PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from living joyfully.ca and today I’m here with Talia Bartoe. Hi, Talia!
PAM: The two-hand wave!
TALIA: I’m excited!
PAM: Yes! Me, too. You were on the podcast back in episode 185, and we chatted about your deschooling experience. And it’s been almost two years now and I’m so excited to catch up and hear some new stories. To get us started …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what everybody’s interested in right now?
TALIA: Sure. I couldn’t believe it had been almost two years either. Time is so funny. But we are a family of six humans and two kitty cats. Myself, my husband Mark, my oldest Neon, and then Elijah, Winter, and Dexter, and our cats are named Sora and Luni. They just had a birthday, so we had fun celebrating that. They are two.
Neon is 10 and, first off, recently they have switched their pronouns to they/them. So, you’ll hear me using those to the best of my ability.
PAM: Yeah, me too!
TALIA: It’s still really new, so sometimes I slip up, but I try to always correct myself. So, they are an artist through and through. They have loved art since they could hold a utensil. In the past year or two, they have primarily switched to digital art and that’s been a lot of fun exploring all of that. They love story and character and role play. They spend quite a bit of time both developing their own original characters and taking characters that they’ve enjoyed watching from YouTube series and such and “furrifying” them, turning them into animals.
So, right now, they are really into something called object shows on YouTube and all the characters are objects. So, they take each one and they turn them into cats. And so, all the objects are now their cat form and they are actually writing a book with all of their original version of these characters. So, that’s a lot of fun.
And they take their art and their stories very seriously. They spend a lot of time researching every element from the names to their locations and everything always seems to have a deeper meaning. And it’s a lot of fun when they explain their thought process on how they got there and I love it. They actually consider themselves a part of the furry community. So, that’s something that we’ve been talking about and exploring and it’s a lot of fun. They’ve always connected with animals and enjoyed role-playing as an animal as a young person. So, this is a new path that I think we’re probably going to be exploring more and more.
And they watch a lot of YouTube. They really like watching animations and have toyed around with making a few of their own animations. They watch other furries on YouTube and they’ve been playing this game called Friday Night Funkin’ a lot lately and playing around with modding it, and that’s been a lot of fun.
And lastly, they are very passionate about being an ally to those in the LGBT community. That’s been something that’s been big in Neon’s life for a long time. They studied all the flags and they make a lot of art and just all over their room and their clothing choices. They just make it very apparent that that’s something close to their heart.
And then there is Elijah, who is eight. He often goes by Meg as his nickname, which is inspired from the megalodon shark, which is his favorite creature. He loves all ocean creatures, really all animals in general. He has such a heart for both people and animals. He loves connecting with friends. He spends a lot of his time, every day, gaming on both Minecraft and Roblox. And usually, he’s on a video chat with a friend while he’s doing it. He started doing that regularly about a year ago, and it’s always a lot of fun connecting him with new friends.
He’s been making videos, sometimes with his friends and sometimes alone, for his YouTube channel. He plays a lot of gaming videos on there and so it’s been fun getting him bits and pieces to set up. He just recently got a new laptop that can do more games. So, that’s been a lot of fun. And he watches a lot of YouTube, too. YouTube is a big theme in our house, I guess I could say. I’m the odd one out that doesn’t watch a lot of YouTube, but everybody else does.
Winter is five and he is my active kiddo. He spends a lot of time moving, running, jumping. He really likes sensory play, like slime. He’ll cover his body in shaving cream. He likes sand, water, basically anything he can cover his body in, he’s into. Just the other day it was mud. It’s always something. Although he has recently started playing Roblox and he got a tablet that can play it. And so that is a big interest of his right now. And he’s exploring all the new games and it’s like a whole new world for him. So, that’s been a lot of fun. And he watches YouTube as well.
And then, there is Dexter who is two. He’ll be three next month. And he is just a happy toddler. He’s really into trucks and vehicles. And he has been for over a year, which is a really long time in toddler time. But every day he just wants to go outside and drive his Power Wheel trucks. We have three of them. And he takes turns and he drives them. And we have so many batteries, so that he could just keep going.
TALIA: And he has a little bike. It has a stroller handle that attaches, so I can push him. He wants to go for a walk almost every day in his little bike stroller. And he’s really learning a lot of new words right now. So, every day it’s more words and the whole family delights in that. It’s a whole family affair. When he learns a new word, we’re all like, did you hear that? Did you hear that? It’s just a lot of fun. And he knows he’s adorable. So, he plays up on all the attention. And he loves chasing around and trying to tag along with his older siblings and they really all four spend a lot of time together, sometimes in different configurations.
But especially as Winter has gotten older and has started gaming, a lot of times the three are doing something together recently. And our kitchen table is the central location and it’s not uncommon to walk into the dining room and see several kids set up gaming or making art together or something. And if the moon is just right, maybe sometimes Mark and I even join right there. We can all have a family gaming set up, cards or computers.
Then there’s Mark. And Mark is the tech guy. He’s into all things technology, from phones, to computers, to cars. If it has technology, he’s into it. And he likes to be up to date on all the up-and-coming technology, anything that’s coming out. He follows Space X really closely and watches all the launches. And so, that’s been a big thing in our house since it started.
He is a problem solver. He absolutely loves to fix things and he can fix almost anything. And if he can’t fix it, he can watch a YouTube video and learn really quickly. Basically, just a jack-of-all-trades type personality. He just seems to be good at anything he tries to be good at. And he is very social and outgoing and loves talking to new people and making new friends and connections.
And then there’s me. And my main interest has been, for a long time, unschooling. I love learning new things about it and really focusing on spending time with the kids. And I come at it from a psychology background. I’ve always loved psychology and brain development, child development, and interpersonal relationships, and all these ideas and theories. So, I spend a lot of time looking into things for my personal growth and to grow my relationships with the kids.
And then, I enjoy story. I enjoy anything that makes me laugh. I love cooking and baking and being in the kitchen and food in general. I’ve had a passion for that for a long time. And in the past couple of years, it’s especially been food that is different to me. So, culturally different food, I’ve enjoyed exploring.
Pre-pandemic, I was doing some writing work for this amazing company called Ethnosh, where I would go and get to interview restaurant owners who were immigrants. And I’d get to hear their story and how they got to where they’re at and write about it. And then we’d host a food event there. So, I look forward to that resuming hopefully sooner, rather than later.
And I would say the last thing that I’ve dipped my toes in in the past couple of years is learning more about decolonization and dismantling racism, dipping my toes into some political aspects of that. But right now, it’s still just mostly at a distance, because most of my time is with the kids.
PAM: Yes. Oh, I love that. I love that. It’s so fun to hear. You can just hear the energy and the flow, just from sharing everybody’s different interests, but you can see where they overlap. And I can just imagine everybody happening to be at the table and hanging out together, just the flow of who’s doing what. Maybe somebody is up gaming on their own for a while, but then there’s a time when everybody’s together.
