PAP 116:

Homeschooling Gifted, 2e, and Special Needs Kids

with Colleen Kessler, M.Ed.

Many families of kids with learning challenges — like ADHD and autism — consider homeschooling at one time or another. It can be an overwhelming process to transition from school that happens outside the home to school at home, not to mention adding the role of teaching your child to your role as parent. Yet, many find homeschooling freeing. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, homeschooling advocate and 2e expert, Colleen Kessler shares the process of transitioning to homeschooling, as well as the benefits to the kids and families alike.

Resources in this Episode

NOTE: Some of the resources below may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

My Guest

COLLEEN KESSLER, M.ED.

Colleen Kessler is an explorer, tinkerer, writer, educator, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. The author of more than a dozen books for parents, teachers, and children, Colleen is an award-winning educator, educational coach and consultant, with a B.S. in elementary education and a M.Ed. in gifted studies.

She is the founder of the popular podcast Raising Lifelong Learners with Colleen Kessler, the website Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as The Learner’s Lab, the #1 community created just for quirky families, full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most. Her most recent book published in December 2020, Raising Resilient Sons: A Boy Mom’s Guide to Building a Strong, Confident, and Emotionally Intelligent Family.

Thanks for joining me!

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Colleen Kessler (00:03): Well, first of all, you're not bound to 8 to 3 or 9 to 4 or 9 to 2 or whatever the school timeframes are. You're not going to be teaching your child or having them do homeschooling for the eight hours or six hours or whatever they would be gone for on a normal school day.

Intro (00:26): Welcome to the Parenting ADHD Podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD, straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD-aholic and Mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams (00:57): I'm excited today to be talking to Colleen Kessler of Raising lLifelong Learners. She's a homeschool advocate, and also an expert in twice exceptionality and gifted. And we're going to talk a lot about schooling at home and homeschooling. Schooling at home of course is where we all are right now. Or many of us and homeschooling I think has always been a topic of interest for special needs families, but even more so now if you're going to do school at home, I see a lot of families saying, well, then I'm going to homeschool. I'm going to choose how I do it. So really excited to have this conversation and share it with all of you. Will you introduce yourself for everyone listening?

Colleen Kessler (01:40): Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me. I'm excited about this and I always love talking to you, penny. So this is going to be a great conversation. Yeah, this will be fun. So I'm Colleen Kessler. I am a gifted specialist and an educational consultant, writer, podcaster, speaker, like Jack of all trades, wearer of many hats. I'm the founder of the website and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners. And you can find information about all sorts of things over there. I am, as Penny alluded to, a homeschooling advocate, we never thought we would homeschool. Actually I was teaching and consulting with gifted learners in the classroom for almost two decades. And our oldest, he's twice exceptional. He struggles with anxiety. He is profoundly gifted and school was not a great fit for him and kind of kicking and screaming, I like to say. We pulled him out in the middle of first grade and he is graduating this year. He's 18, he's a high school senior and we made it. And I have three other kids 13, 11, and 8, and those three have homeschooled all along. We just kind of adopted the style and the philosophy of homeschooling and it just became kind of an integral part of our family. It was not planned. And there have been really great times and really tough times, but overall it's benefited our twice exceptional family greatly and I love talking about it.

Penny Williams (03:14): Yeah, it's definitely, I think been a big success story for you. Why don't you talk about the difference maybe between homeschooling and what a lot of us are going through now, which is kind of schooling at home or distance learning.

Colleen Kessler (03:30): Yeah, absolutely. So what a lot of families have been forced to do because of, well, really kind of the majority of the families have been forced to decide what what they're going to do with their kids and most schools. At some point or another since last March, 2020 have been closed down at least part of the time. And so they've been kind of thrown into this schooling at home where they're given assignments and they're working with the teacher through the school system and still kind of doing the things that they would be doing in a classroom, but in a different way. I don't know. It's really, it's, it's hard to everybody that I've talked to has done it so differently. And so I'll tell you kind of, from my perspective, so we are a family of educators.

Colleen Kessler (04:22): My husband is a teacher and he is still teaching. So we watched him come home last March as a reading specialist and have to figure out an entirely new way of teaching. So in March last year, when kind of the world shut down our lives, didn't change too dramatically in that our education, the stuff that we were doing academically stayed the same for the most part. Now we as homeschoolers join in co-ops and outside classes and those were canceled, but by and large, we were able to kind of keep the method of education we were doing secure and kind of the same, whereas my husband had to relearn everything, his education and mine when I was in the classroom had been centered around kind of managing groups of kids teaching to the middle and then being able to extend for kids who were advanced and then remediate for kids who were struggling.

Colleen Kessler (05:21): And so what most classroom teachers do, right, is they present a lesson and then kids work on concepts and they walk around and they work individually with kids who need more support or more enrichment. And so it's based on a model of like being in person with a child. And so what most families have experienced in the last year is a relearning of education, a kind of reconfiguring of education. And it's been unfortunately for many kind of the worst of both worlds, right? Because teachers aren't used to teaching that way. So they've had kind of adapt all of their lesson plans for an online format. That's not super conducive to that method of teaching the middle and then remediating and advancing because they can't see right away what kids are getting. There's only so much you can see effect wise through a screen.

Colleen Kessler (06:17): And so they're not able to adjust on the fly. And so what you get is a bunch of frustrated kids and a bunch of frustrated teachers and everybody just doing the best they can. So school at home has been an experiment and some are doing really, really well with it. And some are struggling because it's an experiment in trying to figure out what works best in the moment. I know here in Ohio where we are this actually this past week, almost all of the schools in, in our area have gone back for the first time completely in person. And that's an adjustment too. They've been mostly home or hybrid where they're going in for a couple of days a week since last March. So we're going on almost a year now, 10 months. And so now they're readjusting to being in a classroom and then having wearing masks and getting to know how close to, or far away from, to sit from their peers and their teachers.

Colleen Kessler (07:16): And so it's just a lot. So schooling at home is when you're given the materials. I totally digressed on that, but it's when you're you're given the materials, your kids are typically meeting with teachers throughout the day, and it's a regular school length day. And for however many days a week, and then there's check-in points and turning in materials, turning in assignments through Google classroom or whatever your, your school has given you. Whereas homeschooling in its kind of purest form is you, as the parent decide how and what you're using, how you're going to teach what you're using to teach and what you are, and aren't requiring your kiddos to do it could be something like you've purchased a curriculum where you, as the parent are kind of going through the scope and sequence and having your kids do a certain amount of school per day, or you are picking and choosing, or you're kind of eclectic and you're doing unit studies and some online classes, you're essentially deciding all kind of globally what your child is responsible for and how you're going to get that material into them.

Colleen Kessler (08:31): And it all rests on you. So depending on the laws of your state, every state has a different homeschooling law. You sometimes notify to a school district. Sometimes you're working under an umbrella school. Sometimes you have to do an assessment with a certified teacher at the end of the year. Every state has a different requirement here in Ohio. We notify our homeschool district that our kids are coming that year. And instead we are homeschooling them. And then at the end of the year, we either administer a standardized test or we have their portfolio assessed by a certified teacher and then turn in that assessment with our next year's notification. So we show them that they've advanced, according to their abilities, there's no like set score or a set thing they have to accomplish. They just have to make a year's worth of growth and progress.

