“A love of learning has a lot to do with learning that we’re loved.” — Mr. Rogers
Join us as we give you ideas on how to instill a love of learning in your family. We will provide practical tips, suggestions, and good old-fashioned wisdom about raising the whole child.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:05.338
Welcome to The Demme Learning show, our mission here is to help families stay in the learning journey wherever it takes them. This bonus episode was previously recorded as a webinar and was not created with the audio listener in mind. We hope you will find value in today’s episode.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:23.142
Hi everyone. Welcome today. We are so excited to share this topic with you. And this is a mile wide and a mile deep. There is so much that we can talk about today. I want to start with the quote from Mr. Rogers that launched us on this adventure, which is a love of learning has a lot to do with learning that we are loved. And so in having this conversation today, I am joined by my colleague, Amanda Capps, and in a moment I’ll ask Amanda to introduce herself. My name is Gretchen Roe. I am the community relations coordinator here at Demme Learning. And I’m delighted to have the opportunity to capture a lot of information from a lot of people to share with you today. And Amanda, could you please introduce yourself?
Amanda Capps: 00:01:11.858
Absolutely. So my name is Amanda Capps. I am coming to you from Northwest Arkansas, where I am a second-generation homeschooler and I have 8 children. They range in age from almost 20 down to two. And he is potty trained. So we are officially out of diaper. [laughter]. Only moms understand how exciting that really is. And I have worked in customer service for Demme Learning since 2010. So almost 13 years now. And have just enjoyed the journey of supporting customers and coming alongside of them helping them find the right fit in their curriculum and then supporting them in their journey.
Gretchen Roe: 00:01:55.769
And Amanda, as a second-generation homeschooler, I think it’s important to note that the world of homeschooling is a little bit different from when you were homeschooled. And so–
Amanda Capps: 00:02:07.388
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:08.098
–I think we probably want to talk about today is the pressure we put on our kids and how that has changed. And I think a little bit of that has to do with these things. These phone things but we’ll get to that.
Amanda Capps: 00:02:21.925
Technology has certainly impacted the homeschool realm for sure.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:26.674
So do you have a couple of observations as we begin about things that you see homeschooling mamas who homeschool alongside of you that are different than you when you were homeschooled yourself?
Amanda Capps: 00:02:43.481
Oh, sure. I mean, there’s a lot more curriculum choices out there now. I’m pretty sure when I began my homeschooling journey as a student, the books that I used were out of a dumpster and the back of a school. So I mean, just that alone should tell you one, how old I am and two just how far we have come. A lot of our parents were very politically active in order to have the homeschooling environment be as accepting and as friendly as it is today. And so I think that is something that I don’t know if my generation is really taking up that torch and carrying that part of it on. And of course, technology has impacted homeschooling in a major way. So for two big things that I see. One, we have that threat or that temptation to compare. So we see everyone’s highlight reels on Instagram and on Facebook and everyone is in their little matching coordinating clothing and they’re doing the field trips and they’re doing all around the table together and it just looks so incredibly harmonious and organized. And if that isn’t what your day to day reality looks like, that can feel very condemning. It can feel very stressful because you feel like your homeschool has to look a certain way. And really, the beauty of homeschooling is we have so much flexibility. And so you really need to do whatever is going to work for your family and your lifestyle.
Amanda Capps: 00:04:24.936
Right. We called it Semper Gumby at our house. Always flexible. And my kids will also tell you that they’re going to carve on my gravestone “Flexibility is a sign of intelligence.” And there were some days where we could also all of us, all eight of us, candidate for candidates of Mensa. My husband and I homeschooled six children. Four, we graduated from homeschool, high school. They’ve all gone to now graduate from college. Our fifth one was homeschooled to high school, graduated high school, and has gone on to college in the caboose, and our train is a senior in high school this year. And I have to tell you, I wouldn’t have traded that journey for anything. But long gone are the days when I would have the six of them out together and somebody would say, “How come your kids aren’t in school today?” And our kids were taught to respond, “Field trip,” because we didn’t disclose readily that we homeschooled. And so it has been very rewarding to see homeschooling move into the main flow of academic experiences here. And people don’t bat an eye now.
Gretchen Roe: 00:05:33.570
But one of the things I want to do encourage you about is parents are looking for encouragement. So when you’re out in public and you say to someone, “Oh, we homeschool our children,” expect to be peppered with questions because parents want alternatives and it does make a difference. So as we begin, I want to begin today with a quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson. And don’t panic, don’t have to write this down. It will be in the show notes. I just thought that this was so tremendously powerful. And I would like you all to hear this today. And this has to do with math because of course, math was the foundational enterprise for Math-U-See as we became Demme Learning. But this quote to me is very powerful. And what he says is this. And I want to read it so I don’t mistake it. It says, “People think that when they take math in school, there is a common response that says, ‘I will never need to use this the rest of my life,’ as they learn something like trig identities or the Pythagorean theorem. But that misses something important. It misses the fact that the act of learning how to do math establishes a new kind of brain wiring in your mind, a kind of problem solving brain wiring. So it’s not about what you learn. It’s about the methods, tools, and tactics you had to develop in order to solve the problem that you may never see again the rest of your life. But you’ll see other problems where these methods and tools will be immensely valuable to you.” Now take math out of that phrase and it is tremendously powerful substitute any other part of the academic process, and you can see why we wanted to include his quote. Because the truth of the matter is, learning is so much more than what we do with this and this at a table. And so Amanda, I had asked you to begin our conversation with what counts as learning and you do such an excellent job of explaining this. Can you talk a little bit more in depth about that?
