EP 1 July 29 Why Homeschooling Works
11:33AM Apr 5, 2022
long term memory
working memory capacity
Welcome to the homeschool works podcast The show where we break down the research from the fields of neuroscience, psychology and education to give you tangible takeaways to power your homeschool. I'm Katherine combs, a second generation home schooler and author of apology is exploring creation with mathematics program. And I'm joined by my mom, Dr. Debra Bell, an author, speaker, educational psychologist and homeschool guru.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us.
In this episode, we look at the research behind why homeschooling works. Everything we cover will help you focus on what's most important in the design of your own home school. Spoiler alert, it is all about tailoring to the unique needs of each child. And we have suggestions on how to actually make that happen. We're also going to be talking about interest, and why it's so important to spark our kids interest. Before we start teaching them. We close out with ideas on how to pique the interest of your most reluctant learner, I learned so much while recording this episode with my mom, and I'm really excited to share it with all of you. So why the title, Homeschool Works? What's the purpose of this podcast? Like? What were we thinking when we decided to start this?
Well, you tell me.
I know. For me, I have been learning so much research lately, as I started to homeschool my kids and what I wanted to do is interview you and get your research background on here and break it down for parents so that they don't have to read through everything if they don't have the time. But to make that research accessible to everyone, because I know that I have found the more I'm learning about neuroscience and how kids learn. It's just been a game changer. For me in homeschooling, it's a little bit like taking apart a clock and seeing how it all fits together. And so that's what I think of with Homeschool works is sort of like the working mechanisms of it. And being able to unpack that with you is fun for me helpful for me, but also I thought, Oh, this would be great for other homeschool families to hear this and see how it applies.
Yeah, and this is stuff we talk about all the time, isn't it? Kate, we love talking about education and homeschooling and what the research shows. So I think the title was kind of just capturing our life together. I like the title homeschool works, because it reminds me of factory works, right. And I want parents to realize that homeschooling is something you work on. It's a it's a project in process. And that's not just something to accept or get comfortable with. But it's all actually part of the joy of homeschooling is that you don't have to get it right the first time that learning how to homeschool is the same as teaching our kids how to learn. And so it's okay for our kids to see us tweaking and fiddling with and working on and getting excited about new ideas and trying different things and experimenting. All of that is what I want parents to know is a very healthy aspect to homeschooling,
right to try to enjoy the process and embrace it and realize it's your own, like it's your own learning curve that you're doing as you're learning how your kids learn. I think a lot of us were trying to get it right and perfect from the start instead of viewing it as our own little microcosm of research as we learn about our kids. And we learn about how kids learn best, and we tweak and we adjust each year.
And as we really dive into some of the topics we've been planning, I think parents are going to be assured that the research really supports that kind of attitude and that kind of approach, that there's a lot of freedom to mess up and make mistakes in homeschooling. And it's really good for our kids to see and for our kids to observe how we respond to that. So I do really hope that the homeschool works podcast helps parents feel empowered and bring some sense of confidence to homeschool parents that in the act of doing this, they are really serving their children's best interests, even though it might look messy and muddled.
Yes, and one of the best things about homeschooling is you can pivot so quickly and so easily because or you can pivot so much more quickly and more easily than other learning environments. So when you learn something new, you have the opportunity to just Okay, tomorrow we can tweak this and adjust it right away and see results. The ultimate homeschool planner is more than just a place to record your school days. It's a planning system thoughtfully designed around St. Augustine's admonition order brings peace. With weekly reminders to note God's faithfulness in your homeschool. The ultimate homeschool planner will help you keep a God centered focus. Each August I use the yearly planning pages to map out the big picture for our upcoming school year, I prayerfully draft academic and character goals for each of my kids. From there, the layout guides me in planning our months, weeks and days, so I make sure we don't miss our top priorities. There is room to list prayer requests, Bible plans, and even pages to record memorable moments and evidence of grace. My favorite item is the weekly hospitality outreach box because it keeps me from getting too inwardly focused. If you are looking for a planner that will guide you towards your long term goals while maintaining your flexibility and freedom, then this is the planner for you. Each ultimate homeschool planner has 52 weeks and can accommodate planning for up to six children in multiple subject areas. Grab a planner and your favorite color at apology calm today so does homeschooling work?
