Explore unschooling with Pam Laricchia, unschooling mom and author. Choosing to live and learn without school isn’t as intimidating as you might first imagine. Children really do love learning when it's driven by curiosity rather than curriculum, and the connected and trusting relationships that develop in unschooling families are priceless. Visit show website.
EU138 Flashback: The Sparkle of Unschooling

This week on the podcast, we’re sharing a compilation of experienced unschooling parents answering the question, “Looking back, what has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling?” Another apt title might be Remembering Our Why, which is why we think it’s especially powerful to listen to during this back-to-school season. When we are able to tap into that choice, that reason why we are choosing to live in connected relationships with our children, that reason why we chose unschooling, we can feel so much more confident, even in the midst of all of the mainstream messages. We hope you enjoy hearing what these experienced unschooling parents had to share! Audio Snippets Taken from These Episodes … EU002: Ten Questions with Pam Sorooshian EU009: Ten Questions with Amy Childs EU014: Ten Questions with Joyce Fetteroll EU018: Ten Questions with Jennifer McGrail EU022: Ten Questions with Lainie Liberti EU037: Ten Questions with Carol Black EU044: Ten Questions with Jennifer Andersen EU057: Ten Questions with Akilah S. Richards EU066: Ten Questions with Pushpa Ramachandran EU074: Ten Questions with Robyn Coburn EU089: Ten Questions with Jan Hunt EU111: Ten Questions with Jan Fortune EU130: Dismantling Shame with Ronnie Maier EU131: Deschooling with Maria Randolph EU135: Ten Questions with Anna Brown Watch the video on YouTube. Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram. Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook. Navigating Unschooling Wobbles Our new course, Navigating Unschooling Wobbles, is out now in the Living Joyfully Shop! The back-to-school season can send even the most experienced unschooling parents into a tailspin. The excitement in the air as everyone gears up for the school year ahead makes us question if we’re making the right choices for our kids. In this 4-week course, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia guide you through techniques to help re-ground yourself in the unschooling lifestyle. You’ll be reminded WHY you chose this path and how to get back in touch with the joy of engaged, interest-led learning. Here’s what you’ll discover: How to remember your original motivations for choosing unschooling Actionable ways to reconnect with your kids and see their learning unfold Tools to cultivate stronger family relationships built on trust Using joy and curiosity as a compass to guide your unschooling days Bonus tips on finding pockets of joy and getting out of your head You’ll come away from this course re-energized about your unschooling journey. With new insights and practical takeaways, you’ll be ready to navigate your next wobble with intention. This course is based on a monthly theme in the Living Joyfully Network online community, specifically, Remember Your Why. It consists of the four weekly focus calls between Pam and Anna, each discussing a particular aspect of the theme, plus the weekly question we share, encouraging members to think about it through the unique lens of their experiences and family. When you purchase the Navigating Unschooling Wobbles course, you will receive each lesson through email, one lesson per week. You will also receive links to download both ebook/PDF and audiobook editions of the course, great for those who want to quickly immerse themselves in information they’re super curious about. All the content is yours to keep forever. Join us today! Check out our website, for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling. Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling? Become a patron of Pam’s work for as little a dollar a month (in a wide variety of currencies) and learn more about what she’s up to! We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. Our theme this month is Making Choices, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of personality and priorities. So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT EU002, Pam Sorooshian PAM L: Looking back now, what for you, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling with your family? PAM S: The close relationships that we have. Absolutely. No other thing could come close to that. There is nothing that could come close to that. There is nothing more important than relationships. That’s it. PAM L: That’s it. Yep. PAM S: So, we didn’t go through awful teen years where we battled. We don’t have that kind-of-thing were the kids are like, “Yeah, I like my family, but I like them 3000 miles away.” We just don’t have that kind-of relationships. Like I said, my kids they talk to each other constantly. I hear from them every day. I see them frequently. Our lives are still as completely fun and intertwined. The most fun we have is when we are all together. So that kind of relationship is the best part. EU009, Amy Childs PAM: Looking back now, what, for you, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? AMY: Well, the most valuable thing to me has been the relationship with my kids. They’re all very smart. They all ended up wanting to go to college and they all got ridiculously good grades and honors and awards and scholarships and things like that. I sometimes don’t even want to say that because I think a lot of unschoolers think that, ‘Oh good, if I unschool my kids then they’ll go to college and get really good grades.’ I just don’t want people to think that that has anything to do with it. My oldest, I loved it that he got a 4.0 grade average, he was magna cum laude as a mechanical engineer but then after that he threw it all the way and went to go live on the farm and make $8,000 a year. Just because somebody gets a college degree or a fancy job doesn’t mean that they’re going to do that. But now, I think what they would say about unschooling is that it’s not that they got into college or what they do for money, it’s that they have confidence that they know how to make a good life for themselves. And part of why I know that this is what they feel is because of this last season of working on the podcast interviewing them. It’s been really interesting to hear them talking about their self-confidence. Not that they’re always happy or always confident. They still do things that terrify them and they struggle with anxiety and depression and uncertainty and heartbreak and stuff like that. But they have such a deep respect for their self—just a deep, inner resource that they know that they can get through anything. They can figure out anything that they have to. Not only do they believe in themselves, but they have their siblings and they have me and they have this wide world that will help them if they know how to ask for help and they know where to ask for help. That is what’s so reassuring about who they are as young adults, for me. They just don’t feel that there isn’t anything that can’t figure out, or what to do about it or how to have a good life. And that goes back to the very first question in how we discovered unschooling. That was my original hope. If I can make resilient kids and self-aware and self-confident and know how to be happy, what do I care what else they are? What do I care if they know algebra, or if they know all that. Turns out they all know algebra way better than I do! So, the most valuable outcome for them is their self-reliance. Well, that makes them sound really isolated. Their self reliance but also their understanding of how they fit into the world and their confidence that they fit into the world. They have a community or family or just resources with and around them. But for me? Selfishly? My outcome is my relationship with my kids. But I got to share their growing years with them and then I get to share their years now as adults. They share questions with me, they think out loud with me, they consider me their ally, and because of that they entertain me. They’re better than TV and I don’t even really like TV. That’s been my best outcome for me, my relationship with them. They feel very well prepared for life. And they feel sorry for us people around them who they see as not that well prepared for life. I think they sometimes see that as a result of unschooling. I think sometimes they don’t even know how or why they’re self-confident or self-aware. I attribute that to the whole attitude and lifestyle of unschooling and putting my relationship with them and believing in them as the most important part of raising them. EU014, Joyce Fetteroll PAM: Looking back now, what for you has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? JOYCE: Well, this is a short answer, it’s definitely the great relationships that we have. I think because I learned so much on my own outside of school I didn’t worry about the academics. I was concerned about interest driven learning being enough as we were going on, but I wasn’t worried that she couldn’t learn. The best side benefit of unschooling is growing great relationships. She has a great relationship with her dad. They watch, talk, and do sports together. She and I have a great relationship. We talked about writing and drawing and Starbucks. What I learned with her kept the relationship with my husband strong too. It’s just been one relationship win all around! EU018, Jennifer McGrail PAM: Looking back now,  what for you has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? JENNIFER: This is the easiest question for me to answer. There’s obviously so many benefits to unschooling: seeing the kids learn, to have freedom and be happy, not going through the angst I see other kids go through. All of that is great, but far and away the best thing is my own relationship with the kids. I know regular homeschooled kids and public school kids can have good relationships with their parents, but I think unschooling and radical unschooling in particular, relationships  come first in the unschooling journey. I have a wonderful relationship with all my kids from nineteen down to eight and I credit unschooling for that. We live and work together and operate as a family. I couldn’t imagine not having a close relationship with my kids, my teens. The societal mindset of, ‘Wait until they’re teens!’ is terrible! I am enjoying my teens so much. They’re so interesting, all the ages. I’m finding I enjoy my kids as they get older and are able to talk and do different things. They’re are my best friends, even though society says you are not supposed to do that. They’re amazing and we have such a close relationship. You go through different seasons, times that are harder, but you work it out as a family. The relationship is always first and I couldn’t ask for a better one with my kids. That to me has been the most valuable part of unschooling, by far. PAM: I love that. I found the same thing too. When we first started I had no idea of the relationships that would develop but those are going to last me a lifetime and they have been the most powerful thing that’s ever going to come out of it. JENNIFER:  I see the focus of being the meanest parent and I wonder what those relationships will be like in the future when you’re spending your time in an ‘us versus them’ mentality. I don’t want to be adversaries with my kids; we’re partners. Like you said, those are relationships we’re going to have the rest of our lives. I look forward to being strong when they’re adults, but I’m also enjoying the ages they are now. EU022, Lainie Liberti PAM: Looking back now, what for you has been the most valuable outcomes in choosing unschooling? LAINIE: It’s the relationship I have with my son and the beautiful relationships that I’ve been able to forge with all the teens that have come into our lives. I don’t think I would have been as open and respectful and approached life on such a partnership with this group of people, including my son, of course, had I not discovered unschooling as a philosophy. And, I have to add, the permission to be a lifelong learner. It gave me back the permission to learn to go back to the natural learner that we’re all wired to be. EU037, Carol Black PAM: Looking back now, what for you, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? CAROL: People probably say this, but it’s like they always say, people on their death bed don’t say they wish they had spent more time at the office, they say they wish they had spent more time with their kids. I really feel just the time you have with each other as a family and the time you have to be out in nature and to read books together and think and talk together, it’s just the most precious part of life. To me, that’s the most important thing. There was a guy who made a good point about how we raise or educate our kids. He was a proponent of the idea that kids pretty much turn out to be who they are and we don’t really have that much control over them, actually. He told that to one of them and she just felt despairing because she was like, “But if it doesn’t make any difference then why does it matter how I treat my kids?” And his answer was, “Well, of course it matters how you treat your kids. You don’t get to pick how your husband turns out, but of course it matters how you treat him.” I think that that sense that it’s not about molding your child or doing something that is going to make your child into necessarily a different kind of person, but it’s just about treating each other with respect and living together in a way that feels mutually respectful. It’s a work in progress for most of us, obviously. Unschooling isn’t a panacea and it doesn’t solve every problem in life. The way I kind of look at it is, I think our society is way off course in a lot of ways. Of course, we’re completely unsustainable. I think the way we’re living right now is too socially isolating and fragmented and our communities have really kind of broken down and disintegrated. The levels of mental illness and depression and anxiety are really epidemic. Unschooling doesn’t solve all these problems. I see it as a transitional stage in gradually developing or rebuilding better ways to live on the earth, kind of a step in the right direction. There’s this Lakota man who does a traditional horsemanship program with at-risk youth. What he was saying, for the Lakota people, who are maybe less far off course than we are, he said it’s taken us seven generations to get this far off course, and we have to expect it may take seven generations to get back. So, I kind of look at it that way and explain it that way to my kids and hope that they will understand whatever failures or things that didn’t work well in their childhood as this kind of transitional process. My parents were born into a world that was racist, sexist, authoritarian, colonial, with a lot of very negative values. And we’ve tried to change a lot of those values in our lifetime. But it’s a lot of work in progress. My parents tried to raise my brother and me in ways that were more respectful and less violent than the ways they were raised. My husband and I have tried to move that process along by questioning the institutional setting for learning and trying to give our kids the respect to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it. That’s just sort of the next step. And then this next generation will be able to see ahead. We can’t see what lies ahead but they’ll see what the next step is and then they’ll take. I think there’s a good chance what we need to do is rebuild our communities to be both more sustainable and healthy and hospitable for children and families, and rebuild ways of living together as communities that are really more workable for both people and other species and the planet. I look forward to seeing what the next generation is going to come up with! EU044, Jennifer Andersen PAM: Looking back now, what for you so far, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? JENNIFER: Well, that is the perfect lead in to this question. There are a lot of things that I love about it, obviously. We were on a trajectory with our family to be that harried, crazy family, who went to school, did sports, played musical instruments, required it all, had expectations and it would have been busy and crazy and miserable. That’s been a great thing to not have in our lives. I’m also so glad that my kids and I aren’t forced to separate everyday and miss each other, so, all those kinds of things. What we were just talking about, that is ultimately, at this point anyway, what has been the greatest part of being exposed to living this way. Living this way ourselves is that really understanding what unconditional acceptance and unconditional love is. At least understanding it more than I ever had to this point. Really appreciating people for who they are, and my kids especially, because if we had continued down the path that we were on, I wouldn’t even know my kids. How could I have possibly known them if they were told where they were going to be, and what they were going to think about during school hours, and then they were going to be to told what they had to play? My son doesn’t even like sports but he would have been required to play a sport and probably required to play some instrument instead of learning the part about music that he really likes. So I wouldn’t have even known them because they would have been forced down a path of who other people thought they should be, so that really has been the greatest part of all of this, is really getting to see who my kids are. Just when I think they’re going along one way, they completely change direction and are turning into these different, awesome people who are thinking about and experiencing things so different than I do, or ever did. It’s definitely been the best part. That of course, applies, as we were just talking about, for me, for all of