PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Jayn Coburn. Hi, Jayn.
PAM: Just to let you guys know Jayn’s mom, Robyn, was on the podcast. It was way back in episode 74. Wow. It feels like it was very recently, but anyway, I am so thrilled that Jayn was happy to join me to talk about her experience growing up unschooling.
So, to get us started, can you just share with us a bit about you and your family?
JAYN: Yes. So, we’ve lived in Los Angeles for my whole life. I was born here and my parents decided before I was even born that they wanted to homeschool me. When they found unschooling, it was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect.’
From the time I was a baby, we were very much interested in the local homeschooling things. Since I was very young, we would go to park days and I was actually in a, what was predominantly homeschoolers, dance class. I went to that once a week for like 10 years. I loved that. And that’s where I met so many of my friends and a lot of the people who I saw park days were also in that. Fun fact, I am friends from that dance class with a girl who knows the singer, Billie Eilish, and a bunch of people I know actually grew up friends with her. It’s six degrees of separation or whatever.
We used to live at Playa Del Rey, and then around the time I was 14, we moved to an area of LA called mid-city, which is quite literally very central to the city. For the first time had my own room because we used to live in a one-bedroom apartment, and now I have my own bedroom, which is where I’m in right now. That was something really fun.
We’ve always gone to a lot of conferences and just sort of done a lot of fun traveling activities. So, for me, being able to travel and connect with people that way has always been really fun. And what I really enjoy doing right now is being able to connect with my friends from all these conferences that I’ve met over the years, over the internet.
So, I love my phone and my computer and all of that for that reason. For a while I was in a public speaking club. After we moved my dance teacher that I had been with for a long time decided to retired right around the same time that we were gearing up to move house. So, it was kind of perfect timing, really.
When we moved, I didn’t really have an activity for a while and I didn’t mind that because I enjoyed the downtime of just sort of being by myself and hanging out in my house and stuff a lot. But I discovered this thing called Speaker’s League, that my friend, who I knew from the dance class, she’s like my best friend. She had been doing the speaking club and I went along with her just one day because I was hanging out with her and she had to go to it. So, I just went as a guest and it was really fun. So, I joined it. And because we were unschoolers we just kind of were like, “Okay, it sounds fun. Let’s do it.” No, no big thing about it or anything.
And so that was kind of like my main thing for like a good, almost two years. Those were really fun. I had to stop doing that because when I aged out. I was a lot older than everybody else in the club, but I had to stop because I started going to college.
That’s what I’m doing now. I’m in my second semester. I’m about to start, my fifth week of my second semester, so it’s already flying by really fast. And I’m going to the New York film Academy in Burbank, which is actually the school where my dad teaches. He teaches sound mixing, and I am studying game design because I really like games.
Not much more to it than that. No deeper thought really, besides, I like games, so I’ll make games. Yeah.
PAM: Yeah. Beautiful. So just to let it everybody know, you didn’t go to school at all before trying college.
JAYN: This is my first time going to school and all my classmates are aware of this and they’re all like, “I wouldn’t have guessed. You don’t really seem like what we would think of as a homeschooler.” Most people don’t think of the right thing when they think of homeschoolers.
PAM: We’re going to get into that in a little while too, because that that’ll be really fascinating.
Can you talk a little bit about how you found the transition for yourself?
JAYN: Well, I went through the first couple of days and it was really sort of emotionally taking a toll on me where I was kind of overwhelmed, but part of it had to do with the fact that, when I chose the game design course, it ended up being close to a year before I could actually start. And I was sort of second guessing whether or not that was actually what I wanted to do now, a year later. This was back in September, so now it’s been months and I’m feeling much better about, about the choice.
I still sort of wonder would I rather do filmmaking there instead? And I think what I’m going to do is after I finished game design, do a film degree at the school, because I kind of want to do both now. But when I came to the school initially, I was feeling very torn. And so that sort of was part of it.
It wasn’t just entirely the new experience thing, but I think it being something so new for me did amplify the sort of overwhelmed feeling I was getting. But at the same time, the transition was certainly helped a lot because my dad was there. I drive to and from school with my dad pretty much every day, barring a few exceptions where I have to Uber. I always have to count for like an extra 20 minutes when I do that. The drivers don’t know what they’re doing. But with my dad there, I was able to talk to him between classes. We will have lunch together most days. So being able to talk to him and have him right there immediately made it feel a lot easier to sort of get into the swing of things.
And knowing also that because we’re unschoolers—even though I’m now not school-aged anymore, we’re still an unschooling family—that being able to just go and talk to my parents and if I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore at any point there would be no stress or repercussions from them besides them wanting to make sure that it was what I really wanted to do.