Yeah, I think we better answer that question. First. Since we're gonna call this the homeschool works podcast. I think homeschooling does work. I think the research supports the success of homeschooling, we have a lot long way to go in terms of having really a robust body of research. But overwhelming. The research that's already been done on homeschooling shows that homeschool kids do as well if not better, in some instances, as kids in other settings and other contexts. And we're starting to get some research that even suggests that homeschooling has some benefits, such as in terms of self worth, and self image and success and happiness in life, those kinds of psychological outcomes. The research is suggesting that maybe even homeschool kids are reporting higher levels of satisfaction in those areas than their conventionally educated peers. So I do think the research suppose supports homeschooling works. I also think the evidence around us of homeschooling is growth. Just homeschooling is growing in the United States, and it's growing in the world. Everywhere that homeschooling is not prohibited, legally everywhere where it's allowed. Homeschooling is only increasing. So I don't think parents would be selecting homeschooling or continuing to homeschool if they weren't seeing success. Now, with that said, Kate, I do think some home schools can be more successful than others, of course,
right. They know. It's exciting for me, because, you know, just as myself as a case study, I feel like homeschooling worked for me. But it is really interesting as a second generation homeschooler to see a broaden and diversify. And, you know, the reactions I get now saying I was homeschooled are different than when I was being homeschooled. So I think, you know, we agree, homeschool works, but why does homeschooling work? Is there research that backs up this educational design or kind of under kind of explains the results we're seeing?
I think, you know, the research is still in, its nascent. And we have a long way to go, as I was saying, but I I do think, let me just back up and kind of explain where I'm coming from, as you will. As you know, when I when I finished homeschooling your kids, I went back to school, and I finished my PhD in educational psychology. And I really had an epiphany. You know, one day when I was reading all of this research, I thought that I could see in the research of how kids learn best and what classroom teachers can do to support student learning. I started to see a picture of why I think homeschooling works and my explanation for homeschooling works is were designed for individualized instruction, that each child is a unique learner with unique needs. Each child has individual strengths and individual weaknesses, what we call individual differences. And because homeschool parents are naturally just kind of cueing what they're doing to how their child learns best based on the interactions they're having with their kids. Even if parents don't know why they're doing something, or even if they're not sure what they're doing is right. The fact that there's this this ability to individualize each child's program, I think is the best explanation for why homeschooling works.
I mean, that definitely resonates with me, your three grandkids, I see homeschooling parents talking about this all the time, like, each kid is so different and we see it, you know, up close and personal. So that would make sense to me.
Yeah, I think you have to then question, you know, what we're doing in mass educating kids, you know, and the purpose of our podcast is not to critique other contexts for learning. But if you do, really, if it resonates with you that kids learn best when their instruction is individualized, or each child is an individual learner with individual unique needs. You can see why kids struggle often in a conventional setting, because teachers just can't individualize you and I were both classroom teachers, we just, even though we could see maybe what children individually needed from us most, we just didn't have the wherewithal to provide that for them. And homeschooling does.
Yeah, I mean, I remember feeling that constrained with the number of students I had in the public school. And I knew that kids, they always blossomed whenever I individualized and adjusted things. But it was just like what you said, it wasn't always doable. There was only so far, I could go and just the level of specific choices I get to make in homeschooling that are easy choices that aren't even as simple as like which book we're going to read or which topic of science we're going to study. It's, it's very easy to specify within that for each kid's preferences.
I think we need to make sure parents have confidence in doing that individualizing you know, that I think we can come into Homeschooling with this mindset, or this very powerful model of how we were educated. And presumably, many of us were conventionally educated, you have the advantage of having been homeschooled, and now homeschooling so you don't have such a preconceived notion about what education looks like. But if we were conventionally educated, we as parents can feel like, Oh, I know, I'm not doing this right, because I'm not doing the same. I'm not standardizing I'm not teaching math in a, the same way that I was taught, or I'm not having all of my kids learned in the same way. And really, parents just need to be free from or disabused of that notion that we have to standardize education. We don't not at all, we
want to play to our strengths. And if you know, that the strength, one of the main strengths of homeschooling is to individualize then, as you're making those decisions. That kind of empowers you or I know for me, whenever I know there's research behind something I'm doing, it helps me justify the time the energy or even the money that I'm throwing behind it, because I know, okay, this is worth it. I know that teaching in this way, or educating in this way really pays off in the long term. So it kind of helps me motivate especially because we all have limited time and energy, you know, and you can't do everything well. So it helps me prioritize what are the key things to make sure we're maintaining in our homeschool, and not just copying a different model or something like that.
