. And she was a little worried about maths. She hasn’t done anything. Nothing like formal school. And I said “Gigi, no big deal. If you need somebody to explain to you, then I’ll explain or I can ask my neighbour that is a maths graduate.” And she’s like, “Oh, it’s easy.” She was worried and then she’s like nah it’s easy. And the couple of times she needed something that she didn’t know that she needed from before. She asked a friend that was good in maths and they told her and she’s sailing through it so far.
It has only been three weeks. She’s gotten a few grades and they’re all you A’s so far. I know that grades are not important, it doesn’t matter if she’s getting C’s and just passing so she could stay in basketball. Because she knows she has to have a minimum to stay in basketball. It would’ve been fine. But she’s doing her stuff that she likes and she likes to do well. So, it’s great.
You would think that she needed all those years of math because everybody’s so scared of math and here is a kid that never had anything on fractions and she’s doing pre-algebra with no problems.
And actually, in fourth grade she asked me what algebra was, the X thing and I explained it really simple when I could have five of this and I needed to find out meaning I need it for that. That’s how it works. The X is that number you’re trying to find out. So, she picked up right away. That understanding of why is more important because the numbers just work and use them and they’re there.
A lot of kids don’t see that why they need that. What is the x?
PAM: That’s exactly it. She’s been doing so much critical thinking through life and understanding all those pieces, they make sense to her. So, that when you go in and it’s more of just the formal notation and the rules for manipulating the notation and that’s actually the easy side to pick up, right?
ALEX: Absolutely. One of the things that I just remembered that makes a difference between somebody who wants to go to school and somebody does not. I went to one of the parent teacher meetings last year and her English teacher said to me. I guess they change. Oh no, that’s right. So, she didn’t do English she added English in January for the second semester. She hadn’t done English at all.
So, I went to the first parent teacher meeting and met the teacher and he said that she was a fabulous writer. “Oh my God, she’s such a great writer and you know what is the best is she doesn’t do just the minimum.” And I know she’s a good writer because she’s been writing fan fiction since she was eight years old. I’ve read some of her things and I was like “Oh my gosh, I can’t write like that now.” And he was in awe and he said to me, “Whatever you were doing worked. I just want to stay out of her way.”
And I was. Wow. That’s a great teacher that she got because that’s it. I said that’s exactly what I did, I just stayed out of her way because he said whatever you’re doing. I just I don’t want to mess up. I just want to I just stay out of her way. I said that’s exactly what I did.
I completely stayed out of her way. Much more than you can imagine.
PAM: I’m glad you remembered that. That’s a really interesting little titbit isn’t it?
ALEX: Yeah. That she didn’t do just the minimum. That’s was the big difference.
PAM: Yeah. When she’s there, right? Right now, she’s wanting to do these things, she’s throwing herself into them. She’s enjoying them. She’s doing them for her own reasons. She’s getting those grades and everything. And maybe the things that she wants to do will change over time.
PAM: You’ll see whether or not the time that she’s investing is really what she’s discovering right and what she’s getting out of it. So, at some point maybe she will want to invest that much time in studying or doing those things. She knows it’s all her choice and she’s getting, I would say reward but it’s not a reward as in an external rewards. She’s seeing those grades, those external rewards but that she’s still making the choice. That’s not going to drive her or she may discover, I remember another guest at one point talked about how she when she went to high school eventually, she started to play around with and wonder whether or not things had shifted and she was more externally looking. But that’s all learning about themselves. Because it’s still a choice.
ALEX: She did it a little bit of that last year because in one of her classes her final grade was B plus and she had all A’s and she’s like “Oh I don’t care about it. So, I didn’t do that much.” But I have to say she’s a little lucky that she does well naturally. She has probably the kind of personality and learning style whatever you want to call it that makes school easy.
She’s not one of those kids that need to work really hard. So, that helps because she can pay attention and then she has it. Then she focuses on her social thing.
PAM: Exactly. Because that’s all part of the choice too. If she didn’t mesh so well with that system. She may not make that choice moving forward.
ALEX: She might have just she tried the six months and not gone again.
PAM: Exactly. So, it is back to unschooling and back to being so individual. Just because Gigi is enjoying it and doing well, doesn’t mean lots of unschooling kids should try it. It is about the individual and them making choices and knowing themselves and what they’re trying to accomplish.
Like her with her basketball, that is what makes every single decision and choice unique for each person. Right?
ALEX: Absolutely. It’s a very individual. But it’s going back to the point of it, still staying with unschooling principles in our home. It has completely worked because we already have a strong relationship built for all those years. So, nothing has changed.
