PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Roya Dedeaux. Hi, Roya!
ROYA: Hello, hello! How are you, Pam?
PAM: I am very well. Thank you. And, Roya, you were first on the podcast back in 2016, right? We did a Growing Up Unschooling episode, and now I’m very excited to have you back to talk about your new book Connect with Courage. So, to get us started, I thought a refresher would be great.
Can you share with us a little bit about you and your family? And what’s everybody into right now?
ROYA: Yeah, absolutely. The first thing though, I have to say, is thank you for publishing my book! That’s kind of a big deal and I really, really appreciate not only the time that you spent on it and the editing and the publishing, but also the esteemed company I’m in. It’s very exciting to be up on that list. So, thank you, Pam.
PAM: Oh, it was my pleasure. I love this book. I’m so excited to actually talk about it with you!
ROYA: So, we are in an interesting transition phase. I’m just coming back from maternity leave. I have a four-month-old now, so I’ve got a seven-year-old, a four-year-old, and a four-month-old. And we’ve been diving into the world of finding babysitters and getting me back to work.
As part of that maternity leave, we were able to go on a big, grand, 10-national-park RV trip, which was really exciting. We went to Dinosaur National Monument, because my son is super into everything dinosaur, wants to be a paleontologist. We also moved about five months ago and so, now we have a pool and a trampoline and a new neighborhood to explore.
So, it feels like a lot of big muscle movement summer days down here in Southern California, lots of swimming, lots of trampoline, gardening, cooking things and taking them to our neighbors, paying attention to all the birds. We know all the bird drama in the neighborhood. And we downloaded the Audubon app to watch birds. So, some of you listening might be in rural places where this isn’t a shocker, but I’m in Southern California, very close to LA, and so, it’s really fun to have a barn owl swoop down while we’re eating dinner. Lots of that kind of noticing happening.
PAM: Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. So, dinosaurs, that’s a big thing. Paleontologist in action right now.
ROYA: Oh yes. And he got to touch actual dinosaur fossils and talk to very knowledgeable rangers and we saw bison and went in a cave and, oh, it was just an amazing, amazing trip.
So, my kids are just living their best little lives. And then, I am up to my eyebrows in getting back into the world of therapy and I also make and sell jewelry and I run online bazaars. So, I’ve been occupied with that in the best way possible. And then, of course, talking about selling the book and making a whole bunch of journals and publishing those on Amazon.
PAM: Yeah. Yeah. We’ll definitely put links to that stuff in the show notes, as well. So, let’s dive into your book. As I said, I am really thrilled to have been able to publish that. It was so much fun working with you on that, back and forth, and back and forth, for what seemed like many months as we both had life things come up. It was awesome. That’s one of the reasons why I do love working with unschooling parents, because we have our priorities and yet when we have the time, we dive in deep. It is a lot of fun.
But anyway, I think your book will definitely be very life-changing for a lot of parents. In fact, you don’t even specifically talk about unschooling in it, but why I was so excited to work with it is because so much of deschooling is our work to do, parents’ work to do, as they’re exploring what unschooling is and how to just cultivate that lifestyle, that learning lifestyle in their family. So, this book just meshes so well with that whole process.
I wanted to start off with a bit about your background and why you wanted to write this book and why connection between the parent and child is so very important.
ROYA: I’m the oldest of three girls. They’re three and then six years younger than me. And so, I finished out fourth grade in traditional public school and then I never went back to fifth grade. My parents decided not to send us back. There were lots of small reasons, but it boils down to they saw that our interest in things and our curiosity was being stamped out, whether by being forced to learn things we didn’t want to learn about, or by honestly other kids making fun of us that we wanted to spend all summer reading and that kind of thing. They just didn’t send us back to school. I never went back to fifth. Roxana never went back to second. And then I don’t think Rosie ever went to anything other than preschool.
So, then we just did all the things we were interested in and we didn’t have a lack of that. I’m a combination of a deep diver and a dabbler. I dive in completely, totally all the way into something for like three weeks and then I go onto the next thing. And we were busy. We were on swim teams and in Shakespeare theater groups, and I was really involved in ceramics, and we did a lot of theater, and we did Girl Scouts and soccer. We did a lot of things. And that’s just the outside activities. I was also passionately interested in candle making and crazy quilt sewing and journaling and photography and all the do-at-home kind of things.
My parents were phenomenal at supporting our interests and when I give parents examples now, I almost always can think back to an example of my parents helping me. So, I would be on hour 14 of making a zine, for example, in my bedroom. And I’d have just paper scattered out all around me and my mom would crack the door open. I’d be listening to the same Ani DiFranco CD on repeat for 24 hours. And my mom would crack the door open and slide a plate of food across and just be like, “Hi. How are you doing? Okay,” and leave. And I remember just being able to settle into that, like, this is what I’m doing and it’s what I love to do and it’s okay with everybody else.