And there’s joy. I hear the joy of that versus the judgment of the other times and feeling like you want to pull them together or whatever, but celebrating each of them as they are and who they are oozes out of your words.
TALIA: It works so much better when it just flows naturally on their own timelines, versus pulling everybody together.
PAM: I know! And then, it happens more than you think when you give it the space to happen, right?
PAM: When you’re trying to create things, you feel like they won’t happen unless you do that. It is a real hard space to release that. It can be challenging to take that leap to release that at first. And then just discover how things really can flow so beautifully.
TALIA: Right. Because you have the idea of what this bigger family looks like from TV shows or books or people tell you, and it’s like, you gotta throw that idea away and just really relish in the family that you have and it changes all the time. And one season might look completely different than the next, but they can all be a lot of fun if you let it.
PAM: Yes. And I love the way you spoke about your interests, too, and how they mesh into the flow as well. Like you were saying, right now, you’re super busy with four young kids, but there’s still bits and pieces of time where you can bring the things that you’re interested in and get little tastes of that, learn little bits here and there, like with food and the writing and the colonialism, all those pieces. Because we can get on ourselves about, “I really feel like I want to be working on this hard,” but then realizing, “But my time is needed here right now. This is the family that I created.”
We choose to have our children. That’s one thing that you get from the experience of seeing the flow is knowing that more time will flow into your space for yourself. And you sound like you’re just so ready to take it when it comes without judgment or thinking you need it to come faster. But just getting little pieces here, like the food interviews, that sounds beautiful and so much fun. And when that comes back in, it’s just working with how things look in the moment. Isn’t it?
TALIA: It is, and that’s not something that necessarily came naturally to me. So, it is something that I’ve had to deconstruct there a little bit.
But it’s especially fun, because now as the kids get older and they can show you their interests a little bit more, it seems like they’re also able to take in my interests a little bit more. So, with each kid that I have, there are things that I enjoy, that this one enjoys a little bit of this, and this one enjoys a little bit of that. So, then it’s like me sharing, even if it’s just conversations while we game or cook.
And so, Elijah connects with me over food and Neon is so passionate about all the issues in our society where they feel that anyone is not being treated with kindness and love. And so, we have a lot of those discussions about racism or homophobia or all these other things that I’m passionate about. They are really interested in those things. So, we have these conversations and it’s like, my interests are shining just in hearing how they receive them and offer their feedback.
PAM: Yes! I love that so much. And that was one thing I found that was so enjoyable for me is that the different connections. We share different passions and interests with each of our kids. So, we get to dive into each of our things through their lens when we’re connecting with them. So, we can sometimes have a day full of all our interests, just even being top of my conversation as we connect with each of our kids.
TALIA: Yeah, absolutely.
PAM: That’s so beautiful. So, last time we talked, we focused on the deschooling aspect of the journey and I know it’s never done, especially because as our kids get older, new things come up that we haven’t really thought about. And even when they’re grown, new pockets pop up, young adult expectations and just things come up in life. So, there’s always new pockets of things to dive into, but there also comes a time that we have worked through most of our learning-related deschooling, working through our ideas around school and academics and learning and a good chunk of the parenting.
I was wondering if you feel like you’re actively unschooling now. Do you feel like you moved out of that deschooling phase for the most part?
TALIA: I would say I do feel like we’re actively unschooling and really loving it.
I have found that there is always that other layer to peel back, which is one of the reasons that I have found the Network so valuable, because there’s all these different conversations amongst different members and there’s the monthly topics that we have. So then, I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got this area tackled. I know this. I’m so good.” And then something will get brought up and it’ll strike me just the right way. And I’ll find out there’s another little pocket in this area that I thought I had tackled that I guess I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” And if I’m willing to sit with it and think about it and peel it back, “Oh, okay. There’s some more there that I could do that could enrich this journey.”
So, there’s this balance of feeling like I don’t have to actively think about every choice and every decision anymore like it was when I was feeling like it was a lot of theory, based on reading and researching, before my kids came to a certain age. So, I don’t feel like everything is like, “Oh, what do I do? Will this shake us? Will this rock our foundation?”
But at the same time, I’m open to the idea that there can always be something a little bit more when I’m ready for it, when I’m ready to tackle that. And having a space where there are people with similar goals is extraordinarily helpful for me and bouncing ideas off of people.
I started down this path of knowing that we wanted to unschool when my oldest was just a baby, which is when I first started diving into the ideas. At that time, it was all theory. It was all researching and reading and like, “Oh, this scenario and this scenario and that scenario.” But there wasn’t a lot of application to all this reading until they got to a certain age.
So, in my head, I could boil it down. Like, “Oh, unschooling is X, Y, and Z.” And it was all those topics, like screen time and food and sleep. But it’s more than that, because no matter what educational path you go down, you’re going to have to figure out, how do we want to eat in our house? How are we going to sleep? What’s our media use? How do we feel about this?
So, I think that what unschooling can appear to be to someone who’s new to it, or to someone with only young children, like I had when I was just researching it, it can appear to be these life topics plus education. But I have found when I’ve opened up to the idea, that it can be a lot deeper than just those topics.
And I’ve learned a lot about myself and my kids and unschooling by just living it, getting to the ages where we had these situations and prioritizing our connection and being willing to continue to grow. It is a lot. It goes a lot deeper than I knew in the deschooling phase or the research phase.
PAM: I love the distinction you made between the learning about it, the research, the theory. I usually talk about that as understanding it intellectually and it makes so much sense. And then there’s the actual living it, the application, because then you bring real people, individuals into the mix. And we talk like, “Oh yeah, we’ll talk together and we’ll meet everybody’s needs. That makes so much sense.”
But then the actual navigating that space, the actual sitting with discomfort for a while to realize what our kids and our partners and our own needs are, because it’s not easy to show up in a conversation knowing what the needs are. Because so often, our kids, ourselves, we just naturally make that jump to how we think we can meet that need. So, we don’t often ask for the needs, certainly when we’re first getting into it. We ask for the solution. So, it’s getting to that underlying need, because then we have more possibilities, more ways that we may not have thought of.
When my kids were older, I was going to them all the time saying, “Hey, can I chat about this for a second?” Because this is the only path I could see forward and talking to them and discussing what that underlying need was, they saw so many other possibilities. Like, “Oh, thanks. That’s great. I’m going to do it that way instead.”
TALIA: Oh yeah.
As a former black-and-white thinker and like, “How can I efficiently solve this problem, so that we can get to the fun in our day?” It’s like, well, no, this is the day, solving these issues, navigating those. That is the day. The fun comes and it’s there, but it’s like all of these little moments, every one is an experience. And every experience builds your confidence, it builds your ability to be open to other possibilities. Because each time you do it, you’re rewiring your brain to thinking a whole different way.
PAM: Oh, I love that. Yeah. And each time you’re doing it, you’re learning a little bit more about each other. They’re gaining a little bit more trust that they’re going to be heard and listened to, and that their consent isn’t going to be steamrolled because I have the most efficient solution. I know we’re always looking for efficiency, aren’t we?
