PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Jesper Conrad. Hi, Jesper!
PAM: So, last week on the podcast, I spoke with your wife, Cecilie. Now I am excited to explore your family’s unschooling experience through your eyes. So, to get us started—she shared about herself and the kids last week …
Can you share a bit about you and what you’re interested in right now?
JESPER: Absolutely. Right now, I’m learning how to do the Rubik’s cube, which actually my kids are the ones teaching me. And I honestly hate being taught by anybody, which is also one of the reasons I think that the whole unschooling falls natural for us, because I dislike people telling me how to do stuff. I would love that I could explore things on my own and just figure them out.
But to whoever has tried a Rubik’s cube, it is not possible to figure it out. Somebody obviously did, but to figure that one out yourself is just terrible. My kids can do it and some of them can do it in less than 30 seconds. I am on three minutes on the two first layers and I haven’t learned to master the new layer. So, that is one thing that I’m looking forward to later today to sit with one of my kids. The youngest one, who is nine, he will teach me the next algorithms in the top layer of the Rubik’s cube. I always kind of hated the Rubik’s cube, because it’s very nerdy and it seems like nerdy people stuff, but maybe I’m a little nerdy as well.
And then, with my youngest daughter, I’m having a lot of fun drawing together. We are drawing Draw So Cute and making a little fun of it, but at the same time, they’re very cute. It’s a drawing style somebody has invented.
Other than that, then a lot of the stuff that occupies my mind is work-related, which is my kind of project, which is also the way I learn. Right now, I have the pleasure of working for an organization called Gaia Education, who is creating online education for sustainability and I’m part of the leadership team. And the really fun thing for me is, I love to understand the systems. For me, one thing is, I’m really grateful to have a job where the impact you have on the world is positive.
Early in my career, I was in the media industry and worked for example for Microsoft, which you can debate how positive impact they have, but to work for an organization that works with sustainability is just wonderful.
But what I really like is to understand the systems around it, how do I get the people, my colleagues there, to go in the direction I think it’s right? Which strategy is the right one? Right now, I’m looking into how can they grow their newsletter list and I’m studying on my own, how to make different newsletter scrolls to ultimately increase their Instagram following. Then, that’s a whole area in itself to understand, that new part of the social media.
So, I’m, in that way, very project-driven. I’m looking at stuff and then I’m trying to learn, while I’m having fun doing it. And that’s basically how I’ve ended up where I am today, also, as I don’t have a formal education. My wife is a trained psychologist and I went to high school and had a lot of fun and ended up in the media industry by chance. And now I’m 47 and have had a wonderful career for the last 20 years.
PAM: That’s lovely. I completely understand your systems love. For me, that is also how my brain works. I love, even the bigger picture systems, I need to understand that and then that really helps me dive in. I need that bigger picture connection.
JESPER: Yeah. For example, the thing I’m looking at here is for Gaia Education, they have created education on sustainability and they’ve divided it into different dimensions. There’s a social dimension, ecologic dimension, economic, and so on, but I find it fun, to look at which kind of people is it that are interested in this? Where are they? Where do we find them? Where do you talk to them? And then I look at people and I’ll try to understand their learning journey.
So, even though I sit a lot of my hours in front of the computer, what I do work-wise is trying to understand people, what motivates them, what moves them. And I think that’s also one of the reasons I like the whole unschooling and homeschooling movement so much, as it is passion driven and it is motivation driven.
And I know from myself not having a formal education, that that is where my superpower in my career comes from is the ability to say, okay, I want to understand this. And then I go in that direction and I can see it with my kids, when they get nerdy about something, when it’s not like a spark in their eyes, but it’s this determination to want to do and understand the thing and just go with it. And I like that part of it.
PAM: Yeah. I love how you described it as that determination. It’s just like an inner energy, that they will just delve in. Because so often, people new to unschooling worry that, “Well, if I don’t tell them what to do and tell them they have to do this, they would just not do anything. They would just do super easy things.” But that’s not what we see in action, is it?
JESPER: It depends if they’ve been in school first, in the deschooling period. We were lucky that the only ones who needed deschooling was us parents. But for our kids, not. But we have seen that in a lot of people who go to deschooling, that the kids, they need to re-find curiosity.
