PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown. Hi Anna.
PAM: So, Anna joins me this week to talk a bit about the Living Joyfully Network, and then we’re going to dive into a couple of questions that I’ve received lately. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having a lot of fun in the network with Summit participants who have generously been helping us iron out some of the wrinkles. And now we’re happy to be opening it to the wider community. So, I just wanted to share with you guys a bit about what’s going on in there so you can have an idea of what we’re up to.
The purpose behind the Living joyfully Network—and I spent a lot of time working on this because I wanted to get a really good feel for how I felt things would unfold in there, the kind of community that I wanted to cultivate—what we’re trying to do is bring together unschooling parents to support and learn from each other as we question and explore many of the conventional beliefs around learning and parenting so that we can more gracefully navigate our personal unschooling journeys, develop strong and connected relationships with our children and cultivate a thriving unschooling lifestyle in our family.
Now, that’s very open because our personal journeys are so different from each other. But as I talked about in my Unschooling Journey book, there are some touchstones, some places along the journey or paradigm shifts, that we’re going to encounter that are going to be really helpful. So, what we’re trying to do in the community is help people come to recognize those spots and work through this. And Anna is very excited to join me on this adventure. I was thrilled when she wanted to jump in with me, and so far, we’ve been having a great time in there, aren’t we Anna?
ANNA: I love it! I think it’s really fun. I’m just so excited about it.
I think it is this great space where we can have some targeted, interesting discussions, with people that are interested in the same things, but yet coming from these different perspectives. Because that’s what I love. Sometimes it’s hard to have these nuanced conversations with just anybody because they don’t understand unschooling and some of these layers and the choices that we’re making about prioritizing our relationships and some of these other pieces. So, to have a community of people that are already there, that are prioritizing relationships, that want to have these deep, nuanced conversations. I just love that because we are coming from all these different perspectives, and so we’re all bringing these different pieces that.
It helps me. I’m learning, they’re learning. We’re all learning different things about how we address things, how our triggers pop up, how all these different pieces come into play. So, you know, I love a nuanced conversation. So, it’s a dream for me. But I would also say I love connection and community. So, I love that we’re creating a place where we can have this community that thrives and it feels a little bit different than what we’ve been able to try to do on Facebook and some of the other platforms.
So, I’m excited about that piece too, because Pam and I are very good friends and it was the internet and unschooling, old time forums that really brought us together and some of my children’s best friends and people that have enriched my life beyond measure all came to me through this type of connection that I feel like we just haven’t had. So, I love that we’re creating this new environment
PAM: For me, that is a huge piece. And the connection piece, like you were talking about getting energized and inspired, for me, that’s the huge piece. This is wonderful for me to participate in as well. And I know, we put together a framework for the community, and I don’t want to say that’s as far as we go, but within that framework, I really feel like I’m a participant in it. I’m not above, it’s just, it’s peer to peer, parent to parent.
ANNA: The richness comes from those participants and all of the community members. I think that’s the tapestry and the richness that we can all bring to elevate it to something beyond what you and I can imagine or lay out or sketch out. I think it is important that, we have decided to do have this active engagement to keep us talking and doing and growing. And I think it will just grow beyond our imagination or, greater than the sum of its parts.
PAM: Well, that’s it for me too. Now, I’m more curious to see what we can all do together and how it unfolds. We talk a lot on the podcasts how unschooling is a lifestyle. So, though my kids are grown, it’s our lifestyle. So, that’s why it’s still so important for me to stay engaged. Why it’s still so energizing. It’s still so inspiring. Because just that day to day, joy, excitement, challenges, all the things, right? That’s life. That’s my life now. It was my life 10 years ago. It does not look different. Does it?
ANNA: Yeah, I was about to say the same thing, they’re thinking that your kids are in their twenties, yes, they all are. But it goes beyond that. I do love actually, even thinking about those early times too, is fun but for me, it really is a lifestyle of how I approach the world and relationships and challenges and all of those pieces. And so, I do love to stay at that level of inspiration. I can always make a choice, find the joy, flip it around, figure out the next step. I love that energy of being around people that are wanting to move through the world in that way.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. That’s beautiful.
So, I thought we would talk a little bit about that framework because we did put a lot of thought into this. What we’re trying to do is help people through the journey. So, what we can bring with our experience is an understanding of those touch points, those paradigm shifts that I spoke about a little bit earlier.
So, to do this, what we’ve set up some monthly themes. So, for April, for example, as this goes out at the beginning of April, the theme is our parenting toolbox. We thought not only is this helpful for unschooling parents across the board, it’s also especially helpful right now as many of us around the world have been asked to stay home as much as possible.
Listening to the podcast, I’m sure you’ve heard that really relationships are the basis. The foundation of unschooling, strong, connected, respectful, trusting relationships with our children. So, we thought that would be a great place to get us started. And then within that monthly a monthly theme, we’re having a weekly focus.
So what we’re going to do is basically look at that monthly theme through a different lens each week. On Mondays, Anna and I are sharing the weekly focus. We will have a short conversation about it, whether it’s a video or a post, depending on how our video goes each week.
So, we’re going to talk about the focus. And we’re going to talk about why we think it’s valuable to look at it, what our experience is, and then just some ideas or questions for people to think about during the week, as they go through. So, it’s just kind of planting the seeds for unschooling parents as to this might be valuable.
