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290: Another Great Conversation with Michaeleen Doucleff, author of Hunt, Gather, Parent

Y’all know that Michaeleen Doucleff is my favorite. Her book, Hunt, Gather, Parent, has become a must-read for my Mastermind parents. Since we first connected we’ve spent hours, on and off the mic, vibing and swapping parenting stories. One story I’ve been dying to get more detail about is the decision Michaeleen made to start a whole school out of her house! It’s a remarkable tale of agency, confidence, and a mama knowing what’s best for her kiddo. I guarantee you’ll find it fascinating.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What makes a mom and journalist with no teaching experience decide to build a learning experience for her daughter.
  • Why the way schools teach is so much more important than what they teach.
  • How a school that doesn’t match your kids’ needs can be so bad for their interest in learning.
  • The mindset that makes it possible to trust ourselves with something as important as providing the education our kids need.

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. We post tips and tools and do pop-up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

Randi’s Web and Social Links

About Our Guest

About Michaleen Doucleff:

Michaleen Doucleff is an award-winning global health correspondent and the author of Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans. 

Links & Resources

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[00:00:00] Randi Rubenstein: My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast. At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. 

[00:00:10] Michaeleen Doucleff: I’ve had enough adventure. I have. Like, I have not lacked it in the last 15 years.

[00:00:16] Randi Rubenstein: Okay, well, that was a perfect place for us to start recording. There you go. There’s, there’s a little snippet. Wherever this conversation is meant to, meant to go. We’ve just been sitting here chatting. I’m here with Michaeleen and we’re catching up, and I have an idea what I want to talk about today. And knowing the two of us who, you know, my intention that I wrote in my journal was, um, present, alive, fun, connecting.

[00:00:47] Michaeleen Doucleff: Okay. I love it.

[00:00:49] Randi Rubenstein: And because I’m just going to be here with you and all I know is that anytime I talk to you, I feel like I just attended an actually fun party.

[00:00:59] Michaeleen Doucleff: Well, that’s good.

[00:01:01] Randi Rubenstein: I know because we always have fun just catching up. And afterwards, I always check my energy level, even on some of our monster dates where we didn’t do any recording, and we just like, talked for over two hours. And afterwards, I’m like, no, no energy drain. None. I’m good to go. Feeling good. I don’t know. How do you feel after our monster talks? Do you feel energy drained?

[00:01:23] Michaeleen Doucleff: No, I don’t. I don’t feel that way. No.

[00:01:26] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah, uh, I always feel good. I always feel good after. Okay, so what my thought was, what I really have been dying to ask you about, but we always want to talk about a million other things. I know you’ve like, just like, slid in the fact that you sort of run a school or you run a school from your home.

[00:01:45] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah. Yes. Yes. It is a school. It’s six kids, so. But

[00:01:50] Randi Rubenstein: Okay,

[00:01:51] Michaeleen Doucleff: call it a school. I mean, it feels 

[00:01:52] Randi Rubenstein: right, it is a school. Okay, so you run a school out of your home. And, um, anyone else I know that would be running a school for six kids out of their home, like, that would sort of be consuming their life, but for you, you’re like, oh, side note, I run a school out of my home and I’m doing, oh, I just, I just flew, Rosie and I just flew here and we recorded, um, for this french tv show in Canada. And now we’re going here. I mean, it’s just like, oh, side note. So tell me about the school. Like, if you were teaching me a masterclass about why you decided to run a school out of your, out of your home, like, I want to know all about this school. 

[00:02:38] Michaeleen Doucleff: I think the school, it was a very organic thing. I hate using that word, but I think it’s a good word to describe it. It was one of those things where it was like, it took about a year to decide to do it, and it was with another, um, mom. And we could not have the school without the other mom. Like, she’s the major driving force of this school. Um, we are partners, no doubt. And. But she’s like. Like I tell people, like, you need a partner. You can’t do this by yourself. You need a partner. 

Um, and we just, like, Rosie was at this little Montessori school here, and it was actually pretty good in the kindergarten. Um, and then the first grade was just like, it plummeted, and the teacher was really bad. And I spent a couple. I spent, like, three days there helping out, and I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Like, what is happening here? Like, this is just not. This is not helping anybody, helping Rosie, 

[00:03:37] Randi Rubenstein: What was. Tell me what was. Yeah, what was happening?

[00:03:40] Michaeleen Doucleff: I mean, I think. And maybe I’m naive to think that this would be different anywhere else. Um, and I actually think it wouldn’t be, but, um.

[00:03:50] Randi Rubenstein: Well, I kind of, I mean, part, part of my question is, like, maybe it wouldn’t be different anywhere else. And, um, and that still doesn’t make certain things okay. And so, 

[00:04:04] Michaeleen Doucleff: Exactly. But I think. I think I’m like. I think it’s more like probably what I saw and what I responded to is probably, like, kind of a pretty typical schooling experience. I mean, it was kind of similar to my schooling experience. Maybe middle school. This was first grade, second third grade. but it was just like, kids were not being taught how to treat each other right. 

And it’s like, I can teach Rosie to read, I can teach Rosie to do math. I’m a super nerd. I mean we just, Matt and I teach her all the time, we don’t even,. that’s just us, I’m not worried about that. But, but I, you know, I sent her to school kind of for social skills. It was just like, wow, these kids have no clue… and this is a Montessori school, right? These kids have no clue how to treat each other respectfully, kindly. And, it was such a waste of time. Like, there was just such a waste of time. Like, most of the time was spent reprimanding kids and dealing with kids. And I was just like, this is just. 

