PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca And today I’m here with my son, Michael.
My little tiny intro, first is the apology that if you’re watching this on video, you may find that we look each other and you end up seeing half our face, sorry, up front, if that happens.
One little thing I wanted to mention is that he went to junior kindergarten for maybe half the year. So, that was half days, five days a week. And then I found homeschooling, you guys know that story. And when I asked him if he wanted to stay home, he said, yes. And that was that, so far anyway, for your attending school career.
Anyway, I was hoping you could give a little bit of an introduction.
MICHAEL: Absolutely, absolutely. So, I’m Michael. I am your youngest son. I’m about to be turning 23 and among many other things, I work primarily in the stunt industry of Toronto for film and live performance. I worked for two years at Medieval Times as a Knight doing sword fighting and jousting and all this fun stuff and then I left to go work on films and I did some really, really fun stuff. I got to be a Stormtrooper for Lucas Films. I got shot off horses as samurais. And then I just, last November, I ended up stunt coordinating for Apple for one of their iPhone commercials. And that was just absolutely bonkers.
PAM: So, let’s dive a little bit into the unschooling piece.
Thinking about when you were growing up, I just thought it’d be cool to share what some of your interests were and how you pursued them.
MICHAEL: Well, throughout my childhood, my interests really changed a lot and grew into a whole lot of different stuff. I think up until I was around eight. It seems wrong to just pick out anything in particular, at that time I felt like everything was so interesting and it’s just like, you’re just so enraptured by just experience itself. It’s just being kid, ridiculous.
So, I think it makes more sense to talk about things that I enjoyed specifically back then, not things that I was 100% honed into, but just things that were fun. So, things like playing Smash Brothers with Joe on the N64 back in the day, playing freeze tag, hide and seek, hanging at a playground with a bunch of other kids, listening to music, especially the ones that Lissy would give it to me.
We would listen to that all the time. And I remember when I was really young, you used to read us books. I remember all of us kids sprawled out on the big King size bed. And you would just read us things like Harry Potter and all these old kind of things. I remember actually talking to them now, every single one of us has really fond memories of that.
Those are the core memories that I usually get drawn into when I think about my early childhood and it’s really cool looking back and seeing how every one of them evolved into a different facet of who I am.
PAM: Right, right! We’ll get there too! You were talking about that age 8/9, because that is where your interests, that was about the age where your interesting in karate started.
So, I thought maybe you could talk a bit about how your interest in karate evolved over the years, because it’s been really interesting to me anyway, to see how that kind of grew and changed.
MICHAEL: That was my life for so many years. Probably between, like you said, when I was nine until I was like 19, 10 straight years. So, it was just the thing always. It’s funny, because thinking all the way back to it, I always remember being vaguely interested in it, ever since I was a little kid, little, little, little. I was intrigued by the whole idea. And it wasn’t until I made some friends with the old unschooling group, like Shine conferences with Anne Ohman, it wasn’t until then that I got really obsessed with it. Because I made a nice group of friends there.
Mainly it was Max and Eric and they were both always talking about martial arts and they took classes. And after we were done playing tag, which was probably like six consecutive hours at a time, they’d start talking about this anime, which was already pretty old, even back then, called Naruto, which is really, it’s a world famous thing because underneath all the cliché anime bits, it’s just a sad story about a little orphan boy who is just really inept at basically everything that he does. And yet he’s still really, really determined to make something out of himself.
I’m just going through my notes here a little bit and basically just through sheer force of will, of his own, since that’s the only thing he has, because he’s a sad little orphan boy, after a lot of struggling, of course he eventually achieved greatness and it’s an anime. I should probably mention it’s based in a world full of ninjas with supernatural powers because you know, it’s an anime. What else would it be? But that of course takes them down the path of becoming a ninja and learning how to fight and more importantly learning how to defend others.
And as a kid, that whole idea kind of rattled me. Because I never felt like I was one of those kids that was born with so many inherent talents or gifts or drive or call or something like that. And the idea that determination kind of outpaces a talent or a gift in the long haul rather than the short sprint was really fundamental to life and the person I ended up being.
And in a way that really embodies what martial arts was to me, quite frankly. It’s all about, I mean, sure, people get a little bit of aptitude towards it. And some people are more natural than others, but at the end of the day, you’re only as good as the amount of practice.
