If you are a family who traditionally takes the summer off, how do you get back in the academic “groove” after summer? Our team will share practical tips and advice to prevent “summer learning loss.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:05.627
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: 00:00:24.206
Hey, everyone. Good afternoon. This is Gretchen Roe, and it is my very delightful pleasure to welcome two of my favorite colleagues, Amanda Capps and Sue Wachter, to talk today about preventing learning loss, what does your summer look like. And we have these conversations with parents individually all the time. But today we want to have a collective conversation with you all on some things that you can do to have a joyful summer and maybe switch it up a little bit, but not lose all the ground you’ve gained in this wonderful academic year. And so I’m going to open the floor. I’m going to ask Amanda to introduce herself, and then I’ll have Sue introduce herself. By way of introduction, I am Gretchen Roe. I am the homeschooling mom of six, five of whom are flown and gone, and the sixth is a senior in high school this year. So I am almost at the end of my journey. And we each bring a different talent and a different path to this one with you today. So Amanda?
Amanda Capps: 00:01:26.664
Hi. I’m Amanda Capps. I am coming to you remotely from northwest Arkansas, where I am a second generation homeschooler. I have 8 children, and they range in age from 20 down to 2, and that is always an adventure. I have been with Demme Learning for the last 12 years. I am in their customer service department, and so if you have called, live chatted, or emailed us, chances are we may have interacted at some point. And it is my pleasure to be here, and this is a great topic. It’s an often discussed topic in customer service, so this is a great topic.
Sue Wachter: 00:02:09.248
Hi. My name is Sue Wachter. I live in Washington State. And I did not homeschool, but I learned in the last 30 years from the best of the best. The parents in the trenches, those are my trainers, and I love the work. I also was a mom that– we were so exhausted because even though we didn’t homeschool, we felt like we homeschooled sometimes just going to school. We took the summer off. However, having said that – and that was wonderful – I have learned there is great benefit from, again, working with the parents to have some things going intentionally to make sure that the startup next year goes smoothly. So I’m excited to share what I know and hear what Gretchen and Amanda have to say about it. Gretchen Roe: 00:03:03.258
Well, I think there should be a full disclosure too. Sue had her own educational supply store, so she has provided support for parents. She’s forgotten more about the materials of Demme Learning than I’ll ever know, and she just brings a wealth of knowledge. And she is our resident grandma. Sometimes you might get Sue on the phone, and you might get a resident grandma talk about being able to support your kids. And so we’re each coming from very different perspectives today, but I think the benefit for you listening in is the fact that you’re going to hear the best of the best as far as the collaborations that we have had. So let’s get started. Sue, I’d like you to begin our conversation with talking about celebrating what you’ve accomplished. And can you give some parents some insight into that?
Sue Wachter: 00:03:58.988
Yes. I just want to really encourage you. I know you’re just might be feeling a little wary and wondering and how did we do? And it’s all over the board. So just know no matter what feeling you’re feeling, you’re not alone, but I would encourage you to take some time to celebrate all that you did accomplish because you did. I guarantee you, no matter who you are, you accomplished a lot. And maybe you’re comparing to the neighbors and whatever and worrying about, did I do as much as they. Don’t. Just put that aside. Celebrate your family, and again, be in the ground in the room, celebrate just this time, this time with your family that you spent a year together or even if it wasn’t a whole year. Being together in this special way, it’ll be something you’ll look back and be very grateful for. So taking note to just store some of that away in your heart. I pull those things out all the time that I stored away there. Trust me, they’re a great value. And if you need help, especially in the math, and if you use our materials, if you want to have that discussion with me or someone on the team, we’d be glad to help you find those things. We care about you beyond just selling you material.
Gretchen Roe: 00:05:26.187
And I think it’s always important to recognize that when you’re in the busyness of the daily grind, it’s sometimes hard to remember what the joyful pieces are. So I encourage parents to take a cheap $2 notebook, something that looks like this, and use it to record the good stuff. Because as human beings, it’s easy for us to remember the things that don’t go well. But we tend to forget the things that should be celebrated. And so let me encourage you this summer to start to cultivate a habit of remembering those really good things. And I want to switch over to Amanda now because she’s the one with little people at home. And so Amanda, as you’re coming up, I know that you homeschool year-round. So that’s a whole different kettle of fish, so to speak. But as you’re coming up on what is traditionally interpreted as the end of your typical year, how do you assess before you move forward into the new of the year?
