PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca. And today I’m here with Lucas Land. Hi, Lucas.
LUCAS: Hi! Glad to be here.
PAM: I’m really excited to have you here as well. Just to let people know, I recently connected with Lucas when he invited me to be a guest on his new podcast. I had a great time chatting with him, so I thought it would be wonderful to have him on to share his family’s unschooling experiences up to this point anyway. And I am very happy he agreed. So, to get us started, Lucas …
Can you share a bit with us about you and your family?
LUCAS: So, we currently live in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Both me and my wife are working with Mennonite Central Committee here. This is our second time actually working in Bolivia. We have three kids. It’s our oldest, Asher is 13. Lydia is 11. And Dorothy, the youngest is six.
I’ll probably talk more about this. But right now, they go to a school here in Bolivia because home schooling in general is not recognized as a legal form of education. There are some groups that are advocating for homeschooling here, but because of being foreigners and working within an international organization, we have to follow the laws more closely. And so, that’s a whole other kind of thing—unschooling in school, it’s a weird, weird dynamic.
So, that’s us. What else? Not sure what else to say about us. We enjoy roleplaying games and board games. All the kids like that. Of course, like a lot of kids, they’re into YouTube and video games. We’ve been happy that our Internet is good. Especially for our oldest, Asher, he plays a lot of online games and has a group of friends that he connects with through gaming. And he’s been able to keep that up living here. So, that’s been good, too.
PAM: Yeah, that’s a great bonus. To be able to, especially when you’re travelling to new places, to be able to continue to do the things that you really enjoy. I imagine that’s a really helpful part of the transition.
LUCAS: Yeah, yeah, definitely. He already had a group that he knew, some from Texas where we’re from, a friend from somewhere in Europe and another that is also an expat who is living in Argentina. So, he’s connecting with people all over the place.
PAM: That’s wonderful.
How did you guys originally discover unschooling and what did your family’s transition into that unschooling lifestyle look like?
LUCAS: So, we had our oldest two kids while I was studying theology in seminary. We didn’t really discuss schooling too much in the beginning, but after seminary, we decided to move to this farm outside of Waco, Texas, where we are from. The farm teaches sustainable agriculture and international development. And I was an intern there. We sold our house. We moved with our two little kids to this farm with a bunch of Christian hippies. (laughing) It’s kind of a crazy place. It collects all sorts of fun, fun weirdos that are now our friends.
The kids were around 18 months and 3 years. So, they turned two and four while we were living on the farm. And so, then we began to start thinking about what we were going to do with schooling. My wife had been an elementary music teacher for many years, so she’d been in the school system. But she also was, as a music teacher she was in this position where you don’t have all the testing pressures. So, she enjoyed it a lot, but also saw a lot of the things that kids had to go through and deal with and was interested in homeschooling. So, we started talking about it.
A lot of times she seems to do all the research and then kind of drags me along the way. In a lot of different things. And I think someone gave her the book Deschooling Our Lives to read. That was an introduction to some of those ideas. We also knew a couple of people that came through the farm while we were there who had been unschooled. So, they were young adults in their 20s who had gone through unschooling.
We actually invited them over and said, “OK, tell us about what it was like.” And I remember one of them saying, “My mom was so against public education. I really wanted to put together a notebook of my projects from my work. You know, kind of showing it off for whatever. And she said, no, absolutely not. That’s what they would want you to do in school. And you can’t do anything that’s anything like school.” She kind of lamented that her mom wasn’t a little bit more flexible with the things that she was wanting to do. Even if it was a little schoolish, but it was interesting for us to hear from people who had been through it.
All along the way, that’s been super helpful because it feels very out there at first and very radical. And you’re not sure. I was the one who had all the questions initially. I was asking the questions that now I’m used to people asking, “What if they need to learn algebra and calculus?” “How are they going to learn certain things or how are they going to get into college?” All those questions, I was the one with a lot of those questions. And my wife Sarah was the one explaining, “Well, I’m reading and listening and learning a lot of this stuff.” So, I was a lot slower at first to get on board.
