Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Brave Writer Podcast: When Learning Isn’t Fun with Anne Trott

Brave Writer Podcast

Banish the breathless anxiety of challenging topics (like math)!

It’s painful to watch our children struggle, especially when we (as home educators) are the ones assigning the topics!

Guess what? There’s a solution.

Anne Trott, today’s podcast guest of honor, wrote to me asking: How can I push past the difficult learning moments without damaging my relationship with my children?

Brave Writer Podcast S5E5 Anne Trott

We patched together a plan, Anne did her “homework,” and the end result is truly encouraging.

You won’t want to miss it!

In this episode, we cover:

  • Taking the pressure off your children—and yourself
  • Meeting your child where he/she is and valuing hard work
  • Learning how to trust the process not just the final verdict
  • How to be an advocate for your child

What about when learning isn’t fun?

Parties take a lot of energy, creating a “fun experience” takes energy, and when we put our heart and soul into what we imagine will lead to fun and then we’re met with resistance or apathy, it can be discouraging.

We’ve probably all heard grumbling about math and writing assignments. Heck, we were kids once – we’ve all grumbled about math and writing assignments! However, children still need to engage with subjects that they don’t think are fun.

So, how can we help them do this? What makes a challenging goal personally meaningful enough to persist through struggle?

People have to come to an epiphany; to a point where what they want outweighs the struggle of getting it.

As parents, we often say “I have a goal on your behalf,” instead of letting our children take ownership. But children need ownership and personal meaning for a subject that currently feels irksome! They need a personally meaningful goal, actionable steps for getting there, and your support along the journey.

If you ever start to think your children are trying to get out of something, remember that they’re not deliberately setting out to thwart your will. The truth is you’re often the only one who agrees that a task is important, and they’re just telling you the truth. They haven’t yet bought into your vision, so you have to communicate with them so that it can become a shared vision.

Really, our goal isn’t to make it fun; it’s to make it meaningful. Meaning is valuable. There’s something about them feeling connected to the meaning that motivates the exertion beyond it being fun.

Julie’s Advice:

People can’t persevere when they don’t see the point. So, how can we help our kids see the meaning?

For Math:

  • Math is just a language describing real world experiences: money, weather, temperature, physics, flight, gravity. There are so many places where math actually shows up and describes the world back to us in a meaningful way.
  • Spend a day looking up, for example, pitching speeds, watching baseball videos online. Understand the different speeds and techniques of a curveball, screwball, fastball, etc. How can we see math as the fabric of the universe rather than an isolated school subject of skills that has no relation to the rest of our lives?
  • Give opportunities where you aren’t hovering. We sometimes forget the power of leaving our children in the midst of their curiosity and surprise.
  • Nurture the context and recognize that things are hard for your children sometimes, just like we struggle with things. So, lower the bar to experience success!
  • Tackling the worksheets:
    Situate your child in a context of value to their daily life.
    Re-think the context for how we master that skill.
    Partner with your child and supply emotional imagination to bring meaning to an irksome task.
    Involve your child in setting goals. “How many math problems do you think you’d be able to do today?” At the end of the week/month how can we celebrate the finish line?
    Brainstorm ways that fractions are in our lives, then choose activities for that month that involve fractions. Example: every time we get to 20 or 30 completed math problems, we can bake a cake.

For Writing:

  • Remember that the writing muscle is still growing.
  • Keep seeking opportunities and staying open – allow your child to see you’re their ally and partner.
  • Ideas:
    Your child writes a word, then you write a word.
    They trace what you handwrite for them.
    Make lists!
    Record or transcribe his spoken words, then either have him trace or copy just like copywork. Then you have his writing while providing the level of support for his individual needs.
  • Pick a goal. Commit to it. Have a tangible celebration at the finish line.
  • Ask how things are going for your child – check in and show you care and know it isn’t easy for them.
  • Find ways to tie meaning to their skills at least once a month.
  • You can even skip a day once in a while to take a break.

And remember that you are already doing an incredible job!

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The Brave Learner

Brave Writer Podcast: Checklist Lovers – Planning From Behind with Jennifer Vetter

Brave Writer Podcast

How can we balance delight-directed homeschool with the nuts + bolts rules of education?

Jennifer Vetter, today’s guest of honor, worried about stifling her children’s creative play with dreaded phonics lessons and formal subjects like math and grammar.

Sound familiar?