TALIA: I have so much to do in a day, so let’s just cut that through this and then we’ll all do better. But not usually. No.
PAM: I know. That’s what you discover. And I love what you said that that’s the day. That is the time. That is time well-spent, in those conversations. And sometimes we don’t have time for those conversations. Sometimes there are schedules we have to meet, but that is not as often as we think. When we take that moment to say, “Oh, why do we need to get to the park right now?” Or wherever it is that we’re going, it’s okay. This is where the value is. And sometimes it can be hard to see that, because we’re very goal-oriented.
We want to get the thing done. We want to get to the place. We want to do the thing, but there’s just so much value in talking with each other about how we’re going to accomplish these things that everybody wants to do and how we’re going to do it in a way that is satisfying for each person that that’s involved.
Because maybe we’re trying to do something where it’s a really big wish of one of the kids. So, then we’re figuring out a way for it to be amenable for the other kids. And there’s just so much value in that, because everybody feels seen and heard. And because, even when they see us working really hard to figure out a way so that one of our kids can do the thing, they truly take in knowing that, “When I have a thing that’s that important to me, I know they’ll be in my corner to continue talking with everybody else to figure out a way.”
And once they come to trust that, they’re also, I find, more open to understanding. Because now they’ve had that experience, they can understand when a sibling also really wants something. It is that foundation that we’re building of connections, of trust, of just understanding each other on a deeper level. It truly does get easier as they get older to figure out ways to move through, because they come to understand each other even better. So, they bring great ideas.
It’s not uncommon at all for one of my kids to be like, “Oh, well I want to do this, but I know that they don’t like this part. So, I brought along these headphones,” they get practice in learning tips and tricks and tools for themselves, but also their siblings. And I love it when that stuff happens, because even if they’ve never actively said that thing before, it’s like, “Oh, you’re really observant about what’s going on with your sibling and in life and picking these things up.” And they just pull it out, surprisingly.
PAM: I remember that. I remember that. It was so fun when they would come to talk about something that they wanted to do and they will have already come up with extra little plans, “Oh, and we can stop here on the way, because I know Michael likes to do that,” or whatever, or, “We can bring this for them and they can play their game.” They are thinking bigger picture just because that’s what they live. That’s what they see in action is respect for each other as people.
TALIA: It is. We went to the park the other day and we have not gone out of the house a lot, especially as a family. Like one or two people have gone out during this pandemic. But for the most part, we’ve stayed home. And then it was winter time and it was cold. And most of my kids don’t like the cold.
So, the other day, spontaneously, one kid said, “How about we go to the park?” And another kid said, “I’d really like that.” And then, three of them were really enthusiastic and one was like, “Well, I would go if everybody else did.” And I was like, okay. And these transitions are difficult. Even when they want to go, transitioning five-plus people into the same spot at the same time, sometimes is a little bumpy.
But I’ve really been trying to just remind myself, as we say in the Network, Anna says, “There’s plenty of time. There’s plenty of time.” And it doesn’t matter when we get there, but I just share, “Hey guys, we can take our time with this, but Dexter will need a nap. So, if we take too long, he might end up needing a nap and we might have to do it for another day.”
And they’re pretty good at taking in that information now and going, “Oh, okay.” And they go get their stuff and they transition to the car and it’s okay if we take our time and select what music we’re going to listen to on the radio and whatever, all those little bits and pieces that make it happen. The transition to the park can be as important as going to the park.
PAM: Then you end up at the park in such a better place than when you were trying to pull people along. There is just such a different energy when you get to the place that reminds you why it was so valuable not to rush the getting there.
So, you mentioned about how through this process you’ve been growing as a person. I wanted to dive into that a little bit, because it is so much work for us, this deschooling, right? I found for me, one of the big things was kind of “excavating”, because it feels like things got buried. My curiosity about the world, my creativity. I felt I was not creative at all. And then, as we’ve talked about, just exploring all our fears about what might happen if we go down this path. Sitting with discomfort, we’ve talked about.
So, I was hoping you could talk a little bit more about how you feel you’ve grown and changed as a person since you chose to begin unschooling.
TALIA: Yes. I really like this question, because, like I said, I love the personal growth element. I know that I have changed as a person in a lot of ways, I’d like to think for the better. And I’ve taken the long way around, that’s a Doctor Who reference, in quite a few areas. And I’m definitely still traveling and a lot of those paths and the psychology lover in me always finds this idea of just healing and growing and sitting with all of that very rewarding.
I thought I knew what this life would look like and feel like, as I said before, when I was just researching it. And there are a lot of elements that are certainly similar to what I envisioned then. But those were very much on the surface.
I think it is possible to be an unschooler and live an unschooling life without diving super deep. But I have found that when I am just staying on the surface, instead of being willing to go deeper, that certain issues just keep popping up over and over and over again.
So, I could have a kid and maybe I’m concerned about what media they’re watching and then the next month or two, I’m worried about how much sweets this kid is eating. And these can just seem like unrelated things. But if I’m willing to excavate, like you said, I could easily find out that maybe I am feeling that I need to control them or that they are not capable of making good choices.
And if I am willing to dig that up and peel it back and go deeper, then I can really work on those things and change the tone and the environment in our house, so that those issues don’t keep popping back up in this way, so it’s not like whack-a-mole issues.
PAM: I love that!
TALIA: So, that might mean asking myself questions and confronting my fears and healing the inner wounds from my childhood and my past that affect how I react to situations in the present day and learning how to communicate and problem-solve and effective and kinder ways than I used to know goes a long way in being able to really examine the needs.
Just like with the kids, there are needs behind my behavior and my reactions. And just like we look for the need with the kids, I’m really focused on looking for the need with myself. So, do I need to think about this? Do I need to find some new tools to boost my communication? Do I need to work on letting go of control? The answer’s always yes, because I grew up as a person who felt out of control and did whatever I could to grasp control. So, that growing and that healing means that our life and this unschooling for me is so much more than what we’re eating or what time we’re going to bed or how much Minecraft they’re playing.
I just make it a priority to examine the default thought patterns that I used to find myself in. Maybe I used to look for a winner and a loser in a situation, like is common in our society. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. Or maybe I’m not giving the benefit of the doubt to my loved ones. So, then I’m examining, am I having some trust issues there? Is there something behind that? People that I know generally do well when they can. And so, maybe I need to examine why that’s not coming easy for me. Or my need to be right in a situation, for example, with my kids or with my partner. Examining things like that really has benefited our unschooling and of course, life in general.
And then, I would also say examining the ideas of being productive and earning my right to relax or to play, if I ever allowed myself to do that in the past. I don’t believe that these ideas are healthy for my children, but they were so ingrained in me from growing up in this dominant societal paradigm that they just happened automatically without thought. And so, going deeper, which was inspired for me by unschooling, I have found is a beautiful way to stop these negative and sometimes even abusive generational cycles. So, I have really enjoyed that.
