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Exploring Unschooling

Pam Laricchia shares interviews, information, and inspiration about unschooling and living joyfully with your family.

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EU171: The Magic of Learning to Read Naturally

It’s time for another compilation episode! This time I went with a topic rather than a particular question: the topic of learning to read naturally. Listen to ten different guests share their experiences around unschooling and learning to read. Hearing their stories in this new context—side by side—may well spark helpful new connections and insights for you. I hope you enjoy it!Audio Snippets Taken from These Episodes …EU014: Ten Questions with Joyce FetterollEU023: Learning to Read in Their Own Time with Anne OhmanEU036: Deschooling with Lauren SeaverEU075: Learning Reimagined with Zakiyya IsmailEU077: Girls Unschooled with Jo WattEU105: Unschooling Dads with Nick HessEU109: Unschooling Stories with Sylvia WoodmanEU116: Growing Up Unschooling with Summer JeanEU118: Everything’s Connected with Nikole VerdeEU162: Ten Questions with Alex PeaceLinks to Things Mentioned in the ShowThe doors to the Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit close April 14!Episode TranscriptRead the episode transcript


11 Apr 2019

Rank #1

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EU004: Q&A Round Table

Anne Ohman and Anna Brown, both veteran unschooling parents, join me to answer listener questions. Click here to submit your own question for the Q&A episodes! Quote of the Week “I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear Questions 1. How do people successfully unschool older kids when there are babies/toddlers in the house that restrict the opportunities for the older one? For instance, I can hardly read to my 5yo because my 2yo constantly interferes. 2. This question is similar in that it deals with multiple children, but it’s a bit different perspective: how does unschooling work with three young children? 3. I feel so much pressure and guilt knowing that family and friends would not understanding unschooling, so I hide it by saying we homeschool when I’m asked. Is that ok? I feel so guilty, and then that guilt turns into doubting whether I’m doing the right thing, yet deep inside I know I am. How do I deal with this constant back and forth internal struggle? 4. I’d love to hear about games that have provided family fun. Any kind of game: board games, computer games, waiting games, word games etc. Links to things mentioned in the show For the Love of Learning show, episode #47: Attachment Parenting Anne’s Shine with Unschooling group: there’s the yahoo email list and the Facebook page. Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com My recent blog post about games: Fun and Games in Our Unschooling Lives How to play the Contact word game. Episode Transcript Read the transcript here


28 Jan 2016

Rank #2

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EU147: Unschooling as Flow with Robyn Robertson

Robyn Robertson is an unschooling mom with two children and host of the podcast, Honey, I’m Homeschooling the Kids. We have wonderful conversation, diving into her family’s early travels, their move to unschooling, figuring out what unschooling looks like for them, her favourite thing about the flow of their unschooling days, and lots more! Questions for Robyn Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? When your kids were young, you and your husband decided to embrace travel. How did that come about? My understanding is that you guys began homeschooling while travelling because it made sense. How did you eventually discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like? When we were emailing before the call, you described unschooling as being more about the flow of your family. I loved that and would like to dive into that idea. Let’s start with the challenge of defining unschooling in the first place. In unschooling circles it’s pretty common to hear that unschooling looks different for different families. And on one hand, the freedom of that is great! But on the other, it doesn’t help much if you’re newer to the idea of unschooling and trying to figure out what it does look like. What did that part of the journey look like for you? Something that I eventually came to find fascinating about unschooling is how the flow of our days changes over time. Like the flow of a river changes over time. Has that been your experience? What’s your favourite thing about the flow of your unschooling days right now? You host the podcast, ‘Honey! I’m Homeschooling the Kids.’ I’d love to hear the story behind that project! Links to things mentioned in the show Robyn’s website, home to her podcast, Honey, I’m Homeschooling the Kids: imhomeschooling.com Pam was a guest on Robyn’s podcast, back in episode five, titled, Exploring Unschooling Robyn’s active on Instagram, with both Honey, I’m Homeschooling the Kids and her personal account Episode Transcript Read the episode transcript


25 Oct 2018

Rank #3

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EU063: Gentle Parenting with Shannon Loucks

Shannon is an unschooling mom to two great kids, and they are a Canadian family transplanted in California for seven years now—an interesting adventure all on its own! She shares her perspective on unschooling and gentle parenting on her website, breakingdaylight.org, because “happy childhoods are built on peaceful parents.” Quote of the Week “Turning toward parenting as who I am and not a job I do affords me the freedom to be my best self at each turn of the journey.” ~ Shannon Loucks Questions for Shannon Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and how you came to unschooling? I’d love to hear about what your children are up to. What are they interested in right now and how are they pursuing it? You wrote a wonderful article that was posted on Flo Gascon’s site about your top five fridge-worthy reminders for gentle, connected parenting. I’ll link to the post in the show notes, but I wanted to talk in-depth about a couple of them. First was your reminder to “listen more talk less.” This was such a valuable shift for me! It made a profound difference in how so many situations played out, in turn building so much trust and connection in our relationships. Can you explain what you mean by that seemingly simple idea? The other reminder I wanted to touch on was “apologize.” A couple of episodes ago I was speaking with Emma Marie Forde about a book on attachment theory and the author David Howe mentioned that even sensitive caregivers only get it right about 50 percent of the time, but that what stands out is that they actively acknowledge and repair the disconnecting moments. Your reminder to apologize meshes so clearly with that. Can you share your experience with apologizing to your children and the value you’ve seen from it? You have a great story on your blog about your youngest son and his love for “surprise snacks.” Can you share a bit about your journey through your own expectations around food prep to get to where you came up with a beautifully creative way to make his wish for nighttime surprise snacks come true? Now let’s talk about gaming! Technology has developed so quickly and many of us grew up with minimal access so it’s pretty unfamiliar. Not to mention, so many of the mainstream messages are negative and advocate strict control. But it’s not “just a game,” is it? I’d love to hear about your parenting journey around technology and gaming. I’d like to chat about another conventional misconception: teenagers. So often we’re told by family and friends that things may be great now, but wait until our kids are teenagers. We can see where they’re coming from though, can’t we? If they’re trying to hold onto their teens more tightly when they’re ready for more space, or they’re discounting their teen’s perspective and insisting they do things our way—the “right” way. But it’s a different ball game when we partner with them and try to help them reach their goals, isn’t it? They are such amazing people! A couple of months ago, you posted a piece on your blog titled, “Parenting is who I am.” One of my favourite lines was, “Turning toward parenting as who I am and not a job I do affords me the freedom to be my best self at each turn of the journey.” Can you talk about that shift away from seeing parenting as a job and what it means to you? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Shannon’s website: breakingdaylight.org Shannon’s articles I mentioned: Top Five Checkpoints for Gentle Parenting, (on Flo Gascon’s website), The art of feeding (surprise snacks), It is so not “just” a game, and Parenting is who I am Shannon’s Facebook page: Breaking Daylight Pam’s book chat episode with Emma Marie Forde: episode 61 SelfDesign in BC, Canada Shonda Rhimes’ book: Year of Yes Pam’s blog post: Are you playing the role of “mother”? Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 1min