I acknowledged Jennifer’s desire for a checklist—ticking off those boxes is so satisfying!—by introducing the planning from behind method. If you’ve never heard of this method of planning then you’re in for a treat.

Here’s why:

  • We talk about strategies for noticing the value in work you’re currently doing and, most importantly, in what you’ve already accomplished. No more short-selling experiences!
  • I explain the importance of balancing collaboration and independence.
  • Jennifer shares a fun example of how she’s using technology to plan from behind.
  • You’ll find out how to feel grounded by looking back and quantifying moments that tend to slip through your educational radar.

Brave Writer Podcast S5E4 Jennifer Vetter

We’re striving for peace and progress in our homeschool lives. I hope this episode ushers you one step closer to that goal.

As always, I’m thrilled to bits to have you along for Season Five of the podcast!

What about balancing creativity and checklists?

Every home educator wants peace and progress. Sometimes peace looks like play, not progress; sometimes progress looks like misery, not peace. You need to recognize each individual child’s emotional need and try to reinvent the approach and reassure them. At the same time, you need reassurance, too.

So, when your children are playing, take a moment to reassure yourself. When they’re working hard on a skill, take a moment to reassure them. It’s a challenge, but try to keep both sides balanced.

When tackling these big challenges in your homeschool, there is something about a checklist that is magically appealing to a certain temperament – there is a comfort of having covered everything.

However, when we focus on checking off a list, we sometimes don’t see the progress in action. We might not see the assimilation and implementation of what our children are already using in the way they play.

Having said that, there is value in having a list! So, don’t throw out your list the first time you feel you’re behind; reorient how you look at your list. Remember you can “plan from behind.”

And a friendly reminder that you have plenty of time. Maturity helps learning – it’s not just the system or the method; the brain has an almost magical capability for making amazing leaps as children mature.

We sometimes short-sell our young childrens’ experiences because they didn’t come from a lesson plan or a book, but they have a lot of developmental and educational value. So, value the skills that show up naturally.

You can also borrow elements of play and inject them into skill building, and inversely, inject elements of skill building into play – that’s where the delight-directed method of learning takes off!

Julie’s Advice:

  • Make a chart with two columns: Collaboration and Independence. Reimagine play as independence and skill building as collaboration, and understand that a lot of independent learning is delight-directed, while hard skills benefit from collaboration. Play looks like fun, but it feels vague and the true value (education-wise) can seem invisible. But play really is a consolidation of skills – children take what they’ve learned and apply it to their imaginative play. So, make an active effort to toggle between independence and collaboration.
  • Imagine that the skills you want your children to learn can go through a baptism of enchantment or “pixie dust!” How can you add elements of play to difficult skills?
  • Sweeten the deal with a special treat, switch up the location, use different tools (pens, colors, writing surfaces, etc.), and keep sessions short. Say, “We’re going to take 15 minutes for just you and I to focus on tackling this skill together, then you can go back to ______.” Rotate these dedicated focus times through your different children and throughout the week.
  • Write down the skills you want to address with each child over X amount of time, and stay vigilant for evidence of those skills. Then make a special note of it when you see it happen so you can have tangible evidence of their learning, for your own reassurance.
  • Consider going over previous items you’ve stored in each child’s portfolio with that child individually to show them how much you value their growth!

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript

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The Brave Learner

Brave Writer Podcast: What About Technology? with Lindsay McCarthy

Brave Writer Podcast


Hi everyone!

Many of you have asked about Tammy Kim and her dear family (featured on Episode One of this season of the podcast). Tammy’s family jumped on Skype with me to explain the loss of their family home and all their worldly belongings. I interviewed them and have added that clip to this episode of the podcast.

We are inviting the Brave Writer community to donate to them to help them rebuild their home and homeschool. Any donation (large or small) is appreciated. They literally escaped with only the clothes on their backs, their cat, and their main computer. Everything else: gone, including a much-loved piano.

Go Fund Me Page for the Kim Family

Thanks for caring! If you would share this link with your friends and family too, we’d appreciate it. I find it amazing that we were given this family to care for—the timing was uncanny. Let’s show them some Brave Writer love.

And now onward to today’s episode:

We’re so connected to technology (ahem blog!). We carry these magic little screens with us everywhere – and if you’re anything like me, it can start to feel like a third arm! We use them for work and for entertainment, and when our kids see us using these tools, they want to use them too.