It doesn’t mean that it has to be, it doesn’t mean they have to learn anything. It doesn’t mean it even has to occur to them if it’s a busy week. It’s just moving through life together in support of each other. But I really like that we can just help, I guess plant those seeds is the best way to say it.
ANNA: And I think, some of these are obviously themes and things that we’ve talked about before in different ways. But what we’ve noticed along the way is people may get overwhelmed. We’ve done podcasts that focus on a bunch of different issues. Well, that’s a lot to take in. It presents all these different things and you wonder, ‘How do I apply that and what does that look like for me?’ And so, I love this a little bit more focused piece because it is whatever you make it or want to do with it, or however it’s coming into your life in that moment. But it’s cool to be able to say, I’m going to put this lens on for a little while and see is that at play at my house? How would it be if I change this around? And then when you have an insight or a question or it’s not what you thought, you’ve got all these people at the same place talking about it. They are sharing what happened for them.
And so, I love that piece of it because I think sometimes when there’s a lot of information to take in, it can be hard to figure out, ‘How do I even begin to apply this to my daily life? Does it even apply to me?’ And so, keeping this little bit of framework and all kinds of things are going to bubble up from that. That’s what’s so beautiful about unschooling—one seed leads to the million branches.
I love that while maybe it seems like it’s structured, it’s not about a structure. It’s just about giving us these different lenses to try on and to see how does that affect my view and how does that change my feelings about something? Oh, this was an area where I was stuck. So, I I love that piece of it. And I think already we’re seeing some just really cool conversations pop up around that. I love it!
PAM: Well, the other piece I love too, because you made such a great point there, that maybe at this moment, it doesn’t connect with us. Maybe it’s not where our mind is. Because we talk about that so often with our kids and they’re learning what they’re interested in, what is happening in their life right now because that’s where they’re going to connect and learn. And the thing I love and in other communities that I’ve been part of off of Facebook is that all the content is there. So maybe somebody just sees that we talked about parenting, and we talked through this particular lens. Like this week, right now, we’re talking about personality types. That all that’s there and our video is there, all the conversations are there so that maybe three months from now it becomes a thing.
It’s like, ‘Oh Hey, I’m thinking about this right now.’ So, that’ll all be there for you to dive into and you can still bring up the conversation again. There’s nothing time bound. It’s not structured, like you said, not structured that way. Where this is the week we’re talking about. This is the only time we’re going to talk about it don’t bring it up again! (laughing)
You never know right? But the flow is something that I love about it. Already we’re seeing such beautiful flow and things branching out because it truly is about what connects for each person.
At the end of each week as well, we have a weekly, live Q&A call. So, we will come together, whoever is interested or is able to come, and we’re going to be varying the times, maybe Friday, maybe Saturday mornings, evenings, because we do have members from all around the world, so we want to be able to make sure that at various points they can come live, but people can also submit questions.
We can talk about particular conversations that came up that week to make sure people have come across them. So, it’s just a moment for us to get together. And talk about maybe aha moments, to talk about questions more in depth, all that kind of stuff. So, I’m really looking forward to that piece because I really enjoy just connecting face to face.
And again, those are going to be recorded so that people have access to them.
ANNA: And I love that. So again, it’s recorded, so there’s no pressure to be there, but it’s kind of fun if you’re able to pop in. I think that’s going to be really great. I’m hoping people can do that some because I think it’ll be fun to have the little bit of a live connection and see some faces and that kind of thing.
But right, you can submit questions and I think we will just talk about the insights from the week and how looking through that lens influenced some things and different pieces, because I can already think of things from this week that I want to be talking about on Friday.
So, I’m excited about that piece and I think it’s a good kind of wrap up to that topic and gives people a chance to know we’re going to talk about this more and,
PAM: Yeah. And also, we’re not going to keep that militant in that way. So, if somebody has an emerging question or topic, they can bring it there too. Have you guys noticed that Anna and I like to talk about this stuff?
But yeah, just to emphasize that conversations aren’t limited to the theme and the focus. That’s kind of the foundation that we’re building for it because we want to help people move through their journey. So, maybe it’s something that they hadn’t thought about as being related to their relationships or their connection. So, we also want to be planting those seeds that these are possibilities and things that you might learn something from, you might get something out of looking through that lens for a little while and seeing what it looks like in your family. So, I love that. The other thing that I wanted to mention is some of the topics that we’ve got started now.
So, for people to be able to easily find this information in previous conversations, we’ve got topics so that people can tag it and you can go look at these anytime if you’re looking for inspiration or if there’s particular challenge, that kind of stuff out. I know the topics may evolve, I really think they’re going to kind of flow and build with us as we gain more experience and see what people are looking for or even what we’re sharing, right?
But we’ve got topics like “Aha moments.” So, if you’re looking for some inspiration or seeing what people have discovered along the way. You’ll find them in there. “Challenges we’re facing,” “Questions that we’re pondering.” I really liked that distinction because that’s kind of a distinction we’ve talked about on the podcast before about intellectually understanding unschooling. So, for me, that’s kind of the questions we’re pondering. That’s the intellectual understanding and the challenges we’re facing is that actual engagement, how does this look in my life? And then there’s that Hanging Out space too, because that was something we had the private Facebook group for a summit participants, Childhood Redefined Summit people who are the ones in there right now. And they had been asking for a space for more fun connection. Because that light connection is a great way to get to know each other better. So, we have a space for that too, right?