PAM: That’s normal, though, because typically one parent is more interested at first. And starts doing the research and then starts coming with the ideas and starts questioning the things. Then it starts coming up in conversation. And then you start having conversations about the questions that the other parent or partner has along the way. It is, I’d say typical, because that makes sense in our lives. When you think about any interest rate, that’s often the way it goes or else you’ve met somebody else through an interest that you already share, etcetera. So, yeah, it makes a lot of sense that it goes that way.
Speaking of all those questions, what so far has been the most challenging aspect for you of moving to unschooling? What have you found the most difficult?
LUCAS: I think for me, the thing that was most difficult was probably the deschooling process for myself. So, trying to unlearn bad habits or when things would come up, realize I’m coming at it from assumptions that I’ve had before.
One thing that was really formative for us, I think as parents, was when we moved to Bolivia the first time, our kids were going through culture shock and we were relatively new parents. And I felt like we were still figuring out this whole parenting thing. And I remember our oldest, Asher, having a really hard time with his emotions and dealing with all the changes. I can look back and see that that’s what was happening. He would get very upset and angry. He wore glasses when he was really young and so he would throw his glasses and that set me off and I was just like, you can’t do that. And so, I didn’t know how to deal with it or how to help him.
I’m very thankful that our organization here, Mennonite Central Committee, has a library for the workers with a lot of books in English. And one of those books is one called Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids, which is based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, who created this framework called Non-Violent Communication (NVC). And that I feel like connected for me with the unschooling, a lot of the same themes and ideas of listening, paying attention, noticing and trying to see the needs behind the behaviours.
Some of those ideas were super helpful for me, beginning to deschooling, beginning to realize other ways to parent and interact with my kids. And so that’s been a long journey and I’m continuing to learn how to do better and continue connecting with them and learning more about that.
So, for me, I feel like that’s been the most work, my own work. I could definitely tell lots of stories about my kids and things that were frustrating but when I look back at it, I really do think my reactions or things that were hard were most often more difficult because of me, less about my kids.
PAM: That is such a great point. I think that’s something so many of us realize after, a few weeks, a few months into. So often when you first get started, you have no idea the journey or the work that you’re going to be doing. Because at first, the kids aren’t going to school, they’re going to learn other ways. Boom. Right? That’s where the focus is. It’s on the kids. But as you start to focus on the kids and seeing how they learn and their emotions and how they’re processing and your learning about how to engage with them. Oh, my gosh. Yes. All of a sudden, all these questions come up for ourselves.
We begin to see how many expectations or assumptions like you called them that we hold, that may not be true. And so, it’s so much about us questioning those things and just leaving them more space to be themselves. I found I learned so much just from watching my kids and they led me down that path of all the questions and things to work through just by what they were interested in, by the situations they came up with them. And it was amazing how much of it is our work to do, isn’t it?
LUCAS: Yeah. Well, and for us, because our kids never went to school initially in those early years. There wasn’t a transition from school for them. Although they did choose to go to school one year. There was an opportunity to go to a magnet school in our town and it came up all of a sudden and we asked them if they were interested. They both decided to go, they had friends that were going. We told them, “We tell you certain things about schooling, but we also want you to have the chance to see for yourself.” And they actually had a very good schooling experience when they went for that year.
At the end of the year we had a process where we kind of sat down with them and we made some pro and con lists and talked about what they liked and didn’t like. And we let them decide afterwards if they wanted to continue going or stop going. They were in second and fourth grade. So even though there are tests, standardized tests in Texas in fourth grade, there wasn’t as much pressure really or too much of the schooling. And they felt like they had a good year, enjoyed a lot of that. But not having that transition period, I think meant that we got to focus more on our own as parents, our own messages, our own process of deschooling.
PAM: Yes. Yes. Was there a big shift? Two things I don’t want to forget to ask. A big shift parenting wise for them, because I guess that can be the other piece. Not just literally whether or not they went to school, but as parents as you were talking about non-violent communication, that kind of stuff. The transition from more control to more connection and working with them rather than trying to control what they’re doing.
Was there a shift for them in that area from control to connection?
