PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Liz Brady. Hi Liz.
PAM: So, we have been connected online for a few years now and I really enjoyed reading around your blog a little bit, and I love the pictures and things that you post and the pieces of your lives that you share online. It’s so, so fun for me just to see families in action. I am really excited that we’re connecting here so that I can learn more about your unschooling journey.
So, to get us started …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s into right now?
LIZ: Oh, okay. So, our family is my husband and me and our four boys. We live here in Western Australia. We are at the moment in a little town or suburb, we call it here in Australia. And we’ve got a really nice property. We have an extra bit of land, a pool, and trees. So, loads of space for boys to run around, which is great. We moved here about seven years ago. We bought this property and since then we’ve kind of moved all over.
My husband actually works for the police force. So, we’ve moved with his work a lot and some of the places we’ve moved to have been really incredible, very remote in the middle of nowhere. And as you can imagine, Australia is where they have lots of remote places. So, the boys have had some really incredible adventures since they were born.
Our boys, so we’ve got Owen who’s ten, and Liam is eight, Jack is seven, and Harry is five. So, lots of boys, and we also have two boy dogs and a boy cat. I’m completely outnumbered. We did have some female chickens at one time. Well, obviously, female chickens. We also had a female cat, but we lost her last year. So, hopefully we’ll get some more chickens this year. Now that we’ve settled down.
A little bit about what we’re up to at the moment: Owen my oldest, he is really passionate about anime at the moment. He loves all the stories and characters and anything that is inspired by that. So, he likes any video games that you can be the character and get the abilities. A lot of the characters he likes, have special powers and abilities, and he’s always role playing that with the boys. Doing a lot of martial arts. There’s always wrestling happening and sticks flying around and that kind of thing. I think the stories in anime are so unique and interesting. Some of them are really a little strange as well.
PAM: Yeah, I know, I find that so fascinating. With Joseph and Mike, we’ve watched some anime. Joseph’s found me some anime, and it is fascinating. Like, stuff I would never in a million years think of as a story and they build a whole world around it. That’s so cool.
LIZ: Incredible. Yeah. So, we have these amazing discussions about all these characters in this story. And he likes to research where the writers get them, where the ideas come from and motivation behind the stories. He’s really into that. As a side effect, he’s learning a little bit about Japanese culture and playing with learning the language and that kind of thing.
So, that’s really cool to watch that unfolding. And he’s also a really big swimmer. He loves swimming. He spent a lot of time over summer just in the pool. And when he’s in the pool, he’s talking and thinking, you can see his brain kind of taking over in the pool. It’s just sort of his thinking place. He’ll go under the water and is thinking of the next thing he wants to do.
And he’s always coming up with challenges. He likes to get me to tie him up, which sounds really bizarre, but he gets me to tie him up and try to get him so tightly tied up that he can’t escape and drop him down the bottom of the water, like Houdini. But we obviously can’t do that. We obviously have to find ways to do that safely. So, we really can’t completely tie your body, that might be really unsafe. But yeah, he loves those kinds of things.
And then, Liam our eight year old, he is sort of our mover and groover. He’s always moving, doing obstacle courses, Ninja sort of things. He was the first to master the backflip and he’s on the trampoline perfecting those sorts of moves often. He’s also really into photography. He really likes taking nature pictures, photos of flowers, leaves. Today he was out there taking really cool picture in a pipe. He took the picture down the pipe and the angle he got was amazing. I was like, “Wow, that looks so cool!” He’s just so creative. And he likes to take pictures of water moving, he likes droplets and how the water moves and how you can capture that. So that’s really cool. They are always sort of making things together, in the kitchen, creating decorating bits of food. So, he has that kind of creative side too.
PAM: So fun to see all that!
LIZ: I know, I know. Yeah.
I think that’s such a blessing when you have lots of kids is, getting to see all of their individual personalities shining through each of their interests. It’s just really cool to see.
And then we have Jack who’s seven. He’s always really loved machines and vehicles. At the moment, he loves planes, obsessed with planes. He’s always flying them around the house with really great sound effects. He’s got a passion at the moment for World War II planes. He really loves those. And learning about aviation history in that era. He loves to watch the movies, the documentaries, anything related to the war. Tanks and submarines and airplanes, he really loves learning about that. And he’s always building things, building planes out of Lego, with clay, sand sticks, anything he can get his hands on. He’s really a hands on kind of kid and I think he just likes being out. Fun to see his imagination come to life. He’s just always got something in his hands and building something. We have always have things going missing, that we know we can just ask Jack. “Where’s that little gadget thing?” And he’s kind of taken it apart and found some kind of other use for it. He just loves taking things apart and finding little bits and pieces. So, we’re always making areas for Jack to tinker and to destroy things, and then put them together and build things.