Amanda Capps: 00:06:36.435
Absolutely. So this is a fun time of year. It’s a fun process. So what I tend to do because I do have some different learners that have some memory and retention-specific issues. I know if we take too much of a break at one time, we’re going to lose too much ground. And I don’t want to spend the first six to eight weeks of my new school year, which traditionally is going to come around August having to do a bunch of review and boring everyone to tears. Because that tends to kind of be the attitude that you get transitioning back in. Also, just knowing myself and my personality and the way that I structure things in a large family, which is barely controlled chaos. Let’s be real. If I take too much of a break, I know that I lose my motivation and my momentum. So there are just certain things that are easier to basically keep up. So year-round, when I say year-round, I mean, I think some people think, oh my goodness. That sounds really overwhelming. But the reality is, in the summer, we’re really only focusing on a really good literature list. We are focusing on field trips, and we are focusing on projects that maybe we just didn’t have the time to get to during our traditional school year. And we are keeping up with our math skills. Sometimes that literally just looks like, “Dude, you’re going to go sit at the computer, and you’re going to do 10 minutes of drill on this particular, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.” Because we just want to keep those skills really well oiled. And I don’t want to have any sort of regression where things are getting rusty. So I just look at it as oil on the wheels of our educational journey that keep us moving forward, kind of that little engine that could, “I think I can. I think I can.” That keeps us going.
Gretchen Roe: 00:08:50.464
I think that’s a very true statement. And I think if we look at our summer as the opportunity to do some things differently, but not just to set everything aside. I’ll give you an example. Several summers in a row, our math skills were focused on fractions. And the way that I focused our math skills on fractions was teaching my kids to cook and to can. And so I’d have to have– I would say to somebody, “Hey, we’re making strawberry jelly today. We need four quarts of strawberries chopped up. How many cups is that?” And those kinds of things. Just simple, practical, applicative skills that can keep a student engaged in that process. So it doesn’t have to look like formal academics to be a successful academic experience. Sue, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the difference between assessing drill and assessing where a skill might be lacking. I do want to spend a little bit of time talking about this is the golden opportunity for parents to be able to go through and assess where a student might be lacking a skill set.
Sue Wachter: 00:10:07.620
Yeah. If I could talk to you now versus in August, that would just be golden to me. Trust me. Because boy, when we have to do a placement or figure out where to put a student in August and that summer brain has well gelled in, it’s hard. And we could end up– you could end up buying the wrong level or a level too low or whatever. So there’s two things. So it also helps you prepare, so you know what to buy next year to do your assessing now. But it also gives you some clues on some of the fuzzy areas. And here in the placement support department, we have tools to help you with that. And it isn’t always a purchase. It could be a combination of the drills like Amanda mentioned. But it could be also some other support things and different ways to use our worksheet generator to keep those skills that are fuzzy, make them even more clear. Again, this is where the grandma in the room comes in. I don’t want him doing an hour. I want to do short spurts. I want them to have– I tell my parents when they’re long division is the culprit. You tell that student, “Do not do that full sheet. Only do one problem a day. Don’t let me catch you doing more than one problem a day.” So they think you’re nuts. But that consistently doing one a day and slowly escalating their confidence is more important than having to sit down and hand them a full sheet where they just check out. I mean, who wants to do a full page along the vision? I don’t. They probably don’t either. So we have ways to support, but the first key is to get that assessment to figure out the fuzzy areas. And our assessments aren’t long drawn out things, and there’s definitely ways to assess where you’re observing for different behaviors. All of that fits into the plan. And this time of year, that’s when I want to talk to you if you’re planning to– you’re new to Math-U-See], and even if you’re not new to Math-U-See, let’s take a look at that can help you with your summer plan and also help you with your planning for the next school year.
Gretchen Roe: 00:12:38.513
Okay. So toward that end, it’s also an opportunity for you as the parent to assess what went well this year. And maybe you need to look at changing something, maybe it’s time to assess a curriculum that’s not meeting one student’s needs. I know we have a colleague named Kathleen who talks about finding what she thought was the perfect curriculum and her older son just loved it. And then even years later, younger son came along and it was absolutely the not perfect curriculum for him. And so as parents, we have to be willing to model the flexibility of recognizing what works and what doesn’t work. And I think there’s some specific things you can use in that evaluation process to say, “This is working. This is not working.” And, Amanda, can you talk about– because I know that you do this very deliberatively. So can you talk about some of the things you use, the questions you ask yourself, in evaluating what’s working and what’s not working?
