Explore the transformative power of unschooling with Pam Laricchia, host of the popular 'The Exploring Unschooling Podcast.'
Dive into the art of fostering enriching parent-child relationships, redefining success, and experiential learning.
Pam is the author of several books on Unschooling, and if you are new to the game, we suggest you read her books 'What is Unschooling`' and 'Free to Learn.'
In this episode, Pam shares her journey from discovering homeschooling to becoming an unschooling advocate. She reveals how homeschooling became a lifeline when her eldest son struggled in a traditional school setting and how her family has flourished since the switch. As Pam explains, unschooling allows children to learn through their interests, experiences, and conversations, taking the pressure off parents to fit into a specific curriculum or timeline.
As we explore the dynamics of unschooling, we uncover the nuances of navigating parent-child conversations. This approach involves a delicate balance between directing and engaging with children, creating a relationship built on trust where experiences can be shared and learning is supported. Our conversations with our children should be enriching, giving them context and understanding of the world around them.
Pam offers insights on redefining success to be personally meaningful and supporting our children in finding their own path.
🗓️ Recorded August 2th, 2023. 📍Laythams Holiday Lets Retreat, Forest of Bowland, UK
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0:00:00 - Jesper Conrad
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Conrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest. Today we are together with Pam Ladikje, and when we started our journey as world travelers, it came to me oh, it could be fun to do some podcasts. And then we looked around and one of the podcasts we saw was yours, and you also took time to invite us as guests on the podcast, both Cecilia and me, and now we have the honor of being able to return the favor and be the ones asking the questions, so welcome.
0:00:42 - Pam Larrichia
Thank you so much. I am excited to chat with you guys and thanks again for coming on my podcast. That was really fun having you each individually and seeing the different perspectives on your journey, so thanks again for that.
0:00:55 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, and fueling to those recordings if people want to hear those. But it could be wonderful to start with your own personal journey into the whole unschooling world. So if you can tell us a little about how that started for you, yeah, that was a little while ago, but that was back in 2002.
0:01:21 - Pam Larrichia
I have three kids. That year when they left school they were nine, seven and four, and really up until like a couple of months before that point I didn't even know like homeschooling was a thing. I didn't know it was possible. I thought you could have to go to school. So my kids were all in school. My youngest was in junior kindergarten and I guess over the couple of years, two or three years before, unschooling, just school, wasn't a great fit for my eldest. So I was working with teachers and chatting with my son and just moving through it, trying to make it as what word should I choose? Bearable and experienced. I wanted to do more than just that. So I mean that was going okay. We tried another school. So that year he was in a new school, which was definitely better, but it still wasn't a place where he could shine and thrive. And I knew the child that I saw at home who was learning and having fun and a joy to be around. So it was becoming very obvious that it was the environment. So that's why I was working with teachers so that they could understand a little bit better. But then, while I was doing my research, I came across the idea of homeschooling. It was in an article and I was like, hey, what the heck is that? That sounds very curious. So I did a little bit of research. We live in Canada, so I found out it was legal in Canada, I found. So this was back in 2002. Online, I found like a forum where there were people from my province who were homeschooling their kids. I was like, oh, and there are people in the world that are doing this. There are people in my country, in my province. Like, okay, it's a thing.
So what happened is the kids were home for March break and my husband and I had talked about it and we had decided you know what, like it doesn't need to be a forever decision, let's try it. We, for the last few years, we've been trying lots of things with the schools and with the various school systems and everything. So this is another possibility for us to try. So we thought you know what? We'll give it a try and see how it goes. Like that is a way that we approach everything, most things in our life Like, give it a try. We don't feel cast in stone in choices that we're making. It's like okay, let's take a step in that direction and see how it goes, and then we'll take another step if it's working, or etc.
So I went up to the kids I think it was the Friday of the March break and I just asked them. I said hey, you know what I found out? Because I had said in my time as a parent I'm sure you have to go to school. You know, how can we make this something that's workable for you? How can I help you? And I found out that you don't actually have to go to school, you can stay home and hang out and we can do things together. And I asked each one of them individually, just so that they wouldn't kind of influence each other or feel an expectation around that. And all three of them were like yes, yes, thank you so much, that sounds great, let's try it out. So they just didn't go back to school then, because at that point we're like OK, we want to try this, we don't have to wait out the rest of the school year.
0:05:17 - Jesper Conrad
And if it was March, it was also just a couple of months, and if it didn't work out they could start again after the summer.
0:05:25 - Pam Larrichia
Exactly, exactly. So that was really my journey To like. On one hand, it feels like when you decide to take your kids out of school, like, oh, that's the decision. That's kind of the end now, where that's it, because it's a big choice. Often it can be a big choice for someone, especially when it's something that you just discovered as possible and it's very different than what you've grown up with. So you can feel like you're kind of done. But really, at that point when you choose to bring them home, that's kind of also the beginning of your homeschooling journey or your unschooling journey. So it was a few weeks into homeschooling, as I was diving deeper into learning about it, where I discovered the unschooling style of homeschooling, if you want to call it that, and was reading more about that and digging into that and learning about that. So, while it feels like kind of the end of one, it's really the start of another big, beautiful journey.
0:06:26 - Jesper Conrad
And a long journey Because there's still, after 20 years, stuff to explore.
0:06:33 - Pam Larrichia
I believe, because I believe that when it becomes like you come to see it as a lifestyle, really like this is the way I would like to live as a person and, yeah, things are always coming up in life and bubbling up it becomes more of a lifestyle that continues versus something that you do while your kids are school age.
0:06:56 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, but Pam, what made you become you can call it an advocate of unschooling with your podcast and all this? What made you take that step? We have done it ourselves. I know for us it's because it feels like there's so much to tell, maybe, and I want people to be able to find out the stuff we had to search for. I want to make it easier for people with our podcast to see different stories. But if you take us back then, when did you start your podcast and how many episodes are you up to actually?