And let me also just assure parents that when I say we need to individualize for kids, it doesn't mean like every child in your home has a radically different educational program. I think that by by and large, we can use the same curriculum with every kid, you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel from scratch. But we have to be sensitive to individual difference. So kids have commonalities. So we have caught we do have ways in which we learned the way that you learned Kate, the way that I learned the way that Joseph your oldest learns the way that his brain develops and grows and processes information is similar across all human beings. So we have some commonalities. And then we have individual differences. And if parents become aware of those, then they can be just tweaking that curriculum, and making small changes or, you know, small adjustments or accommodations. In order to make sure that each child we're supporting how they learn best.
So what kinds of differences can we be looking for in our kids? I mean, are there certain categories we should be aware of, I know things that are popping into my mind, but it's more just examples that I've seen. I don't necessarily understand all the research behind it.
Well, there's There's any number of dimensions along which kids can differ from one another. And I'm sure the things you're thinking of are just as important as a few I might mention, the first way in which I think kids have individualized differences is in their developmental timeline. So if I could have parents, you know, make a big sign that you'd post over your kitchen, doorway, or wherever you do school it, you know, I would just say development, you know, don't forget about your child's developing. So not only are they physically developing, but they're cognitively developing, their brain is growing and you can't see it. And they're psychologically developing as a person. And you also can't see that and, and how, how that timeline functions varies from Kid to Kid. So some kids can have a much slower developmental timeline, or they can have ebb and flows, they can have sudden growth spurts, just like they do physically, every kid is different. And how that timeline unfolds, does whether it's slow or fast doesn't really indicate your child's potential. Like we can't really get overly concerned if we have a what we call a late bloomer.
Okay, yeah, that that's clicking for me and I, especially the part where you said about sort of growth spurts, because I think about that physically. But I'm seeing that in other areas where sometimes I'm like, are we progressing, or say, with reading, and then all of a sudden, there's like this big click, and like, the, suddenly they can do so much that they couldn't do or even just this summer, I feel like Joseph and Amelia, have just been growing so much. They seem so much older to me than they did at the beginning of the summer. I just think maybe because of all the experiences that they're having. But that's helpful to keep in mind, because I think the I tend to think we're all going to go at the exact same level. So what other differences can we be looking for, besides developmental timeline,
other significant ways in which kids different is working memory capacity, the background knowledge that they bring to the learning experience, experience, temperament, and their interests? So, you know, let me just comment briefly on each of those working memory capacity is, is what we used to call short term memory, Kate, it's now we call it working memory. And it's, it's where kids are handling new information, and it's where they are getting it ready to move into long term memory. And one definition of learning is information that's been moved into long term memory. So a lot of what teachers need to know how to do and I think parents is how to help kids move things from working memory into long term memory. So in some kids can manage, you know, four chunks of new information at a time and some kids can manage up to nine pieces of, of new information. So we have to be concerned about what we have to have a way of kind of identifying, you know, what is my child right now at age six? You know, what's her working memory capacity?
Sure, or just realizing that some kids might be more limited in that area? Can you change that? Like, can you grow your working memory,
the one way in which you can grow your working memory capacity is your background knowledge. So let's touch that's another individual difference, like every time, you're, you know, you have a bunch of eight year olds at your homeschool Co Op who come to a little science class about the planets. Some of those eight year olds, you know, maybe read some books about the planets, maybe they got a parent who's really into astronomy, and they've been using a telescope, I mean, that just think about that little eight year old versus the eight year old, who's never heard the word on astronomy, or constellation or, you know, he's been studying bugs, the one who's has prior knowledge and experience is going to be able to handle a lot more new information about astronomy in that little class than the eight year old who's hearing about it for the first time,
right? My kids tend to have a lot of background knowledge in their science and math class, but not as much as my professional musician, friends. Kids have a music class my kids are, what's a note? What's a coordinate? I guess we all bring? You know that would that like that goes with like your family culture, what your background knowledge strengths are gonna be?
