PAM: Hi, everyone! I’m Pam Laricchia, host of the Exploring Unschooling Podcast. Now, on the podcast, I have mentioned the Living Joyfully Network online community here and there. Sometimes I share a theme that we’re exploring that month or testimonials from members. But I feel like that doesn’t actually say much about what we actually get up to in this rich and vibrant community.
So, for those who are even just a bit curious, I wanted to share a brief overview about the Network and then one of our weekly Focus Calls, where Anna and I discuss an aspect of the theme as it relates to our unschooling lives.
So, for this call, the theme is Navigating Conflict, and we’re diving into the idea of No Set Outcomes. And I really do think you’ll find our conversation interesting and helpful on your unschooling journey.
But before we dive into that, we’re going to share a peek inside the Network. And who are we? Obviously, you know me, Pam Laricchia. I am co-host of the Living Joyfully Network alongside Anna Brown. And Anna?
ANNA: Hello! I am so excited to have this chance to talk a bit more about the Living Joyfully Network and how special it is!
Pam and I had been noodling around with the idea for a community for a while and we knew we wanted a place that offered resources and a sense of community. And I really benefited from connecting with online groups throughout my unschooling journey. But the old online groups had so many limitations and challenges. And so, it was really exciting when Pam found Mighty Networks and it all started to come together.
We launched right as the pandemic was hitting, which turned out to be a wonderful time to foster connections with amazing families from all over the world. Quickly, we had this strong, amazing community of people who were living intentionally, honoring children, doing deep work to improve their relationships. I mean, it was pure magic and exceeded all of our expectations. And honestly, I think it’s gotten better and better over the past two and a half years. Not only do we have this amazing community of people who inspire me daily, but we have this vast archive of resources that’s easily accessible to all members. So, I’m excited to talk a bit more about it.
ERIKA: I’m Erika Ellis and I am here to support the community as a moderator and a resource gatherer and I also host the book club group. And I’m really glad, too, to get the chance to really dive into what the Network looks like and all of the many ways that it has helped me and my relationships.
I first joined the Network as part of the Childhood Redefined Summit and I really thought it was just going to be a place to support questions and discussion about that program. And then, when I finally went inside Mighty Networks and saw all of the interaction and the content and the community, I really was just blown away. It was exactly what I had been wanting without even knowing that I wanted something! I’ve made such deep friendships and gained so much valuable insight about challenges I face and challenges I may one day face, endless inspiration and laughs and aha moments and all the things. And I’m just so grateful to be a part of it!
PAM: Yay! One thing I wanted to do was give just a quick overview of the Network tech. So, the Living Joyfully Network is an online community for parents where we have candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling.
Now, when Anna and I were first considering where to host the community, we knew that we wanted to find a private, dedicated online community platform that could support that deep, focused reflection that our unschooling journey asks of us, away from the distractions of social media.
And after lots of searching, we landed on Mighty Networks, which you guys have mentioned. There, everything is all in one place. There is the ability to post. We can set up events. We can share workshops. And it quickly feels familiar, with a feed that you can scroll through that shows posts shared by other members, tagged by the topics that you can follow, and with comment threads for conversations to unfold. There’s direct messaging as well. And there’s an app too, so you can easily access the Network through your phone or tablet, as well as your browser.
So, more than two years in now, I am still really happy with that choice. It feels like going into my own unschooling world. It’s got its own ethos. It just exists there.
So, Anna, do you want to share some details about that world?
ANNA: I do! So, the Network has a really lovely flow that adds just enough structure to keep us thinking and growing, but plenty of room for the in-the-moment issues and joyful sharing about our lives.
Each month we have a theme and a few examples are Learning is Everywhere, Cultivating Trust, Navigating Conflict. There really have been so many, too many to name, but the purpose is to dig into a particular aspect of this unschooling life: our relationships, parenting, self exploration, and really see how all of those topics intertwine.
