PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from living joyfully.ca and today I’m here with Christina Kauffman. Hi, Christina!
PAM: I have really enjoyed learning a bit more about you and your family in the Network over the last few months. I’m really excited to dive in and learn more about your unschooling experience to this point. So, to get us started …
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what is everybody interested in right now?
CHRISTINA: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been so looking forward to this call. We are a family of five. We live in the Pacific Northwest. It’s my partner, Michael, and I, and we have three kids. We have Finnegan who is eight, Rhys, who is six, and Bowen is three.
Finnegan is really into computer games and he loves watching gamers play on YouTube. And when he’s not doing those things, he’s making up his own games for him and his brother to play. They call them mind games right now. They use props and stuff, but it’s usually just in their imaginations. It’s really fun to watch. And he also likes making computer games. He’ll go through phases of that.
So, he and his dad are making something on Scratch right now. And it’s been interesting watching how long the games are getting every time they sit down and make one. This one’s been multiple evenings now. So, it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. And he’s also just so funny. He loves laughing and we just get so much joy from just watching him watch something entertaining. He just falls out of his chair on the daily and it’s just so funny. So that’s Finn.
And Rhys, he loves being with his big brother. He loves being with his little brother, too, but his big brother is his first BFF. So, they do a lot of the same things together. He is really into really whatever Finn is into. He has started branching out and started playing some of his own tablet games. But they still play side to side when they’re together. And when they’re not doing all that, he’s usually the one that gets them running around a bunch. They get really physical.
We have a bunch of mattresses for them to just go all out and they usually do a couple of times a day. And so, that’s been really fun. That’s just been a thing that they do for the last two years. So, that’s been really fun to see. He also is the gerbil caretaker. He’s always in there and he helps me clean the cage and he’s just so sweet with them. So, I think he’s going to be our little animal guy of the family.
And then there’s Bowen. He loves playing with all the toys. Actually, not toys, just anything. Whatever he gets his hands on, he’s just so immersed in his play. He does love cars and trucks though. Usually, it’s something with wheels. And he also loves watching videos, the ones that are geared towards toddlers. He really loves the songs and he knows his alphabet. He re-taught his brothers the alphabet, because they don’t care, so that was really cute. Now he’s starting to insert himself into the duo, so it’s the trio now. And so, they play together a fair amount. So, that’s the boys.
And Michael, he works at a tech company. He does the business side for them and he works from home. He just really enjoys friends and family. And so, this has been a hard time for that, but he does his best. He’ll just call friends up for five or ten-minute conversations here or there. And I’m always inspired by that, because I usually need to plan in advance and give lots of time. And he just picks the phone up and calls whenever he just thinks of somebody. And I just think that’s cool, because I don’t do that. And I feel like I would get a lot out of it if I did that more.
He’s also just interested in stuff, so he’s just always looking up stuff and teaching himself more about things on YouTube. And right now, he’s really into earthquake preparation. And so, we just got a generator and he’s geeking out on that.
And then, me, I’ve just been really immersed in unschooling and in the Network, just really steeping in that for the last couple of years. And so, that’s just been wonderful and we’ll obviously talk more about that. I’m also into politics and just following what’s happening in the US. And I did a little bit of volunteering this last year for the first time and that was really great. I was afraid to do it before, because I didn’t think I knew enough or I would do a good enough job, but I think unschooling helped me just be open and curious to that. So, I’m looking forward to spending more time doing that in the near future. That’s us.
PAM: Thank you so much. I really love, and I’m sure people just absorb, those little snippets, but notice the connections, too. I love what you just spoke about with yourself, with doing a little bit of volunteering in the local area that you’re interested in and how that also, I could see a couple of reasons, like you mentioned growing into a little bit more confidence that we don’t have to know all the things before we do anything. That open and curious, I can try this out and it’s okay.
And I know for me, that was something that came with diving more into unschooling and realizing it’s not going to be graded. It’s not going to be tested. I can try things out and show up, not knowing, because I’m learning, but also that your kids are getting a little bit older now. And there’s also maybe a little bit more space so that you can choose to do that as well.
