Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

[Podcast] The Value of Effort in Learning

Brave Writer Podcast

In today’s homeschooling environment, misconceptions about learning often cloud our judgments. Key among these misconceptions – one I may be guilty of contributing to – is the belief that struggle is counterproductive to learning.

It’s essential, however, to understand that effort can contribute to an effective recall process. Drawing a line between unnecessary suffering and purposeful effort becomes crucial.

Effort, in this context, embodies:

  • commitment,
  • focused attention,
  • and stamina.

And all are foundational for effective learning—what we call “retention.”

As Melissa and I navigate this topic on today’s Brave Writer podcast, we will introduce methods of learning that might seem challenging initially but promise richer, more immersive learning experiences with better results.

Show Notes

Ease vs. Effort

Striking the right balance between ease and effort can be likened to choosing between writing with a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen. While one might offer convenience, the other provides a satisfying experience, demanding more attention but yielding better engagement. Think about the comparison between reheating pre-cooked food in a microwave and cooking a meal from scratch. The latter, though demanding more effort, provides a deeper sense of accomplishment. It’s no surprise then that children often increase the difficulty levels in their games or why video games continuously switch activities to keep players engrossed.

Interleaving and the Benefit of Variety in Learning

In Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown, the author delves deep into strategies for effective learning, such as “interleaving.” Traditional math programs, for example, often linger on one method exhaustively before transitioning to another. Such a linear approach can be less effective than interleaving different processes, and blending workbook sessions with real-world applications. This multifaceted approach offers a more dynamic and holistic learning environment.

Games and Play in Learning

From board games to video games, gaming holds immense potential as a learning tool. For instance, a child’s fascination with a computer game like “Roller Coaster Tycoon” can seamlessly merge with projects involving handwriting, research, math, and even physics. Another game, “Harvest Moon,” can lead to complex calculations and in-depth research. These real-world applications underline the importance of experiential learning and position children as the ‘experts’, sometimes even teaching the parents.

Tying Real-Life Application to Learning Concepts

How do we make abstract concepts tangible for young learners? The bridge between workbook time and playtime is crucial here. Learning addition becomes more personally valuable when immediately followed by a game of Monopoly. Simple tasks, like adding chocolate chips to the completion of each problem can add a tiny incentive to stick with a challenge.

Sewing is a good example of how a child can be taught a variety of skills to accomplish a larger overall project like a string dress or doll quilt. Learning that involves a variety of processes may feel more difficult initially, but it leads to better retention overall.

When teaching, consider various forms of:

  • measurement,
  • historical context,
  • and practical applications.

Activities that include context, whether understanding the length of a blue whale or the vastness of the universe, and that emphasize hands-on experiences and real-world applications, lead to the best learning outcomes.

The Truth About Your Child’s Attention Span

Surprisingly, according to SCALE, a child’s focused attention span equates roughly to a child’s age plus one minute. This finding debunks many preconceived notions about children’s attention spans. It’s pivotal to appreciate the cognitive and physical strains kids undergo when acquiring new skills, like handwriting. Recognizing what revitalizes or depletes a child’s energy can help adapt learning strategies.

Tools and Techniques to Galvanize Attention

Sometimes, it’s the allure of a fresh notebook or a new pen that can rekindle motivation. Brave Writer programs like the Quill, Dart, Arrow, and Boomerang tap into this idea of novelty by introducing new content monthly, thereby stimulating interest and engagement. A change in the environment or tools, or even a switch in timing, can provide that necessary jolt to reignite a child’s attention.

Creating a Learning Culture

When we want to understand the effort it takes to learn, Julie recommends approximating that learning experience for yourself as best you can. Julie’s personal experiment of copying text in unfamiliar languages, Dutch and Hindi, helped her understand what it might be like to do copywork in English as a new reader and writer. When parents model learning behaviors—be it drawing, music, or even diving deep into history—they demonstrate that learning is a continuous, shared journey.

