In this episode, we discussed ways to observe your students for signs that they are ready for increased responsibility. If you teach and model responsibility in household tasks, it is easier to foster responsibility in their studies.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:04.788 Hello, everyone. Welcome to this presentation of The Demme Learning Show. This is Gretchen and I am delighted to welcome you to this conversation today. Holy mackerel, does this conversation have a lot of meat. I think the hardest part that my colleague Lisa and I will have is pairing it down into bite-size pieces because boy, there is a lot of information to be had. Today we’re going to talk about creating responsibility and how to find the sweet spot. My name is Gretchen Roe. My husband and I homeschooled six kids 21 years. They’re now all out of high school. Graduated. Five of them are college grads and it has been a very great privilege to walk alongside homeschooling parents for 27 years in their journeys. I’m delighted to be joined by my colleague Lisa Chimento today and I’m going to let Lisa introduce herself.
Lisa Chimento: 00:01:00.459
Thanks, Gretchen. Hi. I’m Lisa Chimento. I’m a customer success consultant and placement specialist here at Demme Learning. My husband and I homeschooled our four children for 25 years and they are now all grown and adults out of the house too far away for my comfort but that’s where they are. And like Gretchen, it really has been a privilege to walk alongside and support homeschooling families. It’s really a joy.
Gretchen Roe: 00:01:31.580
And we wanted to have this conversation. I will tell you all in October, I have the privilege of sitting down to have a deeper conversation with Jeannie Fulbright to understand Charlotte Mason’s methodologies of creating responsibility. And I think that’ll be a conversation that you should put on a future planning event. But today, what we’re going to talk about is, where’s the sweet spot of creating responsibility? And I was just talking with Lisa as we began. She really had the crux of the whole thing in a single statement in that last week when we planned. And that statement was responsibility has to start with the adult. That’s not even an easy thing to hear because there are days when I would prefer not to be responsible for anything. But Lisa, can you tell us in a little bit of depth why you would say that?
Lisa Chimento: 00:02:30.978
Yeah, I say that because I didn’t do it far too often. And so much of our learning has happened through our own mistakes. They certainly have for me. So our conversation today is hopefully going to be filled with grace because there’s certainly no condemnation. We are all still learning every single day. And most of the things that I’m learning, even just looking back at those 25 years, all of these years later and realizing how I could have done some things differently, how I did indeed make some errors. Some of them I recognized at the time and I apologized for them then and some of them I didn’t. And I realized that there were times when I was trying, my intention was good, to guide my students into responsibility, to guide my kids in that way. And some ways that I did it were successful and some were not. And I could have done some things very differently. So a lot of this is you know hindsight is 20/20 but if we can offer you anything to help you prevent making the same mistakes, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Some things we can learn from other people’s errors and I hope you will today.
Gretchen Roe: 00:03:53.180
We’re here because parents ask us to have this conversation and I think it’s a really important one. I think it’s also important for you to understand that your children aren’t going to wake up with spots that say, now we’re ready to be responsible. Every child gets to their responsible level of participation at a different age. And having been and only child, I was born a tiny adult, and so there were times where I was expecting more of my children than they were capable of delivering. And I think it’s important for Lisa and I to set that tone at the very beginning. One of the things I think is important is if you’re not giving your children responsibility in your household, it’s very difficult for you to expect them to learn responsibility in their academics. And so Lisa, you and I talked a lot about this with Raymond and Dorothy Moore when we set to prepare for this. So can you talk a little bit about the Moore’s philosophy? And I know you and I both implemented it in our households. Let’s talk about what that is and how it would be beneficial to start with your kids.
Lisa Chimento: 00:05:11.156
Yeah, for sure. When I was homeschooling, Raymond and Dorothy Moore were both still alive. Their books were still quite available. They’re much harder to find these days. But they were pioneers in homeschooling in America, and they shared a great deal of wisdom. And one of the most key sentences that I remember them writing in one of the books– and I don’t remember. I apologize if it was their Home Grown Kids or The Successful Homeschool Family book, but it was that if they can walk, they can work. [laughter] And I tell you, my heart leaped at that because I knew that from myself growing up and I had seen the result of friends, families, where the parents did not require their children to have any responsibility in the home. They have no chores. They were getting allowance for basically being alive and breathing. And I saw the fallout from that because they weren’t invested. They weren’t invested in their families. They weren’t invested in each other’s lives. They weren’t invested in the things at home. There was very little value placed on what they were given so they didn’t care if they broke it or lost it. And I saw the result of that. And I didn’t want that to happen in my home. So we were very careful to watch what the kids were able to do. And I want to mention something and I’m sure this is going to be a point that most parents will say yes to. If you have a toddler, you are hearing out of their mouths a hundred times a day, I do, I do, I do. So if you’re looking for when to start motivating them, that’s when to start motivating them. Give them opportunities to be responsible in small things when they’re very young and they will achieve self confidence. You don’t have to create some sort of artificial self confidence and assurance in them. They will create it for themselves as they do things and accomplish them and feel satisfaction of what they’ve done.