LUCAS: Yeah, definitely. I’m thinking of almost embarrassing stories from when you’re first a parent and you don’t know very much and you’re just trying to survive a little bit. And I remember when Asher was first born and we were trying to figure out how to help him sleep. We didn’t know anything about attachment parenting or anything. And we kind of misread something about the Ferber method for getting your kids to sleep. And I remember we basically just did this “cry it out” method with him. And I remember us huddled in the bed listening to the baby monitor of him just crying for like 30 minutes and both just cringing and thinking, “Are we doing the right thing? We feel so terrible. No, no, no. This is what we have to do. We have to do it this way. This is this is what it said.” Even though we had read it completely wrong.
He ended up being able to sleep fairly quickly for quite a while, of course, until teething and all those other milestones that disrupt and cause all your work that you’ve been doing as a parent to go. And then later on, we realized that we had completely misunderstood the Ferber method. And we felt so bad and we’re like, oh, man, we totally messed up. We totally did it wrong. And I remember feeling really bad about that. But we learned more and grew and kind of got over the guilt, a little bit of the mistakes that we made. And definitely, I feel like new parents are always trying to find some control because you’re sleep deprived and you have all those bad habits of controlling things in our lives already.
The other thing that helped the transition for us, that moved us more away from control and forced us to have to wrestle with ways that we were still hanging on to some kinds of control was when we started doing some of the more radical lifestyle elements of unschooling, not just keeping them out of school and living our life. As our kids got older and had devices where they had screens and everybody else is saying when the screen time and I guess my story about sleep fits well because, you know, sleep is pretty precious. And I tend to be the one that’s very grumpy about sleep. And so, the idea of kids being able to decide their own bedtime was really scary. How is that going to work? Is my sleep is going to get messed up?
And even this week, actually, the other night, our kids aren’t very good about closing doors quietly. And since right now there’s no school where we are, there was a lot of doors just slamming or closing way too hard. And I was getting woken up at night. So, I got up and was grumpy. “You guys, you get to stay up and decide on bedtime. But it’s not fair to me. I’m trying to sleep here.” So, that transition to some of those lifestyle things that especially where it goes against the prevailing wisdom was hard because you have to let go of that control. What are my kids watching? And I know what they’re watching because I’m interested. And we’re talking about it. It’s open. And it’s not a not a big secret, but. Yeah. So, that was another transition that I felt like we took another step towards. In some ways, trusting our kids, I guess, really listening to them.
There was another transition that my wife was mentioning this morning that I’m reminded was really tricky and continues to be kind of tricky for us. My oldest, Asher, has some issues with anxiety and he’s definitely borderline Asperger’s. He hasn’t been officially diagnosed, but he has a lot of the symptoms and a lot of it clicks in place. When we learn more and talk about it, it really clicks. And so, I remember when we were preparing to come to Bolivia, in a lot of places in Bolivia, there’s no SPCA and there’s a lot of dogs. Dogs caused him a lot of anxiety. Primarily, we first notice some of these issues when he had sensory issues with balloons or dogs barking, fireworks, things that, of course, if you get surprised, they scare you, but you’re able to regulate and bring your anxiety back down. And his would just go up and he would be here and in a ball. And just feeling like he can’t take it. And so as loving parents, we tried to help him avoid things that were causing him pain and stress and were problems.
We decided before moving to Bolivia this time to go to a counsellor and see if we can get some help. What can we do to help him with some of these anxieties? Because in Bolivia, where there is no SPCA and there’s not as much regulation with spay and neutering animals, there’s a lot of dogs on the street. A lot of people keep dogs as alarm systems and protection for their homes. And so, walking down the street, you can have a dog that’s just walking down the street. And you’d be nervous about them barking or whatever. And then you also have a lot of dogs behind fences and doors. You can’t see them sometimes. And then all of a sudden, they bark. We knew that was going to happen.
One of the things that we learned in going to counselling with him was that his anxiety is not helped by us helping him avoid things. And that was one of the things that we’re like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ Your anxiety won’t get better by avoiding it because you continue to be afraid of it or have those anxieties. You have to work at exposing yourself to it and being able to regulate better your responses and reactions. And you have to go through it in order to work on that. So, that was a hard thing for us, especially thinking about unschooling and allowing kids a lot of choice. We want them to have a lot of choices, but saying, well, with this thing you kind of need to do it even though you don’t want to. That was hard. It was a little bit of a wrestling like, ‘Oh, yeah, we want them to have choices and do what they want to do. But in this area, they’re saying for dealing with anxiety, for example, they need to work on it, and then how do you work with them?’ When the kids are saying but I don’t want to walk by that dog, of course not. You know, it causes me stress.
