PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca. And today I’m here with Nadia Joshua. Hi Nadia.
NADIA: Hi. Thanks for having me!
PAM: I want everybody to know, that I have enjoyed following you online for a while now. I follow you mostly on Instagram. So, we’ll share the link to that in the show notes but I’m really excited to connect with you, almost in person now and learn more about your unschooling journey.
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everyone’s into right now?
NADIA: Yeah, sure. So, and there’s four of us, myself, my husband Sy. We’ve been married for 10 years and we have two daughters Amna-Rayne who is eight and Maya Rose who is five. And we live in South Wales, in the UK by lovely beach. So, we love going to the beach a lot, when it’s nice enough or even in the stormy weather, we like the beach too.
Sy recently got a new job. He works for a race equality, charity. So that’s very recent before that he was made redundant, so we had six months of him at home, which was really, really nice. but he’s working again now, but he also likes videography and flying his drone and his technology and his toys.
I love blogging about our unschooling journey with the hope to inspire others or help others, if they’re kind of sitting on the fence or a crossroads not knowing what they want to do.
Amna, she’s very social. She’s very active and physical. She likes dance. She l loves parkour, she just loves anything that’s active and physical. And she’s also, very much a comedian. And she loves making people laugh. She’s always pranking us. She’s always hiding behind the door when we come downstairs and if she can get a jump out of us, she’s happy.
PAM: She’d get a jump out of me because I am very jumpy that way!
NADIA: Yeah. She gets me almost every time. You would think that you’d learned from it, but you just don’t because you just you’re so preoccupied. And then there she is behind the door. What else?
She’s really into a reborn dolls at the moment and tik tok and she just likes being independent, you know, for an eight year old. She likes having her independence and kind of being in control of her decisions and things. She really appreciates that.
Then we’ve got Maya who’s five and she’s into unicorns and horses and Barbies and role play and storytelling and yeah. They’re just so different. And she’s great. She’s exciting in terms of, she can wake up in the morning and say, “Hi, mommy, good morning, I want to do this today.” Then we’ll go off and explore and whatever it is that she decides he wants to do that day.
PAM: Oh, wow. That’s cool. It’s so interesting. Isn’t it? When they have the freedom to just pursue what they’re drawn to, to see how different and unique and individual, even young kids can be. They know what they want to do when they wake up. Even when they’re young, it’s so fun to see the difference.
NADIA: Absolutely. Yeah. And she just literally opened her eyes and says, “Mommy, I want to go to country for unicorns today. I want to go to the woods and look for unicorns.” So that’s what we did.
PAM: I can see how, even though they’re very different, how they can mesh together. So, you go out to the forest to look for unicorns, or you go to the beach and your youngest Maya can be in her head and in the story and seeing unicorns and Amna can be running around and parkouring, and jumping off all the tree stumps and the rocks and running and chasing the water in and out. You can pursue those things, all those different things in the same place.
NADIA: Absolutely. Yeah. And Amna is very sensory as well. So, she’s in the stream. Maya found the stream, “There’s a clue Mommy, the unicorns, must be near because there’s water and they need the water to drink. ” So, she found a clue, and Amna’s in the stream getting her feet wet and climbing.
PAM: No, that’s really cool because I think sometimes we can worry, especially when they’re so different, that we have to be doing different things. Thinking we have to spend time supporting the active one and then we have to spend time supporting the quiet one. But you know, when you give them the space to find what draws them in wherever they are and support them as they’re doing that, it can be really cool. I’m just imagining that would be so much fun hanging out with the two of them.
So, when we connected, you mentioned that when school wasn’t working well for Amna, that you left your job and you and your husband changed your lifestyle so that you could afford to live off one income, so you could stay home.
I would love to hear a little bit more about that story. I think that’s something that a lot of families are definitely considering, as they start looking at homeschooling and unschooling.
NADIA: Yeah, definitely. When I think back now to two years ago, I just think, wow, it’s such a change. So, Amna had just turned six at the time. I was working part time as a social worker and supporting families of children with disabilities and complex needs.
I loved my job but I also loved being a mom and being home and working part time was a good balance. Amna started having stomach aches in the mornings. She felt sick and she, she said she couldn’t, she was too unwell to go to school and then that quite quickly lead on to her coming home from school, saying that she hated herself and everyone hated her and teachers hate her.
And I could see quite rapidly her mental health and her self-esteem decline and this bubbly bright child just diminishing before my eyes. So, I knew I had to do something about it. And because I was part time, I started flexi-schooling and by just having her home with me on a Thursday and Friday, but then it quickly became into a kind of an unhealthy situation where I was telling her on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday that she had to go to school because I have to go to work. And it wasn’t necessarily because I believed in it. You realize that you don’t want to be sending your child to this place, that it’s unhealthy for her, but you feel you have to as a form of childcare because you have to work.
And we just, initially we couldn’t see a way around it, but pretty quickly I knew that we had to change it. And Sy was a bit apprehensive, “How are we going to live off one income?” So, I just decided I just started making some changes and I took it upon myself to save my wages for a few months, just to see if I could do it.
So, yeah, I stopped, eating out at cafes and getting the odd coffee and just being more conscious about money and how to save money, being more organized making lunches, finding places on the days that we were together, where we didn’t have to pay for entry or that kind of thing. It all adds up, and then after about three or four months, I came back to Sy and I said, by the way, I’ve saved all my wages over the last four months. And he’s like, “What?!” I was like, “Yeah, it’s all here. You know, haven’t spent a thing of it.” During that time as well, he was starting to do his own research around homeschooling.