And so, I grew up with that very solid knowledge that what I’m interested in is valuable. They didn’t interrupt me. They bragged about the things I was doing to other people, even if there were no trophies for the zines I was making. There was no quantifiable success marker.
ROYA: Right, right. So, it wasn’t like, “Guess what? She got first in the amount of time she spent cutting pieces of paper up on her bedroom floor.” But I knew for a fact that they valued the choices I was making. So, I had that experience.
And then, fast forward, I go and I get a degree in recreation and leisure studies, which I used to tell people was like majoring in Girl Scouts. There’s the recreational activity side, like event management and outdoor recreation piece. But there’s also a philosophy side, the leisure philosophy, why play is important, why free time is important. All of those things that lined up so clearly with why we unschooled.
And so, that just felt like, “Oh! There’s language for this.” Other people have been studying this, not in the guise of doing away with school. It’s so strange to me that people don’t make that connection. But given all of these parameters, this thing is also important. I was finding language. I discovered the world of positive psychology. I went back to school to get my master’s in counseling, thinking one day I would have an art therapy camp.
And in that program, I discovered positive psychology and the theory of flow and Dr. Seligman and all of the actual research behind why play is important and why uninterrupted time is important and why settling in and being able to spend hours and hours of time on an interest is good for us.
So again, I was able to put language to these things that I knew from my upbringing and watching my sisters and all of our unschooling friends. And then I started private practice. And although at this point, the majority of my practice, I’d say is homeschoolers/unschoolers, that wasn’t always the case, because at the beginning I was just casting a wide net, putting myself out there in Psychology Today, please come and see me as a therapist. And I was working in community mental health as well and even with some court-ordered families, things like that.
And so, in my happy unschooling bubble, I had seen the positive side of supporting kids’ interests and what that can do for relationships and families. And then as I ventured out into the world of counseling, I saw the opposite and I saw all the places where struggles between parents and their kids could be traced back to not feeling valued or their interests being disparaged.
And I saw people with addiction issues who, when we dug deeper, it felt like they’d never felt a connection to something bigger than themselves. They never felt like they had purpose or drive. And I saw self-worth issues and self-esteem issues, because when they were younger, all of the important adults in their life told them that what they were interested in didn’t matter. And they internalized, “If I love this thing and I’m wrong for loving it, and then I must be wrong.” And then straight up just terrible, awful, neglectful, abusive situations where parents were insulting their children and disparaging their interests and it caused a lot of barriers.
So, in both places, I was seeing the importance here of a simple (but not always easy) solution to a lot of these things, which was when they’re young, start supporting them and support their interests. Be interested in what they’re interested in.
And so, then I started paying more attention to why is that so hard? Why do we struggle so much when a kid wants to watch hour four of that YouTube unboxing video? Why do we not want them to do that? And why do we all get all our backs up when our kids want to spend a couple more hours by Minecraft? And what are the fears and what stands in our way? And that is the book. It’s the long story, but that’s the book. It’s, this is important. Here’s why. Here’s what happens when it goes right. Here’s what happens when it goes wrong. And here are ways you can deal with those things that stand in your way.
PAM: Oh, I love that. I love that. That’s a great overview of why it’s so valuable to connect with your kids and to support their interests and their passions and even being okay. I think it can be hard to be okay with someone who’s a deep diver for three weeks and then comes back up and that it’s something completely different. It’s like, “Well, gee. I thought you wanted to a be a photographer!” And then all of a sudden you pull back out.
ROYA: And I think that’s the unschooling piece. And yeah, I never mentioned the word homeschooling or unschooling in the book, very purposefully. But I think that’s the part where unschooling parents have a little bit of a head start.
When you’re unschooling, you’re paying so close attention to your kids, you’re watching those patterns. You’re paying attention. Are their eyes lighting up to that? What can I strew in their path? It’s an active engagement thing. And so, I think that, for a lot of unschoolers, that piece of it, they don’t have to start from the paying attention part. They start from the implementation piece.
The paying attention is knowing, okay, we’ve seen this tree before. Maybe I’m not going to sign my kid up for an 18-week intensive course, no matter how interested in it they are, because I know that in three weeks, they’re going to stop doing that. And one of the struggles I have is, we paid the money, so I want them to keep going. So, let’s not put them in that situation to start with. So, it’s that paying attention.
