You are seven to nine weeks into your homeschool year. It’s time to do a little evaluation of what is working and what could be working better. Join us as we explore questions you should be asking to turn up your academic progress to its best.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:05.536
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Gretchen Roe and it’s my very great pleasure to welcome you to this episode of The Demme Learning Show. Today we’re going to talk about report cards. And really, this might be a report card for you. You are anywhere from six to nine weeks into your academic year, and there’s some things that are going really well and some things that probably could be improved upon. If there’s nothing that could be improved upon, please reach out to me. I would really like to have a conversation with you because I don’t think that family exists. But my colleague and I, Lisa Chimento, are going to talk about this today. And I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to dig into this a little bit and maybe pose some questions for you as we go throughout this hour to talk about things you might consider in the process, particularly in the run-up to the holidays. And now I’d like Lisa to introduce herself. Lisa?
Lisa Chimento: 00:01:03.700
My name is Lisa Chimento. I am a customer service consultant and placement specialist here at Demme Learning. I’ve been working with the company for a little over six years full time. And before then, I did homeschool conventions where I got a chance to meet families at the booth. My husband and I have four children. We homeschooled for 25 years. They are all adults and out of the house now. And it is really a privilege for me to be able to pay forward some of the many blessings that I received when I was a homeschooler and had the real privilege to glean from the wisdom and experience of veteran homeschoolers who were so generous with their knowledge. I really appreciated it. This is such a pleasure for me to be able to do the same for homeschooling families now.
Gretchen Roe: 00:01:59.983
Well, I’m delighted to have Lisa join me today. Lisa has a different experience than I do. My husband and I homeschooled six children 21 years. But I’m an accidental homeschooler. I didn’t have the intention to homeschool my children, but once we began, I’d never wanted to look back. And Lisa always intended to homeschool and she homeschooled in different areas as her husband moved for his job. She had to begin again. So some of you may hear in our conversation today some suggestions that Lisa has when you’re either entering the fray for the first time or you’re entering the fray in a new community, how to be part of that community and how to take advantage of it. And so we’re going to talk about lots of things today. And I’m going to apologize in advance. My voice keeps wanting to leave me, so Ludens and I are keeping good company today. And I hope it’s not a distraction for us, but I want to make sure that you all get the best out of this opportunity that we have together. I do have the Q&A open. We do these sessions because they’re important to you because you’ve asked us to share information. So I want to make sure that if something comes up as Lisa and I are having our conversation, please feel free to ask. We want to make sure that we make this relevant to you. And Lisa, one of the things that I think we should start with probably is at the top of our list, which is consistency. Can you talk a little bit about the value of consistency? I know as a customer support specialist, you talk with families all the time about consistency is probably the most important tool for us.
Lisa Chimento: 00:03:48.987
Yes. We all start out with such great intentions and high hopes. And sometimes for those of us who are great planners, really good plans. But then whether whether or not you’re able to continue with that and follow through with that is really, really important. I think it’s really necessary for you to look back at some of the goals that you created when you first started to plan either this year or think about homeschooling altogether. Your vision– what was your vision for your homeschool, for your children, and for your family as a whole? You know I think it’s kind of news to many new homeschooling families that your homeschool experience does not look– need to look like a classroom. It’s not going to be. You are in a– for the most part, a one-on-one tutorial setting. So you have to think of yourself almost more like a tutor than a classroom teacher where you’re standing up in the front and everybody is in rows [laughter] behind each other and looking up. A classroom situation is very different. There’s lots of children. The teacher has to plan for busy work so that she can deal with different things. You don’t have to do that. You can get your work done in far less time. But you do want to think about what your vision is and what your goals are. And be flexible. I like the words that you use, Gretchen, for this. Hold them loosely in your hands. I think that’s so wise because we need to recognize that when you are homeschooling, life will infiltrate your homeschool situation and your journey there and things happen– new jobs. Moves happen. New children are born. People in your family may pass away. There are different things that go on and you can’t ignore them. They are part of life. And your children are at home with you now and they are part of it as well. So you do have to be willing to be flexible. But you do want to try to be as consistent as possible. If your goal is to be doing schoolwork five days a week, hold to that. If you have other plans – like maybe you do a co-op one day – be sure and get those other four days in so that you’re not falling behind further and further as the weeks go through. So I think that taking a look at those early vision and early goals is a really important thing. And be willing to make some changes to your scheduling– your day-to-day scheduling if necessary. But be careful that you’re not bopping around and making a change every other day. Your children really do need consistency. So try to figure it out as you go along. And it may take a little bit of time to do that. But once you’ve got it, really try and hold to it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:06:45.841
Right. And I have to say when I look back on my homeschooling years, that was probably the hardest thing for me. I’m an adult with attention deficit disorder [laughter]. And so the next new thing– I was always up for something new. And it was hard for me, particularly being an only child, to put myself in the mindset of an eight-year-old and their expectations. And I think, Lisa, this would also be a good time for us to talk about. It’s very important as parents for us not to misinterpret a child’s reluctance to do something as laziness. You and I entertain this question at conferences all year long. We entertain the question on the phone hundreds of times a year. No child is lazy. What are the things a parent should look for if their interpretation is that their child is just not engaged in being lazy?
