Transitioning to homeschooling is as much about changing our point of view of what we believe education to be as it is about doing academics at the kitchen table. Join pioneering homeschool mother of seven, Alice Reinhardt, as she challenges your thinking about the differences between “school” and “education,” and how to create a growth mindset in your homeschooling journey.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:04.904
Welcome, everyone. My name is Gretchen Roe, and it is my very great pleasure to welcome you today to this episode of The Demme Learning Show. We’re going to talk about embracing the transition from public school to homeschool. And a lot of this is attitudinal, but much of it also embraces the idea that you have to change your thinking. And I am so delighted today to be joined by Alice Reinhardt. We are compatriots in lots and lots of ways. We homeschooled alongside each other a number of years in different states not knowing each other and found each other about six years ago and realized that we have a great deal in common. Alice does this presentation at homeschool conferences across the country, and I’ve invited her to join me today. And I’m going to let her introduce herself. Alice.
Thank you, Gretchen. Well, as Gretchen said, my name is Alice Reinhardt. And I have educated our kids. We have seven children for 35 years. And that means we started back in the day when it was illegal in most states to home educate. And we just kind of worked our way. I mean, I started out kind of going, “Okay. We’ll, maybe do this one year, maybe do this another.” And then I became so convinced of the benefit of the fun of the watching my children learn that we hung in for 35 years. I am now an empty nester, which is wonderful. I get to watch my 10 grandchildren be home educated also. But I do have a heart and a passion for helping other and especially the young and the beginning home schoolers feel like they can do this and give them the tools, challenge their thinking. I like to kind of rattle paradigms sometimes. But it is just a real passion for me to equip you, to give you what you need to make your journey successful.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:03.081
Absolutely. And one of the things I think that’s really important, Alice, is for everyone who’s joining us live today or who’s going to watch this recording at some later point in time is to recognize that your journey is your own. I mean, I had six kids, Alice has seven, but our journeys were entirely different. Lots of similarities, but what happens in your home is really your joy to create. And so we want you to take that creational thread through our conversation today to be able to understand how many profound differences there are between public education and home education. And so, Alice, I’ve seen you do this presentation publicly. You talk about education as a definition. Can you outline that for us for our audience?
I certainly can. And I even brought my definition so I wouldn’t forget something here. And I think this is really critical, Gretchen, because we need to understand– we first need to understand what is established in our brains because we will repeat what we have experienced if you don’t have something in there that’s different. I love the definition of education that came out of our good old Merriam-Webster. Education is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment and – catch this line – generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life. And if you look up school in the same way, what you’re going to find is a very short definition and it’s even a definition that uses terminology of school to define itself, which I always thought was a no no. But it’s education or training received, especially at school Now, if you look at those two, I would ask you, what definition do you prefer? Do you just want, well, this is education or training, or do you want this concept that what you’re doing is actually educating and developing your child and guiding them towards mature life?
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:22.965
Absolutely. I think that makes such a tremendous difference. And if we can start from that foundation, then we can move forward. And I know you and I, in our planning session, talked a little bit about this. We’re not here to bash public education.
Gretchen Roe: 00:04:38.661
Because we both have friends who are teachers, and they’re probably some of the hardest-working people on the planet. But can you talk a little bit about maybe the downsides of our current education system? So can we talk a little bit about what might not be an affirmative in public education as it stands today?
Sure. And I will echo 100%. I do not believe in bashing our public school teachers. And in fact, if you’re sitting in one of my sessions and you are a public school teacher, I ask the audience to give you a round of applause because these men and women are out there because they have a passion for learning. They have a passion for children and loving children that aren’t even theirs. The system, unfortunately, is broken. And I think one of the best examples of this is the focus on testing. And just the heavy, heavy burden that standardized testing has become. And I’ve had teachers tell me this. I’ve had parents of their kids that are in it– the stress that is associated with standardized testing is overwhelming. It’s overwhelming for the teacher. It’s overwhelming for the students because we have evolved from an education system which did focus on individual development into a system that relies on that standardized test to determine what funds our school may get, what ranking we may get, whether a teacher is hired again. There’s a lot of pressure that’s put on that. And I like quoting William Butler Yeats. He says, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but is the lighting of a fire.” Now, if you take that and apply that to having to teach to the test, basically, the only thing you can get out of a bucket is what you put into it. So if you’re just teaching to the test, you’re just putting into that bucket the information to answer the test. And that does not ignite a love of learning or to liken it to that fire, something that would grow, and consume whatever is in front of it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:07:11.238
So Alice, I know if we were in a– if we were doing this session at a conference, you would be able to outline for us kind of how education has changed, like prior to 1900 and now in the late 19th century and how that has become different. Can we talk a little bit about that?
