Unschooling Interview – Reaching Your Dreams!

When I spoke in Texas this past September, I was interviewed by  Peter Kowalke, creator of the Unschooler Experiment.

Listen to the Podcast of this Interview here.

PETER: Now we have act two of our show. Act Two is with Dayna Martin. Dayna Martin is a radical unschooling advocate who you find just about anywhere you find talk about unschooling these days. She’s very prolific. Dayna is a radical unschooling advocate and one of the founders of Unschooling United, which is a non-profit to promote radical unschooling. She’s been involved with La Leche League, attachment parenting, she’s a doula, and she’s the founder of The Babywearing Project, so she does many things. We’re going to be talking with Dayna about victimization and arbitrary limits and what that does to achieving your dreams and how to get by it. So, here’s Dayna…and me.

PETER: We’re here at the 2011 Rethinking Everything Conference with Dayna Martin, who is… You do a lot on the unschooling speaker circuit, so to speak.

DAYNA: Yeah, I do. I have been in the last six years or so. I’ve been traveling a lot and speaking is my passion, truly, so I’ve been honored to be the keynote speaker at the first ever London Unschooling Conference in 2009 and then I was a speaker at the first ever unschooling conference in Australia. And we get to go back this October.

PETER: (Laughter.) I’m envious.

DAYNA: There’s a bunk bed in my room; you can always offer to go speak and come along with us.

PETER: I’ll keep that in mind, actually. So one of the sessions you’re talking about at Rethinking Everything, one of the sessions is about the limits that we put in our lives. And it sounded like from the write-up that you’re actually going to list out some of the limits and how to get by them. What are some of the limits that we run into?

DAYNA: Well, what the talk was focused on, it was called “Life Without Limits,” it was doing away with arbitrary limits in our childrens’ lives because there’s enough real life limits out there, that we don’t have to set up these artificial problems for them to overcome to learn about limits in life. In fact, when you do that, it really takes a child away from their inner knowing. Like if you set limits on, like, media or bedtimes or foods, for example, if you’re like really strict with rules about those kinds of things, children really get pulled away from their instinct, and their own balance and what feels right for them. So by doing away with arbitrary limits and shifting to a place of trust, they totally learn just through living life that there’s laws and everything like that in life that are important.

PETER: How about the limits in our own life, though, and not just the lives of our children? How do we identify, first of all, the limits in our own lives?

DAYNA: Well, so much of it’s cultural. And even school is a limit for some people. They could never even imagine not sending their child to school. Their cultural limit is right there, but I’m always re-examining my limits and the things that kind of make sense to me and that don’t make sense. And the limits that don’t make sense, I don’t follow or go by, and the ones that do, I respect. Like limits on your personal space, for example, is one that’s important to me.

PETER: Limits on your personal space?

DAYNA: Well, you know, I don’t want anyone to come and punch me. (Laughter.) I’m not really cool with that, so… Like most unschoolers come to this life thinking that there’s no limits or boundaries, and, in fact, like all the media portrayal of unschooling is like, how can you live without limits or boundaries? When in fact, it’s not that we’re living without limits or boundaries, but we’re choosing freedom and choice instead and, again, the limits and boundaries are really natural. The ones that are just kind of out there… You know, like, I got pulled over for speeding recently. My kids saw through me getting pulled over that there’s laws of speeding, and I don’t believe that I need to get around them, for example. I just kind of follow the laws because this is the country I choose to live in and that happens to be a part of it. I could move away, I could move to Germany where the autobahn is, and I have the freedom and choice to live in places without speeding limits but I choose… You know, when you make a choice, it’s not really a limit necessarily, it’s kind of a choice to have that boundary in your life. And I think if you live with your child and have arbitrary limits, they’re not having a choice in the matter. So I just don’t think it’s the most authentic, organic way to connect.

PETER: Have there been any arbitrary limits in your life that you’ve had to overcome?

DAYNA: Well, growing up, yeah, totally. Bedtimes. I mean, having to come by a certain time, by 10, that made no sense to me. When those limits were set for me, it didn’t… The principle of safety was never a part of it. It was just I wanted my autonomy so bad, I like wanted to be free so bad, that I would do things I normally wouldn’t do. Just to struggle for that feeling of freedom. So, yeah, I’ve overcome a lot in that regard.

PETER: So what do you do when the arbitrary limits are put on you by others, such as when you have to come in to work and whatnot? I mean you can’t really choose that too much, can you?

DAYNA: Well, I just choose not to work for someone else. Totally.

