Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Introducing Teens to Unschooling Liberation with Grace Llewellyn

Brave Writer Podcast

This week on the podcast, we connect with Grace Llewellyn, a staple of the unschooling community who shaped my own homeschooling approach. 

She taught for three years before leaving the profession to write a classic in the unschooling world: The Teenage Liberation Handbook. The book was published in 1991, when she was only 26 years old, and has been thoroughly updated and re-released for it’s 30th anniversary in 2021. In 1996, Grace founded Not Back to School Camp to bring together unschooled teenagers and it’s still bringing joy around the world, today.

Grace Llewellyn

After her time in the traditional school system – at a wonderful private school in Colorado – she came to the point where she felt she had seen and experienced too much to ethically continue teaching. She discovered the world of unschooling and quickly realized that it was unfair to rely on parents to introduce their kids to the methodology. She knew what she had to do.

We talk about:

  • the expectations that come with unschooling,
  • addressing fears parents may have,
  • and the joys of dabbling.

Show Notes

Unschooling can lead to lofty expectations. While the principles suggest that kids will be naturally guided to learn what they are most interested in, as parents, the approach can lead us to worry about a well-rounded education, or seeing what others are doing and feeling jealous of their progress. That’s a hard feeling to disauge, but it’s important to remember that kids don’t need to have a passion. Kids can be dabblers. Adults can be dabblers! There’s no one vision of success, which is the exact reason unschooling rejects the traditional school system.

For parents that have hesitations about unschooling – about getting a job or going to college – there are decades worth of data showing that this is not an issue for most children. The other common worry is built on failure. But, failure is a part of being human, and part of unschooling is finding a way to learn lessons from failures by making sense of them.

In the newly released 30th Anniversary edition of The Teenage Liberation Handbook, Grace worked with a past guest of the podcast, Blake Boles, to create a version of the book that holds up even stronger today. What started as a quick, streamlined version quickly became a project requiring hundreds of hours of research. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone interested in easing their teen into unschooling, or for parents who want a different perspective on homeschooling.


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Podcast: The Learning Benefits of Travel & Taking Big Risks with Blake Boles

Brave Writer Podcast

This podcast interview did not go the way I expected – in the most delightful way imaginable. We wound up discussing the power of travel in a teen’s life! Super fun.

Blake Boles is the Founder and Director of Unschool Adventures, and he’s written several helpful books including his most recent title, “Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?” He also hosts the Off-Trail Learning podcast and has delivered dozens of presentations for education conferences, alternative schools, and parent groups.

Studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley in 2013, he stumbled upon the works of John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn, and other alternative education pioneers. Deeply inspired by the philosophy of unschooling, Blake custom-designed his final two years of college to focus exclusively on education theory. After graduating, he joined the Not Back to School Camp community and began writing and speaking widely on the subject of self-directed learning. 

His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life.

Show Notes

The Bohemian Travel Lifestyle

Blake grew up with some great early travel experience, living with a family in Chile for a month at fourteen years old, traveling across Europe with friends at 19, organizing snowboarding trips in British Columbia during college, and taking a transformative trip to South America at 25. Those experiences seeded a love of travel within him, which eventually grew into his founding of Unschool Adventures.

He believes that the most formative and powerful travel experiences are the ones we handle alone or with a few friends, so he tries not to set everything up for the teens he works with. He gives them the space and time to explore, discover, and make mistakes. He makes sure they come home safe, but there will be struggles along the way – and that’s an important part of the experience.

Unschooling vs. the Traditional Learning Environment

When you’re first pushing back against a system that’s being forced upon you, it’s natural to be dogmatic. Over the years, however, Blake has managed to find a good balance between encouraging people to question the traditional school experience without forcing them to believe that homeschooling or unschooling are inherently better.

Traditional school does work for some kids at least some of the time. For some, it can be frustrating, boring, or unengaging. And for those kids, there are several different options, such as going to community college and engaging in academics at an earlier age, or for some it can mean unschooling – full time, self-directed learning, or alternative schools.

The question, “Why are you still sending your kids to school?” is not meant to be rhetorical, but a question to actively engage in. Question why you are sending your kid to school, know the alternatives, and run small experiments to find out what works best for your child.

Getting Comfortable with Risk

It’s one thing to prepare our kids to be comfortable with risk. But how do we, as parents, get more comfortable with exposing our kids to risk? We have to find ways to engage in risk that we are comfortable with, whether that’s letting our kids skateboard or play video games or something else that gives them a world of their own, with choices to make.