Penny Williams (09:22): Yeah. Yeah. It's so different in so many different places. I know some have to do reporting and some don't. Some States it's really, really easy to homeschool on in other States there's a lot of hoops and paperwork.

Colleen Kessler (09:35): Yeah. And it's important to make sure that if you choose to homeschool your child, traditionally, that you at least look into that. So that you're within the scope of the law and that you kind of put the feelers out and make sure that you're checking the boxes that you need to check. Because like Penny said, some States you don't have to do anything. And while it seems like that's a lot in Ohio, it's really not. It's one form in the beginning of the year, one form at the end of the year. And at least then our kids are being accounted for. So make sure that if you choose to homeschool that you're just following the law of your state and maybe reaching out to organizations are really easy way to do that is go on Facebook and just search like homeschooling, Ohio or homeschooling Texas or wherever it is, because there will be groups that pop up and you can at least join those groups initially and ask questions.

Colleen Kessler (10:29): It doesn't matter if they're your people or not, at least you can get some questions answered by homeschoolers in your area. And then you can decide if you want to meet up with them, if you want to like join in the group or whatever. Though I will say there is benefit to community, but there's more of a benefit to the right community than just any community, especially when we're dealing with gifted twice exceptional and special needs kids. As most of you who are listening are you want to make sure that your community, that you're building around yourself are the right community. They're not going to look at your child and ostracize you for behaviors that are typical for your neuro atypical child.

Penny Williams (11:07): Yeah. And I would say also look at communities that are kind of aligned with your approach or your reasoning behind homeschooling. I know there's lots of communities where sometimes it's all about homeschooling special needs kids. Sometimes it's all about religious beliefs. Sometimes it's none of that. And so just really finding your people as you said, is so important.

Colleen Kessler (11:33): Yeah. And I think that that gets more challenging for us who are raising neuro atypical kids, because it's not like if you're joining a group maybe that you found through your local library, chances are it's going to be a pretty general group, or like Penny said, a religious group or a group that adheres to specific curriculum style where when you're raising someone who doesn't fit inside the box, they're not necessarily going to be able to fit in that box either just because if they're not fitting in, in a school system, they're likely not going to fit in, in a general community anyway. And so I encourage parents of neuro atypical kids to search out communities of like-minded people online as well, so that they at least have that. I don't know, people that have their back and help them see that they're not, they're not wrong.

Colleen Kessler (12:27): They're not missing something that you can have your kids and you should have your kids get together with typical peers as well, but you need a support system and they need a support system. That's going to get their quirks. We have a couple of different resources online and I'll send them to penny to put in the show notes that are Facebook groups for homeschooling parents of gifted and twice exceptional kids, just general parenting groups. And then I have a membership on my site that is we do live lessons and we actually do zoom meetups with teens that get together once a month. And we're actually working to expand that to tweens as well, where they get together once a month and eventually twice or three times a month and just pop on a zoom call and chat with each other for an hour.

Colleen Kessler (13:16): So they're with like-minded peers and atypical peers that are kind of just as quirky. And it's been fun. We're in our third month of it. And my daughter who is gifted and she's 13 kind of going on 30 in some areas and going on not 30 and others and has made a couple of really great friendships through just getting in that group with with my members. And she was on last night on a discord server with a couple of kids that she met through that group. And they're coding roadblocks games for fun. And she's never been interested in coding, but she's interested in the quirkiness of the minds of the kids that she's met in those meetup groups. And so she's expanding her horizons because she gets them on an intellectual and social level. And so it's important to, if you can't find peers in person at least try to find some groups where you can find peers for your kids when they're atypical.

Penny Williams (14:17): Yeah. I love that you're doing that. I think it's something that's been needed for a long time. It's certainly something I looked at or looked for over the years. And couldn't really find there's groups for parents, but it's much harder to find groups for our kids to meet each other. And in person, when we have normal life in person, it's hard for them to meet other like-minded kids. And so now it's even tougher. They're so much more isolated. So it's amazing that there's that opportunity for them.

Colleen Kessler (14:49): Yeah. It's been fun. It's been a lot of fun, more fun than I expected. I'm enjoying it.

Penny Williams (14:54): Yeah. I'm sure it's so fun to see kids connect and blossom and have these awesome ideas and have people around them who appreciate their out of the box awesome ideas. Definitely. Let's shift gears a little bit, I think, and talk about how someone would go about homeschooling. If I decided tomorrow that I wanted to homeschool, I would be super duper overwhelmed because I would not know what to do. Right. I'm not a teacher by trade. And so the thought and we've considered it over the years, a few times for my son. And I was always like, I don't even know what to do. I don't know where to start. I don't know what career it's just so much, if you figure out your state rules and laws and what you need to do in order to homeschool your child now, what do you do in order to figure out the day to day of what you're going to teach and how you're going to teach it?

Colleen Kessler (15:53): That's such a good question. And I love that you brought up too, that whole doubt that flashes through your mind. I'm not a teacher because everybody thinks that. And everybody says that. I can't tell you how many people have said to me. Well, of course you could homeschool. You're a teacher. And I almost always say if the opportunity arises that my teaching background actually has gotten in my way as a home home educator, more than it's helped. Because like I said earlier, when I was talking about that difference between school at home and homeschooling, we are taught in our education classes, how to manage groups of kids and how to get the most learning into a large group as possible. And when you're at home and you're dealing one-on-one or one on four, like I am, and you've got different personalities, different ages, different levels of academics and the baggage that comes along with being mom and having laundry to do and meals, to plan and dishes to get done.

Colleen Kessler (16:57): And kids who are home all the time. So they're eating all the time and leaving dishes in the sink when you just cleared the sink and all of that other stuff my teaching doesn't come into play there. In fact, when I start to be more like checkboxy and assignment book-based, my kids start to rebel a little bit more. It's not as easy to do that kind of classroom checks and balances at home because all that other stuff is there. So you need to approach it more as a lifestyle and less as a classroom teacher kind of mentality because you're not, well, first of all, you're not bound to eight to three, or nine to four or nine to two or whatever the school timeframes are, you're not going be teaching your child or having them do homeschooling for the eight hours or six hours or whatever they would be gone for on a normal school.

Colleen Kessler (17:58): Because number one, it takes way less time one-on-one or one on four, it takes way less time than one on 30. And so you're already cutting all of the busy work out all of the restroom breaks and passing from class to class and getting your materials out, all of that stuff that takes up time in a school system, you don't have to worry about. So the first thing is like, get rid of that idea that you can't do it because you don't have an education background. The education background just helps you understand how to break down concepts to a large group of kids to meet as many of them as possible. And then all the nuance stuff is learned on the job stuff. You're just going to be responsible for the nuanced stuff that's learned on the job. And you've got resources there's so much.

Colleen Kessler (18:52): So we've been homeschooling, this is our 11th year, and it is almost more overwhelming now than it was back then when we started, when faced with like, what do we do? What curriculum do we choose? Because there's so many options. The point in that is, yeah, you're going to be overwhelmed looking at it at all, but you have so many options. You don't have to go at it alone. If math is your Achilles heel, you never have to teach a math lesson because there are math programs that do the teaching for you. And you just need to check in and make sure your kid's doing it. There are live classes, my oldest he's not doing it this year, but when he did algebra two, trig, pre-calc and geometry in a different order that I just rattled those off. He did live online classes with a program called Mr. D online

Colleen Kessler (19:45): or Mr. D live. And we loved that program because Dennis Denoia, Mr. D, is basically a twice exceptional kid all grown up. And so he teaches in a quirky way, which my quirky kid loved and I, and our math person, I have to farm that out. So it was either like, have a teacher work with him, one-on-one give him a program where he's got to figure it out. And if he reaches a stumbling block, dad's going to have to help or get one of the high school teachers in his district to help or find something that teaches him. And so this program was perfect because he met once a week online with a class of kids, got the stuff for the week. And there was an online live help desk kind of situation once or twice a week, every week.