Yeah, so and I think working memory is just something we need to talk a lot about in future podcasts because there's been a it's, it's one of the feel it's one of the areas in neuroscience that we've really are only beginning to understand and it's really significantly impacts and predicts how successful your kids or even you and I are going to be in a new learning situation and I do think we'll be able to really dive deeply into what parents can do to just help kids With working memory capacity and give you a few little tests and tips for figuring out what is my child's working memory capacity, but I mean, I just think the simple thing to say here is that parents should be paying attention to how much new information is this kid able to handle? Let's say he's meeting the information for the first time. And a simple way, just a simple thing that you could do is like, by playing memory games with your kids, where they have to match cards, those will give you a good clue as to how robust your child's memory capacity is. So kids who are really successful with paying those memory cards where you turn them over, and you have to match the animals or whatever is on the other side, you know, kids who were picking that up really quick might have a decent amount of working memory capacity, kids who are struggling, you might have to make sure that you're only introducing like one new idea or one new topic at a time and not being overly complex. The whole
idea is to study your kids learn how they're wired, so that you can tweak and help them where needed, right. So if you think, Oh, it seems like my one child might have less of working memory capacity, maybe you're going to build in background knowledge before you start something or you're kind of going to pour into that to prepare them realizing otherwise, it might be too much of a leap, where you may have another child where it's not too much of a leap.
Yeah, exactly. In fact, what it's called, and you probably heard this in your education classes, it's called action research. And I think this is an idea want to just pass along here, like action research is what we asked teachers to do in the classroom is to cut you know, identify a problem. A child is having hypothesize about what's causing that child's problem, come up with an intervention a plan, and then try that plan and record pay attention to what the interaction is like it is it help the child or not, and then you know, modify it or try another idea. And so you're constantly bringing what we call the scientific process to your teaching. And I think this is what I found invigorating about homeschooling, you and your sister and brothers is I love this, like, oh, it's an experiment homeschooling as experiment. I think, because I'd been a classroom teacher, I was able to, and I decided this isn't the best way to teach kids I came into Homeschooling with Yes, this is it, I can see how this is an ideal, optimal opportunity for helping kids learn and then realizing like, Alright, I just need to figure out how this kid ticks. So I would try things and then be like, Oh, that doesn't work. I got to fix that. And as you kids got older, I talk to you about what did you like about that? Why did you find that interesting. And in actually empowering the child to become sort of do some action research on herself about how she learns best. And so we're always tweaking and experimenting, and figuring out how this kid ticks. And I think that is very also empowering for kids. If they know Yeah, hey, this is about me, learning how I learned best because I am a unique and individualized learner. And the more I understand about how my brain works, and what I can do to help myself learn this information, or learn adapt these skills, the more successful I'm going to be, and I'm going to be able to accomplish things I want to accomplish.
That's what I love the most about homeschooling, as well, because you can apply the research so easily. And so it's fun to learn about new things because I like a trip to the dollar store and I can make it happen. And I that's a goal I have for the high school math classes I teach at my co op is to teach my high school students how they learn best or to learn how they learn best, because I realized, that's one of the most effective tools as you you know, graduate and go on is to know your own strengths and weaknesses, but also how to play to your strengths or how to address your weaknesses and how to learn new material. And then you can learn whatever you need to learn effectively. It's great. What about temperament? What does that referring? Is it like personality? Or?
Yes, I think another word for temperament is personality. I mean, there is variations in the research between temperament and personality, but for, you know, for our conversations, I think they refer to the same thing. And each one of our kids has unique temperament or a unique personality that sets that child apart in our mind when psychologists kind of try to categorize personalities. One of the most popular ways of doing that is called along the Big Five dimension And the big five, you can remember the acronym ocean. So the way in which we as individuals vary from other individuals is in terms of number one, our openness to experience. So some of us are born with a temperament that really makes us open to new things. And then on a sliding scale all the way down to close to new experience, you know, where we get very anxious and don't like new when things are new and different, and we shrink away from that. So kids, you know, some kids are really just going to run to what's new. Other kids are like, No, I would really like to do what we did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and please don't change things up on me. And this the second, the second way in which we can vary is along the dimensions of conscientiousness. So some of us are very conscientious and orderly and organized naturally, and some of us are not. So you know, and you probably see that I think you see that already in your own children. Kate, right. And then the third, my
siblings are popping into my mind as well.
