“When a family rethinks school, and brings their children home for learning, roles become complicated. Relationships can become strained. Parent preparation is the key to schooling effectively at home.” ~ Deslynn Mecham
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi, there. I'm Heidi Higgins, and you are listening to K12 On Learning. Welcome to a new school year, a new beginning. Boy, it can be a bit chaotic, can't it? I hope you're holding up. I'm delighted to introduce you to a series that we will begin next week on the podcast. Schooling Effectively at Home with Deslynn Mecham, is a series of five episodes that will cover defining roles for you and your child. Learning about what motivates them and how you can leverage it. Des will address the complaining and crying and whining, whether it be yours or your child's. I know how it works. She will share ideas on how to come up with a game plan for when things become difficult, and she will provide assurance that it is not perfection, but progress that should be our goal. This introduction is a window into the reality of the day in the life of a learning coach. Each home is different. I hope this preview offers you hope that you can school effectively at home.
My family has an ongoing K12 story. I enrolled my three youngest daughters in a K12 online school the first year it became available in my state. That was 20 years ago, in 2002. I was a learning coach for eight years at home, with three mostly wonderful daughters. Now, I have to tell you, that I do not regret a minute of it. My role has since changed, just my family has grown, and we have now started our second generation of our K12 story. My K12 graduate daughters now have children enrolled. This is important because we learned that we could make it work in our home. Was it easy? No. There were days when we had a house full of women in tears.
But I can tell you that it was worth it. Absolutely. Joining me today is one of my all time favorite people. Deslynn Mecham and I met while we were experiencing schooling online adventure with our own children. I learned so much from her. I could spend every day with Deslynn Mecham, and just bask in the life experience that she would share with me. I've actually done that a few times, as we've been able to travel together across many state lines and share a message to learning coaches of hope, of support and comfort really, to learning coaches just getting started, or experienced ones who need to learn a few tricks. So, Deslynn, welcome to this webinar. Will you please share your ongoing K12 story?
Deslynn Mecham: Hi, Heidi, and hi K12 families. I'm so glad to be here with you. I hope I have some second generation children in the K12 schools someday. My story started in about 2006, I believe that's when I started schooling with Idaho Virtual Academy with my daughter, when she entered second grade. We were able to do it for four years, and so many things I learned. Being with Heidi along the way and sharing our heartaches and our good days, we put together, each one of us came up with our own unique way that we were handling the situations that we came across while we were at home. I started to write mine down, like, this worked with my daughter, this did not work with my daughter, and really started honing some of the things I was practicing on her, and was able to, through meeting Heidi, able to start sharing that with learning coaches across the nation.
So, I've been working with learning coaches for over 12 years now across the nation. They've had questions as they've first started doing this. Just being able to share some of the experiments that I tried on my daughter, some worked, some didn't. That's what you're going to find in this Schooling Effectively at Home series. Just some of the experiments that I've done and tried to hone, and the other stories that I've heard from learning coaches as well. I'm so excited to be able to share some highlights from this series.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you, Deslynn. I wanted to begin with a quote from you from part one of the series, where you said, "When a family rethinks school and brings their children home for learning, roles become complicated, relationships can become strained. Parent preparation is the key to schooling effectively at home." This is one of the reasons why you talk to families, and why we shared some of the important things that happen. Things change when you bring a child home.
Deslynn Mecham: Absolutely. Absolutely. I found that to be so true, and I found, I thought I had a really good relationship with my daughter, and coming home, the roles did start to change. Those relationships did start to become a little strained at times. I found that I really had to look inward and not focus on changing her so much, but what could I do? How could I prepare to be a really effective learning coach, and give her this experience that I had hoped for with her education? So, just rethinking a few things as we started that first year and as we honed our skills throughout the next few years together, really made a difference for us.
Heidi Higgins: Perfect. I chose to rethink every year.
Deslynn Mecham: Right. Exactly.
