PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from living joyfully.ca and today I’m here with Robyn Robertson. Hi, Robyn!
ROBYN: Hi, Pam! Good to see you.
PAM: So lovely to see you. Robyn is the host of the podcast, Honey, I’m Homeschooling the Kids, and she was on this podcast back in 2018. I will link to that episode in the show notes so people can hear a bit more about your journey to unschooling. But I’m really looking forward to catching up.
To get us started…
Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and what’s everybody interested in right now?
ROBYN: Yeah, absolutely. So, I have a family of four of us, my husband and I, and our two kids. My son is 15. He’ll be 16 in the fall, early fall, and we’re just talking about him getting his driver’s license already in eight months or less. And my daughter’s 12.
And right now, they have some pretty big interests. My son has really been following an interest he’s always had an interest in and that’s outdoors and wildlife. And so, he has been working and getting experience in that field. He actually just returned home in November. So, right now it’s January. He was gone for six months, working for a wildlife outfitter in Northern BC.
And then my daughter is home with us. Different kids and different areas and different personalities. So, she’s really a big reader and she’s been really into dystopian novels. We can barely keep the stack going for her pretty well.
And they’re both active. Now it’s winter, so we do a lot of skiing and snowboarding. She’s a great snowboarder. She’s been doing that a lot, as much as she can, as well. And just doing their thing and spending their time. So, my daughter is like snowboarding, dystopia, and volleyball when that is accessible. And my son is the outdoors and wildlife. And my husband and I are creating and doing our work and supporting our family through all of that. So, that’s a brief, what we’re up to right now.
PAM: That’s the nice thing is to listen to the snapshots over time. I think it’s really cool just to see how things grow and flow and change up. And it’s interesting even looking back to see the little threads of interest and how they morph and change and stuff over time. So, that is lots of fun.
Now, as you mentioned, since we last talked, your kids have entered or started entering the teen years. So, I’m really curious to know if you feel like your unschooling days have changed from when they were younger. Do they feel different?
ROBYN: Yes, they do.
PAM: Quick answer. There you go.
ROBYN: Yes. And I think they feel different, because, well, just like anything with life, you adapt and you grow.
And especially as kids grow, as they get into their teen years, there’s all of the physical changes and those other mental and emotional changes, as well. But they also have become so much more independent. And I think that really shifts things a lot, because as much as our value and purpose is still connection and supporting each other, there is less to support in certain ways because they are so independent. So, that certainly shifts things within our house and within our framework of unschooling.
But then at the same time as they change and as they’re growing into adulthood, there are some things that, just like any of us, they need help with, they need support with, just as we adults still need help. There are things that come up and we need support. So, I think it’s just still listening to that and being present to the changes and what everybody needs and working with that. So, in that way, it has changed.
PAM: Yeah. I really found that, too, the independence.
So, the support they need is less from us, less hands-on, less, “Oh, help me find this,” “Let’s get this,” all that kind of stuff or helping more with food or whatever it is. But I love that you mentioned, I didn’t find that it was necessarily less time or less connection and engagement. It’s just different now. It’s not the hands-on stuff and particularly helping them following their interests, but it is so much more the processing. It’s more emotional support, more conversations, having that space to have these conversations as they process and as they’re figuring things out for themselves, what they think about these particular things. So, it’s really fascinating. I found it wasn’t really less time, but it was very different.
ROBYN: Yeah, exactly. And I think maybe before I thought it would be less time as they got older, independent, and I agree, it’s not necessarily less time. There’s still time devoted to supporting our environment and supporting them in that way as we want it to go forward. But yeah, it’s just the changes, those small changes.
And yeah, they maybe find the resources, but they need help paying for something if it’s a bigger ticket expense of something that they require or maybe they need help getting there, for example or things like that. So, yeah, there’s definitely different changes in that way, but it’s good. It’s also good.
And also, as they enter new things, they’re learning new things and I find that’s also a bit of the difference is, as they’re becoming more ready to step into the world on their own and becoming more independent to provide for themselves, I think, in that way, there’s just some things about the world and work could, things like that that they also just need support with. “I want to be here. How do I get there?” They need a little bit of help with steps along the way kind of thing.
PAM: Yeah, yeah, definitely different destinations or different directions that they’re looking in. And I love your point, too, that it’s like all adults. We all need or could definitely enjoy having support and having someone to have conversations with to help us process through things, to get some feedback, insights, different perspectives, etc.
So, again, it’s not like ages and stages and then you’re done when you hit 18 or adulthood or whatever, when you realize, oh, geez, I could really use these connected relationships as an adult, too. As a human being, this is a wonderful way to be in a relationship with people that I love.
ROBYN: Yeah, absolutely. That’s totally right.