Amanda Capps: 00:13:44.680
Absolutely. So the first thing that I look at with my students specifically is what are their learning preferences. There’s a lot of information out there about learning styles. And usually people are a combination of all of them, but they probably tend to have a pretty strong preference. And I like to say preference because when you say learning style, it’s almost like it locks in and you’re only able to learn in that one distinct way and yet that’s really not how our brains are wired at all. So for my one daughter, the more things that I can do to enhance or provide experiences that are visual or auditory, she’s going to really do well, she’s going to retain it well, and she’s going to process it well. My son is not a strong auditory learner. He is much more of a hands-on and he needs to see it and touch it and figure out how it goes together and how it works. So if I were trying to do everything auditory, he would struggle or he would have gaps or things that he just wasn’t picking up on. But if I tried to take my auditory daughter and make her touch and build and do everything, that way she’s going to look at me and be like, “Are you serious? I don’t want to do this.” And I’m going to have a really big struggle on my hands with attitude and reluctance and motivation, and those are all things that we don’t want to see as part of that learning process. We want the process of learning to be engaging. We want it to be fun. We want it to have context and be applicable. And when you said about doing math skills and doing fractions and doing canning and things, the summer lends itself so beautifully to gardening. I mean, you’re not going to garden through the winter when you’re doing school and there’s three feet of snow outside. But gardening in the summer, that gives you a whole– all that to say there’s just so much that you can count as school that you may not be thinking of as school or as educational if you’re looking at the four walls, the desk, the textbooks, if that’s kind of where your focus is, then you’re being very narrow on the experiences that you are counting for your kids.
Gretchen Roe: 00:16:17.061
I think that really is very true. And I know that Sue has taught me an enormous amount in the last eight years as we’ve worked together because she does an enormous amount of academic experience through the vehicle of art. So Sue, can you talk a little bit about maybe in the middle of a homeschool year, it’s hard to give your attention, wait, you want me to spend time on teaching my kids to do art, and I need them to read, and I need them to do math, and I need them to learn to spell. But now, we have margins in spaces. So can you talk about how that actually prevents learning loss of being able to incorporate art into their summer experiences?
Sue Wachter: 00:17:00.404
Yes. Well, actually, I could talk the whole rest of the time about art, so I’ll try to dial it down a little bit.
Gretchen Roe: 00:17:06.618
That’s true. That’s true. I’ll reel you in.
Sue Wachter: 00:17:10.564
I do teach art and I have taught homeschool group in art in the past as well. It is such a [inaudible] lot. t affects every everything you do. Art can be connected. And it’s not just for your artsy student. It’s for all of your students. So if you think about it, if you have a student that’s just really academically strong in math, what’s that student going to do with math when they go onto their career, they’re going to create things with it, they’re not going to do math worksheets. And so that student is also not to be overlooked. But where do you want me to start, Gretchen?
Gretchen Roe: 00:17:55.013
Well, I would love for you to talk about some of the things that you’ve done as far as summer art experiences with kids, like taking a camera out and taking pictures and those kinds of things. Sue Wachter: 00:18:04.857
Yes. So I love the camera for art. Even if you’re just sitting there bored out of your mind waiting for something, you grab that camera and you don’t let them just take your classic pictures, but try to find the unusual. Go find an unusual picture. That develops their curiosity and looking beyond just that there’s a building there. Looking beyond the obvious, to me, is so important. And when I’ve done that with my grandchildren, they’ve ended up with some beautiful photographs that I mean, I’ve made photographs collages out of them that you would never guess a child did. And then you also then can get– after you get the pictures done, talk a little bit about, “Oh, let’s balance this out.” If the horizon line is– You got to have– The horizon line needs to be horizontal. So how do we crop? Just having them use just the editing tools on your camera alone are incredible for really helping them learn to see a good composition. And there’s no right or wrong. I mean, I don’t correct it or anything. So, okay, so we need the horizon line to be horizontal. Again, you’re using math terms, right? Verticals need to be vertical. Do we want to crop out this extra little piece here? What do we see that we didn’t notice before by looking at the picture? Just that alone can make a big difference. Have little sketchbooks handy and model it to them. You don’t even have to be a great artist or a sketcher yourself. Go, “Oh, we’re sitting here in the restaurant. Let’s all just pick something and put it in.” You end up with these wonderful– Again, the history of– and save those. If you’re out doing something, if you just take five minutes and get a few sketches, there’s your note for the project. Or again, when you’re out looking at something– you’re out and about and you guys are looking at this amazing scene or whatever, don’t have everybody’s faces towards it. Have somebody or a stranger take a picture of everybody looking at the thing you’re looking at. It’s such a more powerful picture, but just even showing them different ways to approach the photography or the sketching. My number one thing is the nature journal, and I encourage you to go to the John Muir Laws site. He’s a scientist, and he’s big in the nature journal world. And he has literally– gives away the farm. He has full curriculums, if you wanted to go that direction, that you can download for free or with a donation. And then, he also has, if you go– I think it’s called the Nature Journal Club or something. And you can go there, and there’s these little 10-minute videos that you could just start watching one video and then going out and doing what he suggests on the video. He’s got math. He’s really big on curiosity and wondering and making up stuff. And math is huge in there.