It relieves a lot of the stress of, ‘Oh, if this isn’t right. What do I do? Like I’m going to be stuck like this.’ There’s none of that. So, I think for some people, moving into something new, it can be very much like, ‘Oh, well, I’ve committed to this. I have to finish it, even if I don’t really want to.’
The other thing is, luckily, I’m in a very fortunate situation that because my dad works at the school, I only have to pay a very small amount, like lab fees to go to the school. I don’t have to pay the normal tuition, which means I don’t have the same financial burden that a lot of people would have as well, which makes me, further fortunate and privileged in this situation to have less stress.
But in terms of the transition into itself, that first week it was stressful, but in the sort of exciting way, and I think all of these other things, not having that financial burden, having the, I know I can just stop if I want to mindset really did help me in terms of the long term thoughts like, ‘Oh, well, if I don’t like this, it’s fine.’
It was not that difficult. Basically.
PAM: I loved that. I loved the way you explained it too. All those pieces of it are so understandable and the importance of knowing that it’s a choice. I love your point, that your parents would be talking with you to make sure that this was the choice you wanted, helping you process it.
So, it’s not about the guilt or the expectation, but it is about talking about it enough so that you are comfortable with making the choices, which is how we love to chat with our kids all the time. That’s what you’ve done all your life with them. When you’re joining dance, joining Speaker’s League, moving, these are all conversations so that we can process and be more sure of how we’re seeing things and how they’re sitting with us.
JAYN: For sure. Yeah.
PAM: Yeah. That’s awesome.
I wanted to talk a little bit about some of your interests growing up and how you pursued them. You talked about dance and speaker’s club. Do you want to talk a little bit about those or how did you get into game design? How was that interesting to you?
JAYN: First of all. I have always liked video games, and I think some of that is partially due to the time. My era growing up, video games had become a common enough thing that pretty much everybody sort of knew what they were. And it was easy access to video games and consoles, but it wasn’t to the point where all video games were in some degree, portable or online yet.
I very much remember growing up, having stacks of disks and like DVD boxes for my games and having to install the disc and then keep the disc in the thing whenever I wanted to play. And we had a game cube when I was little and an original Xbox and we still have a PlayStation 2, that’s actually in my bedroom just over there.
And my parents were always, quote unquote early adopters to new technology. That’s what they’ve told me. I don’t know how true that is, but I assume it is true, especially in the part of my dad. He’s told me that he used to build his own computers. So, ever since I was little a understanding of games and technology and using technology first and foremost as a way to play games and do fun stuff versus say printing stuff. We had a printer, but I didn’t care about that. I cared about the Xbox, you know? So, I’ve always been very comfortable with that stuff.
I still play a lot of video games. Not as much as I’d like, because I don’t have as much time now. But I love video games and I really enjoy playing them and also figuring them out. I love finding videos on YouTube of hidden Easter eggs in different games, that are listing little things that the game developers added in, hidden places and stuff like that. So, for me, the design process of games is always very interesting to me as well. So, when I learned that I could study game design, I thought it would be really fun.
And also, a lot of this is from going to conferences. I love board games and tabletop games, card games and stuff. So, because we always play a ton of those, I don’t know how much the parents at the conferences are aware of this, but at conferences up until late in the evening, most nights there’s always some group of teenagers playing tabletop games in some little corner in a hotel. Maybe it’s someone’s hotel room or just a part of like the conference lobby that they’re not bugging people about. There are always people up late playing board games, and I know the parents do this too. I’m actually wearing a Free To Be t-shirt, a conference in Arizona, but the parents do this too at that conference at least, they’re always up playing games, but the kids are always on playing games too.
So, I played so many tabletop games just at conferences alone. And, you learn how to make those at the school I’m going to as well. One of my assignments right now is I have to take the game Werewolf and to retheme it to be different characters, instead of werewolves, it would be something else.
So, that’s one of my assignments that I have to do for Monday. With sort of growing up and learning I really liked games. It was so many of these different things I enjoy doing, playing games at conferences, playing video games for myself. I also really liked playing games and having my parents watch them.
Or in the case of games that were too difficult for me or I was scared of, I would make my mom play them and I don’t mean like ask her to, I would like, I’d be like five or eight or something and I would strong arm my mom into playing Haunted Mansion on the Xbox for me and I would sit over her shoulder and watch because I was too scared to do all of the light combat with the scary enemies myself.