Amanda Capps: 00:07:47.147
So if there’s anything about being a second generation homeschooler that gives me an advantage, it’s that I didn’t come into my own homeschooling journey with any preconceived notions as to what one-hour blocks and a classroom and all of those things that we associate with school or with education. I didn’t have any of that in my background. I mean, I was a homeschooled kid, right? So I feel like that is one of those things that just really gave me the ability to think outside the box when it comes to what really constitutes learning. What can we count– what is it? [crosstalk]–
Gretchen Roe: 00:08:37.779
How do you do that in your household?
Amanda Capps: 00:08:40.240
So we do that in our household a lot in many ways because we have so much of running a household falls into school categories: cooking, laundry organization, grocery shopping, budgeting, all of those things. Collaboration. I sometimes have kiddos work together. So somebody may be planning the budget and doing the grocery shopping and somebody else may be doing the cooking of that meal. There may be multiple kids cooking the meal together. And so that means– and especially for my kiddos that have learning challenges, dyslexia and ADD and ADHD being two of them. We have to read the entire recipe once, maybe twice, maybe three times before we make sure that we have all of the ingredients out. My son was making banana bread yesterday, and he goes, “Mom, this recipe doesn’t actually have any bananas.” And I’m like, “What?” So he brings the recipe over to me and I’m like– and I was like, “Buddy, right here, you just missed this line.” And he was like, “Oh, yeah. I mean, it did make any sense. I mean, it’s banana bread. Where’s the bananas?” But so anyway, it’s teaching them the skills of, “Okay, we’re going to read the recipe through first. We’re going to pull out all the ingredients and have them ready on the counter. We’re going to clean as we go. We’re going to double, triple, or quadruple a lot of times in our household this recipe.” That is some intense math. And it is completely outside of a workbook.
Gretchen Roe: 00:10:14.771
Right. Exactly. I’m laughing because I’m now down to buying one gallon of milk at a time. The days are gone when I bought eight gallons of milk at a time. And it’s such a weird transition. It’s been hard for me to learn to just cook a recipe for four because I’m so used to doubling everything. And I think one of the things as parents that we fail to take into account is when we homeschool, we think of formal learning, and then we think of other learning. And the truth of the matter is everything our kids learn it’s formal learning. Dr. Hormel Green actually last week in our conversation about teaching boys, hit on this really well. And if you are interested in that, you can find that posted in our blog. It’s DemmeLearning.com/Blog or Learning-Blog. You can find it either way. I think blog is faster way to get there, and I can remember that. So that would be a worthwhile use of your time, particularly it’s about halfway through the webinar where she talks about why we as parents need to be willing to set aside our presuppositions about what connotes formal learning. So can you talk a little bit about are you an inward or an outward processor? Because man, I’m telling you, Amanda, this was such a game-changing conversation for us a couple of months ago. And we keep hauling it back in because we think it’s so valuable for parents to understand.
Amanda Capps: 00:11:50.870
Absolutely. So everybody kind of has a way that they process. Some people are internal processors. Some people are external processors. So I have a child who you’re going to hear every minute detail about everything that she’s doing in a running commentary, while she’s doing it, and usually she’s probably using it to avoid actually having to do what she’s been told to do, but that’s a whole nother issue. And then you also have people who have an internal dialog that is running all of the time, but they don’t look like their dialoguing because of course it’s all internal. And so this actually came up in a really interesting conversation I had with a good homeschooling mentor friend of mine who has raised and graduated all of her kiddos, and we were talking about my second daughter’s reluctance to want to drive. And she said, “Well, how comfortable do you think she really feels with all of the ins and outs of driving?” And I was like, “What do you mean?” And I was like, “She’s watching me drive her whole life like. I mean, she should have at least picked some up by osmosis I would think.” And she goes, “Well, not necessarily. How often are you actually walking through the steps or externally dialoguing about what you’re doing when you drive so that all of the kids in the car understand what’s happening in your process or you just processing and it’s just happening and they don’t really have an awareness of what’s going on.” And I thought, “Wow, how many times in life and in relationships has been an internal processor kind of shot me in the foot because I’m not verbalizing, I’m not walking someone through my process and my thought process.” And so that immediately just lightbulb moment and I was like, “I’ve got to think more intentionally about how and what information and maybe work a little harder on being an external dialog versus an internal.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:13:54.735
And one of the reasons we wanted to bring this up to you all today is because we think it has a lot to do with whether your kids love learning or not. And if you have a student who’s giving you pushback and doesn’t love learning, are you the parent who gives a set of instructions? Now, I’m a good German girl, I’m an only child, you will do it because I said so. And that was pretty much the way I educated my kids, unfortunately. And it took me a very long time to learn to say, after I had given a set of instructions, “What did you hear me say?” Because so often what I said and what came back to me from the child who heard me say what I said, were too vastly different things. So in order to make learning carry an underlying love and joy, we have to make sure that we’re setting our kids up for success. And part of that is making sure that they understand what we’ve asked of them, that we haven’t asked more of them than they’re capable of, that we haven’t set expectations that are just beyond what they are capable of. And Amanda, I know as a customer service representative, you get this question with a fair degree of abandon, and that is at what age can my kids work independently?