And I believe that everybody, humans cannot survive without the lust to learn. And that’s why we have gone from being in caves to where we are today. It’s that inner-driven lust to learn and to explore things. And to start, some of it was stupid. You’re like, that’s a cactus. I try to pick it up, it hurts. And then you stop. And then later on, people got more evolved. I can still pick a cactus up. But I see it in some people, if the kids have been to school, I know you have done episodes on deschooling, I believe, it takes time.
But we were lucky that the only one that needed deschooling was me and my wife and I actually believe it’s an area that some parents forget is that it’s a very small percentage of the people who homeschool or unschool today that they themselves were home- or unschooled. A lot of us come from inside the system and it takes deschooling for us parents.
And I remember, for myself, we have a grownup daughter who is 22. She was in a Célestin Freinet, which was a France reformist, which is very close in some ways to unschooling, but it’s still school. And it’s close to Waldorf, as well, but again, still school. So, she went there and she was homeschooled for a year and then, she ended up in our writer’s school for talented people and excelled in that. And we actually go to Denmark in some weeks to her second book reception. Her second book is coming out. So, she went to school.
But we, as parents, needed deschooling and I remember the difference between having had a kid in school because of our experience with her. And I remember when she asked me stuff well in the start, it was like, “Oh, why doesn’t that …” and often, I actually took myself in answering, “Go ahead and ask your teacher.”
And that is the big change as a parent that you take on the responsibility. If your child asks you something you don’t know, then the only correct answer in my role is, “I don’t know. Let’s find it out together.” Or if it’s an older child or a younger child, I would say, “You know what? I don’t know. I would go look it up.” Otherwise, we explore it together. And if it’s my 15-year-old son, I will sometimes say, “You need to Google that. And then tell me what you figure out.” Sometimes, I do the sneaky one and say, “Ask your mom.”
PAM: It all depends on the situation, doesn’t it?
JESPER: Yeah. Yeah. But in all honesty, it took time to get deschooled. And I think that I haven’t seen any statistics, but from what I see on social media in the different groups we are in, it’s the moms who see the lights first. And I believe it’s because often we end up in a social construction where the dad ends up being the breadwinner and the mom is a stay-at-home mom. And then, when the school age comes, it’s more natural for her to go that direction. Where, for me, it wasn’t my wife’s choice. It wasn’t my choice. It was our, back then, six-year-old son was said, “You know, mom and dad? I don’t think the school thing is anything for me.” He didn’t want to start.
And I must say next that it took me time to respect him enough to actually listen. And I think that’s a problem for a lot of dads, that we unfortunately, if you have to work where you are outside the family, you are not as closely connected to your children as if you are staying at home with them. So, you don’t know them the same way as a person who is together with them 24/7.
And, for me, I was like a, “I went to school. It didn’t hurt me. Why can’t you go to school?” kind of dad. I was also against co-sleeping at the start, because I was like, “Children have a bedroom. The parents have a bedroom,” but a bedroom is for sleeping and adult behavior you can take somewhere else. I mean, you can sleep in a bedroom. That’s totally fine. And I love sleeping in a big puddle together with our kids today.
And also, I left work to go full-time traveling with them, as it felt wrong to be away. But the transition in me to understand and feel, it’s a little hard still today so many years after to look back at believing what I told myself was right.
For example, I was the one driving the kids to the kindergarten and I believe a lot of parents have taken the decision when your child didn’t want to go and you almost like take their fingers off and it’s like, “You need to go in now.” And then the people working at the kindergarten say, “It’s better you leave fast. Then they don’t cry so long.” And that is normal and totally terrifying, when you look at it, that you, as a parent, believe that that is the way the world should be and it’s okay.
And I can only say that removing that false reality from my mind has made me a lot happier person. I can be together with my children. I listen to them and respect them most of all. I still call them children, but it’s just humans who are younger.
PAM: Oh, I love that. That is where you get is to, they’re other people. They’re human beings. They’re younger. They have a bit less experience. They’re super excited to explore the world when they have the time and space. And like you said, that curiosity that comes back.
If they’ve been to school for a while and have learned, “Sorry, what you’re curious about isn’t what we’re doing today. We’re doing this thing over here and this thing over here is more important than whatever you were curious about.” So, for them to take that, certainly for kids, a big part of the deschooling is just like, what I’m interested in is okay. It’s valuable. So, that’s the big piece for them, too.
But I’d like to hear a little bit more about your move to unschooling from your perspective. So, you were talking about kindergarten and not wanting to go to school. So, how did that unfold?
