PAM: Welcome, I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Fiona Monday. Hi, Fiona!
PAM: Even though your son isn’t quite school age yet, we’ve been connected online for a while now as you’ve been diving into deschooling and I’m really excited to learn more about your experience.
To get us started, can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s interested in right now?
FIONA: Yes, myself, my husband and Ollie, who is our son (4.5 years old), we live in New Zealand in Auckland. So, Matt and I have been together 12 years, married for 6.
We met through our shared passion of motorcycling. We were friends first. So, we had a good foundation. We live with Matt’s parents, in kind of like an apartment that joins to their house. We’re currently building a little place at my mom’s house. That’s taking up a lot of our thought process, well it was until COVID19. We’re just almost to about four weeks of lock down. So, that’s kind of flipped everything on its head but we’re all healthy at this point, so can’t complain.
So Matt, I don’t even know what to say. He is, but not currently because the world has stopped, but he is a sales and account manager for a motorcycling distribution company. A really good family based company that he loves working for. He’s really good at his job. He’s a salesman through and through, but he also is just amazing with his customer service. And it’s based in his hobby, so that’s great.
PAM: Yeah. that’s fun.
FIONA: His new passion. Because motorcycling kind of takes a back seat for a while when you have a small child, well it has for us anyway. So, his new passion is fishing, everything is about fishing. That has really taken over. Just tonight he was sitting on the couch watching fishing videos, which is the basically the status quo.
We’ve got a puppy who’s been with us about seven months now. He’s taken charge of dog training, which has been quite cool. He really loves that. He’s done a really good job with her. She’s was a bit crazy at the beginning, but she’s settled down now. So sweet.
I mostly stay at home. I work one day a week at the same place Matt works, which is pretty cool. So, that’s kind of me partaking in my hobby as well. But the other days I’m at home with Ollie, which I love. My passion in general is actually unschooling, researching it, listening to podcasts, like your own, other people’s podcasts, reading all the books.
That really has been my passion project since Ollie was about six months old. But my newest one I’ve got into is rock painting, painting little rocks that you then hide on tracks when you go out walking. We found one when we were out on a walk and it just was, I’d never heard of it before. And it’s just so neat to find this, painted little rock and a message on the back to posted it up to Facebook. And so that’s a bit of a creative outlet. And you’re painting a rock, so, it’s not really high stakes creativeness. I’m such a perfectionist that it can stop me in my tracks, stop me from to doing things. So, I haven’t had that with painting rocks because they’re just rocks. But it’s so much fun. Ollie kind of gets into it. He doesn’t really like me hiding them because he just wants to keep them all. We’ve negotiated around that. But yeah, so that’s me.
Ollie, he’s four and a half. He’s never been to Kindy or anything. And not really because of unschooling. I always wanted to just be with him, spend time with him, which, I don’t know, it seems normal to me. I get questions a lot at the playgrounds or about like, why isn’t he in Kindy or playgroup or things like that.
He’s never gone. He did go on the one day I work, he went to like a playgroup kind of situation with his grandparents because they organized it. So, there was a little bit of playgroup thing in there which, he loved.
He’s into cars, trucks, vehicles, everything that goes. Transformers is his big thing. And that’s a theme that I’ve notice Matt and I picked it up through all of his interests. There’s a theme of transforming through there. It doesn’t have to be Transformers the toys. That could be a vehicle that transforms like a duck boat. So, it’s a bus on land and then it goes into the sea and it’s a duck boat. So, things like that, they transform into something else. Just he loves it. YouTube. He loves YouTube and he finds all sorts of interesting things on the iPad. I didn’t even know YouTube was so broad.
He got really into virtual reality. It was probably his latest thing. He made his own little virtual reality glasses with safety glasses, and put a black sock in there. So, they were blacked out and they had two little train carriages for his controllers, so he did that and then I had to do it. He knew what to do just from watching YouTube, and he was telling me what to do. And the cool thing was we found a discount code for the local virtual reality gaming place that he could go to, they could be any age. So, we did that just before locked down. We got in there so that was good and it was so awesome.
That has ended for him at the moment. After that, there was no big interest in it, but I’m pretty sure it will come back at some point. Role playing, he loves role playing, making me role play with him, which I quite enjoy. I find it hard to play trucks or things like that but role-playing I find easier. I found it harder at the beginning, so it’s taken me a bit of practice, but trying to get in touch with idea of playing like a kid.
PAM: Yeah. That is something that I think a lot of people find hard. I did find challenging too for the first while and then, I also found the ones that I was better at or more comfortable. I found the ways that is more comfortable for me. How did you get used to or no, maybe how did you sink into, become more relaxed with the role playing?
