PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Susan Bhadury. Hi, Susan!
SUSAN: Hi Pam!
PAM: Thank you so much for saying yes. I know we’ve been connected online for a few years, but I am really excited to hear more about your unschooling journey.
To get us started, can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what is everyone is into right now?
SUSAN: Okay. I’ll start, there are actually five of us in our family. Okay. It’s me. I’ll start with me. Originally, to give everyone a bit of a background, and we used to live in India. We have now been in Brisbane, Australia for the past 19 years. I was born and raised in Kuwait, which is in the middle East. And I was raised in a strict Catholic family.
So, I came to Australia when I was 17 to do my undergrad in biotechnology. I’ve met my husband, he’s next. Currently, I’m a very happy and proud stay at home mom since I’ve had Krishna. That’s my youngest. He’s five. Before that, for 10 years, I was a diabetes dietician and an educator at Queensland Health here. And the reason I actually became a dietician was because my hubby, who people diagnosed with type two diabetes at the age of 28. I found I had no interest in my biotechnology degree and I needed a direction. So, I went that direction and it later actually became an obstacle in our radical unschooling journey.
And there’s actually a question that I address further on that will address this. So, what am I into? I love cooking. I love being with the kiddos. I’ve love making stories with them. Nishika, my oldest, she actually says, “Momma, you have actually become so good with pretend play stories now!” And she actually looks forward to playing with me and vice versa. I’m also that mom that feel anxious when I’m gone too long away from them. I’ve never spent a night away from them. I love being at home. This is something that I’ve discovered over the last year, two years, that I actually love being at home.
I love looking after the house and the kids. We’re also going to be spending the next three months in San Francisco. We actually leave tonight! So, the last couple of weeks have been spent in planning and packing. And the other thing is I love Sudoku. I’m a Sudoku nut. I love playing the expert level. I’m trying to solve the puzzle, trying to solve the puzzle without any clues. So, that’s me. I love numbers.
And, so there’s Roop. He’s from India too. And he comes from a family of doctors. And we met 19 years ago when he came to Australia as well for the first time. He is a tech entrepreneur and his company does startups.
The home environment of him growing up was very unschooled. He is an only child. His mom, while she was still with us and dad, that’s Papa, have always trusted his decisions. And even to this day, there’s no questions with Papa, he just trusts us. That’s been amazing. He left his electronic engineering degree the fourth year, so he doesn’t have a degree, and he ventured into his first startup. All he didn’t do was give his final exams. He did his project work and he did everything. He just didn’t give his final exams.
Reflecting back, I felt he instinctively knew that the degree no longer served him. Being Indian and coming from a family of doctors quitting a degree is actually never an option. You don’t just quit. You have to complete what you started. His parents however, not once gave him a hard time or guilted it into completing his degree.
After his first start up folded, he came to Brisbane and he actually completed two master’s degree because I think even only the wake of not having a first degree, that expectation, I think growing up, it was there, I don’t always think it’s parental. It’s even the school, then you’d go in the environment of school and that, and he was a very, very good student.
The teachers, that expectation that you’re going to do something with your life. Eventually, I think that expectation of him probably made him do his two degrees, which he completed. Since then he’s attempted doing his PhD twice. Both the times he stopped it and has, and he’s gone on to doing subsequent startups.
So, now he’s on this third one. And what I love about hubby and what I’ve understood over the last, 19 years, we are still growing with each other. He’s always pursued his curiosity, ever since I’ve known him, he’s extremely curious about everything. He always thinks about how things can be made better and that’s how he thinks, he can’t help himself. That’s just how he thinks. Currently, other than startups, he loves headphones. He’s got about 10 headphones, it’s no longer about a need. He just loves collecting headphones and all sorts of technology. So, yeah, that’s hubby.
We also have, Anu, she lives with us. Technically she’s not related to us, but she’s more than family to us. She was Roop’s neighbor back in India. Growing up, she was the daughter that his parents never had. She actually called Roop’s mom, Ma. So, it’s that kind of relationship that we have with her.
Every time I referred to her as our sister. That’s, Anu. She has and continues to have a huge role in that kids’ lives, especially for making this unschooling journey happen. I don’t think that we would that be where are today if it were not for her. The kids love her and call her Masi in Bengali, which means aunt and she is my sounding board and she always brings in perspective that I haven’t thought of.
She is actually, what is she doing currently? She is quite creative. Any art related things like painting, making things. Nishika and she have actually done quite a bit for her doll house. They made the pillows, little handbags and cushions, and little sofas, it’s amazing.
That’s what she brings to the table. She has had a challenging upbringing, as a lot of us have had, and she’s come here on a self-discovery journey, of actually discovering who she is.
SUSAN: So, I’ll tell you about the kiddos now. So, there’s gorgeous Nishika, she will be 9 next week. She’s super excited for her 9th birthday because this is a last birthday that as she says that’s in single digits, so there’s no.
