PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca, and today I’m here with Lucia Silva. Hi, Lucia!
LUCIA: Hi, Pam.
PAM: Now, we have gotten to know each other a bit over the last few months in the Network, which I’ve loved. And I am very excited to learn more about your unschooling journey. To get us started …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s interested in right now?
LUCIA: Sure. Thank you so much, because I love listening to these calls and to your podcast. It’s so fun to be a part of and, I love this part of it, too, where we hear about everybody’s families. So, our family is me, I’m Lucia, my husband is Micah, my daughter Eva, and Levon is my son.
Let’s start with Eva. She’s 10. And if she’s not doing something else, she’s reading usually. She reads several books a day. She loves graphic novels, character-driven novels. I think that is what really motivates her about narrative and story, especially in literature is the character. So, that’s what she reads for. That’s kind of her default. She usually starts the day drawing or making something. She does a lot of pen and ink, pencil drawing, and she’s just started doing more ink, like Sumi ink and stuff like that, kind of two color. She loves any kind of making, art, crafting, but she tends to draw a lot and since she was little, that’s how she has started her day. We used to do it together and she kind of eases into the morning that way.
She’s an amazing dancer. She loves dancing. She loves ballet, contemporary, making up her own dances. So, she’s usually doing that about the house somewhere. And now it’s different, because she usually has four dance classes a week, but not for the past six, seven months. Where are we now? I don’t know.
So, it’s all different, but she misses that a lot. She loves that. Give Eva a hard, rigorous ballet barre any day. She just loves that. But she also really loves the creative part of it. So, she loves listening to music, really varied music on Spotify. She has great taste and she loves to play piano and sing. So, she’s usually doing something around that or playing on the slack line.
We love to play games. Our whole family loves tabletop games and she loves to play speed-type games, like Dutch Blitz or Blink or Set, matching games like that, Rummy Tile. So, that’s kind of her thing. She loves to cook. She’s just into all kinds of things.
He’s always loved making things, like contraptions. Swords or shields or catapults, or if we don’t have something, he wants to make it. He heard about 3D printing, so he wanted to make a 3D printer. He has a lot of big ideas about how to make things and he doesn’t like anything to be thrown away, because he wants to make things out of it. So, he has a large collection of cast-off items, bits of recycling, whatever. And he’s always using a lot of duct tape and making things.
And, he’s really into martial arts. He practices Taekwondo and Capoeira, which we haven’t been doing because of the pandemic, but he still does a lot at home. And for a long time, it’s probably like a year, two years ago maybe now, that he has been inventing his own martial art, that he calls the Jiu-Jitsu Cormier, which comes with its own moves and its own language. And he still does that and it pops up every so often.
He also loves music and he’s just starting to get really interested in reading, so he’s doing that a lot more, especially graphic novels. And he loves story. So, for him, that’s where the reading or TV shows or even just talking and relating to the world, he wants to figure out the story. What’s driving people? Why did they do this? Why is this this way? He’s really into the big meaty conversation and pulling out story from things. So, that’s what he’s about.
And, Micah is 42. We’re both 42. We’re a day apart. And he is a professor of political science at the University of Georgia here in Athens, which is why we live here. We’re from Los Angeles and the kids were born in San Diego, but we’ve been living in Athens for the past five years due to his job. So, he does that and he was a professional working musician, a touring musician in another era of life. So he still plays a lot of music, guitar and piano, and that’s always happening.
And he’s also really into math and data-driven coding stuff, so he’ll always be reading some kind of math book or something like that. And he’s always reading really interesting literature and stuff like that.
And me, I’m 42. And I also love making things. I kind of move around, but I love knitting. Right now, I’m really into sewing, into sewing clothes, and diving into new fiber arts, dabbling. And sometimes, I get really into it or sometimes, I try out things, depending on where I am with that. And then like Eva, I, if I’m not doing something else, I’m reading. And I also really love character-driven literature and literary nonfiction and I read a lot of poetry. So that’s always been a frame for my life. I think that’s the tip of the iceberg of what we are doing.
PAM: Exactly! It’s again why I love this part, too. That’s why I love to start with this introduction, because it’s just so fun to see all the little pieces and to see the pieces that are uniquely each person’s, yet how they overlap and weave together too, between the different members of the family. And you talked about for yourself, how sometimes your interests wax and wane and your kids see that.
Just from you sharing that, that you’re totally okay with that, that it’s normal that things ebb and flow and we just see where they take us. That’s so fun. And that iceberg metaphor, I mean, it’s perfect, because you can’t give an entire picture of somebody, just because we don’t even know all the stuff bubbling beneath the surface and everything.
And it’s just so fascinating to think about the different things, yet how they weave together or the threads between them when you’re thinking bigger picture. And I know because, for many years, I was very involved in ballet when I was young. And I know the music, how that weaves in there, and the technicality of the ballet, but also the freedom of the more contemporary, the choreography, it’s just a beautiful, beautiful picture. Thank you so much for sharing that.
LUCIA: Thanks. Yeah. And I really think, too, we see those through lines. As you’ve mentioned with your kids, I think it’s Joseph you talked about always being interested in story, and I couldn’t have predicted, of course, when Levon was a very verbal one year old that he would be interested in coding. But now I see that, in the context of his intense conversations about figuring things out, figuring out how they work, how to manipulate things, it drops into place.