Absolutely. Well, you mentioned prior to the 1900s. Now, for the benefit of people that have trouble with putting numbers up there, think of something like Little House on the Prairie, one-room schoolhouse. This was the type of education that both of my parents grew up in. But it was a very oral environment then. The teacher was very one on one. And as children practiced their math skills or the reading skills or their spelling, there was an instantaneous correction on that. And there was a lot of oral– not just from the teacher, but also from the child in that. And of course, for all of the other children in that room, you do hear, and you do absorb from some of that. They would also have it in– prior to the 1900s, they would also have community– oh, I don’t know, like a community program in which the children were called upon to recite either a passage of the history or a poem or they do their math facts. This gave the parents an opportunity, not to assess their child, but to actually assist the teacher to see if they wanted that teacher to remain in their community.
So there’s a lot of history between the early– or the 1900s period and now. And the significant thing that happened was the establishment of standardized tests. And it started out, Horace Mann, who had a lot of good things to do for the public school system, because he was very much about reaching out across race, across economic barriers, and making sure all children were educated. But he began setting up a standard. He believed there needed to be a standard that schools adhered to, and in that, also a standard that teachers adhered to, and it needed to be across the board. It didn’t matter if you were a school that was located in the city or a school located out in the country, you had to measure the same. And again, that began this evolution into, “Okay, what is the easiest, most efficient way of determining the standard?” hence, the standardized tests. And what people fail to realize is that– and I’m not saying you shouldn’t do standardized tests. That’s your option. That’s your choice. But you must understand that the standardized test only measures a fraction, a fraction of what a child may know. And what has happened in the course of this is where it went from this oral environment where a teacher said, “No, Gretchen, I think you need to stay in this reader a little while longer,” all right, to a child going, “Oh, I am not a good student because I didn’t score well enough.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:10:46.963
Right. One of the most valuable observations I’ve ever received is sitting around with a group of friends, most of whom were educators. And one of them said the challenge with the standardized test is it’s a snapshot of the one child on one day. And if that particular day, they were not on, then you think that their academics are poor. And the other thing that I think is important to emphasize– you gave us that one-room schoolhouse analogy. There were 8 or 10 kids in a one-room schoolhouse. Now the average kindergarten class has 32 kids, and that’s not education. That’s crowd control.
Gretchen Roe: 00:11:26.728
Before we move into how we can change our attitudes, let’s talk a little bit about test anxiety as a whole. And I know you have some opinions about when we should test and that we should get the mindset that testing does have a place in our home academic experience. But give me a little bit of your insight into how to negotiate that?
Well, I think, again, since we’ve been just immersed in this concept of standardizing those tests. It is so hard to think that we can actually function without them. In a home education setting, you know where your child is weak, you know where your child is strong, and you don’t get that just on test day like what you’re saying. It’s just that one snapshot of that child that day. Well, if they didn’t have a good breakfast, or maybe they had bad dreams the night before, they’re not going into a testing situation with their head on straight. And you can control that a lot more in your home in doing that. I think for me personally, I do wish I had used more standardized tests when my kids were in high school. Mainly, to get them used to taking the ACT, and because you need to get– in fact, you need to figure out this bubble thing, and how to take those type of tests. I don’t know that an 8-year-old needs that. I don’t know that a 10-year-old needs that. And the anxiety comes from the performance on the test, there is a fear that drives the anxiety that it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to fail,” or “What if I don’t know the answers to this?” And then that child’s self-worth gets hung on that, right? And that’s what we have to really guard over. If you still have a child that’s in the school system, they’ve got to know their value and worth is not based on how well they do on that standardized test. You know my Emily. She’s a year away from having her white coat in physical therapy. That child had test anxiety, and I didn’t even push testing, but she also learned that she is a speed tester. And so when she finally got rid of the whole time that was allotted to take the test, and she could just answer, she would answer, and she never goes back and changes an answer, but she had to learn how to adapt to taking tests.
Gretchen Roe: 00:14:26.915
Right. And I think that you have mentioned something here in answering my question that I think is really important for parents to understand. Our greatest goal in the academic experience with our children, is to know them at least as well as they know themselves. To observe them to know how to help them negotiate those kinds of things, and maybe that’s not– you might live in a state that requires you to take standardized testing, but you’ve heard me say, Alice, to parents, “Nobody ever asked me what I got on a third grade achievement.”
This is true. This is true.
Gretchen Roe: 00:15:04.349
[crosstalk] require you.
