My guest this week is Kelly Edwards, She’s the creator of the 90-Minute School Day, a lifestyle approach to education. The 90-Minute School Day method connects children with learning in their natural environment: At home with their family. It’s designed for kids at an educational level of Pre-K through sixth grade. Kelly is passionate about home education, connecting families through attachment, learning as a lifestyle, and helping children and parents identify their purpose. Kelly’s entering her seventh year as a homeschool mom. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia with her husband and three girls ages, 13, 6, and 3. Nice spread of ages there. She’s a licensed foster parent, successful entrepreneur, and community citizen. She uses her personal and professional experiences to guide the homeschooling parent with a framework and system to overcome the overwhelm that affects each of us.
In this episode, Kelly and I discuss some amazing benefits of homeschooling. Before you run away after being traumatized from schooling at home during the pandemic, know that this is completely different. That was crisis schooling NOT homeschooling. We’re talking 90 minutes a day about 4 days per week max.
I have found both as a parent with my own kids, as well as a professional working with kids with lots of different types of needs, homeschooling really can be the best, most supportive educational option for some kids. It lowers the stress around education and schooling significantly for some kids and parents, but you really need to have the intel on what homeschooling actually is, how it works best, the different ways to do it, how to make it work for you in a way that doesn’t add to the stress of your life which is why I invited Kelly Edwards on the podcast today to tell us all about it. Learn more about Kelly Edwards here.
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Objection 1 – Isn’t school the best place for my child?
- The assumption is that the only true way to provide an appropriate education for my child is to send them to school
- Parents of children with special needs tend to assume that school is the only place they can get special services and programs for their children
- Even as a homeschooler, your state will work with you on having access to services; however many children start to regulate once they are out of the school system that does not serve them
- The truth is, no one knows what your child needs more than you
- Research does not support the assumption that school programs for special needs do more for a child’s development than can be done at home
- Children learn through movement, especially young children
- You are your child’s first teacher, and you’re their longest teacher
- Start questioning your assumptions – for example parents assume homework is good for their child but there is no science or data that supports that. It can cause more harm than good most of the time
- The data and the research agree that kids need to be at home, they need to be outside and they need to be playing and they need to get dirty and do risky things with safe boundaries and education around it. But that forms a well-balanced child, neurally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually
Objection 2 – Will their social development suffer?
- Before making the assumption that school is the only place where your child will be socialized properly, think of the institution as a whole, is that the only place you want them to learn socialization? Standing in lines, waiting for bells, etc.
- Homeschooling families craft their own communities
- Ask around and find a homeschool group near you
- Join after-school activities like soccer, gymnastics, etc.
- Get involved in your neighborhood or faith-based groups
Objection 3 – The big one TIME
- Most people think they don’t have time for homeschooling
- Time-audit yourself and write down how much time you spend every day, from the moment you wake up, getting your kid ready for school and out the door to school
- Then how much time you’re spending to get them back home from school and include helping them with their homework time
- For some, count the time that you spend ruminating and worrying and stressing while they’re at school about when the phone is going to ring, what email you’re going to get about getting the phone call that you have to come to pick up your child
Objection 4 – Can I really educate in 90 minutes?
- Formal learning is intentional and directed. 90 minutes a day of formal learning is more than adequate for elementary-aged students in a home environment
- The intimate teacher-student ratio of learning at home allows teachers (parents) to customize subject material, not just rely on a textbook; the entire library is available for learning
- Learning also happens at the speed your child learns. Short lessons are more powerful and digestible than longer ones
- Quality over quantity. Learning continues throughout the day as the children move through play and work. They are independently pursuing the subjects that are interesting to them and working towards mastery. Play is the mechanism for self-discovery for children
- Verbal communication is the foundation for all relationships, behavior, and emotional intelligence. Verbal communication is fostered through reading, conversations, and living life well in relationships with others
Follow Kelly Edwards
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
Kelly’s story … 00:05:17
Main objections … 00:13:30
Socialization and homeschool … 00:30:00
How much time does it take? … 00:36:30
90-Minute Homeschool Day … 00:43:06
Episode Wrap up … 00:50:00
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone, welcome to the show. I’m Dr. Nicole, and on today’s episode, we’re talking about homeschooling and the many benefits that it can provide kids with and without special needs. Now I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Wait a second. I’m not into this. I’ve been trying to do this homeschool thing for my kids all through the pandemic. I am just like, so over it”, but hear me out on this: Most of what’s been going on homeschool-wise during this pandemic is not really what homeschool is. We could call it crisis schooling, we could call it traditional schooling, just done in a home. It’s not really been what homeschool truly is. So hold on, listen. I think we’re going to give you a really different perspective on that today, because I have found both as a parent with my own kids, as well as a professional working with kids with lots of different types of needs, homeschooling really can be the best, most supportive educational option for some kids. And it really does lower the stress around education and schooling significantly for some kids and parents, but you really need to have the intel on what homeschooling actually is, how it works best, the different ways to do it, how to make it work for you in a way that doesn’t add to the stress of your life, and that’s why I’m really excited to have Kelly Edwards from the 90-Minute School Day on the show today. She’s going to take us through why this can be such a great option, reasonable expectations to set, how to structure things, and lots more. So let me tell you a bit about her.
