PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Kelsi Stembel. Hi, Kelsi!
KELSI: Hi, Pam!
PAM: Just to give you a little bit of background, I was introduced to Kelsi through a podcast listener and I am so excited to learn more about her unschooling journey. I think it’s going to be really fascinating.
So, to get us started, Kelsi…
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s interested in right now?
KELSI: I asked my kids to help me with this because it’s really them that makes up all of this stuff. So, it’s very important to me that I get it right because generally I don’t, I don’t know everything they’re interested in, so I’ll start it.
It’s myself and I have two girls. Eiri is 17 and Abby is 13 and I’m a farmer and I love being a farmer. I raise animals for meat and I also sell natural body products like deodorants and body butters and stuff like that. Beyond that, I don’t have a whole lot of spare time, but I listen to audio books voraciously. So, I’m constantly reading and learning and I used to have a few more hobbies, but then because of Covid everything shut down. So, I really just farm and listen to books and talk to my kids.
My older daughter is Eirian she goes by Eiri. She’s in her first year of college and this year she’s been staying with mom a lot because my mom has much better internet.
She’s about an hour away. She’s also interested in history and politics, and she’s looking to study history in college. She’s also currently working on her Girl Scout Gold Award project, which is related to LGBTQ history. And she is very active, politically and in environmental causes. And she just was in charge of a local climate rally last Sunday.
I am so impressed with how involved she is in politics and other causes. She’s kind of gotten me more into politics. I wasn’t doing a whole lot before, just paying attention. Beyond all that she’s an avid knitter and crochet-er, she likes to sew. She, made her own dress for a homeschool prom a year and a half ago, which was totally cool. It’s so awesome.
So, I’m just completely impressed with her.
And then Abby is 13 and she is very eclectic. Right now, she’s into ball jointed dolls. So, she just created some wings out of popsicle sticks and she saved up money for about six months or a year to buy a ball jointed doll. She just bought hair to be used for her. I have to be clear that it’s not real hair. She thought people would not appreciate that otherwise.
So, I have no clue anything about this other than a few videos she showed me, but there are tons of people doing it on YouTube and she thinks it’s like super cool. She’s also an artist and it’s really cool because she’s very pragmatic about her skills.
So, she knows she isn’t a phenomenal doller and can’t recreate things but she’s willing to learn and practice and just doing things to see where she goes with it. She is very opinionated about learning from others. She doesn’t always like other people’s techniques. So, watching YouTube, she’ll often tell me what she doesn’t like more than what she does like or what she learned.
Let’s see, she’d like to go to art school and possibly work for Pixar. She adores her cats and spends lots of time overenthusiastically snuggling them. The cats don’t always love it, but they tolerate it. And about a year or two ago, my mom got her a Raddish Cooking Kit and Abby is really taken to that, she likes to follow some recipes somewhat as they’re told and then experiment and try things. And they’re generally edible, sometimes very good. Especially her pancakes, they are great. Let’s see, she also loves playing games on her Switch Lite that she got last year.
PAM: Oh, I love hearing the descriptions because you get such a cool snapshot of the kids and of ourselves. So many pieces, just hearing parents describe it. Like when you’re talking about Eiri and her politics and causes and, we really do learn so much from them through their interests. And we often get fascinated in and interested in those things too. I hear you how you weren’t so involved politically before her interests pulled you in like history and politics was something I had not yet, or still not well informed on, but Joseph’s interest has really pulled me in that direction and I’ve been learning so much through him.
It’s just fascinating to see the places that our kids go when they don’t feel the weight of following the things that we’re interested in. Like that there’s an expectation that we can have, often parents have an expectation that their kids will like the same things that they like or they’ll poopoo the things that their kids are interested in, that they’re not, because they don’t see value in it. So, it’s just so fascinating to hear all the interesting places that unschooling kids go when they’re free to choose what sounds interesting to them. And to follow those passions too different kinds of places.
And I loved how you described how Abby is learning about how she likes to learn things. It’s just so interesting to hear, isn’t it?
KELSI: Yes. And when I listened to your podcast, that’s one thing I love, I love hearing what everybody else’s kids are into because they’re often as eclectic as my own kids. When I look at our peers, they tend to be into what I call would call fairly normal stuff. But my kids kind of go off in their own direction. And I love that, through the podcast, I can see all these other people with kids that just have these amazing interests that typical kids—if we could call any kids typical—would not be into.
