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How parents can support their children's learning - Allison Maynard

How parents can support their children's learning - Allison Maynard

Joining us from Cabo, San Lucas, Mexico, is Allison Maynard; former public school teacher turned fearless education thought leader and entrepreneur.

Allison is intimately aware of the learning gaps in today's children, and is on a mission to help today's parents fill in those gaps that schools are NOT focusing on.

She has created an online course that is all about teaching parents and educators HOW to teach and establish a foundation for learning for young children.

Her program, MINDFUL MATTERS centres around four modules based on the skills necessary to succeed in any class at any level: study skills and organization, critical thinking and reading, writing, and emotional well-being.​

Connect with Allison: maynardsmindfulmatters.com

This Episode is Sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au

Podcast Host: Jamie Buttigieg 

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Former public school teacher turned fearless education thought leader and entrepreneur. Allison is intimately aware of the learning gaps in today's children and is on a mission to help today's parents fill in those gaps that schools are not focusing on. She's created a killer online course that is all about teaching parents and educators, how to teach and establish a foundation for learning for young children. Her program Mindful Matters centers around four modules based on the skills necessary to succeed in any class at any level, which is pretty exciting. But before we get into all that, Allison, first of all, welcome to the show. Uh, please share with our listeners little bit about your journey and what led you to where you are today.

Speaker 2 (00:43):

Oh my goodness. Like where do I even begin with my journey? Well, you, you hit it. I was a public school teacher for 17 years in Southern California. And, um, over the course of my career, I just felt like things weren't right. I never really fit into the norm of what a teacher should be. I was always kind of the rebel teacher. I was always in the principal's office having to defend what I was doing in the classroom, but I was always doing the things that I thought were making learning more accessible for my students. Um, because I taught at schools with a lot of lower income kids, a lot of kids with learning disabilities, a lot of kids who were second language learners, all kinds of different issues. And so we were all supposed to teach the same thing at the same time and that wasn't working, cuz you know, we're trying to shove everybody into a box and we're all the same and that's, that's not how I viewed it.

Speaker 2 (01:36):

So I, I felt like I needed to do something different. So there was that piece, but then there was also my personal journey, which involved a bunch of health issues. I had three surgeries for endometriosis over the course of five years while I was teaching. And I knew that the job was contributing to my health issues and I knew I wasn't gonna be able to heal and really make a mark on the world until I left that job. So, I mean, it took me a really long time to finally be able to take that leap of faith and, and resign took me about 10 years to actually do it, but I finally did it. And so between not wanting to fight anymore with administration and my health issues, in June of 2020, I resigned.

Speaker 1 (02:24):

Wow. That's uh, that's uh, quite a big leap well done and taking that leap and uh, you know, staying in that educational sphere and, and really following what it is that you believe in, in your purpose. Um, you talk on your website and uh, we've had a bit of a discussion about your four pillars of learning. Can you maybe talk me through what they are, what that means, uh, and, and how you use those ideas in your mindful matters program?

Speaker 2 (02:48):

Okay. Well the whole Mindful Matters program is based on how I taught my students in my classroom. And over the years I curated this method that I found really worked with my students. And so I I've based my program off four pillars of learning. You've got pillar one, which is study skills and organization pillar two, which is critical thinking and reading pillar three, which is writing and pillar four, which is mindfulness and emotional wellbeing. And my belief is that if a child has a basic understanding of all of these different concepts, they'll be able to go into any classroom environment or be given any type of text and they'll have the tools to be able to figure out what to do because I used to give based on the pacing guide, okay, here's the story, read it and answer the questions, which is a pretty generic assignment, but that's what we've all kind of been accustomed to do.

Speaker 2 (03:42):

And the kids would have no clue what to do. They would read it, but they were reading for completion, not comprehension. And then trying to have them write a response like they could barely write sentences or paragraphs. So I had to break down the process in a way that made it more accessible to them. So I thought, well, if I'm having so much success in my classroom, um, maybe I can teach educators and parents how to do the same thing. And so that's where the whole, the whole online course came up. That's where the whole idea kind of blossomed from is what can I do take in my classroom and share it on a bigger scale.

Speaker 1 (04:17):

Yeah. My making a much bigger impact. And it's interesting cuz you know, your course isn't for kids. It's not for the students. Of course it's for the, uh, the adults it's for the parents, the homeschool parents, the educators, the teachers, the tutors. Um, so, um, why do you think it's important for parents to really get involved in the process of teaching their children?

Speaker 2 (04:40):

Because parents are with their kids all of the time and gone are the days where you send your kids off to school for six to eight hours, they sit in a classroom, they get all the knowledge put into their head and then they go home, maybe do a little bit of homework and then it's done. That's, that's not the way things work anymore. Parents need to be involved in the process because our kids are so distracted. They're on cell phones, they're on, you know, all kinds of social media, TikTok, you know, YouTube, you name it. So we need to start breaking things down. And parents are with the kids more often than teachers are. So parents must, must, must. It's crucial that if they want their kids to thrive, they need to get involved in the process. But the process does not have to be overly complicated. It can be simple. It can be cost effective. It can be, oh my gosh, it might actually be fun and engaging, but we have to break that stereotype that learning has to happen in a classroom learning should be happening all the time. If you want your kids to thrive, they need to be engaged in learning and thinking and critical analysis activities constantly.