She’s the creator of the 90-Minute School Day, a lifestyle approach to education. The 90-Minute School Day method connects children with learning in their natural environment: At home with their family. It’s designed for kids at an educational level of Pre-K through sixth grade. Kelly is passionate about home education, connecting families through attachment, learning as a lifestyle and helping children and parents identify their purpose. Kelly’s entering her seventh year as a homeschool mom. She lives in the Shenandoah valley of West Virginia with her husband and three girls ages, 13, 6, and 3. Nice spread of ages there. She’s a licensed foster parent, successful entrepreneur and community citizen. She uses her personal and professional experiences to guide the homeschooling parent with a framework and system to overcome the overwhelm that affects each of us. I love that so much. Can’t wait for this conversation. Kelly, welcome to the show!
Thank you Dr. Beurkens, for having me. I’m so delighted to be here. This is going to be a fun conversation. I think we’re both passionate about helping families through our lived experiences and failure is sometimes the best teacher. So I loved what you said about chaos schooling and crisis schooling, that certainly has been a challenge for many families this past year.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It has, and I think it’s important just to really recognize that, because I’ve heard so many parents over the last year and a half say, “See, this is why homeschooling isn’t something that I can do”, or “This is why this isn’t a good option. And it’s like well, actually very little of what’s gone on is homeschooling. It’s been virtual schooling dumped in the lap of parents, or it’s been just crisis- level, no planning, no preparation, dumped on parents. And that’s not truly what homeschooling is. Probably the only similarity is that it was done with parents within the four walls of the home, right?
Right, right. But maybe not as harmoniously as you could have done it if you did it yourself.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Exactly right, and that’s why I’m so excited about this conversation, because one of the things that I love to help parents think about is how when we free ourselves from the box of typically how education is done, and what all of these sort of typical expectations are around what it means for kids to go to school and get an education. When we can think more out of the box about that and think about what our long-term goals truly are for our kids, educationally and otherwise, suddenly we realize that, oh, this could be done in lots of different ways, right?
Right. Yes. Just like solving a math problem, there are lots of ways to solve your math problem. As long as you can get to the correct answer consistently, that’s fine. It works.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s right. Exactly. So I’d love to actually have you share just a little bit about your story. In your bio, I read you’re going into your seventh year of being a homeschooling parent. I’d love to just have you share with our listeners a little bit about how you came to be a homeschooling parent and advocate. Was it something that you always planned on doing? Was it something that you came to after a certain experience? Talk to us about that.
Okay, thank you. So I’m a foster adoptive mom. All of my children, we have adopted through the foster care system here in West Virginia. My eldest daughter came to us when she was 6, and so she was already enrolled in kindergarten, and so we finished up her kindergarten year and went through first grade with her. Now she’s going through a lot of things that may be atypical for some of your listeners, or maybe it would resonate, but she had been through trauma.Just the fact of separating from her family of origin and living in my home was traumatic. And so she had a lot of emotional needs that needed to be met, that this typical school system wasn’t able to provide. 1 teacher with 30 children isn’t able to deal with the emotional needs of a child. I know that your audience has probably been well versed in neurodiversity, but trauma is in that category, as well as anxiety, ADHD, all of these things. And so my child is neuro-diverse and she needed to come home, and I realized that early on. I did not set out to be a homeschooler. I was traditionally educated in the public school system, I had a few years in a private school. But I was going to send my children off to school just like most of society.
However, watching the meltdowns that happen — and if you think about it, when you’re sending your kids to a traditional school, your daily life is dictated by the school schedule. And so you have to get your kids up, there’s a time quotient on there, you’ve got to rush around, you’ve got to get them dressed, you’ve got to get them out the door. You’re frustrated because they’re not moving at the speed that they need to. They’re frustrated because of all the things everyone’s familiar with. Get them off to school. They’re at school all day, then they ride the bus home or you pick them up and then they’ve got homework to do. And then by the time you get that done, then there’s maybe some free time there’s dinner, there’s probably crying and tears and battles, and then you do it all over again, 5 days a week. And then you recover on the weekend, and then it just keeps — rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. Homeschooling gives you back your agency as a parent, to be able to dive into what your child needs and how they can best learn. So my daughter was fine academically, but she was just not thriving. So my best friend growing up was homeschooled, and I just started to do a little bit of research. The more and more I read, the more and more I researched, the more people I talked to that did homeschool that I was seeking out, I realized this is something worth trying. And so we were just going to homeschool her for second grade, and then she would go back to school, because we would have her magically fixed by then. However, here we are entering our seventh year and we have just fallen in love with homeschooling because we can achieve it — I achieve it in 90 minutes a day or less. I only school four days a week, if that — we school year round, but when I say we school year around, it’s really very seasonal and there are so many different ways to learn that we dip in and out of things, and it’s very child led, because if you think about what you’ve retained from your traditional school environment, what you’ve retained from things you’ve learned in your own life, what you retained the most of is things you were interested in and that mattered to you, and everything else that you were forced to do, or coerced to do or, bribed to do, or just made to do,
you learned it in your short term, and then it was just disposed of. So we want to create lifelong learners, we want our children to learn lifelong, and that’s really teaching our children to critically think and to pursue their passions, and in doing that, they are going to flourish and become the individuals that they were born to be. They weren’t born to be our carbon copies. They were born to be them, and they’re unique. So that’s a little bit about our journey into homeschooling. I don’t know if that quite answered your question, but there you have it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yes! So good, and I’m so glad that you shared all of that because I know so many of our listeners are going “Yes!”, shaking their head, like that whole cycle you described of how the days go on a normal school schedule, and then you fall into bed at night like, “Oh my gosh”, and you can barely get up the next day. That resonates so much. And we do have such a wide variety of parents listening to the show. Some who absolutely have kids who have trauma in their background that has led to neurodevelopmental and mental health challenges for them, parents of kids on the autism spectrum, ADHD, anxiety, the whole gamut, and lots of parents who maybe their kid doesn’t have a diagnosis, but is struggling in one or more areas, and a typical school situation Is really kind of pouring fuel on the fire, it is really exacerbating their levels of stress and anxiety and creating a lot of the challenging behavior. So I just know that so many people can really resonate and appreciate what you should. And I love that you said too, that this wasn’t something you planned to do because I don’t know if that’s true for the majority of homeschooling families or not, but I will say for the vast majority of the families that I have worked with over the last 20 plus years, they’re accidental homeschoolers. Same as with you, they never thought they would homeschool their kids, but they came into it because one or more of their children was struggling. They sat back one day and went, “Wait a second. This is not working”, and decided they needed to try something different. I know that that was my experience for the children of mine, that we have homeschooled at various times, and that’s just true for the majority of parents that I have worked with. So I appreciate you sharing that because I think sometimes people have really sort of stereotypical or interesting ideas about the typical homeschool mom or family or whatever, and it’s like, that’s not what that has to be like. A lot of us sort of fell into it because our kids had needs that we recognized we’re not going to be appropriately met if we stayed the course of a typical school kind of situation.