ANNA: And it’s fun because it is, we’re on Mighty Networks, and it really is about creating these connections and this network. Just kind of fun story:
So, a woman who I knew through our Summit group is on the network. She wrote me a note and said, I knew you had moved back to Virginia and I was curious about it but now I see that we are neighbors. We really live like 10 minutes, 15 minutes apart, which is, my gosh, I live in the country, so that’s next door as far as I’m concerned. So that was so fun.
It’s fun to see who’s in the area and as unschoolers, I know for us personally, we travel a lot to see friends. That has been a part of our unschooling journey. It’s not a part of everybody’s, but it has been a joyous, fun part of ours to travel to see our friends. So, I think it’s cool to see who’s in different areas and if you’re going to be in a different area, to know, Oh, this person I’ve connected with lives there. I love that kind of geographical aspect of it.
PAM: Right, right. And that was one of the things that really drew me to Mighty Networks when I was looking at software because their focus really is on connecting members. When I started looking at this and looking at their tools and reading about what they were trying to create, that’s one of the things that excited me the most was that it really wasn’t about the hosts. Yes. I mean, they’re super supportive and helpful and all the kinds of stuff, but their drive is to connect to members and that’s one of the tools in there, your location, but you can also find members near you, and, and I love that they had, I think it’s like a 300 mile radius because they know people will drive. That’s really, really fun.
I think that is about it for the things that I wanted to cover, but I just wanted to emphasize that we’re having a lot of fun in there. The connections are the overriding theme of it, just because unschooling can feel so lonely sometimes. We never did come across an unschooling family locally that we could connect with. But yes, we drove to conferences. We drove to visit people far away.
And just the ability to start a conversation where you don’t have to start with the basics. That people are all unschooling parents. So, you’ve got that foundation and you don’t have to filter things that you hear, conversations that you have through that conventional lens to try and remove that piece.
It’s just so valuable, it was something I found really valuable, especially early on in my journey. So, I’m just really thrilled to create that space.
ANNA: Right! And along those lines, I think if you’re listening and you’ve been to a conference, you know there’s an energy about that. Families that are prioritizing the same things and that are kind to their kids and are wanting to make these connections.
And so, this is bringing that into your home and this is giving you a chance to prioritize. ‘I want to surround myself with people that are understanding this journey I’m on.’ Because if you’ve gotten to this point where you’ve started unschooling, considering unschooling, whatever, that’s a deeply personal journey too.
There are a lot of choices that you’ve made. And I think surrounding yourself with people who get that, who understand that, who want to be a part of your journey, that’s a beautiful gift to give yourself to move forward and to create this environment where your family can be connected and can thrive.
And all of these pieces. I know this is a labor of love for Pam, of really putting this together because of the feedback that she’s received from her podcast and from other things of so many people that don’t have a local community. And that don’t have those opportunities. Finding a way to create something that’s alive and that moves and that works and that grows and that it becomes more than…
PAM: More than the sum of its parts.
ANNA: I feel almost even a little teary about just how beautiful I think it can be. And so, I do hope that you’ll join us because I think it is going to be about all of these amazing people from all over the world coming together with this goal of connection and love and finding joy. And gosh, that’s powerful. That is so powerful to me. So, I’m just really excited
PAM: Now you gave me goosebumps because, every day for many, many years, it was just going in at each morning to a community that was available at the time and getting that little shot. That shot of inspiration, that shot of energy, that shot of, ‘Yes, this is my choice.’
I’m going to talk about this, I recorded a call the other day that’s coming out soon, and we talked about that shift to realize, this is my choice, just our every day mundane thing, why I’m doing it. It’s just that little bit of understanding and it gave me such a great lens for my day. I’m finding this is doing this for me now too, so this is awesome. I will put the links in the show notes. You can go check it out and we hope to see you there.
We’re going to shift a little bit and dive into a couple of questions that I’ve received reasonably recently. I just want to remind everyone that our Q & A conversations are not about giving anyone a right answer.
Back to what we were talking about in the network. We’re participants. We are just sharing our ideas, sharing the things that came up for us. Like when we read the questions, we’re just contemplating the different perspectives of the people that are involved. So the analogy I like, it’s like tilling the soil around the question, maybe picking up a rock here or rock there maybe that you might not have noticed, just with an eye to helping the questioner more deeply think about what might be going on and for anyone who’s listening, here’s that intellectual piece, right?
This might not be your current situation. It may be similar. But when you start looking at things from different perspectives, number one, it’s a tool. It’s something that, that you can practice. I think it does get better with practice opening up the way that you’re looking at situations, seeing things from different angles. So, even if it’s not something completely connected to your lives, it will help you understand unschooling better. Or it can, there just might be some connection to where you are in that moment that goes, ‘Oh look, that thing there is kind of related to this.’ So, that’s the fun we have with doing these Q & A episodes.
Okay. So, I’m going to start with question one. She’s a mom to four bright, inquisitive and energetic boys, and she gave us a lovely summary of each one what they, what they enjoy doing.
