PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from Livingjoyfully.ca. And today I’m here with Liza Swale, Hi Liza!
LIZA: Hi! Happy to be here.
PAM: I’m so excited to have you here. Just as a bit of an introduction. I first met Liza. It was three years ago now, wasn’t it? At one of the in-person Childhood Redefined Summit events. And I’ve enjoyed staying connected with you and seeing little glimpses of your family online ever since. I’m really happy that you agreed to come on the podcast and talk about your family’s unschooling experience with us.
So to get us started, can you share with us a bit about you and your family?
LIZA: Absolutely. Again, thank you for having me. I’m so honoured to be here. So, yes, we’re a family of four. I’m Liza, as you said, and I’m from Canada, which becomes important. My background is in theatre and dramatic literature and law. My husband Luke. He’s from New Zealand and his background is in dairy farming, grassfed farming, agriculture. And we met in England by way of quick background, I took a year off a law school between first year and second year and decide to consolidate my interests of theatre and law, which are two very different topics. Spent six months out in the mountains working in the arts. And then spent the rest of my time in London, travelling Europe and working as a paralegal, and very shortly after I arrived there, I met Luke. And, you know, then the whirlwind began. And once my time was done, we did the long distance thing and I went there, he came here. And in the end, we’ve been married for almost 18 years. So, he immigrated here. At that time, I was still finishing my law degree and it just seemed like the right thing to do.
From that, we have our oldest, Finn. He’s 13 and he loves all things computer, gaming, programming, anything technology wise. He just loves it. And cats, he loves cats.
Forrest is eight. That’s our daughter. And she loves all things nature. And she loves imagination play. It’s now clear to me why I have a theatre degree. Because it’s really just for us. We spend our days together often just play acting. It’s a lot of fun. And so, she’s our nature girl. And other than YouTube has no interest for technology.
And then we have two house cats, fish, 7 pigs, 15 cows, 25 sheep, 50 laying chickens and two llamas. Oh, my goodness. Lots of animals. A great menagerie is who we are.
PAM: So that makes up your whole you. You guys operate a farm?
LIZA: Yeah, we do. And that’s kind of part of our journey. It’s so very much a part of our journey. But yeah, currently at this point that makes up our farm. But the way we farm, they’re family and everyone has a name and everyone has a personality. And they’re very close and dear to us. So, yeah, absolutely, they make part of part of the circle of who we are.
PAM: That’s wonderful. I loved hearing a little bit more detail, I didn’t know how you and Luke had met. That’s very cool.
LIZA: It’s a funny story because most people well, they assume it’s travelling, but they’re often like, oh, England. Yeah. Anyway, meet there.
PAM: So from there …
How did you discover homeschooling, unschooling and what did your journey like?
LIZA: Well, it’s kind of an interesting and long story, but it’s so enmeshed with so many things just by way of background. I myself am the type of person who’s a go with my instinct kind of person. I’m very intuitive. And when I know something’s not right, I know. That’s why I took the year off between first year in second year of law school. It’s very much me. And thank goodness I did. I met my husband. So, I’ve always been that type of person. And Luke’s that incredible partner who has always supported me 100 percent.
Our journey actually starts back when I was in law school and just after I took a job in corporate litigation in downtown Toronto. I was literally in the rat race wearing suits every day just doing the thing. During law school, I had actually done a focus on indigenous law, but got swept up in the possible successes that corporate law would give me and I went on that route. It just ate away at me. And I quickly realized that this was not for me. None of it. I went home one day and I said to Luke, I just can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. I can’t deal with the facelessness of corporate law. I don’t care about any money. I don’t care about any success that they think. I just can’t do this. And he said, “OK.”
I walked away with nothing in front of me. Very shortly after that, a girlfriend of mine was renting skis to a gentleman and got in conversation with him. And he just happened to be a lawyer from Ottawa who had just taken a year off his legal practice to tour North and South America, meeting various indigenous elders throughout. And he was travelling with an Algonquin Elder, all these wonderful things, and he was coming back and starting this practice to do work in this area. And she like, “No way. My friend…!”
I’ve now been practicing with him for 15 years.
LIZA: Why this is important to this is he was also unschooling his kids.