That’s it’s from next year on, she’s going to be 10. Double digits. When I think of Nishika, I refer, both hubby and I refer to her as our Hermione. She’s very much our Hermione. For those of you who have watched Harry Potter. I’ll give an example, she’s the one that knows the most in this house and is always ready to correct you, if you get any facts incorrect. And very matter of factly, she would tell you. There’s no pride or anything. It’s just how Hermione would correct Harry and Ron. That’s how she corrects us. And she’s actually also quite witty. She loves making up jokes and playing around with words. I recently started writing them all up and once it gets to a considerable number, I’m looking to publish it because she’s, I think she’s quite witty.
She comes up with one-liners and makes us all laugh. She’s also extremely observant. I think something that she gets from hubby, her way of communication is not always verbal. She likes to mull things as well. So, I’ve seen, she’s often reading, but she’s somewhere else. But she’s thinking about things that are important to her. And I think, if she was in a schooling environment today that, as you do in school, the teacher needs your attention, she would actually have had trouble concentrating, I think. She concentrates on things that are important to her, not on someone else or what is important to someone else, which I love about her.
The other thing that’s really cool about her, she reads, so she, when she has meals, whether that’s at home or outside. She needs her iPad or books with her. It’s funny because let me go out to eat at a restaurant, she’ll actually be the, the girl with the book in her hand.
She loves stories. She loves pretend play. She lost mystery books. She’s currently read all the Famous Five books and just the past week we downloaded a little app. For those of you into Famous Five. There’s a really good app on the mystery on the iTunes store and she gets to solve a mysteries and it’s so much fun to solve it at the end. You get down to two suspects and you have to accuse one of them. It is so cool.
PAM: It’s very cool.
SUSAN: And she also knows Lego. She’s currently into Lego friends, and she’s done Lego Elves. And the creator sets. She loves soft toys. She’s very organized with her things. It really unsettles her if things are not going a certain way, and she loves to bike and swim as well.
So, that’s, her. And I feel Nishika brought us to this homeschooling journey, but my youngest one, Krishna, who I’ll talk about next, he turned five last month. And when I think of Krishna, he’s our koala bear. He loves cuddles, loves sniggles, not snuggles, but sniggles, and he loves back scratches. He’s intense in his affection, and at the same time, he does, take on the weight of things when he’s not feeling good about himself.
And I see that he’s actually been our guiding light in our radical unschooling journey. There’s no filter with Krishna. I love that about him. He says things as is. So, it has really made all the adults in this house question our default responses. He’s currently very much into the Lion King and anything and everything to do with lions, lionesses and cubs.
He’s collected more than 40 lions and he can recite the entire dialogue of the original Lion King and can actually tell you the difference between the scenes of the original one and the new one, which I find so fascinating. He’ll actually tell you what’s different, what they actually say. And again, he loves pretend play too. He loves wrestling with me and Roop. I love to wrestle with him as well. It’s really fun. He actually wears a travel pillow, which is like a mane, so he’s a lion and he actually a bought a belt, that’s his tail. So he has to wear that and he growl at you. So, it’s really great.
The other thing is he’s still enacts Mufasa’s death scene. I think that when he first saw Mufasa die that affected him a little bit. And it’s his way of processing death. He’s probably enacted it hundreds and hundreds of times in the way of processing it.
My older one on the other hand, Nishika, she doesn’t talk about it. She saw the Lion King once and she’s not seen it again.
She deals with it by pivoting her thoughts elsewhere because instinctively she knows that doesn’t feel good to her.
He loves to draw lions. For someone who has never been taught how to hold a pen or pencil, I think he does an amazing job of drawing and he loves to cook. So that’s us. That’s our family.
PAM: Oh my goodness. It’s lovely. Thank you so much, Susan. You emailed me too about, titling the episode, Pursuing our Curiosity. And that whole description of everything just shines right through all that. From, you and your husband and the kids, and you’re sister.
SUSAN: Yes, she’s our sister. I refer to her as my sister, even Roop calls her my sister. She’s our sister. She’s lived with us on and off for a good five, six years now. And it’s been amazing having her, with the kids, the relationship she has with the kids. It’s just incredible. And then what she’s taught me without actually trying to teach me what I have learned from her. She’s just incredible.
PAM: Yeah. That’s lovely. And yeah, and the way you described your kids and the things that they’re into, and so many aspects of their personality that even at their younger ages, you can see how that weaves through. How they approach their interest. Your daughter watched the Lion King once and how she’s processing and moving through that and then with your son, a completely different way and that’s all Okay. That’s who they are. And I love the way he wears the travel pillow and the belts for his lion battles.
SUSAN: Isn’t it so great?! That’s his mane. We’ve never cut Krishna’s hair because he doesn’t want it. And we’ve told him that when you want to get it, it’s solely when you want to get a haircut, then we’ll get a haircut.
So, his hair is actually his mane and he’s got an extension. The travel pillow is just an extension of the mane, like the lions have. So, it’s just awesome how he pictured it in his mind, and actually he pictures him that way. You know that he’s the lion with the travel pillow and the tail. It’s really cool.
I’m curious to know how you discovered unschooling and what your family’s move to unschooling look like.