PAM: Yeah. And I wanted to point out the mattresses. “We’ve got mattresses everywhere.” The little snippets that I love seeing inside different unschooling families, because we don’t use our houses according to the rules or whatever. We figure out ways and things that work for us. So, having mattresses around for them to bounce around and play on every day is normal, right?
CHRISTINA: Yeah. Right.
PAM: You mentioned that they like to play their games side by side, even if they’re not playing the exact same game. So, I was just imagining cozy spots, maybe even on the mattresses, where they’re lying down with their tablets. Because they also often don’t sit, like they’re sitting at a desk or something like that. They’re splayed all over, doing whatever, having their tablet in various positions.
But yeah, that’s what I love, love, love about hearing from each family, because it’s so unique and individual to the family. And it’s just like a little gift of permission to people to think, what would work for us?
CHRISTINA: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I enjoy that so much, too. It’s just such a sweet little nugget of hearing about other people’s lives.
PAM: So, thank you so much for sharing. That was awesome.
I would love to know how you discovered unschooling and what your family’s move to unschooling looked like in the early days.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. I was wondering how far back I should go with this. My husband and I, we saw the Ted Talk, How Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson. And this was before we had kids. I don’t know if I mentioned that. And I remember both of us being like, yeah, well that makes sense. That was true for both of us.
But we also had unique high school experiences that we both really valued. So, he went to a small private and I went to a small public option school and we loved the small class sizes and the autonomy that we had. And the teachers treated us like humans and not kids to be controlled. And so, we thought we would find something alternative. That was where we thought we would be going when we had kids.
So, when we had Finn, I started looking around when he was preschool age for something. And I was really set on the whole idea of the socialization piece for his age, because that’s what I read and that’s what everybody around me was doing. And we found a co-op system that’s actually affiliated with the community colleges out here. And it was a really great program, really wonderful community building and you actually get college credit for being a part of the co-op, because they had parent education classes that were mandatory. So, I thought we had hit the jackpot. I’m getting college credit for this this parenting advice that I’m finding and it sounded great.
And Finn was not a fan. He said he didn’t want to go anymore, because there were kids there. And he just got quiet and despondent. He wasn’t upset, like he didn’t have any big upset, but yeah, the despondent-ness was troubling to me. And I freaked out. I was like, this is supposed to be the easy part. This is the fun part. This is the best part. It’s only gonna go downhill from here, possibly. And so, I just kept on trying. I would stay in the classes with him and when he was four, we found a different co-op and he started making friends. And he enjoyed being there for the most part. And it was just a huge sigh of relief. I was like, yes, we’ve arrived.
And now, by this time I had had Rhys and I was pregnant with Bowen even. And so, now I’m like, oh, well now we really got to figure out what we’re doing. The new co-op had a new kindergarten program. And so, we thought we would just kick the can down the road another year and sign him up with that program. And he liked it enough. And then we tried Rhys in the preschool aspect of that co-op and then he had a similar experience to Finn when he was younger. And I was just so tired of making my kids do these things that they clearly didn’t want to do, but I felt like I had to. And I was really scared what would happen if we didn’t.
So, that year I really started thinking about homeschooling. I didn’t think I could do it at the time, but just slowly, over time, I found gentle homeschooling curriculum and blogs. And I found classes, even, that I was taking online during that year. And somehow, I slowly moved towards even giving unschooling a listen. Because when I first heard about it, I was like, that is way too way too wild for me. I thought I really needed structure for our kids, because that was something I thought I was terrible at. And so, where were they going to get it from? Not me. It had to come from somewhere.
But then, yes, I just slowly started being open to it. And I’m not even sure how I found your podcast, but it was probably the first listen where it just went into my heart space. I couldn’t deny it. I just felt a huge sigh of relief. Like, oh, there are people out there that love their lives with their kids. That’s amazing.
