Can you believe this is the final episode of the Ask Julie series?! I’ve read the feedback from everyone who’s written in, or left an iTunes review, and I’m deeply touched to hear how this series has resonated with you—the listeners!
Let’s give a big round of applause for each guest! Their vulnerability and bravery has been such a gift to all of us!
Today’s episode is a unique format—a homeschooling group of friends asked to be interviewed together. Each interviewee came with her own quandary.
We tackled problems ranging from checklist anxiety and handwriting problems to homeschooling while personal life is in upheaval.
Tune in to find out:
Why you only have to get it “mostly right” (in homeschool AND in life)
How connection attracts and completes checklists
Tips & tricks for managing your expectations
How YOU are the catalyst for changing the learning environment in your home
Mandy Houle asks: What about pen and paper work for a young, exuberant extrovert?
Mandy’s seven-year-old son is energetic, friendly, and generous – but it’s a challenge getting him to sit down long enough to write.
A lot of us run into this issue as our children get to the point where we feel they’re “supposed” to be writing, but it’s important to remember that this is the very beginning of a young person’s writing life; it takes from ages 8 to 18 to become a fluent writer.
You could do Jot It Down! for another whole year, no handwriting on his part, and he’d still be fine.
Give him writing incentives like different colored pens or a special notebook he can pick out.
Go to tracing rather than writing. You write the sentence first and ask him to trace your words.
You could jot down his stories and ideas, type them in a document, and print them out for him to trace.
Get his whole body involved! Give him a sentence of copywork and ask him to use chalk to write as many of the words as he can on your driveway, or tape a huge piece of butcher paper on your wall and ask him to write big with his whole arm instead of having to use his tiny motor muscles.
Do you spend your waking hours multitasking, only to end the day exhausted, wondering what you accomplished? Discouraging, right?
Today’s podcast guest of honor, Courtney Moyer, wrote to me asking, “Julie, how do I multitask while teaching multiple children at multiple levels with multitudes of housework?”
I’ve been there! I remember the shoes scattered down the hallways, math books lost under the couch, and the crying baby who needed me to stop everything to breastfeed. Homeschooling can feel like it’s at the bottom of the list when your LIFE is so demanding!
I’d like to help you get out of this rut. Ready? First suggestion: Stop Multitasking!
Ha! Let’s talk about how to end the madness and find peace and progress in the middle of the muddle.
First, let’s explore my favorite maxim: “Less is more.” How will this shift in how you live and think change your life?
Listen to today’s episode to learn:
How multitasking affects your brain in negative ways
Why you need to shift to a “less is more” mentality
Ways to immerse yourself into your homeschool to boost productivity
How to personalize the learning adventure for your children AND for yourself
Make sure you listen to the recap at the end to hear how Courtney incorporated my advice. She did such an incredible job! Now Courtney approaches learning with a fresh, positive perspective and bubbly enthusiasm! I want that for you, too. I hope this episode leaves you feeling energized and empowered.
What about multitasking?
Let’s talk about multitasking and the brain.
For starters, multitasking is not handling multiple tasks simultaneously, as most of us believe; multitasking is the act of shifting between tasks, and it is the switching quickly between tasks that is exhausting. It uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, burning the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task. As a result, people who multitask tend to eat more and drink more caffeine, but what they really need is a break.
When people are interrupted, it typically takes them 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to their original task.
We’re deferring our gratification when we multitask because we never have that satisfying feeling of a completed task.
When it comes to long term projects, you should only spend 25 minutes to 2 hours of focused attention at a time (as adults). Spending less than 25 minutes on a challenging or long term task doesn’t give us a sense of accomplishment—we always feel behind.
What we can learn take away this study, as homeschoolers, is that we can’t hover over our homeschools; we need to sink down into them.
Poetry Teatime is an example of everyone being “on task” without feeling any guilt. It’s a moment of respite where we can drop down into the experience, and that is what creates momentum in homeschool: having satisfying depth, noticing that depth, and giving ourselves credit for that moment before moving on.
Most of us believe we need to do seven subjects a day, on weekdays, and during certain hours, based on the school model we were raised with. But what would it look like if our days were segmented differently as home educators? What would happen if we thought about the subjects not as something to get through, but as accomplishments based on exposure to information?
Skill development is important, but how do we quantify skill development? Is it based on a quantity of pages? An amount of time? Or are we looking at the skill as a part of development towards a bigger picture end goal?
Sometimes we’re so caught up in the daily details that we forget the overarching goal and that we have an entire school year.
Rotate children, rotate subjects, and remember to stick with short & strong bursts of energy, like 15-minute bursts.
You can start your day with a morning routine or some group activity together so that all kids are included.
Instead of a daily amount of time with all of your kids where you’re really focused, set aside dedicated time to focus on just one child every day, and it doesn’t have to be evenly distributed. You can rotate based on need, not on a system.
You’re allowed to have “homeschool light” on weeks where one child needs more attention.
Break free of the Monday-Friday schedule, break free of any rigid timelines, and allow yourself to have flexibility and freedom. Remember to “drop down” into the experience of learning.
We need to allow space for the learning to sink in. Give your child time to do the work, and to come out of it and be aware and proud of that experience.
The practice IS teaching, so trust the practice. If they understand the principle but are making mistakes, the practice is teaching them. If you allow some distance between their first effort and when they correct it, their brains unconsciously teach them what they need to know.
Focus on growth and strength, rather than fear of doing something wrong.
Take a deep dive with one child at a time to create momentum and powerful shifts in learning and energy. Taking a deep dive for an hour teaches so much more than the fragmented, multitasking approach over a week (and going somewhere and adding a special treat always helps). This is your anchor time.
Remember that the one-on-one time can be a chance to revisit certain education areas in a positive and empowering way.