LIZA: I know! At the time they were 8 and 3. So, this move from this to this opened up our world to unschooling and it didn’t stop there. Shortly after that, a high school friend of mine moved into the area. You know, Glenna, Jim and the girls, Persephone and Olive. At the time, Pesephone was I guess five and Olive two and a half. And they had always unschooled, not only have they always unschoolers, they were very passionate about the subject. They were very involved. And, Glenna, it is a wealth of information and resources. (Podcast with Glenna EU045) And we had already established a relationship. So, this was our world. This was our world now, where we were going to raise a family. This is great.
Well, in conjunction to that, the residential school settlement agreement came down in Canada. It’s you know, anyone can Google and find out about that. But what it meant was I was required to work a lot and travel a lot for a period of time. Which kind of created this glitch and whether or not we could have this wonderful unschooling world with our kids. Luke at the time had gone into construction and didn’t have the confidence in himself at that time to take it on. He, incidentally, also had a moment where he came home and said, this is not for me. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to quit, working construction. And of course, I said, “OK.” Which you’d think would open up the possibility of us then undergoing this. But as I said, for Luke, he wasn’t confident in the process and in his role in it. And so, we sent them to school. When I see it like that, because we were the anomaly, the people that we had grown up, we just immersed our whole family in unschooling. From the beginning, because that was our world. And here we are going, what are we going to do?
So, Finn went to school. Now, back then, school was part time for junior kindergarten. And how we applied these principles as best we could in system is we compromised. So, for us, we said, “As long as we use this and we’re here, he would never know grading. We would never think twice to pull him from school to do any activity. We would make an effort and a point to go and travel as a family in the winter and reconnect that way. And we would never, ever force homework.” So, these were kind of our principles. This is how we went to bed at night. We decided we’re going to do the system.
He went to a small country school and they were wonderful with us. And in fact, in his final year, grade three year was the final year he was there, he was only going two days a week. And he would come in often and teach the class things that he’d been learning when we were out living. So, it was funny because he actually excelled in the system. But then not. But then Forrest came along. And she came along at a time where Luke wasn’t working. He was at home. Finn was at school. And I was working and travelling at least two to three times a month to different communities, but working from home when I was there. So, then I had Forrest and I didn’t stop working. So, it became my family travelled with me to all of these different places. At one point, I got two weeks of court and I would literally stop court to breastfeed. And the wonderful thing is work in the area, I do, it’s very flexible. And it’s different. It’s not the corporate world. So, that sort of thing was not frowned upon. But it was crazy. It was a crazy time for all of us. And it finally came to the point where we knew my work wasn’t going to be forever. We knew that the agreement was going to end. Everything is going to end. What did we want? And at that point, Luke had been renting land across the road from us growing some chickens and he and Forrest were very involved. That’s what they would do. They would just hang out with the chickens on the land and do this. And it was really filling his soul. And we were on a trip to New Zealand. See, it’s such a long story.
PAM: No, it’s a good!
LIZA: We were on a trip to New Zealand and we got a call from the family of the owner of the land he was renting and she had passed away. In her will, she had willed us the rights of first refusal of 100 acres severed off her property to start a farm. I mean, this is across the street from our house.
PAM: Oh, my goodness.
LIZA: So at that point, you’re literally feeling destiny, slapping you in the face, saying, you know, it’s now or never. And we bought the land, made it happen and literally decided to build a farm from the land up, a sustainable life. And part of that and almost the whole example of it is unschooling. Right? The whole endeavour itself is illustrative of this world of learning and growing and living in the moment. And so how could we not have the kids involved in that? How could we not? So the kids never went back in after Christmas, and we’ve never looked back. But it’s been quite the crazy journey when I sat down to write it.
PAM: Oh, my goodness. I’ve got goosebumps from listening now. That is amazing. And the piece, I love how open you guys were. Not only to yourselves and realizing when things weren’t working and to each other and accepting each other where they were, where each of you were at various points in the journey and also open to the things that were around you and the possibilities. Maybe you didn’t make that hundred acres work or whatever, but you considered it. It wasn’t like, oh, my gosh, no, that’s just too out there. And refuse it immediately. You know what I mean?
You’re right, that is so indicative of the unschooling life. Just noticing the possibilities around you, letting your thoughts and what’s going on for yourself bubble up. That self awareness piece is so important. Connecting with the people around you, like your family, you’re living together and everyone is a part of it no matter their age.