16 Mar 2017

Rank #4

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EU045: Unschooling on a Budget with Glenna McAulay

Glenna McAulay is an unschooling mom of two daughters, and both she and her husband have a wonderful perspective on living the unschooling lifestyle within their means. We talk about the perspective shifts around money and choices that have helped us over the years, as well as share some ideas for low-cost unschooling. Quote of the Week “I think it’s really all about conversation. I mean, we have conversations all the time. We have dad home so much of the time because we’ve chosen that. Now what that means is that we don’t have a huge ton of disposable income, so we have to make the choices of what’s important to our family.” ~ Glenna McAulay Questions for Glenna Can you share with us a bit about you and your family, and how you came to unschooling? I always love to hear what the kids are up to. What things are they interested in and how are they pursuing their interest? Unschooling families are choosing a different kind of lifestyle, one in which they prioritize spending time with their children. What that looks like can vary widely: maybe they’re living on one income, maybe they’re a single parent, maybe they work-at-home etc. What does come with that, is often a lower family income. Let’s talk a bit about the challenges of that. In my experience, when money challenges arise, fear can quickly create tunnel vision. Our minds shout no, no, no, can’t do that, can’t do that, and all of a sudden we feel trapped. Each time, I found I need to actively shift from seeing things through the lens of lack to being open creative possibilities. I didn’t see any possibilities until I moved past the fear. Have you found that kind of shift helpful? When it comes to conversations with our kids, even with less income it still doesn’t need to be about saying no. For me it’s helped to remember not to use money as the first filter when questions come up, but rather one of the last. Just saying “no” shuts down so much conversation, doesn’t it? With my kids, sometimes it helped to shift our perspective from consumer to DIYer. As we come to know our kids more deeply, and understand the WHY behind their requests, we can sometimes help satisfy that deeper motivation more quickly. So while we’re maybe saving up for “the thing,” we also continued to play with the possibilities, with other ways to satisfy that curiosity. And sometimes it’s super fun for them to play with ways to make their own versions of things in the meantime. Has that been your experience? There were a couple of conventional expectations that I needed to work through over the years, One was that “new is better.” Which led me to judge myself as a failure if I couldn’t provide shiny, new things. That’s a pretty prevalent expectation in our society isn’t it? The other conventional expectation was that as the parent, I needed to personally meet all my children’s needs. That one had me feeling like I was failing too, for a while. Then I realized the things they were wanting to do were about them, not about me. And I could reach out to the local community and the online community to find all sorts of creative ways to help them find what they were looking for. Have you found yourself making that shift too? I thought it would be fun to finish up by just brainstorming a bunch of low-cost opportunities people might find, in their community and online, to get their juices flowing. Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Olive made a coin-operated Lego machine that dispenses Timbits! Live and learn on organic farms around the world: WOOFing Chris Guillebeau has a great website about the art of nonconformity and travel hacking The traveling family Pam mentioned: Normans Running Wild Facebook group: My unschooler is interested in … You can check out raspberry pi Glenna on Facebook Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 18mins

10 Nov 2016

Rank #5

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EU096: Ordinary Unschooling with Anna Brown and Pat Robinson