I was being led by my heart and Amna and the way she was and he was being more practical. So, he’d had the time to do his own research. He was reading around education, homeschooling, but also around things like how companies hire now, just thinking about the future, what if they decide they don’t want to have a university degree and how would that look for them if they want to go into the world of jobs? He was thinking differently than me but it was all happening at that same time. And we were looking to have a flexible arrangement with the school that, and we looked around at other schools as well. Because we wonder whether it was to do with that particular school. After about four months of knowing that I could save the money and change our lifestyle, we decided to take the full leap and take her out school.
PAM: Wow. I love how that unfolded for you guys. I love that. It’s totally great and okay that you both came from different lenses. As you said, you were following your heart and what you were seeing with your daughter and after the suggestion, your husband was taking a more holistic look at homeschooling in general. And what that may mean for the future. That’s a big thing right now as well, entrepreneurship and jobs and figuring out if school is the best prep for the world, as it, as it is now, let alone as it’s going to be 15 years from now.
So that was so fascinating that what he learned and picked up, was positive so that he was comfortable moving forward. What a cool idea you had to try and save your wages to see if you guys could live on that single income.
I know. I found much the same things. When I left, I took a leave of absence, so that it we’re going to try it out and see if we could do it. We knew how much of our expenses were taken up with supporting me working as it was. There was some childcare and transportation and gas and all that stuff that was also going to disappear. And when you have that beautiful reason, to have your child home with you, that’s an inspiration to say, I don’t need to stop off and grab that coffee because I know they seem like little bits in the moment, but over a month, even they truly add up.
And there is so much to do that doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money. Like you said, there are free days. I remember, while it seems like a lot upfront, but we got a science center pass, but that got us into so many other places for free as well. They had like reciprocal arrangement with all sorts of other places. When you’re opening up your eyes and just open up the possibilities, to see things like going to the forest, going to the beach, the kids have so much fun doing that and it doesn’t cost money. And when you’re more focused on the connection and the relationship, which especially when you’re unschooling, but it’s something that you’re bringing to the forefront when you’re moving to unschooling too.
It doesn’t so much matter where you are, right. It’s that you’re together, it’s really that you’re hanging out and connecting and doing whatever you guys feel like doing in the moment. And especially with the younger kids, it’s not often so much that they want to do super expensive things. They want to hang out. They want to run around. They want to talk. They want to imagine. They want to play. So, it’s okay.
I think that’s one of the conventional kind of pieces to work through, feeling like we need to give our kids lots of things to feel that we’re successful, not in a negative sense at all, but we want that abundance. But to realize that the abundance doesn’t need to be things that cost a lot of money. I think that’s one of that was one of my first shifts as I moved to this lifestyle was that being together was just as much, if not more valuable than doing things together. Right. Does that make sense?
NADIA: Absolutely. And it’s amazing as well how quickly your friends and family pick up on it because I stopped buying clothes from new and it was something I wanted to do anyway, to help the environment and be more sustainable. And we got so many offers of clothes and things that were passed down for myself and the girls from friends and family.
We haven’t bought like new clothes for over two years now. Everything gets passed down from friends and it’s so nice to know that that we’ve got people’s support, but also, we’re helping the environment while also helping ourselves by being able to continue living this lifestyle.
PAM: Yeah. That was another shift for me too, just cause, we’re talking 20 years ago, but yeah, it was looked down on. That it was somehow a negative thing to be looking at or needing. But compromise is probably the best way to put it, but that shift to realize so many benefits so that it becomes not a burden. It’s like, okay, I’m giving up buying a lot of new stuff to have my kids home, but it’s not a giving up when you realize when you shift and like you were saying, the environment, all these things have great value, clothes that are still wearable and things that still function. Like thrift stores are overflowing in our area with all sorts of things. And my kids helped me with that as well.
They love going to thrift stores and hunting things out, and we would find and continue to find, because again, this is a lifestyle change. My kids are all in their twenties and we still love going thrifting. We recognize this is a better choice for us.
So much of the work when we’re making this shift to the lifestyle is our internal work to do, isn’t it?
PAM: So, from there, you and Sy have decided, okay, Amna’s going to come home now. You’ve left your job.
How did you discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like?
NADIA: Yeah, so just I’m looking at my notes. The first six months of homeschooling was just crazy. And it’s quite a common thing from what I read in your book as well. I signed up to every group going. So, all that money that I saved, I was spending. The calendar was just chockablock. We would go to gym, we would go to the science center, we would go to home-ed groups and beach school, forest school—every kind of school. It was ‘not school’ school. But I had them signed up for everything. After six months, I remember saying to Sy, “I am exhausted.”
She dances four nights a week, then ballet and street dance, all different styles of dance. So, we would go from being out all day to rushing, to get to the dance class that she was going to. And I was exhausted and the girls were exhausted and he said, “Take a look at the calendar. That’s why your exhausted. I think you might be doing a bit too much.” And I was like, “Hm. Yeah, maybe.” So, during that time then, and the good thing about it, I guess it’s just that we started meeting like-minded families. And I started hearing things like body autonomy, and I’d say, “Oh, what’s that?” I’d go home and research it and think, ‘So maybe I shouldn’t be making the girls have their hair brushed. And let them choose what they want to wear a bit more and these kinds of things.’ And then I started hearing about deschooling and unschooling. And I’m like, ‘Well, what’s that?’
So, I go home and research and then that’s when I found your website and your free ebook. And then I read that from cover to cover. And that was when it just clicked. It just all kind of made sense. And for me, there was no question about it. This is what we want to do, we want to be an unschooling family and it was almost like a relief for me.