Yes. I don’t wear long Jean skirts and do bouffant braids. I just don’t. And I don’t know anyone who does.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s great. Yeah, it is true, we have all kinds of stories and ideas about how that is, and that’s what I love. There are so many different varieties and so much more support and groups and things that have cropped up even in the last five years, I would say, and certainly during the pandemic, to give parents community, information and strategies around how to do this, because it can feel really isolating can’t it?
Yes. And that is where one of the biggest proponents for me is to build community. So if you don’t know anyone who homeschools, find me on social media, we will become friends. You need to find a community to support you because you are embarking on something that is getting more normalized, however, it’s still a very different way to educate. It’s a form of alternative education. We hear about all these alternative education schools and democratic schools and micro-schools and charter schools. All of those things are great and I’m big on progressive education. However, all of those happen at home. You can provide it inexpensively without a lot of time. You can meet your child’s needs, and you can flourish in your relationship with your child and build this really strong, connected family by homeschooling, and you can do it as a working parent or a single parent. It has been done before, there are many out there who do that. I’m a working mom, and I homeschool. It’s a beautiful lifestyle that has just really given life into our family, so I can’t recommend it enough.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah. I love what you brought up around the different types of circumstances, and I want to start diving into some of the main objections that I hear come up around — parents, whether they have a child with special needs or not, around homeschooling. I think one of the big ones that we can start with is this idea that a lot of parents have, that the only way to really educate a child, whether they have neurodevelopmental issues, mental health issues, they’re neuro-typical or whatever, that, the only true way to provide an appropriate education for them is to send them to school. That, obviously, I don’t believe is true, both having worked in schools, having been a teacher and an administrator and an educational consultant for years in my first career. As a psychologist, as a parent, I don’t believe that’s true, but I think that the education system is very relied on to provide, not only the education they need, but also extra services and things, and so a lot of parents, especially if their child has some needs thinks. “Well, my job is to make sure that they go to school because that’s where they get the help. And that’s where, that’s the only way they’re going to get an education that’s going to serve them well. I’d love to have you speak to that.
Yes. So that’s a very, very common understanding. And I’m here to set people free. You are your child’s expert. No one understands their child more than the parent. No one loves their child more, no one cares more about the educational aptitude and future of a child more than their parents. The best teacher in the world cares a great deal, but she is not going to care as much as you do. She’s got her own children or he has his own children or whatnot. And the other thing is every single human being is an individual. They are different, and they are different in beautiful ways. The standard education can serve some children, but that type of education can not serve every child. And in fact, I would argue that it only serves a very small minority of children. Children learn through movement, especially young children. They learn through play. We’ve got an epidemic of sensory processing disorder, it’s just running rampant: ADHD, anxiety, especially with the pandemic, we’ve all dealt with anxiety. Our young children are just not getting what they need. They need space and they need time so that they can get in a play flow. That is how they learn best. We, as their parents, are also their educators. Every single parent is their child’s very first teacher, and we’ve all watched it. We’ve gotten out of touch in our society with how human beings have naturally been learning, problem solving, and being super creative throughout all of time, and the public school system is a relatively new construct. It’s an experiment. Homeschooling has been around for millennia. And so for whoever needs to hear that: You are more than qualified. You are your child’s first teacher, and you’re their longest teacher. Even if your child’s in the public school system, private school system or some other kind of school system, you’re still doing homework with them. You’re still augmenting that education out of your time. If you’re frustrated, if your child’s frustrated, if your child is getting labeled, if your child is being bullied, if your child is just not thriving in the school environment, I challenge you to question if there could be a different way and could it be better?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
You are singing my song here. I love it. And I think it’s important too, along the same line, for parents to really be aware of what the research shows about how our system is or is not functioning very well for kids in general, but particularly for kids with needs. There’s this idea that you send them to school, they do all the things there, they come home, and then I have to make sure they do their homework. Homework is a great example of something that is one of the most useless, problematic things. There is not a research basis for it, for the vast majority of grades and ages and subject areas, and yet, it’s a part of our education system. And how many of you as parents are churning away in your later afternoons and evenings, struggling trying to manage this with your kid, thinking that this is important for your child’s growth, development, learning, and future, and it is not. And the research bears out that it’s not important, that’s just one example. And so I think it’s really important, as you said, to step back and question. We don’t do enough of that in general for things, right? But particularly for this topic, when it comes to schooling, our kids — Really, I invite you, as Kelly just did, to challenge your underlying assumptions of what it means for a child to get an education, what is most important and necessary in those childhood and adolescent years to prepare them for adulthood. The data is terrible for outcomes for our kids who have neurodevelopmental issues, for our neuro-diverse kids, for our kids with mental health issues. Dismal outcomes. Even for kids who get a regular state endorsed diploma, our traditional education system is failing these kids in terms of what they really need to develop and learn to successfully navigate adult life, the world of post-secondary education, the world of work, all of that. So step back and question that. Yes, Kelly, I can’t put an exclamation point on that enough, what you said, it’s really important. And maybe for some parents for the first time, recognizing that they have some underlying assumptions that, that they aren’t even aware of, that are affecting the decisions that they’re making.