PAM: Yeah, it’s interesting.
In this case, you guys were moving to Bolivia so there were going to be dogs around. So, helping him that way to be moving through it, to figure out ways to move through it, because it was just going to be a fact of your environment. It wasn’t going to be something that you could actively avoid. You work with it and see how it goes. That is fundamentally one of the great things with unschooling is that you went and you found got more information about it. You got some ideas. You worked at it. If that wasn’t working for him, you would keep finding new ideas. You know what I mean? You don’t know what’s going to work. If that was just going to be way too much for him to do that approach, to expose him to the fear, to put yourself in those situations for moments and to practice dealing with them. If he was going to be so upset and refusing to do that, then then you take another step in another direction and figure it out.
But that’s the great thing, we are free to get all sorts of information and possibilities and ways to move through challenges and then try them out and see if they’re working for us, if they’re a possibility, a way that we can walk and maybe it’s a way for more a bit later. It’s working with the individuals and the people and your environment and your family’s choices and bringing that all together to see what works for you. I love that because that’s such a great example of just living together.
LUCAS: Yeah. The other challenge for us living in Bolivia has been schooling. I mentioned before that they go to school now. And initially we said that we would try it mainly because they would learn language quicker and they could make friends. We were really clear with them that it wasn’t about grades or anything like that. But we thought it would be an easy way for them to connect with people here and make friends with Spanish speakers and help their language. But we weren’t sure initially whether or not continuing to do homeschooling would be an option. And so that was a door that was slightly ajar for a long time, and then eventually the lawyer that works with our organization said, no, this really is not an option. The government actually audits us and all this stuff.
So, then we had to go to the kids and say, “OK, well, I know we said they’re looking into it, but really this is a closed door here.” And now we have to say, it’s the law and you do have to go while we’re living here. Of course, we could say, well, if that’s the case, we’re going to move somewhere else. But if we are going to live here and work here, we have to figure out how to work with it. And it’s been nice for me to see how our kids do differently in the school system here and how the messages about schooling have really seemed to have gotten through pretty well.
Asher, our oldest, is not very concerned at all about grades. He sees his report card and doesn’t care. It doesn’t seem to bother him too much. The middle child is much more wanting to fit in and belong and make friends. And so, she’s a little more worried about the grades and we keep reiterating to her, reminding her especially, you are doing something that’s another level from what other people would be doing in school anyways, where you’re doing it in a second language. And here there’s not really. They do have a Spanish tutor, but the schools don’t have help with people who don’t speak Spanish as a first language. Imagine being in a North American school system with zero help on language and it’s just sink or swim. I keep telling them, “I can’t believe you guys are doing any of it. That’s crazy. That’s a really, really hard. So, give yourself a break.”
And then the youngest is mostly in her own world. And so, she I celebrate with her when she’s doing her own thing in class sometimes. And the other kids are really worried about it. They’re like, you know, because it’s the big deal. And so, they’re like telling me “Dorothy is not doing what she’s supposed to do in class.” And I’m like, “Oh. All right. Well, thanks for let me know.” And then she shows us some of what she’s doing. And the funny thing is she loves watching YouTube and she watches everything from these “Gotcha Life” is one thing that she’s really into. So, she watches all those videos. But somehow, she found a channel that’s about numbers and video and letters. And she’s just been watching those a ton. And it’s interesting. So, sometimes she doesn’t do school at school, even though she’s also learning Spanish and doing other things. And then she comes home and is interested in watching videos about numbers, the letters. Nobody asks her to do that.
PAM: No, that’s brilliant. It helps so much for you guys, as parents, to keep the view, bigger picture. Life versus in school. Because you know learning happens all the time anywhere. So, yeah, it must be super fun for you to see those moments. You can see where she’s picking up this kind of stuff here. And I’m sure she’s picking up stuff, learning things at school, maybe not what it is that they’re teaching at the moment. It’s super cool to look from that bigger picture piece.