Tips for Educators/Parents

For educators and parents, embracing varied learning methodologies is paramount. Instead of repetitive handwriting drills, they could incorporate diverse methods like copywork or tracing over highlighted content. Teaching handwriting can also be interactive, using materials like sand, rice, or even chocolate chips. Shifting between fine and gross motor skills can be immensely beneficial for younger kids. Traditional drilling methods should be reconsidered in favor of more experiential approaches like “learning by doing” or “learning by teaching.”

Lastly, it’s essential to recognize and respect a child’s energy levels, adjusting the learning schedule accordingly, and avoiding strictly regimented plans.


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Produced by NOVA Media

Brave Writer Podcast

[Podcast] What to Do About Unmotivated Learners

Brave Writer Podcast

There are days when you feel invincible, ready to conquer the world, and there are other days where getting out of bed feels like a herculean task.

I confess, on those less-than-stellar days, I resort to watching bad sitcom reruns, while Melissa disappears into an endless loop of Instagram Reels.

Sound familiar?

Today on the Brave Writer podcast, let’s dive deep into the realm of motivation, unpack its moral significance, and explore how it meshes with our values and dreams, especially when it comes to our kids.

Show Notes

Understanding Motivation

It’s almost taboo to admit that you’re not always motivated. Why is that? The term “motivation” seems to carry with it a moral weight, making many feel guilt or shame for not being incessantly driven.

As the school year draws near, parents often daydream of that “ever-motivated” student – a vision not always compatible with reality. Motivation isn’t just about having an aspiration; it’s about bridging the chasm between that aspiration and the steps to realize it. It’s worth noting that our motivation is a cocktail of various internal and external influencers.

Motivation in Homeschooling

Motivation is like a fingerprint – unique to each individual. It’s pivotal to recognize this and avoid the trap of imposing moral values upon it. Whether in conventional schooling or homeschooling, our perspective on motivation should be grounded in:

  • understanding,
  • compassion,
  • and a recognition of individual aspirations.

For children, motivation isn’t a broad trait but is tied to specific interests. The meticulous plans crafted by parents might not always resonate with the child. This is a nuanced dance between the child’s individual motivations and the structured environment the parent provides. Environmental conditions, too, play a substantial role in influencing children’s learning curves.

The path of homeschooling often sees parents wrestling with self-doubt, particularly when they confront the tangible, everyday hurdles of teaching.

The Role of External Rewards

Traditional schools frequently employ external motivators like grades. But do they truly ignite motivation? Homeschooling often ditches such systems, but without suitable alternatives, a motivation void can emerge.

Addressing a Lack of Motivation

Children, just like adults, have fluctuating energy levels. It’s vital to understand and respect this ebb and flow. The challenge arises when a parent’s ambitions collide with the child’s disposition.

Trust, patience, and dialogue are imperative. A child’s reluctance towards a subject needs to be approached with empathy and collaboration. A seamless transition to tasks, understanding of individual needs, and making learning relevant are just a few strategies to reignite motivation.

Rethinking Motivation

Before branding a child as “unmotivated”, it’s crucial to rethink our definition. More often, it signifies a child’s aversion to tasks dictated by parents. Our mission? To delve deep and uncover the essence of such resistance. By observing what genuinely interests a child, we can tap into their inherent motivation.

Celebrating their persistence in activities they love is key. For instance, praising their tenacity while mastering a skateboard trick can boost their morale significantly. Moreover, sitting alongside them, sharing their challenges, and jointly finding solutions can be as rewarding as conquering a difficult level in a video game.

Motivation isn’t a monolith but a mosaic of:

  • values,
  • aspirations,
  • and context.

It’s about understanding, empathy, and a shared journey of discovery between parents and children.

As we navigate this intricate world, let’s remember to be adaptable, patient, and always keen to find joy in the learning process. Whether it’s a new skateboard trick or a challenging math problem, there’s always a way to find and fuel that spark of motivation.


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Produced by NOVA Media

Brave Writer Podcast

[Podcast] Josh MacNeill: Practices to Boost Learning

Brave Writer Podcast

Parenting can be one of life’s most fulfilling yet challenging journeys.

