PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown.
This month in the Living Joyfully Network, the theme is Not Back to School and as the Network’s community advocate, which you super rock at, Anna. Thank you so, so much for joining me. I’m really excited to dive into this topic with you because the back to school messages are really ramping up around us right now for the last few weeks, certainly in the Northern hemisphere where we’re all in that back to school season.
It’s understandable to feel a bit off kilter. It’s a time that we find ourselves questioning our choice not to send our kids to school because everybody seems so excited. Even now whether they’re choosing distance learning or whether they’re going back into the classroom etc, people are still excited to figure something out.
ANNA: There is a lot of energy around it for sure.
PAM: So, if you’re feeling that, I just want to say it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
It really is a great reminder that unschooling is a choice. So often on the podcast, we go back to it’s a choice, and what this moment does for us is really invite us to remember why we chose this path in the first place. It’s an opportunity for us to reconnect with the reasons that we’re choosing unschooling in the first place, because sometimes we can forget, can’t we?
ANNA: I think that’s a great time to revisit the whys and I like that it comes up every year because I think maybe we should even be revisiting the whys more than that. I love that it’s this reminder to check in with our whys.
The thing is, something drew us to unschooling. And oftentimes what we’ve seen with families is that things weren’t going well. Something was happening with their child that was sending off alarm bells. They were feeling some concerns. They were looking for alternatives. ‘How do I make this better?’ Then we choose unschooling and things are humming along and we just kind of forget about what was happening before that was so intense or difficult.
And I love that. That’s great because that means you’re living in the moment. You’re enjoying where you are. And so that’s wonderful, but then this happens, then we have this time where these outside voices creep in and a time like back to school is definitely a time that can happen.
And so, it is just really nice to remember your why and how things have changed since you’ve made this choice. We had this really lovely thread in the Network where people were sharing their whys and they spoke about relationships and agency and freedom and the time and the space to be and become and for their children to be children and to play and to explore and do. I really loved reading the thoughtful reasons people were making this huge paradigm shift. You and I have heard them over the years as we’ve been in this for so long, but it is just really beautiful to revisit those, because these are intentional choices, like you said, and just a reminder we didn’t get here by the seat of our pants. We made a choice.
We looked at alternatives because obviously most of us are funneled right into school with our children or with ourselves. So again, something happened that spoke to us. Something about unschooling spoke to our hearts, something about it resonated with us. And so just revisiting that periodically, can help us move in the direction that feels best for everyone in the family, while tuning in to individual needs as opposed to these outside expectations. And so, I love this time for that.
PAM: And I find it so valuable. That thread, when you revisit your why, I find it so energizing, so reenergizing and inspiring to remember why we chose this path in the first place.
Then it’s also a good time to remember because with some distance you’re like, ‘Oh, it wasn’t so bad. Was it?’ Oh, my goodness.
Because it’s not that unschooling doesn’t take energy. But we’re choosing it. It’s getting back to remembering why we’re choosing to put this effort, this energy into making this choice and connecting and engaging with our kids. It’s a different lifestyle completely.
So, it is helpful sometimes to just remember what it was like before you made this choice, when you were often struggling, trying to figure out what path you wanted to take. So, it can be really helpful to remember. ‘Oh yeah. You know, these were the things, these were the reasons why I decided that this seemed to be a better path for us.’ So, I think it’s super helpful. And I would encourage anyone just to take, even if it’s just five minutes as you’re walking here or doing something else, just to remember why you made this choice, because I swear it just brings a little more sparkle to my day, to every engagement, with anyone that I come across in my family and outside, because I’m fully owning this choice again, and I’m excited to make it happen in our lives. So, it’s really inspiring to just take that moment. Why am I doing this?
When you have these other messages, instead of them bouncing around in your head, you can go, ‘Oh yeah, but this is why I’m doing this instead.’ So, once we remember our why, the next step, thinking back on all the years when I’ve been through this, I then found it really helpful to shift my gaze outward now.
So, we’re remembering why we’re doing this. And now part of that reenergizing piece is looking with fresh eyes at what’s going on right now in our day to day lives. Because again, our lives look very different than the more conventional ones, don’t they?
ANNA: Well, and bringing that focus back to your days and how they’re playing out, really tuning into your children, how do they shine? What’s lighting them up? That really recentered me, that just instantly grounded me in my choices.
It instantly brought joy to my life to see them and to see them enjoying the life around them and to really see how much I was enjoying it, because sometimes when there are outside voices when we kind of go in and we’re worrying about those things and it can take us out of the moment.
It takes us out of our joy and our fun in the life. I think this is a really great time to dive in and see what’s happening and engage with my children and see how are these choices that we made are playing out, where they’re leading us.
