PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Sarah Peshek. Hi, Sarah!
SARAH: Hi, Pam.
PAM: Sarah is an unschooling mom of three kids, and I’m really excited to learn more about her experiences so far.
So, to get us started, Sarah, can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s interested in right now?
SARAH: Sure. Thanks. Let’s see here. So, my children are 11, 8 and 2 right now. My oldest is Rosa and she’s coming up on 12 here in August, so pretty close, but not quite yet. She is very into gaming right now. Right now, she’s into Sims and Animal Crossing. And so those are keeping her really, really busy and she uses discord all the time to stay in touch with friends. She’s great. She’s just doing her thing.
Evelyn is my middle child. She’s eight and she loves Roblox, that’s one of her favorite games right now. And she’s loving the summer because she’s really into biking. And she’s learning how to bike by herself in our neighborhood a little bit, which she really is enjoying. And, she loves catching bugs and being out and catching all sorts of creatures and things. So, she really enjoys, this time of year, as long as it’s not too, too hot.
Then my little guy, Marcus is 2 and he is really having sort of word explosion right now. Where every day, there’s a few new things he’s never said before. And it’s such a treat. He is into cars, cars are his favorite toys. And so, he plays with cars all day and he’s just starting to tell us all about it. And so, it’s really fun. He’s very active little guy. He’s also enjoying, the nice weather here in Ohio.
As far as my husband and I, I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and crochet lately, so I’ve kind of been into that type of thing. And my husband, Chris. he’s a music guy, a lot of the live opportunities aren’t there right now. So, he’s been exploring different ways to connect with that community, virtually, which is interesting. And, he’s also building a tree house with the girls. That’s kind of the summer project. It’s just starting, they’ve just put the big bolts in the tree and they’re cutting wood.
I’m mostly just the photographer and cheering them on, but it’s still going to be so cool. So, that’s sort of the big family thing for this summer that’s going on. It will go into the fall it looks like it’s not going to be a quick project. There you have it.
PAM: Oh, that’s lovely. That’s lovely. I can connect so much to so much of that. I mean, we’re still having a lot of fun with Animal Crossing and we found building your Island, being able to do something new for Animal Crossing, being able to do all the land sculpting.
SARAH: Right. Right. Oh my gosh, Rosa’s Island. She’s great. She let me have a little house. So, I don’t have my own account, we just have the one switch, but I’ve got my own little house in her island. And so, she showed me how to do some of the things, but I can handle that one, it’s not too hard for me to navigate. So, I can handle Animal Crossing if she’s helping me.
PAM: That’s right. I can appreciate the more difficult ones but Animal Crossing, I can dive right in. I can fish. I can shake fruit trees with the best of them. And the treehouse too, we’ve been talking about that as well. That’s been on the back burner for years, we’ve talked about it, but we haven’t stepped forward.
SARAH: We were on the fence, but I just told my husband, you know, of all the years, let’s just do it. We’re home a lot and we’re not doing a lot of other things that we might normally be doing. And so, let’s just try it. Then once he got into it, now he’s super into it and it’s going to be pretty awesome, I think.
PAM: So exciting. Yeah. And that’s one thing that’s so fun, that ideas pass through, sometimes they bubble up and down and up and down, over and over. And what’s just really curious and fun is seeing when one catches a spark and somebody grabs a ball and takes it further. And so, there’s no expectation or upset that ‘Gee, we were talking about this and nobody did it.’
It’s good because if somebody is upset, then they’re more of an advocate for the idea. They will be the one that’s an advocate, but if nobody picks it up and starts running with it that’s OK because we’re running with other things at the time.
SARAH: Yeah. Well, I don’t think he probably wouldn’t have done the project if I wasn’t kind of fanning it, but at the same time, I probably would have just thought about it and not ever really done it. So, it was really good teamwork that we are able to now have this thing that’s happening and we both have our own little pieces of it.
PAM: Exactly. Exactly. That’s awesome.
So, I would love to know how you discovered unschooling and chose to follow that path.