And then Harry, we could go on forever, there’s so many of us.
PAM: We could. They’re fascinating.
LIZ: Harry is our baby. But he always has been really independent. He’s fiercely independent with everything. “I can do it on my own.” And I think he really likes the age that he’s stepping into it. The age that he’s at, he’s had a skill leap and he’s now really able to play engaged with his oldest siblings as well, that he maybe couldn’t do before. So, he’s really enjoying playing Roblox with them and he’s always building, or not building, but making costumes out of, he’ll get me to cut up his clothes. He’s making masks and helmets and backpacks, and he’s got socks for gloves on his hands that we cut up.
And he’s just adorable. He’s very cute. He’s at that age where he’s asking questions about everything. “What’s in our body?” “How’s this made?” And, he’s just a delight. Really.
Yeah. And then my husband, sorry.
PAM: No, I just said go ahead, I didn’t want to interrupt.
LIZ: Okay, sorry. Oh, my husband, he’s also really into photography. He’s really an adventurous kind of person who loves going to find new places to take photos and explore and finding cool things. He’s little niche that he’s interested in is nighttime photography. He takes like pictures of the Milky Way and that kind of thing. And he’s really got quite a creative eye and he takes Liam out sometimes and they go and take pictures together, which is really cute. A lot of what he’s doing at the moment is watching YouTube videos about how to take the right picture and editing and everything like that, that’s so involved all the editing aspects. I find it confusing.
And then, for me, I guess I’m just really loving being at home with the boys. I spend a lot of time obviously doing things with them, looking for new recipes because they eat a lot of food. They are always hungry. I’m always trying to create interesting foods for them to eat.
We just recently got a piano. We got gifted a piano, which is really cool. So, I’ve been enjoying playing on the piano. I used to play when I was a kid. So, I’ve been enjoying playing the piano and just kind of doing little things like that. Writing, journaling. I do like a little bit of poetry and just enjoying my day with the boys. Really.
PAM: Wow. Well thank you for taking the time for that because it was such a beautiful picture. You can just see everyone’s personalities shining through and like you said, they’re all so individual and unique. When they have this space to really hone in on what they’re most curious about.
It’s so interesting to see, and I love the tweaks, with the night photography and the stars. And I was like, Oh, I love all that. It’s just a reminder to me too, and I’m sure to everybody listening, the little pieces that they are curious about. ‘Oh yeah. I’d be interested to dive into that.’
So it’s, it’s so fun. Like your little pieces too, right? I mean, you’ve got four younger kids so that’s a lot of time helping them and playing with them and hanging out. Which is super fun. And then you’re weaving in a little bit of piano here. A little bit of writing here. It’s just a beautiful big picture of a family going through their days.
LIZ: Yeah, it’s beautiful, isn’t it? I just love that the most about hearing about unschooling families is just how they’ve weaved their own passions together with just being alongside each other. It’s just beautiful.
PAM: Yeah. That’s the piece. That’s what shines through, right? It is the, alongside each other. Which can be so very different because, so often conventionally, children’s interest in things do take a back seat to what the adults need to do. But through your description, you can just see and feel the engagement with the kids and the love, the respect, the engagement, all of it just shines through in how you talk about it. So, that was lovely, thanks Liz. Goosebumps.
I would be curious to know how you discovered unschooling? How did you come across that and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like?
LIZ: Yeah. I guess we came to it in a sort of winding, winding road. It wasn’t really something that I discovered at the beginning. It wasn’t probably until my oldest son, he was I think four or five, and he was starting what they call here, kindy.
I had looked into, having four boys, well, at the time we had three boys and knowing that boys are quite active and physical, I was already starting to look into the idea that maybe that school environment or traditional school environment wasn’t the best place for them to thrive.
So, I started looking into alternative schooling around that time, but he did go to the little local primary school here. Fairly early on, I started noticing sort of some changes in his emotional behavior and his emotions, and he just seemed really overwhelmed.
He did really well academically, but then the teacher would say he was just rolling around on the floor and touching everybody and I kind of thought, ‘Maybe he needs to be somewhere where he can be more physical and active.’
