Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Podcast: Growing Minds

Growing Minds

Did you ever think of learning as training your brain chemistry?

The goal of skill-building in learning is automaticity, fluency, ease of use. It’s as useful to the child learning to ride a bike as it is the teen learning to think critically. Becoming automatic looks just like

  • ease,
  • skill, or
  • fluency.

Think of what it’s like driving: You can sing along to the radio and think about the upcoming election simultaneously, all while changing lanes on a highway at 75 miles per hour. Driving is so automatic that you have the bandwidth to focus on other things—but it wasn’t like that when you were first learning, where just the radio could be a distraction. How can we facilitate this growth of a mind, skill, fluency? How can we train our children’s brain chemistry for learning?

The three primary tools that we want to teach children and then build upon as teenagers are the “3 R’s” of reading, writing, arithmetic. These are the tools that help children get at everything they will ever want to know, but we often unload them in the most uninteresting way possible—through a workbook.

For novice homeschoolers, teaching from the book seems like the easiest and most approachable way to educate. But what if you looked at the workbooks as a reinforcing tool, not the main teaching tool, and you found ways to convey the power of that subject outside of the book first? Let them have the same excitement for the subject they had when discovering the world.

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Show Notes

What does it mean to grow a mind with regard to these 3 R’s, seeking to help our children find their way into these worlds as participants, not just as observers?

Reading

Most parents get this right: reading out loud while the child is in the womb, at bedtime, and reading together. If kids later stop enjoying reading, it could be because the family lost touch of reading as a joy. To invite a child to learn to read there has to be a gain for the child. Sometimes all it takes is an external motivation, pairing the hard work with a celebration that they put in.

Deep reading is also an essential part of the reading process. Remove distractions and read silently, but still together, for 20 minutes or more. Encourage reading on a regular basis and avoiding distractions from notifications and scrolling.

Writing

Value your children’s words by writing them down. Let them experience you valuing their words, their inner life, as writing. This signals to them that they are already writers, even if they can’t read yet. And don’t stop then. Validate your older kids that their thoughts deserve to be in writing. If they are complaining about rules, take out some paper and take notes. Signal that you take their words seriously.

If a child is charged with a writing project spend time in conversations about all the angles you could take. This set of questions can help kids get in touch with another level of thinking:

  • Who’s telling the story?
  • Who’s story isn’t being told?
  • What’s being promoted?
  • What’s being excluded?
  • What assumptions did I bring with me?
  • Which of my assumptions were sustained or confirmed?
  • Which of my assumptions were challenged or overturned?

We cannot ask our kids to write meaningfully without stirring up the part of them that has something to say. Writing is not primarily about the formats and mechanics, that comes after you have things to say.

Arithmetic

Why does math appear to be so hard for so many people? It’s because so many people are never taught to find joy in math. There are two primary ways to teach math: the traditional way through textbooks, where you incrementally master processes that you apply to the problems in the workbook. It can include tools, and definitely relies on repeated practice and tests to confirm mastery. This process works great for some kids, but not for others.

For kids who don’t adapt to the traditional method, the secondary method of using a narrative approach to teach math may be preferred. Ask your child to narrate aloud what they are saying to themselves as they work out the process of solving a problem. Most math work is invisible. This is the way to validate that they understand the way to reach a conclusion—and if they don’t how to better explain the concept. Then ask them if the strategy they are using is useful or helpful to them. Then ask if they want to try it a different way, one that might make more sense for them. Finally, ask them “What still puzzles you?” Verify where they are getting hung up so you can gently remove the roadblocks.

When growing the mind, you can take the same caring, natural approach you took with your young children. Show interest in your kids. Notice their opinions. Be patient with their tantrums. Be their partners and their support system to help grow their minds.

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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Creativity in Teaching

Brave Writer Podcast

Are you one of those people that thinks you just aren’t inventive enough to imagine creative learning experiences?

We tend to think of creativity as something in the arts or something that is crafted—maybe even cooking, woodworking, and gardening. There’s a belief that creativity is attached to the imagination, and when we hear that word we are immediately thrust into the world of storytelling. It’s hard to summon a different definition for creativity and imagination—but that’s just what we’re going to do.

Along with the true definition of creativity and imagination, I will walk you through the five stages of creativity in teaching so that anyone who believes “I am not a creative person” will be able to conjure creative ideas.

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Show Notes

Redefining “Creative” and “Imagination”

When you think about the word “creative,” look at the root word “create.” We’re talking about the art of creating in a habitual way. It is not limited to the arts. Anyone who’s worked in a scientific lab can tell you that it is a place filled with creativity.