And if you don’t…it’s really evident the people that actually care about it as a thing, rather than people that just kind of show up.
That interest expanded and evolved into so many other things like sports, like, like parkour and gymnastics and break dancing or all of that.
MICHAEL: Trampoline. And since martial arts consistent two things, the martial part, which I think is kind of obvious and the arts part. The art part becomes really personal and it goes into topics like attitudes and morals, and it often gets really philosophical. And it was personally my introduction to the whole idea of Zen and spirituality and all this kind of stuff.
It really, it becomes a lot more than itself, it’s a more than the sum of its parts kind of thing. Mmm. Yeah.
PAM: Yeah. And that’s such a cool piece, right? Because like you said, you explored so much of the physical side, right. Through all the different sports that it grew into. And it grew into the stunt stuff too. When you did a workshop with somebody who was already working with Sensei.
MICHAEL: I think the main thing that really drove me to stunts was actually Aaron. I’ve known this man since I was probably 11 or 12 when I met him, but he went to the same dojo that I did. And he was just like the nicest guy, really, really strong, almost aggressive personality, but he was just really kind in everything that he said. And he was really into stunts. He was just getting into the stunt industry back then. And he had, funnily enough, just finished Medieval Times. That was why I had never seen him before that point at the dojo because he moved to Toronto doing all the Medieval Times stuff. And it wasn’t until he quit that, that he came back and I actually met him.
PAM: Oh yeah! That’s cool. But then the other aspect that you were talking about too, that the personal growth, that spiritual aspect and stuff. I wonder, it depends on the dojo, what their focus is too, but yeah, you dove into that alongside it and that was the other interesting piece you brought up was it depends on how focused the person is. Because at the dojo, there were kids whose parents insisted they go.
PAM: Versus the ones who were choosing to go there and over time it became quite apparent, I mean, not in a bad way at all, but that the kids just, they did what they had to do. And that was that. And you could tell that the energy was coming from parents and not from the kids.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s one of those things that it only has as much meaning as you apply to it. Because, obviously from my standpoint, it means a lot to me. I think martial arts, I think the word itself, it’s built into the word, there’s the martial and the arts.
And I think the arts is fundamental to what the experience is.
PAM: I remember I’d have parents come up to me. And thinking that somehow I instilled in you that drive. Like, “How do you get him to practice at home?”
I don’t “get” him. I can’t stop him! But that was always a fun seed for me to plant. To just smile and happily say, “Oh, I don’t make him practice. He wants to go out there.” So, for them to just think, ‘That’s something different.’
So, I thought that was cool. I think we kind of hit on some of the next question in that conversation because diving into a passion like that, I think it’s a wonderful way to learn so much about ourselves. When it’s a choice, something that we’re interested in and we dive into it. I think we learn so much about who we are as a person, our strengths, weaknesses, like all these little bits.
Would you like to expand on that a little bit? How have you found that?
MICHAEL: I would take that so far. That honestly, I’d say it’s one of the only ways to live. Because okay. Passion is perfect for self-discovery because it’s a part of you that was never intentionally put there. You can grow a passion or no you can’t grow a passion in the same way that you would grow something else, but yeah, you never consciously made either, it wasn’t a choice. Passion is something that’s really evoked inside of you through a combination of yourself interacting with the world.
PAM: Yeah. Wow
MICHAEL: So, in that way, when you’re exploring a passion, it’s not just discovering the pieces of who you are, but also discovering how you fit into that.
PAM: Yeah, so much. Because we talk so much on the podcast about helping kids explore their interests and that’s for that purpose. They may go to the dojo and they may go for a couple of months and find they don’t like it and they want to quit. And there is that aspect of parents not wanting their kid to give up on things early.
There’s the idea of not wanting them to be a quitter. These are all completely understandable thoughts. But it’s one thing we try to help our kids or the parents work through for their kids, because that’s what they’re doing.
They’re trying to explore the world to find the interest or the passion that is so interesting to them that they will put in all the work and have that determination, but you have to find the thing. It’s not instilling that dedication in the child for *a* thing, keep exploring and find *the* thing.
I remember those first few years thinking, maybe Mike is going to be a generalist. As in, it may be a few things, but you’ll find, and we’ll talk about that, the thread that goes through them. So, it may be something that they can explore through a few different interests, but it’s that passion that connects them.