SARAH: Sure. So, my oldest daughter, Rosa, went to kindergarten and first grade. I used to be, I’m a former school teacher. So, the year that she was in first grade, I was working at a different school. And in the spring, I was really trying to figure out what I was going to do with her for the next year, because if I stayed at the school where I was teaching, it was a private school and she could come there or she could stay at the public school where she’d gone to kindergarten and first grade.
I spent a month going back and forth and I would decide one thing and then something would happen and I’d be like, I can’t do that thing. I can’t bring her here to this place that I’m working, that’s just not going to work. And then I’d think, she’s going to stay at her school and then something would happen there and I’d say, ‘Oh, I just don’t think she can stay there.’ And back and forth and back and forth.
And then there was day where at my work, I had a mom emailing me about her son and he wasn’t getting the grades that she expected him to get. And it hit me that I didn’t have any answer I could give her that I felt good about because he was a super smart kid, super fun.
It was this moment where I realized, I am taking part in doing all these things that I don’t feel right. A lot of teachers are doing a lot of great things, but I’m expecting these kids to do things that aren’t in their best interest. And I’m just having to, because of the system I’m having to do things that I don’t think are right. And I don’t think I can keep doing that. And I came home and my daughter said to me, she got home from first grade and she said, some kid had made fun of her Tinkerbell shoes and told her she was a baby for liking Tinkerbell. And she’s six years old. It was all on the same day. And I was just like, you know, “What if we do something totally different? What if we homeschooled?” And it was like, as soon as I had that thought, all of the stress I’d been having in going back and forth just disappeared.
It was just like, yes, that is the thing to do. That is what’s going to work and let’s just try it. My husband said. Sure. And so, that was it was, it was a very distinctive day when I decided to bring her home. We finished out that school year, because you know, I was under contract and all of that, but I knew that that in the fall, she wasn’t going to go back.
We started with a very schooly at home approach and because I was a teacher, so that was what we were kind of going to do. We’d do all the things and it was going to be great. And it did not take me long to see that it was also not going to work. I tried and tried and tried tweaking things all fall and it was just not clicking and I could see it. I had my kids right in front of me and I could see that the time that I was spending trying to get them to do my ideas of lessons, the things that I thought were important, that goal that I brought into, well let’s keep her home where learning can really happen, it was not happening.
She was trying to do as little as she could to kind of get by and please me. I was sort of lost for a while and I just kept plugging. Then some stressors that were coming into our relationship, I started reading a little bit more about a peaceful parenting approach and this idea of being a partner, a coach and not being coercive at the kids and it all kind of went together there to help me develop. Then all sort of at once, the idea of the learning and just looking at what was happening and seeing that it wasn’t clicking. And seeing the contrast in when she was doing what really was bringing her joy and lighting her up, and I could see that that’s where the learning was.
And so, it was really just following her that led me to see, okay, I think this unschooling idea that seems really crazy at first, there’s really something there and I need to dig a little deeper to find out what that is.
PAM: Wow. Oh, I love that. I love that. Right from the beginning. I love that back and forth. When you were teaching one school, she was in another, and that it was just boomeranging back and forth and you could see neither one of them was jumping out as the right thing. Neither grabbed your heart. And then homeschooling it’s like, okay, let’s total blow this all up. Like what’s bigger.
PAM: Different lenses of the same thing. And then that moment where your mind just opens up to more possibilities and you latch on to one. That is so interesting.
SARAH: So interesting. Then it was just kind of watching her. And so yeah, she really kind of led the way by just doing, just living her life helped me see where that wonderful stuff was going to be.
PAM: Because then, when you’re out of the classroom and now at home and you’re doing what you know, the teaching, and the stuff that you want them to learn and everything. But now you’re actually with one person. You’re with your child who you care about and love and everything and now you’re seeing what this really looks like with one child. So fascinating.
SARAH: All of those pieces, the classroom management pieces and all of the things that teachers have to do to keep things rolling. None of that was there. And so, then I’m just left with my kid and the learning and where’s that happening.
PAM: So that’s really interesting too. And I mean, I feel that feels very familiar to me too, because I wasn’t a teacher, I did many, many years of school but once my kids were home from school, I still had that in my mind that’s what learning was. So, even though I was going at it much more easy going, I still had workbooks and I was still trying to get them to come to a little bit of work.