Your state may require you– your state may require you to do that, but you’ve really got to go into that, and encourage your child to go into that, that is not a measure of you. We know what the measure of you is, and in that, Gretchen, I like saying, I like using this phrase, “This is an opportunity for you to become a student of your child.” And watching them and waiting for that opportunity, I loved seeing the lightbulb coming on in my kids. It was a very exciting thing when they’re struggling, they’re struggling, and all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh I’ve got it.” Or if they come to me and say, “Hey, mom, did you know this?” And I would always go, and even if I did, I’d say, “Really? Well, tell me about that. Where did you learn that?” So I love that in my kids I love encouraging it. And you have got to make– it’s got to be an intentionality if you participate in standardized testing that you remember the things that we’ve said that it’s just a small fraction. It’s just a snapshot. It does not determine actually the intelligence of your child. It doesn’t. It’s not a reflection of whether they are smart or not smart. And so, I mean, that’s what you have to– those are the things you have to be aware of and just be consciously active.
Gretchen Roe: 00:16:37.565
And as I’ve heard you talk about this to parents as we’ve shared time together at conferences, I want you to outline for parents why home education is so advantageous. I want us to be able to keep the advantages in the forefront of our mind.
Yes. And that’s really good because, again, that’s where we have to change our thinking. The first thing that I would say to parents is that you need to understand that education happens 24/7. It doesn’t happen during set school hours even if you’re home educating. It is not something that it only happens while you’re working on any sort of academics. Education is a 24/7 experience. We would have discussions at our separate table over the events of the ’70s, which was the decade that my husband and I were teenagers, there was a lot that happened there. We had Nixon. We had the Vietnam War. We had Watergate. We had Kent State. All these things. And we will just start up, not necessarily going, “Okay, what are we going to study at supper tonight?” But more of a thing that one of the kids would say something and we go, “Well, back in the ’70s, duh duh duh duh duh duh duh.” And we would we would express this. And our kids, they connected those dots with that. We would be on vacation– there was one time we actually ended up in Hawaii to do a conference, but one of the girls just asked a question about, so how are islands formed? And I mean, the conversation just took off. That’s education. In the same way that if you take your kids and serve at a soup kitchen, that is an education, or if you’re letting them follow a passion or desire or a dream of their own, oh my gosh, that’s education. And so that’s the first thing the parents have to grasp in this.
Gretchen Roe: 00:19:06.495
And one I think one of the things I’ve heard you say, I know I say it from stage as well, is get a cheap notebook and start writing down what you do in a day, and then fit those into the educational slots that you have requirements for. For instance, preparing a meal. That’s everything from math to computation to portion control to nutrition to biology, all kinds of things.
All kinds of things. That’s right.
Gretchen Roe: 00:19:34.982
We need to change what we think, it’s just not always a paper and a pencil and a desk.
Correct. Correct. It’s also just really fun then to see your kids start taking that into their real world. And it keeps that avenue open for them to continually be learning in that. And so I mean, I really think that that is key. We have to change how we look at what education is in that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:20:13.913
And you also talk about the difference between pushing and driving and leading and motivating. So can we elaborate on that a little bit?
Oh, absolutely. When I encountered this quote that I put in my PowerPoint–
Gretchen Roe: 00:20:31.432
I should also say as an aside, I’m going to interrupt Alice for a second. You’re going to hear us talk about this PowerPoint because the PowerPoint she has is very powerful. And you’ll actually get that in your show notes. So I want you all to know that if you’re listening to this as a podcast, it’s worth going to DemmeLearning.com/Blog, and find this episode so that you can take a look at Alice’s PowerPoint in retrospect after we conclude this discussion, so.
Okay. Well, when I read this quote, it was like one of those parental moments that you go, “Ouch. Oh, my.” Because even in parenting, even if it’s not in the home education, in the parenting, we can either use negatives to motivate our children or we can use positives to lead them. How many times have I said, “If you don’t clean up your room, you’re not going to go get to go visit your friend?” And I carried that over into my own early years of learning how to do this, in which you say, “You’re just not trying hard enough to learn these multiplication facts and you’re going to sit here at this table until it’s done.” And the sad thing, but the real thing is, is that there could be a very quick momentary change and they get that done. But there’s nothing lasting in that. Okay? It may last for that day, it may last for another day, and then you’re back at it. So it’s better– and I mean, you have to be creative and you have to be willing. You have to be willing to take the time to get in there with that child as they’re struggling and walk alongside them. Just to think where as parents, we tend to get so busy and caught up with our own schedule, that that’s actually what’s driving us and then what the kids are doing, it’s just a little bit of an inconvenience. So we get kind of snarky. And it’s like, “We’re going to be late because you haven’t done this.” Well, what does that child need? The child may need me to come alongside them and say, “Okay, let’s pick this up together, and I’ll tell you why. You get your room clean, we’re going to go get an ice cream. And so that’s a more powerful thing to sit down and say, okay, what really is the problem? I don’t believe it’s because you’re being lazy or that you’re stupid or any of those things, but there’s a problem here. And I want to help you. And it could also be an opportunity for a parent to go, “You know what, I really struggle staying focused also, and I find that I have to take these steps to do that. But I just want you to know I know where you’re at, and I know it’s hard.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:52.254
Right. You had said back to what you said earlier about being the best observer of your child, observing them and seeing the difference between struggle and just not knowing where to begin. I think it’s really important for us as parents to set the tone. I think it’s Pam Barnhill says you can either be the thermometer or a thermostat. And we get to choose. And I think that’s really important. So that kind of leads me to another conversation or another point in our conversation about the difference between educational materials being a tool and a master. And I love what you say about this because sometimes I think we get the cart before the horse here.
