PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown. Hi, Anna!
PAM: This month, in the Living Joyfully Network, our theme has been Finding Our Guides, because the unschooling journey really is quite an unconventional one, so it is helpful to have some guides to help us when questions and fears start to swirl in our head. We’re starting to feel a little lost, and we want to look for that next guidepost. So, I want to dive in.
The first topic I wanted to cover is, what makes children such good guides?
And spoiler alert, Anna and I have both found our children to be our best, our most helpful guides on this journey.
The first thing I wanted to share is this quote from John Holt in his book, Escape from Childhood, because I think it does such a beautiful job of describing why our kids really do make good guides. So, here we go.
“Children tend to be, among other things, healthy, energetic, quick, vital, vivacious, enthusiastic, resourceful, intelligent, intense, passionate, hopeful, trusting, and forgiving. They get very angry, but do not, like us, bear grudges for long. Above all, they have a great capacity for delight, joy, and sorrow.
But we should not think of these qualities or virtues as childish, the exclusive property of children. They are human qualities. We are wise to value them in people of all ages. When we think of these qualities as childish, belonging only to children, we invalidate them, make them seem things we should outgrow as we grow older. Thus, we excuse ourselves for carelessly losing what we should have done our best to keep.”
Just let that sit there for a moment. Maybe read that again. Because, I find that a good portion of our unschooling journey is about excavating these long-buried traits, these human qualities, so that we can once again enthusiastically engage with our lives. And that’s what we see with our children.
Connecting with our kids is something that really helps us shed so much of this baggage that we’ve accumulated over the years about how things are supposed to be. For me, that’s one of the big reasons that my children were such great guides, because they didn’t have all the weight of the baggage and the messages that I had absorbed over the years. And I could really see them in action and just thinking more deeply about how so much of it isn’t about being a child, it’s about being a human being, right?
ANNA: Yeah. I mean, I feel like they’re so much more in touch with what it means to be an authentic being, those human qualities. To feel, to explore, to love, to connect, just to be in the moments. And, like you said, we’ve had so much piled on us over the years that we’re just carrying around like this sack on our back, that we can lose sight of these everyday joys and delighting in the things around us. And I feel like my girls helped me find that joy, to be playful again, to laugh more easily, to love and to celebrate the little things. Not just the big things that as adults we celebrate, but delighting in everything around me.
And they have big emotions, and that was okay. And so, that was so interesting. They would express and then they would pivot back to joy and connection. And that was such a big lesson for me, because at that time, especially, I tended to stay in that upset place, feeling hurt or stunned or angry even. And seeing them feel the big emotions and then pivot back to joy was revolutionary for me, because it just reminded me of that choice. And I had to examine, like, you’re choosing to stay here, Anna. You’re choosing to be angry or hurt or whatever it is, as opposed to pivoting to the next thing.
PAM: Yeah, I just wanted to jump in on that. Because when I think back to that time, I felt like I needed to hold onto those more negative emotions to prove they were true. For other people to believe I was angry, I needed to stay angry. I needed to stay upset, so that they would believe me. That was part of it. Do I have to stay here just to prove to other people that this was important to me?
And it’s like, you know what? No. I know it’s important to me. I can still have conversations with whoever the challenge is with. Oftentimes it’s not with our kids. But watching them in action and seeing them pivot, it’s like, I know they were upset about that. I understand why they were upset about that. And look, they can move past it, too. They can pivot and choose something different.
So, yeah, like you were saying, what a revelation, right?
ANNA: Oh my gosh. Changed everything for me. And what I’ve found, too, is when you’re angry, you’re upset about something, and you pivot back to joy, like you said, that doesn’t get rid of what happened. But it gave me new eyes. So, I felt like I was more constructive when I was solving the problem, versus staying in the angry, outrage state.
And so, it was that back to connection, and then I felt like I actually was able to solve it, to move forward, to make that connection with whoever I was upset with, or to figure out the next step. So, I loved that piece. It actually made it more efficient and better than staying in that angry place. “Don’t you see I’m angry still?!” We weren’t getting anywhere, you know?
There’s just been so many things over the years where I learned how to tune back into these very authentic human qualities and letting go of the expectations and the need to please and this stuff that we’re packing on and this baggage. And instead, I learned so much about myself and who I was and how I wanted to move through the world. And it was just such a gift. And that really came from watching them, from seeing how they moved through the world. We had big emotions. We had conflicts. We had all of those things. But how we moved through it was so different when we didn’t have the layers and the baggage.