Lisa Chimento: 00:07:47.576
Yeah, there are a couple of things that I’m thinking of off the top of my head. I think as adults, we need to be able to look to ourselves first and make sure that we haven’t just set materials in front of the children and left them to themselves, especially the younger ones. Make sure that you are spending time with that child. And sometimes that child is capable of doing the work, but needs the reassurance of the parent sitting beside. And you have to be able to plan out some time for that. Schedule it in such a way that if you have a toddler or a baby in the house, that you can take that time, maybe when the younger child is napping, so that you’re not butting up against all of these things at the same time. And chaos can happen. I also want to just encourage parents, we are all busy and we’ve got a lot of different plates that we’re spinning. Try and put aside as many of those things as you can while you are dedicating time to teaching with the kids. You have voicemail on your cell phone. Let it go to voicemail. Turn off your ringers and don’t pick up that phone during your school hours if you can possibly help it, unless you got emergency situations going on. But of course, try and make sure that you’ve given that time to the kids. Okay. And so that’s looking at ourselves and whether or not we’re being consistent to give the time they need. But then in terms of the child, him or herself, you want to be looking at the work that they’re being asked to do and whether or not they are actually able to do that work. There are some subjects where there is prerequisite skill needed to be able to accomplish what they’re being asked to do today. If there is a gap in their learning, say in writing skills or math skills or even reading skills, and they’re being asked to do something that is above their ability, you need to take a good look at that because very often what will appear as laziness in the kids avoiding working is really just that they are dreading what they’re being asked to do because they know they can’t. So you want to take another good look at that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:10:01.657
I think it’s also important that as the number of homeschooling materials options expand. And I think I can say this, Lisa, when you and I began homeschooling back as my kids would say when rocks were soft, our options were limited. There weren’t that many different kinds of curricula that we could avail ourselves of. Many of those curricula, the ones that are the granddaddies and the grand dams of academics, came out of a classroom. And like you said at the beginning, the teacher needed more content to keep a wider variety of students busy. So I think for parents, it’s good for us to be discerning to look at, is this enough work or am I asking more of my student than I really should expect of my student? And I know I was guilty of that with my kids because I figured if someone wrote the materials, I should do what was in front of us. It took me probably three years to realize that, as my friend Alice Reinhart says, I’m in charge of the materials. The materials aren’t in charge of me. And I think that’s a huge game changer when we get the mindset that the materials are a tool, not a master. I think it makes an enormous amount of difference for ourselves. Now, Lisa, you said something at the very beginning that I want to come back around to, and that’s what kind of goals did you set? I didn’t set a goal for academics until I’d been homeschooling about three or four years. So how does a parent who’s listening to us today and who didn’t set a goal figure that out? What would be a singular goal for them to set?
Lisa Chimento: 00:11:54.707
I hear you. And I was exactly in the same boat because our first years of homeschooling, we were moving from one state to another. I didn’t know what I was doing. And it wasn’t until I started meeting up with other homeschooling parents that those kinds of words were being tossed out there. And I was not someone who knew how to do such a thing. So sometimes you just have to kind of grow into it. And sometimes, you can start setting goals by looking back at what you’ve done so far. If you’ve been homeschooling for more than just this year, look back at last year, and evaluate what happened, and find out whether or not you are satisfied with what happened. And then take from that and tweak it for this year. If you think to yourself, “We could have done a little more,” or, “We did a little too much. We need to cut some things out of our days. Maybe playing six different sports is just not a doable thing for my kids.” But maybe you can say, “I want them to be active in one sport,” or, “I want my children to be able to learn music, but one instrument [laughter] for this year,” that kind of a thing. So you want to look at the whole. I think we want to be careful to try to keep the central core subjects there and then recognize that there are other things that can be fit in around them, but you want to keep things like math and reading and writing. And I think spelling probably will go along with that, at least for some of those years, and keep those central so that if a day is one of those crazy days or a week or whatever, and you can’t get a whole lot in, you can get those core subjects in, and then the sciences and the history and other different activities in terms of physical fitness or music or art can be fit in around them as much as possible. Sometimes they can be integrated into them. If you’re learning history, you can be learning about music and art and architecture and things like that and geography, so sometimes they can be incorporated. Goal setting, I think you’re probably way better at this than I am, even today, in the place in our lives where we are. This was not something I learned growing up as a child, so I really had to grow into it as I went. But I’d actually be more interested to hear some of the things that you did because you probably were more successful at it than I was.
Gretchen Roe: 00:14:26.917
I actually came home from a conference just this weekend, and I heard a mom say something that I thought was brilliant. I’d never done it, but I’m going to share it because I thought it was relevant to our conversation today. And she said she did not set big goals for her children. She set daily goals for her children. And she would sit around the breakfast table. And she would say– they would have devotional time, and they would have time together. And then she would say, “What is the one thing that you think is really important for us to accomplish for you today academically?” And then she would review with them, “These are the things we’re going to do. What’s the most important goal?” And she said the way she taught her kids to goal set was by them choosing the most important thing to accomplish. She made sure by hook or by crook that that thing happened so that they could feel successful. Every time they felt success, then that expanded their universe a little bit, and I thought, “Wow, what a brilliant way to do that.” And so I wanted to share that today. But in our preparation, you listened to Pam Barnhill’s webinar with me back in the spring, so can you talk a little bit about her goal-setting ideas?