I could see already how Amna was starting to become this more autonomous person. And how she was thriving from just being herself and just being able to do things she wanted to do and make decisions for herself. And then when I found out that it was an actual thing and it’s a kind of a philosophy and you can do it, not just for education, but for your life and your lifestyle, it just made so much sense to me.
PAM: Oh, I love that. I love that. It’s beautiful. I mean, that was my kind of experience as well. It’s like, you’re searching and you’re searching and you’re seeing what’s happening in front of you and nothing is quite yet describing it. You’re seeing your kids in action and you see what they resist and you see what they flow towards.
And you see the choices they want to make. And when you think about it, so often you don’t want to stop. There’s no real reason to stop them, but you’re still trying to, that’s fighting some semblance of what you thought it was supposed to, like what everybody tells you it’s supposed to look like, but what you’re seeing and what’s making sense to you is different from what you’ve been told it should look like.
So, when you come across unschooling, I know for me, it was just like, ‘Whoa, this makes so much sense.’ There’s finally something like you were saying, a philosophy, a way of looking at this that makes sense and, and, and pulls it all together in a way that it’s understanding on that bigger level.
Yes. It’s different than what most, everybody else is saying that it should look like but it’s finally describing, what I’m seeing. It’s funny describing something that feels good and makes sense to me. It’s like, like you’re saying, it feels like a weight is released right off you. That’s amazing. That is what I’m seeing. It makes so much sense to me. Was that how it felt?
NADIA: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And because we were kind of gentle parents, like what I would say is gentle parents anyway. And we learned so much as parents from our children and I guess the sad thing for Amna is that she was the first child. So, she had to experience the school and the rules and the boundaries for me to get to where we got to. Where with Maya from the very start, I didn’t sit in a blackout room with her and try and put her down for a nap at a certain time. She just stopped whenever she wants it, wherever she wants it. So, it was almost like she was already being unschooled anyway, but without realizing it. Yeah, it’s different for both children, but when you actually realize it is a thing and that other people are doing it and you can learn from others and be inspired from others as well. That’s really nice too.
PAM: It is fascinating too, with the different ages of your children, where you are in your lifestyle. My two oldest did go to school for a while before I found it. My youngest went for a few months, he probably remembers a little bit about, but yeah, it is interesting to see that.
And I think so much, especially when you’re already gently parenting or attachment parenting. Whatever you want to call it, you’re more connected. And typically, I think many of us are, even while our kids are still in school, that’s why we’re being drawn in this. This is why when school isn’t working for our kids, where we’re looking for other answers, we’re not just trying to make our kid fit in.
We’re not just saying, “Sorry, dude. This is the way it’s gotta be.” We are seeking different ways. So, we’re already in that different mindset. So, I think often our kids, like you you were saying, she’s already napping when she’s tired versus trying to nap on a schedule.
So, I think so often it’s, I’m not even going to say work, but when we find it’s ours to release. Oh, I get to keep living. Life didn’t change a whole heck of a lot for Maya, right? Between you discovering homeschooling and decided to stay home and everything. Because you were parenting her already in that kind of mindset. And even for Amna, like you were saying, she was down to three days. Three days a week of school. So, she was getting some, so for her, it was just more of what she was enjoying already in her life. So, the biggest change really is for us.
And how we can, embrace that. Like you could embrace those Thursdays and Fridays every day of the week now. Once you left your work. So, I do think the biggest change in it is for us because now we don’t, you don’t go to those Thursday and then Fridays with a little bit of, guilty pleasure. Now it’s like, ‘Yes, this is the way we’re living. And it’s just like, boom, off we go.’
NADIA: Right. Definitely.
PAM: That makes sense. So, you discovered unschooling through—oh, that was the other piece I wanted to mention. I think it’s very common when people come to, homeschooling and even, even unschooling, that when they first release the idea of school, they are drawn to doing all the other classes, you know, the forest school and beach school, because that’s still what we know of learning. That’s still kind of one learning. And so, you just stick the word school on there and you add a little bit of structure to it. We’re going to go specifically to look for plants. We’re going to go specifically learn these things and point things out. And what we come to realize, is that it’s still more adult-directed. But so often it’s a useful transition piece.
When I look at the unschooling journey, it’s like we’re wanting to still try and keep one foot in each world. Because the world we know, that school-ish world, that’s still part of us. And we still think on some level that it’s a necessary part of learning. That’s the way kids learn. And yet the actual ‘not being in a classroom’ piece is very important to us. So, we’ve got one foot in the unschooling world, but we’re still not quite ready to just fully dive in. And so it’s part of our journey and you can find fun things like that.
The forest school and the beach school and all the different classes. And that’s another thing is when our kids express an interest in something so often our response is, “Let’s go sign up for class. You like music, you like the guitar. Let’s find a guitar class.” That’s still our first go to because that structure is still really the only way we see learning happening.
So, I’m really glad that you brought that bit up because it is such a common part of the transition from the school world into the unschooling world.
NADIA: And also, I think as well the routine, then the structure, it’s like almost still needing that. From nine to five, you’re going somewhere. You’ve got something to do with your time. And that change as well to understanding that learning can happen any time of the day. It doesn’t have to be between nine and five and it doesn’t have to be that we’ve gone somewhere and come back from somewhere.
