PAM: Welcome. Pam Laricchia from Livingjoyfully.ca and this week Anna Brown joins me to answer more of the unschooling questions that I have received.
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. We talked about that a bit on our unschooling in the context of deschooling episode a while ago. But what we’re trying to do is contemplate the situation, the questions, from the different perspectives of those who are involved. I like the image of tilling the soil around the question. So, maybe we’re picking up a rock or two, maybe we’re finding new insects in there, just different pieces that maybe people haven’t considered or haven’t noticed. We certainly won’t find everything or all the nuances of a situation, but it’s really a kind of brainstorming, just to bring up things and to help people make new connections.
So, even if the question isn’t specifically related to somebody’s situation, it may even bring up connections to help them better understand unschooling a little bit because they may realize that’s a way to look at it through this new lens. So anyway, that’s what I love about these episodes. And Anna, do you want to start us off with our first question?
The first question is basically about deschooling and moving to unschooling. Monique has two boys and they have always homeschooled. They’ve been looking at moving to unschooling. She’s been reading and researching and she’s feeling a little bit overwhelmed. And so, the main focus of her question was around deschooling. Do they need it? What does it look like? How does unschooling begin?
It was a long question with a lot of energy in it. And I could really just feel her overwhelming kind of tightness about the whole question. And so, I just really wanted to kind of reach out and give a hug and let her know that it’s so much easier than she’s making it out to be. So, we’re going to get there. We talked a bit about this in the Unschooling in Context episode that you just mentioned. And it’s this idea that there’s one right way and that we need to kind of check the boxes to do it the right way. And that is a very helpful concept to let go of! Let’s start there, just letting go of that need to do it right. Because when we look at the questions of ‘Do they need deschooling?’ You know, I think we can probably all agree that, yes, they do. Her kids have never been to school, but they haven’t really been in an environment where they’re facilitated to follow their own interests and their own pursuits.
And she mentioned in her question that it’s been very rigid. That was her word, rigid homeschooling. And so, I think it is important to realize that it’s going to take some time for them to trust and open up and start to explore how they’re feeling about all of that and to find what they’re interested in, because this is a very new thing for them.
And when she talks about how do I begin? Again, I think we’re looking for a checklist, but I think it’s really more of thinking about summer or whatever time off from homeschooling looks like for your family. And do that, play, get outside, watch some shows, read some books. Each of you, all of you can start thinking about what sparks your interest, ‘What do I want to do?’ And I think you’ll see it’s really so natural. I guess I just want to say to find the joy in each other and in the day and bring your focus there, bring a lightness to the day.
Learning more about each other. I think it’s so fun to be in relationship with our kids and to see the world through their eyes. They help us. They help me find the joy and the lightness. Allowing yourself to go there and let go of needing to control even this transition to unschooling. You can just be in it with them and laugh and enjoy it. Hopefully you can just take a deep breath and release some of that pressure you’re putting on yourself and feel that joy. It’s there. It’s waiting right there.
PAM: Yeah. And I mean, that is a big part of our deschooling process, getting to that perspective. The ideas that we share around deschooling are to try and set up situations that will help you get to that place. And you’re continuing to learn about unschooling while you’re doing this.
So, that’s helping you see and learn more about why it’s important. But I love at the beginning just that, that mindset shift that you talked about to summer vacation. I’ve sometimes called it a ‘Season of Saturdays’, wake up each morning and it’s Saturday. What can we do? That’s usually the free day for people, there’s no Monday to Friday work or school, that kind of stuff. It’s the free day to just do what people want to do.
Or if it helps even think of it like you’re on vacation, on vacation at home for the next few months. What would you do then? Little things, are you going to sleep in? What time do you wake up? Are there places around town or a little bit further afield that you haven’t visited? What have I said in my mind that we’d love to do if we had the time? So, when you can answer that question, do those things, because what you’re giving yourself now is this time. This time to go places or to make cozy spots at home, like you said, watching shows, playing games, building a fort, just all those kinds of things that come up and just throw yourself into them and have fun with your kids.
Hang out with your kids. This is your opportunity to finally get to know them well, to get to know what they like and don’t like. And to learn more about their personalities. And, like you talked about, just watching them and learning from them. And yes, the aspect of deschooling for them, because she mentioned the rigidness, there’s also going to be that piece where they probably relate their learning to schooling and teaching even though it wasn’t literally done in a school. It was school at home. Mom was teaching, curriculum was showing them how to do things. So, they’re going to be deschooling in a way and you as well are going to be starting to recognize all the learning that happens outside of that paradigm.