And I was just so busy up in my head, trying to figure out the right method and the right way to set up our home and the right way to do it. And I just loved how I felt. It was a nourishing feeling, listening to you and your guests talk about living joyfully with your kids. And so, I kept listening and that summer, we had to move out of our house for a remodel into a small two-bedroom. And I think we were probably deschooling at that point. It just was a challenge, because we were in this small space, not at home. It was rough on some of the kids. But we brought things in like video games and fewer restrictions on screens and stuff, but it wasn’t until we were able to move back into our home, which happened two weeks before the first round of lockdowns happened here.
So, I’m so grateful we were here and the silver lining was, when everything shut down, we were able to just really fully jump into deschooling. So, yeah, I don’t know how long I went on there.
PAM: Yeah. It just reminded me of so much, because I was in that place, too, when my kids were in school. And it was just, like you said, in your head all the time, trying to figure out ways to make this work for each of the different personalities, et cetera. You brought me right back to that weight, but that, I gotta keep going. I gotta figure something out. I gotta figure something out, always in your head, to discovering that there were other choices. Opening up to that and finding people who were just living with their kids. I completely remember that. It was so fun to think about and to imagine that that’s even a possibility to walk towards. I mean, it just felt so light. It feels so light and just so exciting. It was just like, wow. A whole new world opened up, basically.
CHRISTINA: Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I just never had seen anything like it. What I was experiencing, it just seemed like everybody around me at the time was experiencing some similar dissatisfaction, but it’s what we’re all doing. It just felt very cliche and I didn’t even realize it until being out of it. But yeah, it was just an eye-opener, like, wow.
PAM: Yeah, it’s so true. And it depends on your environment, your community, et cetera.
I didn’t know anybody even homeschooling, let alone unschooling. It was many years ago. Everybody was going through the same thing. Nobody was thinking, “Oh, this is awesome. This is great. My kids are loving this and we’re all getting along great and they’re so easy to get up in the morning to go to school.” Nobody’s saying that. But nobody is even considering that that was an option, that that was a choice we were making. So, even the possibility that this was a choice just rocked my world.
CHRISTINA: Totally, totally.
PAM: I’m curious. You got back to your house, now you’re in lockdown and you’re hanging out together …
What, for you, has been one of the more challenging aspects of deschooling? And I was wondering if you could maybe talk us through your journey with that a little bit.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. Totally. I was like, ooh, pick one.
I did find most of the deschooling process a challenge to some degree when it came to examining my beliefs and how I related to my kids and myself. But I now know that growth requires a little discomfort and it doesn’t have to be crazy hard, but sometimes it is. But an aspect that was making it harder had to do with myself and some of the old guilt and shame that would come up from my previous parenting approaches that I was taking.
So, like screen time for example, like when I’d observe and I’d get to that place where we were connecting more around screens and it was less of a battle and I was feeling good, like we were moving forward with that and in a good place, I would just get blindsided by feeling just strong waves of guilt and shame for not knowing how disconnected we were before. Why didn’t I recognize that? How could I not see that we were just not connecting and nobody was that particularly happy. And so, that would really trip me up. Sometimes for days, which would cause me to disconnect even more. And it was just a cycle that just kept coming up.
And I had heard the saying, people do their best in the moment. And I just couldn’t let that in. It just didn’t feel true to me. And I remember the time I heard it, my doctor said it to me, and I just remember it landing differently. I was like, oh, she thinks I did my best. Maybe there’s something to that.
So, I started going back in my mind to myself back when I was a young parent and putting myself in my shoes and just looking around and seeing what my values were then, what my experiences were at the time. What was I reading? What was I focused on? And just getting a sense really just getting into where I was at the moment. And I slowly started to believe that, yeah, I actually did do my best. We all were. My husband was. I was. And that slowly helped me just let go of some of that guilt and that shame and have some self-compassion and forgiving myself for just not knowing.