We had a local Steiner school here. I looked at that because what I had heard about Steiner was that they didn’t start formal learning until about seven. And previously it was more play, and I thought maybe that would suit. So, I looked into that and I went to the school and the grounds were all really beautiful and there was a mud pit and there were forts and all sorts of things like that.
And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing.’ So, we looked further into that, but at the same time we found out we were having our fourth little baby Harry and my husband got an opportunity to move with his work. And so, we kind of thought that might be a great time for us, as you do get a little bit more of a financial incentive when you move. We took the plunge and we moved up North and to this remote town. The schooling thing took a little back seat for a bit because we had a four week old baby and we moved and we thought we’d just stick with that for a little bit.
He went to the school, and again, there were some early warning signs. The teacher would say, “Oh, he’s so interesting. And he’s always got all these things to say, but he never puts his hand up. And he’s always talking when he shouldn’t be.” It was always about behavior modification rather than, ‘Oh, let’s nurture this curiosity.’ He would come home and say, “Oh, I was really good today. I got a treat.” And then another day it would be “I was really bad today. And got my name on the board,” That wasn’t really the dialogue we were using at home. And I felt like he was getting this impression that he was bad, because he couldn’t sit still or those kinds of things.
At the same time we were, attachment parenting with this new baby. And it’s seemed sort of in such contrast to have this older child that now we were sending off to this place when he didn’t really want to be there.
He was at that point, starting to school refuse. Sometimes he would run off from the car or not want to go into the classroom. So, there was all these things that were churning around in me that was saying, this doesn’t feel right. The sort of things that they tell parents at the time, “Oh, this is so normal and he’ll get over it.” But it’s just quashing your intuition and your gut instincts.
And I had one last ditch attempt. And I went to see the principal and I said, he’s having a really hard time getting to school in the morning. He’s not wanting to come in classroom, and her response was, “Well, with children like that, we just hold them down.”
And I just, I couldn’t believe that was her response. I left that office, went straight to the main office and to said, “We won’t be coming anymore.” We pulled him out.
I remember him saying to me one morning when we were on our way to school and he said, “Why is everyone else the boss of me?” And I thought, ‘Oh my, that’s just so true.’ And it was a really big moment for me in realizing that, we had to sort of change our direction, in order for him to really be who was supposed to be.
It was incredibly empowering and this huge sense of relief, that it was okay to finally listen to my child and trust in his own understanding of himself that. And that we could do this together. So, we did pull him out, but I didn’t really know anything about unschooling still. I had a Steiner of curriculum because of our previous experience in Steiner and that lasted a week. (laughing) Because the kids were really bored and they were sort of waiting or trying to hurry through it to get to the fun stuff. And then when I saw what they were learning in the fun stuff, I thought, ‘Okay, we really don’t need to do this.’
I’m in a Facebook group for respectful parenting. The issue of screen-time came up and somebody said there’s this whole group of people that actually don’t limit screen time. And I was like, “What?!”. And she sent me a link to Pam Sorooshian’s article, “The Economics of Restricting TV Time.” And then I just was like, ‘Oh!’ and then I kind of fell into this rabbit hole and I found your podcast and I just devoured it.
I was up to all hours of the night just listening to everything I could listen to. And it was like, it felt like coming home almost. I know that sounds a bit corny, but it’s like everything you’ve been feeling and witnessing that you’ve been told is wrong, and then there’s this place where it was all just validated and confirmed. It just felt so amazing. I was like, ‘Oh, finally arrived.’
PAM: Oh, I so remember that. I so remember that. It, it’s amazing. It’s like this whole part of the world was completely undiscovered. But that so much of it connects. It’s so interesting to hear everybody’s journey because it is fascinating to see what that last little piece of the puzzle was, that opened up this world, seeing how they found it.
I love that for you, it was that screen time question. I know for me it was doing research for a meeting with a principal and I came across the word homeschooling. It’s like, ah, ‘What is that?’ That was the first time I realized they didn’t have to go to school. I literally thought you have to go to school.
Yeah. So, it’s so fascinating to hear that little piece and so many times where, well, because it’s our journey. That was the point at which we were ready for it. We may have come across it before but now is when like all those pieces just come crashing together. Right?
LIZ: Yeah, that’s right. Because any other point you could have just missed it but it was all this culmination of these things and right now you’re ready to launch.