PAM: Wow. That is beautiful, Talia. I love all the little pieces that you brought up there and there is just so much value in that.
We see it so much easier in our kids, right? Like you said, it’s so easy to see that we don’t want our kids to have this baggage to bring in. We see that, no, we don’t always need to be productive. There is so much value in play. I was going to say for play’s sake, but in just doing whatever we want. And one of the biggest things I learned was how important downtime and just quiet time are. It doesn’t literally need to be lying on the couch, but sometimes it is. Just those quiet activities, the processing and insights that came out of those was incredible.
And I’m still trying to give myself permission to have those open space times where my mind is just free to roam. That space to roam, that’s where all the creative connections come is when your mind has that space. So many messages that we grew up with, we can to take the time to process through that.
And I love the point that you made that an underlying need can pop up in so many different ways, or an underlying issue, something that we’re struggling with.
You used the example of trust and how it can pop up in different ways with different kids. And when you actually work at the root, all of a sudden, so many issues fall by the wayside. And at first, that’s probably what inspired us to dig deeper, because this month, it’s this, and this month, it’s this. And at first, you think they’re all disparate things. But when you take one of those moments to just let everything bounce around, you start to see the connection between them. Because when you start thinking, what was I really afraid of? What was I fearing would happen someday?
And then when we start to do that and think of all the various things that have made us uncomfortable, it’s like all of a sudden, maybe trust was at the root of those, or whatever we discover it is at the root. And then, we get to that rich soil under there.
TALIA: There’s all this interconnectedness. And, for me, I arrived at adulthood and I’m like, tada! I’ve arrived through childhood, teenager, and I’m here! I’m an adult now! But you start living and then you have children that depend on you. And you’re like, wait a second. I don’t think that I’m as healthy an adult as I thought I would be just by reaching this age. And why am I having these same disagreements over and over again? Or why am I repeating these same fears? And it’s like, this is not the most comfortable way to live.
And I’ve gone through times where I’m like, oh, I’m just going to ignore it and not confront any of these things, but that didn’t benefit me in the long run. And so, depending on how deep those go, actual therapy is a wonderful tool that I’ve used in the past and use again, and then just reading and researching and just being really, really open to the idea that sometimes things that are so automatic and assumed as necessary in this life, they’re not always that way.
We don’t always have to be right. We don’t always have to argue. We don’t always have to look for that winner and loser. We don’t always have to assume that there’s someone to blame. There are other ways that we can approach these situations that aren’t yes or no, or black or white. And it’s just like our kids with all those possibilities, everything that I have examined is so much richer. There are so many more gray areas when I’ve been willing to open up to it.
And I’m like, well, what is going to feel better for me and for my kids and for my home? And sometimes it feels wildly impossible. To think that, oh, we can live in a way, and we’re going to try to not place guilt on people or not punish or not do all of these things that sounds so normal. Every day, people are living and they’re feeling like there’s always someone at fault. If something happens, you have to look for the fault and you have to solve it and punish the fault, and then it won’t happen again.
And these are normal things, but thinking outside of that and being like, there is a way to do it differently, it’s not necessarily easy at first, because it’s like a whole new thought pattern that you have to rewire and develop and practice, but it is worthwhile and I continue to do it. I’m no expert. I’m still working. Every week, I’m researching a little bit more when I have time and questioning a little bit more and trying to notice my language and things like that. These little shifts that can really add up.
PAM: Yes, yes. I got so many goosebumps while you were talking. And, yeah, I’m still working at choosing better language, choosing better thought patterns. I loved your point of, we are so focused on right and wrong and when we feel right, we want to tell people. We want to share and it’s like we want to help.
So, it’s not in a judgmental way at all on people who really want to jump in and share what they see, but unless people are looking for an answer and they want your input and there are absolutely times in conversation where that flows beautifully, but it’s taking that moment to see how things are unfolding and whether my two cents would add value. Because, exactly as you said, Talia, so often, they take it in other directions.
And I learned so often that if I’m feeling like I need to tell other people the best way to do something, or I’m feeling like they’re doing something the wrong way, more often than not, it’s because I’m missing a piece of information about the situation. Right?
TALIA: Yes! I have jumped to conclusions so many times with so many people and then they just look at me. Especially my oldest, Neon. They are very blunt. And they’ll just be like, actually, this fact about the situation. And I’m like, oh, okay. Forget I said anything.
PAM: I know. I want to jump in there and just know that in about 30 seconds, I’m going to go, “Oh, you’re right.”
PAM: Or just wait and let them talk. And then it comes out. I learn more.
TALIA: All this stuff, it pops up in so many ways, in little and big ways. And it’s like, when we automatically just go with what’s normal, what’s expected, we can miss out on a lot of stuff.
For example, we did a little at-home Easter egg hunt and we keep it really low-key and relaxed. It’s just for fun. And so, Mark and I go out to hide the Easter eggs in our yard while my mom is sitting with the kids and Winter runs out and he says, “I want to hide Easter eggs with you.”
And two years ago, I would have hesitated. And even before that, I would have been like, “No, because this is how it goes. Adults hide the eggs. You don’t know where they’re at.” I just would’ve been like, “No,” like what? And even two years ago, I would have been like, “Ooh, let me think about that.” But now, I didn’t hesitate. I’m like, okay, well, if this is part of the fun for him, that’s the goal. The goal is to have a good time and make this a fun time.
And so, I said, “Sure!” And I handed him a bag of eggs and he took such delight in hiding each one of these eggs. And then, after the Easter egg hunt was over, he came to me and he said, “Mom, I found most of my eggs.” And I said, “You did?” And he said, “Yeah, but I gotta tell you a secret.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “Before I hid each egg, I popped it open to see what was inside. So, I knew if it was something I wanted or not. And I hid it.”
And I just laughed, because the whole situation could have gone so differently. I could have been like, “Go back inside with your grandma. I promise it will be worth it.” And he could have been happy with that or upset, or he could have gone and hunted eggs and had a great time. Or he could have been like, “I don’t feel like it anymore.” Or he could have opened his eggs and been like, “I don’t even like this candy,” but he did it his way. He knew what he wanted. I was open to that. And it was so fun for him. And I just laughed at his, “I popped each one open before I hid it.”
And I’m just glad that I am learning to build in the space to take a moment before I respond, because a lot of times, that automatic response, that first thing that comes to our head, is that societal tape that has been ingrained in us. And it can make such a difference to be like, oh, is that really what I want to say?
PAM: Yes. I love that. And just think of how much he learned from having that experience, just how much joy was in there, how he figured out his plan, and how it worked out for everybody.
We can get stuck in the “fairness paradigm”, right? Like everything needs to be equal and all the kids need to do with the same way for it to be fair. But everybody is so different and everybody’s got different needs in the moment and satisfying each of their needs as we can in the moment just works out so brilliantly so often.