Absolutely. Absolutely 100%. And again, it comes back to what do we know? Well, we only know what we have experienced. Our definition of school is a stack of textbooks that you work your way through. You have nine months to do it. One of the things early on that I learned was that I could because– okay, let me back up just a little bit. I always like using kind of the little acronym here. That most home educators are silks, S-I-L-K-S. That means single income, lots of kids. And so as a result of that, and then I say, “No, and we’re not dinks: dual income, no kids.” But almost every home educator I know, money is a very precious commodity. Because if one of the parents have stepped out and they’ve lost their income, then now you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to buy all of this curriculum. And so when you purchase that, automatically, you’ve entered into a contract with that curriculum, and that curriculum becomes a master. And if you don’t realize it within yourself, that that curriculum is only a tool, that your actual job is to teach your children – it’s not to teach the curriculum. It’s to teach your children – and you use that curriculum along the way as a tool. So what that means is that if something’s not working, and if you thought this wonderful science program was going to be the answer and it’s not, you can close that. But again, we’ve gotten into this mindset: “I paid $50 for this. I will die before we not finish it.” It’s [crosstalk]–
Gretchen Roe: 00:26:55.583
I bought some materials. You will do a F.WAY page because I [crosstalk] money.
Did you get that?
Gretchen Roe: 00:26:59.991
Yeah, I get it. I get it. Good German here.
Yes, so but Gretchen, that’s in reality what happens to us. It’s that we’ve made this monetary commitment which has become a contract with that curriculum, and it will dictate to us what we do with it if we don’t realize, “No, I’m the one in charge. I’m the one in charge, and I just use you.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:27:26.332
And I think that that’s really good because as we begin a home education experience– I know you and I have laughed about this. I mean, I created a classroom. I bought these really cool desks. I got a flag. Did the whole thing. And I don’t think my kids ever sat at those desks, maybe beyond the first week. They just became flat surfaces that got piled with junk. And so in that transition, as you begin a homeschool experience, can you talk about the deprogramming and the decompression that needs to happen, particularly if you’re bringing a child out of a public or private or parochial, whatever their academic background has been to the point at which you decided to homeschool. Now, we have to change our paradigm. And how do you do that?
Okay. Well, I think a mistake that a lot of people make is that they go from the school setting and then, as you said, they try to recreate that at home. And not just that, but I mean, they’re imitating the entire package. They’re trying to recreate that at home. Let’s say that you decide that in May, when the school system– or when your school year ended that you were going to start– you were going to start home educating. And you decide in August. And you’re going to hit the road like this. That, more times than not, will lead to a disaster for the parent, for the child. These kids have been– and again, just remember, you were in that same setting. You went through five days a week, 8:00 to 3:00. All this mentality, that’s what you’re used to. That’s what your child’s used to. And I try to encourage parents for every year that they have been in the public school setting, they need two months to just be a kid, to just back off. And maybe that means not starting school in August and just allowing them– because it’s like being hooked into an IV when you’re in that system. And you’ve got to kind of let that get out of their system in order to start a new education process with that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:30:13.262
Sure. And being able to set aside our suppositions about what it should be, as opposed to what it is, makes all the difference in the world. So I think a couple of parents asked this question, but this was actually a question that I posed to you before we saw what the parents were asking us and that is, how do you get that student of yours to recognize that this is a different experience and it has an advantage? Particularly I know we have a couple of parents in the audience who have made the decision to bring their children home, and their children aren’t really enthusiastic about it. So I think you do a good job of explaining how to change that attitude, so.