So me, and another mom who was getting her Montessori guide, you know, and stuff, um, we just kept saying, like, we want to start our own school. We want to start our own school. We should start our own school. And then, like, one March last year, last March. So we’ve been doing that, like, a little over a year. She was like, let’s do it. Let’s start it. And so we started it. 

And it was crazy. We took our garage and we, like, turned it in over spring break and turned it into the school. And the first couple months were really rough. They were really rough. But then we had the summer break, and we kind of refined it. And this year has been fantastic. 

And it’s just like, it’s, you know, the goals of the school are to teach kids, you know, Texas has, like, certain things that have to be taught in, like, a homeschool setting. Like, we want it to be like an official school, but right now it’s just like a homeschool co op, I think, legally by the Texas. And literally, you have to, kids have to learn for 3 hours a day. So that shows you right there how much learning kids are getting in a public school system in Texas. I mean, in the United States, 3 hours a day, basically is what you’re doing, right? And the rest is like, I don’t know what’s happening. 

But, um, so we have in the morning from nine until twelve, the kids work, um, with her, with this other mom, and then they have lunch outside. And then I come in from 1 to 3 and kind of fill in the gaps, whatever’s needed. And also teach them, like, practical skills. And we do projects and, you know, we kind of work off each other and stuff. And, um, I taught them to read because she’s a native spanish speaker, so I taught the little ones to read, and I’m trying to fill in some math. And I love it. I love it. 

And, like, even though the first, um, couple months were rough, Randi, like, that summer while I was working, I missed it. Like, I missed it. I wanted it back. Like it is. I told somebody recently, it is the most rewarding thing I’ve done besides have a kid. It’s like 100 times more rewarding than writing a story for NPR. Like, 100 times. 

It’s so amazing to see a kid learn to read and, like, just spending time with them and to be honest, like, two hours a day. I was almost spending that, like, dropping her off and picking her back up in San Francisco, you know, like, riding my bike together, hanging out with the parents, riding, you know, like, if there’s no commute right now for us. So it’s like, it’s like, I don’t feel like I’m spending a lot more time. And in some ways it’s really energizing. 

[00:07:41] Randi Rubenstein: Okay, it’s so interesting to me, because the way I got into this, I would volunteer a lot at school, um, specifically in Alec’s class. And, um, one of my first places that I volunteered was when they were in, I guess, kindergarten or first grade, when they were, I think it was kindergarten, and they were just learning to read. He had this amazing teacher, and she was just like, this beautiful teacher, and she needed parents that would just be listeners that would sit out in the hallway with kids, you know, one by one. So each kid, you know, because it was like 20 something kids in the class. 

And so that was like, one of my very first, when Alec was in kindergarten, one of my very first volunteer jobs I ever did. And I loved it. I would say it was like 30 minutes in the hallway once or twice a week. And, um, these little kids would just come and I just sat with them, helping them learn how to read, and I got to see their progress, you know? 

And, um, so from there, I always volunteered at school in ways where I interacted with the kids. To the point that, like, you know, then it became like, you know, because the teachers were all sort of overtaxed and they, people would be like, do you work here? But, I mean, I was a stay at home mom, and I had time, and I sort of loved it. 

And I always loved, like, I didn’t want to, like, chair a party or, you know, God forbid I ever volunteered to be the room mom. Like, I, we’re talking about how much we both suck at logistics. Like, you do not want me in charge of sending out emails or planning shit. Like, I’m awful with that. But I also loved interacting with the kids. Like, kids, especially little kids, they’re so honest. You know, they’re just. 

[00:09:41] Michaeleen Doucleff: They’re like. And I have to say that, like, the first couple months were hard because of the parents. I, uh, mean, I’m honest. Like, like, honestly, like, we ended up realizing that we needed to, like, pick the right parents. Right. Because the kids you can deal with. 

And I think that that’s. I think people are shocked by the school, like, what you described at the beginning, because I think for a lot of parents, children are draining. And in these, like, stresses and these, like, you know, like I described in Hunt, Gather, Parent at the beginning, like, I didn’t want to be with the kid. I didn’t want to be with kids, like, uh, because I didn’t know how to interact with them. 

But once I learned to interact with Rosie and, like, learn how to interact with kids, and I started applying this stuff in the book to these other kids. Right? Like, I told Matt, I was like, you just have to use whatever’s in the book, and it works. I was, like, amazed, you know,

[00:10:34] Randi Rubenstein: Right?

[00:10:35] Michaeleen Doucleff: it works fine, and then it becomes rewarding. Right. Like, being with them is actually this really, like, energizing, rewarding thing. And it’s not this draining thing. 

And I think that’s the key thing is, like, it’s not draining because I know how to be with them in a way that’s not, like, conflictual and not, like, in fact, it’s very, they can be very cooperative and, you know, and they’re way easier than the middle aged parents.

[00:11:05] Randi Rubenstein: Yes. No, I think most, I think most teachers will say, actually say that. Um, I agree. Like, especially once, I didn’t realize Mastermind Parenting was being created, but once I was just, when I was interacting, when I volunteer at school and I was interacting with the kids just in the same way that I was interacting with my kids at home. And not naturally. 