TALIA: Yes. And a lot of times, they don’t want this fairness. That’s not something that’s a dynamic that’s in your environment automatically. I have found it’s not something that they often automatically pick up, because none of the other kids said, “That’s not fair that he gets to hide eggs!” Because they know if they would have said, “Actually, we want to hide eggs for each other,” we would have said, “Oh, okay. We’re open to that idea,” because that’s what they’ve experienced time and time again.
PAM: Yeah, that’s brilliant. That’s true. It is something I think that we pass along, that conventional paradigm that we pass along as adults, by saying, “Oh, that’s not fair. You can’t do that. You both need to do this,” but we are passing that along. Once I wasn’t using that language, it was never about the “fair”. Like we were saying earlier, when they wanted to do something, they would figure out ways for it to work for their other siblings. So, it wasn’t about fair. It was about the needs and the real people that they are.
And that is why the personal growth work and the healing is so valuable to me, because it is so natural to pass along these things that sometimes are subconscious to us. We don’t even realize that they exist within us, in our words and our actions. And they’re just there. And they’re passed down from one generation, to the next generation, to the next generation, until someone says, “Oh, wait. I’m going to stop. And I’m going to really look closely at this, because this is not adding value to our lives. This could even be actively causing harm in some way or shape.”
And that’s that work that we’re doing. That’s what it is, so that in that moment, it’s, “Sure! Why not?” And that’s all that work ahead of time.
PAM: Oh, that’s so wonderful. I love that. Now a little while ago, you mentioned your interest in food, and I know that is an interest that weaves through your family, as well.
I was hoping you could share some stories about that, because sometimes food can be a bit of a paradigm shift for people. Just having fun and joy and playing with food can be so different from that controlling framework that we can bring to it that we grew up with.
TALIA: Yes. Well, I thought about this question quite a bit, because I knew I could easily just share some fun things, examples that we have with food, and I will share those, but I also knew that I could go deeper. And it seems that that’s the theme of this episode, go deeper.
So, I decided that I would be willing to get a little vulnerable with my story, because I think that a lot of people could probably relate to many aspects of it. So, I would start off by saying that food, this area did not come easily for me. This was probably one of my hardest areas to work through. And I say that because a lot of times people can be like, “Oh, well, it only works so well because your kids like everything or because food has been easy.” No, it’s not. It’s never been easy for me.
Even as a child, I struggled with food because I ate differently than the rest of my family. What they cooked and what they preferred to eat, I had a completely different palate and I also had a very sensitive stomach and what I know now to be a lot of sensory challenges with food. And we didn’t know that then. And so, I was kind of like the joke of the family sometimes with how different I was with food. And I felt like the odd person out and it just was not easy for me to eat. And even though I loved the idea of food, even when I was a little, I wanted to cook, it was not something that was ever a simple process for me.
And then, when I was a teenager, I was having a lot of tough times at home with my living situation and I turned to food as one of the only things that I had control over. And so, with that, I developed some really unhealthy eating patterns, some disordered eating. And, in time, I became so black and white about food and I moralized it. Food was good or bad. And, unsurprisingly, by that time, there’s body image issues wrapped up around with it as well.
And, of course, all of that hurt me, but it also hurt people around me that I cared about, especially Mark. We lived together at that point in time. And I would try to control him and his food and what he ate. There were some really orthorexic ideas and I was trying to have control over him.
So, for me, rules and food, they went hand in hand. It was automatic. But it was also so strange, because I loved to cook and I loved to study about food. So, it was like these two parts of me were at odds with each other. But eating had so much pressure attached to it for me. I was nervous. Every bite that I ate, it was like, this bite is the key to long-term health. It was just stressful, so much stress.
So, when I began looking into unschooling, my oldest was just a baby. I thought to myself that there was no way that I would ever apply these principles to food. That was the one area I was like, well, I’m willing to do all of this, but I’m not touching food. I know how I feel about that. But I continued to read and more seasoned unschoolers would recommend resources that I very skeptically looked over.
But, bit by bit, something started to shift in me and there was this feeling that it could be happier. We eat so many times. There’s so much food in our lives. And I’m like, there has to be happier way, because I was not happy with this, but it was something that had been within me for such a long period of time. But I wanted food to be fun. I wanted something to change.
So, I started to soften a bit more, but not really yet with principles in my own family, but more about learning the negatives of moralizing food and learning about body acceptance and those things that were all tied around it. I needed to pick apart those ideas before I was ready to bring it to my family. And I had joined a Facebook group that was recommended in another radically unschooling group that I was in. And the Facebook group is called Eating the Food. And this was a great place for me to start really healing my journey, because I just got to soak in other people’s stories and experiences who were in places similar to what I had been most of my life.
So, they shared their healing and their progress. And I just read, and I read, and I didn’t contribute a lot, but I just really sat in that space. And slowly, that started to gain momentum and started snowballing and I dedicated a lot of my free time to examining, once again, that inner growth, that healing of those messages that I have been telling myself for 20-plus years. And the messages that are so ingrained in our society, once again, about food and about it being right or wrong and about, “This food is good and this food is bad.”
And I had been chasing after this elusive idea of physical health, but it was coming at the cost of my actual mental health in the moment. And the ridiculous part is that the physical health part was not even guaranteed. It’s actually something that’s really out of our control, for the most part. So, there came a point where I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to trade happiness and joy and mental health for this idea that in 30 years, because I did all these things right, I will be healthy. I want to enjoy today, tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day.
So, it was a lot of healing and anybody who considers themselves recovering or recovered from disordered eating knows that that journey is just not easy. And it is something that I will continue to be working on forever. But I’m so glad that I did that work and continue to do that work, because my home is so much more peaceful than what I know it would have been if I had not.
So, like you said, we do try to keep food fun and light in our house. I love where we’re at right now with food. We do have kids with quite the varied palates. We have sensory eaters in our household. We have kids that have eaten the same food for meal, after meal, after meal. We have kids that only eat five things. Sometimes for years, they only eat a handful of things.
So, we are not coming at it from a, “Our kids eat everything, so that’s why it’s so easy.” I have one kid that eats everything, Elijah. He eats just about anything. And he’s always been that way. Just like I had always been a kid that ate differently than my family. I see it’s their preference from a young age. And just like my family couldn’t change my preferences, I cannot change their preferences.
So, we just try to have so much fun with it. And so, for example, my oldest, they were one of the kids with the extremely limited diet. They’ll be 11 next month and they try a lot more foods. Each year, they open up more and more and more, but it didn’t start until they were around seven, maybe eight.
And, at that time, they were eating the same foods mostly. And we were at the store and there was a sample of sushi and they looked at it and they picked it up and they popped it in their mouth. And the look on everyone’s faces was like, “That just happened?!” This is not something we would ever imagine happen. And then they smiled and said, “Oh, that was good.” And we were like, what? And now, sushi is a favorite of almost everyone in our house, but it’s like those little things, those interactions, is what have allowed it to happen and unfold in their own time.