It takes a mind open to possibility to create. Creativity, in the way we are talking about it here, is in the capacity to generate a new idea: To take the resources you’ve been given and to use them, exploit them, enjoy them, and employ them in a fresh way.

And what about imagination? You may think it’s about storytelling, but imagination is simply the capacity to picture in your mind what isn’t as though it is. It is the process of bringing into reality something that does not yet exist. You are taking bits and pieces of what already exists and combining them, mentally, to create something entirely new.

The main reason to use the tools of imagination and creativity in teaching is to bring into being a vehicle for learning that did not exist before. When your child hits the brick wall of struggle, resistance, or tedium, creativity and imagination are your best friends. They allow you to bring a new, refreshed point of view to the learning you are asking for from your kids.

The 5 Stages of Creativity in Teaching

1.  Saturation

There is no creativity without saturation. For example, those professionals who are labeled “creative athletes” are those that are so skilled and so deep in the sport that their minds and bodies are able to imagine new ways to approach the same pass, shot, or putt. They have a well of experience that they are able to draw from and that leads to a wider variety of possibilities available to them. You need to do this with whatever you are hoping to learn: Dive deep into the topic, sit with the problems, and you will begin to identify the possibilities for bringing the subject to life for your child.

2. Incubation

Once you’ve saturated, give yourself some time to imagine possibilities. What would it be like for your child to understand their times tables? What would it be like for them to enjoy history? Give yourself permission to think of the outcome that you want to see in your child’s educational experience—and think of what actually gets you there. Find a way to make the subject meaningful.

3. Leap of Faith

Now that you’ve come up with the ideas, you have to put them into action. This is the part that people see that makes them think “I’m not creative.” What you are seeing is only the visible part of hours of saturation and incubation. You will have to improvise, but that’s what creativity takes. Do not delay taking action because you do not have everything you need. You need to chase the inspiration and momentum while you have it.

4. Activate

Get busy gathering supplies, modeling activities, reading your idea to your kids, supplying them with the technology they need. Get in gear with your kids and make sure they have everything they need to follow through with those ideas. If you are invited to participate (and it is an honor if you are), do it. You are now modeling learning to your child and helping them internalize the principles you’re hoping they learn.

5. Evaluate

Reflect and record what happened. Look at what happened, identify what learning took place, and find out what worked and what didn’t. And then iterate. Add this to the pool of potential experiences to draw from as you look to create in the future.

Creativity can be messy. It can—and likely will—lead to failures. But when you are already hitting roadblocks, trying something new is always worthwhile. Remember: We can all be creative and use our imaginations if we put in the work and follow the process.

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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Joy-Centered Learning for the Reluctant Learner

Joy-Centered Learning for the Reluctant Learner

This podcast episode addresses a specific question: What do I do about children who refuse to learn—children who:

  • balk,
  • throw fits,
  • and are consistently in a bad mood about their education?

How do we address this?

What we need to do is step back from insistence and coercion and rediscover the joy of learning—whether that comes through interest or directed school subjects. I will offer you a strategy for how to recapture some of that connection and joy in learning, even in relation to academic subjects.

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Show Notes

Can Learning and Pleasure Co-Exist?

There’s a dichotomy that we’ve accepted that children are driven by pleasure alone and that, left to their own devices, would simply play with LEGO or watch their favorite YouTube channel all day. We don’t believe that there is inherent beauty or enjoyment to be had in multiplication tables, analyzing the grammar of a sentence, or writing about the Civil War. We see these as tasks that children have to be encouraged—or punished—into doing.

What this leads to is the idea that “real learning” occurs through requirement, and accidental-byproduct-learning happens through interests. Even if we say we value our child’s interests, we still see it as a secondary way of learning, a lesser way. Because it’s based in delight, the ethic that we’ve grown up with in the United States says that it’s not as valuable.

We know that there will come a time, maybe for college admissions, that they will need to prove that they know how to reduce a fraction—even if they can functionally do fractions while sewing or cooking—and we believe we will have failed as parents and teachers if we have not prepared them for that moment.

All Children Are Learning and We Can’t Stop Them

Whether playing a video game and calculating the risk factor of taking another hit and losing health, or deciding if they’ve measured their fabric correctly enough to make a cut, or changing up their written dialect when they’re texting a friend or their grandma, these are the decisions and critical thinking processes that are going on in our kids behind the scenes.

Learning is non-stop, it is largely invisible, and it is already tied to our school subjects—we just haven’t made the connection yet.

Seven Steps to Guide Your Child’s Education

1. Do nothing. Take a week where nothing is planned and let your kids do whatever is interesting to them. Spur that freedom by giving them even more opportunities to participate in their own lives.