And I think that really helped free up some energy for being present with my kids and allowing the energy to move through those full cycles of connection instead of pulling myself out of it to berate myself. And I still feel guilt and I still feel shame, but it’s more in the moment and I can address it. And it’s more fluid. It’s not so slimy or sticky feeling. Definitely felt stuck. So, I think that was a point where things really started to accelerate, when I was able to have some self-love and compassion for myself back then and now. It helps me realize I’m doing the best in the moment today, too. That’s still true. So, that was something that came up.
PAM: Wow. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love how you described going back to those moments. I’m going to jump all over pieces, because there’s so much in there. And how now you can move a little bit more quickly, because so often, it’s not like a one-and-done thing. “I’m going to do the work and then it’s never going to come up for me again.” That is not my experience either. Yet, the more you move through the process, the little bit more quickly we can access it next time. A little bit more quickly, we can move through it, because we’re building that pathway that we discovered helps us. And it can be different pathways for different people.
But I love how you realize it was that piece that you weren’t able to take in. “I’m doing my best. I was doing the best that I could, the best that I knew in that moment.” And that was just not able to land for you. And that realization had you just exploring more what you felt then, so you could really kind of play with it. I love how that bubbled up for you as something of value. Like, “Why didn’t I know better?” Just playing with that and seeing it’s really worth that time to go back and see, “What was I thinking at that time?” Like you said, even, “What was I reading? What information was I taking in? What were my goals? What did I think was important? What were my values?” All those pieces.
We can more lovingly hold that person that we were then and realize, “I wasn’t wrong. I was me and I was doing my best.” And like you said, we all were. We all were working in that moment with what we know. And you can take that love and compassion and bring it into this moment now. The realization that we don’t have all the answers right now. Even with what we’ve learned, we don’t know it all. And we never will, moving forward. It opens up the present moment when it doesn’t even have the weight that, “I have the answer now. I have the right way now.”
But we can be just more open and curious to where everybody’s sitting right now and that we can choose something that seems to work for us. And it doesn’t need to be labeled the best and it doesn’t need to be the way we do it next week or next month when it comes up again. So yeah, that is just so much rich work. I’m glad you picked that.
CHRISTINA: Thank you. Yeah. And like you said, I really think preparing for this conversation, I think it really hit home that, yeah, it’s actually just about the process. It’s not that we never go through these challenges again, it’s just about how we process.
And I was thinking I actually went through a couple rounds of the old guilt that I described. I remember there was like a flare up I had this summer, where I was like, oh, I thought I took care of that, but it just feels like layers of an onion. The work doesn’t end, but when you’ve had a couple of rounds under your belt, it doesn’t feel like, oh god, more work. It’s like, yes, this is what presence and being in the moment is. This is it.
PAM: And you don’t actually get excited or at least, I mean, I don’t. But it’s like, ooh, in a couple of months, I wonder where I’m going to be. That’s where the curious comes for me is because I know we’re all always learning, growing, and changing over time. So, I can always think, gee, I wonder what this is going to look like in two months or in six months, because I know things are going to be different. I just don’t yet know how, but that’s what is also motivating to find another layer. Let’s do the work to get in there, because that’s what’s going to help things change or I start to feel more stagnant.
Stagnant as in, if I don’t work on that layer, I’m going to just keep bumping up against it. Maybe I can put it down, but three or four weeks later, something else comes up that is also rubbing at that same layer. And eventually it’s like, yeah. Okay. I get it. I’ll work on this.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. Yeah. That’s exactly right.
PAM: So, taking a look …
I’m also curious to know what has surprised you most about your journey so far.
CHRISTINA: I think it’s just a continuation of what you were just saying is, it’s been how much I wasn’t being myself before unschooling. I was playing the role of what I thought a good mom should be. And although, of course, I love my kids and I wanted that connection, I was thinking those things would come within giving them enriching experiences and having strong boundaries and setting good examples. But it’s the other way around. Focusing on what you actually want to focus on, that’s the starting point. And starting with talking about what each person’s needs are in a family and then going from there.