So, they were all excited to move there? Is this a family decision how you guys decide where you’re going to be going when you’re travelling?
LUCAS: Yeah. Yeah. It was a decision altogether. The first time when we moved to Bolivia, they were too young. And so, we did just drag them along. But no, they were older this time and so we had some conversations. We let them know that we were thinking about it, that we were applying. We were interested and along the way had conversations. And they were all very excited about the idea. Of course, you never know what is going to be in store when you do something like that. But they thought it was a cool adventure. And our term here is for three years. And so, they also knew that we would be moving back after three years. And that helped us have a little bit of a time frame for them getting to go on an adventure for three years. They continue to be part of that conversation. Especially with schooling, it has been a process. They weren’t all very excited about it. And it’s been a process getting through. OK. Well, if school is something we have to do while we’re here, how can we work on making the best of it and getting through it? And they’ve all worked to figure out how to make it work for them. It’s been good. It’s been a bit of a hard transition in the first year, especially as everybody gets adjusted.
PAM: It sounds like, you were talking about each of them, and it sounds like they are finding their niche. And it is, again, just a great opportunity for conversations, isn’t it? There are different conversations with each child. That’s the other awesome piece about being it being individuals. With your son, he’s like, ‘Yeah, whatever. You know, I’m there. I’m doing my things.’ He is not feeling, so much of the judgment or framework of the school or feeling the need to satisfy it. Then more conversations with your daughter about, that is the framework, that’s what they’re looking for. But bigger picture, you’re still you. It’s not about how they define you. You have the choice to meet the things that they’re looking for. It’s not an expectation. It’s doesn’t define you, what your place is. And then Dorothy is being Dorothy, which is awesome!
LUCAS: Yeah, exactly.
So what is the best thing about your Bolivia days now? Right now, what do you guys most enjoy about it?
LUCAS: Well, when there’s not a national strike going on like there is after an election, where we are a little bit stuck at home, I’ve really enjoyed being able to take vacations sometimes deliberately when there’s school. We’re OK with it and don’t mind as long as the school isn’t giving us a hard time about it. We’re OK taking vacations when other kids have to be in school. And so that’s fun getting to visit different parts of the country. We’ve done some vacations near the Amazon. There’s a town where you go one way and you’re in the Andes Mountains and the other way and you’re in a jungle. And so that kind of stuff is really fun to see and visit different places.
I have also had a note on one other thing that I really enjoy. I’m enjoying right now that I’m forgetting. And I was going to mention this, because the kids are going to school. I sometimes help them because their textbooks are in Spanish. Asher is in eighth grade. My Spanish is pretty good, but eighth grade textbook Spanish is still pretty hard.
And so, for his class, when they’re learning about history or in Lydia’s case Social Studies and language, I need to help them with translating and reading their textbooks somewhat. And that has been super fascinating. So, I remember one time helping Lydia and it was explaining how the Bolivian constitution is set up. So, there are certain rights in Bolivia for indigenous people to have representation in the government. It’s very different. Each group, each indigenous tribe is allowed one representative without an election. They get to appoint somebody to be a representative. They can also run in an election and to be elected as a representative. But they are not that one representative. So that way, they’re trying to find a balance in representation for all the groups, but also representatives that represent all the people. I remember reading that and translating it for her and thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, she would never be learning this anywhere else. This is so cool.’
All the geography is about South American geography. The provinces in Bolivia and the different cultures within Bolivia and the different regions, all of that kind of stuff. History and even the stories that you read in a language arts kind of class are about legends from the Inca or the Guyanese or the different groups that in Bolivia. Here everybody hears about certain characters in Incan tradition, Incan folklore when they are growing up . So that kind of stuff has been really cool, even though it’s not about them needing to know it to get a grade, but just reading it and then being realizing, ‘Wow, you would never learn this if we were in the states, even if we were unschooling.’ You might not have been exposed to that. And so, it’s an aspect of world schooling that I really love. Just them getting to see these perspectives just by being in a different place that you wouldn’t really unless somehow you really got into Latin America. Maybe it’s possible, but it’s less likely. But when you’re in a place and surrounded by a culture, you get exposed to lots of different things. And that I just I really, really enjoy and love that they get to do that.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. You know, and that is something that I see with families who like to travel. They really enjoy that aspect of learning more about the culture and the history of the places that they’re in. So, to me, different families have different interests and ways to connect. I’m just imagining you guys over the textbook, figuring out what it says and having it really fun connecting conversation around it all. So, it is about what different families enjoy doing. And those are the family conversations that come up. Something that the different people in the family enjoy. It’s what inspired you guys to even start talking about going there. I imagine part of that is the adventure and excitement of checking out a new place for an extended period of time.