And it’s funny, what I had seen in my son doing the minimum amount of work and knowing it could be so much better. His grades could be so much higher because I knew the person, the child, he was at home, yet when it came to having to perform for somebody else, it was not important to him. And he did as minimal amount of work as possible.
So, that juxtaposition that you see so much learning happening when they’re doing their things, and then you try to coax them and they’re just doing minimal amounts to try and keep us happy. It’s amazing seeing those two things.
SARAH: Yeah. It was really interesting because in school she was very good student. She was always trying to make the teacher happy and so that sort of hard to understand, I had to look closely at that. Well, what is, why was it that there she would gladly just do whatever they said. And here at home, she’s dragging her feet, you know?
And so. I think that I don’t know for sure, but I think a lot was just that relationship, piece and the fact that I’m mom and I’m not supposed to be in that position, it was a totally different paradigm of expectations. And here she was trying to kind of blend that with our home relationship and seeing these things that just didn’t add up and it wasn’t consistent.
PAM: Yeah. When you think of it that way too, like she is performing to meet the expectations of the teacher in the school system and at home, she could be herself.
SARAH: Exactly, exactly. And so how do I want to respond to that? Do I want to respond to that by continuing to fight her and, and have it be my way, or do I want to lean into who she is and who she wants to be?
PAM: That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. So, let’s shift that just a little bit because your daughters were seven and four when you were making this shift and like you said when you started looking, you actually started looking at the parenting piece.
Because you were looking at what was happening to your relationship with her when you were trying to do more school at home.
I’d be curious what that transition looked like when you were shifting away from that more conventional parenting to the supportive partnership kind of parenting. And how did you get that started? What did it look like?
SARAH: It was tricky, very much. But, I actually, I found a journal that I had written during that time and I’m going to read a little bit to you here. Because I was thinking about talking to you today and I was thinking, how did I start? I remember making this change, but how did I really dig into that?
And, so I’ll just read this little piece to you and then chat a little bit about it because I thought this was kind of interesting. I wrote, so this is December 31st, 2015.
Today is the first day. I am trying to be a fully attentive/peaceful parent. Chris and I talked tonight about how we want to start building strong relationships with our children that are not based on our power over them.
We talked about how it is impossible to truly control another person. So, we are damaging our family dynamic by trying. This morning, my answer is yes to them. I got them out the door without bossing any one around yelling or threatening. My first control challenge came as we were heading out the door.
Evelyn wanted to wear two different shoes. One had a little heel and one didn’t. I knew it would not be comfortable for her, but she insisted it was. So, I just stated that I wasn’t sure how comfy it would be and let her go with it. Then when we went to Kmart, Rosa grabbed her new favorite Shopkins to take in. My alarm bells went off. It’s too small. You might lose it. I said, “Are you sure you’d like to take those small, special items in with you?” “Yes, mom.” Okay. Of course she lost them and then I turned the van around to go back and, and look once we realized, I know that I cannot always accommodate her in that way, but I had nothing more important to do that day than to keep her as my partner, instead of my enemy, we looked our hardest and couldn’t find them, but we left our number with the clerk.
So, then I go on and talk about the other parts of our day but I thought it was interesting that I had written this thing about my very first day where I thought, okay, I’m going to try to just stop having it all be my way.
Looking back on it now, I actually thought it was really interesting how I started by saying yes and I was trying to move toward helping them do what they want to do but I can see now five years later, that there was sort of a piece missing, which was helping them along.
So, I think the process for me took some time, first I had to make this philosophical shift where I realized what I really wanted was to not be fighting them all the time and then I had to stop fighting with them and forcing them. And then I needed some experience and time to learn how to fill that in with active support.
Looking back now, I think, well, sure she’s going to wear these uncomfortable shoes. I just grabbed another pair of shoes and it’s no big deal. But at the time, to me, it seems like such a huge deal to let her walk out the door with shoes that I didn’t think were comfortable because the day before I probably would have said, “No, you’re not going to wear those. I know it’s not going to work.” And she would have gotten upset and we would have had an argument and we wouldn’t have gone until she did what I wanted. And it would have been this whole thing.