I would make her do it and then I would like boss her around and be like, “Oh no, no, you got to go over there and do it this way. But there are things over there.” So, I still remember it. It was very fun. We would also play Nancy Drew games. I don’t even know what genre they would be. They’re not like any other game I’ve ever played because they’re weirdly kind of two D, but you’re moving around the place and you’re talking to people and you’re doing little puzzles and you’re looking for objects. It’s truly like you’re just doing a mystery as Nancy Drew and I have played so many of these games. I think we’ve played pretty much all of them because we played one and then we were like. “Oh no, now we need to get all of them, all of them.” So, we’ve played, I think all but maybe the second one, which is really old, and they didn’t make a remaster for it. So, we haven’t played that one. And I think we might be behind by one right now. But still, we’ve played so many of them and those are so fun.
So, it’s like other little activities from throughout my life, I just have this backlog of affection for games, I don’t even know what really started it. I just have always had that and my mom actually told me a story the other day where she was like, “At one of your birthday parties. You came up with this whole elaborate game for everybody to play around the pool, and it was super confusing and none of the adults knew what you were doing, but all the kids were really into it.” And I was like, so I’ve been designing games since I was like eight, what the hell!? (laughing)
PAM: It’s so true. And that’s what I find so fascinating is it’s when you look back that you can start seeing the thread. When you’re in it, it’s like you said, it’s not like game design was flashing in lights before you saying, “Come this way, come this way.” but when you look back, you can see over the years how you’ve been attracted to that. Whether it’s through tabletop or it’s through person to person. Let’s play and come up with a game while we’re all together to the different kinds of video games and loving the Easter eggs and loving knowing what designers are doing inside and the fun things that they’re putting there, even for themselves. And knowing that level of detail. It’s so cool to see how that all has come together at this point for that.
When we were talking before about fandoms and pop culture, and you mentioned Billie Eilish and also the gaming. Those can be really great learning tools for unschoolers and parents can do that processing to get through.
Sometimes when we look at our kids’ interests, it can be hard when we’re starting out not to judge our kids’ interests and be more relaxed about things that fit more easily into that academic box. Maybe you can talk about that a bit.
JAYN: Well, first and foremost, I think that a lot of parents have the expectation that, when they’re learning about unschooling and when they’re getting into it, they have the expectation that it’s allowing their kids to just learn via their interests. Because that is kind of the phrasing around, the pitch for unschooling, which is that your kids aren’t going to learn in school, they’re going to learn through their interests, which is true.
But a lot of parents who are deschooling still will have the expectation that that means that their kids’ interests will fall within some sort of academic area, but they can learn it their own way. So, they’re not going to have to worry about school. But that is obviously not true.
I think what they instead should try and wrap their head around is the idea that most of the areas of academia that school teaches kids through high school and middle school, it’s actually that those are things that are in some way part of everything anybody could really be interested in, in some little ways. You know, math, English, science—those basic subjects. You’re going to end up learning parts of those through completely unrelated topics anyway. It’s like the other way around from what parents expect it to be.
I never got reading lessons. I learned how to read through, probably a lot of video games and my parents reading to me and having books I liked. And that’s one of those things where it’s like they didn’t expect me to just have reading as an interest as if it was a school subject I was interested in.
So, flipping in your mind, it’s not that your kid is going to be interested in academic subjects, it’s that the academic subjects are inherently just part of everybody’s interests in some way.
I don’t like math as, as a sort of a subject. Personally. I’m sure that if I had gone to school and I had to take math classes, I would have been just completely rolling my eyes so sick of it by day one, but I do use a lot of math in game design because you have to, when it comes to figuring out game mechanics, there’s a lot of numbers involved with that.
When you’re doing animation, symmetry is really important and numbers and basically geometry. So, I use these skills that I didn’t even know I had, because I did actually study for the CHPE, which is the California high school proficiency exam.
I was doing it just because I kind of wanted to, honestly, I didn’t end up passing, I only took it twice. I did pass the sample tests at home. I did pass those, but I didn’t pass the actual test. I don’t really care though, so I digress. I didn’t know I had some degree of these skills, but I didn’t really realize how much I actually was aware of them and I use them quite a lot, but isolated I don’t care for that, any of that. But I do like it in relation to these things. I do find that part of the game design rather interesting.
When it comes to the fandom and pop culture stuff, a lot of people don’t quite understand that kids are going to have interests that they may actually never really share with their parents. So, they may have a show that they really like, that they’ve watched the whole thing of, they talked to their friends about, but maybe they just don’t really feel the need to like talk to their parents about it. Not me. That’s not me. (laughing) But I do know some people, like some of my friends who are unschoolers, who they have lots of interests.