Lisa Chimento: 00:15:40.591
Oh, golly, she was brilliant. If you guys have a chance to go back and listen to that webinar that Pam Barnhill did with Gretchen, what a wise woman. One of the things that I think that really impressed me because my thinking when I was homeschooling my kids was exactly what she [laughter] said not to do, which was get the hardest thing done first and out of the way. And I had two kids of my four that that worked well for because it was a subject that they really liked. In our case, it was math. And I recognized that they kind of needed to be really there and with it mentally to be able to do that math work. So in my thinking, let’s get math done first. And for those two boys, that was peachy. For the other two, not so much. What Pam said was she starts her day with something that is going to fill and inspire those children early in the day. Let me find the quote. I wrote it down. It was so wise. Golly, now where is it? She said, pour into your kids before you ask them to produce for you. That kind of says it all in my mind. I just loved it. And I thought it really– it makes a lot of sense because if you’re starting out with a subject, maybe it’s the most difficult subject but maybe it’s not something your children like very much. And so they’re kind of dreading it. They’ve started their day out with something they really dislike. How motivating is that for the rest of the day? So I think that– I’m Italian so everything kind of has a food metaphor. And in my mind, it was like eat the food first and then you get the dessert but it’s not going to be like that for everybody. So consider this, if you’ve been having trouble motivating your children or getting times and schedules and things in order, consider listening first of all to what Pam had to say but then thinking about how can I start our day? I think she called it the morning basket, right?
Gretchen Roe: 00:17:51.432
Lisa Chimento: 00:17:52.318
Yeah. And starting your day together as a family with something that would bless each of you that’s going to fill your cup and really get you gung-ho for the rest of the day and then take on those difficult things because there are things you have to do. But I just loved it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:18:10.046
I know. I love Pam’s wisdom there. And I promise to everyone who’s watching this, Pam’s webinar will be included as part of the show notes so you don’t have to go hunt it up. We’ll make sure that you have it available to you. But one of the things I think that’s really important for a number of years, particularly ADHD researchers would say, oh, you do the most difficult thing first so you can get it out of the way. And boy, I was that mom. I didn’t like math. Irony that I now work for Math-U-See but I was going to get math done first because that to me was the most difficult thing. And I knew if we put it off, I’d be more likely to postpone it. But the current research actually says you’ll have a better and more successful result if you have your child enter into their academics with something they like first and then ask them to do that difficult thing. So this might come down to your negotiating skills. And if you’re a parent, I know you have those skills. You have to have those skills. I laughed yesterday when I saw someone posted on Facebook that telling a child maybe is like giving them a blood oath and that might be the truth. But I know you can negotiate. So there’s a way to negotiate for those. And if you haven’t thought of that, maybe now’s the time to think about those negotiation skills. Lisa, before we move on, I think I want to talk about what is a theme of every webinar that we present when we talk to families and that is being the best observer of your children. So how does that reap benefits for us?
Lisa Chimento: 00:19:52.271
Yeah, I think that this is something that you will discover, especially if you’re a brand new homeschooler, this is your opportunity to observe your children and become a student of them. You will find, and it might amaze you, that they are not only all different and may learn differently from each other, but they may learn very differently from you. They may process information differently. They may retain information differently. I had a very good visual memory spelling words. I looked at them once and I had them and then my kids weren’t all like that. Three of my four were not like that. And so I was bopping around from spelling program to spelling program, and they were all working the same and not working well and I didn’t understand why. So you really do need to observe your children. Now– and I’m going to have a disclaimer with this and just a caution because there is a tendency to think in terms of that word learning styles which was a very trendy thing to think about for a time, and try to cater to each different child’s learning styles. It will be impossible. But you can determine how they learn well and try and present them with materials that will teach them in a way that they can learn well. And if you can find materials that use multiple senses to learn, all the better because then every child can use it. And you don’t have to go picking and choosing different things but you do want to watch. You want to watch their schedules. Are they morning kids? I mean, I had one. He was up at the crack of dawn and he was ready to do his work. Not so with the other three. So you may not be able to expect as much out of them early on in the day. Are they hungry? It sounds crazy, but you want to watch for your mealtime and not be skipping because their blood sugars are going to go down and they’re going to get grumpy and they’re not going to be able to do what you need. So be flexible in that way even and be watchful for those kinds of things. One other thing that I want to mention here and that we do often also talk about is time. And this kind of harkens back to that idea of using materials that were designed for classroom use. You will find that there’s a lot of material for each subject and you can find yourself sitting and working for an hour on one subject. And it doesn’t sound wrong to you because you figure that’s what they’re doing in schools. Why couldn’t we do that at home? Well, they’re not actually learning for a whole hour. They’re passing out papers and collecting papers and getting in line and raising their hands and doing things. You can add about two to three minutes to your child’s age and that’s really an optimal time to be able to absorb and retain new material. So if you are going past 15 or 20 minutes in any one sitting, you’ve probably gone as long as you can go. And it’s a good idea then to pick up and take a break and go do other things. Switch it off and give their brain a chance to rest and download that information and absorb it before they have to be doing something else.
Gretchen Roe: 00:23:15.103
And I think it’s also important to learn how to ask questions. When we as parents– we have a vision of imparting knowledge, we impart that knowledge and we think our children have it. But how many times have you said to some child, “Go do something,” and you didn’t get what you wanted because you just didn’t pause long enough to say, “What do you think I just asked you to do?” And when I finally learned to do that, I have to admit, I was five kids deep before I learned to do that. But when I learned to do that very often what I thought I had clearly conveyed was heard entirely differently by the recipient. And so learning to be able to say, “Okay, here are my directions. Now, what do you think I ask you to do?” And to say it in an encouraging way, not in an admonishing way, but to be able to make sure your directions have been clearly understood. That eliminates a great deal of frustration, and I think it makes a great deal of difference. Lisa, you said something that was really important when we discussed this, and that is not judging the effectiveness of a program if you’re not using it properly. So one of the things we wanted to talk about in our report card was, are we frustrated with the materials we’re using? And you said, “You got to make sure you’re using them the correct way.” Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Lisa Chimento: 00:24:48.516
Yeah, and a couple of you that posted questions when you registered for this talk asked specifically about how to evaluate the curriculum you’ve chosen. First thing I’ll mention is that we did do a webinar a couple of weeks or months back about the pros and cons of changing curriculum. So I think we’re going to put another link to that, aren’t we, Gretchen?