Well, I was thinking about this as we were preparing– or this morning as I was getting ready for this. And I think something that parents do– I know I did. I made a lot of decisions for my kids that affected their life without ever really communicating with them and without ever checking in to see where they were at with this. And so if you’ve got a child, if you’ve made this decision– and I’m going to assume that you’ve got some good reasons for doing this. But if you’ve got a child who is like, “Kind of I’m not so sure about this,” well, this is a time that you can learn good communication. And actually, I want to change that word to good conversation just because communication suggests one voice kind of giving direction. Conversation means, “Let’s have a conversation. Let’s talk. I want to know what your concerns are. I want to know what are you– are you angry? Are you upset? Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” You’ve got to understand that even for kids who want to do this, they’re still giving up something. They don’t realize that it may not hit them what they’re giving up. But they’re going to give up a social life that, again, they’ve had for several years. They may give up a teacher that they absolutely adore. They may be giving up a sports, something like that. They may be giving up– I don’t know. There could be a variety. But it’s important to say, “Well, what do you think you’re going to lose in this?” And I’m telling you right now, Gretchen, and I think you know this because you and I have had plenty of conversations with our kids, and it can get kind of hurtful. And I just got to say to the parents it’s okay. Just just don’t react. Just listen. It is really important that you listen to your kids. You’ve got to give them a voice in this decision that you’re making for them. That is something that will not be missed by them. They may not say, “Oh, gee, mom, thanks for asking how I feel.” But that’s going to be in there of, “Oh, mom really cares. She’s listening to me.” And on these things that they’re concerned about giving up, then that’s on you to go, “All right, well, if you’re concerned that you’re not going to have any friends, well, here’s this wonderful co-op over here. And we’re going to go check it out.” And so that’s just that. You just have to be aware. You are asking them to sacrifice something.
Gretchen Roe: 00:34:27.186
And I think it’s also important for kids to understand that you as the parent are sacrificing something because you’re assuming a full-time responsibility, an additional job in addition to being their parent. And sometimes I used to have to say to my kids, “I’m answering your question as your instructor, not as your parent right now.” So sometimes it helps to delineate that. Deanne has asked a great question here, Alison. I know that you can address this. And actually, this gives me the opportunity to put a little bit of a plugin. We’re going to have an in-depth conversation about high school and transcripts and how to have that. But that’s not going to occur till November. But Deanne has asked us a question already and she says, “Any advice on being the master of curriculum but needing to assign grades to a transcript?” She said, “I haven’t been a fan of grades till now. But now I have a ninth grader.” And I know you have some opinions about this because I’ve heard them, so.
Okay. Yes. Okay. Well, I’m going to start with the story of my son when he was about 16. And getting him to write for me was one of the– I mean I would rather have had a root canal without any kind of numbing, all right? And he was an incredibly creative kid, and he still is. But he’s this teenage boy and mom and we were kind of dancing around this. And I thought I don’t need this anymore. Okay? I’m done. And so I said, “That’s it, young man. I’m not asking you to write anything else for me. But you’re not going to get an A in English. I can guarantee that.” And so when he went to college– and he went to college with a B on his transcript, which is what I gave him. The very first course that he took was an English 103, that it took the normal college student three attempts to pass with a C. And my little arrogant son went into that thinking, “Oh, I’ve got this made into shape.” Well, he failed. He failed his first literature test because he’s like, “Oh, I’ve already read Moby Dick. I can get this.” And he failed his first paper. Guess who figured out how to write for this professor and made four points short of an A in that class?
So I can identify with this like, how do you assign these grades? And for every person there’s going to be a different answer. I was like, “Okay, I’m giving you an A because you’ve met the standard that I deem is excellent. If you’ve tried your best, but it’s not quite there, that’s going to be a B for me. If you’re dragging your feet and refusing anything on this, then it’s a C and below.” And I would be– I was just honest with that. I put down what I thought. I will have to tell you that there was not one college– and of my seven kids, I’ve got two with master’s degrees, two that are working on their bachelor’s degree, one that’s working on her doctorate degree, as in medical doctorate degree. I don’t believe one college looked at the grades I put on the transcript.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:03.512
And I think it’s important to recognize that transcript means a balance between time invested and effort expended, so. We have talked about how do you grade for high school. Here at Demme Learning, we’ve done two or three different conversations in varying webinars about how do you assign a grade. One of the things- and I think this might help, Deanna. It depends on the state you’re in. And I’m not talking about either the state of confusion or the state of panic. [laughter] I’m talking about the state in which you reside. And I would look at what are the high school requirements in your state? Okay, I have to have four years of English. I have to have four years of math. And then what is considered a sufficient number of hours in those disciplines? And that does vary by state. So it would be helpful for you to know– Alice lives in Kentucky. I live in North Carolina. We have different state requirements. So knowing what your state requires, then you can reverse engineer that and say, “Okay, my son spends five hours a week on math, and we did math for 30 weeks.” That is equivalent to a high school math as far as the investiture of time.