Oh, yes, absolutely. And extraversion some of us are more outgoing and extroverted. Others were more introverted. So we're on a, we're on this dimension, you know, there's variations in between. The fourth one is agreeableness, how easy we are to get along with how willing how much we pursue peace. I'm not real high in agreeableness, I'm, some of us really want conflict in we're not afraid of conflict or debate, or differences. And we're comfortable being, you know, the odd man out. And then the final one in the term in the acronym. Ocean is neuroticism, how prone we are to anxiety some of us just deal with being anxious or uncomfortable, have emotions that tend to be negative, whereas others of us are not, we have more positive emotions as a default position. We're not overly fear fearful, like I think you're a person who's has a whole lot of positive emotions, your childhood you were fearless things that children should have. We had to worry about it actually, you were a survivor, so willing to take risks that your dad and I had to actually be more hyper vigilant with you because you you know, you weren't afraid of heights, you weren't afraid of water? All those things that most children are?
Right? Yeah, no, I just I mean, my Amelia is kindergarten class popped into my mind when you were saying these because you just seeing all the different temperaments in a class with openness to experience, right? Somebody is just so excited to try something new in another kid, that's really a stretch for them.
And here's the thing about temperament is that we found that they're pretty fixed over the lifespan. So there's a lot of things that we can change about ourselves, and there's a lot so our personality, that's where psychologists like to differentiate between personality and temperament, temperament are those traits that seemed to be pretty fixed, and that you're sort of born with these tendencies. And it doesn't mean that we can't grow as individuals and overcome or improve. Say that if you're a person who really battles anxiety, you're probably always going to have that battle and you're going to need strategies to have you know, to you can't take your positive emotions for granted. You might have to do things that you know help you have more endorphins and feel better you're working out a lot more you're you're doing things to generate those happy emotions where you know, somebody else just takes it for granted that they wake up happy every morning. The same thing with being openness open to experience or extroverted right you know, you some of your kids are more extroverted and others are introverted. And and we pretty much stay in those categories throughout our life. I think parents need to accommodate kids. I mean, I think we need to live with our kids in an understanding way. And so your child who really it doesn't like new things, I think parents we have to still introduce them to new things we don't want to over protect them then but we maybe exercise more patients in and how many new things how many changes. I can remember in homeschooling your kids that I like new things I get bored. I don't like routine and I Just remember your brother Mike saying to me one day, can we just do the same thing at the same time? Every day mob routine? Can we have a calendar? Yes. Can we have some traditions too? Yeah, he just wanted it to be predictable. I mean, I heard him I realized, like, Yeah, that's right. I'm the one who gets to choose here, all the things I'm changing up. But for him, it's like, oh, my gosh, it's so random and unpredictable around here. But as
you know, your kids and their temperaments, it's helpful to be able to anticipate challenges. I know, the pitfall that I continue to fall into is that if something wasn't difficult for Joseph, or for Amelia, and then I assume it's not gonna be difficult for a different child, when they're wired so differently. And so just being able to anticipate, okay, this could be stretching for one of my kids, even if it wasn't a stretching for another kid. Yeah, I
think it's very deadly to compare our children to one another to say, you know, just Joseph did this when he was your age, Amelia, that? You mean, we as parents, we all know, we shouldn't say that. But our default, we should actually kind of know our own temperament, what we do under stressful conditions. Those are the kinds of things we just can't say to our children. Or if we do, we have to ask forgiveness, right, we need to acknowledge, hey, I shouldn't have done that. God made you different. And I love the way God made you. So I'm not gonna compare you to your sibling. In that way, again, by His grace, yeah,
we want to foster them, and let them flourish in the way that God created them to be not trying to make them into their sibling, or make them into ourselves in the way that we're wired or what we understand, but letting them flourish in the different strengths they have, and teaching them how to, I don't want to say, cope, but manage the weaknesses, whether it's anxiety or other things, because it's all part of how God fashion does, right. And it is better to have differences. It's just more challenging to think through as a parent how to teach different kids than if they were all copies, I guess.
