In this episode, we are joined by Morgan Ryza, a homeschooling and unschooling advocate with over 12 years of experience. Morgan's mission is to help parents build lasting relationships, create shared memories, and customize their child's education. With a master's degree in education and a wealth of firsthand experience, Morgan is here to share her expertise and insights. Get ready for an engaging and enlightening conversation about homeschooling, unschooling, and the power of personalised education. https://www.instagram.com/guidance2homeschooling/ https://www.guidance2homeschooling.com/ This Episode is brought to you by Skill Samurai – Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au
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Speaker 1 (00:08): Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Jamie: Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, the podcast that explores the unique challenges and opportunities of raising kids in today's tech-driven world. In each episode, we dive into insightful conversations with experts and thought leaders to provide practical guidance for navigating the digital landscape and life as parents. Today, we have a very special guest joining us, Morgan Ryzahydropower, a homeschooling and unschooling advocate with over 12 years of experience. Morgan's mission is to help parents build lasting relationships, create shared memories and customise their child's education. With a master's degree in education and a wealth of first-hand experience, Morgan is here to share her experience and insights. So get ready for an engaging and enlightening conversation about homeschooling, unschooling and the power of personalised education. Morgan, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners in your own words what you do and what you are passionate about. Morgan Ryza: Thank you. So I just help parents navigate homeschooling. I started my journey homeschooling my kids when my oldest was starting kindergarten. And I just want to be that person that comes alongside and helps them with all the things that you have questions about through that journey. Jamie: Yeah, okay. So most parents get this concept of homeschooling, I think, but unschooling may be a term that some aren't familiar with. So can you explain what homeschooling is and maybe the difference between the two? Morgan Ryza: So unschooling is just a form of homeschooling that is a little different in its approach. Really, this is more of an interest-led approach for the kids, your students, and often it gets a bad rep, but this is not un-parenting. This is actually, in my experience, the hardest. way to homeschool because you're constantly rolling with the interest and passions that your kids have and trying to make sure that you are preparing them for their life outside of their education once they move on from your home. Homeschooling is not easy by any means, but when you have that checklist that comes with a box curriculum, it is a little easier than unschooling. Jamie: Yeah, I can imagine and we'll get into those a little bit later on in the episode. So let's go back for a brief step. Tell us about your personal journey and what led you to become passionate about homeschooling and unschooling. Like, you know, to a lot of parents, conventional, if I can use that term, we'll think, hey, this is a crazy thing. Why would I homeschool my kids? But so tell us about your journey and why and how you got there. Morgan Ryza: So honestly, I thought homeschooling was a crazy approach as well. I was a teacher for 10 years and we decided to move our family across the US. And at the time my son would start kindergarten. As crazy as it sounds, being a teacher, I did not like the idea of putting him in a classroom with a stranger. So I know everyone does. And they did that with me if their child was in my class, but we were in a new state, a new area. And I just said, oh, we'll homeschool this first year. And then it turned into every year since. I always gave my kids the opportunity. to attend public school that was in our area, but they loved their freedom so much they never took that opportunity. So my son will graduate this December and then my daughter will graduate shortly after. Jamie: Okay, wow. So they're well into their journey. They're almost at the end of their homeschooling journey. But so in your experience as a teacher, how did that shape your views on education and the need for personalised or individualised education? Morgan Ryza: Well, it's so interesting because I thought as a teacher, homeschooling would be super simple. I, again, taught for so many years and these 20 to 30 kids did pretty much what I asked them to do on a daily basis. And then when I started homeschooling my own kids, that was not the case. They did not necessarily want to follow the curriculum or do what I was asking so that we could move forward in math or reading. So then my teaching kind of held me back. But as I moved into more unschooling for my kids, I noticed that this is exactly what I would have loved to do for all of my students in my classroom. Just personalize that education and make it important to them. As teachers, we're taught to engage our students and you can engage them if they're interested in what you're teaching. with homeschooling that comes naturally because if you're teaching reading you can choose books on topics that they're interested in. If you're doing concepts in math you can use hands on learning with concepts and skills that they're already interested in. Jamie: Yeah, it's