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.
EU348: Q&A Deep Dive

In this week’s Exploring Unschooling podcast episode, we’re diving deep into a listener question submitted by Michelle in Texas. She writes, I listened to the episode with Xander regarding gaming, and it really helped change my perspective, especially during this unschooling phase. The question that keeps coming for us is definitely fear-based, but for good reason, and that’s online safety. Our son loves online gaming. Fortnite is the game of choice. But we struggle with the proper level of “parental controls” and his freedom to do what he loves, which is socializing and making new friends online. He’s easily influenced by a lot of the kids he plays with, and it has become a concern with behavior/attitude/mature content/cussing, etc. I’m so curious how unschooling parents protect their kids online without having strict parental controls. Unfortunately, I can’t listen all day, but I do try to pay attention and we have lots of conversations. I just don’t feel like he hears me, or maybe I’m approaching the topic too fearfully and strong. He wants to be accepted by his peers and will do almost anything to get it, which concerns me. Long-winded, but that’s what I’m dealing with and I’m sure other parents are, too. As always, our Q&A conversations aren’t focused on giving anyone the “right” answer, because there isn’t a universal “right” answer for any given situation that will work for everyone. Instead, our focus is on exploring different aspects of the situation and playing with the kinds of questions we might ask ourselves to better understand what’s up. We’re sharing food for thought through the lens of unschooling and cultivating strong and connected relationships. Submit your question for a future Q&A episode, and if you’re a patron of the podcast, be sure to mention that. Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE EU027: Ten Questions with Teresa Graham Brett 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? 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 the Nest and we’re looking at 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. CALL TRANSCRIPT PAM: Hello, everyone! I’m Pam Laricchia from Living Joyfully and this is episode number 348 of the podcast. I am joined by my co-hosts, Anna Brown and Erika Ellis. Welcome! ERIKA: Hi! ANNA: Hello. PAM: So, in this episode we’re doing a Q&A Deep Dive exploring a listener submitted question. And of course, we want to remind everyone that our Q&A conversations are not focused on giving anyone the quote right answer, because there isn’t a universal right answer for any situation that will work for everyone. So, basically, we’re sharing food for thought through the lens of unschooling. And if you have a question you’d like us to dive into, check out the show notes for the link to the Submit Your Question form for a future Q&A episode or just go to We would love to explore the questions that you are pondering right now on your unschooling journey. And if you’d like to have these kinds of conversations more often, check out the Living Joyfully Network online community. You will find all three of us there. We have regular live calls where members share their questions and concerns, their a-ha moments on the journey, as well as everyday snapshots of their unschooling lives. The community is incredibly rich with the twists and turns of real life with wonderful families from around the world, all through the lens of unschooling. It is so inspiring, and as I said that, I got goosebumps. It’s for real. So, you can learn more about and join the community at, or you can follow the link in the show notes. We’ll be sure to put it there. So, Anna, would you like to read the question for us? ANNA: Yes! Okay, so our question comes from Michelle in Texas and she has an almost nine year old. “I listened to the episode with Xander regarding gaming, and it really helped change my perspective, especially during this unschooling phase. The question that keeps coming for us is definitely fear-based, but for good reason, and that’s online safety. Our son loves online gaming. Fortnite is the game of choice. But we struggle with the proper level of “parental controls” and his freedom to do what he loves, which is socializing and making new friends online. He’s easily influenced by a lot of the kids he plays with, and it has become a concern with behavior/attitude/mature content/cussing, et cetera. I’m so curious how unschooling parents protect their kids online without having strict parental controls. Unfortunately, I can’t listen all day, but I do try to pay attention and we have lots of conversations. I just don’t feel like he hears me, or maybe I’m approaching the topic too fearfully and strong. He wants to be accepted by his peers and will do almost anything to get it, which concerns me. Long-winded, but that’s what I’m dealing with and I’m sure other parents are, too.” Okay, so thanks for your question, Michelle. And it is a topic that comes up a lot for good reason, and I think it’s really important to tease apart and think about. I always want to take some extra steps when I see I’m being driven by fear, you know, because fear tends to pull me out of the moment, but also away from my child. And so, taking the pause and naming the fear for me can be helpful. And then, I want to dive back into the moment with my child to understand things from their perspective to see what I might be missing. I came to understand that what kept my children safest was our strong connection. I wanted them to feel completely comfortable coming to me when things felt off or if they had questions. And I could only foster that environment by being really open and not judging what they were doing. If they felt like I didn’t like an activity, they were much less likely to come to me if something was going on with it. It kind of pushed them into this place where they would maybe take more than they wanted to for fear that it would play into my concerns. And if they felt comfortable with me and knew that I supported what they loved about the game or the activity, then when something was off, they knew that I’d help them process, but with this eye to getting them back to what they loved. And it sounds like you’re already having a lot of conversations and that’s really what helped us. But definitely it was important to check in about any kind of tone or agenda I might have, because I know they can sneak in, especially if we’re carrying around any fear. So, I would share my experiences and the why behind any decision I was making. If I felt uncomfortable, I’d share it, but again, with an eye to still move towards the thing we were interested in, but in a way that felt better to us both. I think talking about the online environment and how it’s unique is so helpful. People sometimes use that space to push boundaries and try things on, and sometimes that doesn’t feel good. So, empowering our kids to say something when it doesn’t feel good or doesn’t work. And another thought that I had was if your son is, if feeling a scarcity of connections, maybe why you’re feeling like he’ll, “do anything to be accepted,” then I might focus on broadening that community, finding more online friends to add to the mix, because scarcity, like fear, can influence our behaviors and contribute to making choices that might not be the best for us. But that’s something you can start solving for and working towards together, more abundance in the online or even in real life friend department. There is an unschooling gamers Facebook group and families on our Living Joyfully Network connect through gaming as well. It really is just so much about the relationship and it sounds like you have a great foundation there and looking at your own fears and, are we giving information or kind of passing along and handing some weight of our fears to our kids that just might not make sense to them at all? So, I found that just keeping connection as the driver can allow us all to feel comfortable as we navigate these tricky topics. ERIKA: Yeah. I liked this question, too. I think you’re absolutely right that so many parents are facing these same concerns about online safety and navigating that with their children, whether or not they’re unschooling. And with so many different people and different parents and different children, there are just endless ways in which those concerns are addressed. And I really love that you’re recognizing the underlying fears that you have and that possibility that the way you’re approaching it with him might be too strong or fear-based, because I do think it’s so easy to go there. We’re definitely surrounded by stories that can ramp up our fear and our imaginations can spiral a bit out of control just thinking of all the scary possibilities and that just feels so terrible and I’ve been there. So, I guess first, I would just say to ground yourself back into the present moment and really honestly look at the things that are actually happening rather than what might happen. He’s probably heard a lot of your concerns and fears at this point, and so, those messages are already in there. Giving some space for a while might help you see what’s actually happening. And when I say giving some space, I don’t mean just leaving him alone, but just not like jumping in with the warnings and jumping in with a bunch of questions. There have been phases where I’ve been worried about what my kids are watching or the way they’re interacting with their friends online. Maybe things don’t feel very kind in the interactions sometimes, things like that. And there have been times where I’ll jump in, like, “What is that you’re watching?” Or, “Is everybody okay?!” in this super fear-based, loaded, emotional way. The questions by themselves are not terrible questions, but when I bring them with that loaded energy of, I believe everyone’s in danger or something bad is going on, the kids react to that energy and it creates that disconnection. And then, they want more privacy, because they believe that I’m not understanding them and what’s going on, and so the disconnection grows. And so, the repair that works for me in that case is giving them more space and more trust. When they don’t feel like I’m jumping on every little thing, then there’s room for them to actually come to me with their tricky situations, to ask me about safety, and to ask for my help with their conflicts. And so over the years, I’ve given them information like, we don’t know who the people are who are playing online with you. They could be anyone. They could live anywhere. And so, we’ve had some fun imagining who these people might be. And so, it’s safe. I tell them, it’s safe to play online together, but it’s also important to remember we don’t know these other players well enough to trust them with our personal information. And it actually reminds me of when Anna started playing Adopt Me with me on Roblox, and she wanted to believe and trust everything that everyone was saying in the chat. And I had to tell her, a lot of people are scamming and a lot of people are lying. And it’s still so much fun to play, but it just helps to be aware of that. And I think it takes some practice to get really savvy online, but that practice is what the kids are getting when they have the chance to explore. And so, our family’s use of parental controls has evolved over the years, and it’s always the result of conversations with the kids and what they’re feeling comfortable with. Most of the controls that are just kind of automatically created are too limiting, we’ve found, and so they haven’t been super helpful. The kids know how to block people on their games. They know that they can always leave if something is feeling uncomfortable, find a new server, if someone is being obnoxious. And I think watching gaming YouTubers has actually helped them learn a lot about some of the things that people do, the scamming and the pranking and the trolling, just so that they have a better idea of what to watch out for. And, like Anna was saying, the more I focus on keeping our connections strong than the safer they feel to come to me to talk about anything that doesn’t feel right. PAM: Okay. I love so much what you both have shared, and thanks again, Michelle, for the question. I, too, really had a lot of fun thinking about it. And in fact, our theme in the Network this month as we’re recording this happens to be connection. And a big part of deschooling is the parenting journey from using tools of control to connection in our relationships with our kids. So, that’s on my mind and I think it’s an interesting angle to explore with this question. So, let’s just play for a bit. Let’s take a moment to pull out to the bigger picture and think about the purpose of parental controls. They’re basically rules to control an environment, whether they’re built into a technology that’s involved, or they’re rules that the parents set and expect the child to follow. So, let’s just say you found the “perfect” set of parental controls that you envision and you turn them on. So, now what? How do you feel? What do you do next? Maybe you let out a sigh of relief, maybe your shoulders drop a little bit. Ah, you’ve controlled the environment and things just feel safer now. You know your child will no longer be able to find their way into situations online that you find uncomfortable or worrisome. Now you can relax and leave them to play and have fun, and you can go off and enjoy doing your things. I mean, that sounds pretty cool, right? That’s the goal. But I know I will forever remember the story that Teresa Graham Brett shared on the podcast way back in episode 27, because it just so clearly showed the contrast between control and connection when it comes to our relationships with our children. And I’m pretty sure the story is in her book too, Parenting for Social Change. But just to summarize, when her eldest was young, she decided she’d let him watch PBS Kids, because it was educational and non-violent. That meant he could have free access at any time to PBS Kids and online, he could go to the PBS Kids website. So, in that parentally controlled and safe environment, he would watch this PBS show Caillou, and there would be a point in almost every episode where he would say, “Shut it off.” So, she’d shut it off and he’d move on to something else. And she never thought much about it at the time until she began questioning her parenting choices more directly. She started watching TV with him and quickly recognized the difference there. When she was in the mode of everything on PBS Kids is fine, because it’s not my version of violence, she was actually uninvolved. Because she had deemed everything he had access to be safe, she wouldn’t watch with him. There was no partnership. And as she described it, she had abdicated her responsibility to him because she had controlled the environment in which he had access. When she started hanging out with him, watching with him, paying attention to who he actually is as a person, she said, oh my gosh. She learned so much. For example, she came to see that in the show, Caillou was always getting in trouble at some point in the episode, and a parent or teacher would step into chide and correct him. It was consistently at that point that he wanted the show shut off. It became obvious that he was uncomfortable with that kind of emotional violence being imparted on a child, and that was such a huge a-ha moment for her. Wow. Their definitions of violence were so different. What she thought was safe and what was aligned with the conventional narrative of media safety differed from what he needed, which was for children to be emotionally safe. The violence that he saw was not the violence that she saw. She said that if she could point to one thing that greatly expanded her view of media access, that was the moment. And I just wanted to share how she describes that shift. So, she said, “Being responsible for the care of a child doesn’t require control. It requires being in connection and being a partner and being a facilitator.” Now, I wanted to share that because it’s just such a clear example of the shift from control to connection on our parenting journey. Instead of controlling their environment so that we’re comfortable stepping away, with the impression that it’s all good, they can’t encounter anything that we are uncomfortable with, we can be their partner. We can connect and engage with them. We can see the person they are and help them as they navigate and process the environments that they are keen to explore. So, bringing that back and coming to your particular situation, Michelle, you mentioned that you’re having lots of conversations with your son about what you’re seeing with his online play. You also mentioned that you don’t think what you’re saying is connecting with him, because it feels like he’s not hearing you. And I love Anna’s point about paying attention to the energy that you’re bringing to the conversations. And I just wanted to add another thought to the mix and actually it’s just an extension of what Erika was talking about, because I am sure he’s heard what you’ve been saying. So, repeating it over and over moving forward just won’t add much value to the conversation. So, what if for the next while, your conversations with him are more focused on listening to him, letting him lead any actual conversation. What is he seeing in the interactions that he has online? How is he feeling about them? You can hang out with him quietly just absorbing his enjoyment and trying to see what things look like through his eyes. Leaving a relaxed space, like Erika talked about, for him to just share his thoughts or not. It doesn’t have to be actual conversations, because lots of communication happens that doesn’t need conversation. I think that’s such an interesting piece. So, maybe you’ll glean some interesting insights just as Teresa did, but I do think you’ll definitely experience a deepening of your connection as you learn more about him and he feels