PAM: Hi everyone! This has been such a fun compilation episode to put together, gathering a collection of responses to the question, “What is your favourite thing about the flow of your unschooling days?”
The answers give us both a wonderful snapshot of the uniqueness of each unschooling family and a clear look at the lovely foundational threads of unschooling that weave through our days, like the time and space to be, cultivating rich relationships, and the focus on joy.
To get us started, let’s hear from Susan Bhadury, an unschooling mom with two children, ages five and nine, living in Australia.
PAM: What is your favorite thing about your unschooling lives right now?
SUSAN: I want the relationships and the connection, but I think that’s really a given because given you spend so much time with the little ones, what I’d really is getting to know who they truly are as people. I think I mentioned early on, Nishika, I love that she can go into her own world, then get out as well. She’s just far away in some world. And she can actually be in that world. If she was school, that would be disruptive. So, I loved that about her.
The other thing I love is the gift of time. We have late nights and you don’t get up early. So, I love our morning snuggles. “Sniggles,” as Krishna would say. I love our cuddles at night. I love that I get to see the joy and the smile on their face when they discover something new or funny or interesting.
And something that I didn’t mention when Krishna actually wants your attention and wants you to see something, he will hold your face so then your eyes can’t get distracted, you can’t move, he holds your face. And it’s so cute and funny when he does that.
The other thing I think I want to mention is that conventional thinking tells you that you need to get up bright and early because that’s the only time if you have energy. I have found that both my kiddos, they take a long time for the energy to pick up even when they get up later on during the day.
They are the most energetic before bed. They love to run around before bed. So that’s actually like eleven thirty or ten. That is when they have the most energy. This does not mean it takes them time to wind down. So, when they’re ready for bed, they’re ready for bed. They just sleep. They don’t struggle to sleep.
They sleep quite peacefully. Conventional advice was to read a book before bed, dim lights and slowly wind down to sleep. I don’t think that works for everyone. I think for my kiddos, and I’m sure there are lots of people out there that expending some energy before bed actually helps with winding down as well.
The other thing, what I love is that I normally wake up before these two, and I love when they wake up, I’m happy that they are up and how they shine. Krishna has a big smile on his face and he comes and he comes in, you’d runs and gives me a cuddle.
Nishika normally calls out to me when she’s up so, I go to the bed and give her a hug and cuddles. We spend, depending on how she’s feeling, 10,15,20 minutes. So just cuddling and maybe chatting. And I think it reminded me of you and Lissy, Pam. You mentioned in one of your episodes, that you guys used to spend a lot of time when she would get up with coffee or having something to drink right
PAM: Yeah. Just when you were telling that story, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that time with Lissy.’ Yeah. She would, let me know that she was awake and I’d bring back a coffee and then we would just sit in her bed from like 20 minutes to an hour some mornings.
We’d be listening to music, chatting, just sitting quietly together. It was really beautiful. And even that was the part of the journey, focusing on that inner compass and how important and valuable that time is. Because sometimes I was sitting there, 20 minutes in it’s like, ‘Oh, I feel like I should—that’s always a good clue, I “should”—be getting up and doing this or I should be doing that.’ But to realize, no, this is valuable and it’s worth that time. That would let me just breathe through those couple of minutes. Because it’s not bad. It’s not wrong. It’s a moment to think—it’s like to re-remember and re-commit to why this is important.
I treasure those memories. It was months and months that we did that.
SUSAN: You don’t get it if they were going to school. It would be rushing. There’s, it’s always rush, rush, rush, rush, rush, and you just don’t get it. Get that, that time, to spend with them. I love how, Nishika, she’s not always very vocally expressive. But ever since we’ve become, I think, the last year or two we’ve become really very close. So, she’ll randomly tell me, “Mom, I love you. You’re the best. Momma, I really love you”. Just randomly, you know, she’s watching something and will just say, “Mom, I love you.” I would miss that. And the other thing, because of the hubby’s business, the travel, we get to be with him, to be together as a family rather than, worrying about the kids have to go to school or getting permission from the school to do actually travel. I want to be with my family. I need to get permission from you?