SUSAN: Oh, it’s very interesting, Pam. Both our kids have never been to any sort of formal type of school, but unschooling took a while to get into our heads. I think attachment parenting came very naturally. We were always very loving and very present. But unschooling definitely took a while to get. I think it’s interesting because Roop being an entrepreneur, it should have been second nature to us. But because, schools don’t teach you to be entrepreneurs, schools are good for, if you want to go to a regular job because they teach you how to follow instructions. So, the entrepreneur journey as well, I think like unschooling took its time to sort of get. I think it sort of happened, when I was reflecting back, when Roop’s second venture didn’t raise the money in time.
So, as a result, what happened? We lost whatever monies we had put in, and it came to a point where we had an 18 month old Nishika and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and I was on maternity leave at that time. I had a government job that was in health and I gave one month’s notice and went back to work full time.
Roop was quite adamant. It was actually Roop’s idea at that time, and I am thankful for my wise hubby for saying that we’re not putting Nishika into any sort of daycare. He decided that he would be at home and he used to actually call it daddy daycare. He’s going to take on the responsibility of being a stay at home dad. And you know, growing up, his mom was always around, he understood the benefits of that. I didn’t have my mom around as much because she was working and they had their own different realities. So, I was more open to putting her in daycare while also knowing that I know it would be heartbreaking for my child, but in my mind, I justified it by saying that all kids eventually cope.
Right? They all cope. Yes, they will be tears. There will be but here we are not, not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And it’s like, this is what we need to do. And he was like, no, no, that’s not an option. I’m glad I listened to him because they both had the best time at home and it was healing for hubby too, coming out of the second venture, because it didn’t, in the conventional sense, succeed because there is the money.
So, he had to wind down this venture. The other thing that I think, was that Nishika is a sensitive child and not just sensitive as a self. She also has lots of allergies and her eczema would flare up. It still does but it’s no longer as bad. When she was 18 months, she used to be extremely itchy. I think stress would get to her. Now that I reflect back, there was probably a lot of stress as well. Someone had to really hold her when it would just get that bad because she would just want to tear at her skin because, especially on her hands and her knees. It was just heartbreaking, to watch my little girl scratching. Sending her to daycare at that time I think would have exacerbated this.
Some way we also knew that she being sensitive, would have fundamentally broken her from inside. She was extremely attached to us, so we didn’t end up sending her to daycare. We sort of worked it out, because I went back to work a full time and I was fortunately just 10 minute walk from work.
So, we worked it out. A year later, Anu, our sister came to live with us, she came from India to study and live with us, so it became a bit easier. Then Roop got a scholarship. This is when he was pursuing, this is second time that he was supposed to go get a PhD and I dropped back my hours.
So, between the three of us, we looked after her. I fell pregnant with Krishna when she was about three and a half. And then I went on maternity leave. I think knowing deep down, I’m not going to go back to work. I didn’t think we were going to homeschool, even then, I just thought that, I’m not going to go back to work.
So, Nishika was about 4 when I had Krishna. My friend at the time in Australia, you start sending your child to kindy at 4. I started to take that pressure too. And again, my wise hubby said, he was just happy where we were and he said, “Let’s just take it one year at a time.”
Not once did either of us say homeschool. We didn’t say that because I think that word was even alien to us at that time. We didn’t even realize. So, I think just before she was 5, she was sent home. When she was five, I enrolled her into an art class and she loved art. And I didn’t think, at that point of time, doing art at home was enough. So, when she was doing art, you have to write your name on the paper. And I realized she couldn’t write her name and rather than not worry about it, I came home and decided now is the time I need to teach her. Because my 4 and half year old doesn’t know how to write her name. And my little girl, at that time, being sensitive, she not at all saying what’s on her mind, learned how to write.
I used to tell her that we need to learn. Otherwise, how are we ever going to learn? I did not understand. Without comprehending, I transferred the weight and fear to my child and she actually complied. I ask her now, “Do you have memories of that?” She says no. And I was like, thank goodness for that.
So, she doesn’t remember any of that, I didn’t even know at that time or realize that’s not the only way. I didn’t realize what I was doing could be long term detrimental to our relationship.
I was raised with a lot of have tos. And even though as a child you don’t like to, it’s almost still in your DNA. It takes a lot of ongoing mindfulness, to realize that there has to be another way, that there is another way.
This went on for a few months. She used to resist and then eventually comply. I looked at curriculums but didn’t like any because it was Christian based over here and being raised in a Catholic family, I knew that was not what I wanted to do. So, we used to spend some structure time every day doing the, I think for a month, four to six months, doing a bit of math, reading and writing.
I can’t remember exactly but I think I wasn’t fully comfortable with what I was doing. So, I think eventually I stopped doing it. From there, I defaulted to another aspect, then I think we’d still need to do something. So, we were doing, at the time, maybe you are doing other classes, like tennis, swimming, art, gymnastics, and I put her into an accordion class. She didn’t hate it, didn’t hate it. But it wasn’t something she loved do. She just went with the flow because I was directing it all for her. Fortunately, I just kept reading, I think I initially came across Amy Child’s podcast, The Unschooling Life. I also read about Sandra Dodd, “Read a little, try little, wait a while and watch.”