seen and loved for who he is right now, Fortnite and all. He will just feel so seen and heard. And instead of you directing the conversations, there’s space for him to just mention what’s bubbling up, or even just noticing his reactions to things that are bubbling up that might spark conversations later. Because sometimes conversations happening in the charged moment of something going on there, there’s not space and time for reflection and conversations about that either. Anyway, so such a great question. ANNA: It really is. And I may have just lost it, but it is that point of, it’s the walking in the shoes and the looking through the eyes thing, because what feels scary or inappropriate to us, unless we’re connected to understand what that feels like to them, we really do miss the boat. And so, I think that was really important for me. And also, I think there’s a piece about, again, this experimental piece of being online that you do see your kids kind of push some boundaries and try things on and language or different things, but I think because it feels safe to them, and so, then understanding that and kind of having that and then being there for it, you know? And then, yeah, we can’t sit there every single minute they’re online, but we can make some intentional choices about just exploring and listening, not coming in just with our two cents, but really hearing about it. And, I don’t know, I just think about some things that I’ve seen with Erika’s kids, things I saw with my kids. It’s such an interesting environment that they have the ability to experiment with at this age. ERIKA: Yeah, that’s what came up for me, too, when you were talking Pam, was just that like, me putting my, “what I would do if I were them” lens on it doesn’t make any sense, because what they’re doing is figuring out who they are, figuring out how the internet works, figuring out what these different cultures of video gaming are like. There’s a lot of things that I think happen in Fortnite that to me feel like, oh, well that’s terrible. But to them in it, it’s like that’s the culture. That’s how people are having fun and that’s the way that they’re interacting. And so, sometimes I’ll say like, does that, is that fun for you? Is this game fun for you? And they’ll be like, yeah. And people seem like they’re being mean to each other. And I’m like, oh, to me that doesn’t feel fun. But to them, they know, that’s just this game. This is a roleplaying game or this, you know, we’re in these characters and this is the way we’re interacting. And I think it’s kind of amazing, because it’s such a rich environment for being able to explore different ways of being, different ways of treating people. And like mistakes, if they were to say they made a mistake in the way they’re interacting, that’s okay, too, because they’re just learning and it’s just that rich environment for being able to learn more about themselves and how to interact with people, too. PAM: Yeah. I think I learned so much using that lens of role playing, too. That is so fascinating and there are absolutely environments where that is the focus and you take on a personality, any kind of personality and history and whatever and play through that lens or just communicate through that lens. And it’s just such an interesting way to explore and everybody participating in it knows what’s going on or quickly learns. That’s the experience. It’s like, oh! Holy bananas. This is really crazy. But, oh yeah! So this is what we’re doing in this culture. So many different cultures. Different environments. And that’s the great thing. They can go in and experiment and experience and say, that’s not for me. Or say, oh, I could really lean in. No, this is really fun, mom. So, the connection and the experience is just where, in my mind, they just learn so much more about the world, about themselves, about who they might want to be, about how they can be different in different situations and different environments, and that this is okay. I feel like it’s a rich, rich environment. So, even just figuring out, sitting there, listening, figuring out what he’s enjoying. For him to be able to start having conversations. Looking through his eyes, when you’re there, half his mind may be like, oh, is this something mom’s not going to like? Is this something she’s going to say something about? He’s not getting the opportunity to dig deeper and say, oh my gosh, this is fun. This is fun, because … Because his mind’s already busy worried about what might happen because of what he’s doing. So, opening up that space to really just absorb and process what he’s experiencing, I think just can go a long way for him. ANNA: Just one quick thing. Even just listening to the two of you and I’m thinking people listening to the podcast will feel it, too, like just this lighter energy of curiosity. And we’re not just saying, ignore and throw out. We’re saying like, bring that lighter energy. Because in that space, we do hear more from them. Because, like you said, Pam, I really do think when we bring a heavy weight of an energy to something, I think they are thinking, okay, what do I do? This weight doesn’t feel good. This energy doesn’t feel good. And so, then there may be censoring pieces and they’re not being honest, because they don’t really know that energy. So, I don’t know, just listening to the two of you with this light, playful, curious energy, still is so engaged, and yet a very different environment being created. PAM: Right. ERIKA: Yeah. I was just thinking as Pam was talking, like my experience as a child of a mom with a lot of worry and fear, it is a constant. That’s what I’m hearing in my mind as I’m making my choices is like I’m looking at everything kind of through her lens. I think it’s hard not to do that. It’s hard not to pass some of our fears down. But I do think it’s distracting, like it distracts from who I am, what choices I make. And so, I just want to try my best and be careful and mindful of what I’m passing on to my kids in that way, because there’s just so many different ways to be, and the things that I’m afraid of are the same things that other people love doing. And so, just remembering that and keeping it light. ANNA: But don’t you think even just saying that, just saying like, this doesn’t feel great to me, but I can see you’re enjoying it. That takes that edge off of where maybe your mom or other moms might be more like, this feels terrible, this is bad. This is worrying me. And it has that weighty feel to it, versus this like, wow, this is my experience of it. Tell me about yours. Because I think it’s unrealistic to think that we’re never going to be worried, that we’re not going to have things that are concerning us, that we’re not going to be passing some of that down, like you’re saying. But I think the more we own it for ourselves and the more honest we are about how we are moving through the world and that we’re curious about how you’re moving through the world, I just think that really changes that dynamic a lot. PAM: I think so. I think so. It comes back to that team. It’s like, people are different. Even if we’re related by blood, we’re different. Our ages are different, but we still all have needs and things that we enjoy doing. And when we can bring that curiosity, when I can walk in and say, that feels uncomfortable and they can reply with, no, it’s lots of fun. Rather than making a mental note that, okay, next time I hear mom coming up the stairs, I need to move to a different game or just need to move to a different room or end this conversation or whatever. And again, they’re doing that out of love, too, because they don’t want you to be upset with them. But that means that they do feel like they need to hide things and then we can’t have conversations. And then when things go a little awry for them, they will hesitate to come and try and process that with you because they’ll feel that “I told you so” energy, et cetera. Because this will be something new to us because they’ve been hiding it on us. So, it’s that curious energy and just being curious about our child and what they love and why they love it. I think it just brings a whole different energy to the family, doesn’t it? ANNA: It really does. PAM: Okay. Thank you again so much for your question, Michelle. As you can tell, we really enjoyed diving into it. And if you, listener, have a question that you’d like us to dive into, check out the show notes for the link to submit your question for a future Q&A episode or just go to living We would love to explore the questions that you are pondering right now on your unschooling journey. Bye, everyone! ERIKA: Bye! PAM: I hope you found this episode helpful on your unschooling journey. And be sure to check out the growing podcast archive. The conversations never go out of date. You can find more information about my books, the Living Joyfully Network Online Community, and the Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit online course at my website,

EU347: Bringing It Home: Staying Up Late

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 don’t have bedtimes, and exploring what it can look like to navigate staying up late with our unschooling families. Unsurprisingly, there is no one right approach. It’s so much about seeing through our children’s eyes and making choices that feel good to them. A world of possibilities exists when we are open and curious! We hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey! Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. 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? 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 help keep the podcast archive freely available to anyone who’s curious and wants to explore the fascinating world of 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 Connection, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of trust and compassion. 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. Listen to The Living Joyfully Podcast here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ANNA: Hi, everyone! I’m Anna Brown from Living Joyfully, and this is episode 347 of the Exploring Unschooling Podcast. And I’m joined today by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Erika Ellis. Welcome! ERIKA: Hi! PAM: Hello! ANNA: On our last Unschooling Rules episode, we talked about the idea that unschoolers have no bedtimes, what that actually looks like and how in practice, it’s a lot different than that blanket statement might indicate. In this Bringing It home episode, we will continue the conversation talking about how it looks when kids stay up late and how we can navigate it in a way that works for all members of the family. But before we get started, I wanted to remind everyone about the Living Joyfully Podcast. It’s our podcast that focuses on building strong, connected relationships in all areas of our life. You’ll find that the themes are similar to what you hear on this podcast, but without the unschooling lens, making it easier to share with people in your lives, and also as a framework of how to apply the principles to all of your relationships. We keep them in short, easy-to-digest bites, and end with some questions to contemplate. It’s been so much fun putting it out there, and we’d love it if you could check it out and share it with anyone you think might enjoy it. It’s available on your favorite podcast players, and you can also find it specifically at Okay. Erika, do you wanna get us started talking about late nights and how we can navigate them? ERIKA: I would love to. And I actually think it’s kind of perfect that I get to start us off on this episode entitled Staying Up Late because late bedtimes are very much a part of life and a part of our family discussions these days. We’re right in the middle of a season of sleep exploration. I think one of the fun things about this topic is that there are just so many ways that bedtime plays out in different families, but I do think it’s so common to have certain phases of life or certain children who have that strong interest in staying up late. And what’s late to one person just feels like a great time to get some things done for someone else, or a great time to hang out with some friends. So, this is of course, so individual. Everyone is so different. And so for this episode, I thought it might be helpful to go through some of the big sticking points and issues that can come up when kids are wanting to stay up late, starting with, “But nighttime is time for grownups to finally relax and be together.” And so, this was me at one point in what now feels like the distant past. The kids had been falling asleep much earlier than Josh and I for a long time. And then that natural bedtime and their sleepy cues gradually became later and later until it no longer made sense for Josh to try to stay up later than them if he had work in the morning. And, for me, the biggest part of navigating that new reality was just realizing that these are all seasons. We had a season where he went to bed without me, and then a season where we both went to bed before the kids, but I knew that I couldn’t expect them to go to bed early forever. And so, just releasing that thought was so helpful. In particular, I think the teenage brain seems geared to late nights and late mornings. And so, instead of fighting with what was happening or clinging to that vision of an early bedtime, I shifted my focus to figuring out a new way, new ways and new times of connecting with Josh instead. And it also helped to start doing my nighttime routine and my self-care earlier in the evening, which was a definite shift from waiting to take care of myself until the kids were asleep. That just wasn’t working anymore. And I really don’t like that feeling of getting so tired that I can’t even drag myself to the bathroom. And so, I guess it was really just being aware of the stories that I was telling about the situation and being open to shifting my routine as it became clear that they were needing something different from me and from their schedule. ANNA: I think it is one of the biggest sticking points. We get this idea, this picture in our mind, of how nights are supposed to look, and we can spend a lot of energy and try to move everyone into that vision. Ultimately, it was realizing that part of the stress of the evenings was my own creation by trying to force or even ever so gently nudge people towards participating in my vision of the night. But when we opened things up and let go of any preconceived notions of the solution and started turning to the needs, that’s when things started to feel easier. At that point, we could be creative. You know, both David and I were finding time in the evenings, and thinking about how the evenings were playing out in general. Thinking about food and teeth brushing, wind downs, who needed to get up early the next day? Where were we all going to sleep? Keeping an abundance mindset about time and solutions helped us find creative ways for David and I to have time together, even when the kids were staying up later than we were. Opening everything up, I feel, allowed us to flow with the needs and find solutions that worked for everyone, and it was always evolving. The seasons that you talked about, always evolving. PAM: Always evolving. And that opening up to possibilities beyond how I was envisioning them going to sleep was definitely key for me, too. I remember noticing that if I went into conversations about going to bed with even just the energy of getting them to commit to a plan just for that night, they were resistant. Even when they did say something like, “I just wanna finish this game or this level, or this book, or whatever, and then I’ll go to bed,” there was a good chance it wouldn’t actually happen that way anyway, because they were in their flow. I came to see that I was actually trying to get them to predict their future flow, and that’s when it started to seem a little ridiculous. So, with that, I was able to shift to supporting them in their actual flow. So, I could share plans that were on tap for the next day without the energy of, so therefore you should go to bed soon. And they could just add that info to the mix as their evening played out. And we’d also chat about how they’d like to be woken up if need be, or what other things that they wanted to have happen in anticipation of the plans for the next day. And eventually, I remember getting to that point where I enjoyed waking up in the morning while the kids were still all asleep. And I’d just walk through the house to see evidence of the fun they’d gotten up to the night before, after I’d gone to bed, after Rocco and I had both gone to bed. So, sometimes it was like some dishes in the kitchen or an old game console pulled out and plugged into the TV, or blankets piled up on the couch. I just came to see those little vignettes as lovely reminders that we are all individuals living our unique, both together and apart. It’s so interesting to get to that stage where your kids are awake and living and doing things while you’re sleeping. It’s beautiful how they weave together, right? ERIKA: Mm-hmm. And I love seeing that evidence of fun, like you described it, too, especially like elaborate scenes with all the characters and the plushies. I just have so many good memories of that. And I love what you both emphasized about not getting stuck on the vision or that set outcome that we always talk about, like releasing that there’s this one right way. And getting creative and curious about the possibilities just helps me so much, especially in these kind of charged areas like sleep. So, I thought maybe next we could dive into what happens when a child wants to be up late, but also doesn’t want to be alone. And this is one of those challenges that I find leads to all kinds of interesting conversations and problem-solving opportunities. And so, as far as my experience goes, it felt like the kids and I gradually shifted later and later together as they were more interested in playing with friends online and had just more