life because once I could start appreciating my kids for who they are instead of who they were supposed to be, I could start doing that with myself which is not just a gift to me but a gift to my family. You know, that fact that I don’t enjoy small talk. I could finally say, “Ok that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. It’s just who I am.” And a million other things. And I could start appreciating that with everybody who I meet out in the world. I really get to see people more for who they are than for who I’m forcing us to be in a relationship. I don’t know. That’s not very clear but it’s been huge, HUGE, for me. EU057, Akilah S. Richards PAM: I was wondering, looking back now, what for you so far has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? AKILAH: It would go right back to that liberation mindset. That all of these things I believe in as a social justice believer, as an intersectional feminist, all of these things I believe in, unschooling for me has truly been the vehicle that allows me to live that. To live my politics in that sense. To afford that same right to my children—and not just mine, but I have more of an influence with my children in terms of what they can and can’t do. That’s the most important thing. I now get to practice liberation and I get to extend that space to my daughters. PAM: It’s amazing, isn’t it? Coming from kids who were in school, at first, I thought if I take them out of school, what am I going to replace school with? In that first six months to a year, I realized the extent of what this was about. I loved your whole liberation mindset. It’s why we talk about unschooling becoming a lifestyle because it just permeates everywhere. It’s just an incredible way to live. AKILAH: Absolutely. And you just realize how many constructs were defining your actions. Those constructs are toxic and they don’t even align with who you are. It’s like, I don’t want that. I don’t want to make anybody do anything. That just didn’t dawn on me before. Now I have all of this practice and language. All this compassion, this love/harmony/partnership approach to life and living and that really empowers me. It started about helping my kids to “learn good,” and now it’s about living in harmony with my spirit. PAM: That’s a good point. It ends up being a lot of our own work, to figure all this out but it’s just such a growth vehicle for us, as people, right? And we learn so much from them. They haven’t been so controlled. They recover so much more quickly because they are still in touch with that open mindset. Just watching them we can learn so much. AKILAH: Absolutely. I’m sure some folks listen to you out of the space of curiosity, those who aren’t immersed in it but know what’s not working but don’t know yet what to replace it with. I would say unschooling—really, self-directed education—is a philosophy. It becomes an approach to living. That the box of learning, which comes from the schooled mindset and the pervasiveness. You realize how naturally things can work when you use love and trust, these “woo-woo,” esoteric terms, that sound like yah, I don’t do yoga. We start to understand the practicality of these ways because trust and love are practical things. They really are. EU066, Pushpa Ramachandran PAM: Looking back, what has been the most valuable outcome so far from choosing unschooling? PUSHPA: I would have to say hands down the most valuable outcome for choosing unschooling is to rediscover the joy of learning. And how learning is really the most important part of anything that you do. And how learning is constantly happening whether I decide to pin up a board on it and display it and shout out, “Oh we are learning, we are learning!” Whether I choose to or not, it is still going to happen. I have no control over learning. It will happen no matter what I try to do or not do. PAM: I love that! That was something that took me a while to see because I had my own expectations on what it should look like, but as soon as I got passed that, it is happening all the time. Whether or not we see it. Whether or not we even know what they are learning in the moment, they are always picking up something. It is so fun to watch, isn’t it? PUSHPA: The biggest outcome also has been kind of trying to learn—and I am still learning to do this—not to do what you just said about what you think learning should look like and then box your child into that and get upset. Sometimes they are not learning what you think they should be learning, but then you get surprised and you literally have to eat your own words because you realize that what you thought they were learning, not only have they learned that, they have learned above and beyond that which you have never even considered so. PAM: I know! One thing I learned that was really valuable is to sit back and not jump in with comments, because I would direct things in places where I thought they would go, because if it was me that is where I would take it. But the places they would take it are so fascinating and different and so interesting to see, but I had to be careful not to jump in there or else I might take over or knock it off their course. PUSHPA: I also have to say, I am human. I do make all these mistakes that I am so eloquently telling others—I definitely do not want to sound like I am preaching or anything. I can eloquently talk about it, but I do not necessarily know how to do it all the time. I am still learning how to be a facilitator rather than a director. PAM: Yes, and I don’t want to give the impression, like you said, to anyone that we are “perfect” at doing any of this. It is all about engaging with each other and you get signals and clues and it is like, “Oh, look, I am putting a little bit too much energy into this, I can tell by their reaction it is time to step back.” Or, “I can tell by their reaction they are wanting more.” It is just about the dance of a relationship, I think that is Pam Sorooshian’s phrase. I think it just works so well because it always is, even with my kids now as adults, you know, it is still that dance. It is still watching out for the clues of whether I should step right, left, backwards, whatever. You know, sometimes we do step on each other’s toes, but that is another clue and we acknowledge it and figure it out. So yes, it is all part of living together. PUSHPA: If I could say one thing like at the homeschool meetup that we just had, one of the mom’s did a session on Do Nothing. That was the hardest part for most parents, to ‘do nothing’ sometimes. PAM: Yes. We are very productivity-oriented, is what jumped to my mind. That feeling that we always have to be doing something. It’s so important to just leave that space for things to go where they are going to go or not. Like you said, we are still learning. PUSHPA: I am still learning how to do nothing sometimes. EU074, Robyn Coburn PAM: And, looking back, what has been the most valuable outcome so far from choosing unschooling? ROBYN: Well, that is a really short answer. I have a very happy daughter with no school damage and a close connection to her parents, to James and me. That is the outcome. That is it. PAM: The relationship. ROBYN: A very happy daughter who seems to be completely aware of the world and history and culture and science and, if she wants to find out about something, she knows how do that. She is still determining her career kind of path. The problem is not that she does not know what to do but that she has too many choices. There are so many different interests and ideas about her future that she is not yet sure which path is going to appeal to her most. PAM: But that is okay because that is the nice thing about not feeling like you need to stick to a particular timetable, right? You were talking earlier about her being confident however things work out, you know, however they turn out. So, being able to know that, “Oh, gee, I have all these interesting things and to be able to continue pursuing them all to see.” Then eventually, she will see, maybe she will come up with a way to combine them moving forward. Maybe one will start to stand out, but having that space is awesome. ROBYN: Yes, as time goes on she just has seen more and more to add. (laughs) EU089, Jan Hunt PAM: Looking back, what has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling, for you? JAN: Just to look at Jason and know that he is happy, very secure, that he is amazing. If something goes wrong, he always sees the humour right away. I see the humour six months later; he sees it instantly, so he is always really quick with a cute little joke. He jokes about things but in a very kind way and very helpful, that helps me to see that I was taking something too seriously or that something is not as dire as I had thought. He keeps me in perspective because he has such an incredible perspective on life and in every way. Every interaction that he has with people is just so appropriate and kind. PAM: I love that point about the perspective, because you know what? When I think of that, it is so true. I always say that I learn from my kids, and it is still true. Mine are age twenty and up now, and still I learn from them in how to approach situations. Their perspective and ability to roll with the situation is just amazingly fun to watch, so when I start getting caught up… JAN: And it is so important to stay calm in difficult times, because anybody can stay calm in good times. It is how we treat each other and ourselves when things are not going so well. I am still trying to learn that, and I have this wonderful teacher right here. PAM: Exactly, right? Like you said, I love chatting with them, I love being with them, and hanging out with them; they are fun. They have such a fresh perspective on so many things in the moment and in the world and with information; how they have creatively built their unique picture of the world. Their picture and view of the world is so fascinating, isn’t it? To just hear them talk about something and share the connections and what they see and what they take from things is just so interesting. JAN: Well, all of that went into this article, and I want to mention is again, ‘Creating a Peaceful World Through Parenting.’ He and I spent several months going over every sentence with a fine-tooth comb; we did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, we just wanted to be heard, you know, and clear, and this is all of the things. If we had only one article on our website, it would be that one to show people how we can have peace in the world. It all comes down to the early years and the way we treat children. EU111, Jan Fortune PAM: Looking back, what has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling for you? JAN: I think the biggest thing that is, is that if you relate to your children as autonomous creators of their own stories and people you can pool creative with, that relationship goes on throughout life. So, the most valuable thing for me has been these ongoing relationships of trust and support which are now with a group of young adults who are on all different kinds of journeys. Just the fact that that goes on and on and develops and the excitement that it’s now developing with a first grandchild, it’s absolutely amazing to have that much trust and support with these incredible young people. It’s also given all of us the mindset that the whole of life is about learning and that’s really helpful, I think, in a world where flexibility is essential. For myself, it’s meant not getting stuck in any role that’s no longer working for me because I know I can change it. It’s always possible. So, the benefits are just ongoing. At the moment, as you said in the beginning, I’m shifting the balance of my own work from being largely editing with the press that I’ve set up to being more about my own life writing and sharing insights into writing and the writing life and the new blog on Medium. So, unschooling has taught me that I can make changes in my own life at any age and that I will always have these amazing people in my life to share that with and that the creativity just goes on growing. PAM: I love that. And what a shift, right, when we first start or choose unschooling we think that it’s about our kids…(laughter) JAN: Absolutely. It’s about all of us together. PAM: Yeah, and it’s about learning how to be a human being. Just embracing life—it’s beautiful, isn’t it? JAN: Absolutely. I mean, I think that is the absolute crux of it. Actually, unschooling is exactly what it says on the can: we don’t need those school models, we need to talk about how we live well and we need to share that with people most important in our lives and when we do that, the magic is extraordinary. EU130, Ronnie Maier PAM: Looking back for yourself, what for you has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling all those years ago? RONNIE: Relationships. Definitely. I wanted to say something more original because I’m sure you’ve had people say relationships quite a bit. Having grown kids who enjoy your company, who call you when they’re feeling sad and want to go shopping with you or have you come visit them in Minneapolis. It’s huge and it continues to be work. Having grown kids is an interesting challenge. How much do you say? How much do you not say? It’s constantly walking this balancing beam trying not to interfere too much, trying not to give advice when they’re not looking for that. You kind of feel your way. And that’s another one where you just keep shining the light on what you’re trying to do. Like MJ, the older one, I leave her alone a lot. She’s fiercely independent and of the two of them has more baggage with me because she was that kid who experienced, before peaceful parenting, lot more bag baggage, so I leave her alone but periodically I check in. I send her cute cat photos on Instagram. Things like that. And I check in and say, “I’ve been leaving you alone, is that what you want?” And she’ll say, “Yeah, I appreciate it.” She knows what I’m doing and recognizes that I’m giving her space that she wants. And then, totally different relationship with Chloe, but still needing to walk that line. She and I talk almost everyday, joined-at-the-hip 1400 miles apart! But then there will be days when she gets quiet and then it’s like, ‘Okay Chloe’s having some mom-free time. I get that!’ Anyway, but the foundation that we have that allows us to do that kind of checking in with each other and trusting each other to listen if we’re getting it wrong, is gold. I could not have imagined how happy a family could be before unschooling. It’s just not something you’re told. It’s not something you lived, the bonds that you have and the fun that you have. EU131, Maria Randolph PAM: With your official unschooling years behind you now, looking back what has been the most valuable outcome you think from choosing unschooling? MARIA: Oh my goodness. I have to pick just one? (laughter) I would say the most valuable outcome to unschooling is that I was able to take my time and look at our relationship differently. I think we have always had a fine relationship I really do. You know, I like self-improvement, but I had to do that at a younger age with homeschooling. I feel like because of that we had a stronger bond and a more respectful relationship between two humans than I think we would have had otherwise. Because I began to see her not as the child, but as a person who needed guidance but fully had her own ideas, her own thoughts whether she was verbalizing them or not. I could give her the information and guide her in whatever it was she wanted to do and I think that has then played its part as she has gotten older. Just kind of has connected us on a level I am not sure we would have connected on before. Because I truly see her as a human fully capable of making all of her own choices and her own decisions. EU135, Anna Brown PAM: Looking back, what has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? ANNA: I think it really has to be time because, as I mentioned, we didn’t know how much time we would have with my oldest and really, the truth of matter is, we don’t know how much time we have with anybody. Some people don’t like to think about that, but it’s the truth. I knew early on because of our experience with her that I wanted to enjoy every moment. I wanted to be able to live with no regrets and if it all ended tomorrow that I could say we had the most awesome time together and I’m so grateful. That’s where I wanted to be and that’s what we did. That’s what we’re still doing. I still do it today all the time because you just never know and that’s what guides my decisions and my spending time with people that I love and my doing the things that I enjoy. How does that look? I feel like unschooling was such a big part of that. It allowed us to build these relationships and visit amazing places and explore these things that we love and, oh my gosh, the magical people we met along the way. I wouldn’t trade a second of it and I am so grateful for all those things that happened and sometimes it’s hard to be understanding. I’m even grateful for the things that happened to my oldest because, wow, did it change the trajectory of everything. Had that not happened I wouldn’t be here today. It’s just understanding that those are the choices. I just feel like unschooling—I’m so grateful. Oh my gosh, it goes by really fast! Bloop-bloop, it’s all over! Even with that, so now I’m in this age where my friends—their kids are getting older and going off. A lot of them are upset and I don’t feel that at all. We have savored every stage. We continue to be grateful for the time we have together now but I’m so excited for them! I don’t have regrets about not having time or now they’re going and we’re losing time. No! We’ve had so much time and what a gift that time has been. I feel like unschooling was a gift and it helped us step off a treadmill that we were definitely on before all this happened. It gave us, as a family, so much that I will always be grateful for.