FIONA: Constantly doing it! Yeah, I did. I have heard you on podcasts and with your guests talking about how you don’t have to be good at everything, but just try or something like that or so I kind of listen to that. Took the pressure off myself. He loves a show on YouTube called The Axel Show, and. Axel’s dad plays with him just like a kid. And so actually, watching his dad play helped me learn how to play, which sounds crazy that you forget how to play. So, that helped me. He was enjoying it and then I was watching it with him and it helped me learn how to play again.
PAM: I think that that can be such a helpful step while you’re deschooling. For me, that’s all part of working on the age aspect. You know, ‘the kids do this and the adults do that.’ Letting that go and connecting on a human level. I think that is an aspect that really helps because we realize that we can play, we can have fun.
We can choose to not judge ourselves as to what we maybe look like or that we have to do this perfectly. Just relaxing into play with your child, really helps so much with so many things, doesn’t it?
FIONA: Yeah. And it’s crazy because at the playground, sometimes I can play completely without embarrassment. And then other times I’ll feel embarrassed and I don’t know why, but it’s getting easier. So, it definitely is practicing how to play.
But I’m glad and it’s all come directly through unschooling and trying to live that kind of joyful path with Ollie. Because he gets so much joy from it if I spend the time with him and play. There are definite effects that it has on both of us. Just his joy comes through. And then I have the joy of seeing him so happy and connected and our relationship is better.
Yeah. Just such as small thing, when you are trying to verbalize it, but it’s massive to him because that’s what’s important to him.
Now that’s a great place for us to hear a little bit more about how you discovered unschooling. You discovered it when he was quite young then, right?
FIONA: Yeah. So, I think it was just before he was six months, when I was still feeding, before solids. And you know, that time of he’s feeding.
FIONA: He always had to sleep on me, so I felt like I was always stuck to the couch. And I don’t know how I found a homeschooling article, but it was homeschooling and I just loved it. And I followed that. I trained to be a teacher and I taught for one year in primary school, elementary school in Canada.
When I read the homeschooling articles, I identified with it and just thought, that’s awesome. I remember reading about unschoolers and just thinking, ‘Wait, that’s weird. That wouldn’t be me.’ I need to do school at home. And I’d already started organizing my future home classroom for Ollie.
So, the constant reading and the listening to podcasts, just delving down further and further. I identified more and more with unschooling. I can’t remember when that happened, but I feel like I’ve been identifying as an unschooler for a long time now, so I don’t know how fast it happened, but definitely not school at home.
And I think a lot of the educational stuff I could understand pretty easily because of my training. So, when I was training to be a teacher, there was a lot of emphasis in the classroom that you should provide each child the ability to follow their interests and that’s how they best learn and to be self-motivated.
But you can’t actually do that in the classrooms. Not really at all. That wasn’t the reason why I stopped teaching. I was just going to burn out. But I kind of thought I’d failed at that part, ‘Oh, I could only last a year.’ So, when I came across homeschooling, and then unschooling, I felt reinvigorated and also the confidence that I had a teaching degree because I’m very much a schooled mindset, which I’m slowly changing. You have to be, you have to go through the school process and you can’t do anything unless you’ve got the degree or the diploma. So, I don’t think I ever would have touched homeschooling if I didn’t have the teaching degree, because I just would’ve automatically,
PAM: canceled the idea.
FIONA: Yeah, I can’t do that. So, I’m glad for that. And then just through, how I learn as an adult, how Matt learns as an adult, all my motorcycling passion, everything that I’ve learned about motorcycling I’ve taught myself or learned by asking others, getting taught, not through books. That’s practice driven.
And it’s something I know a lot about. I can talk freely about it, and it’s just been a thread through my life since I was 19. So, I could identify straight away with that part of my life.
That’s the thing, I can remember things about motorcycles that I can’t remember about school and my last year at school. Because it didn’t mean anything. And Matt’s the same. Matt had a hard time in school. He was, he’s dyslexic. So, he always had to find different ways of working around the school system or the school classroom. So, he’s very adept now as an adult to self-teach, and follow his passions like fishing, watching YouTube videos and trying out different, I don’t even know what you call them, knots ties.
I’m not into fishing, whereas I was the straight A student, the teacher’s pet, loved school. I thought, I did so well at the school that life was going to be easy. And I found it super hard coming out of school because it’s not reality. So, that school brain of I wouldn’t be able to homeschool if I wasn’t trained in teaching, which is not relevant at all when you get down to it. But even the fact that I would have avoided this whole amazing life choice, just because of school brain, is kind of scary.
