Sandra Dodd

To Caroline Lieber’s question about “real magic,” I was waiting for her post to come through so I could comment, and saw Pam Laricchia’s e-mail (those who haven’t subscribed might want to) entitled "Don't make things look like magic. Instead, live transparently.

Nice timing! 

I don’t know if it will forward.
If it does, I don’t know if links will show.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Pam Laricchia <pam@...>
Subject: Don't make things look like magic. Instead, live transparently.
Date: September 1, 2017 at 5:04:51 AM MST

On the podcast ...

August Q&A Round Table

Exploring Unschooling Podcast

Happy Friday!

This week the Round Table is back: Anne Ohman and Anna Brown join me to answer listener questions. This month our questions encompass unschooling as adults, how passionate kids engage with the world, partnering with our children around chores, and helping a child learn something that’s challenging for us.

You can listen to the episode here or on YouTube, or read the transcript here.

The first question comes from Ionia in Ireland. She's been learning about unschooling and, she and her husband being artists, she's noticing similarities between how they create art and how children learn naturally through play, exploration, and the freedom to immerse themselves in whatever they're drawn to. She curious about how they make the transition from following their interests to earning a living, knowing the challenge she experiences as earning money can change the nature of the activity by putting a "worth" on it.

Such an interesting question! Anna shared that what's cool about the unschooling young adults she knows is that they are so much clearer about their choices and when something isn't working, they tweak it. "And I think we don’t see that as often in adults who maybe haven’t had this background. They’ll stick to something and they’ll be miserable and they’ll complain and they’ll kind of dig themselves into a hole and I see that unschooled children are much more in touch with that internal guidance system which I think is really cool."

Anne added that they don't feel like their work is drudgery. "That’s the message society sends us. That’s where they send us after twelve years of school and after four years of college: they send us to a job that becomes drudgery and joyless and lifeless. And from what I know of unschooled adults, they know that this is not real life. The thing that’s important here too is that my kids have taken jobs outside of what their biggest passion is and they have loved them and are currently loving them right this moment. They’re working at other things. Because while Jacob is an artist, that’s not all he is and while my Sam loves to cook and he was a chef, that’s not all he is."

The second question was asked anonymously. A mom of two boys, her eldest is seven and she wants to help him manage in the world as he does and feels things with such passion. When he gets hurt or upset, his reaction is ferocious. And when he feels better, it is sudden and like nothing happened. She wants to better help him with his distress.

Anne recalled when she went out on a quest to find answers because she too wanted to have a deeper understanding of her son so she could give him what he needed to feel at peace and to shine. She shared, "you do have the power to create your child’s world with him by following and helping him get more of the things that give him less anxiety and more joy."

She encouraged her not to settle for simply helping him manage in the world because there is so much more that's possible. Focus on his shine and on celebrating him. Two books that Anne found helpful on her journey were The Highly Sensitive Child and The Out-of-Sync Child. But remember, they aren't unschooling books, so just take what you need to get a better understanding of your child—don't follow specific advice. She recalls one chapter in The Out-of-Sync Child actually talking about if only school could be more like home. It can. :-)

She also shared her article, I Am What I Am, which describes her journey, and a conference talk excerpt, Validating our Children. Validating is really valuable in helping the child feel understood and seen, so that your energy is in alignment with what he is feeling so when he's ready he's more able to move forward. There's also a list of sensory activities he may find helpful.

Anna suggested that it's helpful to chat with him when he not in the middle of an event about what he would like you to do during those moments. You can talk about options, like walking and water and a break but having him involved in the process of what he wants those moment to look like will be invaluable—even if he just wants the space to have them.

Chelsea lives in Idaho and her question was about unschooling and chores. They've been unschooling and understand respectful parenting and partnership, but she and her husband are drawing a blank about what to do in a couple of situations: when she's getting dinner ready and needs help getting dishes in order to get food ready for everyone and the kids complain about not wanting to help; and at the end of the day when they want the house picked up before everyone goes to bed.

I remember when I processed those same questions! For me, it was about digging into my own expectations. I realized my frustration was the direct result of my expectations of others. I realized it was a relationship thing: how was I going to live with other people? My husband and my kids. I didn't want to constantly frustrated with the people I live with because they weren't doing what I wanted them to do.

Dropping the expectations felt like releasing a ton of weight—that was great! But the work was still there so, that was my next puzzle. I realized these were my choices. If dinner was later because things took longer, my kids were fine with that. If I felt I was spending more time cooking than I wanted, I realized I could choose to buy more convenience food to minimize food prep, and they'd be fine with that too. Same with dishes—they'd be fine with paper plates. Once I realized these truly were my choices, I was comfortable knowing I was choosing to put in this meal prep time, choosing to have dirty dishes at the end of it.