And I loved the interplay between us. So, we were exploring the world together. There were times I was learning from them, times they were learning from me, times we were seeking outside perspectives together or apart, and it really turns that whole authoritarian “parents know best” model on its head. And instead, what we were left with was this rich tapestry of relationships, partnering, facilitating, trusting, growing together. And our days were just rich and layered and interesting.
I think the authoritarian model even shuts us off. A parent that’s in that model of punishment and trying to control and whatever, they’re doing it from a place they believe is love, but it isn’t tapping into their natural need to connect with others and to connect with their children and to have those relationships. And so, it’s just such a beautiful shift when it happens and it just becomes exponential in its beauty.
PAM: Okay. So, there’s a couple things I wanted to dive into there. Let’s start with that shift from authoritarian to connection-based parenting.
One of the things I think that people find more challenging when they’re making that shift is that our children, as guides, aren’t directors. So, it’s not like, okay, we were controlling. And now we’re not going to do that anymore. So, now the kids are controlling. They’re the directors, right? It’s not, now I’m following them. We’re doing whatever they say. So, we’re not expecting them to do what we say, but it’s not just the opposite. We’re not just shifting to the opposite. I love that tapestry metaphor. We’re weaving together a new life as a family where we’re working together and genuinely considering the needs of everyone in the family. So, that was the first piece. I love that piece.
The other piece, just to jump back a little bit, when you were talking before about when we are stuck in anger or whatever upset that we’re in, that often leads to tunnel vision. It’s all we can think about. This is it. And you talked about how shifting and pivoting away from that actually helped open things up. And for me, that’s exactly how it played out. And what helped me is, instead of thinking of their actions as childish, which John Holt referred to, I liked embracing it through the image of childlike. Because then, when I made that shift to childlike, that really opened me up to that more curious state, that beginner’s mind state. And there is where you can find so many more ways through a challenge.
You become open and curious. So, it’s not like, oh, I shouldn’t be angry. I should shift over here and be happy. That’s not what we’re talking about. But part of that process is intentionally choosing. I can pivot. I can choose something different right now and let that challenge sit for a little bit. And then, as I shift, the weight lifts. We’re not being pulled into that tunnel vision. We’re becoming a bit more open, a bit more curious. We’re breathing a bit, maybe we’re laughing, because we’re having fun with the kids.
And then, my goodness, do so many different ideas bubble up of ways to approach that situation. Right?
ANNA: Yes. Oh, just over and over again, I saw that. And it was amazing to me, because, like you said, in the beginning, I wanted to stay angry. I’m going to show you this is important. I’m going to knock you over the head with it and bring you into my tunnel.
But when we take that childlike, open, curious approach to the world, then we start to see the people in front of us differently. We start to see the situation differently. We start to understand there is more than one way to look at something. And it really was amazing. So powerful.
PAM: So powerful.
And I think that leads us really nicely to the next thing I wanted to talk about, which was how connecting with our children helps us move through our unschooling-related worries and fears.
So, not challenges with other people, but when we start to get worried. Maybe it’s something related to unschooling. So, connection really can be our anchor there too, when fears start to bubble up. Because often, fears and worries around unschooling are us looking at something that’s going on right now and projecting that “what if” into the future. And then we get stuck in our heads and we get that tunnel vision again.
So, once we become aware of that, which sometimes can take a while before we realize we’re stepping back. We’re stuck in our heads. The worries are swirling. But once we notice that, it’s a great clue for us to just start asking ourselves where that’s coming from and to remind ourselves to reconnect and reengage with our kids.
This is the same thing we were talking about with other challenges in our life. But it’s super helpful, especially when they’re unschooling related fears and worries, to actually connect with our kids who are unschooling and seeing them in action and seeing what kind of choices they’re making. That reconnection really helps us move through it, doesn’t it?
ANNA: Yeah. I mean, when the worry starts to set in, for me, and I think it’s really common for most, we pull back. We’re in our head. We’re thinking, thinking, thinking. Things start spinning. And in that process of spinning, we do disconnect from those around us. And that’s where that downward spiral begins, where we’re taking in outside noise, and it’s feeding the downward spiral, and it really goes very quickly.
But, for me, just like you said, when I first started to notice the worry, I just wanted to dive back in. I wanted to reconnect, because in that connection, that’s where we learn what’s happening. What do they love? Seeing how they’re making decisions, where the decisions are coming from. I’m seeing the threads and I’m connecting dots, because I’m listening and engaging in what they love.