And that was a variation, so it really helped me see in this season of my life, which is different from another season of my life, where I was super focused on a passion-oriented career that was all-consuming and allowing this to be about feeling okay with putting something aside, moving on to something new and not having just one way. So, I’ve learned that from my kids, for sure. I kind of just arrange all these little pieces and it makes this really comprehensive mind.
PAM: Yeah, no, that’s beautiful. And there is one other connection that popped up for me there that I wanted to share, because you know how we talk about when we’re passionately interested in something, yet we can discover the whole world through that? All the different pieces. So, I was, up until mid-high school, very involved in ballet.
And, so as I was talking earlier about the technical aspects and the artistic aspects of it, I eventually, for work, was a computer programmer. And I could see the threads of the technicality, the love for the details in the programming, coding yet the creativity of you wanting to do it as efficiently, as effectively, as beautifully. Coding is beautiful. So yeah, just thinking of those two things, ballet and computer programming, how on earth can they be related? But they are, at the root. That’s so cool.
LUCIA: I love that. That’s fascinating. I also really relate to that.
PAM: Exactly. Okay, so, we should probably move on.
I would love to hear how you discovered unschooling and what your family’s journey looked like to get there.
LUCIA: I thought a lot about this, because we had a very meandering, step forward, step to the side, step back, journey to where we are now. I’m sure that’s true for many people. But there’s so many parts of it. And I think in terms of how I discovered unschooling, always for me, the first thing, that planted the seed in my mind when I was 15 or 16, and I discovered this book in our local library called The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Haley.
And it’s a memoir by this woman who was then a girl. She wrote it when she was 16 and she also lived in Los Angeles and she decided she was done with school. She went to a very well-regarded private school in Los Angeles and obviously had lots of academic pressures and so on and so forth. She came from a writer family, and she decided to graduate at 16 and finish her credits and leave school.
So, for her, that was the path. She didn’t drop out of school or leave school early. She graduated at 16 and I think it was written in 1989 or ’90, something like that. She leaves school because she found that it was limiting her passion to learn. She is just one of those people who belong to another era, I think. She loved classic movies and she liked to read Plato and Somerset Maugham and write these witty, dry plays.
And so, she leaves school and designs her version of what she felt a full education was and her parents were fully supportive of this. And so, she’s going to read everything ever published. The classics. And she writes a couple plays and she acts in a play. And I was so taken with that. I really related to that. I had different tastes maybe in some ways, but I really related to that idea of feeling so limited by the constraints of what I had to do all day long and the intellectual and creative pursuits that I had. And so, I know I petitioned my parents to let me do the same thing, which I think they listened to me, for sure, but that was not an option in the world that we lived in, in our family, in our milieu. It was just like, I don’t think so.
PAM: “That sounds so cool, but …”
LUCIA: Yes, exactly, which I totally understand. There were ideas about college and how one was going to get a scholarship to college and things like that that of course were just beyond where we were at that point. But that lodged in my brain as the ultimate. And so, many years passed between then and now. But I think somewhere, my younger brain had retained that idea and that belief that that was a viable path of learning. And so much transpired and I became more interested in educational reform and revolutionizing public education and that’s where my focus was. And it was still very school-oriented.
And fast forward many years, Eva went to a Montessori school here in Athens the first year we moved here. And homeschooling was not on the table. I knew a lot more about it by then. I felt it was not for me, for various reasons at that time. Anyway, she went to kindergarten and it wasn’t horrible. Eva is going to be okay everywhere, but I didn’t want “okay” for her. I didn’t want “okay”. And that was a year of real disconnection for us. Things changed a lot.
We’d moved and she was in school full-time. I was home with Levon and we met a group of homeschoolers here in Athens, where homeschooling is much more common. This is the South. So, homeschooling of various kinds is much more prevalent, common. So, I met this group of homeschoolers and they were a very varied group and I thought, oh, they look like they like their life. Their kids look happy. They look happy with each other. They get to do fun things during the day. They’re not rushing somewhere in the morning and making lunch.
And so, Micah and I started talking about it more. And I went to meetings about forming secular co-ops and still trying to figure out the schooling version of homeschooling. Anyway, we had decided that we would try it for her first-grade year.
But in March through April of the end of that kindergarten year, we all got the flu for the first time, really bad, and kind of one after the other. It was like Eva, then Levon, then me, then Micah. So, all told, we were home for a little over two weeks. Nobody went to school because someone was sick. And we had never been that sick, all of us together. Some of us had never been that sick individually. And even so, it was like the best two weeks we’d had since we moved to Georgia, because we were at home and there was no, “let’s keep up with school,” because we were all just sort of being together in a very intense way.
And we didn’t go back. We’ve never been back to school after that. I called the school and said, “Sorry, we’re done.” We thought, ‘We’re doing this anyway, why would we stick this out just to finish the school year?’ And that was it.
And so, in the next six months, from then through the summer, through to September or something, we did the version of deschooling that I think is common for any homeschooler or is recommended when you leave school. It’s different from what I understand now about really deep unschooling deschooling, where you’re more dismantling, but I think of it more as decompression, where I didn’t worry about curriculum.
