#67 Laura Grace Weldon | Free Range Learning

FB Laura Grace Weldon

🗓️ Recorded April 16th, 2024. 📍Belton, Missouri, United States

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About this Episode 

Join us for an in-depth talk with Laura Grace Weldon, author of a handbook on natural education titled Free Range Learning. Together, we will explore the transformative world of free-range learning.

Laura shares her profound insights on how natural learning processes can significantly benefit children, contrasting it with the restrictive norms of traditional schooling.

The discussion explores the concept of unschooling, emphasizing the importance of preserving a child's innate curiosity and individuality.

Laura's personal stories and practical examples shed light on fostering an environment where children learn through exploration and real-life experiences rather than structured education.

This episode challenges conventional educational paradigms and encourages parents to embrace a more intuitive and playful approach to learning, ensuring that children grow into well-rounded, creative individuals.

▬ Connect with Laura Grace Weldon  ▬
Website: https://lauragraceweldon.com/ 
Free Range Learning on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FreeRangeLearningCommunity 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laura.euphoria
X: https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/earnestdrollery/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/LauraGraceWeldon/
Bit of Earth Farm: https://bitofearthfarm.wordpress.com/

▬ Watch the full interview on YouTube ▬

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With love


Jesper Conrad 


00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Kahnrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest. Today, we're together with Laura Wilden and Laura. First of all, it's a pleasure you took your time to talk with us. Welcome.

00:18 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
It's a pleasure to meet you both and thank you for what you do. Thank you Likewise.

00:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Thank you for what you do. Thank you Likewise, Laura. The reason I reached out to you is because I love the words free range learning and you've written a whole book about this. Can you explain a little about how you think about free range learning, why you call it that? And yeah, just to give an idea.

00:45 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Well, I think it's how we all learn and have learned since the beginning of humanity. And when I first started, when I first pulled my kids out of school, we were homeschooling, as in trying to do that sort of thing, and as I worked with more and more people, as we got connected with more and more people, it was hard for me to explain how we were, how we veered off of that. Um and I. People wanted examples like but how do you do math? Or how do you do uh language? As if it wasn't, as if humanity hasn't always learned by doing and exploring and discovering. Um, and an example came to mind.

We were very new living on this little farm. We had cattle and honeybees and chickens and my daughter my daughter was one of the best instructions. So here's an example of free range learning in nature. So the healthiest chicks and chickens are those that are brooded and hatched by the mother instead of an incubator and purchased. We noticed that the chickens who were raised in a cardboard box under a light, when they were put out in the chicken yard and out in the pasture, they were much more helpless. They clustered together. They weren't very safe when hawks flew over the chicks raised by their mothers from the get-go out free, knew the whole language of peeps and clucks, of when to hide under a tree, when to go under their mother's wings.

And I remember the day one of our clutches hatched and they were maybe two days old, maybe three, and the mother brought them down the long ramp from the hen house and when she went back up to bring them back in, one little chick was left close to the hen house but not close to the end of the ramp. And I went to go pick it up and my daughter, who was probably 11 or 12, said don't do that. Why would you do that? It will learn. It's mother's telling it and the mother's, you know, clucking ever more frantically.

And I'm thinking how could the little chicks trying to jump up jump up the distance which you'll never make? And I had such an urge, a traditionally educated urge, to go do it for it, Like here's the end of the ramp, go on up. And my daughter was completely right. It took maybe 20 more seconds for the little chick to figure it out and go up that ramp. And to me it's not about not being there, not helping your kids, it's about respecting what all of humanity does we learn? That's what we are we are playful, learning, imaginative, innovative creatures.

03:32 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I'm just amen.

03:33 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, it's just nice to see another wording of it. We talk a lot about unschooling and it's the word that the community has agreed to use, but really the word is really annoying it's because because it's an, it's like an anti the un, yes, and it has the word school, inside of it, which is what we don't do, and then it's on as so.

So it's something we not not do. It has nothing to do with what we actually are doing and what we believe in. So this free range is just a very appealing way to To phrase it way to um to phrase it.