PAM: Yeah. I know, I know it’s so fascinating to see what a free human being is curious about and follows, So when a parent is describing to me their current interests and maybe where they came from, there’s so many interesting threads through the different things that you get a sense of the person.
Just through the various things that are connected for them through climate change and politics and all that kind of stuff. It’s just brilliant, I think, to get these little snapshots of unschooling kids and young adults. It’s awesome.
KELSI: I agree. Completely, completely agree. So much fun.
PAM: So, you were a teacher in the public school system. I was going to say in another life, but …
KELSI: It feels like it.
PAM: I can imagine, from that to this.
I would love to hear the story of how you got from there to farming and unschooling.
KELSIL Sure. I’m happy to share. I was a middle school teacher for nine and a half years and I really love middle schoolers. They’re amazing.
But the last probably two years or so, teaching was really difficult for me because I’d had my curriculum changed three times in three years. And then the last year I was moved to the new school without my input and I just didn’t enjoy doing what I was told to do without having a whole lot of leeway on what I felt the kids actually needed. And it was very, very frustrating. So, with all of that, I ended up getting really sick with what’s probably stress-related issues and I eventually just had to stop teaching.
At that point I always wanted to homeschool my kids because I love kids getting to do things at their own rate and pace and in their own manner with their own interests. So, homeschooling was a very easy choice and we spent a year homeschooling. And during that year, I could tell that Abby, my younger, wasn’t really interested in lessons and not that she didn’t like them, but the format of sitting down and doing work that other people told us to do, or a book told us to do just didn’t work for her.
Eiri loved it, she was fine. She was perfectly happy but Abby wasn’t and she’d already had a year of public school and she didn’t enjoy that. So, it was kind of obvious that whatever I was doing wasn’t working, but at that point, occasionally, just because there were these little signs that something wasn’t right, we found out that she was dyslexic. So, the next year I started out completely differently, we focused on dyslexia and it still wasn’t for her.
Meanwhile, I’d heard of unschooling when I was teaching and thought it was a really awesome, obviously it would only work with kids that were self-motivated. So, I didn’t think that it would work for my younger child. And my older child was telling me what she wanted to do and did it.
After probably about 8 months of trying to do some intensive reading and other stuff too, for Abby, we just got really frustrated, she was frustrated with me. I was frustrated with her. We just decided to go on summer break early. So, we had a good probably 5 months where we didn’t do any lessons. And I watched this amazing change in Abby.
She went from a kid that didn’t want to have anything to do with learning to a kid that would go to the library and check out Bill Nye videos, Magic School Bus videos, or videos on animals. Stuff that are educational videos. And she was loving it. And learning a lot, but I wasn’t teaching.
And that started changing my mindset a little bit and I decided to keep doing what we were doing. And I start looking into unschooling, the thing I’d heard about that I didn’t think would work, but I was kind of at the end of my rope and sure enough, the more I read about it, the more I realized it was perfect for Abby. And eventually I realized we were unschooling.
It was really cool. I kind of feel like Abby pushed me into unschooling, somewhat reluctantly and that way I kind of came through the back door where I didn’t realize that it was even what I was doing and I was doing it.
PAM: Oh, I love that. That is a really cool way to look at it coming in through the back door, because you were trying to work with Abby, trying to work with Abby, trying to figure out how you could and you’re still in that schoolish, homeschooling mindset, where you were trying to find a learning style that would work for her so that you could present the stuff that you thought she needed to learn and learn through that lens that would excite her. Because that’s what you were looking for, right? You were looking for her to be happy about learning for her, wanting to learn and everything.
And then that led you to taking the break and then you start reading about unschooling more and going, ‘Hey, you know, that’s what we’re doing.’ And you were observing her in action and seeing it in action because that was what she was really drawn to. Just learning without calling it learning.
KELSI: Exactly. And I’ll have to clarify. She now wants me to call it free schooling. She doesn’t like unschooling as the term. She likes free schooling. And I think it’s just that feeling of being free to choose anything that she likes better than it being the opposite of schooling. So, if I remember, I tried to call it free schooling, but then I have to describe what it is anyways.
PAM: I know, right?! And that’s okay. Fascinating thing is that when my kids were growing up, it’s not like we really talked about it as unschooling or named it really. It was just, that was the term that is typically being used. So, when you’re looking for information online, you’re looking to find other families, it’s a common term that can help us find information and connect more so than a solid description. Right?