Record on your calendar when the anchor times happen, with the name of the child. You can prove to yourself that you’re giving this sacred time to your children.
Organizing the day into chunks of dedicated time will eliminate some of the overwhelm. Focus on segmenting the day into these three containers: Activities, Housekeeping, and Education.
Minimize your energy, maximize your opportunities. For example, set aside a bin for items that need to be put away, then toss things in there and forget about them until their dedicated time.
There is no formula. All there is is the collective wisdom and insight from our community of homeschoolers.
They grow up too fast. We hear that ominous statement the moment our first precious bundle arrives in our arms, but we realize its weight when that child becomes a teen! Talk about growing pains, right?!
Today’s podcast guest of honor, Myah St. John, wrote to me asking, “I’ve always loved the one-room school house model, but I find it slipping away. We need to meet my teen’s high school requirements, and also the needs of my younger children…Can you help?!”
Listen to today’s episode to learn strategies for:
Rekindling an enchanted education with your teen.
Easing into your family’s evolving dynamic — without losing your mind!
Embracing the discomfort of accommodating a teen testing limits.
Allowing your teen to test-drive adulthood outside the home.
Tune in to hear how Myah applied my advice and whether it worked for her family.
What about preparing a child for adulthood?
High school is a “re-upping” moment, an “It All Counts Now” moment, when we have to reevaluate how our efforts support the education that will be scrutinized by college admissions or hiring managers. As homeschooling parents, that’s our challenge.
But our children are also facing new obligations and their own challenges – figuring out an academic path to college, or the path to a job – and they need to figure out who they are, at least somewhat, before they can do that.
So, during these teen years, there will also be a transition in the family dynamic as your teen is individuating. They join us when they’re little, but now we join them, gradually, as they become an adult.
This won’t be easy, your children may surprise or confuse you, but it’s part of the process of becoming an adult that we’re here to prepare them for. Furthermore, it will take imagination and creativity to help your teenager prepare for adulthood, both academically and personally.
Remember, there are four principles for what makes education feel magical: Surprise, Mystery, Risk, and Adventure.
Risk and adventure appeal the most to teens, and when you allow your kids to have more bandwidth in their intellectual curiosity, what they’re hearing at home can actually become more valuable to them.
Be aware. Notice and make notes of when your child shows up as her own person – then celebrate that, even if it’s just an internal celebration!
Ask your child about their ideas for adventure and then create opportunities for your child to explore them. Be willing to be uncomfortable, and embrace the discomfort of accommodating a developing mind.
Issue invitations rather than requirements. Let your teen have a collaborator role as she’s becoming more self-reliant by giving her more chances to say yes instead of no. It has to be a choice that is given to her.
Look for ways your teen can experience collaborative learning, where her ideas are sidling up to peers and professors, to give her a sense of what an intellectual community feels like. Some way for her to test drive her own personality & intellect outside the family, such as a co-op, classes, camps, or a part-time job outside the home.
Allow your teen to introduce their interests to you. Going on the journey with them is far superior to trying to control them away from it. Connection and trust comes from listening to their interests.
Time for our own interests & passion projects (Awesome Adulting!)
As you juggle your roles as parent, partner, and home educator, that sacred time for yourself is probably the first ball to drop. But it doesn’t have to be!
Grab your earbuds—you don’t want to miss this episode of the podcast.
Jessica Hammond wrote to me saying, “I want connection with my kids, but I also want to be my own person who does cool things on my own. And right now it feels like a constant tug of war between the two.”
Together, we come up with strategies for nurturing yourself in the midst of nurturing small people.
Trust me—it’s possible—and these ideas will work for you, too.
Make sure you listen to the end of the episode for Jessica’s recap—it’s truly inspiring.
What About Awesome Adulting?
Lower the bar to experience success.
For example, Julie’s routine when she homeschooled included:
free time in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day,
a project or activity in the afternoon,
and finally family time and/or working in the evening.
It can be helpful to focus on a routine, as opposed to a schedule.
You don’t have to be rigid, but give yourself the ability to enjoy the choices that you make.
This conversation with Jessica reminded us of a quote from Julie’s upcoming book, The Brave Learner: “The point is that you can’t expect learning to magically occur if your energy is directed at maintaining a tidy, attractive home. Our need for a perfect learning moment and the perfect cleaning environment are in conflict. You must pick one.”
So schedule an established day/time for house maintenance and laundry. It could be 4-6 PM while you listen to a podcast or an audiobook. But even if you have a schedule, there will still be some days when the laundry will matter the most and you’ll have to miss out on the other options.
When you are working on your own project and are distracted or interrupted by a child, you can indulge in that moment (like a cuddle while you’re journaling), but try to finish that particular project so you can give your FULL attention to the next thing.
Let your children know, “I’m about to do _____. What do you need from me before I get started?”
Keep in mind that young children will keep getting older and things will change at every stage.
Try choosing one day a month or week where everyone only does what they feel like doing.
Remember that “Squirrel Mind” is normal! It’s okay for your mind to dart and it’s okay for you to take breaks when you need them.
Also remember, when we do commit time to being with our children, it may not always line up with your fantasy or ideal vision — that is OK!
When you are trying to accomplish something for yourself and it’s not going to happen at that moment, for whatever circumstances: recognize it, accept it as a natural stage of homeschool, give it a date or time to revisit it, then pivot.
If your mind wanders, practice the mindfulness of just returning: “I’m here, this is where I’m directing my energy.” No guilt about mind darting! No guilt on missing out! Your emotions are not the boss of you.
Remember: imaginative play without adult supervision teaches children a myriad of things. You’re can be a a space-giving parent, and that’s fantastic.
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?
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.
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.
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