What feelings come up when you hear the phrase “screen time”? Do you ever wonder:

  • How much screen time is too much?
  • Are my kids getting any value from screen time, other than entertainment?
  • Am I modeling my own tech behavior appropriately?

Explore the answers to these questions–and more–as I talk with Lindsay McCarthy, our special guest of honor in the newest episode of the Brave Writer Podcast Season 5: Ask Julie. We discuss strategies for fostering a family culture that values what technology offers, without letting it take over.

Brave Writer Podcast S5E3 Lindsay McCarthy

I share fun, simple tips & tricks for shifting technology from a burdensome habit to a tool that complements your lifestyle.

Pour yourself a warm cuppa and settle in—I’m excited to have you along with us!

What about technology?

Technology is a great tool, and Lindsay acknowledges that. However, their family also values reading and spending time outside – and it’s hard to find where that line should be!

For starters, we want to demystify the romantic notion of a physical book. There are certainly benefits to reading from physical books, but there are also benefits in using the resources like Kindles, Audiobooks, or

If you value reading, strip away worries about the delivery system. Reading matters, and today it comes in so many more formats and opportunities than ever before! As homeschoolers, we have a tendency to romanticize the past. Sometimes we devalue our onslaught of options because they don’t match our idyllic view of what homeschool “should be.”

We also need to join our children in their technology time. It can be convenient to give your child a device when you need to get some work done – and this is a completely fair and reasonable thing to do – but if that’s their only time with screens, it can give technology a certain “taboo” feeling.

So if you, like Lindsay, give your kids two hours of screen time while you do your work, follow that up with together screen time. Ask them to show you their favorite YouTube video or what they’re doing in their favorite game.

This also allows your child some time in the driver’s seat, giving them an opportunity to teach you!

Julie’s Advice:

  • Start quantifying how much reading your children do each day in total, books and otherwise. Start observing and making a list when you notice reading showing up in your child’s life. For example: reading comments/discussions online, reading a grocery shopping list, or reading instructions. Where else is reading showing up in your child’s life?
  • Get interested and become a partner in their interests. After tech time, ask what your child’s favorite video was and why. Really value what they learned in your absence. Your child’s work in Minecraft is every bit as real as your work. It just looks different to you! Showing interest in their tech time will also remove “taboo” feelings.
  • Integrate what your child watches (like Minecraft or unboxing videos) into everyday life when possible. Be curious, but let them lead! Create shared experiences. You could film your daughter or son unboxing something. You could use an interactive YouTube video to create something like slime, water beads, baking, etc.
  • Pay attention to how you talk about tech. If it’s emphasized as something needing control and management, or a reward and entertainment, then it’s giving it more power as an exciting thing.
  • Let tech complement your lifestyle. Parents support their children’s interest in the following ways: resources, research, transportation, and money. On the back end, use educational language to keep track of the observations that encourage you – in a list, a journal, etc.
  • Let Minecraft be a friend for learning, rather than as a reward for after your kid is finished learning.
  • Instead of focusing on the amount of tech time, focus more on your level of engagement within their own lives. You will start to build a craving for more shared experiences.
  • Add elements of surprise into your everyday lives. Like strewing – once your kids go to bed one night, lay out something they can discover in the morning. Act like you don’t know anything about it. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Videos are endlessly surprising, so adding these types of activities will bring more joy, surprise, and mystery of early childhood into your family.

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Brave Writer Podcast: Growing a Mind & Cultivating Curiosity with Christa Gregg

Brave Writer Podcast

Have you ever wondered if you’re teaching your kids “all the things”?

Do you worry that they’ll reach age 18, and they won’t have some piece of information or some subject studied well enough and it will be “all your fault”?

Join me while Christa Gregg and I discuss the weighty responsibility of being a homeschool parent.

Brave Writer Podcast S5E2

We talk about how to create a family dynamic that naturally explores all manner of subjects without that “school teacher voice” so many of us resort to. It’s a wonderful conversation and ends with a particularly poignant worry that I think many of you will understand. So listen to the end!

Making the Shift

How do we shift us from a “this is school time” mindset to a “we can be learning all the time” mindset – without turning EVERYTHING into a lesson?

Christa, like so many homeschooling parents, wants to create a culture of learning and engender curiosity in her children. But how do we do this without forcing it down their throats?