I wanted to dive a bit into the idea of teen rebellion, because that really is a ubiquitous idea in the parenting world, the conventional parenting world of teens. Yet through this podcast and so many years of conversations with people, unschooling parents more often than not really enjoy life with their teens. So, I was hoping you could share a little bit about your experience with that. It’s fun with them too, isn’t it?
ROBYN: Yeah, it is. It really is. I haven’t had any experience with teen rebellion. Yeah. It’s interesting, because people do say, “Oh, those teen years, watch out!” Or, “Oh, I feel you, those were tough.”
And I think what happens is when your priority is the relationship as well, and a relationship where we hope, where we just try our best, because I’m still human, I’m still learning that every single day, every second of the day, try our best to provide a space where our kids can feel open and comfortable to come to us with things and be part of the conversation and be engaged with us.
I think sometimes what happens with teen rebellion is teens are not feeling like they can be themselves or supported to be themselves. Maybe their interests or their wants or their desires are not validated. So, therefore they feel tamped down. They feel less than in everything that they do. And then after a while, the interactions they go into, they prepare to be defensive or to defend themselves in order to protect themselves. I think so much of it is a protection mechanism.
So, for us, the goal is that our kids can feel like we are there to support them and encourage them. And so, that’s been our experience so far. And I think really that what they love to do is still important to us because it’s important to them. And that’s the basis of it all for us, really. And not to say that we don’t have disagreements or there’s some times where you’re like, “Ahh! I’m just going to go to my room for a second,” or they’re like, “Mom! Dad!” Of course, that happens, but it’s about, we’re here for each other and how can we keep moving forward and support each other?
My husband and I also let them know it’s the same. We’re still learning. We don’t have things nailed 100%. We’re still learning and adjusting and we’re still learning from our own experiences and our own realities growing up and being adults in this world, as well. So, taking all of that into consideration, and that’s also part of our regular conversations as well.
PAM: I love that. I love your point that sometimes when people come to unschooling and they hear about the relationships and everything, they feel that what it means moving forward is that they won’t have challenges. They will always get along. Everybody’s going to get along just fine. And we won’t have the, “Oh my gosh, no, I need five minutes by myself!” Or, “That’s really uncomfortable for me!” It’s not about not having those moments, because as you said, we’re human beings. We’re all different people.
The difference, I think, is because of our focus on relationship and connection and supporting each other. I think that’s the other big difference is we are supporting our teens, our kids, and trying to help them do the things that they’re interested in doing, which I think is different versus the control, like, “I think you should be doing this,” and trying to direct them.
But with that in mind, we’re connecting, engaging, and sharing our perspectives, but we don’t bring that control, judgment piece in. But we still can be super uncomfortable. We still can say, “How can we move forward in a way that meets all of our needs?” And there’s also a lot of our own reflection for ourselves on our comfort zones. My comfort zones stretched and grew and wiggled all over the place in those years.
ROBYN: Yep. Absolutely.
PAM: And it was beautiful work for me, because I was questioning some things that I had absorbed and took for kind of as is. I didn’t really question them. So, things that were making me uncomfortable, it was definitely worth the work for me to ask myself some questions to dig into that for me. And then I better understood my own perspective, so I could bring that into conversation, instead of like, “Because this is how I feel.” That is not a particularly useful answer when you’re trying to figure out a path with other people.
So, I think that is a huge difference or a focus with unschooling families and our focus on that relationship and connection. My kids knew that I’m not particularly adept at changing on a dime. So, if they wanted to change plans for later today or so, they’d be like, “Okay, mom, I’m thinking this. I’ll give you a few minutes to think about it.” We know each other and you share. Like, “Oh, if I need to decide right this instant, I’m not comfortable yet, but I just need a few minutes to transition and flow,” and understanding each other to that level. But understanding ourselves, so that we can share that, so that, “This isn’t a judgment on what you were asking. This isn’t a judgment on you. This is my process. And we just need some space for my process, too.”
And understanding our kids’ processes and how they move through things, how we maybe bring things up, that depth of connection and understanding really helps them see that we’re not trying to thwart them. We’re not trying to control them, but we’re also all involved in this and all trying to help each other accomplish the things that we’re wanting to. So, it just brings a completely different energy to the whole thing.
ROBYN: Yeah. And that’s exactly it. The energy is very, very different.
And I think it’s good to point out that, especially in our age of social media, that what comes across many times is that this unschooling life based on connection and love is this fairy tale idea that’s perfect every single day. And for the parents that aren’t feeling that, that they failed or it’s not working or unschooling is not for them and their kids because it doesn’t look like this or it doesn’t sound like this all the time. And we’re all a work in progress.