Each week, we focus on a particular aspect of the theme. So, on Mondays, Pam and I put out a video talking about that week’s focus. It’s usually 15-20 minutes and it offers some ideas to ponder. It’s short enough to not be a barrier to listening, but it’s rich with ideas to start your week. And you’ll get that example as soon as we finish with this. You’ll see what that sounds like.
After that, we’ll have a question that will spark conversation around the focus and theme. And those questions have been the start of some amazing threads!
Each week, we also have a live Zoom call. They are incredible! The calls are recorded for those who can’t make it with us live. But every week, I get excited about the rich discussions. Each week we share and support one another. It’s a really special time. And we’ve gotten so much wonderful feedback about it.
In between, we have threads that pop up from members, ranging from a-ha moments, snapshots of their lives, asking questions, what’s pressing at the moment, sharing resources that they’ve found helpful on their journey. The active support and holding space without judgment really sets the Network apart. You know you have this rich, international community of parents walking through this journey with you.
And in the months where there is a fifth week, we revisit self-care. It’s been so wonderful for that to pop up periodically throughout the year, that little reminder that self-care is so important to our health and our ability to live our best life with our families. So, that’s the overall structure of it and lots of flowing and following the paths in between.
ERIKA: Right! So, I’m going to talk about who the Network is for.
So, I think the Network is perfect if you’re looking for resources to help you learn about unschooling and to dive deeper into unschooling no matter where you are on your journey. And I really do mean that. Pam and Anna’s kids are grown and they’re still digging deeper and having a-ha moments along with everyone else!
We have an amazing Monthly Theme Index, where all of our past monthly themes are organized. You can check out the Focus Videos, the conversations, the questions. It’s all there and easy to access, whether you’re looking for support in a certain area or you’re wanting to experience every topic from the beginning. We have over two years of content ready for you to explore and there’s really nothing else like it on the internet. Anna mentioned a few of the themes, but I want to share a few more, just to get you excited about all of the possibilities! So, we have Seeing the Magic, Supporting Our Partners, Cultivating Self-Awareness, Sitting with Fear and Discomfort, and Our Parenting Toolbox. Each theme brings new insights and deeper connections.
In addition to the monthly themes, we have a Resource Library, where we gather books, videos, podcasts, network conversations, websites, and more that help us dive into common topics of interest, like neurodiversity, technology and screens, sleep, health and hygiene, food, and learning to read. Our members help the library grow by suggesting resources that have helped them. And as we talk about the challenges we’re facing, we’re also learn from them and growing the resource library even more. It’s been such a huge benefit of the Network.
We also have a book club group where we discuss books through our unschooling lens. So far, we’ve talked about Roya Dedeaux’ book, Connect with Courage, Akilah Richards’ book, Raising Free People, Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection, and more.
So, obviously, the Network has so many resources to dive into in order to grow on your unschooling journey and deepen your relationships!
But what I love about the Network is that it’s also the perfect place if you’re looking for connection and community with other families who are on the same journey. There is something so powerful about feeling part of a web of people across the world who are living joyfully, choosing connection, and focusing on respectful relationships. I’ve seen so many amazing friendships bloom out of the Network.
There are so many ways to connect with other members. We have that weekly conversation through Zoom where we can check in, share updates, and get ideas and feedback about the challenges we’re facing. I always learn so much through those conversations and it feels really good to be there live. There’s just such a great energy on the calls.
We also have a Marco Polo group for the Network, where members share snippets of their lives and have discussions in video format about challenges, aha moments, and just fun life moments. It’s been a great way to develop deeper friendships.
And when you’re on the website or in the app in Mighty Networks, there’s a messaging feature for chatting with individual members or small groups, so it’s easy to get in touch with someone if you want to further your conversation by text.
And we have tags for every kind of sharing on the Network, from snapshots of family life, to processing challenges, sharing what we’re reading or games we’re playing and enjoying, or celebrating our big a-ha moments and realizations.
There are so many ways to participate, whether you’re looking primarily for resources or for community or both, and whether you have plenty of time to dive into it all or just enough time to watch a short video each week. The content and the community are both there as you need them.
PAM: Yay! I almost got tired listening. There’s so much. It’s so rich. We keep going back to that word.