So, I was loving the whole story. The length didn’t matter because it was the flow of it. The unschooling flow of that, that was so spectacular.
LIZA: Well, you know, I’ve never really mapped it out. This has been some journey for me here having this conversation, because I haven’t really stopped to reflect.
And when I did stop and reflect, it’s been exactly that. Trusting, trusting in what brings joy, really. And recognizing when it doesn’t. And finding out how to shift that. Trust is huge. And it’s also knowing that no matter what you do, there’s always an answer. You’re going in the right direction. And it’s undeniable when that happens. That’s undeniable. We knew we’d be fools to say no.
PAM: Yeah, yeah, I know. I love that piece of the trust and the, it’s okay not knowing in that first moment where things will go, but that it feels good. And we talk about following the joy and it seems so cliche when you just hear it. But in the moment, it’s a really valuable way of looking at things, isn’t it? And I loved through your story, where you said, corporate law just isn’t for me. You came to that conclusion, but you in no way dissed the person you were six months earlier who was in that.
And same with when Luke saying construction’s not for him because it’s all part of our journey. It’s all us learning more about ourselves. By trying things out and doing them and seeing what happens.
LIZA: Exactly. Exactly. And it’s funny because that for me was when I took that year off between theatre and law, it’s exactly where I went. “OK, well, I’m in a completely different world. Well, let’s give it a go. Let’s not imprint it with what I did before or feel any loss or anything or out of place or anything like that. Let’s just go with it and find your spot in there and that’s it.” And as I reflect, that’s exactly how the journey and the flows has gone.
PAM: Yeah. That’s beautiful.
So as you think about deschooling, and it’ll be interesting to hear from your perspective because as you said, you had met, you were surrounded closely with unschooling families.
So I’m curious about what you found to be one of the more challenging aspects of deschooling, of transitioning from more conventional thinking when you started to experiencing this other way, this other lifestyle, basically.
LIZA: Yeah. Yeah. And you’re absolutely right. I mean, at this point in our life, basically my whole time with my children, I’m surrounded by people who are attachment parenting, unschooling, all of these things. So, when we went into school, it was kind of like, ‘Wow, OK, we’re learning a bunch of new stuff here.’ We have not even seen kids who were schooled or anything like that. So, our friends were older. Their kids were older. So, we had witnessed kids. Anyway, it was very hard. And I feel deschooling for me and my family did not happen until we embraced unschooling completely, it didn’t even bubble up. It’s almost like I when I was going through the system. It didn’t come up. We were comfortable with the compromises we made and the things we were doing. And that overshadowed any expectation the school system might have had. We were just above it all. We’re good.
And then we took it all on ourselves and all of sudden, “Whoa, OK.” But Finn has always been someone we’ve just needed to support. He’s always been extremely, he loves to think, he’s a he’s a thinker. He likes to work things out. He’s always been very driven, always had his passions. Forrest has been where this has come into play because she learns differently and as simply as dealing with reading. She’s eight and we’ve had a bit of a journey about that. And I found that’s where it’s crept up. In these areas of conventional thought, ‘Your child is eight. She should be reading.’ That sort of thing. And that’s where I find I’m really doing a lot of work and it’s not a lot of work. I just noticed it bubbles up. What bubbles up, for me, is feeling an urge to take the initiative.
PAM: Looking for control, right?
LIZA: Right. Right. And I find I do these funny little things where I’m very obvious. Because I’m excited for her to read. I’m really excited. But I really want it to be her journey. But I’ll start to randomly put riddles around the house thinking, ‘Oh, she’s going to come and give me the answer.’ But then I realized that’s really me not allowing her moment, but trying to initiate this. And some kids it would work great. For her, it doesn’t, it does the complete opposite. So, that’s where I kind of pivot and where Luke and I had, where we’ve discovered, we’ve learned to inspire, rather than set expectations for others. So that’s where my creativity comes in, is once I’m doing these things, she’s my shadow. She’s going to be there. And for us, it’s taking the moment when it comes, no matter how fleeting and enjoying that moment and exploring that moment rather than initiating them. You know what I mean?
PAM: Oh, my gosh. I do. And that is a beautiful, beautiful insight, really.