Gretchen Roe: 00:25:10.817
Yes, we are.
Lisa Chimento: 00:25:11.366
In the show notes, okay. So you might want to have a look at that because we did go into it in much more depth. But I think first off, you need to take a look. If you are finding that things are not going so well with a certain subject and curriculum you’re using, go back and take a look at the instructions in the materials. If you kind of jumped in quickly without reading everything, it’s a good idea to go back because very often for different curriculum, there are specific instructions and how it should be used. And if you’re not using it the way it was designed, that may be one of the reasons why you’re not getting the results from it that you’re looking for. So that’s a big piece of it. You also want to take a look and make sure, does that curriculum and its time requirements or its materials requirements, does it work for our family? Is it calling for time that I don’t have available or is it calling for materials that I can’t get my hands on?
Lisa Chimento: 00:26:12.183
I think that you want to also be checking to see if the children are at the right levels. Now, much of homeschooling curriculum, because it’s kind of aligning with classroom use, is grade-based. And that’s fine for some subjects. For others, it doesn’t work. So for instance, math and spelling, if it’s a grade-based course, it may not be lining up with your child’s skill set. So in those kinds of situations, you want to make sure that you didn’t just choose a grade level without checking your child’s skills. And you may need to do some assessing or ask the curriculum company that you’re working with to do some assessing to make sure that your child is in the right level so that they can be successful. I mean, any child looking at material that looks like it’s written in Greek to them, it’s not going to work for them, and that becomes really frustrating. So you want to make sure that they can see it, unless, of course, you speak Greek, and then you’re all fine. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:27:17.559
Which actually brings me to an important point. And this isn’t in our notes. So Lisa’s going to be looking at our notes going, “Wait, what are you doing to me, Gretchen?” [laughter] But I want to talk about that B word, behind. I want to talk about what it is, what it does to our children when they hear us say, “Well, this is little Johnny and he should be in 4th grade, but he’s behind.” And if there was one word I could encourage parents to eliminate from their vocabulary, it’s that one. Why do we say that, Lisa?
Lisa Chimento: 00:27:54.395
Well, because we’re pretty much programmed into the grade-based thing. I mean, that’s the way schools have been run for years and years and years, and that’s the way we think, especially for those of us who attended school. We’re thinking that way. But it’s often not helpful. I was speaking with a mom just this morning, actually, and she has a daughter who is struggling in math and had her daughter assessed. And she is not, she’s older than a sixth grader. And they told her, well, she belongs in a sixth-grade math course. And I said, “How helpful was that to you? Did it tell you which skills your student has mastered and which she hasn’t yet?” No, it doesn’t. So it should be put back in a sixth-grade course. She’d be doing a bunch of work that she already knows well, but maybe there’s one or two skills in that book that she needed work on. And so that wasn’t helpful. It didn’t give the information and clarity that she needed. And when we’re thinking about where a child is, they are where they are. You know what I mean? They can’t say, “Oh, I should know this.” Why should you know this? If you don’t know it, you don’t yet. Maybe you haven’t learned it yet. Maybe you haven’t been presented with the material yet, or maybe you don’t have the prerequisite skills, those foundations that you need to be able to do that material yet. And that’s what we’re also talking about when we’re talking about becoming a student of your child and making sure that you’re knowing where they are. And I tell you, homeschooling is a beautiful opportunity for you almost on a daily basis to be able to assess. Without having to do constant testing, you are assessing. As you’re looking at their work, you’re able to see what they’re able to do.
Gretchen Roe: 00:29:43.545
And what we want to be here is an encouragement to you to recognize as you’re evaluating. Okay. What has gone well? What could go better? It doesn’t mean that it’s time to jump ship necessarily and change curriculum. I am that cheap German. Yeah. If I bought the material, you will do it because I spend the money. Now might be the time to take a cheap notebook as my notebook is so full of stuff that’s falling out of it and start making notes, observational notes about what is working and what’s not working. When is it falling apart? If you are like me and Lisa said this earlier, if you’re a morning person, I get up. I’ve had a hundred thoughts. Lisa can attest to this. I get up and I’m talking like this from the minute– And if your children are like my husband that don’t want to have anything to do with you until they’ve had their second beverage, you got to work through those dynamics and maybe keeping a notebook of what’s worked well, what day has gone well and what did you do in that day and what day didn’t go as well as you wanted and what did you do in that day will help you begin to discern where do you need to make some changes. Lisa, before we get to the questions that our parents ask us, can we talk about recordkeeping? Because I think this is something that a lot of parents, particularly if they’re new to the homeschool game, we don’t understand. Sometimes it intimidates us. Sometimes we don’t even think about it. But it’s something that we should think of frequently.