I didn’t worry about what we were doing every day. I was just like, everything is going to be fine. Our focus is being together, rebuilding our families, rebuilding our connections, having fun, which now I realize is also a way to live permanently, but at the time, I didn’t really see a timeline on it. And I think I had the freedom of Eva was five and Levon was still a toddler. And she’d had a year of Montessori, which sort of gave me this, she knows how to write in cursive and we’re all right for a while.
And over the next few years, every once in a while, I’d get real fired up about needing to figure out the right way to absorb mathematical thinking. And I took these courses in how to teach math and teach mathematical thinking. I bought a lot of curriculum and we would use it for a couple of days, a couple of weeks. I really second guessed that joy as being a valid way to live. So, I had a lot to walk through there.
And at that time, I think Micah was much more focused on really paying attention to the kids, how they looked. And because they were young, sometimes we get those free years in the beginning of really not having that anxiety. I think for different people, that anxiety about what schooling should look like, or what they’re learning, what they’re missing out on, comes at different ages, maybe related to what we experienced or what our anxieties are or whatever.
But in those early years, Micah just kept saying, “The kids are doing great. Listen to the conversations we’re having. Look at their self-possession. They’re busy all day with their endeavors, what they’re choosing to do. They’re making amazing stuff.” And I kept going, “Okay, what about math though?”
That went on for a long time, in and out of that. And, it wasn’t until relatively recently, I think maybe I had started listening to your podcast a little over a year ago, this podcast, and I had read some of your books and kind of gone in and out of going, ‘Yes! Yes!’ And then going, ‘But I don’t know if that’s right for us. Yes! Okay. I get, but I don’t know if that’s right.’ There was a lot of back and forth between my instincts and my willingness to really be present and dive in and my willingness to agree to opt out completely of something that was all around me.
And by that time, our group of homeschoolers, I have an amazing community of friends here, a group of families that my kids have become very close with their kids, and we are close in our own ways, and we all school differently. But every once in a while, I go, oh, that sounds fun. Or, that sounds clear and finite. Like, we’re going to do this from 9:00 to 1:00, and then we’ll be done. And then I can check off that we’ve done school. You’ve learned something. It took a long time for me to let go of that.
And I think really in the past six, seven months of this pandemic, I joined the Network, the Living Joyfully Network, I think in February or something. So it was perfectly timed for me to be really steeped in this community of people who were thinking deeply about exactly the thing that I was deliberating about or waffling about, and were going for it in so many different ways. And that is really where we started to rapidly move through all of the parts and that has been snowballing over the past couple of seasons into just going, okay. I think we’ve been unschoolers all along in our hearts. All kids, all people are unschoolers to begin with. We learn how to not be okay with that.
But yeah, I think that that was the end of the long journey for us in terms of getting to our beginning. Does that make sense? I now fully step into that and so that was the long, long meandering way of saying that was a long and meandering road for sure.
PAM: Well, I love that. Thank you for sharing that detail, because I think so often people not only think it, but have an expectation of themselves that it should just be a switch, like on, off thing. Oh, we’re unschooling now. Boom. You know what I mean? But it’s why, so often, we talk about it as a journey, because it is so important to be true to yourself and to respect those questions that you have as they bubble up, or else you’re just pushing them down, saying, nope, I don’t do that anymore. I don’t do that anymore. But you don’t process through them and really understand why.
And as you come to understand why you’re choosing not to do it, it bubbles up a lot less in the future, because it’s not a question anymore, because we understand. And I love what you said, we’re really kind of unschooling from when we’re born, because what we get to eventually is the understanding that this is how humans like to learn and engage with the world. I love your husband’s descriptions. Look at their endeavors, listen to their conversations, they’re just living this life fully. And you were actively processing as these things come up and so, sometimes that processing was getting distracted by other people’s ideas. Just having a path, 9:00 to 1:00, this, this, and this. Tick, tick, tick. Like, I mean, I know that, right now in my life, that would just be lovely. It just sounds like I don’t have to think about this. I just have to do it and move on.
So, totally, the attraction to that is understandable, but then as you try it, it doesn’t work so smoothly.
LUCIA: And the cost of it is great, I think, for our family.
The cost of enforcing, that was great in terms of what we lost in connection, what we lost in happiness and joy. It wasn’t horrible. It was better than so many other options, but it didn’t feel true for us. I’m kind of a systems thinker. I like to find, ‘Oh, this is the best way to do this thing. I’m going to apply that here.’ I always like to find out, ‘Who’s done this? Who’s grokked this, figured it out, hacked this thing? Okay. I’m going to do that.’ And I think sometimes resisting that, like, ‘Oh, that is deep work. Do I have to do that about everything?’
And that was some of the resistance for me in the beginning. And then coming through that part of it—I guess I wouldn’t say the other side because it’s ever-evolving, but sort of sinking into the place we’re in now—that that work now is the joy of it, is part of that emotional, intellectual, interpersonal self-reflective work that I think was daunting in the beginning of like, ‘You mean I’m going to be on all day?’ And realizing that no, I’m going to be a human being all day with my kids who are human beings all day. And we’re going to figure this out.
But that’s a whole other thing that took a long time, but yeah, I struggled with that a lot in the beginning. And whenever I feel any inklings of that coming up again, I know it’s because I’m not diving in deep enough, sort of living up here and being distracted. It’s easy to feel that you want to shove some things off your plate. And then I look around and think, well, none of those things really need to be on my plate at all.