0:07:35 - Cecilie Conrad
You do really just ask five questions.
0:07:37 - Jesper Conrad
I ask five questions. Good luck remembering them.
0:07:42 - Pam Larrichia
Well, also the last one, because of course that's what I wrote.
0:07:44 - Cecilie Conrad
Do that and forget the rest. Yeah.
0:07:46 - Pam Larrichia
Tomorrow for the Exploring on Schooling Podcast, episode 352 is going out. Wow, that came now back to my motivation for sharing really is super similar to yours because, like I said, I hadn't even heard of homeschooling, let alone. You know. Unschooling is a much smaller subset of that. So for me it was a combination of just my personality and my brain is very I'm very much a systems thinker. And one thing I learned through diving into this lifestyle with my kids was also the value of like, because when you start it's like oh, they're not going to school, so how are they going to learn? So you really focused on the learning piece. But pretty darn soon you see that your kids are learning all the time. Right, and really it becomes how do I support that? I don't need to direct it, what am I doing? Instead, I'm supporting that in to thrive and supporting their learning.
What really was fundamental to that was our relationship, so that we had a connected and a trusting relationship. So they felt comfortable asking questions. So they felt comfortable coming and asking for support. Oh, can I want to do this, can we figure out a way to make this happen, et cetera, those kind of pieces. So it really became relationship focused. So for me, putting it all together was just super fun to understand how it was working. And then, alongside that, it was the piece of people. People probably don't even know that it exists, but that it's an option, that it's a choice School certainly, you know, in Ontario, canada, where I was growing up, there really was just the expectation that school would, you know, educate our children and you just kind of it was just something you turned your kids over for that and that didn't feel like a choice.
It just felt like this was something that I had to do. So, just, it wasn't about saying like unschooling is better at all. It was about saying you know you have a choice, you know this is something that, because I feel like, even if they learned about that, homeschooling is possible, et cetera, even when they choose school, like then, when you realize it's a choice, I feel like often you're more engaged in them because like, oh, I'm choosing to send my kids to school now I'm, you know, a little bit more engaged to find out what it is they are learning. Maybe I will chat with them about that and, you know, maybe I'll support my kids a little bit more, versus us all just sitting back going. Oh yeah, you got to go. Do that off you go.
0:10:39 - Jesper Conrad
I'm going to work, you're going to school, we'll come home and we'll never talk about any of it. Yeah, and maybe even get to know the teachers that your kids spend time with all day. Yeah, exactly.
0:10:51 - Pam Larrichia
So from there, what I actually started at the time was writing, so I started with a blog sharing information. That way, 2012, I published my first book Free to Learn five ideas for thriving and schooling life. So basically, by that point now, I was 10 years into the journey. So what I did was just take the three paradigm shifts that, over the years, I found most valuable I mean because there were lots of them, but which were fundamentally the most valuable for me to kind of hit my stride with unschooling. So that was my first book there.
0:11:38 - Jesper Conrad
Can we go into the three paradigm shifts you find the most valuable? Just so you mentioned them, so people know. Well yeah, people should go out and read the book.
0:11:52 - Pam Larrichia
Yeah, but I think, well, one of the things that we already touched on is that shift from teaching to learning right. So what we're focused on our kids learning at first when we come to homeschooling or unschooling, because we feel like we're replacing school with it. So, but one of the big shifts for unschooling is is just that shift of focus from, instead of looking from like the teacher's perspective or I as a parent want to teach my child these things because I think they're super valuable Is that shift to? Oh, but let me look through my child's eyes because I can say things over and over and over again, but if my child doesn't like, take it in doesn't even really count as teaching. You know, same with at school you learn things for the test and you know a month or two later you don't really remember those things. Is that really taught it? But is it really learned? They definitely taught, right, they taught us those things for us to learn them for the test, but if we don't retain them, if they don't really make sense in our world for us where they really learned. So I find that the most valuable question when we come to it is the learning piece right, because we're looking at our children and we're trying to support their learning.
So when we start seeing things from that perspective, that that really that's a huge shift for us right On the journey, because then that becomes what's valuable to us. What are they learning, what are they interested in learning, what are they curious about? And when we can start and meet them there, then we can, we can start to see how unschooling shines, because we start to see the pieces that they're picking up and we start to see how they use them in their day to day life. Right, you know they're, maybe they're picking up, maybe they're picking up new vocabulary. You know, maybe they're picking up a newer understanding of something and you can see their excitement they're wanting to share. They're using their new words in conversation. They're using a new concept. You just see it come out in something they do or something they say, and you can see that difference from something that's memorized to something that's more internalized, something that they understand because it makes sense in their view of the world. They put it in.
I kind of envision, you know, learning as a web, like a web of learning, because there's multiple connections of things and the more connections a fact or an idea has, the deeper you understand it because it makes sense to you in many different contexts. So maybe you learn it one way because you had a conversation and someone mentioned something about gravity and then you know, then you're jumping on a trampoline and you're like, oh look, this is gravity helping me. And then you know something falls out of the tree and you know, then you meet another connection and so your understanding of it grows as you make more and more connections with it versus a random factoid that you've memorized for the test. But you don't have a lot of connections to it because it's not something that is coming up in your world, it's not something that you're using every day or you know consistently in your life. So there's not a lot of connections to it. So it just kind of bubbles away. It's not. It maybe doesn't disappear, but it's much harder to recall because you don't have a lot of connections, you don't have a lot of paths to get to it, you don't have that deeper understanding of how it fits into your world and then, when you can start losing the idea of certain things need to be learned by a certain age and instead you look at the interest and the connections and understanding it in your world, you come to see that oh yeah, it's not that they're seven so they need to know X. It's that they happen to be seven, they're really interested in this and look at all the bits and the connections that they're pulling together for this and then then maybe you're like, oh, he's seven and he's picking this up at school.