Right. Yes, absolutely. 100%. It all goes back to, we all know as parents, we read all the books when we first start parenting and we’re just like, “Oh my gosh, do I formula? Do I breastfeed? tummy time, what do I do? And we do all of this research and we kind of — because we don’t know, and we’re doing this work and we’re watching the YouTube videos and we’re talking with our friends, and then we just group think for public school education and we share, and we’re, we’re out with the families on the soccer field or wherever, and we’re talking about the trouble and what do you do? And, oh, “Did you know about this tutor or that”, or whatnot, but we’re still within the common paradigm that, that we have to send our children away from home to get a good education, and that is just a lie. There are so many ways to get a good education and that’s one route, but there are many routes to solve problems, and that’s what it means to be a critical thinker, and that’s what we want to do with education and learning is to form critical thinkers. We don’t know what’s coming down the road, no one saw this pandemic coming.
It changed the entire world. How they do business, how we operate in our family lives, and the way to help prepare the world, and our service to the world. And to prepare our children is to have them be creative, have them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, and for them to be confident in who they are and their giftedness, and for them to pursue that. And the very best person to come alongside a child is their parent to tell them what they’re good at, to expose them to the things that are going to give life to that child, so that child has an identity when they fledge the nest and they go out into the world, they can thrive.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So true. Another objection that came to my mind as you were talking there, that comes up with a lot of parents is this idea of, “Okay, so maybe some of the curriculum and stuff that’s going on in class isn’t well suited to my child, but my child needs to be in school to get the speech therapy service, or the occupational therapy service, or to meet with the counselor and, so I have to send them there so they can get that. I’m curious about your response to that.
No, you don’t, you are trying to recreate something that will happen naturally. Take your kid out of school, especially if you’ve got a little kid, just take them out of school, run a self-experiment yourself. Do it this summer or on a break. Consider this — it’s Christmas, something like that, where you can just try it out. Watch your child on the weekends. Put them outside. They’re going to — it takes sometimes about 45 minutes to enter a play flow, especially if they’re used to being entertained. It is not our job as parents to entertain our children. It is our job as parents to expose our children to what they need to grow and develop. I’m kind of getting on my little soapbox here, so pardon me, but to kind of come back to what you were saying: We have all these occupational therapists because children are not outside, because we’ve got children in front of screens at a young age and there’s a time and place for screens, but not to the degree that we’re using it, and every parent knows that. So get your kids outside, get them running around, climbing trees, and socializing in nature. There’s so much data there. There’s a great book by Angela Hanscomb, Balanced and Barefoot. Read it. It will knock your head off your shoulders and into the sand. It’s fantastic. So the data and the research agree that kids need to be at home, they need to be outside and they need to be playing and they need to get dirty and do risky things with safe boundaries and education around it. But that forms a well-balanced child, neurally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
It’s so true. And all of those experiences provide the foundations for supporting quicker development of communication, of the sensory processing systems, all of that. And even for kids who do benefit from some of those direct therapies, I know that there are state by state regulations of these things and what’s available to homeschool families, but I will say that here in my state of Michigan, a homeschooling family still is completely able to access if their child has a diagnosed need, is educationally eligible, or those kinds of services: Speech therapy, occupational therapy, social work services, whatever it might be, you can still access those within the public school system as a homeschooling family. Kelly, do you know? Is that a national thing? Is that a state-by-state thing? I’m actually not sure.
So I live in West Virginia. I know in our state that we can get services, like you just mentioned. It would seem that that would be a state-by-state, but definitely worth checking into. And there are so many good programs out there, and there are so many good resources within the homeschooling community in your area or online that can really help promote that, because most of the homeschoolers I know are accidental homeschoolers also, but they’re homeschooling because their child is neuro-diverse or they’re just not being met. Their needs are not being met. The sparkle went out of their eye about learning. They hate reading. They just don’t want anything to do with school, They’re having trouble socially at school.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, and I think the other thing I’d add about that piece Is it’s kind of laughable, unfortunately, what counts as those kinds of services within the school. I mean, I’m sorry, but I’m here to tell you: If you think your child is getting a whole lot out of a 20 minute speech therapy session, even once a week, probably more like every other week or having the OT come in and do a consult for 20 minutes once a month or something like that — I mean, these are the kinds of services that are on most kids IEPs, and quite frankly, they’re just is not a ton of benefit that comes out of that for most kids, and so I think again, stepping back and questioning what our are assumptions about the necessity of that or the value that it’s actually bringing — And this is not to say that there aren’t wonderful therapy professionals within the school systems. Absolutely, there are, I was one of them. I know many of them, but they too are so frustrated. Their hands are so tied. They know they’re not meeting the needs of kids, with communication issues, emotional and behavioral issues, with sensory motor issues, because the system is set up where they can’t provide the frequency and intensity and types of service that are needed. So I think if that’s kind of been a barrier in your mind, there are ways to either think differently about that or ways to access those services, even as a homeschooling family.
