PAM: Welcome. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Marta Venturini. Hi, Marta!
PAM: Now, we have been connected online for a few years now, and I’m really looking forward to learning some more in-depth info about your unschooling journey. So, to get us started …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s interested in right now?
MARTA: Yeah, sure. So, my family is Bruno, Conchinha, and myself. Bruno and I are the same age. We’re 46. And Conchinha is 11 at the moment. And Bruno also has a daughter from a previous relationship, but she doesn’t live with us. She’s Conchinha’s sister and she’s 23. We also have two cats. And they’re right here with me. They might pop up in the middle of our chat. And we’re living in Lisbon in Portugal.
So, Bruno has worked all his life around designing kitchens and now at the moment, he’s not actually designing them, but he helps supervise the construction sites when people are putting the kitchens up and going, and he’s supervising that. And he loves his work. Luckily, he’s working for this company now where he feels very appreciated and welcome. And that has been awesome, because that hasn’t always been the case.
I was trained in psychology before I became a mom. I took a five-year degree. Nowadays, it’s only three or two-year degrees, and then you get a master’s degree in whatever. But then, my daughter was born and I decided to take a whole different path.
Concerning our interests at the moment, my daughter is a huge gamer. She’s super into gaming. At the moment, I’d say that maybe Roblox and Minecraft are her main sources of joy. But she plays other games online, too. She loves to game with her friends and to chat with them. She’s also very much into animals and our cats. Usually, we have maybe an hour per day that we’re cuddling and playing with them. And it’s awesome.
She’s also very much into YouTube videos and she’ll watch videos about the games that she’s playing and trying to see what she can do better. She’ll watch other kinds of videos, too. So, YouTube has a major role in our lives. In mine, too.
She loves to hang out with family and friends, which we’re not doing at the moment, of course. But she really enjoys that, too. And she’s also very much into TikTok right now. I don’t know if you know that app.
PAM: I’ve heard of it. Yep. Yep.
MARTA: It’s super awesome. I love it too. I’m not as much of a user as she is, but I love it, too. And yeah, those are her main interests at the moment.
Bruno, on the other hand, he’s very much into sports. He’s a very sporty guy. He loves soccer. Soccer is huge in Portugal. So, it’s different from American football and I’m not sure in Canada what you guys have. But in Europe, soccer is huge.
PAM: Yeah. We call it soccer here. It’s soccer there, too?
MARTA: So, he’s super into soccer, car racing, Formula One specifically, he loves it. Music, painting, he paints. I know that I’m biased, but he’s a wonderful painter. I love his paintings. So, he also paints in his spare time. He also loves to hang out with family and friends, again, which we’re not doing right now.
Do you remember this TV show from way back then that was called MacGyver? Well, they have a reboot right now. Do you remember him? So, he’s my personal MacGyver. Every time I need something in the house, like, “What should we do? Because this is not working,” something like that. And he’ll just pull something together and magic happens. Yeah. So, I’m pretty lucky.
And so, that leaves me. I’m pretty much into unschooling, not only helping Conchinha grow and learn, but also, I really enjoy reading about it and understanding it, and helping other people understand. I haven’t been very active for the past few years, because Conchinha has been growing and I feel like life has kind of taken over, but I really enjoy to do that. I love to hang out with our cats, too. Cooking, baking. I’ve been a lot into that, too. Music, art. So, I think that’s it. That covers more or less what we’re into.
PAM: That’s a lovely wide range. I love how that weaves together. I will shout out to the Formula One car race.
PAM: My dad follows it closely and he lives with us and I don’t follow it as closely anymore. I did. When I was in my teens, I did a bit of car racing locally around here and did a bit of pit crew work and track work and stuff. And so, I followed it very closely for those few years. So, anyway, that’s cool.
Every interest can be such a window to the world. Even with car racing, like as the race moves around the world, all the different places, you’ve got the geography and you’ve got all the math and the stats. Every little thing that seems so small can be such a beautiful window to everything.
MARTA: Right. I know. For sure.
PAM: And I love your point about how unschooling has just basically become your life lately, rather than being a focus of itself. Because that’s something so many unschooling parents discover. Over time, as they explore unschooling and learn more about unschooling, it really becomes a lifestyle and the way that they’re living.
We unschooled for many years, and my lifestyle hasn’t changed. I almost feel like I’d say I’m unschooling now, even though all my kids are grown and everything. But yeah, it just becomes a way of living and it was just not something, other than online when we were actually talking about it and answering and asking questions, all that kind of stuff, it wasn’t a word that came up during the day, in our regular life. Because we were just living.