PAM: Right, because you find so many pieces make sense because this is when you’re ready for it.
LIZ: I know, later down the track I found an article from Sandra Dodd that said, “Read a little, try a little, wait a little, watch.” And we didn’t do that. I was so, so excited.
I just dove completely in, it was, ‘Ooh, this is fun. It was amazing.’ Ever since then, everything’s just kind of been incredible. It’s not always perfect, you know? I think life is that way anyway, but it’s just a wonderful, wonderful journey we’ve had so far.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. Do you want to talk about that a little bit? Because that is a great point. There are lots of families who also dive right in. I keep thinking back on how we did. I think we pretty much dove in. Well basically, because it was almost the summer. It was March break, and I just like, “Okay, you’re not going back.” Because let’s try this, why wait till summer? We can just start now. And so basically took an early summer, we just took those few months off and just kind of called it a vacation, thought of it as a vacation. And then I was immersively, when I wasn’t with the kids, I was learning and reading and all that kind of stuff about unschooling.
So, that eventually for the most part, we just didn’t go back. You know what I mean? After this vacation and then we just kept going.
I’d love to hear more about that for you and kind of how you worked through that phase till it felt a little more natural.
LIZ: Yeah. I think, initially it feels a little bit like everyone’s doing all these things and you’re all just taking it all in on the side. I was, the same as you, reading and reading and listening and as time goes on each little piece sort of comes together. The screen time sort of things just fell away and the food and I think as the connection and trust starts to build, those are the key elements that hold everything together.
I think the biggest shift, I suppose for me, I think conventionally, everything feels very black and white. There’s this sort of generational rules that are passed down. You do this and you’re going to get this at the end, this kind of parent and you’ll get this kind of child and it’s all based under that assumption that you can control the outcome or that you want to do that.
Also, that idea that kids are not really full human beings, that we have to mold them to be what we want them to be. And I think for me, that realization that I didn’t have to have all the answers and, that I didn’t have to be in control.
We shifted that focus from being about the education to being about connections and relationship and when it was about that, you realize that every single person is part of that unit. You’re all making those decisions collaboratively. And it frees up so much space emotionally to have those connections when you’re not tied down with this idea or that dialogue that you need to be in control of everything. And that really surprised me, how wonderful that felt to be able to just relax into connecting and not thinking all the time about the future and, and all of those sorts of things.
And I think any kind of system that functions with control as the fundamental way in which it relates to people, I don’t think they can function well. You end up failing the individual. Those types of systems ignite our drive or what we’re born with, that need to have ownership over our own lives. And I think when any system has that kind of control, underlying everything, it really fails the individuals.
I think for me that was the biggest shift. Just letting go of all of that and moving towards connection and relationship as the main goal and it’s grown. It’s grown from there and all those other little pieces, the little things that come up in between, you just redirect back to that relationship and connection.
PAM: Oh, I love that piece. And as I just glance at the next question, that’s where we ended up, right. Because we were going to talk about the journey from traditional parenting to the more consensual and respectful relationships with your kids. And you made such a great point about that, that the huge piece is understanding the role of control. And how that interferes with your connection and your relationship with them and them just having the agency and acceptance, to be themselves. To be able to be themselves versus being controlled into our version of what we think they should be.
LIZ: Yeah, definitely. I think we do that to people all the time. We’re always putting our ideas unto them and changing everyone’s direction to where we think they should go.
PAM: I was having a conversation with Rocco about that, that same thing, last night, it’s so fascinating. And to me, again, this is what we were talking about. To me, it’s the difference between putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes when we’re trying to figure out what’s going on versus seeing through their eyes. The difference between that is truly night and day. Because we think we know the right next step for somebody, because it would truly be the right next step for us.
So, when we put ourselves in our child’s shoes or any other person’s shoes, and we think, ‘Okay, if I was in this situation, I think I should do this.’ Then it is natural for us to want to control, to think like there’s a right answer. There’s a right way. Like you were talking about, back to the black and white. Your destination is this good person. From their perspective, when you take off that control piece and see what it looks like from their perspective, with their personality, the things they love to do, the way they love to be, who they are in the world, it can be so different, can’t it?
LIA: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s amazing when you think, we just could miss that whole part if we never let go of that need to control the outcome there.
PAM: Yeah. That’s beautiful.
All right. I think this leads to the next question too.