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:24.947
And one of the things that I think is really important– and I wish someone had explained this to me in a little bit more detail when I began my homeschooling journey, is there’s a difference between praising a job well done and praising the effort put in. And if Lisa and I could encourage you to think of this in this mindset, if you only praise the job well done, when it’s less than well done, then how does your child feel about themselves? But if you praise the effort they put into it really like the fact that you stayed here alongside me and swept the floor, even though I know you don’t like sweeping the floor. Those kinds of things are a much better way to frame task orientation and create success for your student. Because then it’s not outcome-based; it’s effort-based. And we really do want to teach our kids to be engaged in the process of their academics. But sometimes that has to start with being engaged in the process of being a member of the family first. And I think that some of the things that we have talked about, Lisa, give us some examples of that. You gave me a long list here. And so what are some things, as parents, we can ask small kids to do?
Lisa Chimento: 00:08:55.829
Yeah. We got some real practical things here. And they can be– even at the age of three years old, you can, when you’re folding laundry, pull out the dish towels, the handkerchiefs, the washcloths, the hand towels, things that are small enough for a little child to be able to fold, and show them how to fold it. And it doesn’t have to be perfect, but they’re joining you. They’re doing something alongside of you. They’re going to feel grown up and important. And then they’ve achieved something that they feel good about. If you’re setting the table, give them the napkins and ask them to fold a napkin and put one by each place. Give them a spoon. Maybe don’t give them the knife yet. But at some appropriate point, they can put out the forks. They can put out the spoons. Let them put their own clothes away. If it’s something that they’re not able to fold themselves, you can fold them. But then give them the pile, and let them cart it off into their room and put it in their drawer or hang it up as necessary. I remember one time we lived in a place where the mailbox– we lived in a condo and the mailbox was across the parking lot from where our car was. And it wasn’t a busy place. There wasn’t a lot of traffic. But when my kids were of age and they knew how to be careful and watch for cars, giving them the mail key and letting them go and get the mail was a cool responsibility of theirs. They loved it. They had a few minutes to themselves where they did this kind of grown-up thing. Emptying the dishwasher of maybe not the breakables when they’re too young, but certainly plastic things or things that you’re not too worried about: spoons, plastic cups, things like that. When you’re working outside, you can show them which ones are the weeds and let them pull weeds. One thing that I remember having my older son do – he had a younger brother who was just two years younger than he, so Matt was three and Daniel was just a year old – and I had to run to go to the bathroom or just do something really quickly out of the room. And I would say, “Go make Daniel laugh.” And that entertained them both for a few minutes. Matthew would be a clown, and Daniel would be laughing. And it kept them busy, but it also connected them. It gave him a responsibility towards his brother that created a bond and a connection. So there’s so many little things like that that can be done for even very young children. And then as they grow, increase the level of their ability with their responsibility and make that part of it. You’ve talked about meal prep for your kids. Go ahead and share that, because I think that’s so cool.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:45.216
Well, I think there’s always– all of my children are taught to cook. When you turn four years old, it’s a big deal on your birthday to come and learn to scramble eggs by yourself. And I’ll tell you how that comes back to benefit you because now that my youngest is 18, up to age 37, I have 6 cooks and they all are amazing. And they’re all self-motivated cooks. So that, to me, is something that was taught in the household and that they learned how to do that. But the question is, how do you get there? How do you say to a child, “Hey, I want you to plan dinner tonight.” You can’t say to an eight-year-old, “Guess what, tonight you’re going to plan dinner.” It’s baby steps all along the way. And the hardest thing I have to say in this webinar today is it starts with us. We’re the fall guys for this. I was actually listening to Mel Robbins who I think is a wonderful presenter. And I’ve learned a great many things from her, but she was talking yesterday in this YouTube video I was watching about don’t hit the snooze alarm. Because when you hit your snooze alarm, if you fall back to sleep, your body is anticipating going all the way through another sleep cycle, which is she said 60 to 90 minutes long. And so if you can learn the discipline of the alarm went off, I’m going to get up even if you’re not a morning person. Now I’m the type of person who bounces out of bed with a hundred ideas, and I want you to know all of them. But I’m married to someone who is not that person. And because I’m married to someone who is not that person, he knows he has to get up earlier and have his coffee and get his brain put together before kids started getting up because he needed to be there and available for them. And that’s not necessarily a solution-oriented idea, except in the fact that if you’re not used to getting up, you can’t expect your kids to get up if you can’t model for them how to do that. So, Lisa, we had talked– because we had hundreds of questions. So before we turn our attention to those hundreds of questions, you made a really cogent observation in our email exchanges this morning about sometimes when we, as parents, want to foster responsibility in a child and that child does not pick up the reins of the responsibility, sometimes we misinterpret that as laziness or lack of motivation. Can you talk a little bit about how that’s really a misnomer?