Colleen Kessler (20:33): So I don't have to teach upper level math and I never will. And so you don't either, if that's the part that, that is a stumbling block for you, same thing with English, writing, language arts, any of the subjects, there are live online in person at the science museums or whatever. There are classes you can find to teach the stuff you don't feel equipped to teach. And then all the other areas you can do it in any way you want. There's an immense amount of freedom. So you could, you could do for younger kids a unit study where they're interested in crocodiles. And so you're watching videos about crocodiles, reading books, about crocodiles, writing stories about crocodiles and putting a nature journal together. And so you've got reading, you've got writing, you've got science, you've got some social science where the you're looking at how things have evolved over time.

Colleen Kessler (21:30): And you're diving into kind of a social studies, social sciences approach. And so you can combine all those different areas into one thing that your child is really hyper interested in and check off lots of boxes in one little one our here. And so that's very freeing, but that's overwhelming. So let me get back to your original question, which is like, how do you even get started? I would say once you've checked off the legalities step back for a minute, if you are coming to homeschooling, like most of you who are considering it probably are, you're coming out of a school system and you're coming out of a framework of leave for the day, listen to the teacher, get all your classes, isolated in separate areas. This is science hour. This is math hour. This is language arts hour.

Colleen Kessler (22:21): This is writing hour. The workshop you need to step back and you need to do something that we call kind of in homeschooling Deschool. And that's really just take a mental break. There's a post on my site. I can send you the link to that. Just talks about what Deschooling is. And basically it's just a philosophy of if you're coming out of a school system and you're coming out of a school environment, you just need a break. Parents need a break. Kids need a break to kind of deprogram the idea that education and learning is something that has done to you and for you, and not something that you can just do on your own. We're so used to going into a classroom and being told what we're learning that day. And when you're at home, you now have the responsibility and privilege of deciding what you're going to learn that day.

Colleen Kessler (23:12): And that's true for kids as well in a homeschooling setting. My kids have a say in what they're learning. And so if you take a break and watch some documentary, I'm not saying like Deschooling is not about like unschool, like not learn anything or whatever. That idea that we're not schooling. When you're Deschooling, you can watch documentaries, you can read books, you can go to the science center if it's open or the zoo, if it's open or go for a nature walk at the national park that's near you. You're just doing education in a different way, not checking boxes and doing a workbook, and reevaluate have conversations with your kids. What do you want to learn about this year? Let's see if we can just finish off this year by learning the one thing you've always wanted to learn.

Colleen Kessler (23:59): Is it coding? Cool. Let's go get a couple of books from the library, or if the libraries aren't open, buy a bunch on Amazon or wherever and get some books on coding and see if we can just mess around with the stuff that we have at home. And if by the end of this school year, you can code a game that works. Let's see if we can find some online classes about coding. Your child's going to be reading. They're going to be doing math through coding. They're going to be doing some interaction. If you find a class on Skill Share, Outschool or you to me or wherever. And so you have the opportunity to just step back, do one thing really well, that your kid's going to love and see if you can kind of work in some books or some writing or some conversations.

Colleen Kessler (24:43): And then as you look to do it for next year or full time, then you start looking around the different blogs that are available, the different curriculum resources. There are homeschooling conventions and conferences all over. I don't know what 2021 is going to bring. As of right now, I'm slated to speak at eight in-person events, but we all know how that can change in a blink. So I don't know if those in-person events are going to happen or if they're going to be online, but regardless, there's going to be opportunities for you to jump in online and ask questions, go to Facebook groups, ask questions about what you use with your kiddo who thinks like this, and then look at the websites and don't do everything, do one thing. And then once you've got that down, do another, the best thing about homeschooling is that it takes a fraction of the time that regular schooling does.

Colleen Kessler (25:40): So if you just do whatever, your one kind of non-negotiable subject that makes you feel like you're successful and you do that, and you get a curriculum for that, and you do that well, for me, that's math. If my kids do a little bit of math every day, I feel like, okay, they can negotiate a mortgage someday. And everything else is gravy, right? And so you do the one thing really well, and you add a curriculum for that. And then later you say, okay, well they need a little bit more help writing. So I'm going to go find a writing curriculum, and then we're going to do all their science and social studies and reading through just reading books about things they're interested in. And then you just add something small every couple of weeks and be okay with that, because it's a much slower pace and ask questions of people who are doing it, go in my Facebook groups and ask me, that's what I'm there for ask other parents in those groups. And you can kind of pace yourself.

Penny Williams (26:33): Yeah. I love that you brought up Deschooling for one thing, because oftentimes when families like ours pull their kids out of a school environment, already everybody needs some time to heal from that experience. We don't normally pull our kids out of school when everything was going great. So we do need that time for our kids to heal, for us to heal, to figure out what's next, to de-stress. So I love that you brought that up. The other thing I was thinking about as you were talking is integrating the different subjects like daily life is education. If you bake cookies with your kids and you double the recipe or something, now you're doing math. You can talk about the science behind the way it bakes, right? You can really pull so much education out of every day life with kids.

Penny Williams (27:28): And it can be so much more natural, I think, than saying, okay, we're going to do, like you said, we're going to do the system of education at home. Just like it was at school. It doesn't have to be like that at all. I can be very flexible. My kids went to a charter school for a couple of years when they were in elementary school and it was an art based school. And so the teachers got together and worked the science theme or the history theme, or both into their writing and reading, their math, they did a lot of theater and dance and painting. And so they were learning about the civil war in history, maybe that's way too complex for elementary kids, but that's what came to mind, they might be creating a play about it, or writing stories and reading material.

Penny Williams (28:28): And it was very integrated together, but all around the idea that art was at the basis of it. So they would be in separate classes, they would have reading hour, then they would have history, but they were pulling all of the other stuff into each one of those as well. And it was a really effective thing for my daughter. She really loved it because she's so creative and artistic. And so even taking an interest like that, where does your child's strengths lie, and building everything in around it, I think is a really good way to be successful at homeschooling.

Colleen Kessler (29:07): Absolutely. And that point you mentioned at the end, they're taking your daughter's strengths and taking any of our kid's strengths. There's significant research that bears out that if we focus on our kids' strengths, their deficits will naturally improve. And I mean, the research is there in education, but the time and the resources aren't. So our teachers aren't able in a classroom to focus on kids' strengths because they have to remediate for those deficits. So they pass the test or the arbitrary benchmark. And when we homeschool our kids, we don't have those benchmarks. We don't have those tests at the end of every unit. I mean, if you buy a curriculum that has a test at the end of every unit, you don't have to use it as a homeschooler. And so we can look at our kids and we can see their strengths are in making valid arguments and upholding their position.