Amanda Capps: 00:15:17.871
And my answer to that question, which I do get literally on a daily basis, and sometimes multiple times a day, is it really depends on the child. So one of the biggest skills to you being successful as an educator is how observant are you of said student. Do you know what they’re learning preferences are? Do you know and are you watching for clues that are going to help you really enhance the learning process for that specific student? I have had students who taught themselves to read it for with no assistance or help from me. I have had other children who were struggling to string together letters consistently at 12. It really depends on the kid. I have some kids that if I give them a list and things are written out, they have something that they can go back to if their memory isn’t great about keeping a list of tasks just in their head. And as long as they have that reference, I know that they’re going to get everything on the list done. But if I just gave them a list of verbal instructions and expected them to remember them and do them, chances are they’re really not going to get everything done that I asked them to get done. And so a lot of it is just being able to know what kiddo needs what, when, where, and why.
Gretchen Roe: 00:16:54.298
And I think that makes a lot of difference for us as parents. That comes back to a theme we have tried to incorporate in every webinar we’ve done this year, which is: be the most ardent observer of your child. All of my children are very different. And I have to say that even being an observer of my children, one of them was probably 17 years old when I made something some passing comment about her being an extrovert. And she looked at me and she said, “Oh no. I’m not an extrovert,” and I said, “But you’ll talk to a post.” She said, “Yeah,” she said, “I have social anxiety and so I start talking because I’m looking to be less uncomfortable,” which I thought was absolutely fascinating because having observed her externally, I would have thought, “Oh yeah. Absolutely. She’s an extrovert just like me who will talk to a post,” because I’m just so interested in everybody and the opinions everyone in the world has and all those sorts of things. So observing your children is where you’re going to be able to reach each one of them where they feel most comfortable and best. Now, let’s flip that coin because for a long time in the homeschooling world – and, Amanda, this was probably back when you were a homeschool student yourself – there was an enthusiasm for, “What’s your child’s learning style?” And the downside to that is that nobody’s employer cares what your student’s learning style is. And, Amanda, you explain this very well, so can you talk a little bit more about that?
Amanda Capps: 00:18:45.548
Absolutely. So we all have learning preferences. There are definitely ways that we prefer to learn and absorb information, and that is fine. We know from studying neurology and the way the brain is wired, the more senses we can engage in the learning process, the more successful and the more likely we are going to be to retain what we have been exposed to or what we have learned. So I feel like that really is important when it comes to working with our kids as well. You might have a kiddo that has visual processing issues, and so maybe their stamina for reading or their ability to read at a level that matches their intellect is not the same. And so in that situation, you reading out loud to them, putting on headphones and plugging them into audio where it’s being read to them– that is something that’s just incredibly awesome now about the technology and the advancements is we have so many more tools. I mean, before it was you had to be the mom and you were the one doing all of the dictation. You were doing all of the reading. You were doing the transcribing. Now there are things that have freed moms up, to some level, to be able to use technology to help these kiddos; especially the strugglers or the stragglers, whichever fits your bill, to kind of come up and stay where they are intellectually, even if the skills are behind.
Gretchen Roe: 00:20:27.062
Right. And I think that it’s important for us to talk about the fact that the child that you have in front of you this year who might be struggling to stay on task might look entirely different six to nine months from now or a year from now. I know my eldest son was that child who taught himself to read at the age of four, but he couldn’t be left alone to do a single math problem until he was at least 16 and a half years old. And it wasn’t that he was a poor student. He was an excellent student. He just needed someone to keep him on task. And he definitely didn’t have the H of ADHD, but he did have the ADD. And in fact, he talks now as an adult about remembering vividly how he could change his academic experience, and he was in the shower, and he said, “Oh, I don’t have to do it this way. I could get it done.” And he said, all of a sudden, those time management skills came together for him.