Heidi Higgins: Whenever something comes up and is new. Deslynn came up with five different parts to the episodes that we are going to be featuring on K12 On Learning Podcast. This series will run through September and into October, and these five parts will give you some windows into things that can change your family. Now, this is for families who school online. This is for families who school traditionally. This is for families and relationships. Isn't that the best way that you can describe it, Deslynn?
Deslynn Mecham: Absolutely. Those relationships with the people we love and care for the most, they take a lot of work and a lot of effort. When we start schooling at home, different things come into play. So, I really wanted to focus in on what I could do. These weren't quick fixes. It wasn't just a quick timeout, and that was going to make all the problems go away. I had to really hone in on my child, and how she was feeling, and just some little quick tools that I could have. So, they're not quick fixes. It's a slow fix, but such a rewarding fix. So, we've broken it down into these five parts, these five episodes, to give you some time to move from part one, through part five, and start working on some of the skills, or just applying your personality and how this might work best for you in your home.
Heidi Higgins: Baby steps, right?
Deslynn Mecham: Right. Exactly.
Heidi Higgins: The first episode we are going to address, whose job is it? Why is this so important, Deslynn?
Deslynn Mecham: Well, I found really quickly in working with my daughter, that I was making the schoolwork my job. I was worried whether math got done, and I was worried whether the English assignment was written the right way and handed it on time. I had to really rethink how everything was playing out. At the time, I had an older son who was looking at jobs and going out into the world and starting that first job. I found that he was nervous in the beginning. What was it going to be like at this new job, this fast food restaurant? Would he know what to do and would he know when to go and what to wear? Just so many concerns with that new job. As I watched that, I felt the same thing happened for us at home is, I had to really look at my role as a parent and define that and say, okay. What am I supposed to do every day?
I made a list, and then had a conversation with my daughter. "Okay, what's your job? Are you doing the math problems or am I doing the math problems? Whose job is this?" Really defining that role. Once I did that, I could push away some of the anxiety that I would feel every day over, what if this doesn't get done on time? What if this doesn't get done right? I could hand that control over to her and have her start looking at, it's her job and the quality of her life depends upon the quality of her day and the quality of her work. So, that's what defining my job really helped me for as a learning coach, and having that conversation with my daughter as well. So, we go through that in detail, here through this episode one.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you, Deslynn. Part two, episode number two, what motivates these kids? That was a big one for me. I wonder what motivated me too.
Deslynn Mecham: Absolutely. We do have to look at that. Sometimes it's really easy to look at our children and say, "Oh, I know what motivates them. The phone motivates them, or the video games motivate them." We have to take a look at that a little deeper. Sometimes we give labels to our kids, maybe they're lazy, or they're not motivated to do anything. I don't believe that to be true at all. I believe they're very motivated. So, we want to look at some skills and some thoughts and ideas of how can we find first, what does motivate them? How do I, as a parent, leverage that? What do I have control over? How much do I love them that I'm going to be able to hold them accountable for the things that they need to get done? Sometimes we look at, we talk a little bit I believe, in the episode about reward systems.
Usually, that's what we go to first. We think, if I can find the right sticker or the right price, they're going to get the work done. My husband has always joked that a good reward system quickly becomes a hostage situation. It's like they're not going to do anything unless they have a sticker or unless they get their phone time. So, we want to talk about that, and we want to think that through on when a reward system goes south on us, what do we do? How are we going to manage that shift in control, and talk about those motivating items for our kids.
Heidi Higgins: I noticed that this crying, complaining and whining came up slowly, but it doesn't necessarily in real life.
Deslynn Mecham: It does not come up very slowly on a school day. This is usually one of the first, I call it the crack in the wall. This is usually that first little crack in sometimes a crumbling wall, when it's with crying, complaining and whining. Sometimes it's ours, but most of the time we're so concerned about our children. So, in this episode, we're going to talk about empathy. That's so important. We're going to talk about empathy pretty much in every episode, I believe. But empathy, I've got to be okay. I've got to be okay with some crying and some complaining and some whining. It's going to happen, they're kids. I still cry and complain and whine. So, we want to be able to be okay with it. But then again, have some tools in our pocket, have some phrases that we can pull off and we can say, "Oh, I help kids who are sitting in their chair," when they're throwing a tantrum on the floor.