They learn that at nine and you get comfortable with the idea that it's not really an age specific thing, it's more of a person specific thing, their specific interests.
And then as you get more comfortable that you can flip it. It's like, ok, you know, if my daughter was in school and age 10, she'd be learning X, y and Z. But you know she's, she's hit X, y and Z hasn't come up in her life. But you know what? I am super comfortable that she will soak that in when it does come up, because I've seen her do it multiple times now. So giving our kids the freedom to just follow their interests and to watch the learning that happens through their eyes really helps us understand how unschooling works and really helps us kind of melt away from looking through that age lens or that curriculum lens and just really focusing on it's like another layer to peel back on, supporting our kids learning. It's like, yeah, this is where their mind is right now, this is where they're a sponge for making connections. That's what I want to support. That's what I want to help them.
0:17:14 - Jesper Conrad
That makes sense. It absolutely makes sense. It makes me think about one thing, which is we have the last couple of years left as a world school. A world school is traveling full time and often, when we talk with people and when we ourselves started out, I hear this where we explain that the kids are still learning. And I'm thinking it's because parents, when you live in a country, steadily have responsibility towards the state you live in to show off what they have learned. So, as a parent, you need to have this constant view on being able to translate it into not a curriculum but, after the fact, curriculum, where we are now in a place where I actually don't look any longer, which is really freeing, and I'm just thinking that there is this Dispense that on some way with on schooling, you want it to be totally free, but at the same time, you have decided to live in a country and you need to be able to report back. So how have the local government been for you to work together with? Have it been easy? How have that been?
0:18:44 - Pam Larrichia
This is very easy, in that we submit a letter at the beginning of the school year that says I take responsibility for my child's education, and that is that.
0:18:58 - Jesper Conrad
You don't need to fill out the reports.
0:19:01 - Cecilie Conrad
It used to be in Denmark.
0:19:02 - Jesper Conrad
0:19:03 - Cecilie Conrad
0:19:05 - Pam Larrichia
Yeah, no, that was lovely. It has been lovely. I know that it can definitely be challenging in some areas where there is more reporting and just from talking with people over the years, that is one of the shifts like being able to get to that place, jesper, where you're not always using that lens when you're watching your kids or you're talking to your kids or feel like you need to kind of subtly tweak them just like a little bit in this direction, because then you'll hit that checkbox that you know in the back of your mind that needs to be checked. So I know they'll do a lot of. You know, whether it's taking photos or just making little notes about what they've done at the at the end of each day, just so that you've got that and you can turn that into education is whatever you want to call it, whatever language that they're looking for, just to show the things that they're learning.
I mean, it's a wide range and it's really dependent not just on where you live. But you know, if you have a facilitator you have to work with, you know, are they unschooling friendly? Do they understand how that works? Are they open to that? Are they much more? Tick the box. Can you just tick the boxes and send it off and you're done. I know in places where it can get more complicated some people go with umbrella schools that again understand unschooling, but that you can talk to them kind of more in your language. They will do the translation to the more formal education based language and do any reporting that needs to be done to the state or the country, whichever, whoever is running your local Homeschooling rules, because it is inside the homeschooling laws.
0:20:58 - Cecilie Conrad
But yes, that was it's followed with that Taking notes at the end of the day. Trying to translate into education is obviously. It's necessary if the laws where you live demand some sort of report. But the danger is that you have that tick box thing in the back of your mind and you cannot free yourself from. Could they please just, please play chess just for half an hour. Then I can write math and you will have this filter on what the kids are doing. And as it's all about the relation and it's all about the life we actually live together, they will totally pick up that you get relief with the chest and less relief with the cartoons and I think writing something down at the end of the day every day as a non-schooler will probably ruin your process and but it totally will, you know, skew your own focus.
0:21:59 - Pam Larrichia
You know what I'm sorry to interrupt, but yeah, but the writing down. At the end of the day I would do with my unschooling lens. I would write the cartoons, I would write the things. I would keep my joy of the unschooling and learning that I see them doing, irregardless of what curriculum tick boxes, like I would not put that lens on until I needed to do the reporting. Because, yes, if I try to switch between those two lenses every day, like trying to get rid of the lens in the morning so that I can have a relaxed day with them and then put the lens on at night when I go through that incredibly difficult, yes, but if I can, because I can't like back then just how long it takes to drop that lens right, just can't do it in an hour it takes.
I know it would take me days, like if I ended up in a situation that felt that I certainly at the beginning of my journey, where it was a little more tenuous, my understanding of what was happening, and you know, say we went to the Science Center for fun and then all these school trips were walking around and they all have their little sheets and and you're like, oh, you know, should I be doing something like that.
It would take me a handful of days to get myself back and understand what was happening there and to process that and say you know what? What were they learning by doing those worksheets? You know, paying a little bit of attention, seeing them in action and then reminding myself about the value of the way my kids were learning and, like it's a choice, I could send them back to school tomorrow if I felt that that was better for our family. But I would need to do that processing. I can see it there, but yeah, I would save that. My suggestion would be to save that only, like when the reporting needs to be done, because then you can just get in that mindset and go through all of your notes.
0:23:59 - Jesper Conrad
But but even though we are 10 years or more, maybe 11 or 12 years down our road here of the unschooling journey, I sometimes look back and I'm like, oh, it's maybe not half a year ago that when I talked with someone, I said, oh yeah, but some, he's studying some online psychology and it's the fear of being judged in me, maybe it's the fear of living so alternatively and then having people look at it and me being still caring is probably the where I am. Oh, I want them to see me as a good parent, even though I live this very alternative life.