I kind of like unschooling a great deal better than homeschooling, which implies that you know kids are sitting at a table doing curriculum all day yeah but of course, unschooling it is what it is now, this is the way we talk about it and whatever, but I just I think free range is just, uh, just a nice. It's a nice way to to frame it. So I never thought about it's a beautiful picture. You know, the chicken that are raised by their parents well, by the mother are real, and the ones from the incubator it's. It's not hard to think about the school as the incubator. Yeah, it's. You just saw it in real life.

05:20 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
How good, yeah yeah, it's um, and people raise uh, we heard this about turkeys too. When we raise turkeys, they won't even survive, we were told. They can't survive out in a you know out in the pasture. They're you know, they're helpless. They need to be um, fed only this certain food and their own, their you know range of diseases is going to get them. And, uh, we found the exact opposite. And, of course, it's out of the best intentions that we raise kids in that carefully lit cardboard box of school. You know, teachers are there with the best intentions, families, communities, because we've forgotten about how, what freedom does and what it feels like what freedom does and what it feels like it's hard to we just.

06:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I mean, we've been unschooling for our oldest will be 25 tomorrow and we've been unschooling for I don't know, maybe 12 years or something like that. So I feel most of the time I feel confident I've got this, but actually just recently, a week ago or two, I had again one of these lessons me trying to fix things, me trying to help, is the problem. If I would just shut up and wait those 20 seconds, as you did, there would not even be a problem to fix Right. And I just did a coaching conversation with a client and it was the same thing again. You know our attempts to help our children very often become the problem.

07:04 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It's because the attempt to help more becomes the attempt to control. I think we want the outcome to be in a certain way.

07:14 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

07:15 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
And that's not always our outcome to choose.

07:20 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
We forget that almost throughout all of humanity we lived in little tribes or tiny villages and every young person could learn from the weavers and the hide tanners and the hunters when they were engaged and ready and excited and they would step away. You know how a baby looks away when it can't take much more and then it looks back and that's how we learn. Because I'm such a science nerd, I love to have research examples and here's one that's always intrigued me and maybe horrified me a little bit too. They did a study with toddlers. The younger the child, the more pure the research, because there's not as much influence when you're 14 months old.

And they had two groups of kids in the same exact circumstances room with a friendly researcher and for both groups of kids, one at a time, they gave a child a toy brand new to them and in one situation the researcher's friendly and excited would you like to play with this?

And then steps back, just interested, just watching, just you know there. In the other situation, the researcher gave him the toy Would you like to play with this toy? And then, like so many of us, we're excited. The researcher showed the child four or five different functions of the toy and we think doing that or I have long thought that helps the child engage. It gives them some mastery over what to do. But of course the outcome was the children who get no instruction, no adult even demonstrating played with the toy longer. They found almost all the applications every time of the toy and they often played with it in novel ways the researchers hadn't anticipated, whereas the child who was given the eager instruction played almost always with only those things he or she was shown, played with it less time and didn't invent new ways to play with it.

09:22 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You've got it right there and didn't invent new ways to play with it.

09:24 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
You've got it right there. I am curious a little, laura, about your own journey. What made you start thinking in these lines? And the reason I'm asking is a lot of our listeners. They are on the start of their journey and then they can sit and listen to us being like, oh, it's easy, you just trust it, everything will be good and everything is all right. And then they just are in this fear-induced state, as I remember myself being like what is it my wife had talked me into. It's weird. What will my child ever be normal and all these things. So how was your own journey? Why did you start this journey?

10:09 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Well, mine was probably very different than many people. I am the daughter, granddaughter and niece of public school teachers and I've written a lot about this since my book. That's much more personal. I made sure my book was third person, not personal, but I was very involved with the schools. I did realize pretty early on, despite what I tried, I couldn't change much of anything. I had a child who had to do the same curriculum, even though she got all of her spelling words right the first on Monday she still had to practice the words. To Friday Kids who had to do the same curriculum, even though she got all of her spelling words right the first on Monday she still had to practice the words. To Friday Kids who had to read the curriculum book, even if they were reading at high school level and elementary school. So my efforts to work with the school and believe that you can change things from within continued to be disproven. And even though we lived a pretty crunchy uh, make your own bread, grow your own food kind of lifestyle, I was trying to be work in the system and um. One of the work I did was teaching non-violence to groups. Um applied non-violence and at that time my oldest was.