Anna Brown and Pat Robinson join me to chat about ordinary unschooling. They have both always unschooled their children—Anna’s daughters are about to turn 18 and 20, and Pat’s son is 16 years old. We talk about the idea of “unschooling success stories,” the impact of the conventional “independence agenda” which starts very young in our culture, the incredible value of ordinary unschooling days, and lots more! Quote of the Week “I just want to take my moment here to encourage everybody to think about how we communicate with young people and instead of asking about school or college or life plans, talk about their favorite book or show, or have they been to any good restaurants or do they have a favorite place to hike, how their week’s going. Anything that actually connects you with the actual person standing in front of you.” ~ Anna Brown Questions for Anna and Pat You have both been on the podcast before, so let’s just do a quick recap for new listeners. How many children do you have and how long has your family been unschooling? There’s a tendency for people new to the idea of unschooling to seek out “success stories” in an effort to “prove” to themselves that unschooling is a viable option before they make the leap. That’s understandable. But the challenge with that is, it can set up expectations on our children to “find their passion,” or “start a business at 15” etc. I saw a quote the other day, “Homeschooling is private school for poor people!” That attitude can make life challenging for unschooling kids, can’t it? I think a big part of this issue revolves around how we choose to define success. That question was definitely part of my deschooling process because when we define success more conventionally, by accomplishments, that can be at odds with the unschooling lifestyle we’re trying to cultivate. How do you guys define “success” nowadays? So, let’s talk about ordinary days and ordinary people. Unschooling parents and unschooling kids going about their ordinary days. When we redefine “success,” we see so much more goodness all around us, don’t we? I also want to touch on the unschooling kids who are doing things that look more conventionally successful. I think what’s so different is the entire unschooling ethos within which they are living. They are choosing the things they do, not because they can be successful at them, but because they are interested in them. It’s not about having others see them as “successful,” or being judged “better than others.” It’s not about what others think at all. It’s all about their personal aspirations and goals. It takes some unschooling experience for parents to understand this though, doesn’t it? Another thing I’d like to talk about, which is another aspect of conventional expectations that are so often tossed about, is when teens turn 18. It seems to be such a significant age for so many parents. Right there behind a child hitting “school age.” And even if you’ve been unschooling for years, when your first child approaches 18, you may find new concerns popping up around this. Or you might find others are starting to share their opinions with you. Have you found this? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Anna’s website, Choosing Connection Pat’s Facebook page, Heal Thyself, and her group, Heal Thyself Q&A Episode Transcript Read the transcript here


2 Nov 2017

Rank #6

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EU090: Growing Up Unschooling with Phoebe Wahl

Phoebe Wahl is an artist whose beautiful work focuses on the themes of comfort, nostalgia, and intimacy. She left school entirely after first grade and dove into unschooling. Eventually she chose to go to college, graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 with a BFA in Illustration. We have a lot of fun talking about her passion for drawing, the idea of “knowledge gaps,” what she found valuable in her college experience, how unschooling has influenced her art, and lots more. Quote of the Week “To talk about gaps is to box yourself into a certain way of thinking about learning because I definitely have gaps in my knowledge but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t.” ~ Phoebe Wahl Questions for Phoebe Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? What did your family’s move to unschooling look like? How did your passion for drawing develop? Can you share a bit about how that journey unfolded for you? One of the pretty common worries when people first contemplate unschooling is that their children will have gaps in their knowledge. The question itself speaks to how they’re still using traditional curricula as a standard of what a person “should” know because we all have gaps, don’t we? Can you share your perspective on how unschooling as a lifestyle addresses that concern? You chose to take some classes in high school and then went to college, attending the Rhode Island School of Design. What did you find most valuable about your college experience? How do you see your unschooling childhood influencing your art? Your work has been described as “body positive” and in an online interview you were asked how you defined “body positivity.” You answered: “I think it is holding onto the core value that my worth does not lie in my physical features. It is being gentle and patient with myself, because truly loving, sustainable relationships are a “two steps forward, one step back” process. It is HARD work maintaining an appreciative and honest relationship with yourself. Above all it’s about trusting myself. Sometimes I breach my own trust and have to rebuild. But then again, sometimes my own strength and beauty will impress me beyond what I thought possible.” I love your answer and I think the process applies well to just about every societal expectation we may find ourselves grappling with. I was hoping you could expand a bit about how the process plays out for you. As a grown unschooler, what piece of advice would you like to share with unschooling parents who are just starting out on this journey? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Phoebe has been a regular contributor to Taproot Magazine Phoebe’s first children’s book, Sonya’s Chickens, and you can pre-order her next book, Backyard Fairies Phoebe’s website, phoebewahl.com, her Facebook page, and her Instagram Episode Transcript Read the transcript here


21 Sep 2017

Rank #7

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EU051: Deschooling with Luminara King

Luminara King is a former Steiner-Waldorf teacher turned unschooling mom. She’s also the author of Unschooling – 7 Steps to Beginning the Journey and blogs at Living the Education Revolution. This week we have a great chat about her deschooling journey. Quote of the Week “I think that, as parents, we have to be very careful because there is a real tendency to jump on any interest they have, and just run away with it.” ~ Luminara King Questions for Luminara Can you share with us a bit about you and your family, and how you came to unschooling? You’ve written a book called, Unschooling – 7 Steps to Beginning the Journey. You have a great chapter about learning and I love how you describe becoming an unschooling parent as training to be a Zen Master. You wrote, “You learn the delicate art of allowing and following the flow of your child’s learning; knowing when to offer up ideas and when to step back.” That stepping back can be hard to figure out as you move to unschooling, can’t it? You have a fun intro to unschooling video on your website and in it, you mention how Lego was a catalyst in your journey to unschooling. What happened there? I love your blog post about embracing averageness.  I think that’s such a valuable shift that can help us parents shed expectations that we might still carry about who our children “should” become in the future. Because that can interfere with how we see them today, can’t it? You’ve mentioned you have a college degree. What’s your perspective on college nowadays? One of the hot topics around unschooling is “screen time.” I put that in quotes because I think the phrase itself is part of the problem. It lumps together so many different activities and part of deschooling is teasing all that out. What has your experience been on this topic? Recently you published a post on your blog titled, “I’ve had enough of justifying our unschooling life.” And you mention this idea in your book too, in a chapter on dealing with other people’s negative reactions. What are some tips you can share for dealing with those moments? What has surprised you most about your unschooling journey so far? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Luminara’s ebook: Unschooling: 7 Steps To Beginning The Journey (it’s available in Kindle Unlimited) Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn We Don’t Do That School Thing by Jessica Robinson Ken Robinson’s TED Talks: Do schools kill creativity?, Bring on the learning revolution!, Changing education paradigms Pam’s blog posts about unschooling and extended family: Enjoying Visits with Extended Family, Supporting Our Kids’ Relationships with Their Relatives, When Negative Relatives Won’t Let Go Carlo Ricci’s episode, including our chat around the idea that “children are capable”: Unschooling as Alternative Education with Carlo Ricci Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 21mins

