#70 Laura Grace Weldon | Rethinking Education: Unschooling and Parenting in a Digital Age.


🗓️ Recorded April 18th, 2024. 📍Belton, Missouri, United States

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About this Episode 

Laura Grace Weldon is an acclaimed author and educator known for her book "Free Range Learning." She advocates for holistic, learner-centered education and promotes the benefits of creative, unstructured learning environments. Laura's work emphasizes nurturing curiosity and fostering lifelong learning outside traditional classroom settings.

Discover how to nurture your child's curiosity and potential with Laura, an expert in alternative education methods like unschooling and homeschooling. We’ll explore how stepping away from traditional schooling can benefit toddlers in a more relaxed environment.

Join us as we discuss parenting, fear, and cultural influences. With her background in child protective services, Laura emphasizes trusting our instincts over societal pressures. We'll also tackle balancing screen time and real-world experiences for our kids in today’s tech-driven world.

The episode wraps up with insights into different parenting styles and the role of technology. We’ll look at balancing structure and freedom in play and the importance of nurturing critical thinking, encouraging people to give themselves grace in parenting and exposing their children to diverse viewpoints to help them grow into open-minded and resilient individuals.

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With love


Jesper Conrad 


00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Conrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest. Here we are yet again, together with Laura. Welcome, laura, it is a big pleasure to see you again.

00:16 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Thank you for inviting me back. It's good to see your smiling faces.

00:20 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

00:20 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

00:21 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, likewise, I have met parents out there who say that they unschool or homeschool when what they have at home is toddlers. And it has puzzled me, and not in a judgmental way, but like how can you say you're homeschooling or unschooling when you have a toddler? Do you have any thoughts about this? Or?

00:45 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
unschooling when you have a toddler. Do you have any thoughts about this? Where are you? I mean, it's interesting to start parenting with any philosophy you think you're going to go forward with, because kids are so different and each one of them teaches us something different. But I think that babies and toddlers are undoing us. They're breaking apart all these perceptions we've got. They're often getting right down to the emotional core of our defenses and it is very much a mutual collaborative thing between parents and children, and families and the littlest ones, because they they teach us too. They come to this planet with so much already a part of themselves to me.

01:37 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I envy people who could say when their kids were one or two years old that they would like to unschool. I wish I'd known about the philosophy and been more powerful in my choices at that point. So yeah, you can maybe sometimes feel like laughing a little bit when people talk about their schooling choices and they have very small children. But on the other hand, just having that idea, I think that would have to me, would have been great, would have been I would have been a better mother.

02:15 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I think the powerful part of that is that any kind of laid-back philosophy takes away that pressure of we have to get the kid ready to be able to sit still and take instructions at three or, you know, write their name at a certain age. You know it's so. It is nice to start with that just kind of freer approach definitely.

02:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And also I think I've met a lot of parents who have a very free approach and a very powerful attachment parenting style when the kids are small, but they still think that their children have to go to school when they're in our country, at six. When you're six, you have to go to school. You can have all this freedom when you're a little child, but then when you're six, you go to school and everything changes at that point. So it's also interesting to meet people who are so powerful in the same basic philosophy about the attachment and the personal freedom for smaller children but cannot uninstall the idea that they have to receive that instruction when they get to that point in life. I mean both ways.

Yeah, yeah yeah, it puzzles me, and well, I don't know if we have any in our audience with such small children. We probably do. I'm actually quite sure we do.

03:39 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Well, and that's not to say that you can't continue attachment parenting when kids are in school. There are so many amazing parents with kids in school who are close and connected and wonderful and empowering. It's just easier to have that whole fluid approach if people have the freedom and the time to do that 24-7. That's just marvelous.

04:06 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I think what puzzled me and I'm thinking out loud here is, whatever crutches people choose, I can be a little afraid of an ism or that parents say I need to parent in this specific way to be a good parent.

And of course it's some way comes of insecurity that you are in doubt how to handle this thing, that you're standing with life in your hands and haven't been a parent before and you don't know how to do it and so you're clutching at straws and is trying to find some.

If somebody just could give me the system I should use and I always get afraid when people talk about unschooling or homeschooling or any kind of things where it become a system that you should follow because I love my freedom so much that I'm like ah, then you're just, you're broken free from one system and installed another one instead. But then having, as you said that is what is coming to me now is having this freer approach of parenting as a system you might use as crutches in the start is way better than having the myth of normal as the system installed in you. You might not follow a book, but you follow what you believe is the way you should parent because that is how you have been raised, and I'm not sure I'm making sense here. I don't know anybody other than me, but I'm getting it.

05:55 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'm getting it, I think I think a main problem is if you don't put any thought into it, and that was what you were saying as well.

You know, having a philosophy when you have a small child is a good thing, and having a laid back, free philosophy where you allow for the process to unfold, you allow for the things to happen, that happens, and you allow for yourself to feel your feelings, and you know you don't have a specific outcome and a to-do list, and you know all these things is probably a better philosophy than, you know, the tiger mom philosophy. So, and I think and I don't know if that becomes too personal for you, but I think you came from a place when you became a dad where you did not want anyone to tell you how to do anything and you were good enough as you were and no one should. You know I don't, you did. You married a psychologist and you didn't believe in personal development and you didn't. No one could. You know. Shut up, Don't tell me what to do, Don't? I'm fine and you know school was good for me. It was good, will be good for my kids.