Gretchen Roe: 00:21:31.401
What I want to talk to you about with that regard is that prefrontal cortex development. What I know happened to him was, all of a sudden, all those puzzle pieces fell into place at the age of 17. And that prefrontal cortex development is enormous. Some of you expect a seven-year-old to do a math page. I’m going to use Math-U-See. as the example because I think that’s the best way to accomplish mathematics and believe me, I’ve used 12 different curriculum in my 21 years of homeschooling. So you may say, “Oh, it’s only 15 or 18 problems.” But 15 or 18 problems to an 8-year-old or 15, 18 problems to a 16-year-old are two vastly different things. So what we want is for you to be able to observe your child as you go through the process to make sure that they’re not falling apart at the seams and trying to keep it together for you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:33.462
We had a bunch of really good questions and Amanda and I each picked our favorites. So we’re going to go through some of these now. And Amanda, you had said one of your favorites was, “Tips to make learning fun even when it’s hard” and, “Tips to teach multiple grades.” So I’m going to take those two questions apart.
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:55.746
So let’s talk about making learning fun even when it’s hard. What are some of the things you’ve–?
Amanda Capps: 00:23:02.702
So there are certain subjects that every kid is not going to love, it’s not going to be their natural bent. We all have subjects that we adore. Like, I could get lost in a library. I could have cared less about being a princess and the beast and the romance, just give me the library. That’s all I care about, all the books. I want all the books. I loved to write. So writing was a very natural, very easy thing for me to do. Math is not really how I’m wired. I really struggled in math and part of that stemmed from curriculum-hopping. A lot of families get into the habit of, “We try this for a while, it doesn’t seem to be working, and then we scrap it, and we jump into something else,” which is not inherently bad, but one of the things that it can create is a experience that is very gappy. You can have big gaps in your foundation. And it can also cause a lot of math anxiety because if the parent isn’t sure and confident about what they’re using, then the child is probably not going to be very sure or confident about what they are learning. And so that was exactly my experience. And so when we actually got into Math-U-See and started using it as a homeschool family ourselves, I backed up. I had siblings that were starting at the beginning of the program, and I just flew through, but basically relayed my entire math foundation, and it made all the difference in the world. I’m no longer math phobic. I can do math. I support parents. The irony of working for a math-related homeschool curriculum company is not lost on me, but it’s still not my favorite subject.
Amanda Capps: 00:24:51.876
So sometimes, depending on the age of the student, it means we have a conversation. It’s, “Hey, I know you don’t like this. I know this isn’t your favorite subject. But we need cooperation, and we need buy in, and it’s something we’ve got to do.” Because there are just certain subjects and certain things that you cannot go through your academic experience without. I was going to be the very first college graduate who never took a math class. I didn’t end up going to college, and I definitely would not have been able to have a collegiate experience without taking a math course. I, as an adult, know the ridiculousness of that thought and that statement to my younger self. But we definitely can do things that can make it more fun. We can take a lot of the pressure off. We can talk about, “Hey, this isn’t my favorite, either.” Get transparent with your kids. Sometimes I still have to look at a concept and go, “Give me a minute,” and I might work it backwards and be like, “Oh, okay, okay, I know what I know what we’re doing here. Now I remember the process.” And we can explain it out, we can draw a diagram, we can draw pictures. Do the things, get engaged. I mean, that really, in parent engagement, being available to your kiddo can absolutely– and then don’t be afraid to show that maybe you’re not as confident. It’s okay for you to not know everything and to be the all-seeing, all-knowing– I mean, only God fits that role, right? But we are the guide. So if we’re guiding, then they can come alongside us and we can learn together. And then that’s where real learning happens because it just naturally kind of flows when you’re both in the zone.
Gretchen Roe: 00:26:47.211
Right. And I think there’s three things that you can do to stay in the zone. One is unless you use math as an example, if you have 15 problems and the last 5 are word problems, give your student a break. Let them do the 10 problems, and then they actually have to use different portions of their brain for word problems than they do for computational problems. So give them a two-to-three-minute break. The other thing you can do as a parent is you can collaborate and say, “I will scribe for you the even problems, you will do the odd problems.” And that also incorporates that element of Math-U-See that is Build, Write, Say, because they have to explain to you what to write. And you, as the parent, can write exactly what they’re saying. The last thing I think that is important, the third tip we’d like to offer you, is to incentivize your children for a job well done. And I have parents who say that they should be doing their academics because I said so. And yes, that’s true. But both Amanda and I get rewarded, if you will, with compensation from our company for a job well done. And your students can get rewarded as well. And I would take some time to collaborate even with a young student and say, “All right, once we get our work done today, what’s something that you would look forward to? Would it be a walk through the neighborhood? Would it be some computer screen time? Would it be a Reese’s cup that you might have on your office shelf in the closet? Those kinds of things help your children stay engaged because they too know that they’ll be a reward at the end of the day. Amanda, now I want to go back to that same question about teaching multiple grades. And I know that you are the goddess of doing this. So I’m going to sit on my hands and ask you to give us three or four tips on ways to teach multiple grades. And one of them that I want to make sure you incorporate is knowing your kids well enough to know who works well with each other.