We have to push our threshold to the limit and let our teens explore as much as we are comfortable with. Sure, there are certain risks that aren’t worth taking. But coddling our teens and not allowing them to make mistakes will only hurt their learning in the long run.

Travel is a great tool for getting comfortable with risk while opening yourself up to productive forms of it – for both parents and teens. Being willing to step away from what’s convenient and comfortable to take on big challenges is the ultimate goal.


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Podcast: The Culture of Parenting, Marriage & the Mamasphere with Anne Helen Petersen

Podcast Anne Helen Petersen

The hardest part of being a homeschooling parent in this era is the pressure of being caught smack dab in the middle of idealism and the Mamasphere.

Anne Helen Petersen writes the substack newsletter Culture Study, which I’ve followed for quite some time. She’s a cultural commentator and journalist, and is the author of four books, most recently Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home, which comes out in December 2021.

We discuss the influence of the Mamasphere and why mothers trust the advice of other moms over experts or professionals. We also delve into the topic of divorce and the concept of Red and Blue Marriage, sharing examples from my life as well as Anne’s.

Show Notes

The Influence of the Mamasphere

Interestingly enough, Momfluencers – or mom influencers – are garnering more attention and, well, influence, than political pundits or even scientists. The idea of what good parenting looks like is constantly evolving, and so much of that is swayed by Instagram and other social media platforms. 

Part of that is due to an interesting dichotomy: Moms value the knowledge and expertise of other moms, but that knowledge is culturally devalued. That makes it hard to legitimize that information, and makes mothers more willing to trust other mothers instead of experts or professionals. We explore this phenomenon, why it exists, and what we can do about it culturally.

Red and Blue Marriage and the Disruption of the Nuclear Family

Instagram has become the PR firm for the nuclear family. The extra sheen of gloss makes the traditional family model seem far more perfect than it actually is. Many people in my generation grew up under that idea as well – that the nuclear family model was the way to raise a family. Anne wrote an article about the concept of Red and Blue Marriage, terminology coined by legal scholars June Carbone and Naomi Cahn.

What began to happen when the children of parents married or divorced in the 70s or 80s is a divide between the views of marriage. Children of divorced parents tend to wait longer and get married with intention. And this begins to diverge when you look at income rates, where the middle class is getting married later and staying married longer, while lower income families see the divorce rate go up – or they don’t get married at all.

Anne and Julie discuss the way these views impact today’s home educators, and in fact, women everywhere.

For more deep thoughts like this on parenting, marriage, education, and more, be sure to subscribe to Anne’s Substack, Culture Study.


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Podcast: The Bermuda Triangle of Education

Brave Writer Podcast

Teaching children a life skill is harder than it seems. As a parent, this can be extremely frustrating. The positives, though, are worth the trouble. Consider this, the sooner our kids know how to help around the house, the sooner they can help us around the house! 

More importantly, and beyond our own benefit, ensuring they’ve got the most recent software update on self-sustaining skills like tying their shoes and reading a clock provide the daily boosts of confidence and personal growth that a child needs.

This comes down to one question we receive again and again when it comes to teaching children. It falls into something I call The Bermuda Triangle of Education. It’s a place where so many of us go wrong, and yet the principles to get out are actually quite simple.

There are three parts of this triangle. Our own desire to teach leads us to believe that we should already know how to teach. When a child fails to learn, we pull in the other two aspects of this triangle of doom. Children are smart: they feel the pressure and obligation that parents add to their teaching.

These three features: a desire to teach, thwarted by pressure and obligation, lead to the cranky learning experience so many of us are trying to overcome in our homes!

Listen to hear exactly where we’re going wrong and how we can approach teaching tasks and tools in a way that helps kids want to use them.

Show Notes

Learning and Loving

Think about the energy you bring to teaching – is it joy and excitement or pressure, shame, and anxiety? Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They pick up any emotional undertones present, even if they’re not quite sure what to do with the information.

Don’t force it. Set aside time where both you and your child can be emotionally and physically invested in whatever the learning challenge, and keep your mindset in the right place – supporting them with love, patience, and variety.

The Back-End Commitment

For instance, if you show a child how to make their bed, they know you’ll expect them to start making the bed themselves every day. It might seem like a simple task to you, but the looming responsibility can feel like a lot for a child to take on. On top of that, they may feel pressure to showcase themselves as having learned the skill well to be worthy of your invaluable praise. The pressure and obligation can lead to a meltdown of willingness.