22 Dec 2016

Rank #8

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EU046: Growing Up Unschooling with Brenna McBroom

Brenna McBroom is a 27yo grown unschooler. We had a fun conversation and touch on her transition from school, to homeschooling, and eventually to unschooling; finding connections as a teen; how her passion for ceramic art developed; her experience at Not Back to School Camp as both a teen and as staff; her new blog, Millenimalism; and her (and my) experience that young adult unschoolers are generally self-reliant and living intentionally, rather than just following societal expectations. Quote of the Week “We are what we repeatedly do.” ~ Aristotle Questions for Brenna Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? What did your family’s move to unschooling look like? The unschooling lifestyle is a pretty unconventional one, which can sometimes be both awesome and challenging in turn. Can you talk about a challenge you encountered and how you guys worked through it? How did your passion for ceramic art develop? Can you share that journey and what it looks like today? The conventional parent-child relationship is often steeped in power and control, but unschooling encourages a different dynamic. Can you share a bit about what was your relationship with your parents was like growing up? And now as an adult? You recently returned from the Vermont session of Not Back to School Camp, a camp for teen unschoolers. You attended as a teen, and continue to return as part of the staff. Can you share a bit about your experience as a teen camper? What kept you going back? I saw that this session you ran a project called Deep Dreams: Unearthing, Mapping, and Achieving Your Hidden Ambitions. What drew you to that topic? Can you tell us a bit about how it went? This year you started a blog called Millenimalism. What was the inspiration behind that? What stands out for you as you look back on your unschooling years? What, from your perspective now, do you most appreciate about living an unschooling lifestyle growing up? As a grown unschooler, what piece of advice would you like to share with unschooling parents who are just starting out on this journey? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Brenna’s ceramic art website: Brenna Dee Ceramics Brenna’s blog: Millenimalism Not Back to School Camp Odyssey of the Mind Dale Donovan Pottery Episode Transcript Read the transcript here


17 Nov 2016

Rank #9

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EU127: The Magic of Unschooling with Ann Rousseau

Ann Rousseau and her partner Tim have been unschooling their three boys for about six years. Ann and I have a fascinating conversation, digging into how her family came to unschooling, moving through fear and discomfort, the many ways curiosity drives their days, her documentary about her experience of alopecia, and lots more. Questions for Ann Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? How did you discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like? As we’re deschooling, and beyond, one thing that can be especially hard is sitting with discomfort and fear to learn what we need to move through it—that seemingly gaping chasm between knowing what we don’t want to do and figuring out what we do want to do instead. Change is hard. What have you found helpful during those times? You have three boys, and Kelly Callahan, who was on the podcast a few months ago, describes your home as “unschooling magic.” I’d love to hear about how you approach your days with an eye to cultivating a thriving unschooling atmosphere. What has surprised you most so far about how unschooling has unfolded in your lives? You’ve created a film with Nicolle Littrell called Mop Cap: An Alopecia Story, about your experience of alopecia and self-acceptance. I watched the trailers on the website and was especially struck by your words: “I don’t think bald people must be publicly bald to prove a point. But for those of us who are called to do so, it is a kind of LOVE activism. Loving yourself is an act of beauty and it’s contagious.” They connected deeply with me and how it feels to go about living our unschooling lives out and about in public. I’d love to hear how you see your alopecia and unschooling journeys weaving together. Right now, what’s your favourite thing about your unschooling lifestyle? Links to things mentioned in the show podcast episode about David Howe’s book, Attachment across the Lifecourse Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling Ann’s website: annhedleyrousseau.com The website for Ann’s documentary, Mop Cap : An Alopecia Story Episode Transcript Read the episode transcript

1hr 12mins

7 Jun 2018

Rank #10

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EU084: Enjoy Parenting with Scott Noelle

Scott Noelle is an unschooling dad of two, an author, and a life coach dedicated to supporting parents who want to move away from control-based parenting methods. He’s the founder of the website, DailyGroove.com, where he shares his practical parenting insights. We have a wonderful conversation diving into his wonderful PATH parenting framework, the value of nonverbal communication, ways we can hold presence with negative feelings, how fear can slip into control, and, as a founding member, he also shares some great information about the history and goals of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. Quote of the Week “A lot of power gets drained from us when we’re in the state of anxiety, and if we can find a way to move into trust, then it does really transform our experience, and our kids tend to respond in a positive way that leads to easier times, all in all.” ~ Scott Noelle Questions for Scott Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? What did your family’s move to unschooling look like? You have a wonderful website, dailygroove.com, where people can sign up to receive daily emails from you. I signed up when I was early on in my unschooling journey and I really appreciated your nuggets of parenting insight as I was in the midst of challenging so much of the conventional parenting wisdom I’d absorbed. You call it PATH Parenting, and I love that not only is it an acronym, it’s also a reminder that the journey—the path—is the destination. Can you share an overview of what PATH parenting is? We talk quite a bit in unschooling circles about communicating openly with our children and how it facilitates connection and trust in our relationships, but some children aren’t big verbal communicators. It’s not that they aren’t giving us messages, just that not a lot of them are verbal. If we find ourselves in that situation, what are some other ways we can communicate and connect with our child? You have a great article on your website about holding presence with negative feelings, such as frustration or fear. Can you share what you mean and how we can develop that skill? As our children get older, we can sometimes find ourselves uncomfortable with some of their choices. We start feeling fearful and protective, and that can so easily slip into control because that’s the go to response in our culture: forbid the activity and explain the consequences we’ll impose on them if they disobey. That approach can really damage the relationship though, can’t it? What might we do instead? You’re also a founding member of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, which advocates both unschooling and alternative schools that support self-directed education. I love that the ADSE is trying to normalize self-directed education as a whole. Could you give us an update on the work that the Alliance is doing? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Jean Liedloff’s book, The Continuum Concept John Holt’s book, How Children Fail The movie, Office Space One of Scott’s daily grooves: The Power of Silence E. Richard Sorenson’s essay, Preconquest Consciousness Another daily groove: Ending the Blame Game Scott’s website, DailyGroove.com And the Alliance for Self-Directed Education Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 36mins