It’s not that they keep secret, it’s just that they don’t really care either way about sharing with their parents and they learn all sorts of things from those. So, there will be areas almost of like hidden learning, hidden a bit from the parent where they’ll suddenly be like, “Where did you learn all of this?!” I know that my parents do that all the time, “How did you get so smart? Where’d you learn this from? How did you know all this?” I just know it because I have accumulated that knowledge from things. But I know lots of kids read fan fiction, but they’re not going to go and talk about the details of their fanfiction that they read with their parents. Not necessarily. And there are other things that people just kind of learn through the stuff that they’re big fans of without it really being shown how big of a fan they are maybe.
I think that’s also something that people should be a little bit more, expecting of is just like expect that there’s going to be stuff that you’re going to be really surprised when your kid has this knowledge about or this interest in because it’s just something that’s happened passively without you even realizing. And I think fandom is the one area where that’s the most likely to happen because people, when it comes to interests, like TV shows or books or whatever, movies they may know what their parents might have interests in and they don’t necessarily think that their parents might be interested in the same thing. So, they might have their own interests that are kind of separate from that. I know like I have plenty of shows I watch on Netflix in my own time that I just watch them. I don’t go and spend a million years Trying to get my parents to watch them because I’m interested in them, but I do tell them about them, but not everybody does that. They just know that their parents are like, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t like this show, so I’m not going to bother you with information about a show that you’re not interested in.’
Which I think even that, knowing that is part of the great relationship with parents and kids that you have with unschooling. But I know that for me, a lot of what I know has come from things that I’m interested in before things that I felt like I needed to learn, which is where as an unschooler, I’m very happy that I wasn’t ever forced to go to classes and attend school for knowledge I’d probably end up forgetting because it wasn’t related to anything I cared about. So, there was no drive for me to keep learning. I rambled on for so long. I’m sorry, oh my gosh.
PAM: No, no, that’s brilliant. I really enjoyed that, Jayn. And because it’s so true, back when you started talking, you were talking about, how the interests aren’t interests in a subject. I loved your example, it wasn’t about learning to read, that wasn’t the thing, but you were doing all sorts of things with your interests in which reading was part of it.
JAYN: Yeah, exactly, play games.
PAM: I remember that because that was a big aha moment for me. I’ve looked back, we’ve been unschooling for a few years and I looked and realized that you talked about those basic skills, some basic skills with numbers and some history and reading and all that kind of stuff. They all picked those up in very different ways through their own unique interests. But because those are the basic ways that, as a society, we communicate and share information, they got it. They all came across words and reading and numbers and everything within their interest. So, it didn’t matter whether it was video games or whether, for a few years it was Harry Potter or whatever it was.
You still got that basic grounding because those are the basic things, we as a society use. Those are the tools that we use and that are part of our conversations. That’s the whole point, they don’t need to be skills themselves, learned alone and naked. They can just be part of whatever it is that we’re interested in pursuing. I think that’s such a huge piece that helps parents release that pull to academic skills, but it takes some time to realize that difference, doesn’t it?
JAYN: Yeah, it does.
And that’s the thing, these are sort of building blocks of how everything in our society works. So, you’re going to have to learn how to read and how to write and basic math skills. It’s going to happen because everybody needs to know those things at some point or another. That’s not to say everybody has to get taught those things at some point or another. It’s rather, that they will come along naturally with everything that you do.
I’ve played World of Warcraft since I was 11, no, since 2011 so when I had just turned 12 and in that game you have to do so much reading to play. And I had already learned how to read by the time I was 12, but I would not have been able to fully play that game much before that because the amount of reading you have to do to navigate that game to understand what you’re doing is crazy. So, when I hear people say that they have played World of Warcraft since they were like five or six, I’m like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! First of all, you’re violating so many of Blizzard’s terms of service. But also. Wow. I could never have played it that young cause I could not read when I was five or six.
PAM: Well that’s it. I love that. That’s what you mentioned. I forget how you said it, but timewise, it’s like when it comes up, when it works for the person, it’s not about a time thing. It doesn’t matter. Because if you weren’t reading strongly before that you were doing other things, you were playing other games where reading wasn’t a huge, monumental component. It doesn’t mean you’re waiting around for that, but you were doing things. And then you were strengthening all those skills that you had at that point too.
It’s so fun to see because not knowing something by any particular age doesn’t need to get in anybody’s way. You’re working with the skills that you have and pursuing the things that you like. And like you said, your parents were reading to you and for you.