I think that that is such a cool point to make, too, for people to see that it becomes a lifestyle. It just becomes the way we live and approach. You don’t think, “What would unschoolers do?”
When you get to the point where you deeply understand it, there’s that difference between understanding it intellectually and living it and really trusting it, understanding it in your bones. Because then you don’t have to go back to that intellectual piece. But it’s a wonderful lifestyle, isn’t it?
MARTA: It is. It is. And you know, something funny happened, and I was thinking, should I mention this or not? But it was really cute in a way. And I think it goes back to what you said, because when I was asking Bruno, I was trying to list his interests, and I thought, okay, I’m going to ask him to see if I covered everything.
And when I was telling him what I had listed, at some point, he looked at me and he said, “Oh, but, I’m not sure. I mean, are you just going to mention that?” And I had a huge list. And I was like, “Well, yeah. But what’s your concern?” And I think he thought that maybe people would think less of him because of his interests. And I looked at him and I said, “Well no, sweetie. I think that the people that are going to listen to this podcast, they’ll think the opposite. Because your interests are not shallow.”
I think mainstream culture sometimes labels these men that love soccer and he’s super into soccer. He reads a lot of stuff, like you said, about the statistics, about the players, about their physical condition, about where they’re playing, about so much stuff.
And for me now, I can see all of that, all of those connections, and mostly, I can see the importance of his interests to him, because I saw them in Conchinha first. But I can see them now and I value what he enjoys. So, that was really awesome. And then he felt like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, I think you’re right.”
PAM: I just got goosebumps listening to that, because that’s another piece of the unschooling journey, that release of judgment. Because, at this point, like you said, he was feeling that they may be seen as more stereotypical. And people would think less from that perspective. And you can see why he would be worried about that. But that is a huge part of the unschooling journey is the realization that every interest is amazing for the person who’s interested in it.
PAM: Every interest can take you so many places. There’s not that surface, stereotypical view of any of it. When you meet someone and talk to someone who is passionate about whatever the interest is, you know it will be so much deeper than whatever stereotypical picture you have in mind. But yes, we learned that first by watching our kids, right?
MARTA: Yes. Yes.
PAM: Seeing them dive into their interests, seeing how big that is, and then you go, “Oh, my partner, my spouse. Oh look, it’s so much deeper. It brings them so much joy. They’re learning so much.” And then it grows out yet another layer for other people in the world.
We just don’t feel like judging them for what they’re interested in. In fact, we just get excited to see their passion in action, no matter the topic. We could listen to someone passionately share. Their eyes light up, their energy just bubbles up when they’re talking about anything that they’re passionate about. And that’s where the fun is.
MARTA: Yep. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.
PAM: Oh, I love that. I love that. Okay.
So, I would love to know how you discovered unschooling and what your family’s move to unschooling looked like.
MARTA: Okay. So, like I said in the beginning, my background is psychology, family therapy specifically. So, you can imagine more or less some of the preconceived ideas I had regarding parenting and motherhood. So, then in 2009, I was pregnant and Conchinha was born in May, 2009. And very quickly, I began to understand that I needed to do something different. I had all the mainstream ideas that you can imagine. I had them. You name it, I had it. So, I bought everything. The pacifiers, the bottles, the cot, the stroller, whatever.
And so, I thought things were going to happen in a certain way. And, luckily, we started breastfeeding and things went rather smoothly. So, she kept on breastfeeding, no need for bottles. I think she drank a bottle once or twice in her life, which is okay, too. You know what I mean?
PAM: No judgment.
MARTA: No, no, really. Honestly, at the time it was very judgmental of everything, but now I understand things differently. But then, 15 days in, and I was trying to breastfeed her on a schedule, as per my pediatrician’s directions. And I was getting exhausted. I was sleep deprived, because I was waking every two hours. Well, no, I was waking even earlier than that, like 15 or 20 minutes, every 15 minutes, because Conchinha didn’t want to sleep by herself in the cot, of course.
So, she made it very clear to me that something wasn’t working and so, I was sleep deprived. I think I understood at that point how people feel when they’re sleep deprived and they’re on the verge of something not that good. And so, we put her in our bed and so we started co-sleeping.
But at the time, my friends, the psychologist friends, they were telling me, you can’t do that. She’ll never leave your bed. This is awful for her, those kinds of things, my parents, too. And so, I got myself online and started looking for stuff on breastfeeding and co-sleeping. And Conchinha was not a baby to be left sleeping, her nap on the bed by herself, no, no. She felt best on top of us. Skin to skin, that that was the best for her.
So, I started to read a lot about that and I think that’s where it all began. I found this book that was called The Continuum Concept. You probably heard about it. From Jean Leidloff.