going on in their social lives. We had many nights where I would say, “I’m getting tired,” and one of them, or both of them would say, “Just a little bit longer, we’re still playing.” And so, because they weren’t comfortable with being up alone at night, I did my best to support them while still trying to be honest about my own capacity. And so, I ended up having a season of really late nights with them, which worked out pretty well. We had a lot of fun together, and I was there to hear all the things that they were exploring and talking about with their friends, and we just had late nights and late mornings together. Well, one night, I had reached my personal point of exhaustion and I let them know that I needed to go to bed, and this time, they were really right in the middle of something super exciting. And so, rather than join me and go to bed, they agreed together that they would stay up longer than me. And so that was the beginning of a new phase of our lives. The experience that they’ve gained from listening to their bodies and figuring out about what time they need or want to wake up for the next day’s activities, what their bodies feel like when they’re tired, regular tired, or overtired. All of that I think is just so valuable and we all get to do what feels best to us as individuals, which really suits our family since we’re all so different. ANNA: It was a lot like that for us, too. I feel like it was this gradual moving back of when they were tired and I’m a big proponent of listening to our bodies, eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired, and so, it really tested my commitment to that as we each figured out when we really wanted to sleep and even how much sleep we needed, which was different for all of us. And all of those kind of related bits that then became late mornings, early mornings, late nights, middle of the night. But part of the conversation for me was to be honest about my capacity and narrating to show my process in the evenings. So, how my brain was feeling, and if I was getting frustrated or just too tired to play or move or think. I could talk about what was going on for me without putting anything on them, because it was different, but it was still giving them information and some language. And when they were still at an age of not wanting to be alone, that’s where we’d start the creativity again and find ways for them to maybe play quietly in the family bed or in the room if I was really needing to go to sleep. I’d put on a sleep mask and some earplugs sometimes. I was thinking about this and it’s just so funny what a small blip of time it feels like now, but I remember how long those moments felt on those nights where it was being pushed and pushed and I was figuring out, where is my capacity? There were times early on that we had to think about David needing to get up early, so we would strategize about quieter play, being in another part of the house, doing that prep work before bed earlier so there was less commotion in that bathroom when we needed to go to bed. And so, I was a night owl way back then. And so, staying up with them was really not hard for me. We would just all sleep in the next day. I’d get up a little bit earlier and so then I had to adjust having my quiet time, a little bit of quiet time for me, in the morning instead of late at night, which would’ve been probably my preference back then. But like you said, it is a season. And so, I just did my best to embrace that and just figure out, where is this going to take us next? What are we learning? And I love the things that you mentioned, like we’re learning so many things. We never had the super, super late nights for anyone until my youngest was a teen and started gaming with night owls on the west coast. So, midnight for them was 3:00 AM for us. But by the time this was happening, she was in her own room and on headphones and every once in a while, we’d hear the shrieks from something happening in the game. But for the most part it really wasn’t that disruptive. And I’d just make a point to check in with her before I was going to bed and we’d have a chat and does she need any food? What does she need for her night? We also had conversations about what was happening the next day and if she felt like she would get enough sleep, or was fine pushing through and going to bed earlier the next night? It was just this ongoing dialogue about what was going on and a process of her learning how her body worked and how it functioned best. I remember she would not agree to sleepovers with friends unless there was a cushion day afterwards, because she knew what a toll those all-nighters with the big sleepovers took for her body to catch up. PAM: I just want to emphasize that point too, because them making choices, like pushing through tiredness, that’s all good. That’s not a bad choice. That’s not a wrong choice. That’s like, ooh, I can play around. I know I can stay up extra late. I can do it for two, maybe three nights in a row, but then yes, I need some catch up time, some extra rest time. So, things that might look like wrong decisions that our kids make, no, they’re just choices. And to let them explore. I remember how many times I was surprised in those first couple of years when they would stay up late anyway and we would go to the thing. And they’d be great. They’d have fun and they would just enjoy themselves and then they’d come and maybe crash earlier that night or whatever. It doesn’t have to be like clockwork how things unfold. Anyway, I did want to mention that I remember being sent to my bed in my room all by myself. And it was uncomfortable for me over different seasons growing up. So, when my kids were young, there were seasons where I’d go from bedroom to bedroom, hanging out with each as they wound down and fell asleep, reading books, chatting, whatever we were into at the time. And then there were other seasons when we’d all hang out in our bedroom watching TV and chatting, them eventually falling asleep and Rocco and I carrying them to their rooms. If they got up during the night, maybe they’d come join us or I’d go join them. Or they found me sleeping in like their brother or sister’s bedroom, and then they’d just wake me up and I’d move to their bedroom. It might be two or three different bedrooms during the night. And that worked fine for me, because I can sleep just about anywhere now. Once we began unschooling though, and moved beyond the bedtimes, there were times when someone wanted me to stay up with them and we would just chat about it as you were both mentioning. Mostly it was that they wanted me in the same room and I’d hang out as they were doing their thing, and maybe I’d be napping here and there. They’d wake me up if they needed something or they wanted to share something exciting that had happened. Or I’d wake up when I heard the loud little noise and say, “Hey, what happened?” And alongside that, there were times that we all found ourselves up later than usual for something fun. And as you were mentioning narrating, Anna, I’d just share how I was feeling along the way. So when I’m getting tired, I get giggly and laugh longer and at sillier things. And that was known for years as the Sleepy Giggles as we talked about it, and they thought it was pretty hilarious. They could definitely tell my behavior changed as I got tired. If I continued to stay up, I started feeling nauseated and needed to lie down. Their bodies absolutely were different, but they understood mine pretty easily. It was unfolding right in front of them, and I was telling them what was going on. So, if things were still popping and they wanted me to be around, or I didn’t want to miss the fun of what was going on, I would just lie on the couch quietly. I started to feel better. Maybe I might fall asleep, but I was definitely still around to catch the highlights. And then as they got older, I’d say goodnight, check in, see if they needed anything and off to bed I went. Different seasons. And over time, it really was just all about the conversations, how we were feeling, what we needed, what was going on, and goodnight, have a great night! ERIKA: I love that so much. We have experienced so much of that late night giggly time, too. Maya and I have had so much fun making each other laugh late at night. We even coined a term belirious to describe that feeling, and Oliver doesn’t quite get it. He prefers to go to sleep before he gets silly, which totally fits with his personality. And because everyone is so different, there are just so many ways that this can work in practice, the possibilities are really endless. And so, I think it could be fun to mention some of those logistical pieces of late nights. Things like noise, light, different people having different schedules, and what can those sleeping arrangements look like? And for this, I just think the key is staying open and curious and including everyone in that problem solving process. I know sometimes as the parent, I come to my kids with the solution I think is going to work because I’m the parent, but the kids have really great ideas and thoughts about these situations, too, and so I lose out on a lot if I think my one answer is the right answer. And there are so many things we’ve talked about in the Network that can help with creating a sleeping atmosphere for some people in the family while other people are still awake. So, things like closing doors, using blackout curtains, using earplugs or white noise machines, putting rugs under furniture and noisy chairs if the kids are scooting around in the night, using headphones for gaming, moving that activity, the gaming activity or whatever it is, to a room that’s farther away from the sleeping room, or moving the sleeping room to another room that you might not have even considered for sleeping, but it’s a little more out of the way , so now that seems perfect. And that’s just to name a few ideas. ANNA: It just really is so amazing what bubbles up when we remain open and curious and involve all the parties. There are so many options and they’re just there if we start looking and just recognizing any resistance we might have and noticing, is that helping us find solutions or is it kind of shutting down the conversations, like you said, maybe narrowing in on one solution? Then we just have this tunnel vision. I wanted to actively set aside any resistance just to feel how it felt to be open, because my resistance comes from a place that I’m tired or I want it to be a certain way. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s just kind of checking in to understand, hey, if I set that aside, what actually opens up? And what I found was a lot. And just remembering it’s not about one person acting in a vacuum. We talk about everyone’s needs and trust that we will keep at it until we find something that feels good. And we just get there a lot faster if we bring that open, curious mindset and everyone’s participating. From that place, I felt like we could get at the needs. So, that might be light or a need of quiet or food or the need of company. Whatever was bubbling up for the people involved, when we understand that need, that’s when the options opened up. It’s really this creative process to think about how to address noise or too much light. We miss those if we’re focused on the answer being that everyone just needs to be in bed asleep by X time. We had friends that put up acoustic tile in their gamer’s room and it made a huge difference. I don’t mind earplugs, so that helped me, because I’m a very light sleeper. I’ve found that when kids know that we’re open to finding solutions and not trying to stop them from doing what they’re wanting to do, and they’re not trying to stop me from sleeping, we know that we’re all working in this together, then we can find these solutions that feel good. And I know if families are newer to this, everyone may not be participating yet. They’re still a little unsure of what this process looks like, and can we trust it? But as the trust builds and all the ideas are considered and valued, that is going to change. And sometimes in the beginning, just making it fun and starting with some off-the-wall, silly ideas can just make people laugh and get them excited and they start throwing out ideas and it just sets the stage of, there’s no bad idea. We’re just here talking and trying to figure things out. And you’re right. There have been so many great sleep conversations and breakthroughs on the Network. It is so unique to each family. And it’s definitely not a rule that all unschoolers stay up late, but hopefully, it’s about each person in the family really tuning into their body and finding rhythms that work with the life that each family is creating. PAM: Oh, I know. I love that. And it really does just go such a long way to validate someone’s wish to stay up later. When they just feel seen and heard and trust that you’re going keep going to figure out ways to make it work for everyone, they often feel less defensive and resistant, feel like we’re on the same team. But as you mentioned, Anna, that process takes time, too, right? It takes time for that trust to build. So, maybe if sleep is your first one that you’re going into this kind of conversation with, because I knew where I wanted to get and with that understanding that, I can’t say, “Hey, you can fully trust me now. I changed my mind! We’re just gonna figure this out together.” That is hard to trust. I can know that in my head and know that I want to get there, but I can also take my time and I can be extra giving upfront so that they can see through experience that they can really trust me. So, I think that is such an important point to help people get there if this is their first experience, that it can take some time. But it is so worth it and that’s where the relationships and the trust and the connection grow deeper and deeper over time. And, as you both mentioned, kids really can come up with some great ideas. So, my being extra open to things, I got to start to hear, when they realize that they can share ideas, even silly ones, and I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s cool! That would be so funny.” Rather than, “Oh my gosh, that would never work,” the energy changes and then over time they feel more and more open to share things without fear that they’re going to be shut down or told that was a silly idea, or, “I don’t agree with you.” We come to see how capable kids really are and they really are open to considering the needs of others when they feel like their needs are respected too. It gets us to that team level where all our needs, all the things, our constraints, our quirks of personality, all those pieces are going to be respected and heard and woven into the mix of the ways we move forward. And it’s not about like, let’s brainstorm and come up with one solution. It’s like, Ooh, what about this? Let’s go try this. Oh, what about this? Let’s go try this. Oh, that kind of worked, and just working through it, through the conversations. And it really became so much fun over the years to brainstorm unconventional possibilities, using the rooms in unconventional ways, setting up different environments and different spaces. For us, it was just so fun. We’re still moving our house around. ERIKA: I just think like not getting stuck thinking we need to solve everything in some perfect way that’s just going to stay the perfect way forever. Especially with something like sleep, that’s just not going to happen. Things are going to change and we could just try different things. Even just for one night, we could try something and just see how it goes. And so, just being playful with it makes things feel so much lighter. ANNA: So much lighter. But actually something bubbled up for me that’s not as light from Pam’s, but I do want to mention it, because it’s this idea we’ve seen in the Network and a lot of places over the years, it’s an older child that maybe wants to stay up later and maybe there’s younger siblings around. And so, the focus is on what we’ve been talking about solving for these pieces. But really again, it’s about getting to that underlying need and maybe that older child is needing some quiet. It’s a bit more chaotic environment during the day with younger siblings. And then sometimes, as parents, we can get defensive about that, that wait a minute, but you know, this environment, whatever. But it’s like, so even things like that, just checking in. Like, hey, okay, is it that? What do they love about the late nights? Is it friends that are available? Is it quiet to think and it’s a creative time for them? And okay, how can we create that in other ways, maybe, during the day? Or how can we just honor it in the night? But that’s that piece of just understanding each other, really being open, really looking for that underlying need. So, something you said, Pam just made me think of that piece. ERIKA: Okay, so that brought something up for me too, which is I’ve heard the kids say things like, “I just want independence,” like, “I’m in charge of what happens right now. I’m gonna be getting food for myself and deciding what to do for myself.” So, sometimes it’s that, like a great opportunity to just do their own thing. PAM: Yeah. And sometimes what those conversations are so useful, because the staying up late can be the solution that they’ve come to. And like you were saying, getting to that need underneath helps. It helps them recognize it. It helps us understand them better and also helps us maybe come up with like three or four different ways. So, if for a time or a week or whatever staying up late doesn’t work, maybe we can get them some quiet time on their own if that is the issue or whatever that underlying need is. Staying up late can definitely be one way, but maybe we can come up with an abundant three or four ways to meet that need, and staying up late is a choice on the platter rather than the one solution, as you were talking about, Erika. ANNA: But we miss it if we’re just kind of tunneled in, even on this specific situation. It’s so much about just getting to know each other, having those conversations. What do you love about it? What’s fun about it? Because I think we can get so focused on even finding the solution, even when we’re doing it in this way, like being creative and we’re gonna find a solution. We’re kind of focused on that versus the learning, the learning that can happen when we’re finding out these nuances of each other and living in the family together. PAM: Yeah. And it’s a season, right? ANNA: I hate to say that, because I think people are like, gosh, Anna, we’ve heard it before, but it’s like, when you’re telling the things Pam, and I’m just thinking, oh, it was so long ago! It’s so quiet here now! And so, I know that sounds terrible because I really do remember how long those nights felt like. I remember just thinking, this is never going to end. I’m never going to sleep again. But you really do. It really changes so, so fast. Oh my goodness. It has been so much fun to dive into this rich late night topic with you both, and we’d love it if you would join us on the Living Joyfully Network where we talk about this topic and many more that impact our unschooling lives. It’s such a great space to connect with other families navigating the same challenges, to feel support around that and experience all the joy of the connection as well. So, you can learn more about that at living So, thanks again for joining us here, and we hope to see you next time. ERIKA: Bye! PAM: I hope you found this episode helpful on your unschooling journey. And be sure to check out the growing podcast archive. The conversations never go out of date. You can find more information about my books, the Living Joyfully Network online community, and the Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit online course at my website, living

