HIHTK: 005 Pam Laricchia – Exploring Unschooling

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Pam Laricchia Living Joyfully

Exploring Unschooling with Pam Laricchia

Pam shares her personal journey of how her family came into unschooling and why they chose to unschool after years of trying to get school to work.

In this episode we talked about many parts of the home learning unschooling journey:

The importance of the Deschooling process

Getting comfortable with “not knowing”


The lifelong learning process for both parents and children

Is unschooling for everyone?

Making mistakes

University and unschooling

The Key to Unschooling: Building Trust

Pam Laricchia Living Joyfully

Pam tells how she built trust with her children and how that is the key to unschooling. Finding the connection in simple unexpected times with your kids and giving the space to be with them is important. Those conversations are the key in unschooling. Taking the time to relax and process things. Creating the room to ask. These times show your children that they are important and what they have to say is important to you. It helps to understand each other better and they also come to see that we are not doing it with an ulterior motive, like throwing in a school lesson or getting our way for something. Instead, we sincerely have their best interests at heart. It is that openness, laughter and conversation that builds that trust.

Definition of Deschooling

Pam has an in-depth explanation of Deschooling: The process of releasing all conventional ideas about learning. Asking why certain things are important. It widens to how we live and engage with life. How we learn things, the content to what we learn and when we learn it. To be able to take the time to question all these assumptions that we have grown up with that we think are true: From how we learn things right up to the content of things that we (and school) think kids should learn. Why is that curriculum timeline any better than allowing them to encounter it on their own? Then if they don’t encounter it is it still something of value? Why is school  curriculum laid out in a 12-year time frame, instead of learning it in our life-long time frame when we need it or when it becomes important to us?

When they left school Pam felt she was the one that had to go through a longer deschooling process. Giving herself that space and just paying attention for a year gave her time to see the bigger picture.

The Important Deschooling Process in Unschooling

The deschooling process is important because as parents we have triggers on learning. The discomfort we feel is usually about us. The triggers we have when we worry about our kids and if or what they are learning are our own personal issues, not theirs. 

When you step back and give them time, you can begin to see how their learning is connecting, how their growth is happening. For Pam, that time started happening after a year of deschooling.

“Choosing unschooling as a lifestyle you’re choosing for that transparency with your children, you’re choosing to live together and open, it can be a lot of extra personal work, but that is also one of the great benefits for parents personally. To engage day-to-day with your child you have to know yourself, and understand yourself so that you can meet them where they are without all sorts of baggage coming along because with that baggage is expectations, expectations of others and ourselves that can interfere with our day, and their learning.” These expectations can also play a part when we are interacting with others including family and friends.

Responding To The Unschooling Critics

What happens if family or friends don’t support your choice to unschool? Do you try to change them?

Pam talked about the biggest thing to release is the need for your family’s approval. You always want to be open to them, but you don’t need to convince them. It is still important not to be judgemental of them. Be completely accepting of where they are and connect where they are, not trying to get them to get somewhere else. Also, keep the slate clean for them and your kids. You want to encourage relationships from an open space. A big piece was just knowing and acting comfortable. Pam and her kids were sure of their choices and chose not to throw it in anyone’s faces.

If you do have questions or concerns about home education or unschooling it’s important not to take your questions to those that are unsure, or doubting. Take your questions or frustrations to the people who are already doing what it is you are hoping to do, not someone who’s going to pull you back.

Are our kids missing out on learning?

Pam left her kids to their passions. She later took the time to watch them for a few months and drew a full page map of all the topics they hit on just by following their particular passions. She saw that those were skills and information that they will always be able to take with them. Their passions aren’t cutting them off, their passions are what’s opening them up to the world.

Why is downtime important?

Downtime is also important because it’s that time that sparks creativity. Sometimes the downtime can be hard to wait through but it’s essential. Kids naturally know how much input they can take. Have the patience until they naturally come out of it. When you’re paying attention and let things unfold naturally you see the patterns. The patterns may not look like school or their siblings, but it will be there.

Not having expectations helps things to unfold more naturally.

Pam’ most valuable piece of advice

Pam’s advice ties in with every step, whether it is deschooling, making mistakes, or the learning process. She says: Give it time

Most of us have been in school for at least 12 years. We are the ones that need to work through our pre-conceptions about relationships, learning, and childhood. Parents are so conditioned to measuring what’s going on, and being productive, comparing, grades, curriculum, or the idea of what it means to be conventionally successful. We need time to quiet those voices, and re-define what learning and success means to us. Unschooling parents also need time to see the threads of progression. “Learning is not a straight line, but a web. You need that time to see that. That’s what builds our appreciation of unschooling”.

Website : http://livingjoyfully.ca/

Podcast : Exploring Unschooling