MARTA: And that opened my mind to different practices regarding parenting. And I remember at the time, I went into these online discussion forums that were exclusively about that book. And at first, it was very useful for me. I won’t deny that. But at some point, it started feeling like these parents were almost as controlling, if that makes sense, as some of my mainstream friends and some of the ideas that I also had from mainstream parenting. And it just didn’t make sense to me. It started rubbing me the wrong way.
So then, I think this was the path that I took. I got to Jan Hunt’s website and I know Alex Polikowsky shared that she went through this same path, too, which was fun. And that’s where I first read about homeschooling and unschooling. And that’s where I first read the name John Holt and the name Sandra Dodd. So, that was at the beginning of everything.
And so, when I found Sandra and Always Learning and her website, I was blown away. And I thought, okay, this is it. I found what I think will be the answer that my family needs, what my family needs.
And so, Conchinha was a year and a half, maybe when this started to unfold. And at the time, like you said, a few moments ago, I wanted to understand this intellectually. So, I read everything I could. I read your books, Sandra’s books. I don’t know how many books I read. John Holt’s books. I subscribed to I don’t know how many unschooling discussion lists. Sandra’s list.
There was this other one that was called Always Unschooled. I don’t know if you remember that list. Shine with Unschooling. Then there was this group on Facebook. There was this network, I don’t know where. When I went into this, there was a ton of stuff. So, I started reading. Luckily, there were cell phones at the time, with internet, and so, while Conchinha was napping or breastfeeding or whatever, I was reading, reading, reading. That was my life. And resting.
And so then, at some point I started to filter what I was reading. I started to understand the principles of unschooling better and also, in terms of the discussions, because I still read a lot for a good number of years, but then I started to understand which writers I liked the most. And I started to understand that not always do these groups manage the discussions well. I don’t know if that makes sense.
I feel like with Sandra’s lists, things are managed in such a way that what you get from these lists is always juicy. There’s no fluff. And because, at the time, and even now, I don’t have a lot of time to read.
So, I want to read the good stuff. I want to read the stuff that helps me get back on track or do something better. It came down to me, because I have this very analytical brain, maybe. It all came down to managing my time and trying to focus on what I felt was really going to help me grow and understand unschooling better.
PAM: I was going to say, that is such a beautiful description of us learning so much more about ourselves and how we learn and what helps us learn, right? It’s a beautiful metaphor for unschooling, for our children figuring that stuff out. Just paying a little bit of attention to how we sort through the information, how we find the sources that connect and resonate best with us, because of the way we want to take in information, because of the way we observe it best.
I mean, that is why I love that there are lots of different styles of sources, because styles will fit. But I totally understand your point of that curated view. And Sandra was very much, let’s talk about the ideas. Let’s pull those apart. And that was super useful for me. I’m also a very analytical systems-oriented person.
And I think one thing that helps, too, especially since your daughter was one and a half, but you know, during those younger years, it is so useful in trying to figure out and learn the principles to read about all sorts of situations. So, read the questions with teens, with tweens or middle age, all the different ages, because at the root, you find the principle that applies no matter the age, that applies for us as adults moving through these situations, as well.
So much of the work is ours to do. It doesn’t really matter what age our kid is, other than at different ages, different challenges pop up for us. But, if we’ve been reading about other situations, we can know these things might be a trigger. It just helps us identify that a little bit faster. But yeah, I love that point. At first, you’re bringing in all sorts of information. But, it’s okay to cull and understand what seems to be helping us.
And sometimes, you might have some seasons where you’re feeling low for a while. But that understanding and always paying attention and observing ourselves, like, I’m feeling a little stuck or stagnant for a while. Let me play around with what I’m bringing in. Does some new stuff help me move forward?
Because, you know what? One thing I’ve learned with this lifestyle, even if we’re just talking about it almost as life versus unschooling, because that’s where you get to, there’s always more. Things are always coming up. Challenges or whatever. This is why I’ve got three kids well into their twenties and I’m still loving this podcast. I’m still loving the Network that we have, because it’s a way of life. It’s a way of living. It’s a way of approaching challenges, no matter what your age is.
And it’s putting the relationships at the forefront, which is the connection and the trust and the strong relationships with my family. They’re always the priority and that’s the way I want to live now, regardless of my child’s age.
Thanks for sharing that, because I think that was such a really valuable piece of the puzzle as people are trying to figure out how they learn best, how they bring information in, and to encourage them to read all of the questions.
It’s not all about, “I have three kids. These are their ages. Who else has this situation? And what did you do with this?” No. Because that’s just going to solve that situation, if it does at all. It’s not about figuring out the principles, the foundational ideas that will help you move through these situations at whatever age.