So, next, I would like to take a moment to talk about a couple of things that I think make the Living Joyfully Network different from the more typical online groups. The first is that the Network is an expert-free zone. The areas of education and parenting in general have a tendency to hold up experts to follow. But, in our experience, each time we choose to latch onto one, we tend to shut out other ways of thinking, experimenting, and exploring. We end up, soon enough, turning off our inner voice and filling our thoughts with the chatter of other voices telling us what to do.
In the Network, we have a different approach. The three of us are not unschooling experts. We are members of the community. As Erika mentioned, Anna and I continue to learn, make new connections, gain insights, and experience a-ha moments. We are not looking for anyone’s expertise. Rather, we love to hear your practical knowledge and your stories of growth and connection. What we have in the Network is an abundance of experience, and in particular, unschooling experience.
Which is why one of our community policies is, “share experiences, not advice.” It’s not that we believe offering advice is wrong, rather, we believe that, more often than not, it doesn’t help as much as we’d like it to. But sharing our experiences and our insights gives others more information to contemplate as they explore what works for them and their family, because we are all unique.
The second difference is that we aim in particular to foster community. With members from around the world, we are sharing our lives and learning about and supporting each other. Of course, there is absolutely no expectation around sharing. That is to each member’s comfort level. Yet, as you guys have been saying, the depth of kindness and compassion for other members in the community is remarkable. It is just such a comfy and lovely place to visit.
And that leads nicely into the next thing I wanted to talk about, which is why we love being members of the Network community! And I’m going to start.
For me, I love how the Network grounds and inspires me. No matter where members are on their journey, they are asking questions, they’re observing what’s happening around them, they’re digging deeper to better understand themselves and their children. I really do feel that this personal journey is essential for unschooling to thrive!
Every time I visit the Network, it regrounds me in why I chose the unschooling lifestyle so many years ago: the realization that living and learning weave together intimately and that connected and trusting relationships with my family are the foundation in which our lives flourish. And I feel such a deep kinship with everyone in the Network community. Every question, every a-ha moment, every living joyfully snapshot inspires me to remain open and curious and always learning. My life is better every day because of the people in the Network. Just going in there energizes, inspires, and grounds me each day. It’s the first thing I do in the morning.
ANNA: Yes! I love so many things about the Network. For me, very much like you were saying, it’s an energy thing. It’s this energy of joy, kindness, acceptance, even in those tough moments. And no matter what someone is going through, I know there will be beautiful responses to help hold space, shine lights, and uplift.
And I love that we have people from all over the world. It brings me a lot of peace knowing that we have this web of people living intentionally, improving the lives of children.
Personally, I have made lifelong friends and know that my life is enriched daily by the people I have met. I feel so much gratitude for what people bring to the Network. And also knowing there’s no pressure, there’s no expectations. Someone can just soak in the resources and read along or they can dive in and contribute in whatever way feels good for them. I like that there’s freedom to make it work for each person and that’s just wonderful.
ERIKA: Yeah. I’ve been a part of many online communities over the years, and nothing has compared to the Network for me. The relationships and the connections are deeper, the support is so real, and the resources are just awesome – so thought-provoking and inspiring. I just love the feeling I get when I open the app and I can see people being intentional with their families, asking deep questions, responding to each other with so much love, and doing important inner work. It reminds me of why I’m choosing this life.
The weekly conversation is such a touchstone for me and just fills me up with love and wonder. I’m always learning, always growing, and figuring out ways to be more of who I want to be for my family. And being in the Network helps me focus on what’s important. It’s really not overstating it to say that it’s totally changed my life!
ANNA: I agree! So, next, I’m excited to share with you one of our weekly focus videos and this was from a month that the theme was Navigating Conflicts. During that month, we had several themes that we talked about: Triggers, No Set Outcomes, Assuming Positive Intent, and Validation. And all of these pieces that are important to understand as we look to move through and even head off conflicts. It was a rich month with lots of reflection and discussion. And I hope you’ll enjoy this focus call and I really hope you’ll join us on the Network!! I look forward to meeting you!