JAYN: My mom would read me Harry Potter, and I remember she would read me Harry Potter in my parents’ bed. I remember when I was really little, I have a distinct memory of laying with her, looking up at the page and seeing the words to Harry Potter. I don’t remember which book, probably one of the earlier ones, but yeah.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. It is all part of the journey and that’s what makes it so unique for everybody, even though, we’re all encountering those basic things. But that’s what’s so beautiful about unschooling because you’re not putting expectations on the kids and you see that at conferences, right? The expectations aren’t on them, so they don’t feel bad about where they are. They feel confident and happy with where they are and their interests in the things that they’re doing are playing to their strengths and they’re happily getting help when they need help. They can just ask anybody around them. So fun. Yup. That’s the way the unschooling cookie crumbles.
JAYN: Yeah, it is.
PAM: So, let’s get back to what you mentioned earlier.
I’d love to hear your take on the ways that school and homeschoolers are represented in popular media types. What’s your experience with that?
JAYN: So, here’s the thing. I did a talk at a conference. I spoke at Free To Be, back in September. I spoke about the way that in a lot of like movies and television shows, homeschoolers are sort of portrayed and not very often to be fair, because they’re not really shown much in media at all, but when they are, they’re often portrayed as being some sort of outsider to a certain degree.
And sometimes this is in a positive way, and sometimes it’s not. One of the things is in a lot of these cases, it’s not so much that they get the idea that, a homeschooler would be, an outsider to school kids wrong, because that is true because they’re not going to necessarily have the same interests or be in the same social circles as a school kid.
So, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s sort of this presumption in a lot of these cases, and it’s hard for me to think of examples because there’s so few, but there’s this presumption that the homeschooler is going to have to get over their homeschool myths eventually, like they’re going to have to one day become normal or they’re always going to be weird because of that, or they’re missing out on something.
My favorite example to bring up with this because the character is so central is in It by Stephen King. The character of Mike Hamlin, he is homeschooled. In the new film, the other kids, when they first meet him, they literally call him homeschool.
They would say, “Hey, homeschool,” and you know to me it’s like, how was that at all relevant, but okay. They don’t know much about him beyond the fact that he’s homeschooled. And then the thing is the character, he’s sort of portrayed as, he’s very sweet and kind, and there’s nothing wrong with any of his character traits.
But it’s interesting because he is ends up being, weirdly like the hero of the story because without spoiling too much for the viewers, he ends up having to be the only one who stays behind in their hometown when everybody else leaves, because when they leave, they forget their memories of Pennywise the clown.
So, he ends up being the only person, he chooses to stay behind in the town. He grows up there and he ends up being the person to call everybody at back being like, “Hey, Pennywise is back. We got shit to do.” And he’s the person who gets all the knowledge and who has this backlog of information and all this history about Pennywise and he’s able to use to help them defeat Pennywise.
So, he’s sort of the unsung hero and in a way. I consider this to actually be a really positive portrayal of a homeschooler because he never starts going to school with the other kids, but he also uses his interests and, he throws himself into them to save the day, which I think is great.
But there are a lot of times on other shows where it’s not even so much the way that the homeschoolers are portrayed, but the way the actual school kids are portrayed in shows like Disney channel shows where they’ve always got this obligation to their school in this way that it seems like it just weighs down on the whole plot and all of the characters so much. This is in pretty much every Disney channel show, especially in Hannah Montana. It’s a good example because in Hannah Montana she has this problem. She’s got this double life and the biggest issue around that is that when she goes to school, she has to be Miley. But when she’s not going to school and not hanging out with her school friends, she’s Hannah and she has to deal with her fame. And if she was homeschooled, that would never be the same issue because she wouldn’t have all the people at her school who know that she is Miley but who don’t know that she’s Hannah. The way she would have to deal with if she was homeschooled, then she’d just be Miley whenever she wants and she could be Hannah whenever she wants and it wouldn’t really matter.
And Wizards of Waverly Place, I watch a lot of Disney Channel growing up, Wizards of Waverley Place, that’s another show where it’s like they’re wizards. Why are they even going to school? Why are they going to a normal high school? What is this? And then they had to go to wizard school for a minute. That was rip off Hogwarts. That was also really weird and just like, why does school even matter? They’re wizards. With Harry Potter, even, something that they don’t really ever talk about is the fact that it’s pretty much presumed that all the wizards would be homeschooled before they go to Hogwarts.
Because they don’t ever mention a wizarding middle school, it wouldn’t even be middle schoolers. They’re 11 when they start Hogworts, no earlier education for wizards is discussed and even Harry’s muggle education before going to Hogwarts, which was presumably very lackluster because the Dursleys didn’t care about him. But even that becoming glossed over, we don’t really care about that. The wizards, they were homeschoolers and then they started going to learn specific, actually useful and applicable skills in their life, magic skills that, you know, it’s almost like the same thing as when people go to study to be a doctor. You can’t homeschool how to be a doctor.