Yeah, I think it makes us really rely on Grace. Right. I mean, homeschooling is not something I don't think any of us ever become experts at. Because even now, I'm no longer parenting. I'm now a grandparent, I've got six grandchildren, and they're all different. And God purposely made them different, like that's part of God's story, for each of those grandchildren is their differences. Often their differences are what God uses in life to write author his own testimony of his kindness and his salvation and his greatness through us as individuals. It's through our differences that he authors that story. So even though as a grandparent, I'm like a novice, grandparent, I'm learning how to be a good grand parent to each one of my grandchildren. And that, at least I'm aware like that means probably a unique relationship with each one of them, based on who they are and how God's made them.
But tailoring like that will allow kids to blossom into kids with voice to kids who have unique I mean, I know my passion is for mathematicians to have their own style for you to do math and your with your flair with your personality, not for everyone to just do it the same way. And that's the vision we have in our home school across the subjects that you're going to be an individual learner, that you're going to function in your strengths, and then you'll be prepared for your individual calling. So after we come back from the break, I really want to talk more about interests and how a child's interests affect learning and what parents like what we as parents can do to bring a child's interest into our homeschool.
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So Mom, tell me more about interests and how kids differ on that.
Yeah, so we're talking about individual differences and creating a program that is individualized to our each child. As human beings, we just get interested in some things more than we get in others. And each of us have different interests. And that's obvious. But what's important in learning is that we found that kids learn best when they're interested in what they're learning. And why that is true, is because really the fundamental factor in what kids learn, and what they don't learn, is motivation. And is that child motivated to learn if your child doesn't turn on his brain and pay attention to what you're asking him to do, and think about what he's reading, if he doesn't marshal all of those resources that cause his brain to process this information, doesn't matter what you're doing, or I'm doing, they aren't going to learn kids have to choose to learn. So that's what I mean by motivation. Kids have to be motivated. And, and kids, if they're interested, are motivated. So if you can align your program with your child's interests, you already have her engagement. And she's going to learn.
Yeah, I know this research. But every time I see it in action, it still has such a wow factor are just this past summer, one of my big goals of summer was reading. And so I did a neat, the great book party, it was really cute. But each kid picked their own Nate the great book to bring, and they did like a mini project on it. But because they got to pick the book, and they got to pick what they were doing. And they were interested in it, it was amazing the time that they put into it. I mean, the parents tell me they spent hours during the summer, but it was, you know, they were interested, they were motivated. And so they did all this work in the middle of the summer, and you
kind of you kind of cause it, you kind of hit on something that's really robust in the research, Katie is you let kids pick the book that they did, which when you're a classroom teacher, I couldn't let my students pick the book they wanted to read study together as a class, right? Because everybody would have a different choice. So because you'd let children choose that they pick something they were interested in. I mean, it's we just take it for granted. But it's very powerful. Your your students who were in your Nate, the great book club this summer, are never going to forget that experience. And I would say to parents, like reflect on your own learning your own education, what strikes you is most memorable? Where did you learn the most, you were likely very interested in what was going on. So that's a
main memory for me having been homeschooled by you. I mean, I remember being at a curriculum fair. And you let me pick my world history textbook. And I was walking around different booths and looking at the textbook. And you know, I got to be interested. But then also there's some accountability, because I picked the book. So I couldn't really gripe about it. But we just had this happen, you know, I was picking curriculum for Joseph who's going to start second grade. And he wanted to do something different than what I was going to do. And we pivoted, and he, it's, you know, he's so much more motivated. I'm glad that I didn't get locked into my plan. But I was like, Oh, well, he's not interested in that. And this is an area where we have flexibility.
Yeah, you gave him ownership there, Kate. And here's the thing like maybe it'll turn out that that isn't a wasn't a good pic. Maybe it wasn't a good fit for him. Even that becomes a very empowering experience. If you debrief with Joseph like hey, why do you think maybe you lost interest in this? What did you learn about how you know, the next time we go to pick curriculum, what changes do you want to make all of pushing that opportunity in that decision making down to the child's level even as young as somebody like Joseph in second grade is just so empowering in you're going to pay dividends when he's in high school because he is not going to look to you and think that it's up to you to get him educated in high school by high school, he's going to be completely responsible for his own learning, and it's not going to occur to him. Oh, is this my mom's job? He's gonna think this is my job.