PAM: That’s another great point, right?
What I’ve realized about unschooling is that it has very little to do with not going to school and that that’s actually based in an unschooling life. So yes, it’s unschooling, but it’s so much that they we are doing, that not going to school is actually very small part. That’s what I love.
PAM: I love that insight! As we get more experienced with unschooling, our days move further and further away from even the idea of school and it becomes a lifestyle. Living and learning as if school doesn’t exist.
A few months later I had a wonderful conversation with Susan’s husband, Roop, and I thought it would be great to hear his answer to the same question alongside Susan’s. Here’s what he shared:
PAM: What’s your favorite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
ROOP: Yeah, that’s a great question. I was mulling over that, earlier today. And there are so many things that I love about our unschooling journey. It’s actually hard to pick.
The obvious one is the gift of time. The flexibility and the ability to, it sort of goes together with my entrepreneurial journey actually, because it allows, because I have more flexible work hours and because my kids are around, I can take some time off in the middle of the day and we can go Pokemon hunting and we can come back and I can get back into work.
And I would not give that up for anything. I find the ability to have the best way to describe what it is that our structure, is the lack of it. And that is a magic to me because, it allows me to dip in to their life when I’m able to. And dip in and dip out because of my work as well, but allows me that flexibility to dip in and dip out.
And they also know that I’m around. I don’t have a door to my study. There is no door. So, I don’t have a dynamic in the house, where if I’m in the study, no one is allowed to come into the study because all the doors locked. Kids understand, kids will come in. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a call and Krishna will come in and say, hi. Why not? And so, I just love that kind of flexibility. So, time and flexibility is, I think, the best gifts of this journey.
PAM: I love that. An abundance of time and the flexibility to use it as we choose are fundamental to unschooling. And that paradigm shift from the conventional mantra to always “be productive,” to always be busy or else we’re being “lazy,” to seeing the immense value in having time to ponder the possibilities, to listen to our inner voice, and to make choices. It’s priceless.
Now let’s hear from Fiona Munday, an unschooling mom in New Zealand with a five-year-old child.
PAM: What is your favorite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
FIONA: Um …
PAM: Maybe not literally right now. Not literally right now on lockdown for a lot of us.
FIONA: I suppose it can still apply it, which is nice.
I’ve heard you talk a lot about joy. I’ve had joy in my life. I know what joy is, but actually I’ve experienced what I would call real joy now. Just lately, following Ollie on his tangents and his passions. So, his transforming passion, which is the thread through everything, it seems to be the thread through everything.
He found a video on YouTube of little Burger King toys, or Happy Meal. No, I think it was Burger King, toys. And they transformed from robots into letters, and he had the whole alphabet. And the whole video is just, I’m going through and talking step-by-step and I’m laughing now because it’s just so amazing that Ollie found this video, a transforming alphabet and this guy taking him through it. Ollie’s learning his alphabet and he was completely into it.
He’s never shown any interest in the alphabet song or singing the alphabet. But this thing, because it was transforming and I watched the whole video with him. It went on for quite a while. I just got so much joy, I can feel it in my body now. Watching him just get a kick out of this guy and his alphabet transformers. I would never have enjoyed that, but I did because he was so into it.
There seems to be more and more examples of that happening now, I think. It’s the layers peeling back, and now I understand what you mean about the joy. And so that’s the cool thing that I’m discovering at the moment is this real joy. And real joy for me too. I’m getting real joy out of rock painting and they’re real basic, super basic things I’m painting, but I’m really enjoying them because I’m, I can’t find the words.
PAM: I know. I know exactly what you mean. And I remember that shift from so many years ago, which is, that’s why my website is Living Joyfully. Because for me, that was the most profound shift to and, and still now trying to imagine what it was.
FIONA: Is it a layer of judgment that we’re peeling away? You know, that we can see the joy in the most mundane little things are, because I totally would have judged that video beforehand. Like, who was this guy?
PAM: ‘Look at all those toys!’
FIONA: ‘This is this video is how long?! Sorry!’ Yeah. Judgment. Definitely for me in that video.
FIONA: Yeah. Having no judgment.