PAM: Yeah. That is such an interesting observation. But it makes so much sense, because that’s where you were, that’s where your thought process was at the beginning. So, you can totally see how that would be like a little tick box for you at first. ‘Homeschooling – I’ve got this, this, I have a young child, I have a teaching degree.’ But you continued to look into this and pursue it.
And yes, those unschoolers look crazy, but it is that whole process of, well, it is deschooling, right? Like you were saying, at first you were thinking about the classroom that you were going to set up at home, but then you started, observing more about the learning and thinking about your learning. Your motorcycle passion, which is so cool. I remember, so much of my deschooling schooling time on the academic side was about thinking about my school career. About what I remembered, and what I ever used, of all the things that I learned, what was actually applicable, et cetera.
And then thinking about stuff on my own, my own interests and passions and how much I remember of that and how much I enjoyed. It’s just a new lens, right? To look back on our lives so far. And even watching your husband too, with this new passion or newer passion of fishing and seeing him and it’s happening right in front of you.
When you’re paying a attention, when you get past the idea that it needs to look like academic subjects, learning is learning and you can see it in your kids, you can see it in your partner/your spouse, and then you can start to see it in yourself. I find it easier—I certainly did at first—to see it in other people.
FIONA: Yeah, definitely. It definitely helped too, with Ollie being so small. Everything he was doing developmentally was massive and it was self-driven. So, it was really easy because he was so small and it was just to apply the principles that I was learning about of unschooling to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, okay, I can see this right here.’ Look, he’s trying to crawl or trying to walk and look at him go. I’m not doing anything. I’m not explicitly teaching him how to walk. I think, helped with his age.
PAM: Yeah, I know. It just brings back all the memories. You want to just sit there and watch everything. That’s how it expands.
FIONA: And it’s a weird idea to think that he can do all the stuff up from a baby and then at five suddenly he has to be taught how to do everything else in the world. It’s once you open that box. It just like what?!?!
PAM: It’s really hard to close that box again! But it is worth that time to think about it, you do have to make that connection. And that’s something that conventionally, there’s this special set of stuff that we need to go to school to learn that, that we need to all of a sudden start learning in a completely different way. Once you start asking those questions of yourself, you can see that makes no sense, but it’s so ingrained in us to not ask those questions. It’s so easy to just go with that flow, isn’t it?
FIONA: Yeah, yeah.
I’m curious. You’ve been learning so much about unschooling; you guys are living a unschooling lifestyle. What benefits have you seen from starting your journey so early versus waiting until he was school age and then thinking about it?
FIONA: Yeah, that time that I’ve been able to spend, when he’s small and sleeping so much. That’s what I do, just reading and listening, listening to you Pam and listening to so many other podcasts and talking to Matt about it. Also just thinking, thinking it about it, how it applies to our life. So, the time would be a big thing. And then also because of having that time when Ollie was so young and seeing him do this self-development, developmental stages and applying the unschooling philosophy to that, being able to develop the trust and the process without the educational pressure.
It was more like we’ve been unschooling all the other things, all the life things rather than the academic side, which probably is reverse when you have older kids coming from school. I’d assume you’d be more focused on the academic side but because he’s so small we’ve kind of being able to iron out all the bits, all the other stuff.
PAM: Well, as you said, you’re teaching had helped you with a bit with the academic side. You had already been introduced to the concept of learning works really well when you’re following your interests and then you’ve had the experience of not being able to really do that in a classroom size group of kids. Let alone bringing their interest in. It’s getting to know each of them well enough to know what their interests are. Go ahead.
FIONA: Yeah, I had such an amazing class of kids and I had a small class of kids too, and they were just amazing. But there’s just not enough time, there’s a lot of paperwork, but even without the paperwork, just because of the number of children and all the different things that happen throughout the day. It’s impossible in the current state. Yeah, sorry. The idea is cool in a school system, but it doesn’t, it just doesn’t work. So being able to do that in a home based is the way to go, I think.
PAM: And your point about how in your own family, you were able to focus more on the life side of it, right? Because he was so young, so you were focused on supporting that. And like you said, those are huge growth moments. Where you see them learning so much that’s more obvious, than as they get older. So, crawling and walking and talking and feeding and like all those life skills and seeing that in action. So, that’s really cool.
That’s a really great reason for starting nice and early, I guess. Because I’ve talked to before, it really depends on the person. If you find it overwhelming to focus more on the parenting aspect than, than worrying about the unschooling. But if you’re in a place where you can focus on the unschooling and just looking at life through that lens, it is a fantastic opportunity to move through a lot of the deschooling process before your child hits school age.