So, I think that’s going to be just vacation, just fun, just hanging out. And there was one thing that she mentioned in a question, a phrase about whether she should be encouraging them to start learning, you know, go do some do some learning kind of thing. And that piece for me stood out as in, “No, you’re not going to be doing that.” Don’t be doing that. (laughing)
But there are things you’re going to be doing in this process. That’s why I talked about continuing to learn about unschooling, because you’re going to be encouraged that way to look at things differently. What you’re going to be seeing soon is the learning that’s happening without that kind of direction. You’re going to see the learning in all the things that they’re doing because you can be with them more.
You’re going to be having conversations. You’re going to be hearing them put two and two together from different things. You’re going to be seeing that learning happening without that framework of, I have to learn this in particular.
So, that’s going to be a huge piece of your deschooling. Same thing with projects, you don’t have to think about things that they’re doing as projects. You’re just going to be doing what interests them and you’re going to be helping them do that. You’re going to be gathering things for them, driving them places. Whatever it is, you’re going to just be living that lifestyle, which is really just an engaged life. It’s not everybody go off in your rooms. Maybe part of that will be people need some time to their own. They need some of that rejuvenating, relaxing time. And you’ll start to see all the learning that happens in there, too, how valuable that time is for them, because when they come back, they are refreshed. Maybe they come back full of questions. Maybe they come back with new observations, that is the whole joy of engaging with them and just living together, right?
ANNA: Yeah. Yeah.
PAM: So, did you have anything you wanted to add there?
ANNA: No, no. I think we’ve covered that one. That’s it.
PAM: And have so much fun with it. That’s the piece, embrace the fun. Say, “OK, we’re just going to have fun now!” Because maybe that can help you get past the need to see them learning or thinking they aren’t learning. Just focus on the fun and you will start to see the learning that’s happening.
ANNA: And I think bringing that energy to it, then they’ll be free to have that energy of fun and then they’ll be sharing and we’ll just see the swirl of conversation and fun. And again, there may be some separate time. We may have some introverts there that need to regroup. But like you said, they’re going to come back together. I think you’ll just see that it’s so much easier than you’re thinking.
PAM: Well, that’s the piece, too, right? Needing the check list. Wanting the checklist, because that’s what we’re used to. We want to do things well. We want to do things right. “Somebody tell me how to do this this well.” But really, this exploration can be so much fun.
Our second question is about parent’s intuition. I really love this question, thanks, Ashley. She’s listened to most of podcasts episodes and a number of Q&As and understands the perspective most the guests come from, but has left some of those talks feeling uncomfortable.
She says that so many times she’s heard moms speak on the podcast, that it was their intuition that guided them to attachment parenting or a different way of living with their children and how their intuition led them to unschooling. Yet when they speak of their concerns around things like technology use or food choices, it feels, in the podcast that their intuition is now being dismissed. She feels that there seems to be little respect for moms having a gut instinct about how their particular child is responding to video games, etc. And there seems to be a dismissal of the parent’s intuition, but it was praised when the parent trusted it way back when.
I really love this and it was a lot of fun to think about because I really had to think about how I see intuition. What does intuition feel like to me? Thinking about times when I’ve followed it. What’s it telling me?
And for me, intuition really is the start of a journey, not the end. It’s not the answer. That was a really big piece for me. So, when we follow our intuition, what we’re really doing is trying to learn more to see if it makes sense for us.
It’s that curiosity and openness that we talk about so often, the willingness to question our assumptions, to learn, to be open to learning, to be open to seeing different perspectives. So, if unschooling didn’t continue to make more and more sense to us, if our instinct or our intuition was guiding us to unschooling, if we took a few more steps on the journey and it just did not make sense to us and our family and the particular children that we have in our family, the particular adults, we would stop and we would move on to other choices. So, for me, intuition is more like a hypothesis. It helps us explore. Then we play with it and see how it really works in our lives.
I have talked about on the podcast when I first read some things about unschooling and the things that unschooling parents were doing, my gut instinct was, ‘Well, we won’t be doing that!’ And I kept reading. ‘Well, that’s totally out there, we won’t be doing that.’ That’s the whole point I was talking about in our last question, keep learning about unschooling. I’m going to explore. And as I learned more about unschooling, as I spent more time with my kids, as I watched them in action, as I saw learning happen, I began to understand better how unschooling works.
And a few months later, I was literally doing those things, by choice, because they made sense to me. I’ve written an article—I’ll share it in the show notes—about my son and video games. He was very interested in video games and I was uncomfortable with how much time he was spending when we began. And that article is all about my exploration and what I learned.