We were in an award-winning school district at the time. He was telling us on and off about these kids who were bullying and they were difficult. They had assaulted a girl in the bathroom. They had gotten their uncles and brothers, who were older, to come to school and engage in this horrible kind of a gang fight situation. And I kept telling my son I volunteer in school all the time, I keep asking what's going on and they were bullying my son, who is this big, smart kid, and he would come back at him with like what bad mood today Is your drug dealer not giving you credit? Which? Where did he get the sarcasm? And he called me one morning and I was home. My husband had been in a car accident. I was babysitting small children to help make some money while he wasn't working and my son called and said they have a gun. They showed me a gun this morning and they told me and I'm not going to live through the day and I said run, run home, because I couldn't even come get him. I had babies without car seats and I called the school and I was. My voice is trembling now and I you know everyone else's baby was in that school too.

This was after Columbine, this we knew about school shootings in the US and I explained these kids park cars around the corner. They have their things in the car. They have guns in the car. Please go down to the classroom and get this child and remove him and call the police. And what they did instead was they called over the intercom which gave the kid time to go to the car. And when we finally called the police, that later that day the police came and said the school never called us. And then they verified the reports of the girls assaulted in the bathroom and the gang fights outside of school. And when I went to meet with the superintendent the next day I offered to teach my nonviolence organizations work for free to the school system. He turned me down and he told me that my child would be safest at home. So he never went back. That's how we started, kind of abruptly that's all wrong.

13:36 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I'm in, I'm in shock here, yeah, wow that's a.

13:42 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I've heard many stories about how people came to homeschooling, but this one is a first.

13:48 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I dearly wish that I had paid attention to how differently my kids learned from the norm. I had every sign in the world. I have four kids to take them out. Um, and this is this is what forced us out, and I certainly don't welcome that trauma on my oldest child. But I am so grateful we got out because everyone blossomed. Stay with us, We'll be right back.

14:16 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Hi, this is Cecilia. We're interrupting our own podcast just to make sure that you know that I am available if you want to talk to someone who has lived the unschooling life, who has traveled the world, who has beat cancer, who has been the mother of four amazing children. Luckily, I still am the mother of four amazing children. I know about life when it's hard. I know about life when it's complicated. I know what you need is probably, most of all, someone who will understand the special world that you are in as an unschooling parent, even with your trauma and your personal history getting in the way. What I do really is to be a loving support, a rock, and I do it on the base that I am a trained psychologist. I have worked with a lot of people with a lot of different situations. I am so ready to be your support, the one that you need to get some confidence and be strong in your journey as an unschooling parent.

So don't hold back. I give a 20-minute conversation for free in your journey as an unschooling parent. So don't hold back. I give a 20-minute conversation for free. You can talk to me on the phone or in a video call and just see if it's a match. If you want to connect, you can find me on social media or find me on my website, cecilyaconradcom. If you're a Danish speaker, I have a Danish website, cecilyaconraddk, and we can find those 20 minutes and see how it goes from there. And now back to the podcast.

15:56 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, well, lots of people get out because of trauma and I'm sorry about yours. It's rough. We probably started because of the cancer or played a big role that I had a cancer disease and I beat it and after that it was weird to send the kids away everything changed so I can relate, but just from a completely different angle, to how rough it can.

I'm I'm not ever going to say it was great I had cancer, but the things I learned from it, I'm grateful for that now it certainly gave you different priorities, didn't you? Exactly exactly, and I was more ready to listen to my son when he said that he didn't want to start schooling.

16:47 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, and also our oldest son, who was the one who didn't want to start school. Nowadays, when he's like a grown upup, he's 18 we can look at each other and say, okay, god bless that he didn't go to school, because he's a very soft and a child with a lot of heart and a lot of emotion and just a pure wonderful boy. And and that spirit would have been different. It would have been. He would have been forced to become someone he's not.

17:24 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
That really to me gets to the.

17:25 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think that happens for all the kids in school, though it's not special for all of them.

17:29 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
It gets to the crux of it for me, what you're saying, because we live in a time when our world needs so desperately for each person's gifts to be available and, for you know, sometimes gifts look like tenderness and a love of justice or concern for animals or children or nature or something, and you have to make that shell around yourself in a peer culture and the world is deprived of those gifts for however long. Many of us get to be our 40s or 50s and we're just starting to break out of that shell and find who we wanted to be all along.