EU346: On the Journey with Cassie Emmott

This week, we’re back with another On the Journey episode. Pam, Anna, and Erika are joined by Living Joyfully Network member Cassie Emmott. Cassie is an unschooling mom with four children with diverse needs. She shares her path to unschooling and some insightful reflections about parenting and deschooling. We talk about navigating challenging seasons and large families, the depth of inner work that unschooling encourages, and the choices we make to stay present and see the joy. Cassie also shares her beautiful poem about what processing feels like on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside. It’s so wonderful having her on the podcast and we hope you find our conversation inspiring on your unschooling journey! Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. Mentioned in the Episode The Living Joyfully Network Cassie’s podcast, Connecting The Dots – Because despite appearances, the dots are not placed at random: And her blog of poetry and essays: Cassie on Instagram: @creativeperformermum 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 help keep the podcast archive freely available to anyone who’s curious and wants to explore the fascinating world of 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 Connection, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of trust and compassion. 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. Listen to The Living Joyfully Podcast here, or find it in your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT ERIKA: Hello, everyone! I’m Erika Ellis from Living Joyfully and this is episode number 346 of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts Pam Laricchia and Anna Brown, as well as our guest this week, Cassie Emmott. Welcome to you all! CASSIE: Hi! ANNA: Hi! PAM: Hello! ERIKA: 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. Cassie is a member of the Living Joyfully Network and I have so enjoyed meeting her and getting to know her and her family. She’s a very inspiring thinker and I just always get so much out of the ideas she shares with everyone on the Network. And so, I’m so excited to have her here for this On the Journey episode. And before we get started, I just wanted to share. One of my absolute favorite network features is one I was hesitant about initially, and that is the live weekly Zoom calls that we call our live conversations. So, I’m introverted. I get nervous when I’m speaking in front of people, and at first, I really wasn’t sure if it would feel too strange to listen to and talk to people I don’t really know or if I would be too nervous to share my thoughts, especially in front of Pam and Anna, who I’d been listening to on the podcast and the summit for years. And so, it’s fun to realize that now that call is one of my absolute favorite parts of my whole week. We have different types of calls throughout the month. Sometimes we have breakout rooms to chat in small group. And most of the calls are just an open discussion and we end up talking and hearing about so many interesting things. And what I’ve really noticed is that the energy of being together is just so amazing. There’s this great feeling of support and connection. And one of the ways that the calls have helped me grow in my own journey is that I just have this confidence now that I can handle big emotions and big problems, my own and other people’s. I can move through things that feel hard at first and sit with feelings that are challenging. And since I now have so much more experience hearing challenges and hearing all different ideas and perspectives about those challenges, it’s really helped me ground into the fact that there are always so many ways to approach a situation and that we can figure things out. And so, I just really value all of the collective insight and the experience that the community has to offer and love all the connections I’ve made. And so, if you’re curious about what the Living Joyfully Network has to offer you, I really encourage you to give it a try. You can check out to learn more, and also feel free to message me on the Exploring Unschooling Instagram account, which you can find @ExploringUnschooling with any questions you have about it. And now I’d like to turn it over to Pam to start us off on this On the Journey episode. Pam? PAM: Yay! Thank you. Hi, Cassie! CASSIE: Hi! PAM: And I just want to echo Erika, that I, too, feel so lucky to have met you through the network and I’m really happy that you are here to share some of your thoughts and ideas. So first, to get us started, can you give us just a bit of an introduction to you and your family? CASSIE: Yeah, sure. Thank you for having me. I’ve loved this podcast for some time, so it’s been really great and it’s been really lovely to meet all of you as well, so it’s been good. So yeah, in our family we have me, Cassie, and Pete, and we are the grownups, arguably. And then we’ve also got Grace who is 11. Our birthdays all changed from sort of December through to March, so we’ve just had all the shift around. So, yeah, Grace is 11, Isaac’s 10, very much just, Olivia is eight, and Micah is three. And so, yeah, so that’s us lot. And yeah, we’ve pretty much unschooled since the beginning. I had a friend who was considering pulling her kid out of school when he was quite a lot smaller and she looked at home education here in the UK and so she said, “Oh, would you consider doing it?” And my answer was, “No. I don’t like teaching children.” And that’s not true because I like teaching. I’m quite didactic, but I was like, hmm, I don’t really want to be in a classroom trying to make small people mind. It just doesn’t work. And so, I like my own and like kids I care about. And then it just went from there. She was looking into some stuff and I ended up finding John Holt as most people seem to and it just opened a total paradigm shift. So, we went sort of that route and Pete has been with me since the beginning. I tend to do the reading and then I disseminate to him and it’s fun. We’ve gotten more kind of open as time’s gone on. I think they were so small. Grace was two when we first really considered this, so it’s still infancy really anyway. But it’s watching them grow and flourish and marking their own time and so that’s been really interesting. So, Grace is currently, if that’s cool, I’ll share a bit about what they’re into. ANNA: Yes, please! CASSIE: So, Grace is into everything. She reminds me a lot of me at her age, books, the hind leg off a donkey, but also loves performing, loves making scripts, loves messing around for comic effect. She’s got cracking comic timing, always has had, and has always got some massive project on the go. At the moment, she’s currently making about four films and several series, and she’s just decided she’s going to start a club, ironically, a school club, which is hilarious about krakens and things. And so, she’s been doing loads of editing and stop motion and she keeps diving into going a new script. And literally this week, she’s suddenly got into baking, which she’s never been interested beyond the cakes. And so, she’s like, “I’m going to write a recipe book.” And so, she’s been doing that and she’s very sweet, very kind, incredibly good, big sister, really lovely and fun and really fabulous company. Very empathetic. And then Isaac. So, Isaac is 10, but I should probably mention my middle two are both autistic. And that does make a big difference in our family, because Isaac is largely nonverbal. Doesn’t really talk. He sings though, and boy can that kid sing. He’s got a beautiful voice and an amazing ability to hear music and pick up melody like that. And so, he’s also still in nappies, as is Olivia. So, it’s a very different setup to having a ten- and an eight-year-old who may be on a usual path. And so, he’s recently got into Sonic the Hedgehog and running games on his tablet, which is really fun. And it’s so funny hearing him kind of play stuff and when he crashes, he then just turns the whole thing off and flings it across the room. And he’s very affectionate and cuddly. Loves music, loves bouncing and smushing his face to us, which is always lovely. And singing and if you sing something he’ll pick up really fast and sing it back to you for weeks. So, I used to set Psalms for church and I’d be making up a new tune and he’d just be singing it for the next two weeks, the bit that I wrote. He’s amazing like that. It’s so cool. And he’s got loads of energy and used to escape a lot. Doesn’t so much now, but runs. See, he’s got a lot of energy, so he’s definitely kept us on our toes. And then Olivia, who is eight now, she’s so sweet, too. She is loving dolls. Over Christmas, we got loads of dolls and she’s just been exploring looking after babies and she has a tablet most of the time and is always listening to a movie or something in the background. Currently, as of the last couple of days, she’s discovered recording herself, so she’s been doing microphone stuff, and recording herself, and all the tablets get nicked. So, they’ve all got one and she keeps nicking them in order to use the extra storage. And so, she’s singing and recording herself. And she’s really artistic, creative. Grace is really artistic as well, likes drawing, but like she keeps tearing little characters or draws around the house, which is both not ideal but beautiful and is very affectionate and cuddly and again, also autistic. And that comes out for her more in the need to have all the lights off or all the lights on and certain things and just timings needed to be clear for her. But ever since she was a teeny tiny baby, she’s just really sweet and that’s lovely. And then Micah. Micah is three and very loud. I call him Captain Shouty-Pants, because he loves to shout and at the moment he’s into numbers. There’s a program on BBC called Numberblocks and he’s been counting like crazy. So much fun and so funny. He’s also very dramatic, he gets it from his mum, and likes to sort of recite stories and he waits till he has your attention and then performs it for you. And he does this weird gesticulating thing, like he’s doing some kind of hammy Shakespeare. It’s so funny. And yeah, he’s very boisterous, loves to climb, fling himself across the room, build stuff. He’s really into building with Magna-Tiles at the moment, so he’s lots of fun. And then Pete and I, what to say? Lots of things. He’s my best friend. I’m really blessed to have him. He’s an amazing dad and husband, so I’m very glad to have him in my life and the kids. He’s got back into Dungeons and Dragons more recently. He works as a chaplain at a school, so sort of a Christian school. And he’s a Christian chaplain, but he’s not like a minister or anything. He’s amazingly empathetic and carries this unschooling energy into his schoolwork and the office, and holds space for people and also gets excited about sharing faith, but it’s also the combination of that and the pastoral care. And he’s very playful and silly and we like riffing with words. So, that’s fun. And then I’m kind of into everything all the time and oh, just all sorts. So, I’m an actor by trade and training, although for the last decade or so, I’ve very much been full-time mothering and home educating or not, and so I love performing and singing and writing songs and writing poems and just all sorts. I love anything that’s to do with people and how people tick and connecting and communicating and getting people to kind of get unstuck and all of that. I love to bake, so the creativity comes out in loads of ways. And lately I have been deep diving into Minecraft, and I’ve currently spent a lot of the last few hours building a city out of a mountain, which has been great fun. So, I’m figuring out how to do that and it kind of plays with my design love. So, that’s a lot, but that’s kind of us. It’s a lot of us in the house, so, yeah. Hope that’s not too much. ANNA: Oh my goodness. No, I love it so much and I think it just paints such a lovely picture and I just love it. And it kind of fits into what I want to talk about and I’m going to give just a quick background. So, on the Network, we have a Marco Polo group, which is a video messaging app. And it’s so fun to get that glimpse into people’s homes and lives and just have that connection. And gosh, I mean, what stood out for me from the beginning, Cassie, is just how you delight in your children, and it’s just this love and care and joy that just is so evident, and that is even in the midst of all the challenges that life throws because life throws challenges as we know. But there is just this deep connection and love and joy, and I feel like you’ve created an environment where all of your children with very diverse needs can thrive. And I just think it’d be really fun if you could tell us just a bit about some strategies or your journey as it came with that and what’s kind of helped you do that. And I know part of it is just who you are and what you bring to it, but I know you’ve had lots of learning along the way as we all have to create that environment that just feels so good. CASSIE: Yeah. So, I’ve been thinking about it and so that I don’t give you like an epic thesis worthy of a giant document, I will do my best to nutshell it, because I have lots of words. It’s funny. I was really thinking about this and it kind of hinges on like creativity, connection, and communication, which are starting to become my buzzwords in everything else that I’m doing as well. And it’s not deliberate. I’m not like marketing, but it’s like surrendering to who you actually have. And I was chatting to Pete about it and just said, “Is there anything you want to add to that?” when I was sharing some of my thoughts, and he said, “Surrender.” And I think that is such a big word in so many aspects, in our faith journey, like surrendering to trusting that God’s got us, but also surrendering to who you actually have in front of you, who you’re dealing, with who they actually are, who you are at this precise moment in time, which changes, and then getting creative with how you work with that. So, I mean, there’s so many facets to this family, because, like the big diverse needs. I didn’t expect, for example, to have three kids in nappies when my youngest is three and the others are that much older. It’s fine. Do I wish at some point that they’d be in a position where they’re no longer in them? Of course. I’d love them to be free. But at the same time, to serve them in that way by loving them and just helping them is actually a different kind of joy and it’s slowed me down. I think I was never a major stress head when it came to the kids. I think part of my actor training part of a lot of things, of just being where you are and learning how to really see where you are actually at and unpick that and ask the questions. That’s been really important. So, I came to motherhood I think with a bunch of that already, but not trying to propel us on this journey. And so, changing things up. Sorry, this is going to go around and around because this is how my brain works. So, I hope you’re still following. Shout if it’s unclear. So, I think Pete and I joke that we get some things in place and we feel like we’ve got a rhythm and everything’s working and everyone’s needs are being met and then it’s usually about six weeks and it has to change all over again. And we just think we’ve got a pattern down or we know what we are doing. And so, the surrender to change, which isn’t always easy, is really hard. And yet when we do and we lean into it, rather than fighting this uphill battle against what isn’t going to work anyway, it’s like, well, let’s just try this a different way and just see, and then it’ll probably change in another six weeks’ time. I mean, it’s not as neat as that. That would be lovely. Leaning into the dull and the mundane has meant that, where I dream of big and dramatic and life changing and world changing, has helped me to really see and helped us to really see the incredible beauty that is right in front of me. And it’s a bit like the macrocosm/microcosm thing. You know, you can walk out into a woods or a forest and go, “Wow, the whole thing!” and that is one part of it. Or you can then hone in right on the small things and and