And then there’s kids, like I said, like Elijah, who will eat anything. I actually have cow tongue and oxtail in my freezer right now that he’s begging me to learn how to cook, because he is much more adventurous than I am. But that’s just who he is. And pre-COVID, we went to food festivals and I hope we’ll be able to again, and we would get a little bit from all those different booths from different countries or whatever.
If it was one culture, then we’d get a little bit of this and a little bit of that and have a family buffet, but there’d be no pressure attached, because we would also have their favorite normal foods that we brought along or got, too, so that they could choose to try the new things that they wanted. And it’s fun to go to a festival and see something you’ve never seen before and try a bit of this and a bit of that.
But if they said no, or if they said only one, or if they didn’t like it, they were still being fed, because there’s their food. Their preferred food is still there. And that’s just as important as the idea of trying all the food at the food festival.
And so, I have just found so much value in just keeping that open and listening to their ideas. And when they say no, or, “I’m not interested,” that’s okay. Dropping all of that. And if I see something at the store that I think that they’d be interested in, I’ll get it.
Elijah really likes tropical fruit. So, if I see a new fruit, I pick it up. If I see something weird and unique, like Sour Patch Kids ice cream, that’s one we found, I bring it home. If it’s different and they’ve never seen it before, I bring it home.
And maybe they try it and maybe they don’t, or maybe we try it or maybe we don’t, maybe we love it. Maybe we hate it. It doesn’t matter. But it’s just this element of, this is fun. And I cook. I love food. So, they’re exposed to a variety of food here. And we got a monthly food box at Christmas and that’s been so much fun. They look forward to it coming in and we sit down and the table and they take turns picking something out and we all try it. And it’s either disgusting or delicious and we laugh and there’s memories and joy that’s built around food that I didn’t experience, because I wasn’t in a healthy place to.
And I know that how they feel about food is so much healthier, both psychologically and physically, than what I experienced. And they’re not going to grasp at food as something to control, because that’s just not a dynamic that we have in our household. And they are also learning what feels good in their bodies and what doesn’t and just learning to trust. Because they want to feel good and food is an important step in making your body feel good. And all of our bodies are different and they want their bodies to feel good.
So, trusting that they do want to choose things that make their body feel good has just developed this deep sense of trust. And I’m just really happy with where we’re at right now.
PAM: I’m wiping my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing that whole story, from your experiences all the way through. We can see the thread that goes through it and all that work that you did. Like you said, going deeper is definitely the theme here today. And that is brilliant.
And the way that you’re able to support your kids’ food preferences and food exploration at their pace, does it feel to you like healing to your own experience as a kid with food?
TALIA: Absolutely. I mean, I am so thankful that we are not having those battles that are created, because I remember being the kid that’s sitting at the table and someone’s like, “Well, this is good. Just eat this!” And I’m like, my body physically screens “no”, whether that’s because of taste or whether that’s because my stomach wasn’t feeling good and I couldn’t express it or sensory things, but I just remember that feeling and it was a dynamic for so long for me as a child.
Winter eats literally the same snack plate for lunch every day, a lot of times for dinner, and a different same snack plate for breakfast. But I give him that and he happily eats it and he’s growing and he’s happy and he’s filled. And last year he tried two new things. And maybe this year he’ll try a few new things, but it’s like, yes, I am saying yes to this child when I felt like somebody could have said yes to me.
And it’s funny, because my mom, who’s a wonderful person and we are very close and I love her very much, and she did absolutely the best that she could with the resources that she had. She has told me, “I am so glad you feed the kids the way that you do, because I can see what a difference that is.” She’s like, “If I would have had the same resources, I wish I would’ve known.”
And now she realizes her own sensory challenges. And it’s like one of those things that was just so automatic, she grew up poor and they needed to eat or they would be hungry and so it’s like, these ideas are passed down to me. And even though she might not believe in them and she struggles in her own body, she just does what she’s told. And then I could easily do the same thing.
So, that’s where we’re stopping that generational thing. And I just know that my kids will have something different that they can pass down if they choose to have children. And that feels good.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. A couple of connections just pop for me right there when you were talking about your mum. Number one, our upbringing and our experiences, sharing them doesn’t need to be judgmental about our parents. Because remember what you said earlier too? “When I first had my child, it’s like, oh my god. Am I supposed to know all these things? I feel like I know nothing.” And realizing that that’s probably how our parents felt, too.
PAM: So, like you said, they’re doing the best that they could at that time, in those moments, knowing how they were brought up and what access to information they did or didn’t have, what community and network they had around them. All those pieces informed the choices that they made.
And I love that your mother is seeing this, that she’s open to recognizing that this is better. And it’s working so well for your kids and she’s discovering more about herself. This is we talk about that unschooling is a lifestyle. It’s a way of living. It doesn’t matter if we figure this stuff out when we’re 50, 60.
TALIA: Exactly! My mom is learning how to cook, like really cook. She’s explored a little bit before, but actually really learning how to cook. And I’m like, “Well, if you would have learned how to cook when I was a kid,” just teasing, “Maybe I would have been able to eat all this stuff,” but no. She’s good at it.
She’s doing a great job. And she is so, so humble in admitting that she’s still learning. And she’ll tell me a lot of times, “Wow! I didn’t know that,” or, “I wish I would’ve known that,” or, “I’m glad you’re doing it different.” And I am thankful to have a parent that has been willing to learn and to open back up to those things after probably feeling shut down with learning a lot in her life.
And it’s like, we share our learning with her and she shares her learning with us and it just keeps inspiring and going and going and going.
PAM: Yeah. Oh, that’s beautiful. Thanks again for sharing some of those food stories. That’s brilliant. So, now let’s shift a little bit, because, as we’ve been talking about, you have four kids ages two to 10 and I only had three, but I can remember how action-packed those days were. So busy helping them do their thing, finding their thing, saying yes, and helping them do whatever it is that they’re interested in, exploring. Oh, “Somebody wants to go to the park today? Let’s figure out a way to all go to the park today.” And also, alongside that, I’m thinking about our own energy levels, our own reserves, and the self-care tools we use. That’s something that I didn’t really realize at first was going to become so valuable. And, like we were talking about, there’s two things. There’s digging deep and figuring out what our needs actually are versus society telling us what we should need.
So, there’s figuring out the needs and then discovering and exploring and figuring out the tools that work well for us.
I was hoping you could talk a little bit about what self-care and managing needs with four kids like for you right now.
TALIA: I’ll tell you straight up, Pam. I had a little chuckle when I read this question, because my immediate response is that more often than not, I feel like I’m winging it.
PAM: That is a tool.
TALIA: Maybe not really, because there is a lot of that pre-work that goes into building these connected relationships and trust, which means that when I can’t meet one of my children’s immediate needs, because I’m helping a sibling or I’m having a day where I’m not feeling good or something, that they have learned or are learning that I want to help them and I want their needs to be met, especially the older ones. So, there’s this trust they have in me, just like I have in them that we will meet that need as soon as possible.