EU352: Unschooling “Rules”: Unschoolers Are Always Happy

This week on the podcast, we’re sharing a new episode in the Unschooling “Rules” series. We use the word “rules” in quotes to draw attention to the fact that there is no such thing as an unschooling rule! It can feel easier to reach for a set of rules to follow, especially when we’re learning something new, but we want to offer you space to look within, to find what makes sense to you and what makes sense to the individual members of your family. There are no unschooling police. Nobody is going to drop by your house and give you a failing grade—or an A+. Our goal with this series is to explore these apparent “rules” and cultivate an environment for self-discovery, for inquiry, for agency, and for growth. In this episode, we’re diving into the “rule” that unschoolers should always be happy. We explore why happiness isn’t a good indicator of unschooling success, the importance of validation and presence, and the benefits that unschooling brings to navigating challenging times. We had a lot of fun diving into this topic and we hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey! THINGS WE MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE The Living Joyfully Shop The Living Joyfully Podcast The Unschooling Journey book EU346: On the Journey with Cassie Emmott The Living Joyfully Network Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram. Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook. Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram. Check out our website, for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling. Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling? Submit your question for a future Q&A episode, and, if you’re a patron, be sure to mention that. Become a patron of Pam’s work for as little a dollar a month (in a wide variety of currencies) and learn more about what she’s up to! We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. Our theme this month is Revitalizing Our Nest, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of autonomy and flow. So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ANNA: Hello! I’m Anna Brown from Living Joyfully, and this is episode number 352 of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Erika Ellis. Welcome! ERIKA AND PAM: Hi! ANNA: Before we jump in, I wanted to encourage you to check out our Living Joyfully Shop. You can find it at There you can find our new course about navigating conflict. It’s designed to help you gain a better understanding of how our personalities, our life experiences, and how we’re feeling in the moment can contribute significantly to the ways in which conflicts arise and unfold. And how we can move through conflicts more easily with this understanding. You can also find information about coaching calls for individuals, couples, as well as unschooling support. And as always, we want to remind everyone that with this Unschooling “Rules” series, we use the word rules in quotes to draw attention to the fact that there is no such thing. It can feel easier, I think, to reach for a set of rules to follow, especially when we’re learning something new. But we want to offer you space to look within, to find what makes sense to you, and what makes sense to the individual members of your family. There are no unschooling police. Nobody’s going to drop by your house and give you a failing grade. Also, they’re not going to give you an A+. Our goal with this series is to explore these apparent rules and cultivate an environment for self-discovery and inquiry, for agency and growth. So, with that in mind, Erika, would you like to get us started today? ERIKA: Yes, I would. I am so excited to have another rule to dive into, and this one is huge. So, the rule that we’re talking about today is that unschoolers are always happy, or probably more specifically, that unschooling kids are and should always be happy. I think it’s so common to fall into this line of thinking that unschooling life is based on what the kids want to do and what they’re interested in, moving away from coercion and judgment. So then, life should just be great all the time. What do they have to be unhappy about? And if for whatever reason my kids are unhappy, maybe that must mean that I’m doing something wrong. And it can create a lot of worry and fear if we don’t unpack this belief. And so, the first thought that came up for me as I was thinking about unpacking it was, this is just real life with real people. And real life comes with all kinds of experiences and all kinds of emotions. It’s not a defect if we have emotions that feel uncomfortable. It’s just part of being alive. If my kids are living their life without school, some of the stresses and challenges that exist for some children might not exist for them or like it did for me when I was in school. But stresses and challenges will still come up. They still have hormones. They still have grumpy moods and triggers and sensitivities just like any human. And navigating relationships can easily bring up all kinds of feelings. The normal constraints of life can be frustrating, like a thunderstorm could mess with our plans to have a pool day. Or living really far away from people we love can feel so hard. Failing to beat a level in a video game over and over and over can feel enraging. And so all of those emotions and experiences are just a part of life, whether or not we’re unschooling. And I think that being intentional about respecting our children’s wants and needs and not pushing through their consent goes a really long way toward helping them have a life that feels good and works for them, but it doesn’t mean that their lives are perfect or that they’re somehow protected from the harder parts of living, because unschooling is just real life. ANNA: Oh my gosh. It’s so true. And I think there’s a lot of layers to peel back here, too. And so, I’m very excited that we’re tackling this as one of those kind of unspoken unschooling rules, because I think it creates a lot of bad feelings in parents and all around and even just misunderstandings. I think in part the frustration is compounded, because we are doing our best to be intentional and create a life that allows our children to shine. It’s work. And it’s often very different from what we experienced as kids. So, when there is upset or big emotions, we can have the thought like, hey, you really don’t know how good you have it! And that’s okay. We may have that thought from time to time, but what I realized is that they don’t know the difference. They only know the life that they have. And like you said, Erika, life can be messy. It will have ups and downs and challenges and triumphs. I wasn’t unschooling to stop them from living. I wanted them to live their fullest life and to have the space and support to be their full selves. And for humans, that means experiencing a wide range of emotions and experiences. And even when we do all the things, each of our children is on their own journey. And I had to come to terms with this when my oldest was a teen. I couldn’t take away all the pain that she was experiencing, but I could be there and I could make sure that she had space and was loved unconditionally through those darker times. So, for me, it became less about creating an environment where we were all happy all the time, but more about creating an environment where we were all loved and supported for being exactly who we are.  PAM: Oh yes, yes, yes. I do think this is such a rich area to explore. Certainly for me, I was drawn to unschooling because it seemed like such a happier and more relaxed way to live our lives. It was a significant part of our choice to try unschooling. And my goodness, not having school control so much of our days focusing on the things we wanted to do, it just sounded brilliant. And it was. But pretty soon, I found I needed to tease apart the meaningful difference between happier and always happy. Because, as you both mentioned, life still has stresses and challenges, and on top of that, we each have different personalities and ways of being in the world while still living together. And now, with the kids home from school, we were living together a lot more of each day. So, I feel like this was a pretty important de-schooling shift for me, from this almost utopian vision of always being happy because we were doing the things we wanted to do, to a more grounded and aware perspective that was still happier than before definitely. But now we were embracing how much choice we truly had in our lives, which was a lot, while also recognizing that things happen pretty regularly that aren’t in our control. What we can choose is how we respond. So, we embrace everyone following their interests and not judging each other’s choices, while recognizing that we are fundamentally different people and our needs and wants are sometimes at cross purposes. And just as I found my children’s learning faded as a useful barometer or measure of our days and the connection in our relationship became a much more helpful measure, I found that happiness faded as a beneficial indicator of unschooling “success” and joy rose up in its place. See, happiness, while lovely, was more related to circumstances in the moment, “Yay, this thing went well!” while joy felt more fundamental to me. So, looking at our days became less about how things were going and more about how things were feeling. I came to focus more on cultivating the feelings of connectedness and trust and emotional safety, and those lay in the foundation of our days beneath the activities themselves. And I talk a lot more about this shift in my book, The Unschooling Journey, as part of stage nine, accepting our nature. I find this whole piece really fascinating, and I do think it’s quite familiar to the shift that you described, Anna, from trying to create an environment where we were all happy to creating an environment where we were all loved and supported for being exactly who we are. ERIKA: Yeah, I love that so much. And that shift from happy to joyful, like it might sound the same, but the concepts are different, and joy really allows space for the ups and downs in a way that being always happy doesn’t. So, now that we’ve established that unschooling life is just real life with all the emotions that that brings with it. I wanted to talk about releasing expectations and validating ourselves and our children. I think these two areas, which you both talked about on the Living Joyfully Podcast, really tie in so well with this rule. So, if I notice myself getting uncomfortable when my child is unhappy, that’s a good sign for me to pause and see what’s happening in my thoughts. I very likely have an expectation that they should be happy and maybe some judgment pieces about myself, like maybe I’m not doing a good enough job if they’re unhappy. And there can be a feeling of needing to fix things as fast as I can so they can go back to being happy. And in times where I’m especially overwhelmed, I may even feel angry that they’re unhappy, almost like they’re doing this to me. And so, all of those feelings and thoughts can come up and I can validate that it’s feeling hard for me. I can remind myself that this is just real life and I can breathe through their intense emotions and my intense emotions and know that it’s safe to feel emotions. I can validate my kids and their experience, not rushing them to move through it, and over time I can practice releasing that expectation that they should be happy or that I should be able to give them a life where they’re always happy. I do think these triggering moments can get easier to navigate with practice. I can be really hard on myself. So, for me, this practice looks like reassuring self-talk. Like, you’ve got this, you’re safe. Don’t beat yourself up. They’re just humans. Just breathe through it. Let them be humans. And I also think what you were mentioning, Pam, about just remembering that people are all so different helps so much with this too, because some personalities are a little more somber. Some people feel comfortable sitting in darker emotions or are more drawn to experiencing them. And so, while that can feel hard or even trigger me as a parent, it helps to recognize that everyone is different and however we are experiencing our own lives is valid.  ANNA: Right. And I think it can trigger all kinds of things. And just being aware that it’s a trigger, not a threat, can help me take a moment to understand it more. Am I feeling resourced? Am I hungry? What is this bringing up in me? Taking care of myself helps me be present for the big emotions without them needing to stop. And what I found is that we actually move through them faster and feel better when we slow things down and take care with the emotions that are present, and like you said, that’s validating ourselves and our kids. All the feelings are okay, their upset and our frustration. And the sooner we acknowledge and are kind to ourselves about that, the sooner we can truly connect and see that the person in front of us is a human that we love, needing support and understanding. Because again, it’s not about never feeling bad, but trusting that we will be okay, knowing that we can move through it. Taking the time to identify our triggers, I think is an important aspect of this. That often can’t happen in the moment, but we can recognize them and promise to go back there in a quiet moment. That usually allows me to be more present with the child in front of me. When I start to peel back a trigger, sometimes it’s contextual, I’m exhausted or I’m hungry, or there’s just been a lot going on. Or sometimes it’s from further back. Maybe I wasn’t allowed to express things in the same way that they are now. Maybe I feel they aren’t being grateful, even though I’ve worked so hard to make something happen. But those things are about me. They’re not about my children, and I don’t want to put that weight on them. I can sort through where those feelings are coming from. And then if further conversations needed, it’s coming from a grounded place in the present, not a triggered place from the past. So, maybe I did put a lot of effort into something and it just isn’t feeling great, their reaction or what’s going on around me. But once I’ve moved through any triggered energy, I can be honest about any overwhelm I’m experiencing and we can start to solve that together. Maybe I find out they didn’t want me to do all the things that I was doing. They didn’t need that. Maybe they didn’t understand what was involved. They’re kids. They don’t understand all the machinations sometimes. But I wanted to approach these conversations with love and curiosity, not anger that’s stemming from a situation or a time that has nothing to do with this person in front of me. PAM: Absolutely. I love that reminder so much, Anna, that how I’m experiencing their emotions is about me. Of course it’s about me. And I so remember those thoughts of, what do they have to be unhappy about? And you both shared some great thoughts around peeling back some of the layers around that. And I wanted to pull out something you mentioned, Erika, about sometimes feeling like we’re not doing a good enough job at this unschooling thing because our kids are unhappy. On one hand is everything that we’ve shared to this point about happiness not being a particularly useful gauge, and also it can be helpful to not ignore our wonderings around whether we’re doing a “good enough” job. Because I know in my experience, if we try to ignore those feelings, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll just keep bubbling up again and again and a bit louder each time until we take some time to process through them. So, when I was processing through those feelings of not good enough, I found it helpful to reground myself in why we chose unschooling as our family’s lifestyle in the first place, to explore my perspectives on happiness like this, and to tease apart my children’s unhappiness from my actions. Is that something I have control over? To contemplate if I can learn more about my child, about their personality and their needs through better understanding why they’re unhappy. And to brainstorm some creative new ways to lean into supporting them in their endeavors. So, not using those feelings of “not good enough” as a sign of failure, but as a clue that it just might be time to do a check-in on our engagement and just re-energize and refresh our unschooling enthusiasm. ERIKA: Yeah. Right. When our feelings and doubts are creeping up, I love that idea of using them as a clue rather than kind of jumping to a conclusion that everything is broken. I think using it as a clue and maybe a little signal to look into things could lead to great new places for the whole family. If we’re using our emotions just as a clue and a little trigger for us to get open and curious rather than shutting ourselves down. And Anna, I love that part about examining our triggers and one of the recent episodes on the Living Joyfully podcast was about triggers. That was episode 21. So, that might be an interesting concept to dive into just as part of this de-schooling work around happiness. And I think that the work that we do, all that inner work that we are doing to grow as unschooling parents can really help us navigate life’s challenges. I also think that choosing to focus on relationships can help the whole family when things get difficult, but just because we have the tools and the strong relationships doesn’t mean that hard things don’t happen. Because again, it’s real life. And so, I thought maybe we could mention some of the ways that unschooling and connected relationships help us to navigate challenges. So, one big one for me is the trust that’s there in our family. So, whether we’re dealing with all getting sick with Covid, which happened recently, or a favorite toy breaking, or a death in the family, or facing a big change, like a new work schedule or moving into a new home, the trust that we’ve built as a family means that my kids know that I’m taking them into consideration, that their feelings are important, and that we’re all doing the best that we can to get through these situations together. It doesn’t take away the stress of the situation, but it puts us together on the same team to navigate it. I tend to wear my emotions on my face, and so there’s no hiding when something is feeling stressful for me. But I think that having built up lots of experience with facing a challenge and getting through it, with me feeling stressed out and then moving through it, that just creates this sense of trust that the kids have in our capacity to handle difficult things. And they know that we all have hard times and we all have intense emotions sometimes, and that those will pass. ANNA: I mean, I feel like that trust really helps me stay optimistic and centered when things go sideways. I know we’ll work through it. We just have over and over again. I know we’re going to feel better again, and that just helps me stay present in the moment without kind of projecting out or spiraling back or any of that. And I know it helped my girls, too, because they knew we would figure it out. They knew we’d just keep at it, even if we had to take a break and come back, or it took a little bit of time, we’d figure it out. And I think all of the time and practice we get with this helps so much in our families. But it really is important to let go of this idea that things will always be rosy, because life just isn’t that way. It’s amazing and full of growth opportunities, with all kinds of joy and magic. And it has challenges that can help us learn and grow, and it’s just all a part of it. And so, understanding that helps take some of the charge out of the times that did feel harder for me. It was in the resistance, actually, that it felt so terrible. Accepting or even embracing those times helped the flow feel more manageable and I could cultivate more curiosity, because I feel like in that resisting, “This shouldn’t be happening,” that’s where I would get stuck and very much pulled out of the moment. Then I’m in my head about what I should be doing differently or what’s happening. And so, that just never served me as well as just like, this is life. Here we are. And being open and curious has been such a helpful tool for me over the years, because it allows that little bit of space like, huh, what’s this bringing up in me? What’s happening for them? And even just the, I wonder how this is going to play out. That was what I needed to say. Like, I have no idea and I wonder what’s going to happen. Because it again brought me back into the moment and being open to all of the places that it could flow, understanding that I don’t know or control that. Cultivating that mindset keeps me from spiraling down a dark path of, they’re miserable, I’m failing. This whole thing is terrible. Everything is terrible. It grounds me back in the moment and helps me look with fresh eyes, like, okay, what am I seeing? There very well may be things that I want to or end up changing, like you were saying, Pam, like it’s important to think, hey, why is this happening? Are there things that we need to shift? But it’ll be coming from this calm, connected, curious place instead of a place of fear. And I have found for me, and I really think it’s across the board, we just don’t make good decisions from a place of fear. It very much narrows our vision and we miss a lot of context and a lot of opportunity. Cassie Emmott is one of our Network members who has also been on the podcast and she has a beautiful quote that she said, “Am I being driven by fear or being led by love?” And it’s such a great reminder that really grounds me in the moment and helps me remain open and curious and acting from that place of love and connection. And from that place, we’re learning more about each other, more about the situation. We’re taking in much more information and the energy and the feel of it is just so different. PAM: So, so different, and I really love that quote. Cassie was on the podcast in episode 346, and it’s a brilliant conversation to go back to, especially if you haven’t heard it yet. I think it’s a great touchstone just to help shift the energy of the situation from like being out of control, from that fear tunnel vision place to the openness, I’m leading. Here we go. And yes, I too found the strong trust that develops in our relationships with our kids was fundamental to navigating life’s challenges. We were on the same team. So often, when things happen, we don’t know what that path will look like, but we trust each other that we’ll just keep exploring until everyone is comfortable. And I think another way that our strong and connected relationships with our children can help us navigate challenges is the creativity it encourages, right? They feel safe to not only express their needs and their wants, but also to share any thoughts or ideas that bubble up without fear of being judged or belittled. We may not end up taking on the wildest of ideas, but they can help us start thinking outside the box and come up with ways to move through the challenge that we otherwise wouldn’t have even thought of, let alone considered. In my experience, I ended up very soon just going to my kids first, because I knew they could break me out of like, I see A, B, and C, and that’s all I see. All of a sudden, they could bring me out and we could get so much more creative. And for them not needing to be vigilant about the people around you, not needing to first filter what you are thinking of sharing based on the reactions that you anticipate from others, that cultivates an emotionally safe place for our children to just sink into the flow of their thoughts and just share whatever bubbles up. I just found it to be so great for brainstorming possibilities around challenges as we were trying to move through them. ANNA: Oh my gosh. Go ahead, Erika.  ERIKA: While you were both talking, I just had a thought about, if we are stuck in a fear place about them not being happy, that produces an energy where they’re not going to want to come to us if they’re upset about things in, in the same kind of open way that they can, if we’re able to release that wall that we put up against these negative emotions. And so, that open and curious and creativity happens so much better if we can sit with hard emotions with them. Then we can all be in a place where you know, they can share, I’m feeling like this and we can say, what do you think we should do about it? What would you like to do next? And start exploring ways to feel better. It’s a lot easier to do that with a parent who is not resisting the negative emotions or trying to rush a child through the negative emotions. So, I just think it creates this great environment. ANNA: And who’s not catastrophizing and not maybe overly reacting. And not that we can’t react, we can have our reactions, but again, if it’s that open space, that emotionally safe space that you’re talking about, Pam, that’s where we learn so much more. It just shuts down so much when we get in our head and we’re off thinking, “This is terrible!” And so, yeah, I really love that. PAM: I think the other piece in that safe space and what I think is just so valuable is, like what you were talking about, Erika, not rushing them through it. We realize it doesn’t need to be solved on our timetable, because we’re uncomfortable with it, but you know, it’s not our space right now. We’re not the one having the hard time right now. So, giving them the space to work through it on their timetable. Because if they feel us rushing them through, it really sends the message that there’s something wrong with having those emotions. This is bad, this is not good that you’re not happy today. This is something we need to fix as soon as possible. And so, sharing that message just makes it so much harder for them to get through, and like you said, to come next time and to realize that this is life. Like we’ve been saying. When I look back at my blog, just about every post at the bottom ends with “unschooling is life,” because where we get to. It’s not about some utopian vision. It’s not about everybody always being happy. It’s wonderful and amazing and beautiful relationships, but it’s life. And it’s being together on the same team and helping each other through it. Anyway, yeah. It’s lovely. ANNA: Oh, I love that. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation and I hope that everyone found it helpful on their unschooling journey. And if you enjoy these conversations, I really think you’d love the Living Joyfully Network. It’s such an amazing group of people connecting and having thoughtful conversations about all the things we encounter in our unschooling lives. You can learn more about it at living And if you’ve been on the fence, you can join with the monthly subscription option, so you can check out the community, the rich archives of themes, the wonderful resources, and start to connect with the amazing people. If it’s not a fit, you can easily cancel. But I do hope you’ll check it out, because we have all kinds of amazing discussions. And I just want to bring you all into the discussions that we have like this all the time. But wishing everybody a lovely week, and thank you so much for joining us.