PAM: Yeah, yeah. Paying attention to that bigger picture.
A good lovely chunk of the book is working through these common barriers that come up for us. So, we could touch on a couple of those and just dive in with people. I thought first we could dive into the barrier of, “I don’t understand why they enjoy it.”
So, the unboxing video example, right? Whatever it is, if we don’t understand why our kid is enjoying the thing, how can we work through that challenge for ourselves? Because it’s our challenge.
ROYA: It is. It’s totally our challenge.
And that’s one of the first things to do is to remember that we have however many years of messaging and bias and experience and baggage and all that stuff about that topic, perhaps, and your kid does not. Your kid comes to that thing pretty fresh.
So, we need to just remember that. I’m thinking about people who’ve been upset with their kids for loving Nerf guns, for example. You have all this whole big, giant trash bag full of, “But it’s violence and it’s this and it’s that.” And the kid is just like, “I don’t know. I like to point and shoot at things.”
So, it’s totally a different ballgame for them. So, that’s one thing I suggest to parents is try to really identify what’s your stuff and what’s theirs, because it’s probably yours. And you’re the grownup, so you have to do the work.
So, the other piece if you don’t understand, and of course there’s that we fear what we don’t understand, and often it’s about a new medium for things. We are storytellers. We are storytellers as humans and I see video game play, hours spent on YouTube or TikTok or whatever, we are still storytelling in those media. But if they’re new and if you don’t understand it, then it’s not familiar and you’re worried about all the unknown things.
So, you can make parallels. When people say, “Screen time is bad.” I require my clients that they go through and say, “Would I say the same thing of ‘paper time’? Would I say the same thing of ‘food time,’ ‘outdoor time,’ or, ‘inside time’?” And so, trying to find parallels can sometimes help you just work through some of that strange stigma that comes up in your brain.
Get to know the thing. If you’re like, “Oh my gosh. All they’re doing is they’re on TikTok.” I say this because I was up until 2:00 in the morning on TikTok, so that’s fresh. But if, “All they’re doing is TikTok. All they’re doing is TikTok,” go get on TikTok. Go see what it’s about. Go find out.
If you have an open relationship with your kid, I bet you could sit down next to them and say, “Hey, show me what you’re interested in.” So, asking them what it is about it that they love. Most of the kids I know who have a decent relationship with their parents are just absolutely dying for somebody to sit down and talk to them about the thing that they love to do.
I remember when I started at community college, I was 13 and I took a writing class. And I came home like, “Oh my gosh! This person is just going to read all my writing and talk to me about it?” It was so exciting. So, you can be that person for your kid. Sit down and listen to them talk about why that thing is so interesting to them. And if you don’t want to interrupt their time, for whatever reason, you can also sit down and just observe.
I very often ask parents to watch their kids and challenge them to make a list of 30 possible things that their kid might be getting out of whatever the activity is. And some, you might be able to see and some, you might have to go online and research or ask other people what it is. And, in that case, you might be guessing, but it’ll get the juices flowing for you to start thinking of these activities as beneficial.
Kids are not always going to get the same thing out of an activity that you think they ought to be getting to. And they’re not going to get it in the same way. I was just recording another podcast where I was talking about how I did ceramics for years and years, and I didn’t have any interest in glazing. Once I finished throwing the piece, I was done. I didn’t care about the finished product. I just wanted my hands in the clay and I very often would even give away my pieces.
I made hundreds of things and I’d give them away to other people to glaze and keep, because I was done with it. But if someone had forced me to do it, step-by-step, start to finish until it was absolutely over, and I had to pay attention to glazing and all that, I probably would have quit ceramics and it was a huge part of my life and I got a lot out of it.
Part of it is remembering that people are getting something, be assured of that. They’re getting something. If they’re choosing to spend their time there, it’s valuable in some way. Your job as the parent is to look for what that value is, remembering that it might be different than what you would get out of it and how you would get it out of it. Talk to them about it. Be a detective, look for clues, and work through your own stuff.
PAM: Yeah. Detective was what was coming to mind for me. Exactly. Because, for me, that was the fun piece. If you can start with knowing that they’re getting something out of it. Just as you said, they’re getting something. Something is drawing them to it. Something is keeping them there. And I just take it as my job as a detective, to be so curious and, “I wonder what it is!”
I love your idea of trying to come up with 30 things that it could be. I love that so much, because it can be such a wide range of things for people and we don’t even need to literally know what the one answer is, because coming up with 20 or 30 helps you realize that there are so many possibilities. There’s something. And then when we realize that, we get out of the tunnel vision of the one horrible thing that we’re thinking.