MICHAEL: I was just going to say, a lot of my friends were in college or just finishing up college or university and stuff. And I’ve talked to a few of them and quite a few of them were like changing majors because they’ve decided that they want to do other things. And I think it’s really funny that we give the older kids that luxury. But if you’re a little kid that no, you just stick with like, “Come on Billy!” (laughing)
PAM: There’s never a wrong choice for me, if you figure it out when you’re 20, 25, 30, whatever the age is, you keep going, keep exploring. I mean, I’m still doing that. But having been given the space to figure that out or to not go to college until you figure it out, there’s just so many interesting aspects in there. Coolio. Okay. All right. That was really fun.
Now let’s switch gears a little bit and let’s go to the health aspect. When you were 11, you developed type 1 diabetes. I remember for me too, when it comes to our kids’ health, especially something that can be potentially life threatening, it’s super tempting for parents to want to control things even more because you want to keep them safe.
I remember working through that and thinking through that, and I did choose to continue with our unschooling approach to food. And I think having already been there, I think that was helpful during the process as well, to actively support all your choices. When they would say, “Hey, there’s a pump, do you want to use it?” And you’re like, “No, I don’t.” That was fine. And then switching back and forth and the way you want to support your care, that it is *your* care and I’m helping you. Rather than controlling it and telling you the way I think you should do it. That did make for very interesting appointments!
We had a lot of fun with the doctors, especially the pediatric one. And I will say they were all super supportive. They were all very supportive, even though they just did not understand our answers sometimes.
Like, “What do you mean you don’t go to sleep until this time?” All those pieces and the food pieces. Anyway, I just thought maybe you could speak to that a little bit, your experience from friends and from people that we saw at the clinic and some parents we heard about and the questions they would ask us. We ended up explaining our lifestyle a couple of times for like half an hour as they just kept asking us questions and asking questions. They were very interested anyways.
So, what are your thoughts around those different kinds of approaches? Especially when it comes to health issues.
MICHAEL: Yeah. Oh my goodness. That takes me right back to those little armchairs, explaining to all of these people, constantly back and forth and back and forth.
But yeah, when it comes to the appointments, I personally never felt that on the spot about it. And I think that’s a really, really interesting distinction, because it’s almost like. It’s really. Ah, words, words! (laughing)
That distinction is really important, especially I think for your audience, because all the doctors, pediatricians the whoever, they are looking at you, the parent and judging you. And they’re not looking at the little 11 year old kid on the table, sitting on the chair.
So, it becomes, at that point, you can feel very vulnerable because you feel like you have to defend your own choices. And that’s honestly, what I think is one of the biggest struggles with unschooling is because, it’s a struggle and a gift at the same time, because people are always asking you questions nonstop because they just like…
PAM: ‘What the heck?!’
MICHAEL: I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone really that I think that support system is a lot healthier than a controlling grasping, kind of do it in my way kind of system. But it’s complicated, especially when it comes to this scenario, it’s complicated for a lot of reasons.
That kind of controlling environment can lead to a lot of bad places. It can lead to resentment in the child, and an unchecked resentment that can turn into acts of rebellion. And when you’re working with a condition like that, acts of rebellion can be extremely dangerous.
I hear stories, especially if you follow the type 1 diabetes subreddit or whatever, there’s stories of people just getting completely fed up with the disease and not treating it for months at a time. And that can have really, really bad consequences and it really shows how important it is to think of even things like a physical ailment as very mentally based.
Because if you don’t take care of yourself mentally, then we’ll never be able to deal with such a complex kind of system.
PAM: And that feeling of out of control.
PAM: Right. When you don’t have control—for me, that was a big thing was that you felt like you were in control of your health. And from my perspective too, I didn’t want you to have to try and figure out how to do it yourself. When I wasn’t there as in, if I controlled you and told you what all the right answers were, then I expected you to just kind of remember and live those later, when you’re out and about and you’re working and all that kind of stuff wouldn’t work.
Not to mention, sometimes I think people with type 1 diabetes, think it is a math calculation. How much is it? How much am I eating? Here’s how much insulin take it and we’re off. But like you were talking about, mental health stress, how your body’s feeling in the moment. There are just so many aspects to taking care of it. So, choosing what your dose is going to be at any given moment, when to take it, that’s just not something I can feel because I’m not in your body and not feeling all those other pieces.
