Can these small habits really lead to a more successful, less stressful homeschool year? In this episode, we discuss ways to set yourself up for success as you begin another year of adventure with your family.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:04.856
Hello, everyone. Welcome to this session of the Demme Learning Show. This is Gretchen Roe and it’s my very great pleasure to welcome my colleague, Amanda Capps to talk about 20 small habits that could make a much better school year for you. We don’t expect you to adopt them all, but we wanted to give you a whole bunch so you can think about it. And Amanda and I, in preparing this morning, this looks like a typical homeschooler’s day. She didn’t get the invitation for the event. I resent it. She didn’t get the invitation for the event. We’re kind of a little panicked because we want to be here to support you all. And, yeah. Isn’t that kind of the picture of a homeschoolers adventure? Because it never goes exactly like you plan for it to go. So Semper Gumby, that was, that was my kid’s motto, flexibility is a sign of intelligence. Semper Gumby. Always flexible, so. Welcome, today. I’m going to let Amanda introduce herself and then we’ll get started because we have a lot to go through. Amanda?
Amanda Capps: 00:01:09.841
So, my name is Amanda Capps. I’ve been with Demme Learning for the last 13 years in customer service predominantly. So, if you’ve called in for placement, to place an order, you needed to return something, needed just support in general, you probably got one of the lovely ladies in customer service, myself included. I am a second generation homeschooler. So, I call that my unfair advantage. And I am currently the homeschool mom of 8. I have graduated my oldest. She is 20. She is on a once in a lifetime trip. She’s in Rome right now, feeling a little jealous and trying to live vicariously through all the pictures and texting. And then I have a senior this year, so that is a fun addition to the mix. And then I have everybody on down to a caboose of three. So, it is always chaotic and crazy. And I’m married to a first responder. So, send help. Just send help. And it is my pleasure to join Gretchen today and to go over these topics and just we really pieced out some great ideas and tidbits of wisdom to share with you all.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:25.219
Absolutely. And we’re delighted that you all are joining us today. We have a lot to talk about. So we’re kind of going to go through this a little bit quickly because you guys ask some really terrific questions and we want to leave a little bit of time at the end for that. And so my goal, not a baseball fan, I’m not a baseball player, but my goal is to tee up the ball and hit it to Amanda, and she’s going to detail this for you. So, Amanda, the first one was the first one that came to me, which is so essential, which is look over your lessons so you know what’s coming for your students. And we actually talked in depth about this in a time management webinar, which will be part of the show notes, which if you guys want to really dive into that, you’ll find that there. But can you talk about why this is important?
Amanda Capps: 00:03:16.507
So, right off the bat, I can tell you, because I have a senior this year, I, of course am looking at, “All right, I have this much time left with this student. We have these things that we need to accomplish.” So how do I organize this so that we can hit all of the things that we need to do? And I typically start with my oldest student first because they have the least amount of time left and that tends to be the more critical on the radar, and then everybody else kind of falls in line. But I try to always start my year basically doing that. What’s the goal? And then how do I plan backwards from that point so that we are hitting and checking in throughout that year to make sure that all of those boxes are getting ticked?
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:08.766
Absolutely. And even boil this down to the brass tacks of if you know what’s coming for your kids on Wednesday, looking at the content on Tuesday night makes all the difference in the world because kids don’t wait. They just don’t. And it’s so hard to retrieve them as Amanda and I know full well. Amanda, our second one was set an alarm and don’t hit the snooze. Whoo, this one’s been hard for me this week because I’ve not been sleeping well. So can you talk a little bit about why it’s important?
Amanda Capps: 00:04:42.040
And that can be a hard one for lots of families because depending on what’s going on in your family dynamic – I know for the majority of my years because I did tell you I have eight children, which basically makes me borderline insane – you’re basically sleep-deprived all the time. So maybe that extra 10 or 15 minutes or an hour of sleep seems really tempting, but it can definitely cause the derailment on your day if everybody’s kind of scattered and at loose ends. I tell parents and families all the time that we, as the parent, have to set the example. So if we expect our kids to get up, make their bed, get dressed, or it’s fine if you want a school in your pajamas, no judgment. I tend to work better if I’m dressed. Even if my kids do tell me, “You’re wearing pants, where are we going?” And I’m like, “Really, you guys?” So anyway, so those types of things can just kind of get your day off to a more organized and a more systematic start. Knowing what you might be thinking about doing for breakfast the night before and planning accordingly, communicating that to a child if they’re the one responsible for that morning’s meal. That’s another really big point I want to talk about is delegation. You, as a mom, cannot do it all. So don’t try. You will burn yourself out and you will not have the reserves and the resources to give from to be at your best for the kiddos. So if you have children that fit in that, I mean, 7, 8, 9, 10, age range, they are perfectly capable of putting on a pot of oatmeal or putting on a bunch of eggs to boil for boiled eggs in the morning, or just whatever it is. Even my three-year-old, while I’m standing right there, can do toast. I mean, I’ve got the settings set for him. He’s not gonna burn himself. I’m standing right there, but he’s perfectly capable of that task. And so learning how to give verbal directions, have that child process and complete the task, that is a huge life skill. And it is something that we do have to teach.
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:02.067
And just learning not to the snooze alarm is enormous, to be honest. Part of the reason this one got on the list.
Amanda Capps: 00:07:08.878
If you have teenagers.
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:10.496
Yeah, well, you know what? I had less trouble getting most of my teenagers out of bed than I did my husband. But we won’t go there.
Amanda Capps: 00:07:22.176
That’s another whole webinar.