18:11 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
That is one of my favorite quotes from a transformational leader. He said that the path to personal development is to remove the layers of you that aren't you. And I just almost get sad by the truth in it, because imagine if we hadn't put on those layers in this peer culture all of us have been grown up into. It would have been wonderful not to put them on. And now I'm turning 50 this year and I'm looking at so which of me is me and which is, uh, parts that developed into becoming me to survive in this school culture.

And I was a competition swimmer, um, and at the same time, also not wanting to be like, oh, I will just sit and look at my navel and think about how my life could have been different and just accepting what is, because I also think there's a lot of people who end up doing too much personal development and trying to find a cause for everything, and I'm like life is life. I'm here now, right, but I'm really happy to be able to, to give our children the opportunity to, to not put on probably not put on all those layers yeah.

19:31 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'm getting curious.

19:32 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
There's another side. I think that um Jesper's got one side of it really clear about peer culture and, um, you know, hiding your individual gifts, and I think the other side of it is when kids are raised outside of that, when they have that kind of freedom to unschool or whatever we want to call it, they can also look more critically at our consumer culture and how everything is commodified and bring kind of a fresh perspective on what is seen to be real and valuable and necessary, with eyes that are somewhat outside of that culture which is so essential.

20:15 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yes, they do become more clear on what they see, and they also.

I think it's a very important thing that they also have the time for that.

And now we started off talking about how we can get in the way with our agendas, and that might lead someone to think that the job of the unschooling parent would be to shut up, and that's actually not the case, because all of these conversations that we have with our children, if we are curious and excited about the conversation, without an agenda, without trying to push it in a specific direction, but being interested in how it looks for the children and and offering our perspective I mean, we are older, we do very often know more or we know other things and we can open up the box and look at the whole thing together.

Whatever it is the theme that they take and throw over the morning coffee. That will be what we talk about for the next two days and explore and unfold. We need to be, as parents, I think, available for that journey, to take it with them. So it's not about I just had that pending in the back of my head if there were newcomers listening that. It's not about you know, you should shut up and get out of the way of your children. They'll figure it out themselves, yeah, but no, I mean. Unschooling is also about us being available, present and and strong in our relation with our children.

21:52 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I think it very much has to do with what you're saying, which has so. It's so much about connection and when we affirm that they're valuable, their time is valuable, their interests are. You know, you have so much more time to build connection when you're together, and our enthusiasms for what we're excited about we can't help but share have surely been around kids who have such singular passions maybe for a short time over, something that the whole family suddenly knows more about. You know, jet engines or wildflowers or whatever they're they're totally into. And I think one of the offshoots of those close connections I noticed in my family is it empowered my kids to feel completely able to connect with people of all ages. So instead of I only hang around with kids who are also 11, my kids found mentors just like you might have done in a little village or a little tribe adults, teenagers, elders and had incredibly valuable experiences. I have a son who spent years learning bagpipes from a leader of the Black Watch in Scotland who moved to our area and marched in parades for years. A daughter who worked with a wildlife rehabilitator, for I think it was like 16 years that she worked with hawks and owls. I mean I have a million examples of these things A son who was rebuilding an Opal car long before he could drive and got involved with a group of enthusiasts who rebuild Opal cars from all over the world that he had all these connections, which that connection on a tangent.

When that son went into an engineering field I was terrified by the way. When he went into college I was thinking, oh my god, this is how much math is this child had? And he excelled. He did marvelously. Um, the connections he had through that OPAL group got him a job, actually an internship that turned into a job From those connections. His school didn't have that connection and he's been there a few years. He's given presentations at conferences in Japan, germany, china, france and has several patents pending, and that all's connected to him being a 12-year-old on Opal forums talking about car rebuilding.

24:31 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You never know where their passions will take them really, and our agenda is, if we steal all of their time, them what to do and you can do the oval thing two hours a week. Uh, because we, as parents, have this curriculum agenda and you have to do all these things first and then, when you're exhausted, and maybe on Thursdays, you get to do the things you choose. That's exactly what I was talking about. We get in the way of their path. We're actually ruining things for our children, um, so I'm curious. I mean, the story about the gun is a crazy story, but it is. But what came after then? What happened? If you want to share, you know, then what you know, suddenly you were homeschooling.