Yes, absolutely. And I would even say, think through — these are the behaviors that your child is exhibiting, but what is the root cause? Where is this actually stemming from? Some of this is chemical, some of this is neurological. Some of this can be addressed and deescalated just by switching up the environment that that child spends most of their time in. Try bringing them back home, especially if you notice these issues exacerbate or pop up once they left home. Consider that too.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I think that’s been a big a-ha for some families, even during the pandemic. Like, “Wow. My kid is so much more regulated. Okay, we’re struggling around this virtual schooling or whatever it is we’re doing.” I think a lot of parents who have realized like, “Okay, I’m opting out of this. This is not working”, but they’ve realized that, “Oh my goodness, the level of conflict in our home is down. My child has more space emotionally and cognitively to manage things. We’re not constantly having angst and conflict and power struggles and things.”
So I think to your point, it has been helpful having kids home to see the difference for some of them with that. I want to get into one more sort of common objection, and then we’re going to get into the big one of time, but let’s just briefly touch on the objection that some parents have of, “Well, if I homeschool my child or my kids, that’s going to just really be problematic for their social development, they’re not going to have any friends.” I hear this a lot from parents who have children, maybe on the autism spectrum, kids who struggle socially, and they think that the only way to address that is to make sure they’re in the school environment with lots of other kids. So how do you respond to that, when parents raise that?
I love this question. This always gets raised. So socialization does happen at school, and have you ever thought if that’s the socialization you want your child to have? Let me give you an example: At no other point in their real life, once they graduate, are they going to be in a room with 30 of their exact age peers. No other time in their life, are they going to be marched around and have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. No other time in their life are they going to have to ask to get a drink of water, and if they’re going to be allowed outside. I mean, we can talk about institutionalized living and other forms in society and outside of school. It’s kind of grim. You think of residential care facilities, you think of places that we put incarcerated folks. This is not necessarily the socialization that maybe you want for your child. When you bring your child home, you get to nourish the values of your family, you get to decide who your child is going to be socializing with. Every homeschool family — well, maybe not everyone. I can’t speak for everyone, but everyone that I come into contact with and speak with, and I speak to a lot, they craft out their homeschool community. They are community-minded citizens. They are out in their neighborhoods, they’re volunteering their time. Their child is exposed to what they’re exposed to. Their children are with them when they run errands, they see. I was at the DMV and we saw some guy just literally grab a screen and rip it off the wall. So we’re able to have teachable moments out in reality for my children to understand what is and is not acceptable by society and how you should respond. So having peer-based time is important, and you can get that when you’re homeschooling through after school activities, through a homeschool playgroup, through a co-op, they’ve got all kinds of different ways you can homeschool. If you’re involved in any kind of faith-based organization, just getting out and volunteering your time, being present with your neighborhood. We’ve got several widows that live in my neighborhood, and my girls are very faithful to building relationships. They play violin to them, and we drop off little treats from time to time, especially around holidays. We bake a bunch, then we’re constantly — when you’re visiting our neighborhood, we are doing a lot of jobs. My daughters are getting rich off of taking care of people’s pets during the day and their plants. And so they’re developing business skills and how to talk to adults at a young age because they have the time and space to do so. So socialization is going to happen regardless of where your child is, and maybe you just need to think about, “Well, what kind of other socializations could I offer them if they were not in a traditional school environment?”
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, I love it. And I think it’s important, again, to spotlight the research that has been done on this that shows that the stereotypical idea that kids who were homeschooled are isolated, have poor interpersonal skills, don’t know how to relate to other people — that has not borne out in the research literature at all. That is a false. That’s sort of a myth about homeschooling for sure. Are there some homeschooling kids that maybe lack interpersonal skills, struggle, socially, all of that? Absolutely. And there are a lot of those who have been through the traditional education system too. It has no bearing on the type of schooling they’ve had. So I think it’s just important, again, to recognize that the research doesn’t show that it’s true. And the other piece of that is that if you are the parent of a child who falls on the autism spectrum, even more significant ADHD, any child on that sort of neuro-diversity spectrum who struggles with whatever the root cause may be, whether it’s trauma, neurological differences, whatever, who struggles with relationships and peer socialization, understanding that the foundations for quality appropriate peer to peer interaction is in interaction with your parent, primary caregivers and adults. Throwing a child with socialization difficulties and social communication problems into a situation with peers and saying, “Well, this is going to solve your interpersonal issues, your social relatedness issues.” That’s not how that works. So for many kids, they need to have those quality interactions more consistently with parents, with caregivers, in order to build the foundations that allow for appropriate quality peer to peer interaction.