PETER: Entrepreneurial, right.

DAYNA: And anything I do have like a time deadline for, like my speaking sessions here, I want to be doing it. So you choose to follow it. It’s true freedom when it’s choice. So, yeah, I went to my session at 3:30, I was there at 3:30 because it was something I wanted to do. If it was something I didn’t want to do, I wouldn’t be doing it.

PETER: One of the sessions that you did at Rethinking Everything this year was on victimization and how to move beyond that. So, first of all, how do we identify victimization? How do we know that we’re victims here?

DAYNA: I think culturally we kind of focus on the negative and what we don’t have. We’re really focused on lack. Instead of really paying attention to what we want. One tool that I gave in the session was to make a vision board. You could take a piece of cardboard and just glue on positive sayings, you know, pictures of what you want. It could be material, it could be non-material, like health or the boat that you want some day or traveling and different images of places all over the world. And that way you’re taking your time every day to just kind of look at and think about what you really want. Because by default, in our culture, we really do think about what we don’t have and what we don’t want, and it’s suffering. And we’re victims. And it’s suffering because you don’t have it yet.

PETER: Yeah, you’re focused on where you’re lacking or the things you want that you haven’t reached.

DAYNA: Exactly.

PETER: It’s never enough. We’re striving for more, basically.

DAYNA: It’s kind of like lazy thinking in a way, that we’re in that mindset so much. I mean, even I fall victim to that sometimes, if I’m tired or hungry or my reserves are low. You’re like suffering in your mind. So this is kind of more of an empowering viewpoint where, you know, you’re setting intentions for what you want in your life and you’re actively creating it by just focusing and taking that time to think about what you want instead of what you don’t want. So, some little tricks and tips that I gave are, when you’re starting to feel like a victim, and that, oh, I don’t ever get anything I want, and, I don’t have this yet, to just kind of recognize that and do something to make yourself really feel good. You don’t necessarily have to change what you’re thinking in that moment, but go put on your favorite music, go have a chocolate bar, go have a bowl of ice cream, like anything that will kind of bring…

PETER: Put your mood in a better place?

DAYNA: Yeah, like bring your vibration up to a really constructive place where your thoughts… I mean, Tony Robbins talks about this kind of thing. It can totally be applied to the unschooling life because, I mean, unschoolers have a total empty palette, you can do anything you want in life, so why not consciously take the time to create it by thinking about those kind of things?

PETER: So really it’s just recognizing that you can change your world instead of being a victim, basically? It doesn’t happen to you, you can go out there and make the reality you want.

DAYNA: Exactly, so that is exactly what I’m saying. With the victimization, instead of feeling like life is happening to you, you take the responsibility to make it happen. And so a big cornerstone in the unschooling life is responsibility.

PETER: Yeah, it really is.

DAYNA: And so, to me, the responsibility did create the life you want in your own way by actively doing things like that to make it happen, really make a huge difference. I’ve seen my kids do it. Devin, my 13-year-old, has a vision board where he puts on what we wants, either his week or his month or his year. He recently put a kayak on it, and he would, instead of thinking, I don’t have a kayak and I want one, that’s like a really low kind of place to be thinking. He just knew, every day he’d look at it and be like, I’m going to get that. Well, sure enough, at a yard sale, he found one for twenty-five dollars and I really think if he never did that, if he never trusted, he probably would have never had it.

PETER: One of the things that I think sometimes I fall, a trap I fall into is a version of the victimization where I try to do something and then somebody stops it, and I’m just like, ah, why can’t I just be me, why are you having to interfere with this? Which I think is a version of victimization, really. It’s blaming others, which is victimization.  How do you… do you have any tips for getting beyond that? Or shifting focus?

DAYNA: Well, blaming others and guilt and those kind of, I don’t know, that’s not really quality thinking. Like you just raise your standards higher. You don’t accept that kind of thinking anymore. You just say, I deserve better. I want higher quality of thoughts. So, once you’re kind of aware that you can do that, you recognize it and be like, oh this is not the thoughts I want to be thinking right now. I want to be thinking higher quality thoughts and I’m not really sure how, but I’m going to go do something that makes me feel good for a few minutes, and then it’s so much easier. So there’s no magic trick other than just recognizing it. Because once you’re in that place to recognize it, then that’s everything, then you can shift it. Think better quality thoughts.

PETER: Cool. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Dayna. I really appreciate it.

DAYNA: You’re welcome. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.


  1. Wonderful interview. I love your down-to earth wisdom, Dayna. Thanks!

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