That was just that reminder to me that I was actively and intentionally creating the life that I wanted for our family. We were doing that together and that active, intentional piece, just remembering that, gave me strength in those convictions.
Again, I’m not just willy nilly getting here. We really put a lot of thought into it and a lot of engaging with each other. What did the kids want? What do they need? And they’re telling me what they need and what they would like it to look like in all of those pieces. And when you really sink into that, those outside voices just honestly mean nothing because they’re not seeing the rich deep exchanges that you’re having as a family.
PAM: Yeah, exactly.
I found those times when I started looking at our lives through the lens of our why, of my why, I found super validating for my choice. It’s going to be very different for each person. And what it is that drew them to it, maybe it was relationships, maybe it was my child has a different style of learning. There is a whole spectrum of reasons. And for most people it’s more than one. And it changes over time. So, wherever you are, whatever whys are resonating for you the most right now, look at your days.
And I am sure you’re going to see that happening. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I chose relationships and we’ve got the time.’ It doesn’t mean people are getting along. But we have the time to support each other, to talk to each other, to work things out. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, see, that’s really happening in our lives.’ Or if your child’s learning style didn’t fit into a classroom and, and your child left school. Now you can see them learning all the time. Literally remember, they are learning through everything they’re doing. Look what they are doing over here. And now they are picking this up. And, Oh, I remember six months ago, how hard that was for them. And now, look at them breeze through that. Just reminding ourselves.
I found it very validating of my why to be reminded and see it in action in my days. And that was just another step, helping me move through this uncomfortableness of all of these outside voices that are creeping into my days. So, I really love that piece.
Another thing that I found helpful when I was feeling off kilter with this was the reminder and you brought this one up, which I think is super, the reminder not to judge my insides by someone else’s outsides. That’s super helpful. Isn’t it?
ANNA: Oh yeah. Such an important reminder. And I think, especially during this time, because with our time of social media, Facebook newsfeeds are filled with the smiling children going off to school.
And I have some friends that make these really cool boards that say grade 4 and how tall they are and what they’ve done and what their favorite thing for the summer was, so cute. Such a cute photo op and the parents were saying how excited the kids are, but it’s a photo op. That’s the bottom line, because the thing is, most of us went to school. Most of us that are listening to this, and we know that it is not all rainbows and unicorns.
For me, so I would have said, had you asked me during my school years, I would have said that I liked school fine. It’s easy for, no big stressors about it. There was some middle school stuff that was not fun, but basically there were things that I enjoyed, BUT had you told me that I could be exploring all the things that I wanted to explore to the depth that I wanted to explore them. I would have picked that hands down.
PAM: Never even crossed my horizon, right?
ANNA: I’m a scanner and I like to do all the things and I just didn’t even know it was possible. So, when you’re seeing those photo ops and whatever else, they’re going along this prescribed path and that’s great. But there’s this broader picture and you’re seeing your children dive into the things that they’re wanting.
Those pictures are just more surface level. We don’t know what that child is dealing with. Even that day that the pictures being taken, we don’t know what that family is dealing with. And I think oftentimes they have a lot wrapped up in making it work, even to the point of creating a story that might not be the whole picture because it just, it feels better.
And I get that. I really do, because we’re taught that being a part of that system is what we have to do. It may not be perfect, but it’s just a have to do it and we just make the best of it. And so, I understand those attitudes, but in our circle, we know it’s not true. You don’t have to. You can do all the things and trust where they are on their journey and fully embrace our different path as well, both can exist. And so, I think wrapping your head around that, that they’re on their path and that’s great and we’re on our path and that’s great. We don’t have to judge each other by each other’s path.
And so that’s the thing. Don’t look at the picture and then judge your life with it because you don’t know their journey and why they’re making the choices they are, but you do know your journey and you do you know why you’re making your choices.
And that’s what we’re talking about a minute ago. That’s why digging into that why’s so important. It is bringing yourself right back into that moment, seeing the children in front of you, remembering why you made that choice, or that you can make that choice if you haven’t, maybe you’re listening to this and you haven’t made that choice and we’re here to say you can make that choice.
If things aren’t going well, and you’re wanting to explore some different options. There are options. And I think so many times we don’t know that. I know you’ve spoken before that you didn’t know, homeschooling even existed. We want to create that environment where they can grow and thrive and it’s possible.
So again, it’s not an either/or, both can exist and we can celebrate. I love those pictures. Oh my gosh, I love seeing that picture every year. I’ve seen it since the child was very small. And I love seeing it, but not for one second, does it make me want to do that path. And so, I can celebrate that and know that I made the choices and my children made the choices that were right for them.