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:23.006
That’s a whole nother webinar. That’s a different webinar. And the truth is, the reason this made the list is because I was listening to a YouTube video by Mel Robbins, whom I really respect, and she said, “When you hit the snooze alarm, in that five minutes that your brain falls back asleep, your body is looking for another whole sleep cycle, and when it doesn’t get it, then you spend the whole day ratted and off at everybody because your body is deprived. So if we can just learn to create a habit of getting up when the alarm goes off, it can make a major difference in our academic year. And this is tangential to that. Number three is, “Set a reasonable bedtime.” Now, I know that you and I are both morning people. But once the kids go to bed, then there’s this whole vast array of, “Oh, we need to get all this stuff done.” So, why is, “Set a reasonable bed time,” a good habit to cultivate?
Amanda Capps: 00:08:30.449
So, a couple of things here. One thing that I think is really fascinating, and it’s something I’ve been diving into lately based on my husband’s career, actually, and what kind of spurred this research tangent I went on. Your body does not go into repair mode unless you have achieved a minimum of seven consecutive hours of sleep. And I know that sounds daunting when you are a mom, or you might have little ones that are up in the night or that type of thing. But I think it’s really essential to have that awareness that the data is pointing to the fact that we have got to get better consecutive sleep in order to even get into a repair and a refresh to where we’re even feeling rested. And it’s very difficult to teach from a place of exhaustion. It just is. And so, anything you guys can do to plan backwards. Again, if you want a successful morning, it’s probably going to start the night before. And so, if the temptation is to stay up till 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock, doing lesson plans, cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, whatever it is you didn’t get to in the day, I get it. Sometimes you literally just want to sit in the quiet. You just want to sit there with nobody saying, “Mom,” nobody needing anything, and you just want to recharge. And while that isn’t inherently wrong or bad or not a good choice, maybe cut it to 30 minutes instead of two hours. Or, maybe watch one Netflix episode instead of four, whatever your particular vice is, or scrolling on your phone because you know we all get it. Sometimes you just want to check out and just zone.
Gretchen Roe: 00:10:18.381
We’re just going to bear all of our Achilles heels here today just a little bit for you guys, so hopefully you’ll have a better experience. Number four was, “Establish a morning routine.” And Dorinda Wilson did such a terrific job talking about this in the webinar I did with her. That, too, will be part of your show notes. But why is a morning routine for your kids beneficial? I’m a little bit beyond that now, Amanda, but you’re still in the mitten drinnen of it, as my German dad used to say.
Amanda Capps: 00:10:54.855
I think it’s really just if everybody knows what to expect, and we have a good order in which we’re doing things, then everything just tends to go smoothly. I mean, again, if we know what we’re having for breakfast, and if we know who’s in charge of clearing the table and putting the food away, and who’s supposed to wipe it down, and who’s supposed to sweep up the floor afterwards. I mean, if we kind of have that lined out ahead of time, it’s not that you don’t have to parent and maybe you get some pushback, or you have to go track down a kid and be like, “Hey, wait a minute, you were the one that was supposed to sweep.” But everybody kind of knows what the plan is. And so, we can kind of stay on track and hopefully get those things accomplished in a more timely manner so that we can get down to the nitty gritty of the academics and the things that we’ve got to get knocked out for the day.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:45.879
I know, Amanda, when we did our planning session, when we talked about this, this number five should have been really number one. But we were thinking about the exigency of our day when we came together to plan. But number 5 is probably the most important of the list of 20, I think. And that is to be the best observer of your children. Know who’s an early bird. Know who’s a night owl. Know who doesn’t participate well together, if you will, because that makes all the difference in the world. And at some point in almost every webinar that we do, you will hear us say observing your children is the most precious gift you can give them. So Amanda, how does that impact us as parents when we’re trying to set up these habits for the school year?
Amanda Capps: 00:12:44.914
So like you said, Gretchen, I mean, I think really knowing your students and what makes them tick. And I think this is something as a mom of many that can seem daunting or a little overwhelming, but interestingly enough, my daughter, Elsie, who is my second born, she took the kids all of the ones that could comprehend and answer the questions correctly through the Enneagram. And it was so fascinating to see– so myself and my daughter, who is nine, complete opposites. We were literally polar opposites. And it’s like, “Oh, well, that makes sense why we tend to butt heads more than I do with any of the other children.” My son and I were literally identical. Literally. My perfectionism was a little higher than his, and we’ll just– we did a webinar on that just– yeah, we did a webinar on that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:13:40.037
Actually, I have in the works to get Colleen Kessler to come back to talk about that because she’s done a great deal of research, and I would love to have her really dig into it. You and I had a wonderful conversation about it. But now we really need to dig into it some more to give parents more tools because it continues to be something that is a constancy. And as a recovering perfectionist myself, I often have to have that conversation of good enough is still good, it doesn’t have to be perfect. So maybe we should have added that as a 21st one to our list. Number 6 was make plans for your dinner the night before. I know that you often task kids with this process, so how does that work?
Amanda Capps: 00:14:34.878
So yes, I do have my kids involved in meal planning, budgeting, grocery shopping. The other thing too is– and I don’t think this gets talked about enough is we live in an age because of COVID, because of all of the different things that have happened with technology advancements here lately. I can literally get on an app, put everything in my shopping cart for Walmart, and they will deliver it to my door. So take advantages of things that save you time, that do not require your physical– I have to get in a car, I have to go there, I have to do it. That is so liberating. So things that different groups or organizations or businesses around you offer along those lines, find out about them, get involved in them, maybe spend– do the benefit versus cost analysis and free yourself up to– because not only does it lighten them in a load and have we talked about the mental load that moms are under. All of the things that we’re doing and all of the tasks and all of the people that we are responsible for and trying to keep them on task and keep them on track and keep it all straight. Anything you can do to lighten that for yourself is going to be a game changer.