So, there was there were two aspects there. One was when you were talking about putting the riddles up. Like you said, that could be fun for some kids. The realization was that you were doing that more for yourself then because it was something you thought Forrest would really enjoy. So, you realized that was more about you than about her. So, that’s beautiful. And that’s a great little way to just a question, to ask ourselves, is this inspiration or is this me putting something out there to satisfy something that I’m feeling off about?
PAM: Because when we’re feeling off about something, it’s not to ignore it, but it’s to work through it because it’s our work to do. Not to put things out, to try and convince them to do work. That’s going to make us feel more comfortable. Right. So that is an amazing observation that helps you realize, ‘Who is this for?’ If it’s for them, and you think that’s something they’re going to enjoy and then you watch and see. Do they enjoy it? Do they have fun with it? Then you do more of it. So, I love that piece. And then the other thing you were talking about is back to that whole story and the flow at the beginning is being open to the moments. I’ve talked and written about on the blog how it’s not about, like you said, initiating things so much as it is being open and available and around to engage when something comes up.
PAM: That being available for that engagement, when they’re in that moment, that’s when it’s great for the relationship. It’s great for the connection. It’s also great for learning because that’s where they are in that moment. They want to have that conversation about something that came up. And it’s in those moments where, your brain kind of explodes. This is it. But it can’t be my timetable. It’s their timetable and their pace, that’s in the foundation of unschooling.
LIZA: Absolutely right. Yes. Yes. And that for me has been the one element of deschooling that has really made itself evident. And it’s just respecting and recognizing. It’s exciting. I loved discovering, when it happens, the connections. I love those moments. I’m so excited for those moments. I live for them. It’s really great. And I have exactly that, I discovered that you can’t create those moments. They just happen. They really do. And you have to allow, now you can you can make them last longer.
PAM: But not taking them over. Because if we get too much into it and we take over, then that’s our control piece coming in. Then we start directing and it becomes more about us than about them, right.
LIZA: Yeah, for sure. For sure. I think if you’re both in the moment it will last. You know it will take its time.
PAM: So, I mean that’s part of the consideration when so many of the conversations about, you know, when we talk, it’s such an interesting dance. Dance is going to be my best metaphor for it because you want to be open and available for those moments, to say, I don’t need to do the dishes right now. You want to chat about this story that you were just listening to in your audio book or something? Anything, right?
PAM: That how important and valuable those moments are when we’re choosing unschooling as a lifestyle, as a way for learning, as a way for living. And you see those bright spots of joy in your life and you want to take the opportunity to live them when they present themselves, right?
PAM: Also with the, “say yes always mantra” that people get confused about. We bring ourselves to the moment and if we really need to do whatever it is we’re doing, that’s okay. But, for me, the realization of what I was giving up so often, I would choose to have a wonderful life moment with whoever, whether is my spouse or my kids or whoever came up. I got to a point where that was almost always, if possible, my first choice. Not in a martyr like sense, but because I knew this was also really good for me. Because those moments are just so darn fun, aren’t they?
LIZA: Absolutely. And it’s funny because you mentioned, is it as much as we do want that connection, too.
I think it’s a good point, because it’s as much for you as it is for them. Through that, I’m seeing her grow. I’m seeing her move towards reading. I’m watching it unfold at her own pace, and I’m trusting in that process because I’m making those connections at that time. And had I just brushed over it or not seen it, not recognized it, maybe my doubt would grow, and I would come back sooner than not putting riddles around the house, you know?
PAM: Right. And then that builds. This is leading us perfectly into the next question. But builds a disconnect. If we more often, say no or later, because later, yes, you may come back, but you might not get the same engagement because they’ve also moved on from whatever that moment was. And then, you know a little bit less about them. If the number of times you engage lessens over time and then you just kind of spiral away from each other a bit more, and then that’s when you feel the need to reach back in with some control because you’re trying to force that connection a little bit more instead of being receptive to when it appears, right?
LIZA: Yeah. Absolutely.
PAM: Okay. So, that’s what I want to talk about next, strong connected relationships with our kids that are so valuable for unschooling to flow like we were just talking about. So, I guess that’s one way.
The question was, can you share some ways to nurture those connections? And saying, yes, being available when they’re excited to share something with you is definitely one of those. I was wondering if you had just some other, I guess, tips, but ways that you find helpful to nurture your connection with them.