Her oldest is 8, he loves science experiments and space. Her second is 6, who’s a very creative builder. Monster jam. Builds stadiums for his monster trucks, creative problem solver. Her third is 3, he is a tank. Super physical, adrenaline, fearless, and very sensitive and caring. And her fourth is 1, he’s adventurous, happy, and a snuggle bug. So, the challenge for her is that she wants to recognize that they really do shine, but that often she isn’t able to see. So, they’ve been unschooling for about a year and the academic side, that learning side, wasn’t too hard for her to let go of, but she feels like the atmosphere in her home is still awful. The kids are still fighting with each other constantly, and it often gets physical. Her oldest son and her husband are arguing constantly.
The full question will be in the show notes for you if you want to read that, that would be great. But really the challenge is that she’s feeling down on herself, she often ends up yelling and resorting to punishments, then she feels guilty. She’s just having a hard time navigating the boys and their relationships with each other and with her and things are getting out of hand for her.
The question is basically, “What do I do? I’m ready to throw on the towel and send my oldest to the school just so there can be some peace.”
All right, so first I want to say, I’m so glad that you wrote and shared this because I think it is very common and I also, I truly wanted to acknowledge upfront how challenging it is with four children ages eight and under. I mean, that is so much hands-on parenting going on right there.
I can vaguely remember when I had three kids basically in that situation. And it’s just go, go, go. So, it can be so helpful to take that moment, to acknowledge that and to understand that things feel hard now for a real reason. It really is hard. This time can be super challenging. And to remember also that they’re going to get older.
Things are not going to be this way forever. I think that’s something that when we’re feeling really down, it’s because you feel like this moment, the way things are now is how it is going to be forever. We can’t see a way forward. So, I think taking that time to acknowledge that and to be gentle with ourselves around that, helps us get into a mindset where we can look fresh.
So, that’s what we want to do right now. Anna and I just want to help you look more freshly at the situation and see if we can spark some creative ideas for you. So, a couple of mindset shifts, even if you need to do that more than once a day, like 10 times a day. I do remember that, I’d go and I’d read and I get that inspiration upfront and then things would happen and then I wouldn’t need to reset. I would choose to reset, remembering that this is what I want to, this is what I’m trying to create in our lives. So, I would do my best in that moment. I would learn what I learned from it, and I would move on and just do that shift over and over again.
Another thing I wanted to mention was that, this question was asked of me before episode 219. You know, the one that you and I did about parenting kids at home and maybe you’ve already listened to it, but I would encourage you to listen to it regularly, that can help absorb some of those ideas more deeply so that they become more top of mind.
We talked about how that immersion piece can be super helpful. Helping us with that mindset shift, helping us with creative ideas or even just that shift to the creative mindset or that curious mindset, what’s going on here, what’s going on here? I’ve done that with things that I was trying to learn, pick up shifts I was trying to make and just immersing myself in it. So, listening to those kinds of things over and over again.
So, I just want to pull out a couple of things that we talked about in that episode. Remembering that behaviors are expressions of need, so it can be really helpful for your relationships too, instead of reacting to that behavior.
And I think that’s where she’s finding herself, because she’s resorting to timeouts and yelling and that kind of stuff because you’re reacting to that behavior, try to figure out and respond to the need. That’s why I was talking about listening to the episode over and over again because it will remind you and then soon it will become top of mind that the first question you asked is what are the needs here?
What are the needs here? Instead of immediately reacting to that behavior, so that it just shifts to being a curiosity driven investigation to ferret out what those underlying needs are, and yes, that takes time, but you know that that is where we want to put our time when we’re choosing an unschooling lifestyle, when we’re trying to create these strong, effective relationships with our kids, that is where we’re choosing to put our time.
She had asked about conversations, that she’s having a hard time figuring out how to talk to them. It’s in that needs piece where those conversations need to be, not conversations about the behavior. Behavior conversations often ended up being about, as a parent, “Don’t do this because… Don’t hurt your brother. Don’t do this.” You’re talking about the behavior. You want to go earlier in the process or deeper in the process. Those behavior conversations often happen in the moment when tempers are high. So, that’s why she’s feeling pushed to use timeouts and those other kinds of punishments because she’s trying to have a conversation right there in the challenging moment. Those so often become reactive. When you’re having conversations that validate the impulse behind the behavior, that’s much more useful because that’s truly where they we are in the moment. It’s not about what they did, it’s about how they were feeling. Why did they do that? Why did that end up being their actions or their choice?
And it’s often so important to have those conversations later. I mean, for me, I don’t think I’ve had a super valuable conversation in a heated moment. You know what I mean? That just did not worked for us. When everyone’s calm, they feel safer, you feel safer, and you can take that step. You can think before you say or do something. You can be more introspective. Even young kids can be more introspective.
The other piece is to not think that these have to be big. Even when you’re calm, big sit- down conversations don’t always help, especially with younger kids. They may just be a sentence here or a sentence there, over a few weeks. Along with your observation about what’s going on. You want to start paying attention to the situation itself, not just the actions that are being taken. Have they had a rough day up to this point?