Gretchen Roe: 00:15:59.605
Absolutely. And and one of the things I think that is really important for me, my family, we use an app on our phone, and it’s called To Do. So if somebody runs out of something in the kitchen and they don’t put it on the To Do, now mind you all of the residents of my establishment now can drive themselves. But if they run out and they don’t put it on the app, when we discover it, guess who gets to go to the grocery store? So we find that to be tremendously advantageous because we have two different places that we go to shop. And if you know that it comes from this grocery store, then you put it on that list. And if you know that it comes from this one, it’s a Microsoft product. I will tell you that it has been a huge game-changer for our family. Amanda, this next one you put on here, and I think it’s really important. I would love to have this. I don’t have it anymore. I do miss having it. And that is establish an afternoon routine of a quiet time. Why is that advantageous?
Amanda Capps: 00:17:06.873
So everybody needs a break. At some point, during the day, and here where I live, this time of year, the afternoon, between about 2:00 and 4:00 it’s beastly hot. And other places, I know it is too, if you’re in the south or anything like that. And so it can just be a great opportunity. Now, I do have my three-year-old and my four-year-old do still nap. So they actually get laid down for a nap and they typically sleep about an hour. My six, nine, and on up, they’re just tasked to being quiet in their room, reading a book, listening to an audiobook, coloring, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something academic-focused. I mean, because I do really kind of want it to genuinely be a break in a recharge. It’s also separating kids. So if you have some of those dynamics where you’ve got the quibbling or the personality conflicts, it can just be a real nice break for the entire household and they also know it’s at least 30 minutes to 1 hour for me for downtime. And so unless there is literally an emergency or blood or something major happening, we just all leave each other alone and get that recharge, which is–
Gretchen Roe: 00:18:23.043
Amanda Capps: 00:18:24.027
Gretchen Roe: 00:18:25.408
I was having a conversation with my youngest daughter who is 28 and she said– we were talking about this and we were laughing because she remembered having a friend over during the school week and it was afternoon quiet time and Ashley had stubbed her toe. And she is bouncing around the bedroom just absolutely having a fit. And she wanted to come talk to me and Callan said, “Is there blood? If there’s not blood, mom won’t talk to you.” [laughter] So I had forgotten that. That’s a good 20 years ago. But it’s true, if there’s not blood, the quiet time does not get interrupted. So you can find some more information about that in a webinar that we’re going to include in the show notes called A Love of Learning. And I think you’ll find that to be very beneficial. Amanda, I know you don’t do this, so I’m going to take number eight and talk about it real briefly and then we’re going to move on to number nine. And number eight is if you plan to end your homeschool year in the spring, circle the date on the calendar for which you desire an end date now. Why do I say that? Because the important thing to remember here is you’re not thinking about next May. But you might have a curriculum that requires 150 lessons. How do you parse those into your year? If you know when your year is going to end, then you can work backwards and that gives you the luxury of, “A-ha, today is a beautiful day outside and nobody wants to do with school. Do we have the luxury of being able to take a day off? If you plug the date in for the end, then you know how much time you have to wiggle around. Number nine is have the supplies for tomorrow’s lessons out and available before the lessons begin. So prepare for success. Amanda, how does that work at your house? Because I know Kathleen, our coworker, has a marvelous recommendation, and again, to extol the virtues of another webinar, that information that Kathleen does about putting together a box will be in your show notes.
Amanda Capps: 00:20:45.994
So I have the blessing of having a designated school area. So a lot of times in my growing up, our kitchen table was also the school room because we didn’t have that extra space or a designated classroom spot. And so we worked around that. And that is fine. The luxury of that is I have organization. I have supplies where they’re easily accessible at all times to us. And so I don’t have to– other than prepping at the beginning of the year to make sure if we need popsicle sticks or oh, we’re getting low on glue or suddenly half of the dry erase markers have walked off or they’re dried out because somebody left the lid off, those types of situations just to make sure we have everything and it’s in good working order and it’s accessible. I just kind of do a quick organizational run-through at the beginning of my year and then we’re good to go.
Gretchen Roe: 00:21:51.423
Right. There might have been a child in my household who might have hidden things like protractors and things like that so that math didn’t need to get done for that particular lesson. And one would think at the level of geometry, you wouldn’t have that kind of mischief. But if you do, if you have everything the night before, then you manage the mischief, if you will. So okay. Amanda, the next one was a great idea, which was have two emergency meals in your freezer. And the reason that– we work for a math company. We’re trying to mind your coin. If 4 o’clock rolls around and dinner hasn’t been started, it’s really easy to pick up, and like Amanda says, because we all got in the habit during COVID of accessing someone else to deliver dinner. But we want you to be financially responsible. So Amanda, what are your two emergency meals? And I know mine are pizza and scrambled eggs, so.
Amanda Capps: 00:22:55.601
I always have a backup lasagna, and I typically have some sort of Mexican chicken dish that’s just we have one that is our go-to, and everybody loves it and I know I can pull it out and no one’s going to complain or be like, “Ew, I don’t want that.” So it mitigates that issue on top of everything else. And those can be a lifesaver because sometimes you just have a day where everything goes sideways. That was Thursday, August the 17th recently for our family when my son had an accident and badly broke his leg. And so knowing that as we were walking back in from a day in the emergency room very unexpectedly, my daughter had already pulled that out, had it hot and ready on the table. So we didn’t have to worry about what in the world are we doing for dinner?
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:45.559
Right. Makes all the difference in the world.
Amanda Capps: 00:23:48.174
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:50.305
Point number 11, I want you to find a notebook. A cheap $2 notebook. It doesn’t have to be something fancy. And we want you to establish the habit of writing down the good stuff that happens because it’s really easy to remember. Amanda just had one heck of a day on the 17th. But there were probably some funny moments there that she’s going to want to remember down the road. It’s too close now. It’s too close. But if she makes a reference in her notebook, when her tank is low, those funny moments will help to refill that. So how does that work in your household, Amanda?
