In this episode I interview Julie Bogart (author of the incredible book The Brave Learner and founder of www.bravewriter.com! Join us as we discuss ideas for making learning fun and how you are responsible for your child’s education even if you don’t homeschool.
Julie speaks about how one of the unique gifts of homeschooling is that we’ve been offstage in the laboratories of our own homes, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. In writing her book, she wanted to gather meaningful information and contribute back to the educational space. She felt homeschoolers had been offstage for 50 years but had a lot to offer to the discussion of interest and curiosity in learning.
- [6:53] “How you relate to your child around their education is the key to successful growth of their love of learning.” Whether your kids are in private school, public school, homeschool, or something else – how you relate to your kids about their education is what will foster a love of learning. You don’t actually outsource your kids education, even if they go to an outside school. This is the mindset shift we’re talking about today.
- [10:47] We can partner with our children to give them an education that they enjoy and gives them a hunger for learning. Not just safe or effective, but one that they enjoy. One that builds connection. Playing games in the car, talking at the dinner table. There are ways we showcase to children the magnificence of everything they’re learning, and that they don’t have to suffer to learn! To create meaning for children, parents tend to get abstract and take a long range view. For example, you need fractions for algebra, you need algebra for college, you need college for your later career. For an 8 year old, that’s a lifetime away. If you can’t make them see the abstract, give them a context that makes learning fractions meaningful right now!
- [13:13] Bring play and enchantment into learning instead of forcing kids to leave play to do hard work. Join your child in play, and join your child in the energy they need. “Oh no! Ponyville is at risk! It will be exploded unless we crack the secret codes. Your pony needs to crack this phonics code.” This isn’t cheating, it’s just effective.
- [15:59] Whether we homeschool or not, an involved parent leads to the best outcomes for our child’s education. We’re all looking for some level of control in helping our children succeed. Partnering with your child is OK. “Let’s do it together!” is OK. What’s missing normally isn’t better, dutiful performance from your child, but collaboration. The very thing workplaces are looking to grow is collaboration, and yet we act like children shouldn’t have collaborators. Who doesn’t want support? When something breaks in your house, do you on some level fix it with your partner?
- [19:15] In fact, the more we support our children, the sooner they choose to try on their own.
- [19:36] We need to provide the corresponding level of support to the presenting need. We’re not saying “you take over”. We’re providing the support that meets the need. You don’t let go of your baby’s hand because you think they should be walking on their own. You don’t take the training wheels off of the bike to punish a child into learning to balance. You take them off when you see those training wheels are hardly even touching the ground anymore and they’re clearly ready to ride without them. We don’t hand 16-year-olds the keys to the car and say, “Go drive the car. You’ve seen me do it for years and you know how to walk and run. Driving is next.” Around academics, we seem to have a different disposition though based on the ghost of public school past.
- [22:34] Sometimes the teacher is the leader, sometimes the child is. Julie’s own son Jacob really led her into astronomy, and to a revelation about Saturn that she didn’t actually believe until he showed her in a telescope. She had a Social Studies teacher who had been in the Peace Corps in India. One day they were studying the Incas, and this teacher had them make pots based on the Incan designs. The teacher fired their pots in the kiln only to give the students a hammer with instructions to smash their pots because they’d be going on an archaeological dig! She led students to the field and handed them all shovels. Julie’s team could not find their pots because the teacher forgot where she buried them, and Julie cried she was so upset! The teacher then told Julie she was having the most authentic experience, saying that is what archaeologists feel like because they don’t know where to look. They glued everything back together and they created a little museum display. What a valuable experience to understand what it would actually be like as an archaeologist.
- [32:56] Don’t miss out on opportunities for your child to learn how to teach, even if it means you have to play a game you don’t particularly enjoy (Pokémon anyone?? 😂) My own son’s school-like program decided to ban Pokémon, but the next day they pivoted and sent an email about the kids learning animation and cartoons, Pokémon themed food, sewing Pokémon costumes, writing stories and doing Pokémon math, and of course the social skills of negotiation.
- [34:49] Learning is invisible to parents (you can’t see in their head) so we often seek “paper and pencil” for reassurance that learning is occurring. My 8 year old son told me “I know the way”, and I thought that was cute. He starts saying “it’s through here,” “it’s another hour this way”….and I realized he DID know the way. He was our full on tour guide after I had dismissed him completely. He did it though and remembered the way, getting us to the other side when we had no phone, and no map.
- [38:35] Kids are constantly paying attention and learning…but what they’re paying attention to doesn’t always register in our minds as learning, according to traditional academics. Julie’s own kids developed superior map reading skills (no need to stand on the map or orient themselves first). They developed this through reading maps in video games.
- [39:04] The best approach to screen time (spoiler alert; there isn’t one). We will never live in a time again, where screens are not the #1 way that we engage with the world. We like connection with other humans – Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. Children like to play with others though – they don’t like long political posts the way we do – they play with others through online games and other outlets. So when it comes to screens, Julie always tries to talk to her kids like human beings, not like they were being polluted by play (video games).
- [45:58] We all struggle at times, but we shouldn’t stay there. No one can live in “struggle” long-term. There needs to be a pivot; we need to find a way to move forward, out of the struggle. One can find many social media posts where a mother is being #real, showing a disheveled home, or showing what a hot mess her life is, and how much she’s struggling to get through the day or get out of bed – which is awesome to show that it’s normal and makes us not feel weird. However, normalization doesn’t really cure the problem. Just being #real doesn’t fix the problem. It’s where we start in 12 Steps Groups. “I have no control over alcohol”, or “I have no control over my children.” Great place to start! Some people though give you “rules” to overcome your struggle by being didactic. For example, be Waldorf all the way, (however if you have an animation on your T-shirt it will take away all the other benefits of Waldorf). When you solve the struggle problem with an external authority, you never discover what works for you. You’re performing for someone else, applying an external model that may not fit your family.
- [47:12] The way to move forward is subjective, not prescriptive. It depends on the needs of our individual families and what’s best in each season. The problem is, all of the above mentioned prescriptions are outside-in, instead of internally figuring out, taking risks, experiment with what fits for this person, this family, in this moment. There is no one way that works for everyone, there are endless numbers of little ways.via @BraveWriterTweet This
- [49:20] “Liberation comes when you take back your right to explore as many options as necessary to find today’s right fit for you and your family.” We do it through gentleness not just to our children, but to ourselves. Whether we homeschool or not, we are ultimately responsible for our children’s education and need to be as involved as possible to fuel their love for learning.
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Links & resources mentioned:
- Julie’s book The Brave Learner
- https://thebravelearner.com/ (be sure to download the free companion guide from this website!)
- Julie’s podcast & blog info