LUCAS: Yeah. I definitely would say that mixing schooling and unschooling is very difficult. That’s probably been the experience of a lot of people. So, I’m just thinking, as you were talking about reading these textbooks together, it’s a mix, right? I think there’s a mixture of this feeling of, ‘I don’t want to deal with the school being mad at me about their grades or something.’ And there’s a little bit of rebelliousness and the unschooling principles that I try to come back to. But it’s really hard to be in that environment and not feel the pressure and the influence sometimes.
I want to be honest about that journey and what that’s like because we come back to our unschooling principles. But usually it’s because we’ve been pulled in a certain direction and wondering how we can make this work. Needing to make it work sometimes feels like, well, just going with it and so needing to come back to our principles and saying, “No. Remember, we don’t we don’t agree with that or we don’t believe in that.” And so how can we do this in a way that honours that and continues to go in that direction, even though we’re in a situation where schooling is required?
PAM: Yeah, it’s not a choice you have in this particular environment right now. And it goes right back to what you were saying at the beginning: how much of this lifestyle is our work. Like you said, you’re noticing when you’re getting pulled. And yes, definitely. It doesn’t go away even if it’s not about school, it’s conventional expectations. For teenagers, it’s conventional expectations, when you hit 18 and young adults and as parents were always pulled by those things. We’re always reminding ourselves who we want to be as parents. And reminding ourselves about the principles that we want to live by and figuring out how to navigate those.
Right now, the school piece is what is mixed in with your lives. So, reminding yourselves and then question yourselves. I love that. That point you made about, ‘How much do we need to satisfy the school so, that they’re not upset with us?’ And then it’s the question, what would happen if they’re upset with us? Is that a horrible thing? Will the world end? What will happen? Is that something we really need to be worried about? All those questions to work through that?
So, thank you very much for bringing that up. And it’s a bigger picture thing, even when you guys are no longer there, there are going to be other things that that come up. Those conventional kinds of questions, and that’s life. That’s living an engaged life, I think, versus just doing what’s expected. Because there’s expectations at all ages. You can just feel like I just want to go with the flow and do whatever I’m supposed to do or I’m going to figure out what it is for me, the person I want to be, the parent I want to be. What this means for me? What choices are we going to make within the context of your lives and the bigger picture choices that you’re making?
So, yeah, it’s not easy. It’s never easy, right? Which wouldn’t you know leads so beautifully into the next question?! Because I wanted to talk about your podcast. Podcast are not always easy!
For people listening in the audience, as you said, I don’t want it to make life sound easier than it is or anything. And it’s the same with all our guests. We’ve thought through this since we’ve come across these challenges and we continue to talk about how we work through challenges, the benefits that we see with them, with our children, and our life together. That’s what’s so fascinating. I’ve had 200 episodes now because these conversations are fascinating to me.
So, recently you started a podcast. It’s called “We Don’t Talk About That with Lucas Land.” I would love to hear the story behind that.
LUCAS: Well, I used to write a blog, a couple of different blogs, but the latest one was called What Would Jesus Eat? And it was during seminary, I was processing a lot of things I was thinking about in terms of food and agriculture, sustainability along with theology and reading the Bible. And so, I was blogging about that.
When we lived here in Bolivia before I wrote a lot and was processing that way. I thought I would pick that back up being back in Bolivia. I read a book that I was really thinking a lot about and trying to figure out how do I want to process this and wasn’t motivated to write, really. And so, somehow, I’m not remembering how the idea came up. Somebody mentioned, “What if you did a podcast?” ‘Oh, a podcast? I could do a podcast?’ I hadn’t really thought about that. I’m not an audio engineer or anything. This is kind of new to me. And so, I spent a long time thinking, well, what would it be about? How would I do it?