Weekly Focus Call
Navigating Conflict: No Set Outcomes
PAM: Welcome to another week in the Network. Hi, Anna!
PAM: So, our theme this month is Navigating Conflict and this week, we’re focusing our lens of curiosity on the idea of No Set Outcomes. Now, I know this comes up pretty often and that will be because it’s pretty fundamental. We mentioned it last month when we were exploring Communication. And there, we were talking about it through the lens of trust and how valuable it is to release any outcomes or solutions that we may have in mind, even before we head into conversations.
I think it’s even more valuable as we navigate conversations around conflict. When we go into a conversation where there are different opinions or outright conflicts with an idea of what direction we believe everyone should take, what usually happens, at least for me, is our energy shifts the whole power dynamic of the moment into power-over. It’s my body language. It’s the tone of my voice. It’s the words that I choose. Because they’re often just more presumptuous, like going, “I know. I know.” And I tend to try to dominate the conversation, trying to convince them that my point of view is right. Yes, I can feel it already as I’m talking about it.
So, even if I’m not barking orders, even if I’m not, “I’m gonna go and convince them,” that’s not the story I’m telling myself about the conversation, but if I walk into the conversation with that, you don’t even often choose it, but it’s like, “But I know the right thing! But I know the way that this should work out.”
So, even if I’m not barking orders, most everyone, most often can feel that energy shift. I’m telegraphing the message that I know better than everyone else right now for this.
So, what I was doing when I was prepping for the call, I started thinking about, well, what do I do when I feel myself in that position? Because out and about in the world, it happens pretty darn often. And I noticed when I found myself in those kinds of conversations, I tend to just shut down pretty quickly. I just feel like they’re not truly listening to me. So, I share the bare minimum that’s expected by the conversation. I say, “Maybe,” a lot, because I’m still not gonna be like, “Oh yes. Right. You’re right.” But I will say, “Maybe,” because possibilities. I will look for the very next opportunity to escape the conversation, to end it, to move on. It’s very disconnecting.
So instead, if my intention is to cultivate conversation with them, with my kids, rather than talk at them, for me, and I don’t think it will surprise anybody, what helped most was to shift to curiosity. If I choose not to push any set outcomes, what are the other possibilities?
And as we’ve mentioned many times, our kids are a magical fountain of amazing insights and ideas when we give them that space and the opportunity to engage with us, be in conversation with us. But that’s not all, because being curious, I also learn so much more. I learn more about the context of the conflict. So, it could be more information about the environment, about the conflicting needs and goals of the people that are in the moment, to the current circumstances of each person. That’s where all those other questions about where they are. They talk, all the things.
And then from there, the more I learn, the more little bits of info I have floating around in my brainstorming head. I’ve got more pieces that then, all those different pieces can come together in creative and fun ways to navigate our way through the conflict or the challenge that really hits more of the needs of everyone involved.
But to be able to see these many different possibilities, I first need to let go, right back full circle to where we started, let go of any outcome that I have in mind.
Because we’ve talked about this, too. If I go into the conversation, maybe I’m really trying hard not to exude that energy or whatever. I’m really gonna come in. This is where I think it should go, but I’m gonna be open, but I think this is where it should go. What I notice in the conversation are the bits that mesh with where I think it should go. And those are the pieces of conversation that I glom onto. Those are the little bubbles that are bursting around in my head.
And I’ve basically predicted. Because I’m looking through that lens, I’m only noticing the pieces of information that fit with it. So, I can’t be as creative. So, I am not seeing so much of the situation to be more helpful to everyone. I’m still gathering the ammunition that will support my thesis, my path. And I might not even be willfully ignoring the rest. I’m not noticing it, because that’s how my brain works. Because this is the path I think we should go, I’m noticing all the stuff that proves that this is the path that we should go. Anyway, I hope that makes sense.
ANNA: It does. I think it will resonate with a lot of people.