learn to delight in the beauty that is right in front of you in the teeny tiny. And I think, whereas my heart dreams of massive stuff at the same time, it’s been a real journey for me, especially with the ongoing needs of the family, to keep looking at what’s there in the small. So, for example, Olivia started drawing on the walls. Now that I live in a rental property with landlords who aren’t wildly amenable to redecorating every 10 minutes, if at all. So, it’s that natural, very real fear of going, I don’t have loads of money. I don’t want to be repainting 95 times. This is tricky. But then I looked at what she was drawing, and to be fair, I’ve been looking at what she was drawing anyway, so I got there quicker than that. But this was a few years ago, she was drawing these beautiful little Tinkerbell fairies and the quality of artwork was just so stunning. And she’s not like a child-prodigy-stunning, but when you looked at the drawing, it’s just beautiful and really clear and she’s got a real style and a flare. And seeing that has meant that I could go, “Oh wow, but look at what she’s drawing.” It will probably wash off the walls eventually, and if not, we’ll have to paint before we leave. But it’s like, in doing that, I could have yelled and I have my human moments when I’m much more shouty pants myself. But instead going, she really needed to draw. And evidently the canvases I was offering her of a small piece of paper were not sufficient. She needed a big space, and so therefore, giving her that option to do that, has, I guess, taken the pressure of her needing to be a particular way. And the same for Isaac. Just constantly being creative, finding space where they can all have little chill out spaces. Figuring out that we were all sleeping in the same room except for Isaac anyway, that maybe we needed to just move rooms and put loads of beds together, which we did just before Christmas. And so, we’re all in there because Grace at 10 and now 11, still needed us. And so, she needed to thrive and feel safe by knowing she was safe at night. And did I, again, dream that I would be sharing a family bed with a whole room like a giant dormitory? No. I guess it’s just been this whole creative thing and respecting them as individual people and who they are and enjoying them for who they are and surrendering to the tablet stuff of giving them all a tablet and, you know, paying it off when we can. Or Olivia wanting to go to the shops and buy a doll and she got a load of Christmas money, so we took her to the shop every time and she just wanted to get all the things. And rather than going, “No, you must have one,” it’s like, okay, well we have this fund at the minute, let’s just use it for that. And her delight has been so rich and gorgeous and she’s playing with them and then she moves to something else. And it is tricky sometimes trying to navigate lots of people in her family anyway, but lots of people with different needs. I just think keep being open to trying and trying something else and forgiving one another and apologizing when you screw up and then just being playful with it. And bedtimes went out the window a while ago, but we have a rhythm. Again, it’s just not rigid. And I think the other big thing that I’ve been constantly working through in this whole aspect of parenting and with our kids is the need for permission. It’s a really real thing for that sense of outside permission that you’re not going to have someone turn around and tell you, “You’re doing it wrong.” And there’s so much cultural messaging around how to parent and what is the right way and what your kids should be learning. And when you don’t go to the school route, I have my wobbles and I’m going, are they going to learn anything? And then suddenly, Grace decides she’s baking, or she’s making these amazing short films and doing loads of editing and then showing them to anybody she just meets. And it’s just like, wow. And so, realizing that I don’t necessarily need permission from outside if I’m confident in the choice itself. And the same for Pete. Just building a nest and building what we need. And at the moment, we’ve been in a long season of colds, but also of being very much in our house because it’s trickier to get out. We’ve now got some help and that that helps. But it’s still wet and horrible and everyone’s still under the weather and we are very much hibernating and surrendering the whole idea we should be going out and doing stuff is not where we’re at right now. And that’s okay, too. And maybe the reason I don’t go out and get out in the woods all the time, even though that’s what I imagined I’d be doing if I home educated my kids, I swear I was going to have a woodland life. It’s not been that at all, but it’s been a cuddle on the sofa, surrounded by toys, children bundling on you and squashing you, and then trying to Minecraft and not knock all your blocks off at the same time. And it’s been great. It’s been really fun. And in the harder times, it’s, keep leaning back into that who they are and the delight that they give us because they’re flipping amazing. They’re really fun as well, and they’re funny and playful and silly and then I can be my playful silly self, which sometimes involves some daft dancing or weird wordplay. It’s not meant to be alliterative, but anyway. And it’s really fun. And I think that answers, but, you know, ANNA: Right! I mean, I think what I love about that is, I do think you hit those big pieces, because surrender. I mean, that’s a beautiful word. And I think what I see is that element that’s in in you, that light in you, is really in that moment. And I think that surrender helps you be in that moment. And in that moment you are seeing the joy and the beauty, because you’re right when we’re in our head thinking about what other people are wanting for us or these other things, they’re not with these beautiful children. They’re not there. And I think all of those things that you talked about are what get you into that moment where you can just be amazed and in awe of how wonderful they are. So yeah, I loved that so much. Thank you. ERIKA: I was just going to pull out that six weeks at a time little thing that she had mentioned. I thought that was so great. Because it’s like, I mean, that is another type of surrender I think to just like realize, even when we feel like we’ve got it, it’s going to change again. They’re going to grow, something’s going to change, the next thing’s going to happen. And so, just to kind of keep yourself from attaching too strongly to something that’s working, I think, has been a really fun thing to hear about. PAM: Yeah. What bubbled up for me, and again, back to the surrender piece, and as you mentioned, Cassie, this is not what I imagined my life was going to look like back then. But that surrender piece and what you made so evident is that yes, it’s very different and it’s so amazing. Right? It’s not like I gave that up for something different, for a nebulous reason for myself. But this is also, in my experience, many times, was actually so much better and richer and just more fun than that steady path that I thought I was going to go on. So, the surrender piece, such a huge part. But what kept me surrendering day after day was learning so many times, wow, this was even better than what I could have come up with on my own. CASSIE: Yeah. And I think there’s dreams. Like, I still have big dreams. So, my heart still is very much in acting, but it was realizing that you can’t have two priorities. One has to always be slightly prior and it’s been the family, and I’ve said this so many times, but I’ve never regretted. I miss acting and performing and doing that whole thing like I’d miss a limb. But I’ve never missed it more than I have valued being able to be fully present with my family. And it’s like the two things can be held in tension. The desire for both the big dreams that I still have as a person on my own right and the passion that just will not die in this whole area and yet, maybe that’ll come in the future, but meanwhile I’m not giving up for something that’s just drudgery. I’m actually giving it up for something that’s so life giving and it might not be forever either.  PAM: That’s beautiful. ERIKA: I love that. And I was thinking, too, that step forward path that Pam was talking about. It’s so freeing to be able to think of life as more of a journey metaphor, which does not look like a predictable line, but has all of these kind of unexpected twists and turns. So, I had a thought that I wanted to talk about, because you shared a poem that you wrote about doing deep inner work that’s so much a part of deschooling and unschooling and I was wondering if you would share it with us and maybe some of your thoughts about that aspect of your life. CASSIE: Sure. Okay. I’ll bring it up on my phone, because I didn’t print it out yet. That deep work that brings us out into the light, enabling us to really see, To know ourselves – This work of unpicking and unpacking our story, Of tentatively claiming kinship With those orphaned experiences, those parts of our childlike character we were trained to reject – This is the work that goes unseen. Looking as though nothing is happening, With no obvious shoot or bloom – But, the seeming opposite, That of a shrinking, Diminishing, A reducing of capacity and strength, Becoming more pathetic – Is less attractive, Even offensive, To those on the outside. Yet the excavation underway below the surface – Unearthing great caverns of beauty, Geodes of pain, Hidden rivers of strength – This is where the refining and reforming is at its most ambitious. Here, the understanding and redefinition of beauty, is both infant and infinite. Re-tuning to that holy note, Becoming more crystalline, We begin to resonate, Growing in clarity, Anchored in rock. No errand for those whose hunger for hope is quenched, This downward, uphill struggle will break you open, Cutting to the quick, Where every nerve vibrates, Raw, And grief threatens to drown. Yet here is where peace is found. In the turmoil of stillness, At the edge of the abyss, We die. And wake to new life, More tender, And more whole. This deep work – Which none can know, But the one on the inside who bears witness, And tends the wounds with love – This work is love made flesh, And freedom follows. There you go. That’s the end. You can talk again. ANNA: Beautiful! PAM: I know. So beautiful. CASSIE: Thank you. Yeah. What was the question again? It’s funny, so yeah, just thinking about I think many of us are really afraid to truly see ourselves. I think we’re afraid of shame or rejection. We’re afraid of actually realizing our stories are full of shame, because maybe they are. Maybe we’re ashamed of things we’ve done or things we’ve been, or how we’ve been. Maybe we don’t know how to unpack that and we can often feel powerless to change. And I think a lot of us are content to sleepwalk and we just won’t look too closely. It’s safer this way, and yet it really isn’t safer, because you don’t know what you’re going to bump into. I think I had someone describe it once as a bit like walking into a room filled with cluttered furniture, but with the lights off and then you’re like, but it’s safer. I can’t see what’s there. But you crash into everything. You turn the lights on, you see everything that’s there. (Cassie shared that the reference to the cluttered room came from Aundi Kolber’s book Try Softer and her IG handle is @aundikolber.) I think saying you turn the lights on and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, there’s so much there,” But you’re less likely to crash in and stab yourself in the eye from something you’ve stored. And I think the nature of all work that connects us with our sense of story, whatever that is, because everyone’s had pain, everyone’s had trauma, whether it’s big or small. I’ve had some pretty big ones, like one I’ll share briefly. We lost a baby in a late term miscarriage and so that was a pretty big one, but then there’s others like looking at my family background and stuff that was beautiful and then going, oh, but some things that didn’t quite work for me and starting to realize that now. And that’s scary, because then you go, but I had a happy childhood and in many ways I really did. But looking slightly deeper is scary, because then you have to go, but what about the bits that maybe weren’t so great? And I didn’t have a terrible childhood at all. I had loving parents and a very supportive family in so many ways. But it’s that nature of looking deeply can be really scary. And I think when I was writing this poem, I’d been writing it because I’d been processing a whole bunch of things about so many bits and pieces, but in the process of doing that, it’s exhausting. And physically, I’ve had five babies, but four babies, and then we had a lockdown and all the things, and so, physically I’m pretty drained and exhausted and yet also all this processing takes physical energy and that isn’t visible and it’s not visible because I still haven’t unpacked half of it. And so, it’s still messy on the inside. And so, that’s still taking energy. And then it looks like, whereas I used to be the super capable person, I mean I think I just ran too fast anyway. I’d be doing millions of classes and dancing and performing and used to be able to run on all of that. And now it’s like if I’ve had one outing in a week, I’m done for the week. And it’s really crazy how much, I think from the outside, to people who knew me more at that point, it probably looks like I’m a bit useless now, or I just want to hole up in my comfort zone. And yet the nature of really asking the questions about, well, what was that like? How do I feel about that now? Is that still who I want to be? Does bring up pain? And allowing yourself to really feel that pain is sometimes almost as scary as the fact that there might be some. But like with grief, which has been a theme that’s run a lot through my life, you can’t circumvent it. You can hide it, you can squash it, you can suppress it, but you can’t move through it if you don’t allow it to take the space it’s going to take. And I don’t know, with unschooling, we’ve gone off a beaten path, or at least a beaten path I’ve known growing up with my kids and what I was parented like, and in lots of ways there was a certain amount of freedom too. And they were supportive from being an actor without telling me I had to get a trade behind me. I mean, that’s a big deal for a lot of people. And yet, things like expecting certain levels of respect or putting boundaries in place that mean, well, it’s the parent’s time now and it’s the kid’s bedtime and going, well, why? Is that really an important boundary? And sometimes those boundaries really are. Maybe Pete and I haven’t spoken to each other properly all week, and so actually we need that time. So, finding someone to create that to work for us. It’s not that the thing itself isn’t necessarily a good thing, but just the nature of unschooling as I’ve dived into it more as we’ve dived into it more as our kids have grown, I have wobbles every so often that what if they’re not reading in time? What if I’m not doing it right? And yet asking those questions, taking the space, allowing myself to feel what I’m feeling, and then also just connecting. My interest in people, especially as a performer, as an actor, like I love the story. I love getting into the head and the heart of somebody, and it’s an incredible privilege when I’ve got to do that work to stand in effectively stand in somebody else’s body and walk out their journey. And that sounds a bit weird, but it’s like you are. You are offering your body to be a conduit to tell that story, to connect with the people in the audience, whether on screen or in person. And so, you are sharing that. And you have to allow them to be them, whoever that character is. And so, you have to know where you stop or start in order to be able to tell someone else’s story without just making it all about you. And so that was good grounding. But with parenting and unschooling, it’s been a lot of, keep asking questions. And sometimes when we are tired or we snappish or you just want to do something or, “Well, they should really eat this.” I love to cook and it really annoys me when my kids won’t eat my food. And I’m like, “But I made it particularly. Why don’t you want it?” And yet, actually, hang on a minute. Does she need to? Is it really a value judgment on my worth and my cooking skills if she doesn’t? Is it really the end of the world if they eat nothing but bread and I have a family of ducks forever? Maybe I can cook something nice. I swear at one point we did have a family of ducks. We’d just get through bread. They’d just eat bread. I’m like, “Oh, the Emmett Quackers.” It was hilarious. I just think we do not in our culture, and I think as people we are a bit scared of story being messy.  