Amanda Capps: 00:28:59.334
Right. So there’s a few things that I would give as far as tips for moms who are feeling a little overwhelmed by the volume of students that they are teaching. First of all, think Little House in the Prairie, think one-room schoolroom. So those teachers had multiple students, multiple grades, and they were, yes, level-focused for some subjects. Math is one of those subjects. Reading is one of those subjects. But almost every other subject, no matter what age the student is, you can work together and collaborate and it can be age-appropriate within the subject: history, science, writing, most of those things. And you would be amazed what younger kids are picking up if they are even in the general vicinity when older kids are being taught.
Amanda Capps: 00:30:01.188
The next thing that I would bring up as a tip would be utilize older kids. They’ve already learned it. It’s review and reinforcement for them. There’s only so much of you to go around. It is not wrong for you to say, “You. I would like you to take this child. I would like you to review this concept with them and make sure that they understand what they’re doing. And then if they have questions, they can ask you. And so you need to be available for the next 15 or 20 minutes.” That is, again, what you said, making sure you’re pairing kiddos that work well with each other personality-wise because otherwise you’re going to be putting on a striped shirt and a whistle and you’re going to be refereeing World War III, which is never a good learning environment. I can just vouch for that. But for the most part, if you put kiddos that are compatible with each other personality-wise, that can work beautifully.
Amanda Capps: 00:31:04.191
The other thing is you utilize nap time or have specific quiet activities the way. I did this was I had bins; bins of things that were fun and quiet and multi-sensory that they could do, but they could only do it or play with the box during school hours. So that kept things kind of fresh new and exciting for the toddler. And then you can kind of use that time where either they’re sleeping. And I don’t care how old your kids are. Every homeschool family out there should be utilizing a quiet time. There should be 30 to 45 minutes a day, maybe up to an hour if you’ve got kiddos that will cooperate with that, where mom should be getting a break where she can drink a cup of coffee, where she can recharge, where she can pick up a book, where she can make a phone call, where she can pay a bill mean, whatever needs to be done in the orchestration of your home. But even older kids, that’s when we can do assigned reading; that’s when we could work on a project quietly and– but you go in your room, and unless someone is literally bleeding broken, or dying, you just don’t bother mom, and everybody has some quiet time. And everybody’s brain needs that downtime from mom all the way down.
Gretchen Roe: 00:32:29.851
One of the things I think that’s really important is you as the mom get to set the tone in your household. And I’m reminded of a quote – and I think it’s Pam Barnhill who said this – you are either the thermometer or the thermostat, and it’s up to you to decide which one you want to be in your household. So tangentially or in conjunction with that, I want to also say to you, how you frame what your children do is really important. And one of the things I learned early on in my homeschooling experience is there’s a huge difference between saying you have to do something and you get to do something. And the difference there is attitude. And so being able to say to a student, you have the opportunity to do X, Y, or Z today, you have the opportunity, you get to do this, this and this. One of the things that cutting-edge attention deficit disorder research is saying to us is– when I started homeschooling my kids in 1995, attention deficit disorder research said, everybody has to eat a frog. So you start the day with the most difficult thing your student has to do. Well, now in my world, that was math, hands down. So we always started the day with math. But the truth is what research is now telling us is students are more likely to enter in and remain engaged if they get to choose where they begin, and they get to begin with something they enjoy. So that doesn’t mean that you as the parent say, what do you want to do today? Because that’s a recipe for a mess. Instead, say to your student, we have– what do you like? What did you enjoy best yesterday? Where would you like to begin today? And if necessary, you give them– do you want to begin with spelling, or do you want to begin with reading? Do you want to begin with math or science? And this way, they have a scale to begin to balance. You’ll find that kids are willing to remain engaged longer if they have begun their experiences with something they have enjoyed.