EU351: Bringing It Home: Navigating Technology

This week on the podcast, we’re diving into another Bringing It Home episode. We’re looking deeper at our last Unschooling “Rules” topic, that unschoolers have unlimited screen time, and exploring what it can look like to navigate technology with our unschooling families. Unsurprisingly, there is no one right approach. It’s so much about seeing through our children’s eyes and understanding the choices that feel good to them. Having conversations that involve the whole family makes navigating technology both safer and more fun! We hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey! Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. * * * Check out our new course, Navigating Conflict, which will guide you through different aspects of conflict and give you some concrete tools to more gracefully navigate your way through conflict in all your relationships. Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram. Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram, Facebook, and check out her website for lots more info about exploring unschooling and decoding the unschooling journey. Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram. Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling? We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. Our theme this month is Context. So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. Become a patron of Pam’s work for as little a dollar a month (in a wide variety of currencies) and learn more about what she’s up to! EPISODE TRANSCRIPT PAM: Hello, everyone! I am Pam Laricchia from Living Joyfully, and this is episode number 351 of the podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Anna Brown and Erika Ellis. Hello! ANNA: Hello! ERIKA: Hi! PAM: So, in our last Unschooling “Rules” episode, we talked about the idea of unlimited screen time. We talked about how the term screen time is at this point, a pretty loaded yet meaningless phrase, and that unlimited doesn’t mean hands off. So, in this Bringing It Home episode, let’s continue the conversation and talk about ways we might approach navigating technology, particularly when a child’s tech use isn’t feeling good to the parent. And before we get started, we want to just let you know that we have released a course entitled Navigating Conflict. It will help guide you through different aspects of conflict and give you some concrete tools to help you just more gracefully navigate your way through it in all your relationships. Because conflict is not a zero-sum game where one person wins and the other person loses an equal measure. Often, we really can find win-win paths through a situation. I also wanted to mention that the course content is available in both written and audio format. So, whichever style works better for you. So, maybe you’re listening on some days or reading on others. It really can fit into the flow of your days, whatever they look like. And you’ll find it in our shop at, so you can check it out and just see if it’s a good fit for you right now. So, Anna, would you like to get us started talking about navigating technology? ANNA: I would. Okay. So, I feel like in our last episode, we really focused on the higher level understanding of our language, the areas we can dig into and make sure we’re being intentional and focused on the present moment. In this episode, I think we can dig into what we can actually do, how it can look in our homes. I mentioned this briefly last time, but whenever we find ourselves worried about how much time our kids are spending engaged with technology, instead of clamping down out of fear, we can lean in and learn more. No matter what interest area is being explored by technology, there are ways we can learn more about it and engage with our children around it. I found it so helpful to learn the terms, especially if we’re talking about video games, levels, bosses, inventory, character names, story arcs. Understanding the specifics helped us have conversations, showed my children that I was interested in what they were diving into, and gave me so much more information about all the complexity of what they were doing. And sometimes leaning in looks like being a listening ear. I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving end of the very detailed information about a character or a game, or sometimes a random aspect of history. It isn’t always easy to be fully present for every power and evolution of each and every Pokemon. But those moments are when we can focus on and celebrate this thing that is capturing their interest. We can see the complexities and the thinking that goes into their engagement. Sometimes that alone is enough to calm any fears about what they’re doing and what they’re learning and how they’re engaging with it. We miss that, I feel, if we just brush it off or oversimplify it. Really listening and taking the time to learn just makes such a difference, because it’s really about how to learn and how to engage with material, not about the material itself. The material is going to change over time, but that quest for knowledge and understanding is a muscle that can be flexed while digging into all kinds of interest areas. And one of the ways that I would show that I was listening was to then find things outside the game that were somehow related. So, it might be Animal Crossing plushies or Zelda jewelry. “I see you, I want to celebrate and support what you love.” Sometimes, it was traveling to places that they saw on a show or finding ways that their interest came into play in other areas that maybe they weren’t aware of. So often, we think it’s about getting them to stop the game or move away from it or move away from the show, but really, it can be about just broadening the scope and finding ways that we can all engage with the interest and end up learning so much more. ERIKA: Right. I really have loved leaning into their interests. I’ve gotten pretty seriously into a lot of the games that my kids play and the shows that they watch. I had a long Minecraft phase and a Sims phase, and I play Roblox every day. And what that engagement does for me is now I speak the same language as them. I get it. And that makes a difference to them. Plus, it’s so much more fun for me. And I love that too, about bringing in more things to their lives that are related to their interests. And that really only works if we’re leaning in to learn about it. Now I can think, oh, if you really like that game, you might like this. Or, let’s get the toys that go with that show so that we can play with the characters together. It’s just so much fun to help them take that interest deeper, obviously without attachment to the outcome. PAM: Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I am in the midst of my Minecraft phase right now. ANNA: Nice. PAM: But yes, using that lens of learning, it just brings to mind for me the image of a web and the more connections to each node, to each piece of information or skill, the deeper, richer, their understanding of the thing is, the stronger the web is. So, if there’s something they’re interested in, how cool is it if I can find related things that broaden their knowledge in the ways that they enjoy? But I need to be engaged and understand the language and understand the complexity. We think it’s so simple when we’re just watching them, play or surf around, they make them look so easy. But when we understand it, we see so much more. When we engage with them, we see so much more. We get a richer picture of it, which helps us broaden it, as you said, without the attachments to them just wanting to dig further, but even planting the seed that they know there are more pieces in the world that might be related maybe a couple months from now they’ll be interested in. I wrote more about this idea in my book Free to Learn. And in there I shared a couple of connection maps that I created at the time when I was exploring this, when I was like really concerned with how much game playing there was. And with my daughter, it was Harry Potter and being really into those books. So, I created these maps looking at the connections between the interests and activities that I noticed them doing as they dove into their passions. Many of which, even back then, involved screen interfaces. So, if I left it at, “They’re using a screen,” and just put that in the middle, I’d have known so little about all the exploration and learning that they were up to. My maps would have just been a couple of dots. And I would’ve been at a loss as to other things to bring into their lives that they might find interesting. And that’s that distinction, right? Not what I wish they were interested in, but what they might actually be interested in. And the conclusion, where I would naturally go is, I just need to get them off the screens, because this is all they’re doing. This is all they’re doing! Right? ERIKA: Exactly. And then all those things that they love would just be mysterious and easy for us to dismiss. And I love those maps, too, and looking at all those connections that they’re making. And I want to talk about just how important connection is in all of this. I know we keep mentioning it, but it really is what makes this approach work, because by focusing on connection, like the connection that we’re feeling in our relationship with our kids, we keep communication open and we more easily see the learning and the joy that they get out of their interests. And we learn so much about our kids and what’s important to them. And so, of course, connection is such a key in our relationships. But I think connection is also what helps us deal with our worries and fears as well. Because one of the biggest fears that comes up when we talk about screens is online safety, which we talked about in a recent Q&A episode, too. And connection really is the answer there, too, because when I’m connected with my kids, they feel safe coming to me and sharing the things that happen. If instead, I keep focusing on how they shouldn’t be spending so much time online, they’re going to want to hide things more. It doesn’t feel good to be judged. So, being non-judgmental, showing unconditional love and connection is what helps learning thrive, and it’s what helps keep them safe as well. I think it just helps so much when my kids know that I understand them, I understand their interests, I respect the things that they’re interested in. That just helps them trust that I can help them when they’re facing a challenge. PAM: Oh, absolutely. Connection really is so valuable when it comes to just navigating our lives together, right? And feeling judged by a parent is kind of like dousing that connection in ice water. I can just literally feel it. Just imagine when somebody judges something you do, how you shrink, right? It doesn’t feel good and it weakens that trust that they have in us. I think it can also drown out their inner voice. Their self-talk may well become focused on fending off our judgment rather than exploring how things feel to them. So, for example, they might not hear that too muchness message until it’s loud enough to be causing more friction in their lives than it needed to. And without having someone they trust to help them process challenges and brainstorm possibilities, they may feel stuck longer. Right. ANNA: Oh my gosh. I think the safety point is so important because yes, kids are the safest when they have strong, trusted connections. They know we aren’t judging them. They know we will help them do the things they enjoy, so they feel comfortable telling us if something doesn’t feel good or feels off and they know we’ll listen and help them find a way through. They know that I’m not going to go, “Well then you should never go on that game again!” “I told you it was terrible.” They know that, “I know you love that game. I know these are the things you love about it. This is feeling weird. Let’s solve for that.” And so, that keeps them so much safer. Because, like you said, Pam, that’s that pushing through that feeling of being uncomfortable or too much. They can do that if they don’t feel like they have the trusted advisor, somebody else to bounce ideas off of, somebody that will support them. So bringing that calm presence to work through a problem is so important. It helps our kids feel safe and secure knowing that we’re there to help without judging them or their interests. And that just creates more connection, more safety, more security, and more learning, because we’re having those conversations. PAM: Yeah. Those conversations are everything. And we’ve talked about it before and I’m sure we’ll dive into it deeper again, but not all kids are super talkative. Not all adults are super talkative either. You don’t need to literally talk to have conversations, like to have communication. And you don’t need to have, like we were talking about earlier, long sit-down conversations, for us to process. It could be a few words here, a few words there. It could be paying attention and watching and seeing their reaction. Seeing how they’re engaging, seeing what’s turning them off. There are so many ways to communicate. Anyway, there was something else that I wanted to mention too, which is how ever things look right now around this, they won’t last forever. That’s our, projecting into the future all the time. One of the big worries we might have. Their interests and passions that are accessed through a screen will likely wax and wane over the years just woven into the fabric of that rich life that we’ve been talking about. Yes, right now technology is having a season of explosive growth as we continue to innovate and see what we can do with it. The creativity is all around us. But when we don’t bring a good, bad, judgmental energy to it, when we shine the light on what we’re actually engaging in through that screen interface, we don’t give it that power over us that often comes from fearing something, right? And instead we can just focus on exploring and learning and coming to our days with intention. Without power and fear in the the mix, we can explore what brings us comfort, right? Because I know sometimes I just want to relax, cocoon, and watch an old show. We can play with tech-free days and weeks for ourselves or consensually together if our kids are curious, too, and just see how it feels. We can share our experiences with our kids without them receiving that big side dish of judgment, because as we were talking about, this is new to us, too. So, over time, conversations will bubble up around how apps and loot boxes try to keep our attention and entice us to spend money, same as we talk about commercials on TV and direct mail advertising that arrives in our mailbox. We’ll talk about ways to spot scams and how people reengage with online may well not be who they appear to be, not to scare ourselves, not to create fear and run away from it, but just to become more knowledgeable, to become a bit wiser about it, to understand it more deeply. Being hands off and leaving our kids to navigate these things on their own because we have an unlimited screen time rule can make navigating online more challenging, because they have to figure it out all by themselves. We’re just saying, yep, yep. Whatever you want. That’s that disconnection we were talking about. And having screen time rules that apply only to the kids can also muddy the waters, right? Because we’re sending the message that they aren’t smart enough to figure it out. We think less of them we’ve gotta figured out. So, we can have our phones all the time, but you can’t use the screens till after 4:00 or whatever it is that we feel comfortable with. Instead, together we can explore what feels good for each of us right now and be open to how that changes over time. Because it will. It really will. And things can change more fluidly if they’re not covered in that goo of judgment, like that heaviness of judgment.  ANNA: Oh, it’s so true. The goo of judgment. It’s a surefire way to harm a relationship. And we’ve all been on the receiving end of it at one time or another, and know that it does not bring us closer to the person who’s doing the judging. And I love the reminder that what we talk about here is so very different from a hands-off approach. I think it’s the opposite, really, because we’re so involved in tending to our relationships, to understanding and supporting one another, understanding ourselves. It takes time and commitment to be in a deep and meaningful relationship. But who better to invest that time in than our children? And what we found was that all of the things that you mentioned about the different safety pieces or the things you were learning came up in just normal conversations as we were navigating the world together. What does this mean? What’s this popup? Why are they asking me to do this? Why does this cost Robux and that doesn’t? They just naturally came up. There wasn’t a need for big sit downs or scary talks. We’d all share the things we’d find and things that surprised us, and things that didn’t feel great. And it was all just a part of the fabric of our lives. And so, I think that can be confusing, because like you said, I think people envision the big sit down, but it’s really, we’re all on our, back in our day, Nintendo DS yelling across the room to the other person about what we’re seeing and why is this happening and we’re having good conversations about it. I think so often, we can fall into the trap of performing as a good parent, that we for forget to engage as humans. I feel like my kids were well served by having honest, connected relationships with their dad and with me, where we could learn from one another, share our best information, chart our individual courses from there, trusting that while we are on our own unique paths, our journeys intertwined because we want them to, because it feels better. And so, we can look beyond arbitrary rules to find what feels best to each of us, knowing that it can change, knowing that we’ll continue to be there for each other as we navigate new technologies, new relationships, new jobs, all the things that come with life, all the richness that’s thrown with life. It’s the same process of understanding ourselves, understanding each other, engaging, having conversations, just being, exploring this world together.  