You have four younger kids, who all have their own personalities, the things that they like to do. I was hoping you could share a little bit about your experience navigating everyone’s needs and wishes as you move through your days. How do you approach moments where things are a bit at odds? I think it can be really interesting just to hear how other people are doing it because it’s just more information for us.
LIZ: Yeah. I remember in the beginning for us that was sort of hanging off everyone’s word when they talk about how it, especially sibling disagreements and conflicts and things in bigger families.
We definitely have a lot of practice here in our house because we have so many different needs. I think focusing away from everyone getting along and this idea of we all have to get along and we all have our roles to play and instead really just honing in on everyone’s individual needs.
I think that for us what has really changed is the way we communicate and the way we work together. Working out what everyone’s individual needs are in the situation and then seeing how we can meet those needs.
We do that with pretty much with everything, in terms of making our decisions. Down to the finances or what we’re having for dinner or those kinds of things, we’re always having those discussions. And a lot of the time in those discussions, people’s needs will kind of conflict.
At the end of the month we’ve got this X amount of leftover money in our budget. How would we like to spend that? Sometimes somebody might have something they really want, and then another person might have something else they want. And we’ve often had to have those discussions and work together on, “Okay, well. Maybe this month this person could get the Lego, they’ve really been wanting to get, and maybe we can put money aside for the next month for that person.”
And then other things that happen on a daily basis. For example, sometimes my oldest son, he wants to stay at home and the younger ones want to go out. So, we work on, is there a way that he could stay at home or is there a reason why he didn’t want to come? So, we just discuss that and maybe work through pulling out some of the needs behind why he didn’t want to come, or maybe what we could do to make it more interesting for him.
I think in all of those situations when every person feels like their needs are just as important as ours or as a group, everyone feels validated. They seem to be so much more flexible and generous. It just amazes me sometimes how they are so young, yet they’re so able to give and compromise and be like, “Oh, I can see that’s really important to that person. Maybe I could help or maybe I could wait.” I think that’s just so amazing to watch that. I don’t think that would be the case if they always felt like their needs were in conflict with the harmony of the family or they always had to take from someone else’s cup to get their cup filled, if that makes sense.
PAM: It really does. Over the years, looking back at it, it does feel like it’s a power thing. When someone’s feeling powerless, we need to grab for it and we need to fight for it. But like you said, when people feel heard and understood, then they don’t have to grab for that power. It’s like, ‘Okay, they know me. We’re all trying to work this out together.’ And you’re right. It’s so hard at the beginning to open up conversations with our kids. I think because at first, we are so worried, that there’s going to be so many demands and that we aren’t going to be able to meet them and that it’s going to take so long to talk through and everything.
And it takes a while to get to the place where the kids feel that they are empowered to be themselves and they trust that they’re going to be heard and understood. Even if it doesn’t go their way. Like you said, it’s just amazing when they get to that point of understanding each other and compromising and finding a path forward.
It’s because they trust that when there is something super important to them, and we’ve shown them through previous experience, that we’re going to go out of the way to make sure that it happens for them. It’s just so beautiful when everybody gets to that place, isn’t it? And then sometimes, like you said, we have harder months, lot of things go wrong, and we really need that cup filled or whatever, but they see us in action and doing our best to fill that cup for them. So that’s what I mean. When power gets out of the equation, it’s amazing what replaces it, isn’t it?
LIZ: Yeah, absolutely. You can just see how empowered they feel in that moment to be able to come forward knowing, ‘I can really be a part of this. I’m an equal member in this whole team.’ And as little as 5 and 7, they coming up with all these wonderful ideas. I just think, ‘Oh, this is amazing!’ And like you say, it doesn’t always go that way. And there are times when there are limitations that come up. And then, just knowing that, like you say, when needs come, that you just try your best to make that happen.
And whether it’s you finding another option or finding another solution that’s maybe not exactly what they started out with, but you can see them go, *ding!* “Mommy, that’s kind of a cool idea!”
PAM: And that’s the thing too, when there’s that level of trust so that if it’s something specific that they’re really wanting, but we’re working with them for a plan to get there. It may not be immediate, but we’re working with them for that plan or we come up with another idea. It’s like, well, if you really need it faster, there’s this alternative that is almost there, but just knowing that you’re working with them and trying to figure it out with them.
It’s that whole team. I feel empowered because I’ve got the power of my parents and my family behind me trying to help figure out a path that will work for me.
LIZ: Absolutely. And I think I remember hearing that from you, Pam. I think you say that it’s sort of dance in the beginning.