And that’s also the beauty of life and there are those times where we have those bumps and it’s a bit rocky. And I think that’s also what has changed over the years is that you see, okay. So, this is a rocky patch. There’s something that’s uncomfortable for me that I obviously need to step back and ask why I’m feeling this way. Why this is a little bit hard for me right now. Why maybe a choice my child has made, I’m resisting. Is it really that choice, what they’ve chosen? Or is there something else going on here?
So, I think the practice doesn’t ever fully go away, but what has shifted and changed is that I think I’m able to recognize when I’m in that part of the process earlier and step back earlier than before and work my way through it or just be present with it or ask those questions of myself in order for me to get a better understanding. So then, that communication and that connection can be there. Maybe not exactly at that moment, but later on or after, and then we can move forward in that way.
So, it’s like the deschooling process. I was speaking with a parent I work with the other day and they had asked me, “Well, when is this going to be done?” Like, “When did you finally finish deschooling?” And I was like, “I actually haven’t. I didn’t finish deschooling.” The difference is that I can see those places and spaces earlier and have a better understanding of working through them, but I’m still going through it. My husband is still going through it. We’re going through it at different stages and places, as well, too.
And things come up that, for example, our son is the oldest. And so many times, my husband like sees himself in my son in that way. Or we see ourselves at 15. So, it’s the ongoing process, but I think that’s the different shift. We don’t get to a point where we’re like, yes, got it now. I’ve got it. I’ve nailed it. I’ve nailed life and I could go on to be whatever it is or continue with this, but it’s just like, okay, I’m getting there. But I have not nailed it. I’m still working on it.
PAM: Exactly, I think one of the clues when you’re transitioning out of the more deschooling-focused time into unschooling is when you no longer feel the need to ask, am I done? Because you’ve come to the realization that, oh, this is life. This is a human being in the world. When you come to recognize that things are going to come up and you’ve now gained some experience and the tools and the ways that work for you personally to move through them, the kinds of questions that spark more understanding for yourself, more idea of some of the triggers and understanding that maybe when your child hits 15 or 17, that there will be new things that come up. “Oh, geez. I never thought about that.” “When I was that age …”
Or when a particular stage comes up, all these things, you get more comfortable with the knowledge that you’re never done, that things will always come up. And I think there’s also a level of comfort with discomfort, because, as you were saying, the need to solve something fast and have an answer and move forward, we can really get stuck in that mindset. So, moving through that and realizing there’s so much learning and good learning that happens in that discomfort, giving time and space to ask myself those questions, to observe a little bit more, to dig into my feelings a little bit more. There’s so much value in there and that if I try to rush it, I lose that or I don’t gain that. And then it comes back up again. You always get the opportunity to work through it.
ROBYN: Exactly. It’s never a lost opportunity.
PAM: So, again, it’s not a beat yourself up if you don’t dig into it, but it’s just a recognition of ourselves and our process. And it’s like, oh, I could probably, you know, ask a few more questions. And as you said, we will forever run into situations that tweak us a little bit or trigger us a little bit. But that’s the thing, as you mentioned, that we recognize it a little bit sooner, because we’ve had more experience with it, that we have a few more tools to help us process through it. Those are the pieces that just that come with experience of not shutting it off, trying to solve it fast, because I find that gets in my way so much more often.
ROBYN: It does. It absolutely does. And there are tools, I guess you could say, that help along the way. And it is recognizing that there are the dips and the curves and the bends and the hills and all that sort of stuff, which is part of any change process as well.
Sometimes it’s having loving kindness towards ourselves and those around us, as well. I think it starts with ourselves first, because then it’s easier to emanate in that circle outside. And connection and community reaching out to others and finding support and asking questions, whether they are people that you feel safe sharing with that have been in a similar situation. Friends, mentors, there are different tools as well that you can use or implement in order to help that process along, too. Not to overcome it quicker, maybe it will help, but there are things you can do as well in that way.
PAM: It’s releasing speed as a goal. Paradoxically, often that does help it go faster, because when you have speed as a goal, there’s a part of your brain that’s judging yourself. Like, am I there yet? Am I there yet? And that, for me at least, makes it harder for me to sink into the moment. It makes it harder for me to just let questions simmer. Because back to how we know how judgment can interfere with our kids’ learning.
Judgment of ourselves interferes with that learning as well. It takes us out of that moment. It takes us out of that flow. So, when we’re not so worried about having to do it quickly or having to do it right, that actually helps us sink more into it and learn some more and often have it resolved sooner for now. I don’t know. You know what I mean. You move through it more comfortably in the end.