If you feel a little tickle your throat, you might be kind of getting sick and you know how your body and your blood sugar reacts to that, and those kinds of hormones and all that kind of stuff.
So, it was important to me and valuable to me to give you that control, but to be there for conversations anytime.
MICHAEL: Yes. Yes. That’s something I wanted to talk about, absolutely, a hundred percent. I think it’s interesting that you brought up the whole idea of it being a mathematical thing because it’s true. You get formulas and you hone in on your correct ratios and all this stuff, but so much of it is feeling and because you’re not going to know when to check your blood sugar to make those decisions if you don’t feel it in the first place. I really think the most important part is to have those open lines of communication with your child, especially a child with an ailment like that.
And I think that, and everybody is different too. So, the best thing I think someone could do is to actually talk with your child not in a way that’s a commandment kind of voice, but talk about the details, talk about the ratios and the understanding.
Especially if you have a really small child. I was 11 when I was diagnosed and I was relatively self-sufficient, but if I was five at the time, you would have had to rein it in a tiny little bit, but still coming from that place of care and concern rather than control.
PAM: Yeah, so much of it was because for years I would calculate the carbs for a meal. Because what child, I mean, maybe some children are interested in that food aspect but more, you just want to eat your food. But you knew how your body was feeling and then we’d have the formulas.
So, I’d count, “Oh, you know what you got there on your plate, that’s X carbs.” Because I figured out this, so I would do a lot of it just out loud at that point.
MICHAEL: Yeah. That’s really good too.
PAM: The other piece, for those first few months, anyway, sometimes you didn’t feel like checking your blood sugar and you would say, “Oh, mom do it for me.”
And that’s totally, totally fine because it’s not, again, it’s not like forcing them to take over, “You have to learn to do this yourself right now.” No, this is a lifetime thing, but I mean, for anything, those are all good clues as well. And I would just help because it wasn’t a choice to have the insulin but there was choice in who gave it, where it was going, all that kind of stuff.
MICHAEL: I really think, I think that plays directly into how we’re talking about how it’s just as much a mental thing, because I honestly don’t even remember that happening but like what that tells me, just for me having asked that question, being like, “Hey, can you do this for me?” That tells me that I just must have been feeling completely overwhelmed. Just wishing that I didn’t have to deal with it. So, it’s not like a commandment, “Hey, you got to do this for me.” It’s more of a plea. It’s like, I don’t want to do this. And I think that’s really, really, really important to have those, that was kind of nonverbal and implied. But if your relationship with your child is capable of having those actual, honest conversations like that’s incredibly valuable.
Because one thing that doesn’t get talked about too much is it doesn’t matter how old you are at the time. Like, even if you’re five years old, after you’re diagnosed, it’s really, really common to have that sense of, ‘Why me?’ There’s no reason in particular to contract something like that. And it really doesn’t matter if the kid is five years old and doesn’t know how to articulate it. I can guarantee you …
PAM: That they are still feeling it.
PAM: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you. So, yeah, for us, that was the big reason for not wanting to control it. So, I think that was really cool stuff that you, because I hadn’t thought of it, the mental aspect, I mean, in the back of my mind. Yes. But I haven’t, verbalized it, but so much of it is that piece. And then it’s just, as you wanted to take over more of it and more of it, it was just there for you to do, so eventually I wasn’t doing that.
MICHAEL: And because you were vocal about it and you were explaining things as you did that in front of me, it was never a shock.
PAM: True. True. All right. Let’s get back to the interests now. And we’re going to jump ahead to current state, the last few years, and you’ve been working in stuff, you still have quite a few interests. So, I picked out a few. So, martial arts and parkour and music and computer programming, game programming, philosophy, spirituality.
Now what I’m saying, seeing all those threads and I will ask you to add any that I missed, I grabbed the really top level ones, but there’s lots.
So, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about the threads that you see that connects your interests?
MICHAEL: Yeah. So, I’ll start with some of the ones that you missed. I think the biggest ones, probably science and poetry, like science, science in general.
Pam: Space, I didn’t say space!
MICHAEL: Space is a really, really big. And I think that it’s like going straight from the lines. It’s like, you can almost just draw a little map. Martial arts led to the arts part, which led to philosophy, which led to questioning and just being inquisitive. And that really leads straight into science because it’s like, Hey, here’s the actual concrete answers things.