There was a good friend of mine who when I was throwing out this idea online, said that she really appreciated how I’m able to have conversations that are really difficult and heated. These Facebook arguments about whatever topic of the day where you don’t agree, but you find ways to have the conversation anyway. That comes back to non-violent communication. And that whole learning process of how you listen to people well and how do you have conversations that can honour what’s going on with people, even when maybe they’re communicating very poorly and find ways to not necessarily agree on everything but have better conversations.
So, then that started to form into this idea of a podcast where we talked about those things. We have hard conversations. I did an episode with a filmmaker who made a film about abortion in Argentina. And that’s still one of the ones I feel most nervous about because it’s such a heated topic and I feel like it was sort of one side of the conversation and I didn’t have more of the other side. So, there are things that make it nervous about it. Also, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about tips or ideas or methods, different things that help us have better conversations. So that part, I think is hopefully helpful to people thinking about how do we try to have good conversations.
Then I’ve also had a number of episodes talking to people that I know who are different. I have a good friend in Oaxaca that recently had an episode with a friend in Kenya that works at the same organization that we work with. And then one of my good friends from college who is Cherokee, Lutheran and Two Spirit. So, we talked to him about what that means. Also learning about different people and understanding, hearing their stories and talking to them about what makes them different. So, yeah, I kind of got excited about the idea and started making lists of all the cool people I know that I wanted to talk to. Of course, you made the list. I wanted to talk about unschooling. And I thought this would be great if Pam will talk with me. And so, I had you on the podcast and that episode is not out yet, but I’m excited for people to hear that. That was super fun. Again, talking about the things that are difficult when it comes to choices we make about parenting or schooling that are different. And I felt like a lot of interesting things came up as we were kind of exploring that together.
So, it’s been super fun. And I’m wrapping up twenty one episodes and scheduling them to release and am planning on taking a little bit of a break while I have some time and then scheduling some or more interviews and keep going because it’s been like you said, you know, you’ve done 200 plus episodes now and every episode I feel like I find something new that I have learned or something that I didn’t think about that way before, even if it’s something that I feel like I do know something about.
Another thing that comes up over and over and over again is curiosity. That cultivating curiosity is a huge part of being able to have hard conversations with people. And that just connects perfectly with unschooling. And that’s what we’re doing is cultivating that in ourselves and in our kids.
PAM: I love that. And yeah, I had a really fun conversation with you. I love connecting with people where they are and learning more about how they’re seeing it. It’s that curiosity piece. I love seeing how they’re engaging in their life, making choices in their life. It’s fascinating stuff. So, yeah, I love that. I love the topic. And I will share the link for your podcast in the show, notes for people to check out if they’re interested in it. So, one last question.
What piece of advice would you like to share with dads who are considering or just starting out on this unschooling journey?
LUCAS: I think there is a lot of unlearning that dads have to do. We get a lot of messages about how we’re supposed to be as parents. I think with unschooling there’s a lot of care and nurturing and connecting. And that’s not always the message that dads have gotten growing up about what being a good dad is like. Whether that’s just from culture or from our families of origin. And so focusing on yourself and as we said before, doing the work of developing yourself as a better person and a better parent, that has so many helpful ramifications for parenting.
So, I really recommend doing some of that work, kind of unpacking. What did you learn about what it means to be a dad, what it means to be a male in your culture? How can you learn and grow in ways that cultivate curiosity and nurture and connect with your kids more? I think that’s really hard.
I think the other thing that can be really difficult is learning to trust our kids. We sort of live in a culture where experts are on pedestals and being experts about things and we kind of treat our kids that way, too. “I’m the expert on life because I’ve been alive longer than you.”
And usually our kids have a lot to teach us about things but when we take that position as an expert and not as a learner, we can miss it.
And I still do it. I still do it all the time because I have a 13 year old who really likes to argue with me. And there’s some times where I’m pretty sure he’s wrong. I do know something, right? I know things, too. And it’s OK for me to know things. But being open to listening and taking a posture that’s less of an expert and more like, “Oh, I heard it differently. Well, let’s look it up. Let’s Google it. Let’s see.”