PAM: That insight is just such a fundamental and valuable shift from that point where it’s like, I need to be on all day. Because that’s how it feels at first. And then you said, oh no, I just have to be human. That’s when we get to the point where we realize I can just be myself and all those wonderful things come from there, bubble up from there, the connections. I can actually be me when I’m engaging with my kids. I don’t have to be some version of perfect, watching out for those learning moments, all those little aspects.
And the realization that it’s happened enough times that when concerns are starting to bubble up, that it’s actually because we’ve pulled out a bit. And we’re not right in there with them, seeing what is still happening. We’ve been distracted. We started to get in our head. I love that. I love that so much.
And that leads very nicely into our next question. Because this is what we’ve been talking about, that first big milestone of choosing not to send our kids to school and looking at the academic pieces. Because so often that’s where we’re starting. We’re replacing their education with something else. So, all those questions you processed through: the different curriculums, what about math? And then, so often, what about reading?
There are certain things, certain skills, that we just conventionally come to believe that they’re harder. That there’s something that needs a different way than just living them. So, once you’ve gotten there, there is the next step in the journey, right? Because unschooling really does grow beyond just looking at the academics into a lifestyle.
So, you’ve been sharing that as well here and there when you’re talking about the beautiful things that you see your kids are up to and what they’re engaging in.
I’d love to hear more about how your unschooling has grown beyond that concern that you were looking at academics and once you moved from that, how did it grow from there into a lifestyle for you?
LUCIA: Yeah. I think we definitely lived in that place for a while of our version of homeschooling is unschooling. So, when we are schooling, we are unschooling.
PAM: Oh, beautiful! That’s beautiful.
LUCIA: We did that for a long time. And my response to people, sometimes they’d say, “Oh, what kind of homeschool?” That’s a common question in homeschooling circles. “What do you use for math or whatever?” And for a long time, my response was, “Oh, we’re kind of unschooly,” because I knew from what I was reading, especially online in Facebook groups and reading Sandra Dodd and stuff, that there was this what I viewed as this far side of radical unschooling. And so I was like, we don’t do unschooling life stuff. We’re not radical unschoolers. We just unschool the school part.
PAM: The school part. Yeah.
LUCIA: Which is funny to think about now, but also, it’s just, that’s what we did. That’s where we were. And so, for me, I think that it came naturally and necessarily from realizing that really living the unschooling part, even in the schooly part, that if that joy was to exist … I mentioned this before in the Network.
Hearing people on your podcast or you or other homeschoolers online, I would hear in their voices, see in their faces, this effervescent, bubbling joy of them living their lives with their kids, living this full unschooling lifestyle. And I wanted that, but it was so far from what my experience of life was at that moment in our season of life.
I really believed that that was just fundamentally not available for me personally, that there was something, maybe even not wrong with me, but I am just not that kind of a person. Or I’m smarter or I’m more complicated or I’m more broken or I had different reasons why that was not possible. So, I think I pushed that away for a while, but as I came to sort of experiment with the basic feeling of, okay, a lot of this is feeling great and these areas aren’t. Sort of living more and more in the moment with my kids, not practicing mindfulness as a meditation, but for me, that meditation is being with my kids, with Micah, with our family together, with myself.
We returned to that authenticity of being deeply invested in the moment and valuing that as a practice and a way of living. Even from the beginning, attempts at that was so rewarding. I mean, I think that’s kind of the wrong word. It’s like self-reinforcing that what came back was that lift until, it was like a month or so ago, I looked at Micah and I was like, “Ah, This is it. I’m one of those people who wakes up and can’t wait to see what we’re going to do today, what we’re going to talk about.”
I’m excited to see my kids, whereas before I felt that I was arming myself for the day, and feeling bad about, why can’t I be like those other people who their default is joy? Like, are you really excited about doing that with your kids? Really? And then feeling bad about that thought, because I wanted to feel that way. I believed that that was an option, but it just didn’t feel authentic to me.
And returning to that, developing that practice that I think I had with my kids when they were infants of being, watching, mindful watching, and just being totally okay and a hundred percent in with that. And at the same time, learning to advocate for my needs and myself, or just believe that that wasn’t going to disrupt our day, that I didn’t have to put myself on hold to repair later, or get away.
I think those things mixed together to create this really sort of rapid spiral into this lifestyle of, oh, okay. Here we are. This is a way of being and I no longer thought of unschooling as a way to approach school or, that’s one way to do school, I guess, is in an unschooly way, but sort of unschooling as a lifestyle is choosing, more and more, choosing what we want, what we value in our life, the relationships that we value, the experiences we value, and believing that that is our highest priority and trusting that good will follow out of that.
It doesn’t mean everything is great, but that it is authentic and kind of true to ourselves, I think.
PAM: Oh, thank you so much for sharing that. And I remember when you posted that in the Network and you were like, “At first, I thought you all were just kind of crazy and your own breed of people,” which is fine, but I love that and I love the way you explained how you were unschooling your school. So, during the day, when you were engaging in doing the things, whatever you were doing, following their interests, and diving into that kind of stuff, and supporting them that way, and that you started to gain experience with that.
You started to see the joy and the fun and just the path, how things flow. So, you were starting to see that flow. And those sections, for the most part, I imagine they were going well. You were engaged with them. You were having fun with them. You were seeing the joy. You were seeing the learning. You were seeing how that branches into new places.