Lisa Chimento: 00:14:45.931
Yeah. That idea of laziness. Your children are yours. I won’t tell you about children that I don’t know. But I think it’s worthwhile when we start to make observations like that and we are starting to feel that our kids are unmotivated or they’re lazier. I can’t get them going. To take a closer look, because very often, that is just a symptom of something else that’s going on. There’s some barrier, there’s some obstacle in the way that they’ve run up against, they can’t get past it and they’re giving up maybe. One of the things that we see sometimes even when we do assessments with kids in their school subjects, and we’re hearing words out of children’s mouth like they hate the subject or they don’t see any reason to have to learn this subject, those are things that are coming out of a place of exasperation and discouragement because they are not understanding something. And when there are gaps in a child’s learning, as they’re going through their different school subjects, if they are running up against a topic or something that they don’t understand and they’re not getting that resolved, they can’t move forward beyond it. And so it’s easier to just say, “Forget it. I quit. I’m not going any further.” And it could happen with school subjects, but it can be happening with things in your home as well. It could be happening with relationships. If siblings are just not getting past something, there’s a time then for a parent to come and really start to take a better look and maybe ask some very pointed questions and not big general how– what’s going on questions because where do they even start with something like that? You might need to ask some very specific questions to figure out what’s going on. Now, if it’s a school subject, it means going back and taking a look at their work and seeing, do you seeing a pattern of errors happening here and be able to come to the child and say, “I noticed this is happening here. What’s going on when you’re doing this work? Are you missing something here? Do you understand this?” Or ask them, “Tell me what you understand about this. And then get– and then listen and get that response in that feedback from them because it will clue you into what is missing and where you can go back in then and fill in a gap. Like I said, it can happen with school subjects, but it can be happening with other things around the home and in the family as well.
Gretchen Roe: 00:17:25.826
And I think one of the things I probably was most guilty of was to be exasperated with my children when I sent them a task and then left them to do it and came back at some later point in time and they had not made the kind of progress I anticipated. If I had the opportunity for a do-over, I would have paused longer and said, “Do you understand the assignment?” Probably the most valuable sentence I was taught when giving a child instructions is to– at the conclusion of the instruction to pause and then say, “Tell me what you heard me say.” Because that saves so many arguments. And I have to tell you all, I was probably five kids deep into this game before I learned to do that. It wasn’t modeled for me, so it was difficult for me to model that for my children, but that’s one of the glories of being able to home-educate your children is that you learn right alongside them. And it is amazing how sometimes we think we’re very clear in our communication and we haven’t been. And so I often say this from stage when I speak at homeschooling conferences, don’t weaponize the outcome you expect. If you say to your child, go clean up your room, and the room looks like a CSI investigation, that’s overwhelming to a child. So instead of saying that, start with one thing, here’s a laundry basket, put all your dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Break things down into bite-sized pieces. And then praise them for whatever kind of performance you get. Find something laudatory to say, “Gee, I’m really proud of you that you stuck to it to put half the clothes in the laundry basket. Can I help you put the other half of the clothes in the laundry basket?” That’s a different attitude from, “You didn’t do what I wanted. Now I’m exasperated with you.” And sometimes I think I set my kids up for failure because my exasperation overwhelmed my ability to see them. And so we don’t want that for you. We want that to be something different. Lisa, we had so many notes and I do want to talk about schoolwork itself. And I know I had said that Dorinda Wilson said about a month ago when she was a guest of mine, you can’t expect what you don’t inspect. Can we talk a little bit about as a parent setting ourselves up so our kids will be successful. So we’re checking their work and looking at what they’re doing on a regular basis.
Lisa Chimento: 00:20:14.650
Right. So and this is going to apply also to the things that we want them to do in our home. There needs to be the understanding of the value of modeling for a child, to be able to model for them what you are wanting. And so first they need to be able to observe you doing it and verbalizing what you’re doing perhaps and then letting them do it for you with you still there. Don’t just be like, “Okay, you saw me. Now go do it.” And you walk away because you really kind of left them on their own without any constructive feedback. If there’s something that they need to be doing differently. So that aspect of seeing them through a couple of trial runs, if you will, before you’re letting them go on your own. And asking along the way, how do you feel about this? Do you think you can do it yourself? If I were to leave, you feel pretty confident with this? We’ve talked about this so many times in different webinars and discussions that we’ve had, Gretchen, but homeschooling parents have this golden opportunity to become students of their children. You can watch, you can observe, you can ask questions, you can hear, but you need to be willing to stay with them and be in the room and listen and learn as you go. And it makes a huge difference then not just in what you said, the outcome of what they’re doing, but also in your relationship with them because you don’t want to have them be these high achievers and you have a crummy relationship with your kid. That’s not the goal here. We want both things to be happening at once so that you are growing together in your family and the relationships are growing as they are growing in their development and their achievements and their maturity and in their responsibility.