And sometimes with four children and my own life stuff, my own mental health, or my own physical health, sometimes it is, “Oh, we will have to wait until your papa is home and I can have an extra set of hands.” Or, “We can do that, but I’m going to need to do this thing first.”
Most of the time, I try to find a way to at least try to meet most of the needs most of the time, including my own. And there’s a lot of layering that goes on with that. Every day is different. And we do fall into routines that I have found usually revolve around everyone’s current sleep pattern, like when this person wakes up and this person goes to bed.
And so, we’ll fall into a routine and then that routine will shift with the next cycle, the next sleep pattern. So, being open to that shifting and that ebbing and that flowing, And then, I would layer on to say, I’m making one kid’s food and another kid’s right next to me telling about their latest creation and another kid sitting at the table and they’re gaming.
And then my toddler, Dexter, is running around and playing at my feet or with the kitchen tools or just destroying something in all honesty. That’s totally a possibility. He’s very fast and he’s a great climber. So, there’s this interesting phase in my life now where nothing’s off limits for him right now. So, that’s just reality.
And there are kitchen towels probably on the floor and there are dishes in the sink and it’s just real-life stuff and it’s all okay. And learning how to be okay with all of that real life stuff, that my house is never going to look like the house in a magazine, unless the magazine’s called Real Life. That’s just the truth.
But sometimes two or three of the kids are playing together and they’re getting better at handling conflicts when they arise. And I’m nearby and I’m available, but I’m with the other kids and there’s this balancing act. And sometimes it feels like I’m in the kitchen all day making snack after snack. And sometimes we’re playing games. It’s just, most of the day we’re playing games.
And sometimes, it’s one of those weird things where a kid takes a really long nap and another kid stayed up most of the night. So, they’re sleeping in, and this one’s gaming with a friend, and I’m like, what do I do? I’m like, wait a second. This was the other day. I’m like, well, I guess I’ll start spring cleaning and pulling out the clothes that are going to be for the season that I have stored away, because when else am I going to do it? I don’t know what to do with myself when that happens, which is rare, but I appreciate it.
As for meeting my own needs, that one’s still evolving. I am still learning what fills up my cup. And as you said, how it can look different than what society says fills up my cup. So, I had to question those messages, too, because of course I enjoy a few minutes alone sometimes, especially as an introverted person. And I love a good dinner out with friends, occasionally, those things. But I more often than not would rather be home with the kids, doing our daily life stuff, which is almost something that you’re not even supposed to admit out loud in our current society. So just being able to like really learn how to be myself in our society has been my biggest self-care.
It’s just learning who I am, what I like and creating a space with the people in my space that I’m not embarrassed or shy to admit, “Hey, this is who I am. I am a person that likes to watch TV and hang out with my kids. And I love to laugh. And I watch Doctor Who. And I’m an autistic adult. And I am all of these things.” And so, really learning who I am and allowing myself to, and then expressing that has been the healthiest thing that I’ve done for myself.
And then the little things like having a cup of coffee on the porch while the kids draw with chalk or play in the rain, that is self-care for me. It meets my needs. Or I love playing games with my kids. So, sometimes it’s forgetting the to-do list without any guilt and logging onto Roblox and playing a game, or pulling out our favorite card game, which right now is Cards Against Humanity Family Edition that Neon picked out. And we have had so many laughs.
And so, the towels can wait and the dishes can wait. And the clothes that I pulled out the other day during the long nap, but I only got halfway through, they can wait until the next long nap. We have enough short sleeve things for now. And so, it’s really just learning what it is that feels good and making time for that. And that could be something as simple as I am craving some popcorn, so I make myself some popcorn. It doesn’t have to be complicated. That has been really hard, but it boiled down to such simple things.
PAM: I love the two different levels. That piece of understanding ourselves and getting comfortable expressing and just being ourselves, that is a huge chunk of self-care, because just being able to relax and be ourselves without worrying, without editing ourselves, et cetera, it just takes a lot of weight off. Part of self-care is releasing that weight and reenergizing ourselves. So, that helps release weight in the first place, just being able to be ourselves.
And I loved how you described some little moments along the way, just day in and day out, because I think so much of it is actually the shift to us noticing. That observation piece that you talked about earlier. Like when the kids are drawing with chalk and you’re sitting on the porch with coffee, to notice, hey, this is a moment I can take a couple of deep breaths and I’m relaxing and I’m having fun and I’m enjoying this moment. Seeing the moment so often makes it self-care for me.
TALIA: Yes. It’s so easy to let those pass by when we get in that mode, like, okay, well, I’m sitting here.
PAM: And then thinking about a million other things!
TALIA: Like, what else am I going to think about? Or, if you’re maybe new to unschooling and you’re still deschooling, you’re like, okay, are we learning right now? It’s like, you can let go of all of that stuff, because in this moment, just enjoying your kids’ chalk drawing and noticing how good your coffee smells and hearing the birds chirp and just taking all that in, being really present in that moment, which is a skill that you have to really craft, because it certainly wasn’t natural for me, it can be very recharging, even in just a few minutes.
PAM: Yes. And energizing things can be recharging, too, like playing games, like you said. If you take that moment to appreciate, if you take the moment to release that list. Yes. The towels are still over here. There’s still laundry. There are still dishes. But when you actually take that moment to say, that is totally okay. No guilt. I’m choosing this. And I can. I have the right to choose.
TALIA: The choice. I loved how you just said choosing, because when you acknowledge this is a choice, if you don’t tell yourself the story of, “I’m just not getting to it because there’s not time. And I have too much to do,” you stop and say, “Well, I’m choosing to do this instead, because I don’t need 10 towels clean. It’s okay to have four towels clean and I can have some more towels clean tomorrow or the next day. And I’m going to choose to do something else right now,” because it’s so easy to then snap all that self-care back to be like, “Oh wait. But I didn’t get to it. I should have.”
Learning by going deeper and examining those thoughts that, my value is not tied up in how many towels we have clean. And at the end of the day, everyone has been fed and most of our needs have been met and we’re feeling connected and we’ve worked through the bumps, because there are always bumps. And that is a successful day. That’s what I define as a successful day versus my house looks perfect. At what cost?
PAM: Right. Exactly. When we realize that we’re making this choice in the moment, because like you were saying, it’s hard to get into that moment. That’s a skill that we develop over time to be able to sit with the coffee, to be able to fully engage with the game, and prioritize those relationships over what the house looks like or who’s on your to-call list or all that stuff.
TALIA: I try to be honest with the kids, too. If I’m really like feeling distracted by the towels, for example. “Okay. So, hold on. I’m going to come back and play your game, but I’m just gonna put these towels in a basket and put them behind the basement door, because they’ll still be there. And I’ll get to them, but maybe they’re not directly in my line of sight right this minute.” And those little things can make a difference.