And then that was starting to bump up against the other parts of your life. So, now those were starting to become more obvious that they weren’t as flowy or weren’t as joyful, that there were some bumps outside of the school hours, you know what I mean? I mean, that’s what it sounded like to me, the way you were describing.
PAM: And then you start questioning, this approach that’s working so well with the schooly stuff, start to explore that approach with the other bumps, the lifey bumps. The lifestyle-y bumps. That is brilliant and it’s very similar to the way it worked for me, because I remember when I first read Sandra Dodd and Joyce Fetteroll that were online way back then in forums, it was like, this is awesome, but I won’t be doing that. This is great. I love it. But I won’t be doing that.
I remember that completely, because that just seemed super foreign. But once you gain some experience with it and start to see it in action, it’s just learning other things. And learning things about life versus learning things that look schoolish, those more school-ish subjects. But in fact, it’s all learning. And so just the slow expansion of it from the more academic subjects into the life bits, that’s just so fascinating. Thanks very much for sharing that.
LUCIA: And I think for me, certainly, and I’m sure for other people too, I think for some people it is within them the right path to jump in and go all in and unknot all the knots and just go for it. For me, it was an important part of my journey, of our journey together, to be able to say, we won’t be doing that. And realize that, well, I can come back to that later, but I’m not going to start there.
Because I think that, for me, my personality, for Micah’s personality, our kids would have been fine. That would have made me withdraw again, to jump into those more radical places where we are still sort of teasing out those knots. There’s always room for growth and we have a lot of areas in which our house looks a lot different than maybe other unschoolers’ houses in various ways.
The more we can be super comfortable and comfortable with pushing up against our discomfort, that’s where the place where we can live richly and feel the freedom to go, what if we didn’t say that was not okay? So, we’re a little slower, maybe, and that feels right.
Well, that’s why I still love doing this podcast and talking to different families, because the journey is so different. Like you said, some people are more comfortable jumping right in and doing all the things and unknotting that. And it depends on where we’re starting. It is so individual. So, that’s why I always love hearing people’s journey, how they discovered it, how they walked through it, because there will be other people out there who can relate to each different story and just knowing the vast, complex, expanse of different stories helps people understand just how individual unschooling is.
PAM: Which, again, leads so nicely into our next question, because that’s the next paradigm shift that happens, that shift away from feeling those unschooling rules. Like you and I, when we said, “Well, that’s not going to happen.” We were seeing those as unschooling rules. Like, unschoolers do this. We were still in that point where we saw it as rules and that wasn’t a rule yet that we were comfortable following by not releasing.
But anyway, so now we get to this nice, next big juicy paradigm shift, where we really release the idea of there being rules. And we start exploring what are the right choices for our unique family, which, as you alluded to earlier, is why unschooling can look so different in different families.
LUCIA: This has been a huge shift for me. I think going back to that sort of systems thinking of, this is the way this is done, I’ll do it, and not really trusting my innate wisdom or that I even had any.
PAM: Yep. Yep.
LUCIA: Yeah. And I think so many of those ideas that I rejected at the beginning, and that I still am wary about, come from my understanding or my interpretation or my impression of what I’m hearing from other families. And seeing, oh, well unschooling means that if your kid wants you to jump on the trampoline with them at 3:00 AM, you have to do it and be excited about it. And that’s great. And going like, okay, well then, we’re just going to keep bedtime where it is, because I can’t even go there.
And realizing and seeing that there are all kinds of connected ways to have conversations about everything led me to, the more we did that, and realizing that I could still be open and curious and come to my kids without an agenda and really have authentic conversation about things, and still not go over what I considered the deep end, then I realized, oh, that’s a deep end for me. I’m sure things that I do are a deep end for other people or just like, I don’t relate to that. And then coming to value what it is about our household, our family, that makes it a vibrant unschooling place.
Even in the beginning, reading about, oh, well to unschool, you must strew these interesting items about the home. And I set up this nature kit with binoculars and a nature notebook so the kids can look at birds and I was like, oh my gosh. We have to do this thing with the birds and the binoculars. And I really latched on to those ideas. Or, I’m always interested in learning as an adult. I’m learning German and I’m also learning how to play the guitar. And I thought I don’t really want to. I’m going to have to learn a language and I’m not really interested in that right now.
Ignoring this huge swath of intense conversation that we have going in our house at all times, that for us, our panoply of ideas is sort of in the air in our family. We’re all big talkers, in case you can’t tell. And everybody’s always talking. Micah and I are always discussing some big thing, wrestling over an issue, intellectually figuring something out, talking to Levon about his existential questions, talking to Eva.
That swirl for us is the life of our home. For other people, that might be like, oh my gosh, shut that off. I can’t do that all day long. That’s what I have to do as an unschooler? Forget it. And so, I think so much of it is about trust, trusting that you have the capacity you have and that your kids will step into that so long as what we are creating is authentic and present and mindful.
That living any kind of a rich life like that is going to lead to wanting to seek out more richness and complexity and intellectual and creative endeavors. And that if I’m not into birds and my kids don’t care about birds, I don’t need to set up a binocular nature station. But if they are, I’m ready to jump in and be like, oh, I’ve never noticed that. But I think I still viewed it as originating from me in terms of what I was feeding them.