PAM: And no judgment on ourselves with the painting too but it feels like we all of a sudden more clearly see everything. For ourselves, that painting the rocks, the walk, the finding, the rock. It’s like all of a sudden, we’re allowing ourselves to be more, I don’t know if authentic is the right word, but engage in that moment.
Surrender and be in that moment like a child. They’re right in that moment. And having fun in that moment and because a judgment piece is a step out of the moment. Because we’re thinking about the moment through the eyes of good, bad, right, wrong. Being able to really sink and engage in the moment, we see so much of that joy.
And then even when things are going wrong. Things are not going our way, but we go deeper. It’s that trust too, that that will move through those moments and you gain that through experience through having done it before. Even if you can’t see where you’re going to end up, you’re going to end up somewhere reasonable.
FIONA: Yeah, that happened yesterday.
We had a terrible day yesterday. Both Matt and I were feeling super down about just the situation of being in lockdown. We were all rubbing each other the wrong way, and there seem to be no saving it. But at the end of the day, Ollie just decided to dress up. He came out into the lounge in different dress ups and that was hilarious. And we found joy at the very last part of our day, and we were all laughing and the whole mood lifted. He just cracked the code on that. He was enjoying the dress up and he enjoyed our reactions to him walking out in different costumes. It turned the day around from something terrible.
PAM: Yeah, that is such a great example. I think that’s part of what we learn as we peel back those layers—is being open for those moments, even when we’re down and we can’t see where they’re going, positively but being open for those small shifts. To see and recognize those and it wasn’t, “Oh, Ollie it’s almost time for bed. Please don’t start pulling out a bunch of different clothes.” Trying to not keep that negative lens on and then being more open to seeing those moments, the joy in all the tiny little things, even if it’s a change of clothes or a smile about a video or whatever, and recognizing those because so often, certainly at the beginning, we’re blind to those.
FIONA: Oh yeah.
PAM: I loved that story, being open to moments when we can shift back to joy. And I love how Fiona distinguished it as “real joy.” Joy that she can feel her body over the most seemingly mundane things. Beautiful!
Now let’s hear from Tara McGovern Dutcher. She and her family live in Iowa, in the US, and they have two children, ages twelve and fourteen.
PAM: I would love to hear what your favorite thing is about your unschooling lives right now.
TARA: Yes. Thank you. And this again was another question that I brought to my team and I was really interested in the results.
To answer for my own self, it’s always been about having a lot of margins in our lives, that we can do with as we need to. And I don’t even really reflect on my own neurodiversity, but anxiety is something that I’ve lived with in my life and it’s something that I’ve learned to navigate.
And for me, margins are a huge part of how I navigate my life happily, when I’m not trying to impose a lot of extra structure on myself. I’m just a lot more peaceful and more attuned. That’s a big word for me as a musician and also as a parent, the attunement. I’m more attuned to myself with those margins.
And so, my Liam and Atticus had sort of sort of similar things that they answered. I said, what is your favorite thing about unschooling? I heard a lot about freedom in their time, but also being encouraged to explore what they’re interested in.
And then when I asked Joe, his response was really interesting and it was about, he feels because we worked really hard to cultivate honesty in our relationships with each other, that our relationships with our children are more mentor relationships then parental relationships. We’ve talked about how some of the mentors that we’ve had in our lives, how you learn from their experience, but they’re not necessarily telling you who you are or who you are expected to be.
I thought it was really interesting that for him it was about our relationships with our children, having that flavor to them, less authoritative and more just sharing our experience and helping our kids to move through their own experiences using us as resources, but not necessarily using us as advice givers with an expectation that things go a particular way.
PAM: Yeah. Oh, I love that. And I love that you asked everybody.
TARA: Yeah. It was so fun to find out.
PAM: It was so cool to hear the different perspectives! How they were both unique to the person and how beautifully they weave together without getting knotted up.
Next, let’s hear from Nikki Zavitz. Nikki’s family unschools in Ontario, Canada and they have three children, ages ten, eight, and six.
PAM: I would love to know, what is your favorite thing about your unschooling lives right now?
NIKKI: Oh, my goodness. That’s hard.