FIONA: Well, I think it helped me get through those early years. And the ease of our days now. It hasn’t been easy, but we are definitively at ease because we’re living an unschooling philosophy and our life. Our days are unschooling based. So, there’s an ease, which I don’t, well, no, I know that it wouldn’t have been there before because I’ve done so much work on myself.
I’m quite a controlling person. I think trying to always control in a nice way, but still controlling. That would have caused serious issues because Ollie is headstrong, like he’s just like me and he knows what he wants, and now I can see that as awesome. But we probably would have butted heads beforehand. And I just would have been wanting to change him and control him to make him different and easier was whereas now I’m much more accepting of it. Understanding, understanding, that’s a better of word.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Which leads nicely into our next question.
I’d love to hear more about what you found to be one of the more challenging aspects of deschooling so far, and a little bit about your experience working through that.
FIONA: Ah ME, deschooling me. (laughing) I remember reading, when I first started looking at unschooling and thinking the deschooling word, and I’d would read it and be like, ‘Oh, well that’s not going be applicable to us.’ Ollie is never going to go to school. But no, I needed big time on deschooling.
A lot of it is me about becoming less controlling and just changing my mindset a lot and being aware of my mindset even to begin with before trying to change it. Because I always thought, my way was the right way. And funnily enough, I could apply the unschooling philosophy to Ollie easily. That was fine. But applying it to Matt and myself, it was almost like, ‘Well, we’re adults. We should know what to do already.’ And there was no grace for mistakes or trying.
So, like Matt’s, fishing hobby, I just thought was a waste of time. It kind of annoyed me. It was taking time away from family and ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve got dishes to do and take out the rubbish.’ And he just wanting to talk about fishing.
So, my dad passed away three years ago and about a year after that I needed to do some grief counseling and Matt helped me with it. He was a part of that and it was amazing how the counseling sessions kind of married up with unschooling.
I had a big AHA moment with something that the counselor said and I realized that I wasn’t applying what I believed to be so true for Ollie with unschooling to Matt or myself and I was holding us to the old conventional way of treating each other. So, that was a big aha moment. And so that’s been the biggest hurdle about deschooling is to realize it’s not all about Ollie. It’s about all of us, including Matt, my poor husband. He’s so patient. Thanks Matt.
PAM: Thanks Matt! But that is such a huge piece. And we had mentioned that earlier on that unschooling as a lifestyle, but as human beings, right? Where age kind of melts away, but it’s so true. And when you still have that children/adult prospective it’s so easy to stay in that spot because it’s everywhere around us, conventionally.
They are younger. They do have less experience. They are learning all sorts of things that we already know. But it’s, as we talked about on the podcast so much about peeling back all the layers, and you mentioned that it too, I found it was all my work, that was one of the most challenging things and the discovery that each time something bubbles up for us right. In the end, we almost always discover it’s our work to do, don’t we?
FIONA: Dammit. (laughing)
PAM: It’s in how we view, the lens through which we’re seeing things and peeling back those layers and peeling back those layers, makes our view clearer, doesn’t it? Or more, more fundamental. I loved that insight that, you can support Matt and his fishing, and it doesn’t even have to be support, but give him space and joy and enjoy his joy of that interest.
FIONA: And it’s led to such beautiful things. So, through that fishing, I chose the other day, a battle fish documentary for us to all to watch, because we don’t know what to watch. And we quite like the documentaries on Netflix. It’s not a documentary. It’s a reality show.
So, we try this, that, and then from that, Ollie wanted to go out and pretend to fish on the boat. So, Matt took them out and they tied a piece of string to the end of Ollie’s little fishing rod. And he showed him how to cast a couple of times and then we all went out and Matt and I were the fish and he’d catch us. But after like five times of casting, Ollie can cast better than I can. And he reels it in properly and he’s got it in the right spot and it pulling up.
Following the joy of Matt’s passion, because I’ve stepped back and stopped being a negative Nellie about it, that led to just awesome, fun and joy with Ollie. Whereas beforehand, that wouldn’t have happened because, because of me, that kind of stuff I was doing.
PAM: Yeah. Well, and I think that’s part of the journey too, also being gentle with ourselves, not beating ourselves up when we didn’t know differently. We were still doing the best that we could do. And that we thought we could do in that moment.
That’s the wonderful thing about learning and this whole thing of starting as early as you discovered it and are comfortable diving into it. Like you said, that was another great point that now when he was really young, you had lots of time, more time to be reading or thinking often your own little world, while he was napping and to really do a lot of that internal processing.