Yes. Yes. And I would add to that: Go outside when you play with your kids, with other kids, because especially if you’ve got a child that’s sensitive in this way, when you’re outside, there is space and that child can — they’ll regulate themselves. It’s amazing. If they’ve kind of had enough of whatever’s going on, they’ll just go over there and they’ll play and they’ll build a little pile of mulch, and they’ll just kind of learn their own thing. To just be outside without a playground — because in a playground, then we get into all these other socialization things about: Your kid wants to go up this slide, they want to slide down. They’re working on their climbing skills and it’s bothering the rest of the people who want to go down the slide. Then you’ve got to manage that and we get into a behavior thing. When your child knows what they need — they need to work on their climbing skills, it may be a sensory thing that’s going on, so go out to a park where there’s no playground equipment, and if your child wants to climb, you teach them how to climb a tree safely and let them go. So there’s just so much to be said about: Parents raise your children, love on your children. You are equipped and you can do it.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Oh, so good. Now the big one: I want to spend the rest of our time on this, because this is probably above everything else, the biggie. “But Kelly, but Dr. Nicole, I don’t have time to do homeschooling with my kids. I’m busy, I’m a working parent. I’m a single parent. I’m a parent of multiple kids. I don’t see how I can do this. I don’t have seven hours a day to devote to schooling my child.” So let’s tackle that.
Yeah. So let’s tackle that. So if you have the convenience of being at home and working from home, this is going to be a particularly easy switch for you, so I’ll address that first. Go ahead and just time-audit yourself and write down how much time you spend every day, getting your kid to and from school, from the moment you wake them up before they’re ready to wake up, so they’re not getting the sleep that they need and they’re already set back at a desk. And then you get them out the door, and if you’re transporting them or you’re waiting at the bus stop, you’ve got to count all that. Then once you’re kind of done with that and your day begins, that’s the window right there. So that probably exceeds the amount of time I spent homeschooling my kids right there. And then afterwards you do the same thing. You’re picking them up from school or you’re picking them up from the bus stop or however you’re doing it. Then how much time you’re spending to get them back to the next place and include helping them with their homework time. So right there. That is the time that you could be homeschooling your kids and dictating your own schedule.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Can I add to that too? For some of you, count the time that you spend ruminating and worrying and stressing while they’re at school about when the phone is going to ring, what email you’re going to get about getting the phone call that you have to come pick up your child. Let’s not forget to add in that time because that’s real time that you’re spending. You may not be with your child in those moments, but mentally you are, and it’s taking up space and time in your life.
Yes. Especially if you’ve got a child with anxiety that gets sick all the time. Yes, yes, absolutely. So right there. Just do a time audit, and you don’t even have to, because you’ve probably heard enough to be like, “Okay, I’m listening. Tell me more.” And that can go for the working parent as well, just that time-audit, because these are your children, you’re having to account for where they are and keeping them safe. When you have time in your schedule, you just may have to move things around and look at it differently.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
But I think part of it is that parents have this idea that because their children physically go to school for six and a half, seven hours a day, that that’s the amount of time that they would need to be devoting each day. So let’s bust that myth right now.
Let’s bust that myth. Okay. We send children to school so that parents can work. That is where this kicked off. This whole public education system is so that the children are kept somewhere while both parents work. That’s one of the major things that happened there with our public school system.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So they’re there for six and a half or seven hours, but I guess the question is: Are they actually learning or engaged in important educational activities for seven hours?
No! And every parent knows this: They’ve got parties, they’ve got movies, they bring them some worksheets, the kid has no idea what happened in math class because they weren’t paying attention in whatever lecture was happening. They keep them busy with busy work, they bring them all these papers. They’re there to kill time. You can teach your child that lesson one-on-one in minutes, compared to a teacher trying to control an entire classroom of children who are kept inside, and they need to be outside, playing with their friends and trying to manage. So really, just look up the science, talk to any teacher you know, and ask them how much actual work and learning is happening in that 50 minute block.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah. And there have been some really interesting studies done on time-audits of what actually goes on during a full school day at the elementary, at the secondary levels, of how much time is actually spent on learning something new, practicing a skill, and it is far less than the amount of time they’re there. And, again, this is not bashing teachers. This is not against anyone who is working hard within these systems. I was one, I get it, that the way the system is set up doesn’t allow the people teaching and working with kids to do what they need to do either. To your point, Kelly, you’ve got one adult trying to simultaneously manage and corral 30 kids, all of whom are different and have different needs, trying to abide by the ridiculous rules that agencies and people who know nothing about kids, learning and child development are dictating for how much time they need to spend on things, what curriculum they need to use, constraints that the districts put on how teachers can do things. So the system is set up in a way that is really the problem here. It has nothing to do with the individuals trying to implement this. Teachers are up against so many barriers and obstacles to doing what most of them know would be much more effective, but they’re not allowed to do it. So I just want to be clear because that can come up sometimes in these discussions where people say, well, “Why do you hate teachers?” I’m like, “I don’t hate them. I was one!” This has nothing to do with individual teachers. This has to do with a system that was never designed to work well, and certainly is not meeting the needs of lots of kids.