That cup full analogy was really helpful for me when the kids were young. If I knew four things had already gone wrong for the child today. Like I didn’t have their favorite cereal and their favorite t-shirt was dirty, those are important things to them, and if enough things have gone wrong, one little thing that their brother does, that might have rolled off their back other days, today it’s going to be the touch point, the straw that broke the camel’s back idea. So, I think it’s so important to be playful and observant at this time, to think of it as play, to try a little something and see what happens. To try a little something that you think might address the need.
So, for example, just one thing I wanted to pull out that occurred to me, maybe try setting up the eldest who loves science, with science experiments, supplies in a space of his own. So, the others aren’t coming along and engaging in such a way that he feels he needs to direct their actions. Because that was one thing that she mentioned he does a lot. Set it up in a bathroom. You could happily make the bathroom, his private lab so that he has the space to do the things he loves and enjoys without other people coming in. It doesn’t mean, that’ll be perfect but it’s something to try. Set it up and see how it goes.
It’s just more clues and more clues to try and get to those underlying needs and to think of each child individually and what might help them shine. Help them have a half an hour, an hour, 10 minutes of joy in their day and see where that leads.
I also wanted to quickly mention her spouse. It might be more helpful to have conversations, not through the lens of unschooling. And she didn’t mention in particular, she said that he agreed with unschooling and the academic side was something that she mentioned was easy for her. So maybe that’s where he is too but when you start talking about the relationships and stuff for him, that might be a hard connection to make. That this is an unschooling thing that’s starting to sound really weird, etc. But you can have these conversations about these relationship challenges through the lens of attachment parenting.
So, it takes out that piece of, something so super unconventional, this is just parenting. These are the challenges that we’re having, parenting related. These are the challenges that we would have because of the way we want to parent, whether or not our kids are going to school. So, you can take that whole piece out of it and that might help shift the focus and ease some of the resistance that she’s feeling from him for those conversations.
So, I went on for a while, but I loved the question! I think it’s a great question and start with four kids, eight and under, really hard.
ANNA: Okay. So, for people not watching the video, Zoom connection is great at sunrise. Anna’s office not so great at sunrise. I’ve got like all this weird light going on and the sun’s rising on my face, so I’m hiding behind this one thing. But then that makes it darker and I can’t see anything. Anyway, a little technical thing.
So, much came for me with this question too, and I think the start sure is, we’ve got four young kids and new baby. I think it’s important to understand that new baby is amazing. Babies are amazing. And your connection to that baby is amazing. But it is felt in very different ways with those other siblings. And so, I know in the olden days on the forums, whenever somebody would come and say, “Everything’s just going crazy, and my six-year-old is acting out/having problems, etc.” And then we’d find out there was a new baby. Because it really just changes the dynamic. And there’s nothing wrong with a new baby, but it’s acknowledging that, it’s understanding that it can be weight for those other siblings and then it can feel like one more person between them and their mom.
And so when Pam was talking about those needs, it’s important that sometimes you look and understand that those needs may be things that are a little bit hard to hear, that it may be that they’re not feeling like they’re getting enough time with you, or that they’re not being heard, or that they’re being handed responsibilities that they don’t want to have.
Because you know. I often tell people, if you’re in a situation where you have a lot of young kids together and I just had two, but they were fairly close in age, there’s no, “You’re the big boy now,” talk, there’s no “You’re, the big whatever,” because these are babies. I’m telling you, I’ve got 20 some year olds and an eight year old is a baby and he’s still figuring things out. And he still needs the space and time to experience his emotions and to figure out who he is. And so, does the six-year-old and so does the three-year-old, and now you’ve got this one year old. That may seem a little bit overwhelming. I don’t think it has to be. I know lots of amazing parents with four and five kids and it’s just beautiful.
I love the energy of a big family. I love the fun and the joy of all of that. But we’ve got to get her back there to that joy. Because right now she’s feeling the stress of all of that. So, those things are important. And Pam talked about the conversations around those needs, 100% I agree.
In addition, it’s having conversations just for connection. So, make sure that your only interaction is not around problems. And because when you have an infant that’s a big, that’s a 24/7 job. And try to not be just putting out fires with people because if your only interaction is putting out fires, that changes your connection and dynamic with those kids.
So, nurse, that baby, if you are sitting while watching them play the video game or while he’s doing a science experiment or whatever. If you can make those connections and conversations about the things that they love and they know you’re connecting with them, then when something bubbles up that’s an issue or a problem, they know you’re a partner. And so, they don’t have to come at you with guns blazing. They can just say, “Mom remember we were working on this thing and you know, how important it was to me? And then this guy came in and knocked it down.” And because you were there and you did have that conversation and you know it was important.
And even better than that, you can probably steer it from happening because you can see three year old running that way and know, ‘Oh, he’s doing something that he needs space around. Let’s get everybody else outside, or let’s do x.’ That kind of thing. So, the other thing I liked about what Pam, I love everything I said, but look for patterns because is it time of day? Are we getting hungry? Is it that they have had it and look for, have I connected with them? Did something bubble up and I really haven’t had been with them. And this doesn’t have to be, I’m going to sit for six hours with them.
But it’s those touchstones, those moments. That hug, that connection, that, tell me about that video you just watched or tell me about that thing that you’re doing. Just as little moments of connection, they just ground everybody and help them feel that they’re important, that they’re a part of all of this.