So, it surprised me how much I wasn’t myself, but also my kids. The concept that they’d get to know themselves more through unschooling, I really see that. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to try it. But yeah, I was very surprised to find how much I wasn’t myself, but also how much I get to be myself. I get to be human. I don’t need to have the right answers. And we all get to say what our needs in the moment. And we all try to make it work with where we’re at in any given day. So, yeah, that was it.
Every day, I feel grateful for that, because that was such a challenge for me. I feel like I have a different sense of time than maybe most people do. It was just always so hard for me to keep a schedule and get up and go. And even being as unscheduled comparatively to other people that we knew, that was just so exhausting to me. And so, not having to do that, just being able to be myself and go with the flow has just been so, so wonderful.
PAM: And you’re so right that it is so surprising to realize how much we aren’t, we weren’t, being ourselves when we were, like you said, playing that role. That takes me right back to when you were talking about being in your head so much, trying to make things work, because that’s what we were supposed to be doing. We had this vision of the person that we should be.
As a parent, this is what the parent’s role is and it is about helping our kids become the role of child that we have the vision in our heads or in society’s heads and that our job is to help our kids meet that. And to realize that that was a framework or a role that we were choosing to play, I had to do so much to actually peel back those layers to find out who I was. Like, I get to choose that piece. I don’t have to do it because I’m supposed to do it. I know all the things I’m supposed to do.
And that doesn’t mean, like we talk about layers, oh, I’m not supposed to do that. I don’t have to do that. So, I’m not going to do that. It’s not like, yes/no, black/white, because it’s taking that next step to work through the layer and to realize, well, why would I choose? Okay. I know I’m supposed to do that. So, why is it that I’m supposed to do that? What are the reasons?
Because so often, we’re just told, because you’re supposed to, because I have to. From our parents, “Because I told you to.” We learn that, but often we don’t really get the why behind that. Because it’s just, this is what you do. This is what you don’t do. Follow the rules. But to understand that why, and then to bring ourselves to it. There were times definitely when there were things that I was supposed to do that I’m like, oh, I don’t know if I really want to. And then I would dig in and I would realize, oh, there’s a reason why I would like to show up that way. I would like to do that thing. So, I ended up doing it.
And it’s funny, because there was another layer for me in that, okay. I’m showing up, I’m doing the thing. And everybody else there is like, she’s doing that because she’s supposed to do it. And yet, I’m like, no, I have all these reasons why I know I want to do it. And so, you have to get through that point where, I am choosing and I’m showing up this way and I want to do that. And even if other people think I’m just meeting their expectations, I needed to be okay with that, because I knew why I wanted to be there. I didn’t need everybody else to accept or understand my viewpoint. It’s okay that they can think whatever. There’s just so many layers to this.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And thank goodness for my kids, too, because I’d be on track for like, “Well, I think we should do this.” And they’re like, “Well, I don’t want to.” I’m like, “Oh. Okay.”
So, that was another way to just quickly get me to the point where, maybe we don’t have to do that.
PAM: They are wonderful guides in that way. Aren’t they?
So often, it was through their choices and having conversations with them where I would realize, oh, I guess that is a choice. There are so many little pieces. Everything from, like you were talking about, screens, so often the things that I was working through were initially sparked by my kids. Because I can’t just do all the things at once and write them down on the sheet of paper and just work them down in an orderly fashion. But things would bubble up.
And so, this is the thing I’m going to be working on right now, because this is the rub for us right now. This is uncomfortable for somebody, so I’m going to dive in and see what I really think, see who I really want to be around that thing. They are just fascinating little creatures.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. Yeah.
PAM: It’s so beautiful. So beautiful. Because they can be so much in the moment, with all its emotions or with whatever’s going on. And when they have that space, they really are so capable of saying what it is they want, saying what they need. When we haven’t said no or said, “My answer is the right answer,” they can really get in there and try and figure things out.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. I mean, they make a compelling case with just their whole being and their body language. They’re just like, yeah, this is actually what I want to be doing. And I’m like, I can see that. Let’s make that happen.