0:24:46 - Pam Larrichia
And wanting to share that look more conventional, or to share the pieces that we're doing in a way, because we want to, we're trying to connect with them where they are, like I wouldn't take it on as so much judgment of ourselves, like we're doing it all wrong if we feel this need, you know, maybe it is us just wanting to connect with someone, that we're in conversation with them, we see where they are on their journey and we are sharing the bits of our life that might make sense to them, or sharing them in a way that might make a little bit of sense to them. The challenge comes when we also feel that's better. Then we have some work to do ourselves. If sharing it that way makes us go, hmm, maybe that is what I'm looking for, but you know, so that's just a reminder to rework that process, to remember why we're choosing this to you know, understand, to look at our kids as the unique and wonderful beings that they are and seeing that the choices are making and the things that they're doing really fit them so well and that you know they are where they, even when there's challenges. Like that's one of the other things that we can when someone first comes to school and it can feel almost you wouldn't mean, everybody just does what they want to do. That's not life, you know. Nobody's going to choose to do a hard thing ever if they don't have to, like all those questions that bubble up.
And it's just so fascinating to see when we look at our kids it's like no, you know that that isn't true. We see them choose to move through frustrating things because they want to do the thing. That's the difference, you know, conventionally, we're telling them the things that they have to do. So of course they don't want to struggle with something that they're doing just because they're told that they have to do it. But if it's something that you want to do, you want to accomplish, you're just so much more determined. And also you see them when they, you know, hit their head against the wall a few times and if they decide like, nope, I'm done with that. But you can see how they own that choice. You can see how that choice makes sense for them in that moment. Those are the pieces that remind you that this is why we're choosing this lifestyle. But yeah, when you're chatting with people, it definitely can make sense to try and make sense of our lives in a way that they'll understand.
0:27:19 - Jesper Conrad
And I like that. Lynne Spitter, I will use that onwards. I'm not judging myself. I'm just meeting people where they are.
0:27:26 - Cecilie Conrad
I think you should use both.
0:27:28 - Jesper Conrad
0:27:29 - Cecilie Conrad
You have to be aware. If you feel you have to justify what you're doing or translate it or even tweak the reality in order for other people to like you or respect you, then maybe you have to think about you actually just said that the other day to me that some ideal Shouldn't stand in the way of what you feel is right. So if you have some idea about what a 17 year old boy should be doing, but you identify as an unschooler, so you don't tell him and the boy is therefore not doing it, maybe because he doesn't know it's a thing, or maybe I don't know and you don't feel good about it and you're the parent and maybe you know. I'm not saying that we have an issue with our 17 year old because we actually don't. This is very made up.
We could have had, I think, within unschooling families.
I see a lot of problems of this sort arise, where the parent feel they they're not allowed to say certain things or in certain ways, or if they have. If you have, I have this crazy idea that math is great and I tell my children like every two months we talk about that how much I love it, and sometimes they do some and sometimes they don't, and they can do whatever they want with it, but I would always encourage it because I think it's so great. Just like people who like soccer or or I don't know Western movies or knitting, then you know, I'm just into this. And just like I'm into Shakespeare, I really love Shakespeare and I almost make my kids read Shakespeare by being so passionate about it myself. I think some parents, some unschooling parents, think it's illegal to have these, especially if the ideas are more in the academic field, whereas the was it soccer or knitting, it would be OK to be open about it, but is it Shakespeare and math? Then you have to shut up because you're an unschooling parent and that's like so.
0:29:39 - Jesper Conrad
But the unschooled police would come after us.
0:29:41 - Cecilie Conrad
Maybe the unschooled police would come after us.
0:29:43 - Jesper Conrad
0:29:44 - Cecilie Conrad
Okay, okay, I don't know what's going on. I have a thing in my experience. Haven't you met that?
0:29:50 - Pam Larrichia
Oh, it's absolutely 110 percent of thing. I'm just smiling because that's the series that we're doing. The latest series we're doing on the podcast right now are these unschooling quote rules episodes and we say the unschooling police are not going to come and arrest you. It's so funny and that is one of the rules like there are so many layers in what you were sharing there, cecilia. Because there is. Oh, why am I valuing math?
0:30:21 - Cecilie Conrad
0:30:21 - Pam Larrichia
Shakespeare above soccer and whatever the other thing.
0:30:25 - Cecilie Conrad
Well, just for the record, I'm not, no exactly I value Shakespeare in my example. Yeah, the thing is this filter that I'm only allowed to say I value knitting as an unschool mom, but I can't say that I value math, because then I would ruin the thing.
0:30:42 - Jesper Conrad
I think that something is there.
0:30:47 - Pam Larrichia
Yeah, you're there Completely, and that's also something that comes up pretty often in the network, the community that I'm part of, and it is such an interesting thing to peel back because we want to be able to. We need to be able to communicate with our kids, but it's a lot of our work. First, right to get to that point where I'm not valuing math and trying to subtly manipulate them, I'm sharing my joy. Are you doing math? You know, if I like math and I want my kids to know math is awesome, I'm doing these fun math related things. I'm doing puzzles with numbers. I'm maybe I'm reading books, the joy of X. You know I've got a bunch of math because I do love math. You know, maybe I'm noticing the math in the patterns and the measuring and the feeling, something I'm building or packing up things, you know, just to get the geometry right so we can fit as much stuff into the thing. You know just mentioning because I love math. I'm mentioning all the math I see just going about my day because math is everywhere right. So that's a way to share our excitement about those things. What it is is the energy to be able to share without the expectation that they, you know, share our excitement. Maybe they will be interested in it too. Maybe they won't.