And I’ve just found that’s the fastest way to find my way back to trust, to get out of my head. And interestingly, I think this works with everyone in your life. When you’re not understanding where a person’s coming from, why they’re making the choices, I’m worrying about a relationship, or something that’s going on, the fastest way to get out of that cycle of worry is to connect and listen, and then things start to make more sense. And then I’m reacting to what is, instead of what’s inside my head.
And that really comes up so much, especially with people new on the journey of unschooling, because you’re processing a lot of new ideas and paradigms, and you’re trying to make sense of, what is this going to look like in our family? And how has this happening? And those things are pulling you back, pulling you back into this intellectual spiral in your head, but just bringing yourself right back to that moment with your child and connecting with them, it really alleviates that. And you just start to learn so much more about yourself and about your kids.
And so, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
PAM: Well, what helped me, especially when I got back to re-engaging with them and reconnecting with them, it helped me see through their eyes. So, I have a worry, probably sparked by something that’s going on right now, but I get so much more context if I see the right now, this moment, through their eyes. So, you are seeing what they’re learning.
And the other piece that comes in there is you’re starting to see their timetable, too, because so often our worries are, “Oh, but they’re not doing this. Oh, but I think they should be doing this,” and these are all valid worries. There’s nothing wrong with worrying. I always want to emphasize that. But we’re talking about moving through them. So, when we can reconnect with them, we actually can start to see the things through their eyes, because we’re talking with them. We are seeing what is leading up to the harder moments. We’re seeing how they’re acting and they’re reacting and we’re learning so much more about them.
We’re seeing what they are learning instead of whatever it is we think they should be. Because when we come at it through our framework, when we’re focusing on our timetable, as in our expected time table for them, what we’re seeing is the not learning. We’re focused on what it is that they’re not doing, they’re not learning, et cetera. But they really are learning all the time.
So, when we can reconnect and re-engage with them, what we learn is what they’re focused on right now. And that that truly makes all the difference. It really helps us see, our tunnel, it’s not like an either/or. And that’s the part of that helps us with their timetable. It’s like, oh, well, they’re doing this and they’re learning this. And we see that they’re learning quickly, almost effortlessly, because it’s something that they’re interested in in the moment.
And then, we’re doing our own processing. Why am I not valuing that learning as much as whatever it was that I thought they should be doing? So, always, when we reconnect and reengage, that takes us to the right questions to ask ourselves.
I think we can look at that as a gift, that worry. That helps us fine tune what we’re doing. Okay. Wait a minute. Something is a little bit off, because I’m feeling this concern, so I’m going to reconnect. So, that was a gift, that moment of, hmm, I’m not sure. And then I reconnect and then I recommit to why I’m here, what we’re loving about it, how we’re enjoying our lives.
And then that just builds. And so, it doesn’t have to be, oh, we’re never going to have a worry. I mean, we have worries about different things, but it’s how we move through it, how we use it as just a little sign, versus a spiral starting.
PAM: One of the things I found why my kids made such good guides and continue to make such good guides, because the things in our kids that send us off in a worry or that trigger us or that upset us are often truly those things that we really need to work on, that we haven’t processed yet. The other things aren’t bothering us, because we figured that out.
ANNA: It’s true.
PAM: So often, it’s like they hold up a mirror and when we’re getting stressed, it’s like, okay, I have another layer of something around this to peel back. So, that was always a fun piece. Well, I won’t say fun.
ANNA: Yeah, it’s not always fun, but interesting when you come out on the other side.
And we did talk about this on the Network, what are some of the things in your kids that trigger you and what did you learn about yourself? And it was fascinating. I mean, it was fascinating to see how people consistently would find a trigger, they’d react from that point, and then when they peeled back the layer, it was like, yeah, this was something that has been haunting me since childhood or since my early twenties. And now, I’m able to let that go and it doesn’t trigger me anymore. Now I don’t have that. And so, that was really beautiful to see just how that unfolded for people.
PAM: Yeah, it’s fascinating to realize that so much of our reactions and our feelings that bubble up are based on our baggage and things that we bring with us, whereas our kids don’t have that baggage. And often, our reactions can almost feel out of the blue to them, because they’re like, what the heck? That’s not what’s happening in this particular moment.