Sue Wachter: 00:21:27.168
All the subjects you could think of are connected with how he teaches nature journaling. So like I said, I usually take an adult group out and we do have some homeschoolers that come to that, the children, and it’s just an opportunity for them. And they’re just like one of the adults. We don’t even think of them as a kid because they’re like 8 and 10, but they’re right in there with us and having those curious conversations. And I wonder and learning from each other, and I think opinions. And it’s just a wonderful way to practice all your subjects, to be honest. But I would encourage you to either go alone as a family or just find another family that wants to do that, meet once a week. And we meet at the same place every week so that we see how nature evolves in the same place over the summer. It’s absolutely fascinating. So anyway– Gretchen Roe: 00:22:30.182
So I have to tell you this. Sue taught us this a couple of summers ago, the first summer we started doing round table discussions. And I glommed on to that and took that to my grandkids. And my granddaughter took her– she’s too young for her own phone, so she has an old pixel that belonged to her mom, but she can take pictures with it. And the last time he visited her, she said, “I want to show you my art journal.” And I was like, oh, Sue is going to love this. So her art journal is all these pictures of tiny things. And what she did was she would go take a picture. And 9 out of 10 of her pictures, she’s laying on her belly on the ground with the camera, taking a picture. And then, what she’s done is she’s taking that picture and then she’s tried to reproduce it in her own drawing. As a parent, I know that you’re thinking, so why does that make a difference? Well, it’s teaching them perspective. It’s teaching them the ability to look for detail. It’s teaching them to attend to a subject. And so many of you communicate with us so often that you have a child who has attention deficit. So does this child, but she gets into this and she’s focused for an hour, an hour and a half at a time. And her mother laughingly said to me a couple of weeks ago, “Yep,” she said, “Created a bit of a monster, but it has been amazing.” And so she said, what they purpose to do throughout the summer is everybody has to go outside for at least 15 minutes a day with their old phones in their hands and then they have to take pictures of something interesting and then that comes back in as part of their dinner table discussion. And I think that’s a really easy but fun way to teach your kids to observe the environment around you. So Emily’s ask a really good question. Can you recommend any good books to get kids doing art?
Sue Wachter: 00:24:38.834
Oh, it’s my favorite one of all because it’s so quality is there’s an Osborne book I wish I had it at the top of my– I don’t think I have it in here. It’s an Osborne book. It’s like 365 art lessons or something like that. And the reason I love it is because some art books aren’t real art, let’s just be honest. I mean, it’s okay to do things that aren’t real art. But the Osborne books are a real art and they use real art materials. And they are excellent. I’ve actually even taken some of those lessons and repurposed them for adults and they just fly with them. So that is my most favorite battle along with the nature journaling as well. And it’s not just one media either. It’s multimedia. And then also with the nature journal, a lot of my nature journal, I pick leaves, and I’ve got stuff stuffed in my journal. So don’t just keep it to the drawing part of it. I just wanted to add that on there.
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:45.328
[crosstalk] is always the best suit.
Sue Wachter: 00:25:47.139
Did you find the one?
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:49.523
The Osborne book, complete book of art ideas.
Sue Wachter: 00:25:53.943
I believe that’s it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:55.404
I think that’s so I think I’ve seen you hold that book up in some other event that we’ve done together. So I think that–
Sue Wachter: 00:26:01.253
It is the best of the best.
Gretchen Roe: 00:26:03.816
Amanda, I know that you do something that’s really cool with your kids in the summer, and that is you do a living history experiences. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Amanda Capps: 00:26:14.934
So really, this was something that I probably need to credit my mother with kind of starting the inspirational spark. So here I was thinking as a kid that my mom did these tea parties and that she did poetry to enrich us kids. The reality is it gave my mom the perfect excuse to drink hot tea and get into something that she loved with us, which was poetry. And so they started out as kind of tea parties where we would just share our favorite poem or read a poem. Have some tea. But then that branched out into my high school years of being an actual young lady’s living history club. And we traveled to events all over the Midwest Civil War reenactments, renaissance festivals, our little local town, did a Victorian-themed tea at a Victorian hotel, and we would dress up in Victorian costumes and we would hostess this tea for this organization and every year the money that they earned went to a local charity. So it was an incredible opportunity for some community service. But it also gave wings to a great love of mine, which is history. And so I have been able to carry that on with my kids. We try to do a seasonal tea. So that’s usually a tea once a quarter, and we do a season also a spring, a winter, a fall, and usually something right around Christmas where we do a cookie exchange because everybody just get such a kick out of doing that. And some of my best friends come, bring their kids, and everybody looks forward to it. It is one of the highlights of our year is sharing that time together. And then looking for opportunities within your local community. I live in Northwest Arkansas. So there are several Civil War battlefields in the area. They put on reenactments. You can go and you can watch military maneuvers. You can hear the cannons fire. The people who attend those and do living history events always have a story and a persona that goes with the time. And so there’s a lot of great historical information in those museums, zoos, any of those things that just kind of get the stories and get the facts off the page and make them real and experienceable are just phenomenal for kids.