10 Aug 2017

Rank #11

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EU071: Changes in Parents with Sandra Dodd

Sandra Dodd is a long-time unschooling mom of three—Kirby, Marty, and Holly—who are now all adults. She’s also the creator of the awesome unschooling resource, sandradodd.com, and I’m thrilled to have her back on the podcast. In this episode, we talk about the changes that we go through as parents as we live this unschooling lifestyle with our children, and the kinds of questions that people have along the way that seem to break down reasonably well into beginner, intermediate and advanced topics. Quote of the Week “No-one is ever likely to read my whole website and I don’t ever need them to. It’s not written to be read from one end to the other any more than a pharmacy is intended for someone to start at one end and eat, drink or inject every substance in the whole room. If you find a page that does help you, guess what? It will help even more if you read it again after a year or two. And if you read it after you’ve been unschooling for five years it will seem that the first time it was a black and white postcard and now it’s a technicolour movie. Because you’ll understand it better and you’ll see the subtlety and the artistry of what people wrote and maybe you’ll wish you’d been able to understand it better sooner.” ~ Sandra Dodd Questions for Sandra I recall when I was beginning unschooling, my days were typically a mix of learning about how natural learning works and starting to question a lot of the conventional wisdom I’d absorbed growing up. There are many ways that preconceived ideas and prejudices can limit people’s thinking and get in the way of moving to unschooling, aren’t there? When you’re starting out, it can be hard to figure out whether to trust a source of unschooling information at first. What tips would you give to help? You recorded a great 5-minute video a few years ago called “Doing Unschooling Right.” I want to share a short quote: “My definition for unschooling is creating and maintaining an environment in which natural learning can thrive. The environment I’m talking about—what we sometimes call an unschooling nest—is not just the physical home, it’s the relationships within the family and the exploration of the world outside the home by parents and children both. The emotional environment is crucial.” We’re approaching intermediate unschooling here, where natural learning is reasonably well understood and now there’s a dawning realization of the importance of our relationships. As you say, the emotional environment is crucial so that our children feel safe and secure. Why is that so important for unschooling to thrive? There was so much tucked into your definition for unschooling! Another great tidbit was, “the exploration of the world outside the home by parents and children both.” We’ve seen our children’s learning in action, and now we’re realizing the important role we play. Parents need to become unschoolers and that process doesn’t happen all at once. Can you talk about why that’s so important? We do a monthly Q&A episode where we answer listener questions and we’ve had a few about the concept of strewing. That was originally your idea, so I was hoping you could share with us a bit more detail about it while you’re here. Now I’d like to talk about the perspective of those who’ve been unschooling a long time—it’s a different mindset, isn’t it? It’s not just the intellectual understanding of the principles of unschooling but also the real-life experience of having seen it in action with your own family, and moving through different seasons and different challenges. There’s an expansive feeling of openness and release that comes. How would you describe it? Links to Things Mentioned in the Show Sandra’s earlier Ten Questions episode Joyce Fetteroll’s website: joyfullyrejoycing.com Sandra’s page of other voices Pam Sorooshian’s essay, Unschooling is Not Child-Led Learning Sandra’s Facebook group, Radical Unschooling Info Sandra’s video, Doing Unschooling Right (subtitled in Portuguese and in French) Sandra’s webpage about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Leah Rose on moderation, on Sandra’s website “Of your own certain knowledge …” UK science fiction show, Black Mirror Sandra’s pages on service and serving others as a gift Sandra’s daily boost, Just Add Light and Stir Sandra’s yahoo email group, Always Learning And last, but not least, Sandra’s website, sandradodd.com Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 32mins

11 May 2017

Rank #12

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EU160: Ten Questions with Kirsten Fredericks

Kirsten Fredericks and her husband Carl have three boys—now young adults—who pretty much grew up unschooling. We have a wonderful conversation as we touch on how she found unschooling, the most challenging aspect of deschooling, supporting our children’s passions, moving from control to trust, what has surprised her most about how their unschooling lives have unfolded, and lots more. Questions for Kirsten 1. Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? 2. What did your family’s move to unschooling look like? 3. What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of deschooling? 4. What did your husband’s journey to unschooling look like? 5. I’ve known you for many years and love how you dive in to fully support your children’s diverse interests and passions. My impression is that some parents think that if a child is passionate about something, they need to take care of all aspects of it themselves from the get go or else they aren’t really as passionate about it as they say. That hasn’t been my experience, and I’d love to hear your perspective on it. 6. What has surprised you about how unschooling has unfolded in your lives? 7. Can you talk about your journey from control to trust in your relationships with your children? 8. What have you come to value most about your unschooling lifestyle over the years? 9. As our children get older, we hear the conventional societal message loud and clear that “kids need to move out of the house to prove they aren’t failures at life.” Yet, you have older children who are living in the family home. Me too! And they definitely aren’t “failing at life” by any stretch of the imagination. I’d love to hear your thoughts around that. 10. Looking back, what, for you, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? Episode Transcript Read the episode transcript

1hr 17mins

24 Jan 2019

Rank #13

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EU037: Ten Questions with Carol Black