I think, initially you feel almost like you’re just throwing all this power at everybody like, you can do this, you could do that. And it feels that way. And then it’s sort of a shift from, it’s not really handing over power, but like you say, it’s sort of giving them their own power to shine. It’s really cool when that shift comes and you’re in that space.
PAM: Yeah, that’s a really great point because I think when we first come to unschooling, it can feel like, as parents, we’re handing power to them. But that, to me, means like there’s a limited amount of it and that feels like we’re giving up.
But no, it’s more than the sum of its parts, if we all share it and it just goes where it needs to go. And the other really cool thing is, and I’m sure you found this too, is that what each child needs from us, that’s another piece, kind of that fairness piece. If I worry, I’m spending a lot on the needs of one child because they’re wanting lots of things for a while or something. And another child isn’t really wanting things, but you notice maybe they’re wanting a lot more time. Maybe they’re wanting a lot more interaction. Maybe it’s a lot of watching them in the pool because they want to swim a lot, or maybe it’s role playing or watching shows with them a lot and it’s totally okay because then you’re meeting the needs of each child.
They don’t have to be measured other than that, they feel loved and connected and supported. And it just goes over time, it goes through phases. Sometimes someone needs more money, sometimes more attention, sometimes more this or that, or whatever. Wherever they happen to be in the moment.
I got goosebumps again, because it’s so fascinating, just individual people at play. And they are people.
LIZ: Exactly. Yeah, it is really cool. I know with my younger ones, like you say, sometimes it is more a physical needs, being beside them and the play and helping them with a lot of things.
And Owen, my oldest son, he went through a stage where he was really just loving online gaming with friends. And he was doing that a lot and he was just so animated and talking and there wasn’t much time in that space for me to sit next to him and have a chat. Because he was like “Mom, I’m doing my stuff!.” For him, he was so happy when I was bringing him his favorite food, “Oh, pizza! Mom, you’re the best!” All that kind of stuff. And that was filling his cup so that he could continue doing what he was loving at the time. And yeah, like you say, everyone’s just sort of getting their cups filled and it changes over time all the time.
PAM: Yeah. I think that’s why I love the word flow. Because it used to be a nice metaphor for the days because it over time, it does flow different phases. It changes for people, but to be able to help keep them in their flow too, like the bringing pizza and everything, you just notice the little pieces and just try to flow with them and everybody flowing together in the bigger picture too, right?
LIZ: Yeah. Yeah. Awesome.
PAM: One of the things I wanted to touch on, which I think fits in here nicely too, is the idea of productivity. I think that’s something that as we’re deschooling too, that’s another big piece because the idea of being productive is so pervasive. It’s everywhere. And now in the pandemic time where a lot of people are at home, I see a lot of messages about, ‘Oh, you can use this time to do this, that, and the other thing,’ which is cool too, but it’s so individual as well, right?
There’s so much value in not even looking through the lens of productivity, rather looking through the lens of ourselves as an individual and where we are and what we are feeling like we want to do, you know what I mean? Does that make sense?
LIZ: Yeah. I agree. I’ve seen so much of that online recently. Yeah. It’s such a huge push for everyone to be on the same trajectory of, we’re all doing this and we’re all learning this new skill. And like you say, it’s cool if that’s coming from within you and that’s what you really want to do.
But yeah, we’re all individual and that need to really always be improving ourselves. Like you say, it’s everywhere at the moment. And I think for us, initially when we started unschooling, I was really looking at what they were doing still through that lens of an educational kind of point of view and teasing apart what they were doing, and still evaluating it in a sense. Because I guess, initially that was helpful for me because it helped me to shift from seeing learning through this school lens and now into life. But when we shifted further away, and went further along in our journey. It sort of shifted again to be, it was just, we’re all in this together, supporting each other’s interests and whatever it happened to be at the time that we were interested in, whether it, they like for Jack, digging in the sand for hours and looking for rocks, or watching a YouTube video or photography blog or gaming with friends. It’s all so meaningful to that individual at that time.
It’s what they’re choosing to do. And I think it’s so ingrained in that school and work culture that you’re always having to prove your worth or provide some kind of product to show that you are of value in society. And I think that trickles into our relationships with kids, I’ve seen so I often that they learn to filter themselves. They know what gets our attention and what doesn’t. And they’re always looking for that thing that’s going to give them that validation and approval. I think when you start looking outside yourself for that gauge of acceptance and approval, that’s where your innate purpose is really impacted because now you’re looking outside of yourself for validation.