And for anyone listening who’s like, well, what does that mean? It’s like everything that I think you talk about in Hunt, Gather, Parent I teach in Mastermind Parenting. It’s like we came to this also not knowing how to interact with kids in the way that forms, you know, these connections and this, you know, to use attachment or whatever, secure attachment. Um, I like that term as much as I like executive function. Um, 

[00:12:02] Michaeleen Doucleff: It, I actually even, like, have come to think of that term as, like, it’s really weird because it’s not about attachment. There’s no attachment. I mean, like, I think of that as, like, the baby that’s like, attached to you, you know? Like. But it’s like. No, it’s like a cooperation.

[00:12:19] Randi Rubenstein: Yes. 

[00:12:19] Michaeleen Doucleff: It’s a two-way street. Right? Like attachment. 

[00:12:21] Randi Rubenstein: But when you’re, it’s, to me, it’s connection because it’s like when I’m connected to you and you’re connected to me, of course, we want to be cooperative. And, and little kids, when you like, when you know how to just get on their level, you know, and bring some, I mean, they’re so damn funny and honest and ridiculous and, and curious and engaged, like, they, 

[00:12:49] Michaeleen Doucleff: I think, you know, after writing Hunt, Gather, Parent, like, I really realized that school was about socializing, right? Like, I think I said something like, Matt and I can teach Rosie to read and do math because we’re just such nerds and we, you know, we read and do math all the time. You know, like, Matt was, even last night, like, okay, but we didn’t figure out, like, you know, how 8/16ths is like a one half. And he’s like, just, you know, like on some, just seven o ‘clock conversation around our dinner table.

So I was like, I’m not, I don’t know. I think I, the book, writing the book and traveling made me realize that like, we worry so much about kids education? Right? But at the end of the day, what really, in America, makes kids happy and functional is their mental health. Right? And I haven’t, I hadn’t really thought about, well okay, How do I ensure Rosie has good mental health? 

And a lot of that is learning to socialize in a way that makes you feel good, right? Learning to treat people well, and and cooperate with people, and learning to find friends that treat you well. You know? And, and, friends that are kind, and make you feel good after you’re with them. Right? 

And I think what I realized was this the Montessori school, and I think a lot of schools, like now in retrospect, they were not teaching Rosie that part of life. The school was, the kids were not learning to be kind to each other. They were not learning how to help each other and work together. 

And I mean, there’s a lot, people have written a lot about this. I mean, school is, in America is this very competitive kind of anti -cooperative environment, right? I mean, part of schooling is to teach you to be motivated by grades, which is like a ranking.

So that was kind of the impetus for starting the school was like, I want to create an environment where Rosie, well, first of all, also retains her love of learning, which I felt like a lot of kids lose in school. But then too, where we can create this environment where kids actually learn to treat each other well, to respect each other, respect the adults, work together and cooperate, all the things that are in hunt and gather parent. Like, can we create a school that does that? And treat animals well, treat the environment well, treat our house well, treat, and enjoy that, find joy and reward in that. 

And so that was really what we were, with the primary goal and a lot of the first couple months of the school and even when a new kid comes to the school is teaching the kid that like kids don’t know. They come to our school with two skills that they don’t have is one how to treat other people with kindness and respect and treat them in a way that’s not conflictual. It makes them feel bad and starts arguments. So we treat I teach them that. 

And then two I teach them how to take initiative, which is another whole topic, but. schooling for a lot of kids that don’t have, is that their home doesn’t teach them to take initiative. And that’s a huge part of it too. But yeah, most of it is this social aspect really. Is that what I said? I can’t remember, but I think I did.

[00:15:58] Randi Rubenstein: well, you said you were there at the school and you noticed like the kids were terrible to each other.

[00:16:06] Michaeleen Doucleff: And to the teachers. 

[00:16:09] Randi Rubenstein: I, yeah, yeah. Like they’re just, you know, it’s just people acting out. And, and so I just loved how concise it was like, we sent her to school, like we can teach her how to do math and read. You know, I don’t think most parents are thinking, I could teach it, you know, I think most of us think we’re not equipped to homeschool. But really you know how to read and…

[00:16:41] Michaeleen Doucleff: And you know your kid better than anybody. and… that’s also a thing I’ve learned having this school is like learning really happens when the teacher, when the person doing the teaching like knows the child and like knows how they learn. And like, you know, after like if we have a new kid come in, it takes me like a month to really figure out, okay, how does this child learn? Where is she at in reading or whatever I’m doing? And like, and then that’s when the learning really happens, is when you have this synchrony between the teacher and the child. 

I mean, to me, I think a lot of parents feel like, and I heard a lot of this during the pandemic is like, they don’t know how to interact with their child in a way that’s not conflictual. And a lot of the homeschooling problems during the pandemic was like, there was conflict between the parent and the child. And there were lots of fights and arguments and you can’t learn in that way. So it boils down to really knowing how to like, interact with your child in this very kind of productive way, right? And so once you learn that, teaching them is easy.

[00:17:48] Randi Rubenstein: So interesting. It’s like, I think one of the main issues with parents, with kids learning and parents thinking they don’t know what to do, like all the time I get, you know, during the pandemic, it was homeschool issues. But all the time, it’s homework issues, homework, you know? 

I mean, I taught some free class not that long ago and after the class, you know, it was really, it was all about like how to end homework battles. And it was, it was about like how to help your kids have agency when it comes to their work. 

And, and, and so I coach, I was coaching parents and after the call, I said to Lindsey who, you know, works with me and is on my team, she’s like my co -parent. And I was like, who the hell came up with that topic? Like, I don’t even, I didn’t even like dealing with that in my own life. So why did I change? I was like, why? That’s the last thing I really want to coach parents on. 