JESPER: We had an intro period of three weeks where we tried to bring him, maybe it was only one week. We tried to bring him to school. And first, it was Cecilie who took him to school only for a couple of hours. And he was like, “I don’t like it. I want to go home.”
And the teachers at the school actually a funny sentence. They actually said, “Your son is too attached to you. Maybe you should try with your husband.” How can a child be too attached to a parent? I cannot understand that and my wife was furious. She’s a trained psychologist. But I was like, let’s try it, still back in that loop.
So, I believe I tried for one day and when I saw how sad he was, I just went home and I knew my wife’s standpoint on it, so I called one of her friends who is also a trained psychologist and had a talk with her and she was like, “What can it hurt that you let him stay home and test it out for half a year?” And we tested it out and we never looked back.
So, it’s the same advice I also give people who want to try. I know that if they try it out for half a year, they will not come back. Because you need to listen to your child, also. Maybe, if he, after half a year, had said to us, “Hey, you know what? I really want to go to school and try it out,” then we should have respected that. I will not force schooling on him, but I will also not force unschooling on him. So, we tried it out and it’s stuck.
But, back in the day, we actually tried with the more normal homeschooling. And I think it’s due to the insecurity of taking on the responsibility as a parent. And you’re like, oh, now it’s my responsibility. Now I need to make sure that my kids learn what they need to learn. It’s nine years, almost 10 years, since. So, I believe there’s a lot more out there. YouTube is bigger. There’s many, many more people talking about it.
We are also talking about it, trying to help others to start on the more easy path, because we actually broke our oldest son’s lust read, because we tried to force him and he’s not one you can force. That’s his personality. If you try to force him to learn one thing, then he just has a blockade. We don’t want to do it. Now he’s 15. You can talk with him about if there’s something. It’s like, “Hey, man. Maybe you should try this and this.” So, it’s something else now. And it took five years before he got the lust and I will never do that mistake again and haven’t done it with other children and I’m really happy that he found the lust to read again. And now it’s like, he’s behind books. He’s constantly reading. If he doesn’t have a Rubik’s cube, he’s reading.
But it was a difficult road in the start to believe that you needed a system. For some parents, it works. For some, it doesn’t. For us, it definitely wasn’t the right choice, but it was, again, we started with saying, okay, we won’t put them to school. Then we will do school at home. And it kind of just melted away because, point one is, if you try to do school at home, you see that you can do the same in two hours that a school does in eight hours. So, you have a lot of spare time. But often, our kids really didn’t want to, and you learn to listen to and respect your children.
But actually, sometimes, they have a game with my wife together with some of our friends. “Shouldn’t we play school today?” because sometimes they could find the fun to try to imagine how would it be to be in school? So, as I think many parents did, it was a slow travel towards unschooling we have had.
I know I’m talking too much. If you want to put in a question, please do so. Otherwise, I would just continue.
PAM: Fascinating. I’m loving your journey.
JESPER: That’s wonderful.
But I think as when you, as parents, take the responsibility, actually, there’s something wild about being a parent and outsourcing your child’s learning to people you have never met. And if you look at it that way, do you really dare to outsource your child’s learning to a school system? To people you haven’t met?
And I love statistics. And if you read the statistics, for example, from the Danish school society, it’s like 80%, which is a high percentage. That actually means 20% of students in schools are not on level when they finish the school. They are not socially on level and they’re not bookish-ly, or whatever you would call it, on level. And if you look at that percent, it’s like, do I dare to send my child into something where there’s one fifth chance that they won’t get a proper education? No, I would not do that.
But back to when you decide to not outsource your children’s education, you end up talking so much together. And I love it. But now I cannot blame anybody. If I, later in life, look at my children, I can go, “That was that damn school that never taught them to read or write.” Nope. It was our responsibility as parents to help and guide them. So, we talk a lot.
And one of the things me and my wife have talked about is, where are we on the whole unschooling spectrum? And what do we want our kids to learn? So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the most important for me, I think there’s a basic in learning to read and write and do a little math. And I think it’s very difficult to force a child from learning to read and write and do basic math. It’s very difficult to let them be in a world that is so full with information and them ending up in the other end and not having learned it.
So, besides that, then the most important part for me is that they are trusting themselves. They know themselves, they know who they are, why they feel the way they do. And that their base is solid. So, you cannot just tip them over. They need to know who they are. And I believe that with two parents around and a lot of talk and you are there to guide them on all their steps, it’s very difficult to not see that happening, as well.