And so, I’m providing all of this, which is not really interesting to me. Instead, I’m just going to talk about the things that are interesting to me and occasionally someone will be like, oh, what’s that? And then I’m going to respond a hundred percent to anything that is brought to me. I kind of went off and didn’t really answer the question.
PAM: I think that was beautiful because that is entirely it.
We can see how unschooling looks in other people’s families. People are sharing what they’re doing, and I’m doing this and I’m doing this for them and we hear about a hundred different families as we’re scrolling through online. And all of a sudden, we feel like, oh my god, there’s a hundred different things we need to do. And you think, I need to show them the whole world that they’re very well-rounded and these are all subjects that they should have some exposure to. We can really get caught in that swirl when we are still thinking of it as our job. You know what I mean? When we’re saying that our job is to bring all this stuff and make sure they’re exposed to all these things.
LUCIA: Which is exhausting when you think about it that way.
PAM: Yes, it is. And that shift to understanding, I love the way you described the richness of your family, what unschooling looks like for your family, because it’s about the unique people in your life. So, for you guys, it’s so much about conversation, so much about ideas and just helping them by getting them access to the coding platform and helping them, having those conversations, and the music. It’s always been so interesting in families where music is a big part of their lives or weaves through their lives. So often, it’s because there’s a parent who is into music.
And so, it is the background of the people in the family, maybe, or maybe not. The child picks up on it, but if a parent is interested in it, it becomes part of the fabric of that family in that it’s the fabric that’s important and the unique individuals. And that’s where you get to the part where it’s not, we have to do all this before they turn 18. When they’re curious about birds, they could be 25 or whatever, but then that’s when they can dive in and we can dive in. We can help. When your husband is interested in something new, if you find something related, you’re going to bring it to him now, because all of a sudden, he’s interested in this thing. That’s how we’re people engaged together in a family.
But sometimes when you share it online and newer people see it, they take that in as an expectation. Although you’re just happily, excitedly sharing the cool things that you guys happen to be doing. But then when you see a hundred people and they’re so excited about birds and they’re so excited about mountains and they’re so excited about snowflakes, and you just feel bombarded by that. But the realization that, no, what’s important is what’s striking your own family’s curiosity at the moment, what’s making them light up. So, I love that. Because it can look so different in every single family, but the foundation is the same, because you’re just excitedly pursuing whatever anybody’s curious about.
PAM: I love that so much. Okay. So now, we’re going to take another step deeper on our journey. And you talked about this a little bit, as well, our self-awareness begins to grow. And you mentioned not coming into conversations with your kids with an agenda. That’s something I think that that comes as our self-awareness grows and we start to realize, oh, we kind of want this conversation to take a particular path. Even if we don’t verbalize it, that’s where the self-awareness piece is so important because, so often it’s just kind of ingrained in us at this point. We’ve grown up with, oh, this is the way this should flow, this is the way that should flow. This is the way that should flow.
So, even if we don’t state it, it can easily come across to our kids in our energy, even in how we react to things they say. Something that’s not along our path, we go, well, we can think about that. And then something that is closer to the path, oh yeah, maybe we can do that. They see it on our face.
But when we shift away from showing up to conversations with an agenda and more to, as you mentioned earlier, just being open and curious about where things might go, it really does make a world of difference to our conversations, doesn’t it?
LUCIA: Yes. And this is something I’m still walking through a lot. I mean, I’m living with a heightened awareness of it because of the work we’re doing in the Network and in the Summit. And just thinking about how I hadn’t noticed how much I do that. I think I would have said I don’t do that. But in those really subtle ways, the expression, or the tone of voice, or even what my internal reaction is that I’m fighting in the response, and I think the shift from having hardline limits of, ‘we only do video games on the weekend for this amount of time’ to ‘let’s have a conversation about this, how I feel about it, how you feel about it, what could be a different way to do this?’ That’s where the gray area enters for me to have the agenda.
I realized that some of my conversations were, “Well, I’m open to talking about that. So long as we end up at a place that I think is reasonable.” We’ve done this a couple of times and Levon was like, “Oh cool.” I think I was like, “Well, how long would you like to do that?” And he was like, “Five minutes.” And I was like, “Okay.” My instinct would say five minutes is too short, you’re not going to like that. But I was like, “Okay, let’s try it.” And then he was like, “Oh, that’s really short.” I’m like, “Okay. How about half an hour?” Awesome. I love that response in my mind. Right? This is a process of where we’re at. And then the next time we had that conversation and he said, “Well, I have to stop because you said I could do this for X amount of time.” “Well, I’m open to discussing that.”
We started talking about it and he said, “I don’t think you’re really open to discussing that. I think you know how long you want me to do that, but you’re just saying you’re open to discussing it, but it’s going to be your rule anyway.” And I was like, “You’re exactly right.”
He can see through that so clearly, and I realized instantly what that agenda for me creates is evidence of a mistrust. I don’t trust that he’s able to step into that conversation with me and create a dialogue that will be fulfilling for everybody. I think I still need to control that. It’s like a trust and control issue.