You know you were a little stubborn at that point oh, absolutely, and therefore I think also it would annoy you that other people would dive into these processes, and I don't know how relevant that is for everyone, but maybe it is. I mean, maybe we have a lot of parents out there who can resist the process of even thinking about parenting.

07:27 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I think what I'm saying is also that if you, even if you come without a handbook that you have read about parenting, then you come with a pre-installed way of looking at how you should be a parent.

07:41 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And the handbook is a sign. You started thinking and you were able to say, okay, maybe what I would do like automatically isn't perfect, so how about I explore this field a little bit?

07:55 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I think it has so much to do with softening. You know, we need to hang on to some things, as Jesper said, maybe out of insecurity, we need to hang on to whatever we as Jesper said, maybe out of insecurity, we need to hang on to whatever we've read or believed to give us a little guidance. But, particularly in American culture, there's a lot of toxic beliefs around parenting that babies or children manipulate you, that you have to impose a schedule, that you require $10,000 worth of very expensive child corralling swings and toys and things to just like keep placing them different places, and it's all rigid and it doesn't have that softness of that mutuality between a parent and child, of the child showing what they need and the parent also showing well, these are the parameters. I mean, as we know, like a little tiny baby, there needs come first. I remember explaining to my toddlers when you were a baby your cries had to be answered immediately. Now that you're three, if the baby's crying, this is why I go to the baby first. And you know it's just. That was ridiculously simplistic. But you know those stages are very different.

I remember I had my first child at 22. I didn't know anybody with children and I went to the Lecce meetings, which I don't know if they have where you are, but you know it was. It was breastfeeding the moms and it was support and I noticed as many of them. It's a wonderful organization, very supportive, but I noticed that some were carrying this philosophy of always hold your baby, wear your baby, nurse on demand. They were carrying that philosophy out in developmental ways that didn't work for, say, a four or five year old who does not need to be attached to you every second and needs that freedom.

But it was the parent having trouble moving to that next stage, softening to what the child kept showing them they needed, and they kept responding to anger and cries and whatever with what worked for a one-year-old. We just have to keep being open and trust the evolution of our entire species is right there in each child. Their, you know, their desire to explore and climb and play and imagine is so vital that there's no, you know, monthly science kit you can get and there's no, you know, philosophy of parenting that's perfect for every child. It's already perfectly designed. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

10:51 - 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 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. 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, ceciliaconradcom. If you're a Danish speaker, I have a Danish website, ceciliaconraddk, and we can find those 20 minutes and see how it goes from there. And now back to the podcast.

12:30 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And also I find that the whole. So I can recognize what you say about American culture. I think it's not the same in Scandinavia, but there are parallels. And and I think in in the human psyche, the reaction of control when there is fear is, you know, that's universal, that if you are afraid or feel insecure, it's very nice to have a plan and execute it. That makes you feel safe and makes you feel like powerful. You can do something about this. So being being a parent, not knowing what you're doing, not having the natural support system that most of us don't have anymore, it's nice with a plan. You know, tell me how many times a day to breastfeed, tell me how, what toys to put around my kid, tell me when they are supposed to be able to use scissors and shoelaces or whatever, and I'll just do it, because all parents love their children and they want to do their best. And if you feel insecure, it's so nice with the system, but it comes from the head, talks to the head and shuts off the heart. So when you use the word softening, I was just thinking the antidote to this rigid, system-based response to fear is to cope with the fear.

Understand that we will always fail. We all fail. We cannot do it perfectly, and we cannot. The world is not perfect. So the life our children will live in this world will not be a fairy tale life. We all get some you know scars. We can do our best and if we, instead of installing a rigid, more or less rigid, brain-based system, control-based parenting, and walk with our hearts first, then we need to learn to trust the process, which is really hard, but that's what we need to learn to do yeah, yeah, I um, very briefly, out of college, I worked in child protective services, which, in this country, is where you call if you think a child is being abused.

15:00 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
And, um, I had read some data back then that you know an adult, particularly a parent and especially a mother, when they hear a baby's cries their own baby's cries you know you've got an entire body response. Cortisol goes up blood pressure. You know you feel the urgency and if you have some kind of belief system that you should not pick a child up, it easily turns to anger. You're interpreting that. You know this child shouldn't be screaming and instead of having interpreting that rush of emotion and you know the body charged up, ready to go pick up that child, help that child, save the child, whatever you need to do, when you know parents have been told forever to like, oh, you know, don't spoil them, they what, what their bodies begin to feel is anger. And, um, I used to teach these classes, you know, like forever ago, when I was doing this child protective stuff, saying let's understand that feeling you have. It isn't really anger, it's anger turned against yourself for not responding. It's not, you know, and just listening to what our bodies are telling us. So I'll give you an example.

We, when my kids were little, we lived in a different house and it had gravel at the end of the driveway close to the street and my daughter who was just walking so maybe one all she wanted to do was toddle off to that gravel and I would say no, because it's too close to the street, pick her up and she'd get frustrated. No, I mean, you know, they're toys, there's grass, there's things to play with here, Sand. No, she wanted to be, there's something she needs to discover or explore here. So I walked out and I sat with her in the gravel and she performed all kinds of little toddler experiments picking it up, scooping, dropping, moving, sorting and every time you know she's a baby Every time she put it close to her mouth I'm like no, and if it got in her mouth, I picked her up and we were done. And she had maybe five days in a row that she wanted to do nothing but that gravel. And then whatever desire that it was in her to learn right, then whatever that was teaching her was done. Instead of resisting and thinking, why is she being so difficult? It's just, let's figure out what she needs to learn here and it kind of helped me understand how even the tiniest child does science and when kids are excited and ready to learn and looking for something.