25:19 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Yeah, it was very sudden. Um, I think it was a sequential um. I thought, okay, finally we can just do some kind of whatever they're passionate about we'll learn about. But I got like the example with the show them everything about the toy I got so over involved. Um, and there it's. It's one thing to augment what they're fascinated by by, you know, going taking them on a field trip or getting books out of the library or you know whatever you can do to help them. It's another thing to take over and I did the taking over thing and, if anything, the entire free range learning book is an apology to my oldest who suffered through all of my range learning book is an apology to my oldest who suffered through all of my many phases before he took me a year or two.

You know, I look at my four kids and the youngest had the least of any formal anything. Certainly, like many unschoolers, he took he. No, he went to interesting camps and he took science-based stuff that he was interested in and um did a lot of exploring on his own. But um, as I said, he went into engineering and I was terrified that he didn't. We hadn't sat down and done formal math education. Um, he took a community college class or two when he started to get interested in that.

Um and I guess I'm veering off the topic again but when he got into his four-year engineering program, everyone came to him.

The students kept coming to him because you need to have direct application of principles to learn engineering, and many of them had never used tools, They'd never used a wrench, They'd never built anything, They'd never fixed anything, and so they could learn things. They could memorize things easily from years of school, but they had no way of applying them, and so they kept coming to my son to have him explain things and help them study. They also even thought that, like how is it he didn't have to study much either, because he was intuiting these principles differently through a body that had done a lot of hands on stuff. So I guess I'm I'm veering from your question of our sequence, but I went, I got more and more involved in homeschooling and unschooling groups and found more ways that the kids could pursue their own interests, and I of course found friends in these kinds of groups as well, and it became this larger village for us, and you always learn in the village.

27:57 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think, it's amazing how you found that village. I still find it hard to find that community for my children. We have the double challenge that we also travel, so we are not in one place. They would have to find that community somehow online, or well, it's not about me, I'm just how did did you? How did it happen? How did you find, or your children find, these village people? Um, I think it's hard for people to imagine how, how to actually go about finding other, because at some, you can be an unschooling parent for smaller children and they will more or less just need what you can provide. It's it's not really a problem when they're small, but then they become bigger and and some of their interests you can't help them with it. It's it. You just can't and you need that village that doesn't exist anymore. We don't live in villages anymore. Right, how? What would be your advice for for for people entering that phase looking for how do I build a village for my children?

29:06 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I think, um, I felt like ours was particularly challenging. We live in a small rural township, um, it's it's very, very conservative, which is the very much opposite of of my life. Um, and there, and there were literally families on our street who would not play with my kids because they were not professed born again Christians. You had to be born again and profess Brand new. To me, I think the key for us was the inclusivity. So, for example, the unschooling, homeschooling groups that I was involved with and helped develop were all were welcome, and in many groups you're only welcome if you're a particular kind of learner. If you're an unschooler, you're welcome. If you're school at home, you're only welcome in this group If your parents have these rigid ideas about this kind of behavior and those kids don't fit, you don't belong. And you get all these different camps of people who, where the adults have the one perspective and that's all they want their kids to be around. It's an unfortunate tendency that I hope is not outside. The US probably is, and our group welcomed everyone. We welcomed families whose kids were still in school If they wanted to be part of our activities, see what it's like, take a day off of school or come on a weekend. We welcomed people who were in these other kind of corralled off groups. You're welcome, come spend time with us. It gave our kids more time and with more diverse interests and playmates, and I would watch these beautiful relationships develop between.

I remember a woman who had built a classroom in her basement and the kids spent six to eight hours in the basement day. They were fined if they forgot the pencil or if they didn't do their homework. They went outside for an actual what was called a recess and it was more constricting than any school I'm aware of. And I watched her soften as her kids played with these other kids who were, as we know about kids, when they're allowed to pursue their own interests, they become these brilliant ambassadors for whatever they're interested in. And this you could see over a period of months as she joined with us.