Carol Black unschooled her two daughters, now 22 and 26. Years ago she was in a teacher education program, but when she read John Holt’s How Children Fail the light bulb went off and she dropped out. Since then she has written some wonderfully insightful essays about unschooling, which you can read on her website, carolblack.org, and she directed the fascinating documentary film, Schooling the World. Quote of the Week “One of the things that is most disturbing to me — on a level of justice and morality — is that you have an institution that is in place globally that is labelling millions and millions and millions of innocent people as failures.” ~ Manish Jain Ten Questions for Carol 1. Can you share with us a bit about you and your family, and how you came to unschooling? 2. What are your children up to right now? Looking back, can you see a thread of interests and activities that has brought them to this point? 3. I love the bigger picture lens through which you see and talk about unschooling—through the essays on your website and through your film, Schooling the World. What brought you to explore how children learn across different cultures and incorporate that into your view of unschooling? 4. I’ve seen your wonderful essay, A Thousand Rivers: What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning, being shared in unschooling circles for years. In it you make the point that people today don’t know what children are actually like—they only know what children are like in schools. Your classic quote is, “Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.” Controlling a child’s learning—content, pace, and style—has such a profound effect on how they see themselves, as both learners and people, doesn’t it? 5. Another great observation you share about unschooling children is that they want their learning to be their own. Can you talk about some of the ways we can interfere with that? 6. You published a new essay on your website earlier this year, On the Wildness of Children: The revolution will not take place in a classroom. In it, you note that compulsory schooling is basically a social experiment originally conceived in the late 1800s to adapt children to the new industrial age—to train them in the skills needed for this new era of manufacturing. Yet in only about seven generations, school has become an integral part of childhood, this background forgotten. With unschooling, we choose to leave this experiment behind and look at how children are naturally wired to learn. We soon come to see that learning isn’t really a special activity at all, but a natural by-product of being alive in the world, and spending much of their days in, what researcher Suzanne Gaskins calls, a state of “open attention.” Can you describe what that looks like? 7. Now I’d like to shift and talk about your documentary, Schooling the World. Here’s something you wrote by way of introduction: “The film “Schooling the World” asks us to re-examine some of our deepest assumptions about knowledge, learning, ignorance, poverty, success, and wealth. The purpose of the film is not to provide all the answers, but to ask a question, to open a conversation. Our hope is that you will be able to use the film with your friends, colleagues, students, or organization to begin conversations that will be deep, challenging, and inspiring.” I love that your goal was to spark conversations. So let’s do that. First, let’s talk about the culture of schooling. What are some of the differences between the culture of schooling, which basically defines modern childhood, and the culture of childhood in a traditional society? 8. In conversations about traditional cultures, it is regularly suggested that those who appreciate their ways are romanticizing traditional cultures, downplaying problems like infant mortality and infectious diseases. What the film brings out so clearly is that maybe we are romanticizing our own culture and our version of education when we export it overseas. We’ve seen through experience that the school structure also brings with it consequences like lasting damage to children’s creativity, and branding so many children as failures. We also often fail to consider the depth, breadth and complexity of the knowledge systems that we are displacing. I love the point Wade Davis makes at the end of the film: “These peoples, these cultures, are not failed attempts at being us—they are unique answers to the fundamental question, ‘What does it mean to be human and alive?’ Their answers have allowed them to live sustainably on the planet for generations.” How might we move beyond romanticizing either side of this cultural confrontation and have deeper conversations about how we connect and engage with other cultures around the world? 9. Can you share a bit about what the filming experience was like? Your daughters came along, yes? 10. Looking back now, what, for you, has been the most valuable outcome from choosing unschooling? Links to things mentioned in the show Carol’s essay: A Thousand Rivers: What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning Carol’s essay: On the Wildness of Children: The revolution will not take place in a classroom Carol’s documentary: Schooling the World (You can watch it free at this link for a limited time—if it’s no longer free, I think it’s worth the purchase to watch!) Carol on Twitter and Facebook Schooling the World Facebook page Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 21mins

15 Sep 2016

Rank #14

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EU151: Escape Adulthood with Kim and Jason Kotecki

Kim and Jason Kotecki are unschooling their three children, and they are also the brains and the fun behind escapeadulthood.com! We have a fantastic conversation, diving into their journey to unschooling, how they got into the work of fighting adultitis, how encouraging people to see their days through a more child-like lens is remarkably similar to deschooling, the joy of bringing curiosity and imagination into our adult lives, how it all weaves together so beautifully with unschooling, and lots more! Questions for Kim and Jason Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? How did you guys discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like? I really love your website, escapeadulthood.com, and your slogan, “Break free from the life you’ve been told to live. Create the life you were made for.” I think it describes deschooling in a nutshell! Deschooling is all about questioning many of the conventional so-called rules we’ve grown up with to see if they truly make sense and mesh with the life we want to live. I’d love to know the story behind how you guys chose to focus on this work. In your book/journal, The Escape Plan, you make the point that this is about re-programming our grown-up selves to see life through a different lens. It’s about becoming more child-LIKE. I’d love to know some of the benefits that you guys have seen from recapturing the spirit of childhood and living your grown-up days through that lens. Why is this such a valuable shift to make? Another unwritten rule is that curiosity and imagination is the playground of childhood. In one of your newsletters last month, you made a great case for why this isn’t so. We talk so much on the podcast about the value of curiosity for adults and children alike, I’d love if you could share that insight here. From the outside looking in, your work encouraging people to create the life they were made for seems to weave together so beautifully with unschooling. Has that been your experience? Many listeners are in the early stages of their unschooling journey and are in the midst of discovering the extent of the Adultitis epidemic. It’s like, once you see it, it can’t be unseen. To help get them started on the road to recover, can each of you share something fun they can try over the next few days to shake things up? Links to things mentioned in the show Kim and Jason’s website, escapeadulthood.com Check out The Escape Plan, aka their guide to deschooling, with all 40 challenges listed You can sign up for their weekly Insider email You can also join their online community of Adultitis Fighters You can find Sawyer Fredericks on Instagram and Facebook Episode Transcript Read the episode transcript