Lisa Chimento: 00:31:23.957
Yes, for certain. And I think the first thing you need to do is find out what your state’s requirements are. Homeschooling laws differ state to state. So what may be required in one state isn’t required in another. And I learned that one for sure as we bopped around the East Coast. So take a look. HSLDA, Homeschool Legal Defense Association, has a really nice feature on their website. It’s a map of the US. You can click on your state and it will tell you the laws regarding your homeschooling in your state. You may need to create a letter of intent at the beginning of the year. You want to keep a record of that. Some people even recommend sending the mail with return receipt to make sure that they got it. And then you keep a record of that so that nobody can say to you later, “Oh well, you never reported.” Different states require standardized testing at the end of the year. So if that’s the case, you need to know that so that you can be informed and be ready and contact the people you need to contact to register your children for whatever tests they’re going to take, and then keep the copies of those tests. If your state allows you to do teacher evaluations at the end of the year, you can do that. And then you want to keep copies of those teacher evaluations. You want to keep a list of the curriculum you’re using each year and which children are using what curriculum for the different subjects. You want to keep a calendar. And it can be a very simple thing. You don’t have to necessarily write up lesson plans unless your state is requiring you to do so. It could be very simple. What I did when we were homeschooling was I would have just like a grid that I created with the different days of the month and the subjects across the top. And when we’d complete a subject for that day, I put a check mark in. And that way I was able to record that we had done certain work on certain days. I think for the most part, most states are looking for 180 days to call a school year round, and some people school outside of the typical August to May or September to June school year. And so you can do it. You have the freedom, and you can do this the way that you want to do it based on your family and what your schedules are, when you take your vacations, whether or not you’re traveling, things like that. But you want to make sure that you’re just keeping a record that you did school on certain days. I liked to keep a reading log for my kids. And so I just made up a sheet on a word processor back then. And a blank reading log in columns, the title, the author, and then a little check mark on whether they’d read it on their own or whether we read it together. And I kept one each year. And that was a really great opportunity. At the end of the year, they were able to see how many books they had read. And back then, I don’t know if they still do this. Pizza Hut used to do the reading thing where if you read–
Gretchen Roe: 00:34:36.314
Lisa Chimento: 00:34:37.649
The BOOK IT!, Yes.
Gretchen Roe: 00:34:39.948
Lisa Chimento: 00:34:40.239
And you would set a goal for how many books you’d read a month. And if you read those books, you went in and you got a free pan pizza. But you can create your own little BOOK IT! if you wanted to, and reward your children for setting a goal for reading. “How many books I want to get read this month?” And if they find that they’ve set the goal too high, the next month they can tweak that down a bit. If it was easy-breezy for them to read that number of books, raise it a little bit the following month. And that can be part of your goal setting as well. But keeping the reading log was good. Keeping a copy of at least some of your students’ writing samples, compositions that they’ve written. There will be times for certain families where at the end of the year, someone may want to see them, whether it’s a teacher for a teacher evaluation or if you have to bring materials in to a school for review. I know that in New York State, they have to report quarterly to a representative from the school, and they need to show what they’ve done, and having those writing samples is good. When a student is in high school, you’re going to need to be keeping more records. And one of them is volunteer hours, especially if the student is shooting for a scholarship. Different states offer different scholarships, and there are different kinds of opportunities around keeping a list of their volunteer hours and maybe having an adult supervisor or overseer sign off on the hours they’ve put in.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:16.850
Now, I know that there are parents who are listening to us right now who have are saying, “Oh, thank heavens. I live in a state where I don’t have any of these requirements.” But remember, we’re looking to evaluate your progress. How’s it going? And if you’ve kept these things that Lisa has defined, you’ll know how it’s going because they’re your evidence per se.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:40.132
And the other thing that’s important is if you get in the habit when your kids are in elementary school, that high school transcript is not so terribly daunting.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:51.626
I do have in the last quarter of this year the privilege of having a conversation with a colleague about creating a high school transcript. We’re going to do this on November 14th. And Alice Reinhardt has homeschooled 35 years. She has a lot of experience. In fact, she spearheaded the ability to be able to homeschool legally in her own own state. And she’s going to bring that wisdom to the table.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:21.549
But a lot of parents will say to us, “Oh my goodness, I’ve homeschooled all this time and now my kids are in high school.” But if you’ve done some of this, even some of the record keeping that Lisa has defined for you, it will be so much easier for us to be able to make that transition happen.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:42.082
And toward that end, it doesn’t mean you have to stay on top of it every day. I love what our colleague Amanda Kaps says. She uses that notebook to sit down with a cup of tea at the end of the week and say, “Okay, what did we do this week?” And you can reverse engineer that.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:58.772
But if you have an idea of what you’ve done, then you know where you want to go. And what I’ve always told my teenagers is failure to hit the target is never the fault of the target. So if you know where you want to go and you know what your expectations are, it’s so much easier to get there.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:22.183
Lisa, you mentioned something else that I think is really important for us to talk about is being able to plan for the future. So you anticipated homeschooling your kids all the way through. I did not. But by the time we hit 8th grade, I realized that for my children, high school, homeschooling them was the best option. And I was probably a little bit prepared.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:57.059
So can you talk a little bit about how as parents, we can play the long game here, particularly when we’re trying to eliminate the behind word? If we’ve got X number of years, we know we can catch our children up and we can level the playing field for them.
Gretchen Roe: 00:39:17.882
Can you talk about how that works maybe when your child learns a little bit differently? Because I know you have these conversations all the time.
Lisa Chimento: 00:39:27.896
Yeah, I think probably the number one thing that needs to happen is you don’t let fear get the best of you here because I hear parents and they say things like, “But we have to keep going because I’m afraid that we’re going to be too far behind.”