Amanda Capps: 00:24:31.511
So yeah, I mean, I think it’s really important because we all have those days where we literally just feel like everything is coming at us and we’re failing, and you just feel like everything’s a little bit of a setback and you’re just scrambling for some positivity. And so referencing that– and I even have it– I mean, I even have it for work. It’s called my sunshine folder. So any time a customer has given positive feedback or reached out and been my experience with this customer service rep was just wonderful for this reason, those are so inspiring because we are human and we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess something up. We’re going to get somebody’s address wrong. We’re going to ship something to the wrong person or place. And so it’s so nice to have that perspective of, hey, I don’t get it wrong all the time. I don’t always screw it up. And I think that’s a really important habit to build in our kids as well. Because if you don’t have those positive resources to pull from, it can be really a challenge to get out of that slump.
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:39.882
Right. I talked with a homeschool mom last week who gave me a terrific idea. She has what she calls the joy jar. And in her kitchen is a half gallon ball jar. And she cut up a bunch of pieces of paper, different colored pieces of paper. And when something good happens that her children want to remember or she wants to remember, they write it on a piece of paper and they stick it in the joy jar. And then when a day is not going the way they want it to, they will pause and stop and they call it a joy moment. And they’ll go shake up the jar and pull out something and share a memory. And I think that’s a wonderful way to continue to foster joy in our children. So maybe a joy jar would be a good thing for you guys to cultivate. Amanda, number 12 is that recognize that learning is not always pencil and paper. Learn how to observe your daily routine for learning experiences. And we talked in depth about this in the love of learning webinar. But can you talk– because you did this all of your kids high school years, I think it’s important to talk a little bit about an explanation.
Amanda Capps: 00:26:58.342
Absolutely. So I think sometimes, especially with our soon-to-be-graduating or high-school-level children, we get so focused on the academic excellence, like, okay, we want them to be really proficient in math. We want them to be well written and well spoken. And we spend a lot of time, money, and energy on cultivating those skills. But because if you’re outside of that formal education arena, you might not be thinking about them being as well rounded as colleges. And community colleges and other places are looking at all of that. I mean, they’re looking at the academics, of course, but they’re also looking at, I mean, were they involved in music? Did they take a language? Did they do community service? Did they serve at your church? What are the things outside– do they play a sport? All of those things, because it’s teamwork. It’s sportsmanship. It’s getting outside of yourself, serving, all of those things can look really, really good on a transcript. And it’s important to as you– because there’s a lot of things that you might just not even think about. Taking water out to the garbage man on a stupid hot day, I mean, that’s serving. And it may have only been five minutes of your time. But like I said, you can get creative about how you document things. But I want you to think about how do I present this student to a potential job because resumes are part of this process, too, a potential university or higher education or internship or a scholarship or just any of those things.
Gretchen Roe: 00:28:55.025
All of those things. Sure.
Amanda Capps: 00:28:56.294
Look for ways that you can really showcase your child in a truthful and honest way but really make them look good as an overall person.
Gretchen Roe: 00:29:09.712
So one of the things I think that’s important here, and I’m going to back up just a hot second. Remember Amanda said that they had a really tough week. August the 17th was tough for them because they had an emergency in the family. Education happens all the time. And I want you to remember that Amanda came home from the hospital, and her teenage daughter had gotten dinner on the table. That didn’t happen just because Amanda said, “Hey, could you make dinner tonight?” That is modeling. That is working alongside and teaching her that, “Oh, there’s a situation here. How can I help? Let me be supportive to the family.” And that’s something sometimes we don’t think about because we’re really focused on paper, pencil, academics. But all of that is an educational experience.
Amanda Capps: 00:30:04.137
And just a quick caveat because I do want to share this because like you said, even in that situation there are positives. So funniest thing ever watching your kid come out of anesthesia, I’m just going to say that was a scream. We promised before he went under that there would be no video footage, that there was no documentation of that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:30:24.574
I would not have made that promise. [laughter]
Amanda Capps: 00:30:26.810
We did keep our word. But what was so fascinating is when he was fully back to good and with it and the orthopedic surgeon was actually explaining what had happened and he was talking about a sheath that goes over the bone and Cooper was immediately– he was like, “Oh, it’s–” and he rattled out the name of it. And the ortho was like, “How do you know that?” And he said, “Oh, well, we just did anatomy and physiology in science. And we learned all about that.” And this guy was like, “Well, wow.” I mean, so he was super impressed. The nurses were impressed. And his dad and I were patting each other on the back like, “Yeah. That’s our kid.” But so even in that situation where you wouldn’t think there’s much positive that you could glean from the stress of the situation, there you go.
Gretchen Roe: 00:31:15.547
Yep. Absolutely. Always look for the kernel of joy and benefit in every adverse situation. So Amanda, this next one was yours. And I think it’s really important, and that is be willing to evaluate your progress and process often. If we can’t self-diagnose what has not gone well we can’t teach our children to do the same.