She saw that's what I want for them. I don't want to make sure that they go through every step of this curriculum. I want them to love to learn, and that's what she was seeing in the kids who were freer, and I watched this happen over and over again. And I also, on the other hand, I watched parents whose kids were completely free. You know they no one worried if they weren't reading when they were 10, 11 years old and I watched them ask these other more conservative learning families. So tell me what you think is a good perspective for me to. You know, help them learn to read.

And so the strengths were on all sides, the respect was on all sides, and I think that really helps build a community. Instead of I believe this and you don't, so you're out of my life, it's come on in and let's see what we can all learn, and I loved the group that we ended up with. I also watched in our area many of these very exclusive groups die out. They were just less and less welcoming and had a lot of infighting and they died and our big inclusive group just got bigger and happier and friendlier.

32:48 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Oh man, could humanity learn from that please?

32:55 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You know because we live in that country.

32:56 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I also had to drive my kids a lot to everything, so it wasn't like you. You know, my daughter got to ride her bike to do her wildlife rehab volunteering. I had to drive her and it's not like you know. It was it. Uh, it impinged on my career pretty heavily to to do all this, which was fine, but who needs to retire someday?

33:20 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
it's a career to be an unschooled mom, I mean it will take most of your time.

33:30 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Laura, free-range learning is not the only book you have written. So what makes you write? What makes you write? Does it grow inside you?

33:48 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
What happens? Well, I wonder if watching my kids grow into who they wanted to be helped me to also do that. I didn't start writing. I'd been writing for many years other things, but mostly for pay, and I write a lot of poetry and memoir now, which, by the way, doesn't pay well. But you know I get to be who I want to be and you know that makes a difference. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

34:24 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Hey, just a short interruption as I have a small message about some of the things I'm working on. My name is Jesper Conrad. It is my pleasure to invite you to become a less stressed dad. I know how it is to be stressed out. My wife had cancer, I have four kids and I had a long career and had to like juggle everything at the same time and it's hard. It's sometimes hard to be a dad. It's hard to be the breadwinner.

If that's what you are, that's what I've been in our family where my wife have been at home with our children and it takes its toll, and one of the things that really help is to talk with someone else about it and that is why I've created the better dad institute together with my good friend martin cook, and at the better dad institute we have dad circles where we meet up and once a week and just talk about life as a dad, because sharing actually is super, super healing in the process of being a dad.

To just hear that someone else is working through the same problems that you are is very, very giving. And if you're into more like a one-on-one thing, then I would happily help you and share my experience of being a dad to four wonderful children and having a wonderful relationship with my wife and being a full-time travel dad, how I have juggling everything at the same time having a career, and how I have learned to get those shoulders down to actually be very happy in my life. Of course, the stress can like pop up, but then I have the techniques I've learned and which I would love to teach you. So reach out at the betterdadinstitutecom and if you want to get directly in contact with me, then it's betterdadinstitutecom. Slash conrad, I look forward to hearing from you and have fun.

36:19 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And now on with the podcast oh yeah, it makes maybe the difference.

36:35 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Yeah and I think also, I guess the one aspect that feels really big that we didn't bring up is um, meaningful work, um, which is not just for me, writing books, but um with our family and our finances and that sort of thing. Our kids always had to pitch in, and especially on a little farm. The youngest was probably five when we had to rebuild a bridge that was washed out with very little money and the kids came up with the most efficient way to do that. The kids are the ones who helped hay and feed cows and fix tractors and, you know, do a million things. And we, they knew we needed them. They knew we needed them to help split firewood and stack it or the house would be cold.

And I think all kids, starting from the time they can barely walk, want to help. They want to be, have purpose and meaning and it gives them. You know, like, read any children's chapter book. The kids in those books are needed and they're purposeful and they're doing something of value and they're not just set aside to be entertained. And I think a lot of kids miss that feeling. You know the adults are like oh, I'm going to do all this work because it's so important to get kids to soccer and chess club and the millions. Those things are fine, but if they don't, if to me, if kids don't get to be meaningfully and purposefully involved in what the family needs and what their community needs, then we're cheating them. So that's another angle for me. But also.

38:14 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's an important angle and I think the whole way we structure society, putting the kids in school and trying to convince them that their work is to do this meaningless work Much of the things that children have to do in school to learn is without any meaning and, from the perspective of the child, even with less meaning and downright boring.