The Worry

You don’t want to turn up the heat of pressure and obligation, which is not a good environment for learning. For parents and caregivers, the key is to not give up when a skill doesn’t sink in right away. Remain focused and calm. Just because the child gets something one day doesn’t mean that it’s going to come naturally every single time they try it. Using a new skill is reliant on a lot of factors, and some days will come easier than others. The last thing you want is for your child to sense you’re worried or disappointed in them during the learning process.

What if we change our approach to one of play? No obligation, no pressure. Tune in for additional ideas for how to take a skill and nurture it rather than require it.

Listen to the episode for a full rundown of the pitfalls I see parents stumble into time and time again, and some of the best tactics for instilling a skill, as education, alongside a true sense of joy or pride in using it.


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Podcast: Overcoming Frustration & Teaching Kids With Actions & Intent with Dr. Natasha Beck

Brave Writer Podcast

Today’s Brave Writer podcast episode is packed with well-researched methods for bringing your family’s habits and home life back to reality.

My guest today is Dr. Natasha Beck, a parenting expert and Founder of Dr. Organic Mommy, an online resource for non-toxic parenting. She leans on her background in clinical psychology and public health to deliver important information and insights to her tens of thousands of social media followers. She’s a great example of someone doing good with a truly influential social platform.

We talk about the variables in a child’s education that go unseen or underestimated, like sleep and eating habits. Specifically, we go over how to get past food ruts and expand their palettes with variety and agency in the grocery shopping process. Not to be left out, every parent’s rival, frustration, goes under the microscope to be dissected into rational bits of wisdom and ah-ha moments.

Common throughout the episode, though, is communication. One area of the parent-child dynamic that’s always in our favor, subtle communication techniques can make all the difference in any range of issues:

  • educational,
  • nutritional,
  • social,
  • behavioral,
  • and so on.

Dr. Beck and I connect on many topics, not the least of which being my mom’s propensity to scan nutrition labels. And JOY – the missing ingredient in childhood nutrition – and a great word to describe this interview.

Show Notes

Building a Solid Foundation

In teaching kids, academics is only one piece of the pie. Sure, standardized testing and other classroom measurables get all the headlines, but it’s the unseen habits and environmental factors that have the biggest impact on our kids’ ability to learn and grow.

Sleep, for one, is often overlooked as a pillar of children’s education. Diet, too, down to the time of day meals are consumed, can impact:

  • mood,
  • attentiveness,
  • and other critical emotional tenets to learning.

How do we teach a child to eat and sleep like an adult? By being a good example. Modeling good behavior and habits leaves a huge impression on kids who are predestined to follow our lead. 

Food Ruts 

Everyone gets into food ruts. We slide back to what’s comfortable, what’s easy, what’s cheap. Food ruts in kids are harder to pin down, but present (sometimes loudly) nonetheless. One tool we discuss involves giving your kids agency in the grocery shopping process. Let them pick new products and be creative, and watch that keen interest carry through food prep all the way to dinner time.

Changing their perspective on food isn’t limited to the food itself, either. We can change the environment to shift their headspace somewhere more appealing or fun, like having a picnic in your backyard, eating on the floor, or at the park.

Communication is Key 

Presentation, data framing, and subtle communication cues are more effective ways to educate your kids, even, and especially, when they don’t know they’re learning. This can come in the form of asking questions, too. For instance, how does a certain food make them feel afterward?

Dr. Beck shares a good example in her intentionally steering the shopping cart away from the interior ailes of processed food at the grocery store. I share a dishing trick my mom used to use to get us excited for (sour) yogurt sundaes. Pick your spots right, and how something is said can be much more important than what is said at all.


It’s important that we check in with ourselves to determine why something our child says or does makes us feel a certain way. Is that reaction rational? Is either side correctable? We carry the burden for both psyches at the onset, and it’s critical we approach the relationship in a nuanced way – even when one party is kicking and screaming on the floor.

Dr. Beck breaks down her jobs as a parent as falling into one of three baskets:

  1. Making sure her kids are safe,
  2. Making sure they grow, physically and intellectually,
  3. Ensuring they’re a kind person.

These steer her on everything she says and does with them. Simplicity can be elegant. Don’t overthink it.


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