ROYA: Right. The one fear.
PAM: Yeah. Whatever our fear is, it’s like, oh, it can be so many other things. That’s just one possibility. So, now all of a sudden, it’s not this huge weight. Then we can relax some more and we can actually start kind of getting involved and participating and having fun.
ROYA: Yeah. And then it’s fun! Definitely.
I get parents who are distraught and there’s always stuff going on and I don’t want to minimize that at all, but we get so wrapped up in that one potential, fearful place, that it could be leading to this bad thing. Or it could be preventing them from success. We get so caught up in that, that we forget that this process is actually kind of a delight and it’s really fun to be a part of that. And parenting is kind of a sweet gig if you can look at it in that respect.
I just think about not just my kids, the places that we’ve been able to travel to, and the things that I’ve learned, and the projects we’ve done, and the joy that I get in them opening up and sharing their interests with me, is amazing. But also with my clients, I can’t even tell you the number of new TV shows I’ve watched, the number of awesome conversations I’ve had, the number of things I’ve tried, the number of connections they’ve made. It’s so fun to connect with people on that level.
And it’s fun to watch, too, because if you can get past the fear, and especially for parents who are worried about their kids spending all their time doing something, your kids are expert level at that thing. And it is really, really cool to talk to people who are experts about the subject that they’re expert in. And what I want for parents is to be able to get that fearful voice out of the way so they can enjoy that and talk to their expert level kids who are invested and passionate and know the language and can teach you about whole new worlds.
PAM: I know. I always felt like I was a student of life of my children. If I could get out of my head, that fear, that judgment piece, if I could get out and just be in the moment with them, oh my gosh. That is how I got experience with the lifestyle. And then, like you said, you bring that curiosity about the world and about other people and what they find interesting, you bring that with you to all the other people in your life and your world gets so much bigger.
Literally, I joined TikTok a few weeks ago. My kids are adults now, but it’s fun. The world is fun. And my daughter was starting to post on TikTok and I’m like, “I’d love to see what you’re making!” I’m making an account. I’m exploring. It’s fun. And when you can come with that lens of fun and curiosity, the world is just so much bigger, I think. And we can connect. You have now a way to connect with people, rather than saying, “You guys are all adults. I’m older now. I’m in my fifties. I don’t want to learn any new tech.” No. That’s not the way I want to go through my life.
And ironically, the fear is usually about a safety thing, that that thing is gonna end up hurting my kid in some way. But connecting with your kid, every single study, homeschooling-related or not, shows that engagement with parents is the thing that helps keep people safe into adulthood.
It helps with substance use and it helps with risky situations and peer pressure and all of these things that we’re scared of for our kids, being able to have open communication with your parents is the thing that keeps you safe. And that’s not going to happen if you don’t find places to connect with them.
Sitting on the couch and watching YouTube, I mean, physically they’re safe. They might be seeing something that maybe I would choose not to let them be exposed to at a young age or whatever, but it’s okay to think dangerous thoughts. Just because you see it or think it doesn’t mean you are it or will go do it. And that gives you the opportunity to have those conversations and the support that you give when you value their choices pays off so much later on when physical safety is what we’re talking about. So, it’s not just the fun piece and the exciting piece and just getting along better day to day.
I get a lot of parents who come to me who talk about the struggle and the battle, and those kinds of words with their kids. So, not only is it just the light and fun and playful side, but it’s also actually safer and better for their success later when it is more serious and all the other pieces, too.
We learn better when we can be creative and we learn better when we’re playful. We learn better when things are not being forced upon us. And we can take what we learn, even if it’s on Minecraft, even if it’s in a video game, the things that we learn there generalize to other things. And I think that’s a big part that parents are scared of. When they don’t understand why a kid wants to spend their time doing this thing, they’re also worried about all the other things they might be missing out on.
And so, to that, I just like to remind parents, too, that just because you learned teamwork on a soccer field doesn’t mean you don’t use those things in other places. Just because you learned strategic thinking through Minecraft doesn’t mean you don’t use those abilities in other places.
And far more important is learning how you learn and, again, keeping that relationship really open with your parents and then it’ll take you other places. But parents get like, “But right now it’s not working like that!” And you gotta take a big breath.
And you learn better when you feel safe. Because when you’re feeling safe in your environment, in your home environment, or with your family, you feel much safer to explore, to try things that you might not have tried before, because you’re less fearful of being judged, being talked down to, being told to stop. And when you’re comfortable, you actually feel much safer to explore and learn.
