“These are life skills, and they need to be learned as an adult. It's something that we can take on and develop for ourselves.” ~ Heidi Higgins
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi there. I'm Heidi Higgins and you are listening to K12 On Learning, sponsored by Stride. Today, I bring you Part 4 in our Schooling Effectively @ Home series, where we encourage you to make a game plan and be ready for any scenario you will face during the day. Before we begin, I wanted to remind you of Stride's new enrichment programs, where you can join students and adults across the country as you dive deeper into your interests, build professional portfolios and more. Topics include drone flight, entrepreneurship, storytelling through photography, music, and coding, playwriting, mobile app development, and even a drone certification program for learning coaches, with ranging participation costs.
The great news is that these Stride K12 Enrichment Programs are not exclusive to Stride K12 students, but open to any 9th through 12th grade student, anywhere. Applications close September 30th, with programs starting in early October. Explore our current Stride Enrichment Program options and get ready to try something new at k12.com/stride-enrichment. Now, let's talk about having a game plan. Deslynn Mecham, welcome back for number four in our series of Schooling Effectively @ Home. Today, we're going to talk about a game plan for some of the chronic issues that may happen in our homes. Nice to have you back again.
Deslynn Mecham: Thank you, Heidi. It's good to be here again. This is so fun to reach out and talk to learning coaches across the nation. And so many things can come from schooling at home.
Heidi Higgins: It really can. In fact, remember that schooling at home isn't the only time these skills can be put into action. So, if you're not schooling your child at home, or you're worried about any relationship that you have, these skills are things that you can apply in many situations. And as Deslyn reminds me often, these are life skills and they need to be learned as an adult, it's something that we can take on and develop for ourselves. So, let's go ahead and begin about what it's like to have some kind of a game plan when there's trouble ahead.
Deslynn Mecham: When I think of game plans, I grew up in a family of sport fanatics and my father coached, my husband coaches, my son coaches, and has played. And I've seen a lot of scribbled papers that come home after ball games and X's and O's on the paper, if you will. It's never made a lot of sense to me, but we've talked and have seen a lot as I listen to the people in my life as they have made adjustments as they've been coaching. And so, I always think about that when I think of learning coaches, we are coaches and we need a game plan, just like the basketball coach needs a game plan, and we need to be able to adjust and switch it up. So, when we're schooling at home, you'll often find certain areas of your day go really well or certain subjects go really well.
And then there's some that you kind of cringe, your student probably cringes when they know, "Oh, this is coming," and they may put it off and procrastinate and it really starts to become a power struggle for us. So, I like to come up with a game plan specifically for those chronic issues, so that I can still... Again, as we talked last week about crumbling walls and being a good solid boundary form, I want to have my stuff together. Okay? Before those chronic issues come, I want to be ready for whatever my student throws at me this day. I was schooling my daughter at home through elementary and middle school years. I would literally write out a game plan and my game plan looked like just on a piece of paper, I'd have four columns and I would pick the first subject, math. I think we can all agree, math can be wonderful for some kids. It can be a real struggle for some.
My daughter seemed to do okay with math, as long as I could keep her on task and not get too heavy about it. So, I found with that first subject in math, my game plan was going to be, I'm going to share as much control as possible with her. And we talked about that a few weeks ago about that skill of just questions, questions, choices for her. So, I'm going to make a column of questions for her with math, and I'm going to study it, this is my job, I'm a coach. And so, I've got to set our day up for success as best that I can. So, I would write down questions like, "Would you like to work at the desk or the table? Would you like to do flashcards before or after the lesson? Would you like to work alone or do you want to work with me? Do you want to type your answers or write them? Would you like to do the odds or the evens? Would you like a three minute break or a five minute break?"
I'm just going to give myself... Because again, this doesn't come easy to me. I have to have a game plan that I can look to and kind of go over the night before, because I know where we're headed to next, language arts. And language arts for our house, for my student, the words contrasting and comparing would just send her into a fit. I don't know what it was about that, but it was overwhelming to her. And so I found again, I had to make a game plan for language arts and I had to make notes for myself, especially in the beginning. I had to write down, "Okay. Yep. Tomorrow we certainly do. We have an assignment, we're going to be contrasting and comparing." I even wrote on my list, "She'll throw a fit," just so I can feel really good. I can mark that off. I was right. She'll throw a fit.
Heidi Higgins: I like the list.