Amanda Capps: 00:31:42.529
And I think that is an incredible skill set. And it’s not something that comes naturally. I am not a natural observer. I’m not a natural external dialoger. So those are two things I know about myself that I have to work hard to be more intentional and diligent about. And same thing for kiddos. Sometimes they’re not able to bring you alongside their process. And I think this is where our curriculum Math-U-See does such an incredible job with putting some emphasis on the teach back because that’s the opportunity to teach your kids how to walk someone else through a process and essentially teach them. Because we all know as adults, I can’t teach my child something that I don’t know myself. If I don’t know it and I don’t understand it, I’m going to struggle to teach it. I’m going to have to do my homework, I’m going to have to do my research, I’m going to have to do some behind the scenes work to be prepared so that I don’t come across as inadequate or I don’t have answers to your question. And it’s perfectly okay. Because kids literally, their favorite question is why, and they pepper us with questions all day long. It is okay to say, “I’m going to have to do some research on that and get back to you.” The thing is, again, that notebook is a great place to write that down so that we don’t out of sight out of mind. We don’t forget about it because I try really hard to be intentional about making sure I circle back around if I’m in that position with a kiddo to where they’ve asked a legitimate question. I do not know the answer or maybe don’t have the bandwidth at the moment to dive into it, but they have learned that if they can be patient with me for a little bit, I will get back to them and we’ll figure it out together.
Gretchen Roe: 00:33:34.473
Right. And this is kind of a side note, but I think it’s important and I was reviewing in preparation for posting information on the blog to the podcast for the Demme Learning Show nd I think it’s worth repeating. Sometimes you have that child who is intent on disrupting the academic process. And here’s another place that this notebook becomes invaluable for you to stay on track. One of the questions I remember is, “Mom. Why are worms brown?” And we were in the middle of doing a history assignment. It had nothing to do with worms. So I said, “I don’t know, but we’ll write it down and we’ll come back to it.” Now, this was back in the day before you could mother Google everything and find out the answer. But the act of honoring the question with the caveat of, you said, Amanda, when you’ll have the bandwidth, you’ll come back to it, I think makes an enormous difference for our kids because they know that they have the ability to be able to speak into our lives and ask questions that are important. And if we’re not attentive to the little questions, they won’t come to us with the big questions. So I think that makes a difference. I want to say we’re halfway through this webinar now and we’re almost through our list so we can turn our attention to the questions. If we say something that brooks a question for those of you attending live, I do have the Q&A open. Please don’t hesitate to ask us. We’re here because this is information you all wanted to know. Amanda, can we talk about never underestimating– oops, I skipped one. Take time for yourself. Irony. Let’s not skip this most important one because you can’t pour from an empty cup, Amanda.
Amanda Capps: 00:35:34.458
Yep. And it’s a challenge. I know from my own perfectionistic frame of mind that self care and taking time for myself feel selfish. That’s just the natural. That’s what it brings up in me. And it has taken intentionality on my part to go, “Wait a minute. I am working, I am homeschooling, I have eight children I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I have all of these relationships and all of these dynamics coming in and out of my life on a daily basis, and if we don’t recharge, if we don’t take a little bit of that time, and it looks different for everybody. I mean, so for somebody, it might be 30 minutes soaking in the bathtub, uninterrupted. For others, it might just be getting to read a chapter in a book that has nothing to do with marriage or parenting or education. Lighting a candle. I know for my mom, setting up a really pretty table, making dinner look pretty, making it look special, lighting candles, having the cloth napkins. I mean, it’s not something we can do three meals a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Cultivate family traditions. That can be a really great outlet for self-care and to pour some creativity and get out of that every day because, let’s face it, we do the same tasks over and over and over again. In the scope of eternity, they are the big things, but it can get very monotonous when it is your life, and it is every day. And so I mean, if it’s making sure you have cream to put in your coffee every morning. Whatever happens, you don’t run out. Whatever that takes. I mean, just know that you’re worthy. You’re special, and it’s important. It’s important. And you have to model it for your kids. If they don’t see you doing it, they’re not going to do it themselves. And that could really negatively affect them and their mental health and their choices in life.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:51.595
Right. Absolutely. I think it makes tremendous difference. One of my granddaughters was here two weeks ago. And she was curled up on a swing outside all by herself and I asked her what was happening. I said, are you okay? And because I was afraid that somebody in the mix had hurt her feelings or something like that, she said, no, no, I’m just powering down. I’ll be back in 10 minutes. She’s eight.
Amanda Capps: 00:38:22.394
Bless her. Bless her heart.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:23.599
She’s eight. So just powering down. And you know what? We as moms and dads need to be able to power down a little bit, too, because it models that for our children, so. Amanda, I love this one that you said never underestimate the value of community and mentorship.
Amanda Capps: 00:38:44.133
Yep. You need friends. You need women who are pouring into your life. You need women who are not having a train wreck of a day who can remind you when you are that it is just a season or it’s just a day, and we can start fresh in the morning. I love Anne of Green Gables. Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. And that is just priceless. And the other thing, too, is if you are struggling on your homeschool journey or if you feel rudderless and like you don’t have direction, find a mom who’s where you want to be, whose kids are what you want your kids to model after and then pick her brain and say, can you give me an afternoon? Can we meet at the park? Could we do something together where I can just talk to you and ask you questions and figure out how you structure your day and what you’re doing and how you’re pulling this office essentially. And trust me, everybody, I think it’s really important. We sound like a broken record on this quite a bit, but we mean it. We’re seeing a time in history where everyone is on social media, and we’re seeing highlight reel and we’re seeing the very best of their sports and there are three, and taking a foreign language and they’re speaking Latin, and they’re in debate, and they’re on a traveling soccer team. Those are the highlights. You’re not seeing the behind-the-scenes where everyone’s yelling and we can’t find the three-year-old shoes and we’re late to church and the dog is dyed a color and we don’t know how it happened because no one will fess up. I mean there’s just– or you find a poopy diaper under the seat in the van and you’re like, why does my van reek? Just whatever it is. I mean, we all have those days and times where we’re literally losing our minds and it’s not the end of the world, and again, don’t get sucked into that everybody else has it perfect and it’s doing things perfectly and I’m the one out here looking like a hot mess express.