Then I really want my children to be able to take care of themselves mentally, health wise, and also, I think it on and that they need to be able to take care of themselves on all levels. One of them is, if they want food, there’s different ways to do it. You can volunteer at a place later in life if you want to. Or you can work for food and get money or learn how to make money. And as our children get older, we are seeing if they’re interested to join the family business, besides me having a more normal job where I work online from home, then we have some things together.
We are making online courses. Right now, we are working on a course. Our 15-year-old is helping editing the videos and he’s helping shooting the videos. And it’s because he’s interested. And, for me to be able to pass on my knowledge to him, so he later in life can go out and work professionally, that is something I think is very healthy for a child to learn to take care of themselves, be passionate about something and learn to learn also.
PAM: Okay, Yesper. I’m going to jump in there now. Because all the things I wanted to comment on are piling up in my brain.
JESPER: Please go.
PAM: It was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that level of detail. It really connected with me. There was the piece about the journey and how it takes a while. And especially when you said that when you started with school at home and it only took a couple hours in the day and then you had all the rest of this time with them, I think that is a big part of a lot of people’s journeys and seeing them in action in all the rest of those hours and comparing it with those two hours, comparing it to their resistance often to those two hours, seeing them learning in the wild, the rest of the day. Being able to see their natural curiosity and learning happening there really helps us release the need for those two hours a day.
And then, when you’re thinking about, does it have to be these things? There are so many questions that bubble up when you see both side by side. It’s like, is this really important in their lives? Does it matter if they learn it a year from now, two years from now? And you realize it doesn’t really matter.
And then, that leads into what you were talking about, the reading, writing, and some math, and how you recognized that, like you said, I can’t hardly envision them growing up without having picked up those skills on their own, because they are just so much part of our lives. So, that was another beautiful piece that, even though that is something that I’m sure if you talk to most, if not all, parents, the skills of reading, writing, and doing basic math to get along in your life are very important. But it doesn’t need to be on our time table. It doesn’t need to be the way we think it looks like through worksheets and all that kind of stuff.
It really can happen organically, because they’re in it, through the other things they’re curious about, because they’re gonna want to be reading about it and we’re going to be helping them read and we’re gonna be supporting them. So, again, what that brings up for me is it’s not hands-off. As you were talking about earlier, we’re having lots of conversations. We’re doing things together. We’re living together. That’s where all these connections and these learning pieces bubble up.
JESPER: Yeah. There’s a really fun thing we experienced in our life. We just started our fourth year actually as full-time travelers. And the thing is, the question that all homeschoolers or unschoolers get, which is, what about the social life? And, will they ever learn? Those questions kind of disappeared after we started traveling full-time and it’s crazy because it’s the same amount of education we’re giving our children, but people started saying, “Oh, what a fantastic adventure! Oh, that looks wonderful.” And it’s like, the same we did at home. Now we’re just traveling. What changed?
But I think that now people have this, “Oh, it’s a fascinating lifestyle of just traveling.” But our kids are doing the same stuff. They’re just doing now in Istanbul. Last week, we were in Greece. The week before that, in Rome. And then, we were in Spain for some months. So, if there’s any unschoolers out there afraid of the social judgment for the people who live inside the box still, if you go travel, they will just think it’s a wonderful adventure.
PAM: That’s one way to take care of it.
PAM: So, you’ve shared a lot of your paradigm shifts along the way.
I was wondering, just wanted to check in if there was one particular one that has stuck with you the most, an aha moment, if there’s one you haven’t mentioned yet that you’d want to kick in there?
JESPER: I think one of the biggest things is to acknowledge that we men on some points are a little stupid and that money is needed to make to make ends meet, of course. And I hope a lot of parents can figure out to work from home, both of them. It is such a big gift to be able to be home together with my children now, as compared to the years before where I drove away and was in an office.
And there was jealousy and I can see it now. But I had it as a father. I could come home and I could be angry, like, “Why do I need to go to work? She just stays at home having fun with the kids.” That kind of jealousy is normal when you are the parent who is working outside the family home.
So, looking back, I would have loved to be able to see that I was just jealous of the life my wife had. And I hope by saying it, that some of the partners who are out there being the go-to work partner, can chill, because you know what? I have been a full-time at-home dad now for more than three years. And I’m still the one working the most, but I can so much see the amount of work that it takes to be together with the children.