Gretchen Roe: 00:39:28.689
Now, how do you assign grades? Well, I’m not a fan of grading on– particularly mathematically, I’m not a fan of grading every problem because when you learn mathematically, it’s on what you get wrong, not what you get right. So I don’t want to penalize my children for getting something wrong. So I would say you and your student, particularly with a ninth grader, need to negotiate, “Okay, what is this going to look like?” And I know, Alice, you and I both have kids who have that lawyerly background where they’re going to negotiate everything.
Right Gretchen Roe: 00:40:04.327
So there comes that point in time where you’ve got to be the parent who says, well, this is how we’re doing this regardless of whether you like it. But I do believe that we need to account for some of that time that’s invested. Otherwise, you have kids who maybe don’t put in the time and don’t deserve the grades that they get. And I think I agree with Alice. I prepared transcripts for all five of my college graduates, and I think beyond proving that they had four years in each discipline, it didn’t make much of a difference as far as what their grades were.
The other key, Gretchen – and I know we’ve talked about this too -is that in going to college, you need to look at what that college is requiring also. I put one of my kids through an online college algebra course so that she could have that advanced credit when she went to college. And lo and behold, she went to a college that did not accept college algebra because they only taught statistics. She was not real happy with me. But that was a situation where we didn’t realize that that’s what that college– they didn’t focus on that. So it is important to go, okay, well, let’s look at this college; let’s see what they require. Are they requiring these sciences? Are they requiring this English in that? And then as Gretchen says, it’s a balance, it’s a dance of finding out are they putting the time, are they putting in the effort, are they completing the assignments in this? And so yeah, there’s no hard fast answer.
Gretchen Roe: 00:41:57.070
Which is very true because every transcript I prepared was a little bit different. I have a 29 year old who’s still a little bit salty about the fact that I gave her a B minus in geometry, but she didn’t put in the work to get a better grade. She was getting decent grades without really doing the work. And so I wanted her grade to reflect her effort. And I don’t think she ever quite got over that one, but that’s okay. She’s got a college degree so we’re okay. Alice, before I turn my attention to some of the questions that parents have asked, can you talk about the word, behind, because I think this is so important for us as home educators to fix in our minds?
That is so – oh, oh my goodness – a word that we really, really need to eliminate from our vocabulary, is behind. I have had this conversation now with two of my granddaughters, one who’s in high school, and she made a comment about how she’s behind in math. And I said, let’s have a conversation about that. And I said, I prefer to believe that you’re where you are at. And I said, because if you use the word behind, you were suggesting that somewhere, somebody has set a standard that we all have to measure up to. And maybe that started with books that became very, very popular, that I will mention since we are being recorded, but it suggested that there are certain things that your child should know at certain ages. And the problem with this is that that kid, whether or not you say the word to them, you’re behind, they hear it. And immediately that becomes a very negative emotional feeling for them. “Oh, I’m behind.” Nobody’s ever says, “Hey, I’m behind in this.” I just wish we could accept and understand that if your child struggles in spelling, okay. They struggle in spelling. So I have friends, adults who struggle in spelling. And so it’s not a thing about, “Well, you’re behind your neighbor over here or the little girl that you used to go to school with.” No, stop. Stop. They are where they are at. And just keep taking steps forward from that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:44:54.683
One of my favorite quotes is Albert Einstein’s: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” And I think that’s really important for us as parents to recognize our children are wherever they are. But we have the ability to bring them forward with joy and with character. My husband often said when– in our homeschooling years, he wanted our children to have character, not be characters. That’s so funny. [laughter]
Well, a little bit of both.
Gretchen Roe: 00:45:28.536
It’s a little bit of both, but–
You got a little bit of both. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:45:31.296
–I still think that’s pretty good.
That’s right. Both of us do.