At that time, I don’t think I got it because I wanted to do it all at the same time. I just wanted to fix it. I now get it because at that time, when I started read about unschooling, it just got so overwhelming because there’s so much information out there. And then the other thing was I kept asking myself, how was I ever going to be that parent that can trust?
I think I eventually stumbled onto your podcast, Pam, and Sue Patterson’s Unschooling Mom2Mom Facebook page. And that was when I think things slowly started to click. I started to have my aha moments. Okay. Being a mama to Krishna too, and his personality and being more aware as a second time mom. I knew deep down that whatever I did would just not work with my younger one, I had to dig deeper. I think the biggest gift of all was the Childhood Redefined Summit. I think fundamentally it has changed me and made me aware in so many ways. That I did not realize how judgmental my actions can come across.
It’s not just the kiddos, it has helped in my relationship with Roop too. I think along with getting unschooling, I started to gradually get the entrepreneur journey too. I understand how entrepreneurs go through their own mental challenges, their own self-doubt, their own second guessing and their own anxiety. I’m extremely conscious now that I don’t add to that weight and try and highlight things that celebrate my hubby and actually feel good to him.
I think all of it started to fit in probably when Nishika turned seven or seven and a half, hubby would just say, let’s just take it a year at a time. I then told him, no, we’re not taking it a year at a time. Nishika will decide and Krishna will decide if they want to go to school. It had to be a choice. It can’t be us standing there saying, “Okay, now this is not working we are going to send them to school.” It had to be a choice for them. The other, I think I should mention one of my aha moments was when I was doing, I think listening to your podcast, I don’t remember when but it was asking how much of school do I actually remember? I was an A grade student. I did very well in school. But it feels like a did well in school because I was really good at memorizing. If you asked me today, about school, I don’t remember anything about school. ‘Why am I sending, why am I thinking about sending my child to school?’
So yes. So that’s, that’s how my journey has been.
PAM: Wow. Thank you so much. That was beautiful. I love that point, right? Everybody’s journey is so different. Based on where they’re starting. So, I really appreciate, how you started at the beginning and how you were trying these different things.
We are all doing our best in that moment. But that’s the difference, we keep learning. We keep looking at this situation and you say we’re doing this, and my daughter is playing along with me for the most part, but something’s still felt a little bit off. So you just keep stepping and keep stepping. I think that’s one of the distinguishing things, and I just thought it again, goes back to pursuing our curiosity. You were curious, why isn’t this feeling perfect? You know what I mean? For lack of a better word.
SUSAN: Beause that’s it.
PAM: Did you want to say…
SUSAN: It didn’t feel right, it just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t comfortable, otherwise I would’ve just kept going, I think. At that point I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just doing it. But in reflecting now, it just didn’t feel that this is the only way. Teaching her at home, because that looked so tedious and I was like, ‘Oh, am I going to keep doing that? There has to be another way.’
PAM: Yeah, and like you said, that is part of the journey. When you’re realizing that and because now you’re at a point too, I would imagine that you don’t think you’re done learning about your kids. Now you really get the concept of journey and you know now you’re just going to be walking it together.
PAM: And now it’s less about having that destination. No, we have to get there now. We have to decide right now, but it’s more about being open to and curious to see how it unfolds.
SUSAN: Right. Absolutely. Hubby had this tag in his email in his signature. The journey is the reward. It is to do with the journey, there’s no destination. We are all learning.
PAM: I love that. I love that.
I was wondering if you could dive into what you found to be one of the more challenging aspects deschooling. You gave us a really great overview there. I was wondering if you could share a little bit about how you move through, one of the more difficult parts of it.
SUSAN: Yeah. I think without a doubt, food and health have been the most challenging aspects of deschooling. You know, I think my 10 years of working as a diabetes dietician, has been baggage that I’ve had to work through, and honestly, I’m still working through it.
I think loss and grief also play a role there. We lost our first child and then Roop’s mom within 18 months, this was nearly 10 years ago. And that’s where the control factor and the extra, even more extra baggage came in. So I think when you asked me for a chat for the show, I looked at as a gift because I think that was assigned to me to reflect on our journey, especially when it comes to this aspect, because I know we have been struggling with the food aspects of his journey for a while. Initially it was with Krishna and his tooth decay, which I did my work and I sorted that out in my head. And we don’t have any issues with that now. And how we approach, hygiene.
I should mention that before I would have to tell him to brush. He chooses to brush at night. He chooses not to brush in the morning and his teeth are fine. He knows when, in his own inner self, he knows when he feels like brushing and sometimes says “Mom is it okay if I don’t brush tonight? And I say, “That’s fine, it’s actually going to be fine.”
It’s taken me a while to, reach here and realize, ‘Hey, nothing’s going wrong still. His teeth are not falling out. There’s no more tooth decay. So, he’s absolutely fine.’ So yes, after the tooth decay changed to weight gain.
I was listening to your podcast, it’s actually episode 73 and it was Kelly’s question, that really made me reflect because that question would be mine. She talks about her son had gained a whole heap of weight in two years. I think Anne’s response on her answer, was a change in the focus. And radical acceptance spoke a lot to me.