NIKKI: Well, I absolutely love the richness and the deepness of our relationships. I know them so well, but I’m learning more and more about them every day. And them for me as well. Also just learning alongside them. It’s so amazing how much we’re learning together and we’re not even seeking learning, it’s just unraveling before us with our passion, my passions, and my thirst for learning, and they get stuff from what I’m learning and I get stuff from what they’re learning and we’re strewing for each other. It’s just such a beautiful dance. It’s so great! I love it!
PAM: That’s amazing. I love that. That’s just the richness of your lives as you’re living together and you get to that point where learning just weaves into your days without any thought per se, without any intention maybe. But the intention is to do what you enjoy doing, right? To follow all your passions, see what comes up and boom.
And I love when you get to that point where they’re bringing stuff that they think you’ll be interested in. You’re bringing stuff to them. Everybody’s just kind of living together. Joyfully, right.
NIKKI: Yeah, exactly. It’s a beautiful life. It really is with all the messiness of it too. It’s just quite wonderful!
PAM: The richness and deepness of our relationships with our children. The beautiful dance of living and learning side by side, unfolding in all its joy and messiness.
Now, let’s hear from Dola Dasgupta. Dola lives in Pune, India with her two children, ages eighteen and fourteen.
PAM: What is your favorite thing about your unschooling days right now?
DOLA: The favorite thing right now is that my children are far more independent than they were at one time. So, they’re able to make their own snacks. They can take care of their meals at times, and they’re pretty much, especially my older one, is, moving around on her own. I don’t have to do the picking and dropping and driving them around. So, that gives me a lot more, a time for myself. So that’s something that is good for me.
But what is really interesting about where we are as a family right now is watching my daughter because she’s turned 18 in November. And she’s just wanting to explore so much. And she’s really pushing herself there and trying out different things. She’s going out there, connecting with people. And this is from someone who, for the longest time, felt she was shy and that she had social anxiety and that, meeting people was difficult for her.
Plus, to watch someone like her exploring, being out there and being on several social network groups and things like that and even doing all the inquiries that she needs to do for her own the courses that she needs to take. So, I think to see that is fascinating for me because I think what really mattered was that I was present and she was also present to herself and I was present to her.
In whatever phase that she went through, without wanting to turn the tables or without wanting to make it different, or it’s just accepting that that’s how it was. Now it’s this new way and we don’t know what will come next. So, I think for me to watch my daughter spreading her wings is something fascinating for me.
And my son is finding that when he, likes something a lot. How he finds the time for it, like the discipline that he is instilling in himself. To watch that is fascinating. And there is so much more. What fascinates me about my son now is that he stands there in his power and says, “No, mom, I don’t think you’re right.”
And he so calmly explains his point of view. Sometimes when I’m losing it, but he’s not, he’s talking as if he’s on some diplomatic mission with a lot of diplomacy, a lot of calm. So that really fascinates me. And I think it was a different thing when they were younger and now that they’re all kind of growing up, it’s a completely different journey because we are emotionally also on a different level of connecting.
Even with my daughter, because she’s 18, and she’s exploring so many things and emotions and relationships, I find it so fascinating because I am talking to her like another woman. And that’s really fascinating for me. Yes, there is the mother and daughter, but there’s also this, thing about a younger woman and an older woman, we are bonding about stuff and that’s interesting.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. They’re just fascinating as people, as human beings. Our kids, I love that word fascinating because it’s so true. It’s just so curious and interesting to see the choices that they’re making in their lives and how valuable it is to let them go at their own pace.
Like you talked about their own phases, rather than us worrying or trying to put some sort of timetable on it. They get the places they want to go when they get there. And it’s always valuable to them where they are. They’re there for their own reasons. So, it’s just so fun to see how they blossom and in what directions.
And I love that other piece that you talked about, the difference as they get older. Because when they’re younger it’s a lot more about the doing, it’s a lot more hands on. I think a lot more about getting them places, doing things, sharing thing, looking things up. You know, it’s a lot of that.
Whereas they get older, there is a much more emotional aspect now. They’re more exploring the kind of person they want to be, how to learn and figure out the things they want to learn.