 And Lindsey said, but we needed it and it was really good and it’s stuff that you take for granted because you’ve been doing it for so long. Because the way we handled school, it wasn’t conflictual. And my kids had a lot of agency and…

And so she, so I was like, ugh, well, don’t come up with topics like that anymore because I’m exhausted and I, anyway, she says that is the resource she sends the most to people because it’s such a common, she’s like, I know you were mad at me after that call, but I send more people that resource of that class and people watch it over and over and over again, because we don’t know how to help our kids be successful, to have autonomy and agency over their work.

[00:19:49] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, take initiative. Yeah, 

[00:19:51] Randi Rubenstein: and I think, you know, so I’ve just kind of been like curious and whenever I coach a parent about something that’s school related, I’ve noticed that they resort in their mind back to when they were in school. So if their kid doesn’t get their homework, I’m like, who cares? They’re in elementary school. Homework’s stupid in the first place. Who cares if they don’t do their homework? A lot of times the teachers aren’t even grading the homework. They’re just trying to 

[00:20:23] Michaeleen Doucleff: You can actually like go to teachers in like in elementary school and like, I don’t want my child to have homework.

[00:20:30] Randi Rubenstein: Right.

[00:20:31] Michaeleen Doucleff: This is not helping them learn. I mean, at the end of the day, a lot of it is like, kind of like, I think you’re exactly right. They go into this mindset of like, what was my high school, middle school like? Cause that’s what they can remember, right? But at the end of the day, a lot of it is watching the child and then adjusting to that. Right? If you’re doing something, it’s just like in the book, like if you’re doing something that’s making things hard and conflictual and like the child is not learning, then maybe stop doing that. Right? 

And you’re exactly right. Like in middle school or elementary school, you don’t need homework. And like, you can You the parent. You have power over learning. I think that’s the other thing that parents don’t realize is that like the government does not know extraordinarily well how to teach your child. And they definitely don’t know how to teach your child. You know, they have suggestions and they, I mean, I think the reading scores and the math scores right now, in America, explicitly tell us that the government is not doing a fantastic job of teaching children. 

So you as a parent have power to say like, look, this doesn’t work for my kid. You know, and take, and you’re on, be on the kid’s side instead of the teacher’s side or the like system side, right?

[00:21:54] Randi Rubenstein: Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.

[00:21:55] Michaeleen Doucleff: That’s what I feel like. It’s like, I’m on Rosie’s side, you know, and

[00:21:59] Randi Rubenstein: I’m the same way. I mean, if I could tell you, it’s unbelievable. Some of the things that I coach parents on where they’re being traumatized, their kids being, they’re being traumatized by their kids’ school. The kid is being traumatized by the school and they don’t speak up because they’re

This is what I’ve, this is my hypothesis. I don’t know if you’ll agree. They’re not speaking up because quite like, I had this one mom and she had anxiety, like she was like basically having PTSD every single day when she would go to pick up her kid because the T and he was in kindergarten and the teacher or the teacher’s aide would come out to the car and give her a report. on basically how bad her kid had been that day in front of her kid.

And so they were being, she was being put in this position and the kid was being put in this position and she couldn’t think clearly. I mean, she was in a state and she felt like she was constantly being judged. in trouble, you know, I think because the way we, most of us were conditioned is, you know, it was that authoritarian model. And so you feel like, God, what did they do today? 

And, but you really feel like in your body, you’re feeling like you’re the kid back in sixth grade or fourth grade that’s in trouble yourself that forgot to do your homework or teacher out. And so the parents are not in their, parental authority, like they’re not in their pack leadership, right? They’re

[00:23:51] Michaeleen Doucleff: And that like, I know. And I mean, I think you’re right. I think it’s the way we’ve been conditioned. That the teacher has like all this power and the goal is to like please the teacher and do what the teacher says. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t respect the teacher and stuff, but I’m just saying it should be a cooperative. I mean, I think in many instances it needs to be cooperative and it’s like, what does this child need? And like, clearly that teacher is not respecting that parent. Right? I mean, think about that. That’s not respecting that parent and that child.

[00:24:22] Randi Rubenstein: No, the teachers are humans. And so the teacher was getting it wrong. And I said, I mean, I’ll tell you, this mom, she went through our program in January, so just January, and she’s sending her kid to a different school next year. And thank God, thank God. And we slowly kind of… because like you don’t want people to come in and for it to be like that school sounds terrible. You need to pull your kid out of there. But after hearing like I could only bite my tongue for long enough. And I was like, number one, stop allowing other people to talk bad about your kid to you in front of your kid.

[00:25:10] Michaeleen Doucleff: That’s a, that’s basic. Like, but also that, I mean, that kind of gets at what I was saying about the Montessori school. Like that’s basic social skills terms of teaching children to be respectful, right? Teaching a person to be respectful. She’s not showing any of that. She’s going against all of kind of

[00:25:31] Randi Rubenstein: She, yeah, she’s not being respectful. You’ve gotta model it. So if you’re

[00:25:36] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, and if the parent is letting them do that, if the parent is letting the teacher do that, then the parent is also not modeling it, right? I mean, that’s like, 

[00:25:47] Randi Rubenstein: right. 

[00:25:48] Michaeleen Doucleff: Some of the reason of pulling out Rosie was like, look, these people aren’t respecting you, they’re not respecting me, they’re not, we can find a better way, right? The model, the agency, of like when people don’t treat me right, I don’t care if they are the teachers, or the principals, if they’re not treating me respectfully, then we need to go somewhere else. 