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:16.808
I had the privilege a couple of weeks ago of spending time having a conversation with Alice Reinhart, who is a veteran homeschool mom of 36-plus years of home education. And one of the things that she talks about eloquently is changing our mindset from having a public school expectation to having a homeschooled expectation. And I think it’s important for us as parents when we change those responsibilities, we’re going to have to start small. And I know we had a lot of parents who ask questions of us today. I’m looking at the copious list of questions. And they said, “So what age can I expect my child to be responsible?” And the answer there is, it depends. Because not every child is responsible in the same way at the same age. And I know that you have these conversations all the time, Lisa, with parents about what their children can be responsible for. And I think it’s important for us to have parents take away from this conversation: let me look at the things I’m making my children responsible for and let me analyze, have I set them up for success? Are there clear expectations? Do they know exactly what’s expected of them? And I’m listening to you talk and thinking about we just did a major home renovation here, a lot took five and a half months, four of those without a kitchen. And one of the things that happened is we took out a bathroom to make a larger kitchen. And and I’m laughing, only because you said, “Do you think you can do this on your own?” Hanging inside that bathroom, which now doesn’t exist anymore, inside the medicine cabinet was a list that said, “This bathroom is clean when?” And it was a series of eight questions. So when we took out that bathroom, my then 17-year-old was standing there one day looking around, and I said, “What’s wrong?” And he said, “What am I going to do without the list?” [laughter] And you know what? Yeah, I taught him that he needed to check the list to see if the bathroom was clean. And my first thought was, “For goodness sake, you’re 17 years old. What do you mean? You’ve been doing this since you were seven.” What am I going to do with the list? I have to tell you, the list now hangs in the linen closet in the other bathroom. [laughter] Just because I think it makes it easier if we give them the guide rails so that they know what to step along. Lisa, we talked a little bit about the things that kids can do independently versus the things that they really need a parent for. Can you just run through again what that independently might be reading or independently might be history study?
Lisa Chimento: 00:25:31.869
Yeah. And a lot of it will depend on the children’s own natural inclinations and giftings. There are some kids who are strong math students, and maybe they can work independently after you’ve been with them and you’ve gone through the instructional part, and maybe they can do the worksheets on their own. But then there will be other kids that they want mom right there. They need you to just be there and bounce off ideas. And it doesn’t mean that you have to be there forever, but you may need to be there for a while or maybe for each lesson a couple of days before they feel ready to go out on their own. Think about a child swimming or riding a bike. They want you there. Even if they’ve got their own balance, they want you there just in case they wobble. And that’s not a bad thing, because you’re building security in them. You are letting them know, “I’m not leaving you on your own. I’m here if something happens.” And then eventually there will be that confidence that, “I can do this now.” There are some kids who are great with reading, and they don’t want to be handheld through that. Let them go ahead and read. And you might even be able to let them read to their younger siblings. I mean, that’s a glorious thing, when you’ve got kids of different ages, and the older ones can help in some of those ways that they enjoy. Let them use the things that they love to do, and they’re serving their family at the same time and helping you out, especially when you’ve got so many plates spinning in the air. But it will depend on what their giftings are. There are also some things that you can do together as a family. And we didn’t even talk about this earlier, but, I mean, things like unit studies where you’ve got multiple kids together, you can sometimes lead them to do a project together if there’s an older one who is a little more responsible with the younger ones. So you kind of have to play it by ear. But I like what you said before. It’s not going to magically happen one day when they wake up; it’s kind of a continuum. And you just have to be really observant and notice, but also ask the questions because sometimes they don’t know to tell you what they can do. You might need to ask a question, “Do you feel confident doing this on your own? Do you feel like you still need me here for it?” and to be able to work that way.
Gretchen Roe: 00:27:57.295
And having six children in my own family, I can tell you that each of my children reached a level of responsibility for different tasks at different ages. Like I said earlier, you don’t wake up with a symbol on your forehead one morning that says, “Now I am capable of being responsible.” I was talking with my husband this morning over breakfast, and he said, “It’s not like, ‘Okay, I’m now 16 years old. I can get a driver’s license.'” And I laughed and said to him, “We had 16-year-olds whom I would not have wanted driving on the road,” and he said, “Yeah, that’s true. That’s very true.” So it’s up to us as parents to sort of guide them. And many of the questions that we’re going to get to here momentarily were around at what age can I expect. And I have to tell you the truth. My eldest son was brilliant. He taught himself to read at the age of four but couldn’t be left alone to do a single math problem until he was a senior in high school. My sixth child, also a boy, said to me in fourth grade, “How about you give me a list? And I’ll let you know if I need you.” Two kids raised in the same family look a whole lot alike but entirely different in what they were capable of accomplishing single patentedly, and it’s important for you as parents to make that observation.