I think seeing my kids and how they shine with food, rather than the focus on the food quantities and what they are actually having. This is something that you talk about in terms controlling that I’ve realized in the past few months, you think you have control over someone, but I think that’s actually an illusion because you can’t control and expect things to still stay the same. I think of controlling in my head is like holding sand very tightly and the tighter you hold onto sand the more you let go.
And it’s the same with relationships. There’s never a desirable outcome when you control someone, however subtle. There’s always a cost to this and then always a consequence. And more often than not, you’re chipping away a little bit of that relationship.
I’ve seen, my mother-in-law, she used to control my father-in-law, that’s Papa. He had a near fatal cardiac arrest decades ago. And he was 44. She was scared, and so until she passed on, she controlled that side. Papa used to, he even, he used to never say if he had something for fear of judgment. My hubby, he’s had diabetes now for 18 years, and he’s actually well controlled, but even then, I know I had done the same for fear of something happening to him. I’ve been, “Don’t eat that. No. Why eat that? Don’t you know?” That kind of thing. So, it taking me to deschool, then dig deeper as far as food goes. Let me do control and you know, I’ve done that to myself. We do tell ourselves, and we do justify, the controlling is out of love and concern, but then isn’t love supposed to be free and flowing? You can control a little bit and that little bit becomes a bigger bit. So, yeah. The other thing that’s when my wonderful sister, Anu, she pointed out, it goes to food and activity and energy expenditure.
Something that I had not thought of. It’s not always just the physical running around. Again, get so used to seeing the benefits of every way, when you’ve tied the benefits of physical activity, you define that where your heart rate gets high and we actually undermine the activity that goes in the brain. That goes into doing things.
My little, Krishna, he knows all the dialogues in the Lion King movies. He can point of the difference within the originial and the new one. So, there’s no passive screen time. No actual screen that for both my kids, but they are actually engaging, seeing what’s happening in the background and it’s something that escape my eyes, but he’s actually even looking at what’s happening in the background, where they are not actually highlighting things.
So, this reminded me at the time when during school, then you’re studying for an exam, where we would keep feeling hungry because they’re actually using that energy for our brain. And, before we did this talk, I’m telling Nishika I’m going to talk about food and my journey. We were just having this conversation. And then in that conversation, my wise, almost nine year old, said, “You know, mama, it’s only food. It’s actually very simple. You’re making a big thing of out it.”
Now that she’s said it, if you don’t feel good then we learn, that’s how we learn. And she said it so simply. I love the perspective that my kids bring. So lately, rather than using it as a hinderance I am actually looking at how they shine when it comes to food. Both my kiddos love food and it’s a gift.
Because they love trying new food when we are out. Given our frequent travels, they both love the foods that we are given on a plane and actually look forward to it. They want to know what the airlines and the stewardess are going to serve them today. They’ve tried all sorts of cuisines, some sashimi, fried chicken to dumplings to spicy curries and they love it all.
I was talking to hubby just a few days ago and we both agreed that they need to have happy food memories and not memories when they grow up where their momma was simply trying to control their food intake.
I love that they just go and help themselves to treats and chocolate, they don’t ask me anymore. And I also love, it’s taken that inner a work, but when they have spicy food, I’m the first one to offer them, “Do you want to have a lolli?” Because that will help take that spice off. Or do you want to have a chocolate. So yes. So that’s where we are at in our food journey. It’s been a process and I think. I don’t think I have it all figured out yet. I think I’m still going to go through my nervous moments, but yes. But I’m working through it.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. And that is such an important point. It’s not about the destination. It’s not about getting there. There are going to be moments when we question things and that doesn’t make them wrong.
That’s one of my favorite chapters in the Unschooling Journey book that I wrote, temptation is so human. It is literally a stage in the hero’s journey and there’s so many stories all about it because it is a human, reaction, feeling. And I think it makes us stronger.
So often, I think we worry that when we waver or we start to wonder that it’s a failing or that something’s wrong. And then what happens is we try to ignore it for even longer. It’s like, ‘No, no, this is right. This is what I’ve already decided, so I’m going to ignore everything else.’ But that just makes it knock at you harder eventually, right? Trying to catch your attention. Sitting with it for a while. You have been sitting with this for years now, really.
PAM: Learning a little bit more, having a little bit more experience, learning a little bit more, noticing the connection with relationship, choosing that, the relationship is very valuable to you. So, you’re not wanting to make choices that are chipping away at the relationship. That’s another aspect. It’s not the answer. But then other pieces, it’s how they learn. Your daughter’s comment about how it’s only food, how they’re developing their own relationships with food. And that’s what we would like to support and help. Versus, it’s not standing back and ignoring it while they have a piece of chocolate, you know?
SUSAN: It doesn’t have to be verbal.
PAM: Right? So, there’s just back to that journey. And being curious and sitting with things and not being so hard on ourselves when we wobble because. That’s so normal. And, and all it is a little knock. It’s like, ‘Hey, pay attention to me over here for a little bit. It’s time for us to think about this a little bit more.’ And then you’ve got, since the last time, that’s when you’re gathering all those experiences. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we did this.’ Like you gathered for our conversation, those times are invitations to do that rather than, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re wrong, or what we’re doing is wrong.’
