The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a Licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible version of ourselves.
Schooling likely looks very different for many families these days and there are many options to consider. We’ve heard from many members of our community that they’ve considered homeschooling but have been uncertain about where to start. So today we are joined again by Dr Kristy Christopher-Holloway, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH, CPCS, ACS, PMH-C who you may remember from Session 76 when she joined us to chat about Pregnancy and Postpartum concerns. She’s back this time to talk about her journey homeschooling her twins and sharing some information for you to consider.
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Kamali Academy – https://kamali-academy.teachable.com/
Epic Homeschool Network – https://epichsn.com/
Mamademics – http://mamademics.com/
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Session 175: Homeschooling Considerations
Dr. Joy: Hey, y’all! Thanks so much for joining me for session 175 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. For many of us with kids in the home, the decision around schooling may be looking very different this year. Many of you have shared interest in homeschooling but have been uncertain about where to start, so I wanted to create some space here on the podcast for us to at least start the conversation. Today, we're joined again by Dr. Kristy Christopher-Holloway who you may remember from session 76 when she joined us to chat about pregnancy and postpartum concerns. Well, she's back this time to talk about her journey homeschooling her twins and sharing some information for you to consider.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway is an adjunct professor and the founder and director of New Vision Counseling Center, a group private practice in Douglasville, Georgia that offers affordable outpatient mental health counseling. She's a licensed professional counselor in Georgia, a national certified counselor, a distance credentialed counselor and an approved clinical supervisor. She's worked in settings that include private practice, in-home, outpatient and residential treatment.
She and I discuss how her family made the decision to homeschool, where to start when thinking about a curriculum for your kids, misconceptions about homeschooling and socialization, and she shared all of her favorite resources for those wanting to learn more. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please be sure to share with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us again, Dr. Christopher-Holloway.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Thank you so much for having me again. This is like the honors, the honorees of the honors. I’ve created a word!
Dr. Joy: I'm just thrilled that you could join us again. You are also in Georgia, so I know you kind of through Facebook. I don't think we've had the chance to actually meet in person yet, but I feel like I know you and a little bit about your family, just from being friends on Facebook. And I want to hear a little bit about your homeschooling journey because you were homeschooling even before the pandemic.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: I was homeschooling before the pandemic. I will say we've met at, I think, ACA or something.
Dr. Joy: Yes! You're right. Years ago.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Absolutely! My homeschool journey. As you know, I have twin boys that are almost six, and they would tell you their birthday if they were in here, but almost six years old, so we are now in our third year of homeschooling. That means we were doing this way before COVID decided to come in here and be really disrespectful and take over. We are in our third year. The boys are in first grade just because of their level, their knowledge, the skills and things like that that they have, so they are actually in first grade and not kindergarten.
And I could talk about that more if you want me to as we kind of go along and how we made that decision, but we started with them Pre-K-ish and then all the way up to where we are now. We had a short term where tried like outside and did part-time Montessori school outside of the home, but we decided to bring them back into the home, probably about six to eight months into that. Probably about six months, actually. So for the most part, they have been home kicking it with me.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I think you have always been working at least part-time, correct? While you've been homeschooling.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Actually, it’s full-time.
Dr. Joy: Full-time?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Yeah. I have a private practice located in Douglasville, Georgia and so although I do not see clients every day of the week, you know how it is like. Managing a practice, clients... It's a group private practice so just making sure the ins and outs of the practice are good and going, making sure my staff are good, the clinicians (who are awesome) making sure they are good as well and handling all of that day to day stuff that goes on with that. And then now almost two years into it, I've also been an assistant professor in an online department for a college. Yeah, that’s a lot going on.
Dr. Joy: Yes. If you feel comfortable sharing, did you know that you were going to homeschool even before your twins got here?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: It's always been a desire of mine, wasn't too sure what that would look like. My husband's an educator and as we both say, “Look, we came up through the public-school systems and we are great, look at us.” It was something that he and I talked about, what we wanted the education for our children to look like and if that could happen in the various settings that were made available to them outside of our home. At the beginning, I didn't know what that would look like, how long we would be doing it. I just knew I kind of didn't want them in the daycare or preschool setting at that time. We just really started doing everything at home with them and then we said let’s do kindergarten, let's take it through that. And that's what we did and now they’re in the first grade.
We just say we're going to do it as long as it works for our family. The boys have never really expressed an interest or asked to go to “outside” school. I don't want to say real school because all of it is real school when you're teaching, regardless if you decide to do public, private, home or whatever: we’re all schooling. But they haven't expressed the desire. The most that they did, probably about two years ago, is they want it to ride a school bus. Most kids are like, “Oh, bus!” But, yeah, we didn't know what that was going to look like in the beginning but we've been very, very pleased with the decision to start it and to still be sticking with it.