Deslynn Mecham: Right? I got to be prepared for everything, so I can have my little successes. And then again, I'm going to come up with some choices. In any area, whether it's an area that's going to go super smoothly, give them as much control as possible. So helpful, so beneficial. And so if we're doing math first, that day, I've kind of loaded her up, front loaded her with a lot of hopefully good feelings about, "Ooh, you've made a lot of choices about math today." Language arts. I know, ooh, this is going to be a little trickier, so I'm going to come up with some choices also, spelling box or contrasting and comparing first? Oh, she's going to go for spelling box and put contrast and compare off as long as possible. Okay. I'm okay with that. But I've now given her brain two things to think about, "Do you want to do spelling box first or contrasting and comparing?"
The brain still knows, "Ooh, we've got two things to do, but I'm going to go take this one first." And then that feels good. I've made a decision. I also make some notes for myself. I make a note that says, "Do it before lunch and maybe offer a choice of a snack before or after the lesson. There's another choice I could give her, "Hey, do you want to snack before we do that or after that? Just free and easy and just really, really simple. Sometimes on a subject with a game plan, we might need some comic relief. And when things get really heavy and oh, it's just overwhelming. And sometimes the teeny tiniest little thing can just spin both of us out of control. And then, "Ugh," we're all miserable and we all hate our jobs. So, a little comic relief, I'm really big on that. We turn on America's Funniest Home Videos and those just crack us up. We love those.
They really lighten the mood. And it's just that little bit of humor that gets our endorphins up, gets a little adrenaline going on us and refocuses us. All of a sudden we're watching cat videos and, "Oh, they're so funny." I put that on my game plan. Do we need some comic relief today? Maybe we don't. Maybe, "Ooh, we're in a good rhythm and I'm not going to break it up with, 'Oh, hey, let's now go to America's Funniest Home Videos." No, we're not going to do that. But sometimes I have to remind myself, do we need that? And then I also make a note for myself, "Be prepared to walk away from whining," because she's going to test that boundary with me, she's going to push up. We talked about arguing, complaining, and whining, usually on these chronic issues with the subjects that they don't particularly like, or maybe an assignment that's coming up, I've got to prepare myself.
So again, I write a couple of statements down, "Oh, happy to help when your voice is as nice as mine," or, "Feel free to have lunch when your assignment is done." And I'm going to walk away and maybe they won't have lunch till four o'clock. I don't know. I'm going to feel good about that. I'm going to give a choice. Feel free to have lunch when the assignment is done, I'm happy to help when your voice is as nice as mine and I'm walking away. I want her seeing my back, knowing that she still has things that need to be completed, and I'm going to be able to hold her accountable for that. So, I have four columns, math, language, arts, now we're looking at history. She could do history all day long, every day for the rest of her life and be perfectly happy. Awesome. This is exactly what I want. This is our sweet spot, so I want to build this area. This is my game plan. Ooh, I'm so tricky. This is my game plan.
So again, I'm going to share some more choices. Even though this is something she loves, I'm going to share more choices. I'm going to say, "Oh, do you want to read with me or do you want to read alone? Oh, do you want to wait until dad gets home or do you want to read the story now?" Just any choices that I can come up with. "Oh, do you want to do your history journal first or should we read through the chapter one first?" Whatever it is that I can just build up, so that she is like, "Ooh yeah, I want to do that first. And I want to do that first." I'll also put on here, make notes for myself, "Writing portion done before theater practice.' I've got to remind myself, today we have somewhere to be at three o'clock. So, this is an area where I can hold her accountable that the writing portion, which is not her favorite part, needs to be done before we go anywhere.
So, I may just say that in the morning, that might also be, "I'm happy to drive kids to theater practice when history writing is done or your journal is finished," whatever it might be. And then I also put on my game plan, "Make time for the fun, extra stuff." Sometimes in our lessons, we're like, "Ugh", we just get it all done. There's a lot of extra, engaging activities that aren't graded. They don't have to be done, but they're extras. Sometimes those are the funnest. So, I want to make sure that in an area that she loves, let's love it. Let's love it and let's do all of it. So history, we're just going to gobble it up and do all we can. But my game plan is we got math and we got language arts done first for this day. Can you shake it up other times and do history first?
Absolutely, but be flexible. And then on my game plan, I've also just written down the activities for the day. Or maybe you can do this on a week level. It doesn't matter. But I've also just said, "Ooh, we've got art with the neighbor at noon and we've got theater practice at three," and I've written down, "Ooh, if she's moving along, let's go to the library." And then I've also written down just a couple of notes for me that say, "Don't remind, don't lecture, and have fun." And I do have to remember that sometimes when those chronic issues come up.