Gretchen Roe: 00:29:00.548
I think one of the things that we fail to take into account as parents, how does that prevent learning loss? Well, look at what Amanda has just shared with you. There’s the logistics of putting together that T, and that’s everything from budgeting to purchasing to entertaining to figuring out how to make everyone included. And then the historical perspectives, I have a friend who is now a costume designer as an adult. She’s a librarian, but her outlet is to design costumes and that love of costume design came from her summary experiences with her mother doing the very things that Amanda has described. And so I think that there is an enormous amount of things to be said for you as the parent thinking your way through intentionally. How do I want this to look? What would it look like if we and then fill in the blank? I’ll give you another suggestion. I got this one a couple of weeks ago at a homeschool conference from a mom and she said, “My kids look forward.” We have one day every week in the summer that is a color day. And so this incorporates a little bit of everything. She said, when they had their pink color day, she said they take a nature walk so they use Sue’s suggestion, and they go look for pictures of things that are pink. And she said, and then they make pink ice cream together. And they do a pink craft project, and she said that whole day, there’s food incorporated, there’s fun incorporated. And she said, “7 colors in the summer, 7 weeks of summer, it’s an event my kids look forward to,” and she said, the fun part is I have kids that have a wide age span, just like I do personally, Amanda does personally, and she said, her college kids still come home and say, “What’s the color this week, mom?” And so there’s an idea for you guys to incorporate all sorts of things into a single event for a day.
Gretchen Roe: 00:31:15.254
I also think it’s important before I turn my attention to the questions that I want to ask these lovely ladies today. And that is to recognize that your kids need downtime. Unscripted, unscheduled, time to be. There I say, the B-word bored. Because they will have a greater appreciation for the things that you do for them if they have the opportunity to have a little bit of that. And I’m going to let Sue and Amanda talk a little bit about what did downtime look like in your household. What are your expectations there? And it was different for Sue than it is for Anamda because Amanda homeschools her kids and Sue’s kids were public schooled. But I know Sue has said that there’s value in that. So Amanda, you go first, and then I’ll let Sue answer that question.
Amanda Capps: 00:32:08.780
So in our house, it’s known as quiet time. So for my little ones, that’s a legitimate nap. They are going to go to sleep, and they are going to rest so that we can make it through the rest of the day without temper tantrums and meltdowns, hopefully. Now, for my kiddos who have outgrown naps, that is reading time. So usually this is happening in the heat of the day, where we don’t want to be outside any way. We live in the south, and it can get rather miserable. So that is grab whatever book you’re assigned or that you’re interested in right now. And at least 45 minutes we’re just going to be on our bed or be in your room quietly, and literally, unless someone is bleeding or broken, we don’t disrupt the quiet time. It gives me a little bit of downtime and recharge time, because let’s be real, the logistics of running a household and all of the duties that fall on moms, it can get very overwhelming sometimes. And sometimes just a little bit of downtime and giving yourself permission– and let me say this, give yourself permission to have the downtime too. Don’t sit there and try to plan a meal or wash the dishes or sweep the floor. Literally let yourself pick up a book that you are enriching your self with, pick back up a project that maybe has fallen by the wayside that brings you joy or bring something to you that enriches you because moms can’t pour from an empty cup, and you need to fill your cup up and be intentional about that.
Sue Wachter: 00:33:58.786
No pressure. It’s been a few years. My kids are in their 40s, so I was like, “What did we do? What did we do?”
Gretchen Roe: 00:34:05.168
Well, you do this with your grandkids too, so.
Sue Wachter: 00:34:08.200
Right. I mean, I did let them watch some TV, but it wasn’t like they were glued to the TV all the time. We didn’t have to worry about devices then either, they’re always wanting to be on your electronic devices. I know my grandkids are always wanting to be, they don’t get to very often. I was also in this– depends on you. I wasn’t worried about keeping things in order in the house all the time. So in fact, I just have somebody clean my closets today and she’s doing my linen closet. I can remember my kids knew that if they wanted to take everything out of the linen closet and make ports outside, they could. I mean, so not every mom can handle that, but those are just such fond memories. But they did a lot of playing outside and free to do whatever they wanted into the house. Like I said, what came to my mind too is– because I didn’t require my kids to clean the rooms, they just were not allowed to put food in there because I didn’t want food rotting or mice or anything, whatever, but I remember when my son would say, “Oh, I think I’m ready to clean my room, mom,” and we would clean it together, and it was always so much fun. We’d sort things and talk about– we’d find stuff we hadn’t seen. And so I’m just a little bit off the charts on what downtime was, but I think mostly, fortunately, the kids played outside a lot. We were always the ones that had extra kids at the house, and they pretty much could run amok. No one got hurt. I think everything was fine. But just allowing that time for discovery and play.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:00.781
Okay. So before we step off of what Sue is saying, I want her to tell you why we call her the glitter grandma.