PAM: I love her focus on the freedom aspect of it. I, you know what, that’s probably why my first book is Free to Learn because that freedom, the ability to choose is what makes this style so valuable.
KELSI: Right, right. It’s the core of it.
PAM: Yeah, that’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. I love that.
Now there is an aspect of deschooling. So, you took that summer off. You discovered this is what you’re doing. So, part of that process for you as you’re coming to understand it, is the realization that unschooling isn’t just for the kids.
Once we figure out it’s a great way for the kids to learn, then our perspective grows, I think, that it’s important for us as parents to be living and breathing examples of lifelong learning. It pulls away from the “school” itself—it becomes a lifestyle. I would love to hear if that was your experience.
Basically, transitioning from being a teacher to becoming a farmer was this ultimate learning activity because I had no background in farming. I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t grow up anywhere near a farm. The only farm I visited was my uncle’s farm, which somebody else was farming for him. And they just had some extra animals and it was in wide open space, but that was it.
But I knew I loved animals. I loved being outdoors and I loved working with my hands and I just was drawn to it. So, I started out by just reading a lot, like most of us do. Or many of us do, people that like to read, tend to use that as their introductions. So, I read a whole bunch of books. And when I came here, I realized that I really didn’t know anything about farming. I could tell you about animals and about rotational grazing but I had never done it. I’d barely seen it in action and you really have to do things, for it to be truth for yourself.
So, I basically was a complete novice and in five years I’ve gone from being a novice to a person that feels I can legitimately give other people information when they ask questions, which is an awesome transition. I don’t feel like an expert, but I definitely don’t feel like a novice anymore.
And the best thing about all of this is that my kids watched me go from being a person who knew basically nothing to a person that, that this is their lifestyle in their livelihood. They got to watch that transition.
They saw an adult make a mistake, learn a little bit, do a little bit better, make another mistake, learn a little bit, do even better. And to see the actual learning process and not the process where you have an expert telling you what to do and not allowing room for mistakes to be made. And because of that, I think that my kids have this amazing ability to decide they want to learn something and be okay with making mistakes much more so than I was when I was their age or even older.
So, I think that allowing kids to see adults as fallible and going through the process of learning something is much more valuable than any learning experience they can do, because they can watch, they can see it being modeled in a real way.
And I encourage anybody to try something new. Even if we think they’re going to horrible at it, try knitting if you’ve never picked up yarn before. Try driving a car, if you’ve never done it before, let your kids see you learn. So, then they know it’s okay to make mistakes. And it’s a good thing and it’s part of the process.
PAM: I love that. I love that because I mean, not only is it a great example, for your kids to just see it in action. And I loved your point about seeing how valuable mistakes are, but how much are we learning about unschooling and learning when we put ourselves back in that new learner kind of position, right?
PAM: We see unschooling in action right in front of us when, instead of like you said, I’m turning to the experts as in somebody needs to teach me that, to understand that now I can learn this.
And now we’re starting out as being in control of the situation, not handing control over to somebody else. And we are seeing that it’s possible. It’s like, ‘Oh, I can figure out this thing. My kids can figure out these things.’
There are so many different ways and that making mistakes is absolutely okay. And is actually a valuable part of it because now I know not to go in that direction again, I’m going to take that and tweak and go in a different direction and I’m learning more and it’s like this back and forth and back and forth. Try this, try that, try this and you’re just learning more and more along the way.
KELSI: Right. It’s amazing. And I love that when kids can see that, they really do get it. I don’t know. It just opens up space for them to decide that they want to try something that they don’t necessarily know they’ll be good at or know anybody that can do it and just do it anyways.
PAM: Oh, yeah. And to see in action, what I love about this is, is it speaks to the lifelong, perspective on learning, right? That this is something we all do and can choose to do as human beings. And it doesn’t look different. Whether I’m the parent or the child, the process doesn’t look different.
Obviously, the interests look different, but the process doesn’t and I love your idea. Just take up knitting, just take up something that you’ve been curious about, give yourself some time and try out learning something new and see how it goes. I think that’s a great idea for helping somebody get familiar, more familiar and more comfortable with the way unschooling works and just being okay and understanding mistakes for ourselves.
It helps you understand that you made that best choice in the moment and it didn’t work and you learned from it. And then you’re so much less likely to judge what you might see as a mistake in your child, you can realize they made the best choice that they knew in that moment. And they saw what happened and they learned from that. It’s not about helping our kids avoid making mistakes. That’s all a valuable part of the process. Isn’t it?