PAM: Yeah. That’s really, really cool. And I love you just snuck that in there, but that would have been another, aha moment maybe for somebody. You were saying how quickly he picked up the fishing. Holding it the right way and learning, it’s almost like a sponge, you know? It works that way for adults too, but when you’re into something that’s interesting to you, it doesn’t have to even be a big, long, lifelong passion, but when you’re in that moment, and something’s interesting in that moment, you can just absorb so much.
FIONA: No, definitely cause Matt’s watched fishing stuff in front of Ollie for ages and talked about fishing and trying to get him to go fishing and he’s not really interested. So, it was just that little snippet of a program and it all kind of came together well, and we weren’t trying to get it to come together. It just came together and it was so much fun for all of us.
PAM: And that’s another big piece and I imagine you’ve seen that is learning to follow those moments. Not on our timetable, but it’s on the learner’s timetable. So, that when he was expressing that interest, just kind of going with it.
I like thinking about it, like following the flow of our interests and just how, how our days and moments are unfolding. It doesn’t always work. There are things that need to be done or we’ve got schedules to keep, appointments here and there. But I was amazed that how helpful it was to have lots of open time and space so that we could just follow things as they came up because it’s just so much fun. Ollie had so much fun in that moment, and you guys had so much fun in that moment.
FIONA: Yeah, yeah.
PAM: So, letting that happen, it’s important to have that space where you can just see what happens.
FIONA: Yeah, that’s true. I think that’s something I’m still probably working hard on to do, it’s getting easier. That’s part of the deschooling is just, once you’re aware of something and can feel like it fits, that’s a thing I’m trying to work on. I’m not so spontaneous. I’ve never been spontaneous and a lot of these things are kind of spontaneous, kind of letting go of the, ‘Oh, but I’ve planned to do this.’ It’s getting better.
PAM: Yeah, that was a huge piece for me. And you know what? It’s not like you get these things and then all of a sudden, it’s easy. It’s not, it’s not always easy. I find I process my way through that, even now, if I’m in doing something and somebody comes up and says, “Hey, you want to go for a walk? Let’s go for a walk in the forest.”
I still need to do that little transition. And once in a while it’s like, “No, I need to get this done because of this.” But I also have that reminder in the back of my mind now knowing that’s an opportunity for some great connection and who knows what will bubble up. So, to do that little transition when I can out of it, is always so helpful. I just learned from experience, and you’ll get that too, because this is a great example, Ollie and that fishing, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, look what can happen when we follow the flow.’ I get to a point where, I’m excited to be able to participate in those open times.
And then again, it doesn’t matter whether it’s my husband or my dad or my child who’s saying it. That’s an open space for some connection and fun and who knows what will happen. I’m curious to see how it unfolds. But I still need that minute to remember that and do that little shift and say, sure, I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.
All that is to say that we’re real human beings living these moments. It’s not like all of a sudden, see that’s another, I was going to say it’s perfect and we’re perfect, like some kind of magical unschooling movie in your mind.
FIONA: I’m now an unschooler.
PAM: Yeah. So now I can skip anything and flow here and I think when we first started learning about it, we can put that expectation on ourselves and we can beat ourselves up when it’s hard or when we don’t manage to do it. You know what I mean? But that’s life. That’s living, that’s being human.
And every moment is its own moment. To be able to move past that judgment of ourselves, is really important and valuable, to give ourselves that grace. You had mentioned grace before, that grace, that ease but it’s just so important for ourselves as much as our children because most of the work ends up being ours anyway, doesn’t it?
FIONA: Well, yeah. Because Ollie can do this perfectly fine. He can drop something without a moment’s notice and change because he wants to do it. It’s all with the adults. Matt is actually pretty good at dropping something and following his flow. So, yeah, it’s me.
PAM: That was one of the things I learned too, for me. Whenever I was feeling stuck or confused or whatever. My challenge was in the moment, I would learn to look to the kids first. I would see how they handled things. That whole perfectionist thing, a lot of me working through that for myself was looking at my kids and seeing that, when something went wrong for them, they would just try again. Or it wouldn’t be the end of the world to make a mistake or to get something wrong. They would take that information and try again or move through it and that was just so fascinating to me.
I would love to be a person that didn’t want to run and hide when I made a mistake.
FIONA: Definitely. Yeah.
PAM: So, looking to my kids and seeing how they did things and trying that on for size was always so helpful for me.
FIONA: Yeah. Yeah.
I’d be curious to know what has surprised you most about your journey so far?
FIONA: How it changes everything. Absolutely. Everything. In a good way. When I, first started reading about it, I was reading mainly about the academic side and picturing ahead times when Ollie was five, you know, that’s when the effects would start to be seen.