So, not controlling was a good step and a good piece but I thought it was interesting how then now I look back and say, well, yeah, then she needed somebody to just grab the comfortable pair of shoes. It doesn’t have to be a whole thing. Just grab the shoes and take them with you. I’m actively supporting her as opposed to just not controlling.
I think the process was similar to that throughout that whole first year or two where, it took me time because I was really worried about so many things with them and I was right about a lot. My adult brain says, ‘Okay, you’re going to take these tiny little toys into the store that’s probably not going to go well.’ But I just didn’t know what to do. So, I just let her do it. Now, I would say something like, “Well let’s maybe use this special little bag so you can take them in and they won’t be so easy to lose or what if they go in my thing here that I’m carrying so we can make sure they don’t lose them?”
Very specific examples that I had on day one. How I didn’t fight them anymore, which was great, but I also wasn’t developed enough yet in my own sort of approach to really realize how I could make it easier on all of us. So, it was definitely a learning process, but that’s how I started.
I started by just stopping having it all have to be my way. And that was hard for me because I thought I had a lot of really good ideas and I probably did, but I wrote this other thing, I think the next day, something along the lines of, I feel like they’re wasting their time, but it is their time, not mine.
That realization I had to come to was that it is their own journey and that I was trying to get all my wisdom that I had into their brains, both with academic things, but also just life experience. And I wanted to just force it all in and that’s not how it works. And it’s not how I wanted it to work.
And so, that was sort of my process. There were challenges at first, in the fact that I was just trying, I knew that what I was doing wasn’t quite right. Like I knew that I had to, didn’t have to, I wanted to stop fighting them and stop being their enemy. And I could sense that that’s the direction I needed to go. But because I had never done it, it wasn’t as easy as just stopping and then everything was magically glorious and perfect. It took the experience of me seeing, I’m going to let them do what they want, but what can I do to make it easier?
What can I do to, how can I be a good captain of the team here and keep things smooth? And that became sort of the goal to some extent but it was a long sort of couple years of learning how to not only know philosophically what I want it to be doing, but it’s actually practically doing it.
And to some extent, once I had the goal piece in mind, then it was almost just logistical things that I started to then get better at. And that helps make everything smoother. And then, I’m trying to control less and less and the more that they could come to trust me and trust me that if I say, “Hey, I don’t know if that’s a great idea.” I’m probably coming from a place of trying to help.
Our relationship has healed a lot in the past four to five years in that, they didn’t trust me because I wasn’t being very trustworthy before because I was so focused on making things be the way I wanted them to be, and with their best interests in the back of my mind. But the methodology was just not supportive. They sensed that and they didn’t trust that I was in their corner. Because I hadn’t proven that yet.
Now it’s so nice because now when we’re talking about making decisions, Rosa is almost 12 and she loves to talk to me about decisions and she even said to me, “I trust you, mom, to really tell me what you think is going to work. And I really care about what you think.” And that’s a huge change, granted she’s matured several years too, but I know that a lot of it is also because I stopped trying to be the boss all the time.
PAM: So, you became trustworthy. I want to thank you so much for looking up that journal entry. That is spectacular. I really shows it so beautifully because, that’s what we’ve seen over and over again. When you want to make that change, you stop doing the thing you don’t want to do.
And what jumped out at me, because if you argue over the shoes, there is this whole power paradigm thing. It becomes about the relationship and who’s going to win. It’s not about the shoes. The shift is in making it about the shoes, not about the relationship. It’s making it about the shopping, not about the relationship, right?
It’s more about shifting the power imbalance than it is about the actual thing. I don’t even know how possible it is to be able to make both those shifts at the same time, the shifting away from power, to what do we replace it with? How can I support? Those are two unique steps. And you described it brilliantly.
SARAH: I thought it was neat when I found that, I just thought, that was really interesting. It would be interesting to share because until you stop the control piece or the fighting piece, you can’t see the next step. You have to do the first thing first.