LIZA: Yeah. Well, I think what’s important to note for us too, my work has been down to part time for the past four, almost five years. So, we’ve actually transitioned out of that and we’re completely on the farm sustaining our life. Which is great but what it means is that our life and work and everything is, there’s no line between the two. And we love it. We love it. We love that because it’s all about the journey for us and it’s all about living and learning day by day, not only the kids, Luke and I, all of us together, all of these things. So, for us, connection is just unbelievably important. It really is. And it’s not only for us and the kids, it’s for Luke and I. It’s for all of us as a family in order to keep the flow going.
We actually do make a point of it and we make a point with a few ways. Forrest is our shadow. So, she’s always with us doing something, either myself or with Luke. She loves interactions.
And for us, we just have always embraced this idea of inspiring the kids through our actions. And so, for us, it’s always inviting. We’re always inviting them to come along.
What are we doing? Come. You want to come? Come with us. Let’s do this. And we’re excited about it because we’re learning and applying things and they’re excited about it because we ask for their opinions and observations. And through that, they either like it or they don’t. Finn is not interested in that whatsoever. His enjoyment and love and passion very much involves his space in his game room.
And so, for us to maintain connections with him, it’s a conscious effort on all of us, to say we need this connection. He comes out probably 20 times a day for random hugs. That’s his thing. He just loves to just come and just get a hug and then he goes back or randomly come out and tell us things. Or I’ll go in there and connect. But for us, it’s very much making that effort with him and vice versa.
And that’s something we’ve talked about as a family about this need for all of us to embrace him. But we also need to keep this connection so we can feel we’re part of that world and vice versa. With Forrest it’s a little easier because she is always there. And the opportunity is always there.
The other the other thing we conscious that it was a family. And it’s funny because we live together, work together, we do everything together. And this idea of, “Oh, my goodness, you still need to connect?” We do and we really do. And every year we travel. We make an effort to because we’re so grounded and connected to the land here. We need to be free. We need to go release ourselves. If it’s three weeks, great. If it’s a week, it’s whatever we need to get away. And that’s really where our family connects. But on a whole different level. And we’re recharged. And when you live this life, it’s really just living. When you’re connecting constantly and you’re connecting through life and living, you take it for granted in some ways. Which is great because you’re in the moment in the flow. It’s wonderful in your all connecting and acknowledging each other’s needs and working through things. It’s not always a wonderful journey. You get into this rhythm of taking it for granted in certain ways. So, when we shift it up and say instead of Christmas present, instead of all this, we’re going to put that into going away. And that’s going to be our memory of the holidays. We’re going to get off the farm. We’re going to not worry about it and not worry about that. And we’re just going to be and that has been a huge, huge gift to us. When your daily life is all about connection.
PAM: That’s a really great point in that there is something about, number one, you paying attention just to see, like it’s when you’re living together all the time just to notice, like if the connection has become a bit more rote or routine, so that everybody’s kind of doing the things. But you can sometimes notice that you’re not getting a little bit deeper because everybody’s doing their thing, and that’s not necessarily bad. Everybody’s got their flow and everybody’s flowing easily. And then at some point, it’s like, you know, haven’t heard anything particularly new or whatever for a while. That’s all part of the flow and the self awareness.
There is just something so fun about changing up environments for it for a bit. It really gives you another opportunity to take that connection to a new place. And then it’s just takes on a bit of a new life for awhile, doesn’t it? You’ve got new things to be talking about, to be working through, to be experiencing together. You guys are still together but it’s in this fresh, maybe that’s the word, it just refreshes it for a bit doesn’t it?
LIZA: Yeah. Well it’s experience together too. It’s the idea of living and laughing and embracing joy and doing all of these things that we’ve done. But we also are very seasonal in our existence. We have just come off summer. Summer is wonderful Forrest attends every farmer’s market. She can and has since she’s been able to vocalize it. She just loves it. It feeds her soul and she has a whole little world around that. And there’s lots of connection there. But it’s busy. It’s a busy time. And to be able to kind of disconnect interestingly from that and make a conscious effort to say, “Okay, now we’re just going to BE, together, exploring, adventuring.” Which is very much Luke and my route. That’s how we met. We are gypsies at heart in that way. So, for us, it’s very important to show the kids that and yet fresh, absolutely fresh connection on different levels. And it just kind of renews or recharges. Yeah. Where you’re just living, which is great.