They don't need a kit with pre-measured materials. They just need somebody to say yes, you know, make a mess, measured materials. They just need somebody to say, yes, you know, make a mess, We'll figure it out together, or you go do that. Here are the things you can use and it can be silly sometimes. I remember I don't know. One of my sons was eight and he's like does a, do you think of a tortilla, you know, like if you throw it and moves like a Frisbee. So I threw it at him. It does. By the way, that upset another one of my kids who's much more orderly. But you know we had a nice time throwing that frisbee around until the dog disciplined us and ate it.

18:13 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah we are talking about, about how to learn to be a parent.

I just get envious on people living in community with their elders, and it made me think about how few generations it maybe actually is that we have turned into living not together with our generation.

I don't know the numbers for it, but but it is not such a long period of time actually, but it's.

It's a long enough period of time that my, my grandparents and great-grandparents have lived without their elders, um, so, so it's a lot of knowledge that haven't been passed on naturally, and it kind of feels stupid to say, hey, we already know this as a species, we just need to remember to relearn it. Because today I feel I mean all the knowledge I have today as a father, and I can look and my youngest is 12. And I'm like I still have, wonderfully, years ahead of me with him. But I'm like, oh man, I would have loved to know this when I started out on this journey and I will do what I can to pass it on to my children and I hope to be near them when they get children so I can share with them how I best found to come for the baby. And these are things where I had to walk, alone or together with my wife, but in unison, as two persons, and instead of a whole family, a whole tribe, a whole village.

19:56 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I think we've forgotten that all of humanity is a search engine and it's so easy to just go look it up on YouTube how to do something. But we had talked the last time about connecting our kids with experts in the field or people with experience, and I think that that is the antidote to so much of this difficulty. The data shows that the loneliest people are teenagers and elders, and those are the two age groups that so need each other. And when you know, we have had a practice of asking people. One of my first examples is just before the internet, and one of my kids wanted to know what the opposite of nocturnal was, and I knew there was a term and I couldn't think of it. So we walked three doors down to this guy I knew was really into science and asked him and it's diurnal, of course, but he was so happy to be asked that he would, you know, like, share science observations with this kid of mine who was interested. When this neighbor bought a telescope years later, my kid was the first person he invited over to use the telescope, and I have so many examples of that.

I think we honor people when we ask for their expertise and if people have experience whatever growing tomatoes, weaving, raising sheep, whatever it is and no one asks them, no one cares about what they have. It's this huge loss to us as a species. So when we get a chance to ask somebody anything, you know what is your recipe for using up these potatoes that have been in the ground too long, or what is your you know what is? What is your recipe for using up these potatoes that have been in the ground too long, or what is your you know how do you braid hair in those you know that complicated way? Anything that we ask people with respect, honors them.

And they almost it's almost like this human imperative to pass that down. And we when my kids were little or when I was running homeschool, unschool groups, you know we took that on a community wide level. So we found like small business owners were happy to come in half an hour, an hour early and show kids how their equipment worked. We found that academics and scientists in particular were completely willing to talk to kids, maybe come out and visit, maybe bring a demonstration, maybe let the kids in their lab. We watched sheep sharing and people making steel drums and doing science experiments, doing archaeology.

We got so many opportunities simply because we asked and it wasn't a top down like oh, the parents in this group really want the kids to learn this. It was almost always compelled by a child. And when I think people who are good in whatever field see, say, a 12 year old who's asking excited and interested questions, they're willing to just really go out there and answer and help that child. We have the mentoring urge. Really, even if you watch an older kid and a younger kid, that older child already has that mentoring urge, urge to help and we have that going on right now.

23:24 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Actually, yeah, yeah, I'm just thinking I don't know if it's a bomb to throw in here. But what about the internet? What about the? We talk about unschooling and for me, one of the things I honestly cannot figure out is how to feel comfortable allowing quote. I don't I mean, I don't make rules as such, but still I see how electronics really take over.

And one of my my unschool no, she's not an unschool one of my homeschooling mom friends, she said to me I think it's maybe 10 years ago, she's, she has a different style for me and I wouldn't copy all of it. I'm not saying that, but she took it away because she said I can't compete with it. There's no way. Whatever I come up with, it will not be as interesting as the iPad. And now we're talking small children. My kids are older now and it's a different scene, but it still is one thing I really like to talk to wise people about, because I think it's very, very hard. Some of my unschooling mom friends they're like yeah, whatever, just let them do whatever. They can watch all the TikTok and YouTube shorts and game all night, and you know they don't have to see sunlight. If that's what they want to do, let's let them do it. I see the logic, but then again I don't see thriving.

25:17 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I don't fit into the unschooling world for that reason in particular, and I think, yes, yes, give kids the freedom to. They want to go dig a hole in the woods. Dig a hole in the woods. They want to experiment with cooking. Go right ahead if they want to. You know, read books all day fine.