I still look at school as a choice and an interest. Whatever the interest is social or playing sports is still something I’m supporting. So, it was easy. I think when she went to fourth grade, I was a lot more worried and anxious about the experience. And this time I was like “OK. You sure you want to go? Fine.” I was completely at ease with her choice to try again and go again. And as it’s just another interest an unschool kid would have. She wanted that experience, for whatever reason, let’s support that and there’s no reason for me to want to change that.
She knows that if she goes to bed late, which she does but she makes her choices. She’s going be tired the next day. It’s her choice to go to school. So, she’s not a kid that you’re pushing to go to sleep early because they’re going to be tired and then they’re going to say “Oh I don’t want to go because I’m tired.”
She will make the choices to do it or not do it and her choices are going to be OK with me because the consequences are hers and it’s her goal. She’s the one going for it and I’m just supporting that. So, it has not made it any harder. I thought it might have been.
I actually it’s been really easy. I don’t even ask if she did homework. Or anything like that.
Let’s hear a little bit about what Daniel has been up to these last few years.
So, when we spoke he was interested in travelling to Japan as part of an exchange program you guys were looking into. So, I was hoping you could share with us a little bit of an update about what he’s been up to.
ALEX: So, when he was 14, the summer he was going to turn 15. He’s 17 now, so two years ago three years ago. I can’t even remember but I had been looking for things for him to go because he really wanted to go to Japan and he really wanted to go and maybe study in a high school. But that’s a lot more complicated. So, I found through a friend, a Japanese friend that lives in the United States and her sister works in a school that teaches English to Japanese kids and Japanese to American and Australian, whatever kids in the summers. It’s a month experience and you stay with a family and you go and you do the course.
We got everything ready and the day he was leaving he woke up with the worst, probably the flu. He was really, really, really, really sick. I mean, he was miserable. And it’s not something you can change that kind of you know going there and I said, “Well, you’re going to miss if you don’t go.” So, he chose to go. So, he went very sick. He went to the family and then that was a very long flight. Arrived there on Saturday and Sunday day they go to the family and Monday they start classes. He got along with a family great, no problem. Liked it, enjoyed it. They enjoyed each other. The kids really liked him. He’s really good with kids. There were a little younger than he was. But he did not like the classes. He did not like the kids who did not like the classes. He called me and I said “Do you want to try?” He tried a couple of days and by the weekend he said “I am still not feeling good. I want to come home.” And I said. “Are you sure?” And he said yes. I asked if he wanted to wait a little bit. And the family wanted for him to wait a little bit. But he was ready to come home and he flew back.
There is this 14 year old kid that flew out to the other side of the world and stayed a week with a family in Japan. Taking the subway, he got lost one day in Tokyo. You know it’s huge. For him it was an hour from his home to the class in downtown Tokyo and back. It was a great experience. He did it. He managed to do it. The family said they were very impressed by his willingness to try the different foods and he ate live octopus. And he enjoyed it and he bought things and he came back and he was very happy with it.
I don’t know if he feels like it was a success or not. I feel it was a success because what 14 year old kid goes all the way to the other side of the world by himself and does that. And he has studied a little bit of Japanese after that. But his main thing for a few years was that he wants to be a physicist. So, I guess that’s his thing.
Now lately he’s been really a daddy’s boy again. Loves Daddy and everything with dad. Goes for runs with dad. He’s been helping his father in the farm. Every day he gets up and he goes and gets the cows in at like four thirty, five o’clock in the morning and helps his father. He has really mellowed out into a very soft spoken kid, really funny, really witty. He is my to go kid when I go away and I have to leave all my foster kittens and all my house cats and animals. He takes care of them, feeds them, worries about them, gives them nicknames and checks on them for me. And I mean he couldn’t be a nicer kid. You know he’s really nice. He does his thing. He’s very smart. He knows a lot. But what you didn’t know is that he tried school for three days.
ALEX: He wanted to go and see how it was. So, he went for like three days and he did two classes or three. One of them was history and one was Algebra, that he wanted to do because of the physics that he was doing really good in algebra was algebra 2. He just jumped to Algebra 2 and he was getting all the things you got to one day.
He’s a very black and white kid sometimes. And there was something other than the algebra. I wondered how can you get all that you’ve never done anything? But he got it. There was something that he needed, some notation that he didn’t know. So, he told the teacher, “I don’t know this.” So, the teacher sent him to the catch up class. You know instead of taking the time to help him, “Oh, you don’t know this, then you go to the catch up class.” In the catch up class, they sit in a library and they do it on their own. He said, “I can do that at home.” And he liked the kids that were in the class because they were all working hard to understand. He said in the catch up class there was only one kid working hard and the other kids were all just talking about what drugs they were going to do or whatever. And he is just not a kid, he just did not like that.
