Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Brave Writer Podcast: Cultivating Connection in a Large Family with Jardel Manalo

Brave Writer Podcast

I’m guessing you need to hear today’s episode. Why?

Because I know you want to connect with your precious kiddos.

Our guest of honor, Jardel Manalo, wrote to me wondering how to achieve the “right” balance of connection with each child in her large family. Jardel would collapse into bed at the end of a busy day swirling with guilt—did she spend enough time with each child? Did her children know how much she loved them as individuals, not just as students?

Brave Writer Podcast S5E8 Jardel Manalo

We talked about:

  • Planning from Behind. This is a huge sanity-saver—find out why!
  • Placing value on what you’re already doing naturally—how to notice and “count” it.
  • A slew of ideas for establishing connection. Listen, make a list, try one!
  • Jardel’s realization about how her family of origin story impacted her as a mother.

Such a wonderful conversation!

In the midst of this holiday flurry, find moments to pause, breathe, and connect with your loved ones. You won’t regret it.

What about connecting with every kid?

If you have a large family, as many in the Brave Writer community do, connecting every day with each child is unrealistic and you’ll always feel behind. Large families will have separate homeschooling experiences with older children vs. younger. Make peace with the differences and trust that each child will connect with you in different stages and different ways.

It’s also important to acknowledge that your children are bottomless pits. There’s no possible way you can meet all their needs for connection as the sole person who offers them the experience of connection, and as they gain independence, they will seek connection with others. There will also be times when a child needs outside help, from a tutor, an online class, etc., and that is valuable connection, too.

The heart of connection is creating the context for your children to thrive. It’s you meeting their need, not necessarily being the person who undertakes or performs the need. You’re being an advocate for what your child needs at that moment in time.

A sense of well-being on a daily basis is the biggest gift that you can give.

Julie’s Advice

If you’re carrying a mountain of anxiety about this, you need to start chipping away at it. Start seeing how you can connect to your children in ways that are brief yet deeply meaningful:

  • A hug and kiss, physical touch as you walk by, email, instant messaging, texting, sending an emoji or a link to something you think they like, sticky notes on their door, a big heart on the mirror to see when they wake up, pancakes with a smiley face of chocolate chips, or eye contact.
  • Eye contact even changes the tone of voice, softening the interaction instantly. Connection can even happen through giving a directive. No one likes being yelled to from a separate room; tone of voice and eye contact will communicate that you’re on the same team.

Other ideas for connection:

  • Inside Jokes give you both the ability to wink or laugh about a shared understanding.
  • 3rd Party Connection, or bragging about a child in front of that child, lets that child know you’re aware of them even when they don’t realize it.
  • Don’t disqualify your progress by saying it should’ve happened sooner! You get to relax and enjoy the connection you’ve already built. It already exists and now you get to sink into what you’ve created.
  • You can alleviate your anxiety by planning from behind. Validate yourself for when you connect with a child.
  • Keep a calendar, or a weekly notebook, or a skatterbook. At the end of the day, pull it out and write the name of the child you remember connecting with. Trust the connection you’ve already established is holding for the other kids in the meantime.
  • If you have a 30 minute chat with each child over the course of a month, then you’re doing fantastic!
  • Over the weeks you’ll notice the child who hasn’t demanded anything and may need more one-on-one time. That’s your reminder to simply be more intentional with that child the next day. No guilt!
  • If a child is struggling, you’ll carve out time to address, support, and monitor.

That’s it! No big plan. No worrying, no overdoing it. Let the calendar give you visual comfort and reassurance. Live this way until you’re comfortable and reassured that you’re doing a good job.

Validation & Encouragement

  • Stay alert for when connection happens and write it down so you don’t forget.
  • Make a date for connection with one child. Just don’t turn it into a project. It can be simple. Let your child lead.
  • You’re already living and modeling that lifestyle for your children. They will carry the toolkit YOU made with them through life as they make new connections. The relationships they build will be based on your model.

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript


The Brave Learner

Brave Writer Podcast: Finding a Balance in High School with Karen Goldstein

Brave Writer Podcast: Ask Julie!

Do you feel burdened by the weight of high school requirements? Do you miss the early days when homeschool felt more enchanted?

If so, then you need to hear this podcast episode! (Psst: and if you’re not there yet—tune in, gather ideas for your future self, & be ahead of the game!)

Today’s guest of honor, Karen, wrote to me saying: “I’m having a difficult time juggling rigorous high school level work and I miss the easy-going lifestyle we enjoyed when my son was younger. How do we find balance in high school?”