PAM: I love that piece too, because for a second I’d forgotten there. I didn’t make the connection, that you and Luke met through travel and travel is something that is interesting and exciting for you guys. And to be able to bring that aspect with you to the family and bring that to the family is awesome. And for some people who maybe aren’t as interested in travel, etc., you can still bring fresh environments and takes, you may just choose to do them in different ways. I know when the kids were young, we did little vacation weekends and into Toronto, into the city. You’d just go, stay one night at a hotel and we’d just go visit and walk around harbour front. Because this was different for them, from where we were living.
It’s fun to think about bringing freshness to your days. When you’re feeling a need for that, I just want to mention that, in case people are thinking that freshness meant, having to make big changes. But there’s so many ways to bring that in. If that’s something that you’re feeling even. I just really liked that aspect of seeing your connections in new ways.
LIZA: Absolutely. Absolutely. This summer we went to visit my parents and instead of driving, we took a train just because it was fun and we could and it was just something different instead of being on the road in the car. And it was fun. My kids don’t get on the train often. So, the whole time it was a wonderful experience, and adventure, which meant nothing but just a different way of transport.
PAM: Oh, yeah. See!? Brilliant. That’s a great example because we can get in our little ruts for lack of a better word, just the way we always do things. You know, we always go to this library and we always go to this grocery store. We always drive to go visit our grandparents. There are always ways to shake things up a little bit. If that would be fun. And so often it is just fresh. Go back to fresh. It brings a fresh aspect to the day. It’s like, oh, look, I have to go find this somewhere different. Everybody’s just got kind of new eyes on what could be a more mundane experience, right?
PAM: Yeah. So, another key aspect of unschooling is supporting our kids as they pursue their interests. And you’ve talked a bit about Finn and tech and gaming interests. That also helps a lot with that trust and connection. You were talking about him coming out to connect with you, you guys going in to connect with him and how that flows.
I just thought we could look at that a bit more through that trust and connection lens as we’re helping them pursuing their interests.
LIZA: Yeah, absolutely. And this is the perfect example for us. Finn showed a passion for all things technology very young. I mean, right down to watching how the jolly jumper worked instead of jumping. He’s not jumping he’s just looking at mechanics. (laughing) OK, let’s watch how this goes.
And so he very early on connected. And when he was in school, we really had no problem because this was part of these principles that we were embracing. I think he was 6 when the first iPad came into our house and it blew his brain. And he was like, “OH!” And he learned everything about it. It wasn’t always just about gaming for him. And so, this passion, as he was in school, we’re just giving him what he needed, it was never an issue. This was great. And we’re feeding it.
It wasn’t until we really embraced unschooling and began living that little things came up that we had to consider as we were embracing and trusting and supporting him in this interest. Very quickly, we discovered the time spent. And at first, his computer, he earned money his own way at a farmer’s market and bought his first computer at eight.
He put his computer up in his room and he would spend a lot of time in there. And I was coming in and coming out and I’m just like, this isn’t sitting well with me. And it’s not the content. It’s not the act. There’s just was something that wasn’t sitting well with me.
Very quickly, it was the disconnect, right? He was upstairs. We’re downstairs. He’s not part of that activity. So, we literally shifted our house. We brought him down and put everything else up and brought him down to the main floor and gave him a space, a room, which was his computer room that he created for himself. So, that instantly shifted that energy. And he became part of the flow of our everyday world.
And to us, it was wonderful, because we were hearing the joy of the connections he was making online. We were being called in to see these wonderful things he was doing. I could go in and talk to him. He could come out and talk. It was very much is a dance. It was dance.
Then maybe a couple of years ago, there was a situation where doubt kind of came into our brains again about the amount of time that’s being spent and, productivity and games. There were just voices from outside that were kind of permeating and asking me really to evaluate the situation again. Why I’m uncomfortable? What’s happening here for me? And that caused me to go and really make an effort to go and connect with Finn and really sit down and explore what are we doing? What is it that you love? And from that, I discovered everything. I discovered the incredible creativity he has. People would be painting, incredible things and we’d be going, wow, he’s doing that online. He’s doing that on the computer. His love of sandbox games and what that means. And so, all of these things calmed me. And made me think, you know what, if my son was spending all of his time painting, reading, playing soccer, no one would say boo about it. But the fact that he’s doing this and spending his free time, exploring his passion, who the heck are we to say anything about that?