And then sometimes I am feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, just like it happens for the kids. As a neuro-diverse family, my kids are really familiar with sensory language, so it would not be uncommon to hear me or one of the kids saying like, “Oh, I do have a lot of energy right now. Can we continue this conversation outside? Can we go on a walk to have this conversation? Or can we just go outside and get some fresh air while we talk?” Or the opposite, like, “I really do want to play that with you right now, but I’m feeling a little bit overstimulated. I’m going to pop my headphones in for a few minutes and listen something calming for a few minutes. Tap me if you need me and then I’ll probably be ready in 10 minutes.”
And so, just like I’ve found tools that help each of my kids with their varying sensory needs, whether it’s sensory-seeking things that they need to do or places that they need to retreat to, learning those tools that help me and weaving those into our lives so that it’s a normal part of our daily lives for any one of us to have a need and look for a tool to meet it. And as the adult who’s doing the work, to also to continue and examine the things that do trigger my overwhelm or my anxiety or overstimulation faster than other things, really figuring out what those are so that I can try to avoid them or meet them ahead of time or have things set up in case it does happen. That’s all a part of my self-care, as well.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so brilliant. And we’ve been talking about how this is a lifestyle, is a lifetime. I’ll share a story from this morning, too. I had had my breakfast and stuff. I was talking to Joseph and I told him, “I am feeling overwhelmed this morning, just a little tense about all the things today.” And, he suggested, “You know, I think maybe you’ll find some music relaxing,” because he knows I often listen to podcasts or audio books and stuff like that.
And he explained this morning, “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, all that is soothing, yet it’s more information that’s still coming at you. Whereas with music and specifically background-y kind of music.” I said, “Yeah. I need it without lyrics,” because for me lyrics are very engaging. I will be singing. It takes my attention. So, he’s like, “Yeah, just go search for relaxing golden sun music on YouTube.” I’m learning YouTube! I said, “Okay, I’ll try that.” And I did that. I went and searched that, had that on in the background while I was doing a little bit of work this morning and it was so nice.
And then I came up and I said, “I have a call now and I’m going to just go outside and hang out in the dog run, take my dog and hang out there when the call is done. And that will be a nice transition for me.” And he’s like, “That’s cool. Come let me know when you go, I’ll come.” And he asked, “If that’s okay with you, unless you want to be alone.” So, these are just ongoing conversations with connection and trust and respect and just trying to help each other in these moments. It’s amazing.
TALIA: It is.
This family dynamic that’s created, it’s like everybody seems to want to feel good and they want each other to feel good. We want to laugh. We want to have a good time. We want to feel connected. We want to feel heard. We want to feel safe. And that’s not something that has to be arbitrarily pushed on anyone as an agenda, because it’s just instinct to want to feel safe and good and loved.
And so, when everyone’s needs are heard and everyone is given the opportunity to find what makes them feel those things, it just seems to be so natural to want the whole environment to feel that way for everybody. And especially as the kids get older, they can recognize those things. And my older kids have expressed these ideas in their own words. And I certainly am not talking to them with all this information like I am talking with you, but they pick up on it. They do.
PAM: They do. They really do. And that’s one of the things I learned coming to unschooling is that these are human things. And when you’re given the space to explore and think and process and to develop your self-awareness, to listen to yourself, you get there. You get there, because these are human needs. These are ways to communicate.
And you had talked earlier about learning communication tools. When we first intellectually understand unschooling, we’re like, “Oh yeah. We’re gonna to do this with them,” or whatever. Yet, as we talked about, we’re all individuals, the kind of language that we use. And it’s amazing the observations that they come up with naturally when they’re given the space.
We talk about in the Network how capable kids are from a young age, from understanding, even if they can’t literally put words to their needs, they’re trying to meet their needs. They’re always trying to meet their needs, just like we are. That is a human thing. And we find the tools. So often we come with a solution, because it’s almost subconscious. But when we can start talking about the language underneath, the language of needs, it opens up so many more possibilities.
TALIA: It does. I love the possibilities. It’s unpredictable, but in a good way.
PAM: I love that. Unpredictable, but in a good way.
I would love to know what has surprised you the most about how unschooling has unfolded for your family so far? We’ll have to check in again another couple of years.
TALIA: Absolutely. I am so down. I guess I would have to go back to the healing, how much healing has happened for me on an individual level, by going on this journey.
When I started to look into unschooling, it had blossomed from practicing peaceful parenting and what is often called attachment parenting. It had blossomed from that. And I wanted that to continue, this connected, respectful thing that we had. I wanted that to continue.
I figured it would benefit the children and that they would grow up with new tools that I hadn’t had access to as a child, and that they would be healthier psychologically as adults, hopefully, with more tools to deal with various life things. And I believe it’s certainly doing all of that, but I did not know ahead of time when I was diving into this, how much I would learn about myself.
I did not know how much growth would happen. I didn’t know what I was in for. This path has pushed me to keep doing that growth work in an almost therapeutic way. This path has opened up my eyes to more self-love and more self-acceptance of who I am, to try to look at myself in the same light that I see my kids. It has helped me challenge beliefs that were limiting. It has helped me question those automatic thoughts that weren’t serving me or my kids or any of my other relationships.
And when I go through a challenging situation or I feel triggered by something my kid says or does or they’re going through, I have learned that that is just a sign of something in me that needs to be healed and that my automatic response to them, it’s not about them in the moment. It’s about this other stuff that’s been buried or hidden under so many layers.
And peeling apart the fear or the shame or all of these internal messages that we’ve received about ourselves or developed these thoughts about ourselves, peeling back those and replacing those with healthier messages to ourselves, it only benefits our family and it goes so much more than just the kids. All my relationships have been touched by doing this, by going down this path. And it gets hard sometimes. Growth is not always easy. It’s usually not, confronting these things about ourselves. But when I see the rewards, I see it daily, it’s worth it. And it reminds me all the time why I’m doing this. So, that would probably be it.
PAM: Oh, that is so beautiful, Talia. Thank you so much. I love that piece and that was one of the biggest surprises for me. At first, we really think we’re just teaching our kids another way. And what is asked of us on the journey, it can be such a surprise when we first start out. But where it takes us is unpredictable yet it’s just so beautiful. Like you said, it is just so worth the work that we put into it to get to that deeper level of understanding.
Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Talia. It was so much fun!
TALIA: Yes. I had such a great time. I love chatting about all things unschooling.
PAM: That’s so beautiful. And before we go, where can people connect with you online?
TALIA: I have a Facebook page that I update semi-regularly. It ebbs and flows. It’s called Joyfully Wild Life. And I have a WordPress page that I sometimes upload pictures from our day, too, by the same name. And then I’m on Instagram @Joyfully_Wild_Life. And I’m in the Network. If you’re in the Network, send me a message. Say hi!
PAM: That’s beautiful. And I will put links to all of that stuff in the show notes. Thank you so, so much and have a wonderful day, Talia! Say hi to everybody for me.
TALIA: You, too, Pam!
PAM: Thank you!