And the other day, Eva and I were having a conversation with Levon about some way we wanted to change something in our house, long story. Anyway, Levon had said no for this finite reason that makes me feel this way. And in my mind, and I could tell, just sort of seeing Eva’s face, I could tell that I felt, well, maybe he doesn’t fully understand all of the options, so let me phrase this a different way. And we kind of came at it a couple of different ways and he said straightforward, “I already told you how I feel.” And I thought, “That’s so awful. I’m sorry. I really wasn’t really listening.” And so, I think I really take that to heart that that agenda walks all over somebody’s feelings and implies mistrust and disconnection.
And so, when I see that when I bring an agenda, it was just kind of a sweetening the deal kind of agenda, like, let’s go do this thing, or I really want to move this bed over here because I think it would be better and you can see out the window or whatever, is creating a template for, I don’t trust what you think. Do you really trust yourself? What I want for my kids is to trust their deep instinct about what is right and feels right for them. This doesn’t mean we do everything they want to do all the time or don’t ever go to the store. I think sometimes people think, well, if you don’t control the narrative, how do you get anything done?
But when I come at something with an agenda, I’m not having an authentic conversation. So, there’s no other way to respond but defensively, to hold tight to what they want. Whereas if you come into it really at face value of like, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking,” or, “I need to do this thing. How should we work it out?” They can drop their agenda and their defenses and offer collaborative solutions or ideas and feel very secure in saying, “Not for me. We need to find a different solution where I’m not doing that thing.”
LUCIA: That’s been good. Especially, too, in the area of sibling conflict.
I think you and Anna in the Network really helped me with this. I think for so long, I was coming in with the agenda of solving a problem and being the arbiter and dropping that agenda and just being there to listen and reflect and validate for everybody and keep everybody physically safe has been enormous. That has been so huge and it happened so fast. It was like, my kids didn’t need to get used to it. They were just like, oh, this is so much better. Like, “Oh mom, can you come over? We need you to stand here.” Because they know that I’m not, “Well, I’ve listened to both sides,” or, “I’ve decided this,” or, “This is the way we handle this,” that I can feel that I am truly a part of that interaction. That it’s not like, ‘Oh god, I have to come over and decide this thing.‘
And that it can really feel … I guess it’s not fun, in that conventional sense, but it’s real. It’s real work that we all feel good about afterwards. Even if we’re not feeling good about the outcome. The difference is feeling true to ourselves, that someone didn’t apply an agenda to us. And that it can feel like, that’s the meat of our life. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re doing for the next half an hour, hour is talking through this thing.
And that agenda piece has been big. I’m still super working on it. That conversation with Levon was just two days ago. It’s a thing all people do, but being aware of it makes it so easy to go, “Oh, you’re right. Whoa. I totally messed up on that. Let me start again.”
PAM: Yeah. And it’s not something to realistically have this expectation of ourselves that we’ll never do. I think the self-awareness piece is the important piece is the realizing, oh, I really want this to go a certain way. And once you notice that, when you dig down a little bit more, you can figure out why. What is it about this path that I’m attracted to, that’s so important to me? Because then you’ve got more information to actually bring to that authentic conversation. You’re bringing your needs and your wishes instead of the path, instead of the solution.
So, giving up your path forward, releasing your path forward, doesn’t mean giving up why you thought that path was going to work for you. It means all of a sudden being open to more paths. When you come open and curious with your needs in context of the situation that you can bring to the conversation, that’s why we always talk about, as we talked about earlier, it’s not about being martyrly, not about giving up our needs in the conversation. Not about saying, “Okay, whatever you want, we’ll do it that way.” But bringing us as a real person to those conversations and what our needs are, but being open and curious to see what they can bring to the conversation.
Because, as you were saying, that trust piece, but we communicate that we don’t think our kids are capable. Like you were saying, going into those conversations, do I really want to leave it open for what he’s going to think? It’s because we don’t think at whatever age they are, that they’re capable of considering our needs, bringing that into the conversation. But like you said, how quickly it’s gone because they truly are, aren’t they?
LUCIA: Right. And that’s exactly it.
We love each other. They are very interested in my needs, in my person. I’m very interested in their needs and their person. They have no idea how to address or even desire to address my anxieties and fears. If I bring anxiety and fear instead of bringing my needs, it’s so easy to respond to that type of human interaction. And that’s where you see they just step right in there. And I think that’s the difference is we think, coming from another paradigm, that they’re not going to be able to think about me and then really thinking like, who am I bringing? Have I ever really brought just myself?
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. And that just tied in so nicely with what you were saying earlier, because when we come in with that agenda, even unspoken, when we’re coming in with that energy, they have to meet us with that energy, that defensiveness. They have to defend themselves and their position. So, we don’t see them thinking about us because we’re not really thinking about them. We’re coming in with our agenda. So, they have to meet us with their agenda and then we have to battle.
But as soon as we come open, and it depends on the child and how many years, the transition is theirs uniquely to own, but I had the same experience. It was so quick for them to get to that open place. It’s like, oh, finally. They’re letting me be myself in this conversation. And then they bring their creativity. They bring so many interesting things, back to that joy piece. It’s like, well, no, I can’t imagine I could ever have fun in those situations. They’re not literally fun, but like you said, they’re real. They’re really us and they take however long they take and they just bring such a new perspective, a new light.