But it just changes everything that we do from the time we get up. Well, from going to sleep together and then from the time we get up throughout our day. Everything.
PAM: I know, seriously. Everything.
FIONA: From the way our kitchen’s laid out so Ollie can access his food, any type of food he wants. To just everything, the way the house is laid out for him to access stuff. The bedtimes, the clothing. And in our minds and Matt and I often talk about all the boxes that have opened. You know, why do we do this thing? Well, why do we do it like that? We’ll often question it now. Matt’s become quite questioning too, which is quite cool. I was the questioner before him because I was doing all the research and kind of feeding bits to him.
But now that’s opened in his mind. So now he questions things too. Just why we do certain things in certain ways, why we think that Ollie needs to do certain things. I can’t think of an example. Even to the point of, I’m still kind of thinking through it, but how, in conventional parenting, the parents and child is separate and there’s a thought that you should have each other’s back as parents, and if one person sets a rule than the other parent needs to back them up. And if you disagree with them, you do it behind closed doors. And that’s been my latest kind of thought, well, why? Because we are a team, like we called ourselves team Mundo.
We were a team that pivots, and team Mundo helps to pivot my thinking, when I’m becoming a bit too parental it pivots me to, we’re a team, we’re all equal partners in this team, so why would we not discuss nicely in front of each other if we disagree? We can do it nicely, as well as we can. And Ollie can have input. And he has amazing input because he, from a young age, he has been an equal team member with us, and he has amazing insight into how to solve problems and to helping Matt and I discuss things. And it feels just lovely that way that we’re a team that way and it’s not Matt and I against Ollie.
PAM: Yeah, I think when you can get to that point, I think what dissipates is the power aspect of it. Right? So, it doesn’t become adults versus children. If it’s something you guys are trying to work out with Ollie. It’s not adults pitted against each other, like, I’m right, you’re wrong.
When that power disappears or melts away, it becomes more about whatever the thing is. Whether it’s, one wants to do this and one doesn’t want to do that, that’s a simplistic one, but even between the adults, then it can become conversation. It can be less heated.
It doesn’t need to be argumentative. Argumentative comes out a lot when it’s a power based thing, when one needs to exert the power to get the other one to agree with them. But if it’s a conversation where the team is the focus, then it becomes about the thing and what everybody thinks and feels about the thing, and then finding a way through it that everybody’s reasonably comfortable with, right?
PAM: Then it can be more about the conversation. I think that’s just another layer peeled away, isn’t it? That when that power layer dissolves out, and I loved your point about how kids are capable of adding insight and value to those conversations. When you start and you have that parent child dynamic parent child, the power dynamic, you don’t think that less powerful being can add anything of value to the conversation, especially when it’s not really about them. Like you were saying, when you and Matt are discussing things. To do that apart from him because he wouldn’t have anything of value. But now you’re discovering as you guys are talking through it, when he’s around that, that he has such interesting insight to share. Right?
FIONA: Yeah. And I remember when I was a kid, I had such a, I don’t know how to word it, but I felt like I knew things about the world so clearly when I was a kid. And I’ve kind of felt like I’ve lost that a bit becoming an adult. I don’t know if it’s your brain gets full of other stuff, I just remember that from me being a child. So, I have trust in Ollie that he kind of has that as well. And he seems to. And he has such great, just such great ideas, problem solving that he comes up with, and it’s really cool to give them the opportunity to just share with us and be. He really is my friend. He’s Matt’s his friend. Trying to not do the parent/child thing, we’re a team, we’re equal. And it’s having a positive impact. The times when we can do it well, where we have a win-win for all of us.
When we have these little discussions, it feels amazing. It doesn’t always work. Not always, but we’re getting better at it. Again, the more we do it, I suppose being aware of it, the more we can start to find it. Being aware of it means we involve Ollie more, invite his problem solving if he wants to. I mean, he’s four and a half, sometimes he just doesn’t care. He blanks us out. That’s fine.
PAM: And that’s, that’s perfect. When he’s got something to share or when he is engaged in it, then great. No one is trying to force them to be involved, it doesn’t really add much value for anybody.
The other thing too, that you mentioned is sometimes it doesn’t work as in, we don’t find a way through in that moment. But you’re still going through the process, you’re still setting up that connection and developing that trust so that if you’re on some sort of timetable and you can’t really find a way through within it, you’ve got that trust to lean on.
I found with my kids, if sometimes we just couldn’t figure out something and I’d just say, I really need you to do this because X, Y, Z, and I know it doesn’t make sense, but I need you to do this and just explain my reason. And you have that trust and that respect, and they know that I’m not saying that to convince them or trick them into doing something, because so many times we figured out a way through things. So, no matter where it goes, it’s still always valuable to have that conversation and it just strengthens our relationships.