They have taken over. So, now our conversations start to morph into more philosophical talks, emotional talks.
DOLA: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s true. That’s how it is for us.
PAM: It’s so interesting to hear from an unschooling parent with older children and how things shift. How fun it is to watch them in action as they explore more and more of their world! I love Dola’s perspective.
Now, let’s hear from Kinsey Norris. Kinsey’s family lives in the US, in Texas, and they are unschooling with two children, ages eight and five at the time of our conversation.
PAM: Okay. Last question. I would love to hear your favourite thing right now about the flow of your unschooling days. Now that you’re all healthy!
KINSEY: Yes, yes, yes. We are feeling better now. Gosh, well, there’s so many things, you know.
So, I asked Emy Quay this question. “What’s your favourite thing about our life every day?” And she said, “Hanging out.” I loved that! She’s so right. We can simply hang out. And you know what? I think a really cool by-product of that to me is the discovery that happens. Discovering new interests, discovering new bits of information about places and people or things. Discovering things about each other and about myself.
I don’t think I could have ever expected or imagined how much more living like this would give us. Aside from the learning, it’s just really exciting and fun. All of those discovery pieces are really exciting and fun to me. I just love every minute and I’m really excited to keep on going to see what’s going to happen next. I don’t know. I’m just really filled with gratitude to be able to live this way with my family.
PAM: Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. And I love that hanging out answer. It’s just that space to be together.
KINSEY: To be. Just being.
PAM: Kinsey’s perspective is lovely, feeling so grateful to be able to hang out together with her family. Kinda hits the unschooling nail on the head, doesn’t it?
Now let’s hear from Liza Swale! Liza and her family live in Canada, though her husband is originally from New Zealand. They have two kids, ages thirteen and eight.
PAM: What is your favourite thing about unschooling just nowadays?
LIZA: Nowadays, I have so many moments because we’re finally at a place in our life, particularly now. The farm has been up and running for Forrest lifetime, almost nine years. Nine seasons now, so I marvel almost every day at making choices and the path that brought us here and being so, so grateful for being able to have this time. More so right now because right now it’s really all coming into place. So, it’s just such a wonderful time for us.
So, I think for me, my favourite thing is just really living. Every day we wake up and we don’t know what the day is going to bring.
We really honestly don’t. I mean, farming is so flexible and organic unto itself that it suits a beautiful unschooling life because you’re just going with the moment. And within the moment you can live and follow your dreams and passions and it allows for it. So right now, the flow is really fantastic and exciting and exactly what we kind of envisioned when we went out on this journey.
And it’s not constant. I mean, it always ebbs and flows. But that’s part of the journey, too, because even in those moments of conflict and things, we’re connecting on a level that so many other people don’t necessarily have the opportunity. And I’m grateful for it. And I don’t let it go past without that gratitude now because of the choices we’ve made. And I think that’s exciting because it’s taken me a bit to get to that point. This is in the moment really working really great and really right. Yeah. So that’s exciting for us right now.
On a practical level, I’m excited winter is here. Winter’s coming because we’re done with summer and into fall. Winter usually means travel for us. And we’re heading back to New Zealand after seven years. So, we’re kind of excited for that. And a lot of our days and times have been spent planning that because we have about a month to play with and we have lots of things we want to do. So, we’re researching and talking about things and people we want to see.
So that’s very much our focus now with the season winding down. I’m always excited for where we’re going. You know, part of my whole journey and even having kids is it was always excitement to see who they are, who are they turning into and rolling into and growing into. And I think I’m excited for that. That’s also one of my favourite things. And the kids, the age they are right now. And any age really is just it’s always just so exciting.
PAM: That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. I love the idea of seasons and the flow and discovering who your kids are. It’s so fun to think about how, we’re really focussed on the connection and engagement and having fun with them. Yet, as we were talking about before, it’s not about the control, that you can be so connected and spending time with them without needing to direct them anywhere, that it’s still a discovery. That excitement of discovery to see, what they’re interested in, where that might go. What corners that might turn, what they’re learning about themselves. Yeah, it’s not all, happy go lucky kind of thing. Right? There’s always challenges and things coming up. Always, always, always. But I guess I go back to that undercurrent of joy and excitement just because we’re living.