ERIKA: Yes. It’s so much nicer than staying stuck in just this role of parent, and I really loved what you both mentioned about how a rule, whether it’s the unlimited screen time rule or the no screen time rule, both of those are so much more disconnecting than what we’re talking about. And I just love that and I’m still thinking about that image of the goo of judgment, Pam. I loved that. But it’s true. When we’re stuck in that place of fear and judging, it adds this layer of goo to the situation. It makes it harder for us to see clearly what’s actually happening and to be able to see what all the possibilities are from this place. So, sharing information that isn’t about fear and judgment feels so much better. It’s fun to talk to the kids about the ways that online games are trying to get their money. We talk about it all the time. We’ve noticed those ads that can make it look like someone’s doing like a really terrible job playing the game to make you get so frustrated that you want to download it yourself. And I’m like, I could play that better than them. And, and I’m like, wait a second. They know that that’s what I’m thinking! And that endless scroll of TikTok. We talk about that Maya comments on how easy it is to just keep scrolling and scrolling and it’s like, hmm, it’s interesting to notice and talk about. And sometimes it feels fun to keep scrolling and sometimes it doesn’t. And so, it’s nice to be able to have those conversations and notice those feelings in ourselves. But regardless of what we are navigating in our world, there are going to be so many things to learn about how it feels to us as unique people. And I think it’s, again, so important to remember just how different each individual person is. And so, it helps me trust that we are all figuring out what works for us, and technology is just one aspect of our lives that we can each explore and figure out for ourselves. PAM: Okay. I just want to bring back that scrolling TikTok example, because that’s a beautiful example, because in one moment, scrolling and continuing to like take that moment. “Yeah, I’m gonna keep scrolling,” is fun and is exactly the right choice in that moment. And then another time I’m scrolling on like, “Oh man, this doesn’t feel good. It’s time to stop.” There is no one right answer, right? Just like “No screen time,” or, “Screen time all the time.” None of it is right, except for the individual, but also the individual in this particular moment. So, what we’re giving them when we’re giving them this space to explore is the space to have moments along the whole spectrum of when this feels amazing, when this feels horrible, what are my choices in each of those moments? And they’ve got so much more experience with navigating it than they would have if they have a framework or a rule over top of them that tells them, “This framework knows better than you do.” At some point when they don’t have that framework, they’re going to need to figure out these tools for themselves. ANNA: Right. We’re taking away that discernment, that critical thinking. And I think it’s hard, because you know why people want to do it. We want to make it perfect and make sure we’re doing the right things. But, for me, I felt like the time that my kids were at home with us and luckily as unschoolers, we do have lots of time together, that’s the time to get in those mucky places, for it to feel bad about scrolling and figuring out and then going, “Yeah, I don’t like that, and why don’t I like that? But now today I love it.” I just felt like that was such a great environment to explore and learn versus me making rules when they’re young. And then they’re out on their own and I guess what it’s bringing to mind is when I first went to college just like, woo! People went nuts! I didn’t have a lot of rules as a child. I don’t know. I was the baby and my siblings were older. So, my parents, we had a more conversational kind of environment, so I just was way more mature, but all those people that have been controlled all that time, whoa! Because they didn’t have that time to explore that with their parents as partners. It’s just so different. ERIKA: It’s becoming clearer to me as we’re talking about it how limiting in either direction, in either direction is and how much more you can learn without that kind of structure. Oh, I love that. PAM: And one last thing that bubbled up for me as you were talking there, and I will catch that bubble in my mind before this ends. One of the things, too, I feel, because at least I remember processing through it a lot, is that in my role as parent, I felt like I was failing if my kid was like upset about something or didn’t feel good. If my child was doing something that in the end they came to me and said, I did not enjoy doing that, scrolling longer or whatever, I would feel like that was a failure of mine. It’s like, oh my gosh, my role as a parent is to make this wonderful childhood for my child where they’re having fun all the time. And so, yeah, it was the work of understanding the importance and the depth of allowing them or giving them the space, especially while they’re with me, to explore the wide range of experiences that life can offer or the wide range of experiences that they are interested in exploring. Because we can also go, oh, I want my kid to experience all the things, and I’m trying to take them here, do this, this, and this. No, what’s important is what they’re wanting to explore in the moment, because that’s where they’re going to learn the most about themselves and about the thing, because they’re gaining that wide range of experiences of, how do I want to engage with this thing? And like you said, Anna, that experience with the process is what they’re learning and how they like to engage with the process. And in having a harder time or ending up feeling bad about something, they’ve learned how they start to feel bad, and then sometimes they can start to catch that even earlier. It’s like, ooh, I’m starting to feel a little bit off. I know from experience that if I keep this up for another hour, I’ll feel even worse. And then at least then they’re making a more cognizant or intentional choice. In that moment, it’s like, no, I really want where I am right now. None of that is wrong. None of that means I’m a failure as a parent, but I’m around to chat and help them process, and I can notice. And maybe I mention, “You look like you’re starting to feel a little squirrely. Do you want to do X, Y, or Z?” And if they say, “No, that’s okay,” It’s not like, “Darn, they didn’t listen to me.” All of a sudden, the role as a parent that we can often feel and struggle with can be really impactful in this situation, too. ANNA: Right, because that’s that piece of like, we’re not really looking at the human engagement part of it. And one last piece that bubbled up for me when you said that is that piece of how we think we have to expose them to everything during this time that they’re with us, but really life is this long game if we’re lucky. And it may be that like they realize, okay, I spent a bunch of years cocooning and doing this. All this learning was happening. Learning about who they are, what they want, different internal aspects, things we can’t even see. And then they may make different choices later, but it doesn’t all have to happen. And I think that’s our piece of that role of parent thinking. We need to control and mold and make sure everything’s perfect and going to turn out in this one way. And it’s like, oh, if we can just engage as humans traveling along, learning from each other, figuring things out, it just has such a different feel to it. PAM: Oh, it really does. Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much. This was so much fun. And we hope everyone else enjoyed listening in on our conversation and you found it maybe a little bit helpful on your unschooling journey. We also invite you to check out our other podcast, the Living Joyfully Podcast, as well. Much more focused on relationship specifically, and when you’re subscribed to both of them, you get a new episode from us in your podcast player every Thursday. Thanks so much and wishing everyone a lovely week. ERIKA: Bye! ANNA: Bye!

EU350: On the Journey with Sarah McMackin

This week, we’re back with another On the Journey episode. Pam, Anna, and Erika are joined by Living Joyfully Network member Sarah McMackin. Sarah is an unschooling mom to Eamon, who just turned seven. She also runs a restaurant in Austin, TX with her husband, Ray. We talk about Sarah’s experience unschooling an only child, we explore how unschooling and running a business mesh together, and we dive very deep into the power of play! It was so amazing having Sarah share her story on the podcast and we hope you find our conversation inspiring on your unschooling journey! Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram. Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram, Facebook, and check out the Living Joyfully website for lots more info about exploring unschooling and decoding the unschooling journey. Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram. Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling? Submit your question for a future Q&A episode, and, if you’re a patron, be sure to mention that. Become a patron of Pam’s work for as little a dollar a month (in a wide variety of currencies) and learn more about what she’s up to! We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. Our theme this month is Context. So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ANNA: Hello everyone! I am Anna Brown from Living Joyfully, and this is episode number 350 of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts Pam Laricchia and Erika Ellis, as well as our special guest this week, Sarah McMackin. Welcome to you all. PAM: Hi! ERIKA: Hi! SARAH: Hi! ANNA: Today, we’re sharing another episode in our On the Journey series where we speak to our guests about their experiences, their a-ha moments, their challenges, and what they’ve learned on their unschooling journeys. Sarah is a member of the Living Joyfully Network, and I have so enjoyed meeting her and getting to know her and her family. Sarah brings so much joy to everything she does. Her insights and excitement about being a parent and finding ways to focus on connection while running two successful restaurants in Austin, Texas is so inspiring. I am very excited for her to be here and share some of her story on this On the Journey episode. But before we get started, I wanted to mention that we recently have been putting together an Amazon storefront, so this is a place where we can share our favorite finds and just the things that we’ve found helpful along our journey. And that could be from books, to self-care items, games, and more. It’s a super easy way you can support the work we’re doing and find some cool things along the way. You can check it out at And, as always, we really, really appreciate your support. So now, I’m going to turn it over to Erika to get us started. ERIKA: Hi! Hi, Sarah. SARAH: Hi. ERIKA: I’m so excited to have Sarah joining us and I thought we could start maybe with you sharing a little bit about you and your family and what everyone is interested in these days. SARAH: Sure. Thanks so much for having me on. Yeah, in my inner household it’s myself and then my husband Ray, and our son Eamon. We live in Austin, Texas. And Eamon just turned seven yesterday, but old soul. Old soul. Yeah, so Eamon’s overarching, major passion is play and then that permeates everything. Everything that he does. Pretend play, and then it’s really manifested into video gaming and how he even engages with video games. So, basically, I mean, right now he is really into simulation games and first-person, really immersive, playing with them, making up storylines and stuff like this. When he was five or so, I think I showed him Laurel and Hardy and that right there like sparked this thing in him with this like dynamic duo kind of mentality of like getting into mishaps and just having a sort of dynamic in which they’re engaged like with the world. He has literally taken that up and just used that in most of our play. Because him being an only child, it’s really been him and me in a big way. And so, coming from a playful parent, like my mom, it comes very naturally for me. So, that’s a lot of the day is him oscillating between his screen and video gaming and YouTubeing and watching all the stuff, the walkthroughs, other gamers doing their thing, and then rolling that in. So typically, he likes me to be sitting with him and like engaging with the game itself. So, it’s not just the video game. Because the games that he plays are not typically like ones that have a goal. They’re just kind of these open world simulation and then let’s make up scenarios and let’s make up kind of character development and stuff like that and bring it in. So, he’s really into that. He’s just gotten close to, over the last few weeks, gaming with one of the Network folks’ son in Denmark. So, we’re in Texas and they’re in Denmark. So, it’s a seven-hour difference. So, they’re gaming together typically two times a day, morning time here when it’s their evening, but not really morning, more like 1:00 PM, because Eamon is a night owl, just like his dad. So, he is going to sleep around 3:00 AM lately, which is also how he’s learning time. He keeps jumping into bed and saying, “The small hand was on the two,” or, “The small hand was on the three.” So, he’s sort of playing with that. And then he wakes up around 1:00 and it’s right on with Theodor. So, the two of them are playing Fortnite right now, and they’re playing this game called Wobbly Life, which is really fun to hear him. He was always, being an old soul and being I think an only child and then unschooling, part of the reason why we unschool is because I think he was kind of overwhelmed socially with other kids, really, when he was small and he really loved just our play and the way that we work together. So, just to watch him now at almost seven or now seven be very comfortable and open and ready for some real social engagement. I mean, now it’s like he’s just hamming it up. I mean, he doesn’t stop talking. Theodor doesn’t stop talking. And the two of them are just like at it. So, there’s this whole little friendship thing happening now socially for him, which is really interesting. And he loves filmmaking, like making stop motions. And he’s not a big movie watcher, but it’s amazing how much he’s gleaned just from the few movies that he’s seen. And then I think YouTube, which at first, YouTube was very scary to me as a medium of like, wow, is this what we’re going to be watching? It felt like reality tv, all the time, which was just sort of foreign to my upbringing because it was like just shows and these like beautiful plots and very controlled characters and stuff. And now it’s like, oh god, what is he watching now? But he has gotten so much out of it, and I’ve sat with him and watched a lot with him, and now I’ve felt the freedom to kind of like, I could be cleaning and he’s doing that. But the social and the comedic and the everything he picks up, he is like finding what really turns him on, and then he’s able to utilize that in his gaming, in his filmmaking, anything like that. So, shorts and stuff are now coming in to play, which again, the YouTube shorts, you’re like, oh my god, what is this doing to a brain? Are we okay? This is a scroll. We haven’t gotten into TikTok yet, but he’s doing it and the guys that he’s watching or the girls he is watching, it’s like they’re so Eamon. They’re so him. And when they’re not, he just kind of flips it, or it is, and now it’s a new aspect of him. And so, that right there, it’s just wonderful. It’s all weaving into life. But the real passion that he has for the filmmaking part, at least what he’s said at this point, is the editing. So, he loves the filming and then he could sit for hours and he will edit till the cows come home. Music, he loves picking out like the perfect soundtrack to like any moment. Right? And even in our play, he’s got these Spotify playlists that are kind of vaudeville. They’re very jazzy and, but like with a jauntiness. Or he’s got some real intense savior kind of music, like rescue music or something. And it’s like, that’s when things go into slow-mo and we’ve got stuffies and gnomes. But it makes the play so much easier to do because you’ve got this music. So, I just feel like the music, the video gaming, the video editing, all of it, him being able to control the scene, it’s really about that. He almost thinks in vignettes in a way, which is so interesting, like how we’re going to make this up and then the song will change and it changes the whole mood. So, he’s just playing. He’s playing with everything. And so, that would be him right now. It’s a lot of video. It’s a lot of YouTube. It’s a lot of the gaming and then the pretend play with me. And then I guess just what we are into. So, Ray and I, yeah, we opened up a plant-based gastropub here in Austin, the same year we had Eamon, which people think is crazy. But then I’m like, well, I don’t know when else we would’ve done it. So, actually it’s really good timing that we did that, because we wouldn’t have had any time otherwise. And so, for the first six years I’d say, we had a GM and we just had the team. And so, Ray and I divided and conquered attachment parenting with Amon, so I’ve been with him a hundred percent. We still co-sleep. We still nurse. We still do it all. And my focus was really on like playing with him in a very immersive way and that’s just it. And so, we’ve just continued that on, and Ray taking on over at The Beer Plant more. And then recently, we sort of had a little shake up. So, COVID, in restaurants, you can imagine. So, just some things have gone just a little funky. And so, I’ve decided just in the last six weeks, “Hey, we’ve been trying to weather this. Why don’t I get a little bit more involved? I think it’s just a lot to handle for one person and maybe I think I need to get more in tune with this thing because it’s a lot of parts and it’s a lot of people.” And anyway, so my new thing basically is like kind of getting in there in general managing from the morning and the sleep cycle has worked out so well in terms of Eamon staying up so late and sleeping in, so I can get up, get over there, come back, and be with him for a bit and then get over there again if I need to. So, that’s kind of a new thing right now. We’re playing with sleep. We’re playing with me working more, but really having all these wonderful conversations about how life is changing a little bit. But that The Beer Plant needs my attention right now, but he does too. So, he and I like make sure that we really create like a great schedule for that. Because before this, I mean really it’s been The Beer Plant, Eamon. and unschooling, and that’s where I’m at anyway. Those are my interests and what takes up most of my time. And we’ve got some new neighbors, which I haven’t had much social stuff. So, again, as Eamon is kind of blooming with Theodore, I feel like we’re in tandem where we’ve got these new neighbors that now are coming over once a week that we’ve like met. And I just love them. And it takes a lot to just like really love, I don’t know, like really commune with people at this age, so that’s been really fun to kind of open and develop my social aspect a little, like that social self a little bit. And then Ray is my nighttime researcher. He’s nocturnal, so he’s at The Beer Plant every evening, just helping be a gofer and stuff like that. And then, he’s home and he just researches whether it’s health topics or state of the world or whatever. Yeah, that’s where we’re at right now. So, anyway. Yeah, I went a lot of places. ERIKA: Wow! That was so amazing. I think that what you were sharing about Eamon, what came up for me is like, he’s seven. And what an amazing, rich, deep life he gets to have. How even a young child like that can have these really strong interests and really explore the depths of things, human emotion and human relationships and storytelling and like all these things. And I think mainstream culture will tell us that children that young, they just have to wait. You have to wait till you get older, till you can actually explore these things. But hearing all the things he gets to do at seven just gives me goosebumps. What an amazing life. You know? SARAH: Yep. Well, when you’re in it, too, you don’t have that perspective. To me, that’s just Eamon.  And Eamon is ageless. He just really is, because he’s always been this old soul, verbal, thinking about a million things. And so, it doesn’t even strike me as it would be different, but yeah, when you step back and you just say, wow. You’re allowed to just really go to town on anything you want and all that you get back from that, it’s unbelievable.  