Amanda Capps: 00:34:54.926
Speaking of engagement, let’s just take two seconds and say this as well because I have this conversation with parents a lot too: having the expectation that your eight, your ten, your fifteen year old have these hour block subject time frames in them is so unrealistic. Most kids, their age plus two to three minutes is their maximum focused attention span. That’s regardless of whether there’s any ADD or ADHD involved. It might be even less if that’s the case. But I’m just saying. So I think sometimes we approach a subject and we think, oh, well, we’re going to knock out 45 minutes or an hour or 30 minutes of whatever subject. And it’s like– I’m sure you can relate. We have to sit in meetings. If that meeting gets to be more than about 35, 40 minutes, I mean, I’m doodling, I’m checking out, I’m struggling to maintain focus as an adult. Imagine how hard if it is for your kiddo if you’re really pushing the envelope in that time frame. So try to think of either doing a shorter time frame and breaking it out if you don’t get everything done that you’re wanting to do in one sitting, or trying to keep the sitting short and sweet so that we’re still loving it when we’re done with our time.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:23.406
Right. Now, I had a parent who challenged me with an email a couple of weeks ago who said, I heard you say that a child has an attention span of their age plus two to three minutes. But we have 45 minutes of reading we need to do. So how are we going to do that? And what I said to her in return was, I want you to think of it this way. You have 45 minutes of reading, but as a homeschool family, you’re not bound to an eight-hour day. So you can take that 45 minutes of reading, and you can parse it out in ten-minute increments with a couple minutes break in between.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:02.480
What are we talking about, Amanda, as far as a break? Are we talking 10 minutes to go run around the house three times? Maybe, if you have a child who’s really fidgety. Or maybe we’re just talking about standing up and stretching. And touching your toes a couple of times. And having a glass of water and then sitting back down again to reattend. That reattention is really important. So we’re not saying every lesson needs to be 12 minutes long because you have a 10-year-old child. What we’re saying is recognize that at that 12 to 15-minute mark, your student’s going to need a mental reset. One of the reasons Math-U-See’s lessons are as short as they are is for that reason. We want kids to be engaged and then walk away while they still feel like they have been successful.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:00.335
Here’s another thing that’s really important for you as a parent to understand. Particularly when you get up into the upper levels into Algebra I and things like that, there are some days your student is going to sit down to a lesson and go, I don’t get it. That’s going to happen. Let them walk away. One of the things that’s really important for you as a parent to understand is just because they’ve walked away from the materials in front of them doesn’t mean their brain has stopped processing. Now, we have a beloved colleague named Sue Wachter, who often says, you’d be surprised what happens when you walk away and you come back the next time and you go, oh, I understand. Because your brain has continued to process that information even though you haven’t been sitting there working through it. Amanda, I want to turn our– both of us fell in love with this mom’s question, which is, I’m not exactly sure what I want out of this session. I just want to know how to be structured in an unstructured life. And I think both of us see ourselves a little bit in that. And we wanted to give her hope and encouragement because I know there’s others of you who feel the same way. So what were your observations about that?
Amanda Capps: 00:39:22.257
So I mean, let’s be real. We try to be structured. We try to follow a schedule. If you don’t have any plan or any goal, you have chaos, right? I mean, you’ve got kids going everywhere. Nobody’s getting anything done. And you’re frazzled. And so that doesn’t feel good for anyone. But on the other hand, when you’re a large family or a small family, life happens. Yesterday is perfect example. I’m working, sitting at my desk, typing away on an email. My son comes waltzing into my office with work gloves on, holding a baby squirrel. They disturbed a nest. So my plans for the chores that we’re going to be getting done yesterday afternoon, out the window. And suddenly, everything was we’re researching how to take care of a baby squirrel. Right? So did education stop? Did everything about our day unravel? No. Did it redirect? Absolutely. And it’s okay sometimes to have those real-life situations come up and change the trajectory of your day. And it’s fine. The ability to get everything back on track, though– I mean, so we probably spent about an hour– I ran and got to the pet store and got the right food so we could make milk for the little baby squirrel. We talked to some people who have raised squirrels. We researched a bunch about squirrels and the success of raising them. I mean, we learned a ton about baby squirrels. And we’re taking care of a baby squirrel to raise him and reenter him into the wild here in a few weeks. But I didn’t let it completely unravel our day, but we also made allowances for stuff comes up.
Gretchen Roe: 00:41:20.647
It does. It does indeed. And one of the things we would like to encourage you is get a notebook. Get a cheap $2 notebook, and when you get to the end of your academic day– sometimes, particularly if you’re a parent who is less structured, you feel like, “Oh, we didn’t accomplish anything today.” So take five minutes, maybe during that rest time that Amanda has talked about, and write down, what did you accomplish? The act of doing that begins to help you reframe and see the world differently. And it puts on a different pair of glasses for you as the parent to be able to say, “Oh, look, we learned about science. We learned about math. We learned about impulse control.” All those things in the lesson of a baby squirrel. We’ve learned about being available to others. We’ve learned about a variety of things that typically I didn’t plan for in my school day. But particularly if you are in a state where they ask you to be accountable for your lessons, what a terrific way to be able to do that on a daily basis. And you don’t have to look back a month later and say, “Gosh, I don’t know what we did in September because I didn’t write anything down.” So, much of our materials and our conversation today is, how do you instill a love of learning in your children? But you know what? The flip side of that is, how do you maintain a love of teaching your children? And so, Amanda, I’d like to get you to reflect– since I’m not in, as my German father would say, the [foreign], the middle of teaching anymore. How do you refill your own cup so that you can still enjoy instilling that love of learning in your children?