So, I think this leads nicely to the next topic, too, which is how connecting with our children as guides helps us build trust.
We’re building our trust in our kids, our trust in ourselves, and our trust in unschooling. So, connecting with them builds trust in unschooling, because, like we were mentioning, we see it in action. We see what they’re learning. It’s like, oh yeah, they are learning. Because if we’re disconnecting, sometimes it can be hard to see it, because it doesn’t look like school learning.
Especially when you’re newer to unschooling, you’re looking for the child to bounce up and say, “Hey mom, how do you add? Let’s do some math. I want to learn the times tables.” It’s a whole different language when you’re learning through living. So, actually seeing it in action is very important and it helps you understand unschooling better and it helps you build trust in how this works.
So, when we’re connecting, we’re also better understanding what’s going on for them in the moment. We have a better idea of what it is they’re trying to accomplish. We know, in the moment, what their current level of frustration is in the day, so we’re understanding. That better helps us understand their reactions in the moment and their choices, the next actions that they choose to take. When we’re connected with them, what they’re choosing and doing and how they’re reacting makes so much more sense. So, there’s not out of the blue things.
So, we’re building more trust in them as a person and we’re understanding, oh yeah, that makes sense. They’re a real person, not this bundle of anger and frustration that jumps out and then pivots back to joy so quickly. And we’re just whiplashed here.
ANNA: It’s true. And it does build on what I was saying before, because that connection really does. We’re hearing the frustrations in context more, as opposed to, they’re down playing a game and now it’s upset and the house is kind of melting down and, “What’s happening?” But when we’re connecting with them, we’re understanding where the frustration is happening. We can have some conversations about that. We’re seeing their thought process about it. We’re seeing how difficult the task is in front of them and how they’re handling that and what they’re trying to do.
We also see what they love, what’s lighting them up about it, what’s making them come back to that frustrating thing in a game or something they’re trying to do, learning a flip, whatever they’re putting their mind to. And that helps build trust, because we understand what they’re up to, how they’re getting there, what’s happening, all the different pieces. But it also builds their trust in us, because they see that we truly care, that we’re interested in what they love and what they’re excited about.
And I think, really, if we think about it, any of us can say how nice it feels for somebody to truly take an interest in something we enjoy, to really hear out when we’re excited about something. And that’s that interplay again. Being connected with our children, I found, just really silenced the critics in my mind, because we’re enjoying our time. We’re having these cool conversations. We’re seeing what they love. I’m sharing what I love.
And it just leaves very little time for this worrying, because we’re living. We’re living this rich, interesting life with the ups and downs and all the things, but together. And so, everything makes so much more sense when you’re connected, versus when you’re viewing it from afar. And it is such a different paradigm. It’s a different way to move through the world if we’re used to school and looking a certain way, this feels different.
But how you’ll move through that step is by connecting, because then you’ll see it is logical. It makes sense when you’re a part of it. It may not make sense from 10,000 feet, because you’re not seeing all the different pieces. And so, yeah, it’s just that diving back in, just getting back to trust.
PAM: It was always a revelation, this insight, this aha moment.
Each time when I realized I was worried about something, the realization that I was disengaged, which I didn’t really see until I went back and connected. It would happen even when things are going well. So, things are going well, they’re into their interests, we’re connected and everything. And so, things were going well, and I had heard everything possible, I thought, about whatever their interest was. So, it’s like, oh, well, I’ll go off and do my own things, which is great when you’ve got some time to do your own things.
But just be aware, because what would happen is, I’d be doing my own things. They would they’d come to share a little bit and I’d go, oh, that’s cool, but I wouldn’t engage in further conversation. I’d go back to my thing and our conversations about things just lessened. They got a little bit shorter. They got a little bit further apart. And then, maybe they shifted or something. And then something else came up and I didn’t notice quickly or didn’t know what was going on, because I had been more disconnected.
And then, some worry would start bubbling up and the whole cycle would start again. And when I would reconnect and engage with them, it’s like, oh yeah, I didn’t know these things. Or, I had missed out on these things.
So, I think it’s really interesting how connection and trust really is a cycle. You give some trust to a situation and then you see how things unfold. And you learn a little bit more, so you learn a little bit more how unschooling works, you learn a little bit more about your child, so you understand better their choices and their reactions. And you learn a little bit more about yourself. And that trust becomes experience.