MARTA: Exactly. Exactly. And it was funny that you mentioned that, because I was gonna talk a bit about that, because I was very lucky to have found unschooling so early on, because I feel like we had already shifted our mindset a bit to trying to answer Conchinha’s needs as much as possible. And so, radical unschooling, it was woven into the fabric that we already had very seamlessly.
And so, I was very lucky because I had four years until she reached school age, and we officially started to unschool, but I had a lot of time before she started talking, before she started asking for things, before she had a will. So, I had time first to deschool on the most obvious areas, well, obvious to me, like food or screen time. So, I had time to deschool regarding all that. And yeah, exactly what you just said was exactly what happened to me, which was because I read everything, I read all the discussions about things that weren’t happening to us at the time.
I mean, Conchinha was little. She was two, three. I wasn’t discussing teenage years or I wasn’t looking for information about teenage years, of course, but that’s exactly it. You can take the principles, not only the principles, but you can also, from reading a lot of discussions, you can start to see behavioral patterns in us, in the parents.
And you can start to see, okay, so if this mom is resisting this advice for some reason, well, this means something. You start to see these patterns. And I think that that was very helpful. So, I had these four years, which was amazing. Well, it wasn’t only four years. It’s still going on, but I was just situating her turning six and officially starting to unschool. But, like you said, this is life.
So, you were talking about that for sure. I was reading stuff about things that were not happening to us and they were very useful. Still are.
PAM: Yeah. And you can discern so much. And I love the pieces, too, that I learned about the resistance, those behavior patterns. It helped me to recognize that when I’m feeling resistant to something, it reminds me of “The obstacle is the way.”
If I’m feeling resistance to something, that’s probably a direction that would be helpful for me to look at. If I’m not even ready to take that first little step, maybe I can just start peeking at it for a little bit. That resistance is a good clue. And that leads so well into our next question, Marta.
Because deschooling really is that wonderful window to exploring ourselves and the person that we want to be and the parent that we want to be.
It quickly expands beyond “replacing school” and becomes a story of personal growth, doesn’t it? So much of deschooling is really our work to do.
MARTA: Yeah. Well, yes. For sure. It all started for me, and going back to the last question, but I think it ties in with this one. My main goal when I started to read about even breastfeeding and co-sleeping and whatever, I wanted Conchinha to have a safe place where she could grow, emotionally speaking, and become her own self as undamaged, emotionally speaking again, as undamaged as possible.
It’s funny because, years later, I’m reading on Sandra’s website or maybe it was in a chat with her, but she has this written down somewhere, that Keith, her husband, one of the things that he said and that she took note was that he wanted his kids to grow up undamaged. And so, this was kind of the goal that I had in mind.
Because I knew from already knowing myself, I knew I had issues. I had been in therapy. I knew that I had some internal things that I needed to work through and I wanted to give her the best shot at life as she could get. So, that was my main goal.
And what ended up happening was that in the process of deschooling and of course, like you said, I see deschooling much more than just that process of replacing school with no school. Because to me, radical unschooling is that lifestyle that you were talking about, is that spiritual practice, almost. Because radical unschooling is that to me, deschooling has been so much more. It’s been about personal growth. It’s been about healing.
And so, trying to give Conchinha this safe place, I ended up getting my own safe place, too, in the process. And I’ve said this before that I feel like not even the years that I had in therapy did as much for me as the work that I’ve been doing learning about radical unschooling and living it. It’s been amazing.
And I’m very thankful. I hope I don’t tear up, but I might, because I feel so grateful to all the moms that came before me and to you and to Sandra and to many other moms that have been sharing, very generously, how we can do this. And it’s had a huge impact in my life and in my family’s life and in everyone’s life that’s connected to me. Do you see that, too? The little stone that you flick into the water.
PAM: And it ripples out.
MARTA: Yes, yes. And I can see that on a daily basis.
PAM: Right. Even calling back to what we were talking about at the beginning about the judgment piece. There are so many different aspects. That was part of the reason I wrote The Unschooling Journey, because, for me, it really is a journey about becoming more human.
MARTA: Oh yes.
PAM: It is the human journey to being a human being. But there are just so many of those little pieces about being human that we are asked to visit about ourselves through unschooling. So many pieces. And then, as we’re taking that journey ourselves and peeling back those layers for ourselves and better understanding ourselves, so interestingly, when we look up and out, we see other people more freshly and uniquely as themselves on their own journey.
We lose so much of that need to compare, to judge, to try to make others move faster. That others should be where we think they should be versus where they are. And when we’re losing that need to control our child, and then we realize we can do that for ourselves, we realize we can do that for our spouse, partner, for our extended family, and then it grows out into the world. And it’s not about ignoring those pieces.