ROBYN: You do. And I think judgment is a big piece. And I think that’s a great way to describe it, as well, because if someone said, “Well, what’s one of the hardest things about unschooling or even just home educating, I think it’s the judgment piece. It’s not about what families first ask, should I get a curriculum? What about teaching your kids to read? Or are they going to read? Or math or all those sorts of things. It’s actually the judgment, because it’s true. That becomes that block that you just set in the way between whether you’re growing and moving forward, between your relationships.
Judgment influences learning in so many ways, because if you’re feeling judged, you’re going to probably shift the choices you’re going to make if you’re worried about what someone else is thinking or feeling about you. You’re going to change or adapt what you might say or communicate, the way you’re going to act. And many times, when you do that shift and adaptation, you’re going to change who you really are or want to be or are going towards being, because then you’re basing it on that other person. And usually, because we’re all home together, that would be our parent, if we’re for the child. So, yeah, I think that probably is the big thing.
And I’ve definitely, as a parent in the world, felt that difference as my kids have gotten older and as they’re moving more into adulthood, because our life does look so different from the traditional norm path. I know it’s one of those things and I know you know, because you’ve been through it. “Well, unschooling is great when the kids are young, but once they get to high school, they’re going to go to school, right?” Or, “Once they’re 12, they’re going to do this.” And we always said, “We don’t know. It’s up to them. If they want to do that, absolutely. They can. It’s not, the time is set and so it has to change. If that’s a choice that they make that is best for themselves and their learning, we support them and we’ll continue supporting them with what they need.”
But when they get to that age and they don’t make those “traditional choices” and it looks so different from the norm, especially if they decide, for example, not to go to university right away, I find a lot of people think, “Oh, unschooling still works, because then as soon as they turn 18 or they’re 17, they’re still going to university. So, obviously it was all okay.” And it’s kind of like, well, you did all of that different life, but now that they’re going to university, then they’re like, “Oh, you still checked it off. You made the check mark. Now, you’re approved.”
And right now, my daughter talks about that she’d like to explore university later on. So, absolutely we’ll support her with that. My son is saying that he doesn’t want to, that it doesn’t fit where he is. He doesn’t see the necessity of it right now for him. He can learn everything he needs. He has already been learning what he needs through experience and volunteering and his work experience, research, and taking courses online and things like that and separate certifications. So, there’s no need for it. He understands it’s not the end. He could go at any time, but when that path looks different, again, we’re kind of butting up against society’s expectations.
And so, I know for me as a parent, going back to that whole judgment thing, it’s kind of like, okay, so we’ve gotten through this. Where am I right now? Okay. Because I still want to continue supporting my kids and their path and I don’t want to be carrying around that judgment block. It’s a big weight to shoulder and carry. So, I think right now, that is our transition that we’re working through to process and let go of more, because our paths look so different.
And I also realize over the years that I think I had that expectation that, oh yeah, my kids can unschool and then they’re going to get this kind of job and our check marks will be there. We’ll still be approved. I still did a good job, because, in the end, they still followed this exact path. And I realized, oh wow, I still was kind of a bit caught in that, as well. And I realized that because that’s not the path my children have chosen to follow.
PAM: I love that, Robyn. Thanks for sharing those pieces. And I think when we first start unschooling, there is a lot of friends, family, etc., questioning, oh, they’re not going to school? And then, they get used to that fact eventually over time or it just doesn’t become a conversation piece anymore and things are good for a while. And then they hit the teen years and then the next level of expectations appear. Then they’re finally going to fit in. They’re going to get back on this normal path and go to university or college and get this kind of job and that kind of stuff. And then it all comes back again.
And it is so interesting for ourselves, too, to dive into. Our expectations and stuff can just be simmering in the background and we don’t notice them until something happens. Until somebody starts asking about that. It’s like, “Oh, I did have that kind of feeling that this is where we were headed,” and we start peeling back those layers and understanding that, oh yeah, you know what? The path that they choose in the direction that they’re wanting to go is what’s most valuable to them now.
And then the questions about, oh, going to university doesn’t have to be an age 18 thing, and that how they’re learning and what they’re learning is bringing them the most value now. And that now is at whatever now their age is. And we’re not closing off paths, but yeah, we have to process and work through that for ourselves before we can come more openly into conversations with them, without carrying that judgment piece in and that expectation that has us, even if we’re not saying it out loud, it does have us nudging conversations in particular.
We may notice that once they hit a certain age, we’re like, oh, but there’s an online course for this. Oh, there’s a university program for that. Oh, you can go to college for that. They notice that we’re planting more formal-looking or more conventional-looking answers in our conversations now. And they’re like, that’s curious.
ROBYN: Yes. That’s exactly it. It’s so true. And yeah, it’s such a process in that way, as well. It’s that continuous process and it’s not saying for anyone that you can’t. Maybe there is a fit and something’s come up and it might work for them, but it’s also like strewing in that way. Maybe someone’s notified me about some things, some options coming up and I want to share them with my kids, but then if they don’t choose it or pick it up, that’s okay.