KELSI: Exactly. Yes.
PAM: Yeah, I love that. And I love that, what’s really curious is that it’s fast. The difference between, so there are some people who find out about unschooling and they read about it and they read about it and they read about it and then they want to try and do it themselves, which is what you talked about farming, right? You read and you read and you read, and then you realize you can only absorb so much knowledge. The next learning step is to actually do it, which is so different. So in the book it’s understanding it intellectually, but when you even use the word truth, but doing it hands on and getting to that truth, that deeper level of understanding is the invaluable next step. Isn’t it?
PAM: Yeah. It’s fascinating putting that against the way you came to unschooling, which was more the living it side and getting led there through living and then discovering the book side. So yeah, that’s so curious to see all the different ways we can learn things.
KELSI: So, much fun to learn about.
PAM: And I love that you’re listening to audio books all the time and we can take each moment as it sits, constraints and all this is the way things are right now. And we can still be curious and make it our own moment. That’s beautiful.
You mentioned, your daughter and dyslexia and another valuable paradigm shift that often happens, I can just imagine it for you as you were coming from school focus and homeschooling focus, is that focusing on fixing kids is often more damaging than helpful for them.
So, we can embrace their strengths rather than focusing on those challenges. And when we make that shift, it can really make a world of difference, can’t it?
KELSI: Yes. So, if Abby were in school right now and she’d been in school the whole time, I think she would probably be a better, more proficient reader, but that would have come at such a high cost for her.
In school, so much of the learning is done through reading that it’s important that kids learn to read early and fast so they can access all of the information that the school has to offer. Whereas through unschooling, Abby mostly learns by video. And so reading is secondary for her and she can take her time to learn and to make mistakes and she doesn’t have to deal with other kids’ time schedules, where she’s in a group, or even a school time schedule. I’ve noticed that she’ll go through periods of rapid growth in reading, and then she’ll go through some periods of stasis where she doesn’t make a lot of growth in reading. But, in a school situation, she would be doing lessons on reading probably every day, regardless of whether she was in a period of growth or not. And so, allowing her to develop her reading naturally is really giving her the option of learning whatever she is ready to learn at that time.
And she always has the option of asking me if we can do some reading lessons to help her understand things that are not going to easily come naturally to her because of the dyslexia. She knows that she has that option. All she has to do is ask and give me a little bit of time and I can prepare something to teach something specific that she wants to know, or to help her move forward. But for the most part, she finds that she’s able to understand things without the reading right now.
And so she has this option of time. I noticed that with my older daughter, Eiri. she never had what anybody call disability, but she does have learning differences in that there are ways she learns better and ways she doesn’t learn as well. And she’s allowed to choose the method of learning best, suits her for whatever she wants to learn, she’s able to learn things more quickly and so on and so forth. She really gets to make those choices.
Both of my kids have the freedom of choosing when and how and what, and that it really just seems to help their self-esteem because they’re not faced with mistakes because of the situation they’re in. They’re making mistakes that are just a part of their learning and I think that really has helped with their self-esteem, which I think is important—or probably more important—than actually learning specifics skills or items.
PAM: Yeah. Because they’re learning about themselves, right?
I mean, it’s so interesting. Like you were talking about, it’s the natural way that humans learn. I loved your thoughts around sometimes we’re in active learning and engaging, pulling things in, pulling things in, and then we’re in that stasis season, where things are kind of just percolating. We’re not pulling a lot of new stuff in, we’re just sitting with all that new stuff for a while and letting it weave itself together. Does that make sense?
KELSI: That was actually beautifully described. Because that’s exactly what it is. You have times of pulling information in and then you have times of the processing and the internal processing is so important. It can actually be detrimental, I think, if you’re trying to get more information in when you haven’t finished processing and so then kids can just pick what they want to do. I want to work on this now or do I want to try and learn more information? And it’s just whatever their bodies or their brains or whatever thinks is right and they just do it.
PAM: They just do it. That’s the part I love is that, with the freedom of choice, they don’t even need to think, ‘What do I want to learn today?’ It’s not a meta conversation in their head, but they are naturally drawn to what they’re interested in, they’re naturally drawn to how they want to learn about it.