So, my gut instinct was saying, ‘This is making me uncomfortable.’ But I was wanting to explore unschooling and I was reading about others saying different things. So, this is me seeing how it’s really going to work for my kids. For me, it’s not taking somebody else’s idea about why you should let them do or whatever. People are sharing their experiences. Certainly, on the podcast when we’re talking to people, everybody’s sharing their experiences. And they’ve done this work to work through this process to see what makes sense to them.
So, I wouldn’t feel bad if our instincts are telling us things about these different kinds of choices. But for me, that feeds into our exploration. Those are our hypothesis that we’re going in with. It’s not about releasing the reins and having a free for all in all these things. Because that’s chaos. So often that just leads to chaos because nobody knows. Right? Like I said, I was making these choices a few months later. But it was because now I understood why they made sense to me. I knew what they were going to get out of this. And it was a step by step kind of thing, as they made more and more sense, more and more sense, more and more things were released. And I could say yes more often, because I really wanted to say yes. Not because I “should” say yes. That, for me, is part of the journey.
Part of that as well is having those conversations with our kids. So, maybe we think that, her example of a child being negatively affected by the time that they’re spending, those are conversations that you’re having with them, maybe not in the moment when they’re frustrated or whatever. But conversations later, “I could tell you were really frustrated or you seem to be getting really upset.” Let’s play with that. Let’s talk about that. What are the sources of that? Then you get their perspective and you understand what they were going through in that moment, because it’s also not our job to make things all pleasant and perfect. You know what I mean? We may be feeling bad and frustrated because they’re getting upset and frustrated. I remember those times, too, that things were really hard for them, but they wanted to do it. So, in our conversation, I could see just how determined they were and I could say, how can I help? How can I help?
But for me, that’s the piece. The intuition is the start of the journey. I feel it’s not about dismissing. A lot of the people that we talked to on the podcast have been unschooling for years. Yeah, probably mostly years, certainly many months. And when they talk about this, it’s not because they have just done it because they’re “supposed” to do it. It’s because they’ve taken the journey. And for them, it makes sense. Like those open food choices are making sense to them. That’s what they’re doing. The technology use is making sense to them. But it’s not a yes/no thing. It’s not “OK, have all you want.” You know what I mean?
We’re talking about how our body feels. We’re talking about, before we make choices taking that moment to say, what do I feel would feel good to eat or to drink? Same with screens. How does that feel? This is how we’re helping them develop that self-awareness about themselves and their body. And for me, it’s not about discounting the intuition. What we’re saying is explore it more and see what you see. See what you truly see when you don’t bring that bias in. This is my hypothesis about what the challenge is for my child or that I think my child will encounter. And now is the time to take that next step and actually see if it’s true. Is that really what’s happening? I hope that made sense. What do you think Anna?
ANNA: Oh, my gosh, I really love that—I can’t wait to think back on this, your idea of intuition being the start of the journey, because I think you’re right. Intuition can have a lot of things impacting it that get us there. So, learning to listen to truly inside of ourselves is a process.
I also loved this question. Thank you. I think it was great. And I think it will help us bring out some nuances that will be important. But I do want to say that I certainly am sorry if anyone has felt dismissed, because that’s never our intention. We are always talking about our experiences and how we’ve moved through these same processes. What I always, always, always go back to is connecting with my child, to connect with the child in front of you, to see the world with them through their eyes and to peel back the layers to see where those messages are coming from. And I would say that to anyone considering unschooling, anyone considering anything, examine where are these messages coming that are starting that journey, that intuition journey, so that you can decide, ‘Is it coming from me? Is it suiting our family? Is it connecting with our child?’ All of those questions are so, so important because for me, it’s just all about the connections so that any conversation that happens is coming from that place of being connected.
What we found is when we’ve kept that connection that actually these big-ticket topics, that people bring up, they’re kept in check. They don’t take on this big life that they seem to take on in other places because, again, we’re talking and having conversations. So, in my family, for example, we talk about food a lot. And this has come up over the years in the podcast. But I’m just really big into understanding how my body feels related to food and movement and all of those pieces. And it’s something that I’ve talked about openly with my children since they were toddlers. And we talk about how we feel after we stay up late reading all night and how we feel the next morning, how we felt about those decisions.
This is kind of an aside, but it’s part of it. So, I actually stopped reading fiction books when my kids were younger because I have this thing. Some people have it, I think, where I deep dive into fiction books and I mean, absorbed in the world and when they’re over, I actually feel physical loss. I have lost these friends. I have lost this world. And what I realized was that was taking me out of the moment, it was taking me out of the moment with my kids and with my husband and my family. And I knew that that’s not what I wanted right then, that that was not helpful for me. At the time, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s kind of an escape.’ Maybe we’re having a period of being in the house and the escaped seemed appealing. But what I found is it wasn’t good. Those are the conversations we can have. So, it’s not that books are bad. Books were bad for me right then. But, but, BUT we have to find what works for ourselves.