Just because I present it to them, they don’t have to be like, “Yes! Thank you! This is the college course I’ve been waiting for. I’m going to enroll now and start!” They can have a reaction of non-interest or of, “No. I don’t want this whatsoever. This is completely off of where I want to go.” And that’s okay. And that’s great, because then they are vocalizing what they know for themselves. Like, “This does not meet what I really want.”
PAM: Exactly. That’s beautiful.
And for me, the clue was just noticing if I was handing them expectations. Like sharing suggestions, absolutely. Letting them know what’s out there in the world. But if I felt a little tinge that I was hoping they’d make a particular choice or I wanted one thing over another for them, that was a good clue that it was time for me to ask myself, why was I valuing this over this? Because really, up till now, what’s been important is the one that works best for them. So, why is my expectation getting caught up there in the mix? What expectations do I have that are getting caught up in there? So, just observing ourselves and noticing what feels a little bit weightier, where my energy is. And why is it? Just being curious about ourselves can be so helpful in those situations.
ROBYN: It really can. Yeah. And that’s the work, I think. That’s the work in all of it. And it’s still important to do that and not overlook it, for sure.
PAM: I think that leads nicely into my next question, because I wanted to talk a bit about supporting our children’s passions and how that continues to be so important as they hit their teen years and young adult years. But it takes on a whole new meaning. We’ve already talked about how the ways that we support them can be different from when they were younger. So, it may be more taking them places, maybe more money and less going to the library to get books and DVDs and that kind of stuff.
I’d love to hear your experience about supporting their passions as they get older.
ROBYN: Yeah, so supporting their passions has really been also giving them space to do things, as well, and to act on their passions. My daughter actually, over the years, she has done this for a long time, she’s pretty entrepreneurial. She has her budget and her plan and whenever she makes some, she and her dad have an investment set up. And so, she gives a percentage to him and she knows what she needs ahead of time when she’s going into something. And then she wants to build on that. So, it’s continuing supporting her with that.
It’s actually interesting, because this goes into this whole idea of what, again, society feels that people 18 and under can and can’t do. So, the trouble she’s run into is because she’s 12. And my son has run into this as well. If they want to do an investment, for example, on their own, they can’t because they’re considered under age and there’s laws where it does not allow them to own things for themselves, essentially. So, they have to wait for my husband or myself to process things for them or to do things for them. So, that’s been interesting, because it would be nice to have an avenue or place for them to learn more independence and do that without having to wait for us. So, for us, we’ve just tried to be as available as we can be and help them along that way.
And then again, it’s also shifted because of our time now with our environment and closures and things like that and what they can do. So, that has also shifted as well. For example, my daughter really loves team sports. She’s been a volleyball player and played club. And as a homeschooler, she actually can try out for the school team in our area, as well. She’s just played for this past year. So, limitations have fluctuated with that, but it’s just helping to find avenues where when things are open, she can be part of it, too, and helping her for that as well.
For my son, that has been a bit different, because I’d mentioned in the beginning of this episode that he was away for half a year working for an outdoor outfitter. And that connection started years ago and we knew it was a potential when he was ready for it. He just needed to get a bit older and it’s very physical work, a bit stronger and things like that. And to be ready to be away from home in the wilderness, with no contact essentially, to be ready for that in more ways than one. And supporting those interests and that actually has been a little bit of letting go for us. He reached out to the owner of the outfitters and emailed him and was in contact and let him know when he was ready to go and what was available. So, it’s things like helping him to sort out what gear he needs to make sure he’s ready for that.
But then the other part is actually being okay with him leaving. And that was important, because we didn’t want our worries, which of course we had as parents, to interfere with his outlook going forward. We still wanted to be reasonable and to have the conversations of things that he could potentially be aware of and to know going into things and to let him know, it’s okay to stop and ask questions or to be cautious of certain things. We wanted to make sure that we had that ongoing conversation.
But at the same time, we didn’t want fears to cloud his experience, our fears. Because he’s gonna have his own fears and I felt he was pretty good about vocalizing them and talking with us about them. But we didn’t want our fears to override that. And I think that was a big part of supporting our kids and their interests that I’ve been learning.
I was talking with a friend the other day and saying that, if you had said, “Oh, that’s great that you can let him go for that long. It’s fantastic! And that was wonderful that you’re able to do that and support him,” yeah, absolutely. But remember also you weren’t in my bed at night when I’m crying, asking, is this the right thing? All of those fears that you process that you kind of wait and we didn’t want to just lay them all out there. So that he has to then take all that on. It’s not for him to take our fears on. He’s having his own expense. We wanted his experience to be his experience. So, that was the practice for us in supporting our kids’ interests in that way.