Colleen Kessler (30:09): And so instead of having them take the unit test or write the paper, they can sit down over coffee with us and talk about what they learned and prove their conclusion using points and data from inside the history texts that they've read and they'll retain it way more than they would have had they been forced to write a paper when they struggle with dysgraphia. And so that said, the research shows that they are then able, because they're so confident in their abilities to understand and retain that they're more likely to take risks when it comes to writing the next paper they have to and, and bringing it in or using tools because they're empowered to use tools. My second youngest child is 11 and she has dyslexia. And I bought gosh years ago, I think she was like eight, our first Echo Dot.

Colleen Kessler (31:07): And it was really so I could have them playing audio books at night. And I started catching her, doing her schoolwork by the dot, and I wasn't sure what she was doing well here. She was asking Alexa to spell things for her. And she started writing stories where she used to tell us stories all the time or she'd draw them because she is really, really a great storyteller. She's a writer that has a writing disability and a reading disability. And so by empowering her in all the other ways, giving her art supplies and time to not struggle with reading I would read it to her or spell it for her because I didn't have to push her through this hoop of getting it done. So you could pass the test. She was confident that she was still a reader and a writer, even though she was older than most or her six-year-old brother was reading better than her. And so she adapted, and now she's writing stories at 11 she's reading novels. And it's because we didn't have to hyper-focus on the remediation. We could focus on the strengths and you have that opportunity. And the research supports you doing that.

Penny Williams (32:20): Yeah. And you made such a good point that then you're building the confidence. And so they're more likely to be able to tackle the things that they're not so good at because they're just feeling better about their capability overall. Yes, so much good stuff. We are coming to the end of our time. Anything else you want to make sure parents know? I know there's so, so much to talk about and unpack here. Anything kind of general starting out level that we haven't talked about yet that parents need to know?

Colleen Kessler (32:55): Yeah. There's so much, I think that overall, you want to make sure that you're thinking about your kids first and your family first. So at the heart of your homeschool really lies your connections with each other and building those connections, focusing on the strengths, helping them see what they're good at and building your homeschool structure and routines around what they're good at and empowering them, and then trusting yourself in that process. There's so much, and there's so many resources out there. I can share some with Penny so she can put them in the show notes. One thing we didn't talk about, I have a brand new book out. It's not about homeschooling, but it is about those connections and how building those connections within your family actually help you raise your kids to be more resilient and more emotionally intelligent and strong and confident.

Colleen Kessler (33:53): And so it empowers them through those other things. So connection and and relationships are at the heart of your parenting, but your homeschool is an extension of your parenting. So I'll make sure that I get Penny a link to that book. It's called "Raising Resilient Sons: A boy mom's guide to building a strong, competent, and emotionally intelligent family." And while the book focuses on boys specifically because our society needs some more resources to support our boys and their emotional intelligence, the lessons in there are easily extrapolated to your family in general, and your homeschooling at large, because it's all about the effect and the emotional resiliency in your kids. And that's what we're doing when we're pulling our kids out mid-year or after a trauma, like Penny said, we need to rebuild that strength and that confidence and that resiliency so that our kids know we have their back and that they are good at a lot of things. And they are not made up of the deficits that they had to have scrutinized all the time in a school setting, because that's what teachers have to do in order to make their end year goals. So we can rebuild that at home by loving our kids and building those connections.

Penny Williams (35:11): Yeah. And that reminded me to hear that, our parent child relationships are likely healthier through homeschooling because as parents, we have the pressure of getting our kids to do what they're supposed to be doing from school. And we have the pressure to even get them there and have them attending and being educated, despite anxiety or other challenges that they might have. And so when we're under pressure, we're passing pressure on to our kids and then comes in the homework battles and all of that sort of adversarial stuff. And if we take that away, we don't have that other outside pressure. Then we're going to have probably a better relationship with our kids. If that's the world we live in with our kids in school some kids do great in school, even with special needs, and that's not an issue. But for those that it is where it's really feeling like it's deteriorating your relationship with your child, it might be time to step back and say, I need to take this other entity out of the equation. Let's just bring it home and do it at home.

Colleen Kessler (36:17): Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Like you said, parent child relationships are able to be strengthened so much more because that outside thing that's hanging over all of you is eliminated. There's other issues. Homeschooling is not sunshine and roses all the time because it's parenting and parenting is tough. And yeah, exactly, it's okay to know that it's not going to be perfect and you need to take care of yourself in the midst of it all. And it's not an answer for everybody. I'm here as an advocate for homeschooling, because I think that it is a really, really great option for gifted, twice exceptional and special needs kids. But you have to look at your situation and your kid. We always say that even though we've now been in it for 11 years, it's kid by kid year by year, if at any point any of our children come to us with a compelling argument for why they need to be in a school setting, we're going to sit down as a family, and we're going to look at that and we're going to consider it because things change, circumstances change, and circumstances are different for every single child and every single family. So know yourself, know your kids and trust that.

Penny Williams (37:29): You can give it a try and if it doesn't work out, if it's not the right fit, you can always shift again. You can always go back or try something different. So yeah, it can be sort of experimental as well.

Colleen Kessler (37:45): Yeah. You're not going to mess up your kid. You're just not, they're going to be fine. They're resilient. And they're going to be able to adapt. My daughter was saying to me the other day, she's like, I couldn't even go to high school if I wanted to. I wouldn't be able to handle what's going on in the classroom. I'm way behind, which is totally wrong. Totally false, because she is the biggest people, pleaser there is and would be able to handle anything as soon as she understood kind of the routine. So we usually do a portfolio assessment here as one of our options in Ohio. But two years ago, I gave all my kids the standardized test just to see where they fell. And that one in particular, as a sixth grader at the time, hit the ceiling in the English language arts portion, meaning she tested past high school level. And in math, she tested two years ahead, even though the workbook she was using was a year behind. So she's not going to have a problem. It's completely misinterpretation of what a classroom setting is like, your kids are going to be fine. You have the opportunity to go one-on-one with them and get them to where they need to be. So if it doesn't work out because you guys are at each other's throats all day and you all need a break. That's okay, too. It's totally fine.

Penny Williams (38:58): Yeah. And it's even fine to do it at night or start school at 3:00 PM instead of ending your school at 3:00 PM. It just offers so much flexibility and creativity for families who often really need that.

Colleen Kessler (39:13): Absolutely. We do that here. And when I'm on panels and stuff at homeschooling conventions, I'm kind of always the odd one out, which is typical as I'm raising outliers, but a large portion of homeschool speakers and developers advocate for that kind of morning time together and sit around and do your group work. First thing in the morning when you're fresh. And our family is not fresh first thing in the morning. And so my younger two get up and they play on their Chromebooks or their Kindle Fires. And we sit around, I joke that my son, my teen does his coffee and meme every morning where he drinks his coffee and scrolls through memes and giggles to himself over on the couch. And doesn't want to be talked to, we don't start our school until usually lunch or afterwards.

Colleen Kessler (40:04): And it's okay because they've done a lot of learning in the morning. Anyway, my kids were at my younger kids were having roach races this morning, which is gross. We have roaches right now because we got a bearded dragon for Christmas. And I went into the family room and they had set up a maze with mag formers and we're racing roaches through the maze. And so they did science for the day. I'm calling it because they had to. So you just never know in a homeschooling family, what you're going to come across.