2. Each night, reflect on what happened that day. Think of what your child actually did: from the big juicy conversation you had about their favorite movie series to the argument they had with their sibling and subsequent negotiations. Include everything they did and didn’t do. Assess how that child felt each day.

3. Tie the interest to a subject. Create a page with a box for each subject (reading, writing, math, science, history, grammar, personal interests & hobbies, miscellaneous). After you’ve listed the things your child has done, assign an item to each subject area. This will help you recognize how the things your kid has already done are adjacent to school subjects. Force the relationship if you have to.

4. At the end of the week, take those sheets and ask yourself: What’s missing? Are there any subjects that haven’t been naturally touched by their day-to-day activities? If you notice that something is missing, pause and think about how to address that one thing. You can support the development of what is already occurring by fanning those flames, but you really only need to focus on what’s missing.

5. Share with your kids. Show your sheets to your child and acknowledge how much they are doing meaningful activities. Your kids are using the tools they have to build their best life, and your job is to build on those tools to make their lives even happier instead of making them less happy in order to learn something we think they need to know.

  • Tie in the subjects that they are lagging in and show them how those subjects can enrich the activities they already love doing. Help your children discover the beauty inside the subject they don’t love by brainstorming with them the areas in their life where it may already be showing up in their life.
  • Set up a schedule to grow this skill. Build an interval training program to help them build up to a meaningful goal over time with built-in breaks.
  • If your child doesn’t feel fired up about a subject and you are out of ideas, hire a tutor or take an online class. Allow yourself some outside support.

6. Accommodate a child’s preference for when. Put this school subject into an hour of the child’s choosing when possible and try to create an environment that supports the child. Add a little coziness and warmth to the subject.

7. Only pick one lacking subject per month. When your child gets into a habit or routine, you can bring in another challenge the next month while continuing the previous one. Most of the time, refusal to learn comes from overload.

If you are trying to decide if this approach will work for you, keep in mind that you are ultimately in charge of your child’s education. During a year that feels abnormal, give yourself permission to experiment and see what would happen if you put your child’s joy at the center of their learning life. You may be surprised to see how much growth occurs.

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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Healthy, Diverse Homeschool Communities

Brave Writer Podcast

Ideally, homeschooling as a common interest should be enough to unite us and drive us forward to forge friendships with a variety of people and learn from a variety of cultures. It should, but for many, that’s not how it is.

  • How do you create a healthy, diverse homeschool culture for your local group?
  • What kinds of guidelines, policies, and practices help bridge difference within a homeschool group?

Let’s talk about the answers to those questions, as well as why homeschooling became so siloed in the first place and the benefits of a deeply diverse community.

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Show Notes

Why is diversity in the homeschool environment considered a fraught and difficult topic?

Ideally, homeschooling as a common interest should be enough to unite us and drive us forward to forge friendships with a variety of people and learn from a variety of cultures. It should, but for many, that’s not how it is.

The formation of homeschooling is closely tied up in religion, and Christian homeschooling became the dominant voice in the space for decades. Today, with the advent of the internet, we are beginning to see siloed expressions of homeschooling around common interests or belief structures. This is also causing members of some communities to not be welcome within other spaces.

Education has the potential to introduce students to a variety of perspectives, people, religions, politics, and interpretations of history and literature. Liberal education is a buffet of diverse sources that allows us to deepen and broaden our understanding of the world. Unfortunately, because homeschooling was self-protecting in the early days, it became protection from difference rather than introduction to difference.

The fundamental misunderstanding of what education is

Education is an introduction to—shaking hands with—all different viewpoints. It is not protection from viewpoints that contradict yours. As a result of that kind of approach, some kids feel cheated, tricked, and lied to once they get out into the world. When they are confronted with those views they didn’t know existed, they are not equipped to talk about them, learn from them, think about them, or consider them.

Where we’ve gone wrong as a movement is imagining that the goal is to control the outcome of our child’s exposure in education.

There are going to be people in your co-op who think differently than you do, who vote differently than you do, who see dating differently than you do, who believe in God differently or not at all. Can we make room for those people to be in the same art class as our children? To go on a nature hike? To have conversations over lunch? This is what it means to function as a human being in society, and if homeschooling is a microcosm of society, we would be giving our children an introduction to rather than protection from.

Guilt by association

This is the fundamental flaw of these spaces that are trying to keep people out. The fallacy is that, by bringing someone in with a specific set of beliefs, that you are saying you agree with those beliefs and that will make your group look bad. But people change over their lives, and are you going to tell people that they have to fit a criteria and never change? If that is what you want, you are going to have to learn how to deal with the fractured relationships around change and growth by community members.