And then, it was fantastic. He loved it. He’s going to go again. It was the best thing for now that he could do and that he wanted to do, as well. And he had all of those experiences that I know a lot of adults won’t ever have that experience or won’t ever face. And absolutely, he grew. He left a boy and came back a man in so many ways. And I think that’s been the difference in the transition as well. And then now that he’s back, that’s a difference as well as remembering that that boy left and that man is now here.
So, it’s supporting this young adult’s interests, not the young boy’s interest, which is also a different shift on how we do that as well. So, it’s again being open to, “Let us know what you need right now and how we can support you.” And sometimes when he’s like, “Okay, we can just chill for a little bit here,” as well, understanding that we’ll step back a little bit. So, I hope that answers your question, but that’s been the change in that journey of supporting our kids’ interests and adapting to what’s around us as well in that way.
PAM: Yeah, that is a beautiful example, a beautiful story. So many great points in there. I loved the one of, we can have our fears. Like we were talking earlier about stretching comfort zones, when we see what directions and the things that they are wanting to do, and being supportive and helping them as they take step-by-step. And if he started the process and then halfway through the prep, he’s like, “You know what? This doesn’t feel right.” That would be okay, too. And just because we’re supporting them and helping them as they’re processing and figuring things out, and each day is a new day helping them know that it’s a choice, that is by environment that we’re cultivating with our kids. And not putting our worries onto them.
So, as you were saying, it will be maybe pointing out things that we think, maybe they haven’t considered it. But it’s not a big dump of all our fears alongside an expectation they fix those or that they have to mitigate them. It’s sharing the information, pieces of information that we might have, but also being open, like you were saying, to helping them process their fears because their fears, their questions, their worries may be very different, but those are the ones that they’re dealing with right now.
ROBYN: And they are different. Usually, their fears are different from mine. Sometimes they’re ones that had never even come to our mind, because of who they are and who we are. So, absolutely it’s allowing space for that as well.
And the other part of it, too, and this was also probably a reminder for us, as well, I think because our son, it was such a big adventure. What his work encompassed, he was in the camp and it’s a fishing and hunting camp and it’s big game. So, people come from all over the world to go to get this experience. So, it’s quite an international space in that way. And it’s fairly well known for the unique fishing and hunting that’s offered there.
And so, he’s in camp learning a ton of things, but once they go out, they have to cut trail. And then when they’re cutting trail, they’re out for two weeks, they’re out for 10 days and they have to pack everything in. They have horses. They have to pack the horses and he has this job wrangling the horses. And then there’s all the things that happen along the way.
They told the story of how they were going along a big steep incline. One of the horses fell and tumbled down a cliff. So, they have to go and get the horse and he was wedged between this stump and something else and get him up and then ride him bareback back up the mountain and all of those adventures that usually most kids aren’t usually experiencing at that time. They would run out of food and the owner would have to fly and drop food from the plane for them.
He told a story about when they were going out, they had packed a steak and it was going to be their treat for dinner one night, because a lot of it is cans. Or if they’re along the river, they can fish and hopefully catch a fish. But then they had left it a little too long and it was a bit too warm and they took it out and it was moldy or it was bad. And so, their disappointment of, oh, just can beans tonight, different things like that.
And then it was going on the hunt with the clients and high mountain ranges. Your physical and mental limits are taxed. You’re searching. You’re scoping. You’re on the edge of a cliff. You’re going until late, then you’re setting up camp and making sure the horses are taken care of, all of those sorts of things.
So, the other thing that we remembered, especially in this process, was also not just our fears, because again, it’s such a different path, the fears of others outside of our immediate family that then come in. Some are super excited and then some don’t have the filter. They don’t have the, okay, we’re trying to keep our fears and process that for ourselves with each other, but not with him, so that he can process his own thing. So, instead it’s, “Well, what about this? And didn’t you know? They’re just open-ended unloading onto him if we’re not around. So, it was also helping him to understand that when someone brings these things to you, it’s them. It’s their fears. It’s their concerns. You don’t have to answer those questions. It’s not on you to make them feel okay. That’s not your job or experience right now.
And maybe this is a way that you can suggest or maybe alter the conversation a little bit or maybe how you can process that without it affecting you or how you can maybe direct them to us and we can deal with it for you so you can deal with other stuff right now. So, that was another big thing that we experienced with this particularly, because of his age and because it’s something so different, the fears of others outside of our immediate family and then how to process that. And to let them know that we all have those fears, but how we deal with them and communicate them is going to be different and you’re going to come up against that for the rest of your life, most likely. It’s going to happen. And that’s something we’re still practicing is how we can help you to communicate.