But with um digital technology, we're not working with just like what, what fresh ideas the world has to offer them in a hands-on way. We're talking about a technology that is understandably designed to be alluring and to keep you engaged, and we can learn a lot from it in a million ways, from it in a million ways. One of them is that video games and so much keep kids right on the edge of mastery, like just a little better, just a little better, which is how anyone's enticed into anything. But we also know that there's neural pruning, that you lose the neural connections you're not using, and there's huge pruning that goes on in very early childhood. There's huge pruning that goes on again around age 12. So if you haven't done a full exploration of your world on a regular basis, if you haven't climbed trees and gone swimming and run around with friends or play done, make believe, if you've spent much more time with a device, then you're going to have neural pruning on all of those what you could really call possibilities, because you've been so focused on one thing.

And so I wouldn't be regarded as an unschooler in many circles because I always had limits. Always, when they were really little, um, they watched a couple hours of public television a week. When they were older, they played video games at their friends houses and, you know, wanted video game consoles, and I assured them that they would know they had a terrible, terrible disease if I bought them something like that. And they weren't able to get out of bed. And, of course, by the time they were preteens especially my boys just like built themselves consoles out of parts.

Okay, so you know, that was time. They were already fast beyond that and they had plenty of sleepovers where they like stayed up all night and played video games with people from around the world. And but it felt good to me for the time that they were very young that they were using their bodies and they were using their make-believe One. You know, one good reason to have some kind of limits is the form of the form of their. You know, make-believe is so vital in itself and there's a form called world play. I don't know if we did. We talk about this already. Um and world or role, pardon did you say world or role?

play world world and it's a, it's a kind of um the. You know, throughout history kids amuse themselves by themselves or with other kids, outside of the view of adults, and it's a big deal because make believe is much more real without anybody observing you. And the highest form of pretend is called world play and it's when children have an ongoing alternate world, like a Tolkien sort of a thing. And there are examples of kids doing world play just based on patterns they see in the rug, or world play where they have imaginary sports teams and they keep the stats. I mean, there are world plays where they write dialogue and action for space aliens or something.

And what's interesting is they have linked world play, which was very common 150 years ago, to some really high level science and literature and that sort of thing. They found, for example, the mcarthur genius grantees, who are supposed to be, you know the, the most innovative people. A huge percentage of them engaged in world play as children, which largely means they had the time and the freedom to make believe, and it's, in my view, very difficult to have your own make-believe and it's, in my view, very difficult to have your own make-believe compete with a tablet or a game console or with TikTok, because that's just so dopamine stimulating that the slower, quieter aspects of make-believe don't compete easily.

30:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Quieter aspects of make-believe don't compete easily. It's the question of silence, really. I think the bridge between unfolding life with the electronic entertainment and then passing that bridge of silence into unfolding whatever comes from the inside and I'm walking thin ice here because I actually don't know what I really think about this I find it very hard. We've had all kinds of different strategies and I don't feel safe with the modern technology, but I equally do not feel safe saying no because I know it makes it worse and I see. So, briefly, our story is a lot of different strategies, opinions, ways of handling it.

When they were smaller and then when our now 15 year old was seven, we did a full stop for four years with no electronics at all, which was really nice for me, very easy, didn't have to worry about it. But then my sons came to an age where you know they really felt they were missing out when they were not gaming and we had the big covid lockdown. It didn't make a lot of sense to not, um, to not play any games. So they started gaming and I see the value of it. It's not a bad thing in and of itself, it's just crossing that bridge. It's really hard when you stop, because everything seems sort of boring and the silence doesn't feel nice and I don't know.

31:55 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Stay with us, we'll be right back.

31:57 - 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 has been at home with our children and it takes its toll. And one of the things that really helps 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 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, 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.

33:52 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
And now on with the podcast well, you're going from high level of mental stimulation to ordinary life and it's, it's hard yes, it is and it's it's.

34:17 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's hard to navigate. Being a freedom person and to respect the personal freedom of my children and to support them in trusting their own choices, I want them to be able to trust. If they feel like playing ball, they should play ball. If they feel like eating broccoli, they should eat broccoli. I don't want my job to be telling them how to do it, basically because there is no way I can ever know they know from within themselves what they need. But somehow these electronics seems to me it makes it harder for them to know what they really need. You kind of want to go I know it, if I put on a podcast and I start cleaning a house I live in or whatever do some practical tasks where I can listen to a podcast or an audiobook, I don't want to turn it off no, no, to turn it off.

35:16 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
but that's even a podcast, and I mean the dopamine. I'm just saying the dopamine level you get out of a podcast. It is absolutely lower than what you get out of playing a game. And let's not forget, there's commercial forces at play that wants to compete for the time of the children and that makes it that, even as wonderful as gaming is, there is an agenda on the other side which is hey, I want more of your time, because if I get more of your time I can earn more money, and and that is the reality. So so, whatever we say yes to, we need to be aware that that it is designed to be addictive most of it. It is designed to be addictive most of it, and it's so much easier to say no to anything that can be addictive, but it is not the world we live in today. So there is this balance and there will be a lot of, lot of talks.