Dr. Joy: Got it. And so now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, I do think that this is something that other parents are maybe considering even more than maybe they were before. I'm wondering if you can just share where someone might even start to homeschool, because I know that there are still things you have to do with the state, and I'm thinking it’s probably different for each state? Where would someone even get started in making sure that they're taking the right steps to homeschool their kids?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Actually, that is going to be the first step: looking to see what the requirements are for their states. Some states are very laxed, some states are kind of very strenuous and have a lot of requirements and some states are kind of in between of what they require. For example, here in Georgia, all you need to do is just submit your declaration of intent, letting the Department of Education know that you have your child and you are educating them, and that's really it. They don't ask what my education level is, they don't ask what's my curriculum or what we’ll be learning. They do ask like the start and end of my school term or semester and things like that, and just the age of the kids.
The first place that you want to start is really going to your state's Department of Education and seeing what the requirements are to homeschool. Because you don't want to put yourself in a situation where you have not filed the correct paperwork or you did not know if a particular degree or you know, particular education level was needed. And so then you don't want, if you ever do decide to put your children in a public or private or outside school setting, you don't want them to be behind because maybe it was something that you did not follow. That's going to be the first place to start.
And then from there, look, I am all about free and low-cost resources so I say start looking at Google. Free homeschool deals or free homeschooling forms or papers. Or what does a first grader or a kindergartener or second grader need to know? I think it’s WorldSchool.com, is another great place to look because that literally tells you, based on certain standards that are typically general across states. It's telling you kind of what needs to be taught at that level and what needs to be focused on so that way, it kind of gives you a starting point or a guiding point.
And then I always encourage folks from there you can start looking into maybe you want a particular curriculum or things like that or you may want to piece something together and pull from here and there. Using your library, that is a great, great resource and a free resource. And then definitely, if you can, getting someone that can kind of mentor you or at least that's been homeschooling and can answer some questions for you as you're kind going along this journey. Don't do it by yourself because there's going to be a lot of things that you may just not know or why reinvent the wheel if someone has already kind of started that wheel for you and that process for you. People are a lot of times very open to sharing what's worked, what has not worked, or at least consulting with you. So those are my starting points that I would recommend someone that is interested in getting into homeschooling to do.
Dr. Joy: Are there particular curriculums that you can follow? I know you've done a lot of kind of just developing your own curriculum for your boys, but are there other curriculums that people can either buy or kind of get help with if they're looking for something kind of ready-built?
Christopher-Holloway: Absolutely, oh my gosh, there are so many. And this is why it can become overwhelming for folks, because they don't really know where to begin. There's like, do I do Abeka? Do I do Charlotte Mason? Do I do Worldschooling? What do I do in this? And so sometimes people will say like, this is just too much. I don't want to do this. I don't want to sit here and learn all about the Montessori method, I don't want to learn about classical conversations and all of this and that.
There are ones that people can use and they can google homeschool curricula for science or for math, and they can do it based on grade level. Some curricula come with where it will literally have the full curriculum for every subject. For instance, Abeka has Abeka math, science, language arts, geography, history, depending on what your child, their ages, their grade level and what it is that they're learning. Some people like that because they feel like it's a one stop shop: everything is here, I can get this book and I can keep it moving. Other people like myself and others that I know, for instance, they may like Abeka science but they may not like Abeka math and so they may choose to do a different math curriculum. Or they may like it for kindergarten and first grade but they may not like it for second and third grade. They may choose to do Math-U-See or Horizons Math.
It's so many different options. Before a person decides to choose and get a full set curriculum, I encourage them to kind of look over it and see if it's going to teach your children that mastery skill that they need. You may be starting math and you have a particular curriculum and you like it, but it may not be setting them up for second grade math. Like what we're doing now, although my boys are five, almost six, some of the things that they're doing in math is already setting them up for multiplication. And you're thinking like, huh? Already? And the answer is yes.
If you have something that you're going by and it does not give your child that standard and that knowledge that they need for their current grade level, as well as getting ready to prepare them for that next grade or several grades, then you may kind of want to look at that. But if you've bought this whole curriculum, now you're like stuck with it. Doesn't mean that you have to use it, which is why I love the flexibility of homeschool because I can say, “Hmm, this doesn't really work for us, or the boys kind of went through that so quickly, let me buff it up a little.” And I like to be able to do that and to challenge them.
I’d tell people look around, ask someone, “Hey, you were doing kindergarten. What did you like, what did you not like in this curriculum?” Then also giving the assessments that they may have in certain books to say, “You know what? Yep, your child is ready to move to the next level if they can do this, or let's keep them right here, maybe like on this primer level instead of moving up.” So that we can make sure that they have the knowledge that's going to prepare them and help them feel successful as they're learning the information.