And both of our kids, we’re now trying to help them know how we can help you to communicate to others about your life experience and that it’s still valid. And that you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to, but if you do, if you need some help speaking to others about, no, I’m still worthy. I’m still doing well. My life looks different, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less than yours. And it doesn’t mean these things are not going to happen, because they certainly can.
So, that has been a shift, I think, as well, as they’ve gotten older, different ways for us to support them in their interests and passions.
That’s such a great point, too, as they’re engaging more with other people and just helping them feel have words. It is validating the fact that you don’t need to engage in every conversation that comes to you, that there are options. You can do this. You can direct them this way. You can have a quick answer and change the subject. And it’s different in the mood. That’s not something that I’m going to decide that this is the way I’m going to answer every single time. Context is what matters.
And I think that is something with unschooling that they gain a lot of experience with, because we’re not pulling out rules. Like, in this situation, you always do this. We are actually having conversations about the context, considering how we’re feeling in the moment. If we’re energetic, if we’re tired, if we’re frustrated, and that it’s okay to take those into consideration when we’re making our choices in that moment. We are not like robots that when X happens, I will always do Y. You know what I mean?
The other piece that comes out is recognizing that there are always choices and possibilities in any moment. We’re not stuck. And if we’re feeling stuck, that’s a great time to just step back for a second and just open up a little bit, be a little bit more curious. What else is there? What else could I do? We’re not talking emergencies in this moment. That’s another thing that we learn is that so many things aren’t emergencies. We were talking earlier about, I need to solve this fast and move forward. So many things are not actually emergencies.
ROBYN: We make them emergencies so often. It can really feel like an emergency.
PAM: Exactly. But we really can take five minutes, three minutes, 10 minutes, a day, a week. Often, we have so much more time than at first we think. Anyway, all to say that was a wonderful story and all the different pieces. And you can’t know those. We want to know those things moving in. We want to know everything’s going to be fine. And we want to think through. Our worries are thinking through all sorts of possible scenarios. That’s helpful to a point, but when it starts to feel like a lot of weight, it’s also useful to say, you know what?
We have been making choices and looking at moments for a long time now. These are skills that they’re developing, certainly more so than more conventional kids who don’t have a lot of choice in their day. They don’t have a lot of moments where they can actually look around and figure out what the next step is that they want to take. Our kids have a lot of experience with that that they bring with them now forward into new moments and new situations. So, yeah, I love that.
All right. I’m very curious to know what has surprised you most about how unschooling has unfolded in your life so far?
ROBYN: Hmm. I think what’s surprised me most is probably what I’ve talked about earlier. It’s the idea of thinking that by a certain time, by teenagerhood or by teens, that we would have this all sorted and figured out. Those questions wouldn’t be coming up anymore. And what surprised me most is that, yeah. It’s just that regular reminder that things are going to change. It could be a new day tomorrow and something completely different could happen or be present. And so, it’s just the regular practice of remembering that and taking a breath and remembering that, okay, right now, everything is okay. And really, it’s how we choose to see them or to reflect on them is the big thing.
I think probably the other surprise, as well, is that my kids are still the same kids. It’s funny you brought up the whole teenage rebellion thing. They’re the same kids. They’re just good, great. We all like hanging out together. We still spend a lot of time together. They’re really considerate. They’re still a lot of fun and we still are friends in that way. Of course, we’re still mother and dad and daughter and son, and there are those family dynamics, but we all really still get along really well. And I’m very grateful for that. And so, maybe it wasn’t a surprise, but you always hope that things continue that way. And so, that has been really nice to still enjoy that and still to have them around and it be an enjoyable experience.
PAM: Yeah. I love that, that surprise. Because you just wonder. Because so often, you hear, wait till they’re teens. Oh yeah, you get along now, but wait until they’re older, those kinds of those kinds of things. So, on one hand, you’re like, “No, I don’t think that’s going to be a big thing. We’re getting along really well.”
Like we talked about before, it doesn’t mean we’re not having challenges and we’re not moving through things and people aren’t getting upset. It’s not that utopian vision or anything. But we’re moving through those and we’re connecting and we’re having fun with each other and we’re considerate of each other’s needs and figuring out ways that we can all get our needs met even if it’s not all in the moment. But there’s so much trust there that they trust that if we say we can do that tomorrow, or, “I’ll be able to do that with you tomorrow,” whatever, that tomorrow will come and that will happen. There’s so much more trust in that relationship.
But it is so nice and a pleasant surprise to see that, yeah, this is what I thought it would be like. It’s not a switch. It’s not foundational or part of being a teenager. It is about the environment in which they are a teenager.