That doesn't mean I can't share my excitement. It's peeling back the layers so that I'm not and again, not speaking of you, but I'm not value as a parent, I'm not valuing math over knitting, that if I love knitting, I share that with the same energy and excitement as I love math. Because, like you said, they can feel any manipulative energy. That's there they can. If you say I love knitting and I love math, if you say both of those things out loud, if one of them you're sharing with the intention of trying to stir someone else's excitement, trying to get them to follow, versus just excitedly sharing something you love, they'll be able to feel the difference, the energy difference in those two things. If not in that instance, in the next sentence or two.
Right, because I'm excited about knitting, I'm making this sweater, I'm making this scarf, I'm excited to go to the yarn store, I want to try these super huge needles. I'm sharing all the things that I want to do. If I'm sharing, I love math and I have an expectation on you. I'm sharing, I love math. Would you like to read this book? Would you like to play this puzzle. Can you see just how we would be talking about? We share this love. What do you want to do about it? Versus, I have this love. Here's all this cool stuff I'm doing about it. That is kind of an example of energy.
0:34:00 - Cecilie Conrad
I think the idea of the manipulative energy is central to the conversation of unschooling once we've peeled off two or three or 500 layers, because I think they're saying something because they feel like they'll be manipulating.
0:34:20 - Pam Larrichia
I think that's where this year comes from.
0:34:22 - Jesper Conrad
And if manipulating worked, my kids would do the dishes every day.
0:34:28 - Cecilie Conrad
If it worked, I have to try manipulating them.
0:34:36 - Pam Larrichia
But we're not sure how to do it instead.
0:34:41 - Cecilie Conrad
As parents, I think we do have a special role in our kids' lives as the ones or the primary ones to help them enter this life, and obviously we will use our experience of how things work to see if we can make their life a little softer and remove a few of the thorns down the road. And if you go this way you might not hit a wall and if you go that way it could be that it's easier. So this job, I find, is just like teaching them to wash their hands before they really understand what bacteria is. There is a very fine line between the manipulation and the pure positive intent from a parent and I find that line very interesting to talk about.
0:35:41 - Pam Larrichia
Yes, I do, I absolutely do. And I think what like? There's nothing wrong with sharing. I think what? How you've discovered that line and I think the line moves over time is in the reaction and the energy you get back from your child when you share this bit.
If your child is resistant to it, you know it's like oh, this direction isn't supporting them in where they are, it isn't helpful for them to where they are right now, which just means they're not going to be able to absorb it and they're not going to be able to make connections to it and it's not going to make sense to them right now. It doesn't mean it never will, but it also doesn't mean I need to just sit back and not mention anything. I think that is something you know we've talked about in those rules in that episode, because it's fundamental to almost every rule, because so often parents say okay, I'm not supposed to direct my child, I'm not supposed to tell them what I think they should do, so I'm just going to sit back and I'm going to let them do their thing and I'm going to wait till they come to me to ask for things or to ask to do things.
No, that is like that's the opposite end of the pendulum. I kind of think it's like oh, I don't want to direct them, so I'm going to swing all the way back and do nothing and I'm not hardly going to engage with them and I'm not going to say I love math, do you want to come play monotony with me? Or something you know. But it's what we replace that with and that is the connection and the relationship and the trust where we can engage and we can share our thoughts with that energy. That's like I'm sharing my experience. It may be different from yours, you may not, you may make a different choice, but you know I want to engage with you, I want to share my experiences, I want to share the things that I'm excited about. So you know that that is the piece that we are always talking about on the podcast at this point, at this point, because, like you, I find that to be kind of the meat of it and the thing that a lot of unschoolers are challenged by. It's like OK, I understand why I don't want to direct them. I understand I see them learning things on their own. But what do I do, instead of just sitting off to the side and waiting for them to say, hey, mom, take me here. Hey, mom, can you pick up this thing, because I'm interested in that?
There's like there is a whole rich life in between those two. You know extremes. I find them to be the extremes. There's a whole life where we live together as a family, where we're engaged, where we support each other. Because you know what, when I am sharing my experiences as my kids get a bit older, they have seen me as an example, as a model. This is what we do as human beings. We're sharing our excitement, we're sharing our experiences. And then our kids get to start doing that with us and, oh my gosh, we start to learn. So our world gets bigger. Right, it's not like we're the adults sitting back and this is our world, their world.
It's like we are all together. And I think the other piece is super interesting that you touched on there. You know we want to make their life a little bit smoother, a little less thornier. Yes, we do, but that's also something we don't have control over, so we can share our experiences. But they still may choose to take that thorny path.
0:39:13 - Cecilie Conrad
Because they all they could take another path and there were still thorns. We can't guarantee that, I know that, but I do have seen an unschooling parents this, so they get it. And then they fall, as you say, to the extreme other end and they become afraid of having an opinion, having a personality, having an idea, having any judgment of anything being better than the other thing or just preferable. Today you don't even have to make rules, but just come up with the idea. Maybe today it would be a good idea to not have candy, or whatever the idea is.
0:39:48 - Pam Larrichia
Not bringing forth. You know I'm really tired today, like at my capacity, like just being who I am in the moment and bringing that into the conversation. I may choose because my child is super excited about something, even though I said you know I'm tired, and then they're like I get it and this is the only day that we can do this thing because of XYZ. I may choose to like dig in, dig down and like do the thing because I want to support their learning. So I now see through our conversation how super excited they are. That comes to another one of those paradigm shifts. That's in that free to learn book, which is the why not? Yes, because we want to, because we're choosing to support our kids learning. We want to say yes, but yes is not a rule. You do not have to say yes every time. Right, this is where the conversations are. Maybe it's a wholehearted yes because that fits right into our day. That's something I can do easily, like boom, let's go. But maybe, maybe there's experience I have, maybe I'm tired, maybe like, maybe there's a whole bunch of things of real life that are part of that choice. So why not? Yes is a reminder that I don't want to automatically say no just because that's been my pattern. But it's also a question because I don't want to automatically say yes. That's almost as bad as automatically saying no. What are they going to learn from that? Just that everything I asked for just happens naturally and magically. That's not life. That's not learning about how to navigate, how they can navigate the world. I can share their excitement about the thing they want to do and say you know what can't make that happen today, tomorrow, because of XYZ. That's where we can have real conversations and they can start to understand the context of what's going on in their life, the people in their life and in their world, in their community. Like all those people, there is context to everything.