When you allow them to embrace their strengths, as in, this is the way that I want to pull this information in, whether it’s through videos, whether it’s through listening to things, whether it’s through reading. That’s the great thing, you’re not stuck within those constraints. You understand why the classroom needs reading and writing as the main skills, because that’s the easiest way for them to share information and receive information in large groups. But human beings, that’s not the only way we can learn. We can choose, and you just see them in action. They’re just doing it. They’re just grabbing this video. They’re just going to the library. They’re just, listening to that podcast.
And when you watch them in action, it’s just so beautiful because they’re embracing their strengths and then they’re coming up on times when they’re drawn to something else. They have the space for doing something that’s more challenging for them, but they have a reason for it, you know?
So, when she’s more into, reading as bringing in information and then she’s working on that and she can do that at her pace and her style
KELSI: Using information, using whatever it is she wants to read, you know? One of her favorite things was reading subtitles at the bottom of a Japanese anime video. They dubbed it, but at the end there was a song and she wanted to know what these Japanese words were. And so, she would play it and then pause it and then figure out the words and play and pause. She wouldn’t do that with, I don’t know, a science textbook or a science video, because that wouldn’t be interesting to her, but trying to figure out what the meaning of the song was, was completely interesting.
And she spent like an hour doing it. I didn’t say you have to figure out what that is because it would never would have happened then. But that was all reading practice, but it was reading practice she was wanted to do not something that was assigned or told to her.
PAM: That is such a brilliant example. It is our world and they will find moments for doing all these things. And when we observe and are hanging out with them and see those things in action, it’s just so inspiring and exciting, isn’t it? Because it’s like, Oh, this would never have happened if somebody was trying to force it on them.
We’re telling them now you need to do that and giving them something that is completely uninteresting to them. But the world is full of things that will be interesting to them. And they will come across all these moments. And when we’re talking about lifelong learning, it doesn’t have to be done before the age of 18, right? Their life is full. We’re still learning.
KELSI: The only issue that’s come up for us was when somebody else says, ‘Oh, you don’t know your multiplication tables?’ Or something like that. They can figure out multiplication without having it memorized. But no, if you ask them, if you ask Abby what seven times eight was, she may not be able to spit it out right away, like another kid, her age. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to do it. She just hasn’t found it important enough to memorize at this point. But she may decide in three years that she’s got to learn this because she really wants to do this math. And in which case you’ll learn it pretty quick because she wants to, and it makes such a difference when they want to learn it.
And the only problem seems to be when somebody decides they need to be compared with another kid their age and then hold them accountable to something which is ridiculous in my opinion.
PAM: Yeah. It’s ridiculous. Comparison has no value, we’re not all living in the exact same life. That’s funny that that’s the only time it’s come up and it’s totally true.
KELSI: They just go learn it and as long as they, if they want to learn it, they’ll go learn it. And it’s not a big deal.
PAM: Okay. So, another piece that I want to talk about is, so the challenge for an unschooling parent, to not that get pulled back into that conventional learning mindset, like when somebody comes up and starts comparing, for us to not, start thinking about the tick boxes, grades what they should know at this age, etc.
We can get pulled back into that kind of mindset when somebody comes up with this or are you choosing to go to college? Like for us as parent it can be hard to not get pulled back into what we knew growing up and as a teacher that was the environment you were steeped in, even though you were very focused on trying to make it interesting for the kids that were in your class.
But it’s so interesting watching our unschooling kids—when we remember to get out of our head and not get pulled into all that—because an unschooling child approaches that learning situation so differently, don’t they?
KELSI: I have a perfect example for this because when Eiri was hitting ninth grade and she decided she wanted to test out what high school was like. So, she decided to go and she got into some of the classes and they would have projects or homework assignments, and kids just wouldn’t do anything. Not anything, but they wouldn’t do some of them.
And Eiri came home so frustrated because she’d be in a group with somebody and they wouldn’t do their part. And she just said it made no sense that they’re going to be there, they might as well do it. And it really hit her at that moment that kids in school are there because they have to be, not because they want to be, she made the choice to go to school and she made the choice that she wanted to take these classes.
And if at any point it wasn’t working for her, she knew she had the choice to leave and to do homeschooling again and it was this huge wake up to her that there was a difference between the way she was now at that point, than kids in school. And she hadn’t noticed that difference before, until that moment when she realized that the kids were not actively trying to learn more math, they were just there because they were told. It completely, seeing her wrap her mind around that was so cool. That was the beginning of her really understanding unschooling from the outside, rather than inside. It was just a crazy time where she was like, ‘Oh, this is what the difference between the way I learn now. And the way kids have to learn in school, I have this choice.’ It was such a big thing for her to figure out.