So they have to sit there and waste their time while the parents get more and more busy and waste their time. While the parents get more and more busy, running faster and faster doing their maybe meaningful work, um, making the money that we need to maintain this life that we might want if we stop to think about it. So they are being separated out and I think they know they're not stupid. They know that basically we just don't have time for them and they're getting in the way and it's kind of annoying. So why don't you sit over there and color in this page and write 200 D's after each other until they look almost perfect? You're never going to use handwriting in real life, but who cares? We've got you parked over there while we do the important stuff. That's the structure of the modern world. No wonder the kids don't thrive, no wonder they bring a gun to school when you think about it.

39:49 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
And truly, we've got so much technology that knows the answers you can ask the air and Alexa will tell you the answer and that the very human qualities of playfulness and imagination and creativity, that's the human skill that's going to take us into the next shifting paradigm of a healthier earth. Not knowing your geometry and memorizing world history and that sort of thing We've got machines for that. I'm not saying those things aren't valuable, but to push down and push away from all of that energy and zest and creativity and playfulness takes us away from a brighter future.

40:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
To me most definitely yeah, I'm a big believer in humanity. Of course, even though I work a lot online and I use ai tools and all this, what I see is actually that reality and human interaction becomes more and more important. Now, when people know you can make a video by the click on a button and everything is so easy, then talking in real life or through Zoom, as we do now, just becomes more valuable, and I see also a need in people arise for being together, where I think we have had a period of time where all the social media have kind of covered something we believed, and now people feel drained and they feel a need to be together. That's my dream.

41:27 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Well, and conversation and togetherness are a form of play. You're innovating, you're riffing on other topics. It's and I think, with all the things that we say, they used to say that separated humans from all other creatures. You know our tool use and all this stuff. Other creatures do this. We know this. The big distinction, um which I teach in writing classes, is that human beings play throughout life. It looks different, it's innovation and it's fun and it's conversation and whatever. But they know that even within a species, those who play the longest are the best adapted. There was a study where they watched wild bears for 15 years and the bears that played the most and the longest into their adulthood, lived the longest, had the most successful cub raising and they flourished. And it's the same with humans. To cut away from time to play is so damaging to us as a species even installing the idea that you have to cut away from it.

42:35 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I was thinking when you said you know I think you said geometry and geography, maybe it doesn't matter Some of the academics from school how do we even need that? Well, we need it if we play with it, if we learn it by being playful, if it's because we get curious about the planet and the countries and the flags and how it all came about, and maybe the deep time problem, all these things. If we learn about these things in a playful way, we wouldn't call it school. There's no discipline, there's no curriculum, there's no test at the end of the day or the end of the month. I see my children learning these things in a playful way. They are having fun with memorizing things, they are having fun with understanding things, and the same thing with geometry.

Geometry is actually a lot of fun if you like it, and not everyone has to. So I think we do install that crazy idea when our kids are very young that they can earn play time if they do work time. So if they do boring stuff, then they get to do fun stuff and we define the stuff to be boring. So then we say geography is going to be boring. You have to do that before you do the fun stuff. Who says it has to be boring? It's not boring, right? So so we rule in it and we tell them you have to be bored for about eight hours every day doing things you don't want to do. Then you get to have fun afterwards and we teach them to hate learning the things that we think they should learn. It's completely shooting yourself in the foot.

44:13 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Yeah, anytime, we reward anything. I know if you take two things a young child likes to do, say doing puzzles and drawing, and you say, well, you have to do half an hour puzzles before you can draw, it makes drawing seem better and puzzles seem worse, and then they start to hate puzzles. We do this constantly with everything.

44:34 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
The thing is we do it. So one of my children said a few days ago that he wanted to change his habits so that the things he wants to do, but that are takes more discipline, a little harder to get yourself to do. He would do those first and then he could relax doing the things. That does not take your inner core strength. I find that totally good and fine Once the child figured that out himself. Okay, I want to learn to play the guitar, but I sort of skip it most of the days. So maybe I should tell myself play the guitar first, then play my whatever computer games. That's different.