PAM: Yeah, no, that’s perfect. That’s exactly another piece of it too. And I think it’s not something that you can really get through beforehand. You know what I mean? You can’t do all that deschooling while they’re in school, because you need to see it in action, you need to see all those days when you didn’t happen to go somewhere that, ‘Oh, look at all this learning that’s still happening.’
Or seeing them in the evenings and saying, we’re still learning. Just to see it happening in all sorts of different environments, it doesn’t have to be a more structured one. You don’t always have to be going out for it to be important to them. So having it as part of those first few weeks and months, we really need to see them in front of us and to see them learning.
And that’s why, to me, it’s just really important to be paying attention and watching and engaging and being with them all the time so that you can see the different kinds of learning that you can see. You can see them at say the beach school and listening, and maybe not remembering later on, or maybe I’m not wanting to follow that, but wanting to just run back and forth on the beach or throw things into the water or look for shells. They don’t really want to do what the adult is directing them to do but maybe at the forest school, they love it. And they’re right there all the time, they’re out asking questions, just seeing learning in action, and then seeing it happen in other places too, where it isn’t adult directed. When you see them following what they’re drawn to, it’s still learning. That is just such an important piece of deschooling. Isn’t it?
NADIA: Yeah, it really is.
PAM: It really is. I know I’m just getting excited because I just love seeing kids in action and to realize how important those pieces are for the adult too, as part of the journey. And then you realize, I don’t need all that structure. We don’t always need to be going out and doing things for us to be productive.
And then we start playing with that whole world of productivity. And do we need to do things and the importance of being and downtime and so much value you find in that downtime that they have because they start being drawn places. In that time, but before they didn’t have time to do right.
Because it’s like, “Oh, okay, we’re going to the beach or we’re going here. Okay. Let’s go have fun at the museum.” And that’s fine too. So, they come most often excitedly, but there’s just so much value in having this space to just soak into their play for hours too, and just see where it goes.
NADIA: During that time too, when we started slowing down and just staying home more and just like you said, playing and just kind of getting to know ourselves. I learned so much too. Even though I always considered myself as a lifelong learner, I always thought of it more as an academic way. I started getting into more things. I asked my mom for a sewing machine the Christmas, and then I started learning how to sew. I always told myself I wasn’t musical and then I realized that I was holding myself back through my mindset. So, I started learning how to read music and I started playing the piano, something I’ve always wanted to do, but always told myself that it was too late now I can’t do it.
So, yeah, it was such an amazing time and still is. That initial discovery of just being home and just having more time to do the things that we love, or we might not even know we love yet, but we’ve got time to explore and try out new things.
PAM: I think that is fundamentally the best part of deschooling was how I felt the world opened up so much more for me. I was already doing my best for the world to be open for my kids and to help them explore what they were interested in. But like you said, to realize my learning isn’t done. What I’m interested in isn’t worth less. Because those are messages that we just absorbed growing up.
Interests are definitely second rate after school and academics. And you have to learn it all while you’re in school. Because that’s the way we learn things. When you’re done school, you’re done learning. Right? So, so many of those messages for us to work through and shed, and then the world becomes so exciting for us to in that moment. Doesn’t It?
PAM: I love that. I love that. So, let’s talk about, your deschooling. Learning more about unschooling as you were diving in with your kids, I know we talked a little bit earlier and you were talking about, some online unschooling groups that you were a part of, may still be but that’s can be an intense phase and there’s so many, different people in there, different learning styles, different personalities. And you had mentioned that you were more of a question asker, like when you want to know something, you were diving in there with questions. So, I would love to hear more about your experience with that.
Because I definitely dove into the groups that were around 15 years ago, 20 years ago, but I was much more of a reader and I was very appreciative of the question askers.
So, I’d love to hear a bit more about your experience with the early stages of deschooling.
NADIA: Yeah. So, this wasn’t a planned thing for us, so we were learning and exploring and figuring it out as we went along.
So yeah, I read your book. And then I found these groups online and I’m like, brilliant. I’ve got somewhere to go to where, if something happens that day, I can just go on that group and I can just ask a question. I guess that’s just kind of my learning style as well. And I like having feedback so for me to ask a question, it instantly gives me that feedback that I need. And then I liked thrashing out ideas and being out loud with my thinking, so to share in my thoughts and things like that, and also making mistakes and knowing that it’s okay to make mistakes.
I asked them a lot of questions and some of them I would get answers back and it would take me a couple of days to kind of process the answers. And initially I would be like, ‘Oh no, I’m getting this all wrong. Oh, I’m not cut out for this.’ But then after I kind of got over that initial fear of failure kind of mindset. It was ‘No, you know, I’m learning from that.’
So, a really funny question. I think at times I took some of the things I did I learned about in school a bit too literal. I’ll share this question. So, it was around abundance. And we talked about abundance earlier and kind of trying to always say yes to our children and the girls kind of got into this phase of wanting a new toy quite, quite often, but they enjoyed going to the toy store. So, they had to be a certain store. They wanted to go to, they didn’t want to go to the thrift store and they wanted to see the toys.
They thought very carefully about what they wanted. And it was a very thoughtful choice and it was getting to be quite a lot. But I could see the joy they were getting from it and when they can come and play with the toys, but it was getting a bit too much. And I was like, how do I deal with this situation? And I posted on the group. The question was something like, “Have you ever bought your children everything they ask for until you run out of money for the month?” That was the question. And I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I didn’t, I didn’t know how else to ask it.
I got some interesting replies. And some people were like, “I hope that’s not what you think unschooling is.” But then I also got some really thoughtful replies, like “What makes you want to do that?” And it really got me thinking about it again the deschooling journey around money and always having to be careful with money and purchasing.