Penny Williams (40:35): Right. But that's the beauty of it. Like they would never learn anything by racing roaches in a public school, probably. Right. Maybe there's a few outlier teachers that would do that, but not many. And yeah, they're showing you the way that they need to go by being flexible. We allow our kids to guide us as their parents, to where they really need to go, where they really fit, where they can succeed.

Colleen Kessler (41:00): Exactly. Exactly.

Penny Williams (41:03): Thank you so much for sharing some of your time and wisdom with everybody. I super enjoy our conversations and your energy. Every time we get the chance to talk for everyone listening, you can get links to all of the resources that Colleen has talked about here in the show notes, and you can find those atparentingadhdandautism.com/116, with that we'll end this episode. I'll see everyone next time.

Penny Williams (41:34): For joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.

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Colleen Kessler (00:03): Well, first of all, you're not bound to 8 to 3 or 9 to 4 or 9 to 2 or whatever the school timeframes are. You're not going to be teaching your child or having them do homeschooling for the eight hours or six hours or whatever they would be gone for on a normal school day.

Intro (00:26): Welcome to the Parenting ADHD Podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD, straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD-aholic and Mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams (00:57): I'm excited today to be talking to Colleen Kessler of Raising lLifelong Learners. She's a homeschool advocate, and also an expert in twice exceptionality and gifted. And we're going to talk a lot about schooling at home and homeschooling. Schooling at home of course is where we all are right now. Or many of us and homeschooling I think has always been a topic of interest for special needs families, but even more so now if you're going to do school at home, I see a lot of families saying, well, then I'm going to homeschool. I'm going to choose how I do it. So really excited to have this conversation and share it with all of you. Will you introduce yourself for everyone listening?

Colleen Kessler (01:40): Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me. I'm excited about this and I always love talking to you, penny. So this is going to be a great conversation. Yeah, this will be fun. So I'm Colleen Kessler. I am a gifted specialist and an educational consultant, writer, podcaster, speaker, like Jack of all trades, wearer of many hats. I'm the founder of the website and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners. And you can find information about all sorts of things over there. I am, as Penny alluded to, a homeschooling advocate, we never thought we would homeschool. Actually I was teaching and consulting with gifted learners in the classroom for almost two decades. And our oldest, he's twice exceptional. He struggles with anxiety. He is profoundly gifted and school was not a great fit for him and kind of kicking and screaming, I like to say. We pulled him out in the middle of first grade and he is graduating this year. He's 18, he's a high school senior and we made it. And I have three other kids 13, 11, and 8, and those three have homeschooled all along. We just kind of adopted the style and the philosophy of homeschooling and it just became kind of an integral part of our family. It was not planned. And there have been really great times and really tough times, but overall it's benefited our twice exceptional family greatly and I love talking about it.

Penny Williams (03:14): Yeah, it's definitely, I think been a big success story for you. Why don't you talk about the difference maybe between homeschooling and what a lot of us are going through now, which is kind of schooling at home or distance learning.

Colleen Kessler (03:30): Yeah, absolutely. So what a lot of families have been forced to do because of, well, really kind of the majority of the families have been forced to decide what what they're going to do with their kids and most schools. At some point or another since last March, 2020 have been closed down at least part of the time. And so they've been kind of thrown into this schooling at home where they're given assignments and they're working with the teacher through the school system and still kind of doing the things that they would be doing in a classroom, but in a different way. I don't know. It's really, it's, it's hard to everybody that I've talked to has done it so differently. And so I'll tell you kind of, from my perspective, so we are a family of educators.

Colleen Kessler (04:22): My husband is a teacher and he is still teaching. So we watched him come home last March as a reading specialist and have to figure out an entirely new way of teaching. So in March last year, when kind of the world shut down our lives, didn't change too dramatically in that our education, the stuff that we were doing academically stayed the same for the most part. Now we as homeschoolers join in co-ops and outside classes and those were canceled, but by and large, we were able to kind of keep the method of education we were doing secure and kind of the same, whereas my husband had to relearn everything, his education and mine when I was in the classroom had been centered around kind of managing groups of kids teaching to the middle and then being able to extend for kids who were advanced and then remediate for kids who were struggling.

Colleen Kessler (05:21): And so what most classroom teachers do, right, is they present a lesson and then kids work on concepts and they walk around and they work individually with kids who need more support or more enrichment. And so it's based on a model of like being in person with a child. And so what most families have experienced in the last year is a relearning of education, a kind of reconfiguring of education. And it's been unfortunately for many kind of the worst of both worlds, right? Because teachers aren't used to teaching that way. So they've had kind of adapt all of their lesson plans for an online format. That's not super conducive to that method of teaching the middle and then remediating and advancing because they can't see right away what kids are getting. There's only so much you can see effect wise through a screen.

Colleen Kessler (06:17): And so they're not able to adjust on the fly. And so what you get is a bunch of frustrated kids and a bunch of frustrated teachers and everybody just doing the best they can. So school at home has been an experiment and some are doing really, really well with it. And some are struggling because it's an experiment in trying to figure out what works best in the moment. I know here in Ohio where we are this actually this past week, almost all of the schools in, in our area have gone back for the first time completely in person. And that's an adjustment too. They've been mostly home or hybrid where they're going in for a couple of days a week since last March. So we're going on almost a year now, 10 months. And so now they're readjusting to being in a classroom and then having wearing masks and getting to know how close to, or far away from, to sit from their peers and their teachers.

Colleen Kessler (07:16): And so it's just a lot. So schooling at home is when you're given the materials. I totally digressed on that, but it's when you're you're given the materials, your kids are typically meeting with teachers throughout the day, and it's a regular school length day. And for however many days a week, and then there's check-in points and turning in materials, turning in assignments through Google classroom or whatever your, your school has given you. Whereas homeschooling in its kind of purest form is you, as the parent decide how and what you're using, how you're going to teach what you're using to teach and what you are, and aren't requiring your kiddos to do it could be something like you've purchased a curriculum where you, as the parent are kind of going through the scope and sequence and having your kids do a certain amount of school per day, or you are picking and choosing, or you're kind of eclectic and you're doing unit studies and some online classes, you're essentially deciding all kind of globally what your child is responsible for and how you're going to get that material into them.

Colleen Kessler (08:31): And it all rests on you. So depending on the laws of your state, every state has a different homeschooling law. You sometimes notify to a school district. Sometimes you're working under an umbrella school. Sometimes you have to do an assessment with a certified teacher at the end of the year. Every state has a different requirement here in Ohio. We notify our homeschool district that our kids are coming that year. And instead we are homeschooling them. And then at the end of the year, we either administer a standardized test or we have their portfolio assessed by a certified teacher and then turn in that assessment with our next year's notification. So we show them that they've advanced, according to their abilities, there's no like set score or a set thing they have to accomplish. They just have to make a year's worth of growth and progress.

Penny Williams (09:22): Yeah. Yeah. It's so different in so many different places. I know some have to do reporting and some don't. Some States it's really, really easy to homeschool on in other States there's a lot of hoops and paperwork.

Colleen Kessler (09:35): Yeah. And it's important to make sure that if you choose to homeschool your child, traditionally, that you at least look into that. So that you're within the scope of the law and that you kind of put the feelers out and make sure that you're checking the boxes that you need to check. Because like Penny said, some States you don't have to do anything. And while it seems like that's a lot in Ohio, it's really not. It's one form in the beginning of the year, one form at the end of the year. And at least then our kids are being accounted for. So make sure that if you choose to homeschool that you're just following the law of your state and maybe reaching out to organizations are really easy way to do that is go on Facebook and just search like homeschooling, Ohio or homeschooling Texas or wherever it is, because there will be groups that pop up and you can at least join those groups initially and ask questions.