That isn’t going to work. Not gonna lie, love being unschooled, but you can’t homeschool how to be a doctor. You need to go and study that. I think almost like in the Wizarding world. It’s kind of like that. There are so many spells. There are so many things about that, and there are so many terrible wizards, especially for like the Muggle born students.
They should go to Hogwarts because then they’re with people and they’re doing that. They’re around magic and they’re in the Wizarding world, but they were homeschooled before that for most of the pure blooded wizards, like sounds sucky, but Draco Malfoy was a homeschooler, the Weasleys would have been homeschoolers before they went to Hogwarts.
And we don’t hear about this because nobody really wants to talk or hear about what homeschooling can actually be useful for. And why it can be so, so good. I can look, I can totally tell the, Weasleys would be homeschooling. They seem like homeschoolers for sure.
PAM: No, that’s so true. As you think about, but specifically Harry Potter, when they’re from wizard family, yet they were at home until it was time to go to Hogwarts. But you’re right, it just kind of gets glossed over, not really mentioned. Maybe it wasn’t part of that story, but you’re right, there are quite a few situations in stories, where I think they don’t want to open that kind of can of worms.
JAYN: Yeah. Yeah. Because then it’s like, some people start to think about homeschooling. Yeah. Realize what’s going on with homeschooling too much.
PAM: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
When we were talking about this call, you also mentioned food choices and food limitations as being something that you were interested in chatting about. So, I’d love to hear your experience with that.
JAYN: Yeah. So, I was never limited on my food. Barring anything with peanuts in them, because I’m allergic to peanuts. So, that’s an actual limitation I had. But when I was little, I could eat whatever I want, and my parents never said, “Oh, you can’t eat all of this or don’t, or that’s too much sugar,” nothing, none of that stuff.
To sort of a side track myself for a second, I see homeschooling and unschooling as being like a spectrum. It’s kind of a gradient from homeschooling in the sense that like you’re doing school at home to then a spectrum across to where unschooling, a true full on unschooler is at the opposite end. And then there’s middle areas in between, because there are homeschoolers who might be more like unschoolers and unschoolers who might seem more like homeschoolers and sort of different areas of where they cross over. And I think the point of that is to say that I have experienced with a lot of homeschoolers who are definitely more on this end, where there’s a lot of school at home type activities going on.
There tends to be more food restriction type things because I feel like that almost occurs more with homeschoolers than it does with parents who send their kids to school because when they’re sending their kids to school, they have a lot less control over what their kid does day to day anyway. Because their kids at school all day, they’re not thinking so much about what their kid is going to necessarily be eating at every moment of the day besides maybe packing them a lunch. So, they’re not going to be over their shoulder to say, “Don’t eat that, you can’t eat that,” 100% of the time.
Whereas with homeschoolers who are on the more sort of academic leaning side of things, they’ll be a tendency to, and I’ve seen this with my friends who have this life, their parents will be very particular over their diet. And sometimes it’s for medical reasons, like if they have actual allergies and sometimes it’s for no reason at all.
One second, excuse me, I’m just getting over a cold. Sorry about that.
PAM: No problem.
JAYN: But with restricting foods and I’ve never had that for myself but I’ve seen it with my friends. I’ve noticed that a lot of the time, all of that ends up leading to is kids really wanting that specific food, more than anything and going kind of crazy for it and making it a whole big thing. When, maybe, they don’t even really care that much for that food. They just want it because it’s elusive, out of reach for them.
I mostly wanted to talk about this as like a PSA to unschoolers or people who are getting interested in unschooling. Just let kids eat what they want, unless you’re actually allergic to something, because for the vast majority of things that they’re going to eat, they’re going to bounce back from, you’re not going to set them up for a life of horrible diets because they’re allowed to try any whatever.
They’re going to know exactly what they like and what they don’t like, and they’re going to be able to pick and choose as they go, very specifically what they want to eat. You’re more likely to set up your kid for a life of being picky eater, being very specific about what they want to eat, than somebody who wants to eat everything all the time.