PAM: And it’s inspiring, too. It’s like, what do I love that much? What do I want to do that much? They show us living fully, as in just in there and really doing the things that they’re choosing and that they want to do and just seeing where they lead us.
That leads nicely to the next question, too. Because, as we’re all spending time together, it can get challenging, especially with siblings who want to do different things in the moment. And sibling dynamics is something that can really take a while to figure out how to navigate.
Or really, I mean, it takes forever, as we grow and change, but the transition, moving from the power over, “I know best, you guys should do what you’re told,” to this more open, “We’re going to work together. I see your needs. We’re gonna take all our needs into consideration and figure out a way to move forward through this.” That adds yet another layer to the whole sibling dynamics. So, I was hoping you could share a bit about your journey through that so far.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. I mean, it was quite challenging and I brought it up, in part, because I think that most of the deschooling I did was around this, because my kids choose to be together all the time. And that was something I even had to work through. Like, “Can you guys please just like go to your own rooms for just a minute even?” They’re like, no. Okay. And that’s my agenda. And so, that’s part of the process of letting that go.
The parenting that I knew was to interfere and get in the way when things got too out of control and also telling them what they should say when they’re upset or mad, like, “Use your words.” My poor Finn. And so, it was really hard for me at first to sit back and observe and be open and curious around sibling conflict, because how am I supposed to sit back and watch this unfold? This is going nowhere fast.
But fortunately for me, one of my kids, he was very vocal and was like, “I don’t want you to do that.” And so, even if I tried and failed and I would get in there a little bit, he’s like, “No, go away.” So, I wanted to listen to that and honor that. And so, it really did have me sitting on my hands on the sidelines.
And over time, I noticed that they actually were trying to get their needs met with each other and what I considered out of control wasn’t out of control to them. Outside of physical safety, they have a different tolerance than I do. And so, just respecting that and watching it unfold over time, I was able to see how each child dealt with conflict as an individual. And so, I was able to have room for ideas of how I might support them when they are in a stuck place.
And it took me a while, too, to figure out. I still don’t know the answer. I’m just always trying to figure out when is a good time to try and help. And planting seeds is probably the best way for me to help support them, just giving them feedback in peace time. That seems to be what is most helpful with them. So, seeing how they deal with conflict as individuals and that they are individuals. Sorry. I kind of lost my train of thought.
PAM: I love your point how we all, as people, can have different tolerance levels and then back to the role also. It’s work for us to do, peeling back those layers around, is this an expectation that I’ve absorbed? Maybe it’s because they’re really loud or whatever it is. Or one person seems to be getting their way more than the other, like the whole idea of fairness. That was something for me. When there was a conflict around something, my mind would completely and quickly go to, well, what’s the fair solution to this conflict?
And when I was able to step back a little bit and not impose that on them, then I would see they may move forward with something that didn’t seem fair to me. But after a few times and a few conversations in those peace times, “Were you happy with how that worked out?” The realization that what looked fair to me didn’t necessarily have to be what looked fair to them. If they were both comfortable with whatever it is that they chose moving forward, that’s cool.
And the planting seeds bits and the having the conversations at other times, if there’s something that we notice or a question, something that we’re curious about, or we just want to give them an opening or an opportunity to share their thoughts or feelings about how it worked out, which they may or may not be interested in doing, but yeah, it’s a totally different thing in the conflict.
Those aren’t questions and conversations you’re going to have in it. Those are more of the processing stuff at other times. So then, maybe they’ve got a little something new to bring with them next time.
But yeah, so much was about that fairness piece, that process piece, that I needed to know or tell them that there’s a right way to move through it.
Again, the physical piece, of course, you’re going to step in and stop injuries, et cetera. But again, that’s also a conversation to have with them. Like you said, Finn was saying, “Yeah, no don’t.” And if, as you were saying, they just don’t want to separate, they want to be together. So, it’s finding ways to help them find ways that they can both move through it in the ways that they want to. And that they’re reasonable. Not that they’re comfortable in the moment of conflict, but are comfortable for them to live with and process with and to see where they got to at the end of that particular round. There is so much learning that happens.