Dr. Joy: That was my next question because I find myself getting overwhelmed just listening to you talk about all these resources. I'm wondering if you're not an educator and even if you are an educator, and we know this even as therapists–even if you're an educator, it doesn't mean you can necessarily educate your own children. How do you know if they are meeting certain academic milestones? How do you know to even make a decision about whether I need to switch to a new curriculum? What are the resources or what are you looking for to be able to do something like that?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Going back, remember I was talking about like the department. Georgia has, or whatever state, your state will have those standards. What I specifically do is I'll get the Georgia standards and then I will look to, say for instance, math or science. Most curriculum are going to come with the different standards that are being taught in the book. And so I will look and say, okay, this is what we're supposed to know in science. Okay, does this curriculum right here address this? And as long as it's meeting those, minimum, then that may be one that's good for you. If it's not addressing it… Because again, you may decide to put your child in school later and you want to make sure that it has addressed this. If it's not addressing it, then it's probably one that either I'm not going to do or I'm going to look at a grade level above to see if it's captured there.
Because of my boys’ age, technically, Georgia and many states–I think it's if your birthday is after September 1 or whatever–they put you in the grade prior. Age-wise, my boys should be in kindergarten. However, skill-wise and what they know, I was not going to keep them in kindergarten because it was going to move too slow. We have already done kindergarten work, honestly in Pre-K. And so we did some kindergarten and kind of starting into first grade work last year, which technically should have–based on age–been Pre-K for them. This is how my children are in first grade because they have met the standards and the milestones for kindergarten.
Also, what I tell people, most places don't require your child to have to be in Pre-K before they can go in kindergarten and kindergarten before they can go in first. Now, once you start going higher than that, then yes, you need to be in second grade before you can go to third grade type thing. Anyway, this is how I was kind of able to pull and piece and see what they needed. To me, it was not fair to still have them in first grade instruction when they had already done that and mastered that and completed that, and just because of their birthday. So this is how they are in first grade.
But last year, we used Math-U-See and I really, really love Math-U-See because it is literally that. It is math that they can see. Because you have to know the learning style of your child as well as your own learning and teaching style. Especially if you're not already a K-through-12 educator, you need to know your teaching style, your learning style, because you're learning this with your child, too. None of us have been in kindergarten forever; we've learned that stuff and kept it moving. Or first grade or whatever grade it is that you're teaching. But also learning your child's learning style.
Anyway, Math-U-See was definitely one that they were able to see, it came with different manipulatives and stuff that they can use, I loved how it taught them how to tell time. I would watch the learning videos, that one comes with the video, and the boys would sometimes watch it with me. And so now they know what I'm getting ready to teach them, so they had me teaching it, they have a nanny still and so their nanny would sometimes teach it and supplement it and then they would watch the little video with “little man” and they loved him–watching him.
Anyway, we moved forward to first grade and although I still have a first grade Math-U-See book and curriculum, right now, we're doing Horizons Math because it's moving them along for their next set of math. Like I said, multiplying, dividing, breaking down, deconstructing numbers, all of that good stuff. Could I still use Math-U-See? Yeah. Are they advancing faster with Math-U-See than Horizon? Yes. So that lets me know I needed a little more challenge so that's why we switched. I recommend that if you're going to get a curriculum, at least see where's your child going to place in this? How are they going to understand it?
Another kid, they may have found Math-U-See to be too boring or too basic and so the parent may have had to do something else. Or maybe Horizon Math was too advanced and they needed to move to a different type of math. You know this, basically, by looking at your child, assessing them. Many of the books come with an assessment and then it says “If your child can do these basic things, then this is where they are. If they cannot, then maybe you need to go down a level.” And that's okay, too. It doesn't mean that, oh my gosh, my kid is a first grader and they don't get X, Y and Z. It just means that maybe they need a little refresher. It also may mean that instead of teaching one concept a day, you need to teach one concept every two or three days and focus a little more on those addition facts. Or a little more on lowercase and uppercase letters or something like that.
Dr. Joy: Dr. Christopher-Holloway, you mentioned one thing that I want to dig into a little bit more about learning your own teaching style as a parent or as an educator. I'm wondering what other kinds of things you might need to know about yourself before you embark upon this journey of homeschooling.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Listen, you need to learn if you have the patience for it. I hear a lot of people say, oh my gosh, I can't teach my kid. And the thing is, “can you not” or “do you not want to,” in my opinion, are two different things. At least for me. I can't teach means I literally don't have X, Y and Z or these things that I need to teach them. I don't want to or I won't just means, “I don't want to teach them. That’s not my ministry.”
One, do you have the tolerance? Do you have the patience? Maybe you may say I don't really have the patience to do this. Okay, is that something that you feel can develop? Is it that you don't have the patience because maybe you think your child is going to be flipping all around, not listening to you? Do you think you're going to get too frustrated because maybe it's something that you don't understand and you can't help them understand it? And so being able to kind of assess all of that. Do you have the patience?