"I help students who are respectful and kind." What do I have control over, when that crying and the complaining and the whining hit? Also, we'll talk a little bit about some magic words, feel free to have friends over when X, Y, and Z are taken care of. We learn how to neutralize some of these arguments. We can get quickly tied up with our kids because we love them so much. We want to be able to make our point with them, and we want them to go, "Oh, you're right, mom. You're right. I should never complain about schoolwork again." That's just not the reality of it. So, just some tools and some tips here in this episode to get you through some of the crying and the complaining that comes along on a school day.
Heidi Higgins: Love this one. Especially the word neutralize.
Deslynn Mecham: Absolutely. We do a lot of neutralizing situations. We do.
Heidi Higgins: This next episode I think was my favorite, Deslynn, because you invited me to do a lot of thinking. You made me realize with your metaphor of me as an actual coach, what I needed to do to be prepared.
Deslynn Mecham: Absolutely. I love sport analogies as well, I think they're great lessons for life. So, if we're going to think about sports and the coach, as a coach of the football or the basketball team, I know that my team is going to fumble. I know that my team is going to miss some baskets. They're going to miss some shots, they're going to miss some goals. So, as a coach, I'm going to prepare for that. We're going to drill, we're going to practice, we're going to feel bad when things don't go the way we had planned. We're going to be sad and then we're going to readjust. We're going to switch it up. So, in this episode, we do go over a game plan for you, as in all the stories and the tips and techniques that we both share throughout these episodes. We want you to apply your personality.
You have unique children, just like I do, and we want to apply your personality to it. But give you some broad guidelines to go with. So, really, I'm holding my hands up here, but I'm looking at this game plan that I would write out with my daughter, and I would write down, she breaks down every time we do spelling words. She would cry every time we had a writing assignment. So, I would prepare for that. Didn't mean that she didn't cry and that she wanted to do spelling words all of a sudden. No, those things still happened. But I prepared myself for, okay. I need to prepare for the whining and the complaining. I would just give myself little reminders and then I would have an actual plan of what to do when she would break down about a writing assignment.
How was I going to adjust? How was I going to quickly switch it up and say, "Okay. We're going to look at math now for a minute." Or, "We're going to take a break, and we're going to go laugh for a little bit." So, just again, some ideas in this episode to get you through, have you thinking ahead, looking at the details, looking at your unique family and your situation with one child or several children at home, and planning out, I know we're going to have tough days. I know we're going to fumble the ball. How can I prepare to adjust?
Heidi Higgins: Like I said, I can listen to you all day. That made a big difference when I started to apply these techniques. So, when I started schooling at home, I pictured how beautiful it was going to be, in my lovely school room and my children be cooking.
Deslynn Mecham: Cookies.
Heidi Higgins: That's right.
Deslynn Mecham: Baking with our children. Oh, yes. It was such a magical dream, wasn't it?
Heidi Higgins: It is. There's no irony lost in the fact that I pictured a sandcastle now. There's-
Deslynn Mecham: Right before the waves crash.
Heidi Higgins: Exactly.
Deslynn Mecham: Got this picture perfect castle.
Heidi Higgins: We're not really going for perfection, period. We're not going for perfection here.
Deslynn Mecham: Exactly. Never. No. We're going for progress. We want to grow, we want to learn. I'm not a perfect mother, not a perfect learning coach. I never will be, but I'm going to grow, and I'm going to progress as we go along. So, in this episode, we're really talking about practice makes progress. I'm a firm believer in practicing procedures and routines so that it can keep your day from falling apart, when everybody knows again what their job is, and we've practiced, okay. What do we do with our computers at the end of the day? We've practiced, where do all the library books go? We've practiced, what do we do right before we go to lunch or before we take a break? We're going to think through those things, because oftentimes we look at these situations with our kids and we think, bad behaviors. They're not cleaning up when they should, or they're not getting their schoolwork done when they should.