Sue Wachter: 00:36:06.917
Oh, yeah. And now I know that some people you say the word glitter and they panic, like, “What? Glitter?”
Sue Wachter: 00:36:15.519
They’re welcome to glitter anytime they want, glitter and glue. You could probably find a piece of glitter in any part of my house. But I also have a studio too. So the grandkids can go out there and make whatever mess they want. Sometimes I’ll just say, “Grab a basket and go through my drawers and figure out what you want to do.” I love that discovery. I even keep big cardboard box. I have trouble [inaudible] down cardboard boxes, but I keep a stash of them in case I want to build something. And I understand not everybody has that mentality, but it’s a lot of fun, just discovery to me and curiosity are the big ones. I think those are what help and that looking for the unusual detail. I mean, we all do the clouds in the sky, but there’s other things you can be looking for. What color are in the trees really? What color is in the field? What color is out there? What color are the clouds? They’re not white, just those kind of debriefing things. But I don’t remember the downtime. I don’t remember being ever me being bored a minute, but I’m sure they were.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:31.421
And you know I think we have become a culture who is so used to being plugged in, focused, turned on, attentive, that we fail to recognize that some of the best brain growth occurs in that quiet reset. And so we need to be, I think, intentional to be able to provide those kinds of things for our students. And so I have questions, some questions that I would love for us to be able to answer for parents today. And let me turn my attention to these. The first one is maybe, Amanda, you could talk about this is, do you have a resource or a tip basket for summer learning? So do you have a place that your summer learning resides that’s different than the schoolroom you’re presently sitting in? Or do you just make it up as you go along? In other words, are you a planner, or are you an executor? And I realize that those aren’t mutually exclusive, but a little bit different.
Amanda Capps: 00:38:42.836
So yes and no. So I would say during the summer months, we always have a library basket because we do utilize the library. So I usually take my kids to the library, or my mother takes the kids to the library one day of the week. And they get new books, and they get new literature. I might encourage them to find a book on a specific topic or a specific period of history if that’s something that I kind of want to keep the momentum moving forward on. But again, summertime is a good time for reading fluff too. The Charlotte Masoners will know what I’m talking about there. There is something great about just fun literature that doesn’t necessarily have to be subject-oriented. And so most of the things that my kids have access to in the summer that maybe they wouldn’t during the traditional school year are going to be bubbles, sidewalk chalk, all their sporting equipment, gloves, bats, frisbees, the volleyball. We try to do a lot more things outside in the sunshine. And so yes, I do have kind of some designated areas where those materials and those resources gather, and they know where to go to get access to them.
Gretchen Roe: 00:40:03.762
One of the things that I think is important is, and Amanda said this earlier, children have different learning preferences, but read alouds or summertime is a terrific time to engage your whole family and read alouds. And we have a beloved colleague named Lisa Pimento, and she said that she always did read alouds throughout the school year, and she said, even as her older children graduated and went off to college, when it was read aloud time, she said they would gravitate back into the room so that they could hear the read alouds as well. I want to encourage you all to look for a read aloud that’s funny, engaging, entertaining. One of my most favorites when you have little bitty people like Amanda has is Amelia Bedelia because that helps people at all sorts of levels find funny. And if you have never been exposed to Junie B. Jones, let me encourage you to take this summer and go find out who Junie B. Jones is and how outrageous she truly is. Let me appreciate your own first graders more, So. how about, Sue, can you talk a little bit about ways that you have encouraged kids as far as sparking their natural curiosity? That was a question a couple of parents ask, and I’m thinking about the curiosity that you generated with your grandkids when you went to the beach last summer because I got to see it vicariously through the postings that Sue put on Facebook, but I’d love for her to talk a little bit about that.
Sue Wachter: 00:41:47.600
Well, when I go to the beach, I’m not the adult just standing around. I’m like, let’s go see what’s on the beach and look really close. And so when we were out last time, there was like hundreds of great big jellyfish. So we picked some up. Of course, their dad by the time they on the beach. But we picked them up and we took them back to the campsite and we washed them off and looked at them and then the kids were starting to ask questions. So we looked online to answer questions. So it really led to a lot of things. But every time we went to the beach, it was like, okay, let’s see what we can find. Let’s see what we can find that we didn’t see last time. You have to decide what you’re allowed for them to pick up. I allow anything to be picked up pretty much, but you set your own rules on that. I’ll stay out of that. Just even picking up feathers and looking at, “What do you think this is? You think it’s a tail feather? Is it a wing feather?” Just asking the questions beyond, again, the obvious and collecting depending on your laws and your state, what you’re allowed to collect. Collecting treasures from the beach, I have a table that has all my beach treasures on them. It’s just a lot of fun. And then just watching for a moment. And so for the finale of this wonderful, and then just even we found a snake and everybody gathered around. It was dead. So we got to really look at it. We didn’t have to worry about it slithering off. And so they kind of got the hang of it that we were going to when you were with me at least. We’re going to be looking for not the obvious.