The idea of doing that was liberating almost, but then at the same time, not being a lesson. Not saying, “Oh, you spent all that money, now it’s your fault because all that money is gone because you want to do all these toys.” And I think that’s what some of the parents thought that I was trying to do.
There were lots of perspectives coming back at me, which was really helpful for me to thrash out my thinking around it and to come up with a strategy for dealing with them wanting to buy almost every day.
PAM: First, let’s close that loop, for there may be some new unschoolers listening for whom that is a question on their mind now.
So how would you answer that question nowadays?
NADIA: So, if I was the person answering that question, there’s a few different ways, I guess you can do it. And it all depends on the child as well. Some people like to suggest having a budget so that, the child gets kind of an allowance and if there’s something they really like and they really want, and we could maybe make the jar with the name of that toy. If we can’t buy it straight away, we can say, I know how much you really want this. So, let’s save some money each week until we can get to the point where we can, you can buy it. So, yeah, it’s not a
PAM: One of the things you learn from asking questions in an unschooling group is there is more than one answer.
PAM: Because like you said, with unschooling, context matters, there’s no one right answer. Context super matters. It’s our kids. And we’re working together with our children. So, personality matters like processing, like you said, you’re an external processor. So, when something happens, you wanted to get that out there to process it with other people and get feedback.
Whereas for me, I’m an internal processor, so I like to have the experience, see what happens and then process that for myself. And then I would come up with the way that I see it, a perspective on it, a story about it that works and makes sense for me and then I would share that sometimes and see if there is another angle that you see? So often I’d be like, is there something I’m missing? I come up with the way I see it. And then I would ask if there’s something I’m missing, whereas you as an external processor, this is what happened what, what do you think about that? And you’d be processing it with people.
I just love that piece, and understanding too. And I love that you saw it because so often. Even for external processors, I’m just sitting here thinking even, I wonder if it’s even more so for an internal processor, that’s why we don’t go there at the beginning, but it can feel like the answer is like you were saying, I feel like I’m doing all this all wrong.
Maybe I’m not cut out for it, but to not stop there to not take it personally like that, because it can feel, I think, after years in those groups, people can feel attacked with those answers, but that’s not what they’re trying to do.
They’re sharing those questions and those reactions to help you with that process. They’re trying to suggest areas, to look at for you to keep processing, to think about the situation they’re trying to help you learn new ways to look at things.
So I love that and then you get to that point, not only for your children, but for yourself, there’s no mistakes. They are experiences and what we can learn from them. Because they happened, these things happen. We made our best choice in that moment, from the context and what we think our children were wanting to do and what we were wanting to do for them and with them and we made a choice.
You can be okay with a choice, any choice that you make. But now you want to learn from it because you know that felt a little off. I didn’t really like how it worked out or whatever felt off that motivated you to come and bring the questions to a group in the first place.
So, so fascinating to see all that play out. And then yeah, when you can separate that, the questions that you get back and the answers, ‘Oh, well you could try this and try this.’ It’s back to where I started, there’s no one, right answer. Because, like you were saying, when you tried to answer the question right then, maybe for some kids and parents, an allowance of some sort. So, just like regular money, that’s not attached to having to do something. This is your money to play with, because then they learn about money. They learn how it works. They learn, the different values of things.
Sometimes the allowance, the money they have in their pocket will buy what they’re interested in and sometimes it won’t and then there’s discussions about saving and how we can do that. Maybe it is a jar. And whenever we find we have a little bit of pocket change, we throw it in there because we know that’s what we’re all trying to get right now, the extra piece. Whatever it is, budgetary wise, but yeah.
Then the budget comes into the conversation. If we just keep buying stuff, there’s no understanding of the context of that. The family has so much money and so many fixed expenses, so to have little conversations here and there about that, so that they’re learning more about how their purchases fit into the whole family ecosystem.
And I’m thinking about their age, right? So, there’s different conversations at different age levels and you get into different aspects of it. But even at a young age, it can be part of the conversation. Oh, we don’t have money for that right now. But you know, you’ve got this much, I’ve got this much in my pocket, then we just, we need this much more.
And so maybe by next week or in two weeks, or whatever the conversation piece is that way. And then as they get a little bit older, then it’s maybe you can find extra work maybe around the house that they can do for extra money or neighborhood things like there’s just a whole world of possibly ability inside that question isn’t there?
NADIA: And I don’t even know if she really wants something. She will look at what she’s looking at and what she’s currently got and she might say, “Well, mama, I don’t really play with this much anymore. I think how much try and sell this. And then I can make money towards the next thing that I want.” And so, she’s already thinking that way. Yeah,
PAM: It’s just when you’re open and you don’t just say, “No, we don’t have the money for that.” And then our fear and we want to shut them down and we want to distract them. No, look, you’ve got all these other toys that we bought over the last six months, play with all these other toys. Look how that just closed down that conversation. Whereas they can be thinking about the value and thinking, ‘Oh, you know, I’m not playing with that this much. Maybe we can find a way to sell them. Maybe we can have a garage sale.’
We can also take the “We can’t afford that,” as a judgment of our self. Feel bad about it and then try to change the subject and not talk about it again, because we feel bad about that. It really doesn’t take anything anywhere. Does it? There’s that frustration, pound into a pot lid, twist it on and try to keep it closed whereas the whole world is out there and it’s okay to not have the money to afford something in that moment.
But with that open possibilities mindset, maybe you guys find something else that’s so similar and not as expensive, because there are a million possibilities to any particular given situation.