And so, those points of positive connection, make that a priority. But again, patterns for me and, and I’m a big puzzle person, so that may be partly me, but I think it’s a good tool. Is I would just look for, and you know, we notice things and, and I think, I’ve joked about this before, but when my husband would be with the kids in the afternoon, I told him I was going to tattoo “snack at 3:00” on his arm because, he’d be like, “Everybody’s going crazy.” And I’m like, “Have you given them a snack? They always go crazy at 3:00 if they don’t have a snack.”
Patterns. I like patterns because then you can anticipate that and snack at 2:30, no meltdown at 3:00, you know? And so, it’s looking for things like that. And is it that they didn’t sleep well? I knew that was an issue for my oldest, and so if she had had a rough night, then I would help her kind of pad her day, help her have some quieter spaces.
And know that she wasn’t, her cup was already here (almost full) and that we weren’t going to really be able to pile on extra things. So, it’s looking for those little pieces.
The behavior is what you’re seeing. Behavior is driven by needs. We’re all trying to get our needs met, and so we can do that in a positive way, or we can do it in a negative way, but we need to be given some tools and help and understand that it’s really about that need. When you meet that need, then those behaviors that you’re uncomfortable with and that aren’t working really fall away because there’s no need.
They’re trying to meet a need, and it may be connection and it may be being heard or validated. And again, this may be about things that are hard to hear. I mean it may be, because even with just my two, I know there were definitely days where I just had to say, “You do not want a sister. You wish that you did not have a sister right now.” And her hearing that from me and me not saying, ” But you love her and she loves you, she’s your sister.” None of that. It was just, “You don’t want to have a sister right now. You wish it was just you and me.” She was able to go. “Well, yeah.” And then she was able to shift because she didn’t feel resistance from me.
But if I come in there with, “Oh, but she didn’t mean to knock down your tower and she loves you, and she’s just trying…” and me explaining, then there’s that pushback there. Then she’d go, “You don’t understand how hard it is or you don’t know.”
True, deep validation of whatever they are saying is the first step. Even when it’s hard for you as a parent, even when it’s hard to hear because honestly, you’ll see that it’s magic that they can just let that go after they are heard.
We all just want to be heard, and so I’m going to use that to kind of jump into the husband because Pam mentioned him, but in the question, you’ll see if you read it on the site, he’s struggling a bit. There’s arguing with the older son. There’s, I’m getting mad about strange things, like, because he’s carrying too many toys, things that kind of don’t make sense, her words, like it seems ridiculous, is what she said.
So, we have a behavior. It’s exactly the same, people. It’s not just about kids, it’s exactly the same. We have a behavior that we don’t like. And so, we need to understand what the need is. And another thing I noticed over the years and with people is when we’re feeling out of control in one area of our lives, we tend to clamp down at another area.
So for instance, if someone’s feeling out of control at work, if things are not going well or there’s some uncertainty or something, some kind of struggles happening, then they want to clamp down at home and think they can control things at home and try to make home like I need it to be.
And so those are patterns that we can look at to then really hear, really listen. Maybe he’s needing to hear and be heard around something that’s happening at work, or maybe it’s just that he’s had a long day at work and he’s coming back home and he’s feeling it’s chaotic. But those are things we can talk about.
What are the specific needs? And then once we know what those needs are, then we can start addressing them. And I think for him, he just may be needing to hear. It is crazy sometimes. We have four kids running around and it’s loud and it’s crazy and whatever. But we need to figure out how to work together to create an environment that works for us.
And so, look for those patterns with him as to what’s going on and try to take a little bit of time to connect with him because he may also be feeling like he’s been distanced from his wife because of the new baby. So, there’s all these different things going on and I don’t want it to feel like, because I feel like so much falls to the mom, like, wait a minute. I don’t know that I can do all this, but I think when we sit in our choices—I’m choosing to be here. I’m choosing to be this mom. This is the kind of relationships that I want to have. She’s saying that, I want this. This is something that’s important to me. Then I really think you’ll see, while these things sound like extra steps. It’s going to make everything so much easier to do.
Those positive connections are key because what I often tell people is you’re interacting anyway. Okay. You’re living with these people, so you’re having interactions with them all the time. Putting energy towards positive interactions is so worth it to me over just fighting and infighting with all of those different people. Because if I choose to put my energy into those positive interactions, I’m changing the shape of that environment in my family. You’re going to be expending energy either way. It’s just where do you want to expend that energy? And so, I go for the, ahead of time, finding the needs, making those connections, positive pieces, because all day long I’d rather do that than putting out fires and dealing with fighting and having a chaotic environment.
So, I’m hoping some of that helps, from what we both said to kind of get you started, but, and, I feel like maybe this is a plug, maybe it’s not appropriate, but I think this is the perfect kind of thing for the Network, for the Living Joyfully Network because you can come and get these ideas and then tease them out a little bit more, and then put on those lenses and try a few things and come back and discuss it.
So, I love that aspect of a community where we can share and other people will be in there having a similar situation or having just moved through a similar situation. Because I love that. I love my analogy and I’ve said it before, it was easier for me to learn knitting from somebody who had just learned to knit than from my mother-in-law who’d been knitting for 50 years because they knew the pitfalls. They knew what it was like to drop a stitch. Whereas my mother-in-law didn’t even think about it. She blinks a blanket comes out. That doesn’t work for me. I’m dropping stitches at the end. And so, having these people at different places on the journey is so valuable because we’re all experiencing and remembering what it was like and what we were doing.