PAM: Yeah. That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. And the other piece too, I think there’s a self- awareness level as well. If you’re seeing those pictures, that excitement and everything, and you’re feeling it like a weight. And you’re having a hard time with those other voices drowning out your own why and that kind of stuff, there is nothing wrong with choosing, just to take a little break, you don’t need to announce it. Just don’t open it for a couple of weeks because this energy will die down. This fury around it will die down. I enjoy the fall energy as well, but this part passes, as people get more into the routine. It’s new, it’s something new now, new classroom, new teachers, new things, new routines.
ANNA: And remember they’re trying to make it fun for their kids, they’re trying to make it this big event so that their kids buy into it. That’s part of the making the pretty sign and doing the things, trying to make it fun.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. So, if that’s just not feeling good for you in the moment, boom, you don’t have to, you can just consciously make a choice again, everything’s a choice, right? You can choose not to go there, as a protective measure for yourself.
Not as a judgment against yourself. No. We talked so much about, it’s not about judging things. It’s not about judging ourselves. It’s about thinking about where we are in the moment and how we’re feeling and how things around us are feeling and choosing to support ourselves. To help ourselves, not to make things more difficult for ourselves.
That’s another huge piece. Isn’t it? We are taught that we need to do the hard things, for us to be strong, we need to do this hard thing and this hard thing. We think we have to do it, we have to stick with it, it’s your fault if you can’t handle that but those messages are not helpful at all.
Instead protect yourself to support yourself. That’s a lovely thing about choices. It’s another choice in the next minute, the next day, the next week. I can choose something different later, but you know what? I think this choice, it might be the best for me right now. Let’s make it and play with it and see what happens.
You can always change your mind. And again, like we were saying, you can go touch base in a couple of weeks and see what things would be like. Maybe wait a couple of weeks more again. What’s important is how it feels and how it helps you in your journey and what you’re trying to accomplish, and literally that will help your journey go more smoothly and more quickly, if you’re really engaged with yourself, understanding yourself and surrounding yourself with the things that are going to be helpful.
Not trying to force yourself to do things that are really messing with your head.
PAM: That leads so nicely into the next bit. I love when that happens, because it can also be so helpful to surround yourself with others that are making similar choices. So, as we’re talking about stepping back from things that are making those other voices louder in our heads, we can also more positively step towards others that are bringing in better voices for us. So maybe, it’s other unschooling families, maybe in person, if you’ve got groups around you, they may not be meeting right now. Maybe virtually, maybe, different online groups. That can really help us not feel so alone in the choices we’re making.
Because when we have so many of those voices in our heads and we feel like, everybody’s doing this. Thinking you are the only one who’s making this choice. And when you’re feeling alone, that just that even makes it harder. Doesn’t it?
ANNA: It does.
And honestly, a really beautiful part of having the Network is just being able to steep in this environment of families who are choosing this life. And it’s just amazing seeing the connections, the joy, how their days flow, how they move through challenges. And that’s the thing, because we know we all have challenges, but bringing them to people who understand the journey as a whole is so valuable.
On the network, we’re all very different. We have different personalities, we’re from different parts of the world. We’re scattered about the whole world. And yet we have this commitment to creating an environment where our kids can follow their passions, learn to listen to their inner voice, have the space and time to figure out who they are. And so seeing that play out in different families, it’s so beautiful and inspiring. And when you bring a challenge there, you get these really thoughtful, interesting replies. Because they understand these first nuances and then I can take what they’re saying and kind of tweak it for the nuances of my family.
It’s very hard to approach someone that doesn’t know anything about unschooling, because they’re still going, ‘Well, wait, why is that happening? Why are they not in school?’ And so, no, no, I’m trying to get this thing and I want you to help me with this part of the problem. I don’t want to have to explain unschooling.
And so that’s what I love about a community. And again, if it’s in person, that’s wonderful. If it’s a local group, that’s wonderful too. But the Network really has been amazing. And I do really love the different cultural aspects and the worldwide aspects, because you really do see all of these themes that are the same, but playing out in little bit different ways as they look at the nuances of their own individual family.
And then that I think helps you go, ‘Okay, I get it. There’s going to be nuances for my family about what works for each of us. But yet there’s these themes and these principles and these overlying things that really help us hone in on how that’s going to work for us.’ And so, and just like Pam was saying, if your life is filled with people, going back to school, all of that energy, just step back for a minute, let them get into the flow of their year while you focus on your flow.
And then you can come back together with those friends. And it’s not such charged energy. And I think this year, especially, it’s very emotional for people. There’s just a lot to consider with their kids, going to places that some people don’t feel are safe or plopping five-year-olds in front of a computer to do things that they’re not interested in.
That feels really hard. And so, they’re having so much to process right now. And if you’re at a place where you can help them process that then great. But if you’re feeling like, ‘This is just kind of messing with me and our flow as we get into our area.’ Then yeah, just take a step back for a minute because it’s going to pass.