NADIA: And that’s why I asked the question because I knew I didn’t want to have that closed down conversation with them that, “Well, you’ve got too many toys already,” kind of mindset, but I didn’t know yet what my other options were. So that’s where the question came from. But I think it was just the question that was asked was quite emotive.
PAM: There will have been a few hundred other people that really appreciated that you asked that question. I remember when I, I would soak up those groups. I would read all the time. But I wasn’t the one asking the questions. So, the groups were busy by the external processors, the ones who wanted to process or even, like I was saying, the internal ones who are like, okay, did I miss something?
This is the way it makes sense to me. Is there something I’m missing about the situation? And what was super valuable is also reading questions, from moms with kids younger than mine, kids older than mine, who are interested in things that my kids aren’t interested in at the moment, the wide range of experiences and the comments and the answers and stuff from those helped me better understand unschooling in the wider world.
So, it helped me see that lens of unschooling. That framework. It helped me understand it so much better to see how it applied in so many other situations, rather than just specifically my own. It helped me better understand how unschooling works so that when I came across a new a situation in my family, as my kids got older and they tried different things, I had a much better sense of that lens and could figure out how that would work for us, because like we’ve been saying this whole call, it’s not exactly the same for every family unschooling.
There isn’t an answer, a single answer to anything, but understanding, through other people’s situations, all the different ways you can look at it, all the different questions you can ask to narrow in, on how it might work for us. It’s just invaluable. It’s why I love doing the podcasts. We’re well over 200 episodes now, so many different families, it looks different in each one, yet the foundation, the heart, the lens of unschooling is there in all of that.
So, it’s just a wonderful way to learn, hearing from other families.
NADIA: I’m just so thankful. I feel like people who want to help and give at their times with these groups and podcasts and things,
PAM: Like you’re enjoying doing right now! You’re sharing what things are looking like for you, and you’re still deep in the learning about unschooling. Your kids are still eight and five and it’s wonderful that you’re enjoying putting in the time to share that bit, those pieces and how you see them and what comes up for you guys as part of that just shared experience out there.
Because I think we can feel really lonely. Because, yes, we seem like a lot of people when you look online, because that’s one place we can congregate, but around us, it’s not that most families, if any, nearby us are unschooling. So, to be able to share these experiences online and to know that we’re not alone in making these choices to live this way, I think it’s super valuable. So thanks for, for adding your voice.
Alright, so, I am curious to know what has been one of the more challenging aspects. I know we talked about the money question, which was awesome.
What is one of the more challenging aspects of the schooling for you so far, and I just like to hear a little bit of how you’ve worked through that.
NADIA: When I got up to this question, there were two, there are two really challenge things I wanted to talk about. One of them is kind of thrashed against what I’ve been saying so far. But I think because for me, when I read your book and it was such an aha moment, and then this is kind of it all, it was almost a thin line between deschooling and unparenting. And I think I picked up on it quickly and became aware of that. But an example, I guess, would be like she’s wanting to be the decision maker for her own self. And, and I guess one of the things was she stopped wanting to brush her teeth.
She went through a phase of not wanting to brush her teeth. And then rather than be like, “No, you have to brush your teeth. That’s hygiene, it’s important, blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “Okay, don’t brush your teeth today. That’s fine.” But then I started to stop encouraging them to brush their teeth. Then I started to stop saying things like “I’m going to go brush my teeth or shall we go and brush your teeth?” And it was almost like, I stopped myself and thought, hang on, you don’t have to force her to brush her teeth. But at the same time, she is only six. You know, you can encourage her.
Say, well, let’s brush our teeth together, you don’t have to completely stop. And so, for me, that was kind of a challenge because it was almost liberating to say, I don’t have to do all these routines and these, you have to do this and you have to do that anymore. But at the same time, it’s not like just letting the children get on with it and bring themselves up.
PAM: That’s such a great observation.
And I think again, that is something that so many people find, when they’re deschooling, because also often the first thing you discover is like, Oh yeah, that’s why those rules didn’t feel good. And were very frustrating to try and up uphold. So, the first thing you do is back off those.
But you haven’t yet discovered what to replace them with yet. Right. So that’s why I’m always going on the journey, keep going. Don’t just stop at, I don’t have to do all those rules. I don’t have to force them to do things. And then you step back and like you said, if you stay there, that’s where the chaos comes.
That’s where unparenting comes in because you’re not connected with them anywhere. You’re just stepping back and saying, okay, this is your life. You lead it. And then you know that that’s basically it. I’m going to go off and do my things over here, come ask me if you have something you need or you need me to drive you somewhere.
It’s that the next step is that connecting again and living life together and being together and them seeing the things that we do in our life and doing them together like you were saying. But again, it’s not stepping back into the rules, but it’s stepping back into that connection.
And then seeing, that we eat when we’re hungry. That we brush our teeth, we have a bath or a shower. So, the difference is we’re coming back to it, but not with our timetable, not with our rules around it. Not like, “Oh my gosh, you need a bath now.” And then you spend the next two hours trying to politely convince them to get in the bath, no, having an agenda of getting them in the bath.
It’s the agendas that we can get rid of. We can drop, because that’s basically a rule that you’re just trying to politely implement. Being open and being connected. There will be times when the bath flows in. They notice that they’re dirty. Let’s wipe that or let’s have a bath.
I’m going to brush my teeth. I enjoy brushing my teeth at night or the morning or whenever after I eat, however it flows and just them seeing that these are the aspects of your life that are happening. They want to live too. They want to engage in the things that their parents engage in.