So that's where you can have those conversations and that's where we that's what I love about our school is we're all on the same team. Like when you say I love math, we're all on the team rooting for your love of math. Or they say I really want to go to the park, or I really want to do this thing, like I'm there for it. I love that. That's something you want to do, and also there's these other considerations, and once we get to know each other better, like they. That is a way to get to know each other better, like to know that I'm exhausted because yesterday we did this.
I kind of need a recovery day, or I didn't sleep well last night, or I have a bad headache today, like all those pieces of real life and of who we are as people. Those absolutely should be part, or can be part, of the conversation so that, like it's a real choice that we all lean into. But of course, the thing is that we all start with from that team perspective. We want to help each other accomplish the things that we want to do and then, as that team energy kind of buildups build up and we understand like our kids, learn to trust us that yeah, they're going to help me as much as possible to make this happen. I know it may not happen on the timeline that I'm hoping or that I'm envisioning, but they're not going to stand in my way literally, but I'm going to come to them for that conversation and ask them to help me do the thing, because then we're going to learn a little bit more about what it takes to accomplish the thing.
So, like for me, that's where all the rich conversation lies. That's where they learn more about the world. They learn more about the people that they live with. We learn more about them because we know what it is they're excited to do. People are so different as human beings that this is where we can learn, this is where we can engage, this is where we can just feel so heard and seen and loved and supported. And that doesn't mean it has to always work out on that particular person's timetable, because we all live together and I think that is kind of the conversation that is missing. That's the rich stuff in between those two extremes of I direct them and tell them what to do. I'm going to sit over here off to the side and don't want to tell them anything that they may take as direction. There's a whole world of consensual conversation that lives inside of that, and to me that's the heart of unschooling.
0:44:33 - Cecilie Conrad
They're talking. Yeah, we always come back to that unschooling as one long conversation. Just talk and talk and talk and talk.
0:44:45 - Jesper Conrad
I have a question and I'm wondering how to ask it, so I will ask it in the messy way. It was in my head so will it be?
one question it will be one intertween long question where I will correct myself during what I'm explaining. So you're the parent of now grown up on school and I would like to ask you about how it is to have grown up on school. But then, at the same time, I started arguing with myself because I'm like no, pam shouldn't use her kids as trophy on the unschooling world. But at the same time, our oldest unschool child is soon 18. And in some years he will be funny enough older. So I'm just curious, hopefully, hopefully. So I'm just, as I said, a messy way to reach my question and the idea around it. So I would love to hear something about how it has been for you to now have grown ups.
0:45:50 - Cecilie Conrad
I could have asked that simple Do you want to ask it or do you?
0:45:54 - Jesper Conrad
I said I could have asked that simple.
0:45:55 - Cecilie Conrad
The interesting part. The other interesting part is can we, is it okay that? So? You're making a podcast, people listen to it. We make a podcast, you made a blog, I make a blog. We're open about this because we want to. I don't know what you want specifically, but I want to make the path easier to find and understand for the people.
When I started, it was harder and everyone I could listen to was American, and that's very good and fine.
I don't mind Americans, but it's not the same as Europe. The situation is different over here and I just needed I needed something that was actually not available and I'm trying to make that available now. That's what I'm doing, that's why I'm blogging, that's why I'm doing this podcast, and I'm not sure how much I want to talk about my own children, because I do talk about them and I do post pictures of them and I do share stories about what happened in our life all of us where the children are some of us but, on the other hand, I don't want them to be trophies. I don't want them to be the good example of unschooling because, in a way, it's something that's a lot of burden to put on one person. It's a lot of their private story and also their path is not an example to follow for other kids or other families. So I think your other question that was like underneath or the filter of the first question is the more interesting question. Not that I don't want to hear about you.
0:47:28 - Jesper Conrad
I want to hear the other one.
0:47:31 - Cecilie Conrad
Okay, no, no, but I think what do we do about? How do we make sure our kids don't become trophies?
0:47:43 - Pam Larrichia
That question so much. Yes, I've talked about that on the podcast in a few episodes. I have a blog post about that from. Because that is really. It's a fascinating question because on one hand, like we talked about, we were talking about it before trying to meet someone where they are right and show what the life can, what it might look like through that lens.
And when people come to unschooling or first learning about unschooling, a few years into learning about unschooling they want to hear about the older kids. Did they turn out? Did they go to college? And you can see in those questions the stuff they still have to unpack and the layers they still have to peel back about. Like, what do I expect of an adult? Like, what is my definition of success, you know, is it being a human being? Is it a college degree and a good job? Is it, you know, is it a conventional job?
And I know there are some of us with adult kids who look conventionally successful and you know the challenges. They come to it from a completely unconventional place because this is something they love. It just happens to look good, right, this is something they've loved, they've worked hard. They, you know, maybe they started when they were younger than most conventional kids in school because they didn't have the time in high school to devote to the thing that they loved, that they couldn't start until after college maybe, or whatever. So I know it feels like sharing the more trophy looking stories almost does a disservice in that. Oh okay, I expect my child to look like that too. This is a path, so I'm going to follow this path and I'm going to do this thing and at the end of it, why doesn't my child look like your child? So it definitely feels like doing a disservice to someone who is learning about the journey to give them the opportunity to latch onto certain examples. So you know the more generic I go back to. You know it's useful to redefine what success is for you, like what it's, what do I want for my child? And then it's like is that a thing for me to want for my child, or do I more want what my child wants, right, which I can't really know? But I can most help them with that by meeting them every day and supporting them every day and helping them explore the things that they're interested in, because that's how they're going to find their path as they get older.