interesting. And, you know, there's, I think as much as educators really want to provide personalized learning experience for their children, I think that there's no question we recognize the diverse learning needs of kids. I mean, in Australia alone, there are up to 40% of children in any given classroom are disengaged right now. And some of those children's because you know, maybe they're falling behind with this linear style curriculum that our schools, you know, put out there. You know, we teach addition one day, subtraction the next day, but most kids, or those kids who haven't understood the first concept, just the class moves on. Then you've got this other group of kids at the other end of that spectrum that are disengaged because they're bored. You know, they're, they're ahead of the work or they're disengaged because they're not being challenged enough. And so, you know, there's, there's definitely a place for this because we can't, or I shouldn't say we can't because I hope one day we can have more personalised learning in schools, but certainly homeschooling is actually a viable option. Can you share some success stories of, you know, maybe how homeschooling or unschooling have allowed children to pursue their passions and unique skills? Morgan Ryza: Well, so for my own kids, they have really been able to pursue everything that they're interested in. My son just returned from fishing at... the national level. So there are high school bass fishing competitions at state levels and then you move to the national level. This was his third year to compete at the national level. If he did not have the time to spend honing that skill and really understand the concept of fishing for this... very specific species, he would not have been able to compete at that level so many times. So that was a huge success and he just fell into fishing. It started with just fishing local ponds and then he got a kayak and was fishing at local lakes and the river and then it just moved into really finding bass fishing and that has been his passion since then. My daughter has had similar experiences. She's not a fisherman, but she loves creating. So she had a small baking business. And before the pandemic, she was doing that for our local families around here. And then once she rebounded from that, she started an Etsy shop where she... sold her home handmade crafts, her sewn products, crafted products, which went well. And as I was talking to other moms about her love for sewing, I ran into a woman who had just moved here and she was a custom wedding gown seamstress. So she made custom wedding gowns and she was like, I'd love to work with your daughter. So she was able to work with Barbara and really hone her skill at making garments and clothing and creating the patterns, which has so much math skill that you don't even know is happening. It's just been eye-opening how the doors open and they're able to learn so much when they're engaged and they're ready to pursue those passions. Jamie: Yeah, and what I love about that, particularly in your daughter's example is, you know, having an Etsy store or some sort of entrepreneurial endeavor. I think entrepreneurship should be taught in schools. But, you know, there's so many things they're taking out of that from mathematics, economics, sales, marketing, negotiation, you know, product planning, food safety standards. There's like there's so much wrapped up in that experience. But. Let's go back to your son and fishing. You know, critics of homeschooling would say, well, how does bass fishing prepare a kid for the real world? How would you respond to that? Morgan Ryza: So that's interesting because I think those people don't understand how much fishing is not luck. But also, take out the fishing component and the fact that he had to learn the biology of the fish, when you fish at certain levels in the lake, the history of the lake, how it's set up. Because here in our state, we have reservoirs which... are created from dams to create hydropower. So then that's a whole other interest that we learned about. So take out that component and he's competing against different people. So he has to learn that communication skill. with his competitors, but also as they went to the national level for us to go across the United States required him and his fishing partner to get sponsorship. So they had to go to local businesses and talk to them about sponsoring them, handing over money to them for them to travel and compete. So again, the communication, the selling yourself, all of those things come into play. Plus, Mapping the trip across the country plus figuring out how much money they need because of course you have to pull your boat So then budgeting the gas as it continues to rise here's all of those things come into play and That's where real learning happens because it's a problem. They're having to solve Jamie: This is great. And that was a wonderful explanation because again, when you look on the surface, we say, oh, it's just fishing. But then when you look at that, there's that social impact, there's ecological impact, you know, hydro dams and all this other wonderful stuff wrapped in there that kids are learning. Not passively, it's probably the wrong word, but when there's an interest and when a student is engaged and when a student is suitably challenged and there's a problem facing them, they'll rise to the challenge. And so that's a wonderful explanation, Morgan. Thanks for sharing that. So how do you approach the balance then between, say, structured