Sue Wachter: 00:43:35.310
So here was the final one we came off the trail. We’re taking our last trip to the beach while the parents are getting the stuff all loaded in the cars and just get kind of us out of the way, I think. And we walked out and this eagle was right in front of us, like, 10 feet away from us, was chasing a seagull. I mean, thank goodness it didn’t catch it. But we just stopped and everybody hears these kids, and everybody because we had been in this mindset, we were like– and we all just went silent and looked at it. It was incredible. I’ll never forget that into my head. But just setting that, yeah, there’s the beach, there’s the water, looking for there’s so much going on at the beach, there’s so much seaweeds, all kinds of things. You can gather seaweed and do seaweed presses. Email me if you want to know how to do that. It’s just there’s so much into the beach. So that’s why I love the beach. And I do take a lot of photographs at the beach as well to again take back to draw later just the observation and the curiosity and the wonder that’s just the best [crosstalk].
Amanda Capps: 00:44:52.953
Can I add something to that? Because that whole all of what Sue is describing is fantastic. But then I want to take it a step farther. And so sometimes daddy’s working, right? And so he isn’t with us on our adventures, or we’re going to see grandparents, or we’re interacting with aunts and uncles. This is an incredible time to help kids develop good descriptive vocabulary and even jotting a few sentences down that are descriptive. For little kids that aren’t writing yet, you can talk about words that describe what they saw so that they can articulate details so that someone who wasn’t there can have the same experience through what they’re being told and talking about language and descriptive words and things like that, older kids, you can ask them to brainstorm and come up with and say, “Okay, if I wasn’t there.” If I didn’t get to see it with my eyes, what could you say? What language could you use? What could you put down on paper that could let somebody who didn’t get to experience it, experience it through your eyes? That is an incredible skill, incredible skill, and so valuable. And it literally doesn’t even have to take 10 minutes. I mean, it can literally be short and sweet. And let me tell you, as a mom, if you write those things down, if your little ones dictate them to you, those are so dear to go back and review and look at later. I mean, it’s like a little verbal written time capsule that you can revisit and enjoy again and again and again.
Gretchen Roe: 00:46:40.730
If you’ve joined us this far thus far in this adventure, you’ve noticed that there’s been very little that we’ve said that is involved paper and pencil and a desk. But all of this is academic experience that will make your children’s experiences richer in when you get back to what my German father called the [foreign language] or the middle of your academic year. Amanda talked about reading downtime. When we did that at my household, my kids were required to come to the dinner table with a word they didn’t know that they found in their reading that day, and they didn’t know the word. And we would have discussions about what that word was. And one summer, the words after discussion, they got written down on a piece of paper, and we had a mason jar in the middle of the table. And those words got thrown into the mason jar. And at the end of the summer, we had a vocabulary review. Hey, here’s this word. What did that? And then we took it a step further. What book did that come from? Did you like that book? Is there another book like that? Those kinds of things. All of these things are opportunities for you to keep your kids engaged. But it doesn’t feel so academic in that process. Several of you expressed a word called stress in a variety of different ways in what you posted in our conversations when you registered for this event. And what we would encourage you to do is to take stress out of the equation this summer. The most important thing you can do is take stress out of your own life because stuff rolls downhill. If you’re stressed, your kids are going to feel it. So what are the things that you’re going to plan to have a fun summer for you? Don’t spend all your time planning for your children. What are some things that you can do? And so I know that you have some cool plans as far as art and new experiences this summer. So maybe you could share some of those plans and Amanda, I know you’ve been thinking about some cool plans that you have. So in the last 10 minutes or so, let’s help moms put themselves in the frame of what’s something cool you want to do this summer. I got a couple of ideas I’ll add to it.
Sue Wachter: 00:49:17.661
Right. The nature journal is good. And you don’t have to bring the kids to that. That could be in it’s– we just would spend an hour and a half and we just had a group. If you’d like ideas on how to– some who aren’t people I work– they were strangers. So I just kind of put the word out that I want to do this nature journal thing. And I set parameters. And that was just an hour and a half a week that I just knew I would be– I didn’t have any responsibility, but to try to remember to watch the video we were all supposed to watch, which I didn’t always. And then I depended on someone else to teach me what was on the video, and that was okay. But I just had to show up and because I teach classes, I didn’t want to teach another class. I just wanted a class that I wanted to go to, that I just showed up, and it was awesome. I just actually took a five-day– I mean, you probably can’t do a five-day. I took a five-day class just two weeks ago where I had no responsibilities for five days. Oh, my goodness. I just encourage you if you can get any time away with no responsibility. No, none. It was the most revitalizing five days I have spent in the best I felt in years. So I need to make sure I do that now every six months or so. I need to get away, somehow or another where I have no responsibilities. And I know I remember it’s been a long time since I’ve had small children in the home, and that’s hard to do. But if you could try to figure out a way you could get away and have no responsibility or just a little bit, it’s really amazing. But art is always a good one because it takes you– literally during COVID, people would come to my Monday Night Zoom Class and they said, “I don’t know how we would survive COVID without this time.” There’s something about art where you just can block out the world and for a few minutes. Just be in the moment. It is incredible a way to do that, so.