Speaker 1 (05:49):

Yeah. And, and as parents, we're not really equipped with those skills. We're not taught those skills at school. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, there's no parenting manual and, and you know, really it is, uh, our responsibility if we want our kids to thrive, uh, both academically and socially, just, just at the game of life, you know, we have to be able to identify those learning opportunities and create those interactions in and around the home as well. And you, you mentioned on your website about how parents can take cuz one of the biggest challenges we all face as parents, and I know I've got four kids, um, is, is screen time, this, this passive digital addiction, and you mentioned on your website, you know how parents can potentially take those things like, you know, to, or YouTube or gaming or whatever it is and turn that into a learning opportunity. So maybe, you know, we try and, um, have some sort of practical element into this, uh, podcast where we can, can you share with parents, maybe some of the ways they can take those passive, I call them addictions mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, and turn them into, uh, a learning exercise, maybe a couple of tools there.

Speaker 2 (06:53):

Um, I think the easiest thing to do is actually sit down with your child and watch take a TikTok video, for example, watch it with them. And then when it's done, instead of just continuing to scroll through, stop and have a conversation about it and ask a few questions, it doesn't have to be hard. Like who is this? Who is the presenter? Who's the speaker? Who do you think this is for? What's the mood of this? Is it happy? Is it sad? Is it, is it stressful? And just, you know, create a few questions, you know, watch it a few times, watch the same one a few times with them. You can do that with pretty much anything. It's all about asking questions. If you start with asking questions and you consistently ask questions just a few times a day, then you get the kids starting to think about what they see when I was in my classroom, I used to teach with, um, advertisements.

Speaker 2 (07:46):

And what was interesting was I would, we would go over, you know, 30 or 40 different examples and the kids would be so sick of it. But again, consistency and repetition is the key to learning. But my favorite thing would be like a few months down the road. I would have a student come back and go Ms. Maynard. I was watching that commercial and I heard your head, your voice in my head. And I started thinking about what the tone was and how they were trying to manipulate me to buy the product through the music. And I was like, that's, that's what I want. So if you're gonna have the, if the kids are gonna watch that stuff, which they're gonna do, like it's just a part of society. You're gonna have to model the behaviour and show them how to watch it so they can think about it actively.

Speaker 1 (08:30):

Yeah, yeah. That, that, uh, that's incredible. And it's, it's uh, not allowing them to have that, you know, one on one screen time almost, uh, look, they, they get, they're gonna have that at some point, but it's really, how do you involve yourself as a parent, sit, sit alongside them in their journey and ask great questions. You know, questions are so, so important. That brings us to our next question. Um, you know, you talked about these four pillars, you you've got study skills and organization critical thinking and reading, writing, but it's the fourth one I'm more curious about, and that is the, uh, you know, mindfulness and emotional wellbeing as parents. You know, we find that sometimes a bit of a difficult subject to approach or a difficult subject to maybe teach and, and, and educate our kids about. So maybe just talk, talk us through a little bit about what that, um, uh, pillar of your program entails and maybe how parents can, um, you know, help their parents emotionally and, uh, and with mindfulness.

Speaker 2 (09:28):

So I didn't even start doing mindfulness in my classroom until the last two years of my career. So it wasn't until you're like 15, 16, where I even got training in it. And I was a little skeptical about it at first, but I was like, all right, let's try it out. So what I would do is I would have my kids just do a few little breathing exercises before the beginning of class, super simple. And I found that they were more focused. They were more engaged and they were able to sit and do their work better. And it was interesting because the days I did not do that because we had an assembly or because I was running behind and we had a lot to cover, it was like hurting cats. Like there was such a palpable difference in the days that we breathe in the days that we didn't.

Speaker 2 (10:13):

And so I've done a lot more research on this since, since leaving the classroom. And it's just our society. I don't know about your generation, but my generation, we never talked about feelings and emotions. Like you, you were quiet, you behave, you were obedient. Well, like look at all the trauma that so many people have nowadays, like we've gotta teach our kids how to identify their emotions and they need to have tools in how to respond, to set emotions so that if they get angry, like they know it's okay to be angry, but they need to like work through that with some breathing exercises or if they're sad, like it's okay to be sad. Okay. Cry. All right, let's talk about it. All right. Now let's try to let that go. But we have to teach kids how to identify their emotions and we have to give them the tools.