It’s so hard to explain, isn’t it? It’s not about ignoring them and saying, “Oh well, you’re there.” It is not a negative view of people, either. It’s a more loving view of everyone. And you can meet them where they are, but as fully ourselves, like we don’t feel like we need to hide. So, not only we don’t need to judge other people, we also don’t need to hide ourselves around other people. We can just be. I think it really just gets to that. I can just be.
MARTA: Yes. Yes. And that has been super important for me, regarding my family, my parents, and I think that, in turn, it gives our kids a very healthy outlook of other relationships and other people. And I’m very glad that I quickly moved from being a bit angry at my parents for what they did when I was little and why I had some issues, et cetera.
But very quickly, I moved from that place of anger to a place of recognizing who they were and not judging their choices and meeting them where they are now. And of course, I need to do a lot of buffering for Conchinha, but seeing them and seeing Bruno’s family, for instance, and seeing my friends and seeing her friends with loving eyes, it’s just completely different.
And of course, I think it’s healthier and I can see that Conchinha is growing up in the middle of this. And I feel like, emotionally, she’s thriving and she’s only 11. It’s funny. I joke around with Bruno and even with a friend of mine that she’s doing things, like coaching her friends or stuff like that, that I could never do when I was 40. She’s at this place where I look at her and I think, 11 years old? What? And it’s amazing. It’s amazing. And it’s wonderful to be here and to watch all of this happen.
And it’s funny because when I was thinking about this question that you had for me, I was thinking that, I feel like society in general, mainstream thinking, and school, it feels like they make it seem like, to succeed in life, and to be a functional adult, working and whatever, you need to focus on your intellectual development, on your cognitive development. And there’s nothing else to it. You need to focus on that.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s quite the opposite. If you want to master anything really, that intellectually you can get there very easily if you’re curious, if you’re interested, if you’re motivated, you’ll get there. And you’ll probably get there faster than the kids that were, I don’t know how many years, in school.
But I feel like the emotional part of it, that’s where I think we need more help while we’re growing up. And I’m so lucky to be able to do that for my daughter. And I can see that in tiny little things, in the smallest details. It’s not like she was born and she had this type of personality and she’ll be like that forever. No. It’s the sum of the tiniest details and where she is now, to me, is amazing as a psychologist to see that this girl, this 11-year-old girl, is more mature in some aspects, than a 40-year-old grown up.
PAM: No. I know. There’s just so many pieces there I want to grab onto. That was beautiful, Marta. Because I think so much, growing up, what is so helpful for them is we’re giving them the space and the support, like the engagement around them, figuring out how they tick, who they are, how they like to learn and pursue things, lots of experience moving through frustrations, moving when things go sideways, all those pieces are exactly what helped them just pick up the facts, the learning of the skills and the things to pursue.
Those are almost incidental in the end, but learning about themselves to know what they’re interested in, to see how interests come and go and fade and twist and turn and do all these interesting pieces. Conventionally somebody is like, “I should have this career, I should be doing this thing.” And then, it’s not fulfilling for them. And then they feel like a failure. Like, “I failed at that. No, I have to push through that.”
All those pieces that they will have had experience already in moving through so many of those human experiences, because kids are so capable of being able to move through them now. They don’t need to wait. They don’t need to be told what to do when they’re younger, so that all of a sudden, they can make those decisions when they’re adults and young adults and those of us in our fifties and everything. Because it’s so much better to gain experience with processing through those moments, because they’re life moments. They happen when you’re engaged in living a life.
So, I really do think that you’re right. So much of what they learn isn’t about learning the facts. It’s the emotional learning. It’s learning about themselves. It’s learning about how they engage with life, how they engage with different kinds of situations, different kinds of challenges. Those are the pieces that help them find what they’re interested in, that help them know which way they most want to pick up all those little pieces.
Because, on that path, they want to learn X, Y, and Z. It is so much easier for you to learn when you’re interested in something, when you’re passionate about something, and when you know the best way to pick up that information. Is it reading a book? Is it watching a video? Is it just throwing themselves into the situation and seeing how it goes? What kind of combination of that is it that most helps them? There’s a confidence to that that they develop over the years. And you can see it when they’re 11!
MARTA: I mean, yeah. It’s crazy to me, because I feel like I can already see now that, for instance, she’ll try to deal with some kind of frustration with her friends online. And we talk a lot, especially at night, when I’m sleepy in bed. That’s when she wants to talk. But we talk a lot about stuff that went on for her during the day or whatever. And I try not to talk too much, which I think I’m getting there, slowly. And it’s funny, because I have already started to see, because we talked about something, something will come up that she’ll figure out by herself that I won’t know of.