Heidi Higgins: This is a fun game plan. We don't always remember these things when we're in the heat of the moment, so if it's written down, thought of beforehand. That's one of the reasons we even do fire drills. We want to know ahead of time what our reactions going to be, what our destination is where safety is. And if we have a game plan with our children, when these issues come up, we will know the behavior that will direct them, or at least encourage them in the way that we hope that they'll go.
Deslynn Mecham: Absolutely. And the other thing, a game plan, it's mostly for you. Okay? It's mostly for me. Right? Again, I can control myself. I can control what I think and how I react. I can't control what an eight year old is going to say. I can't control what my 16 year old is going to say and come out of their mouth, or even if they're going to hold the learning that they're trying to do, but I can control myself. But the benefit of a game plan too, is I've given them some broad limits here. I'm sharing control there with choices, I'm sharing control with statements. Hey, feel free to go to theater practice, or I drive kids to theater practice who have completed their writing assignments for the day. And also it keeps students in a thinking mode.
What do we want them doing during the school day? Thinking. We want them in thinking mode as much as possible. And also I think it gives them a sense of responsibility. This is my job. Again, a game plan is a way to further solidify that you have a job and I know what that job is. And I'm just here to keep things in order. I'm here to assist. I'm here to help. I'm here to love. I'm here to cheer you on and keep that attitude. And then I'm going to hold them accountable because it does get heavy with some of those chronic issues. If I know the whining and the crying are going to come and that gets heavy. It gets heavy for me to where none of us are looking forward to anything.
Heidi Higgins: That's right. And what do we do, Deslynn, if the day isn't successful?
Deslynn Mecham: Right. And they oftentimes won't be, and you've got to look at what do I consider a successful day. I'm going to adjust that game plan. Right? So, if some of my statements didn't go over well, if she didn't finish and what if we missed our activities, we missed going to theater practice because she didn't get her writing done, so we're going to adjust for tomorrow. That's a common practice for us to have, days where our kids aren't going to want to learn every day. Right? They're not going to want to do some of the hard stuff, especially when it gets hard and it seems overwhelming to them, so we're going to adjust. That's where we've identified first with our game plan, we've identified what do we need to do? Where are our trouble areas?
Is your trouble area getting up in the morning? I mean, that would be part of my game plan. If getting them going in the morning was part of a big problem, then I'm going to make that part of my game plan. And we're going to talk about that next week, especially as we set up some routines and procedures with our children. When our game plan doesn't go as we'd hope, I think the football coach could say the same thing, "All the X's and O's were in the right place, but the ball didn't go in the right direction." So, what are we going to do? We're going to adjust.
Heidi Higgins: I like your analogy to sports because they don't win every game, even though there's a game plan in place. And when it's all over, they review, they go over and they adjust for the next one.
Deslynn Mecham: Exactly. They have a eraser, right? They have a chalkboard, they have a dry erase and they start erasing and they start drawing something new. And that's what I want you to do. I want you to look and go, "Okay, well that was a disaster yesterday. So today we're going to try this," or, "Ooh, that went really well yesterday." And you will see this too. It's like, "But yesterday was so perfect. I'm doing the exact same thing today?" That just doesn't work that way. So, we're going to just adjust. We're going to be flexible enough to go with the tide and go in the direction. But again, these are heavy situations sometimes and we talked, arguing and complaining and whining less. It can really weigh us down. So we keep it light by, "Okay, I'm going to make a plan. I'm going to make a plan."
And my message to learning coaches is the quality of your day depends on you. Okay? Doesn't depend on your student. It depends on you. And so, you have a job to do and you have work to figure out and adjust to them and you can set the tone. And even if they've decided not to follow the game plan today, or they've decided not to do their work in the way that it needed to be done or when it needed to be done. Have I done my job? Quality of my day, depends on me. Not on my student. The quality of their day depends on their decision and what they decided to get done today. And then again, I'm going to hold them accountable in the unique way that we do in our home. Whatever your situation is, as to how you hold your children accountable in your home. You can have good days even if your student hasn't followed any of the X's and the O's on your game plan, you can still feel good about the end of your day because you've followed your game plan.
Heidi Higgins: Right. Well, thank you for sharing your ideas for a game plan success. It will make a big difference if we have some ideas of where to turn. Thank you, Deslyn Mecham, for joining me again. This has been a great episode. We have one more to go and we hope that you'll join us next week for practice makes progress, another delving into some hints and helps that will help you in your schooling effectively at home. Thank you, Deslynn.
Deslynn Mecham: You bet.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning, sponsored by Stride. To learn more about online public schools, powered by Stride K12, our Stride career prep programs that foster lifelong learning or any of our private school or individual course offerings, please go to stridelearning.com or k12.com. 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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