I heard when I said that he was going to come home, I was talking to the counsellor and they were really wonderful too. She was like “Oh my God. But his history teacher, every day she can’t wait to hear what he has to say.” Because he loves history, he has a lot of things he has to say that he’s learned from, sometimes video games and interest on history. And she was going to be very disappointed that he left but he’s like “No I’m done. I’m done.” I’m like OK. It was done, three days he was done. He said I know for me to do maths that I can do at home. You know that was the main thing he wanted to try. I think he thought he was going to get there and he was going to learn so much which he was learning but it wasn’t the idea he had. That was enough for him. He is an introvert. So, it’s a completely different personality.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really cool to hear the two stories side by side. Because neither one is right or wrong. That’s not it at all. Back to it being the individual and what meshes and I love his realization was, “I do this at home.” Which is what he’d already been doing. That’s how he got to that point in the first place.
ALEX: You know I guess he’s been doing it because I don’t even know, I guess he has. But that again is a completely different way of seeing things. He was there for that mission not to socialize and then everybody’s trying to get him to the theatre. One of the other things that he’s been interested in is he dresses the way he dresses and he has created some of his coats and jackets and bought vintage pieces and top hats. So, he dresses a lot of times when he goes out people ask what costume he is wearing. And he’s not a costume. That’s his own style. And then some people take pictures and say “Oh I love it. That’s wonderful.” You know he has string bow tie things are just him. One of the pants he wears is a corduroy green pants skirt. That is vintage. And it goes up to below the knee. It’s very military but it’s actually a woman’s pants skirt. And it looks really amazing on him.
So, he mixes all these things and he loves it. He did some sewing classes and he did awesome in the sewing classes because I said you know you need to learn to sew. We have a wonderful seamstress, an local artist really. And she gives classes and she’s been doing his pieces that he creates. And I said you know it’s getting expensive.
And he went and did sewing lessons with her. And she was amazed because he picked up things like one of the things she said is hard for people is the invisible zipper. And she said you know you have to do it this way or it doesn’t work. So, he went and did it his way and see it works too and she was like, “Whoa!”
Because I think he has such a mind. And so that was one of the things that he had been doing too and is still an interesting of him. He says it’s not an interest it’s just who he is. So, it’s not like he’s creating things because fashion as an industry is an interest or costuming is an interest, it’s just him. So, and when he was in school, because he would go dressed in his outfits and they were like, “Oh you should do theater or you should be in charge of the theatre costumes. He had no interest, no interest, it’s just him.
So that was another interest of his, his dress. He has all kinds of different things he wears that he puts together and makes an outfit and it’s really, really cool. I’m glad that he can be himself and when he went to school, I was kind of worried about kids bullying him because of it but actually because I think he feels confident about it even though he’s a very shy kid and introverted. He was fine. He made friends and people were really nice to him and nobody picked on him. Now the counsellor was worried about it. You know I worry about him. He’s different, when the kid feels confident and is not used to bullying. And yet I’m sure that passed on that he was not going to fall for any of it.
PAM: Oh, that’s cool. And I did want to say, I loved his Japan experience as well. He didn’t see that as a negative thing. Just because one choses to cut the trip short. What a great learning experience and he didn’t need more time to figure out, to get what he wanted out of it. And to say, I’m done with it. So, that’s awesome I’m glad you guys arranged for him to get back.
ALEX: I was really impressed. We had conference calls with the school director and because they’re trying for him to stay. And then he said it’s just not working for me. And he was mature enough at 14 to just say that was not working for him. It wasn’t working. He didn’t care for the kids. So, I mean not that that would make a difference, I guess if it was the style class that he liked he would have stayed because he’s done private lessons too.
It wasn’t working and he was very confident. The directors and people there putting more pressure than I did. I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t making a decision and would regret it later. But when he said several times and then he tried a couple of days I knew. I said we want to try sometimes to wait a little bit and sometimes you’ll feel better about it and he said no, it didn’t work.
PAM: He could feel you were working with him right?
ALEX: I hope so. I think so.
PAM: That’s great.
ALEX: It is a great learning. He went and he made it and he decided not to and he came back and he knows he can trust us to respect that his opinion was valid. That that was not working for him.
And that’s important because it’s bad when parents, would in this case the kid comes back and they would be like “You should have stayed. You should have done that. We spent money.”
PAM: They treated it like a failure.