But I think you’re right, I think we have this sense, and this gets back to some of the core weird psychology that we are. Because one of the things that makes us weird, and one of the traits of Western society, Western culture, is that we respect and value the opinions of strangers more than our families. And I think this is a perfect example where like, I have to catch myself, like, am I valuing the teacher who’s an outsider to the family more than like what my child is telling me or more than what I’m, you know, I, how I respect my family. Right. 

And so we allow like these authoritative figures to rev this great influence on our psychology and on what we do. And some of, some of what I’m learning and what I’ve learned is like to pull back and say, wait a second. I’m here for Rosie. I’m here to help her and get an education. And do I trust and value my opinion of what Rosie, who Rosie is, where she’s learning, where she’s at, what she’s doing, more or less than like some teacher, you know? 

But at the same time, I mean, letting somebody disrespect you like that is, that’s a… That’s a skill that I’ve had to learn not to do, you know, as an adult. You know, I mean, I still work on it. 

[00:27:39] Randi Rubenstein: Well, that’s what, it’s been amazing to see this woman’s progess. cuz not only is she no longer in a PTSD state, she’s a complete badass now, and she, I mean, she is, you should have heard her, by the when she made the decision to go tour, you know, and this was a private school, and I know what neighborhood she lives in, I was like, unless I’m mistaken, I think there’s really, really good public schools, people move to your neighborhood to go to the public schools, is there a reason why y’all haven’t checked it out? 

And there wasn’t. It just was, you know, her husband had thought, you know, he had grown up going to whatever church school and so she’s, and I was like, well, maybe go check it out. So she went and she checked it out and she was like, the kids were so relaxed. It was, you know, she’s like, it wasn’t that crazy, nobody can make a peep when you’re walking through the halls. It felt like a place where kids were.

[00:28:47] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah. Mmm. Right.

[00:28:49] Randi Rubenstein: And then fast forward to the end of the year when she went in for the parent -teacher conferences and we sort of prepped her for it. And it was like, you’re going to have boundaries. And you’re not open to having these people tell you who your kid is when you have now changed the way you’re doing things at home and you’ve seen an entirely different child come to life. Because he doesn’t have to have his dukes up anymore. He doesn’t have to be fighting at school to prove that he’s not a mean kid, fighting at home to prove that he’s not a mean kid. Like he’s feeling safe finally. And so you’ve seen who he is. 

So don’t go in there waiting, hoping that these ladies aren’t gonna badmouth your kid. Like, just, you know, so we really prepared her and she ended up like going to the principal. Like she kind of, she called, I said, you sound like you’re Erin Brockoviching this school. She said, she said, she goes, yeah, you can call me Erin Brock a bitch, because I am not putting, I’m telling she

[00:30:01] Michaeleen Doucleff: We all have the mama bear in us, right? Like, like so it’s interesting that you, when you were talking about like she had PTSD, you like, you know, you felt your stomach and I’ve been like, paying attention to this kind of feeling in my stomach that I get. And I’ve been calling it like the rejection feeling, like the potential of rejection. 

I think I’ve been like conditioned in these moments where I’m gonna feel like some other people, some other class like, economic class of, you know, some other clique, some groups, some whoever it is, like, is like going to reject me in the, you know, in the moment. It’s very like, I’m being very like, I’m figurative here, right? Like it does not actually going to happen. I mean, but like, that’s the, I get that feeling in my gut. 

And it comes from this like very long, long conditioning of like, not feeling good enough, not feeling like friends are gonna accept me, you know, dealing with mean girls, dealing with these teachers that are like, you know, being disrespectful to me and like, and it’s deep in me and it influences my mood, right? Like, because when you get this like gut kind of punch to your stomach, it’s like, I’m not good enough. I don’t feel good or like. 

But I’ve started saying, that’s just my rejection. Like there’s just like potential rejection happening, but it’s not. It’s not, like I’m an adult and I’m not being rejected and I have friends and I have a great family and I have a great job and like I’m not being rejected. But it’s like the residual part of my brain like preparing for that hurt in that like time when the teacher did bad mouth me and the time when the mean girl did say something mean and like, you know, all of those hurts they added up over my childhood in my early adult life. They’re still in there. Just being able to like label it is that helped me. You know, it really has helped me be like, that’s the past.

[00:31:58] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah.

[00:31:59] Michaeleen Doucleff: I hear you, rejection stomach. And maybe also it’s like a learning signal of like, maybe this isn’t the person I want to be working with. Maybe this isn’t the route I want to go down if I’m carrying kind of this association with them. You know, maybe something is not right here. You know, like maybe you need a different school. Maybe you need to say something.

[00:32:21] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah, your body, it’s like the wisdom of these bodies. They’re whispering, they’re telling us. And I think it is helpful to name, when you find one of those deeply buried parts that, right? And

[00:32:36] Michaeleen Doucleff: like feelings inside.

[00:32:38] Randi Rubenstein: yeah, yeah, but it’s like, this, and you take the time to understand the rejection part. Where does it come from?

Like this didn’t happen, this isn’t actually happening, but there’s something right now in this situation that is reminding my body of another time

[00:32:58] Michaeleen Doucleff: And maybe like, instead of just reacting to it, right? Instead of just like, cause I think these body sensations are very, like you said, like deep and like, and I tend to just react to it. Like my reaction to the rejection punch is to like, oh no, what do I need to do to fix it? What do I need to stop the rejection? like I’ve done something wrong and I gotta fix it, right? That’s like my like knee jerk reaction. That’s how I handled it my whole life, right? But now I’m like, wait a second, maybe it’s not me. Or maybe I don’t want to fix it. Maybe this is a sign of, instead of just reacting, to stop and kind of pause and then

[00:33:41] Randi Rubenstein: Right, like maybe this is my spidey sense, right, maybe this is my Spidey senses that are saying, not your person. This, something’s out of alignment. 