And once I did that and Luke and I talked about that and he has a love of his own thing. I mean, he has a farm. He works in his love. Really spends all of his free time doing that. So, we get it. And once we felt that way, we could we could really release that other stuff that was coming at us and shift where we needed to in life. So, we can have people around us that embrace that. And since we’ve done that, it’s just been wonderful. Now it’s just how we fit our life into his life. You know, as opposed to feeling as though, he needs to come into ours and he needs to separate himself from that. And you need to do A, B and C. Or else we’re doing it wrong or something like that.
PAM: Oh, yeah.
LIZA: What I found is that once all of that melted away, he actually is more connected than we’ve ever been with in and out. And his time isn’t, as set in stone as we perceived it to be, because he’s actually more part of us than we thought. All of these things that have just fallen into place and become part of that flow of life and living.
PAM: Right. Oh, my God. You know what?! This is the connection that jumped out for me because that flow that you were talking about and realizing how he was flowing into your lives.
I feel like that you discovered that because what you said right at the beginning there, is when you were starting to feel that things were off, you joined *him* and connected with *him* and learned more about what he was up to. That’s been my experience as well. Every time I’ve started to feel off about something that one of my kids was interested in, I was the one who is missing information.
I soon learned that, okay, they’re really enjoying this for whatever reason and I’m feeling on the outside a bit. I’m not understanding why it’s so interesting and that’s what’s making me feel uncomfortable about it. And every time I took the step and I learned more and I learned more about what it was they were doing, about what it was that they were enjoying out of it. That’s when our eyes open. We see they’re learning so much. The creativity that goes into it. So, every time it’s always been my work to do like my uncomfortableness is a result of my not knowing as much as I could about what they were doing and what they were interested in and what they were getting out of it. The joy, right? Why this was something that brought them so much joy that they were passionate about it, that they were diving into it for however long. You know what I mean?
So, that piece of going in and making a stronger connection with them through understanding better what they’re up to, that builds our trust in the whole thing. And then, you know what, they can tell. They can tell because when we’re uncomfortable we kind of stand back and we’re kind of waiting for them to come out. Like you said, we’re waiting for him to come out and connect with us because we don’t really know how to connect with them, because we don’t understand enough about what it is that they’re up to, right?
PAM: Yeah. So, when we can learn more about that, then we can be excited about something and go and connect with them as well. And then when they see that we’re literally interested not just in them as a person, but in what they’re interested in. Then they’re also more excited and more apt to come and share little pieces of it with us. And just both ways, our connection grows stronger. And when our connection is stronger, we understand each other better. And that’s how the trust bubbles up isn’t it?
The thing about Finn and technology is Luke and I are not technology people at all. You know, we’re not computer people. I know your basics. I can type a good legal document. Really, for us, it was hard to connect on this level because our brains can’t wrap around it. We joke and Finn takes great pride, I’m sure, in the fact that he’s our I.T. department. Yeah. Anything needs to be done in the house, it’s him and he’s been that for a very long time. So, it’s been hard for us to feel confident to connect and be able to feel authentic about it. But it’s once that second wave, once we brought him down. And then that second wave of doubt came in. I found a way to connect, I found a way to be interested in it. And it wasn’t hard. It just needed more time. And I needed more understanding myself of taking the time to ask the questions, and once you get the dialogue in the language, then you’re off to the races. Learning someone’s interests 101.
PAM: Exactly. It’s not that you need to become an expert in their interest, but it’s in what is interesting to them. And that’s how you begin to understand the pieces that are shining for them. The pieces of whatever that interest is that are connecting with them. I love, I forgot to mention, that bringing him downstairs, offering him a room downstairs to set up his computer stuff and all that kind of stuff. That, again, is another piece of just thinking creatively when something feels off. It’s so much easier for him to walk out or for him to call for you guys to come in and see. And it’s so much easier for you to pass by and not forget because he’s a stairway away. Just thinking out of the box that way is just so helpful. We’ve had so many different configurations. Rooms are just rooms, right? It’s not just, this is the living room and this is the dining room. They’re whatever we need them to be and want them to be. And we have so much fun repurposing rooms every once in a while.
LIZA: Absolutely. We laugh because there was one room above the game room. Now, we never, ever could figure out the purpose for it. And now Finn’s bed is in it. It’s perfect. And we finally have actually put furniture in this house correctly. It’s going to fit now. We can use it. It was all good, all for the right reason.