I remember, we actually loved back to school because it meant that we got our museums back. We got our parks back and we lived in a big city at the time and there were lots of home and unschoolers and we had, packages and discounts at the bouncy place and the whatever. And so then we ruled the town again, so we loved it. So, there are perks both ways. You can kind of look at all those different pieces.
PAM: Oh, I love that. Yes. We always went to the science center. We would practically have the entire building before all the field trips started. So yes, over time that is a beautiful part of the typical, back to school season.
One piece that jumped out of me, I just wanted to say. It’s not related, but you know, we’re hearing stories now of the kids who are doing distance learning and how the rules around having to sit there at the computer. And the bugaboo where we usually hear about how my kid just loves the computer or the tablet or whatever, they don’t do anything else, etc.
And we keep saying, “It’s not about the computer. It’s about the thing.” Because they’re bored out of their mind so often is what people are complaining about now, in zoom with their teacher or whatever, but they are trying to force them. So, it’s not the computer.
ANNA: It’s not the “screen.”
PAM: It’s not the “screen.”
ANNA: It is something interesting to them. When you’re talking about an unschooled child and this is the opposite of that. So yeah, definitely not the screen. It’s the content and what brings joy and fun.
PAM: Exactly. The other piece I wanted to pull out from what you said there, is about the friends thing and the groups because I think so many of us, well, it can relate to having challenges and we’re used to taking our challenges, to our friends or to our extended family, maybe to our parents, to an aunt, uncle, cousin, whatever. We’re use, to sharing our challenges in those moments and getting feedback.
But we’re finding now that we’ve chosen this unschooling path and we’re taking a different route, tha so often because that’s the piece that’s the most different, so often the recommendation is, “Well, put them in school. Then you’ll get this time and they’ll learn. You won’t be arguing with them all day,” or whatever. But because that is the biggest piece that’s different for most people that seems the first place to go to solve it. Well, get them in school and then we can talk about anything deeper that happens.
But that is really, as far as most people will get when you’re having those kinds of conversations. If you refuse to do that, well, then this is all your own fault.
As you were saying, I completely understand that because that is their context, right? That is how they’re seeing things. If we were in their shoes, that would very much be something that we would suggest if we thought they were doing something that was really different and off the wall, which is how they see it as, well, that’s going to be causing so many problems for you.
So, to gather with likeminded people and to ask our questions there, like you said, now we’re all starting on the same foundation. We can get past those super easy and not very helpful at all suggestions or answers and actually get into the meat of things.
And the other beautiful thing is when we are talking about getting into the meat of things. That’s one big thing for the network, it’s not sharing advice and telling other people what we think they should do. Because as you said, families are different. We’re all individuals, but as we each share our experiences and how we maybe worked through similar situations, then you can see the foundation. You can see the principles that underlie our choices as we were working through them and what our experiences were, and then you can bring that into your own bubbling, right? Your own thinking about the situation and your own individual people involved in it. And start coming up with ideas and possibilities that might work for your family in particular. So, that’s one thing that I find so helpful. Go ahead.
ANNA: It brought something to mind because like you were saying, I think with people that are choosing school, they have an attachment to that choice. And so that is kind of the first lens that they see when they’re talking to you, because it’s like, wait a minute, I have attachment to this choice. Whereas what I love about what happens on the Network is there’s really no attachment to anyone changing or doing things one particular way. It really is just about sharing. We’re on this journey to connect with our children and to have these relationships. And then here’s the things that have kind of bubbled up and helped me.
And that speaks to me in particular because I really have this kind of radar for people that are stuck or attached to one right way and don’t want to be questioned about it. Because I like to question things. And so, I love that more organic sharing and non-attachment to outcome, which we talk about in other ways with our children, but it’s the same for this too.
And so realizing that when you’re getting advice maybe from family or whatever, that they have some attachments to these choices that they’ve made and that that’s about them. So, I don’t know, something about that just kind of sparked up for me.
PAM: Which leads exactly to something else that came up, which I love is that the self- awareness is just such a valuable piece.
If you find that you still keep wanting to go back to those conversations, with people, that are outside, have that different lens, have that more school or more conventional lens. It can be so useful to ask if we are continuing to try to engage with them around it because we feel a need to convince them our way is good. And are we trying to get some validation for ourself and our choices by convincing them that our choices are valuable, but that’s when you get in that twist, right? Because they have their choices and they too want to convince you that no, no, my way is the right way.
So it’s so valuable and helpful to get to that space where you can see that this is my journey. This is their journey. It’s not about right or wrong. We’re each making our best choices of the choices that we think will work best for our individual families, for our individual situations, for the way we individually see the world.