Amanda Capps: 00:51:29.703
For me, the ways that I recharge are attending homeschool conferences for Demme Learning. I love connecting with other parents and encouraging other parents and coming alongside them in their journey. I try to at least once every couple of weeks have coffee with a friend, grab dinner with a friend where it’s just me and another woman and we’re checking on each other and discussing our challenges and our triumphs. You need to do both. Don’t just turn it into event session. You need to bring some– okay, these are some things that I’m doing well. These are the things that I’m doing right. And it’s okay to reflect on both of those things, the positive and the negative, and kind of say, okay, hey, am I having a good balance here? Because if my negatives are– if I’m negative heavy, then I need to adjust something. If it’s all positives and no negatives, I mean, that’s pretty great. But there’s probably something I’m ignoring or something that I need to look at or work on. And that’s okay.
Amanda Capps: 00:52:30.628
Trying to do at least a date night here and there with my husband. We try to get away for a short weekend when we can. The beauty of my situation is I have older kids, middles, and littles. And so my older can absolutely help and do. And that is a great blessing to their dad and I because it does afford us, you know, maybe a night or two away.
Amanda Capps: 00:52:56.335
This past spring, my second oldest just from 16 and what she wanted to do for her birthday more than anything was go on a girl trip and she wanted to go to the beach. And so for the very first time, I left all of the six younger kids with my husband. And I went to the beach four or five days with my two older girls.
Amanda Capps: 00:53:18.225
And we had a blast. I can not remember the last time I was able to just sit on a beach and soak in the rays and not worry about anyone drowning or eating sand. And just enjoy the experience and the atmosphere and eat good food and not have to cut anyone else’s dinner up.
Amanda Capps: 00:53:36.076
I mean, those things that rejuvenate and recharge, you’re worth it. It is valuable time. My husband was happier when I came home because I was happier. I was much more appreciated when I walked in the door after he had five days of six children all by himself. So it’s a win win for everybody, really.
Gretchen Roe: 00:53:55.944
Absolutely. I think it’s also– I am looking forward this summer. I had the experience to spend a little bit of time with my middle son and he is a backpacking guide in the Pisco wilderness. And it was amazing. We really did have a terrific time together.
Gretchen Roe: 00:54:15.889
And we had such a terrific time that I have planned two more trips with him this summer, and it’s going to be really a great academic experience. And academic in– I’m still a lifelong learner. I might not have kids I’m educating at home, but they’re still that ability to learn as we go. And I’m really looking forward to that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:54:42.446
Before we close, I have two apps that I want to share with you. Because Sue’s right. I didn’t have to educate in the digital world. And thank God I didn’t because I’m attention deficit and this would have been a huge distraction. But I found two apps that give you the opportunity to learn alongside your children. And my children shared these apps with me.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:06.922
One is called Merlin, M-E-R-L-I-N, Bird ID, and this is from the Cornell ornithological laboratory. And you and your children can learn to identify birds by song, by sight. It’s a terrific way and a free way to engage your kids in the great outdoors.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:29.090
And the other one that I absolutely love and was shared with me last summer actually on a business trip is called seek, S-E-E-K. And Seek is designed by National Geographic. And it’s a free app and it allows you to identify everything from animals to plants and that’s a terrific way for you to take Biology into the field.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:54.276
And we wish you the joy of this journey, everyone. Have a wonderful summer. And we look forward to your sharing time with us again soon. Take care, everyone. Bye bye.
Gretchen Roe: 00:56:05.951
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.
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- Celebrate what you have accomplished!
- Reading and math at a minimum; one hour a day devoted to both subjects.
- This is a great time to consider using one of Math-U-See’s Accelerated Individualized Mastery intervention programs to bring a child’s skills into greater focus.
- Assessment of their current skill set; do this now, not in August.
- If they are changing curriculums:
- Who are you as the homeschool parent? What kind of time do you have for your student(s)? Where will you invest that time?
- Make a list of what worked and what didn’t, and then sort that list.
- Recognize that what works for one student doesn’t always work for another.
- As you weigh curriculums, look at the whole. What kind of support do they offer and what can you expect as you use their materials?
365 Days of Art
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