PAM: Yeah, when we talk about unschooling too, how it can feel like so much of a leap at first, like a leap to the unknown. And you can understand it intellectually, but until you actually take the leap and start, you really can’t see what the next, next step is. You just have to do it. You have to be in it.
You have to be paying attention. That’s why we’re just always encouraging people to keep going. And to keep thinking and observing and paying attention and trying to be the best teammates that we can with our kids. Because if you do that first step and think you’re done. You can get stuck at that first step for a long time, which is much more chaotic because we’re not really being helpful. We’re just stepping away from being involved. And then they’re very much left on their own.
SARAH: I can’t see how. And if you tried that and didn’t ever take that next step, you might think it doesn’t work. It’s crazy. But it takes time to grow into those different levels of understanding your child and all along, like you said, the observation piece is huge. Watching them and seeing what’s working and what isn’t working.
If you’re doing that, then I think you’re going to keep moving in the right direction toward the goal that you have, which if you’re looking at unschooling, is probably peace in your home and learning, joyful learning. And that’s where you’re heading.
PAM: Yeah, that was beautiful. Thank you so much, Sarah. So, there was one other piece that I wanted to touch on with that.
When our kids are a little bit older, when we start to make that shift, it can sometimes feel frustrating for ourselves and we can, regret not having figured it out sooner, discovered it sooner. My oldest was 10, he turned 10 just after he left school. So, I definitely experienced those feelings of regret as well. So, I would be curious if you experienced them and if you did, how you worked through that?
SARAH: Yeah. Yeah. I definitely experienced that.
That might’ve been, once I let go of that control piece of their learning and our relationships, that was probably the biggest thing for me that kept me from getting in the grove was really, I could see what I didn’t want and I could see how I had created all these situations that were not how I now want it to be. And so, it was very frustrating to have changed my goals and to not have it all just magically go where I wanted to be. And there was a lot of regret for me in some of those times. And sort of a feeling that, it wasn’t fair. I felt like I was having to work so much harder than other unschooling parents. I would hear or read things they said, I’m like, well, if you’ve been doing it all along, it’s so much easier.
One thing that really helped me start to let go of that was actually something my husband said to me. I was the person who did more of the reading and sort of moving toward unschooling, but he was always supportive and, this one day, I don’t know how far into it we were, but I was expressing to him that I had messed up that day and I had yelled at somebody or I did something I didn’t want to do. And I was so frustrated because I knew it was these habits I’ve been building and I had these ideals and I was falling short and I was so upset and knew that, so much of it was based on what I was used to.
And he said, “Well, do you get what you’re doing? You’re learning. You’re learning as you’re doing this. And so just like how you would accept that as the kids are learning something, it’s not going to be neat and tidy and perfect, it’s going to be messy and there are going to be mistakes and that’s how learning works. You’re seeing it firsthand as you’re learning. Learning how people learn and how relationships work.” And so, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s actually such a great insight. I’m into how this process is working. And I can be gentle with myself because I am learning just like they’re learning about whatever it is that’s catching their interest. I’m learning about a bunch of different things through this process. And, that’s how it works. There are mistakes and there are things that happened back when you didn’t know better or different and you can’t change that so that was something that helped me.
And then I would just try to think, ‘Well, what are my options right now? You know what, I can’t go back. I can’t get those years back where I didn’t do what I wish I was doing now, so, okay. I can’t. All I can do is better. All I can do is better now, better than I did then. And I tried to just really bring it to now as much as I could.
So, that’s how I worked through it. And there’s still times where I think, ‘What was I thinking?’ But it’s all part of my process. And I think the kids are really forgiving. And it’s not to say that you do whatever you want, it doesn’t matter, but my kids, especially Rosa being a little older, she was seven and sort of an old soul.
So, she definitely knows that things changed over the past few years. And so, I have apologized when I make a mistake or even about, I’m sorry that I used to fight you about so many things. I think that as I improved it wasn’t just words either because she’s been able to see me making changes and making those improvements.