Lisa Chimento: 00:29:30.784
I think there’s another element, too, that we need to realize is that responsibility and ability to do things don’t come at a pre-programmed age. And you can have an older child, but if that child has never been equipped to do that thing, then we can’t put the expectation on. So we can’t look at a child and go, “You’re this many years old. You ought to know how to do this by now.” We really have to stop, and again, look at ourselves and say, “Have I properly equipped this child?” We have to kind of think about their childhood as well as their schooling as a boot camp. We are here to equip them so that eventually, they’ll be ready to be on their own. But it’s going to be some time. And for some kids, it’s more time than others. I did notice that my firstborn and my youngest were the ones that were most eager at the youngest ages to do more on their own. The two middle ones kind of were like, “I don’t really care. [laughter] You can keep on doing that.” So I don’t know if birth order really has a big piece in this, but I did notice that for mine. And I think it’s probably– and I know that for your youngest too, there’s an element of this youngest child has been watching all those siblings, and they’ve been learning almost through osmosis. They’ve certainly been hearing the instruction. Multiple times, they’ve been seeing their older siblings do things. They’ve also been watching their older siblings make mistakes, and they really do have that benefit of learning from somebody else’s mistakes more than the older ones do. So I think that there’s some element of the baby of the family being maybe ready a little younger. I don’t know. What do you think? [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:31:21.171
No, I think that’s an interesting observation. So many of you ask, “Okay, what do we do at high school?” Well, hopefully, you have created a relationship with your student that you’re having conversations about high school. Actually, I want to put in a little bit of plug here. In the fall, I’m actually having the privilege of having a guest here on the program, and we’re going to talk about how do you put a high school transcript together, at what age should you expect to accomplish what kinds of things. I think it’s going to be a really beneficial conversation, and I’m excited to have it. But these parents asking this question now, what do I do about a high schooler? Well, hopefully, you have created a collaborative environment with your high schooler. And if you have not now’s the time to make sure that that happens because you are on the down ramp of the end of your student’s high school journey. If they’re an eighth grader you’re still on the down ramp because these four, five years are going to fly very quickly. So it’s time to start having conversations with them about what interests you, what sparks joy for you, what do you want to learn more about. And we shouldn’t as a parent assume every path forward will be equivalent. It’s up to us to have those conversations. Yesterday, Lisa and I were involved in a conversation with another coworker who was trying to help a parent of a senior in high school weigh their math endeavors this fall. And I think it’s really important for us to recognize as a senior in high school the question needs to be asked, “What comes after high school? Are you looking at trade school? Are you looking at college? Are you going to step into a job? Are you going to step into the family business?” All different answers, all different paths. So as parents all of you, all 62 of you who said something about high school [laughter], I would recommend that you sit down and have a board meeting with your student. “Let’s talk about what you think you want to do.” And hold it all loosely because it’s going to change. Particularly, if they’re in eighth grade it’s going to change frequently. But now is the time where you can have some degree of collaboration toward that high school experience so it’s all that they expect of it, and it also meets the obligations you intend. And I think that makes a difference. Lisa, we had some parents who said that they were trying to ascertain what to do when they feel like they’re not efficient and they’re homeschooling multiple kids, too, with special needs, multiple parents with kids with special needs. And that journey with a child who learns differently is entirely different than the journey with a neurotypical child. Can you talk a little bit about being able to take cues from the child to figure out how to build their academic experiences instead of us expecting the curriculum to drive our experience?
Lisa Chimento: 00:34:47.801
Yeah. So again, and certainly, for parents with neurotypical or learning-challenged or special needs kids, most of my conversations with those parents have been amazing to me because they are so in tuned. They are on that place of research and advocating for their children, and they are asking a lot of questions. And I think that that is an awesome thing. I think the ability because as adults we are still learning, too, to continue going out there and finding what you need, recognizing what your needs are, and then going out and asking questions to be able to fill that need. And don’t stop asking. Go wherever you can think of, local support groups, state support groups, calling us, calling any curriculum company, and asking how it can help. And I like your idea of holding it loosely for high schoolers. But I think the thing needs to be done the same for a child in this situation because we can have goals and dreams and hopes for that child, but we do need to be careful that we don’t set ourselves up for exasperation and disappointment because that will transfer over to that child if we do. And that’s not where we need it to go. So we need to be careful about setting up our own expectations and thinking about ways that that child can be successful in whatever they’re able to do. Here at Demme Learning, we have a group of employees that would have been called special needs in school. We have a number of hearing and impaired employees who work. We have a down syndrome young man who works. And they all have responsibilities in our company that they take part in the success of Demme Learning and in serving homeschooling families. I don’t know what their journeys were like when they were in school, but they evidently had some direction along the way that let them know you can accomplish something in your life. And the challenges that you’re going to face might preclude you from certain areas, but it doesn’t have to preclude you from success in some area. And you can find what that success is. And again, I just think it really requires conversation. You wrote something in our notes that I just loved. It said, “Homeschooling is not just content, but also conversation.” We have to be really careful that we don’t let curriculum be our master. It’s there to serve us. It’s a tool. It’s not supposed to set the journey for us. Our relationships with our kids and who they are as people should be what’s setting that journey for them. And it might not go in a way we had anticipated, but I just think it needs to be held loosely – I love the way you put that – and be flexible.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:03.405
Semper Gumby as my kids used to always say. And you all can see. Those of you who are joining us live, you can see why I wanted to have this conversation with Lisa because she’s so compassionate, and she understands so well how children, as they mature, their thoughts change. Their abilities change. And it’s up to us to be able to read them well. Many of you ask us, “At what point can I expect X from child Y?” And we don’t have an answer there. But what we want to encourage you to do is begin today if you have not, is set up small opportunities for your students to be successful in something and then praise their efforts, all the way back to Lisa talking about if you can walk, you can help. Here’s an opportunity to say to a two-year-old, “I set out two outfits. You choose which one you would like.” Now, I’m not saying, “What do you want to wear today?” because that becomes quite a different endeavor. But being able to say, “You choose amongst these two choices,” is the same thing you say to a high schooler, “Okay, you have to have a– you have to have four years of science in high school in this state. We have earth science. We have biology. We have chemistry. We have environmental science. We have geology. What do you want to choose this year?” And it goes all the way back to the two-year-old choosing, “I want to wear red today.” By the time you’ve got a high schooler, now they can choose how they want to put that together. And granted, as parents, we also have to– I used to say to my kids, “I’m going to be the fall guy here. I know this is something you want to do. But for long-term benefit, I know this isn’t the best plan for right now. So you’re going to have to trust me that we’re going to do this differently. And being able to follow that through makes a tremendous amount of difference. Being able to say to your student, “How is this curriculum going six weeks into the term?” And Lisa, I know you’ve told me that you have purchased some things that you thought were going to be amazing. And then when you got into, you were like, “Hmm, maybe not.” So how do we give parents the right attitude that it’s the child that’s important in the equation, not the book?