See what life is really like. If we were too separate, they don’t see what everyday life looks like. You’re just kind of leaving them to their own devices to figure it out. And like you said, they don’t have a lot of experience. They don’t know, they don’t have a model or an example close by with them.
It’s the agenda of the timetable of it that we can drop. Because that is just something that we’ve adopted and maybe we’ve adopted it very thoughtfully because it’s what works for us. We know what works, but the shift now is realizing we want to help them discover what works for them.
But to know that it exists by living together and seeing that we’re choosing what works for us, whether it’s shower every other day. And I brushed my teeth in the morning. Cause that’s when I like to do it. There’s just so many pieces like, Oh, I’m hungry right now. Just explaining our lives as we go about them. So, they can see the things that we think about how we process, how we make choices. And they have the space to figure out how they like to make choices. What considerations. That even gives them cues to check in with themselves for a moment. Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? What is it that I do want to feel like doing?
As they get older, what do I want to wear? As they get older, those questions and things they want to consider, grow. I love that point. It’s so much a part of it, of the journey. It’s the, okay I want to release, I know what I don’t want to do, but then you have to get to the point where, I want to come and connect with them and be with them. You’ve got to replace.
I often talk about it from the parenting side. It’s that shift from control to connection. So often we’re starting more from a controlling place even with attachment parenting. As they get a little bit older, as they start hitting school age, we start having expectations of them.
So, that is kind of like the expectations that we want them to meet of ours, if control sounds too harsh, but yeah, when you drop that and then it’s coming back to the connection that you replace it with instead of that vacuum of nothingness, right.
NADIA: I love telling a story, just kind of a little bit off topic, but that thing about, and I always thought that I taught Amna everything she’s knows.
You know, I give her all my time, all my attention, and I thought I taught her how to do things and I taught her how to walk and talk and all these things. And then Maya came along and I remember she sat on the floor. She told me she just learned how to sit up and she wouldn’t stop. And she lived in the baby wrap, you know, in a baby carrier because Amna was only three and she was very active. And so Maya spent all this time in this wrap and then she can suddenly sit up. She was suddenly able to sit on the floor and I think I was cooking or doing something. And I looked over and she was clapping her hands. Maya. I just stopped and thought ‘How can you do that? I haven’t taught you how to do that.’ And I was like, I didn’t teach her, she just did it because she was ready to do it. It was like a massive eye opener to me.
PAM: I love that. I love that. That’s awesome. What a great, great example, right? That is a perfect aha moment. So, you said you had two bits that you wanted to share.
NADIA: So, the second one is connection and I wanted to share it because I don’t want parents who are deschooling and to beat themselves up too much about it. Because even though I was very much, like you said, gentle parents, parenting style. I still found that really connecting us switching off from everything else and really being in the moment really difficult. And like for Amna, it was certain TV programs that she loves watching. And there was one part of your book that was really helpful for me. If it was about SpongeBob or something for you, but for us, it was a program that she got to that used to really, it was difficult, it had that canned laughter and I never used to like it. And, and then after reading your book, I sat with her and I listened and watched the show with her and I asked the questions and I asked her, what is it about the show that you learned? Well, what are they doing? What’s your favorite character? And I started to learn a bit more about her personality as well. And what she liked about it. She what she found funny about it. I think it takes time to build that connection. And with Maya even now, still when she wants to play Barbies or ponies every day, and I know that there’s other things I’ve got to do. I have to work really hard to switch off from those other things and be in the moment with my her. And what I love about it is she knows. So, she can give me cues it’s like, “Come on, you’re not really playing.” And I’m like, yeah, you know, I need to swtich off and really connect. So, I think it takes practice and it takes time to do that.
PAM: I love that point because it is very true. It’s not something that you can just do all of a sudden. I think it’s got layers to it, like the realization, you said, Oh, I wasn’t really watching the show with her. I was okay with her watching the show, but that’s it more than that. I think that so many of the questions around screen time are about that. As soon as somebody just uses the phrase screen time, there’s still more layers to go in because what is the show that they’re watching? What is it that they’re enjoying about it? And like you said, all those things take time. And the joy of going in there and you learning those little pieces of her personality, like what it is she’s actually connecting to in that show and getting out of that show. Oh, my gosh. Now, you know so much more about her now that root of what she’s enjoying, it’s not just the show, but the pieces inside that she’s enjoying about the shows, you can bring more of that into their life.
And maybe it is through different shows. It’s like, Oh, that sparks another show, but it could be through games. It could be through other books, when you find the root, is it that she loves the relationships between characters, then you get other stories, find other stories with those kinds of deep relationships or maybe it’s the humor. So, then you can find funny, other things, maybe funny movies, maybe, funny stories again. What if it’s the art, then maybe you’re getting art books out in that same art style. If it’s a cartoon, like there is, there’s a whole world inside that show isn’t there? And when you connect with them and hang out and really see what it is, they’re enjoying, that’s when you can expand their world.
Rather than just saying, ‘Oh, she’s watching SpongeBob again. And I’m going to go wash the dishes because she’s engaged with Sponge Bob.’ And then later on, worry about screen time. You know what I mean? There’s a whole world and absolutely it takes time first, that time for us to realize the value and the importance of it and to shift off and say, the dishes or whatever will wait, they’ll still be there in half an hour, but here’s an opportunity for me to deeply connect with my child, playing Barbies again. And sometimes you can’t do it forever and ever. Absolutely. And you find other ways to be in the moment.