PAM: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I love that.
So, what is your favourite thing about unschooling just nowadays?
LIZA: Nowadays, I have so many moments because we’re finally at a place in our life, particularly now. The farm has been up and running for Forrest lifetime, almost nine years. Nine seasons now, so I marvel almost every day at making choices and the path that brought us here and being so, so grateful for being able to have this time. More so right now because right now it’s really all coming into place. So, it’s just such a wonderful time for us.
So, I think for me, my favourite thing is just really living. Every day we wake up and we don’t know what the day is going to bring.
We really honestly don’t. I mean, farming is so flexible and organic unto itself that it suits a beautiful unschooling life because you’re just going with the moment. And within the moment you can live and follow your dreams and passions and it allows for it. So right now, the flow is really fantastic and exciting and exactly what we kind of envisioned when we went out on this journey.
And it’s not constant. I mean, it always ebbs and flows. But that’s part of the journey, too, because even in those moments of conflict and things, we’re connecting on a level that so many other people don’t necessarily have the opportunity. And I’m grateful for it. And I don’t let it go past without that gratitude now because of the choices we’ve made. And I think that’s exciting because it’s taken me a bit to get to that point. This is in the moment really working really great and really right. Yeah. So that’s exciting for us right now.
On a practical level, I’m excited winter is here. Winter’s coming because we’re done with summer and into fall. Winter usually means travel for us. And we’re heading back to New Zealand after seven years. So, we’re kind of excited for that. And a lot of our days and times have been spent planning that because we have about a month to play with and we have lots of things we want to do. So, we’re researching and talking about things and people we want to see.
So that’s very much our focus now with the season winding down. I’m always excited for where we’re going. You know, part of my whole journey and even having kids is it was always excitement to see who they are, who are they turning into and rolling into and growing into. And I think I’m excited for that. That’s also one of my favourite things. And the kids, the age they are right now. And any age really is just it’s always just so exciting.
PAM: That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. I love the idea of seasons and the flow and discovering who your kids are. It’s so fun to think about how, we’re really focussed on the connection and engagement and having fun with them. Yet, as we were talking about before, it’s not about the control, that you can be so connected and spending time with them without needing to direct them anywhere, that it’s still a discovery. That excitement of discovery to see, what they’re interested in, where that might go. What corners that might turn, what they’re learning about themselves. Yeah, it’s not all, happy go lucky kind of thing. Right? There’s always challenges and things coming up. Always, always, always. But I guess I go back to that undercurrent of joy and excitement just because we’re living.
LIZA: Right. And I also think those moments of conflict are part of living. I mean, really, it’s the human experience, right? Then it’s through those moments that we grow and learn so much and connect on an even deeper level. So, I embrace those moments, too. And even for myself, I’m certainly not perfect in any sense of the word and all these things come into play. But if I’m able to reflect and dissect and see where that plays in with everybody and be open and honest, then we can just move along and keep that flow going, right?
PAM: That’s right. Because we’re growing into who we want to be. And I mean, that whole thing of taking, It’s hard. It’s hard taking those challenging moments and saying, that’s OK. And then doing the work to work through them. And exactly why is that feeling hard for me to understand that? Because then we can bring that to the conversation. And then they can help us. And the flow.
LIZA: I want to say as well because I think it’s important. Flow is such an important word and it’s something that you and Anna brought up to me.
And it’s the idea that it’s not about balance, right. It’s about flow. Balance is unstable and it’s hard to keep balanced. And there’s a lot of work in control that’s required for this. But once you accept flow in your life, that those moments are not something that make you off balance. So, just help the flow move forward. It’s like a progression. So, for me, it was a big deal when I realized it’s not about balancing and tilting something in a different direction. It’s really about accepting and allowing.
And that for me was a big shift in mindset in terms of flow of life and in accepting moments where there is conflict or there is something unsettled. And to get back, to pivot back to the joy and, to embrace the moment, it’s about accepting that flow.
PAM: Oh, that was so beautifully said Liza! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It was so much fun. Thank you.
LIZA: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.
PAM: And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
PAM: Oh, awesome. I will definitely put that link in the show notes and thank you very much again. Have a wonderful day.
LIZA: Bye bye.