LIZA: Right. And I also think those moments of conflict are part of living. I mean, really, it’s the human experience, right? Then it’s through those moments that we grow and learn so much and connect on an even deeper level. So, I embrace those moments, too. And even for myself, I’m certainly not perfect in any sense of the word and all these things come into play. But if I’m able to reflect and dissect and see where that plays in with everybody and be open and honest, then we can just move along and keep that flow going, right?
PAM: That’s right. Because we’re growing into who we want to be. And I mean, that whole thing of taking, It’s hard. It’s hard taking those challenging moments and saying, that’s OK. And then doing the work to work through them. And exactly why is that feeling hard for me to understand that? Because then we can bring that to the conversation. And then they can help us. And the flow.
LIZA: I want to say as well because I think it’s important. Flow is such an important word and it’s something that you and Anna brought up to me.
And it’s the idea that it’s not about balance, right. It’s about flow. Balance is unstable and it’s hard to keep balanced. And there’s a lot of work in control that’s required for this. But once you accept flow in your life, that those moments are not something that make you off balance. So, just help the flow move forward. It’s like a progression. So, for me, it was a big deal when I realized it’s not about balancing and tilting something in a different direction. It’s really about accepting and allowing.
And that for me was a big shift in mindset in terms of flow of life and in accepting moments where there is conflict or there is something unsettled. And to get back, to pivot back to the joy and, to embrace the moment, it’s about accepting that flow.
PAM: I love how she talked about flow and how it’s so much more helpful as a metaphor for living than balance. And thinking in seasons! Life outside of school and curriculum is so much more fluid and twisty, with seasons of intense, deep dives and other extended times of quiet contemplation that can look like mostly doing “nothing” from the outside. But they are all valuable.
Next up, we hear from Martha Delmore. Martha’s children were ages four and seven at the time of our call, and they live in Colorado, US.
PAM: What is your favourite thing about your unschooling days right now?
MARTHA: I can’t even think of a favourite. It’s summertime right now so we’re playing a lot. It’s been so fun. It’s just so fun to play. I feel like our days are filled with play and I felt like I spent so many years not having that. And so, I think my favourite part of our days is that we get to wake up and play. We play with the horses. We play with the tadpoles. We play at the trampoline park or the parkour park. I think both of my kids have a really fun sense of humour and so there’s banter that way. I love not having pressure to be places that we don’t want to be or struggle in the mornings to get somewhere that we don’t want to get. And so, I think just the gift of living a life that is filled with joy is so much fun. And I don’t know how we could have done it with a different path, for us. So yeah, I think just the freedom to play.
PAM: I love that. I love that. And you mentioned your kids’ humour and stuff. That is the cool piece, isn’t it? There’s the whole, ‘kids are people too,’ but kids are fun to hang out with.
MARTHA: Yes. I enjoy them. I really enjoy them as people. We go on vacation together. We’re lucky to get to do that. And I don’t wish that they could be somewhere else. I think my life is enriched by being with them. And that’s a relief. I’m glad because they’re with me for at least 18 years and maybe longer, we’ll see. So, I’m glad that I enjoy them. I’m not wishing the time away, maybe a few specific moments but in general no. (laughing) I love being with them.
PAM: Yes, I mean there’s always those moments that aren’t fun per se, but can you imagine having to go through those moments with a different kind of relationship? I mean how much harder those could be. I love that. And I love how you’ve talked about the relationship with them and developing that connection and that is just going to take you right through your whole lives together.
And I think that’s one of the most important shifts because conventionally, so often people will say, “I couldn’t hang out with my kids that much.” But when you take that pressure off of having to follow the schedule of things that nobody is particularly interested in doing but we have to do, when you take that layer out, we are all different people, aren’t we? Not just the kids are different, we are different people as parents too.
And that we can live together, feel like we’re all people living together with our different levels of experience and knowledge about the world and everything. It’s not about parents becoming children.
MARTHA: Yes, right.