And I think that may be the piece that’s confusing to the person asking the question because she’s seeing this as mom down, so mom made the decision to unschooler, mom makes the decision for X, Y or C. But gosh, that’s just not how I look at it at all. You know, I feel it’s about supporting my child, my spouse, my friend, whoever to find their own intuition and to follow that.
That’s how I see my role, not as my intuition guiding all of us. I can’t know for someone else. And that’s the real rub. I can only know for me.
And so, when I have decisions that are impacting my kids, my husband or friends, I take the time to really look carefully to that other person. How are they feeling? Are they feeling heard? How is this affecting them? Because I really don’t believe that I know best for another. And so I don’t know if that’s not coming across in what we’re saying or maybe I’m wondering if it’s part of where the listener is in their own journey, because this is a really different paradigm, because our culture has this belief that parents know best. And I think it’s a burden to some extent for the parents that they take on. “I’m supposed to know what’s best for these other human beings.”
And we really can’t know what’s best for another. But what we can do is have that connection. We can be engaged. We can be connected and we can help facilitate. So, I’m all for intuition with the understanding that my intuition guides me and that I want to support others in letting their intuition guide them.
PAM: Oh, brilliant!
ANNA: I feel like we’ve talked about the specifics of this particular topic so often, starting with how disconnecting it is to even call it, screen time, because it’s not just a screen and the screen isn’t the need. They’re using the screen to follow an interest, be it something on YouTube or a video game. And it’s not even just YouTube or a video game. It’s whatever that topic is. And the video game is a particular game with story and art and music and strategy to be understood.
I think this is something you touched on when we have an uncomfortable feeling about something that our loved one is doing, that’s the time to connect more, to dig deeper, to go in, not to pull back and feel scared or worried. It’s to go in, in, in. Ask the questions, learn about what they love. Share what you see. But I would say only after you really understand what they’re doing and what they love about it, because then I feel like they can hear you.
Because they know that you’re truly hearing them and that you’re trying to understand their interests. And for me, I just turn it back to myself. I tend to dive deep into things, as I said, not just books, I do it with lots of things. And if someone from the outside be it my husband or my kids are kind of criticizing me about that or, “My gosh, you’re really spending a lot of time on that.” I can feel defensive. So, put yourself in your kid’s shoes. But when they see what I love about it, when they take the time to learn, what is it that you’re so passionate about, chickens, bees or whatever it is of the day, then I feel like they get it, like they’re hearing me. And then I can hear them that maybe they’re needing more time with me or they feel like I dived too deep or whatever.Then we can have a conversation. But that only comes after that kind of validation and connection and just really being heard and understood.
And so, I guess I want to say this is not to dismiss the concern of the person that’s writing, but hopefully it can give a path to uncover more about it, where it’s coming from inside of you, and to learn more about your kids in the process and to deepen those connections, which I think you’ll see make navigating any of these challenges so much easier, especially these hot topics of food and sleep and games.
PAM: I love that. Like when we’re talking about—that’s a really cool little rock to have pulled up—the rock of the difference between intuition that’s guiding our actions and what we’re feeling drawn to. And yes, with unschooling that is the kind of parent they want to be, the kind of family that they want to have. But when our intuition is about other people’s actions? That’s a great clue to dive in a bit more, explore with them. And that’s the time to connect more. That’s exactly what I was talking about. When I say, okay, our intuition is that first step. Now we explore that. It’s exploring together. It’s having those conversations, it’s diving deeper because then you learn so much more about what they’re trying to do.
And that takes that back to, whose is this? It’s their actions and their choices. My intuition or my gut feeling about how this may be affecting them or how they may feel about it. I need to find out if that’s true. And that’s what you learn by connecting, conversing, seeing what’s going on.
That whole aspect. So, yeah, I love that.
ANNA: And something you’ve said before and I think it’s either a podcast that just came out or about to come up is that sometimes when we have this message of concern, this intuition, to use her language, of concern or being uncomfortable, I really feel it more like this uncomfortable feeling of something that’s going on. If we all think about that, I think this would be a really good exercise for everybody.
When we feel uncomfortable, it tends to cause us to pull back because we’re fearful or we’re not understanding. And so, you can feel yourself draw back. ‘Oh, my gosh. Look at what they’re doing. This is not working.’ You get really inside your head and you start spinning and all of that pulls you back, pulls you back, pulls you back. And so, what we’re saying is feel that, recognize that and then decide, ‘You know what? I’m going straight back into the relationship. I’m going to dive back in, because I know that when I connect with my child, that that’s where the answers are going to be. That’s where I’m going to feel more comfortable. Then I’m going to see something that made no sense to me before, as I see it through their eyes, as they explain it to me, as I leave myself open for that, then I get it.’