SUSAN: I have been very honest with them, when it comes to food, I let them know that I’m going to sometimes struggle. When you feel that struggle, just tell me “No.” I will know that it’s time for me to back off and give you a cuddle. So, he tells me, he goes, “Momma.” That’s my time, to listen. That’s the relationship I have with them. I’m not afraid to admit where my learning is. I won’t say shorts comings, I think just things I need to keep working on.
PAM: And imagine they learn so much more through that conversation. Rather than a control relationship where then what they need to do is sneak things or do things out of your sight, not mention things, you know?
That’s what we were talking about, how it affects the relationship. But when you’re thinking about, I want my child to learn about food. Which way is actually going to help them learn more? It’s being able to have conversations. It’s being able to experiment and try things. And if you close off that whole conversation piece. When you’re trying to control instead, thinking, well, they’ll learn because I’m telling them what to do. It doesn’t actually work that way, does it?
SUSAN: You said it so beautifully. It’s the actually doing. You learn the best when you’re actually doing it. So when you’re experimenting and as parents, sometimes we are scared of our child not succeeding, but that’s learning, right? How would they otherwise learn? And that’s the same with food. If they don’t try and experiment, how will they learn?
PAM: Yeah. Now you mentioned, the Lion King movies, and when we first connected, you mentioned, how technology has been an awesome tool for your family.
So, I was wondering if you could share a little bit more about technology in your family?
SUSAN: Yeah. I love the technology topic. There’s so much in our house that is all tech related. So, both have iPads and that is the main source of fun. I love how they use that. I love all of the things they are discovering. When we started off on this journey, that was probably four years ago, we did have screen time restrictions again, we trusted and gradually let go. My hubby, Roop, he actually took longer to get this. He was concerned about all in the research about blue light. And how that can affect your eyes. He even went through a phase, when Apple came up with screen time usage monitoring, he went through that a little bit.
And it was funny because. He’s on some sort of screen for some good 16 hours a day, because of his work. And I think when he’s saw the learning and joy that ensued with our kiddos, he too has learned to trust. So, food was a big aspect for me to deschool. It was all technology for him, you know. It’s just interesting. So, so many awesome things that our kids do, that they watch and play on the iPad.
We have Netflix, we have Disney, we have lots of wonderful games that they play. Both love, we don’t have animals, no pets in a house right now because of our frequent travels. So, they do gravitate more towards animal shows and games. And leaning more towards that. Nishika has a game on the iPad where she actually manages the zoo.
She has gradually grown the zoo, she started with one or two animals and she has, I think, 50 animals now, and the visitors to her zoo keep increasing. She can breed animals. Even with the breeding, there’s so much learning in that because each animal has a specific percent chance of the breeding working.
So, the lioness, she’s got a 4% chance of breeding verses a bunny with a 25% chance of breeding. So, there have been interesting conversations that we’ve been having with that. And then you can get them fertility feeds and we’ve been talking about that tool and there’s layers and layers of learning there. You can have a little conversation about the breeding doesn’t always work. And then again, that’s like real life too, right? It doesn’t always work, so it’s fascinating to watch it when she’s doing it and relate it to real life and how that works. I love also, how whatever they watch and play, they actually bring it to their pretend play and bring it to real life.
I also love, because the relationships that we’ve developed with them, anytime they find something interesting or funny, they will pause the video and they will tell us to watch with them. They will make us watch with them. I love how they share that joy with us.
Nishika loves many shows on You Tube. It’s just a wide variety of shows. Lately, she’s also been watching shows talking about food. She’s watching shows on YouTube where kids are made to eat certain types of foods and their expressions and how they actually deal with that food. It’s funny. It’s funny.
And the other games that she plays, Toca Boca, she loves to play pretend stories. There is another one recently, Wonder World, there’s a witch house and you can make all sort of portions. You can change your characters into different things, and then you can change them back again.
There’s so much chemistry. It’s just incredible. She’s on and off, dabbled with design apps, designing houses, designing play grounds and things like that, all on the iPad.
A few days ago, I should mention this because of how technology has really helped with their learning, we played some animal cards and we had to, and we have a sound reader each of each of those cards have a barcodes scanner. So, we were sounding them. We also have dinosaur cards. I told her, “I don’t think you’re going to be able to read that because they don’t have a barcode on them.” She’s like, “Of course momma. No one has ever heard what a dinosaur sounds like because they lived way before us.” That lateral thinking just wouldn’t be there if the learning is directed because I think you outsource that thinking to someone else.
This started conversations because she watches a show talking about how whales were initially land animals and how they had fur on them. And now they evolved to become this water animal. It’s just so fascinating. And one of the other things that she’s learned how to do is she’s learned to read reviews on the apps.
She just didn’t skim through them. She actually reads them to form her own opinion, whether she likes the app or not. And not just that with the reviews, she also learns more about the app. Like is she’s missing out on something or if there’s something more that she can actually explore in the app.
It’s just fascinating to see. Krishna, he loves playing with the apps as well. Uh, the one that does a particular one that he’s really fascinated with, it’s a Disney coloring app, and there’s a Lion King, Pride Rock on there, which he really loves.