1hr 14mins

22 Nov 2018

Rank #15

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EU029: What Learning Looks Like with Meredith Novak

Meredith is unschooling mom to Morgan and stepmom to Ray. Meredith has been active online in unschooling groups for years and I’ve enjoyed reading her writing for many of those. In this episode, we chat about what learning looks like with unschooling. It’s a big topic, and big episode. I hope you enjoy it! Quote of the Week “It could be said that unschooling has a recipe, but it’s not a recipe about unschooling. It’s a recipe about human nature. About people and relationships.” ~ Meredith Novak Questions for Meredith Can you share with us a bit about you and your family, and how you came to unschooling? The vast majority of unschooling parents come from a school background, me included, so that’s what learning looks like to us when we first start learning about unschooling. So I thought it would be helpful to compare and contrast what learning looks like in the school system and with unschooling. I came up with five aspects to compare that I think will be helpful. Comparison #1: school’s focus on teaching vs unschooling’s focus on learning One of the first things people new to unschooling are encouraged to do is to shift their perspective from teaching to learning. Why is this such an important shift when we want to learn about unschooling? Comparison #2: school’s focus on curriculum vs unschooling’s focus on curiosity With unschooling, children are encouraged to, and actively supported as, they follow their interests, rather than a set curriculum. What advantages have you seen to learning this way? One of the concerns people often mention is that there is a general set of knowledge and skills needed to get along in their community and world, and how will they learn them if they’re just doing what they want? How do you answer that one? Comparison #3: school’s focus on the compulsory school years vs unschooling’s focus on lifelong learning Unschooling and the concept of lifelong learning weave together so tightly, and leaving behind the idea that childhood is for learning and adulthood is for living can have a profound impact on everyone in an unschooling family, parents included. Have you found that to be true? Comparison #4: school’s focus on the child to adapting to the classroom environment vs unschooling’s focus on the child’s learning style What are some of the advantages you see for children who are learning outside the classroom? Comparison #5: school’s focus on testing vs unschooling’s focus on being with the child A common question from people trying to wrap their mind around unschooling is: If we aren’t testing them, how do we know they’re learning? While conventional wisdom tells us that children resist learning and need to motivated to do it, unschooling parents see something very different. Why don’t unschooled kids hate learning? One of the challenges newer unschooling parents sometimes encounter is interpreting the actions of experienced unschoolers as a set “rules for unschooling.” But unschooling doesn’t have a recipe, does it? I’d love to talk about choice for a moment. I think one of the key aspects at the root of learning through unschooling is giving our children the space and support to make the choices that they think will work for them. What’s your perspective on the importance of choice? One theme that has come up pretty regularly on the podcast is that, in the end, unschooling thrives when we have strong, connected, and trusting relationships with our children. You recently wrote something I loved: “It may help to step back from the idea that parenting is a job. It’s a relationship, first and foremost.” Can you expand on that? Links to things mentioned in the show FB unschooling groups Meredith participates in: Unschooling Mom2Mom and Radical Unschooling Info Montaigne’s 1580 essay: On the education of children Sandra Dodd’s article: To Get More Jokes podcast episode 20: Unschooling as Alternative Education with Carlo Ricci Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 24mins

21 Jul 2016

Rank #16

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EU068: Unschooling and Technology with Teri DeMarco

Teri DeMarco is an unschooling mom of three: twin 10-year-old sons and an 8-year-old daughter. I met her in person last year and when I decided to do a technology-focused episode I knew she’d be a great person to chat with! Quote of the Week “If you have a lens of ‘What is the educational value? What are they learning?’ that is a layer that goes in front of that relationship. And it doesn’t need to be there, because your kids will reveal to you all that they’re learning when they are in the flow of the relationship.” ~ Teri DeMarco Questions for Teri Can you share with us a bit about you and your family and how you discovered unschooling? When it comes to technology, the conventional term that gets thrown around a lot is “screen time.” I personally don’t like the term for a couple of reasons. What’s your take? One of the first steps in pulling apart and examining the technology issue is recognizing all the learning that is happening—and all the joy and fun! What has your journey with the technology issue looked like? If a parent is concerned about the amount of time a child is spending, say watching TV or playing video games, instead of immediately imposing limits to fit their comfort zone, how might they explore the situation to discover what’s up? There are so many possibilities, aren’t there? Something that can unnerve parents is when their child gets angry when asked to stop playing a video game or watching TV. Fear can quickly have them interpreting that behaviour as “addicted” and blaming the technology. But when we look at the situation from the child’s perspective, things can look very different, can’t they? One of the big aha moments for me when I was examining my attitude toward technology was the realization that my children learned so much more about weaving technology into their lives through actual experience—like they have learned so many other things through unschooling. What are some of the things you’ve seen your children learn about life with digital tech? As always with unschooling, it’s important to be engaged with our children, whatever their interest or passion. One of the concerns I hear regularly is that parents feel disconnected from their children because they are engaged in their interests through technology. Let’s talk about some of the ways we can engage with our children “even when” they are using digital tools. Links to Things Mentioned in the Show The Childhood Redefined conference (we’re putting together an online version right now) Map of the many places Joseph’s video game play took him Minecraft on YouTube: Sky Does Minecraft and Stampy Longhead E3: Electronic Entertainment Expo Some games: Roblox, Subnautica on Steam Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Finding Flow Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset Unschooling Gamers Facebook group Teri’s blog: The Urban Unschooler Teri’s also on Facebook Pam’s blog post diving into the mainstream mantra, “You Have to Limit Screen Time” Pam’s article, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Video Games Episode Transcript Read the transcript here