PAM: Wow. Yeah, I can just imagine, having spent time with that freedom of choice to go back and realize the differences. I’ve heard from a number of unschooling teens who’ve made that choice to go back. And that is a common observation, realizing that others have no choice in the matter and seeing how that plays out. It’s almost like passive resistance to being told what to do because they can’t make me pick up the pencil kind of dealio, right? I have to show up here and I have to show up in this class, but there’s only so much you can force me to do, you can’t physically make me. It’s really interesting just to see how something as simple as having a choice is so wide ranging and impactful, isn’t it?
KELSI: Yeah, it’s huge. And it does make me think back to when I was teaching and realizing that sometimes it wasn’t that I wasn’t interesting as a teacher or not motivating enough, it was that the kids were in a situation where they had to be there regardless. And what happened in the classroom didn’t really make that much of a difference to some of them. Just they had to get through it to get to wherever they wanted to go.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
No matter how hard you try in the classroom, you’re starting behind that eight ball. You can’t control how they show up. And then just think, even as an adult, how much mental gymnastics we need to do to get ourselves to something if it’s something that we feel is out of our control and we feel we have to do the mental gymnastics to get to a place where we’re open and we’re going to actually enjoy it and be open to learning. There is just so much work to get to ‘Okay, you made me go here, but I’m going to choose to have fun and enjoy it and learn.’
KELSI: Right it is so much of a choice too, that you do have to step back and think about it and say, all right, I don’t really want to do the dishes, but how can I make this more fun or enjoyable? And it could be listening to an audio book, watching a video, having somebody help me, but you have to make that choice or you sit there and grumble, unless you love dishes, while you’re doing it the whole time. And it makes it a negative experience and you can turn it into a positive experience. If you work at it.
PAM: That’s a wonderful example. Because you have to dig into the why, ‘I want to have clean dishes for us to eat off of.’ That there’s a reason for this. The mental gymnastics to get to a place to show up, to make it enjoyable enough for us to have enough motivation. All of that work to get past the feeling of, ‘I have to do this’ and grumbling, because there’s just no joy in staying in that grumbling state. And who’s going to want to join you? Who is going to want to be anywhere near you for that hour where you’re moaning?
That is the state that kids are in when they don’t have the choice, not even the choice. I’m going to school and then there’s often extracurricular activities and things that their parents are expecting them to do and be involved in there. Yeah. There is not a lot of choice in, conventional childhood. Is there?
KELSI: No, not really. And it’s really sad.
PAM: Yeah. It’s hard, but I really, I love hearing your story and seeing how this has unfolded so naturally for you guys and then seeing how your girls have been taking that on and then exploring going to school for a while and seeing the difference. And then Abby, picking the way that she likes to learn. It’s just so fascinating to see. And then, them watching you learn about farming. It’s like a whole new world, isn’t it?
KELSI: It is, it’s a whole new, wonderful world.
What has surprised you most about your unschooling journey so far? What has been surprising and unexpected for you?
KELSI: Honestly, it’s the non-educational benefits.
I think I started out unschooling by saying, you know, we’ll still have rules and so on and so forth. We’re just going to unschool for educational purposes. But it started infiltrating the rest of our lives. When your kids have control over one thing, they start to question other things and it then becomes, “Well, why do I have to do this?” And, “Why should I do this?” And so, we just looked into this unschooling life where we became kind of a combination of friends, a parent and kid relationship, and even kind of roommates where we all navigate how to do this together.
So, we make little deals, so and so has to do their own dishes, but they don’t have time. Well, let’s flip around and I guess one of the biggest things has been, as my girls get older, I have Eiri as the example. So, she started out, she wants to do things with friends. And one time she said, well, what’s my curfew. And I said, you don’t have a curfew. We just needed to discuss it. And her eyes got really big. And I said, that doesn’t mean you stay out all night. It means we discuss it and she just said, okay. And one time she told me it’s hard to be rebellious when there’s nothing to rebel against and it’s so true. Because she wanted to be rebellious. She wanted to go against a rule or break a rule or something, but there wasn’t anything because we would just talk about it and we’d decide together.
It’s come to the point where if one of my kids wants to do something and they don’t think that I am going to say yes, right away, they’ll start putting little hints out, or anticipating what am I going to say in response.