Lisa Chimento: 00:39:42.641
But that idea of keep going, keep going, keep going is actually pulling on that child even more. And they’re still not able to live up to what is being expected of them because they don’t have the skills they need.
Lisa Chimento: 00:39:58.599
So be careful that you don’t let fear drive you into reach out for help, contact your curriculum company, call us. For heaven’s sakes, we would love to help you. And sometimes you need to be reassessing that child to find out if there are gaps in their learning because filling in those gaps is not a permanent thing. It’s a temporary pause from forward motion to strengthen their foundation so that they can do what they need to do and gain more ground. And I even hate to use the word catch up because it’s like they’re trying to catch up to someone else but the idea of gaining ground that you haven’t gained yet. But you first need to find out if there’s some gaps in there, if there’s some missing skills that would be the key to unlock this impossible door seemingly and let it go that way. I’m drawing a blank. I’m so sorry.
Gretchen Roe: 00:40:59.450
No. You’re not drawing a blank at all. You answered the question I asked and it was terrific. And I’d really like to turn our attentions a little bit to some of the questions that parents ask. I know we had several parents who said, “How do I do this with multiple children?” And our advice in planning is always to start with the oldest child. Can you talk a little bit about why?
Lisa Chimento: 00:41:23.788
Because you have the least amount of time with them. That’s kind of the bottom line. So yeah, you want to start there and find out where they are. Like I said, there are some topics, some school subjects where you really need to do some skills assessment before you place them with any curriculum or at any level and then there are subjects that you actually can do together. For many years, we did unit study type things for history and science and even for literature, and I would tailor it to my eldest and the others would sit in on it. But you’d be surprised what they pick up. And some of those subjects, they’re going to be repeating anyway. We repeated cycles of history a couple of times throughout the school year. So it’s not like they’re only ever going to see it once. Same thing with science. They’re catching different things as they go. But I think it’s important to make sure that you’ve got your firstborn or the eldest child that you’re homeschooling set up first because you have fewer years till that end game and you want to see.
Lisa Chimento: 00:42:29.175
Another thing that you might want to think about doing– and some of this comes back to that idea of being a student of your child and watching for the areas where you determine they are very gifted. If you see areas of gifting in them and give them opportunities to develop those giftings more and more, you can do so as a homeschooling parent and then start asking them questions and maybe even bringing ideas to them that they hadn’t thought of of how they can use something that they’re not only very good in but maybe they’re passionate about, they absolutely love doing. They may not know the different ways they can use those things as adults in a career as a livelihood or going forward if they decide they want to go to college and going from there. One thing that I remember hearing back when my eldest was heading towards high school and I started to do some research on this, somebody said if your student has an idea of what they want to do in college, go to some of your local colleges and meet with an advisor and say, “My child would like to enter into this program in your college, what do you want to see on their high school transcript? What subjects should they be doing now and what can they put off? What do they not need to be spending time on right now?” I know that some schools were saying, “Don’t bother doing these upper level math because we’re going to want them to do them here anyway.” So you have to kind of go with that I think it might be helpful to go and meet with even a community college advisor and say, “What would you like to see on a transcript so we’ll make sure we get it in”?
Gretchen Roe: 00:44:14.884
I think it’s also important to bring up the idea that your children know a lot more about themselves than we think they do. And so in your report card process, it might be time for a little roundtable discussion with your children. “How’s it going? What are you enjoying? What can I improve on?” If you can put out there first of, “I don’t think I have been as consistent in the mornings. I’ve gotten up and I check social media instead of getting started or I’ve gotten up and I have gotten on the phone when I needed to be attentive to you,” it’s easier if you put the onus on yourself first, then your children can say, “Well, yeah, I kind of dragged my heels because I really hate doing this reading program you’ve given me,” or whatever it is. But ask them and look for their feedback and maybe modify a little bit. Toward that end, I think it’s important for us to say, though, Lisa, the number of parents who have expectations that their children can complete work on their own has risen exponentially in the last 10 years. And if you have a first, second, third grader, I want to change your expectations there because it is a rare child that can complete work entirely on their own. So Lisa, can you talk a little bit more about that?
Lisa Chimento: 00:45:47.226
Yes, for certain. And keeping in mind in those early years, this is when foundational skills are laid. And if they are just filling out workbook pages, they may not be learning the material the way you think they are. So you want to be careful that they’re not just checking off a list of things to do without checking that they are actually learning. And I do recognize we’ve got a lot of big families homeschooling. They have multiple children. Mom’s time is limited with each, but there needs to be some time with those younger ones just being there. It’s a powerful thing for a parent to come alongside a child and to say, “I’m here with you and I’m not going anywhere. And I understand that I’ve asked you to do something that’s very challenging for you, but we’ll do this together and get through it.” The reassurance that happens there and the confidence level and the lowering of anxiety is an amazing thing. And I’ll mention something about anxiety because in the heat of a difficult day, it can be easy for us to lose patience and, “Well, just do this.” But when anxiety enters a learning situation, learning stops. It’s actually a physiological thing and the brain kind of freezes up and they are not going to be learning the things you want to learn. So you need to de-escalate that situation. And sometimes just that coming alongside and sitting and saying, “Well, let’s take a look at this together. Let me reread this for you. And what did you understand here? Because it seems like maybe you weren’t understanding the question it was asking.” And go through that material with them. As they’re getting older, you can start feeling them out and seeing what they can do, certain things that they can do more independently. But be aware that every child is different. You’ve shared yourself, your youngest to your oldest, they’re quite different in certain areas and also in certain subjects. I had a couple of strong math students, they were good to go and then I could give them the answer book and let them check their own work, and they could go in and find their errors and correct them on their own, and then the other two, I needed to do it with them. That wasn’t going to happen. So different kids, different needs, but I really want to echo what Gretchen said, be careful that you are not just handing materials to young children and expecting them to learn and teach themselves. It’s probably not going to happen.