And then, something else comes up, I’ll give a little bit more trust here. So, your trust grows and builds in cycles as you give a little bit, then you learn a little bit, and your experience grows, and then you give a little bit more trust and it’s just a really beautiful cycle. Isn’t it?
ANNA: It is.
PAM: All right. So, this was something that’s really interesting I just wanted to dive into for a second, because it was a new one for me. It came up in the Network a few months ago now, but it sat with me for a long time.
The opposite of trust is worry. I thought that was a really interesting thing to dive into, especially as our kids get older and we find ourselves worrying about them and the things they’re doing as they’re moving out into the world more.
And so, I think that’s a great time to ask ourselves, when we’re starting to worry about something, what am I not trusting? That is a great way just to start digging into a worry, as well. What do you think about that one?
ANNA: Yeah. So, I think this one’s so important.
So, back in the Network, when this first came up, someone shared that worry isn’t love and how profound that had been to her. And wow, it really stuck with me. And I’ve had so many conversations with people about it since, because it’s fascinating, because it’s pretty common for people to believe that worry is love. And I’d say it’s the opposite.
And like you said, trust is the opposite of worry. And when we put our worries on our children or partners, really what we’re communicating is that we don’t trust that they’re capable. And it can be so damaging to the relationship and also cause them to doubt themselves. And that’s what I think is this slippery, dangerous slope about it, because we start doubting ourselves. I think people make the best and safest decisions when they feel confident and they know they can ask for help.
So, if our kids view us as partners who trust in them, they will feel comfortable coming to us as a trusted advisor. If they feel we don’t trust them, they might actually push past their limits in an effort to prove something. And, as a trusted advisor, we can listen. We can troubleshoot. We can send them off with this energy of love, trust, and excitement. And as someone like you with older kids, that is what I want them walking out the door feeling. I want them to feel loved and trusted and know that I’m excited for them and know that I know they’re capable.
Because I think we can all just sit in that feeling and know that’s a really powerful place to go out into the world and out into challenges, versus if someone is putting a lot of weight or worry or doubt in your mind. And so, just sitting in that place of, I’m going to send you off with love, trust, and excitement is absolutely where I want to be with my grown children and really all along the way, as they’re exploring things.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. Because as you were saying that, if we hand them that weight of our worry, we’re putting them in tunnel vision. They’re going to be going, “Oh my gosh. Mom or whatever parent is thinking that so many things could go wrong.” And so, that’s what they’re looking for, right? They’re not enjoying. And when you’re in that tunnel vision, again, as we talked about before, you’re not open and curious and creative, which may be what you need in any situation. That is the safest way to approach anything.
So often in our society, we see children who are pushing the boundaries, who are pushing the limits, and they’re doing that because they feel the limits. So, they just want to push as far as they can. They’re reacting to the limit. It’s not really a choice, per se, that they’re making. Because they’re not even thinking of it that way. They’re not even touching base with themselves to see if they want to do that. They’re reacting to the fact that they’re not allowed to do that. Or they’re only allowed to do that in a limited framework.
So, we talk so often about how we want to help our kids develop their inner voice and that trust in themselves and that understanding of themselves. Most of us don’t want to push our boundaries, our personal comfort zones too much. Yes. It’s fun to play with them and to do something new and exciting. But when we’re not doing that in reaction to something, but we’re doing it by choice and we know ourselves, we are pushing within the limits that feel comfortable enough for us.
ANNA: And if we feel someone’s going to shut us down, we’re not going to go to that person. And I shared this story, I think, on the podcast years ago, but we had schooled friends then in the neighborhood and it was a kind of a long story. But they had come across something that is maybe a little bit dangerous. It’s in the woods and they’re curious about it. And the kids that were from school were just like, “Oh, let’s go inside or let’s look at it.” It was an old ramshackle thing. And my girls were more like, “Well, no, I don’t know. I’m going to ask my mom and see what she thinks, if she thinks it’s okay.”
And they were like, “We can’t ask your mom! She’s not going to let us go in there and do it.” And she was just like, “Oh no, she will. She’ll just figure out if it’s okay.” They just had no energy about this. And these kids would have pushed through. And so, they actually did come back and I went out with them and I just joined in their curiosity and excitement about it, but could point out a few things.
“Well, okay. So, that part looks a little bit unsafe, but let’s look around this way and we can see what’s happened here. And what do you think it was?” And we could just have conversations. And so, my argument is my kids were much safer in that situation, because they viewed me as a trusted advisor and because we had that connection, versus those kids who knew their parents would have just said, “What are you doing playing with something old in the woods? Get back in the house!” And so, they’re going to push through that, because they don’t feel heard or seen or trusted.