So anyway, a little bit of a plug, but I think this is the perfect thing for that, because we can really talk and tease out all these nuances because I feel like we’ve given you a lot of information. I hope that you can listen to this over and over again. So, I do love that it’s recorded. So, you can say, OK, I’m going to focus on this piece. I’m going to focus on that piece. But, anyway, needs, needs, needs, needs, needs, are happening. And that’s where those behaviors are coming from. And you’ve got this.
PAM: Oh my goodness. I love that whole answer. I had that same thought too when you were sharing because you shared so many cool insights that hadn’t occurred to me. That’s the great thing about community. Everybody brings their own experience and their own perspective and different things jump out for different people. So, it’s just so valuable to have multiple perspectives on something, because like we’re saying, these aren’t right answers, but the more perspectives you have, there’s a better chance that one will click.
And like you were saying, somebody closer to your stage may be able to see it more clearly than someone, who’s many years beyond that. I really love that piece. And also, when you were talking about the husband, I was having that same thing. ‘Oh, she’s probably feeling like she’s got a lot of work to do.’, and then you addressed it, that’s perfect because you know, you spend the energy on those negative interactions but you’re not going to build that foundation with them. You’re not building that relationship. You’re just putting out that fire. So, that shift to understanding, to look at it as, ‘Okay, I’m going to be having this interaction with them anyway. What kind? How can I move forward so it’s helpful for both of us and in the end, in the long-term, that we’re building something here?’
It’s more of an investment in the relationship rather than just, ‘Oh, I need to stop him from hitting his brother.’ That mental shift is so helpful. And I mean, I do remember that. I remember standing in the kitchen with my husband asking questions and not being happy about something or whatever, and doing that work to not take it personally.
Like you mentioned that before, you may hear hard things. And to be able to take those hard things you’re hearing from your spouse, your partner, your kids, but it is so valuable to be able to hear those things and to understand because you understand them better. You understand where they are better, you can connect with them better moving forward. So, it’s back to that investment in time and in our relationships. That it’s just so valuable and it is magical. It really is magical where it goes.
We should probably move on the next question, but yes, thank you so much for that.
ANNA: This question is from Western Australia, which is fun. So, our two-year-old daughter and nearly five-year-old son. That’s what they have and they have decided to unschool and it sounds like it’s been quite a journey to reach that decision. She’s been diving into resources and all of that.
And so that’s really great. And a question is:
My children are so young I’m happy to let them play and just be, when they’re older, I know they will be able to ask for what they want and it will be easier for me to support their learning. For now, I just want to make sure I have the right things around them. Do you have any ‘must have’ items or activities to do with children in this age group? Reading, craft, outdoor play blocks? I suppose I’m just chasing reassurance that they had everything that they need.
I love that question in that because I get that, we do want that reassurance sometimes, and that’s okay. But I think what we will almost always tell you is just look at your kids. Just look at them and connect with them. Because even at those very young ages, they’re telling you what sparks their interest and what kind of play they enjoy. And at that age, oh my gosh, I had a daughter who was super and to bugs and was telling everybody she was going to be an entomologist. And I had a physical child that wanted a lot of physical things into her life. So, we would bring those things in. So, it was usually just looking at the kids for the cues of what to do.
I will say one of my favorite parts of that early unschooling journey was I did love finding cool things in the world, to bring into our lives, whether it was toys or puzzles or games or anything. I was just telling somebody that we are playing Animal Crossing, New Horizons as we’re in our staying at home phase here (COVID-19). What’s really funny is we got DSs, gosh, I don’t know when they came out, but I feel like it must’ve been in the early two thousands. They were probably five, four, or five years old When we got DSs, we ended up all three, eventually all four getting DSs. Animal Crossing was one of the early ones that we played together and it was so fun. They had never known about it, never asked about it, but I was on an unschooling group and there were people ahead of me that said they were really enjoying it.
And I was like, ‘I think we’d enjoy this.’ And it had Nintendogs at the time. And you know, we love dogs, but my husband is allergic so we don’t have a dog. We had so much fun playing with dogs and having our own dogs. And I mean, we still talk about this, 15-20 years later.
And so it’s fun, really fun to be playing the game now with my 20 year old and reliving some of that. But the point is, I did love finding new things, and I think that’s another thing that the community of unschoolers gives us. It’s fun to hear, even on the podcast when people are talking about what their kids are into, sometimes you know, you can be like, ‘Ooh, you know what? I have a kid that really loves that kind of stuff. I bet they would enjoy that too.’ And so I love that piece of it, it is interactive for the parents, but it’s all about watching your kids. I might bring things in that don’t spark an interest. No big deal. I had no agenda with anything I ever brought in to the family.
It’s great to have things that spark an interest or more so I feel like, when things would happen around that, when she was really into bugs, we would be out in the yard exploring bugs. We would have some bug books. We had a little bug/critter carrier. Then we went to a couple museums to see the bug collections they had, and we looked at stuff online and she led that. She just led because she’d want more and more and more and then she wouldn’t, then she’d move on to something else.