So, it’s such an interesting piece to remember in that engagement, but they’re coming with that lens and they are attached to that lens. And then if we find ourselves going back often, it’s a great question to ask, ‘Why do I really feel the need to keep engaging and not accept that two different views or two different perspectives are okay?’
ANNA: That is all about that self-awareness piece, because once you, and I think the things we just talked about earlier in the podcast, like, that’s the thing,
When you sit in your why, when you’re connecting with your children, you don’t need that outside validation and you don’t need to convince that person. You can honestly trust in their journey and you can know, I am right where I want to be. We are making choices together. We are right where we want to be. And so that is that next step in the journey for people. And it really feels great when you can get there.
PAM: Yeah, it really does. And again, that leads so nicely to that next piece because now, we’re steeped in that self-awareness but I found, so for the next step, because I’ve been in my head now for a little while haven’t I, I’ve been thinking about these whys, I’ve been worrying about all these other voices and working through quietening them. The next step for me that I found really helpful, because it doesn’t mean I’ve solved it at this point. Yes, I’ve thought through things but now in action is where the rubber hits the road truly. So, when I found myself swirling in my head for a while, it was a great reminder to take that next step and choose, actively choose, intentionally choose to connect with my kids. Embracing that joy it’s just so valuable. Right?
ANNA: Absolutely. And I mean, we talk about it as, getting out of our head and into the moment. Because there are times that our thoughts can kind of betray us or take on a life of their own and really keep us stepping back because we are getting in our head.
We’re thinking, we’re stepping back and you’re feeling this pull. But the minute we bring ourselves back to that moment in front of us, sitting on the ground with our kids, building a Lego, watching a show, playing a game, we are instantly grounded in the now and then our whys are just surrounding us.
And those thoughts do not hold that power anymore. And these deep connected relationships are just so satisfying. Fun. I mean, there’s just a light or fun, lean in energy and it just quickly quiets that outside noise, because honestly those outside people, again, often don’t even know it’s possible to have what we’re talking about.
They really haven’t been given a template for that. They really don’t have the experiences. So, I just found so much confidence in our choices by really seeing my children. And taking a good look at our life and just being in it, just being right in it with them and enjoying it and doing things I enjoy and bringing that to them and seeing the things they enjoy and that back and forth, because life is going to be, bring us ups and downs.
We talked about this a lot. But I like to keep saying it because again, I think people are like, ‘Well, your life must be perfect.’ It is not. But what I see over and over again is our relationships and our connections just help us navigate those times. And so, it’s not about avoiding those times. It’s about having these deep relationships and connections that help us get through those times.
And in between those tough times, there’s so much joy and laughter. And honestly, what I’ve seen is even in the midst of the really hard times, because we have the connection, there’s joy and laughter. So, it’s not even a dichotomy like that. So it’s hard to explain, I think when you haven’t experienced it, but know that you can, and then that’s it there and that it’s available and that there are all these people that are doing it and sharing all these different ways that it can work.
So, yeah, it’s so important that get out of your head and get into the moment and just soak in all of that excitement of that moment.
PAM: Again, I’m going to see if I can remember all that came up for me, like that first piece. And I want to go back to those other voices that don’t even have a template for what our lives look like. So, of course, that ties right back to why are we trying to convince and get validation from somebody else? Because imagine what you would need to help them understand. You would need to show them that entire template so that they can actually see what’s different. Unless they’re actually interested or curious, but that is just such a huge piece of it.
They can’t know our lives. They don’t know what’s going on in our conversations in our connections, in the respect that we show for each other, in the trust that grows there. Even if they see little snippets that looks strange to them, we know the bigger picture. We know what’s going on and we know how to learn more about it so that we can figure out and move through those times. I just thought that was a really fun piece to bring.
Now we can get out of our heads into the moment. Because yes, exactly, that is where we see it all in action. I literally feel a weight coming off when I can just get into the moment. Because in our heads, we’re trying to figure out so many things. I liken it to mindfulness. And just really choosing to actively engage in that moment, because in there that’s where you see that all that other stuff truly doesn’t matter.
In that moment and that realization that life moving forward, is just a collection of those moments. And that the more that we can engage and be there with them the more we get from those moments.
Oh, and that was the other piece I wanted to say. Maybe it’s not physically, sometimes some kids are in their room and they’re listening to something or they’re reading or they’re playing games or whatever they’re doing, they are wanting that private time. But I can still be in the moment with that. Does that make sense? Because I can be celebrate and acknowledge what they’re doing.
That’s awesome. I can bring them, drinks, snacks. If they’re really into a game, I can be researching that game. I can be finding, maybe there’s a book about it. I remember when I used to find the orchestra going around playing video game music, concerts and stuff like that, but just some fun things, even maybe just another link to something else. I was showing Joseph a couple of podcasts that I came across last night that I thought he might find interesting.