Gretchen Roe: 00:40:54.279
Now, let me offer a plug here. If you find yourself in one of those days and your phone a friend option is not available to you, that’s where our customer service team excels. All of them have either worked alongside homeschoolers, homeschooled themselves, or like Amanda, are still homeschooling. You can pick up the phone and call us. You can live chat us during the business day and we would be happy to be that life preserver for you because it does make a difference. Amanda, number 16 was talking about the value of a break and for this one when people get the show notes, there’ll be a blog that you wrote about that because I think it’s important. But it doesn’t have to be– just because it’s August or almost now September it doesn’t have to be school all the time.
Amanda Capps: 00:41:50.321
Yep. Knowing how and when to take a break is a huge relief for a lot of families. I mean, realizing, “Wait a minute, we’re stuck.” First of all, we have to acknowledge that we’re stuck, right? We have to go, okay, this– whether it’s the curriculum or just maybe the kids on the cusp of puberty and hormones are just– they’re just causing all kinds of problems or in this case, I’m dealing with a kiddo who’s normally incredibly active and super involved in the goings on of the everyday family workings, and he’s stuck on the couch. I mean, he’s literally stuck on the couch with his foot up in the air for the next several weeks. So things have to adjust. You have to figure out the new normal. And so that’s kind of– so anywhere that anytime there’s a transition, there may have been a death in the family. There may have been a baby born. A grandparent may be sick. A parent or someone may need to move in with you for a time for care, you may be being a caregiver. All of those things can contribute to stuff getting derailed or the need for taking a break. And while we don’t want to shelve things indefinitely because we’re going to lose traction and we could lose too much. Taking a short break here and there and then retrying something or rebooting something can be a godsend.
Gretchen Roe: 00:43:21.234
Absolutely. So think about that. We absolve you of the guilt you may feel for entertaining that thought. So, Amanda, number 17 was considered the year-round school option. This is especially invaluable for your struggling or different learners. Can you talk about that just very briefly? We’re almost to the end of our lists and there’s some questions I want to make sure we address today because there was a theme in all the folks who registered to participate, but can you talk about how year-round schooling has been to your advantage?
Amanda Capps: 00:43:57.874
So I very quickly recognized that we had some learning challenges or learning differences going on with some of my kids. And because working memory was a big piece of that for them specifically and attention and just things like that, what I have found– and I work, and we were adding babies to the mix on a pretty frequent basis. We just found that taking shorter, more infrequent breaks through the whole year versus, “Okay, we’re working until May 22nd, and then we are stopping, and we’re not picking it back up into Labor Day,” or whatever the dates you want to set are. That if we went that span, we lost too much. So the consistent, “Let’s just keep putting one foot in front of the other,” and it’s not that we don’t take a day or a week or two weeks or even three weeks here or there, but I very rarely take more than two and a half weeks to three weeks at a time ever consecutively. That has just worked for our family. It’s kept our momentum going forward. It just works for me and the way that I’m wired. If I take too long of a break, it’s too hard to get back into the swing of it. So if you find yourself identifying with that, that may be an option you need to consider.
Gretchen Roe: 00:45:13.011
Absolutely. Amanda, the tangential point to this that follows right along with, “Do you need to take a break? Have you bitten off more than you can chew?” Is stick to the three pillars of education, which you say is math, compositional writing, spelling, and reading fluency. Think of it as a stool. So can you briefly give an analogy for our families of why we refer to it as a stool?
Amanda Capps: 00:45:43.821
So when you think of a stool, you think of three legs, and you think of stability. And if one of those legs is missing or it’s not glued in right or shaky, then the whole thing’s off balance, right? So ultimately, if you do nothing else, good math. They need to be working consistently on math. They need to be working on compositional writing because they need to be able to express themselves well. And a fluent reader. So I have dyslexic kiddos. I understand the challenges and the frustrations that come along with that. I have kiddos with ADD and ADHD. I get that sometimes that doesn’t feel realistic for a particular child. But again, if you keep working on those foundational skills and you keep building and working on those, all of the other things, the social studies, the geography, the history, the science, those things can all really fall into place around the fluent reader or looking for ways like documentaries and audiobooks. And you can look for accommodations where they are appropriate to help those kiddos because a lot of times intellectually they are way beyond their skills. And so we want to find a way to balance that effectively for them. But I think it’s really important to focus on the three key foundational skills.
Gretchen Roe: 00:47:19.185
Absolutely. And the next one goes along with that, which is, you can not do it all. So how do you keep the extracurricular activities from sucking the life out of you? And this is really true. When I was a homeschool mom, I used to have a bumper sticker on the back of my suburban that said if a mother’s place is in the home, why am I always in my car? And the truth is, if you find yourself in that capacity, maybe it’s time to retool.
Amanda Capps: 00:47:49.024
Can’t do it all.
Gretchen Roe: 00:47:50.603
Number 20, this is the last one. And that is, look for local education and volunteer opportunities. Don’t be afraid of transcripts and ideas for creating the well-rounded student. And I think each of us have an anecdote here to get parents to understand why that’s important. Go ahead, Amanda.