PAM: We aren’t throwing out who we are. It’s literally all of us living together as human beings. Right?
MARTHA: Yeah. I think that was part of the transition into I guess maybe attachment parenting or peaceful parenting or whatever the terminology would be is that it’s not like anarchy or some crazy circus. Sometimes it feels like it, in the best ways, but it’s not. I think that’s where the relationship piece comes in.
I would say it’s the relationships that contribute to the peace in our home. It’s not the lack of discipline or punishment that contributes to this crazy, wild, anarchist situation that we have. I think the relationships contribute to the peace, and part of that relationship is figuring out how much I have to give and when I need to pull back and refuel for a few minutes or have a breather or do some self-care in the way that I’m talking to myself.
All of that is a dance and I think if I’m only ever pouring out, I will eventually have nothing else to give and then it won’t work. So, part of that relationship with them has also been kind of healing myself and figuring out who I am so that in the house we can all just live a life that’s filled with joy. I just think the idea that we’re all different unique individuals living together and developing this beautiful relationship. has contributed to this style of life working well for us.
PAM: I love that piece you talked about regarding ourselves too. I know that ‘authentic’ is another word that gets bandied around a lot. When we are our authentic, our real selves with our kids, without putting any pressure on them to meet our needs. That’s not what it’s about. Not trying to manipulate them to do things to make us feel better. It is not what we are talking about. But you were talking about self-talk. That level of authentic engagement with our kids means so much more self-awareness for us. We need to understand ourselves so that we can understand where we are. How empty our well is at this moment and not unrealistically say yes to taking on things that would just completely deplete us.
PAM: But having that conversation, “I am way too tired to do that today but can we do that in the morning? I know I’ll be ready for it then.” Just having those kinds of conversations with them. That’s what I mean when I talk about living authentically and that’s where you’re really living together and they’re learning about understanding other people’s feelings, other people and where they are in that moment. So, it’s not about unthinkingly saying yes, that’s where you’re anarchy comes in, when you have to say yes all the time. And you’re depleting yourself and things have just gone crazy because you’ve got nothing left to be engaged enough with them so that they don’t go over the edge. And then you’re over the edge and there’s your anarchy.
MARTHA: And I think living that way, it does give them an awareness of other people’s needs and just where those lines might be. But it also gives them permission, I think, to be able to say, “I can’t do this right now.” And also my kids will, which I love about them, when I get a bit short or I can be a bit snarky when I’m tired or overwhelmed both of my kids will put their hands on their hips and be like, “Mom, I don’t like when you talk to me like that.” And I’m so glad that they know like they can say, “I don’t like to be treated this way.” And typically, it makes me bust out laughing and kind of brings me back to the present moment but I think all of that just models healthy human relationships.
PAM: I love that their days are filled with fun and play! The joy of unschooling with young kids. But not in a martyrly way, rather being ourselves in relationship with these young people that we love.
Now let’s hear from Teresa Hess, from Washington state in the US. They live in a co-housing community and have three children, ages twelve, eight, and three when we spoke.
PAM: What is your favourite thing about your unschooling days right now?
TERESA: Oh, that was a hard question because I just, I don’t know, I just love our lifestyle so much. You know everything that we’ve talked about in this conversation so far is what I love about it.
I just love having the space and the time to be together and get to know ourselves and each other. It’s just so precious. What else could be more important than that? I can’t think of anything. It’s back to the relationships and the connecting again.
It’s just it’s, it’s brilliant. I don’t know. Or so lucky. You know it’s such a privilege and a luxury to be able to live that way. And I’m just so, so happy that we’ve encountered this lifestyle. I’m so thankful for the Internet. I never would have gotten here without that. While I wouldn’t have known what to do if I hadn’t found Jan Hunt’s website really or to have people that are further down the path saying “It’s OK, you can be kind and generous with your kids and they will be wonderful human beings.” Because so many people parent from that place of well in order to make them wonderful human beings I have to make them do X Y and Z that they don’t want to do right now. That doesn’t feel right to me at all. So wonderful to have the resources of people who are more experience spelling that out for us so yeah.