When you’re fearful and you don’t know what they’re learning, coming up with all the different things that it could be, connecting with them helps you get a good idea of what it is that they’re enjoying. So, not only can you help by bringing in new things that are similar, like if they’re really enjoying the strategic aspect, if that’s what they’re loving in Minecraft is they’re loving figuring out strategy, somebody else is loving building things. If you just say, “They’re playing Minecraft for hours,” you don’t know what it is that they’re loving. And they could be very different things that you can bring into their world depending on what it is that they love.
So, as you’re building that connection, because they feel seen and heard from you when you’re starting to see and ask them those questions. “Oh! What strategy did you use for this? Oh, how did you build that thing?” depending on what it is, they’re feeling seen, they’re feeling heard, they’re feeling connected with you. They’re building trust in you. And that is where you can help them when you start coming up on these things that you’re fearful about. Whether it’s time or whatever that safety aspect is for you, or where they’re feeling uncomfortable. They feel connected with you to have those conversations.
ROYA: Right, right. And you just know them better and you know if they start to look around for what’s the next thing, “I don’t want to do just this,” then you can say, “Oh. Hey, I have this blah, blah, blah and it kind of reminded me of that thing.” Or strew it quietly or whatever it is that that you’re going to do with it.
But then, yeah, you’ve got things up to bat that are in line with what it is that they’re interested in already. And again, when we look at it from just our perspective, we can miss the mark on that a lot.
I was thinking about how my sister was really into baking and she was doing a bake around-the-world thing. And I made some comment about, “Oh, you should make cookies for the baby shower I’m hosting!” And I’m like, “I’ll pay you.” She goes, “I don’t want to decorate anything.” That was not at all what she wanted. It was not about decorating.
And so, for her, it was just a pathway to learning about all these different places around the world. If she were my kid, that’s a really different world that opens than cooking and cake decorating. It’s very different. Like, I’m going to go in that direction, not this other one. And I would never have known that if I had not talked to her about it and asked her about it and been open to it.
And because we might not know, it doesn’t mean not offering up things or sharing ideas or thoughts, because that’s how you learned. You said, “Oh, hey, what about this?” But your connection and the trust, she was comfortable saying, “No, you know what? That’s not something that would be interesting to me.” So, that’s how we learn more. It’s not about stepping back and just observing and seeing kind of where things go and trying to put the picture together in our heads. It’s a dance of all of those things. We also connect.
If your comments are always met with a “no”, or your suggestions are almost always met with a “no”, it’s like, “Hmm, I’m really off base here. I’m going to take a little bit more time to observe and figure it out.” Because then sometimes it can be our own baggage that we’re just not seeing a bigger picture. Or we have an expectation of where we think it should go. So, then we start trying to plant seeds that pull them in that direction. And so, then they’re always “no”.
But engaging and just trying to have those conversations just gives us more information and helps us learn about each other better.
ROYA: I think if parents are trying to engage and they’re being met with resistance, that’s a pretty good sign that in some way, even if it was an inadvertent, your kid has been feeling a little judged or they’re feeling protective of their interest and their time in that interest.
And so, for those parents, I do suggest trying to switch your language around, trying to make objective statements about things and not subjective ones. I do a lot of art in my therapy practice. And if someone draws something with all the colors and it’s filling up the page, if I say, “Wow, that looks chaotic,” that is all about my interpretation. For them, that might be like busy and bright and dynamic. And so, what I say is, “I noticed you used all of the colors,” and then they can fill in the gaps about what that means. But if I start with the assumption, then that’s not about them. That’s about me.
And so, for parents who are being met with resistance, I think it’s the same thing, where you can jump in, sit next to them, and make an observation as opposed to passing a judgment, even a kind judgment. “You chose that character three or four times.” Then you can leave that up to them to say, “Oh yeah, it’s my favorite one.”
Now you know something. And now you have just one more little bit of a bridge. I use the metaphor of bridges a lot. And I think that every time you can make that kind of connection with your kid, it’s like a rope bridge. That’s one piece of fiber that’s been extended. And then the more of those fibers you get, they twist together until it’s stronger and stronger and stronger. And then, you’re just running across, back and forth together. And you can make those kinds of little fibery bridges out all over the place.
What you don’t want to do is go through with scissors and cut those connections. So, making the observational statement or showing in other ways. It doesn’t have to all be talk. If you think of those love languages, show that you support them without making them discuss their thing. Sit next to them. Read your own book while they’re there. Bring them a blanket if it’s cold. Bring them some snacks. Take your noisy conversation somewhere else, help them clean up something that needs cleaning up if they could benefit from that, if they want that help. There are actions that you can take. It doesn’t all have to be interrogation-based.