Josh MacNeill, former teacher and now the CEO of InMind Services, has dedicated his life to understanding child behavior. With certifications in child trauma and multicultural education, he brings unique insights into the art of mindful parenting.

Josh MacNeill
Josh MacNeill

This guide, inspired by Josh’s insights, aims to provide you with essential tools and understanding to nurture and connect with your child.

Show Notes

Addressing Child Reluctance and Resistance

Children’s resistance and reluctance can often be signs of deeper emotional needs. By building understanding and patience, and encouraging dialogue and collaboration, you can connect with your child on a deeper level and support their unique development.

The brain plays a vital role in emotions, with the cortex and limbic system being key players. Understanding this connection helps in emotional regulation, guiding your child through stress without escalating the situation.

Managing Stress in Children and Adults

Understanding how you and your child handle energy and stress throughout the day can help create strategies to manage and mitigate these challenges. It leads to more balanced, peaceful relationships.

Focusing on intentional positivity can transform your parent-child relationship. Regular positive interactions foster a loving environment and can have a lasting impact on emotional wellbeing.

Acknowledging and appreciating your child’s efforts fosters a healthy relationship. Clear expectations, set without overshadowing achievements, create a nurturing space for growth.

By building tolerance for stress through praise and recognition, and proactively nurturing motivation, you can help your child thrive emotionally and academically.

Strategies for Dealing with Parental Reactions and Stress

Parenting is stressful. Finding methods for relaxation, reconnection, and understanding misbehavior as signs of stress can create a harmonious family life.

From understanding developmental stages to addressing trauma, a multifaceted approach to parenting is essential. Techniques such as offering choice, respecting needs, and recognizing power struggles can guide a child’s development.

Engaging the body and senses in learning brings education to life. By incorporating physical markers, smells, and movement, you can stimulate and enrich your child’s learning experience.

Josh MacNeill emphasizes the need to embrace your children’s needs and provide various paths to meet expectations. Mindful parenting, founded on understanding, compassion, and positive reinforcement, can lead to a more fulfilling family life.

Navigating the ups and downs of parenting doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By understanding your child’s emotional needs and adopting a mindful approach, you can create a loving, enriching environment that supports your child’s growth and development. It’s all about connection, compassion, and embracing the beautiful journey of raising a human being.


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Produced by NOVA Media

Brave Writer Podcast

[Podcast] Burnout: What It Is and How to Handle It! with Tanya Tarr – Part 2

Brave Writer Podcast

Ever found yourself feeling emotionally and physically drained? Do you wonder if what you’re experiencing is burnout? And importantly, do you know how to combat it?

Tanya Tarr
Tanya Tarr

Today’s podcast continues our conversation with Tanya Tarr, an expert on resilience, to talk about burnout and the strategies we can use to counter it.

Be sure to tune into Part One if you haven’t listened to it yet!

Show Notes

The Power of Positive Affirmation

Tanya takes an interesting approach to beating burnout—engaging in physical, emotional, mental, and cultural activities, which she calls “rooms.” The idea is to move through these rooms regularly, ensuring you’re not neglecting any part of your wellbeing.

One crucial aspect of her approach that Tanya emphasizes is positive affirmation. Unlike conventional techniques that aim to stir discontent to trigger a desire for change, Tanya draws from positive psychology research. The idea is to initiate change from a place of steadiness, confidence, and genuine pride. In a fascinating study about weight loss and self-affirmation, we see how self-affirmation can lead to real-life changes.

Parents often unwittingly transfer their educational anxieties to their children, reinforcing the need to start with a mindset of affirmation and understanding for both parent and child.

However, Tanya makes it clear: affirmations are not mood elevators, but primers for change and openness. They’re essentially psychological multivitamins, preparing us to be flexible, curious, and receptive to change.

Escaping the Doom Loop

Tanya introduces us to the concept of a “doom loop”—a concept borrowed from economics. Our protective bias can sometimes trap us in this doom loop, but activities such as active rest and creative projects can help break the cycle.