This was a big one for me, probably one of the harder ones in the beginning. And so, we’ll just say that it took a lot of practice and intentional focus in the moment. Because I think for most of us, when we’re faced with the conflict, we really have a clear idea of where we want it to go. And we set about making sure that the other person knows this is where this is going to go.
PAM: This is happening.
ANNA: This is what’s gonna happen here. And so, what that often looked like for me was that I was carefully crafting my response in my head while I was pretending to listen, basically. And you can imagine that that didn’t help anything at all. So, coming at it with this open, curious mindset, it just changes everything, because then I can really listen and I learn. I learn their whys. I learn what’s happening around them that might be influencing their actions and that can be HALT kind of things (maybe they’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired) or just other environmental factors or just where they are in the moment.
I learn what they are seeing when they look at the situation. It’s hard to see what someone else sees, but you only get even close to it by really listening and putting yourself like, “Okay. I see where they’re drawing these connections. I see where this is happening.” And with that information, I feel like then I had this better view of the context that we talk about so often. And it’s not just this very narrow view of what I think is right, what I came in with, this expectation.
And so, yes, I’m a broken record about this piece, but this mantra, the “be kind not right,” actually really helps me in these situations, because I can still cling for the moment that I’m right. And I’m just saying, “Anna, you’re just being kind. You’re just gonna listen. We know you’re right. It’s fine.” And so, that helps me shift, but what I find is that with this practice, the idea of right just fades away, because then we’re just learning how to navigate the situation together.
But I have to do something to stop myself from pushing that “right” on someone else. Because again, that context, those different perspectives, it just makes it so much easier and really more interesting to find solutions that work for everyone. And so, ugh. But, yeah. That’s my piece. So, I have to have something that like shifts me out of that, “You’re right, Anna.”
And so, I guess just to put it into context for people, too, this can be things that has to do with our kids. It could be a disagreement about bed times. If we’re coming into it with a belief that there is one way out of this discussion, they’re gonna sense that a mile away. And that really is where the power struggles begin. That is where that happens. We can pin that down to that moment where they sense that, “You’re coming and asking me a question, but I can’t really answer. You want me to do this one thing.”
But when we let go of the set outcomes, it allows for that creativity that you talked about and we talk about so often and learning about one another and learning why this is even bubbling up for both of us. It’s such a different discussion that happens. And what I found is it was just, it surprised me and it delighted me. Like, “Of course they’re so creative and look, they can take all these different things into account when we are honest and open about it.”
And this also applies to our partners. And there’s been some recent discussions on how it can be easier to apply these ideas with our children. But it’s so, so helpful to keep it in mind with all of our exchanges.
I was talking recently about how, we don’t really feel different as we age. It’s not like some magic number happens and we’re now this different person. We’re an adult. We’re really just always evolving, but this core, we’ve had it from the start. And so, if we can see that growing human in front of us when it’s our child and when it’s our partner, it makes such a big difference. And letting go of the outcome and really tuning in and listening keeps the connection at the forefront and then makes navigating those conflicts so much easier.
PAM: It really does. Again, that’s the thing I love is our conversations are really foundationally about humans engaging with each other, really, regardless of age. Because I peeled into that one a lot with my partner, not with, about, in my head, as I was wondering, why was it so hard? And it really, for me, boiled down to, oh, I was holding all these expectations.
ANNA: Expectations. They should know better or do more. They’re the adult. And it’s like, oh! But we’re just all humans doing our thing. We’re trying.
PAM: Exactly. So, that was where I finally got to and I was like, oh yeah. Those just don’t work. For me, that was the point when I chose to leave my career, leave work, and come home. That was before I even knew homeschooling exists. That was something I discovered after I came home. But that was part of, what are all these expectations I have on another person? And how is that serving our relationship? And how is that serving me? And how am I feeling about it? How’s that working for you, Pam?
PAM: So, yes, I’ve got a little bit off track, but wherever you need to go, because it’s so individual for each person. And it’s worth digging in and just being curious, like, how’s that working? Why is it different for my child and for my partner or for extended family? And there comes a point somewhere where it is different. We can’t have this depth of relationship and connection and trust with everyone in our lives. It’s a lot of work.