So, it doesn’t necessarily mean when we say connect with your kids. I don’t want you to just say, ‘Oh, well, my kid likes to spend a lot of time on their own. I can’t do that.’ No, it’s just different. It’s just a different way but our energy can connect with them. We can be fully supporting what they’re doing more actively engaged with them that way.
ANNA: Because if they’re doing something they love most likely they’re smiling, laughing, engaging with that friend online or with that game that they’re working on. And even if it’s a frustrating game where they’re super into it, you can see the puzzles working in their mind and you just see how much they’re getting out of that experience. And so that can bring you down to the moment.
PAM: Yes. And being totally open and engaged when they come out. So, maybe when they’re taking a break, they come out from the washroom and they come out to get a snack or something. In those times, I would actively remind myself to stop what I’m doing and just be around and open in case they want to share. If they’re interested in connecting for a little bit, we have the time and the space to choose these moments. And to give them the value and the respect that those moments deserve. We look for those moments of connection when the possibilities there.
ANNA: And to prioritize that, like you said, the space, because I think it would be really hard to just hope that between seven and nine, something’s going to bubble up and we’re going to have a conversation. Likely, we’re all tired from the day at that point. But we have that time for things to bubble up and for conversations to happen.
But I think you’re right, you do have to be aware and be looking for them and say, you know what, I am going to set down what I’m doing to have this connection. And, and I still find myself doing that now with my 20 year old. When she wakes up and comes down, I’m busy doing stuff, I’ve got a whole life and things, but I know I want to pause for a minute, so that I can have that little moment.
PAM: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. It is completely worth it. We were talking about how unique families are, and that things look different. The fundamental is the connection. How that might play out in your family, that’s your fun creative work to, to play with. To try these things and to see what works. And again, it changes over time. Sometimes they’re in cocooning mode. Sometimes they’re out actively engaging. That’s the fascinating stuff to learn about each of us as individuals.
So, the last piece that I wanted to go to now, I know I love this one too. Now that we’re reconnecting with our kids. We’re doing better at noticing when we’re caught in our heads and we’re getting more actively into the moment and we’re getting more into the flow of our unschooling days now. So, we’re popping, we’re connecting as much as we can now. None of this means things go perfectly. And we’ve talked about that too. So much of attachment and connection is about reconnecting after something goes a little sideways. That’s why I always talk about it as playing with things because we tried things and then we see what happens. Maybe it doesn’t help. Maybe it sparks more negative reaction.
Those are all pieces that we’re learning about. And we can still connect. Don’t use those as an excuse to just stay pulled back.
So, now that we’re more into the flow of our days, it’s a great time for us to consider stretching our wings and stepping a bit more out of our comfort zone. Isn’t it?
ANNA: Yeah. So, this was really one of the biggest areas of growth for me. I’ve mentioned this many times before but I’m an introvert. And so, it doesn’t really come naturally for me to go up to strangers or seek people out and ask them questions for opportunities. I mean, over my lifetime, I’ve found ways for me to bring things into my own life, but it was a stretch for me to kind of figure out, okay, how do I do that for my kids? And what does that look like? But it was so important. And what I found over the years is that people really enjoy talking about their passions and they love it when kids are interested. So, when they meet a child who is interested, they gets so excited.
I remember this time when, Raelin was really very young. I wonder if she even remembers, I may ask her later. She was really into rocks and minerals. And so here, she’s this little, little kid, but she knew all kinds of things about rocks and minerals and loved collecting them. So, there was a local club and it was downtown and we were 30 minutes from downtown. And of course, I didn’t know anybody and that’s not my best spot is to go into something like that.
But I was just like, we got to do it. We’ve got to go see what it’s about. Oh my gosh. They loved her being there. They showered with all these cool specimens. We came home with all of these things. They just took us both under their wings and that was hard for me, but it made all these connections.
And I loved it. It was just that reminder that people are interested in connecting, especially when you’re connecting over passions. If your child has a passion, you can find somebody else with that passion and they’ll get so much out of that exchange.
I also found that. So, she, in particular, had a lot of social needs. She really liked to be around friends and people, doing things. And I found that I needed to be in our community, which was again, a large city at the time, the creator of the groups, creating gatherings, creating, field trips to places, coordinating kickball at the local park.
Because what I found is that some people can feel very overwhelmed by that piece of the scheduling and the figuring out and whatever. But they were excited to attend. So, if I could do those pieces, which yeah, it was more work, but it brought these people into our lives, it brought these experiences that my daughter wanted.