Amanda Capps: 00:48:11.734
So yeah, this goes back to kind of what we were talking about earlier of, I mean, if they’re taking a CPR course at a local fire department, find out a lot of those places – I know my husband’s fire department – they love when kids show up and want to tour and want to see the trucks and want to do you know the things. There are museums. There are theater opportunities. A lot of times, music venues or theater venues will offer a homeschool package. If you get a support group leader to get in touch with that organization, they will offer very low cost or student pricing on tickets, and you can take advantage of amazing things. Aquariums, depending on what part of the country you live in, there are living history events. We have a lot of Civil War battlefields around where we live, and so there seems to always be some sort of a living history event going on. And so taking your kids out to those. And what’s great about these types of field trips is, usually, they are very easy to integrate multiple ages. So you might be doing something. If you think about it a little bit ahead of time, you might have some things you want your older students specifically, they need to take notes, or they need to do so much prep. But then your little ones can just kind of go along for the ride, and they’re learning all kinds of stuff through osmosis and just being there and having the experience. So don’t be afraid to load everybody up and take advantage of some of the really awesome local things that you might have available to you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:43.953
Absolutely. And one of the things that’s important for you to think about as your children reach high school is those volunteer opportunities can do two things. They can either lead them in the direction of, “Yes, this is what I think I really want to do after high school,” or they can be a clear indicator that, “This is not something I want to do after high school.” My own youngest had said from the time he was six, he wanted to be an attorney until he had the opportunity two years ago to intern in the summer with an attorney for three weeks. I was convinced. If I was a betting woman, I would have bet money this kid would come home and say, “This is exactly what I want to do.” You know what he came home and said? “Not for me.” Because he got to see the inner workings of what is required of an attorney, and that wasn’t what he thought it was. So teaching your children to find those volunteer opportunities can make an enormous difference in their adult lives. Amanda, we’ve gotten to the end of our questions. So those will all be recapped for you all in our show notes this week. But I did want to turn my attention to a couple of things that parents said. And one of them was, “How do we spark a desire for learning?” Jeez, if we had a tried and true answer to this, you and I would be rolling in it. But the truth is a little more complex. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Amanda Capps: 00:51:15.527
Sure. Okay. So this is a fun thing where that observance of your children kind of comes into play. I am a firstborn. My husband is the baby of the family. And then, of course, we have firstborn son, our oldest is a girl. So the dynamics are vastly different depending on the kid. Some of my children seem to have a very natural drive. I’m a very driven person. That’s just kind of how I’m wired. And it can be incredibly frustrating and incredibly challenging to have that kid that you’re like, “Why? Does anything motivate you? What is it that you–” I mean, and they’ll just kind of lackadaisically…I mean, they’ll do what they’re required, but there’s just no drive or passion behind it necessarily. And so I think you have to just really watch and see what develops. Maybe get some outside feedback from people who know your child or are in environments where they’re working together and just see what they pick up on. See what they observe. See what their suggestions are because sometimes we’re so focused and intent on the child or the situation that we don’t have a real clear objective. We can’t really be–
Gretchen Roe: 00:52:46.757
Amanda Capps: 00:52:47.855
Yeah. I mean, it’s a struggle because we see the thing. And we just want to fix the thing. And sometimes, it’s not something that needs to be fixed.
Gretchen Roe: 00:52:56.474
And the truth is, Colleen Kessler, in a webinar I did almost a year ago with her, said that sometimes– particularly when we have this conversation with parents. And parents will say, “Well, the only thing my child likes to do is video games.” Video games are an instant dopamine hit. They keep us engaged because we’re striving to get more, so how do you get that kind of dopamine experience for something that is not that instant gratification? And Colleen does a masterful job of explaining that. So that webinar will be included. It’s about inspiring your quirky, different learner. But it’s applicable to all learners. So, Amanda, I’ve saved the most important question for last, which is we had several parents who said, “I don’t want to fail my child.” And so can we talk about changing that script in our own heads?
Amanda Capps: 00:53:58.303
Yeah, no. I actually literally had a conversation right before joining this webinar with a mom who just said, “I just feel like a failure.” And I think the best story that I can tell about this real quick– and hopefully, it will give some hope. My sister had some significant learning challenges. Part of the reason I know so much about different learners and things like that is because my– I was a good student, but my mom wanted me to have understanding and empathy for her and the level of involvement my mom had to have with her. She did not read well or confidently until she was about 12. There were lots of visual and auditory processing issues, lots of health issues. I mean, she just was a– she was just a complex case. Anyway, fast forward, she’s 17. My mom actually decides to take her in for official diagnostic testing, right? And that person who did the testing when they brought my mom in to tell her the results and all of that, he said, “First of all, I just want to say she is across the board at about an eighth-grade level.” And my mom was like, “Oh gosh, she’s 17. Oh my–” and then the tester said, “But wait. Based on what I’ve tested, assessed, and found, there is no way she should be at an eighth-grade level, so my hat is off to you. You have done a beyond phenomenal job to get her here.” And my mom just cried because I think all of us– we want the best for our kids. We want to set them up for success. We want to feel like we’re making a difference and we’re making the best choices for them. And when we see kids that have these legitimate learning challenges and learning struggles, we just feel like it should have been something we did or something we didn’t do, or there’s got to be some and sometimes it’s just not. Sometimes it’s just your kid’s journey, and it’s just their story. And miracles can happen, and you’re not even aware because in our minds we’re thinking, “Oh, well, only eighth grade.” And yet this girl, this woman, she’s now a mom of three. She runs her own business. She is a professional pet groomer. She is incredibly, wildly successful. And the reason she went into pet grooming was because animals don’t make you talk, and she doesn’t like talking to people. So somebody else handles all of her booking and her appointments and all of that stuff, and she does what she loves, which is making those pets just look beautiful and fantastic. And people pay good money for that, and she makes a wonderful living for herself and her family.
Gretchen Roe: 00:56:50.974
Absolutely. And I think that’s an important thing for us to keep in mind is we’re not feeling our children. This is the longest game you’ll ever play before you have a scorecard to judge its success, and so we want to make sure that you keep that idea in mind. Several of our suggestions had that phone-a-friend option, and that’s why you need a phone-a-friend, because when you are seeing the cup as half empty, your friend can see the cup is half full. And that makes a tremendous amount of difference. Now, you’ll also notice that in our phone-a-friend options, we’re not talking about family members, and there’s kind of a reason for that. And this is not to dissuade you all that we dislike talking to our family members about our homeschool journey experiences. But sometimes family members can be a really expensive support system, and I mean that in an emotional way. So we want you to find the capacity to have somebody who, when you call, says, “Do you want an answer, or do you just want to download?” That’s not always our husbands because they want us to be happy, and they want it to be fixed. That’s not always our wives, for our homeschooling dads out there. You need to be able to have someone who can listen and not have skin in the game to resolve it immediately. Amanda, I can’t believe we’re at the top of the hour, so I need to ask you for your closing thoughts here as we conclude.