It’s like philosophy just exists to attempt to answer the questions, which science can’t. And the science is great at answering things. There’s a lot of cool stuff there. Unlike philosophy, science answers things very concretely and it’s very practically.
Kids love to ask questions. There are kids that do nothing, but ask questions over and over again. And so, it’s that fundamental part of you. “Hey, why is the sky blue? Hey, why do I grow taller? Why, why is the earth round?” There’s an actual answer. I don’t have to get esoteric. I can just tell you. And I think for the parents out there, containing some humility to do that because kids will ask a lot, a lot of questions and it’s really the only healthy thing to do. If you can’t think of like the correct answer off the top of your head, be like, “Hey, look, we’ll figure that out.” We used to have to go onto the old, big computer monitors or whatever from it’s like, you can just whip out your phone.
You don’t even have to type into Google and just “Hey Google.” Oh, is that going to make my phone go off? (laughing) It did!
PAM: That’s such an important piece too.
Because I think that’s part of deschooling for parents, accepting or understanding or embracing the fact that we don’t need to have all the answers. Because that’s something growing up that a lot of us took in.
Was that okay, we went to school, we learned the answers. And then as an adult, you need to have that kind of authority. That I have the answer. I can tell you these things and to be like, “Hey, I don’t know that,” well that got us in trouble at school. When we were asked questions in school, you had to have an answer. So, to be able to say, “Oh, I don’t know that let’s go find that out and let’s go figure that out,” can be a challenging thing for people to get used to that. That is a really important point.
MICHAEL: I think that covers decently some of the science part.
With poetry, I think it kind of goes way back actually, because I remember when I was, when I was a kid, I was really shy. I was really quiet. I didn’t speak out very much. A lot of people will kind of look at that and be like, ‘Hey, that’s just the quiet kid.’ But having grown up more now, I really recognize that the reason for that was just because it wasn’t that I wasn’t having all these thoughts or all these feelings. It was just, I had no idea how to articulate them or if I did, I couldn’t find it in a way which was acceptable for a conversation
PAM: Because they’re such surface conversations. They just want a quick answer.
MICHAEL: No, absolutely. Yeah.
And poetry is just incredibly interesting because the choice of word is just absolutely everything. Having the right words can in convey so much meaning in such a little space. It’s like you can have three words that are equivalent to two paragraphs from someone that doesn’t actually know what they’re trying to say. So, reading poetry really helped me be able to articulate into it.
PAM: That’s very cool. That’s very cool. That’s one of my favorite things about words in that, for me, when I’m writing the books, I live in the thesaurus because they all mean the same, but it’s the feeling that you want to evoke to get across your point. It’s not just about the word itself and the action. It’s about the feeling that you’re evoking because reading is the whole experience, for me anyway. But yeah, I have so much fun just picking exactly the right word.
MICHAEL: That’s it. That’s it because, you’re right, the feeling communicates intention. And intention is something that can be hard to communicate with just words alone. That’s why things like video chats, having physical expression I can give you the expression, but in texts, like you have to find the right meaning, the right way, the right cadence, the right
PAM: Feel. Yeah. Because it is a harder communication when it’s text only. That’s been a whole thing, social media came about later. When you were young, there was no such thing as social media, but that has been something I think that people have been trying to learn is that, ‘Oh, I say the things, but you don’t know my motivation. You don’t know the context.’
MICHAEL: In common speech, that’s why emoticons are so huge. You can use those to express intention. And on Facebook now they got rid of just the like button and they have a whole react thing. All the six faces, so “Hey, this is what I mean.”
PAM: So, did you have any more on the threads?
MICHAEL: Yeah. So again, spirituality that just ties right into martial arts. Like I said, the whole martial arts brought me so much. It brought me basically into the whole culture there because it is an entire culture that is very, very rich. Specifically, I took karate, so it was very rich in Japanese culture.
So, that took me into, into, into Zen and Taoism, and very Eastern kind of thought modes. And on top of that, it’s just communicates so much history as well. There’s so much of everything.
PAM: Hello Unschooling! I wrote it years ago, before karate. So, Joseph with video games, Lissy with Harry Potter. And then I can write the whole same thing with you and karate. I think a lot of parents worry that when a child is singularly interested in one thing that they’re closing off the rest of the world, but truly a passion leads to everything.