PAM: No, I love that. One of the kids wasn’t big into words, but you can show so much through your actions and the choices.
I love the one that so many people don’t think of is taking your loud conversations to another space or something, just respecting their space, showing respect for the things that they’re choosing to do and the way that they do them, but just consideration as another human being in the world. You might be hungry, you might be thirsty, you might want some quiet, even taking siblings somewhere else to play when they look like they’re really focused on something that they’re doing, there is so much that we can do that also doesn’t need words.
ROYA: Yeah. And I think we get this bizarre message from the mainstream world that we’re not supposed to factor kids in when we’re talking about our resource allocation. That it’s only adults who are supposed to decide where we spend the money, how we spend our time, what the house is set up like, all of these resources in our lives.
But where we choose to put our resources says a lot about what we value. And that’s really what it is. It’s a symbol of our values. And so, if you’re trying to value your child and their interests and what is important to them, then you’ve got to take a really good look at where you’re spending your resources. Are you factoring them in and are you prioritizing them? And also, making rent and stuff. But I think a lot of families exclude their kids’ interests from the priority list. And very often, if we can work through the emotional side of things, then we can find the logistical pieces of where we’re putting our finite resources. We can look at that creatively. We can think about that.
And this can also be a game. When you get started looking at things divergently, you keep going. It snowballs. So, your dining room doesn’t have to be a dining room and you can look at different ways to use space and different ways to get your kids access to stuff. And that can be fun and, if you involve them in that process, then they can trust that you are trying to do that for them. And so, when it is a “no”, they understand it’s a “no”. And you all can help come up with creative solutions to hopefully find the “yes”.
PAM: I love that. And I just found that so fun when I could open up what felt like so many constraints and prioritize their needs. Because yeah, when you first come to it, it doesn’t even occur to you to think about it. But when I opened to unschooling and thought of that, it’s like, well, of course. And then it was just so much fun to play with. All of a sudden, rooms and what their functions were and how we used our spaces and the things we chose to bring into our lives and the places we chose, they are so capable of being involved in all of those conversations.
And like you said, when that trust builds, they really do come to realize that when things aren’t going to work out maybe for now, or we have to wait a little bit, or whatever, they understand it’s not about them. It’s not a judgment about them at all. It’s us working together and something’s in the way right now, but we’re not going to lose it. When we’ve built that trust, they understand that. They know it might just be waiting. It might not look exactly the way they envisioned it, all those pieces, but we’re all doing our best. We just trust that we’re all doing our best and working together.
ROYA: And side bonus, all those things are excellent learning opportunities. So, it’s a win-win.
PAM: And they’re skills that are lifelong useful for everyone. I mean, we’re learning them and figuring them out now, but our kids are just getting that head start. They really can take those things and work with them and play around and then they’re bringing them with them.
One more barrier I wanted just to dive into, because I do hear parents complaining pretty regularly, especially with younger kids, that the thing their child likes to do is messy.
It sounds simple. It sounds simple, but is that how you feel right now, Roya? Things are a little chaotic right now? There are a couple of aspects to it, aren’t there?
ROYA: There really are. And that’s the thing, too, that’s hard. And it was actually part of the challenge for me writing the book was I felt like I went back and forth a lot between the philosophy of things and then the, “Put your stuff in tubs,” the practical side of stuff. And that’s part of it is I think if the attitude is there and your own emotional barriers are dealt with, then you can think creatively about the practical solutions.
I think there’s a lot of people who want me to just tell them, here’s the one magical solution or way to just switch how you think about it. But it’s not just that. It’s a dance. And it matters who’s in your house. That’s part of it.
In the house I grew up in, the people cared about things differently than the house I live in now and the people I live with now. And so, part of it is factoring everybody in. The conversation about the resources and privilege that you have matters, too.
I have to say, it’s a lot easier now. We moved to a place with a lot more space and I have a door I can close and I can leave a whole desk full of things. Because I don’t want to have to clean up my earring stuff every time. I keep working on it and keep going. And so, that was an issue both logistically, because I have little kids who would get into it and it’s not my husband’s favorite thing to have every single surface covered in play.
And so, the fact that I have a room now with a door that closes is really helpful. I’m incredibly privileged to have that space. However, even in a place where I didn’t have that kind of space, there were creative things we could do. I used big tub lids a lot to work on, so I could pick it up and move it somewhere else or put it high on a shelf or cover it or things like that.
But again, the desire for harmony in my life was there, which helped come up with those creative solutions. Well, I guess what I have to say, it depends on where you’re at in your parenting journey, too. So, glean from this what do you will, listeners, because you’re all going to be in different places.