Amanda Capps: 00:58:37.061
There’s so much that we’ve talked about, and it’s all been such good stuff. Yeah. I think really just that whole premise of, “We chose this journey for our families.” We wanted something different. Maybe a traditional school system was failing our kiddos, or we just weren’t seeing that they were getting the support or the buy-in that they needed, and so we have decided to launch education and take the reins ourselves. And that can seem very scary and very overwhelming. And I know at this point of the year, we’ve got a lot of brand-new homeschoolers because they’ve decided to pull kids out for the very first time, or they have a child that’s reached the age where they’re ready to school, and they’re homeschooling for the very first time. And my encouragement to you is, just like it takes nine months to grow a baby, and you have that nine months to kind of get used to the idea, and you’re seeing the progress, and your stomach is getting bigger, and you’re feeling movement, and all the things– at that point, labor seems really scary. But then you get to be nine months pregnant, and you’re miserable, and you just want it to be over, and so you’re willing to go through anything to get to the end result. Think of your homeschool journey that way too. Give yourself nine months of grace to play with different curriculums, to figure out what your child’s learning preferences are, to find out their love language, to really– especially if you’ve been in a situation where they’ve been away at school and you guys are transitioning into a homeschool situation, give yourself that time and that grace to kind of figure out what it’s going to look like for you and then maybe find someone that is doing what you want to be doing and then model after them because modeling is literally one of the best tools out there that I am aware of in the teaching realm, in anything, and yeah. And just deep breathing, one day at a time, you got this.
Gretchen Roe: 01:00:50.180
Absolutely. And I do have one more piece of advice I’d like to offer for the parents who feel like, oh, I might be failing my child. Sometimes that’s a spiritual gift from the opposition, that voice in your head that says you’re not doing a good enough job. So I talked a lot about using a notebook. I want to encourage you to go ahead and sit down with that notebook for five minutes and write down the things where you feel like you’re missing the mark. And at the end of that five-minute period of time, I want you to then say when those thoughts come up no, no, you had your five minutes. You didn’t get on the list. We can talk again tomorrow. But what that’s going to do is it’s going to protect a positive attitude for you. And if you get in the habit of downloading the things that concern you and you’re a woman or a man of faith, here becomes your prayer list. This is what you surrender to a higher power. And that helps you stay focused on the really important thing which is raising responsible members of society. And that’s what we really want for you. It has been our great pleasure to spend this time with you all. We hope our 20 ideas foster some new habits for you all this year. We want you all to recognize that the days may be very long but the years are going to pass really swiftly. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. Thanks for joining us today. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, and follow, especially if you found something worthwhile today. And we’ll look forward to your joining us again in the very near future. Take care of everyone. Have a great day.
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- Look over your lessons the day before so you know what is coming for your students.
- Set an alarm. (And don’t hit the snooze button!)
- Set a reasonable bedtime for yourself. You cannot function for very long when you’re sleep-deprived.
- Establish a morning routine for your kids.
- Be the BEST observer of your children. Know who is an early bird and who is a night owl.
- Make plans for tomorrow’s dinner the night before, and plan around your meals.
- Establish a routine afternoon quiet time.
- If you plan to end your homeschool year in the spring, circle the date on the calendar NOW, and plan backward.
- Have the supplies for tomorrow’s lessons out and available before the lessons begin (crayons, protractors, etc.)
- Have at least two emergency meals in your freezer (pizza, hot dogs, cereal, etc.)
- Find a notebook to write down the GOOD stuff that happens. You can also use that notebook to document learning that occurs outside of pencils and paper!
- Recognize that learning is not always pencil and paper. Learn how to observe your daily routine for learning experiences.
- Be willing to evaluate progress and process often. If you can self-diagnose what has not gone well, then you will be able to help your children learn to do the same.
- Take time for yourself; you cannot pour from an empty cup. Self-care isn’t selfish. Examples include good books, tea, bubble baths, and chocolate.
- Never underestimate the value of community and mentorship. In-person homeschool support groups are invaluable. Find a successful parent and latch on!
- Know the value of taking a break, and when and where to take one.
- Consider the year-round schooling option; this can be especially valuable for your struggling or different learners.
- Stick to the three pillars of education: math, compositional writing/spelling, and reading fluency. Think of a stool. These three legs hold everything else up!
- You cannot do it ALL; be careful to keep extracurricular activities from sucking the life out of you.
- Look local for educational/volunteer opportunities. Don’t be afraid of transcripts and ideas for creating a well-rounded student.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Four-Hour School Day: How You and Your Kids Can Thrive in the Homeschool Life by Durenda Wilson
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
100 Crock Pot Dinners
Typical attention-span limits (Instagram Reel)
How Establishing Habits Helps Your Homeschooling Journey [Show]
Creating an Unhurried Homeschooler Attitude in the Midst of a Frenetic Homeschool World [Show]
Inspiring Your Quirky, Passionate Student [Show]
Embracing the Transition from Public School to Homeschooling [Show]
Help Your Student Learn Time Management Skills [Show]
How to Create a Love of Learning in Your Students [Show]
Creatively Planning Your Homeschool Space [Show]
How Establishing Habits Helps Your Homeschooling Journey [Show]
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