I could make sure that she had those experiences. It’s that piece of making the world bigger. Erica, Davis Petri mentioned it a couple podcasts ago and in kind of a different context, but it’s the same and it’s that making the world bigger. And so, that really is part of our role or one of my roles is to help make the world bigger, to follow their rabbit trails, to figure out, how to bring things into their life. But also enjoying, I want to be clear about this because I think sometimes people can go, okay, I have to do all the things. I’ve got to make all these things happen BUT you’re also going to have these stretches of cocooning times and wanting to be home.
And then it’s just like what Pam was just talking about. So, then it’s thinking, how can I connect about their interests? How can I just be available to hear about their interests, of what’s bubbling up for them at home and be thinking of different ways to bring things into our life.
So, I do believe it’s a role. It’s not this imperative that we have to take on in this really rabid way. It’s just a way to realize, okay, I want to check in, ‘Is something in my personality, holding us back? Is there something that I need to stretch through?’ Which is part of my own growth. And it’ll be very different for other people. And I could tell from Erica’s podcast that she’s an extrovert and those things came very easily to her, to ask every single person she met how they got their job and what they did. (Laughing)
PAM: How did you get that job? I thought that was awesome.
ANNA: Isn’t that amazing?! I love that she did that and I thought I would want to know that information, but I know it would be a hard step for me to ask it.
I thought that was so interesting. And again, just to checking in with myself. And so just one last thing, when I’m talking about unschooling, especially with people that aren’t as familiar. Unschooling is not the easy path. In some ways I think plopping everybody down at the table with a workbook and walking away and saying, get it done is probably easier.
But for me, what unschooling involves is this kind of creative, out of the box thinking and puzzle solving. And I would much rather spend my energy there, on building these relationships, on finding creative solutions, on figuring out how to follow the rabbit holes, than I would on fights over homework or curriculum requirements, or forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do.
For me, it’s not about easy, but it’s about the energy and where I want to spend it. Because you’re going to spend energy, whether they’re in school or whether you’re sitting them at the table or whether you’re unschooling, but where do you want to spend that energy and how do you want to be? For personal reasons, I don’t want to be in that ugly space all the time. I like being in a happy creative puzzle solving space, you know? And so, I just wanted to add that, but anyway, making the world bigger, but in a way that works for everybody. So, it’s not a requirement. Do you know what I’m saying, Pam? Like, I feel like I’m worried a slight bit about people taking that the wrong way.
PAM: So, I’m not going to let you talk as long because I lose all my thoughts along the way. (laughing)
So, how the Erica thing, and the question, how’d you get that job? Which I thought was awesome and so then I’m thinking about that through the lens of my comfort zone. Because that would definitely push me. But It might be something I could play with.
I’m already thinking, what if I think of it as a project? Not just me personally approaching, it’s that step of detachment. That leads me nicely to the next point, which is that I found it easier to stretch my comfort zones in support my children.
Because that gave me a good reason, more of a reason, because then the outcome meant something. No matter how it turned out. I was stretching, stretching for a reason that was important to me. So, that’s something to consider, is if you’re really trying to be somebody that you’re not, something that you’re not, and you’re kind of guilting yourself into doing that. And yet that’s not sustainable. That’s not sustainable at all. And it’s great for your kids to know who you are. You’re not the only one.
Okay. You know what I not, I’m really not comfortable doing that but I have this friend she’ll be able to, she can do this or he can do that, making the world bigger. That’s where we’re back to. We don’t have to be all the things. If something’s challenging for us and we’re really not comfortable yet, maybe never, but we can connect our kids with other people who can help them with those things and do those things and take them those places.
Back to what they’re passionate about and connecting them with other people who are passionate about those things. I cannot have a photography conversation with Lissy at the depths that she can have it, nor with all of my kids, their passions and their knowledge and understanding has far surpassed mine. But I can celebrate what they know when they share things. I can still love what they’re producing and creating and that kind of stuff, and I can help them and encourage them and try to find things for them. So we can be supportive without having to actually be the thing. But the comfort zone is just such an interesting thing to play with because when we look at it through the lens of the way you often talk about it, Anna, being the person I want to be. Is that something that I would like to try and do? And it’s so valuable to play with that comfort zone, back to the self awareness piece again, rather than to just stay who I am.
I’m a growing and changing human being. And that’s cool, just to not put such big expectations on myself to be somebody totally different than I am. So, I understand how you don’t want people to get the impression that they need to be something different, but also to remember that we can grow and change, and it’s not about us being the same person all the time
ANNA: Reflect on it, don’t take it as an imperative. Okay. I have to start a group and do a thing and make a thing. No, look at your life and think, ‘What do I need to stretch? Where we would that feel good and where would it enhance my child’s life and what’s going on with them that I can do something to help? So, it’s not a prescription, but it’s just an idea to reflect about. Sometimes we can get comfortable in our bubble and yet it may be time and our kids may be asking for more and we’re not sure how to do that.