And then like two weeks later, she’ll say something that she told someone something and they tried to do this this way or whatever. And I’m like, hmm. Okay. So, she’s using the problem-solving process that we went through two weeks ago. And so, I can already see that moment where, in some situations, she’s needing me less and less. But I can see that the problem-solving process was useful to her and meaningful to her and she’s using it. So, that’s been awesome, too.
PAM: Yeah. And you know what? I want people to notice you mentioned there, just offhand, that she’s coming in at night and I’m tired. Because I think people can sometimes think that this works perfectly or beautifully and everybody’s life is all smooth and roses and rainbows and all that kind of stuff, because we enjoy this lifestyle. We get a lot of joy out of it, but these are our choices. So, it’s not like our lives are easier, that unschooling works because our lives are easier or anything like that. These are our choices to make.
So, little things like that that can easily blow past people when they’re first listening, because you’re hearing of other stuff. “We had this long conversation, then we figured out all this problem solving and I see her in action and everything,” but yeah, maybe those are in moments when we’re tired. Just imagine for a moment that she’s coming to you about something she problem solved through. That was a challenge. That was a frustration. That was a challenging moment for her.
So, it’s not about lives being perfect or these kinds of kids being easier because unschooling works with them. It really is about choosing to engage with them and to focus on that relationship. And I liked the idea of making space, leaving space open for them to come when they’re when they’re in that moment to talk. Because sometimes we may legitimately be totally busy and we can’t engage in that moment, but so often, it really is available to us. And that is our priority. We’re choosing to make the relationship and engaging with them and helping them work through things to be a priority.
So, if I’m hungry or I’m thirsty, the answer can be, “Yes. Let me grab a drink,” or, “Yes, let me grab a snack.” Or, “Come climb into bed and we’ll talk.” There are so many possibilities, right?
MARTA: Yes. And I think unschooling gives us that, which is the ability to think outside the box, to think creatively, to think, okay, you need this right now. Let me see what I can do. Okay. Maybe not right now. And you come up with different ideas to get to the same point. With mainstream thinking, I don’t know if we can categorize it like that, but there’s this tendency to see things more in black and white and unschooling gives us this nuanced way of thinking. I don’t know if the metaphor is useful.
PAM: The creativity. It’s just full of surprises, right? Along with how capable kids are, the ideas and the creative solutions that they can bring to challenges, was always astounding to me, at first, anyway. And then I just loved it. I was like, okay, I gotta go ask the kids what they think, because they just saw so much more openly, because they’re undamaged, right? They didn’t have a lot of personal stuff they had to peel back first to get to that essence. They were already living in that essence.
MARTA: They may still have some peels to go through, which was also a funny thing for me to recognize, because I thought unschooling was going to be like this miracle answer. And life was just going to be blissful.
PAM: Yes. That is such a good point. But back to what we were talking about, that life has challenges, right?
PAM: Yeah. Life has challenges and their life has challenges and they’re going to hear messages all over the place. And they have their own brain and their own body that functions uniquely. And that can give you challenges, too, right?
MARTA: Exactly. But the point was that they might have some peels to go through, but they’ll have less layers to go through than we did. And plus, they have just this openness. Creativity, the curiosity, this ease, at least for our kid, I see it like that. I know every kid is different, but, for her, I can totally see that in her, this ease.
PAM: And I think the beauty of unschooling, too, is that accepting of the child for who they are. They may have just more personal challenges along the way, and that’s okay, too. For them to see you loving and accepting them for who they are in that moment and their voices, and just validating that for them, the things they find challenging, and if they’re not ready to or if they don’t want to push those comfort zones for themselves, that they can see that acceptance that they’re okay. Who they are right now. That’s the place to start.
Imagine that for ourselves, too, growing up. If we had gotten that, too. Because then, I imagine I would feel empowered that, Oh, it’s okay that I made this choice to do or not to do or to go or not to go. All those things are all okay. And how that makes it okay, as in, it’s okay for me to make that choice and it’s okay someday for me to make a different choice and to try something different.
It just feels empowering, because it’s not like I need to be forcing myself to make that choice because I feel like I’m somehow wrong for not wanting to do that. Is that coming through? That they can totally be who they are. They don’t have to feel like pressured to do more conventional things.
MARTA: Yeah. I can already see that in Conchinha.
One of my issues was that I have always been a people pleaser. I mean, I think I’m getting better at it now, but I had a very hard time saying no to people. And I can see that Conchinha, she feels bad if she makes someone else feel bad if she says no to something. But I can totally see her in a completely different space, in a different place from where I was. And she she’ll feel bad, but she won’t say yes just because the other person felt bad. Does that make sense? She’ll apologize, but she’ll keep her “no” if she actually does not feel like doing that. And that’s really beautiful to see.