And I can also see myself sometimes just thinking, “Honey, I need to work a little,” to get out of it. And it’s easy being the working one, because the responsibility on the parent who is there the most, it is a big one. And I think that we, as I can talk for dads, I’m a dad myself, sometimes we cheat a little and hide at work or hide behind our computer, because it is an enormous task to be there for the kids full-time. And I’m still trying to learn to be better at it. That’s maybe not a paradigm shift, but it was on my mind.
PAM: An aha moment. That’s really interesting, Yesper. I can see that, just knowing in conversations and even in our home, to take the time to dig a little bit deeper to that kind of resistance or that jealousy that you were talking about, to realize that’s what it is, because we can bring it out as in, “Yeah. You’re just getting to have fun. You’re just hanging out with kids all day.”
JESPER: Yeah. I do not mind being honest about my past stupidity, but I’ve like, of course, in arguments with my wife, I’ve been like, “Oh, then you can go to work or we can put the kids to school and then you can go to work.” And it comes from exhaustion and being, “Your more alone and you’re together with people you haven’t chosen to be together with,” but actually, I don’t know what will come of it.
But I can just see that when I meet homeschoolers and unschoolers and people who want to take the steps, often it’s us dads who are the blocking stone towards the path of the freedom that you can give a family by taking the steps.
And we are afraid. We don’t have that close connection to the kids in the same way. And often we end up in a, as I said, social construct where we are the parent going to work. And it makes us less connected to our kids. So, yeah.
PAM: I know, from my perspective, just not sending the kids to school, that is something that is very unconventional culturally. So, it’s scary. And then for dads or partners who are the one who’s chosen to be the breadwinner or who takes on that role, to consider giving that up, too, is also super scary. There’s a whole fear piece in there, too.
JESPER: I’m just saying it was so wild. The more you go down the road of unschooling and homeschooling, you begin to look at things differently. I remember sitting at work, listening to people talk, and they talk about what they saw on television last year and their conversations are super boring. But sometimes they talk about their kids.
And when I hear them talk about how it was, they’re getting bullied in school. I needed to bite my tongue, because my question would be, why are you sending your kid back to that? And it just, honestly, got more and more hard to go to work and listen to people who had problems with their children in school. And just not wanting to shout, “Please wake up! Why are you doing that to your child?”
And also, about going to work, I’m so happy and I hope for a lot of people that the COVID thing helped a lot of employees to see that people can perform from home. So, I believe that more people now have the opportunity to say to their work, “Hey, can I start to work from home?” Because, for me, what was hard in the end was, I was the only reason we stayed put. I was the only reason we had the house we had, because we needed a house near where I worked. I was the only reason we didn’t go on longer and longer vacations, because I needed to go to work.
And now, as I said, we’re in Istanbul. We go out and explore during the day or in the evening and I can work from here. And you can work from everywhere.
That leads into the next question, because I was very curious to hear what it is that you love about combining unschooling and the more nomadic lifestyle or being able to travel more and for longer pieces.
JESPER: We have been on the road now, we started our fourth year and what drove us was that it just felt strange to not be together 24/7 when we could. And what also drove us away was, to be honest, the Danish winters. Where we lived is a part of the Nordic countries, but it is not high enough in the north so there would be white, beautiful, snowy winter landscapes. It is a gray winter that sometimes takes four to six months, it feels like.
I remember one January, I believe it was the last one before we left, there was seven hours of sunshine in a whole month, seven hours. So, no. So, one of the big things about traveling is I love to be outside and the kids do, as well. So, we bought a big red bus from 1973 that we started our travels in. And we thought that we would travel full-time in that one. But one of the things you need to do when traveling is being open to the realities of life. And for us, it showed that we love to slow travel. We love to see new places and an 11-ton bus is really hard to move.
So, right now we are in a rented Airbnb for three weeks. The bus is parked as a tiny house next to an animal sanctuary we fell in love with and help with and the kids go wild every day there. But I think one of the main things about traveling is, we like to be where it’s nice. And I don’t like to have shoes on. I like sandals. So, it’s very simple. We just like to be where it’s a nice climate.