With Krishna, he actually loves watching shows in different languages. I find that so interesting and so fascinating. It doesn’t bother him that he can’t understand. Because he’s making sense of it in his own way. The other tech that we have at home. We have an apple home board and when they’re feeling a bit goofy they ask Siri to tell us really funny jokes. And we also have smart lights at home, they change color and we get to change the color to blue and or change the color to orange or red to change the mood of the house. And sometimes we use that to dance as well. So that’s tech in our house.
PAM: So fun. So fun. I love the, the interactive part too. My husband is into the smart home stuff. That’s his hobby right now. And he loves that. And it’s really fun to see him diving into that and he tell us, what we have to say to turn things on and off.
SUSAN: I find it doesn’t always pick up my voice. But the kids have learned how to tell, ‘Hey, Siri turn the lights off.” It’s so funny. Even Krishna say, “Siri just turn it off.” It’s really cool, Pam. And I’m sitting in hubby’s study right now, and he’s got four monitors here. So that’s how much tech we have in the house. When he works he needs four monitors to work with.
PAM: Yeah, yeah. It’s just, it’s a lovely tool
SUSAN: It’s amazing. We had, we have a TV in the house, but that hardly gets turned on because they can interact with the iPads. They don’t see the need for a TV, so that never lasts. I think the autonomy that you get and you can rewind and go forward, you’re not relying on a remote to do that. It’s more, I feel it’s more friendly on an iPad.
PAM: Yeah. Oh, wow. That’s awesome.
Now, you recently wrote something online that I wanted to dive into because I thought it was really cool. You wrote, “Unschooling is about helping our children find who they truly are as people by listening to and following their own inner compass without everyone around them overriding that intuition.”
We’ve kind of alluded to that along the way during our conversation, but that change in focus from our expectations or even how we see things unfold to instead focusing on their inner compass and helping them follow that. That’s just so important, can you talk more about that?
SUSAN: Oh yes, Pam. It’s been a journey. It’s a journey, where I no longer look at the learning. I don’t even, because I just know it’s there. I’ve come to appreciate it all. It doesn’t bug me if they can’t write or do math or spell because:
I think there is so much focus out there to get your child to do this or to do that and hardly any on who the child actually is. Childhood should be about knowing who you are as a person and not what others say, who you are or what you need to become or should become. It’s a baggage that I, that so many of us adults carry from our childhood into adulthood. Something that I’ve experienced, suddenly when you turn 17, 18 and we are in this real world setting and trying to make sense of our likes, dislikes, our self-esteem and our self worth.
Nishika is going to be nine and Krishna’s five. They know who they are. They love who they are, and they will learn all the other stuff. When it’s important and relevant to them and not have the baggage figuring it out. It lies within them. We will help them figure it out when they need that help. I think of a Roop’s journey being an entrepreneur and he’ll be 46 this year and it’s only the last night, 18 months or two years, I we have accepted this. It’s not just me, it’s he, he has as well. We’ve accepted that this is who he is. It’s dawned on us, he is an entrepreneur. I’ve always been supportive of him in the broader sense, but haven’t always been when it comes to things not working out.
I know when Roop’s second venture folded, it was a very hard time for him. While I didn’t actually blame him for it, I didn’t not blame him for it. So, it was as good as blaming him for it. It’s taken a lot of inner work, especially in the past year to celebrate who he is and to focus on, that’s what makes him tick. That’s who he is. Something that I’ve learned from him, all of us, kids included is that we all work with incomplete information. We always actually make the best decisions in life given the information presented to us at that point of time.
How can there be regrets then? It’s always learning, right? The learning is in the journey. Our sister, she’s still discovering who she is. She had a very challenging upbringing with a lot of factors, and she’s currently undoing all of that. She’s 30, a good 12 years into adulthood. She’s still undoing that. And just to give you a few examples, like in Nishika, she’s scared of the dark and she’s actually, there’s a lot of things that actually scare her, but then she says that’s normal, no baggage of that, there’s no defensiveness in her tone.
She confidently tells me, “Momma, I’m scared of it. I’m not going to like it. I know myself.” Both our kids have actually never been to a movie theater. They don’t want to be, they don’t want to go watch a movie in a movie theater and there is actually no fear of missing out for them.
I used to have that, FOMO, you know the fear of missing out. “What if you don’t do that? You’re going to miss out.” But no, they didn’t. They don’t. And I love that about them. They bring a new perspective. Krishna too, he knows himself, he’s going through a phase where he wants to be at home almost all the time. And he just knows. He just says, “Momma, I don’t like going out. I just know that I just don’t like going out.” And so, we work around that and I love that my kids know that about them. And that can only happen if you all know. If you’re willing to listen, to who they are.
PAM: Yeah, that’s, that’s a, that’s a beautiful example, right?
That whole part of the journey of us releasing that FOMO, right? That it’s fear, but it’s just fear of being different. It’s fear of missing out on things. The realization that we’re transferring that on to someone else when, when you have that kind of aha moment, I think that helps us release it as well because we’re starting to own it.