Do you have… and I'm not going to say the time because I think that sometimes gets people caught up because we are socialized and conditioned to think that school is from seven to three or seven to four or whatever time. I always say it's no coincidence that work hours are aligned in school hours. Which is why a lot of people are struggling right now with the pandemic and struggling with, “Do I keep my kid at home or do I go to work? That's a whole ‘nother social issue for another podcast. But do you have the resources? Do you have the time? Do you have the patience? Not necessarily do you have the space, because that can be right there at your kitchen table, it can be in the middle of the floor, it can be anywhere. Your learning space can be anywhere.
The first thing, again, is being able to think outside of the box. How would I want to be educated? If I were this age, what way would I want to be taught? Can I teach it in a style that my child is going to love and to learn? For example, the boys, we made a room in our home that is their classroom and you may have seen pictures of it on Facebook. It's set up in a way that it’s developmental–so it'll grow with them or they'll grow with it, I guess–but also very fun. It's still five, six-year-old age appropriate. They have an affirmation that they say every day before we start our school day and I also say it. I have my little notes written that says patience, you know, what it is that I am going to be working on as I'm teaching them. Because I have to have patience with myself, too.
I, by nature, am a higher educator. I teach master's level students, I am a trainer and so I have to be patient and say like, hey, this is something that they're learning, this is what they're going to get on their level. I literally have to turn off, “Hey, Dr. Professor Holloway” to “Teacher Mommy Holloway.” And being able to shift because sometimes that's happening within hours or very simultaneously of each other. I may teach the boys and literally go and run and record a lecture so I have to shift these things very quickly. So being able to just kind of say like, okay, what is it that I have? What is it that I need and what is it that I am going to be working on with me also working on with my children? And it's also okay to use other supplementals, so maybe I don't understand a science concept but I tell you who does, and that's Generation Genius because my boys love it. And so we may pull up that or we may pull up BrainPOP Jr or something like that.
Dr. Joy: Are these YouTube channels?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Different websites. Generation Genius is… and they know Dr. Jeff. BrainPOP. I may use some of that to supplement or reinforce something I don't even know about or may not know as much about but now it's teaching it to them in a very fun, kid-friendly way. And, yes, there are tons of things on YouTube as well.
Dr. Joy: Got it. I think it really is, like you mentioned, having patience with yourself and also understanding that you don't have to have all of the answers. Because I think that's where people may get overwhelmed with like, how am I going to teach them science? I didn't even get this myself in school, right? But understanding that there are other resources that you can pull in to teach as well.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Yes, absolutely. The curriculums that I love the most are ones that come with a very hands-on, step-by-step teacher's guide. Unless you really know it and this is just something that's your strength area, I recommend that folks get one that has a teacher's guide because it literally says we're doing daily reading comprehension and reading fundamentals and it literally says: “Day One. Point to this. Tell student this. Show this. Now say this. Stand at the board and write that.” So for those who really need those instructions like that, to kind of help them know how to move on, I like any curriculum that is going to have a well-guided teacher’s manual or instructor’s manual.
Dr. Joy: You mentioned that you don't necessarily need a whole classroom space like you have; you could just use the kitchen table. Are there other resources that you would suggest people have or other supplies that they might need to get started with homeschooling?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Absolutely. Again, depending on their age as well. My kids are younger, so your basic supplies, crafts, anything you can turn into like a craft activity as well. They were learning sequence, like telling a story in sequence. It was talking about plants or something, so I was like, oh, great, now this can be science as well, as we're talking about lifecycle. Oh, guess what? We can make this as a craft as well. Here are some crayons and some construction paper. Make a flower, make a plant and let's label the stem and the petals and all of that.
You want to have like your basic things that are going to be around the home. If you have access to a library right now, again, with COVID, it's just so much going on. Some libraries are open, some are not. But if your library is open, take advantage of that, go use the library where you have all of these books are at your disposal. You can also do audio books. Many libraries have… you can log in and still check out audio books and you can start using those.
Here's my thing. I am very fond of interest-led and child-led learning. If I say to the boys, what do you all want to learn? They may say, Mommy, can we learn about dinosaurs? Or can we learn about how an engine works? Or something like that. And being able to kind of incorporate that in whatever your structured learning is. If y'all were already talking about reading comprehension and putting a story in sequence, all I have to do now is go and find a story online about how a car runs. First, you open the door, put the key in. Next, you do X, Y and Z then you do X, Y and Z. You're still teaching them that basic skill that you're trying to do and reinforce, which is sequence and order and reading comprehension, but you're doing it in a manner of something that they stated that they want to learn and want to do.
Dr. Joy: Got it. So really, again, allowing yourselves to be creative and not stuck in a certain kind of a box.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Please don't get stuck in a box. Honestly, because it's gonna make it so hard for you and it’s going to feel very frustrating. And I even did that. Another resource, and then I’m going to come back to the box. But another resource is having a mentor. If you can find a mentor, someone that has been doing this, that can kind of walk you through. It is so many… Facebook and Instagram, so many social media sites that you can join and hear other people's stories or read the questions that they may ask. That's definitely your resource because you need something for you, too. As usual, we get caught up making sure everybody else is okay. “I'm going to make sure the kids got this and they can learn that, and I'm setting my room up and I'm teaching that,” and I'm like, okay, but what about you? Where's your outlet? Do you have another homeschool mom or dad or homeschool parents? So making sure you have that as a resource, whether it's someone that you know or if it's a group that you're in or something like that.