Right. Yes. I love every single teacher who is in our public school system. They are doing the hard work. They have been set up for failure and they’re somehow pulling it out. So all the props in the world to teachers and administrators and school leaders. They recognize this, you talk to one of them, they understand this. They’re frustrated. They hate this teaching to the test business that we’ve got going on. I could go on and on and on, but I know that’s outside the scope of this conversation.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, but I just think it’s important to know that lots of people within education totally get this. And they listen to things like our conversation now, and they’re like “Right on.” I have had school teachers, public and private school teachers privately on the side counsel some of the families that I have worked with against sending their kid back to school because they’re like, “Look, we can’t properly meet your child’s needs here. I’m just going to tell you on the down low here’s what’s really going on. This isn’t going to work. I just want to be straight with you about that.” And I have a lot of respect for school people who are willing to have those conversations and acknowledge that. And those are the ones that I think really have the best interest of some of these — particularly kids with more significant challenges, really have their best needs at heart. They recognize: I love your kid and I want what’s best for your kid, and I know that I can’t provide it with the resources and what I’m given.
So you talked about how you really do the schooling for your kids, and I would guess more the academic piece because your kids are schooling and being educated and learning all day long that they’re home. But when you say 90-Minute Homeschool Day, is that really the amount of time that you’re focusing on sort of directed academic learning?
Yes, that’s my time. So I account for about 90 minutes on the day, on the daily, through the traditional school year. So we school during the summer. I make sure that we do reading, writing, and arithmetic over the summer, but it’s very play-based and it’s just done differently, but there’s no learning gap that you get and you hear about in the public school system. So yes, the 90-Minute School Day is a system and a framework that I use in my home, and one of the unique things about me is, and you mentioned it earlier, is I do have a 13 year-old, a 6 year-old and a 3 year-old. So I kind of span these kinds of generations you have as you grow up, right? I’ve got the little toddler, I’ve got this kind of elementary school age child, and then I’ve got the teenager. And so this really works holistically for the entire family. So it’s 90 minutes of my time, four days a week. That’s it. You’re probably spending that amount of time in a car on a given day with your kids, and I call it car schooling, we’re in the car getting school done. So when we’re running errands, we’re picking up and putting down.
So my 90 minutes is broken into six parts. There are three content areas, and the content is just like knowledge acquisition and your exposure to other thoughts and ideas and characters. That’s your history, your science, your geography, your language arts, that kind of thing. And then the other three sections are skill-based. So that’s your reading and your writing and your arithmetic. That’s your three R’s. And so what is helpful is — what I’m trying to do is to bridge the gap between someone who’s moving from a traditional school mindset and is interested in homeschooling, but it’s like, “Okay, where do I start? Give me a recipe, give me a roadmap.” And that’s what it is. It’s uniquely designed. It’s a method. This is not some sort of magical formula that’s going to pixie dust over your kid. This is something, it’s a framework and a system that is going to give you the tools and the guidance you need to start. And then you just like a good recipe from your favorite aunt, you cook it a few times and all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to try this today”, and you start mixing, and that’s where the magic happens. So The 90 minutes is just these three content areas and these three skill works. So reading, writing, arithmetic, and the skill work is 10 minutes a day. If you’ve got a little kid, you let your child self-pace. So if they get 9 minutes, you’re not going to be like “Oh you need 1 more minute”, or if they get three minutes or they’re just not having a good day, you just move on. That’s why it’s typically a four day school week and overtime, it’s pretty cool, just the science behind learning. So Josh Kaufman, he wrote The First 20 Hours, he did some research and is basically like, once you have 20 hours, you have basically developed this skill. So what’s kind of cool is 10 minutes a day, 4 times a week, 36 weeks a year, which is the traditional kind of school year we talk about, that’s 24 hours. So if you can get your kid just 4 times a week, 10 minutes a day, doing something that’s writing — and it doesn’t need to be out of a workbook. It just needs to have that tripod grip. you need to have your child strong in their fine motor skills before you even put a pencil in their hand. I am here to free the parent from “Your child needs to be writing their name by a certain age.” It’s just like potty training, some kids potty train, they’re like 9 months old, and then some kids are potty trained and you’re beating your head against the wall because they’re four and a half, and you’re so sick of paying for those diapers, but kids are kids. Don’t make it a battle. You’ve got other things to do with your time. So anyways, that’s how the skill work section is. So that’s 30 minutes, and this is not sequential. This is meant to be like, you’re having lunch, have them color. That’s writing because they’re going to get where they need to go. We have unit studies and things for people who want a little bit more support, but the method itself is very simple.