Amanda Capps: 00:43:13.178
Well, I think, honestly, a big part of it was my own upbringing. I mean, I was taught to be a lifelong learner. All of that was invested in me. And so for me, when I come to the education table, I am automatically thinking, “We’re on the same team. We’re learning together. We’re doing it together.” I’m not thinking instructor/student. That’s not really the mindset that I approach it with. So I feel like that’s pretty valuable, and that helps right off the bat. We’re a team. We’re going to learn this together. We’re going to get– we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty, and we’re both going to figure it out. The other thing I think that’s really important when you’re in the trenches is community. One of the things that homeschooling can and kind of do is feel isolating if you’re not careful. And so looking for a good support group, an actual face-to-face support group, there are online support groups that can provide that. Find homeschool moms that are ahead and where you want to be and ask them to take you under their wings and pick their brains and– and have them mentor you. Get into some nitty gritty relationships with the moms who are right in the same spot you are so that you can call each other and go, “I’m losing my mind over here. Talk me down. What do I do?” And they’ll laugh because they’re not having that same day and/or they might be and they’re going to commiserate and you’re going to be able to laugh it off and– and be like, “Hey, today, it doesn’t feel great. Tomorrow, this will be funny.” That type of support is just invaluable. And then, two, you need to take time to– to refill your cup. If that’s reading an incredible book that just appeals to you– and I’m not talking about a book that’s how to fix your husband or how to do freezer meals or in some way enrich your life that way. I mean, literally, a good old, “Hey, what’s a great story?” A mystery. Whatever. That just kind of gets your brain out of mom and school mode so that you– your brain can take a break. Some self-care is really important. Telling your husband, “Hey, I’ve had the kids all week. Three hours on Saturday, they’re yours and I’m going to go for a walk or I’m going to go have coffee with a friend or I’m going to go get a pedicure.” There’s nothing wrong with taking some time for yourself and recharging and– and doing some of those things to just feel replenished and like, “Okay. Cup’s full. Now I’ve got some more to pour.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:46:00.987
Absolutely. And I think in– in that evaluating where you are in the process, it’s also important to recognize you’re playing a long game. Amanda said in the beginning, we were talking about highlight reels, other people’s highlight reels. And it’s easy for us to see particularly on social media when you see all those kids dressed in the same outfits and they look terrific and you’re thinking, “Jeez, my child couldn’t even find his shoes to get to church on Sunday. There must be something wrong with me.” And the truth of the matter is, I promise you there’s chaos in their household too. You’re just not seeing it in their social media enterprises because those are engineered to make you think everything is wonderful. So recognize that you’re going to have some days that are terrific and some days that are less than terrific, and it makes all the difference in the world how your attitude is toward that. Amanda, in the last ten minutes or so, I’d like us to touch a little bit on kids with learning differences because we had several parents say that they have children who are struggling either with dyslexia or dyscalculia. And we’re not diagnosticians, neither one of us, but both of us have parents who have– are parents of dyslexic children. And I would just like, briefly, for you to define how important it is for a parent to rule out binocular vision as a mitigating factor for students.
Amanda Capps: 00:47:38.975
Oh, yeah. No. It’s huge. So this is, again, one of those opportunities to be an observer of your student because you will notice things. You’re going to notice reversals. You’re going to notice print going up or going down and– and not being able to follow a line. You’re going to notice that it’s, “Gee, we’ve been working on letters for forever and they’re just not consistently remembering you know what letter is what, or they’re struggling with blends or they’re struggling with– I mean, there’s a lot of things that can kind of crop up and send up a little bit of a red flag of, “Hey, something beyond just development is going on here.” And so in those situations, it’s definitely worth seeking out a optometrist that has the credentials to test for learning-related vision issues. Both of my kiddos had tracking issues going on. They had convergence deficiency going on. And with some rounds of vision therapy, they actually ended up doing two separate rounds, one when they were kind of on the younger side of things, six, seven right in there. And then we ended up doing a second round through puberty because apparently, that’s a thing, and they can kind of regress a little bit as puberty and the hormones start ramping up. And it made a world of difference in just the stamina, the confidence, and the ability of my kids as far as their reading and reading comprehension.
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:21.899
Absolutely. And so if you suspect that your child has a disc, whatever that disc may be, it’s up to you to be the student of your student and figure out how you can help them. As a parent who paid back in the day $4,000-plus to get my son diagnosed with dyslexia. At the end of that diagnostic process, I was out $4000, and I still had a student I had to figure out how to educate. Now, I’m well at the other end of that experience. That student is 23 years old. He’s a college graduate. He’s put enough money away on his job that he’s preparing next April to take a six-month leave of absence from work and hike the continental divide trail from end to end. And that is a student who has confidence as an adult, and I think homeschooling was the difference to make him successful. He’s also the student who wanted to go to high school. And the reason I bring this up is because your students are going to tell you there are preferences they want, and it’s up to you to have a dialog with them. That high school experience – I have to tell you all – I wasn’t enthusiastic about it, but it was the best thing for Duncan. So I would encourage you to continue to evaluate what is best for each of your students each year as you continue your homeschooling journey.
Gretchen Roe: 00:50:50.001
Amanda, we’ve got a great question here and it says, “I had a mom approach me at the park and asked me if single moms can homeschool. Wondering how we would have responded or tips we would have provided to that mom.” And I think my response would have been absolutely 100%, but it requires a degree of organization that probably is a little bit more ardent than what you would think just to be a typical homeschool parent. But in a lot of instances, we have seen the world of homeschooling change since 2020 because a lot of parents realized they had to do something different. I know you have these conversations with parents who call in on the helpline. So can you talk about some suggestions you would make to this mom?