Yeah, I felt that hit, I felt that I at University of Pittsburgh, when I graduated from being homeschooled by you and dad, that I had a high degree of ownership of my own education, I felt more responsible to process the information, but also that I had tools for processing it.
So I think we can really leverage interest across the curriculum where kids struggle, especially if so if you can think about, you know, well, what's, what's Amelia, interested in right now? What are some of her top interests that you've observed art?
She loves art?
So can you imagine like, how would you bring that into her learning how to read or learning how to write or her math? I mean, what are you doing to incorporate that? Or might do?
Yeah, I mean, you can do all kinds of blending across subjects. The one thing you've said just briefly in passing was about leveraging it in areas where it could struggle, that stroke, I tend to think of playing to their interests as like, those are their strengths, but not in bringing their interest into the subjects that they're not as excited about, as a way to get them excited.
Yeah, that's, that's actually more critical. So where kids have strengths, you really can mess up where kids have innate interests and strength, like say math with you. Alright, so I do think like math was a horrible bust, really in our homeschool program. And yet, here you are, with a master's degree in math education, and you made it through Pitt with a pure math degree. I'm not trying to minimize how difficult that was for you would have been perhaps easier if we had had more, had had better resources and better support for you. But the fact that it was a strength you got through, like, we really muddled I think, where it's more critical that parents are really respecting how kids differ is where they struggle, like with learning how to read, you know, like trying to make kids learn how to read who are not naturally picking it up. And they're reading things they don't have an interest in. Whereas if you know your kids, a struggling reader, you're gonna have to go and he's a boy, and he's interested in Monster Trucks, you're gonna go buy a whole bunch of little early readers about monster trucks. And if your daughter is, really loves art, and she has no interest in learning how to read or her letters are really figuring out how to blend, create art projects, instead of you know, buying pre printed alphabets that you hang up around, you know, the dining room have asked her to make an alphabet that we can use to learn how to read and getting her to be a part of making her learning aids is a is a way into engagement, so that she will put in some of the the effort that's required. Yet for learning how to read,
your writing popped into my mind. Thinking more back on my own education, since my kids were still little, we typically got to choose what we wrote about which was so helpful, in motivating, you know, whether we were writing an essay or a story, getting to choose the topic, because writing is a challenging skill, instead of having to just do a specific prompt or something like that.
Yeah, there's definitely things parents can do to pique kids interests. So what I think we need to do is if I think what we need to do in any learning situation, is to make sure we've got kids engaged first, and that we've captured their interest, because if they're not motivated, they're not going to learn, I don't think we should keep persisting with teaching or educating or doing school if it's obvious that this kid is like, just going through the paces. And we really need to do some things to engage them. So I have a couple I mean, I have some ideas like what parents could do to pique interest where there is no interest. And my first idea is just introducing that subject in a context where the child feels valued and loved and supported. So you know, curling up on the couch with your struggling reader, doing a read aloud together, sharing a story that you think that he will enjoy and then asking him to, you know, try to read some of the words or introducing your reading lesson. But while you're snuggling together is an example of creating like, a context for learning math, let's say, a math is probably something that happens more often in a very sterile way,
though, someone just shared with me on social media, that she does, like a tea time math. So she makes herself a cup of tea, and her kids come and sit next to her and she makes like a certain sort of treat that they eat. And that's how they do math every day, um, like, everybody would love that, if they got a little muffin, while they were doing math right next, and she does it, you know, one on one with each of them. So her kids, she created this bonding moment or this bonding ritual in their day when her kids learned math, so they have associated it with this just really warm and supportive environment she created.
That's brilliant. That's brilliant, because we probably all think about reading aloud and snuggling together on the couch, but not with math. And you know, there is some research, there is some research that shows that homeschooled students tend to perform much higher verbally than their conventionally educated peers, but then some research that suggests that they don't perform as well in math. And it can be an area where, you know, we weren't that struggle that we had in our own unique home school is not abnormal. It's it's kind of pervasive. That's just a brilliant idea to flip the script,
right. Yeah. And we each can create associations around different subjects. I'm sure some families science is like all happy memories. Time, you mentioned science, they're like, that's amazing. I know, at my house, we talk about writing a lot, because they know mommy's a writer. And so both my kids are working on books right now, because that's what they think that cool people do, I guess. So I guess it just depends on the images we're creating. And if I as a parent, if you're kind of lukewarm towards a subject, you have to work not to project that as you teach it to your kids.