But going back to being boxed in, I did that maybe our first year, year and a half? I was just like, wait, this doesn't allow for flexibility because today it says we're supposed to be moving on to this but we weren't in the classroom yesterday, so how do I get back to that? And it made me feel very boxed in. Although I liked that site that I was using to just kind of keep up with what we were doing, I didn't like how it made me feel boxed in. So I went back to the old school planner that you write down and I color code and highlight and things like that. The more you're in a box or the more you're trying to teach that’s not a style that is complimentary to your teaching style and your children's learning style, it will be overwhelming as well.
Dr. Joy: Yeah. And I know that one of the main criticisms or one of the larger criticisms I hear from people related to homeschooling is socialization. These concerns about like, how are they going to learn all this other stuff if they're not interacting? There are two of your little ones so they kind of have this built-in socialization, but I'm curious to hear what kinds of things you were doing in terms of socialization before COVID-19 and maybe how you're thinking about socialization now.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: The first thing I usually tell people: if your mama or their mama, daddy, was anything like mine, what they would say, I didn’t send you to that school to talk. I sent you there to learn. Yes, I like your mama *[inaudible 0:29:25] That’s the first thing they say. “I didn't send you to that school house to talk and be making friends and socializing; I sent you to learn. You get into trouble because you talk too much.” But no!
But, yes. Do they need to socialize? Absolutely. Are my kids at an advantage because they have each other? Absolutely. I had a client ask me this one day and he said, well, what about their socialization? He’s like sixties and I said, well, tell me about your grandma. Do you think you she went to a formal school? He’s like, oh no, she did XYZ. And I said, your grandma's probably smarter than all of us combined and never set foot in a formal educational setting, right? That tells you that, yes, socialization is key, it is very important, but there are so many ways that children can socialize. And not just with adults, because that's the next thing. You're like, well, they're always around you or always around adults. And so that's not always the case.
Things that we did prior to COVID, we have a great family friend that has twins also, that lives about 15 minutes from us, and her family has a homestead and a little farm and things like that. We would do Forest School and Forest School is simply learning in a woodland environment but it's teaching social skills, survival skills, all types of things. My boys and the kids that were in our Forest School have learned… held baby chickens and learned life cycles of that but they've also been able to suit up and put on a bee suit and harvest honey from bees. So many things that we do at Forest School, but that's what we would do every Wednesday from ten to two. Rain, shine, sleet or snow.
If it was cold, guess what? They have on their bib suits, their snow boots, everything. And, of course, we will keep the children comfortable but that's what it is. If it was raining, we had on rain suits. If it was hot, we just made sure they were dressed appropriately and had tons and tons of good cold water. They got a lot of outdoor learning time every Wednesday with other black and brown kids and kids that look like them because that was also very important for us in their social and emotional development and learning. But that would happen every Wednesday. We’d do play dates where we would meet up at the park with friends, they were taking swim lessons, they’d take music lessons, they were doing tee ball, pre ball, whatever it's called at that age. And so they were making friends through that.
We would go to the library several times a week. The boys are very interested in science and space so we had memberships at the Space Museum here in Georgia, we've gone to the Children's Museum, so we were out quite a bit and doing things. And they’d go to the park, they would go to the park at least four or five days out of the week.
Now that COVID has come in and (as I said earlier) been real disrespectful, you have to be very creative in how you're going to still allow them to connect with their friends. I don't think any of us… Well any of us on this call and probably listening did not know in the beginning how bad COVID was. Word on the street is they knew how it was, but none of us knew that we were going to still be sitting in our house being virtual and doing all these Zoom meetings six months later. I think most of us, at least I thought this will be two weeks. We literally were like we'll see y'all back at Forest School in April. And then April came and we were like, let's just call it–we're not gonna do it.
Now some of the things that we've done is we've done Zoom playdates with their friends. But honestly, Dr. Joy and to your listeners, it was very hard for them. Because they got tired of playing with each other and they were just like, okay, I see my brother. And then so we would go outside and play and they'd see a neighbor down the street playing and another neighbor on this. And they're like, oh, can I go play? And we'd say, no, baby, you can't right now. And they would say, “because of the COVID?” And we'd say yes. And they got it but they didn't get it, right?
And so I remember, maybe around May or so, all the kids… and they’re just naturally inclined to do it. They were riding their bikes and they started riding their bikes in the cul-de-sac but they were literally about four to six feet apart from each other. It was nothing that we said “you got to stay away, don't get too close,” they just kind of organically did it. That made me happy to see that they were playing but it also made me sad as a parent. Like, man, is this what it is now? But they got it and they did it.