Gretchen Roe: 00:48:31.059
I often tell this story – Lisa alluded to it – that my eldest son couldn’t be left alone to do a single math problem until he was 17 years old. His anxiety over math was just so acute. And it didn’t mean that I helped him with every problem, but I literally had to be there sitting next to him for him to be comfortable in the process. And my youngest son said to me in fourth grade, “How about you give me a list of what you want done and I’ll let you know if I need you?” Same kids, two different kids in the same family, but each child is different, and I think one of the things that I would like for you to take away from this is don’t paint each child with the same brush. Make sure that you are having a clear understanding of what their strengths and their weaknesses are because I promise you, if you look closely enough, every one of your children will be very different, and that is a very different experience for you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:49:28.344
Lisa, one of the questions that I loved and you emphasized in our list of questions is, “How do we spark a desire for learning?” And I had such a great conversation with Millie Florence two weeks ago, who is a middle school author. She’s a homeschooled student all the way through high school and now as an adult talks about delight-directed learning, and I think that that is one of the things that is really important and maybe missing when we get a list of curricula and we’re like, “Okay, I got to get this done,” we sometimes forget to include delight as part of that equation. So can we talk a little bit about that?
Lisa Chimento: 00:50:15.111
Oh, that’s a lovely thing. And like I said, there do need to be emphases on the core subjects. You cannot be just putting off things every day so that your children can have fun. But you can certainly incorporate those kinds of things. You might have a child who absolutely loves bugs. Well, when you’re doing your science work, get outside and go find bugs, right, and let them do a research report on bugs. Let them read books about bugs. I had a parent once who asked a question. She said, “My child just doesn’t enjoy reading.” And I said, “Well, you can read to your children,” and it’s one of the things that I think really prompted my kids to want to read on their own because I was reading to them all the time, and I was making sure that the books that I was reading were really engaging. They were wonderful stories, beautiful literature, and even in young years, when they were more like picture books, they had beautiful illustrations, and it drew the kids into the book, and it made them want to read on their own, and I think that’s a big piece of it.
Lisa Chimento: 00:51:25.372
And it kind of hearkens back to what we were just talking back about coming alongside your child, engaging in the things that interest them. There’s a benefit to having your children learning about the things that interest you, but then let’s turn it around the other way too. If your child really loves art, go and do an art class together. You might be terrible. I was terrible at art, but my daughter and my eldest son loved to draw. And so give them opportunities to do that. If you are designing things in your homeschool, things on your walls, charts or graphs, let the artists in your family do that for you. You don’t have to do it all. So you can find ways to bring your children’s– the things that they enjoy, the things that they’re passionate about, the things that they’re great at into your school life and make them part of your school day. It doesn’t have to take over the whole day, but you can certainly bring it into some aspect.
Gretchen Roe: 00:52:32.213
Right. I was thinking as you were talking, Durenda Wilson and I had a conversation in the spring about being present for your children and being able to bring out the best in them because you knew what inspired them. And so that again will be another webinar that will include as part of the show notes that you all can find when you review those show notes. Lisa, I can’t believe we’re almost to the top of the hour here. We had so many parents who responded to this saying that they have a special needs child, or they have a child who learns differently, or they have a child with Down Syndrome. And I want to speak for a minute to those parents because you are sowing the best of seeds into your child, giving them that one-on-one attention. And sometimes it’s really hard when you don’t see those results right off the bat. And I think it’s important for us as parents to understand that that long game is still of benefit. So you might be plowing what you feel is the same ground, but it’s not the same ground for your child. And being able to invest your heart and your time and your effort in your children. I will tell you that there’s no one who can serve your children better than you can, particularly if your child has special or different needs. I talked with a lady last week who had a daughter who had– they became homeschool parents because her daughter had acute anxiety. And mom was anxious about making sure they met all the obligations. And mom said, in the first year of homeschooling, she realized she just moved the anxiety from the school to the kitchen table. And I don’t want that to be that way for you all. So in your report card evaluation time here, what we’ve talked about this last hour is take a look at what’s working, and what could you modify to see that it works better? The other thing I think that’s really important is when you’re homeschooling a student who learns differently, whether they’re twice exceptional or whether they have learning challenges is, it’s very easy to pour out of your cup until your cup is completely empty. And once your cup is empty, that’s very difficult to find a way to refill it. So I want to encourage you as you move forward academically into your year to make sure that you allow enough space for yourself to have rest and relaxation and recovery. Lisa, I know you and I have talked about what fills your cup. And for different people, it’s different things. For me, it’s Taekwondo. And I realize that that’s not something that fills a lot of people’s cups. For you, it’s knitting and crocheting and hand work, and I’m lucky if I can sew the buttons back on when they pop off. But being able to find that– and if you are a parent who is this many weeks into the school year, and you don’t have a creative outlet for yourself, then that’s what we want your homework assignment to be. Find a creative outlet for yourself because no one can give out of an empty cup. And your school year will be so much more profoundly beneficial if you can find a way to keep that cup full. Lisa, what are your thoughts on that?