Speaker 2 (11:02):

So they know how to respond to those situations. When you have a calm child, when you have a child that knows how to identify their emotions, guess what you're gonna learn better. They're gonna be able to sit in a classroom or a homeschool environment or wherever, and they're gonna be able to take in information and remember it a, kid's not gonna be able to remember anything if they're upset about a fight they had at home, or if their parents are getting divorced or, or whatever reason. But if they have the verbiage to identify those emotions, then they're gonna be able to deal with it. And then they can do other things instead of just focusing so much on those emotions and those feelings.

Speaker 1 (11:42):

Yeah. Okay. So you've hit on a couple of things there that we, uh, we can unpack there. Uh, the first one, when you talk about breathing exercise, it's such a simple concept, but so powerful and the outcomes can be very, very, um, tangible for kids, you know, in terms of you you're talking about focus or concentration or, or having that calming influence, what would that look like at home though? Like, so I, I'm a parent, I've got a 15 year old daughter. Um, you know, how would I take her through a breathing exercise around the dinner table? Or, you know, what does that look like for a parent, even where would I begin?

Speaker 2 (12:14):

Um, the dinner table would actually be a really good place because if you take a few breaths before you eat, it actually helps calm down your pair of sympathetic nerves and it helps prepare you for digestion. So the dinner table would be a fantastic place, you know, just to have everybody sit down, put their feet on the ground, close their eyes, give them, you know, a couple minutes to settle in and then just have everybody take in a deep breath, hold it for, you know, two or three seconds, and then just slowly release from your mouth. And then just do that, you know, 2, 3, 4 times, whatever feels right and then eat again. It doesn't have to be overly complicated. Now it's gonna be a little bit weird and awkward at first. Like when I would do it with my students, they'd be like, oh, this is dumb.

Speaker 2 (12:59):

This is stupid. I don't wanna do it. And I told, I always gave them the option. You don't have to do it. I'm not gonna force this. I just need you to sit quietly while we are doing this. Please respect the students who do wanna participate. And what was interesting was over time, those kids started to participate as well because they started to see, you know, wait, my, my friends are happier. They're calmer. So it was really interesting. But as a parent, if you're doing this around the dinner table, or if you're doing this in the car or, or wherever you're doing it, and it it's awkward at first, that's totally okay. And totally normal. You're gonna have to practice it a few times before it becomes, you know, a normal behaviour, but you'll see a big difference if you, if you do that.

Speaker 1 (13:42):

Yeah. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing that. That's, that's important. And, and something that our parents listening can take away and try, and, and I get that whole awkwardness thing. The first couple of times you do something different. It's, it's different. And, uh, as a parent, it's our responsibility to, you know, uh, sometimes push through that, uh, in order to get the best possible outcomes for our kids. And that's all we really want as parents. The other thing you said in there was about how kids are identifying and be being able to verbalize, uh, and identify their emotions. And I think that that's super important, but how as a parent, can I help my child? You know, let's say I have an eight year old or a 10 year old, or, or my 15 year old daughter, how can I help them, uh, pinpoint, identify those emotions and be able to articulate them.

Speaker 2 (14:29):

Um, if you watch movies together or TV shows together, or you read books, those are, those are great opportunities to, to discuss emotions. Like if you're watching a movie and the movie, the, the music and the movie, all of a sudden gets really sad and, you know, something happens like somebody dies, like you can pause and be like, okay, how, how should we be feeling right now? So you can actually start to identify, you know, examples that they see before you actually bring it internally into them. So by identifying it, then they can start to think like, oh, this is sad. Oh, this is angry. This is, this is, you know, jealous or, or what, whatever emotions. So you just, it, it's really simple. You just start with, with what you're engaging in, in your environment.

Speaker 1 (15:14):

Yeah. So just looking at those, uh, observations, um, really good. Um, so one question that we really like to have a bit of fun with and like to ask all of our guests is if you could go back and give your 10 year old self one piece of advice, what would that be

Speaker 2 (15:31):

Buy the Bitcoin? Just kidding. <laugh> just kidding. Um, honestly it would be to, um, follow your intuition and trust that you know, that you're making the right choices.

Speaker 1 (15:48):

Yeah. Really good piece of advice. And, uh, where can parents or our listeners find you, if they wanna learn more about you or indeed your program mindful matters, how can they connect with you?

Speaker 2 (15:59):

So my website is maynardsmindful matters.com, and you can learn more about me, my philosophy and there's information about the online course. And then I'm on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, same handle Maynard's Mindful Matters.

Speaker 1 (16:15):

Fantastic. And we'll pop those in our, uh, descriptions on each of the podcast channels. Uh, Allison, thank you so much for your time, your generosity today. There's some really great things parents can unpack and take away from this podcast today. Uh, thanks again for being with us.

Speaker 2 (16:29):

Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 3 (16:38):

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 after school coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit skill samurai.com.au.

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This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au

At Skill Samurai, we offer  Coding & STEM education in the following areas: 

Coding Classes & STEM Education for kids 6-16

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