And so she recognizes that and seeing how they’re able to forgive me and see my growth. I think that’s a great thing because that shows how change and transformation can happen. And, so I think that’s powerful in its own way. Rosa has her unique perspective as someone who’s been to school and had sort of a change, partway through her life. And Evelyn’s perspective is a little different and Marcus will be even different. But each time that I’m getting better at building the relationships, I think that they recognize that to some extent, and that has helped me be less regretful too. Sort of recognizing how it helps them see change.
PAM: I love that. I love that piece about our expectations of us. And we talked before about, learning so much from our kids, by watching our kids. That helped me work through putting the expectations on myself that I should do this perfectly now, now that I know.
But really love the word practice, unschooling as a practice because we’re going to continue to make mistakes. Or they aren’t even mistakes. We do our best in that moment. We learn from it because of what happened after, did it work out, how might we tweak it?
For me, it’s all about doing something, doing the best that I can in that moment, seeing what happens and then tweaking for the next time, a similar kind of moment arises. And I love the piece for our kids that we can learn and change and become more the person we want to be at any age. They’re seeing us learning new things and changing and you’re right. Actions speak so much louder than words. We don’t need to be telling kids, “Oh, I’m going to parent differently now.” They don’t need to know verbally what’s going on. They can sense it. And it may come up. They may make a comment. “Before you would have gotten mad about this.”
If they’re interested in making that observation, sharing it verbally, then conversations come up. But yeah, I think that’s one thing sometimes we can be tempted to tell our kids, “Okay, no more rules or things are changing now, I’m going to be so much nicer.” Just be that, because that is where you’re actually going to show and develop trust. Trust isn’t saying, you can trust me now, it’s doing things that are trustworthy. Being that person.
And then they know for sure, like you said, now she comes to you more often. She’s very happy to hear your thoughts, but with that shift of power, she knows there aren’t expectations with it anymore that she must do what you think might be the best thing, or do what you would do in that situation. There’s nothing wrong, it’s lovely that she’s gathering that information, but she knows it’s still her choice,
SARAH: Yeah. Definitely.
PAM: That’s the piece that helped me when I was moving through it too. We’re all learning and we’re all continuously learning. And they saw me change as I learned more. I remember going around each of them saying, “Hey, I just learned that you don’t have to go to school.”
I had literally never heard of homeschooling before. It’s like, “Hey, I know something new now. Do you want to shift?” So yeah, it’s all part of it.
Who we are in this moment is because of those moments.
SARAH: Right. Right.
PAM: You mentioned your youngest and you mentioned how it will be different from his perspective. Marcus was born after your shift in parenting style. So, you have cultivated this more connected. relationship with him from the beginning.
I’d love to hear a bit about what that experience has been like and maybe what differences you’ve seen.
SARAH: Sure. So, it’s really wonderful. You have the experience all the way from before he was born, just really trusting him and watching him and learning from him and it’s so neat to have that opportunity. And, I think that I’ve been able to really just truly just take joy from him, with him, in a way that I couldn’t before.
Because I was always so worried about all the things and so it’s really nice to just have the chance to just be with him, enjoy him and trusting him. I think about things that maybe would have worried me. So, I mentioned that he’s talking more and more right now, but if you look at child development, it’s on the later side of average, while he’s saying more and more words, he didn’t say a lot for a while.
And I can see how that could have really worried me and I could have spent the past six months stressing out about that, trying to take them to experts and try to figure out what the problem was. And there is no problem, he’s just on his own path. And I think I would have missed the opportunity to see how he does communicate and because I’ve really improved in my ability to sort of see all the things that the kids do as some form of communication, I don’t just have to hear their words. I can watch their actions and I’ve been practicing that with the girls and, you know, over the course of time.
And so it’s amazing, it’s actually been so interesting to see the ways that he has found to communicate complex ideas to me without the words. But I can tell because I’m with him, I’m connected. I spend so much time with him, like, “Oh, Marcus says he wants to go back to Nana’s house because he had fun playing with fire trucks there.” Well, he can’t say any of that, but he’s got his different ways that his timing and his little actions and signs, sort of his own version and a few words, and he can get such ideas across. And I know that if I would have been looking at it from just comparing him to others, I would have missed where he really is and all the really cool thoughts he has.