Lisa Chimento: 00:56:22.111
I just love what you’re saying there. I think it’s so important. Think about when you’re flying on a plane and they go through the rigamarole at the beginning of every flight. If the oxygen mask comes down, make sure you put it on yourself first before you try to help your child because if you kill over, you’re not going to be of any help to your child. And you’re the adult; you need to be there for them. So you do. You need to keep yourself healthy. You need to keep yourself well-rested. I know what it feels like to not get enough sleep at night and feel very irritable the next day, and that can spill over and affect the way things go for the entire family. So get the rest. Sometimes, I remember there were days where I just said, “You guys, I’m exhausted.” We’d finished with lunch. We’d gotten a morning done, and I say, “I’m exhausted. Let’s all just go lie down for a little while. And if you’re sleepy, go to sleep. And if you’re not, read a book.” But it was a quiet time for us, all of us, as a family. And it was necessary. There were times when it was necessary.
Lisa Chimento: 00:57:27.697
So you can do that. [laughter] You’re home. You don’t have to keep a school schedule. And you have this opportunity. I think the other thing to remember – and I just want to underline this – this is a golden opportunity for you to build relationship with your children that you might not otherwise have. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss this time. If school subjects are getting tense, step away from them and restore that relationship. It’s more important. The school subjects will be there. Math isn’t going anywhere. It will be there forever. But get that relationship right again and make sure that’s restored before you go forward.
Gretchen Roe: 00:58:13.888
Lisa, we are almost at the top of the hour, and thankfully, this has gone very quickly. I’m almost at the end of my voice. [laughter] What closing words of wisdom would you have for our parents today?
Lisa Chimento: 00:58:27.440
Well, firstly, I feel like I want to apologize because a number of parents asked specific questions about grading, and we didn’t talk about that here, but we do have a previous webinar on grading that we can refer you to also in the show notes, and then recommend that you go back and take a listen to that because it was really informative. But bottom line for me is if you are struggling with any of this, if anything that we’ve covered here raises a red flag for you but you feel like you don’t have the answers on your own, pick up the phone and give us a call. We are here to support you, and we love supporting and coming alongside homeschooling families to make sure that your homeschooling journey is a success.
Gretchen Roe: 00:59:13.292
Absolutely. And one of the things, I think, that is an important takeaway for you today is you are enough. I know it’s very easy for parents to say, “Oh, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’m failing my children.” I don’t want you to think that because the truth is you, right now, where you sit, wherever you’re listening to this, wherever you are, perhaps you’re walking and listening to the podcast or you’re watching the webinar in a replay, you are exactly what your children need, and we want that to be enough. Now, we also, last December, did a webinar called Evaluating and Considering Changes to Your Homeschool Plan, and my friend, Janet Cook, was amazing. She he gave some really terrific advice, so if I can talk about some homework for you. Several of you asked about grading. We are going to include a blog that we wrote about grading, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re going to include some of these webinars that we’ve referenced. And maybe your homeschooling for yourself would be to look at some of these resources and reconsider how your progress is going forward. In all of that, I want you to know that we at Demme Learning are here to support you. We want to be able to help you stay in the journey. And the whole reason these webinars evolved is because we wanted to see you see the fruit of your journey. So in the coming weeks, as you continue to persevere, please know that you’re fighting a good fight. You don’t get opposition where you’re not doing something good. So if there is no opposition, then something’s not going right. But the presence of opposition means that you have engaged well in the process with your children. And we want that to be the case.
Gretchen Roe: 01:01:14.981
We have a crackerjack staff here at Demme Learning. All of them have worked alongside homeschoolers for a number of years. Many of them are still in the homeschooling game themselves or are veteran homeschoolers. And I would encourage you, if we’ve said something today that has brooked questions for you, reach out to them. They’d really love to be able to help you. Lisa, thanks for joining me today. I really appreciate all your wisdom. This was a lot of fun, and I hope parents found some nuggets to take forward into their fall season from our conversation. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. Thank you for joining us. You can access the show notes and watch a recording at DemmeLearning.com/Show or on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate and review or follow or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you liked it, and we’ll look forward to bringing you some wonderful content in the coming weeks. Take care, everyone. Have a wonderful afternoon. Bye-bye.
Lisa Chimento: 01:02:14.272
Find out where you can subscribe to The Demme Learning Show on our show page.
Our purpose in asking about “report card time” was for you, the parent, to take a step back and look at how things have gone thus far this year. What changes could you implement to feel more successful? We provided a wide variety of resources for your consideration, and we would encourage you to look at those resources in a little more depth.
We asked the following questions:
- How is your consistency with what you are doing?
- Are you carefully observing your children to get the best out of them?
- Are you reaching your goals (or perhaps now thinking of setting goals)?
- How are you refilling your own cup so that you can give your children your best?
Remember, no one can homeschool alone. There is a reason they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your loved ones when you fly. Find the resources you need to be successful and recognize that this is a long game. Be encouraged—you are fighting the good fight!
Related Blog Posts & Episodes
Conversations about Grading—When, Why, and How [Show]
Pam Barnhill’s How to Plan Your Homeschooling [Show]
Pros and Cons of Changing Curriculum [Show]
Durenda Wilson’s Creating an Unhurried Homeschooler Attitude in the Midst of a Frenetic Homeschool World [Show]
Janna Koch’s Webinar about Evaluating and Considering Changers to Your Homeschool Plan [Show]
Millie Florence’s Inspiring the Creative Writing Experience [Show]
Grading: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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