It’s still it may not be a choice that you would make. You know, I may still have to say, you know what, I’m not ready for fiction yet, but I love that you are and that diving deep is working for you. So, again, just feel yourself doing that and go, you know what? Nope. I’m going to dive right back into that relationship because that’s where I want to be.
PAM: I love that.
ANNA: OK. Next question.
This question was sent in by someone with a four-year-old who’s currently in a Waldorf pre-school, and she wants to know if it’s possible to unschool when both parents are working outside of the home.
So, I know that it can and that it has been done. I’ve met people, we’ve talked to people before who are doing it. I think there may even be some people on the podcast, but I guess I do want to say that I think it would make it more difficult, for sure. And I feel like for me, I would want to make sure that my priority was having an engaged adult there to facilitate. I feel like that’s the environment where unschooling thrives. What we were just talking about, this ability to see and dive in and have the conversations and those conversations aren’t really scheduled. Do you know what I mean? You can’t really say at 4pm we’re going to have the deep dive conversation about video games? No, it’s that side by side. It’s that, we’re driving in the car. It’s that, when things can come up and you can be open to that.
So, there is a time aspect that I think makes unschooling work in the kind of way that we’re talking about.
From a personal standpoint, my husband and I both worked full time corporate America jobs when my oldest daughter was born. He and I were making about the same amount of money and I’ve told this before, but we almost lost her after her birth. Predictions of she may not survive, etc. And so, at that time, he and I had deep conversations and we made the choice for me to stay at home with her. And it was just a trust fall. ‘OK, we’re going to make this work and we want whatever time we have with her, for somebody that loves her as deeply as we do to be with her.’ And I will say, it was scary to lose half our income at the time. But we basically just had to decide what the priority was. And it worked out for us. And ultimately, my husband was even, years down the road, able to make changes so that he could be home with us more. And so, I think there is an aspect of figuring out what you want, because I think sometimes we are moving along a path and we don’t necessarily check in with how we feel about this path. Is this path working for us and for our family? So, I think that checking in and figuring things out, because one of the things I love is all the amazing lives that unschoolers have carved out.
I know you’ve seen this, too. My gosh, you’ve talked to two hundred of them. I’m amazed at the things that you’ll see. Even just following unschoolers on Instagram. So many of these people are travelling the world and they’ve sold their house and they’ve done these things. And I was just talking to a friend, they took to an RV for a period of time, driving around the country to find where they wanted to be. And it’s a very rural area where they ended up staying. The cost of living is very low. And they were able to carve out this life where they could do it. And these are big paradigm shifts to us, where we live, our job, all the things we do. And so, I think there is an opening to again, be open and curious. Let me think about my priorities. Let me be clear about that and then let me see what opens up and how that is.
I think something else we also talk about a lot is it can change. And so, don’t feel that whatever’s happening right now is the only way. So right now, it may be that you can’t find a creative way at this exact moment for one of you or both of you be at home. So, maybe you do look for the Waldorf School or a Democratic school or something that suits right now.
And the three of you are talking and figuring out what works. But know that can change and that as you walk towards those priorities, new opportunities can open up that we can’t even see right now. And I know that can feel hard when you’re in the moment, but I’ve just seen it happen so many times in places where I thought, I don’t know how this is going to work. This was not what I had planned. But when I keep that open, curious mind, suddenly, I see it. There’s that next door. There’s that next step to move towards this thing. If I’m keeping myself aligned with whatever my priorities are. And so anyway, that was what I had to say about that.
PAM: Well, yeah. I love that.
And you’ve talked about priorities. I have made a note of getting clearer on what’s important to you and the creative ways to make it happen. I remember I actually didn’t even know about homeschooling and unschooling as a thing when my husband and I had that conversation. But things were coming up in our lives that we thought we needed those two incomes because we were living on them, both of them.
But when you start to dig in, things can look different. I just love to keep asking myself why, why? Why? Especially if I say, well, I have to this, I have to that. I need this. I need that. And it’s just diving into that.
What are other possibilities? You don’t even realize you’re in a box. Until you make that conscious effort to think, well, you know what, if I blew that top off, what do I see now? So, yeah and it wasn’t easy, as you said. We had lots of conversations. We actually looked at what are our expenses? We came to realize that a lot of my salary and it was a good salary, was being used for things like child care and clothes that were needed for work and all the gas that was needed to get to and from work. When you got work out of the picture, it really changes the picture and then where can you cut some expenses? But that’s the creativity piece. So, it can be really interesting. And I love that you made the point about time. We don’t need to make our life’s decisions now. And you can love unschooling and live through unschooling principles and school can be part of the picture.