1hr 38mins

20 Apr 2017

Rank #17

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EU119: Gaming and Growing Up Unschooling with Xander MacSwan

Xander MacSwan left school in the 5th grade when his parents—both professors in the University of Maryland’s College of Education—decided the best thing they could do was pull their kids out of school and start unschooling. We dive deep into Xander’s passion for video games, including the difference between gaming as part of deschooling and choosing gaming as a passion, the joys of gaming, and things he learned or experienced through gaming that continue to be relevant in his life. Quote of the Week “To me, one of the most valuable parts of unschooling is the unconditional positive regard and acceptance that a parent can give to a kid. Just that sense of trusting, that it’s okay to be myself and it’s okay to do what feels good and take care of myself. I think that’s such a huge thing to be able give a young and developing mind.” ~ Xander MacSwan Questions for Xander Can you share with us a bit about you and your family, and what your family’s move to unschooling looked like? One of the common worries for newer unschooling parents is around whether or not to limit the time their children spend playing video games. And there’s definitely a difference between deschooling and choosing gaming as a passion, though at first it might be hard to distinguish between them. Can you talk about the difference? How did your passion for gaming develop? Can you share a bit about how that unfolded for you? In my experience, I think diving into any passion, including a passion for video games, can be a wonderful way to learn so much about ourselves. And that understanding applies everywhere in our lives. Was that your experience? Can you share some examples of things you learned or experienced through gaming growing up that continue to be relevant in your life now? What threads do you see looking back? As a grown unschooler, what piece of advice would you like to share with unschooling parents who are just starting out on this journey? Links to things mentioned in the show Xander’s episode on Blake Boles’ Off-Trail Learning podcast Xander works at Rose City NVC Episode Transcript Read the episode transcript


12 Apr 2018

Rank #18

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EU154: Unschooling Dads and Documentaries with Jeremy Stuart

Jeremy Stuart joins Pam for an engaging conversation about unschooling, documentaries, and life. Jeremy is an unschooling dad and video editor who also directed and co-produced the documentary film, Class Dismissed, which was released in 2015. Since then, it has been screened in more than 60 countries and translated into five languages. He’s now in the home stretch of producing a new documentary, Self-Taught, which looks at the question, “What happens when they become adults?” Questions for Jeremy Can you share with us a bit about you and your family? How did you discover unschooling and what did your family’s move to unschooling look like? What has surprised you most so far about how unschooling has unfolded in your lives? In 2015, you released the wonderful documentary film, Class Dismissed. It’s the fascinating story of a family’s choice to pull their two children from school and the journey that follows as they take their children’s education into their own hands. What inspired you to tell this story? I got goosebumps when, nearer the end of the film, the mom shared, “I think I’m starting to kind of let go and relax a little bit. I’m amazed at how much I’m learning now. It’s not that I have more opportunities to learn now, but I’m taking more opportunities to be part of learning and to engage with life in a more rich and fulfilling way.” It’s the return of curiosity for the parent, isn’t it? It’s like a re-awakening to the joy of learning and truly embracing that learning is not just for the kids—it’s a lifelong thing. Which, almost paradoxically, helps us better understand why this lifestyle is such great way for our kids to learn. That’s such a valuable step on the journey, isn’t it? What is your favourite part of the film? You’ve been working on a new documentary for a couple of years now, Self-Taught. Can you share what it’s about and the inspiration behind it? You’re in the production home stretch right now and running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final stages. Can you share a bit of information about the campaign and where people can check it out? As an unschooling dad, what piece of advice would you like to share with dads who are considering or just starting out on this journey? Links to things mentioned in the show John Holt’s book, How Children Fail Homeschool Association of California’s homeschooling conference Jeremy’s first documentary, Class Dismissed check out Jeremy’s Kickstarter campaign for Self-Taught more info about the upcoming documentary, Self-Taught Episode Transcript Read the episode transcript


13 Dec 2018

Rank #19

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EU183: Unschooling in Context with Anna Brown

Anna Brown joins me this week for another Unschooling in Context episode!This time we’re diving into unschooling in the context of life. And what I mean by that is, we’re exploring how unschooling eventually weaves so tightly into our lives. Which is beautiful! Unschooling IS living our lives. Yet, as challenges arise, it can also be valuable to ask ourselves, “Is it the unschooling?”Consider this:The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions. Ralph Waldo Emerson Many of our thoughts, while prompted by our journey to unschooling, have grown beyond unschooling. So, with this episode, Anna and I tackle some of the common questions we see in unschooling circles that, in the bigger picture, maybe aren’t really about the unschooling.Discussion PointsWhen we begin unschooling, we soon find ourselves deep in deschooling territory. We question so much of the prevailing wisdom around learning and parenting and, eventually, life in general. Through our journey to unschooling we come to see life differently, don’t we?A big part of deschooling is changing how we see and engage with our children, with lots of questions around building trusting and respectful relationships. Yet, when all is said and done, is that really about the unschooling? Even if our kids went to school next week, I suspect we’d still want to cultivate trusting and respectful relationships with them.What about sibling relationships?Let’s talk about issues around housework, like cleaning, chores, tidying up messes etc, whether our own stress or conflicts with our spouse or partner. I think these challenges most often stem from choosing being with our children over cleaning the house. That’s a fundamental shift in parenting priorities that we often embrace more deeply as we move to unschooling, so it’s pretty easy to conflate the two. The question is, would they go away if we were no longer unschooling?What about bigger events, like medical emergencies or moving? Chances are, we’ve made some unschooling-inspired changes in how we approach them.Episode transcriptRead the episode transcript


4 Jul 2019

Rank #20