Colleen Kessler (10:29): It doesn't matter if they're your people or not, at least you can get some questions answered by homeschoolers in your area. And then you can decide if you want to meet up with them, if you want to like join in the group or whatever. Though I will say there is benefit to community, but there's more of a benefit to the right community than just any community, especially when we're dealing with gifted twice exceptional and special needs kids. As most of you who are listening are you want to make sure that your community, that you're building around yourself are the right community. They're not going to look at your child and ostracize you for behaviors that are typical for your neuro atypical child.

Penny Williams (11:07): Yeah. And I would say also look at communities that are kind of aligned with your approach or your reasoning behind homeschooling. I know there's lots of communities where sometimes it's all about homeschooling special needs kids. Sometimes it's all about religious beliefs. Sometimes it's none of that. And so just really finding your people as you said, is so important.

Colleen Kessler (11:33): Yeah. And I think that that gets more challenging for us who are raising neuro atypical kids, because it's not like if you're joining a group maybe that you found through your local library, chances are it's going to be a pretty general group, or like Penny said, a religious group or a group that adheres to specific curriculum style where when you're raising someone who doesn't fit inside the box, they're not necessarily going to be able to fit in that box either just because if they're not fitting in, in a school system, they're likely not going to fit in, in a general community anyway. And so I encourage parents of neuro atypical kids to search out communities of like-minded people online as well, so that they at least have that. I don't know, people that have their back and help them see that they're not, they're not wrong.

Colleen Kessler (12:27): They're not missing something that you can have your kids and you should have your kids get together with typical peers as well, but you need a support system and they need a support system. That's going to get their quirks. We have a couple of different resources online and I'll send them to penny to put in the show notes that are Facebook groups for homeschooling parents of gifted and twice exceptional kids, just general parenting groups. And then I have a membership on my site that is we do live lessons and we actually do zoom meetups with teens that get together once a month. And we're actually working to expand that to tweens as well, where they get together once a month and eventually twice or three times a month and just pop on a zoom call and chat with each other for an hour.

Colleen Kessler (13:16): So they're with like-minded peers and atypical peers that are kind of just as quirky. And it's been fun. We're in our third month of it. And my daughter who is gifted and she's 13 kind of going on 30 in some areas and going on not 30 and others and has made a couple of really great friendships through just getting in that group with with my members. And she was on last night on a discord server with a couple of kids that she met through that group. And they're coding roadblocks games for fun. And she's never been interested in coding, but she's interested in the quirkiness of the minds of the kids that she's met in those meetup groups. And so she's expanding her horizons because she gets them on an intellectual and social level. And so it's important to, if you can't find peers in person at least try to find some groups where you can find peers for your kids when they're atypical.

Penny Williams (14:17): Yeah. I love that you're doing that. I think it's something that's been needed for a long time. It's certainly something I looked at or looked for over the years. And couldn't really find there's groups for parents, but it's much harder to find groups for our kids to meet each other. And in person, when we have normal life in person, it's hard for them to meet other like-minded kids. And so now it's even tougher. They're so much more isolated. So it's amazing that there's that opportunity for them.

Colleen Kessler (14:49): Yeah. It's been fun. It's been a lot of fun, more fun than I expected. I'm enjoying it.

Penny Williams (14:54): Yeah. I'm sure it's so fun to see kids connect and blossom and have these awesome ideas and have people around them who appreciate their out of the box awesome ideas. Definitely. Let's shift gears a little bit, I think, and talk about how someone would go about homeschooling. If I decided tomorrow that I wanted to homeschool, I would be super duper overwhelmed because I would not know what to do. Right. I'm not a teacher by trade. And so the thought and we've considered it over the years, a few times for my son. And I was always like, I don't even know what to do. I don't know where to start. I don't know what career it's just so much, if you figure out your state rules and laws and what you need to do in order to homeschool your child now, what do you do in order to figure out the day to day of what you're going to teach and how you're going to teach it?

Colleen Kessler (15:53): That's such a good question. And I love that you brought up too, that whole doubt that flashes through your mind. I'm not a teacher because everybody thinks that. And everybody says that. I can't tell you how many people have said to me. Well, of course you could homeschool. You're a teacher. And I almost always say if the opportunity arises that my teaching background actually has gotten in my way as a home home educator, more than it's helped. Because like I said earlier, when I was talking about that difference between school at home and homeschooling, we are taught in our education classes, how to manage groups of kids and how to get the most learning into a large group as possible. And when you're at home and you're dealing one-on-one or one on four, like I am, and you've got different personalities, different ages, different levels of academics and the baggage that comes along with being mom and having laundry to do and meals, to plan and dishes to get done.

Colleen Kessler (16:57): And kids who are home all the time. So they're eating all the time and leaving dishes in the sink when you just cleared the sink and all of that other stuff my teaching doesn't come into play there. In fact, when I start to be more like checkboxy and assignment book-based, my kids start to rebel a little bit more. It's not as easy to do that kind of classroom checks and balances at home because all that other stuff is there. So you need to approach it more as a lifestyle and less as a classroom teacher kind of mentality because you're not, well, first of all, you're not bound to eight to three, or nine to four or nine to two or whatever the school timeframes are, you're not going be teaching your child or having them do homeschooling for the eight hours or six hours or whatever they would be gone for on a normal school.

Colleen Kessler (17:58): Because number one, it takes way less time one-on-one or one on four, it takes way less time than one on 30. And so you're already cutting all of the busy work out all of the restroom breaks and passing from class to class and getting your materials out, all of that stuff that takes up time in a school system, you don't have to worry about. So the first thing is like, get rid of that idea that you can't do it because you don't have an education background. The education background just helps you understand how to break down concepts to a large group of kids to meet as many of them as possible. And then all the nuance stuff is learned on the job stuff. You're just going to be responsible for the nuanced stuff that's learned on the job. And you've got resources there's so much.

Colleen Kessler (18:52): So we've been homeschooling, this is our 11th year, and it is almost more overwhelming now than it was back then when we started, when faced with like, what do we do? What curriculum do we choose? Because there's so many options. The point in that is, yeah, you're going to be overwhelmed looking at it at all, but you have so many options. You don't have to go at it alone. If math is your Achilles heel, you never have to teach a math lesson because there are math programs that do the teaching for you. And you just need to check in and make sure your kid's doing it. There are live classes, my oldest he's not doing it this year, but when he did algebra two, trig, pre-calc and geometry in a different order that I just rattled those off. He did live online classes with a program called Mr. D online

Colleen Kessler (19:45): or Mr. D live. And we loved that program because Dennis Denoia, Mr. D, is basically a twice exceptional kid all grown up. And so he teaches in a quirky way, which my quirky kid loved and I, and our math person, I have to farm that out. So it was either like, have a teacher work with him, one-on-one give him a program where he's got to figure it out. And if he reaches a stumbling block, dad's going to have to help or get one of the high school teachers in his district to help or find something that teaches him. And so this program was perfect because he met once a week online with a class of kids, got the stuff for the week. And there was an online live help desk kind of situation once or twice a week, every week.