So, I know you’re literally not unschooling, but that’s not the point. Because that’s not the goal, you know? It’s, ‘How do I want to live as a family? What kind of parent do I want to be?’ This is a way, this is a lifestyle. But there are so many of the principles around parenting and relationships with your kids that can be your foundation that you can come to. There are ways to look at school. We have episodes with some kids who are going to school right now, Choosing School with Alex Polikowsky. (EU032, EU197) I’ll put those in the show notes. And we talked about living our unschooling principles while school happens to be in the picture, whether it’s through circumstances of the family, whether it’s through a child’s choice.
There are just so many ways. And it’s not a forever decision. So, maybe it is part of your lives for a while, for whatever reason. But you can also have wonderful relationships with your child. You don’t need to bring all of school’s needs into your home. You can find things like Democratic schools or other options. Once you open it up, instead of feeling stuck with we need two jobs and we want to unschool. You can get deeper than that to what that really can look like for your family. And that’s a lot of fun.
But not dismissing the fact that it is scary to make big life changes like that at any point, no matter what. Big life decisions are hard. But that’s also the piece, my husband and I’ve talked about this before, it’s always just one little step. You don’t have to jump. Let’s take one step toward that. Let’s change how I’m relating to my kid. Let me spend more time focused and that open space. Let me create that space and that open time for things to come up.
ANNA: Things can change, you can change your mind. I mean, I think when we were first talking about it, we didn’t know what the timeline would look like. And we were thought, we’re just going to try this now. We are going to hope for the best. And it may be that I need to go back to work in six months or that I need to go back to work in a year. And so just again, every decision is not forever because things change and all the parties change.
And then different things open up. So, yeah, I think all of those bits, just that open curiosity. And I think you’ll see a lot more opportunities.
PAM: When I left, I actually just took a leave. I didn’t really quit. I found out, I managed to get the option to have a leave for a year. So, we could see what happens. I’ll share a couple more links in the show notes. I remember, Glenna’s episode (EU045). Her husband works for a while. And they build up their savings and then he comes home for a while and they live off that. And then he goes back. There’s just so many possibilities of ways to navigate that. There are single parents who are unschooling. So, weaving a way to bring some income in. There’s just so many possibilities rather than two full time jobs, and even people who work shift work. Like maybe you just change jobs because then somebody works evenings and weekends, while the other one’s home. There are lots of possibilities.
OK, let’s see. Our last question here. Another really good one. And it’s similar, in that it’s about a career and unschooling.
She asks, “Do I have to choose between my aspirations and the needs of my children? Because I think I will be a better mom and role model if I can still pursue my calling in the arts at least part time while giving my kids what they need to thrive.” There is also another aspect about anxiety and not knowing whether it was school related.
But back to it again. It’s this creative thinking. It’s this working together. You don’t need to give up. Again, this is that black and white, yes and no thinking. I’m all in and I have to do this. And the timing. Right? Does it have to be right now? No, it’s going to be weaving it all together because these are parts of ourselves that are interesting. But the other thing, too, that really jumped out at me when talking about aspirations, I think for unschooling, when you’re choosing unschooling as a lifestyle, I feel that really needs to be one of your aspirations. That is the kind of parent you want to be. It is a priority as well for you.
So as you’re talking about the needs of your kids, because you’re aspiring to be the kind of parent who works with your kids and meets their needs.
So, understanding that this is a choice you’re making. Because when we talk about it as the ‘needs of our kids’, it’s like something coming from the outside. And to me, that just feels different when you look at it through that lens, it feels more draining. I need to get my energy to meet the needs of my kids, whereas if I’m choosing to be the kind of parent, this is who I want to be, I get so energized when I know this is something that I’m choosing to do. I don’t think of it as semantics. I really think it’s important that we realize this is all our choice. You don’t have to unschool, we’re choosing this and there’s reasons and we want to do this and we want to have this kind of relationship with our children.
We want to live a lifestyle where, learning bubbles up and we enjoy it and we enjoy being together. So, when you’re coming with that perspective and then part of me also really enjoys acting or whatever our interests are. And they weave in depending on how our family works. Maybe there’s seasons where a lot of our time and energy is going to helping our kids through certain things. And then in other seasons, we have more free time. It depends on their ages. Like we were talking about on the last question, too. Things change over time. This isn’t a choice you need to make now. To know enough that you’re comfortable stepping down this road, that you don’t need to give up things because then that feels also like, I’m giving this up forever or until they’re 18 or whatever. I personally know unschooling parents who are doing local theatre at the same time. And they’re figuring it out. Some who have a child doing it with their parent. They’re both in shows together because one of the children really enjoys it, too. There are just so many possibilities when you bring things to the table.