ALEX: Yeah absolutely. Treat it like a failure then. Then you would probably feel I was failure because I didn’t do it. But in my book it’s a success to go to Japan and do all that and decide on his own and be so certain and so mature to do it the right way. It’s a success in my book.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Now I think you pretty much answered this a little bit earlier but just in case you have any more to add.
I wanted to ask you about how you’re finding your days flowing now weaving together unschooling Daniel and full time school with Gigi. You mentioned you’re finding it pretty easy.
ALEX: It is because the principles are the same. I’m not being the school mom that most school kids have. My son is 17 so he’s pretty independent and pretty mellow and easygoing right now. I think if you have younger kids it might have been a little more busy. I mean I’m super busy, don’t get me wrong. I’m super busy, I’m running around Gigi, she does a lot of sports independent of school. So, it was busy before with sports, continues to be busy but because there’s not a competition between the kids. I’m treating one looks like a mainstream and not the other, that’s not happening. There’s not anything like that and maybe I’ll even have more time for him but he’s so independent and does his thing and likes to do things with Dad that I’m kind of like thrown to the side.
PAM: It comes in seasons doesn’t it?
ALEX: It does. It absolutely does.
So, I’m not changing the way I am as a mother. I am continuing to use unschooling principles. Although, I have a school daughter—she’s not an unschooler anymore. She is in school and my son is still unschooled but having the same connection and the same principles and parenting them the same way really has made it easy.
PAM: That’s wonderful.
I’d love to know what has surprised you most about how unschooling has been unfolding in your life so far?
ALEX: I think that when I started out unschooling, I’m sure, I wanted to do better for my kids. I wanted them to grow and it was all about how they would turnout. How they would learn. In the end, I think, they’ve grown and developed. But I’ve changed a lot, for the better. I become much more mindful about things that I say, how I am towards people, more accepting. Even if I have different views because I’m much more mindful than I was towards my husband, nicer. I think I always had my priorities straight. But I think they’re tuned in a little bit more.
So, I think I’ve grown a lot as a person. A lot more. I never thought that I was going to be the one growing so much because I’m an older parent. I had my son when I was 36 and my daughter when I was 40. So, you think “Oh, I’ve got this life thing kind of figured out.” But I’m a better person now.
PAM: Wow. I love that I love that. So true. I mean for me as well when we started it was all about the kids. That unfolded beautifully. But what a surprise, the difference in the change it makes and in us as people. We really have to grow into that role don’t we?
ALEX: Yes. Yes, very, very much.
I am absolutely not the same person. It was not that I was not nice. I was, but I am so much more mindful and clearer about my priorities and my goals and much more focused and trying to be more joyful and see the beauty and the positive. Not just in life, but in other people that I might not even relate to as well. I think I’m a better person.
PAM: That’s amazing.
ALEX: That’s surprising. I wasn’t doing for me. But it has changed my whole life. You know I see things much more clearly now.
PAM: Wonderful. Well thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today Alex.
ALEX: It was nice seeing you. It’s been how many years since you’ve been here, maybe five.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah.
ALEX: 2014. Yes.
PAM: It was a lot of fun.
ALEX: I hope it helps the parent. I hope this helps a parent. I know it has helped some parents who come to groups and asked about “Oh, my kids is choosing school. I’m afraid.” Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Treat it as you’re supporting any other endeavor that your child wants. You don’t need change and become the school Mom. “Did you do your homework? You got to get to bed, you’re not going to wake up.”
You can still be that unschooling parent. Even if your child is not unschooling anymore. Those principles are principles that you can use in your whole life, in all your life everywhere in your life. You can still use those principles and make your life better even if your children chooses to go to school and never go back to unschooling. You can have a better life. You can have more connection with your child.
PAM: Yeah, I love that. Because it still comes down to it being their choice. I know sometimes parents feel like “OK well if you’re going to go to school (especially if you’re feeling negative about it) then you know you got to stay for the year.”
ALEX: Yes, choices are beautiful and don’t forget when you are making a decision, don’t get caught into I have to, it’s still your choice. You can still choose to be a connected parent.
PAM: You don’t have to change who you are. Yes. Yes. So, before we go where can people connect with you online if they’d like to?
ALEX: I have an unschooling Minnesota Facebook group for Minnesota unschoolers. Just not very busy but people are very welcome to come and connect with other unschoolers or ask questions and I can send them off. I post on Radical Unschooling Info on Facebook and sometimes on unschooling questions and answers.
I have been too busy lately to write a lot but a few guys come and they have questions about any of those things in either group. They always tag me and I will show up.
PAM: Oh, that’s awesome. Thanks very much and I will put links to those groups in the show notes as well. Have a wonderful day Alex. Thank you. Thank you. Bye.