And we’d like to wrap it in a nice bow. There’s nothing wrong with a lovely bow, but there’s no point in wrapping bow around something that’s really not actually at a point there’s some wholeness. And yet, asking those questions, allowing yourself to sit with the you you’re not so sure you like until you come out the other side. Not necessarily going, “And I’m fixed!” at all, but going, do you know what? I like her. I don’t always like what I can do or can’t do. I get very frustrated or disappointed with my lack of energy or the fact that I feel that, what if I’m not getting my kids out enough? Or what if they’re only going to be on their tablets now forever? Of course they’re not. And then I see that they don’t but it, but I like who I’m becoming. I like the person. It’s really funny. So, as a performer, voice is important, and that command of your voice and being able to do that. I mean, I once told someone off the stealing in my bike because I shouted at them and told them off. It was brilliant. I still have that. So, I went, “Ah, excuse me. Do you mind not stealing my bike, please!?” I just sort of yelled at him and all the adrenaline was pumping. It was hilarious. And so, commanding voice and knowing that you can set a boundary by saying to your child, “No,” it’s very powerful. Except it gets in the way of connection and it gets in the way of that being a person. And so, when people say, well, if you just say no, I’m like, seriously? I can say no really authoritatively, till the cows come home. Believe me. I do old-school mom fantastically. I’ve played Russian matriarchs. I’m good at that. I’m not even that old, but I’ve played old ladies. It’s funny. But there’s that, do I want to do that? Or I insist on something and I watch my kid’s face fall or I watch the light go out their eyes or I get too teachery, because I like to get excited and tell you all about it and try and get you to get it with me. And then I watch Grace just switch off and glaze over and be like, “Mommy. I just want to play with the letters my way. I just want to make up words that are gibberish and then get you to say them. I don’t care what they spell.” And it’s been challenging, but it’s been a real, again, journey of surrender, I guess, a journey of grace. And I think the idea that giving grace to yourself is a really good phrase, but it can be hard to know what that means and how to do that. And I think sometimes that means when you’re tired yet again, not feeling like you are less than for not, well get up and have a walk and it’ll make a difference. Because sometimes it will, but sometimes it isn’t what you need and it’s maybe you just need to sit and Minecraft for three hours and that’s self-care. And it sounds really weird, but it’s something that brings you joy. And again, trusting that when you see yourself, you actually become more tender. Or you can choose to get hard and get bitter, but I think it brings you to the end of yourself. And for me, that means coming to God and going, I need, I need your love. And that encourages me to actually be kinder, because God’s way kinder with me than I ever am, and actually becoming more tenderhearted, more vulnerable, more open, which means you get hurt. But I’m so much more receptive for that. And I think that means I’m more receptive to my kids and to their pain and to their joys, and I think that. I don’t know if that answers your question. ERIKA: I think that I love the part that you brought up about there being a physical toll from doing the mental inner work, because I have found that to be the case and it’s something where looking at me, you wouldn’t know why I have this face on right now. What’s going on? But it’s because of the internal work. And how common it is for unschooling to be a path into doing that work. And you don’t have to get there through unschooling. I think, as far as what I’ve seen, it’s pretty common for people in their forties to start looking at things on the inside and figuring out things. But I think unschooling, it almost  boosts you forward on that internal journey, because you’re questioning everything. It has started the path of questioning everything. And so, I don’t know. I liked thinking about how big of a deal it is to do that and really giving yourself some credit, giving yourself some space and kindness and compassion for that work that you’re doing. ANNA: Yeah. And I think, too, how that work, how we’ve seen it kind of interplay with unschooling families and other people is, like you said, it’s a deepening, because you understand yourself more as you look at those dark corners and the hard things, and not just gloss over it. I think it expands our heart. I think we’re able to open to other people. We’re able to see that they have their own unique journey, because we’re not just cramming our journey into some kind of a box or some kind of a stereotype. So, I just think all of that interplay of the unschooling and being in such close relationship with people every day, all the things. It creates this environment where we can really learn so much about ourselves and the people around us. I really love that so much. PAM: I really love the word tender. It really does speak to that feeling. And as Erika mentioned, I think one of the things that we really don’t give a lot of credence to when we’re doing that deep work, that tender work, that vulnerable work, we don’t give credit or recognize how much of a physical toll it takes, like how much physical energy it takes to think like our body needs to feed our brain to do all this processing, to ask these questions, to just see how they feel in our bones, see how they feel inside. I just loved the imagery of your poem, because it just brought to mind how so much of that processing can feel from, from little healing rivers to deep chasms, to all those pieces and coming through the other side more tender. And I loved your point, too, about really, it’s worth it and it’s valuable to see what grace and compassion for ourselves looks like and feels like, because the words are valuable and helpful and everything, but what does that look like? Does it look like three hours of Minecraft is self-care? And literally knowing that, not just telling yourself that, but feeling it in your bones, knowing through experience that this feels good. This deserves to be on my list of things that can help me maybe recover some of that energy from processing. You talked before about in and out, I forget the word you used, but maybe when it’s a transition time, like I have looked at this deep stuff up close in the forest. I’ve looked at this leaf for a long time. To me, the clue was kind of, I feel like I’m circling now. I’m not really making progress as I stare at this leaf. I’m not getting any more out of it. But yeah, to transition to, you know what? I’m going to look up now doesn’t mean I’m never going to look back at the leaf. That leaf is going to be carried with me now as I look up right and see different perspectives and start putting the puzzle together in a different way. We don’t lose that, but for me, those are the pieces where grace and compassion for myself come in. It’s not judgment of myself. Maybe that’s part of it, like understanding that all these pieces are okay. Even if, I feel like I told somebody what I was doing, I haven’t been out for a week, that they may bring judgment with that, because we do hear those stories outside of us so much. But to really lean into what it means to be us and how we tick and giving ourselves that grace and compassion instead of judgment. Imagine if we supported ourselves like we support our children. Often, it’s easier to get to through supporting our children, but oh my gosh, it is so helpful to be able to give that to ourselves, too, as part of our journey. Anyway, thank you so much for the poem. It brought up so much for me! CASSIE: Pleasure. Do you mind if I just add one thing? I was just thinking when you’re saying about the, just telling yourself, but not necessarily believing, I think that’s also a process from outside to in often and sometimes it comes inside out. And I think we can move inside out or outside in with a lot of realizations and understanding. But I think sometimes, I would rather work inside out when I’m trying to figure out a journey or a character, because it’s like, what’s here and then what feels more honest as I go forward. But sometimes you just get stuck and so you say, move here, say this, do this, say it in this way. And then the feeling life catches up. And I just think it’s also okay for us to remember that when we know something is true, like there’s a truth about it, but maybe it hasn’t resonated or landed with us, like the whole, “It’s okay to say this is self-care,” when you’re secretly going, “But I feel like a fraud.” It’s like, hearing that and going, “It’s okay that I have spoken this as a truth. I know this is true. My emotions, my feeling life will catch up. They’re just not there yet.” And trusting that by doing it and by giving yourself the space to do it more, whatever it is, gradually your feeling life or your sense of the reality of it and the validity of it will catch up and then you’ll be able to fully inhabit that. But we can’t always do that straight away. So, if we’re waiting till we really believe it before we do it, we’ll never do it. But sometimes it’s like, I know this is good for me and I’m enjoying it. It is honestly good self-care. It’s not me just being lazy. And so, then you start to believe it more as time catches up, that’s just something I’ve found really helpful to remember as well. ERIKA: That’s really interesting. I feel like when Pam was talking, too, and with that most recent bit too, I like the kind of being playful about the inner work, too, like keeping that kind of sense of curiosity and play about it as well. Because then, right, it can be easy to get kind of trapped in judgment or the external judgment and internal judgment, but if we’re more playful about it, then it can just be, “Well, I can play Minecraft if I want, and then we’ll just see. We’ll see how I feel after,” and so then there’s less judgment I think helps us along that internal work path. CASSIE: Yeah, and YouTube rabbit holes do the same for me, as well. Watching other actors talking about stuff, and watching a whole bunch of round tables, I just physically feel myself coming back to myself. I’m like, YouTube rabbit holes are actually a good thing sometimes. ANNA: Yes, yes. ERIKA: They definitely can be. Thank you so much, Cassie, for spending time with us today. It was great to be able to share some of your journey with everyone, and thanks so much to everyone for listening, and we wish you a wonderful day. Bye! ANNA: Thank you! CASSIE: Bye. PAM: Bye.

EU345: Unschooling “Rules”: No Bedtimes

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 don’t have bedtimes. And although it’s true that most unschoolers move away from arbitrary bedtimes set by the clock, we still all sleep! And because people are so different, what a family’s bedtime routine looks like can be unique—for different families and also in different seasons of life. We talk about some of the worries and fears that come up when thinking about sleep, as well as what sleep has looked for us over the years. We had a lot of fun diving into this topic and we hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey! Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. 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? 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 help keep the podcast archive freely available to anyone who’s curious and wants to explore the fascinating world of 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 A Typical Unschooling Day, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of perspective and engagement. 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. Listen to The Living Joyfully Podcast here, or find it in your favorite podcast player. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from and today I’m here with Anna Brown and Erika Ellis. Hello! ERIKA AND ANNA: Hi. PAM: So, before we get started, 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 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 even an A+. Our goal with the series is to explore these apparent rules and cultivate an environment for self-discovery, inquiry, agency, and growth. So, with that, in this episode, we’re diving into the rule that unschoolers have no bedtimes. That can seem a little out there when you’re newer to unschooling and first come across it, but I will say, it’s a pretty distinguishing feature for many unschooling families. And that said, it doesn’t really mean what it sounds like at first. Through the lens of conventional parenting, it sounds like chaos and tossing bedtimes out the window in a family used to relying on rules and needing the kids to be up early for school would most likely end up that way, absolutely. Yet, through the lens of unschooling, most unschooling families truly don’t have fixed bedtimes, yet their lives aren’t forever sleep-deprived and chaotic. So, what gives? Well, it’s about the lifestyle the parents choose to embrace with their children. It’s less about control, about adult power over children, and more about connection, living and working together as a team. As we gain experience with unschooling, we come to question hard and fast rules like bedtimes dictated by the clock. We tend to prefer to consider the context of the moment, like, is there an activity we want to do tomorrow that necessitates getting up early? And the needs of the person, are they actually tired right now? Yet not having a rule to pull out doesn’t mean we’re all of a sudden not involved in helping our children navigate the situation. We don’t leave them to run wild until they drop. Instead, there’s a helpful perspective shift that we can make from rules to routines. So, what does that look like with bedtimes? Well, people do get tired. What if you thought of bedtime as more of a routine to help your child get to sleep when they’re tired rather than a fixed rule based on the time on the clock? Does it seem reasonable to help them listen to their bodies and follow their cues rather than try to control their bodies based on outside factors? There is so much rich learning in there and a deeper sense of self-awareness. Another helpful aspect of thinking in terms of routines rather than rules is that, for many kids and adults, there’s comfort in routines, in knowing what to expect. And routines help with transitions. A relaxing routine to get ready to go to bed when they’re tired or a routine to get out the door so things aren’t forgotten and people aren’t rushed and miserable. Having a rule like a bedtime actually encourages us to not learn the nuances of the people we love. We just pull out the rule and insist they follow it no matter how they’re feeling or what’s going on in their lives. There’s no critical thinking, just obedience. Not having a specific bedtime rule is about getting to know and understand our children and ourselves. When do we feel tired? How do we like to ease into sleep? We can figure that out alongside our children, which we talked about in the last episode, as well. We don’t have to know the answers. We can figure this out. We’re finally getting the chance to question these things. We probably grew up with a bedtime. We’ve certainly heard the messages that “children need bedtimes” that surround us. So, it’s really fascinating to just take a rule like bedtimes and then just start questioning it. Like, what if we didn’t have it? It could be just something fun you play with in your mind at first when you think, what the heck? That seems a little unnerving to me. What are your thoughts, Erika? ERIKA: Oh my gosh. This rule is a really fun one to dig into, I think, because it is one that seems just so wild at first. It’s one of those that’s like, well, I would never do that. But then now, the idea of enforcing a certain time for sleep just seems so strange to me. And I remember having a really hard time falling asleep as a child myself, and I do think I could have benefited from this kind of approach of learning some of the calming tools that we talk about now, having some sort of a relaxation routine to help me and learning how to listen to my body instead of just looking at the clock. So, I found that the transition from when my kids were babies to now has been this gradual process of learning and growing. I observed them, saw what they needed, saw when they were tired, and how they like to fall asleep, and so on, and just used their cues as the guide. And over the years, the timing of their sleep, the location of their sleep, what helps them fall asleep, all of that has changed and fluctuated. So, what I find so valuable about this approach and looking at sleep as this physical need rather than a prescribed schedule, is that we all learn so much more about our bodies. We get to really feel how our bodies tell us what we need. We talk about what makes sleep feel easier or harder, which is actually different for different people. And I’ll give you a couple of examples just to think about. So, some people actually have a really hard time sleeping when it’s pitch black, while other people want to have complete darkness. I have friends who feel the safest and most comfortable falling asleep in the daytime when the sun is coming through the window. So, light is one aspect that can be different for different people. And then there’s sound, some people fall asleep best in silence, but for many, having a sound machine or a fan going can help us fall asleep more easily. I love to have a heavy blanket over me, because it makes me feel safe and cozy, and it’s not even cold where I live, so my husband gets so hot that a heavy blanket is a terrible idea for him. So, I have my little blanket zone that’s just for me. And there are more aspects like what activities you do before you sleep or what you eat or you drink before bed, how many hours of sleep feels really good for your body, and so on. And I just wanted to share some of these differences just to emphasize that, like with everything else we ever talk about, there is no one right way to sleep. And by opening up the possibilities and getting creative, we really can figure out what works well for us as individuals and also as a family. And so, I think that in some unschooling families, it will look from the outside like they’re enforcing a bedtime, because everyone’s falling asleep at the same time each night. But it’s just because that’s what’s working well for them at the moment. And so, to me it’s not a matter of just like, who cares? Stay up to whatever time you want. I’m not going to help you get any sleep. It’s about thinking about the context, like what you were saying about what do we have to do in the morning, what do we need to do with our time? What do we want to do with our time? Noticing how we like to sleep and what makes us feel good. And then my role is trying to support my kids and my whole family to meet all of our different needs. And when we aren’t meeting all of the needs, then we can have conversations and try to problem-solve together. Just try something