And I love the point you said about, it doesn’t have to all fall to us. Because I’ll even say with the group starting piece, I have a friend who’s much more extroverted. And so, some of those pieces came easier to her, but I was good at the puzzle solving and mapping out what we should do and timing and this kind of thing.
And so, I could take care of that and posting events and doing whatever. And she could be the face when we were at the park greeting people and doing, and I could take that a little bit slower, because that was a little bit harder for me. So, finding those partners in this journey and finding the mentors that can help your kids have those deep conversations that, I don’t think you, or I will ever know as much about photography as Lissy does, but I can still love listening to it, but I also know that she probably gets a lot out of really talking to somebody that already has that foundation.
PAM: That stretches her comfort zone, that’s where she’s learning, at the edge where her questions are. I cannot meet her where her questions are. I can absorb and love and celebrate all the knowledge.
And there’s a piece I wanted to mention.Because as you were talking about the things that we do, it can be even simple things. I remember for, both Lissy and Michael, one of the biggest, most helpful things I did in the teen years was be the driver. So many of their friends’ parents, whether they were busy or just didn’t give priority to their kids hanging out with their friends, needed help driving. That was something that they needed to work out. I would go and pick them up and bring them back to our house and then take them back home later. Or the next day I would go into town, house to house, pick everybody up, take them to the parkour gym in the city, hang out at the coffee shop for a few hours, bring them all home, drop them off.
It’s not something that I would sit down and choose, ‘Hey, I would love to drive you guys places. Tell me where you want to go.’ No, but it was something that I could say yes to. I could say, you know what? I could really enjoy reading for a few hours, sitting quietly in a coffee shop or with my laptop writing a book. Unschooling Journey was written in some points at the coffee shop by the gym. I could turn that around. Oh my gosh, I’m stuck in the city for four hours or what can I do in the city of I myself for four hours? They’re just a way to ping on our comfort zones.
ANNA: Yeah, it was exactly the same for me. We lived in Charlotte, which, is like an hour from one side to the other. And people would just be like, “Oh, it’s too far to get to that event,” or whatever. So here I am doing the rounds, picking everybody up, going to the jump place, bringing them back to our house for a pool party, whatever the thing might be.
And yeah, that wouldn’t be necessarily how I would choose to spend my day, if nobody was in the car and me just driving, driving, driving. But just like you, I found the little joy and Oh my gosh, the conversations in the backseat, so funny and the music we would pick and what that would look like and we’d be singing, or doing or whatever.
And that time in my life was, well now, it feels so short. And at the time I felt, I mean, the miles I put on the car driving during those few years before Raelin got her license, but then she got her license and it was so weird, not to be a part of that, not to have that. So, it’s just little tweaks and thinking, from I don’t want to be in the car. I don’t love driving or whatever to just thinking, but for these couple of years to make their life bigger for these other kids to be able to participate in the things that we’re doing, like I felt that was a gift that I could give them. I couldn’t change everything about their lives or what was going on with them, but I could get them to the pool party and they could have a great time, you know?
It’s just those little tweaks and things we can do. It doesn’t have to be huge but we can just take that moment instead of just writing it off. Like, no, I don’t want to drive that’s too far. They live too far or whatever it is.
PAM: I remember sometimes just being in the car and thinking, ‘Oh, if their parents were here to hear that they would be saying yes.’ I feel like just because it’s just so cool to listen to the conversations and to steep in their joy. It was reenergizing. It was inspiring. It was all the things. When you bring that fresh lens to it, those fresh eyes.
When you’re not thinking negatively about it. It’s that self awareness piece. It’s a choice. It’s a choice, when you make the choice, embrace the choice. Don’t make it begrudgingly and then be grumpy through the whole thing. “I’m driving you, make sure you’re back here at this hour or whatever, whatever.”
Dive in, lean into that choice when you make it and see what happens. So often you’re going to find the joy. And like you said, even when things go sideways, somebody sprains an ankle and now you’re driving to the hospital instead, there’s still those pockets of joy in there. They’re still laughing. They’re still describing the jump that went awry, all those things. It’s still okay.
ANNA: Love it. Feel the energy of all of that as opposed to this weight of the back to school and just sink into your whys and feel all the joy that you have because, you love your kids and you love being with them and it’s just, it’s fun.
I just really hope people can take that away and find the support that they need to just lift themselves up.
PAM: Yes, I hope everybody’s found this episode helpful. I love how we started with not back to school, the questioning, the uncertainty that we may be feeling, and we worked our way through that right back into fully and joyfully unschooling. So, I think that’s awesome. Thanks so much. Anna
ANNA: So great! Take care.
PAM: You too. Bye.