And she’s the most caring kid. I know, again, I’m biased. But she is a very sweet kid and a very considerate kid. But, at the same time, she hasn’t fallen to the other extreme of where I think I was for the most part of my life, which was not being able to set my own boundaries and saying “no” to situations that don’t make me feel comfortable, et cetera. And it’s really amazing to be a witness to all of this.
PAM: You learn so much from them, don’t you? Because yes, that consideration, that empathy, that caring, but not at their own expense. It is so fun to see them dance with that line. That’s how we learn to say “no” and to respect our own needs more by seeing them. As I say, we see it in our kids and then we see it in ourselves. And then we see in our spouse and then extended family, and then out into the world. I feel like, for me anyway, that was the journey. It was okay to do it for my kids, but then it’s like, oh, what about me? It just keeps growing out there.
Now, our conversation is flowing beautifully and I think we’ve almost flowed through the next two questions. But I just want to visit them, just in case.
I was going to ask about one of the more challenging aspects of deschooling for you and the one you just spoke of that people pleaser aspect, that that was an interesting one. Did you have any other ones that you wanted to mention?
MARTA: Well, yeah, I think that I had, regarding Conchinha specifically and unschooling, I think that one of the things that took me longer, maybe, and I’m still going through it is this worry of not doing enough, of not being enough. And I remember trying to bounce around with the idea of strewing and trying to understand it better and not being able to actually really grasp it. But now, looking back, I feel like I have these ebbs and flows.
And for instance, this year, and I believe this happened to everyone, maybe, with the pandemic, I felt like even though our routines didn’t change all that much and the three of us, we’re homebodies and we love to be at home. It hasn’t had this huge impact, even emotionally speaking. But I feel like in the first months of all of this happening, I probably focused my internal resources on just keeping us going.
And then, all of a sudden, in September, luckily, we managed to go down south to the beach, and we had a week there. But when we came back, it just felt so different to me. It’s like this fog had lifted and I felt active again. And ideas were bouncing around in my head, things that I wanted to bring home for Conchinha to check out if she liked. And so, I feel like life has these moments where sometimes I’ll be more sparkly, and some moments where I won’t be as sparkly as I want to be.
Because the food, the screen time, that was very easy for me to understand the core principles and apply them to our lives. So, you were asking about where it was more challenging for me, I think it was that. And also, I think maybe worrying a bit too much about Conchinha’s independence and autonomy, and I think you touched this a few minutes ago. She’s her own self, of course, with her own set of needs.
PAM: Because whoever they are, that’s who they are. And so, it’s helping them explore and navigate how they can engage with the things they want to do and the way they want to engage with the world. Because they’ll just gain experiences as to how that goes with other people.
And with our support and with those conversations and the processing and the problem-solving, all those pieces, they will gain those experiences when they’re ready and when they want them. Marta, I just love that piece, because so often when we get stuck and start swirling, it’s when we see a moment and we start thinking, what if it’s like this way forever? What if it’s like this way 10 years from now?
But we don’t know how it’s going to change. And sometimes we’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, is this going to be like this forever?’ So, that’s always a clue for me when I’m catastrophizing into the future. It’s so easy to do, though. I don’t want to dis anyone for it. For me, it was just a clue. It’s a clue to remind myself to reengage with them in the moment and to remember how they’ve changed from previous years, right?
MARTA: Yeah. And luckily, I had this voice inside my head. I think I had Sandra’s voice inside my head.
Because I think I’ve read this so many times, that when you’re worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet, when you’re worrying about the future, you’re not there in the present. And what you’re thinking about might never even happen and you were wasting your time thinking about something that will never happen. So, focus on right here, right now.
PAM: And, even if it is similar 10 years from now, you’ve just had 10 years of present moments.
MARTA: Oh, of course. Yes.
PAM: Where you’ve learned so many other tools. And they’ve learned. It’s hard to express, but you won’t be the same people.
MARTA: Yes, I do understand, and I think about this a lot.
Because, like I said, when I found unschooling, I thought, okay, I’ve found the magic pill. I found the pill which will enable us to live happily until we’re 100 years old. All of us. That’s what I thought. Mentally healthy, physically healthy. I thought I had found the magic pill and slowly, gradually I came to realize that that’s not it. Life will throw us whatever challenges it will, but that we’ll have this bigger emotional toolbox from which we can take the tools we need to deal with those challenges, whatever they are.