ROBYN: Yes. Yes. I think that’s the big thing. Actually, seeing that, I just got a little bit of a chill there. Because I think we’ve come to expect that it’s part and parcel of, they’re teens and this is going to happen. And no, it’s not. That’s not necessarily the case. And you can always talk about the environment, the nurture versus the nature kind of thing. And I think that all comes into play. But certainly, you can support them in that environment. That’s a nice thing as well, I think, starting from an early age, not to say it can’t happen later on, but you continually build and do set that foundation for that as well, which has been really, really nice in that way, too.
PAM: Exactly. Exactly. More experiences of working through it builds that trust that the next time things are feeling off, we can move through this, too. We can move through this.
What is your favorite thing about your unschooling days right now?
ROBYN: Right now, actually, our favorite thing is we have a little cabin in the mountains close to an out of the way ski resort that we love to go to. So, our favorite thing again is time. And this is one of the reasons why we started this in the first place, because we started traveling and we wanted to have that flexibility and to do what we wanted to do. So, we’re not traveling internationally. We’re traveling just very locally. And we actually spend a lot of time there. And that’s our goal for the winter. And that’s our favorite thing right now is to spend the time outdoors doing that, going to the mountains and being at our cabin and being out in the snow when it’s reasonable for us to go out in the snow, when it’s not minus 50 degrees Celsius.
But yeah, that’s our favorite thing. So, having that flexibility to do those things. Right now, school just started again this week here and many kids were like, “We’d like to do this, but gotta go fit into the schedule.” And my kids were like, “We don’t have to fit into that schedule.” So, right now, that’s our favorite. Still spending that time and doing that and being outside, because that’s a soul refresher for our family in so many ways. So yeah, that is very current.
PAM: Exactly. Right now. That’s perfect. That’s beautiful.
And I think that time, that space, that free time that isn’t obligated and scheduled is so valuable, because that’s where we have that bit of time for introspection to find the things that fill our soul, to find and do those things that fill our souls, that mesh with the seasons. It is all so very personal.
ROBYN: It is. And it still supports the passions, too, because as it turns out, my kids love to snowboard and ski. My daughter loves snowboarding. My son loves skiing. So there, that all fits together in that way, they’re still able to do that and go out and experience that and practice that as well.
PAM: Yes. That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Robyn. It was so much fun.
ROBYN: It was great to connect with you again. I’m so happy. It’s a good start to 2022.
PAM: Yes, it is! Now, before we go, I was just wondering if you could share where people can connect with you online, because I know you’ve started hosting regular chats on Clubhouse and I joined just the other day to start getting a feel for what that is.
PAM: So yeah, can you share that information?
ROBYN: Absolutely. Sorry, everyone. I’m excited that Pam’s going to be there. Well, I still have my podcast, Honey! I’m Homeschooling the Kids. That’s on any podcast player, whether it’s Spotify or Apple or Amazon, any of those. So, you can listen to my podcast.
I have a club in Clubhouse called Honey! I’m Homeschooling. So, we host rooms through the week, four times a week. So, I actually personally host the room Tuesday afternoon. So, evening Eastern time, 4:00 PM mountain time. And that’s themes and topics around homeschooling and unschooling, parenting, childhood, all of that that comes into play with that.
Saturday mornings, I host a room with Liana Francisco, who’s a grown unschooler and she and I host a room every Saturday morning at 9:00 AM mountain time. And then there are other rooms hosted by other co-hosts in the club, as well, Mondays and Thursdays. Liana Francisco and Kelly Edwards host the room on Monday and then Allison Towner, another unschooling mom with younger kids, hosts the room on Thursday. So, we’ve created that community.
That was a big thing about the podcast, as well, talking about processing, having community, and a network, and mentorship, and different ways, and a place to ask those questions. That’s really what it’s there for. It’s audio only. So, it’s so easy just to tune it on your phone and almost like a podcast, if you just want to listen. Or if you want to then be part of the conversation, that’s cool. It’s like being alive, coming over to my house for a cup of tea and we hang out in my living room and chat. So, there’s that.
You can connect all through my website and social media. I have links to the Clubhouse app and to my club, too. And I’m on social media, Instagram, Honey, I’m Homeschooling the Kids, Facebook. And in March, I host a homeschooling summit, actually Kelly Edwards and I. That’s coming up in March on Clubhouse. It’s our second one, as well. So, we just have some great community-building happening and you can go to my website to find out more as well or to social media. But yeah, that’s what we have right now. And then I continue to support families through coaching, as well, on their natural learning journey.
PAM: Oh, that’s awesome, Robyn. And we will put links to all that stuff in the show notes of the episode, so people can find you easily. Thank you again so much and have a wonderful day.
ROBYN: Thank you, Pam. It was great to see you.
PAM: Yeah. You, too.