This is still a little bit harder for me to say, but remembering not gloat that I was right. Because I really love being right. It feels good to be right. (laughing) Or finding something that I learned that was different than what I thought maybe and still saying, “Oh, OK.” We are figuring it out together.
PAM: That’s one nice thing, too, about the kinds of relationships that we have with our kids. They’re okay when we’re right too, for the most part because it’s not a competition. We’re not keeping track of how many times you were right and I was right and bringing that power into the conversation. It’s not a big deal one way or the other. It’s something you laugh about. It’s something that, depending on the moment, nobody may even mention in the moment.
It’s about the individuals and it’s about feeling out how the conversation is going. Are you going to be putting a block in the way with the next thing that you say? Or are you going to be keeping it open, keeping it engaged, keeping it curious? Because that’s the other thing, it’s so interesting to find out how they came to that fact or that piece of information or that perspective. That’s one of the things we learn as parents, that’s so much less of what we think is right or wrong. Sure, there are some facts, but then again, sometimes there’s perspective. Context. So, it’s not just about that one little piece of information. It’s about the Web. How does that piece of information sit? Where did you pick that up? It’s just all really fascinating, isn’t it?
LUCAS: Yeah. I remember that my kids and I think about the idea that they like to challenge and they like to sort of push things. And it’s not always about whether or not they’re actually right or wrong. Sometimes it’s just about asserting themselves as having opinions or having ideas. And I know for a long time my kids were really into, the two oldest especially, were really into conspiracy theory videos on YouTube. And they would talk about flat earth and some of these things. I would get worried and I do think media literacy is important. Right? How do you know whether or not that’s true? How do you know? It’s possible that conspiracies. But how would you know whether or not to trust that that was real? And part of me wants to just say, “Oh, my gosh, that’s terrible. You can’t, watch it.”
I remember Lydia coming to me and wanting to argue with me about that the earth was flat. And very earnestly and seriously. And I had a hard time knowing whether or not she was serious. It turned out she wasn’t actually serious. She just really enjoyed trying it out and making those arguments. And what would I say? How would I respond? And so, then she was laughing about it, “Yeah, I know Dad, I don’t really think it’s true.” And it put me at ease a little bit.
But again, it’s this thing. I’m trusting them. I don’t have to assert that they have to believe me because I’m the authority or because I’m the expert. I can trust that if I have a conversation with them, I can throw out ideas or ask good questions and they can learn how to figure some of those things out for themselves. And it doesn’t have to be because I said so or because I know more than you, or something along those lines. You can trust them to figure it out.
PAM: Yeah. That’s a great example. So often, it’s keeping that conversation open and going and being curious. Eventually, chances are, you’ll find out what it was, what their motivation is. So often what we see on the surface at first really, isn’t it? Like you said, it wasn’t about flat earth. It was really about engaging in that conversation. Can I convince them, how would I do in a conversation like that? And you were the willing participant.
LUCAS: At least somewhat willing. (laughing) Oh, boy. Here we go.
PAM: Like you said earlier, too, right?
We learned so much from our kids and they are so much more capable than conventional ideas tell us that at first. And building that trust that they’re exploring this world and having those conversations about media literacy. All those conversations are so important. Things don’t have to be solved in that moment or figured out in that moment. It’s an ongoing process of building those skills, building that understanding, knowledge, all that builds up over the years.
And it’s not even school age, right? Because you and I, we’re still learning all the time, aren’t we? That was awesome.
Thank you so much, Lucas. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us. Thanks so much.
LUCAS: Yeah, it was super fun and I’m excited. I know that my wife is really excited to listen to my episode when it comes out. She would never want to be on the podcast herself, but she’s really excited that I got to talk to you.
PAM: That’s aweseome, Hi! And before you go, where can people connect with you online? I’ll share your podcast website. Is there any other way is that the best way for them to connect with you?
LUCAS: Yeah, the podcast is at WDTATpodcast.com. And then all the social links and stuff are on there. That’s probably the best way to find me and connect with me.
PAM: Awesome. Thanks so much. You guys have a great day. Bye.
LUCAS: Yeah. You, too. Bye.