[00:33:52] Michaeleen Doucleff: This maybe, you know, this isn’t, this isn’t, actually maybe this isn’t so important. You know, maybe this is, you know, or maybe I can just back off from this. I think there was a Fresh Air with Emma Stone and she talked about this, this feeling in her gut. And she talked about like, cause you know, actors are amazing because they have all these abilities to feel their bodies inside and stuff that we don’t like, cause that’s their skill. 

And, and she talked about how when she was younger, you know, she kind of, she felt that, what you saw, like that stomach punch, which I call like the rejection feeling, the rejection’s coming feeling. And she talked about how she’s learned as she’s gotten older to kind of like, maybe I move away from the things that give me that.

[00:34:35] Randi Rubenstein: -hmm. Maybe listen, maybe, right, maybe instead of making it mean that there’s something wrong with me, maybe I take the cue that there’s something wrong with this situation and to go away from

[00:34:46] Michaeleen Doucleff: Maybe this isn’t the right for me, right, exactly. Instead of reacting to it of like, how can I fix it? It’s more like this is a sign that maybe this person isn’t listening to me or seeing me for who I am.

[00:34:58] Randi Rubenstein: See, so this, I mean, this is the conversation with my Mastermind moms all the time where this is, we talk about things like this all the time, right? The body whispers, and finding those parts, those like exiled parts that, you know, we’ve been protecting for a long time and we have all these different ways and a lot of times it’s people pleasing and,

[00:35:21] Michaeleen Doucleff: yeah, that rejection coming is like, that’s exactly right. It’s a signal, it’s been a signal to me to please that person. Right? It’s like, rejection’s coming, I need to please them, right? And I think that you’ve summed it up. Like I’ve started, just the last couple months, just being like, wait a second, maybe this, I don’t need to please. You know, maybe actually like this is a time for me not to please.

And it’s like the mom you’re talking about. She was trying to please this teacher and fix whatever problem this teacher was saying. And in fact, she didn’t need to do that. She needed to like protect her kid. And like, 

[00:35:58] Randi Rubenstein: Have boundaries and 

[00:35:59] Michaeleen Doucleff: this was the wrong situation for her kid and for her. 

[00:36:02] Randi Rubenstein: Right. And she started to listen and then she became a true leader in her, like she’s a leader for herself, she’s a leader for her kid, her kid’s doing amazing, he feels, he feels that. I mean, you know what it’s like when you feel like, okay, the clowns are running the circus, there is no leader. It makes everyone feel insecure.

And, but you know, what we always say is, is we’ll be, we’re learning all these things as adults. And what we always say is, is this is what we should have learned in school. Right? 

[00:36:37] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yes. And that’s what about like respecting. I mean, we should, right, exactly. Clearly that teacher is not teaching those kids to respect each other because she’s not respecting the kid in front of the mom, right? And this is about learning how to treat people well and with respect. And when people don’t do that, how do you handle it? 

You know, if somebody’s not treating you with respect, do you try to please them? That’s what I was taught. I’ll fix it. I’ll fix it. Right? Like, or do you say, Hey, that’s not respectful. Or do you just leave him alone? Or do you change the situation? You know, like, that’s what I was saying. Like this Montessori school was not teaching Rosie this. And, and I wanted to create a space where we could teach her that. 

[00:37:25] Randi Rubenstein: There’s some people who would be listening to this and they’re like, yeah, Montessori schools are, you know, but my kid’s school. So I want you to, I want to hear from you. What do you, I mean, you kind of already touched upon it, but like, what do you think our schools, like just our school system, the government, you know, the government has proven that they’re not that great at teaching kids.

[00:37:51] Michaeleen Doucleff: At least right now.

[00:37:53] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah. And so what do you think that mainstream schools, whether they’re Montessori, traditional, whatever, our mainstream school system, what do you think the main thing is that they’re getting wrong? If you had to kind of say it in a nutshell.

[00:38:09] Michaeleen Doucleff: I mean, gosh, I mean right now, I don’t think parents realize how, I mean, and again, it depends on a lot on the teacher, right? Like some teachers do teach kids, but this is not the Montessori, non -Montessori thing, because Rosie was at a very expensive private school in San Francisco, and in many ways it was worse, like worse. And like, so I know that this, and I know a lot about the elementary, the public elementary school here and the kids, and they’re not teaching them this, okay.

I mean, I think the biggest problem with schooling in America are a couple of things. Like it just, there’s no autonomy. There’s very, very, very little autonomy, right? 

And I also think a lot of kids just don’t learn the way that we teach kids. I mean, in many cultures, like this Western form of schooling is like, it’s totally separate from what cultures think is actually teaching and educating children. Like it’s its own, it’s not the same. There’s no overlap, right? If you talk to like some Inuit families, what like they see in like Western schools, that’s not, that’s nothing to do with the way children learn. Like you’re just missing the elements of how children naturally learn, right? 

[00:39:30] Randi Rubenstein: What are their schools? What did the schools in the communities that you spent time with from Hunt, Gather, Parent, what did their school systems or education or schools look like?

[00:39:43] Michaeleen Doucleff: I mean, it’s interesting. It’s a mix because Western society has come in and said, this is what schooling is. And a lot of governments have taken that. So, but what I’m saying is even when they have like a Western kind of styled school, the parents will tell you, but this is how you actually children learn. It’s not the West, right? 