But it’s getting past that either/or kind of mindset, or worrying so much that one’s going to be at the expense of another and always. You know what I mean? It’s really about getting to that place where you know these are all choices that you’re making and you’re weaving it together to meet everyone’s needs, yours included. Right?
ANNA: Right. I mean, that’s the thing that just keeps popping out. It’s just choice, choice, choice. And I think understanding that we’re making choices and with this person, they’re choosing to have more children. So, it’s not you know, I guess maybe it’s a one accidental child happens every once in a while. But we’re on child 3 now. This is something that’s important to them. They’re choosing to have this family. And I think, again, when you just look at, ‘I’m choosing to have this family because they bring me so much joy and I love these children and I love what we’re creating.’ That feels so different than this idea of ‘I’m giving up *this*.’
It’s semantics and it’s not. It’s an energy thing, about the choices that we’re making. And when we know everything is a choice, then we can feel more empowered in our situation. You could put your kids with a nanny and go to Hollywood and do whatever you like, you could certainly do that. But when you think. ‘But wait, no, I want to be with my kids.’ Ha! There we go. You want to be with your kids. And so, then you can say, yeah, I really do. And I want to be able to do bits of this here or there. And I want to figure out how that works. And it will.
What I wanted to say, too, was, so she has a child in school, I’m pretty sure. And I just guarantee you that she already can tell you how much time it takes to have a child in school. That’s no easy road. There’s homework and getting them up and getting everything ready and jumping through all the hoops. And not only that, but she has an unhappy child in school. So, imagine the difference of a happy child at home pursuing their interests and doing things together. And what a difference, I believe it would be a more rich environment to be creative, writing, acting, whatever it is to have this home environment where everyone’s getting their needs met and everyone’s pursuing the things that they love. And we’re doing it together.
Another thing, you spoke to already, is the seasons. And what I wanted to say is that what we found—so there are four of us in our immediate family and there’s definitely seasons to where everyone’s interest is really intense. For example, I have a daughter who was in a play and it was about 45 minutes away. And so, we were having to go three times a week. And so, there was a season of that being really intense. And then there’s a season of it being intense for my husband, pursuing something he’s doing. And then it’s a time for me but again, that’s a cool thing about unschooling, we’re all working together for that. We’re going to keep working to get our needs met and we all know that.
So, we’re on the season of having to drive a lot for this person of our family. But soon it may be something different. Or even if two things are happening at once, then we figure out how to divide and do that. So, I think what she’ll see is that, when they’re together and when they’re all happy in pursuing the things that they want to do, that new opportunities will arise, solutions will come, and she’ll be able to find that creative place. I think easier than if you’re kind of jumping through hoops and everybody’s not happy because I think that would be a hard place to cultivate that creative aspects especially.
PAM: I think another thing, when you get more creative about it as well. So maybe you’re in a season where you don’t have a lot of free time, other time to play with. Maybe acting is, if acting is your aspiration, but maybe you don’t have time to be in the play and going to all the rehearsals, but maybe you’re helping with the sets or maybe you’re just helping on the night of the play, handing out programs, helping people get seated. Sometimes just the energy of the environment can be enough, can give you that taste. You’re still in there and engaged in that. And that may be enough for a while. There may be a season where you can have starring roles and be acting in it, but there are so many ways as well to be involved and to be connected to different kinds of communities that give us that joy and that energy.
ANNA: And she mentioned that she was a writer and an actor, and I think the writing piece is interesting, too, because, I’m thinking, so she has an eight week old. So, we’ve all been there and know that is really intense time. She’s not getting long stretches of time. But maybe keeping an idea book, maybe keeping a character book or whatever type of writing you’re interested in so that when you have that time, you’ve got these fun ideas that have popped up in the middle of the night because you’re nursing and you’re thinking about this cool character that you might want to develop.
I enjoy writing as well as do you Pam, and I think you’ve found the same thing, but I know for me, what I found is that I had a belief that I needed complete silence, that I needed the shrine and the bubble, and then I’m going to write. Here I am. I’m writing. What I realized was I could still write in little fits and starts and whatever. And it was OK. Maybe I would only get a longer stretch of time every couple months, but I could put this fits and starts together in a way that was really fun and enjoyable. So, I didn’t lose that. And so sometimes it’s thinking, OK, I think it’s it has to be one way. But there’s a lot of different ways to look at it. And writing is definitely one of those that we can be rigid about what we think it should look like.