The phrase I love and the word I chose word wise is a window to the world. Because no matter what it is, you can get to so many different things. Like you talked about history, geography, figuring out where it is, all that spirituality piece, the physical piece, all the different physical places you took it. It’s a huge map.
MICHAEL: Speaking of getting to the whole physical side of things. I love physics. Physics, because all of these things that I do, why do we do it this way? Why do we turn our hips when we do a punch? What does that have to do with anything? It’s all about combining motions and concentrating a certain amount of energy. That’s all it is, taking energy and putting it in a certain part of your body and then moving it in a certain way. And then that gets really, really complicated when you go up into like acrobatics and doing lifts and twists, you learn about off axis rotations and so much stuff
PAM: Well, I need to look at that. So, all the physics of it, yes. You dive into that deep with your acrobatics. Then there’s the health, as in the body stuff, injuries and the muscles all that kind of stuff you been figuring out along the way, it’s a window to the whole world.
MICHAEL: Two or three of the people that I train martial arts with they’re going full into physio therapy now, because that was just the thing that called out to them from that learning experience. They’re like, Hey, how, how can you repair the body? And what, what happens when something goes wrong with it? What does it mean when you have an injury or a pain?
I think when your child has a big interest in like one specific thing, they’re not going to have a big interest in one specific thing that’s boring and worthless, that impossible. That is the opposite passion.
PAM: Brilliant, if they’re interested in it it’s not boring! It has legs. And it may not be that that one particular thing has legs forever. Because they’re interested in it and they want to dive into it. When you look back, you see those threads of where it can go. Maybe it’s a step, to something else, but you don’t know these things in the moment. And don’t jump ahead on them and try to take it somewhere that you think it’s worthwhile, right? That’s a good point, a very good point.
Help them dive in as deep as they want and help bring all those pieces to them as they want to explore, and let them quit the things that they moved past because you are helping them hone in on how they want to engage in the world.
I love that. All right. Are we ready to move on?
What do you appreciate about living in unschooling lifestyle?
MICHAEL: Hmm, well, I really could go on for a while about, mainly the freedom that I had to fully delve into my interests. To find that thing, that calls you. Follow it, snake around with it until you get to somewhere where you’re like, ‘Dang. That’s pretty cool.’ That’s exactly what happened with all of us, Lissy dove into photography, Joe dove into story and writing and I’m here diving into too many things! (laughing)
But everything snowballs, wherever you start from everything snowballs. And I think what’s really cool is how, I’m still discovering more reasons that I think it was the right choice for us, because right now at my age, I’m about to turn 23. And I think, as I was saying before, a lot of my friends are just finishing college or just about to finish college.
And personally, I think it’s really interesting hearing about their experiences and listening to them explain specifically their levels of apprehension or fear about going into the real world. It’s like, the world of school, no matter how big or fancy of an education you get or go after, to them, it still feels like child’s play, which, it’s understandable. A hundred percent understandable. It makes sense from their perspective. And for them, some of the professions they’re going into are actually really difficult fields. And of course, there are going to be challenges, but that’s the point of it. It’s like, they just don’t recognize that it’s the same thing.
PAM: And being afraid of challenges, I think is something that we kind of take in because in school mistakes are penalized so much that hard things take us longer to finish because with school it’s all about finishing the thing, finishing the paper, passing the course, challenges aren’t exciting things to conquer on our own timetable.
For us, mistakes are just more information. They’re not something wrong that we have to fix. So, it is interesting when you think about how they see challenges and how they’re fearful of coming across challenges versus like you said, that’s the fun part. They just don’t know this yet. It may take them a while to figure it out.
MICHAEL: No, that’s the thing. It’s the exact same thing, but for them, it’s like they have to make that mental swap, which is doing it for a number or a grade versus doing it for themselves. Or for the respect of your coworkers and your employer, it’s like that whole system is built.
It’s built in to be the way that it is. It is designed that way. And I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. It’s just, there’s fear that doesn’t need to be there. Really doesn’t have to be there.
PAM: Yeah, no, no, exactly. That’s beautiful. And that’s right. It is interesting and then we go back and we talk systems and yeah. We should probably not go there. You know, when you look at the, the systems as they are and how school becomes corporate work and you still have the boss judging you versus the teacher judging you and the performance reviews versus it.
So, an unschooled kid, young adult going into a job like that can succeed. You can really enjoy it, embrace it because what we were talking about there, instead of all those external rewards and the external judgment, when you’re free to make a choice about what you want to pursue when you realize, this is something I want to do. This is a job I want to do.