And I trusted the girls. And even when we were on playground equipment and my kids were climbing to the height and the parents are saying, “Get down, get down!” I was like, “How does that feel? How are you feeling up there? Is there anything you need?” And let them focus on that.
And it’s so different and they become so much more grounded in their body and their own capabilities when we’re not putting our worry or, because again, it’s like you always say, look through their eyes. I might not want to climb up there, but they do right now. And so, how can they do that in the safest way for them, trusting their bodies? So, anyway, there’s lots of stories like that, but you know what I’m saying? That’s just a really important piece and those worries, I think, serve to disconnect and serve to give weight to our children. And I don’t ever want to give weight to someone else.
PAM: The other piece that came up for me when you were talking there is also, so your child is comfortable up there and they fall. This isn’t about creating a bubble so that they’re fully safe, however we define safe. But when they’re up there or they make a choice where something goes unexpectedly, they’re learning from that. And because they know it was their choice, they’re better understanding their limits and their boundaries for themselves through that experience.
So, it’s not that we can take away all bad experiences, but as you say, these are safer. I really do feel that it’s safer. Because then when something goes sideways, they also feel safe and comfortable to come to us and we can help them move through that sideways. We can talk with them through that.
It’s not about that things go perfectly when you build these kinds of trusted and strong and connected relationships, but we can also move through the times when things go sideways so much more gracefully and trustfully with each other. We can get through it together.
ANNA: Yeah. And I think probably all of us can think back to times in our moving out into the world where we could have used some help and talking through something, but we don’t want them to think we can’t do it, or we don’t want them to take away this opportunity, because they let me go to this place and now something’s happened.
And so, just not having that energy is so great, because yes, things will go sideways, but I know they’re going to pick up the phone and say, “I’m not comfortable here anymore. Yes. I wanted to come and I told you, this is going to be the best thing ever, this party or this whatever. Now I’ve changed my mind.” I have no energy about that. “Okay. I’ll be there and pick you up.”
And so, wow, that changes things, because we’ve all been teenagers. We all know how differently that can go if you don’t feel you have that. You stay in a situation you’re not comfortable in. You make decisions that maybe aren’t the smartest, because you don’t feel like you have that backup or that person that you can talk to. So, I think it’s a really important point.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Okay. So, let’s move on to our last area, which I think is also super valuable.
Let’s talk about the value of finding community.
So, to help us process all of these things that come up, it can be really helpful to find a supportive community of other like-minded parents that you can bounce ideas around with. You can hear how they processed and responded to things. So, you gain from their experiences. Not that they necessarily apply to you, but seeing how other people work through things helps broaden our perspective. We can see how they engage with their kids. We can be inspired. Even if they’re just sharing things that their kids are interested in, we can be inspired. “Oh, I think that might be interesting for my kid.” We’re, again, making our worlds bigger, not smaller.
And the piece that always stands out for me is how much more valuable it is to ask people our questions who have similar goals. So, if I have a worry or a question about unschooling, I didn’t really want to go to my parents or even my friends and ask, because their goal wasn’t an unschooling lifestyle.
So often, their answer was, “Well, send them to school. You’ll have more time. You can do this,” whatever the challenges of the moment. And their answers aren’t wrong. Their answers are great answers from their perspective. But it’s not the same framework that I am working from or that I want to work towards.
So, it’s so helpful to have people who understand where I’m coming from and where I’m trying to go to help me work through challenges and to inspire me each and every day.
It also reminds us that everyone is different. That’s the other big piece that I think is hard when you come to unschooling, because you’re looking for the answers. How do I do this? But truly there is no one way. It’s unique and looks different for every family, so to see it playing out in a whole bunch of different families really helped me own it, as in saying, “Okay. I’m going to take all this really interesting stuff on, see what works for other people, and then look at my own kids and see how this might work for me.”
ANNA: Yeah. I mean, community was really important to me and I feel like what’s so interesting about the Living Joyfully Network is just how it’s enhanced that for me, even at this stage. Because we have people from all over the world and they’re choosing to live intentionally. They’re choosing to focus on connection, consent, partnering, exploring unschooling. And it’s amazing, because like you said, when you come up and you want to troubleshoot something with people who understand the direction we’re walking in, it just makes all the difference.