The most important thing about asking other people—kids included—for their help is that “no” is a perfectly fine answer; because if that’s not the case, we’re not really asking them. With the heaviness of an unspoken expectation of yes in the air, it's not surprising people want to say no just to show that they have the power to say no. But when the question is asked freely, without any expectations, it’s so much more pleasant to join that atmosphere with a yes. It's just a yes in the moment, not a tool that may be used against them in the future: "You helped yesterday!"

Anna made a great point about tidying up every night. "I think parents often tend to think, “Well they’re lazy, they don’t want to clean up after themselves.” But if you can have the open conversation without the expectations, you learn so much more about each other. Because, for example, some creative play endeavors involve a lot of set-up and time until you get to the actual meat of the creative play piece and how frustrating to have to start that set-up time over every day. And it doesn’t let you get in the flow and grow from where you’ve left off yesterday."

She explained that when she has a challenge, "Everything is on the table so, it’s not a discussion about how to make it look how I want it to look. I can share my feelings about what’s not working for me and then we can decide, with all of possibilities, what makes sense for the four of us. And I feel like when we’re clear about what our needs are and what our struggle areas are, that just helps us all put it into the soup to figure out what makes sense and how do we work through this together. And again, not with one set outcome of them cleaning the kitchen before I start dinner. That’s not the outcome, we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s going to be what feels good to all of us."

The last question was from Liz. Her son wants to learn how to code in Lua, the language Roblox uses, but he's very clear that he wants her to learn to code and then teach him and help him write scripts. She's finding it difficult so far and would love some encouraging stories.

Anna recalled figuring out how to create a Minecraft server, which was not her forte, but she did it. She remembers that soon after her daughter and friends were doing it themselves, but for whatever reason, her doing it first was enough for them feel comfortable taking it over.

"I found it helpful in these situations too, to remember that things change so quickly and that nothing lasts forever. This is what he needs right now and it’s a really cool connection to have with him while he’s starting out exploring this passion that’s interesting to him. Most likely he’ll either lose interest in it or he may take off and soar with this interest without you and, either way, I just think how fun that you’re getting this time with him to figure it out in the trenches together."

Anne shared the story of learning guitar alongside her sons. They had fun sitting around the table with beginner chords, stretching and learning how to play. They even played together at an unschooling conference talent show.

One thing I found interesting in Liz's question was that her son specifically wants her to learn it so that she can show him how to do it. It would be interesting to explore why he wants that set up that way. Is the information that he’s finding confusing? Does he feel he learns things better the way that she shows him? These are great questions!

It’s also a great opportunity for Liz to model how she figure things out, sharing with him the websites and forums she finds helpful when she gets stuck because then she's giving him more tools that he can use if and when he wants to take over.

The other piece is to do it transparently so that it doesn't appear to be "magic." When I was reading Harry Potter aloud to my kids, I remember saying, “Oh, I don’t know how to pronounce this word.” And I’ve said to them, “I don’t know how to make the code do that. I'm going to google that.”

As I helped my kids learn things over the years, I came to see the value that I was adding to their process. I was their hands for a while. Or they eventually took it over and I saw I was really more like a transition tool for them. Or they lost interest in it as they saw how much work it was to figure things out and they realized it wasn’t worth that much investment of their time. Whichever way it went, on my part, it wasn't worth making it look like magic—they weren’t getting real information that way.

Anne jumped in with a great observation that pretty much tied all the questions together beautifully:

"When I was talking about how we create our worlds, this is it! Working with our kids in this way and fine-tuning every step of the way. You’re talking about what they want and how much we can give and is this enough and what do you think about this...I just think it’s got this beautiful feeling, a beautiful swirl and flow and it’s amazing, the picture that we paint, we create with our lives with just the connection. The true deep connection with our children, I just love it!"

Thanks for sending in your questions!

The Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit is Launching in September!

Anne, Anna, and I are happy to announce that the online Childhood Redefined Unschooling Summit will be launching next month! Woohoo!

We have done an incredible amount of work building this these last six months and we’re very excited to finally share it with you! Of course, I'll mention it here in the newsletter when it opens, but if you'd like to know the all details as they are released, click here:

I want to know more about the online Summit!

This week in my world ...

Some day, one of my projects will be rescuing this apple tree, which peeks out of a stand of cedar on our property. I traced it back the other day and found that its trunk grows out of the ground at about a 45 degree angle, allowing the branches to brilliantly reach the sun.

Granted, it seems to know how to take care of itself just fine so, "rescue" probably isn't the right word. Maybe just try to make its life a little bit easier. :-)

Wishing you and your family a lovely weekend!

Have you read Free to Learn yet?

"If you have ever looked at your unhappy-at-school child and wished for another way PLEASE read this book." ~ Amazon review


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