And, so it’s really neat to just be able to watch him and not be stressed and just trusting him. I can see he’s so engaged with life and so happy. And so that’s, that’s the ticket. We’re where we need to be. And, and another thing I noticed, it’s like safety sort of he’s, he’s very safety conscious as I have kind of like playgrounds or climbing things.
I have tried to really just be there to support him if he needs it, but not telling him no, not yet or that’s too big. That’s too hard. And it’s very different from how I was when my daughters were toddlers.
The way that he’s developed his own sense of looking at something and deciding if it’s a good idea or not, knowing that I’m there to keep him safe. From a very young age when he would reach a little handout to me, if it was something that wasn’t so safe, because he knew I was right there. I couldn’t believe how young he was when he started to develop that when he had that trust piece of being able to look and make a decision.
He’s very young still, but these are some things that I’ve already seen with him that are just so interesting from the perspective of being a good partner to him and, and ways that he’s developing his own little way of dealing with the world. And, it’s really good. Magical. I think it’s really fun and I really am enjoying it.
PAM: That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. I love, again, like we were talking about observing and just paying attention. How you could see so much going on for him and how you learn how capable they are even at younger ages, like literally, very young ages, that he knows you’re there. That trust is there. Even seeing that in action is amazing. And the reminder that it’s their timetable. It’s theirs. You mentioned its’ so joyful and he’s having so much fun. If there were things that we’re concerned about and they seem to also be concerned or upset or frustrated, that maybe a good clue to go look further, but if they’re happy in who they are and the things that they’re doing. It’s not a concern to them. So that is a great clue that their timetable is just fine for them.
PAM: It made me think too about later readers. My youngest was a later reader too, but it didn’t hamper him in any way. When you’re paying attention you could see he brought in information in so many other ways, like you said, Marcus has communicated to you in so many other ways that the words were not a big deal and they’re coming in their own timetable.
And now you’re having lots of fun with that. But yeah imagine if you spent months and months worrying and stressing. And then you wouldn’t have been with him as much.
Exactly. I would have been missing those moments. I laughed because I thought if I had been doing that and had been stressing when he was not stressing, then maybe I would be crediting an expert or a therapist or someone with his development when it would have just happened anyway, when he was ready.
Right now, he’s adding those words, it was one day a couple of weeks ago, he just started saying all the color names, and, he just decided he was ready to start saying them. But if we had been trying to coach and train and to have somebody telling us he needs to know this right now, then maybe I would think they deserve the credit, you know?
And, whereas this way, I see that he he’s the one who learned it, when it was right for him. And it transfers to older experiences and younger, learning to walk, learning, to talk, learning to read all these things that they will do their own way and just because it’s not the same schedule as someone else, doesn’t inherently mean that you have a problem on your hands.
PAM: Well, and I love the way you said, like now sudden he’s saying so many words, new words every day. Because he was bringing in those words and knowing what they were, so then when all of a sudden the speaking part comes, boom, it’s an explosion because he was just learning things in a different order.
That if you’re expecting this typical order and we’re not seeing it, and you’re trying to get them back in that order that we expect, you’re not seeing what he’s doing. So, all the other ways that he’s communicating, you’re not looking for that because you’re looking for what you’re expecting him to do at that age. So, then it just looks even worse just because then, you miss out on the communication that is happening.
Just a brilliant example of really trusting them and being their partner and the facilitator on their path. It’s just a great way to look at it. And it’s just a great example of how that trust in ourselves. It’s a different timetable and very likely a different process.
So, it’s not that they’re stalled, it’s that they’re doing things in a different, unexpected order. So, the kind of the marker that we’re looking for, isn’t there, but there’s all sorts of things going on under the surface that we can’t see. And that’s okay. And that’s the trust piece.
SARAH: I’ve met a lot of parents who say my kid was a late talker. So it’s not necessarily uncommon. It’s just we sort of think it is. And then you wonder how many kids are taking different paths and we’re not seeing it necessarily because we’re expecting them to be on the expected path.
PAM: It’s true. Yeah. No, and I think, especially in the more unschoolingish circles. When you bring something like that there will be lots of other parents because they’ll have noticed. “Late readers” are pretty common in unschooling circles. Because we’re not pressuring them to have a certain age that they need to read by.