One of the points I was sitting and thinking about when you told it was also this anecdote People living in hunter-gatherer culture. They also let their children play with the arrows and stuff. But I heard this story where they said a person quoted them of saying but we don't let them play with the poisonous arrow. So I think the difficulties for us as a parent right now is the Internet is a wonderful tool in this story. It's a wonderful arrow. But which part of the Internet is the poisonous arrow? We have started to see it. There have started to be research saying, hey, this over here, that's maybe not a good idea, but it has been driven forward by commercial interest and it's the best tool in the world. I mean, it makes it possible for us to sit and record a podcast, even if we were in Europe and you were over here, I mean and we can share it with thousands of people and I'm so grateful for it. But what are the two and what is the poison? And we're still figuring that out that is so great.

37:34 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
The arrow and the poisoned arrow? Wow, yeah, it's, and it's um. You know, part of this technology is, you know, like um? I worked with a family that had recently come from Afghanistan. They were dealing with so many of their other crises, including learning English, and when I would go over to visit the four-year-old girl super smart little girl she pretty much played with YouTube and TikTok all day. She just did. She was out of her mom's hair and what we know from those algorithms are that you say, you click. I kept trying to restore her screen to cute little animal videos. She was at four already, watching all sorts of makeup and hair tutorials and unboxing for beauty products, and that led her more and more, you know, as I would visit each week into more kind of soft porn. This is what little girls can look like stuff, and it was just very simply, the algorithm of what she clicked on led her more and more in those directions and it was just super hard to explain to someone with whom I didn't share a language about how she needs to spend less time looking at TikTok and YouTube, you know, because it's not safe. It's the poison arrow that doesn't look like it is until it becomes that way, and that was even diverging from the point I wanted to make. Oh, I guess I was thinking also when we talk about like running around and playing hide and seek versus.

You know playing video games, and it's not to deride video games in the value that they have, but even in terms of balance there are. You can kind of divide learning tasks into, let's see, ill-defined and well-defined, and so well-defined is like a video game because it's got prescribed steps. You go certain directions, even if it appears to be more free form. You know you're within someone else's world and the choices they've already given you Puzzles are well-defined, legoos, lego kits are well-defined, that kind of stuff. You know math problems are well-defined and we need practice and time with that. But we also need, especially for emotional development, the ill-defined problems. Write a poem, make up your own puzzle, use a pile of legos to build something without instructions, and those ill-defined things um build so many strengths in us that we can't get from the well-defined, so that even that kind of balance is important in the day. I think one of the reasons that many of us aren't fond of curriculum is it's just consistently well-defined.

40:29 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Do this and then you do that and compare yourself to this, and we know that you need free form, open-ended things and that's the bridge I'm talking about moving from this well-defined things that they can be great things actually, but letting go of that and move into a space where I define what I'm doing. I look for my own motivation. I have to come up with a strategy. If there's something I want to do, a strategy, if there's something I want to do, I also have to find out how to do it, in contrast to when I'm using the electronics, where especially if it's gaming or or movies or YouTube videos or whatever you know it's it's it's a little hard to say using the electronics because it can be used for reading Wikipedia and learning to play an instrument.

So it's not about the computer in and of itself. It's about how we use it and moving from the organized time where things happen to you and you just follow the steps, and into the space where things are more creative and you have to come up with a plan yourself. You have to come up with what you want to do yourself and not go back into another organized space. That's actually a hard bridge to cross and I think it's getting harder for the new generation because it's so available. All the time they have the smartphones in the pocket and you know I'm like that. If I take out my phone because I want to text a friend, then I see a text from someone else and you know I get distracted in a heartbeat. So of course my kids do too, and I find it. I feel I'm even worried talking about it here on the podcast because I know some of the other radical unschoolers would completely, you know.

42:35 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Well, they'll be, they'll be more.

42:38 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
But I just don't really don't know how to navigate it. I really don't, because we can say the arrow and the poisoned arrow, but we don't know how to navigate it. I really don't, because we can say the arrow and the poisoned arrow, but we don't know. It's easy for the hunter-gatherer to know which arrow was dipped in something poisonous, but we don't know. And I don't like calling it poison and addiction and all these scary words, because it really is about the balance. It really is. And I want my kids to grow up knowing how to live in this world. I don't want them to grow up knowing how to live in a hunter-gatherer world, because this is the world they're going to live in.

43:17 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
This is the world, although our bodies and our minds are still the same as they were in that era. And I guess I have two things I want to say. One is that we know that our learning is encoded in our bodies and even say they're studying kids learning a foreign language. If they're learning a foreign language sitting looking at a screen or sitting in a classroom, it's all just like trying to shove the words into their heads. But when you learn a language while you're doing you're learning French, while you're talking with French people and doing thing and encoding memories, you're going to remember that language much better. They've even found in classroom situations if they had to have the kids jump up for this phrase and swing their arms for that phrase, they remember it better.

Because we're so movement dependent as a species. You know we're not meant to sit and I have so many techniques to keep myself from using my devices, like when I read a book I cannot have my phone next to me because then oh yeah, I need to send that email and I should look this up. And even when I'm reading I'm like, oh, I want to look that up and I'm away from the book. In three pages. I can't have the phone in the bedroom ever, because it's just a rule I have for myself, because I know how alluring it is to the. You know, our brains are hungry for this novelty and we want that, and also, it's easy.

44:51 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's so easy it's harder to read a book than watch a video. It really is.