One thing to remember is that one person’s mess is not another person’s mess, right? If you can get down and look at it from the perspective of the kid in question, you might see things differently.
I think back to doing those zines, someone else might look at that and see all these scraps of trash all over. But those scraps of trash were the material I was going to glue back together and use and produce from. So, if someone had come in and talked about it as though it were trash, I would have been furious. And if someone had come in and just swept it all up and cleaned it up, that would have been rough.
Also, as I sat and worked, I sorted things. It wasn’t like I knew exactly what I wanted to cut and paste. It was trial and error and experimentation all over my floor and it would form something. And so, if I had to clean it up every 20 minutes, I would not have been able to make those connections. So, it was a magical little world of paper scraps down there.
And I’m looking at my desk right now and it looks a lot like that, but it’s now pieces of clay. And I’m working on canes now and I’m saving all the little scraps, because they’re going to be turned into something later. And one thing is going to lead to that and that and that. So, if someone came in and just swept it all away or made me clean up in between sessions, that would really, really hurt my creative process. So, one big thing is, it’s not just trash. It’s not just a mess. There are worlds in there.
The other thing is, everybody lives where you live. Everybody, I think, gets to be a factor in living in a happy, healthy, harmonious, rich unschooling life.
Mess really impacts my husband, for example. I think, for him, looking at a cluttered surface is a lot, for me, like hearing somebody chew. It makes me do that little neck twitchy thing. And it’s not helpful for our harmonious life for him to come home and have a mess everywhere. And so, we’ve had to have a lot of conversations and a lot of figuring out.
And so, I know that there are particular surfaces in our house that make a big impact. So, I try to make sure that those things, at least, get swept into tubs and put somewhere else for me to put away. I know that there might be days where it’s better to get the kids up and out so we don’t have a day where we’re making a lot of mess inside. There are different things to do.
For me, putting everything that a project needs in a tub is really helpful. I have probably a hundred pairs of scissors in this house, because so many different projects need a pair of scissors. I don’t have a scissor tub. I have a pair of scissors in every project tub, so that everything can just get stuck back in that tub and pulled back out again. Clear boxes, things with labels, doing stuff on a tarp, so you can pick it all up. I sweep everything, toys, dust, trash, I sweep everything and then the kids and I go through the pile and pull up the things we don’t want to get thrown away.
There’s a lot of that type of brainstorming. But our goal as a family is for the kids to have great tactile experiences and for nobody to want to bite somebody else at the end of the day. It’s a dance. It’s a combination. It’s valuing everybody. And it’s talking about how we can do this.
And maybe that particularly messy thing doesn’t have to happen right this moment. Maybe there’s a day that’s better for it. Or maybe there’s a place. We designate a place in the backyard that’s the mud pit. That’s the mud pit. And we’ve just always said that doesn’t have to get cleaned up ever. That’s the place for it. And now we’re good, because we have a designated spot. So, just conversations, lots of conversations about how do we all function together and live together.
Reframing, is it really mess? Remembering that mess is part of the creative process and that it’s actually healthy for our brains to make connections across things. So, it’s good for us to not just play with Legos, but to play with Legos and My Little Pony and Hatchimals and crayons and clay and sand all together.
Having those kinds of connections, tactilely and across subjects and interests, it develops healthy brains. And so, if you’re hovering over all the time and you’re saying, “Okay, oh, did you stop playing with that Hot Wheel car? Okay, we’re going to put it away now,” it actually does that scissor thing. It cuts off the connections before they can form.
So, as much as you can, if you can create a space where that can happen or create a way where you can spend most of your time doing that and the cleanup is minimal, go for it. I think it’s healthier.
I run across a fair number of parents who are desirous of living a minimalist lifestyle. And while I think that can be great for you as the adult, I definitely want to impress upon you that not everybody wants to throw away all their things and things are important to people and some of your kids are going to be curators.
I have a curator child. I have a collector child. He likes to collect things and sometimes he displays them and sometimes we leave them in a box for a year and he digs them out later and goes, “Oh, look at all those!” And then he’s interested in it again. So, we do a lot of tubs with a lot of labels and sometimes we rotate them and sometimes they’re all out on the floor all at once. And if I can pick them up, cool. I can help them with that. That’s the other piece is giving the gift of that to your kids can be a sweet and generous, wonderful thing. I have a lot of thoughts about mess too. It’s why I wrote a book.
PAM: I just want to encourage people. All the stuff we’ve been talking about, it’s in there. It’s in there! I love your book so much. All these things are connected, right?