FIONA: Yeah. Developing that trust, you have to follow through on it. And thankfully we were kind of switched on to that since Ollie’s been young and he really does trust us. He will give me, if I need 15 minutes to finish putting on the on the meal and then I’ll play with him. I’ll ask him. Today, I had to do that 15 minutes and then I’ll come and play and I have to go and play. And I do say to him, often mommy forgets. Come and remind me if I’ve forgotten, because I do forget. And he does, and it’s fine. It’s part of our life. And he knows it. Because we have the trust built up that I will go and play. It’s kind of a win-win. I get to finish the dinner and he knows that I’m going to come. So, we are both winning out of that situation.
PAM: No, that’s just the beautiful outcome of having that trust and yes, that trust develops when you follow through. That’s a huge part of developing it in the first place, is following through with whatever it is you say you’re going to do.
That’s how they come to realize that they can trust what you’re saying, that you’re not saying things to manipulate them or to get something from them. But that you mean what you say, right? It’s not that they trust you because you’re their parent. I mean, I think so often conventionally, that’s what we rely on for that relationship. And instead we’re building trust with them through our actions. The combination of our words and our actions that we actually follow through with what we say.
We’re not just saying that we’ll play in 15 minutes to put them off and hoping that they forget about it 15 minutes later.
I know that I’d done that piece too, and I still do that piece. If I forget, like if we’re out somewhere and somebody says, “Oh, I’d really like to do that.” That sounds like a great idea. Even to my husband. But please, remind me later. I send myself a dozen emails a day, I think. I have a phone with me and I try to remember all of these bits.
So, I used that many times. It’s like, but if I forget, just tell me that, I won’t feel bad that you’re reminding me. You’re not bugging me. None of that. It’s like, as I said, I want to do that. You’re doing it for me. As well as for yourself. Whatever it was. That’s it. I love that, and that’s it, we’re finding those tools that work for us to live together and to do things together.
We’re discovering about ourselves. We’re discovering about how we relate to other people. That’s the foundation of unschooling, who we really are as people and individuals and how we can connect and engage with other people in our family.
FIONA: Yeah. And I think he’s just picking up really amazing life skills. And it’s not in a pressured way from us. Since probably he was four, he started to use swear words and I explained to him, so to me, swearwords are words. But I said, if you use them outside of our house, people will probably think you’re rude and they might not like you as much. He’s all about making friends, so they might not want to be friends with you if you use these words because other people find them inappropriate. But you can use them at home if you want to. I mean, I use them at home so I can’t lay one rule for him and one rule for me. And he has never, I think maybe once he slipped up and I just said “Oh remember just at home.” And he understands that. Any he trusts that, so we’ve never had the issue of him swearing because he’s not getting his way or anything like that.
PAM: Yeah. If you think of it the other way, like when you’re growing up, you didn’t swear in the house. But it was all out.
FIONA: Yeah. exactly.
PAM: But it was from fear. I can’t get busted by my parent for swearing. And they’re just words this is where it comes down to, it’s everything. And so, he’s learned a life skill that, or really, he’s learning that you can be a certain way at home around people you trust, your team Mundo. But there are ways that you act outside and it’s just through a normal life learning thing there.
FIONA: So, even something so small as swearing, there’s so much packed in there with unschooling it has helped me see. It can be completely different way than I would have done, trying to just control him to swear.
PAM: :Don’t swear.” Look at the nuance that comes out when you don’t just make it a rule. When you make it a rule, don’t do it. Then it’s just about policing the rule. Whereas now there’s so much conversation about the environment happening. You learn so much more of the context of the place that you’re in and the people that you’re with, and how these actions or these words can be interpreted by other people. There’s just so much richness that comes to the conversation when you take that approach versus just nailing down a rule.
FIONA: Yeah. Yeah, and I think it’s so important for adults too. I talk differently with bosses than I do with coworkers or Matt too. Friends, even motorcyclists, we’ve got a whole different way of talking. It’s real life. And, well, now it just make sense now because the box has been opened now. Why would we do any different way with Ollie?
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, so many boxes.
FIONA: So many boxes.
What is your favorite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
FIONA: Um …
PAM: Maybe not literally right now. I know. Not literally right now on lockdown for a lot of us.
FIONA: I suppose I can still apply it, which is nice.
I’ve heard you talk a lot about joy. I’ve had joy in my life. I know what joy is, but actually I’ve experienced what I would call real joy now. Just lately, following Ollie on his tangents and his passions. So, his transforming passion, which is the thread through everything, it seems to be the thread through everything.