PAM: I love it. I do, and what struck me too was the openness of your lives in that, this friendship has bubbled up now for Eamon, and you’re noticing a friendship bubbling up for you alongside, and you’re weaving in getting more involved at the restaurant. So, for me, that’s the seasonality of life and the ability to flow as things come up, because, I mean, that is stressful that things went funky absolutely during COVID and the recovery season from that and figuring things out. So, even when life gets funky, we have the space to let things bubble up. And as you say, we’re trying this. You’re working with Eamon to see, does this still feel like we’re connected? Are you still feeling comfortable with this? And even if it’s not big conversations. He’s very verbal, so probably you guys are literally chatting about it. But also, you can see through reactions, through emotions, through all these pieces. They’re still communicating how things are feeling for them, and even when we choose something to try, and then we need to morph it a little bit more, it’s not wrong. Each little step is like, ooh, we’re going to try this and we’re going to learn a little bit more about how it feels, and then we’ll keep tweaking it until we hit something that feels good. And then I always add for now, right? Because these grow and change over time, don’t they? ANNA: So much. PAM: Okay. I have the next question and, absolutely, you mentioned your restaurant business and we just wanted to hear a little bit more about how you see running your business and unschooling fitting together into your life. If you could dive into that a little bit more, that would be so cool. SARAH: Oh yeah, of course. Yeah. I mean, gosh, the two things, they seem like they’re so similar, on this similar track. They’re like boundless. They’re never stopping. I don’t know. It’s like choose your adventure at all times, basically. And it’s about listening and growing. I mean, you open a restaurant and you don’t quite realize, but it’s like this living, breathing thing, right? And from the backside, it’s like you’ve got so many parts. You’ve got to listen to the guests. You’ve got to listen to your team. There’s a lot of support that it needs. There’s a lot of creativity. It’s like the same thing as this unschooling, where you wake up every day and there’s no difference between Monday and Sunday, really. Except for us, it’s like volume on Friday night and Saturday night, but that’s about the only rhythm that changes. So, there’s no nine to five. And so, for me and for Ray, I think even in the beginning, it’s funny, I sort of had this like realization about like balance and trying to strike balance. I was sort of like, you know what? The hell with balance for a little while and the restaurant’s going to take everything. It’s going to be a hundred percent for us and Eamon is going to be a hundred percent. We live in a fixer upper. It’s just perpetually a fixer upper. You know why? Because we don’t have the time right now. Eventually we will have the time. So, I can put that aside and I can prioritize that the restaurant really needs this, or Eamon really needs this, or whatever it is. But it’s amazing when you’re present in something and also you’re in the driver’s seat, and Eamon is in the driver’s seat, too. So, I don’t mean that Ray and I are driving Eamon at all. It’s like the three of us get to kind of drive these lives and we’re driving the restaurant, but at the same time, so is everybody else that’s involved in it. And so, it takes this like team effort and so many beautiful things come out of it and with unschooling, because everybody’s involved, everyone’s chatting. We run the restaurant the same way with Eamon. For better and for worse, we’re very relaxed people. Except for a little anxiety about stuff, but that’s behind and then very approachable, communicative. Let’s work together. It’s kind of soft and really nice. We’ve heard about cutthroat restaurants and the way that restaurants typically function, it’s like, it’s the numbers, it’s the bottom line. It’s, we’ve got managers in place and everyone knows exactly what they’re doing at all times. And this is what we do on Mondays. This is what we do on Tuesdays. We are not like that, which some people can hang with that and some people can’t. And a lot of people would be like, ah! I can’t do this! Like, you can’t run a restaurant like that. Or, with Eamon, Eamon does what Eamon wants. We do it together. It works out so beautifully. He goes to bed when he wants, when his body’s tired. He eats when he wants, what he wants. A lot of my adult friends, it’s like, oh my gosh! I could never do it! They have school vacation and they’re like, oh my gosh! What are we going to do this week? You know? I’m going out of my mind! Where I’m like, oh my gosh. It’s the best. So, I guess the two things are. It’s not counterintuitive, but I guess so from a cultural standpoint. We’re doing both of these things in very different ways, but they’re the ways that are authentic to us, and they work out nearly, almost all the time. Except for that footing, which again, I do think that Covid, yeah. That definitely shook stuff up. And in life you get those little missteps, too, where you’re just like, oh, things got funky, like you said, and we’re gonna get all in and just approach it just like we do every day and then figure it out. So, I guess the two, they really work so well together, the fact that I can get up and I can prioritize my day, and I don’t have to be anywhere at any time unless I’ve made a meeting time or something like that. But everything’s flexible, too. And the flexibility piece is just so, I mean, in some ways I feel not like spoiled, but I feel so lucky, I guess would be the word, the positive word. It’s just very, very fortunate that we all, the three of us in this house, can do whatever we need to do and want to do, when we want to do it, and how we need to. And it’s going to take more of our brain power oftentimes because we’re the ones that are behind everything. We don’t have a principal or a teacher or I don’t have a boss that’s telling me, oh, Sarah, actually don’t you see that your food costs are this? I have to do that. So, it’s hyper-vigilant and you still have to sleep, which we get plenty of it, because we get to sleep when we want. So, that’s just it. PAM: I find that interesting, too, to think about, because yes, when we feel so empowered and lucky that we have control over our time like that, but it does take energy to make the choices. We are empowered and we need to make the choices of what we’re going to do. Or even that we need a rest day or we need a rest hour, or whatever it is. But I think that can be something too with kids with unschooling. At some point, sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming to be making all the choices. And then it’s like, oh, just tell me what to do, etc. So, I think that is just a fascinating piece that we learn about ourselves and to be okay with, oh geez, if I just knew what to do. I don’t quite have the energy for making all these choices. Yet, I know in my case anyway, even when I kind of felt that way, I never chose that way. Because the value of having the choice in my life always, always won out. Because then I knew, oh, that’s kind of a clue that I’m feeling a little low energy. Maybe I’m starting to burn out just a touch, that this is starting to feel a little overwhelming. So, I might need a little bit more self-care. Just bring that up rather than thinking, oh no, this was all wrong and I would rather just have outside control over my schedule. I don’t know. That might have been a weird way, but that’s what bubbled up for me, because that freedom is awesome. But just acknowledging that it also takes energy, doesn’t it? ANNA: What I loved and want to really point out, so we’re talking about unschooling a lot here, which education’s pretty conventional in our society, and we’re taking an unconventional look, a creative look. We can change things up. And what I love is that the restaurant business, I mean, there are people that very much think there’s a conventional way to run a restaurant and that it has to look a certain way. And to me, it’s just this reminder of, you know what? All bets are off. We can change anything. And, Pam, we’ve talked about it a lot before. Once you start down that unschooling path, you really just start to question all the things. And so, really, do I have to be doing it the way that they’re saying that I need to do it? And so, I love that you have these two things that you’re making fit authentically with you, that you’re looking at it with this new creative eye, and that you’re not getting bogged down in the, “Well, for to run a restaurant successfully, you have to do X, Y, and Z,” because it’s just not true. There’s so many ways to do things, and so, I don’t know. I love that aspect of like just bringing the lens to everything. ERIKA: Yeah, as I was hearing you talk, Sarah, it was all these paradigm shifts jumping out at me. You know, like the paradigm shift of, we’re not doing power-over. It’s going to be collaborative. And there is no such thing as a “have to.” We’re going to just make choices of what we want to do and these are huge paradigm shifts to make if you’re coming from a conventional place. But I just love how all the things that we talk about with unschooling just weave right into all the other things we do. When you’re interacting with the people that you work with at the restaurant, the same principles of communication and collaboration, those same things can apply so well and really, I think could surprise people with how well it can work to come from that angle. ANNA: Yeah, and how much better it can feel, too, because the restaurant business can have a lot of darkness to it for people. And I think part of that is the convention that’s put on it. And so, I love that you’re just rethinking all of that and it just sounds like it fits and feels so much better for everyone involved. So, I have question number three, which kind of hearkens back to something you were talking about earlier, but on the Network, you’ve talked a lot about Eamon and his play and I loved hearing those nuances of all the things he’s into and how you’re involved with that. But I think just talking a little bit more about how that evolved and it sounds like it came pretty naturally to you. What have you learned in that process? Or has it been like you thought it was going to be, or just a little bit more about that, because I’m so fascinated by the beauty of the play that you all have. SARAH: Oh yeah. Because it’s so big in our lives, most of the day, like I’ve said, the characters just kind of come out. And they’re in every moment. And we just know we’ve got the stuffies, a lot of it’s characters, right? And that means also that the play comes with us wherever we go. So, I guess, the bond, and again, Eamon is an only child, so I take that stock right now. If he had siblings, he’d probably be playing with them all the time right now. And a lot of learning would be coming from that. So, families that do have more than one child would be like, that’s where that’s going. But as a mom of an only child, I could see very early on it was like our play dynamic just worked from the get-go. So, when he was very small, of course you’re playing with two-year-olds, you’re playing with three-year-olds, you’re playing with stuff, but mainly you’re just playing together. And at the park, it was me and him. And it’s not just chase, it’s more this character thing. I could just see this within him. And not that he’s not him. He likes to even be him. But then maybe I’m a YouTuber that he loves and he lights up. He literally feels like that YouTuber is right there. So, this is where just a little bit of like, I was in drama in high school and college, not even college, I only went to high school, because it just wasn’t a thing. But I’m like, this is where you use that. This is where that improv comes in. Just have fun with it. The closeness and bond and the being able to have it in my pocket at all times, from when he was small to even now at seven, if we’re out somewhere and I can see that he’s a little bored or maybe something is upsetting him a little bit, the playfulness that we can just tap into in a moment changes everything. And so, there’s this constant playful energy that we’ve cultivated through having been just down on the floor with him. It’s funny, yesterday was his birthday, so for a few minutes, we all looked at some old videos. Thanks to the technology that we have. So, we’re on his iPad and we just looked at a few things when he was like three, four, or five. And there he is, he’s this little guy and we’re playing and he was already such a character and already gleaning so much stuff and he’s just there on the screen and I thought, man, we’ve been doing this for forever, like since he came out basically. And it just has created this solid foundation for the two of us that, like right now, it’s a really busy time for me. Which I didn’t want it to be this record rip where all of a sudden it’s like, because then when I come home, I still have some stuff going on. I don’t want to lose that thing. And we’re not. We’re not losing it. Even if it’s less time that maybe we have, we don’t have all day to play. We have it in every pocket. So, I’ll come home and I’ll come in and I’ll be Pythor from Ninjago. That’s a really good example of where he goes. He has watched just the season one of Ninjago. This was when he was about five. He watched that and the Lloyd and Pythor dynamic. I don’t know if you’re familiar at all, but if you are, their dynamic. He just took it and he ran. Okay. So, these guys then can be mischievous but also kind and they’re good. And then he sort of brought in this whole other storyline of Kai trying to make Lloyd be the green ninja. This is a huge part of our play. That’ll just come up and we know that that’s where we’re at. So, then I’m Pythor, he’s Lloyd, and either we’re going to do jobs wrong or something, or we’re going to do whatever. There’s no start or finish. It kind of is just always there for us to tap into and then it fills his cup and then it’s like we’re off to the next thing. And so, the play is just weaving in and out of the day. The minute he gets up, it could be we start or whatever. And I just know we can read each other so well because of it. Because when you’ve played with somebody, I think you develop together a chemistry and like a language and this whole other world template, a place that you guys go and a bond that just feels like so good, so tight. I feel like I know him so well even though he constantly surprises me and I think vice versa. So, play, at first, I think when I just thought about like, you play with your kid. You play with your kid. It’s great. And then life goes on and whatever. You just have these like moments of play and oftentimes parents are exhausted by playing and that’s just it. But when, when it’s not this like, “We play an hour a day,” and it’s this isolated time, when you’ve developed these like things together, it can just be in and out of the day, again. So, there’s not this scheduled time or that we have to fit it in. It’s like it fits into every single like space that the day allows, which is also just beautiful. So. play is just incredible. If you can do even a little. Whatever it is. I mean, some people are better at a board game or something like that and not maybe the pretend, but whatever way that you can, if you can inject that into the day, I just feel like it, again, it’s like a bond that happens between you and your kid that like it, it helps with everything. Again, those moments and defusing and stuff like that. So, yeah, I love it. And then just one last thing, I guess like video gaming, too, to me. Beforehand, before Eamon really got into it, it would’ve been like, oh, they video game. You just think of it as like, they’re playing Mario Brothers and they’re smashing each other and you’re trying to get over the obstacles. It’s like, it’s so much more than that. When you actually sit and then you’re doing it with them, they are getting a ton out of that. And we’ve bonded over that. So, again, this is a connection piece. I guess the play part is so big for a little kid. They’re tuned for it. ANNA: Oh, I love it! And I would say I was not as great with the pretend play and so, had to work at it, but what was interesting to me is kind of what you saw. When you do commit and kind of get in there, you see all the connections, all the learning, all these things that are going on. Because I think when we’re standing back over here, oh, they’re playing with some figurines. They’re playing over there and my daughters, they had each other, so they’re playing with their sibling. But when you’re in it, you see how the wheels are turning, where they’re connecting something from maybe something that’s happened in the family, with something they saw on a show, with something that happened out here. And that was always so fascinating for me. That’s how I could get into something that I felt like was a little bit hard for me, because I’m not as playful as that in real life. But it was those making those connections and seeing that that got me excited about it, about being involved. And same with video games, right? Because that surface level of video games is, oh, they’re doing Mario Kart, but when you’re playing it, you realize, one, how hard it is. Two, all the things you need to be thinking about in order to do it. And so, it does become this connection point and this common language and something you can reach to because I am all about, we can shift energy so quickly when we bring that kind of playful mindset to it, when we set that stage. So, having those things to pull from is so valuable, and I’ve just seen that so much with you and things that you’ve talked about. ERIKA: Yeah. I have goosebumps again from that section, Sarah. That was just so incredible. It just feels like you are speaking the language of childhood with Eamon. You know what I mean? You can’t get that level of connection without being able to go there. But I think it’s hard for a lot of adults, because it takes a lot of vulnerability to be able to be someone else and pretend something and really go there with being silly. It’s kind of like you have to really step out of the role of who you are being in your real life and just give into it. But I think it’s that being vulnerable, like that vulnerability is what then allows the children to connect with you, because it’s like, oh, she is actually going there with us and it’s just so fun. And you’re right about just like then the shared language of those characters and just knowing all of those details with each other is like, it creates such a bond. And it’s super inspiring to hear you talk about play. SARAH: I was just thinking like, yeah, just a couple of things that have helped me to stay in the play zone. So, we have a lot of stuffies obviously, but like we’ve got some puppets, right? And so, a puppet coyote who’s like just the best big and fluffy, and that’s Kai the coyote. So, Kai will often come on, walks with us, or someone. We’ll take somebody with us on a walk, like just trying to get out in nature and stuff. Eamon loves his walks. I love walks, too, but he’s not just going to walk and he might want to talk about everything he’s seeing. And he might be someone who’s like, oh, look at this. But if he has a character to do it in, it’s even more fun. Or he can be him, but he’s got Kai to talk to him. So, then it’s Kai. And Kai doesn’t know anything. So, it’s sort of like, well, what’s that thing over there? And he’s like, That’s a mailbox. Well, what’s the mail? What do you mean a mailbox? What’s a mail? And he loves this. He lives to try to break down everything and just teach. This’ll be the mile walk that we do around our loop and he points out everything to Kai. And I remember being a kid or seeing kids with grown-up teachers that come in or even like Mr. Rogers or like the old things. They have somebody, typically, or they are someone and they’re engaged and they’re real animated and they’re just talking to the kids. Most of our play, when I think about it, I’d say half the time, it’s just talking, but we’re just doing it with this playful piece to it. So, maybe it’s not me he’s talking to, even though he loves to chat with me, but that’s like when we’re driving and we’re together. He loves having that third, that element of whether it’s Kai or it’s a little gnome we take with us. And then they can talk about anything and you can bring it on your walk. We’ll pretend again, like the Ninjago characters, when we’re on our walk. If we see any cracks, that means that Jay’s after us, right? Because we’re Python and Lloyd, so we’re the bad guys, kind of, but they love us. So, it’s like, avoid all cracks. Come on