They get to see their little friends in the neighborhood. We started back taking them to the park and a lot of times the park is empty or maybe it's only two or three other kids there. And so we started out with “wear your mask at the park.” It’s hot or at least it was super-hot and so that was a little difficult for them to do. If it would get more than five kids, they knew… They would get out there and count, and if it's more, we're going to go play on the other side or we will go find another park. There’s a lot of parks around where we live, so we would go find another park that may have not had as many kids. And they got to see some of their friends from Forest School for the first time last month. So that was exciting and again sad as well, but they got to play and hug and see their friends.
It is a little different now with COVID and we have to, as a family, think outside of the box on what socialization looks like, what interacting outside of just our four walls and our four family members, what that looks like and doing it in the safest way possible. They know we can't go to museums right now, they know we're not going to any big places and stuff like that. We've spent a lot of family time, we've done “let's go get ice cream and sit just on the field and eat” or sit back in the car and eat it. But it's been different. It's definitely been different.
Dr. Joy: All the things that you listed off that y'all were doing before sounds so much fun, right? Like all the different activities they could participate in and thinking about how you can really make any kind of thing a learning experience. I definitely want to hear, though, more about scheduling and boundaries and how you kind of keep all of it straight, being like a full-time business owner and professor and homeschooling as well. What does that look like?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Full disclosure, I will tell you all like I said, they have a nanny. Their nanny has been in their life since they were two months old. They are five and a half years old, so over five years she's been with us, she still comes with us part-time. And so I remember when COVID hit and we realized we were going to be home and everything was going to be virtual, I remember saying like “I got this.” My clients were virtual so I was like I already do that, I already teach online and I've already been homeschooling, so, hey, I got this.
Well guess what happens? Everybody wants to have a meeting and then we got hit with the double pandemic of social injustices and racial issues that were happening in America. That was the next thing that happened in the midst of COVID and so that pulled me into more meetings, to more conversations on diversity and inclusion, to more conversations even within my family and with my boys on social justice and things like that. And so probably about mid-April to early May, it became very overwhelming and there were a lot of times where the boys and I didn't even get into the classroom. Because it was literally back to back meetings, see clients, make sure they’re okay, take care of my own self and things like that.
I had to really take a step back and say, where's the priority here and what needs to happen? And how can I make that happen? And so as far as scheduling, the boys and their nanny and I would talk and say, okay, this is what this looks like. And, hey, I'll come in and teach but I have a meeting at this time; can you take over? Or whatever that may need to look like, so I changed my schedule all the way around. I typically try to do meetings or things like that during their lunch or their quiet time and then she's here with them and so we get the bulk of our learning done in the morning. And then by the time she kind of takes over with them, at least their learning is done and so maybe they'll go outside and play or go to the park or do puzzles–they love doing puzzles. And then I will go and say, okay, I'm going to record my lecture or I'm going to attend this meeting, I've got to see a client, because that does still have to happen.
But as far as scheduling, again, you have to do what works for your family. This morning, one of the boys got up and he was ready to go and the other one got up looked at me and I said you ready? And he said, “No, I'm gonna lay back down, I'm still tired.” And that's fine with me. One of the things that I want to promote and instill in them is the need for rest and if your body is telling you that you need to rest, then go and rest it. Because we're in a society where it's “Go, go, go, go,” and it's hustle and bustle and here we are even talking about boundaries around our time, right? I want to teach them “if you need to rest, rest,” then we'll get up and get started. That's going to be a struggle if I'm trying to teach them math and he's still tired and then we’re all going to be frustrated and overwhelmed and tears and things like that. So why even set us up for that?
Anyway, I've changed my schedule around, they know those moments where they're supposed to be in quiet time because maybe mommy has to do a meeting or has to make a phone call and so they know what that time looks like. But again, they're also five and a half and there have been times where I am doing a webinar and they come in and be like, “hey, can we do it?” Or I'm recording in a lecture and they bust through the door, “dinner's ready,” you know. But guess what? That's life. And I've prefaced many of my meetings telling people this is the sign of our times and this is where we are and this is life. And I give that saying to my students, to my clients, like this is that same grace that you will need from me and that you need to give to yourself.
We schedule. Wednesdays and Fridays, typically, we do outdoor learning time, where I will literally take whatever it is that we are working on and learning, and we go to the park and we sit under the covered pavilion and we'll do our work. And then when it's their brain break time, guess what, the park’s right there. They can go run across and play. Then they come back and we eat lunch and they’ll go back and play and then we'll do some more work.
Again, that learning space can look like any place but your time can be moved around and flexed as well if possible. And I understand that everybody doesn't have the opportunity and privilege, but I think when you're able to put it in context, that learning can happen at any time of the day. So if you work from eight to five, your learning may not start till six or seven, depending on the age of your child. Your learning may not start till the weekend. You may really teach your children on Saturdays and Sundays and an hour here and there throughout the week. Because again, depending on their age, they don't need to sit and they're not going to sit at a desk for seven hours or six hours and they don't need to be. If we did our instruction without taking any breaks whatsoever, we could literally be done in two and a half, maybe three hours, you know, if I'm teaching some type of new concept.