He found a video on YouTube of little Berger King toys, you know, happy meal. No, I think it was Burger King, toys. And they transformed from robots into letters, and he had the whole alphabet. And the whole video is just, I’m going through and talking step-by-step and I’m laughing now because it’s just so amazing that Ollie found this video, a transforming alphabet and this guy taking him through it. Ollie’s learning his alphabet and he was completely into it.
He’s never shown any interest in the alphabet song or singing the alphabet. But this thing, because it was transforming and I watched the whole video with him. It went on for quite a while. I just got so much joy, I can feel it in my body now. Watching him just get a kick out of this guy and his alphabet transformers. I would never have enjoyed that, but I did because he was so into it.
There seems to be more and more examples of that happening now, I think. It’s the layers peeling back, and now I understand what you mean about the joy. And so that’s the cool thing that I’m discovering at the moment is this real joy. And real joy for me too. I’m getting real joy out of rock painting and they’re real basic, super basic things I’m painting, but I’m really enjoying them because I’m, I can’t find the words.
PAM: I know. I know exactly what you mean. And I remember that shift from so many years ago, which is, that’s why my website is Living Joyfully. Because for me, that was the most profound shift to and, and still now trying to imagine what it was.
FIONA: Is it a layer of judgment that we’re peeling away? You know, that we can see the joy in the most mundane little things are, because I totally would have judged that video beforehand. Like, who was this guy?
PAM: Look at all those toys.
FIONA: This is this video is how long?! Sorry! Yeah. Judgment. Definitely for me in that video.
FIONA: Yeah. Having no judgment.
PAM: And no judgment on ourselves with the painting too but it feels like we all of a sudden more clearly see everything. For ourselves, that painting the rocks, the walk, the finding, the rock. It’s like all of a sudden, we’re allowing ourselves to be more, I don’t know if authentic is the right word, but engage in that moment.
Surrender and be in that moment like a child. They’re right in that moment. And having fun in that moment and because a judgment piece is a step out of the moment. Because we’re thinking about the moment through the eyes of good, bad, right, wrong. Being able to really sink and engage in the moment, we see so much of that joy.
And then even when things are going wrong. Things are not going our way, but we go deeper. It’s that trust too, that that will move through those moments and you gain that through experience through having done it before. Even if you can’t see where you’re going to end up, you’re going to end up somewhere reasonable.
FIONA: Yeah, that happened yesterday.
We had a terrible day yesterday. Both Matt and I were feeling super down about just the situation of being in lockdown. We were all rubbing each other the wrong way, and there seem to be no saving it. But at the end of the day, Ollie just decided to dress up. He came out into the lounge in different dress ups and that was hilarious. And we found joy at the very last part of our day, and we were all laughing and the whole mood lifted. He just cracked the code on that. He was enjoying the dress up and he enjoyed our reactions to him walking out in different costumes. It turned the day around from something terrible.
PAM: Yeah, that is such a great example. I think that’s part of what we learn as we peel back those layers—is being open for those moments, even when we’re down and we can’t see where they’re going, positively but being open for those small shifts. To see and recognize those and it wasn’t, “Oh, Ollie it’s almost time for bed. Please don’t start pulling out a bunch of different clothes.” Trying to not keep that negative lens on and then being more open to seeing those moments, the joy in all the tiny little things, even if it’s a change of clothes or a smile about a video or whatever, and recognizing those because so often, certainly at the beginning. We’re blind to those.
FIONA: Oh yeah.
PAM: Yeah. That was such a great example. Thank you so much and thank you so much for speaking with me today. It was so much fun, Fiona.
FIONA: Oh, thank you. It’s been amazing and thank you so much for your podcast and all your guests because it really has been something I look forward to. I get the podcast every Friday, I don’t know what day you load it up, but it’s Friday that I get to listen to it. I look forward to my Friday morning and I’m making the breakfast and the lunch listening to Pam and her guests, and it just energizes me and it’s helped me learn so much. So thank you, Pam.
PAM: Oh, that’s wonderful. Thanks so much Fiona. And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
FIONA: I’m on Facebook, but I don’t use it that much. So, Instagram would be the one. My handle is @5ftbiker. I’m a short bike, so that’s why that is. And yeah, it’s a private account, but just, follow or whatever you do. I’d love to meet new unschooling people, so that’d be cool.
PAM: Oh, that’s awesome. I will definitely put the link to that in the show notes. Now. I know I’m waking up in the morning, but you’re going to bed, so I say, have a lovely sleep today. Thanks.
FIONA: Thanks. Bye.