PAM: Yeah, no, that’s exactly it. It’s the experience. Every time we move through something, we learn something new about ourselves. We learn how well that tool in the toolbox worked for us. Maybe we tweak it a little bit. That is why we are not the same person.
That’s another reason why I often suggest to people, certainly when you’re first coming to unschooling and you’re reading the books and stuff like that and listening to the podcast, it really is worth it a year down the road, even six months down the road, to reread them, to re-listen to things. Because we are a different person, different things will connect with us. Some things will make more sense. Some stuff, we probably won’t even remember that we read because we kind of skipped over because there was nothing to connect it to.
But now we’re in a different place and there’s lots of new things to connect. Things will make more sense. We’ll be building that picture of how unschooling works more richly, because there is so much to it, so many layers. And you’re going to pick up new pieces and things are going to make so much more sense, or a different sense. A different layer will come out.
So, yeah, I love that piece. I love the piece that we’re always growing, learning, and changing as people, no matter our age.
I would love to know what is your favorite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
MARTA: Yeah. I think that I have a couple of favorites. I couldn’t just choose.
PAM: Of course!
MARTA: So, I really love how much fun we have either together, playing together, or doing something together, or when we’re off on our own doing whatever each one of us is interested in. All the learning that happens, I really enjoy that too. I feel this sense of peace, of course, and this sense of ease in our lives, which I very much enjoy. And, yeah, I think that that would be it. I mean, that our lives are so rich. And that there’s this warmth that I feel in our relationships. So, those were a couple of my favorite things.
PAM: Yeah. And you know what pops up for me when you say that is, that’s how I ended up with my website being called Living Joyfully, because that joy and warmth and peace that you talk about, it bubbles underneath all the days. Even with the challenges, even with the things that go sideways, they don’t knock everything else to the wind. There’s that foundation of warmth and peace that you can draw on in those more challenging moments, that just help us a bit more gracefully and more connectedly move through them. Does that make sense?
MARTA: It does. For sure.
And I also wanted to mention that I also really enjoy the nest that we’ve created throughout these years, because I really think that our home represents all of the above. It’s a peaceful place. It’s a fun place, because it has a ton of fun things to do, yummy food to eat. So, it’s this super cozy and warm nest that I love living in.
And I wanted to give a shout out to Alex. Because at the time, I don’t remember how many years ago it was, Alex made a video, two videos, that she posted on YouTube. And she gave us a tour of her house and how she organized stuff and how her living room was and the kids had a room with toys, but then she had some toys in the living room, too. And then she had two TV sets and whatever.
And I remember at the time, because I’ve always been very organized and very everything in its place, and I remember her videos had this huge impact. And I was like, okay, I want my home to be like that. And not being over-worried about the mess. I mean, it’s not that my house is messy, because I don’t think it is. I still have it organized. I’m not even sure what I want to say.
PAM: Is it more inviting?
PAM: I’ve been to Alex’s house. Yes. I love it. It’s warm, like the way you were talking about. It’s warm. It just invites you to do things.
MARTA: Yes. To do fun things, or to relax if you feel like it.
PAM: Yeah. To relax. It’s not about, oh, I shouldn’t touch this. Or, if I touch this, I need to clean it up right away or any of those things. So, it’s not about the house. It’s about the things, it’s about the doing and the being versus maintaining that.
MARTA: Yeah. And in that sense, it was very helpful to watch Alex’s videos, as well as reading those years and years of unschooling families describing how their day to day was. That was very helpful, because before all of you guys, nobody had done this before. So, it’s very useful for us that are coming next to have these concrete examples of, okay, you can do this, you can do that.
PAM: It’s just so inspiring. Isn’t it?
MARTA: Yes. Yes.
PAM: For me, it was just inspiration. I would just love every morning to go and just hear the little stories, hear what the kids were into it. It wasn’t like I had to run and take those things in particular to my kids. Like, “You should be interested in this thing,” but it was inspiration. Maybe it made another connection. Maybe it was something that I thought, oh, my kids might love that. It was just inspiration and joy popping all the time. It just put me in that more open and curious and creative mindset. A lovely way to approach a day.
MARTA: It is!
PAM: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Marta. It was so much fun!
MARTA: Thank you for having me. I felt so honored to receive your invitation.
PAM: Oh! Thank you so much. And thank you so much for sharing your experience. I love the stories and the insights that you shared. That was awesome. And before we go, is there a place that people can connect with you online?
MARTA: Yeah, well, I’m on Facebook. I’m on Instagram. So, I’d say those two places.
PAM: Great. Awesome. I’ll put links to those in the show notes and thank you so much, Marta. Have a wonderful day.
MARTA: Thank you, Pam.