ANNA: But it’s intentional choices. And so, it’s like, okay, we’re choosing to be in this type of relationship with this person. I want to use the tools that we have available to us to make it as easy as possible, as connecting as possible. And those expectations that you were talking about, which, we have all been there, that is the set outcome. It’s this expectation that you’re gonna behave in a certain way and if you’re not, then there’s a problem.
But when we look at all the work that we’ve had to do, all the shedding of external voices, all of these people, our partners, are having to do that same work without some of the benefit of the community that we have and the reading that we’ve done and the things, because they have their own things going on.
And so, I just think that, I don’t know, just letting that go, letting those outcomes go and just connecting, it makes such a difference and just transforms things in the family. And then, you learn so much more about one another, which also enhances the relationship.
PAM: Exactly, exactly. And I just wanna reiterate, I love what you said about your transition piece being the mantra, “be kind, not right,” to help move to that no set outcome.
For me, I don’t know. I am just naturally super curious what other people think. Like, you see this differently? How is that? So, for me, it’s getting to that curiosity. It’s like, whoa, what? We’re different here? My path just seems so natural.
I can still hold my path. But then, for me, it’s getting curious about it. So, it’s really interesting to see what works for each person.
ANNA: Right. And that’s the thing. I do hope people will take that as like, okay. Find your stuck place and then figure out how you can tell yourself something or ground yourself or whatever that allows you to move past that stuck place, because that was my stuck place. I was not curious. I was, “I’m right. Of course I have the right answer here. Why are we not all doing what I want us to do?” And so, I just had to find a way, just that subtle shift. And I wasn’t even able to let go of it right away. Now, I can let go of it faster, but whew, back then, I couldn’t let go of it. And so, it doesn’t even have to be this dramatic thing, just something that allows you to pause, to shift, to open, like whatever that feels like for you.
PAM: Yeah, what bubbled up for me is, it’s not about telling ourselves we’re wrong.
ANNA: Right! No.
PAM: Yeah. It’s never about that, because just like we say about our kids and our partner, they are where they are. And what they’re thinking and how they’re seeing it is their truth. So, this is our truth. It’s not wrong for us, but we’re not the only one in here. If this was something that I was wanting to do and I was the only one involved and that’s the way I wanted to do it, go for it. It’s how we want to be in relationship.
ANNA: And how we want that to go. And again, it’s not even about pressing down needs. What you’ll find is that, when you go into these conversations with this more open, no set outcome mindset, you will get your needs met a heck of a lot faster, I think, than if you go into it bulldozing and then you get this brick wall from the people around you.
PAM: Exactly. And just to say, because if we also go into those conversation by stuffing down what we think the path is. It’s moving beyond. It’s not trying to get rid of it. Like, we know it’s wrong. We’re not going to take this path. Because it may end up being a good path.
But what happens, I think, or what can happen is, if we do the stuff down method, the ignore our own thoughts method, we are less likely to notice opportunities or to bring up our needs as part of the conversation. Because we step all that stuff down with the “no.”
ANNA: And then no solution is gonna feel good. And so, if we take the bedtime example, so say I’m exhausted, they’re wanting to stay up, just to keep it simple, if I’m not talking about what’s happening for me, they’re not gonna come up with a solution that includes me.
PAM: That includes me.
ANNA: Because they don’t even know that need exists. They’re like, “I’m doing fine at 2:00 AM. I don’t understand the problem.” But when we can share without agenda, without set outcome, like, “Hey, this is what’s happening in my body. This is what I’m feeling comfortable with, uncomfortable with,” then they can do the same. And that in that space is where we figure out those creative things. So, it’s definitely not pushing down. It’s just not pushing over with that.
PAM: Brilliant, brilliant. I love that. All right. I think we’ve gone on long enough about that. I am really excited to hear how that lands for people and for people to start playing and exploring what shift might help them as they’re navigating these conflicts, to be able to come without an agenda or a set outcome in mind when they move into these conversations. That’s gonna be fun. See everybody in the Network!