Even if, when you’re brainstorming at the beginning, sometimes you feel like that’s a crazy solution. And that’s a crazy solution. Especially with sibling conflicts. We still come with what we think is fair. But we soon realize that it doesn’t matter what we think is fair, which is why it feels so good not to have to arbitrate their conflicts, but to be there to hear and listen, and to help them.
Because sometimes we might notice that little body language clue from one child who maybe hasn’t really realized yet enough to verbalize what it is that they’re feeling. So, we add value to the conversation that way. Totally. It’s not leaving them to themselves to try figure it out. But it is our family. And especially when they come and ask, “Can you come stand with us while we’re working this out?” Because you can add those little pieces to the conversation sometimes. Sometimes they just want your presence and they’ll let you know that too.
But those real authentic conversations versus trying to push them to the path that we think is the right answer. It’s just night and day, right?
LUCIA: Yeah. And in learning so much about them or things that you know, but trusting that that’s okay. One of my kids want to just talk about the whole situation. “Mom, we’ve got to talk about this with so-and-so,” and one wants to have a little time by themselves and take some time and then be done with it, come back and I really interpreted that as like, it’s “good” quote, unquote, to talk everything through.
And I’m realizing, oh, okay, you need that time. Other person, this person needs this time. You know that about them. So, you tell me how you feel. And we’ll come back together later, or I’ll sit with you until that person is done. And being okay with that or really embracing that as a valid method of coping with conflict, that it’s not all going to look one way.
And then the other thing you said about not being a martyr, that’s not what it’s about. I think that sometimes that is a piece that is missing, when we hear about this in online forums or whatever, that it can look like, oh, well you just do whatever the kids want. And you’re this bedraggled woman doing all the cleaning and staying up all night and missing the piece of really, it’s kind of the opposite that you are bringing yourself.
You’re not bringing a role of being put upon or not put upon, and that you are expressing your needs, and you’re making choices based on how that works out with your family. That was big for me, too, to see that like, oh, I’m just going to step into this and be this person with needs. And we’re all going to respond to each other.
PAM: And the fascinating, beautiful thing is that as you fully embrace being in the moment and making choices, you may find yourself on the trampoline at 3:00 AM.
LUCIA: Oh, for sure.
PAM: And it’s completely a different experience than you first thought, right? You’re not dragging yourself out and going, oh my God, I’m not going to be doing that. You get to a mindset where, hey, look, I’m in this moment where I am awake. I’m okay. And boy, that sounds exciting. They look really excited about that. It would be fun! And then out you are, but it’s the same situation. If somebody said, “Hey, we were out at 3:00 AM, jumping on the trampoline.” Boom. But who you are and what you bring to that, you see completely different things. That could have been a really exciting choice versus a martyrly choice. “Oh my God. They’re up. I must do that,” right?
LUCIA: Yeah, totally.
PAM: I love that so much. Okay.
I would love to know what has surprised you most about your unschooling journey so far?
LUCIA: Yes. I really thought about this. When I saw your question, I thought, that’s such a hard question to answer. And then I realized, oh wait, sometimes something is so big that you just skip over it in your mind. By far, how self-revelatory this process is, that it’s not about out schooling or unschooling or education or not education. And there is that lifestyle piece, but what surprised me is how much hinges on my self-growth, how much this really leads me to self-inquiry, self-reflection.
This has been such a huge season of growth for me as a person, not only with my kids, but in all of my relationships, in my marriage, in my relationship with myself, in my relationship with random people that I interact with, in who I am in the world. That’s what this is about, is being that person who’s doing that on their journey and inviting that level of living from our intimate people. That has been the most surprising, because I think, as with all the things we’ve been talking about, looking at all of these external ways to apply when really the work has been for me.
The kids have been unschooling their whole lives with some annoying adults trying to get them to do other things a little bit. It’s not about them learning how to be unschooled. And it’s not about, ‘Oh, well, this is the period of my life where I’m being an unschooler or I’m being a homeschooler and then at some point, my kids will go off to college or move out and I will get to pay attention to myself,’ or whatever. This is the most I’ve ever paid attention to myself. And to see what an unselfish endeavor that is, how that is so vital to living a totally different life than I had imagined. And for that, I am just immensely grateful.
PAM: Oh my goodness. Thank you so much, Lucia. That was a spectacular answer and insight, that actually all the self-reflection and the digging into things about ourselves is such an unselfish act, in that we can now more freely, like you have been saying the whole call, authentically engage with the people in our lives. Instead of bringing those roles and those expectations of who we think we should be in those engagements, taking that time to understand ourselves means we can so much more unselfishly engage with others and actually see and hear them, because we don’t have to come and defend and push this view of ourselves that we think we need to have and be in those conversations. That’s spectacular.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. It was so much fun.
LUCIA: It was so great. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it and learned so much, just in this conversation.
PAM: Yeah. I loved it. I mean, it went so many juicy places. I am so excited to share it.
LUCIA: Thank you.
PAM: And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
LUCIA: Oh, I don’t have a blog or anything like that. My Instagram is IciclesandBirthdayClothes and I’m not really great about posting. But every once in a while, there is a snapshot of us doing our thing. Yeah. That’s it.
PAM: Again, that’s not an expectation that people are available online.
LUCIA: I love to see other people. I just can’t seem to come up with it. But maybe it could be different next month.
PAM: Exactly. That’s awesome. Thanks so much, Lucia! Have a great day.