My favourite part of our unschooling days is just being together. Just loving my children so much and having this time together. So many people talk about the years going so fast or you know looking at an old picture when their kid was 2 and now they’re kid’s 10 and where did the time go? I don’t really have that feeling about things. Not to say I won’t at some point but I feel like we’re really living our lives together. They’re not just flashing by. We’re not busy. We’re just here together doing what we love.
We’re not too stressed out except if we’re making an addition on the home. There are the natural stresses of life, of course, inevitably. And like I said, sibling tensions or figuring out what to make for dinner or things like that. But just that we can just be together. I mean how many people, what are those articles listing the top 10 things people on their deathbed, things like: I wish I would have worked less and spent more time with my family. I wish I had prioritized relationships and I wish I had done less of what other people thought I should do and done more of what I wanted to do.
And I’m just like so grateful that we’re in that from day one as a family. Not that we have it down perfectly, not that we don’t struggle, not that we don’t have conflict but overall the overarching feel for our lives is spacious, is open, is fun and it’s about enjoying each other, doing what we love, cooking good food together or watching the shows together. Nothing’s off limits. Nothing’s bad like talking about those power struggles earlier. I can’t imagine living 18 years with my child in my house having those power struggles constantly over different things as they got older. My oldest will say to me, “Well I don’t know what we’d fight about mom.” She knows the stereotypes of teenagers fighting about things and she’ll be a teen here in a few months. It’s so nice to hear that. And my middle child will say to me, “Well if I ever have kids, I want to parent the way you do mom.” It’s just nice to feel so, to have this nice dialogue with them about who we are together, so precious.
And like I said, that’s the priority. If anything would come in the way of that, I would just find a way back to that open connection no matter what, if I was able.
PAM: Just being together. I love that so much—coming back to that open connection with them, no matter what. Living with children truly doesn’t need to be fraught with conflict and power struggles.
And our last clip is from Talia Bartoe. Talia’s family lives in Ohio in the US and they have four children, ages nine, six, three, and one when we spoke.
PAM: What is your favourite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
TALIA: I really had to think about this one because I just I just really love our life. You know I really love our lifestyle. I love how it’s changed. I have kids with four different ages. I’ve gone through all these different stages and my oldest is always entering the next stage for the first time and I get to look at the next ones and think, ‘Oh you’re going to enter these stages too.’ If we’re going through a hard season I can go. We did this. I know that.
My 3-year-old he’s so busy and sometimes I’m exhausted. I’m know it won’t always be like that. And so, it’s so fun to watch them and to develop these relationships. I get to spend so much time with them. So, we have inside jokes, stuff that’s ours because we’re spending time together and we’re watching shows together and we’re playing games together. We develop this connection and this relationship where there’s things that are ours or we see something and we’re like oh wait, “Doesn’t that remind you of this?” And it’s our story and it’s our thing or we have our favourite foods that we get to make together.
We just develop this level of connection that I knew was possible with adults and friendships. I have a good relationship with my mom now but I never knew it was possible to have that when the kids were young. It isn’t something you have to wait for. They don’t have to get to a certain age and then you go, “OK now we can do that together.” You can learn it now. They’re amazing people who they are right now. They’re amazing and they make great people to do life with.
And it’s so fun. It’s so fun to have all these special moments that we would be missing out on if they were in school. And I can’t imagine living a life where I didn’t see them do these things for the first time. It’s literally the best thing in the world to spend time with my kids. I love them so much. I never knew that our life could feel this way outside of the box, the box was comforting. And this was scary but this is the best. Amazing.
My son says, “Scary but fun,” when he does something new. And it is scary sometimes but it’s so fun and rewarding and I’m excited to see what happens next.
PAM: What a great way to wrap up this episode! “I’m excited to see what happens next.” Our kids make great people to do life with. And unschooling is definitely scary, but fun.
I love how the guests touched on so many different aspects of our lives, yet, at the same time, we see similar threads weaving through so many of their answers like the gift of time to be, to get to really know and connect with our children, and to live in the flow and joy of our days.
I hope you found this collection of guests favourite things about unschooling to be both grounding and inspiring!
Until next time, happy unschooling!