And that’s good too. So, I think just trust in yourself. You’re going to know, because that’s the beauty. You’re with them every day. That’s the beauty of the connection that we get to have, is that we see those pieces, we see those sparks. We don’t miss those because we’re there with them. And so, trust in that, and you’ll see it unfold and you’ll have amazing stories to tell us over the years.
PAM: I love that. I love that. One thing I wanted to mention before I forget, this is cool bringing up this question now. The next two episodes after this are with guests with young children. Not quite yet school age, one of them anyway, so we have some great conversations that I think she’s going to enjoy, lots of people will enjoy. They will be interesting and helpful, I think, just to, to help open that up a bit.
I lost what I was going to say there now. Anyway, one thing that super important, that ‘must have,’ and she put it in quotes in her question too, she knew, but that’s that piece, right? Like you mentioned, seeing what they’re drawn to, getting comfortable with that, and just helping them explore it in new ways. Like you said, maybe they don’t know about this website for bugs. Oh, there. See, now I remember because that piece of the podcast where I’m asking what everybody’s into that is.
So, the reason I do that is not only do I love hearing what curious unschooling kids get into, but that it can spark new connections for everybody who’s listening because for me, that was a big piece of it. Just seeing what other people were up to because then I would think ‘Oh, we might have fun with that.’
It was just bringing inspiration into our lives all the time. And it may not have been that exactly, but then maybe it sparks a connection for me. ‘Oh, but they looked at it this way. They found a museum. Well, maybe I can find a science center. We haven’t been in the science center in a long time.’ You never know what’s going to spark something. So that’s the motivation behind it and why I’ve expanded that question over the past year. Because I just think it’s so helpful and fun to fun to hear that piece. The other piece I wanted to mention, you brought that up too.
It’s fun to bring new things into their world, that they maybe they don’t know about, things that you think they might be interested, but as you mentioned, the really important piece is to not have expectations. To even get to the point even if you may feel disappointed because you might be excited about it, but to not take those choices personally, to know that now they know something like that exists in the world. And maybe three months from now, “Hey mom, you mentioned. That thing. Can we check it out now?”
Because when there’s no pressure in that relationship, when it’s really open, they’ll be totally comfortable saying, because, it won’t be a feeling of, ‘I told you so,’ right? No energy of ‘we could have been doing this three months earlier.’ No, you don’t want any of that energy in it. It’s being with them. It’s just sharing things in the world, sharing things that you find interesting that you think they might find interesting. And the really cool thing is that you’re learning more about who they are. And about what they’re curious about right in this moment.
So, a “no, thanks” is just as valuable as a “yes, please.” Because it’s all information and it will helps us nail things in. Another great piece, you mentioned the DSs, I have my own DS. It’s funny cause we’ve been talking animal crossing and playing, the boys that I’ve been playing animal crossing and I still have my original DS, the big clunky thing that I got a Yin Yang sticker for, because we all tricked out our DSs too. we can do these things too. Right? If a game that we bring in like, Bananagrams or something, if there are things that we’re interested in and they’re not, we can still do that. Not only is that great for us, but it’s great for them to see us because we’re all individuals.
That helps them learn more about you, the things that you find interesting as a person, because we’re all people living this lifestyle together. We’re all learning all the time. We’re all doing things that we enjoy. We’re all following our curiosity. So just because your kids aren’t interested doesn’t mean that you can’t find a few minutes to do something you enjoy.
You can leave your paint cup there. You can do a little bit of jewelry making, just any of the things that you’re curious about too, are valuable. Yes, with super young kids, it’s going to look different. Maybe you put out some paint stuff for them to paint along, if they become curious, maybe you’re getting up early because you’re doing more detailed work or more detailed art stuff.
But then once they wake up, you show them what you did. “Hey, look, what mom was working on, I really liked how I did this tree.” Or, “Look at this new bracelet.” Whatever it is that that fulfills us as well. That’s great stuff to share with them.
ANNA: So it’s funny, I was thinking the same thing when you were talking, I’m like, I’m going to say this after she’s finished. And that is, you pursue what you love because that shows so much. And for me, I’m a person that likes to do all the things, but when you have little kids, you’re kind of at home. So, it was a fun puzzle for me to figure out, ‘Okay, so what things can I pursue in parallel with them and that work with them.’
And so for me, that was gardening and bee keeping. And that was, I do a lot of edible landscaping, looking for weeds and harvesting/foraging, that kind of thing, which they loved because I can show them a picture and I’m like, “Let’s find some violet’s.” And they’d run and look at the violets. And they didn’t know all the different pieces of why I wanted it but they love being a part of something that I was enjoying. And I learned to play the guitar when my kids were little. And so, they would sing along the songs and then they’d go away and to do their thing and whatever. But it’s that energy. And my husband has been at home with us for most of the kids’ lives. And they see him pursuing the things he loves and, and his passions and his things. And they can pop in and out and sometimes they participate and sometimes they don’t. But it’s keeps that energy of curiosity among all of you and inside of yourself.
And you’ll see beautiful things unfold from that.
PAM: That’s lovely. All right. We better wrap this up. So fun. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Anna. It is always such a pleasure.
ANNA: Oh, it was fun!
PAM: All right, have a wonderful day.
ANNA: You too. Talk to you soon.