I mean, the Inuit parents were very clear about this. It’s like, we have this school, the Western style and… but that’s not how children learn. This is how you teach children to learn. This is how you educate children. 

And some of these communities now are trying to like mix it, right? They’re trying to, because for a long time it was like, I mean, up in the Arctic, like Western society went in and forced, like physically forced them to put their kids in these boarding schools, right? It was this horrible thing. I mean, it happened in the lower, in the United States too, right? And so it was this, it was this like actually forced education. 

But since that’s like, been pulled, rolled back, thank goodness, like, you know, a lot of these, a lot of Inuit communities are saying like, we’re gonna, we’re gonna take more agency over RG education and we’re gonna blend it more with like an actual traditional learning style, right? Where it’s, where observation in, in, in, and hands-on learning is privileged and prioritized over instruction, right? That’s, I mean, if you look, that’s how children have learned for a hundred thousand years. It’s not.

So for instance, in the Maya community, I went to a couple classes, hieroglyphic classes, and I went to a couple dance classes, and they were so fascinating because like the dance class, there were no words. The man got up to the front and there was like kids from like six to like 14, and he just starts doing the dance routine, and he just does it again. No words, no words. And then like, you know, he’d come around and as the kids did it, he would kind of move their bodies and maybe whisper something to them and like, but no words.

And then I get back home and rosie’s like dance, you know, four or five year old dance class or whatever it was. It was just like continual spewing of words. And now we do this and now you’re right. Like, and so that’s not how children really learn. Children learn through observation and practice. And so we’ve taken a, we’ve gotten rid of that completely.

And you know, and a hundred years ago, children learned through both, right? Children would learn to read through a little bit of instruction, do some math through some instruction, but then they would learn all these other skills and life skills. And they put the math and the reading into practice through observation and practice, right? So it’s really only been the like last forty years. 

And our generation, you know, is really kind of the one, like the first generation that came from a highly instructional environment, right? So it hasn’t been that many generations where kids have just basically stopped learning through observation and practice.

[00:42:41] Randi Rubenstein: Mm

[00:42:42] Michaeleen Doucleff: Anthropologists can actually see like the repercussions of this, like kids kind of have lost, like by the time they get to like high school, they’ve kind of lost the observational learning skills.

[00:42:53] Randi Rubenstein: Will you explain like just a quick explanation of like a day in the life at your school that involves observation and practice? Like what does it look like?

[00:43:07] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, so first of all, I mean, one of the things I do like about the Montessori system is like, it’s, it is this very autonomous way of learning. I didn’t really understand it. I spent a couple of weeks at this, this Montessori school in Mexico that was incredible by this woman who’s, who mixes it with a kind of an indigenous view of life. So it’s not just like, Montessori is this principal, right, that she had of learning. So our school uses that. 

So what happens in the morning under the Texas law, kids have to, work for three hours. So again, that kind of shows you like how much actual learning they’re doing at school that the government thinks they’re doing. So they’re there at our public school for like eight hours a day, but they’re learning, the government thinks, for three hours. So what is happening for the other five hours? Gym? Eating, maybe music, but I mean, what is happening, right? They’re not learning, right?

[00:44:01] Randi Rubenstein: And music for boys especially is the worst because those music teachers seem to hate boys. I coach so many parents. Yeah, yeah.

[00:44:11] Michaeleen Doucleff: So, right,

[00:44:11] Randi Rubenstein: that’s, yeah.

[00:44:12] Michaeleen Doucleff: So they, from nine until about noon, they do the Montessori curriculum, which is essentially they have all of these like workstations and projects that they’re working on and they kind of voluntarily choose them. Sometimes they’re encouraged and they’ve been taught through time how to do them. So there’s math, there’s grammar. There’s reading, there’s…

[00:44:38] Randi Rubenstein: What about the argument for the parent who says, and I hear this all the time, my child has ADHD, they wouldn’t be good in that environment because they’re not good at being self -led. So that

[00:44:51] Michaeleen Doucleff: So, I mean, being self -led, I mean, we all have tendencies or not tendencies, but it’s a skill.

[00:44:58] Randi Rubenstein: Mm -hmm.

[00:44:58] Michaeleen Doucleff: If the child has never done it and has been told what to do from eight o ‘clock in the morning until they go to bed at night, which is a lot of American children, they will not learn it. And there’s data that shows this, that like to learn to be self -motivated, you have to practice it. You have to observe it and you have to practice it. 

And little children are really good at practicing it. And that’s why they scream at you when you try to tell them what to do.

[00:45:24] Randi Rubenstein: Right. I do it 

[00:45:25] Michaeleen Doucleff: to practice this. 

[00:45:26] Randi Rubenstein: Mm -hmm.

[00:45:27] Michaeleen Doucleff: And they have this desire to practice being self -sufficient, taking initiation, having drive. And if the parent has stuck a screen in front of them or told them what to do at every moment, they will not learn this skill because the screen tells you what to do. It tells your brain what to do. There’s no… there’s very, very little self -sufficiency and self -drive there, right? So I would tell that parent that the child needs to learn how to do it. 

And in fact, parents have emailed me about Hunt, Gather, Parent, is like, really helped kids with ADHD because they need more autonomy. There’s all this data that shows this, right? There’s like this amazing story of this little boy who had ADHD really bad and then one of the teachers, an amazing teacher said, okay, why don’t you help me with the class and be my assistant? And you know, it’s like, they need this like, so I would say one, the child, it’s just a skill, it’s a skill. 