Gretchen Roe: 00:45:35.255
Alice, we had some great questions that were posed to us with– from our registrants. And so I wanted to address this one because I know this one will touch your heart. And it says, “I have a teen that left public school but doesn’t like homeschooling. And I have a hard time knowing how to teach her.” And we’ve alluded to this a little bit. But I wanted you to talk about that intentional conversation of having that conversation with the team to figure out how to spark their joy in learning. Alice Reinhardt:00:46:09.348
Well, this is really important, especially with the team and– because you’ve got to understand they’re right on the threshold of becoming an adult. And the teen years are tough anyhow. There’s a lot of physiological changes that they’re going through. And there are just social pressures that our kids are exposed to. We all were. I think that it’s worse now for our teens because of the cell phone and just that access to social media. But our teens also– there’s so much that our teens are– know that they’re exposed to that they’re aware of that you may not even know. And I’m saying that as a home-educating mother that all of her kids went– I mean, we were all teenagers at one point. But they still had encounters and they still had situations arise in their life that I wasn’t privy to and that I didn’t find out until later. And it just kind of broke my heart that they were bearing this as a teenager. So I think that it is really important that when you’re talking to your teen– first of all, you learn– here’s something you’ve got to learn, Gretchen– taking that deep breath. And then blow it out. I call it my serenity now. And every time one of my kids says, “Hey, mom, can we talk,” okay. But you need to take one of those breaths. And then, you need to look at that teen– not look at him as a child. Look at him as a person. And it’s really important to say, “I want to know what you’re interested in. I want to know what excites you. I want to know what you’d like to do. Or what would you like to study? Now, initially, starting out, they’re going to go, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” You know, “How was school today?” “I don’t know.” It’s going to be that because that’s how they’re geared. But to be able to enable them to start making some decisions on their own, about what they study, just really empowers them. And again, it makes them see that you’re their friend, not just the overbearing, “I’m going to put this on you. I’m going to put this on you.” And at that point in time, it’s when home education takes on the flavor of building the relationship with your child. And that is your ultimate goal in all of this. It’s just, use this. You’ve been given an opportunity now with this teen to say, “Hey, what’s ticking? Let’s go for coffee. You know, tell me, tell me, just talk to me.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:18.362
And you know this gives me the opportunity to get you to tell a personal story because I think this is really important and Alice is like, “Oh, lord, what is Gretchen setting me up for?”
Gretchen knows all my stories. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:30.194
Well, we have talked about this before, and I think this is an inspirational reason to have this conversation. We’ve talked about being behind. We’ve talked about teenagers who struggle. We’ve talked about being the most ardent observer. And I’d like you to tell Vivian’s story because a parent who was not as good an observer as you were of Vivian would have thought perhaps she wasn’t capable of being a college student. And I want parents to see when you apply those not believing your child is behind. And believing that your children can learn and be educated, then you have a success story like Vivian. So will you tell us that story?
Okay. Well, Vivian is my youngest daughter. She happens to be 22 at this point in time. Vivian is from Liberia. And normally we don’t like making a distinction between our adopted kids and our bio kids. They’re just our kids. But it’s important for this story to know what her background was. And Vivian joined our family when she was 6. And I had been told you had to allow time before you started anything academic, all right? And so I did. And then we started the academics and there was this– we had a major, major gap and problems. And when they first started, they could not imitate me drawing a straight line. The day would draw it going diagonally the other way, or maybe they’d do it horizontal. [crosstalk]–
Gretchen Roe: 00:51:22.504
So I should say as an aside, when you’re saying “they”–
Oh, I’m sorry. Her younger brother.
Gretchen Roe: 00:51:27.538
–you adopted two children.
Gretchen Roe: 00:51:28.539
[crosstalk] and her brother. Yes.
[crosstalk] her brother. So I consulted some early childhood specialists. And that’s when they introduced me to the concept and the need for play. And so that’s– I’m going to really cut to the chase here. But that’s what we spent for two years. We spent two years just playing and playing games with Freeman and Viv. Well, it became very obvious as we were going through our schoolwork, that there was a processing disorder that Viv had that her brother did not have, she did. And it was– the way I likened it to her is if you have help up onto a step, you can do it fine, okay, until you need to go up to the next step. And then she needed help to bridge over that. We were not successful at getting that diagnosed as she was– as a child, just due to the area that we are in. But when she became an adult, we took her through some testing and come to find out that she really did have a processing disorder. This was a disorder with such that we thought we could only get her to about 6th-grade level. And that is what I managed to do. I got her to a 6th-grade level in all of her subjects and she graduated and honestly– and Gretchen, we were there. We thought she’ll never go to college. For one, she was a child that could not take the ACT. There was no way she could do one of those standardized tests. I’m saying it couldn’t happen. And so she went on a couple of mission trips and then she came back and COVID hit. And what happened during COVID was that the ACT was no longer required. And she came to us as 18, 19 year old and she said, “I want to go to college.” She’s a phenomenal athlete. And we said, “Okay. We’ll get you into college.” And again, it was just God’s blessing that we didn’t have to take that she didn’t have to take the ACT. So she got into college.