So, we travel with the climate and then there’s of course also and which is a big gift also in the unschooling perspective, to see the different cultures. Now in Istanbul, it’s such a different world, even though it’s very European compared to the rest of Turkey. Sometimes you doubt yourself and you can ask yourself in a moment of doubt, will my kids have a good childhood? And I’m like, yeah. They meet a lot of people. They meet a lot of different nationalities. They have tried to be immersed into Spain for many months. They’ve learned to talk a different language.
And we like to slow travel where we are at least a place for some weeks, which is the minimum. I prefer to be a place two or three months, so you really can dive in and meet people and get friends and then return.
But basically, it’s being outside, being together, going to the beach, while I can sit in the shade and work at the same time. I like it.
PAM: Yeah, that’s lovely. And I love something you mentioned earlier, that the kids’ days don’t change per se. They’re still unschooling. They’re still doing the same kind of thing. Because, as human beings, we like to engage and learn and do our things wherever we are in the moment. So, it’s a different space, but it’s still your day.
JESPER: It’s a different space. It’s the same. There’s one fun thing about unschooling. We’re a little past it now in some ways, but sometimes you still meet people where you need to talk, what we call educationese, where you translate what they do into education, but honestly, our kids just live.
We don’t live at an animal sanctuary place so that our girl who is a 12 who is so much into the animals can get more or less a mini-vet education, she’s helping out with the kids every day, and the amount of things she learns about taking care of animals … but that is not why we do it. We do it because it is wonderful to stay there. We love to help out the project. We are vegans, so, to help out in a place that takes care of animals is just a good mix for us. And then, there’s the added bonus of, you’ll learn a lot. But it’s almost a byproduct of living.
PAM: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I think that is a view that we get to after a period of deschooling. I love when you mentioned earlier to just try it for six months, because you need a longer chunk of time. It’s not like, try it for a month or two. That is not long enough to sink into it and really see learning happening as a byproduct of just going about your days, just living and doing the things. And to let that curiosity come back out, all those pieces you need, you need a good chunk of time.
JESPER: And I think that the best win, just to put it in there, is my own curiosity, after me and my wife got deschooled as well, has grown. I mean, I thank my oldest son, Storm, a lot of times, that he wanted this life for us, because I live a life now as a full-time traveler. And with the stuff I want to know, I learn it. And I would never have done that if he hadn’t chosen to not go to school. It’s such a big gift as a parent.
PAM: Yeah. I love that. I love that.
So, what is your favorite thing about your unschooling days right now?
JESPER: The mornings. I remember the paradigm shifts of not going through hard mornings. I mean, it hurts inside me when I see parents and the amount of stuff they need to go through before they meet at work, who have children in school. And especially when the children are so small that they cannot go to the school themselves.
Why would you wake up a child that hasn’t had its sleep yet? So, the shift of the life where, earlier, I needed to wake up children that hadn’t slept properly. I needed to force them to get dressed. I needed to force them to eat more or less. And then I needed to drive them to somewhere. And the amount of stress in my life before work, those two or three hours, man, what a hell. And then to be in my life today and what I do in the mornings is, we have different rhythms.
Our youngest son, he sleeps long. Me and the oldest son, we wake up around the same time. Everybody just wakes up in their own space and time. And I can do my morning exercise. Cecilie does her morning yoga and I go for a run and often it’s 9:00 or 10:00 before I start to work.
But having that space for myself, that luxury. I remember when it started, it felt like being on holiday every day, just waking up in my own time. Nobody forcing me to do anything. What a gift.
PAM: Oh, I love that. I love that. Because, so often, when you’re living that life, you don’t even realize how much stress, how much weight it is, because it’s like, I just gotta do that. You don’t realize how much of that grumpiness, how much of that negative energy that you’re carrying is really just from that, just from trying to get through.
JESPER: It’s from the structure you have forced yourself into.
PAM: Yeah, yeah, no, that’s great.
So, as an unschooling dad, what piece of advice would you like to share with dads who are just starting out on this journey?
JESPER: I would give two pieces of advice.
One is for the people who are in doubt, not daring to do it. Try it out. Imagine if your kid got half a year without school and you turned around and said, “Oh, it’s not for us.” Your kid would survive half a year without school, no trouble. But please give yourself the gift of trying it out. That’s the best advice I can give for the ones still in doubt.
And for the ones starting the journey. There’s a big difference between unschooling and unparenting. I believe some people, because they haven’t deschooled enough themselves yet, they need a system and then they look at unschooling like an -ism, almost, where if you’re an unschooler, you need to do it like this.