If you can bring that intrinsic motivation with you. And then you don’t feel so judged, when your boss makes a comment, you’re just learning more about what the job needs from you. It doesn’t have to be that whole kind of negative place, like you were saying, they need to learn it’s that mind flip to realize how much control you really do have in every single situation, how much choice you really have. You can quit that job. You have a choice in how you show up, what you can embrace, your own internal motivations and all that kind of stuff.
So, anyway, I got off on a tangent because I didn’t want people to worry, thinking, unschooling kids can’t fit into this adult system world if they don’t train for it for 12 years in school or something like that.
MICHAEL: I want to chime in there for a second. I’m not going to say my experience is a hundred percent relatable to absolutely everyone, because like I said, my first job that I went for was a Medieval Times. I wanted to go perform and do the whole medieval times. Cool fun stuff. I’d never had a job interview before, like at all. And I went in there. I was a little nervous trying to keep calm, but I went in there and I don’t know, I just kind of was myself and I brought the energy and the passion that I had to the table.
And there were certain questions that we’re kind of off to me because I was like, this doesn’t really have to do with the job. But at the end of the day, I thought the interview was okay. I didn’t think it was crazy good. I didn’t think it was crazy bad.
But it was the first interview I ever had and then they called me up and gave me the job. So, it’s like so much of everything is about your passion because, for corporate jobs and, or honestly, I should just say any job that someone doesn’t feel drawn to, they’re not going to put in any extra effort.
Meanwhile, if you’re doing something that you care about, it’s completely effortless to go that extra mile and to do what you consider to be the right thing and to critique the parts of the system that you see. Meanwhile, someone has grown up in systems and school that, we admit there are problems in those kinds of systems and you learn to deal with it.
You’re trained to just deal with it and kind of nod along and be like, okay, I’ll jump through your hoops. I’ll do whatever you need me to. And obviously, there are points where you just kind of have to do that. Yeah. But there’s so many times it’s a choice.
PAM: You can still choose to jump through the hoops because I want what I’m getting on the other side of the hoop.
And I wanted to bring what you were talking about there, back to the dojo. To you practicing and doing it so often because it was something that you were interested in, passionate about. And I know you won’t mention it, but I know at work you brought that energy and that enthusiasm and that practice, right. I think the word is practice really, but anyway, you were very well liked and respected , that you were welcome when you left.
MICHAEL: So, I mean, just, just to let people that’s a whole other story, because actually at Medieval Times, there’s a no rehire policy. You are not supposed to rehire because like, I don’t know, it’s stupid and political, but I specifically got that nudge, nudge, Please come back.
As a grown unschooler, what piece of advice would you like to share with unschooling parents who are just starting out on this journey? So, this is new for them.
MICHAEL: I would say, I’m going to take this back to being a bit of a shy kid, but I would say, when you talk to your child, just pay attention to how they communicate, because I like to think I’m pretty articulate now. But like I said, when I was small, I just could not find words or couldn’t find them fast enough.
And it really doesn’t mean that I wasn’t feeling or thinking. I just couldn’t communicate it. And as a consequence, I got self-conscious about that because there are always those kids that can just yammer on and on about something and they just keep going. And I don’t know, I felt a little bit different for that and, and…Words.
PAM: Well, I’ll pop in for a second while you think words, because, I mean, that was something that I noticed. And for me, because you were my third child, the first two were more verbal, and a different way that they would process things. They would process things by talking them out with me.
Whereas with you, what I learned is you would process things internally. You would figure things out for yourself. By the time you came to me and said, “I want to try karate.” I just looked for a dojo. I didn’t ask you questions. I didn’t have a conversation about it because by this point I had figured out that you processed that way and that once you’ve asked me for something or to do something, you had a reason, this was the end result, not the beginning of it. So, I would just hop to it.
MICHAEL: No, absolutely.
I think from my experience like that, that honestly meant a lot to me because having to, as someone that found, finding words very difficult, having to explain myself after I say what I wanted, felt like an entirely extra hurdle that was there that I had to get through.
So, talking to your child, if they seem as if they’re struggling to speak out about certain things to express themselves, that’s the main thing. If they’re struggling to express themselves, give them their own level of significance because, if you treat the words they say with the exact same significance as another kid that likes to process things verbally, then that’s, it’s entirely different. And if you didn’t take that and run with it, then I would have just felt unheard.