Referencing a study by Swedish cardiologists, Tanya explains how group singing can synchronize heart rates and trigger mirror neurons, having potentially anti-depressive effects. With parents, she recommends singing with children as a form of active rest and as an effective transition activity throughout the day. Storytelling and sharing proud moments can build internal resilience in children, offering a buffer against burnout.

Being the CEO of Your Homeschool

While Tanya primarily works with businesses regarding burnout, there are certain parallels between being a homeschooling parent and being the CEO of a company. Parents should regularly check in with their children, especially after failures, fostering a judgment-free environment. Tanya advises against relying on gratitude lists; instead, create a list of things that are working well.

Tanya also acknowledges the value of connections outside the home. No family should exist in isolation. Parents must cultivate relationships that allow them to take a break from their children. As we discussed in the previous part of this conversation, active rest plays a vital role in well-being.

As we wrap things up, it’s important to take inventory of our activities in relation to Tanya’s “four rooms in the house of well-being.” It’s a beautiful concept, reminding us to strive for balance in our lives, ensuring that we’re not spending too much time in any one “room.”

It’s not irresponsible to seek joy. After all, prioritizing happiness and well-being is not just essential—it’s necessary. If you’re a parent, especially a mother, feeling the effects of burnout, I hope our conversation today has given you some tools to identify and understand your own feelings, and, importantly, ways to combat them.


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Produced by NOVA Media

Brave Writer Podcast

[Podcast] Burnout: What It Is and How to Handle It! with Tanya Tarr – Part 1

Brave Writer Podcast

Do you ever feel like your energy reserves are just being depleted, and you can’t seem to replenish them? It might be more than just fatigue or exhaustion; it could be burnout.

Tanya Tarr
Tanya Tarr

We had a riveting conversation with Tanya Tarr, a behavioral scientist, columnist, corporate educator, and the founder of Cultivated Insights, who had plenty to say on the subject of burnout.

In fact, we had so much to discuss, we had to divide the chat into two parts!

Show Notes

Understanding Burnout

Tanya was generous enough to share her expertise on distinguishing between fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout. According to her, burnout is not a mental health issue but an occupational one recognized by the World Health Organization.

Characterized by extremely negative feelings like rage, resentment, apathy, or numbness, burnout may emerge when chronic exhaustion is left unaddressed for too long. There are other signs too, like anhedonia (avoidance of pleasure), self-isolation, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

Burnout isn’t a quick fix. Unlike fatigue and exhaustion, which can be managed with sufficient rest, burnout requires small, consistent interventions and gradual changes to the conditions causing it. This is an important point to keep in mind, especially for those of us homeschooling children for an extended period of time, say four to eight or 10 years.

The Stress Cycle and its Implications

The stress cycle is a concept dating back to the ’50s which describes how our bodies react to stressors. In this age of constant digital connection, we’re often stuck in a hyper-focus attention state that prevents us from completing the stress cycle. This incomplete cycle can lead to chronic stress and even burnout.

Physical activities like running are essential to human health and act as a natural antidepressant. Tanya, who practices martial arts, shared that certain movements could trigger emotional release, hinting at the deeper connection between our physical activities, emotions, and stress.

Navigating the Stress Cycle with the House of Wellbeing

The House of Wellbeing is a framework, devised by Tanya, to help close the stress cycle and prevent burnout. It involves four rooms: physical, mental, emotional, and cultural. The idea is to conduct a ‘self-inventory’ of our self-care activities related to each aspect and evaluate their impact on our well-being.

She advocated for a focused approach to self-care, where we prioritize reliable practices that truly benefit us instead of sporadically trying everything under the sun. This approach helps us concentrate on the activities that have a positive impact on our well-being, while discarding those that don’t.

All in all, it was an insightful conversation filled with knowledge and understanding. I encourage you to reflect on Tanya’s insights to better comprehend your own state of burnout or stress. And don’t forget to join us for the second part of this conversation in our next episode, where we’ll be delving deeper into the topic.


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Brave Writer Podcast