So you'd have to figure out kind of what your life looks like and how you can kind of maneuver that in. Is there anything that you can flex, you can move around? If you're working from home, do you have a parent or a grandparent or a friend or someone that can kind of watch them for you during that time when you may have to do a meeting that cannot be interrupted? And then you have this other time where you can kind of do that instruction with them. So that's just kind of how we do it. There are days that we get started in our classroom at nine o'clock on the dot, there are days we don't go in there till three o'clock. There are days we may not go at all, but I already know that we're going to supplement it and catch it up and if it's something that they didn't get, we can do it for an hour or two on a Saturday.
Dr. Joy: You know, I really appreciate you sharing the flexibility that comes with it and the idea that, really, if you think about the hours that are actually spent in instruction, it is only like two and a half to three hours. But again, because we're so used to the traditional model of school, we think that we have to be kind of doing something from seven to three o'clock when the truth is that a lot of that could be done in a two to three-hour block.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Absolutely. Most definitely, and so don't stress yourself out, don't stress your children out, trying to do four, five plus hours of instruction. And that's another thing. Even with me being in year three, when we started some of our first grade work, there were some things that I was like, okay, we're going to do our reading comprehension and then I'm going to supplement it with this language arts comprehension. And then I'm going to add this right here… And I'm like, Girl, if you don't fall back, no, like they’re getting it.
And then you can use this like as a worksheet or something you want to reinforce later, like we're doing compare and contrast. That's what we started on today so that's what we did. But then I just turned it and said, well, tell me something that’s the same about you and your brother and tell me something that's different. Tell me something that's different about us. So we're supplementing that throughout. But you're going to have to be compassionate and flexible and even forgiving of yourself because this is a journey and you are learning.
And whether you've been homeschooling for zero time of your life or 10 years of your life, you're still going to be learning as you go. Because, guess what, your child is growing and changing and learning so it's going to be a changing process. What worked for you six months ago, probably may still work this time now but it also may not because your child, their brain is constantly developing and growing and you have to adapt to that. So don't get caught up if something is not working, don't think that you didn't do it right. It just may mean it's time to flex it, which is (for me and our family) the beauty of homeschooling, because we get to flex it.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. So you've kind of mentioned throughout the conversation, Dr. Christopher-Holloway, these kind of mental health check-ins you do with the boys. So even very early on, you talked about the fact that they've not expressed a desire to do something different, which leads me to think that's an open conversation around like, maybe they might decide they want to do something and then the family has a conversation around it. And so I'm curious to hear if you can share something about doing these kind of mental health check-ins with your kids in a homeschooling situation, to make sure that that conversation does stay open.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Right, absolutely. So of course, I think it's just natural because we are counselors. Everything you're doing is traumatizing your child. Oh, my gosh, I rolled my neck and now they’re traumatized. So that's that piece about forgiveness, y’all, because again, you may have a rough day and that tone may go up in your voice. But then you come back and you apologize or you reassess, you re-evaluate, you talk about what could have been done differently. And a lot of times, I'll have that conversation with the boys. They know if you need space and you need time, to say that I need time. Can I take a step out? Can I go to my room and get it together and come back? Sure, absolutely.
We've created a “feeling, identification and expression.” We've been doing that forever but they actually have visuals of it. And so that's another thing that we try to do. Tell me how you're feeling right now before we even get the day started? Because if someone tells me they're feeling sad, if they're feeling nervous, they're feeling confused, I need to check in and figure out what's going on. Because again, it may make our instruction hard and so now I'm frustrated because you’re acting like you don't know B from D. And y'all can tell that's truly happened in our household. “You all know that’s a B right there,” you know.
But then I need to step back because then now I'm frustrated, they're frustrated. And if I would have just done a simple check-in on mommy, I'm tired. Or I'm still hungry, you didn't give me that extra piece of bacon that I asked for. Whatever, can I have some yogurt? Like I cannot focus. They have that, I made feeling magnets and they can go and take it off, they can tell me why they're feeling that way. We have tons of feeling cards even throughout our instruction. Hey, how are you doing? Did you get it? The same thing you do in regular school. Here's a sticker. We'll stop in the middle and dance and have a little party because, oh my gosh, you just counted by threes. You skip-counted by fours and I hadn't even taught you that yet. So yeah, we're gonna celebrate that.
Because now it's setting them up to feel very good about themselves and what they're learning so once you sit back down at their desk and they don't get some concept, they can just remember how we just celebrated and how much we did to honor that learning. And so we do a lot of check-ins on that. With COVID, we've been doing a lot of check-ins because they'll say, man, I'm tired of this. Or we can't go nowhere, and people don't put their masks on. People walking around here with no mask, or something like that. And so we'll say, you know, what are your thoughts about it? Tell me what's going on.