Children learn their beliefs and family culture at home

What are we asking our children to do in these healthy, diverse communities around homeschooling? We are asking them to learn to tolerate their own discomfort with difference. Your kids are going to say things to others that sound affronting because they believe the worldview that they’ve inherited from you is uber-logical. And within the constellation of your family’s beliefs and practices, the story you tell around your beliefs sounds rational. Every family has one of these stories, and they are all different. Giving your children the opportunity to think critically and share with them how worldviews are built is education. That’s the value set of a diverse co-op.

You do not have to be in a diverse group if you do not want to be, but if you are going to be in one—or if you are going to create one—remember that every person there has the same ability to create a logic story that supports their choices that you do. You just may not agree on the source material. The goal is to grow in your ability to tolerate your own discomfort so that you have your beliefs and ideals, but you are not a hateful person—and that’s a beautiful skill set to develop.

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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Marriage, Divorce, and Homeschooling

Podcast Marriage, Divorce, and Homeschooling

I have been asked the same question repeatedly over the past 10 years: How do I know if I should get a divorce? And this question has a friend: I am getting a divorce, so what do I do about my children?

These two questions presuppose a third question, a bigger question: What’s a healthy home life for children? 

That’s what we’re going to address, including your marriage, reasons to divorce, reasons not to, and how to salvage or support homeschooling in the midst of all of those dynamics. Even if you’re in a happy relationship and you see no likelihood of divorce, this topic can give some insight into times where you are in conflict and how to be better friends to others in the community going through this.

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Show Notes

The best relationships are sustained by mutual goodwill

Imagine a relationship with a friend where they continually ask for favors but never give you any support. Eventually, the asymmetry in that relationship will wear you down and you won’t want to spend as much time with them.

Imagine your children. We spend so much time trying to teach them what we know is best for them, even if they don’t like it. Coming to an approach that meets their need for being happy with your need to complete the subject is what goodwill means in that relationship.

Goodwill is the exchange of mutuality. When you create a dynamic of mutual exchange, there is a level of trust there. Even when compromises have to be made, you are aware that the other person has your best interest in mind. Which dynamic exists in your marriage?

When marriage is not founded on goodwill

You may have a spouse who’s proud of you for homeschooling or thinks that it’s a great idea. You thought you were on the same page, but when your partner starts asking you questions about your children’s education, it makes you feel criticized and untrusted. The reason you feel that way is because you have experienced a lack of trust in other areas of your marriage.

When you feel challenged by a decision you’ve made in homeschooling, you have to ask yourself: Is this a real question or is it just exertion of control?

In an unhealthy relationship where goodwill is not presumed on a regular basis, the argument of homeschooling just becomes one of many. When there is not trust, you cannot be confident that the questions being asked are with your best interest in mind. In a relationship where the dynamic is persistently dysfunctional, homeschooling is not a unique argument. When you embark on the discussion about homeschool, the same control dynamics you experience in other aspects of your marriage will be present—and it will not go well.

When do I consider divorce?

When you are in a marriage where goodwill is persistently denied—either in one direction or both—it’s incredibly difficult to stay married.

I am a huge fan of individual therapy for both married partners. Sometimes, certain types of abuse can cause couples therapy to lead to more problems at home. Find a therapist and build your personality and strength of self that doesn’t have anything to do with the marriage. Some marriages begin to survive and thrive as the “victim” becomes a stronger version of self.

If you are in a relationship without violence or abuse, having both parents in the home together with the children is the best possible outcome for them. If a non violent marriage can survive and the partners can grow in goodwill towards each other, staying in the home together is better for kids. If you cannot meet those criteria, there may be no other option than divorce.

How to make divorce better for kids

One obstacle to a good divorce outcome is if the socioeconomics of your family plummet. If your children can experience a similar socioeconomic lifestyle as when the parents were married, that is incredibly helpful to their wellbeing and stability. This economic transition can be difficult with divorce, so the next step is to make a place that feels like home for your kids—a place that feels like home to them. Make sure children have whatever they need at both locations so they don’t feel like they are living out of a suitcase.

You also have to consider how you want to continue educating your children. It is possible that homeschooling may not be the best option. You are now juggling several new factors, including where your income is coming from. If you aren’t already working, you will not be available in the ways you once were. Homeschooling is only the right decision if it allows everyone to flourish. If you’re in this situation, you likely think homeschooling is the best option for your kids, but don’t be afraid of school as an option too.

Human beings deserve lives of goodwill, of peace, and of wellbeing—every human, not just your kids, but you. It’s okay to want your life to feel good. Children don’t need martyrs for mothers. They need clarity, consistency, kindness, and a vision for their future. You can give them all those things, married or divorced. These are not easy decisions to make, but if the decision you make turns out not to be the one you wanted, you can make another one. There is no shortage of time to continue improving the quality of your own life.

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