44:58 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

44:59 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
And the other thing I wanted to bring up and it's just you know we're talking about this is the world we live in, just so, completely true, but it's also a world where, um, some of my youngest friends are the most interested in growing their own food, baking their own bread, doing things that are so hands-on, because they they had digital educations and they're they wanted, they want something real, and I remember there was a power outage that went on for like three days, maybe 10, 12 years ago in this part of the country and my parents, who were elderly already at the time my mom walked next door. She knew the teenager there was by herself, while her parents were at work all day, and my mom said just, you know, let us know if you need anything. You know, you're welcome to come over. We got food and all that. You know. Like what 15 year old wants to go hang out with people in their seventies? Nobody.

So they were really surprised when, a couple of hours later, this girl knocks on the door and she's just like I don't, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do and my and my mom was so concerned what happened? And nothing had happened, but her batteries had gone down, she couldn't charge any devices and she literally didn't know what to do, Like she had time and and she was panicky. She was crying. She was. And that also is our world, where we're living in unstable times and power could go out. Climate change could affect our internet or our electricity at any time, and our kids are growing up in an era when that's likely to be even more of a concern. So we do empower them when we insist that they take part in real skills real life skills too, and online is a real life skill, but so too is everything else.

47:02 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, everything else, yeah, yeah, it is, and I think, for me, I'm just probably never going to to arrive at a point where I think I know how to handle this. I think I have to just keep navigating it, being mindful that this is a new technology, it happened in our lifetime and it's exploding, it's working, it's running so fast that no one can keep up with it and we just have to navigate and we have to keep navigating. It's a little bit like, you know, exercising your abs. You can't, you know you can't tick that box. You just have to do it every day, or maybe every second day, but you have to keep working with it and I think my navigation of this. I ask everyone I meet who are aligned with my values, and they're all smart and they all have ideas, but I think the problem is that nobody really knows what's happening with this and how to find the balance is just a daily task, something we have to come up with all the time.

48:13 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, and I, in all honesty, I also think that parents and to not blame anyone else, I would blame my former self and I have forgiven him anyone else I would blame my former self and I have forgiven him. Uh, I, I remember myself handing my kids the ipad because I was too stressed out after or that's just excuses. You know, I wanted to do something else than being together with my kids, to put it like it is, or I was going to cook and it would take too long time in my world if they took part. That was the level I was on at that point, instead of enjoying spending the time with the kids and letting it take an hour, literally being a mess, being in that presence.

Um, I remember being that person coming home from work, overloaded, uh, and and then if it which it was very seldom was me in my turn to to cook and clean and everything, then it was so much easier just to hand them an ipad each. Uh, they were quiet and I could do the stuff in the kitchen, and I think that's a reality many people have, and it is very easy to sit on a high horse and judge the parent I was back then, but it's also the reality I lived in, that it was easier, it was an escape, and I believe many parents are in that, and I don't know where the right place to start. It's not with judgment, it's maybe more with a hey man. If you do these things, you will be less stressed. I don't know.

49:56 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
And yeah, I think it's a particular parent thing that we can shame ourselves over choices we made. I I do occasionally like apologize, have some really lengthy apology to one of my kids over something I said, you know when they were seven or did, or you know, uh, when they were 12, and they're just like just let go, mom, like who doesn't, who doesn't make mistakes? I currently still make all sorts of mistakes.

50:28 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'll say the bridge of silence again. I think crossing that bridge of maybe it's not silence, maybe it's the exact opposite then cross the bridge of chaos. You know, if you use electronics as a kid's pill, you, you know, make them shut up, kind of. Basically, that's the opposite of attachment, parenting you're, you're making sure they're distracted so they don't feel that they need you and they would not want to participate because you're giving them something that will entertain them and you get your. You get your things done your peace.

Yeah, that's something I sometimes say to my clients, which is not very nice, but I do say suck it up. You're the mom, do the work. Sometimes you don't sleep, sometimes you don't eat, sometimes you gain weight because there's no space for you to stop and think what you really need. You'll just stuff your face too late in the evening. Sometimes it's not optimal for you, but you're the parent. You put this child into the world, or these children, and now it's hard work. Do the work.

51:40 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
I think it's so interesting, you know, and we're talking about blaming ourselves. I think it's it's so interesting, you know, and we're talking about blaming ourselves. But we've, we live in a time when this blame and judgment is ridiculous, you know, and we can't just accept ourselves for being the fallible, tired people we are. You know, have a popsicle, because that's going to keep your mouth occupied or, you know, play on the tablets because it'll keep your brain occupied. We're just humans, you know, and I love attachment parenting, but I also loved the way I was raised, which was very much go outside and play, get your nose out of that book and go outside. Go outside, or I'll find something, you know, work for you to do, and my entire generation spent a vast amount of time outside. Or, if we were lucky, we had basements or friends with basements, where also the adults couldn't hear us as well, and we just occupied ourselves. Our parents would have found us chores to do if we, if we'd been hanging around bothering them, and we were perfectly fine having our own separate world from adults in which you didn't have to behave in ways that they approved of. And I think that I'm not conflating attachment parenting with hovering and being around all the time. But every child with a parent who is stressed when they come home from work can understand that mom or dad needs to go in the bedroom and meditate or needs to check their email or something, and it's going to be hard for them when they're little. But kids also can recognize that you know we have separate times. And go play in the basement, go play in the backyard, go whatever my husband's father used to say, go play in the street, which you know, just in other words, go away, and we understood that it was time for our separate world but if go away becomes something, you yeah, I don't know how to put this, but I never said go away to my kids.