learning and then allowing your children to explore their interests freely? Because I imagine that with many homeschool parents, they probably start, as you did, saying, here's the curriculum that we need to teach. These are the boxes that we need to tick off. Let's let's do the same thing that we're doing in classrooms. It's almost just dragging that two-dimensional or that linear learning model into the home. And I think yours, your journey evolved into that. less structured, more personalized interest-based learning. But how do you, is there a balance there or do you find people end up at one end or the other end of that spectrum? Morgan Ryza: there's definitely a balance. People tend to think that it has to be one or the other, but there's definitely a balance for sure in my home and I encourage other people that are unschooling or even homeschooling at a more traditional level to have a time where you do some seat work so it doesn't look like fishing and sewing and just all these interest-led learning. You're going to have some time where there's like writing assignments, there's reading assignments, watching documentaries, you're doing experiments. That more traditional classroom looks to learning, but the difference is when you have that piece and there's your few kids, even if you have five, six, 10 kids. in your home and you're doing those things, it's a smaller scale and you're able to meet them right where they are. So there's not that bored and not being challenged. And then there's also you notice oh you didn't really get this concept. Let's go ahead and make sure before we move on. So and then for us it looks like we would do seat work in the morning and then they have the afternoon. for their hobbies, their interests. Maybe we went with friends somewhere or we had different experience learning, hands-on learning happening out in our community. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, OK. So maybe let's talk about motivation and enthusiasm and ownership of that education in the household, because I know what my kids are like, right? How do you keep them motivated? Because let's face it, some of the some or many homeschool parents are working as well, and they can't have the ability to sit with their kids all day and keep them motivated and enthused and focused and self-disciplined. So how do you how do you manage or do you have any strategies or ideas for parents? who are currently homeschooling or considering homeschooling to keep that fire going, to keep students focused whilst in this less structured environment. Morgan Ryza: Yes, so much comes down to motivation. I am forever telling my kids, I cannot want this education more than you. So they need to want it, they need to buy in. A lot of times as they grew older because in the young elementary years, learning can look a lot like play. You can play the games, you can play board games, card games, all the things to... teach those skills, practice those skills, and then as they got older, I would just sit them down and say, hey, so I've noticed you need some improvement in writing or reading, whatever the case may be, and what would you like to do to improve in that area? And then we could have a dialogue to figure out how they wanted to do that. Do you want to take a class? Do you want to get a you have all the options. And because they were in on that decision-making, they were a little bit more motivated. That doesn't mean they got up and they were jumping up and down to do it, but they knew that they had decided to do it that way. Another huge thing that helps with motivation as far as the kids in my house, but also my friends as I see them and people that I work with, is project-based learning. So if you you find an interest and you just allow time and space for them to work in that as a project, whether it's the sewing, the fishing, but it can be so many more things. And help like you could do health, you could have them budgeting and planning meals. in your home so they're going to learn the nutrition piece, the budget piece, finances. Jamie: Ahem. Morgan Ryza: You can just go off on all those things and they're motivated. If you step back and don't make the agenda, but allow that project to lead them where it needs to go. Jamie: Yeah, well said Morgan and I'm a big advocate of project-based learning. We in our learning centers, we teach coding and robotics and STEM and mathematics. And it's largely probably 95 percent project-based learning. You know, we give find something the student is interested in. And, you know, these days, many kids are interested in gaming and technology. And, you know, many students will come into our center saying, we love Minecraft. That's great. You love Minecraft. Let's find a project that aligns with that, that suitably challenges you. and let's let them explore and reflect and the learning outcomes are simply amazing. So how about some tips on balance? Like so, as a parent of homeschooled kids, how do you maintain this healthy work-life balance or healthy work-life school balance because you're trying to juggle work and household and kids at school and any tips for those who are currently Morgan Ryza: I hate you. Jamie: doing it or considering doing something like this? Morgan Ryza: So that is a huge challenge. Huge. Because you feel like you're on all the time. And you can be, if that's your personality. Some people find that it's easier to say, you know, these are our school hours. This is when we're doing that. I tend to think learning is happening all the