Their experience won’t necessarily be like ours, but how they approach the situation in their life gives us ideas and it sparks things in us that will then fit in our family. So, it’s more about how we approach things and these higher-level principles. And so, it’s so fascinating to watch those play out in different families, and in different scenarios, and lots of kids, and one child, and traveling, and not traveling, because this is information that we can then take in to say, “Okay, yeah, this really resonates with me. This really makes sense. This is a struggle that I’ve had and look how they moved through it. Would that work for me?”
So, I love that kind of nuanced, teasing things out. It’s been so inspirational for me and kids are grown. I still just have so many aha moments that I feel like are deepening my human experience as someone who chooses to live these principles in all aspects of my life. And so, having that vibrant community of people at different stages, it’s fun to look at those early questions and think, ooh, so this is how I approached that. And how would I have tweaked that now, knowing what I know, looking back? And then watching other people go through it that are closer.
And so, having people with the gamut of experience is really helpful, because we’ve talked about before, sometimes it’s nice to have that person that’s just ahead of you, that just went through some of those same blocks. And then sometimes it’s helpful to have that person that’s really able to look back at all the stages and see the thread that they’ve found. So, finding that rich, vibrant community, and however that works for you, I do think it’s really an important part of the journey. It’s part of our guides. It’s part of how we move through this life intentionally.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. I know it was hugely important for me. And I would check in. When we were unschooling, I would check in every day, even if it was just for a few minutes, five minutes, or maybe the kids slept later and I’d get 20 minutes, a half an hour, just to steep in that for a little bit, because it gave me a good framework to start the day. Just that hit of inspiration that, oh yeah. This is why I’m choosing to live this way with my kids. It really helped me get started. And yeah, your point, too, it doesn’t matter what the community is. You find the community that resonates with you and that has the same kind of goals and the way that you are envisioning your unschooling lives unfolding.
When I think about my learning about writing, I’m still always learning about writing and business, developing a small business, I have done the same thing with both of those interests. I have found communities that resonated with me and I steeped myself in those communities, because that’s how I personally learn well. I like to immerse myself in communities of people and seeing their experiences and then looking at it through my eyes and saying, oh, how does that work for me? How does that feel? Can I tweak it this way?
So, for me, it was how I learned. But, as you said, Anna, I am staying in and loving the unschooling community right now, continuously, even with adult kids, because these are human qualities. This really is about the human being that I want to be. And I’m still a parent, so it’s how I want to approach the world. I want to be open and curious. It’s how I move through challenging moments, because there’s always challenging moments, whether your kids are young or adults. So, it is the beauty that I find in community even now and just watching everybody in action. It is. It’s totally inspiring. Isn’t it?
ANNA: It is! And like you said, that checking in is so nice because it could be that it’s pictures of making slime and that gets you excited about something for the day or whatever, or it could be a challenge that’s overcome. And it’s been interesting, we’re approaching a year on the Network, but seeing people that were struggling with certain things at the beginning, and then where they are now, as they’re checking back in and letting us know, okay, but now that isn’t a worry at all and I’m feeling so great about this. And watching that transformation, again, that just inspires me that we can always be growing.
There is always opportunity for growth and there’s always things I want to learn more about and do better. And I love that inspirational community for that piece, because that just keeps my life interesting. I think it just keeps me in this growing, open and curious mindset, which I think helps me in every aspect.
Like you were saying, I have these other things I dive in and get interested in and find a community and mentors about that. And so, it is just the process of how I learn, but I think it’s really common. I think it’s really a piece of everybody’s process, to some extent, to have that community, to hear from other people, to see and be inspired by other people.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And that’s the other piece. It inspires me, but it also keeps my world growing and bigger. So, I’m not like, I’m in my fifties. These are my things. I don’t want to learn new stuff or bring in new things, but just seeing what everybody’s into, I think that’s an important aspect in our network is not only are we asking the questions and moving through the challenges, but we’re also sharing the joyful moments too.
That is also what unschooling looks like in action. And if you just look at the hard stuff, it’s going to feel like it’s all hard. Again, it’s not just sharing the joyful things, this perfect Instagram feed thing. But seeing how both live together, like how somebody can post a joyful moment and picture, and also post a question, that is the beauty of it, because those things live together.
ANNA: That’s life!
PAM: Thank you so much, Anna. It’s always such a joy to chat with you.
ANNA: Yes! Absolutely.
PAM: Have a great day.
ANNA: Take care.