Lisa Chimento: 00:40:37.577
Yeah. And there’s two ways of thinking about this too because sometimes it just is the wrong thing, and it’s just not working for your family. And I’m all for giving it the best try that you can, and not giving up on it too quickly. But if it’s just not working for whatever reason, the time constraints that you have, and you don’t have the ability to put in what it requires for preparation. Or it’s just not delivering what your student needs in terms of the way that that child learns or whatever it is, then you know you have to you can certainly go, “This isn’t working, we need to look elsewhere.” On the other hand, you want to be careful not to give up too quickly because it’s very easy, I think, for a parent to go, “Okay, go ahead and use this curriculum.” And then when the student is not learning something to blame it on the curriculum. If there’s no follow through from you, if there isn’t those conversations and saying, “What is it that you’re understanding here and asking that kind of a question?” And then finding out, “Okay, he understands this, but not this,” let’s go back and look at the lesson on that thing again so that we can find out what got missed and fill in that gap. And it really does take observation on your point. I think this’ll be a place to insert the comment that errors are not necessarily bad things. If you are working with your student and there are errors on their pages, don’t just take out your red pen, put a line through it. and give them a number grade and move on. Pay attention to the errors. First of all, they are opportunities for better learning. If you can go in and make the corrections and your student can understand what they did wrong, and then clicks. “Ah, I see what I did,” and it’s fixed. But by the same token as a parent, you need to go back and find out, is there a pattern going on here with these errors? Because if they are, they’re pointing to something that got missed back there. And it doesn’t mean you knock the whole thing down and start all over again from scratch. It just means pause forward motion temporarily to investigate. And then when you figured out what was missing, go back and fill in that gap. And that way, you are equipping a student with what they need to go forward. And I think that that’s what really needs to be done. But again, the curriculum should serve you not the other way around. Right?
Gretchen Roe: 00:43:17.728
And I think it’s also important for us to talk about whether you’re an internal processor or an external [laughter] processor. And boy, have we had this conversation at Demme. I vividly remember a year ago in preparation for a panel discussion round table that we were doing, this conversation came up. As an external processor, it didn’t even occur to me that there are people who processed content internally. What do we mean by this? Do you tell someone how to do something as they’re doing it? If you are that internal processing parent, and you have a child like me who’s an external processor, you’ve got to learn to say, “Here there are the steps in cleaning this bathroom. Let’s take a look at this piece of paper and walk through this process. This is what this means. This is how you do this. And it’s easier if you’re an external processor to do that for a child. But it’s more important if you’re an internal processor to do that for a child. Otherwise, the only thing they can do is read you. And we aren’t always read well by our husbands, by our children, by our wives, but the expectation that we should not assume that our instructions are understood. We said one of the questions that I think really was compelling to both of us was a couple of moms who said they didn’t want to fail their kids. And I wonder if you can talk about that heart piece. That it’s not failure that it’s we need to reframe our attitude about how we approach our home academic experience. And if you can do it without crying.
Lisa Chimento: 00:45:20.251
I don’t think so. Yeah. That’s a hard one. And I think it is something that almost every parent can understand whether they’re homeschooling or not because as parents, we have an awesome responsibility to raise our children, whether we’re homeschooling them or not. And that weighs heavily forever. I don’t know that it ever goes away. So there needs to be, first of all, a little grace for yourself because there are no perfect parents. They’re not walking this earth anyway. And we’re all still learning. And I think the big piece of that is what we’ve been talking about all along is having these conversations with our kids. I love the idea of getting started with a school year, and you’ve chosen your curriculum, and you’ve got everything set up, and you get going and get three months into it and have a pow-wow. Sit down with everybody and say, how do you guys think this is going? What do you like about this curriculum? And what do you not like? I mean, you need to ask that kind of a specific question. And maybe start out with the like first, so it sort of frames a better attitude about the whole conversation. And it doesn’t just become a griping session. But to be able to say that, what do you like and what do you dislike about this? What can we be doing better? Is the can the scheduling be changed? Would you prefer to do this subject earlier or later or something like that? And sometimes, that’s all that needs to happen. If you’ve got some really challenging topic and you’re introducing it right after lunch, when everybody’s ready for a siesta, maybe that’s not the best time. Maybe first thing in the morning when they’re awake, especially if it’s a child who’s a bright and early morning person. Then bring out those tough ones in the morning and let them do it when their brain is working at its best. So I think that’s got a lot to do with it. But I think for me, the most important thing that I came to the conclusion of was to learn how to apologize.