And there’s that, and you’re right, many kids, there’s differences in kind of their just innate ability to take initiative, but a lot of it is environment. It’s just, know, how much have they had practice at it?

And doing things autonomously. So we cook, we garden, we take care of chickens, we do experiments. I try to tie in the practical skills to what they’re doing. You know, I mean, learning to read a recipe, go to the store, buy the ingredients, figure out how much you need for the group of people, come back, read that recipe and put it into action takes incredible math and reading skills and planning, right? And just learning to do that gives a child an amazing amount of knowledge. Like what we think of as like academic knowledge. I mean, I 

[00:47:23] Randi Rubenstein: And how engaging! 

[00:47:25] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, and then they want to do it. And then you’ve got food and then you’ve got a skill that you can go home and make yourself food and you can make your family food. I mean, you can make a whole like math curriculum around recipes, right? There’s conversions, there’s fractions, there’s multiplication and like, and so we put those things in and then the money, you know, we put those things into action in the afternoon. 

And then I realized that the 12 year old boys need more exercise. So I’ve been implementing more. The young kids, you take them to the park and they run around, but the 12 year old boys just sit there. So I’ve been doing more PE kind of stuff too, but that’s really, that’s how it goes. And it’s,

[00:48:05] Randi Rubenstein: Well, they actually remember the math and the reading because they’re so engaged when they’re, you know, and they’re so motivated because it’s task oriented and

[00:48:17] Michaeleen Doucleff: Well, there’s a purpose, 

[00:48:18] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:48:20] Michaeleen Doucleff: It’s not just like math because there’s a piece of paper, right? A lot of kids,

[00:48:24] Randi Rubenstein: Right.

[00:48:25] Michaeleen Doucleff: Some kids that are motivated by grades and just learning will learn math and be excited about it just on a piece of paper. But a lot of kids need like a real purpose. Why are we doing this? Why does it mean anything, right? And it’s remarkable or just having the child copy the recipe, okay, write down what we need or, I mean, we just do things like this, you know, and we…

We did like a germination experiment with beans and then we planted the beans and they’re still growing. Okay, can you tell her, I’ll be down in five minutes. Sorry, Rosie, just give me this note. Judy is here. This is another way to teach kids reading. Okay, just give them

[00:49:07] Randi Rubenstein: Rosie, I promise we’ll wrap up. 

[00:49:09] Michaeleen Doucleff: minutes. Yeah, so that’s what I have Rosie write memos. That’s how she learns to write. Write me memos while I’m working.

[00:49:17] Randi Rubenstein: I mean, Rosie’s eight. She’s eight still or she’s, yeah. Rosie’s eight. She’s receiving the guests. Michaeleen’s got the neighbors coming over and they’re all arriving and Rosie’s answering the door, receiving them. Then she’s coming up to mommy’s office. She’s giving a memo, you know, they’re here. Like she knows, she’s not like, mommy,

[00:49:40] Michaeleen Doucleff: Right, right,

[00:49:42] Randi Rubenstein: How did she learn all of that civility and maturity, right? Like you’ve given her the opportunity. You’ve taught do those things.

[00:49:51] Michaeleen Doucleff: That’s right, practice and observation, you know, and it’s been, it’s taken time. Like this memo thing is new,

[00:49:58] Randi Rubenstein: So good.

[00:49:59] Michaeleen Doucleff: last couple of months because she couldn’t really write before. So, but now she can send me memos. And like, this is how we learned, this is how we learned to read and write,

[00:50:07] Randi Rubenstein: Right.

[00:50:08] Michaeleen Doucleff: Useful things.

[00:50:10] Randi Rubenstein: And she’s feeling useful and valuable. Like mom’s working upstairs. She’s answering the door. She’s coming up and letting mom know. So now like the kid’s not just going, mommy, mommy, when are you gonna pay attention to me? Like this is a kid that feels like a really valuable family member. And she is. 

[00:50:26] Michaeleen Doucleff: And useful. Yeah, for 

[00:50:29] Randi Rubenstein: it’s useful. Okay, go 

[00:50:31] Michaeleen Doucleff: 530, Randi sorry,

[00:50:33] Randi Rubenstein: You live your life. You learned a lot in Hunt, Gather, Parent when you were writing it and researching and that’s how you live your life now. Okay, I love it. Go be with

[00:50:42] Michaeleen Doucleff: Okay, have a good weekend and thank you. And we’ll talk. I do want to get to the point of like the secret to getting kids to be enjoying children when you’re with the teaching them and maybe next time.

[00:50:56] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah, wait, you want to get to the point of what like people enjoying their children when you’re

[00:51:01] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, I think a lot of like, I think a lot of like kind of hesitation to teaching children is like you don’t enjoy being with them. And I think that there’s like secret to

[00:51:10] Randi Rubenstein: Okay, well there’s a cliffhanger. There’s a cliffhanger. We’ll

[00:51:13] Michaeleen Doucleff: Alright, Randi, have a good weekend. Okay, bye!

[00:51:16] Randi Rubenstein: Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips, tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household, I want you to go to my website and check out We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you.

And, as always, we’re on all the social channels under Mastermind Parenting, on Instagram it’s mastermind_parenting. And, you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives where I give you teaching and coaching and I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better, because when they feel better they do better, and I love, love, love getting to know you guys. 

So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super, super appreciative.

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Creating A Happier Household

by Randi Rubenstein