So, Eiri wanted to go to Cincinnati, which is 8 to 12 hours away from us to go buy a signed copy of a favorite artist. And before she even asked me, if that was ok, she found a friend who could go with her, because she knew my requirement was going to be that she had the person with her. And so, she asked and said, “Oh, by the way, so, and so’s coming.” And I said, okay.
It’s so much easier than me saying why are you driving an entire full day to go get a CD? That’s my idea. As an adult, knowing that this was important to her. I can take a little step back and say, well, I don’t really say so. I think you should take somebody with you. I didn’t have to do any of that. She came and just saying this is important to me and I have a friend going with me.
PAM: So true. And I love that because our kids get to know us too, and they understand our perspective and it makes sense to them. Because if it really didn’t make sense to them, then we’d be having more conversations. We’d be talking longer about it and, and coming up with some other path forward.
But for her, she knew you well enough to know that that would be something that would help you feel more comfortable with it. And she was happy with it. She found somebody who would come that sounded good to her too. So then they come with that because they know.
That’s been my experience as well. Once we get to know each other, we don’t always start from scratch each time. We understand pieces. Like if there’s something thing that we need to do with our kids, especially when they’re younger, if they need to come along, we can think of things that would make you more interesting and fun for them. And we’ll come with that as part of the package. Right.
I need you to come with me but, I know you don’t really want to do it, but I think we can stop for ice cream afterwards. And then it becomes a positive and not a negative. And it’s not a bribe, it’s understanding they don’t really want to go to this thing, but knowing they’ll get something out of it makes it a little more palatable to them and then it works out and we don’t have that argument or the frustration or anything like that. And so, getting to know somebody else really, really well, that is invaluable within a relationship. And I feel great that my kids are practicing roommate type relationships and partner type relationships before they’re at the age where they have a roommate or a partner that they have to learn to deal with. And I think that that’s just a fabulous way to start out being an early adult is to have those skills already, at least practice them a little bit.
PAM: Yeah. To have had lots of practice with them and to understand that it doesn’t need to be about power as in, you don’t need to try and overpower and force other people to do what you want to do. You don’t have to come at things defensively. You can be in relationships where you understand each other and respect that there are times, respect them for the times when they’re putting in extra effort, like they’re doing something that they’re less inclined to do, but because, you’re excited about it, like you said, that the ice cream bit, it’s not a bribe and it’s so different, the way we approach it.
You could approach it as a bribe, as a “you do this for me, I’ll do this for you” kind of thing, but rather, we’re coming at it more from, “we’re all doing this, let’s make it all enjoyable.” It’s just a whole different energy behind it when you’re working together to make it something that’s palatable for everybody who needs to be involved.
KELSI: Exactly. And I think as an adult too, it’s great practice to have with, to practice the partnering and the roommating and all that with your kids too, because it is a different relationship than anybody else you’ll ever know. And there’s that underlying love. And you can practice doing things that you might want to do with your friend, like, I really need some help with this. I know you probably don’t want to do it, so I’m happy to exchange something and you practice with your kids and it helps you out in the rest of your life too. So, it’s kind of win, win, and less arguments too.
PAM: Right. We go right back to, this is how human beings learn in the world. Human beings live in the world.
It’s just lovely practice, these kinds of relationships that we’re developing with our kids. Absolutely. Those are skilled and just perspectives on, we learned so much about the value of that kind of the relationship. And we can bring those skills into all our relationships in the world.
Every one of them feels valued, when we see and hear—and the person that we’re in relationship with feels seen and heard—and we work together to accomplish the things that we want, each of us at different times, and we’re there to help each other. It’s just a beautiful way to be human. Isn’t it?
KELSI: That’s a wonderful way to put it exactly, it is a beautiful way to be human.
PAM: Oh my goodness. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Kelsi. I really appreciate it. It was so much fun.
KELSI: I had a great time. Thank you so much for inviting me in.
PAM: And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
KELSI: I’m on Facebook. You can find me through just regular Facebook, Kelsi Stembel. I don’t think there’s any more of me. I also have my business, which is Koofie’s Natural Living. Koofie is my nickname that my dad gave me. And I’m on Instagram too. I don’t post that often because I’m not really a visual person. So, if you follow me, I do apologize in advance for not posting more.
And koofie.com—that’s my business website with pictures and stuff.
PAM: That will be fun to go check out your business, your natural living products and I will share those links in the show notes so people will be able to find you there. Thanks again. And have a great day!
KELSI: Thank you, Pam. I appreciate it.
PAM: Thank you.