Because the first thought that came to mind when you started asking that question, jesper, is the answer is life feels very much the same with adult kids as it did when they were teenagers, young, like there was not a day where we said you're an adult, now, you know, and our relationship changed. Now I think that is one of the beautiful advantages of unschooling is that we start when they were their kids, having this connected and strong, respectful, trusting relationship with our kids. Now that carries forward while we're all alive, versus I have this controlling, directing relationship with my child because I want the best outcome for them. You know it's done with love for the most part. You know I I have a vision of what would be a good life for you that I want you to have and I want to teach you these things and please follow my directions, because I know it's best for you, because I love you. But then when they become an adult, and now they're like, yeah, you can't control me now or you don't want to control it's like, okay, now I'm done my job, you're off in the world and now, all of a sudden, you want to have that strong, connected, trusting, respectful relationship with them, but you have no model like. You just spent 20 years building a controlling relationship that there's a good chance they're going to want to kind of escape from. You're going to have to build an entirely new kind of relationship with them as an adult. All that to say, I don't feel like much has changed other than the fact you know when they've moved out of the house.
So the conversations are taking place in different ways, less face to face. But one thing I love is they're excited to come home and visit Right, it's not like, oh my gosh, I got to get through another holiday with my family. Because I'm like you're building this great life, you know where you are. If you want to stay there for Christmas or you know whatever, that's totally okay, yeah. And also they're like no, I really want to come home. I'm very excited to come home.
And they still have problems, have challenges and problems in our lives at this point, like that is life and they're going to have them. And because we have that kind of relationship they are, they want to. There are points like it really is individual, like we're. At those points they want to have these conversations. But that's what you do. You're still having conversations. You're still supportive when they're going through something you just check, you know texting a few hearts. When you know they're processing through something that's going on in their life or you're, you know, sharing your experience or you're validating man, that's hard, you know. So it is very much the same kind of relationship that we've had throughout the years. It just it flows with what's going on in their life, Right, sometimes things are going pretty smoothly.
And it's all like, yeah, hey, doing this, doing this, you know enjoying this, have you watched this show? Oh, I really love this movie, this book. You know we're still sharing those pieces of ourselves that we love. You know, if I'm loving right now I'm learning game development, and you know I'm just sharing little pieces, not because I'm expecting anybody else to love exactly the same thing. But something we love to share is just our excitement about the thing. Somebody else can understand my excitement. They can understand why I'm excited because they have something they too get that excited about. So we don't have to connect through the interest itself, but we can connect through the joy that we each find in that and we can commiserate and we can validate, because hard things come up to you. You know what I mean. So really, fundamentally, the relationships don't change.
0:54:42 - Jesper Conrad
I'm even more happy with having chosen this pad for us.
0:54:50 - Pam Larrichia
I mean, I'm happy to give a little quick overview because the other thing that I think the other piece that can be valuable is realizing their paths can be very different, right. Like if I have a vision in my mind of what you know how I want my child to turn out and I happen to have three kids, I'm trying to get all three kids to kind of look like that vision, right. But when I take that away and I focus on who they are as people, oh my gosh, their choices as adults so far are very, very different and yet they so beautifully and fundamentally match and mesh with who they are as a person. So I think that is a big thing. Like I had one child who had 18, was like ready to burst into the world with her interest in photography, and when she was 18, like we live in Canada she moved to New York and you know, and she went there for a few months. Like I supported her in finding a place to go for the six months that she can go on a visitor's visa and just check out the community, because we're in a small rural town.
So living in New York City was like a different life and she's like I don't even know if I was like that, but I know there's a strong community of photographers there and I, which she has connected with, have connected with online over the previous years as she dove into that passion. So she wanted to see what it's like like in real, like face to face. So she did that. She loved it. She came back, she got her visa, she was back there in a month, lived there for a number of years and then a year and a half ago moved to LA, because those are kind of the two big photography places New York and LA.
And her last couple of years in New York she was doing LA trips for a month to three times a year to go work with clients in LA there and then eventually moved her base over there. During that move she came home for like three or four months in that transition, you know, got rid of her apartment there, brought some stuff up here, transist, did some traveling from this base because you know what, then I can travel without having to pay rent somewhere. Then the visa thing came up and then eventually moved out to LA. So that that is the fun thing too about having that home base and respect those loving relationships Like, yeah, you are welcome back anytime. It's not, and that is something they have to process, because the messages they encounter in the world are you know, but you know being at home is like a failure.
You need to move out when you're 18 and conquer the world all by yourself. You know, those aren't the messages that we grew up with them, that with them, that we, you know, shared with them. Growing up it was like, you know, we're a family, we help each other out, we do the things and we do the things that we're interested in doing and you know, if you want to the context from where you're doing, there's no judgment Like, yeah, I was shocked that one of my child, after like such a wonderful, you know life, loving life at home, at 18, would want to leave. But you know, okay, I'll support that. That makes complete another sense for you as a human being. And another child who lived here 24, until about he was 24, and then he moved to another province for a while. They're actually thinking of his girlfriend thinking about coming back here and moving back to this province. That's still up in the air. That is a challenge and question that they're going through right now to the side, you know. And then that comes to here for a while while they work out jobs and, and you know, places to live. And I've said, you know you can hang out here as long as you want.