We try to stay constant with that. And I'll be honest, it's something that I'm having to make sure I'm being more intentional with, with myself. Because again, as we do, we get in that hustle and bustle and we go and we try to make sure everybody else is okay. I even have to step back and say like, how am I feeling? Am I still tired? Did I get enough rest? Am I overwhelmed? Am I unfocused because I know I got a meeting coming up? Or something like that. And so being able to kind of have those conversations and process that internally within myself, but then also letting them know they can do that. This is going to be the safest place for them to talk because I need you to at some point leave our house to be able to express yourself, to be able to know how you're feeling and what's going on. So that is daily, daily, daily for us, sometimes several times a day.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think I remember seeing pictures of your “feelings” magnets. Like, oh, those are so cute. So you've already given us tons of resources but I do want to make sure that we get any additional ones that you want to share, that you think might be helpful for people as they may be considering a homeschool option.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Yes. If you're thinking about homeschooling and you and your child have been in your traditional school settings for whatever length of time, you're going to have to kind of de-school, de-program or un-school yourself, okay? Keeping that in mind because, again, we get caught up seven to three, well they got to be up super early, sit at this desk and don’t do this and “no, you can’t eat right now because…” Whatever that may be. If the boys say they're hungry, okay, well, let's finish this and we'll take a snack break. Why am I gonna tell you, you can't have a break because you’re adding? Doesn’t make sense, right?
You may have to kind of almost de-program what we have been conditioned to think certain settings look like, and I'm not saying this is all public, private school settings. But letting them be that free thinker, letting them be able to, if you're hungry, what's wrong with stopping and having a snack right now? Does life always do that? Sometimes it does, depending on your job, and sometimes it doesn't. But I know if I'm sitting here and I'm hungry and I have a client, what am I gonna do? I'm gonna take a break before my client comes and I'm going to eat. I'm gonna drink some water in that session, so why would I not allow a child to do that?
So being able to do that. There are several free resources and if they're not free, they're very low cost. I love Teachers Pay Teachers, you can search for free resources on there and then they do have some that you can pay for. We use a lot of Generation Genius, a lot of BrainPOP, ABCmouse, Flocabulary.
Dr. Joy: Is it Flocabulary?
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Flocabulary. It’s all music in children’s style. One of my sons, he can hear a song right now and he will be singing it before it's off the radio. He is a very auditory learner because he's gonna get it through music. The other one is very hands on, wants to touch everything, see everything, smell everything, and you crossing your eyes… Like, oh my gosh. Yes, Flocabulary is good.
I said a mentor, all the Facebook groups, whatever area you are in, but you put in the search bar “homeschool” and you will see homeschool groups maybe for your area. I'm in a lot of African American homeschool groups. Homeschooling for the Culture. I think it's Free Resource Deals or something like that on Facebook that gives a whole lot of free things every day–every single day–that you can click on. And it may not be anything that you need at that moment but I always tell people, create like a Google Drive or a folder on your computer and just still go ahead and download it and save it for later when you will need it, especially if it's something that you think is going to be very beneficial to you in what you and your child may be learning down the line.
And then, as much as possible, still having that mentor or that person that you could consult with and just someone else that you can kind of bounce ideas off. I ended up in one of our clinician groups, she was like, I'm pulling my kids and I'm homeschooling. The next thing I know, it's like, “Oh, you live like 10 minutes from me and our kids met up at the park and it was just our five kids.” And so now they have that social interaction with other people and then I also got a mommy break and got to talk to another adult. So being able to use whatever resources that are around, whether they are digital resources or other people.
Dr. Joy: Perfect. Thank you so much for all of that, Dr. Christopher-Holloway. We will definitely be including all of that in the show notes. Remind people where they can connect with you again, your website as well as any social media handles you want to share.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway: Absolutely. My counseling website is www.NewVisionCounseling Center.com. You can also find New Vision Counseling Center on Facebook. We are located in Douglasville, Georgia. And then my speaking and consultation and training website is KristyCHolloway.com. You can also follow me on Facebook @DrKristyCHolloway and then on Instagram @Dr.KristyCHolloway.
Dr. Joy: Perfect. We appreciate you so much for sharing all of this.
I'm so glad that Dr. Christopher-Holloway was able to share her expertise and experience with us again today. To learn more about her work and to check out all the resources she shared, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session175. And don't forget to share this episode with other sisters in your life who may enjoy the conversation.
If there's a topic you'd like to have covered on the podcast, please submit it to us at TherapyFor BlackGirls.com/mailbox. And if you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory. If you want to continue digging into this topic and connect with some other sisters in your area, come on over and join us in the Yellow Couch Collective where we take a deeper dive into the topics from the podcast and just about everything else. You can join us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/YCC.