Amanda Capps: 00:51:43.388
Absolutely. So I think the biggest thing that parents have to think about when they think about being either a single parent or maybe the non traditional parent– because we are seeing a lot of dads taking the homeschooling role now. It’s not just moms anymore. And we’re seeing single parents for various reasons take up the torch. And it’s really about looking at what needs to be accomplished and then looking at your schedule and going, “So obviously I work, right? So obviously during business hours, a lot of times I’m working. So that means we utilize weekends. We utilize evenings or mornings before my shift starts. So we don’t school at what you would consider traditional times of day, but that works for our family.” And so the big thing is, as long as you’re being consistent and as long as you’re getting the work done and we’re making progress, then absolutely don’t let your environment or your schedule dictate what you can and can’t do with your family.
Gretchen Roe: 00:52:53.052
I do think it’s important to say, as well, that there are sacrifices that need to be made, and we all need to recognize those sacrifices. I know that often as parents, we have the idea that we can school our kids on the edges, and we can not have to give up anything in the middle. And the truth of the matter is, homeschooling your children is a full-time job. And so if you’re willing to maybe maintain one job or two jobs, Amanda works full-time, and she homeschools her children. I worked full-time when I homeschooled my children, and that was back in the day and the age where it was very rare to find someone like me who worked and educated their children at home. A lot of it has to do with how well you organize your time. But returning to this question that was asked, I think in this day and age, if you think creatively, if you’re willing to think outside the box, if you’re willing to think differently than what connotes a traditional school environment, absolutely a single parent can homeschool and do it very successfully. I’ve had the privilege in my eight years here at Demme learning and my eight years at the company I worked precedingly to know a lot of parents who homeschooled as single moms and single dads, and their children were richly well educated and they did a fantastic job. Now, toward that end, let me also make the observation that you’ve got to find a tribe who can support you in that process. And that may not be the people you’re related to. Sometimes family members are really expensive help in the most creative way I can say that. So surround yourself with people who will encourage your journey, who will help you along the way. And maybe in this instance, this question that was asked, maybe you can be the mentor for that parent to prove to her that, yes, it is indeed possible for a single parent to homeschool. Amanda, what thoughts do you have about that?
Amanda Capps: 00:55:04.327
So I mean, I completely fit that bill. So we do school at unconventional times. We also school year-round. So we don’t take big long breaks in the summer. We might take fewer shorter breaks throughout the year around specific holidays or things that we want to do. But very rarely do we ever take more than just a week off of school at a time. Because one of the things about schooling kiddos with visual issues is, there are also working memory issues. And so if we have too much time off, we’re forgetting, and we’re losing ground instead of gaining ground and keeping our forward momentum going. So that is one of the ways in being an observer of my students that I found, “Okay, this is how we need to do this to be successful. And so that is a sacrifice.” I don’t think of it as much of a sacrifice. It just fits into our lifestyle. And it’s just the way we do things now. We’ve been doing it for so long it just seems routine. But it will get to that point. It does get easier. Your kids do get older. They get out of hard phases. It’s crazy to be at that place where my youngest now isn’t being preceded by another child. We’re actually going through a phase and then leaving the phase and going on to a new one. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:56:29.483
Yes. And I think it’s also important for us to make in a closing observation. If you have more than one child, don’t expect those children to relate to the world the same way. My six children are all very different in how they relate to the world. And where I got myself into trouble in the years that I homeschooled is when I had the misapprehension and the expectation that they were all going to do it the same way. It makes all the difference in the world when you treat each one of them as though they’re the only child in front of you because then you can give them your absolute best. Amanda, what are the closing thoughts you have for our parents? And I’ll let you be the final word.
Amanda Capps: 00:57:14.518
I would just say comparison is the thief of joy. And it’s really true. If you spend a lot of time focused outward and looking at what everyone else is doing, you’re going to feel discouraged and you’re going to feel inadequate and you’re going to feel like you’re not meeting the standard. And yet, if you focus on the little faces that are around your table and what you’re investing in them, this is such a worthwhile endeavor. And I can say now as an adult and as a mother myself, the sacrifice in the investment that my own parents put into our educational journey was fantastic. I had a wonderful experience. And that experience was so wonderful that I wanted to go on and then have that experience with my own family. And that’s really what it’s all about.
Gretchen Roe: 00:58:18.136
This is Gretchen Roe for the Demme Learning Show. Thanks for joining us. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or go on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it.
Find out where you can subscribe to The Demme Learning Show on our show page.
People think that when they take math in school, there’s the common response like, ‘I will never need to use this for the rest of my life,’ as they learn trig identities or the Pythagorean Theorem, or whatever it is that we all remember learning, feeling pretty sure that it’s never going to show up again. But that misses something important. It misses the fact that the act of learning how to do the math establishes a new kind of brain wiring in your mind, a kind of problem-solving brain wiring. So it’s not about what you learn, it’s about what methods, tools, and tactics you had to develop in order to solve the problem that you may never see again for the rest of your life, but you will see other problems where these methods and tools will become immensely valuable to you.
We Are Here to Help
If you have any questions, you can schedule a conversation with a Placement Specialist.Get in Touch