I have another child who lives at home, which is absolutely beautiful. It fits him like a glove. Not not a super easy choice for him either because, again, all the messages, you still live with your parents. You know what, what's going on there, why can't you hack it? But we know that that's not true in his case, in his life. These are great choices.
We have a place like my dad lives with us. We have lots of adults like living here and coming and going, and it's just. This is our hub, this is our family hub and people are welcome here all the time. And for a song. And oh my gosh, how helpful it is to have another adult. Like you know, he's cooking half the dinners and helping around the household, like it's amazing and it's wonderful.
And now my husband and I can go travel and not have to worry about the dogs because we know he'll be able to take care of the. Like it works for each child and it works for the family. And one of those one, two, like the how they look conventionally successful can be very different, you know, but all of them make so much sense for each of them as a human being and work so well for all of us as a family just supporting and helping each other out doing the things in our lives that we're wanting to do. So it just looks different, but fundamentally it feels the same as it has always felt since we kind of really really hit the ground running with our unschooling. So did that answer your question, jasper it?
1:00:35 - Jesper Conrad
absolutely answered my question? No, but in a good way also, because when we meet people with our grown-up storm who is 17 and a half, they're like so oh, you're soon 18, then what? And he's like then what, what I mean I?
1:00:57 - Pam Larrichia
What is this graduation with 18? I don't.
1:01:01 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, so do we want to go to some college or universities? Like me, I'm just living. I'm actually very happy doing what I'm doing and, yeah, I'm looking at the time and we have had a long, wonderful, wonderful chat. So I would like to round it up and also, if people want to, if you can tell a little about where people can find you, where they can find the podcast, and again about the book. So if people want more of Pam, they know where to go.
1:01:39 - Pam Larrichia
Sure, sure, Well, kind of. My home base website is livingjoyfullyca, so all the stuff is there. You can find it in the menu, the podcast, the exploring unschooling podcast. It's in all your regular podcast players and also right there at the website. You can always listen right there. Last fall Anna Brown and I started a second podcast because gotten for punishment and it's actually called the living joyfully podcast, but that one focuses more on relationships. So kind of the idea when we're talking about motivations because, as you know, like so much of the discussion around unschooling ends up being when you get through that first like learning piece, like oh yeah, they're learning all the time I don't really have to keep looking for the learning and worry about the learning.
So much of it becomes the relationship pieces, the how do we live together pieces, the how do I talk to them if I have something bubbling up for me around something, versus standing back. That whole transition to how do we engage as, like, just human beings and not adults and kids now, but I'm just not controlling them. So we talk about that in the living joyfully podcast without mentioning unschooling per se. All that to say, it's super helpful for us as well, because it really focuses on that relationship piece and how to engage with people through, like, navigating conflicts and making choices, like all those pieces of it. The other big thing that we've got going on is the network, so the living joyfully network, which you can learn lots about at the website there, but it is an online community where we talk through these things. It's really just walking together, walking alongside people who are taking this journey, and just being able to share our experiences and the way, because you know what, with lots of experience, we have that different lens.
So when somebody shares a challenge that's going on, we can just help peel back a couple layers around that. Maybe this, maybe this, maybe they're feeling that, maybe you can say this. So it is not at all prescriptive, telling people what they should do, because we don't know, there's no rules. It's about the individuals, the family, how the people are in relationship together. So it is just helping people maybe see a new way of looking at something, just brainstorm some ideas, because sometimes we just get stuck in our head and like I cannot think of another thing to do and I'm still flustered or upset about the situation that's going on. So you know, at that point we will just like chat with them and because someone who doesn't have that energy can sometimes see outside of that box, that tunnel vision that we've kind of gotten ourselves stuck in, so we can help with that.
We have a theme each month. So alongside of that is we just have a theme each month that we dive into and that we talked about. That is related to what's going, that's related to our like. This month the theme is making choices. But we've been leading up to that, you know, through peeling back the layers because, like we talked about, context is so important.
1:05:11 - Jesper Conrad
1:05:11 - Pam Larrichia
In any moment. So we need to understand ourselves, we need to understand our perspectives, we need to understand the layers. Maybe we've got some triggers going on, you know, that are making us feel super resistant to whatever's happening in front of us in this moment. Like so, we have those themes that we also talk through, we have conversations, then we have like a live call with members who ever want to show up and it's recorded so that people can hear it. So that's like raising questions and chatting through in real time. So, yeah, we're loving the network as well. Oh, we just started a show.
Yeah, yeah that's of course, but yeah, because it's just about sharing the information. It's not about telling people what to do. It's about giving a new way of looking at things, just to support people and making the choices that work for them in this moment, without the expectation that they follow it, without the expectation they follow it exactly and knowing that you know what maybe now's not the time, maybe six months is this is something that's important or valuable to you. It's not the now or never kind of deal. It's like let's just walk together and I'm just going to share information and different possibilities that you can bring into your orbit.
1:06:28 - Jesper Conrad
1:06:28 - Pam Larrichia
And that's what the books are too.
1:06:30 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, and check out the book Absolutely. Pam, it was wonderful having you on our podcast and thank you for your time.
1:06:39 - Pam Larrichia
Well, I loved your questions, even the Ramley ones, because that was mine, that's mine. Even your mind is right. He was able to pick out. Yeah, I know where you were going with that. Yeah, what was your fundamental. But we need to ramble sometimes till we can find he needs to ramble. You listen to me ramble.
1:07:01 - Jesper Conrad
I am rambling and I'm lucky to have both my wife and you on this episode to help translate what happens inside.
1:07:08 - Cecilie Conrad
Thanks, you know understandable.
1:07:10 - Jesper Conrad
OK, but we will say goodbye and thank you for your time. Bye.
1:07:15 - Pam Larrichia
Thank you, bye, bye.
1:07:19 - Jesper Conrad
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