And then they kind of force themselves into saying, “Oh, if my kids want to play the whole day, then they can just do it. And I shouldn’t say anything about it, because then I’m not a real unschooler.” You need to be honest. You need to be honest in every connection you have with your child. If something pisses you off, you need to be honest toward yourself and your child.
The second piece of advice is to try to remove the crutch of believing you need a system to be able to live your life, because some people even treat unschooling like that. It’s like, I need to do it like this. Otherwise I’m not a real unschooler. Okay.
PAM: Yeah. Well, as soon as you hear that, you know there’s still deschooling to go on around there. Because we want to do it well. Like, we’re not using the school system. I want to really good job by my children. I need to know how I’m supposed to do it. So, often when people come, understandably, they’re looking for a system.
“Okay. So, now how am I supposed to do it instead?” And when they look at what an experienced unschooler’s life looks like, the free mornings, following their curiosity and the things that they’re interested in, when they think of it as a system still, that can feel hands-off, which leads to that whole unparenting thing. “Oh, I shouldn’t be saying anything. I shouldn’t be doing anything.”
But the deschooling piece that’s so important is like, as you said, we share how we’re feeling about what’s happening in the moment, yet if we haven’t done that deschooling piece to really understand ourselves, as you were talking about your kids, I want them to really know how they tick. If the parents haven’t done that piece yet, so often, their judgments are still cultural, societal. They haven’t picked it all apart to see if it really bothers them as a person, or is it just like, I feel like we’re going to be judged if someone else sees you doing this, so I’m going to stop you from doing this. So, there’s just so much in there.
That’s why we say six months, at least. I like to say, a year, if you can do a year. Kids still won’t be behind. Kids can still go back to school. And that’s how we started, too. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re changing our lifestyle and this is the way it’s going to be.” It’s like, “We’re going to try this out and see what happens,” but you have to try it out with intention. You have to get to that deschooling piece. It’s not just, “Oh, we’re not doing school. Do whatever you want,” and then just sit there. That’s going to feel chaotic. People are going to get very confused and you may well end up sending them back to school, because it’s going to be very hard. The difference when you get to it is the connection piece.
What you replace that control with is connection and conversation and actually being with your kids and understanding and sharing what we see, sharing our experiences, but still supporting their agency, helping them explore and figure things out for themselves. Because you know what? Things aren’t always going to go right. Things are going to go sideways for our kids, like things still go sideways for us. And we can help them and they gain experience with processing the, “now what’s?”
And what I think is great about this gift of unschooling is that they have someone who love and care for them helping to guide them present. Because they will take wrong steps. They will say wrong things. They will do stupid things and good things. And we are there to care and love them no matter what, but also to guide them. And if they go down a road where it’s like, maybe you should try over here instead. So, that’s, I think, one of the biggest wins for a child is that love is all around them all the time.
PAM: As you’re deschooling, something else you come to realize is, our kids appreciate the experience that we can bring. Before we go to a library, we can bring the information about that experience. “It’s a quiet place. Are you able to do that right now?” If you’re really high energy and everything, maybe the library just isn’t a great place to go. It’s not like, “We’re going to the library. You’re crazy. You can be high energy inside.” That’s where all the chaos pieces come.
But when we can share, as you were talking about, our guidance, it’s guidance without expectation, but they appreciate the information. They appreciate our insight, because, not only do we have more experience at this point, we know them really well. So, we can point out the pieces that might rub for them and give them a heads up about it so they can make even better choices in the moment. And kids appreciate that, too.
So, that connection piece just helps everyone all around.
JESPER: Absolutely. Pam, I’m sitting watching the time because I have a meeting coming up, but I would rather just keep talking. But it’s work. It’s a money thing, unfortunately. I need to go do it.
PAM: Before we go, Jesper, can you just let everyone know where they can connect with you online if they’d like to get in touch?
JESPER: Yeah. We have different websites. Now we have one called WorldschoolingNomads.com and we are also on Facebook and Instagram as Worldschooling Nomads. And recently we just started a YouTube channel where we will try to put out the stuff, but we are busy living, so we are not so frequently doing it. But, WorldschoolingNomads.com.
PAM: All right. That’s awesome. I’ll put the links to all those in the show notes and thank you so much, Jesper. It was so much fun to chat with you.
JESPER: It was wonderful. And let’s do it again another time.
PAM: I would love it so much. Have a great meeting.
JESPER: Thank you. Bye.