For unshoolers, I feel like we are living day by day more intentionally, and our choices, we’re with evaluating our choices. There’s no shame in letting something go or quitting something. Oh, here we go.
PAM: Yeah. Well, there we go. Yeah. I think that’s such a great point. You had so many cool insights in there. One thing that jumped out to me was, trying to look externally for that validation, to get that piece you mentioned what they’re choosing to do is meaningful to them. I loved that word. That meaningfulness because it is about, our internal aspirations, the things we’re trying, what we’re curious about, just what we are trying to accomplish and finding ways to validate those for them rather than the accomplishment of them. To get excited with them about what it is that they’re loving, what it is you’re trying to do versus judging how well they do it in the end. You know what I mean?
LIZ: Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. You know, it doesn’t matter if they’re just loving learning about something. That doesn’t have to be some kind of end result or something that we can sort of tick off a box. “So, you did that really well and you learned a new skill.”
PAM: It’s a big piece for us as parents, right?
Because that is the way most of us, the vast majority of us have grown up. By producing things and having them judged versus just exploring. That other piece that you added about quitting things because we lose interest. That’s amazing. And it’s so easy when you’re looking at what they’re aspiring to do. And working with them from that point rather than the end point or the production of something. Because then you often see the threads of how they went from here to there. “I didn’t enjoy that as much as I thought, or no, I don’t want to go back to it and then moving on.” But you can start to see them honing in on what it is that they’re curious about.
LIZ: And building that trust in themselves as well, that they can make those choices. Building on that, every time they change the direction, it doesn’t feel like a failure or a loss or anything like that. And I could see that when they make that choice, there’s never any sort of emotional attachment in terms or judging the choice. Just, “Okay. Next thing.”
PAM: I love that. I love that because, they naturally do that. Which is why I always end up looking back at my kids as an example for me, but they’re naturally about what it is that they’re curious about or what it is they’re aspiring to do versus the outcome.
That was one thing I was always amazed at that when something didn’t go as we expected. Or we think that they’re trying to accomplish and we think, ‘Oh no, they’re going to be so disappointed that it didn’t work out.’ So, they, and sometimes they are, but so it’s, I just loved watching them and continue to, because for them, that was just another piece of information, and they would process through the disappointment and then keep going. I’m like, ‘Damn, I would have given up.’
LIZ: Sometimes you feel like you’re holding your breath. ‘Whew. Oh, what’s going to happen?’
PAM: And then, ‘Oh geez, no, that wasn’t the end of the world.’ Yeah. Very nice. I know because making mistakes was such a big thing. I learned quickly, mistakes are bad, mistakes are wrong. I would try to cover up mistakes and hide them and didn’t want people to see them. I’d be so ashamed of that, yet watching my kids, they handle it so differently.
LIZ: Yeah. That’s really cool that they get to just be themselves and there’s no sort of wrong or right to that.
PAM: Yeah. I love that.
I would love to know, what is your favorite thing about your unschooling lives and days right now?
LIZ: Oh, I actually realized, I didn’t even look at this question. Well, I think because it was probably the easiest one to answer really.
I think for us right now, especially everything that’s happening world wide, just feeling so grateful for our journey so far. And I feel like we’ve already been preparing for this for the last little while. Just being able to be together every day and just enjoying learning alongside each other. And that relationship piece as well. Just being with each other and I guess, having so many of us in our family, there’s so many different relationships that we have going and everyone is unique and the conversations are unique. I just feel really grateful.
PAM: Oh wow. That’s lovely. Well, thank you so much, Liz, for taking the time to speak with me. It was so much fun to hear more about your guys’ stories. Thanks so much.
LIZ: Oh, you’re welcome, Pam. Thank you so much for having me on today or this evening, or this morning. It’s been lovely talking to you even with all the little power cuts and things. (laughing)
PAM: Oh no, that’s awesome. Thank you. And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
LIZ: I think probably Instagram or Facebook, I have those two pages. I don’t really post too much, but just some pictures here and there. So, at @unschoolingtheBradys is the Instagram page and the same for Facebook.
PAM: That’s perfect. And I’ll put those in the show notes as well. Well, have a wonderful sleep. You’re probably going to bed soon.
LIZ: Yeah, yeah. I’ll probably need a little while to relax before we go to bed. And you too Pam, have a lovely day.