We need to remember that sometimes trying to create a lesson or plan, getting into “teacher mode,” is the very thing that makes it feel stale. It can be scary, it can feel like flying blind, but learning moments arise around us naturally every day – we just need to get into the habit of capitalizing on them.

When we trust our engagement with our children and the world around us, these learning moments foster what Julie likes to call Big Juicy Conversations!

So, practice being self-aware in these moments and pay attention to your children’s reactions. If you feel distraction and disinterest from them, be aware that you need to shift out of that current mode… and your children will guide you if you let them! This isn’t an issue of not having enough ideas, this is an issue of trusting your children.

Remember you are growing a mind, not establishing beliefs.

Julie’s Recommendations

  • TRUST. Trust the natural process. Stop teaching, get curious, and let your children guide you.
  • Make a note on your calendar and keep track of the patterns where you move in and out of teaching mode and curiosity mode.
  • We’re looking for peace and progress in our homeschool. You can achieve that by toggling between skillwork and fun application. For example: for math, practice skill work through a workbook, then apply fun through a game, cooking, etc. — some way to encounter math in a real tangible way.
  • Don’t become too deeply rooted on either side. Try to have a good blend of skills work and fun.
  • Make the challenging skill work more of a collaboration. Remember the shoulder-to-shoulder concept with things you want your children to learn. Don’t just check boxes – collaborate and learn together!
  • You are a deep person and what you want is depth for your own children. Trust that this is already happening!

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript

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The Brave Learner

Brave Writer Podcast: Embracing Elements of Home with Tammy Kim

Brave Writer Podcast: Ask Julie

Welcome to Season 5 of the Brave Writer Podcast!

I’m delighted to share with you the personal, warm, meaty conversations I had with parents just like you in this season of the podcast. In fact, I can’t wait for you to listen.

This collection, titled “Ask Julie,” is comprised of episodes I’m particularly excited to share with you. We put out the call for your toughest homeschool dilemmas…and a whopping 200 of you responded! My team and I have assembled what we consider to be a representative group of the issues parents face when they want to be a meaningful part of their kids’ education.

My guests are smart, kind, caring, and creative. They were open and vulnerable, sharing about their fears and insecurities.

In short: I admire every one of them.

Episode One is called “Embracing Elements of Home” (with Tammy Kim).

Brave Writer Podcast S5E1 Tammy Kim

If you wonder why your kids balk at your best efforts to ensure a great homeschool experience, this is the episode for you!

The Parent & The Dilemma

Tammy Kim is a homeschooling mother of three girls, ages 13, 11, and 8. She reached out expressing a sense of overwhelm and worry over her effectiveness as a homeschool educator.

Tammy said, “I’m struggling with managing the time to create fun, interesting lessons the girls can all be excited to learn from, while trying to take our homeschooling to a higher level.”

Along with the “normal” stressors of everyday life, Tammy’s family has recently uprooted and moved to Paradise, CA, the town where she was born and raised, in order to be closer to family and to receive more homeschool support for herself and her girls.

Before we start answering some questions, we just want to make one thing clear: it’s okay for us to feel over overwhelmed and reach out for support! All of us have felt that way at some point or another, and no one makes it through this journey entirely alone.

What about managing your time and keep your children’s’ interest, while also taking homeschooling to the next level?

In homeschool, we want to figure out how to make learning come alive for our children – and how we do that is not the same for every child.

This is why many of us first shied away from the cookie cutter approach to public school, but still many of us have the pernicious ghost of our own public school past, influenced by expectations set by the curriculum, whispering not-so-sweet nothings into our ears about what school is and where our children should be.

The structure of public school doesn’t take individuals into account, and you don’t have to feel pressured by your memories, other parents, or anything else to import that structure (or the institutional expectations that come with it) into your home.

Instead, you get to use the properties of home to transform your children’s learning experience!

Julie’s Recommendations for Tammy

To help make the most out of home school, Julie offered three suggestions:

  1. Let go of morning chores and warm up to the day with a little more coziness.
  2. Allow your kids to have more say in how much of their assignments they have to complete (maybe doing 20 math problems sounds daunting today!). At the same time, give them room and breaks.
  3. Don’t go past noon. Use your afternoon to pursue the things that live in your mother and teacher imagination! Seek out those meaningful opportunities and feather learning in naturally.

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript

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Help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey. Thanks!

The Brave Learner