We look at the behavior instead of maybe stepping back for a minute, and looking at the procedure. What is our procedure for library books? What is our procedure for completing the school day and completing assignments? When we look at practicing these things over and over, and having procedures in place, routines is another word for that, it helps us eliminate excuses, because everyone does know what they need to do, because we've practiced it. When they don't do what they need to be doing, then we're going to practice it again. We might have to... I call them just refresher. "Oh, it's time for a refresher course. We're going to go over what we do first thing in the morning when school starts." These procedures, these routines, they need to be practiced.
You're going to need refreshers. Sometimes you're going to need one every week, especially if... Depending on where your critical moments are during the day, is starting school really hard? Then let's come up with a procedure and let's practice it. We might have to practice it all year long. Is lunchtime a difficult time? Is it hard maybe getting them back on task? All of these things can apply from a kindergartner through a senior in high school. We just apply the age, we apply the circumstances that we're going through with them, so you can usually take any of these tips and by just maybe changing a few words, changing the tone of a voice, how I'm going to talk to my six year old as opposed to my sophomore, just little strategies like that. But looking at, we're just looking at progress here. Doesn't have to be perfect.
The waves are going to come, the castle is going to fall away, and then guess what? Tomorrow we get to build a new sandcastle. Sometimes it's tomorrow, sometimes it's even in the afternoon. We can turn a rough start around at any time. In this episode we're going to talk about how do we do that by having some procedures and just thinking about those critical times in your day, that tend to cause some angst. How can we not look at our child and say, "Bad behaviors. They're not a good student." But, "What can I do? What can I retrain? I know I've told them this, but what can we practice?" Have fun with it as well.
Heidi Higgins: I love that you want us to focus on us. The one thing we can control.
Deslynn Mecham: Exactly, and that's the hardest. It is really easy for me personally, it's easy for me to look at my children and say, "Whoa. You have got some problems. Let me tell you how to fix them. I have got all the solutions." But it's much harder for me to look in the mirror and say, "You have got some problems. There are some things that we could work on here." That's harder to do. It seems like it would be easier to just tell everybody how they should act. But I can really take good care of myself. I'm a big advocate for that. We've got to take good care of ourselves, so that we feel good about the way we're parenting, about the way that we're going about our day. When we mess up, and when we lose our cool, we can fix that. We can always fix it.
We get to give our children the same luxury. When we've got a bad moment, a bad school day, we can fix it. That's okay. Tomorrow's coming and we're going to adjust. Through this series, I just hope that you can walk away, you don't have to do every single thought and idea that comes. But pick and choose. It's like a buffet. Pick and choose what sounds good to you, some ideas that you might start to practice to enjoy these schooling days. When they're a little tougher, be okay. Be ready to, okay. That did not go well. I didn't love the way I handled that, and reset. Reset, refresh, and let's try again. It's such a great model for our kids. I don't do it perfectly all the time. I have adult children now, I still struggle with that. But I'm not going for perfection. I'm trying to progress and trying to grow, and it's just an ongoing journey. But it's so rewarding. It's so rewarding, and a lot of hard work. But that's okay. Our kids are worth it.
Heidi Higgins: They're certainly worth it. So, you can hear Deslynn and the entire series on our podcast, and we hope that you'll join us and get some of those ideas, learn a few things that maybe you could implement in your home. I know personally that it changed me enough that I began to appreciate the difficulty my children were having in learning, because it was hard for me to learn. So, I hope you'll join us. Thank you, Deslynn, for jumping on with us today.
Deslynn Mecham: Thank you.
Heidi Higgins: We'll see you through the month of September and into October, and we will get this year started off right.
Deslynn Mecham: Wonderful. Good luck, everyone.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning, sponsored by Stride. To learn more about online public schools powered by Stride K12, Stride Career Prep Programs that foster lifelong learning, or any of the private school or individual course offerings, please go to stridelearning.com, or k12.com. Special thanks to Tree Case Studios for providing the music for us. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, and feel free to leave us a good review. We hope you'll join us next time, for K12 On Learning.
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