And just so much learning about themselves, too. Finn knew, “No. This is getting in the way when you’re stepping in and telling us what to do.” There is so much learning.
Even in a conflict, it can feel like nobody’s learning anything, but they’re processing it. When they figure out a path, then they’re figuring out how they felt about that. They are getting experience, gaining experience, learning a little bit more, and bringing that with them into the next time and the next time. So, it’s not like a one and done, “I’m going to teach you how to move through conflict.” It’s an ever-evolving exploration of it.
CHRISTINA: Oh, absolutely. I think that I’ve seen that over time, too, where dropping my expectations and just being with wherever they are in the moment and supporting them where they are in that moment. I’ve seen them now be able to move through. They do respond differently now.
I have one child who would scream and throw things when he was upset. And for the longest time, I was removing him, because I didn’t want him to hurt other people and that was making it worse. So, when I realized that was making it worse, we switched it up where everybody else would leave the room so he could be safe and we could be safe. And I think there was a big piece around feeling judged and like he was wrong when I was moving him away. And he just needed to not be interrupted.
And now, when he gets upset, he’ll go run up to his room until he’s ready to come out. And I think he learned that about himself. But I didn’t have that expectation, like, because we’re giving you space, you’re going to learn how to do that for yourself someday. I was just like, this is what your needs are right now and we’re gonna help you with that.
And I think so much of that processing that you were talking about, at least for my kids, I don’t see it happening. And then one day, they have a conversation that sounds like two adults talking about their feelings to each other. And I’m like, wow. Okay. This is working.
And just because they can talk that way to each other doesn’t mean they’re going to. It’s rare, but I know that they can. And they get to choose when they decide to use “I” statements with each other and check in with each other. I don’t make them do that anymore and they get to choose. And sometimes they will choose to do that, because they’re learning about themselves and learning how they want to show up in relationship. I’m really grateful that I’m not stopping that process like I was. I didn’t realize that that’s what I was doing, obviously, but I really see it that way now after allowing them to figure it out.
And of course, I try to be supportive, but in the ways that are actually supportive and that takes some figuring out and it’s not static either. It changes over time.
PAM: Yeah. I love that point about them having the choice. Because it’s like, okay. This worked reasonably well for me once. It’s not like we’re going into it like, okay, these are good tools and therefore you will use them always moving forward. Again, it’s not like, here is the thing. Here’s the answer. Here’s the right way. And then you’re done. It is over time and it’s not an expectation that we’ll see a fix quickly. But you do, over time, see how much they’ve absorbed and are figuring out on their own, which helps us trust a little bit more to give it more space and time.
Because when they’re choosing different things at different times, like they choose “I” statements or not, each one is more learning, is more experience, because they see how it unfolded when they made these choices. Today, they made these different choices and they see how that unfolds. It is all learning and it’s all experience for them. And we can’t have a conversation about, “How are you going to move through conflict moving forward?” And now you’ve learned. But to see it over time, it’s so much richer. That’s what I’m trying to get to.
The learning when they’re having a wide variety of experiences and putting this web together of possible ways to move through conflicts, when they have that richer experience, we see them in action over time making these very interesting choices and being able to express their emotions.
So, maybe sometimes they’re not choosing to express them, but we know that they are observing them, that they’re noticing those pieces about themselves. Even in conflict, it is really interesting to see how capable and how self-aware the kids are, because those are not things we give kids credit for.
CHRISTINA: Absolutely. Yeah. And it really helps me, too, when I’m putting myself in their shoes. When one of them recently appeared like he was bothering his brother in the backseat and it wasn’t clear what was going on with him. And I just put myself there for a minute and I was like, when I’m feeling embarrassed, I don’t like to talk about it. I just like to sit back and think or move away for a while. Or if I’m irritated, I don’t want to sit there and talk to somebody about why I’m irritated. I need a minute.