And then the content areas are Morning Time, and I can go into that here in a minute. Morning time is 20 minutes, and then you have Read Aloud, that’s 20 minutes and then you have your activity time and that’s 20 minutes. I call these six areas pathways, because this is all neurological. This is backed up with science. This is backed up with my own lived experience of how your brain works and how you learn. We can go into natural rhythms. We have our circadian rhythm, that’s daylight and, and sunset. That’s a 24 hour rhythm that we have. As women, we have infradian rhythms, and those are larger than a day. So we have our menstrual cycles, the title cycles, seasons. Those are all rhythms that we are a part of. And then you have your ultradian cycles, and those are your basic rest/activity cycles. It’s scientifically proven, between 80 and 120 minutes during the day, your body is active and your brain is going, and then you need a rest inside of that time. So like 90 minutes, you’ve got busy-ness going on, then you need a 20 minute rest. And then it cycles back all day long that you’re awake and that circadian rhythm. And then at night it flips, so you actually have about 90 minutes of rest, and then you have that 20 minute REM cycle, that is so important. And so that’s what we’re doing here. It’s this natural way of learning and living together, and your family has a natural rhythm that gets disrupted because of the super fast-paced rat race that we live in. It’s kind of pulling back, reconnecting with one another, reconnecting with our natural rhythms and building that out. So those three content areas: Morning time, Read Aloud, and Activity, how those work is: Morning time is your family culture time. It’s 20 minutes. We do it in the morning, you could do it in the evening at bedtime for a working parent, or lunch or whenever, but what it is just movement. You need to be moving, singing, that really helps. We’re all sensory people, whether you have a sensory processing disorder or not, you’re on the sensory spectrum, in my opinion. So like I’m sensory sensitive, and then I have a child that has sensory issues and she needs a lot of input. And so understanding that has been very helpful for our relationships. So singing is something we can all do together. It helps regulate us. We have some sort of movement, it may be dancing, it may be stretching. We’re a family of faith, so we read our Bible. We also read poetry in this time, we do our calendar work so we can orient the children in space and time. They do this in circle time. I think if we’re going to do anything with our educational system, it should look like preschool, you sit around and you talk about what day it is, or you can sing a song, what month it is, where we are in a holiday calendar, where we are in the year, what is the weather outside? So kind of doing that, and then anything that you want to kind of add too. If you’re a family that loves art, you could just pull up a painting and talk about what’s going on in that painting or something that is important to you, and that can move daily, weekly, seasonally and that’s morning time. So that’s your family culture time that’s to bond. It’s kind of like to kind of wake up together to just kind of enjoy one another, and everyone loves it. Keep it short.
And then the next thing is Read Alouds, just read, pick a great chapter book and read to your children. I can’t tell you how much I love reading and there are so many great books out there. So you can choose it yourself or you could work with a curriculum, but just reading aloud to your children. The science on what happens to their brains when you read aloud will blow your mind. If that’s all you do, just read to your kids 15 minutes a day. That’s an actual organization. 15 minutes. That’s like three picture books, you can do it.
And then the last content pathway is Activities, and that’s just another 20 minutes. The content ones are all 20 minutes broken up throughout the day, whenever you can squeeze them in. If you can’t get them all in, don’t sweat it. You do it tomorrow. But like the activity pathway is just to come alongside your child and do something together. It can be a walk around the block, maybe kicking the soccer ball in the backyard. It’s that moment of connection. Do you want to tie it to whatever you’re learning? If you’re learning about — we did a China study, we were working in world cultures last year in my family, and we made a kite. A super simple little kite. We made ours out of paper, but you can just get the trash bag and the stick that they brought home from first grade at the public school and they love, and they still play with, and they make them themselves. It’s just — don’t overthink it. This is not the Pinterest education. It’s just simple little things you do for 20 minutes with your child that kind of exposes them to something else out there in the world. It teaches them a skill. That’s fine motor work, tying a string. So that counts as writing. Just let them play. Children play. They work out amongst each other their own boundaries. They test things on, they take on risks. It’s just amazing.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, I love the flexibility in that. You’re providing parents with needed structure to think about this, but there’s also so much flexibility for parents and kids within that, of what is workable for their child, where they’re at developmentally, and their ability to regulate their emotion and behavior, their cognitive abilities. There’s lots of flexibility within the structure, but I love that you’re providing a framework for that, because I think that’s what scares so many parents. They just look at this day in front of them and they’re like, “How do I know what to do with my child? Or how do I know how to structure this?” So I think that’s so great, bringing up the cycles. What comes to my mind is the difference between what we typically try to do, which is fight against the natural cycles and inclinations of our kids, especially the sleep/wake cycles as they get older, the fighting against that versus what you’re talking about, this model of working with our kids’ cycles, and that homeschooling allows us the flexibility, to instead of constantly fighting against their normal rhythms and cycles and our normal rhythms and cycles as a family, to work with those. And I think that’s so beautiful. It’s such a wonderful thing that you’ve taken your experience as a parent, as a homeschooler, and said, “Let me use this to help other people and put this beautiful model and these resources together.” And I want to make sure that people know where they can go to find out more about the work that you’re doing through 90-Minutes School Day, the resources that you have available.
Yes. Well, thank you, and thank you for having me. My name is Kelly Edwards, again, and I am the founder and creator of the 90-Minute School Day, which is a lifestyle approach to home education. But you can find me on the web 90minuteschoolday.com. I’m on Instagram, that’s my favorite place to hang out on social media besides Clubhouse. So on Instagram, on @90minuteschoolday, just like my website, and then on Clubhouse, it’s an audio only app where I am in a room on Mondays, and you can ask me all these questions. I would love to talk to you. You can DM me on Instagram, and you can find me at 90minschoolday there, they didn’t give me enough characters for “minute”. Then I am releasing a course, it should be coming out fall of 2021, and it dives into this further. You can find out information about that on my website. So I’m just thankful for this opportunity, and I just want more parents to have the freedom to know that they can do this at home.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Awesome, Aad I love how accessible you are. You and I connected online, and I love what you’re doing and encourage everybody to go over and follow Kelly on Instagram. She provides great content there, as well as on her website. We’ll put all those links with the show notes. Kelly, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing with your own children and your own family, and appreciate you sharing that and using the knowledge and gifts to really support so many other families. I know this has been such a helpful conversation for so many of our listeners, so thank you for spending the time with us today.
Thank you, Dr. Nicole.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And thank you, as always, to all of you for listening. We will catch you back here next time for our next episode of The Better Behavior Show.