Gretchen Roe: 00:47:38.979
Yep. We’re not always going to make a good call. And in any given situation, we might not make a good call in a social context of something we ask our kids to do or not do. And we have to be willing just we’re going to hold their post high school plans loosely. We have to be willing to keep our accounts very short in having conversations with our children about, “Man, I blew it. I’m sorry, I missed this. I missed reading you. I missed seeing what was important to you. Please forgive me.” And I think if we can be that honest for our children, then we are teaching them how to do that going forward.
Lisa Chimento: 00:48:31.812
Yeah. I discovered the only things that my children would not forgive me for were hypocrisy.
Gretchen Roe: 00:48:38.886
Lisa Chimento: 00:48:41.891
Yeah. I made a lot of mistakes, and they were very forgiving, but I needed to be real. I needed to be authentic. And I needed to have integrity. If I was expecting something of them that I was not willing to deal with myself, and they, boy, they sniffed it out quick, so
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:04.389
Absolutely. And I want to take a second. We are 10 minutes out from the end of the hour, but I want to take a second to talk to you all. Several of you mentioned that you have a child who gives you a lot of pushback. I’m just going to leave it as that. You can interpret pushback as any way that you want. But if you have a child who is struggling with emotional regulations, struggling to stay on task, struggling to remain engaged with materials, their handwriting is messy, their temper is short. You have a child that when you sit down to begin the school day as cooperative in their cooperation falls apart and often you don’t know why that has happened. I want to encourage you to look deeper into if there is some physical impediment to helping them remain engaged. What do I mean by that? Many of you said that you’re dealing with kids who have diagnoses of dyslexia or dysgraphia or dyscalculia. As the parent of two of those children, I want to encourage you that if you have not ruled out binocular vision as a mitigating factor and what I’m talking about is not can your students see 2020, but do your students eyes track together across a page? Many of these things that I have described to you as far as behavioral abnormalities, at least interpreted by a parent who just wants you to get the work done, may be rooted in the fact that there is a physical impediment to their being able to cooperate with you. If you want more information about that, we have some information that we’ve posted on the Demme Leanring site. You’re most welcome to be in touch with one of our customer service representatives. All of them understand the background that I am alluding to and would be able to provide you resources to find more information. In fact, Kimberly has asked me to describe the vision condition. What I’m talking about is binocular vision. Optometrists will also refer to it as eye-teaming. Do your eyes cooperate as a team, T-E-A-M. Not every optician will diagnose for it and ophthalmologist doesn’t typically look for it. You need a developmental optician to rule this out. Do you have a child who gets carsick, a child who has messy handwriting beyond when they should, a child who’s flipping letters, a child whose temperamental, a child who goes from cooperative to wholly uncooperative in a heartbeat? All of these things can be symptoms of a binocular vision issue. So let me encourage you to look for or a developmental optician who can answer those questions for you. Even with a diagnosis of dyslexia, this is often a comorbid condition. I’ve seen numbers upwards of 60%. So it would make for a better school year if you ruled that out. I will tell you all a story along with that. I met a family in Arizona who were preparing to have a child be evaluated for oppositional defiant disorder. This child was so angry with everything in the household, and any time she was asked to do academics, she didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Long story short, after a lengthy conversation at a homeschool conference, her parents came back to me and said, “Holy mackerel, does she have some whopping vision dysfunction. And if we can get this resolved, then it’ll be like we’ve been given a gift to know how to help her.” So that’s the reason I tell you this story today. We have a couple of more things I want to talk about before we get to the end of the hour. And, Lisa, I would like for you to talk a little bit about prioritizing what’s really important. What do you have to cover academically? Several parents asked, “How do I fit all of this stuff in this small sack?” So what are the big rocks as far as academics are concerned?