Brave Writer Podcast S5E7 Karen Goldstein

This episode covers:

  • Helping your teen find the key that turns the lock for an irksome subject.
  • Taking a crash course with a topic: high intensity, but finished in a flash!
  • Look up from the textbooks: education can be delivered in any packaging.
  • The moment your teen’s interest is caught is the moment they are taught.

Karen took my advice into practice & our follow-up conversation is truly inspiring—make sure to stay ‘til the end!

What about balance in high school?

There are four key ideas in the Brave Writer notion of Enchanted Education: Surprise, Mystery, Risk, and Adventure. The former appeal most to younger children, while the latter appeal most to teens.

Education taught by a mother sometimes loses the feeling of adventure for the child. They might not feel challenged, they don’t know how they “stack up,” so trying things like community college courses is a great way to introduce more risk and adventure!

Through adventure, you can allow your child to find the key that turns the lock for an irksome subject. Laser-focusing on one key area of interest will illuminate the educational subject. Don’t worry, the education will be delivered. It just won’t be in the packaging of a textbook.

It’s okay, and even encouraged, to let education through experiences nourish the hard parts of homeschool life. Our job isn’t just providing coursework. We are also helping our kids discover how to be in charge of their own learning odyssey, which will last for the rest of their lives!

Julie’s Advice

  • Make lists of the most important things you want him to learn.
  • Digest the list, then ignore it – follow what the child is interested in, then return to the list and see what overlapped. If you missed something, that’s the time you can address it.
  • If there’s a subject your child isn’t interested in at all, consider doing a crash course. Quick, but with high intensity. In history, for example, study the trajectory of history through aviation, transportation, and telecommunication; ALL of the ways those inventions have affected history.
  • Remember: All the stuff we’re teaching in high school they will get again in college, particularly if it’s in their chosen field.

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript


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The Brave Learner

Brave Writer Podcast: Community is Self-Care with Jennifer Hunter

Brave Writer Podcast: Ask Julie!

Homeschooling can be a lonely journey. Our days are filled with little faces, but quality time with a fellow adult might be sparse!

Today’s (Canadian!) podcast guest of honor, Jennifer Hunter, wrote to me about experiencing loneliness in her current season of life as a large, single-vehicle family with small children.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the effort, expectations, and disappointment of making new friends? I’ve been there! And I’m here to help.

Brave Writer Podcast S5E6

Being part of a community is an essential part of your self-care.

Jennifer and I chat about:

  • Taking the risk to be vulnerable & reveal a need
  • The importance of modeling Awesome Adulting
  • How to engage in your passions with or without your kids
  • Leaving perfectionistic guilt in the dust

Are you ready to take the courageous leap and carve out a slice of sacred time for yourself?

Start with this episode: pour yourself a mug of something warm, and press play.

What about when homeschooling is lonely?

Our fantasies for more don’t go away when we ignore them; they grow and they become a voracious appetite for your soul. If these feelings are pushed down, the appetite becomes so large that it could shipwreck the thing you value the most.

So, pay attention to your hungers and value them. If there’s a pain somewhere, that means there is a need that matters and needs to be addressed. It’s important to give yourself love and kindness, just like you do for your children. You’re modeling self-care for your kiddos!

When looking for new friends, whether they’re people who you can spend time with to get a break from your children or potential family friends, remember that everybody has different needs and desires. It might take multiple attempts to find a good match, but don’t give up!

Julie’s Advice

  • Start by defining for yourself some affinities. What are you curious and passionate about? What will make you happy? Get as specific as possible in your free write and remember this is for your eyes only, so anything goes!
  • Put your intention in multiple places. You have the freedom to test things out until you find a match, and you’re not married to anything – and if it doesn’t work out, know that there will always be another opportunity.
  • The anticipation of an upcoming event can be a lifeline to hold onto during periods of drought. So, stay alert and look for opportunities that will nourish you. It doesn’t have to be a weekly group get-together; choose what works for your comfort level.
  • You should also make some space to be alone with yourself and have introvert time. Journal about your intentions, and the energy you put into your intentions will be matched. Trust that the realization of those intentions will not only come from sheer grit – sources outside of your own will become apparent, and will come to your aid as you stay attentive.
  • Make a bulleted list of your ideal situation: what kind of friend you want, what their family looks like, their interests, activities you could do together, etc. Try to focus on the possible positive outcomes and don’t worry about failure!
  • Now look at your list in three categories: Social Media. Local Support. Collaboration.

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript


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The Brave Learner

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, our 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!

Download the FREE Podcast Transcript


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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!

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


The Brave Learner