53:54 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So no, I don't say go away to mine either, and and actually I I very much had the reverse problem when they were small, that I sort of missed them. I I was like, okay, we're together here all day, I don't want to talk to you. Do you have any time away from your Lego? Could we do something together? I didn't have them in my face like that and I didn't feel it like that, probably because I was a stay-at-home mom, so I didn't have my head full of too many other things.

Somehow, though, electronics can be a way of preventing that. The children. So if I sent them. I don't live in a house with a garden, but let's imagine I have small children and I ask them to go play in the garden while I cook the food and I get my mind peace there and I just do the thing, and then I'm still in there in the kitchen and if they need me, they want to ask me a question, they need a hug or they need a bandaid or whatever. They'll walk through the house with their muddy shoes and I'll be really annoyed, but I'll be there. But I think what you're talking about, what you did when they were smaller, was to hand them the iPad to prevent that question from coming, to make sure the child is distracted. There will be no contact for the next half hour, because I want my peace and that's different. That's a different go away, because it's a go away where you make sure that the child will not but maybe that's not the case of jesper here.

55:30 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
He, he knew even then as a younger father that he had to have that space, he had to have some kind of equilibrium of getting back home and it was a gift of time for the kids. They wanted to use that. It was a gift of self-care to him. I don't really like that term self-care, but he needed that. When I was working part-time and my kids were small, you know, I was just so much a mom, so connected, and I was shocked at myself when I would come home from my busy high responsibility job and it was really hard to get back into that kind of constant in your face small child thing that I started when I left work. I would sit in the parking lot for like eight minutes of just like breathing and going back into what I needed to be to go home, because I I I felt what Jesper was talking about.

56:29 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Like I just wasn't ready for all of that. I have actually worked too close to home. It felt like in some of my jobs where there was one job where it took me 45 minutes before I was home Way better than the ones where it was only 25 minutes because I was actually present when I came home and I have left the task of the days at the office. There is a circle I want to make about go away, play and the computer games and the internet and all this and this. It is something that Peter Gray said in an episode we did with him where he said about free play and he said it actually doesn't exist that much nowadays.

If you look at a lot of the play we believe we give our children, then they can go to football or baseball or lacrosse or whatever that is actually adult or created games. That is controlled and the outcome is placed. You can have fun doing it, but, as you said, it's not ill-defined and it's the same. So these things have kind of the same as computer games have because it is defined. So the free play is maybe what is we should look at incorporating more in in our life, in our own life and in our children's lives because it has some of the same that it's adult, controlled or there is an a goal from someone else, that have designed the, the play experience yeah, very much.

58:15 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
So I agree, I love peter gray yeah, yeah, difficult not to I've written a lot of about comparing top-down activities for kids versus kid-structured activities, and the kind of innovation and openness kids have in their own play is fascinating. There's even data showing that kids playing on playgrounds play completely differently than kids in unstructured spaces, an empty lot or a field or something like that, and in a play structure they're less innovative and the bullies are the ones that are in charge of play and in free form, more open spaces, even in somebody's boring basement, it's the innovative kids who are the leaders, because they come up with the ideas and it's it's. You know, we don't want the dynamic to always be the structured playground where the bully's in charge, because that's, that's the world we already have.

59:13 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
You know, we want that open, interesting space where the creative people are are more on top of things on top of things, we have some very wonderfully radical friends, where one of them has this t-shirt saying I don't co-parent with the state, with the government, and sometimes I'm like, but you kind of co-parent with YouTube.

59:39 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
We're co-parenting with corporate interests. Yeah, that's the thing.

59:43 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
So that's the angle I want to put to all these wonderful rebel people. I know who is like, but why should we control what our kids are doing? Well, because there actually are some corporations. Who wants to control it if you are not limiting it, and are you fine with that, and how can you be against governments, but all the corporations have that control of the amount of your children's time? Right?

it doesn't make sense in my world yeah, I'm right there with you yeah, so what is the advice we are giving instead of just being in agreement?

01:00:23 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
well, I, I, I kind of wish we never even had talked about technology because we're all going to be in trouble now. But there's a turn for how rapid change is in technology. We can't imagine right now what world our kids are going to have and we can't imagine what technology their children are going to have and parents are going to be likely debating in 15, 20 years oh, you didn't even let your kids have a brain implant. Like, what are they supposed to do? You know they're going to be those discussions about whatever it is. We can't imagine. Discussions about whatever it is we can't imagine. And we certainly want to have our kids and their whole generation capable of really thinking things through for themselves, really putting some critical analysis into how they spend their time, who gets their spending, how they spend their time, who gets their spending, what they believe. I mean, that's so true in every age, but it's gotten really serious.

01:01:34 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
True, and that's what I said before about exercising the abs. I think this is a thing we just have to keep navigating. I think this is a thing we just have to keep navigating, and when the kids are smaller, we're sort of on our own as parents navigating it. And when they get older, as our children are now it's, it's a conversation that we need to have with them constantly about how to navigate it, because we're not alone steering the ship anymore. They're you know, they're with us, you know what way do we want to go? And if we are to give any piece of advice, it is to you know, turn on the brain. You have to start thinking about these things and you'll not arrive at any conclusion. You have to keep thinking about them. Think about it every day, talk about it every day. How it every day? How do we navigate this? Because we don't know.