Lisa Chimento: 00:53:37.059
Yeah. Well, certainly the core subjects: math, reading, writing. I love the analogy Amanda, our coworker, makes of the three-legged stool. And here’s something to consider too. Language arts encompasses a lot of different pieces: spelling and penmanship and grammar and composition and literature. You don’t have to do all of those things every single day. You can split it up. You can even split it up over portions of the school year. So maybe you’ll start the year with grammar instruction and finish it out with composition. So you don’t have to be piling all of this stuff onto yourself and all of your children every single day. You can split it up. You can work three days a week on one thing and two days a week on another. I think that math needs to be done pretty much every day or at least a good four days a week – and I even had my kids doing it during the summer, three days a week at least – because it’s a lot like a language, and if you’re not using it regularly, you forget a lot. And then you waste all kinds of time in every fall reviewing everything they’ve forgotten. So I think that that’s critical there. And reading can be done all the time. A lot of the curriculum that’s out there was designed for classroom use and a classroom teacher and a classroom schedule. You are not in a classroom. You don’t have to replicate a classroom environment in your home. It’s a very different situation when you are in a tutorial environment, and so much more can be accomplished in a much shorter span of time. So it is a change in mindset. It’s a very different paradigm, and we have to begin to think differently about it. And you can loosen up on some things. I know that there are– if you’re giving writing assignments, you do want to teach writing skills, but you don’t necessarily have to box your child into what they have to write about. If you are looking for motivation out of a student, then let them explore things that they love, things that they’re highly interested in, things that they know a lot about and they love to write about because they love to share what they know. You can be teaching those kinds of writing skills in the context of them writing about things that give them joy. And now you’ve created motivation for a reluctant writer. And I want to address this because a lot of parents asked about motivating. And you can tap into those things that your children are gifted in and the things that they love. And I just wrote down a few things. When you’re doing math, if you’ve got a highly creative child, and they’re just looking at a bunch of equations on the page, then ask them, “Write a story problem about that one. Give me a word problem explaining that problem,” so that they’re not just filling in answers on a worksheet, which feels probably very tedious to them. If you have children who love to read, again, let them do some of the family read-alouds. Let them read to younger siblings. Books that are much easier than they would read for themselves, but now they can read it with no trouble to a younger sibling. If you’ve got kids who are drama kings and queens, then let them act out a scene that you read in history today or a scene from a piece of literature that you’ve been reading. If you have artistic kids, let them create charts for your school, grammar rules, word problem tips, math facts, history timelines. Oh my gosh, I love history timelines. It’s lovely. I wanted to put them all over my walls. When I was schooling, I got vetoed on that idea by my husband. But those are the kinds of things that create excitement and motivation with students. So let kids explore those things that really interest them.
Gretchen Roe: 00:57:52.650
Absolutely. I still miss my homeschool classroom from my last house. I had saved National Geographic maps for 25 years. And that whole classroom – it was my office – but it was completely wallpapered with National Geographic maps. And so your history timelines makes me think of that. [laughter] Before we go, I want to address one other question because we had several parents ask this question, “How do I put together a high school transcript?” Well, join me in the fall for that conversation. Look for it on our events when it’s posted. But let me say this. You don’t have to front-load everything you do for a high school transcript. You can look at what your student does and then create the high school transcript from there. So instead of saying, “Oh, I have to meet these parameters,” know your child well enough to know what they’re doing and then create a high school transcript from that. I’m reminded of a family I met 10 years ago that their son reached ninth grade, and mom said, “What do you want history to look like this year?” And he said, “I want to study flags.” Okay. And from that came this marvelous curriculum that not only did they study flags, they studied voting flags, they studied flags of different countries, they studied the evolution of the American flag. All of this came out of one interest. And that child was able to find books, writing assignments, compositional assignments, experiences from his desire. So collaborate with your kids and let them help you understand what it is they want to learn. And they’ll have a greater degree of depth for staying to it. Now, you said something about Amanda’s three-legged stools. So I want to revisit that one more time what Amanda says, when she said, academics are a three-legged stool, are math, reading, and composition. That’s where you need to begin. And then parents ask us, “How do I prepare a homeschool transcript?” Well, the state you live in has state requirements and it might be something as simple as you need four years of math and four years of English language arts, and two years of a foreign language. Whatever that requirement is, that’s your template to then build a high school transcript from. And we’ll get into that in more depth when we have this conversation in several weeks. And I hope many of you will join us for that. Lisa, we’re at the top of the hour. Man, we had so many questions and we didn’t get to a tenth of them, but I hope we gave some global answers to some of the questions parents were asking us, what are your closing thoughts for our parents today?
Lisa Chimento: 01:00:58.386
I think the closing thought is, in response to a question that many parents asked, and they actually used this word of, “When do we transfer responsibility to our children?” Ultimately, when they leave your house. [laughter] While they are in your home and you are homeschooling them, you never transfer responsibility. You enlist them to join you in that responsibility. But ultimately as parents, you are 100% responsible for their being raised and for their education and whether or not you choose to do that with homeschool groups, co-ops, another teacher, whatever, but ultimately the responsibility is yours. And you want to enlist that student and equip them as they go. And if you haven’t been doing that up until now, again, no condemnation. Today is a new day. You can start and it begins with that conversation with your student. So we’re here for you. If you have questions, give us a call. We want to support you.
Gretchen Roe: 01:02:01.965
Absolutely. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning show. Thanks so much for joining us. You can access the show notes or watch a recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it. Lisa, thanks again for joining me today. Always appreciate a conversation with you. Take care everyone. Bye-bye.
Find out where you can subscribe to The Demme Learning Show on our show page.
These points may help you as you carry on in your journey:
- Responsibility starts with the adult
- Don’t hit the snooze alarm
- You cannot expect what you don’t inspect
- If they can walk, they can work
- Keep your accounts short – be willing to apologize
- Every child will evolve to their responsibilities differently—observe them well so you can guide them forward
- Curriculum is a tool to serve you; you decide how it serves you
- Homeschooling is not just content, but conversation: ask questions and listen
- Become a student of your children. Observe their strengths and passions, and weave them into the work you assign
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