Lloyd, let’s go! We’ve got to go! And then we just jump the cracks and sometimes he gets done and that’s the whole walk. So, it’s not the most relaxing walk. It is so fun, though. And then I’m jumping and running and I’m actually getting my exercise. So, it’s like, again, that interweaving, and voices definitely helps. So, I wouldn’t do them here, because I’m not good at voices. But to Eamon, it’s like I am Pythor for a minute, you know what I mean? And it keeps me in character. Because if it’s just me, I get. Hi. If I was a little guy and I was just me and I’m playing, I’m going to get bored in like five minutes, literally. You know what I mean? Like, hi, Eamon. Here we go. But if I’m using a voice and I’m this character, you can like stay in that character and then it’s fun for you and you kind of ham it up if you, if you are into that thing, which I think a lot of us have that if we just kind of allowed for it. It’s almost like you get a little tipsy or something, do you know what I mean? But you’re not, you’re just tipsy on play, where it’s like, oh my god, I’m being so silly. Is anyone hearing this? And it just develops. Just to see like what you find fun in play. If you can tap into what is fun for you as a grownup and maybe even what was fun for you as a kid. And I don’t think I’ve had to go back that far, but some people might, just to kind of reconjure, if you can. And it might be tricky and you’ll find another bond with your kiddo, obviously. So it could be like that they’re really into science or something, and you’re really into it, and you guys just totally groove on that and that’s fine. It’s just more, if you have that playful little piece of you that wants to come out, it’s remarkable how it’s like this tool, just this thing that you have with you guys, you know? PAM: Okay, so number one, you took it exactly where I wanted to go. It was such a paradigm shift for me, so that’s what bubbled up when you were talking, that play can just weave into our days and the things we do. It’s not, this is playtime. And now this is when I go make dinner, and this is when I go have my walk around the neighborhood for my exercise or whatever. But that play can be part of those things. Sometimes it would be, can we continue this in the kitchen area because everybody’s getting hungry and I’m going to get us a snack? But it’s not a stopping point. Or can my character or somebody take my turn for a couple of rounds while I go grab a snack and bring it back? It doesn’t have to be one or the other. For me, that was a huge shift once my kids came home and were there all the time and we started actually hanging out together and doing things together and playing together. So, my mind was just like, okay, I do this and then I do this, and then I do this. And it was fascinating to get more to the flow state. So, it wasn’t like start, stop, start, stop, start, stop. It was like, things could flow and we can bring pieces here and bring pieces here and it just brought such a different energy to the day. And I just want to highlight one thing you just brought up there, too, which is brilliant, which is finding for ourselves. The idea of getting bored with play. But yeah, finding for ourselves that little thing that helps it be a little bit more engaging for us. Absolutely, just that little piece of, I’m going to filter this through a character and bring it out. I have to think about that now. I have to keep engaged and occupied, so that I can do that. So, that was just really fascinating for me. And again, if what we’re wanting is to connect with our kids, it’s going to be through the things they love to play with. So, like you have so beautifully connected with Eamon through play, like how you saw from when he was just the youngest, youngest child, that this is what makes his eyes light up and his heart sing. And I get goosebumps just thinking about you two just hanging out and playing together. It can be different for somebody who is more into science experiments or board games. I love the video game idea, too, because as Anna was saying, there’s just so many different pieces to it, right? But when you engage with them, you see the pieces that make it shine. Like, like with Joseph, it was stories and characters. And I love you talking about how he’s just in an open world for the most part, and you’re bringing the story to that. And with Joseph growing up, it was more like RPGs. He didn’t play the open world games. He wanted games with a deep story and lots of characters, so that he could sink into that and play through those different viewpoints, perspectives and see how that felt. So, yeah, it’s all about getting to know our kids, isn’t it? SARAH: It really is. Yeah. It’s those details. When you really, really listen, pay attention. Whenever you tune in. Doesn’t have to be when they’re very, very small. You can tune in anytime, right? And just be like, wow. When you just really sit, which life goes by very quickly. And the older we get, it seems like a day goes by so fast, but just taking that little time, paying attention. It’s like, wow, those are such little gems that then just can like weave in. It’s the weaving, it’s the flow, I guess. ERIKA: I had a couple other thoughts when you were both talking, first just about the idea of, I don’t have time to play right now, actually doesn’t make any sense. Because in any moment, I could just be playful about it or be a different character. You know what I mean? Like I could still get my things done in a playful way. And so, I like the challenge of just dropping that idea of there needs to be time to play and shifting to just being playful. And then the other thing I was going to mention is, so my kids are 13 and almost 12, and so I think, for me, when I was growing up, that was kind of past the point of this kind of pretend play stuff. But for my kids, it is not past it and I just love that. I feel like it could be a little bit cultural too, because I see on Roblox all these role-playing games that are there and you know, teenagers are playing those still with their friends. And it’s like, do you want to do a role play? I hear them do it with their friends all the time. And we are getting ready to go on a trip right now. And I overheard them. My heart was just bursting because I overheard them in the living room with their plushies, talking about the trip from the point of view of the plushies, working through some of the things that they’re thinking about. But just like, now this character’s asking, so where are we going to go again? And where are we going to stay? And what is it going to be like? What are we going to get to see? And then they’re just talking through all these things. It really is, I think, just the natural way that humans learn to process their lives is through play. And so, I just love like that our lives have enough space that at this age, they still are feeling free to play like that. SARAH: I love that. That gives me hope. Because I’m like, okay, we’re at seven. And I’m going, how much longer do we have? It’s like, nope. Probably a long time. ANNA: A long time! And I think it’s kind of like Erika was saying, too. It’s just this choice to just take a playful attitude. And I think somehow that feels easier, too, for me than like, okay, I’m going to sit down and play. But it’s like, no, we can just be playful and we can bring in characters and we can be silly and we can just keep that energy alive. And I mean, I definitely saw that kind of pretend play for so long with my girls who are now in their mid-twenties. And there’s still a very playful energy, especially with their dad who tends to be more playful than I am. And it’s just fun to see how, I think it is kind of a natural human thing that maybe gets tamped down. I’m just thinking of like me and my Enneagram eight, just tamp down the playfulness, but it’s just so fun to see. And the story about the kids working out the trip, like how valuable is that to be able to have that conversation in a way that maybe feels safer than saying, I’m worried about the trip, or, I’m not sure about this aspect of the trip, and so that is such a beautiful gift. PAM: It really is. And I’ve got to say, even like you were saying, Anna, with adult kids. Yeah. I mean, Lissy will still dress up. They attract and they connect with friends in life, too, who have that energy and ways that they connect. And she had people together for the weekend for her birthday recently, and a big part of that was playing games. They still play hide and seek with the flashlight where they turn off the light. When they come home and visit, they will still have friends over and do that at night. When I get up in the morning and I see all the microwave light, all the lights are taped over. So, it is not something that they have to lose over time. When it’s something that’s respected and valued by the people in their lives, they’re comfortable bringing it with them and they attract and find the people in their lives as friends who will also engage in that with them. So, yeah, that’s really fun to think about. SARAH: I love that. And also, too, I know we don’t want to ever look at things that kids are doing now and be like, oh, and when you grow up, this will serve you well. But you do, you see these things in a positive way and you just say, man, like some of the more successful, happy people that I know video game. I’ll be like you video game, too! Oh yeah, I know all those games. It’s like, in your work, in your life, if you keep that playful spirit, again, you don’t have to have it to be successful, but if you’ve got it and it’s honored, just like you said, Pam, like it’s like encouraged, it serves everything when you get older as well. In your workplace people, are looking for this, a brain that thinks in a way that’s sort of like, ah, there’s a lot of possibilities. How do we want to play with this? So, it’s such a great, human trait to foster and see where that can go for you. So, again, just from an unschooling perspective.  ANNA: Yes, because again, it’s not about it looking a particular way. We’re all going to bring different things to it. But it’s that playful, creative energy and we talk about that all the time. To bring to problems, to bring to relationships, to just have that open curiosity is part of that playfulness of figuring out different pieces. And so, I do think it’s this incredibly useful human trait that we can all cultivate and, as always, our kids lead the way if we just leave ourselves open to that. And I think that’s just so, so beautiful. So, thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah. That was amazing and so much fun. I hope everyone enjoyed this conversation and will be bubbling about all the things about it. And we definitely hope that you’ll join us next time on the Exploring Unschooling Podcast. And we would also love it if you check out our other podcast, the Living Joyfully Podcast, as well. You can find it on your favorite podcast player or at And come join us on the Network, where we can keep talking and playing. All right, everyone. Take care. Thank you so much for being here. PAM: Thanks, Sarah! ERIKA: Bye! SARAH: Thank you. Thanks, guys!

EU349: Unschooling “Rules”: Unlimited Screen Time

This week on the podcast, we’re sharing a new episode in the Unschooling “Rules” series! We use the word “rules” in quotes to draw attention to the fact that there is no such thing as an unschooling rule! It can feel easier to reach for a set of rules to follow, especially when we’re learning something new, but we want to offer you space to look within, to find what makes sense to you and what makes sense to the individual members of your family. There are no unschooling police. Nobody is going to drop by your house and give you a failing grade—or an A+. Our goal with this series is to explore these apparent “rules” and cultivate an environment for self-discovery, for inquiry, for agency, and for growth. In this episode, we’re diving into the “rule” that unschoolers have unlimited “screen time.” We explore what that term even means, examine the fears and underlying beliefs that we carry, and share about the kinds of conversations that families have when they’re navigating technology use. We had a lot of fun diving into this topic and we hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey! THINGS WE MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE Our coaching and consulting calls Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram. Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook. Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram. Check out our website, for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling. Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling? Submit your question for a future Q&A episode, and, if you’re a patron, be sure to mention that. Become a patron of Pam’s work for as little a dollar a month (in a wide variety of currencies) and learn more about what she’s up to! We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. Our theme this month is Revitalizing Our Nest, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of autonomy and flow. So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ERIKA: Welcome! I’m Erika Ellis from Living Joyfully, and this is episode 349 of the podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Anna Brown. Hi to you both. ANNA: Hello! PAM: Hello! ERIKA: We have a fun Unschooling “Rules” episode for you today. And before we dive into that, I wanted to share a Living Joyfully update. If you’ve stopped by in the past few weeks, you will have seen our brand new website. The design has a new look and we added new areas of content as well. Pam, Anna and I have been brainstorming all about the vision of Living Joyfully, and we realized that everything we talk about is really about relationships. Over the years, we’ve seen just how powerful the shift can be in our families when we change these paradigms and learn tools to help us in our relationships, and we want to bring that focus on relationships front and center in all that we do. To that end, we have this podcast as well as the Living Joyfully Podcast where Pam and Anna share so many of these same ideas, but without the lens of unschooling. We also have the Living Joyfully Network, our online community, where we dive deep and learn together. And now, we’ve added individualized coaching and consulting opportunities to our offerings. If you’re curious and would like to learn more about our relationship coaching and unschooling consulting, please visit We can’t wait to hear from you. Okay, so in this episode we’re going to talk about the unschooling “rule” that unschoolers have unlimited screen time. And first, we want to remind everyone that with this Unschooling “Rules” series, we use the word rules in quotes, to draw attention to the fact that there’s no such thing as an unschooling rule. It can feel easier to reach for a set of rules to follow, especially when we’re learning something new, but we want to offer you space to look within, to find what makes sense to you, and what makes sense to the individual members of your family. There are no unschooling police. Nobody’s going to drop by your house and give you a failing grade or an A+. Our goal with this series is to explore these apparent “rules” and cultivate an environment for self-discovery, inquiry, agency, and growth. So, Pam, let’s dive into screen time.  PAM: Yes, yes, yes. Let’s. Okay. Okay. You probably know by now from me that the first aspect I would like to talk about is language. And what is meant by the term “screen time.” So, at this point in our culture, that is a very general term, right? Because a screen can be, it can be a TV, it can be a laptop, it can be a desktop monitor, a phone, a tablet. It can be found in your house, in your car, in your pocket, maybe even in your fridge. So many of our day-to-day activities now involve screens in some ways such that the idea of “screen time” really doesn’t add much value to the conversation. Screens are pretty ubiquitous in our lives. So, saying someone is in front of a screen is pretty meaningless. It tells us practically nothing about what they’re doing. Screens are just an interface, a way for a person to interact with technology, with a piece of hardware. It’s what they’re using the screen to do that is interesting. What’s behind the screen? And that is an incredibly rich set of possibilities. It’s pretty much anything and everything. It can be an activity we really enjoy, like playing a video game or watching a movie. It can be a way to connect with others who also enjoy something that we love. It can be tips and tricks for improving our skills. It can be learning the history around an interest or an activity that we’re curious about, so, deepening our understanding of that it can be a way to find community, both online and off. So, for me, instead of using the lens of screen to examine our days and whether or not my child is using one to engage with something, I am much more curious and have found it much more meaningful to know what that something is. What are they interested in? What are they exploring? What are they learning about? How are they learning about it? What tools are they using to help them move through their day? What entertains them? That’s the level at which I can actually connect with them, be in relationship with them, where I can better understand them and their interests and in turn, better support their learning, all the pieces. I learn so much more about who they are as a human being when I move beyond the screen interface and focus on what they’re using that screen to engage with. ANNA: Oh my goodness. Okay, so you know that I love language, too. Really the three of us, this is something we enjoy, toying around with the words and thinking about being intentional about it. So, I’m really glad this is where we’re starting, because I think that the words we choose set the energy for our actions and absolutely impact the stories we tell about our lives. And so, think of the differences in these statements. My daughter was on screens all afternoon. My daughter watched four hours of cooking shows. Okay. That’s without me putting any tone to it, which I could have. And you can see how much more we learn and convey with just that tiny shift. If one is watching cooking shows for four hours, there’s something to that interest. There’s something there. And when we engage at that level, like you were talking about, Pam, being interested in what they’re enjoying, we learn even more about what they’re getting out of it and where it’s taking them. We can think about screens as the interface to technology and then the next question, what is the technology bringing into our lives? Because like you said, it can be so many things. It could be about having time with friends and chatting and strategizing and solving complex problems and working as a team. It can be about exploring music or art, the storytelling, a way to dive into any particular interest. YouTube is this gateway to pretty much anything to study and just way too many to even name. I feel like it’s such an amazing time in the world where we can dive into any question or interest and go as deeply as we want or just scratch that surface for a quick answer all at the tip of our fingers. And as someone who loves to learn all the things, I am grateful every day for technology and the myriad of screens that I have to interact with. And I really think being intentional with our language is such a great place to start, because it helps us to remain open and curious about what’s happening around us and connected to the people involved. ERIKA: Right. Yes. I love this shift so much, because when we say our kids are just on their screens, I feel the distance that that creates. Now I’m way over here looking at them, really barely even looking at them. Maybe I’m just looking at the back of the screen they’re looking at. I’m seeing such a small sliver of what’s actually happening, and it can cause this reaction in me. If