We’re starting to know, ‘Oh, this is something from me.’ So we talk about how so much of deschooling has to do with ourselves, not actually with our kids because we learned so much from watching our kids, don’t we? Right. Seeing them own who they are and when they’re respected and how it works out so well for them. That is just eye opening, isn’t it?
SUSAN: Actually, I take one of your recent episodes. I can’t remember who said it, but you know, it’s so much about us, but not about us as well. That was so insightful.
Which is true because kids actually, when they come, they are unschooled. They come and they are pure versions of themselves that it’s the only when we start piling on that weight and that have to that things actually change. So, it’s actually us, it’s always us that we need to do the work. It’s not the kids.
PAM: I love that. I love that.
What is your favorite thing about your unschooling lives right now?
SUSAN: I want the relationships and the connection, but I think that’s really a given because given you spend so much time with the little ones, what I’d really is getting to know who they truly are as people. I think I mentioned early on, Nishika, I love that she can go into her own world, then get out as well. She’s just far away in some world. And she can actually be in that world. If she was school, that would be disruptive. So, I loved that about her.
The other thing I love is the gift of time. We have late nights and you don’t get up early. So, I love our morning snuggles. “Sniggles,” as Krishna would say. I love our cuddles at night. I love that I get to see the joy and the smile on their face when they discover something new or funny or interesting.
And something that I didn’t mention when Krishna actually wants your attention and wants you to see something, he will hold your face so then your eyes can’t get distracted, you can’t move, he holds your face. And it’s so cute and funny when he does that.
The other thing I think I want to mention is that conventional thinking tells you that you need to get up bright and early because that’s the only time if you have energy. I have found that both my kiddos, they take a long time for the energy to pick up even when they get up later on during the day.
They are the most energetic before bed. They love to run around before bed. So that’s actually like eleven thirty or ten. That is when they have the most energy. This does not mean it takes them time to wind down. So, when they’re ready for bed, they’re ready for bed. They just sleep. They don’t struggle to sleep.
They sleep quite peacefully. Conventional advice was to read a book before bed, dim lights and slowly wind down to sleep. I don’t think that works for everyone. I think for my kiddos, and I’m sure there are lots of people out there that expending some energy before bed actually helps with winding down as well.
The other thing, what I love is that I normally wake up before these two, and I love when they wake up, I’m happy that they are up and how they shine. Krishna has a big smile on his face and he comes and he comes in, you’d runs and gives me a cuddle.
Nishika normally calls out to me when she’s up so, I go to the bed and give her a hug and cuddles. We spend, depending on how she’s feeling, 10,15,20 minutes. So just cuddling and maybe chatting. And I think it reminded me of you and Lizzie, Pam. You mentioned in one of your episodes, that you guys used to spend a lot of time when she would get up with coffee or having something to drink right
PAM: Yeah. Just when you were telling that story, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that time with Lizzie.’ Yeah. She would, let me know that she was awake and I’d bring back a coffee and then we would just sit in her bed from like 20 minutes to an hour some mornings.
We’d be listening to music, chatting, just sitting quietly together. It was really beautiful. And even that was the part of the journey, focusing on that inner compass and how important and valuable that time is. Because sometimes I was sitting there, 20 minutes in it’s like, ‘Oh, I feel like I should—that’s always a good clue, I “should”—be getting up and doing this or I should be doing that.’ But to realize, no, this is valuable and it’s worth that time. That would let me just breathe through those couple of minutes. Because it’s not bad. It’s not wrong. It’s a moment to think—it’s like to re-remember and re-commit to why this is important.
I treasure those memories. It was months and months that we did that.
SUSAN: You don’t get it if they were going to school. It would be rushing. There’s, it’s always rush, rush, rush, rush, rush, and you just don’t get it. Get that, that time, to spend with them. I love how, Nishika, she’s not always very vocally expressive. But ever since we’ve become, I think, the last year or two we’ve become really very close. So, she’ll randomly tell me, “Mom, I love you. You’re the best. Momma, I really love you”. Just randomly, you know, she’s watching something and will just say, “Mom, I love you.” I would miss that. And the other thing, because of the hubby’s business, the travel, we get to be with him, to be together as a family rather than, worrying about the kids have to go to school or getting permission from the school to do actually travel. I want to be with my family. I need to get permission from you?
PAM: That’s another great point, right?
What I’ve realized about unschooling is that it has very little to do with not going to school and that that’s actually based in an unschooling life. So yes, it’s unschooling, but it’s so much that they we are doing, that not going to school is actually very small part. That’s what I love.
PAM: That’s it. That is a great way to end it too. It’s such a small piece. The not going to school. Like life is just so much bigger.
SUSAN: It is, it is.
PAM: Thanks so much for taking the time.
SUSAN: Thank you so much for having me.
PAM: Oh, it was so much fun. I loved hearing all the stories and I really appreciate that you took the time before you guys are about to travel today to speak with me!
SUSAN: I wanted to do this. So, this was, I needed this, it was a lot to do with it. I really needed this so thank you.
PAM: Oh, thank you so much, Susan. Well, I want to wish you guys a wonderful day and smooth travels. Bye. Bye.