Like for me, I don’t really have very much of a sweet tooth and that’s because when I was little, I never was restricted to eat sugar or anything like that. I was allowed to eat as many cookies or whatever much candy as I wanted, which I honestly didn’t eat very much. But as a kid, when I would go trick or treating, which I did up until just a few years ago, I would be the type of person who would have a bag full of candy and I’d have it like sitting around, not being eaten for five months because I just wouldn’t finish it. My parents would eat more of it than I would because I just don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
So, there’s places where by creating that unnecessary restriction, you’re going to almost sabotage your goal. And I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been at my friend’s house where they’re very school at home and their mom would have dietary restrictions on them very specifically and all that they would want would be to have this one thing.
And it would create huge, arguments, fights, tantrums, whatever you want to call it. That sort of thing would happen and it would be like, ‘Oh my God, how is any of this worth the fuss? Just let them eat it. Oh my gosh. Like who cares? What do you think is going to happen?’ I don’t think that it’s worth all the stress people put themselves through to try and restrict and have super control over their kids’ diets, because I know what can happen if you don’t do that, and it’s fine. It is truly fine.
PAM: I mean, when you think about it, eventually they’re going to get to an age where they have control over their food. Look what you’ve set them up for, if you leave them in a place where they haven’t been able to explore food, and that things have been restricted. We talk about that quite a bit on the podcast. I love that you’re sharing that you saw it in action with your friends that those restrictions, it becomes about the restriction. Like you said, you don’t even know how much they’d actually like that food. The urge is there because of the restriction. It makes it kind of a forbidden and they want to know for themselves, do I like it? Would I like it?
And so much of that gets in the way of the relationship. The tantrums and the arguments and it, it becomes so much about power—a power struggle over that food rather than exploration and figuring out whether or not they enjoy it, how they feel when they eat it. And then that’s just something they’re going to have to figure out later on and they’re going to be able to, because eventually as a parent, you’re not going to be able to control their food.
JAYN: 100%. It’s like parents who live more of the traditional lifestyles, but who are also homeschoolers particularly, because like I said, the greater access to that control. You know, they have a tendency to set up so many arbitrary restrictions and with other things beyond just food that just seem like they’re setting their kid up. Like they’re sort of self sabotaging. Their own goal.
But they’re also setting their kid up for difficulties with understanding themselves in their own limits with those things. Like I said, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth. If I had never been allowed to have sugar as a kid, I wouldn’t even know that. And I would have, I would have no idea what my tolerance for that was.
PAM: Yeah. Wow. That’s so interesting. And that’s, that’s such a great point too. I love the way you phrase it, access to control. It really is when you think, when you think of it that way, because they’re with their kids all the time. It is something definitely to consider and contemplate.
And that’s a huge chunk of the deschooling journey, right? As you’re figuring this out and you’re figuring out relationships and you’re seeing the reaction and the challenges that when you attempt to control things, what happens to the relationship. So, there’s just so many aspects to it. Thank you very much.
The last question. I would love to know, looking back, what do you appreciate most at this point from growing up unschooling?
JAYN: Oh, I think a lot of it is that ability to know all my own interests and my own tolerance for things.
This sort of ties back in, you could get into like a whole thing about screen time and that stuff too, my parents never really put any restrictions on anything I ever really did beyond, maybe financial or safety things, generally there was no arbitrary restrictions on anything I wanted to do or anything I was able to do and in that it ended up making it so easy for me to figure out really quickly what I was interested in, what I did like, what I didn’t like.
To also have these skills with these things that are so important because. I’m studying game design. That’s a technological field, I’m using computers every day at school and because I’ve grown up being able to have unlimited access to a computer, I’m good at a computer.
I know how to use the computer completely. And it’s things like that, little things that you don’t really think about. It’s beyond your kid can play video games all day. No, I have another whole other skill set that’s very important. And it means that I, in a weird way, I can spend my time with my parents as much as I want to and I can talk to my mom about what I’ve been doing and all these things and talk to her about things I’m interested in and then when I’m done with that, when we’re done talking or I’m tired of being social or whatever. I have all the tools in my mindset of knowing all the different things I’m interested in that I could go and do because I have never had a limit on that, on being able to just go off and do my own thing.
And I think that part of the relationship of my parents being willing to trust me to find my own entertainment at certain times where I’m not feeling like relying on them to entertain me as a kid, it’s like I can go and play Barbies by myself, and I didn’t always need somebody with me for those things.
I always had a sense of independence that allowed me to find a certain degree of both entertainment, but also to learn and know my own limits myself. So I think that has been really helpful, especially now in college, because, I’m with people all day, most days. Most days I have two classes a day and I’m at school for hours and I’m with the same group of people. I’ve seen these people almost every day since September, and I’m friends with all of them.