PAM: Yeah. That was a big piece for me that I felt I needed not only a chunk of time, but I needed quiet time. And different people have different processes. This is why you’re going to play around with it and figured out for yourself. For me, I found I was most comfortable certainly during that season where I was where the kids were coming and going.
And so I was staying connected to them and still being able to write. Maybe I would be interrupted a bit more often. But back to the choices, right? I didn’t want this to be disconnecting, but I was enjoying doing it. And they were all busy doing their things.
So, I had that a little bit of time where I could do that and take a break and leave it open to come back. Just little notes here and there. It’s about finding ways to weave it into the flow rather than trying to find a chunk.
ANNA: Right. And I think that’s valuable for our kids to see that we’re all doing that and we’re all figuring out ways to make that work, because that’s just life. You know, really kids or no kids. We don’t always have the time, in the certain way that we think it’s going to look. And so, I think those are just really nice lessons.
One of the other things she asked about was the post-secondary, going to college kind of pieces. And I mean, all I want to say about that is we’ll put in the show notes, Blake Boles’ College Without High School. I think that’s a nice starting point for people. We also have all the Growing Up Unschooling episodes of the podcast. Many of those young adults have chosen some type of postsecondary schooling and to also listen to those to realize there are so many paths that while you’re sitting back here with these young kids thinking this is the one path, because maybe that’s the path that you took or that’s the path that your parents wanted you to take or believe that it is. But what you’ll see when you actually dig into the individuals is that there are so many different ways to get there. And so that’ll come with time. But I think as a starting point, just looking at how rich this life can be.
I think what’s interesting about Blake’s book is that it’s actually written for teenagers that are in high school. And he’s telling them why they need to get out because it makes them look more appealing to colleges. So, it is kind of a funny angle of it as opposed to, we’ve been doing that all along. But I think it’s a good place to start because it talks about how rich and valuable this life is and how great it looks to colleges because you’re doing things on your own and you’re a self-starter and you’re passionate about things. And this is what colleges are interested in, if that’s the choice that your child makes. And that’s something that appeals to them at that time.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Because I mean, when you’re first thinking about it, that is one of the concerns, am I closing this door for them? So, it’s a logical question, too. But yeah, it’s a great way to start seeing the possibilities. There are so many. And I mean, then it also reminds you that it’s not a door that has to be taken. Back to the “have to.” But definitely the possibilities are there. And just to address that, the she was talking about school and anxiety and I think it was around whether or not you should be staying there because you should be confronting the things that you’re anxious about.
But, no. (Laughing) Certainly, I wouldn’t think of it that way. I would think about school anxiety may well take time to work through. I guess that was part of it, too. Whether or not it is school related is really part of the question. Is this anxiety really school? You won’t know until school is out of the picture. But that will also take time. It will take a lot of de-stressing time to move through, especially if you’ve been having a hard time in school, when they come home, they will need a lot of time to distress and reorient and just relax and find who they are without that constant stress on their body, on their system. So, I think that will be lovely. And maybe there are other things.
But this is the whole point. You’re together, you’re living together. You’re going to be working through it. You’re going to be having conversations. You’re going to get to know who you guys really are without that external framework on your life. I think that will be awesome.
ANNA: I’m just realizing because I kind of missed before that she asks the recharge question, is Erika’s episode coming out this week? Or it will already be out?
PAM: Yes, it’s out.
ANNA: Definitely check out that self care podcast episode because I think it really gives a lot of great clues about how to recharge, how to take care of yourself in an environment where you’re staying very connected with your children because she’s talking about wanting to do that, but feeling like she needs this time to recharge. And so many great conversations happened in that episode that hopefully you’ve already listened to.
PAM: Yes. Well, we’re going to have a lot of links in this show notes.
ANNA: Exactly. That’s what I’m thinking! Oh, my goodness.
PAM: That’s the whole point of these questions, right? I mean, right back to the beginning that we’re digging things up, cultivating that, that our questions are kind of the start of our journey. Right now, we want to explore. We want to gather all sorts of information. So, all these other blog posts and other podcast episodes and books, however, it is that you’d like to bring in information so you can ponder and get a better feel for all the different aspects of these questions?
ANNA: Yeah, I love that.
PAM: Thank you so much for joining me, Anna. It was awesome. I really love getting a chance to dive into this stuff with you. I love hearing other people’s perspectives and where they are on their journeys. Such great questions.
ANNA: It is. It was a lot of fun. Thanks so much.
PAM: Thank you. Have a great day.