That's the inner understanding of your own psychology and your own goals and that sometimes something you want to achieve in life or learn in life takes discipline and takes that you have to do something that might be a little bit boring. Learning to play a musical instrument is quite boring for the first year for most instruments for people, because it's just a lot of repetition. And once they realize this themselves, oh, maybe I have to do the carrot thing to trick my own mind into doing the things that I actually want to do. When I wake up in the morning I know I want to do it and then somehow every day it's 10 30 in the evening. I haven't done it yet. We all know this. You know you have to do the, to work with your apps and do your sit-ups and you never do it. But when you've identified to me.

46:23 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
You've really identified the difference between some top-down things, saying you will practice your guitar half an hour every day because I'm paying for these lessons, and you do it from the motivation that rises up from in them, which they learn their own carrots of. I want to play the guitar better because I want to be able to riff on this song and I want to be able to play with my friends and I want to be able to make TikToks or whatever. It's their own motivation, not some top-down thing.

46:52 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Absolutely, laura. I want to go back to the free-range learning mindset. So just to hear if you have some advice for parents who, let's say say, still have their children in school, find the whole idea about introducing more free-range learning in their life, but are not yet ready to take their kids out of school, do you have some advice, suggestions to how they could can nurture a more free-range learning inside the more normal frames?

47:37 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Well one. Most school districts in the United States parents can actually opt out of standardized tests and in many districts parents can opt out of homework, and both of those things take away from even a child's joy in school. And homework, by the way, has never been shown to be effective as a learning age, especially for elementary school age kids. So by that they're freeing up their child for more time. I would also encourage them to give the child the freedom to play with. You know, maybe they're not playing on the play structures at the park, maybe they want to play with the sticks or the mud or whatever. Just stretch those limits of what you think they should be doing. Maybe don't have as many structured activities, maybe they don't need to be in three sports and the kinds of things.

That's particularly in suburban America is just every kid is in every activity and I think very much the most important thing is to see that beautiful uniqueness that every child has, so that you can look at their deficits.

Oh, they're not behaving this way or they're not great at their math flashcards. You can see deficits, but we only build by building on what's working and what's already beautiful and perfect in our kids, and they already are whole people, whatever age they are. And our kids and they already are whole people, whatever age they are. So to celebrate them, to let yourself nurture what's already flourishing in them their imagination or their interests, or their beautiful way of daydreaming when you want them to put their shoes on but they're looking out the window. That's also beautiful. So many of the things that we think are problems are part of that perfection they already have. And you may have a kid who seems like a stubborn or difficult or argumentative. Those are often the qualities that are going to turn that child into an incredible advocate for something they believe in as an adult. So it's to me so much about that beauty that you just that parents already see, and just to let that flourish.

49:58 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
That's beautiful advice.

50:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yes, and I think people should go check out your website. I think they should read your book. But could you promote yourself a little? I know you're not the best of self-promoters and now I will teach you a little. So where do people find you if they really want to get to know more about you and your work and also if you can mention how they can work together with you if you offer this service?

50:25 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
um, thank you, you're right. I I'm I'm weird about promotion myself. I have a website?

50:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Oh, I asked for it.

50:34 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Yes, my website is lauragraceweldoncom. I write about a whole bunch of things, but if you go to the subjects and you click on learning or homeschooling or any of those relevant subjects, you will find many very research-backed articles on how we teach math wrong or how we can better do a million things. I also have run for years a Facebook page called Free Range Learning, which is this really lovely community of people, and I put a lot of silly things on there too, but a lot of meaningful things. And then there's the book. Yes, and I do occasionally do coaching with people. I don't even have it on my website, but you can just hit the contact form and that's the whole story.

51:29 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I think people should do that. Laura, it was a wonderful pleasure having you. Thanks a lot for your time and yeah, I'm just happy.

51:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It was a very nice conversation, thank you.

51:42 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

51:46 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you liked that, then please share it with all your friends and family. We would also love it if you gave our podcast a review. Thanks, and if you want to support our podcast and work, then you can find us on patreoncom slash the Conrad family. We will continue to travel full time and if you want to tag along, then please follow us on Facebook and Instagram at the Conrad Family, and you can also read more than 100 blog posts on our website, theconradfamily. Until next time, make a wonderful day, thank you.


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