And we’re all varying different ages and what have you, lots of different life experiences. We’re all from different places. But having that knowledge of what I’m interested in myself and what I know for myself and my own limits with even just the social situations, it makes it so easy for me to jump right into their discussions. They have all different life experiences, especially the people in my class who are a little bit older, like I don’t feel in any way like any sort of outcast or different from them because I have the same amount of knowledge of myself.
I have self confidence in my interests and my capabilities that they all do with their different things, whether that be from a prior college experience. Because most of the people in my class are actually getting MFA, they’re getting an extended degree. They’re getting a postgraduate degree, so they already have undergraduate degrees.
They already have a whole bank of knowledge of things that they know and they’re interested in and whatever. And I have all of this from my whole life and it makes me feel more equal to them in a weird way, even though we are all in the same situation but still and also just knowing that I can come and talk to my parents about anything whenever I want to, whenever I need to, and that is very nice.
And also knowing again, to ease the pressure, if I’m not enjoying this, that I can quit and it’s fine. There’s no, “If you don’t get good grades and we’re going to take away…” Well first of all that can’t, because I’m 20 and that’d be really extra strange and stupid. But you know, there was never anything like that.
So, it’s just nice to have that feeling of almost relief. If I’m anxious or stressed about anything, it doesn’t actually matter because I can just leave the situation or not do this thing that’s bothering me. The homework that I have actually quite a bit of I, my base level of stress or anxiety about any of that is so low because I know at the end of the day, f I don’t get like all A’s, which for the record, I got all A’s last semester, just saying. But if I don’t get all A’s, it’s like, Oh well, whatever. No big deal. It doesn’t really matter to me.
My dad told me about how he had a student who came in to his class sick, who was quite, quite sick. And my dad was like, “No, you’ve got to go home. You cannot come to class.” And the student was like, “No, I can’t. I can’t miss class. I can’t my grades will fall.” And my dad was like, “Go home, what are you doing?”
And it made me think about the other day, like a week ago, I had a class on a Saturday. It was like a makeup class for class that we didn’t have a few weeks ago. And I chose not to go to class because I was feeling sick, I had a cold and I’m still just getting over it a little bit, I’m a little sniffly still, but now I’m fine.
But a week ago I was quite sick and I wasn’t feeling well, and it was like, ‘No, I’m just not going to go to class.’ So, I sent an email to my teacher and it was fine. And then I passed out and slept the whole day, so it was fine. And it’s things like that where, obviously, I didn’t really think very much about it. I was thinking more like, how do I feel? Not so much like, ‘Oh no, my grades are going to suffer because I missed this class.’ If I miss one class, it’s not going to be OK. So, this school is kind of easy to get good grades at this school. Not going to lie. Like the grading criteria is not that intense at my school.
I don’t even really care that much about that because I just want to do my best. And where I care about the grades is that I care about it reflecting that I’ve done my best work because that’s what I’m striving for, for myself, but I don’t really care about the actual grade itself, if that makes sense.
So, that’s something that I think unschooling has given me that I really appreciate because it gives me a different perspective when I’m doing all of this stuff. That’s is a really big thing that I’m doing.
And again, I just like being able to hang out with my parents and spend time with them and be close with them in a way that I think a lot of school kids don’t have a super close, friendly relationship with their parents in the way that unschoolers tend to have with their parents.
PAM: Yeah. I love that so much, Jane. Yeah. You talked about the self confidence, the self-awareness. I love when you were talking about how you have so much life experience because you’ve been living your life for years and years and years. How that makes it easy to be part of conversations with older people who have other life experiences beyond school, you feel like an equal, that you can participate in those conversations. Yeah, I think that was so brilliant. I love that. And just that confidence to know yourself and to be able to, like you were saying, if I’ve had enough of being social, I am happy to go.
If I want to join a conversation, I know how I’m comfortable jumping into a conversation. And the relationship with parents. You hit so many wonderful notes about unschooling. Thank you so much. And I want to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Jane. I’m so happy that we made it work.
JAYN: Yay. Yeah, this is awesome. I had a great time. Honestly, if you ever want me to come back, I’m free on weekends. Which you know, that’s crazy. Now, for the first time in my life, I’m a person who’s like, ‘Ooh, the weekends!’ That’s something different. There was not all that much difference besides the weekends before. It would be the time when my dad would be home from work, so we’d get to do stuff as a family. But for myself, there was not much difference. But now, oh yes, there is! I am becoming a normie where I’m excited for the weekends.
I had like two and a half weeks off for Christmas break and I was like, “Yes! I get to stay home!” What’s happening?! (laughing)
PAM: Thanks again so much, Jayn, have a great day.
JAYN: You too. Thank you. Bye.