different and play with it. So, it’s always a work in progress and it’s constantly shifting as the kids are growing and as our needs change. Anna? ANNA: Oh my gosh. Yes. And I love the reminder about how we’re all so different, you know? Because as you were going through the differences, I was thinking about my own preferences. I prefer pitch black. I also have a sound machine. I like a blanket, but I have this thing called Bed Jet that cools our heats depending on the time of the year. So, I’m a little bit of a princess. But I’ve seen these people that can just sleep anywhere. Right? But that is not me and it wasn’t my kids either. When I think about it, part of my journey as an adult was learning to listen to and love my body, because I feel like I had a lot of messages when I was younger that really dissociated me from those cues. And I knew that I wanted my children to not lose touch with the wisdom of their bodies. In babies, we see this clear communication of being hungry or tired, and yet somewhere along the way, conventional wisdom tells us that we need to apply this strict, somewhat arbitrary schedule really, to these growing humans. So, I guess in fairness, some people do that with babies, but developmental psychologists and medical professionals agree it is really important to listen to a baby’s cues. And if you’ve been around a baby, you see they know how to communicate those cues. And so, what it looked like for us was, we were eating when we were hungry, we were sleeping when we were tired. And as you’ve both touched on, though, that was in the context of our family of four, what made sense for the life that we were creating together. And in the early years, David was working outside the home and needed to get up early. So, that was always a part of the consideration. Noise levels, energy, time of the night. We had this gigantic, huge, family bed, and thankfully he was a deep sleeper, but we still needed to find ways to be creative to meet the needs of everyone involved. And we did often like to go to bed together. I just have really fond memories of that time in the dark, thinking about our day, sharing the ups and downs, reading a book. That was just really precious time that I think about often, but it also meant that I wasn’t getting alone time in the evening. So, as an introvert, that was a little tricky for me. So, I would make adjustments like getting up earlier than they did, or taking time when they were playing with David. Also, just looking for ways to fill my cup throughout the day. It just never really felt good to me to think about sending someone off to bed who wasn’t tired, just because I needed to have some alone time. I wanted it to work for all of us, and I found that, as we worked together and really caring for and honoring each other’s needs, allowed us to be creative and come up with the solutions that felt good for us all. And, like you said, Erika, it changes. There are bumps and changes along the way. But we can just kind of keep that attitude of, we’re going to figure this out. And just kind of an aside about this, because it always comes up in these kinds of discussions, is the idea if they don’t have a strict bedtime that and get up in the morning, they won’t be able to have a job. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that from people and it does always make me chuckle, but it comes up. I get it. We have these cultural messages. My girls, and really, all four of us back in the day, tended to be night owls. So, if something was coming up that required an early start, we would talk through what we wanted that to look like. And I found over and over, they were able to show up for the things that were important to them. Sometimes it was going to bed earlier the night before. Really more often it was leaving extra room on the back end to maybe go to sleep early that night or sleep in the next day. And my youngest, she’s 23 now, and she has worked at a lot of different jobs over the years, some that go very late into the night. Currently, she has one that has her starting at 6:00 AM most mornings, and she has no trouble adjusting. And says she has actually been enjoying the early shifts because it frees up her afternoon and evening to be with friends. And so, I guess my point is when we listen to our bodies and learn about the nuances of how we handle things, we make adjustments that we need to do the things that we want to do. So, I think walking through any fears anyone has about that can help you pinpoint the underlying issues. Is it fear of the future? Is it not getting a alone time, not getting couple time? Whatever it is, walking through that will give you more information. And then once you’ve identified that root issue, you can find creative solutions that feel good to everyone as opposed to just, we’re going to put down this arbitrary bedtime instead of digging deeper to what’s really going on here. So, I think that kind of introspection can be really helpful. PAM: Yeah, I just want to go back to that question of, how will they be able to get up for a job? Because you don’t have to train for years to be able to wake up. And that’s the other piece, too. They’re choosing this job or whatever the reason is to get up by a particular time, whatever it is, it’s something they’re choosing. So, it really is, I guess, surprising when you first introduce the idea, but not at all surprising soon after. They’ll figure it out. ANNA: Right. Once you start thinking about it. And then I think the other thing I want to throw in is they’re young, so Raelin will work these really late nights and then have an early shift the next day, and I’m just thinking, I would die. She’s totally fine. So, when they’re doing things they want to do and they’re young and not our age, they have this ability to adjust and move through things when they’re tired and those pieces, but they’re learning so much about what works. And she would say sometimes when she was younger, sleepovers, she knew they weren’t going to get sleep at the sleepover and so she didn’t want to plan anything for two days afterwards because she wanted to rest. But I love that she had that insight. She still wanted to do the sleepover, because it was fun being with her friends, but she was learning things all the time, versus if I was imposing something, she’s not learning anything except what bedtime I think is a good idea. ERIKA: It’s kind of reminding me of the don’t borrow trouble idea, too, because you can really get caught in kind of a tunnel vision mode when it comes to things like this, especially if it is triggering the like, I never get to have time with my husband alone, or are they going be able to wake up for the things 20 years down the road, all those future fears or the fears of like, it’s going to be like this forever. And so, if we feel like those kind of fears are popping up, I think that’s a good time to step back and remember that there are seasons. Everything’s always changing. Every time I felt so trapped in whatever the sleep situation was that was going on, it would change the next day. Like as soon as I voiced my concern of, it’s never going to change! it changed the next day. And so, remember that things do change and there are difficult seasons of sleep, but yeah, it’s all a process and a journey. PAM: Yeah, I think that is a really cool piece, too, because we’re all learning. As you were saying, Anna, they learn, and again I’ve experienced with my kids as well that they learn what their body needs and what they like. I know I can have an extra late night and an early morning once, maybe twice in a row, and then I will need to accommodate at some point with an earlier night or a sleep in or something like that. But they’re learning how their body ticks and how it works with sleep and what feels good and they’re gaining experience with how that changes over time, because I feel for myself anyway, I remember when I was younger, when you mentioned that, Erika, it would be bedtime. I’d go to bed and I would lie there looking at the clock. And I’d be just like, okay, I don’t want to look at the clock. I need to be asleep by a certain time. And then I’d look and that time had come and then I’d be like, oh my god. Oh my god, no, I’m going to have a horrible night. We absorb that and we set ourselves up for feeling bad about it. I could have woken up in the morning. And been perfectly fine, but I was thinking I did not get much sleep last night. I’m going to be cranky all day. And I kind of set myself up for that. So, that was a long season when I remember looking for it to 10 o’clock. Oh my gosh. Or hearing my parents go to bed, because you went to your room and you just laid there till you go to sleep. Or I’d put my radio on for like the hour sleep timer and if it would go off, I’d be like, oh no! And you’re dealing with that all by yourself. So that’s when we’re talking about supporting our kids and helping them, and maybe they do want to go lie down and they get to learn that rest is okay. You don’t literally need to be asleep all the time for recovery. Sometimes just some quiet time is reinvigorating. So, all these different pieces of learning about themselves and listening to the cues that their body is giving them and how it doesn’t mean that we need to be like perfect is the first word coming to mind. Like, oh, I’m tired, therefore I’m asleep, or anything like that. We can try all sorts of, I am tired and I really want to do this thing and I’m going to get more experience learning about, how do I deal with that? So often, we discover when it’s something we really want to do and we’re excited about it, we do not feel tired while we’re doing the thing. We may be extra tired after we have our two days of recovery, after a super big event is over, things like that. So, it is just so fascinating. And just in the interest of sharing, because you guys shared how you like to sleep, I do like some light on. So, I have some colored lights around the window in the bedroom here. I do like sound. I have some sleep headphones that I wear and I listen to an audio book. I like to have talking in the background. ANNA: Interesting! PAM: It’s just so fascinating and actually, here’s a case where it’s sometimes easier to do for us, but for kids, we need them to do it like the right way. Dark, quiet, this is the way you should sleep. I need all these extra accommodations. But no, no. We are all individual, unique, fun people and whatever helps us do the things that we’re wanting to do, like get some rest, get some sleep. Absolutely. Okay. So much fun to play around with. ERIKA: I love that so much. And I love that the focus is so much more on what do our bodies feel like rather than, I mean, that’s exactly my experience as a kid too, Pam, of just looking at the clock and being like, I’m doing this wrong. I can’t turn off my brain or whatever. But having no tools to help me through the spinning thoughts. No thought about what would make this room more comfortable for me. None of that was a consideration. And so, just thinking of it more as what is my body feeling like? It’s just such a nice place to start. PAM: Yeah. It’s so considerate. All right, thank you so much. I really enjoyed diving into another one of these unschooling rules with both of you. And I hope our listeners find our conversations helpful as they navigate sleep with their family. Wishing everyone a lovely day. Bye. ERIKA: Bye.

EU344: Q&A Deep Dive

In this week’s Exploring Unschooling podcast episode, we’re diving deep into a listener question submitted by Julie in Ontario. She writes, How would you encourage parents to best unschool themselves? I’d really like to be a better example of someone who follows their passions. My husband would love to do a job more suited to his passions, but feels stuck. I feel hypocritical with my kids, because we encourage them to do what they love and talk about one day how it could lead to a career. But we aren’t living this out fully ourselves. Help! Thanks for this podcast. I love it. As always, our Q&A conversations aren’t focused on giving anyone the “right” answer, because there isn’t a universal “right” answer for any given situation that will work for everyone. Instead, our focus is on exploring different aspects of the situation and playing with the kinds of questions we might ask ourselves to better understand what’s up. We’re sharing food for thought through the lens of unschooling and cultivating strong and connected relationships. Submit your question for a future Q&A episode, and if you’re a patron of the podcast, be sure to mention that. Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube. MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Pam’s conversation with Missy on her podcast, Let ’em go Barefoot: The Unschooling (Hero’s) Journey with Pam Laricchia EU342: Helping Kids Find Their Passion LJ012: Baby Steps 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? 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 help keep the podcast archive freely available to anyone who’s curious and wants to explore the fascinating world of 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 A Typical Unschooling Day, and we’re exploring it through the lenses of perspective and engagement. 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. Listen to The Living Joyfully Podcast here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player. CALL TRANSCRIPT ERIKA: Welcome! I’m Erika Ellis from and I’m here with Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia. Hi to you both! PAM: Hello! ANNA: Hello! ERIKA: So, in this episode, we’re exploring a listener question. And before we get started, we just want to remind everyone that our Q&A conversations aren’t focused on giving anyone the “right answer,” because there isn’t a universal right answer for any situation that will work for everyone. So, basically we’re just sharing food for thought through the lens of unschooling. Anna, do you want to get us started? ANNA: I do. So, this question is from Julie in Ontario, Canada. Julie has five children, ages 10 and under, and she writes, “How would you encourage parents to best unschool themselves? I’d really like to be a better example of someone who follows their passions. My husband would love to do a job more suited to his passions, but feels stuck. I feel hypocritical with my kids, because we encourage them to do what they love and talk about one day how it could lead to a career. But we aren’t living this out fully ourselves. Help! Thanks for this podcast. I love it.” Okay, so, thanks, Julie! We really appreciate you writing in. And this is such an interesting question. And I would say what first came to mind for me is, “There’s plenty of time!” And I say it all the time. But most of us have a lot of deschooling to do and we can get there, I feel like, faster for our children than we actually do for ourselves. We’re really focused on that piece of it. But I found that the longer we lived this life, the easier it became to bring that this life to me, to my husband, to all of us, to really understand how it can fit in our family. So, I am a scanner. Some people call it a multipotentialite. Basically, I want to do all the things, so I pretty quickly fell into this lifestyle alongside my children. And I will say that when my kids were young, one of my main passions was actually parenting and unschooling. So, that was a big focus area for me in terms of my personal learning and how I wanted to spend any extra time I had. I didn’t really want to do things that pulled me too far away from that or from my children. So, I would look at our environment and see what could easily fit into our life that would kind of spark my interest. I did a lot of gardening. I kept chickens and bees. Those were things that I would end up sharing with our community down the road. They were just easy things I could do alongside my kids. We also did a lot of art and nature projects that I could easily scale to be of interest to everyone involved. New art things were interesting to me. And I learned to just play, play games, video games, board games, otherwise. What I realized is that I don’t think I ever really allowed myself to play games when I was younger in this way. I was too busy checking other people’s boxes. And my husband, on the other hand, naturally fell into this lifestyle. Sometimes I think it was really him who led the way, so when he had a chance to leave corporate America, he did and has never looked back. He loves adventure and he really wanted to be around for our girls when they were young. So, I think it’d be interesting to check in with your husband about what’s feeling hard for him about changing directions, because that would give you a clue if there are things that you could do as a family that would help. What’s making him feel nervous? Or again, what’s feeling hard? I like to ask that question, because that gives us a really good sense of, are there things we can change? Are there some system pieces we can do differently? Is there a different way to approach this problem? And I like to look at things like that as a puzzle. How can we move towards this thing that we want that feels slightly out of reach? What next step can we take, which kind of reminds me of the Baby Steps episode we did on the Living Joyfully Podcast. But what step can we take towards this? We don’t have to jump and leap there. We can just start to align our family with moving towards this place. But I also want to say that kids will still thrive in this environment, even if we’re still figuring it out for ourselves. There will be opportunities along the way to discuss everyone’s needs and work together to find ways to make this happen. That, in and of itself, has so much value. Them seeing us learn and process and figure out new ways, that has so much value. But again, there is plenty of time. It’s not a race. There’s no perfect path, and what I’ve found is that the learning just continues all these decades later. Erika? ERIKA: Hi, Julie! Thank you so much for listening and