Colleen Kessler (20:33): So I don't have to teach upper level math and I never will. And so you don't either, if that's the part that, that is a stumbling block for you, same thing with English, writing, language arts, any of the subjects, there are live online in person at the science museums or whatever. There are classes you can find to teach the stuff you don't feel equipped to teach. And then all the other areas you can do it in any way you want. There's an immense amount of freedom. So you could, you could do for younger kids a unit study where they're interested in crocodiles. And so you're watching videos about crocodiles, reading books, about crocodiles, writing stories about crocodiles and putting a nature journal together. And so you've got reading, you've got writing, you've got science, you've got some social science where the you're looking at how things have evolved over time.

Colleen Kessler (21:30): And you're diving into kind of a social studies, social sciences approach. And so you can combine all those different areas into one thing that your child is really hyper interested in and check off lots of boxes in one little one our here. And so that's very freeing, but that's overwhelming. So let me get back to your original question, which is like, how do you even get started? I would say once you've checked off the legalities step back for a minute, if you are coming to homeschooling, like most of you who are considering it probably are, you're coming out of a school system and you're coming out of a framework of leave for the day, listen to the teacher, get all your classes, isolated in separate areas. This is science hour. This is math hour. This is language arts hour.

Colleen Kessler (22:21): This is writing hour. The workshop you need to step back and you need to do something that we call kind of in homeschooling Deschool. And that's really just take a mental break. There's a post on my site. I can send you the link to that. Just talks about what Deschooling is. And basically it's just a philosophy of if you're coming out of a school system and you're coming out of a school environment, you just need a break. Parents need a break. Kids need a break to kind of deprogram the idea that education and learning is something that has done to you and for you, and not something that you can just do on your own. We're so used to going into a classroom and being told what we're learning that day. And when you're at home, you now have the responsibility and privilege of deciding what you're going to learn that day.

Colleen Kessler (23:12): And that's true for kids as well in a homeschooling setting. My kids have a say in what they're learning. And so if you take a break and watch some documentary, I'm not saying like Deschooling is not about like unschool, like not learn anything or whatever. That idea that we're not schooling. When you're Deschooling, you can watch documentaries, you can read books, you can go to the science center if it's open or the zoo, if it's open or go for a nature walk at the national park that's near you. You're just doing education in a different way, not checking boxes and doing a workbook, and reevaluate have conversations with your kids. What do you want to learn about this year? Let's see if we can just finish off this year by learning the one thing you've always wanted to learn.

Colleen Kessler (23:59): Is it coding? Cool. Let's go get a couple of books from the library, or if the libraries aren't open, buy a bunch on Amazon or wherever and get some books on coding and see if we can just mess around with the stuff that we have at home. And if by the end of this school year, you can code a game that works. Let's see if we can find some online classes about coding. Your child's going to be reading. They're going to be doing math through coding. They're going to be doing some interaction. If you find a class on Skill Share, Outschool or you to me or wherever. And so you have the opportunity to just step back, do one thing really well, that your kid's going to love and see if you can kind of work in some books or some writing or some conversations.

Colleen Kessler (24:43): And then as you look to do it for next year or full time, then you start looking around the different blogs that are available, the different curriculum resources. There are homeschooling conventions and conferences all over. I don't know what 2021 is going to bring. As of right now, I'm slated to speak at eight in-person events, but we all know how that can change in a blink. So I don't know if those in-person events are going to happen or if they're going to be online, but regardless, there's going to be opportunities for you to jump in online and ask questions, go to Facebook groups, ask questions about what you use with your kiddo who thinks like this, and then look at the websites and don't do everything, do one thing. And then once you've got that down, do another, the best thing about homeschooling is that it takes a fraction of the time that regular schooling does.

Colleen Kessler (25:40): So if you just do whatever, your one kind of non-negotiable subject that makes you feel like you're successful and you do that, and you get a curriculum for that, and you do that well, for me, that's math. If my kids do a little bit of math every day, I feel like, okay, they can negotiate a mortgage someday. And everything else is gravy, right? And so you do the one thing really well, and you add a curriculum for that. And then later you say, okay, well they need a little bit more help writing. So I'm going to go find a writing curriculum, and then we're going to do all their science and social studies and reading through just reading books about things they're interested in. And then you just add something small every couple of weeks and be okay with that, because it's a much slower pace and ask questions of people who are doing it, go in my Facebook groups and ask me, that's what I'm there for ask other parents in those groups. And you can kind of pace yourself.

Penny Williams (26:33): Yeah. I love that you brought up Deschooling for one thing, because oftentimes when families like ours pull their kids out of a school environment, already everybody needs some time to heal from that experience. We don't normally pull our kids out of school when everything was going great. So we do need that time for our kids to heal, for us to heal, to figure out what's next, to de-stress. So I love that you brought that up. The other thing I was thinking about as you were talking is integrating the different subjects like daily life is education. If you bake cookies with your kids and you double the recipe or something, now you're doing math. You can talk about the science behind the way it bakes, right? You can really pull so much education out of every day life with kids.

Penny Williams (27:28): And it can be so much more natural, I think, than saying, okay, we're going to do, like you said, we're going to do the system of education at home. Just like it was at school. It doesn't have to be like that at all. I can be very flexible. My kids went to a charter school for a couple of years when they were in elementary school and it was an art based school. And so the teachers got together and worked the science theme or the history theme, or both into their writing and reading, their math, they did a lot of theater and dance and painting. And so they were learning about the civil war in history, maybe that's way too complex for elementary kids, but that's what came to mind, they might be creating a play about it, or writing stories and reading material.

Penny Williams (28:28): And it was very integrated together, but all around the idea that art was at the basis of it. So they would be in separate classes, they would have reading hour, then they would have history, but they were pulling all of the other stuff into each one of those as well. And it was a really effective thing for my daughter. She really loved it because she's so creative and artistic. And so even taking an interest like that, where does your child's strengths lie, and building everything in around it, I think is a really good way to be successful at homeschooling.

Colleen Kessler (29:07): Absolutely. And that point you mentioned at the end, they're taking your daughter's strengths and taking any of our kid's strengths. There's significant research that bears out that if we focus on our kids' strengths, their deficits will naturally improve. And I mean, the research is there in education, but the time and the resources aren't. So our teachers aren't able in a classroom to focus on kids' strengths because they have to remediate for those deficits. So they pass the test or the arbitrary benchmark. And when we homeschool our kids, we don't have those benchmarks. We don't have those tests at the end of every unit. I mean, if you buy a curriculum that has a test at the end of every unit, you don't have to use it as a homeschooler. And so we can look at our kids and we can see their strengths are in making valid arguments and upholding their position.

Colleen Kessler (30:09): And so instead of having them take the unit test or write the paper, they can sit down over coffee with us and talk about what they learned and prove their conclusion using points and data from inside the history texts that they've read and they'll retain it way more than they would have had they been forced to write a paper when they struggle with dysgraphia. And so that said, the research shows that they are then able, because they're so confident in their abilities to understand and retain that they're more likely to take risks when it comes to writing the next paper they have to and, and bringing it in or using tools because they're empowered to use tools. My second youngest child is 11 and she has dyslexia. And I bought gosh years ago, I think she was like eight, our first Echo Dot.