PAM: And also, what for me, what was important was also just seeing the things you chose to do. Just because you weren’t communicating with words, you were communicating in so many other ways by the things you chose to do.
And so I would take those as pieces of information and go with it rather than needing the actual word.
MICHAEL: It’s funny. That makes me think back immediately to just a couple of months ago, I was out in New York. I was visiting my sister and we were in an Uber with a couple of her friends and we were just chit chatting, talking like, “Hey, this is what I do.” All that stuff. And I mentioned that I was a stunt man, and that I did a whole bunch of physical performance stuff. And she was, she immediately went, “Oh, so that means you, you speak with your body.” I was like, ‘Oh my God. That is hilarious. But that’s so true!!’
PAM: Completely true!!
MICHAEL: That’s why I love those means of physical expression. Like tricking parkour or break dance. And I think Parkour is an absolutely beautiful thing because it communicates physically, people’s expression of adventure or exploration, because it’s just like, ‘Here’s, your playground.’
It goes back to being on the playground, playing with the kids. It’s like, this is your playground, make your own little narrative in your head and just go at it, make your own little movie moment in your head. You can climb whatever. You can go sit at the top and watch the sunset. Just have fun and express yourself.
PAM: And when, when I look back like at, even that picture, when you were a little, little kid, like one, two, you were always very physical. And then I, I remember, and I might have shared this story, like just in your physicality and understanding that piece of you, that movement was important to you, that it was in your blood, I think is how I say it, because I remember I won’t use names, but, I was taking you and a couple of friends down to the parkour gym.
So, we were waiting at one of their houses and you and the one friend were on the porch waiting. And you know, he was sitting there and you were bouncing up and down the stairs, like the whole time waiting. It’s just in your blood to express through your body. So it’s like when you’re talking about threads that weave, that is part of who you are and giving that the space and generally not expecting more physical kids to use words, to explain themselves.
MICHAEL: Really quickly, because I think I dove into martial arts and the physical expression first before everything, that was like one of my first core interests.
And I think. That’s because as you said, it was in my blood and that was the first way to communicate. That’s the first way to let out the words, that’s the first way to set up a meaning. And after so many years of doing that, martial arts expanded into all these different things, writing poetry, philosophy, once I almost kind of mastered that art of communicating physically, then it was like, ‘Oh man, maybe I can open up.’
MICHAEL: So, then I started diving right into reading so many books and reading poetry because I learned, ‘Hey, I can express myself now, why don’t I try to express myself in a way that I never could before?’
PAM: You started exploring it that way. And now you really enjoy reading, bringing in that kind expression versus watching as well. You still enjoy that obviously, but yeah. And then, and then into writing, but that’s the whole thing. That’s the other piece of unschooling that so important is that it’s the child’s timetable. The persons, I don’t even do the child distinction much anymore.
But it’s the person’s timeline. That’s important and valuable and meaningful to the person. Not somebody else’s imposed timeline. For me, there’s no behind or ahead because also with unschooling it’s life-long learning. There is nothing wrong, I’m still learning new things. There’s nothing wrong with learning new things at any age. It really, truly doesn’t matter when you pick up things. It’s either when you need it. It’s when you as a person are ready.
MICHAEL: I would not be happy if I didn’t keep learning things every day. Like if I was 90 and I wasn’t learning something that day, I’d be like, ‘Oh man, this is kind of a wasted day.’
PAM: I think for me, that’s the fun piece right there. Just being curious. There’s just always so many things to be curious about this and that.
MICHAEL: That’s the philosophy. The cool thing about philosophy is because there’s so much thought into coming up with questions. Not even just putting all the effort into coming up with an answer.
Because, we all know, like even Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy says, ‘Hey, give me the ultimate question. I’ll give you the ultimate answer.’ But you can’t come up with it. So stuck. It’s like, the question is just as, if not more important than the answer. I think you’re asking a lot questions.
PAM: It’s so fun. Well, thank you so much. Before we go. How can people connect with you online?
MICHAEL: I have an Instagram called mikeflops.
Absolutely, if anyone wants to talk, absolutely hit me up or hit you up and I’m sure you’ll connect us.
PAM: Yeah, no problem. And yeah, I will put the links to his Instagram online. Thanks very much!