for your question. I did find it really interesting, too. And I love Anna’s point about there’s plenty of time, because that is so true. And I also love that you’re noticing something. You’re noticing that something doesn’t feel good and you’re open to exploring the possibilities and really figuring it out. So, a couple things bubbled up for me when I was thinking about your question. The first was just maybe a lens shift. So, I think sometimes when we realize that things are not feeling as good as we’d like them to, we can get in this long-term view. And from there, it feels like what’s needed are these huge changes and that they need to happen now. It feels more daunting and less doable. It feels like this big, important, scary thing. Like, we just need everything to be different. Or even worse, like we need to somehow be different people in order for things to be better. And of course that feels so challenging, maybe even impossible, like where do we even go from there? But what if the lens was just this smaller lens of, what fun thing could I do today? What fun thing does my husband like to do with me or with the kids? It could literally just be an intention to do something fun. It’s about lightening the mood and adding some playful energy. Kids are naturally mostly in that zone anyway, but adults could forget to go there. And maybe that one fun activity could lead to another idea of something else we might like to do, and that could lead on and on to so much learning. It could be fun, too, to just notice, like Pam was mentioning in her Helping Kids Find Their Passion episode that was on recently, to just catch yourself when you feel that little bit of curiosity about something and just comment on it. Like, “I think I’m going to go look that up.” Or, “I’d like to know more about that.” Just those little tiny examples, narrating what it feels like to follow tiny threads of curiosity. Our kids can see us doing that and see some of the ways that we can learn about the world. I do think it could be valuable to dig into your husband’s feelings about his work. Are there ways to make his life feel better without changing jobs? Are there other ideas he has about how to use his time? There are just so many aspects of working and time management and money and all of that to dig into in order to figure out what feels the best. But there are always, I’ve found, more choices available to us than we’re usually aware of at first. And so, being really curious about what’s possible can lead to new opportunities. And that’s not to say that it’s not challenging. It certainly can be. But I’ve found that having an abundance mindset and really trying to keep myself open to possibilities has helped us find ways to make our lives fit us better over time. And I guess I would also just add that if trying to focus on fun or getting open and curious all feels really difficult for anyone who’s listening, if that feels very difficult, you’re not alone. There are definitely situations in life and phases in life that are just really challenging. Having a lot of young kids is challenging. Health issues can cause stress. Work stress that seems difficult to address, can be just so hard to deal with. And so, for times like those, focusing on stress management or maybe working in some somatic tools to reduce stress and anxiety, things like that, that’s where I would really want my effort to be. And like Anna said, kids will still thrive even if we’re still figuring things out. And so, when things feel stressful and hard for me, I can allow the kids the space to do their thing while focusing my energy on caring for myself or caring for my husband when he’s stressed out, trying to reduce the impact of those stressors in our lives. Knowing that there are challenging seasons of our lives that we will move through can help put it into perspective as well. But in any case, I think it’s always valuable to show ourselves compassion and kindness, and then doing that can help us find that next baby step that feels good. And can I just say that I love how you used the phrase unschool ourselves? I think that’s just so beautiful, because it reminds me to include myself in the fun and the exploration of unschooling and to accept myself and my husband just as we are, the same way that I’m trying to do for my kids. So, I really loved that. Pam? PAM: Yes. Hi, Julie! Thanks so much for submitting your question. It has been really fun to think about. And I would like to just start at the end. You wrote, “I feel hypocritical with my kids, because we encourage them to do what they love and talk about how one day it could lead to a career, but we aren’t living this out fully ourselves.” First, I want to encourage you to be kind and compassionate with yourself and your partner. It’s completely understandable that you don’t yet feel like you’re fully living this lifestyle, because it’s not an on/off switch. It’s a journey. It’s deschooling, as Anna was talking about. Neither one of you had an unschooling childhood, I suspect, which would’ve been filled with years of exploring things you find interesting, gaining experience with how interests ebb and flow over months and years, learning how you prefer to learn new things, finding ways to embrace your strengths and navigate your weaknesses, learning the value of not judging yourself harshly when things go sideways or even just more slowly than you were hoping. So, that’s why we talk so often about the unschooling journey for parents. For unschooling kids, it’s really just their childhood, right? They’re just figuring this stuff out along the way. But when we come to unschooling as adults, as parents, we are just starting to explore all these things now. We do need a lot of time to work through so much of the conventional wisdom that we’ve absorbed as truth growing up, which is why, as Erika just mentioned, it’s so cool that you framed your question as ways to encourage parents to unschool themselves. Because that’s the heart of it, isn’t it? And for me, encouraging parents to unschool themselves is about encouraging them to question what they think they know about life and learning, which is definitely no small task, which is why it can feel overwhelming. There really are so many things to question. Where do we start? Now, I think we can get a sense of what questions to explore next by just noticing what’s starting to rub. What’s not feeling great right now? What questions are taking up a lot of real estate in my head and making it harder for me to be in the moment connecting with my kids? Now, pretty often, when we first come to unschooling, it’s questions like, how do I know they’re learning? What about math and reading? I encourage parents to embrace beginner’s mind, because when it comes to unschooling, we are beginners. It’s really helpful to release what we think we know and instead bring that open and curious mindset as we explore the questions that come up through the lens of unschooling. And for you and your husband, Julie, the question that’s rubbing right now is around the idea of following our passion. You wrote, “I’d really like to be a better example of somebody who follows their passions. And my husband would love to do a job more suited to his passions, but feels stuck.” So for yourself, I imagine you’re trying to get a sense of what it looks like when somebody is following their passions and first, I would encourage you to use the word interests rather than passions. Not because there’s anything wrong with the idea of passions per se, but that the energy of the word can sometimes trip us up. Passion seems to be like a super interest, giving the impression that we need to find the one or two things that make our soul sing, and that is a lot of pressure to be putting on ourselves. So instead, let’s just take it down a notch and think in terms of interests, because interests are cool. We learned so much about the world and ourselves through exploring them. And maybe eventually, we might become passionate about some of those interests, but maybe not. And either way, we’re learning a lot and having fun along the way. And as Erika mentioned, share what you’re doing and learning along the way with your family. For me, that was a big one because I think that’s something you’re seeing right now, Julie, that your kids are doing this thing and you guys as parents don’t feel like you are. And as Anna was saying, you’re gonna be learning it alongside. There’s plenty of time to do that. So, it’s really interesting to see when we can share a little bit. And maybe it’s just that, “Oh, I think I’m going to go learn a little bit more about that,” just embracing those little moments when you’re starting to see a little something. “Oh look, I am curious about something. That’s interesting.” And just sharing that with your family. It helps also the kids to see that this isn’t just for kids. It’s the process. It’s not about the destination, “I have a passion.” And what that can do also, because you talked about being a better example, Julie, what that feels like when you’re living your lives alongside each other and when everyone’s diving into their own interests and sharing their excitement with each other along the way, that’s when we can realize that we don’t have to share the same interests, but we can definitely connect with each other around that shared excitement and joy of doing something that we really like to do. And I love what Anna shared about how her interests changed over the years to align with her family’s needs. That’s another thing. If we’re really trying to find a passion, something that makes our soul sing, that doesn’t take into account the context of our family. We can find things that are interesting for us and they can change over the years. So, when her kids were younger, your kids were younger, Anna, and needed you to be close by, you dove into things that didn’t take you away physically, things that the kids could enjoy doing with you if they were interested. Because again, there is plenty of time. This is what life looks like. It’s not like our life is on hold while we figure out what our passion is. This is life. Exploring interests and finding passions, and seeing how it all weaves through our days. And then I just wanted to mention, as for your husband, I think it’s really the same idea. It doesn’t need to start with anything drastic. I loved the way you put that there, Erika. When you’re looking to the future, all of a sudden, I need to make big changes now to make some really drastic future change happen. So, quitting his job is not something that he needs to decide right now, but you can help him lean into exploring what he finds interesting. As his curiosity and his creativity begins to just open up more, maybe he finds some interesting aspects of his work now that he can lean into. Maybe he comes to see work as just something he does for money to support the family when everybody, including him, pursuing their interests. Maybe he finds other ways to supplement his income that are more interesting to him, growing that and winding down his current job. There are just so many times over the years that I’ve experienced new opportunities serendipitously appearing once I have something top of mind. Once I’m now thinking, “Oh, what would I like to do? What would be fun? What am I curious about? What am I interested in?” When those questions are bubbling around in your head, you start to notice so many things around you that you really didn’t notice before. So, the point is, if he’s feeling stuck at work right now, you can focus on making the rest of his life more fun and interesting. Let his interests weave through the family, too. Celebrate it alongside everyone else’s. Lighten and loosen things up. And then just kind of see what happens, because that’s the thing. Instead of looking to the future and trying to make a path, really, you create a wonderful path by focusing on the moment that’s in front of you. Just look for what is striking your curiosity. What are you interested in? What is your husband interested in? And do those things. Play with those things. Bring your kids along. Invite them to join you in those things. But even if you’re doing these side by side, everybody’s doing what they enjoy and it becomes a lifestyle that we all live together, versus this is what the kids do and this is what the parents do. ERIKA: Yeah. I feel like as you’re talking about it being a journey and so much maybe more difficult or more work for parents to unschool and deschool themselves than it ever is for the children, I was just thinking about that we have all these societal messages maybe to deal with and some beliefs that we have kind of created over the years, or been given over the years. So, maybe there are things like, am I even allowed to do something that’s enjoyable for me? Can I make these choices? Because we could end up with feelings of, but there’s these things I should be doing or I have to do. A job has to look like this and my time should be spent doing these things. The role of the mother is that I’m supposed to be doing these things, so can I really dive into something that’s just fun for me? So yeah, starting to question all those things.  ANNA: And I think what that leads to mind for me is something that you mentioned also, Erika, which is the abundance mindset. So, I think instead of trying to solve the specific problems of how he does this or how I do a passion, it’s bringing that abundance mindset into the every day. Because you can hear this kind of deficit focus of, he doesn’t like this, we’re not sure about this, we’re not doing this. Like this not, not, not, which is the cultural message, right? That’s the message is always look at the deficits. Here are the things we needs to fix. But it is, let’s add things. Let’s find what sparks. Let’s just enjoy these moments together. Let’s just delight in everyone else’s excitement about what they’re doing, bringing that energy of abundance and connection to each of those moments. I think that’s what opens the doors. That’s what then, like you said, the serendipitous opportunity appears and then suddenly we’re open to it. But I think when we’re kind of tunneled in on what’s not working, we miss the magic, you know? So, I think that’s really something tangible that can happen right now is just bringing that abundance mindset to every moment for everyone in the family. PAM: I love that. I love that. Because yeah, just as you were talking there, it was the tunnel vision. It was like, oh yeah. When there’s something we need to fix, even if it’s something with ourselves. We do. We get so focused on it. How can I fix this? How can I improve this? How can I make it better? And we definitely just get tunneled in on, I need to fix this and I need to fix this fast. I don’t want to sit in, “Something’s wrong,” because that’s bad. All those societal judgments that end up on our plate and focusing us in, and then yes. Oh, we miss so much and we miss so many opportunities. I can just have fun watching a movie with my family. Or we can go and draw some pictures or grab the paint. And it’s just getting more and more fascinating to me how that just that shift of opening things up makes things feel lighter and looser as we were talking about a bit earlier. And for your husband there, who’s maybe not enjoying his work, when you’re so focused on that, even outside of work, that that’s what you’re thinking about, oh my gosh. If you’re instead having fun and doing other things, that becomes a smaller portion of his day. The stuff that he’s not enjoying is a smaller portion, so it doesn’t feel as heavy. It’s a little bit lighter. He can start to pick out little things like, oh, you know, I don’t really mind this. Rather than saying, I hate my job. It just lightens things up so that we can look at things a little more closely with a little less judgment, with a little less fear. There’s probably the word. ANNA: I just got one quick thing that came from that thing. I’s the examining our why. Just like we talk about with the kids. So, instead of this like, okay, I hate my job. It’s terrible. There’s a reason that he’s choosing to stay in it. And it may be because it’s providing the money that he needs. It may be that it’s close to the house so he doesn’t have a long commute. There’s something about it. But if we can revisit that, it’s like, okay, I am actively choosing to do this job. I may not do it forever. It may not be meeting some of my needs, but let me think. Let me revisit why I’m doing it, because that has such a different energy and then that translates into this energy we’re talking about in the home that’s more abundant and more focused on what we can do. And again, that’s where I’ve seen just over and over again, opportunities open up from that more expansive place. PAM: Now that you hit that why, when you’re thinking about your why and you’re opening up thinking about work, what occurred to me as you were talking about that is, you realize that work doesn’t have to satisfy so many things. ANNA: All the things. PAM: It doesn’t have to accomplish everything. All my life doesn’t need to be fed or validated from this work. I can open it up and get all sorts of needs met in different ways. That doesn’t have to satisfy all my needs. ERIKA: Yeah, that, that made me think, I mean, both of you, that made me think of it’s the story we tell about it as well. So, if the story we tell about my husband’s work is it’s providing us with this and he can do this. He can’t do this. But he could do that at home, just find a way to reframe it that feels lighter and that makes everyone feel better moving forward. So, anyway, thanks again for your question, Julie. We obviously had a lot of fun diving into it. And if anyone else wants to submit a question for an upcoming episode, we would love to read it. I don’t remember the address though, Pam. Do you? PAM: I think it’s ANNA: Yay! PAM: It will be in the show notes, too. ERIKA: Okay. Good. So, we would love to hear it. And have a wonderful day, everyone! PAM: Bye! ANNA: Bye!