time. But we definitely had time where, like I said, we did seat work. And Then balancing those things, I know a lot of people use chore charts or responsibilities in the home where they involve the kids in those things. That definitely helps if that works well for your family. But balancing work and homeschool, to me, I feel like it's a trial and error. And then once you get it working, the season changes. So then you're in a season where you're gone every evening for sports and now you have to regroup and re-figure it out. So I feel like don't beat yourself up over if you're struggling to find that, do what works for you and for your kids. And don't let someone tell you one system is going to work. Jamie: Yeah, definitely be fluid. That's good advice. And that notion of not beating yourself up, not being too hard on yourself is an important aspect as well, because as you said, routine will change from term to term or season to season and different activities are built into that curriculum at home. So yeah, I definitely agree with that. What I suppose the next place I want to go with this is, let's say I'm listening to this podcast and I'm considering homeschooling or unschooling my kids. This is, you know, there's probably some feelings of overwhelm or uncertainty for those parents, not sure where to start. What advice would you give to a parent who's sort of at that position or that stage in their journey? Morgan Ryza: So I love meeting with parents who are just starting out because usually their first question is always what curriculum should I get? And that's really where I like to meet with them because that's not where I want to start. I wanna start with the like, why are you choosing to homeschool? So that's going to help direct what kind of homeschool you want to create in your home and then you're ready to figure out curriculum or what where you need to spend your money as far as the supplies for your kids because that why can be so many different things it could be we just are going to do it this year because we live here or we're moving and or it could be like a lifetime choice it just your kid has out-of-the-box tendencies and is challenging so you want to keep them home There's lots of different reasons. So starting with that why really helps hone in on the environment you wanna create and the education you wanna create in your home for your kids. And then you can move to the curriculum. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, okay, it makes sense. So how would you address concerns about socialization and ensuring that, not so much unschooled, I think unschooled will have plenty of social opportunities but say more traditional homeschool kids, how do you address concerns about socialization and making sure those kids have opportunities for interaction and interpersonal development? Morgan Ryza: So a lot of times parents are very concerned about socialization and I encourage people to get out in their community. So whether that means the teen events at the library or the elementary events that the library puts on, go ahead and attend those and it's going to give your kids time to interact with other kids, but also with the librarians and other adults there. Signing up for sports or different... like Boy Scout, Girl Scout troops, those type of things will also help with that socialization. Homeschoolers here in the US have things that are called, they call them co-ops where parents come together and they create classes where one parent will teach a certain history class or reading class, whatever class that parent wants to teach, and then the kids will attend different classes. So that's another great way to make friends who are homeschooling as well and to find that support. I know in our area, we have a huge amount of homeschoolers, to go to park days, co-ops, field trips every day if we wanted to. So I say just find those groups and look for those. If they're not in your area, look into your community what kicking your kids do with other kids. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, we a lot of our centers, skills, samurai, coding and STEM Academy learning centers will put on like programs during the day for homeschooling families so they can one get some social interaction, get some teamwork in developing software and some cool projects and filling some of those skill gaps that some parents may not have with technology. So a little plug for our sponsors there, you know, getting Morgan Ryza: And Jamie: good Morgan Ryza: those were the best. Jamie: that they Morgan Ryza: Those Jamie: are Morgan Ryza: are the best when they have those classes because parents are always concerned, homeschool parents are always concerned about their kids making friends. And then if you get to go to those homeschool classes that are provided during the day, you know that they're making friends that you can get together with during the day. And that's just fantastic. Jamie: You did right. Another opportunity for socialization and growth, in my view, is look up your local Rotary International Clubs. They do some amazing work in the communities, but they've also created these other clubs, if you like, called Interact and Rotaract, which are for younger kids, for young kids, teens and young adults to get involved, get together. create and understand community, but also to make an impact in community. So these young groups are tasked with, you know, looking at their local community or even international communities and saying, what needs our attention? What needs our help and support? And then they go out and fundraise and create these wonderful projects, working with one another for a higher cause. So, Rotoract, Interact, reach out to your local Rotary International because there are some great opportunities there for. contribution and I think that's a really important skill we should teach kids as well. Morgan Ryza: And then you're developing that habit of volunteerism. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, you, Morgan Ryza: That Jamie: you. Morgan Ryza: really helps. Jamie: Yeah, it certainly does, Morgan, certainly does. Can you tell us a bit about your coaching services now, a bit of a sideways step? So, you know, you support homeschooling parents in their journey, you've got some coaching and some different products. Tell us about what it is that you do there. Morgan Ryza: So on my website, it's just called Guidance, the number two homeschooling. So guidancetohomeschooling.com. I'm able to provide workshops. So just one hour workshops to help introduce you to some different homeschooling concepts. I also offer coaching, one-on-one coaching to help you work through. difficulties as well as, you know, ongoing accountability if that's what you want. My newest thing is I have a premier program that is four weeks and I meet with you once a week in a group setting to walk through setting up your homeschool and then I have one for just starting out working in your homeschool and then just creating that lifestyle that homeschooling allows you to live. So just wherever you are on the homeschooling journey, I have a little four-week program that helps you refine your process. Jamie: That's great, and we'll put that link in the show notes for those who want to reach out. I think it's really important for parents listening, whether it's you're embarking on homeschooling or entrepreneurship or fitness, a coach is important. To have someone by your side is so underrated in our society. Like I have a coach, I've got a life coach, and we do tremendous work together in whether it's my health goals, my business goals, my family goals, my contribution goal, whatever that happens to be. And so my advice to parents who are considering making such a significant step, or even those who are involved and maybe are currently homeschooling, maybe struggling, a coach is a great option and just, you know, really helps you, you know, achieve that balance and, you know, make sure that, you know, you're on the right path. Okay, one or two other questions. We still have a little bit more time. We can cover some more things. So do you have any tips or resources? for parents who want to enhance their homeschooling or unschooling experience. Are there resources on your website? Are there, is there an association where parents might start? What's your advice there? Morgan Ryza: Well, if you're in the US, I always tell people that our laws are governed by state. So, you have to go to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, so HSLDA.org, and they outline that. But of course, if you're in another country, definitely look at your state laws because you want to stay within those regulations. And some are very specific and some are really general. So... Always you want to do that. And that does help if you have a coach because they can walk you through that education speak that a lot of those laws use. That if you're a parent and you're not in education, you might not be familiar with. And as far as that goes, I do have some resources that I provide as far as through the workshops. And I have a Instagram page that I update with different things that I find helpful, whether it's games or books that I use with my kids or I'm helping other people find that work for them. So I would say you could definitely check that out. And it's just guidance to homeschooling as well on Instagram. Jamie: Thanks, Morgan Ryza: So. Jamie: that's wonderful Morgan. Fun question as we round off our podcast for today. We like to ask this for all of our guests and that is, if you had a time machine and you could go back to young Morgan at maybe age 12 or so, what's one piece of advice that you'd give your younger self? Morgan Ryza: I would say I would pursue my passions more. I am a little jealous that my kids got to do that more. And we really in our home were able to push entrepreneurship. And they're just both entrepreneur minded, but. Stepping out and starting my own coaching business, I wish I would have had the experiences growing up that we've allowed our kids to do in our home. So that's probably what I would say. Jamie: pursue your passion. That's great advice. I don't think we've had that one in now. I think we're up to season three now. So that's wonderful advice. Thank you, Morgan. Thank you for your time and generosity today. I know there's so much stuff in here that will be helpful to parents. And one of the things I love about these podcasts is the information that we share on these podcasts is gonna sit out in the universe and someone's gonna pick this up in one month, six months, two years, five years from now, and it's gonna change their life. So thank you for helping us make an impact. and helping parents and I hope we catch up again soon. Cheers. Morgan Ryza: Perfect, thank you.
If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids. Skill Samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit www.skillsamurai.com.au. This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academywww.skillsamurai.com.au
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