And her first two years were really, really miserable, really hard. And part of that was because the college did not pay attention to her disability. She had to fight the whole way. And she hated it. She hated it. And when you have a processing disorder, it takes you three times as long–
Gretchen Roe: 00:54:23.686
–do everything. So you can imagine taking 15, 18 hours, what it did to her. It just really wore her down. And so a year ago, she transferred. She found a college smack dab in the middle of Louisville, Kentucky that worked on the block system. And in other words, every 6 weeks, she takes one or two classes. That girl is now on the dean’s list. And she is a year from graduating with a degree in social work and she’s planning on getting a master’s degree. She is the hardest-working kid I know because she’s had to fight hard for everything in her life. But the point is, if you looked at her transcript, she wasn’t college material. So I want to encourage you parents out there. Now, first of all, college isn’t for everyone. So that’s an important thing. But don’t let your child that has a diagnosis, a difficulty in any way– I’m not going to call them disabled. Don’t let that hang you up because Viv found the school that would work for her. And she’s having a blast and being very successful.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:57.371
And part of the reason I wanted Dallas to tell that story is because often as parents, we see that cup as half empty what our children lack. And what Alice was able to do with Vivian was to see the cup is half full. And she created that love of learning in that child so that that child, despite the fact that it wasn’t easy, she was willing to persevere and now she is getting ready to get her college degree. And I think that’s the power of home education. That’s the attitude you as a parent need to take into the adventures that you’re about to start with your children. It’s not, “Well, these are the things they can do, and these are the things they can’t do.” It is, “How can I help prepare them for the world for whatever their desires may be?” And if you can take that attitude, then it’s a beautiful education experience. Alice, before we finish, we’re almost at the top of the hour, but there was one other question that I wanted to ask of you because I think it’s really important. And of course, Vivian’s story always touches me and makes me cry. So I’ll get over that. But what are ways that a family unit can adjust from public school to homeschool?
Absolutely. And Gretchen, this is going to be like if you’ve had your kids in the public school and you’re taking them out, you’ve got to prepare, your family life is going to change. I liken it to going camping in a pop-up camper with seven kids and it’s raining. You are trapped. You are in there. And that’s what parents need to understand that now it’s 24/7 your children are with you. So spouses, it’s incredibly important that you guys spend time together and get on the same page and encourage one another. The other thing, Gretchen, that I like to say, it’s not just the mom’s house or it’s not just the dad’s house, it’s y’all’s house. And it’s not even just y’all’s house, it’s all y’all’s house. And a house that’s lived in, there’s a scripture that says, “There is no profit in a clean stall.” Well, moms, dad, do you need to understand your house is not going to– may not be clean, it may be messy, and to a degree that you’ve not had it before because you’ve got people living in your house and it’s time for all of them to share in that endeavor. It’s not just mom’s job anymore to do all the cooking. It’s not just you know whoever’s job to do the laundry, it is all y’all’s.
Gretchen Roe: 00:58:56.390
And Alice is using that Southern collective. I’m from North Carolina and she’s from Tennessee. All y’all. But what we want you to know is that you don’t get a participation trophy for homeschooling. You participate in order to create opportunities for your children and their adult lives. And that makes all the difference in the world. Alice, I can’t believe we’ve had this conversation [crosstalk]. What are your closing thoughts for our parents who have joined us today and who will be listening to this at a future point in time?
Well, I just want to say, I’m really proud of you. This is a worthwhile journey that you are taking on. And it’s going to be hard, and there are going to be moments where you just want to just quit. But this is a journey with your kids. This is the time that you’re going to have with your children that just you wouldn’t have. And I just want you to know you can do this. You can do it. There are plenty of us that have gone on ahead. We’re here, there’s a great crowd of witnesses surrounding you. And you can do this, and it is so worthwhile. And I wish you the best.
Gretchen Roe: 01:00:17.119
Absolutely. And if we at Demme Learning can help you in that journey, I encourage you to reach out and give us a call, our customer service staff are all either homeschooling parents or they’ve assisted homeschoolers alongside them for a number of years. And they understand the journey you’re on. And we’re here to make that journey easier. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. Thanks again for joining us today. You can access the show notes and watch our recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or on our YouTube channel. Be sure to review, follow, or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it. Alice, thanks again for joining me. I’m looking forward to our conversation in November. Take care.
Thanks, Gretchen, I loved it.
Gretchen Roe: 01:01:02.459
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Changing your mindset about what a quality education looks like is so important for your home education success. Set aside your suppositions about what it should look like, and instead really study your children.
Alice brought a lot of wisdom to this session and promised you a link to her presentation PowerPoint which can be found here.
Remember three things:
- Keep the word “behind” out of your conversations with and about your children. They are where they are, and it is your responsibility and joy to bring them academically forward to where they can be successful.
- Your educational materials are tools, not masters. Use your educational materials to create a unique, beneficial experience for your students.
- Your home education experience is about your and your child’s story. Don’t compare your journey to others. It is uniquely your own.
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