I love that Maya just said, Hey mom, you’re not all here. And our kids will do that. That’s why I love the metaphor of our kids as our guides, because they are so good at being in the moment. They are so good at dropping all the other things and truly being there. So, using them as our guide to really being in the moment and meeting them there and connecting with them. And then when you come out, you realize just how valuable that time was.
I learned so much, even just from the dialogue and the situation that she’s putting her Barbies in. You know where her mind is, as the story develops, you can see what she’s thinking about and processing, and you just learn so much, which helps you connect more deeply with them the next time as well.
And our kids are just awesome. When we learn and understand them at that level, at that deep level, it just makes you want to hang out with them more.
PAM: That is such a great point and that’s why, so often we talk about when you’re coming to unschooling, it is so great if you can just give it six months to a year. Because you need that time. You need that time to make those connections. You need that time to see things unfold, to see a few interests, to see some connections, play out, to get that relationship developed. To see different seasons inaction. You need that chunk of time to really come to understand unschooling and to trust it and to see it in action in your family. So, that time is really invaluable. Isn’t it?
NADIA: Yeah, definitely.
PAM: That’s wonderful.
So, I would love to know what’s the favorite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
NADIA: It’s kind of hard to answer this question because life is a bit different isn’t it, with lock down and being restricted on what we can do?!
So, it’s not life as it usually is, but what I love about our days is being able to wake up when our bodies have had enough asleep. We cosleep and I still breastfeed Maya. I really need 8 hours of sleep. So, I love how we can just go to sleep when we want and wake up when we want and start our day when we’re ready to start our day.
That for me, just, I just love that and then, like I said to you earlier, Maya can wake up and have an idea in her mind, quite vivid idea of what she wants to do that day, we can just pack a bag and go off and do it. And just learning how they learn. Maya is a bit of a night person. All of her creativity comes out at night and she started asking questions and she starts wanting to design and do things late at night. It’s almost like as soon as the sun’s gone, that’s her time to be really creative and knowing that she can do that because we don’t have to get up and go anywhere in the morning, most days, unless we’ve got something planned. That freedom, to just to do what we want to do when we want to do it.
PAM: I love that. And it’s is so fascinating when they have that space too. Like you were saying, she gets more creative in the evening. Imagine if you were trying to fit into a normal schedule, right. That you wouldn’t be able to do it. You might not even notice and that would be more frustrating because you’d be trying to shut it down, trying to shut it down so that she could get to sleep. But seeing how naturally that comes to her in the evenings when the sun is down and that you can support that.
And just how individual we all are, right down to our personalities and when we’re energized and when we’re feeling creative and when we’re feeling introspective. And it comes back to the time component. Having the time to see how all those pieces flow through their lives is, it’s just so fascinating to watch them in action. Isn’t it?
NADIA: Yeah. We just love going to the beach and being out and seeing people and yeah, we’re looking forward to the restrictions being lifted. I think they’re starting to slowly ease off now. So, we can hopefully start meeting up with some friends as well.
PAM: It’s an interesting time. These last few months have been super interesting and it has been definitely a change with the restrictions on. For some families, the change is much bigger than others, especially if you have more extroverted kids. Kids who like to be out and engaged with other kids, it’s a hard time to try and manage that.
Even the more introverted, maybe liking to go places. So, yeah, it’s definitely a challenging time to move through our days without those pieces that we’ve enjoyed having as part of our lives. So, I really appreciate that there’s a difference. It’s not life as usual just because school is closed and it wasn’t a part of our lives anyway. No, we are still out and about in the world and things even the very introverted people among us. So, I appreciate that note and the difference in our lifestyle.
PAM: But you guys will be looking at it. It’ll be interesting to, as things are starting to open up here as well, but they’re opening up differently. So, it’s not like life back to the way it was before either. So, that’s a nice thing for us in that we’re always having conversations with our kids. We’re always trying to figure out ways to make things work. It’s not just, yes, no. There’s figuring out how connect, back to context again, how are we going to navigate it?
What’s going to be open? How it’s going to look, briefing and organizing ourselves kind of before we get there. So, they know what to expect, all those pieces of the puzzle, right?
NADIA: Yeah. And they lead to great conversations as well, don’t they? You know, qreat questions that the girls ask. Why is that? Or what’s going to happen if that happens?
PAM: Yeah, that’s being together. Living together all the time. Those kinds of conversations come up and I loved that because we know our kids well, it’s not generic conversations, generic answers. There’s our thread through everything, how individual everything is.
When you build that connection through you better understand where their mind is. It’s easier. It helps us phrase things in ways that will connect and be understandable for them. The picture we paint when we try to explain what’s going on, we can do that in their language and the way that connects with them because we know them so well, it’s not, I got to go look up a website on how to talk to kids about this. That might be helpful too, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. You may go looking for that and say, ‘Oh, yeah, they mentioned this, this and this.’ And then that just becomes part of our fodder. When we go to connect with them, it’s not a regurgitation kind of thing.
Well, I must say it’s been so much fun chatting with you, Nadia. We went in a whole bunch of different directions, but I just love the thread that went through it all. And thank you so much for sharing your deschooling story so far. It was so fascinating to hear about it.
NADIA: Well, thanks for having me on. I just noticed that it says Sy on the screen, but that’s my husband’s name, but yeah. Thanks for having me
PAM: Before we go, where can people connect with you online?
NADIA: I’ve got my website, which is justdoingus.co.uk. And also, I blog a lot on Instagram
PAM: Yes. And then I will put the links to both those in the show notes. Thanks again so much and have a wonderful day, Nadia!
NADIA: Thanks, Pam, bye.