Colleen Kessler (31:07): And it was really so I could have them playing audio books at night. And I started catching her, doing her schoolwork by the dot, and I wasn't sure what she was doing well here. She was asking Alexa to spell things for her. And she started writing stories where she used to tell us stories all the time or she'd draw them because she is really, really a great storyteller. She's a writer that has a writing disability and a reading disability. And so by empowering her in all the other ways, giving her art supplies and time to not struggle with reading I would read it to her or spell it for her because I didn't have to push her through this hoop of getting it done. So you could pass the test. She was confident that she was still a reader and a writer, even though she was older than most or her six-year-old brother was reading better than her. And so she adapted, and now she's writing stories at 11 she's reading novels. And it's because we didn't have to hyper-focus on the remediation. We could focus on the strengths and you have that opportunity. And the research supports you doing that.

Penny Williams (32:20): Yeah. And you made such a good point that then you're building the confidence. And so they're more likely to be able to tackle the things that they're not so good at because they're just feeling better about their capability overall. Yes, so much good stuff. We are coming to the end of our time. Anything else you want to make sure parents know? I know there's so, so much to talk about and unpack here. Anything kind of general starting out level that we haven't talked about yet that parents need to know?

Colleen Kessler (32:55): Yeah. There's so much, I think that overall, you want to make sure that you're thinking about your kids first and your family first. So at the heart of your homeschool really lies your connections with each other and building those connections, focusing on the strengths, helping them see what they're good at and building your homeschool structure and routines around what they're good at and empowering them, and then trusting yourself in that process. There's so much, and there's so many resources out there. I can share some with Penny so she can put them in the show notes. One thing we didn't talk about, I have a brand new book out. It's not about homeschooling, but it is about those connections and how building those connections within your family actually help you raise your kids to be more resilient and more emotionally intelligent and strong and confident.

Colleen Kessler (33:53): And so it empowers them through those other things. So connection and and relationships are at the heart of your parenting, but your homeschool is an extension of your parenting. So I'll make sure that I get Penny a link to that book. It's called "Raising Resilient Sons: A boy mom's guide to building a strong, competent, and emotionally intelligent family." And while the book focuses on boys specifically because our society needs some more resources to support our boys and their emotional intelligence, the lessons in there are easily extrapolated to your family in general, and your homeschooling at large, because it's all about the effect and the emotional resiliency in your kids. And that's what we're doing when we're pulling our kids out mid-year or after a trauma, like Penny said, we need to rebuild that strength and that confidence and that resiliency so that our kids know we have their back and that they are good at a lot of things. And they are not made up of the deficits that they had to have scrutinized all the time in a school setting, because that's what teachers have to do in order to make their end year goals. So we can rebuild that at home by loving our kids and building those connections.

Penny Williams (35:11): Yeah. And that reminded me to hear that, our parent child relationships are likely healthier through homeschooling because as parents, we have the pressure of getting our kids to do what they're supposed to be doing from school. And we have the pressure to even get them there and have them attending and being educated, despite anxiety or other challenges that they might have. And so when we're under pressure, we're passing pressure on to our kids and then comes in the homework battles and all of that sort of adversarial stuff. And if we take that away, we don't have that other outside pressure. Then we're going to have probably a better relationship with our kids. If that's the world we live in with our kids in school some kids do great in school, even with special needs, and that's not an issue. But for those that it is where it's really feeling like it's deteriorating your relationship with your child, it might be time to step back and say, I need to take this other entity out of the equation. Let's just bring it home and do it at home.

Colleen Kessler (36:17): Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Like you said, parent child relationships are able to be strengthened so much more because that outside thing that's hanging over all of you is eliminated. There's other issues. Homeschooling is not sunshine and roses all the time because it's parenting and parenting is tough. And yeah, exactly, it's okay to know that it's not going to be perfect and you need to take care of yourself in the midst of it all. And it's not an answer for everybody. I'm here as an advocate for homeschooling, because I think that it is a really, really great option for gifted, twice exceptional and special needs kids. But you have to look at your situation and your kid. We always say that even though we've now been in it for 11 years, it's kid by kid year by year, if at any point any of our children come to us with a compelling argument for why they need to be in a school setting, we're going to sit down as a family, and we're going to look at that and we're going to consider it because things change, circumstances change, and circumstances are different for every single child and every single family. So know yourself, know your kids and trust that.

Penny Williams (37:29): You can give it a try and if it doesn't work out, if it's not the right fit, you can always shift again. You can always go back or try something different. So yeah, it can be sort of experimental as well.

Colleen Kessler (37:45): Yeah. You're not going to mess up your kid. You're just not, they're going to be fine. They're resilient. And they're going to be able to adapt. My daughter was saying to me the other day, she's like, I couldn't even go to high school if I wanted to. I wouldn't be able to handle what's going on in the classroom. I'm way behind, which is totally wrong. Totally false, because she is the biggest people, pleaser there is and would be able to handle anything as soon as she understood kind of the routine. So we usually do a portfolio assessment here as one of our options in Ohio. But two years ago, I gave all my kids the standardized test just to see where they fell. And that one in particular, as a sixth grader at the time, hit the ceiling in the English language arts portion, meaning she tested past high school level. And in math, she tested two years ahead, even though the workbook she was using was a year behind. So she's not going to have a problem. It's completely misinterpretation of what a classroom setting is like, your kids are going to be fine. You have the opportunity to go one-on-one with them and get them to where they need to be. So if it doesn't work out because you guys are at each other's throats all day and you all need a break. That's okay, too. It's totally fine.

Penny Williams (38:58): Yeah. And it's even fine to do it at night or start school at 3:00 PM instead of ending your school at 3:00 PM. It just offers so much flexibility and creativity for families who often really need that.

Colleen Kessler (39:13): Absolutely. We do that here. And when I'm on panels and stuff at homeschooling conventions, I'm kind of always the odd one out, which is typical as I'm raising outliers, but a large portion of homeschool speakers and developers advocate for that kind of morning time together and sit around and do your group work. First thing in the morning when you're fresh. And our family is not fresh first thing in the morning. And so my younger two get up and they play on their Chromebooks or their Kindle Fires. And we sit around, I joke that my son, my teen does his coffee and meme every morning where he drinks his coffee and scrolls through memes and giggles to himself over on the couch. And doesn't want to be talked to, we don't start our school until usually lunch or afterwards.

Colleen Kessler (40:04): And it's okay because they've done a lot of learning in the morning. Anyway, my kids were at my younger kids were having roach races this morning, which is gross. We have roaches right now because we got a bearded dragon for Christmas. And I went into the family room and they had set up a maze with mag formers and we're racing roaches through the maze. And so they did science for the day. I'm calling it because they had to. So you just never know in a homeschooling family, what you're going to come across.

Penny Williams (40:35): Right. But that's the beauty of it. Like they would never learn anything by racing roaches in a public school, probably. Right. Maybe there's a few outlier teachers that would do that, but not many. And yeah, they're showing you the way that they need to go by being flexible. We allow our kids to guide us as their parents, to where they really need to go, where they really fit, where they can succeed.

Colleen Kessler (41:00): Exactly. Exactly.

Penny Williams (41:03): Thank you so much for sharing some of your time and wisdom with everybody. I super enjoy our conversations and your energy. Every time we get the chance to talk for everyone listening, you can get links to all of the resources that Colleen has talked about here in the show notes, and you can find those atparentingadhdandautism.com/116, with that we'll end this episode. I'll see everyone next time.

Penny Williams (41:34): For joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.