And you can understand why that’s an expectation in school because that’s how they need to communicate. Reading and writing is really the only way to communicate within that system. But here, there are so many other ways out in the world that you can share ideas. You can gather ideas that you can keep the whole communication thing, can very easily be done in their style and on their time table.
SARAH: Think of Marcus. Do you know if he was in a little daycare or preschool and not with me a lot? Yeah. He might need, he might be struggling more if he didn’t have the words but because I’m right there and I can say, this is what he wants. I know his communication, that support piece is there and it’s the same with maybe a later reader. If you’ve gotten another caring adult, they’re supporting you, making sure you can access the information. It’s okay. You know, it’s a little different than, than if you’re having to kind of fend for yourself.
PAM: That’s a good point.
I would love to know what has surprised you most about your unschooling journey so far?
SARAH: I think I did go into it really expecting to develop our relationships and their learning. And so that wasn’t too surprising. I think what has really surprised me is my own development. My own trust in myself and my own growth and learning. And I didn’t expect to be so transformed, as my own self. I went into it all thinking about the kids and trying to do what was best for the kids.
And through doing that, I learned how to be more thoughtful and how to be more deliberate about the things that I choose. And that gave me a lot more confidence in what I do. And so, I don’t flip flop around and try to make other people happy the way I maybe used to. I just do what is right for our family and don’t really worry about the rest. And that’s a big shift for me, to just really trust and I have confidence in my own self and my ability to learn and to change and to be what my kids need too. So, there was a lot of personal growth and transformation that happened that I didn’t go into it expecting at all.
I really thought I was fine and I was, in my own way, but the change has been really healing. Just really learning that I’ve got this, and I can make meaningful change through my actions and even though it’s hard, I can still do it. And it was kind of shocking that I developed that sense and I wasn’t looking for it. So, that was really, really cool.
PAM: I love that piece and I bet you weren’t looking for it because I think that’s it, we were already in a space where we felt, I don’t know, like where we were able, felt able to make the unconventional choice to not send our kids to school. That feels like a strong choice, but holy bananas the empowering feelings that come from that whole transition.
It’s amazing. And it was completely unexpected for me. Especially growing up, we we’re an adult now we’re making choices. Boom. You know, we’re, we’re done.
SARAH: I had it in my head that when I gave up that control piece, I was going to lose power somehow or lose myself. And it was the opposite. Really, I gained my own true strength giving up that battling. I really found my own self and, and it had been hiding underneath all the noise and chaos before.
And so, it was there. It just needed me to be ready.
PAM: That’s so beautiful. I got goosebumps from that.
PAM: Thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
SARAH: Thank you. Wonderful. It was great to chat.
PAM: And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
SARAH: I am, my name is on Facebook.
Personally, there I am. And I also recently started a Facebook page and a TikTok account, both are called ‘unschooling looks like’ and so it’s really just sort of how things look in our house. So, it’s a lot of pictures and comments on sort of learning in my house. So, in a lot of local groups lately, there’s a lot of people more interested in homeschooling, some unschooling, and they’re saying, what does it look like?
What do you do every day? And it can be hard to picture, I think, and there’s a lot of writing about it, but I don’t see as many pictures and little videos. So, I thought I’d start kind of keeping track of things and that way. So, there’s that. If you want to watch us in action, ‘unschooling looks like’ on Facebook and on TikTok.
My oldest daughter got me going on that if it sticks around, we’re there. And my personal Facebook name as well as there.
PAM: Awesome. That sounds like a great idea. I love that, that idea to see it in action, because that is such a big question. What does it look like? What do you do?
SARAH: It can be hard to picture and you can read about it and that’s one thing, but to sort of just every day sort of seeing. Some of it’s sort of boring, but at the same time, there’s really interesting things going on. So, I thought it would be cool to kind of share that with people who maybe haven’t seen it.
PAM: Oh, I love that so much. And I’ll be sure to put links to that in the show notes. Thanks again, Sarah.
SARAH: Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Pam. Same to you.