all I see is a kid with a screen, I can think, they’re not doing anything. They’re not using their brain. They’re not being creative. But I actually have no idea what’s happening if I’m keeping myself at that distance and not letting myself see what they’re actually doing. So, challenging myself to be more specific with my language brings me that one step closer to who they are and what they love. It puts me closer to being in connection with them. Well, it turns out my daughter was drawing on Procreate, creating a new character, or my son was playing Roblox with his friends. Or at another moment, maybe he was figuring out who that background actor was on Agents of Shield, and she was watching an exotic animal vet show. So, that’s why it makes sense to take a pause if you’re tempted to use the word “screen time” and challenge yourself to go deeper. Really, all I have to do is think about my own life with my phone, my iPad, my computer, how many different things I use those devices for. It feels ridiculous to describe all of that time as “screen time,” and it’s the same for my kids. It’s always so much more real and more connecting to look closer and see what they’re actually interested in. ANNA: Right. It really is. And it’s such an easy thing to do and it can really light up our kids when they see that we see them, that we’re genuinely interested and that we’re actually just naming what they’re doing and noticing what they’re doing. It’s so important. So, a couple of the pieces that I want to touch on require a bit of introspection. So often, we find ourselves judging how our children or really anyone is spending their time. When we find ourselves doing that, I think it’s so much more about us than about them. And one of the things that can be at play is fear. So, releasing our fear is really critical here, because when we’re projecting out into the future with fears, we’re pulling ourselves out of this moment and we are most likely harming the connection with the people in our life. It’s pretty safe to say that fear clouds our judgment, puts us into kind of this reptilian brain where we’re not using our critical thinking skills, we’re not engaging. Like you said, we’re on the other side of the room, looking over here, casting this fearful glance. I feel like fear can be such a helpful red flag. There’s a purpose for it, but I personally just never want to act from that place instantly, unless it’s a tiger coming at me. You know? I want to use it as a clue to dig deeper, understand, where is it coming from? Time and time again, when I would dig into my fear, I would find some old wound or some outside noise from people or systems that didn’t know anything about my kids, and they definitely didn’t know anything about our life. Processing my bits and setting aside those outside voices allowed me to tune back into my children and see what they were exploring and all that it was bringing to them and our family. And so, it is that clue of like, when I’m not noticing what they’re exploring, I’m probably in my head with some fear pieces. And so, there’s one more piece I want to talk about, but just I feel like you probably have a couple things to say about fear, too. So, I’m going to throw it back to you, Erika.  ERIKA: I know. I do. But I think it’s connected to what I was talking about before with the feeling of the distance that can happen. It has that feeling of disconnection. Because fear is something that’s happening because of my thoughts, and we talked about this recently in the network Marco Polo group, how there are the actual things that are happening. And then the next step is the thoughts that I have about those things and then the emotions like fear come after I’ve had my thoughts. And so, a situation that feels totally safe and comfortable for one person can feel scary to another person. And so, that’s why to me it’s so valuable to unpack my thoughts and beliefs. Is my fear about screens really a fear about what other people would think if they saw my kids on screens? Is it one of those future projections, like you were mentioning, Anna? So digging into our fears and questioning them can be so powerful in so many areas, but I think it really is so common when we’re talking about the “screen time” worries, and then it’s all about getting out of our heads and all those thoughts and back into the moment of what’s actually happening in real life. And chances are good that the fears are really just coming from my own thoughts and beliefs that I can release. PAM: Absolutely. So many kinds of fear can bubble up in this situation. And I found that people often mention the fear that they’re doing their kids a disservice by not insisting they do other things, that screens are addictive and their kids need protection. But again, like you were saying, Erika, those are my thoughts and I can work through them. So, for me, processing those fears encouraged me to lean into engaging with my kids around their tech use and my own as well. Noticing how over time, more and more everyday things can now be done virtually through a screen interface. So, for example, most often I don’t need to run to the bank anymore. I can do my banking through my browser or an app. We don’t need to go to the game store anymore to get a new game. We can download it through the console or the computer, again, either way, a screen. And sometimes we can’t choose to go to the store to browse for fun. So, yes, I definitely interface with screens more than I did a decade ago, but it’s often both more effective and efficient. I remember moments and still have these moments where I’m sitting my computer. It’s like, okay, I’m going to do something else now. And I think of, what’s the next thing I want to do? And then it’s like, oh. I’m doing that on my computer too! I’m not even moving. So, leaning in with my kids helps me see the variety of things they’re doing and helps me engage with them around both what they’re doing and how they’re feeling about it. A wealth of fascinating conversations bubble up over the months and years as we just explore and learn about tech use alongside each other, because it’s something we’re all kind of experiencing for the first time as it grows in our lifetimes. ANNA: Right. And that piece is so important, just our own experience of it and being maybe more honest about that than letting the fear take hold and cause that to clamp down. It’s always a great idea, I think, to just take that second look when we’re feeling that little bit of grip with fear, or like you said Erika, maybe the sign is just that you’re kind of pulled apart from your kids a little bit. That that means maybe fear is involved, you know? Okay. So, another place to dig in and peel back is the fantasy that we create around our children and family. It makes sense. And I would say that most of us have done it at some point, thought about the children we would have and the family we would create. I remember having lists of names for future children when I was in middle school. And after our children actually arrive, we can still buy into some of these fantasies, ranging from future sports star to Ivy League academic or children dressed in woolen clothes frolicking joyfully in the woods. We create ideas around what type of activities have value based on how they fit those visions. So, if you’re holding onto the academic vision, sports are a waste of time. In the sports vision, hanging out with friends is taking away focus from the sport. You can see how those visions really tunnel us in. And that’s one thing if it’s about us pursuing a passion for ourselves, it’s quite different and way out of our lane when we’re boxing in another person based on our vision for them. The key for me was truly understanding that my children were unique humans on their own personal journeys. And this quote from Khalil Gibran has always spoken to me and grounded me in this understanding and idea. And I think I’ve actually read it on the podcast before, but I’m going to read it again. “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you. And though they are with you, they belong not to you. You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies, but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” And there’s so many things about that poem, but I’m just going to take the “house of tomorrow” piece, because I think it’s related to this conversation. Because with each generation, innovation takes us to new places that the generation before doesn’t understand and often vilifies. So, when I was a kid, many, many years ago, having a telephone in your room was the thing that was literally going to bring doom and rot our brains, like that’s what we were told. Talking for hours on the phone was pretty new when I was in high school, because I remember actually as a little kid, we had what was called a party line. So, we shared a house phone line with 10 of our neighbors. So, you’d actually pick up the phone and see if somebody was talking. And so, you never lingered on a call because so many people were using it. So, this makes me sound like a hundred years old. I am not. Just 54. And that’s how fast things change. By high school, I had a corded phone in my room and spent many nights talking to friends until the wee hours only to have to get up at the crack of dawn for school, which I’m sure concerned my parents. They were pretty chill about things, but you could tell. Because this was the buzz that was going around the culture is that these phones are bad for these kids and they shouldn’t be on them. And the thing that’s so funny looking back is that it wasn’t even just phones. People would complain about book reading. I’d hear this. “You’re spending too much time with your nose in a book.” Like what does that even mean, when we think about it now? So, whenever we find ourselves needing to judge how another person spends their time, we can pause and remember that it’s probably saying a lot more about us and also maybe highlighting a lack of connection or really understanding the child or the person in front of us and what it is they’re engaging with. We maybe haven’t taken that extra time. Instead, we can focus on leaning in, finding ways to connect, learning more about their interests. Why are they enjoying this new thing so much? Learning the terms to be able to have a conversation to really see them and what they love. I focus on connection because I feel like that’s where we learn more about ourselves, more about the person we love. And oversimplifying and trying to control another person’s interest is not a means to connect, be it sports, books, or technology. Behind those simplified descriptors is a world of nuance and learning. So, understanding the richness of any area of interest is such a simple step to take for the people that we love. ERIKA: Oh I love this part. It’s so natural to have a vision of childhood and a vision of what our family would be like, and it could be based on what we remember from our own childhoods or just things we see on social media or read about. And it can feel like there is a right way to be a child or a right way to be a parent. But when we open up to the idea that I love so much that everyone is different and that we have so many ways to find our interests and to learn, it just takes a lot of pressure off. There really is not a perfect way to be a human. I think a lot of people are really drawn to the latest technology, because it’s the cutting edge of human creativity and there’s so much potential there, but not everyone is drawn to it. And different people have different goals and interests and ways that they want their lives to look, and that’s pretty exciting. And it can also be challenging as a parent when our children are choosing interests that we don’t understand, or that didn’t even exist in our childhoods. And that’s, I think, where that open and curious mindset comes in so handy. And maybe putting up a print out of that poem you shared too, Anna. That was really beautiful. PAM: Well, you know what I loved, Erika, what you said there not being a perfect way to be human. That takes me right to the people are different and my way is okay. And even different people with different ways are all okay, too. And even while that can feel overwhelming at first, it’s like, oh my gosh, like everybody’s different. Oh no! I found it more approachable when I thought about it in terms of exploring the possibilities with an eye to discovering what I’m curious about and what works for me in terms of engaging with those interests as well as with people that I love. And it changes over time as we learn and grow and change ourselves. So, for me, it becomes the ongoing mystery of life. I know that kind of sounds cliche and all, but truly isn’t it true? Just think about it for a minute. I’m a mystery to myself and that’s why I keep connecting and engaging. My kids are grown now and it is still so fun to connect with them and hear what they’re up to. So anyway, this leads me to all of that connecting and engaging and, especially when they were younger, it was discovering what makes their eyes light up. And not judging whether or not the act of accessing those things involves a screen. That was just a piece of the process. It wasn’t the thing. It wasn’t, they love screens. That said so little about them. Right?  ERIKA: And so, when we’re in that connected place and actually seeing what we’re, what they’re doing, and we’re not in that fear place or that fantasy place, we’re now using language that’s connecting instead of just calling it “screen time,” now I think we’re ready to have conversations with them. And I think it can be pretty automatic at times to want to just make a rule or a proclamation, like, “No screens before 4:00,” or, “No screens until the weekend,” or, “One hour of Roblox per day, period.” We hear about those types of rules and it can feel like they might be a good solution to our fears and concerns. But without communication and conversations, top-down rules and orders are so disconnecting. There’s such a big difference between a parent proclaiming that all screens must be turned off, and the whole family deciding together that they like how it feels when they have dinner and no one brings their devices to the table. When we talk about not having limits on the time that our kids are engaging with their iPads or their computers, it doesn’t mean that we’re hands off. We’re staying connected. We’re having conversations when something is feeling bad, we’re talking about it and problem solving together. And when we can build trust in our relationships with our kids, they can come to us with their feelings and concerns, too. So, like Maya has definitely told me that she wants to stop watching videos or to stop playing computer games for a while. And she knows that she can share that with me and I won’t villainize the games and the videos, and I can help her if she wants to go outside for a walk or play a board game with me instead. I can help her brainstorm things to do that are not screen-based when she wants, and I’ll help her troubleshoot when things get tricky in her games and apps too. She’s free to share all of her interests with me without judgment. And by focusing on connection, the whole family can work together to have a rich life, rather than just me or just Josh and me as the parents like making decisions without having conversations and handing down those decisions that are really just based on my image of what our lives should look like. And so, I think it’s just a much better fit when we’re all involved in creating our family life together. PAM: Yeah, I think that’s the crux of it for me, really. I think a rule, even one in the guise of not being a rule, like unlimited screen time encourages disengagement. There’s the rule out there for everyone to see, so we know what’s up and we don’t need to talk about it, right? It leaves the impression that there aren’t any nuances to be had. But as you mentioned, nuances are found when real, different people are involved. When we’re engaged and supportive of each other, when we’re on a team together, we help each other navigate tricky or uncomfortable things without the judgment. When someone’s feeling they’d like to do more things that don’t involve screens, we help them find ways to do that that feel fun and enjoyable. We don’t leap to, “Oh my goodness, we need a no screens for a week rule,” so that we can help them do this thing they want. It is okay to have a feeling of too muchness around something. I made up that phrase, but it felt so right. Those are great clues for us as we explore who we are and the things we like to do and how we like to do them. Wanting to change things up doesn’t mean that where we are now is wrong. So there’s a quote from Sebene Selassie that has stayed with me for a while now. She wrote, “We don’t need to make ourselves a problem to aspire to transformation.” And that absolutely applies to our kids as well, especially as they explore how they engage with their interests and their days from food to screens to sleep, like all the things. ANNA: And I love that too muchness because, just like you just said, it’s food, it’s screens, it’s sleep, it’s running, it’s exercise, it’s whatever. We can get into that kind of too muchness stage and then we can just start talking about how’s that feeling and what we want to do. And I think ultimately for me, and you kind of mentioned it before, this whole realm that we’re talking about at the screens, it’s about just having it be one little part of everything. We’re having the same kind of conversations, it’s the same process, versus this boogeyman, and it’s something so big and we’re setting it aside and making separate rules about it. And I think for me, again, just that always boils down to connection and conversations for me. And that doesn’t mean big sit-down conversations with heavy energy, but light energy of checking in, sharing what’s going on with me, what I’m feeling too muchness about, listening to what going on for others in the family. Just having that be common dialogue that we talk about how we’re engaging with the world and the things around us. I have seen families work through this and come out with some guidelines about when they do what, and I think the key for that to work is everyone being involved and also, so key, being open to things evolving, because, again, it’s not one thing that’s being restricted when we make rules around screens. Do we really want to restrict research, connecting with friends, checking the weather, looking up history of a word that you just heard that came up in a conversation? Those are just a few of the things I do daily on my phone or tab, and it would seem so strange to say those things can only happen in this pre-assigned window that we thought of last month. And so, I think just being open to what we’re using things for, how things are evolving and just tuning into how everyone wants to spend their time. What else is happening around us? What can we bring in to enrich our lives? Those are the things that we can be exploring together so that the focus is on creating a life of using all kinds of tools and exploration. Removing the hyperfocus on one aspect, the screen aspect, can actually remove defensiveness, misunderstanding, and open up creativity. Focusing on connection, learning about one another, building a trust that we’re all working together to create our best lives just relieved a lot of pressure around individual bits for me, because I knew we would figure things out together. I didn’t have to carry that weight and fear alone. ERIKA: Yes. Well, I love this conversation. It was so much fun. I really enjoyed diving into the unschooling “rules” particularly and unlimited screen time. I hope you found our conversation helpful as you navigate technology with your family. And if you’d like to join in on lots of conversations just like this one, come join us in the Living Joyfully Network. You can find out more about it at Wishing everyone a wonderful day! Bye. PAM: Bye! ANNA: Bye!