Well, yeah, I think that's a that's a good observation. Because I think mom and dad should think about their own interests, like, you know, if you're homeschooling, you're just going through the motions, and you're not bringing a lot of energy or enjoyment to homeschooling, if you're doing it's a kind of drag, you should think about your own interests, like how can I use what naturally energizes me my own interests, to help engage my kids, because if you have a warm familial relationship with your children, which I'm sure you do, they're gonna enjoy doing things with you, especially with your younger kids, you know, adolescence, that's another story, we'll get to it another time. While you have it, well, while they Well, they're willing to let you snuggle with them, you know, trying, you know, if you doing if you love gardening, getting them out there gardening with you, if, you know, if you love sewing, getting them participating in your sewing, if you like running, getting them running with you, which I know you've been doing, Kate, all those things, you know, can can develop and cultivate interest. So you asked me earlier, you know, of what we could do about working memory, that's kind of fixed how the capacity work, there's not, you know, there's things we can do to support working memory. But interest is something that actually we can cause come into being. And we do by, you know, having infectious interest ourselves in learning in general, or whatever subject
and one chair struggling and I'd share is, if it's not something you're interested in, call in outside help. This has been a game changer for us. So history is not, is not naturally a subject I get the most excited about. But um, you know, my dad, my mom's husband, he loves history, and we had him help us with world history projects this year. And it was amazing, because he was so excited. And then my son got, you know, Joseph got excited, or our neighbor, it loves astronomy. And so when we were learning astronomy, she's like, sending texts like, okay, there's a meteor shower tonight and all these things, and then that got all of us excited, but that that helps because it is hard to be enthusiastic about everything. When you know, I wake up I want to do math with my kids, but I don't wake up excited on the same level for every subject.
Yeah, I think you know, habit building a community having a network is indispensable to long term homeschooling. I think if we burn out with homeschooling, a contributing factor can be that we're kind of alone and isolated. But what's neat now I mean, is There's a lot of online people, too, that you can bring into your network. But you know, most of us have neighbors and older people in our community, we who really might want to be a part of your homeschool, experience. I know your grandparents, my mom and dad, they were public school teachers. So they were not thrilled at all, by our decision to home school at first, we made room for them in the program. Right? I mean, do you even know that they were negative at first? Because I think they were they got so involved in the end.
Yeah, I don't have negative memories. I remember them coming to all my school events. So I didn't I didn't pick up on that part.
Yeah, I think finding a way to, to bring them in I like bring, you know, who's in your who's in your range, who's in your sphere of influence, who's in your network, if you're not interested in something, but you know, your child should be, you know, bring that person in and let somebody who can kind of engender that interest, or at least explain why they find it fascinating is a is a helpful way to engage kids. So I have a I have an assignment for parents. Should I share that now? Go ahead. Yes, we're talking about action research. And for listeners who are game I think getting a notebook and keeping a notebook about your child would be a really sort of a reflective journal, in which you start jotting down what your child is interested in, or where and when is your child most engaged. Some kids are going to have a lot of topics their interest in but some kids are just interested in people and doing things or interested in reading or making things or traveling, what we there's just a broad range of what interests are, what our interests might be. And so paying attention and jotting down when our kids seem to be the most wrapped, and attentive, and seeing what insights you can draw from those contexts where your child is really having a great time, and thinking about, well, how can I use that in my homeschool program to help create an opportunity for this kid to learn?
Yeah, I think that's an excellent assignment, especially doing it for each of your kids. Because I think most of us homeschool parents would say we have one or maybe two kids that are interested in a lot of things. But there could be one of our kids, it's a little harder to figure out what are they interested about? Or takes a little more to get them excited? And we have to think a little more deeply about what piques their interest or how could I get them excited about this subject. But taking the time to write those things down or to actively look for it, I think would be really helpful. That's all we have for you today. You can find my mom Dr. Debra bell at Debra Bell calm.
And you can find Catherine on Facebook at Catherine M Goans. Or on Instagram as homeschool math mom. Her math books and my homeschool planners are available at apology a.com
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