And we have in in our country a philosopher, um son kirkago in danish I think you call him kirkagard, yes, and he said you have to. I know the quote in danish, so I don't know how the quote goes in English. I'm doing my best here. He says we have to live our life moving forward, but we will understand it. Looking backwards, yes, and that has been true, for I mean, he said it it's been a while there were no smartphones at this time but this is the same thing and we have to accept that. We've talked about guilt and and saying we're sorry and all these things and all the mistakes we make, and you know there's nothing we can do about that, and I think it's just the human condition that we we live our life moving forward and we understand it, looking backward and. But but at least if we can do that with some sort of thinking brain happening at the same time, so that moving forward it's on, it's not only when we look back, it's on, it's on all the time. That's the only good piece of advice I can make.

And then the self-forgiveness that oh yes, you're going to make a lot of mistakes. There will be 100,. Oh yes, you're going to make a lot of mistakes, there will be a hundred thousand things that you regret. If you wanted to go down the regret path in your inner world, and I can't recommend that. But there will be a lot of things that, looking back, you know, oh, I should have done this and I should have done that and I could have done this better, and I could have done that better, and could have done that better, and had I only then those kinds of thoughts are not really helpful. So maybe just let go of that. Let go of the at least the inner self spanking. There's nothing we can do about it, we just have to turn it on here, but walk with this first yeah, what?

01:04:29 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
what you said reminded me so much of what we started out talking about with um. People who start have a pretty, pretty close idea of what exactly they want to do as parents, and it's it's like we're all navigating these little ships all by ourselves out in these unknown waters, and I want so much for my kids to be able to open themselves to other perspectives, including people they don't agree with. Because that danger of staying in your own little channel, even if you're convinced you're right and I'm of course right and you're of course right is is you know you need to hear from people's perspectives who've done it differently. You know I brought up my parents are just like go outside and play or I'll find something for you to do, and I'm not saying that that's the right thing, but that is a, that is a perspective that lives in my head, because I know it's possible and I know the outcome of it. And when we stay in our little narrow channels, if unschooling can only look this way, if you have no rules and no set meals and no, then the people whose little boat is not working well on that or whose kids aren't flourishing, don't feel free to explore wider ways of doing things, and I think the more we listen to um different perspectives, read things that were maybe not entirely in agreement with, the more we talk about people of well, you know, maybe I'm going to try this in whatever it is your diet or your exercise or your beliefs or whatever.

We're living a time when we don't have to follow a particular religion. In most of our countries we don't have to, you know, bow to a particular leader, and it's so freeing and I think we need to give that to ourselves as parents. So what worked for your two-year-old was maybe just perfect then, but it's not going to work for the seven-year-old or the 15-year-old. It's just okay. We want them to grow up and be able to see that what I used to believe maybe worked then, but now it doesn't, and not feel ashamed or judge themselves. I think sometimes what we go through these really difficult times and often they're self-imposed, but we actually needed to go through that to become better at something or more caring or more proficient. We had to go through the crappy difficult and so will they.

01:07:05 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And also we can maybe just be playful. So if we, if we decide that there are advantages of every strategy and that I can be right while someone else with a different strategy can be right too it's not about right and wrong, it's about, you know, we all find our ways Then I think we can also maybe explore more how what will work and what will work at what point. One problem that I've had with unschooling, the concept of unschooling, is that I find a lot of unschoolers being very rigid in a way. You know you can ruin it, or unschooling is this and everything outside of that is not unschooling.

And actually for many years I said I'm not an unschool. I wouldn't say I was an unschooler because how intuitively I felt trapped. I felt there were rules I had to follow which is fun, you know, because unschooling is about freedom. But I felt that if I call myself an unschooler, there's do's and don'ts and people will shoot me down at sunlight if I don't do the do's or if I do any of the don'ts. So I just said you know, I'm not part of that.

01:08:30 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Isn't it funny how we you know we have we liberate ourselves from something and, in doing so, become rigid in our what we regard as liberation, and it's. I love that you said playful, to just be more playful about all of that, you know, and that's what we, that's what we want our kids to have too is the is kind of that playfulness and that joy and the ability to laugh at ourselves.

01:08:58 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It was good I liked it, but we haven't rounded off. No, you do it no, because there's no.

01:09:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I mean, I think we did a few times talk about how to handle things in a playful way, in an open-minded way, in a tolerant way, being tolerant to ourselves, being tolerant to other people, being, you know, a little less rigid in our ideas about how things should be. Also not rigid, and oh, I just know, don't tell me what to do. I mean, we can explore different philosophies and different strategies and different ways of doing things and we'll make mistakes. So I think I mean we've been around this a few times within the last 10 minutes of landing in an open space where we cannot give the good piece of advice, we cannot say how to, how to parent or how to navigate electronics versus not, and and that's a very free way of talking about it there will be no bottom line here the bottom line at least, is that we try to keep our episodes not too long.

01:10:05 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
So if you who listen to this have enjoyed it, you should know we have, and Laura thanks a lot for your time.

01:10:15 - Laura Grace Weldon (Guest)
Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

01:10:17 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you liked it, 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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