ROYA: They are. And so, when I work with an individual family, we could come up with 50 solutions off the top of my head to that particular thing. But none of them are going to work lastingly or lovingly, unless you deal with the emotional side of it. Why does it bother you? What does it bring up for you? What’s your attitude related to it? Got to do that part first.
PAM: Yeah. Yep. And that is the beauty of working through the exercises. There are so many exercises in your book and you can skip around, too. “What’s the one that’s rubbing on me right now?” And I can go and I can dig into that.
You don’t need to dig into everything all at once, because it won’t mean as much. It is more helpful to dig into the thing that’s rubbing right now, because then it’s top of mind for you, and then you can really get into it and it’s helpful in the end.
Okay. We can talk about that forever. But, before we go, there will be links to the blog and links to all sorts of things in the show notes. Everybody can find that stuff there.
And I would like to know, what do you love most about your unschooling lives right now?
ROYA: You know what I’ve been thinking about lately is how grateful I am for all of the people who love my kids. And we got them through our unschooling life. I’m just thinking about the number of random things we get in the mail from other unschooling families who know and love our children.
My seven-year-old son’s favorite show right now is Brooklyn Nine-Nine and he loves it. And it’s like our special time. I love that show, too. And so, we try to get in an episode every day and he started talking about himself in the third person because of Terry on the show and it’s been leading to so many fun places and conversations.
And the other day, a friend of ours, and by the way, of course their youngest kid is like 21. So, all ages are all loving on our kids. And they sent us a couple of Brooklyn Nine-Nine t-shirts just out of the clear blue sky. And we have another set of friends who stumbled upon some pretty cool little dinosaur, dig the fossil out of the egg thing. And they sent those to us. Or they send us TikToks for the kids. “Oh, I know Wyatt’s interested in this. Oh, this reminded me of Lilyanne,” and they would not have those connections if we hadn’t been going to unschooling conferences, if we were not in a group of people who valued supporting their interests and seeing the connections that the kids are making.
And so, I think, yeah, right now I am absolutely just so grateful for the other humans who see and value the connections that the kids are making and their interests. I love them.
PAM: That is so beautiful. Yeah. That community. Especially since you’ve grown up unschooling yourself, unschooling conferences. The connections that you make with other families who value their kids, their connection with their kids, their relationships. And like you said, grown kids. It doesn’t matter. That relationship, that connection is there for life. It becomes a lifestyle, not something that ends once our kids are 18 and now it’s like, oh, off you go. Yeah. No, that’s beautiful.
Thank you so much, Roya. It was so much fun to chat with you about your book.
ROYA: Of course, Pam!
PAM: I am so excited for people to get that in their hands and just dive in, because that is really the most important thing. When you’re choosing unschooling is not just to stop there, that deschooling aspect, that work that we can do so that we can cultivate those strong relationships, those strong connections with our kids, because that is a foundation for our lives, to move forward.
ROYA: And one of the interesting things for me, too, even though I grew up unschooling, grew up talking about unschooling, my mom spoke and talked about unschooling all the time. But now that I have kids, it’s so interesting to me, too, that at every new age and stage, I feel like I have to have some measure of that all over again. That when they’re three, I got it. We’re good. I figured this stuff out. And then they hit the next stage and I’m like, oh, it’s striking me in a different way, because I’m a different person and they are a different person.
And so, I think that’s part of it, too, with the book. I wrote it hopefully for some replay value, as well, that you can keep going back, because different parts of it will hit you harder and different barriers will come up at different stages of life.
And, so when people say, “I did the deschooling,” I’m like, well. Did you?
PAM: I’m glad you’re feeling really good right now, but exactly. Things are going to happen from the outside. Your kids are going to hit different ages and things will come up. Things will bubble up. There’s kind of like the bulk of it, but the bulk of deschooling gets you to the place to realize, “Oh, this isn’t really going to end ever.”
ROYA: Right, because we’re always going to experience it differently, too, because it’s not like we’re static and things are happening with them. We’re part of this process, as well. So, the book is geared towards parents of kids of all ages. You can pick it up and flip through the barriers and find the one that speaks to you the most.
If you buy the book, there’s a workbook that you can actually write in and stuff that you can download and you can get access to that. And then, I’ve been doing these journals that if you go on my website or an Amazon, too, there are places to write and prompts for you to keep exploring and keep exploring. And then, I also have my practice. So again, if anybody is finding that they need some extra one-on-one time, I’m here.
PAM: That’s lovely. That’s wonderful. We will have links to all that, too. Thank you so much, Roya. Have a wonderful day!
ROYA: Thank you, Pam. I appreciate you and the work that you do so much.
PAM: Oh, thank you. Talk to you soon. Bye!