And so, I think being able to do that has also been really helpful, to just get that constant reminder of where they’re coming from. But also, it teaches me about thinking about my feelings, because I don’t think about my feelings often, but I feel like I learn a lot when I do. And so, I’m learning a lot just by allowing them to have their relationship and allowing them to explore for themselves. It’s inspiring to me, too.
PAM: It really is. Isn’t it?
And it’s so interesting, too, to recognize how often we have expectations of kids that we don’t have of adults. So, if an adult is irritated and wants some space, they can take some space. Yet with a child, so often we’re like, “What’s bothering you? Why are you irritated? How can we fix this?” We’re rather relentless sometimes.
So, that’s yet another layer, but it is fascinating when we think of it in that dynamic. It is, like you said, very inspiring for us to be thinking about it and to realize how many more expectations we put on a child, because we’re supposed to be teaching them to be these ideal adults. And there are so many layers in that. It weaves into so many different aspects of our lives, though. It’s very interesting to find yet another one.
CHRISTINA: Totally. I love that.
PAM: So …
I would love to know what’s your favorite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now?
CHRISTINA: I couldn’t help but say time. I know that’s what a lot of people say and not that it has to be different, but the time we have to be ourselves, to not hurry through life, to just be. I feel like being in the moment is such a different way of being in the world that is not afforded to most of us that have these heavily scheduled lives.
And we may be scheduled again, but right now we’re just really enjoying just being together and letting the time unfold as it will. I’m not looking at the time like I used to, like, when is this going to be over? Even the hard times. It’s not like, yay, like you said, but it’s just another moment that we’re having together and that feels so special. And I’m so grateful that we have it.
PAM: I love that. And that is the interesting thing. That was a big aha moment when I was deschooling, because it was another thing that I came in with the expectations of my role as a parent, or even as an adult, that I needed to fix the things so that we were finally all happy.
And to realize eventually that then I’m discounting those difficult times. And when we began unschooling, I can see as I look back the richness and the value of even the hard times. Even the more challenging times. And I’ve come to realize that there’s value in all the days, in all the times, in all the moments. And to realize that I wasn’t trying to get through those fast so that we could finally get to the happy moments, but that all time was valuable and important and fun.
It just made the whole idea of time change. It took away the needing to look at the clock, the needing to get through this quickly, needing to solve this quickly. And I think that’s why so many of us end up talking about time as one of our favorite things, because we really didn’t envision how valuable all the moments were going to be, even all the little ones, too.
CHRISTINA: Yeah. No, I think that’s exactly right. I just feel like the words that I use do the experience a disservice, but it’s what we got.
PAM: Exactly. The language piece is also so fascinating, because everybody brings to them their experience and what those words mean to them. And I think, as you were saying, when you first started listening to the podcast, first started learning a bit about unschooling, that there are other people living this way, that even with those words, there is an energy kind of in a richness that comes with them. It’s like, ooh, I feel like that could be so much more than the watch that I’m looking at or whatever.
CHRISTINA: Yeah, no, that’s a very good point.
PAM: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Christina. I super appreciate it.
It was so much fun.
CHRISTINA: It was so great. Thank you so much for all the work you do, Pam. You have just been an inspiring light for so many of us. And thank you for creating the Network, as well. It’s really transformed me and my family. And I know that many feel the same way, so just wanted to give an extra thanks there. Your work has just been amazing for the unschooling community. So, thank you so much.
PAM: Thank you so much. That was lovely.
CHRISTINA: Yay! This was fun.
PAM: Before we go, where can people connect with you online?
CHRISTINA: Just email. We can put it in the notes. Is that cool? Yeah.
PAM: Yeah. No problem at all. People can get in touch with me and I’d be happy to hook people up if they would like to chat with you further. Thank you so much again, Christina, and have a lovely day.
CHRISTINA: Thank you. You, too. Bye, Pam.