Back to School: The Path to Confidence with guest Stephanie Dua

In this episode of the Brainy Moms parenting podcast, Dr. Amy and Teri interview Stephanie Dua, Co-Founder and President of HOMER Learning, an early reading and math program for kids 2-8. Stephanie shares the importance of creating a strong foundation of reading and math readiness skills for confidence beginning or returning to school. She also shares insights for moms about her 80/20 parenting philosophy with tips on eliminating a perfectionist mindset and adopting a more simplified approach.  The conversation also includes helping children manage big emotions with confidence. It’s an episode full of tips and insights from a highly-experienced and respected education entrepreneur! 

Read the transcript and show notes for this episode:

Brainy Moms Podcast Episode 117
Back to School: The Path to Confidence
with guest Stephanie Dua, President of HOMER Learning

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore. I am here with my cohost Teri Miller, who is back from vacation. Welcome back, Teri.

Teri Miller:

Thank you.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Our guest today is Stephanie Dua. Stephanie is the co-founder and president of HOMER Learning, where she brings 15 years of experience in public education to a team that helps parents raise children who love to learn. She’s also been the CEO for the New York City Education Department’s Fund for Public Schools, raising more than $165 million to support literacy and teacher training. She was named one of Crain’s New York Business’ 40 Under 40. She currently lives in Coconut Grove, Florida, with her husband and three daughters.

Teri Miller:

So glad you’re here, Stephanie. Glad you’re with us.

Stephanie Dua:

Hi Teri. Hi, Dr. Amy. I’m super excited to be here with you guys today.

Teri Miller:

Good. I’m glad it worked out with this tropical storm that’s happening in Florida. That your Internet’s not completely knocked out. You didn’t float away. You’re all good.

Stephanie Dua:

We did not float away. Yes, exactly. We are here and thriving despite the fact that I think the storm is tracking north, closer to the east coast now.

Teri Miller:

Wow. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. I grew up in the south, so we evacuated at least once a year for those hurricanes. So, I feel your plight.

Stephanie Dua:

Yes.

Teri Miller:

Can’t imagine. Can’t imagine.

Stephanie Dua:

Yeah.

Teri Miller:

Well. You refer to yourself, Stephanie, as an “education entrepreneur” in your bio, and we’d love for our listeners to hear your story. Could you tell us a little about that? What brought you to becoming an education entrepreneur? You are also a mom of three girls, so kind of tell us how that worked together.

Stephanie Dua:

Well, education has always been important to me. I grew up in a small little country town in central California. The town’s name is Waterford; you would kind of blink and miss it on your way to Yosemite. Growing up, it was sort of we didn’t have a lot of choice. You went to the single elementary school. You travel 45 minutes to an hour each way to get there, and that was kind of the education for me. I didn’t really have a view of like what I could be and where to think about my education kind of life and trajectory in terms of college and after college, but it was always important to me. My mom had never gone to college, so eventually I made my way. I was a Pell Grant kid, and I made my way down south. I went to community college, had a great experience there, transferred to UCLA, and then, eventually graduated after five years from UCLA in earth and space sciences, and then eventually made my way to Harvard for grad school.

But, all along the way, I felt like it shouldn’t be this hard to understand what does a quality education look like? How do you get it? How do you use that education to fulfill whatever your best life potential is for you? How do you help parents understand what those choices look like for them and how they can be a support to their child? For example, as a parent, I would get questions. What should I be doing at home? What is school taking care of? Right? All of this is kind of a mystery for many families. So, I’d always cared about education, but I really got my start in business and in the sciences. Initially, I was working actually in Southern California. I managed a drill rig, and I worked on cease and desist EPA sites, which was a totally different job. Then, I ended up working at McKinsey & Company in consulting during the dot-com boom and bust, but education was always my calling.

When I had an opportunity right after 9/11 to work with Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein and Caroline Kennedy and the Bloomberg administration, I thought that this was a perfect opportunity for me to do something that I was passionate about all along. I learned so much from working with that team there, but coming out of that experience after working for three terms of the mayor, you saw all this great progress happened in the schools really providing greater resources, better are training, really thinking about teacher training, principal training, materials that are needed at schools. How do you help special needs kids? Really thinking about how do you kind of turn things around in the largest school district in the country? But coming out of that, I realized that we had progress at a small level, at the school, at the district level, but there wasn’t anything we could look at it and say, “This we could actually do well in one area and make this a national change.” That’s where everything fell apart in education reform.

At the same time, I had a daughter who was struggling reading, and I had access to these great experts. I had access to the best of the best experts, right? We were able to convene all these incredible minds, and they basically said at the time that there was nothing they trusted for their kids in reading, so I thought, “Okay. Here I am a pretty well connected mom to be able to find resources. What does a mom do who doesn’t have that ability to know who to go to? Is there a way we could help moms in these early years by providing them the best resources possible so that they can really be their child’s first and most important teacher?”

My daughter was five at the time; she’s 17 now, which is impossible for me to even imagine. She is now applying to college and thriving, but you both know this. You’re experts in this; it was a very bumpy road. She struggled with short term memory, so that came out in both reading and math. So, she had a really hard time in any multi-step. We’re calling the first steps to carry that over. So, that was a journey, but, I kept coming back to, “How do you as a parent, when you feel so helpless and you have a kid who wants your support, how can you help them and provide those resources?”

So, that’s why HOMER was created. I wanted to start with reading because what we learned about reading is that it’s kind of this gateway, right? If you’re not a really strong reader by third grade, then confidence comes into play. Kids start to view themselves as not being good readers, and they opt out of tasks that require more advanced reading. That then starts to add onto itself, and that’s the problem I wanted to solve. We know that about two thirds of kids are not deemed proficient readers by third grade; it’s an enormous issue, and parents felt really helpless. So, how can we provide great skills and resources? Now, we’re doing math and social/emotional learning, but how do we in its broadest sense think about how can we partner to parents? That was really the origin story for HOMER.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. It’s really exciting. A lot of great programs are created out of necessity, just like that, by parents who can’t find what they need. That’s how LearningRx was created.

Teri Miller:

For sure.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, talk to us a little bit more about HOMER and what those programs are and what you offer parents.

Teri Miller:

I want to have you clarify for people that are listening. They’re like, “Wait, started HOMER? What’s that?” I know it’s out there everywhere. We think everyone in the world knows about it, but for those people who don’t, if you could just clarify a little bit more.

Stephanie Dua:

Yeah. HOMER’s an early learning program for kids really aged two to eight is kind of our sweet spot. We have three products. We have a digital product, which teaches reading and math. It’s an app that you can download from our website learnwithHOMER.com. It really covers kind of those early foundational skills that help kids get ready for preschool and help them get ready for kindergarten. Then, we pair that with these gorgeous little activity kits because we really know that some skills are great being taught on a digital program. In fact, in some ways, we could talk about it the best way to deliver that skill, but some things aren’t so good on a digital product, right? You really need manipulatives. You need to touch it, to feel it, so they learn the skill.

So, we have activity kits that pair beautifully with the digital skills. We have activity kits with reading, with math, and with social/emotional learning, so that kids can really play with that offline. We call it our offline products. Then, we have some partnerships. We have a partnership with Gymboree where we’re providing classes because there are other areas where the skills are best taught in a collaborative way, parent-child or in a group setting.

The way we approach early learning and our mission is to provide the best start possible for kids, and helping partner with parents is we’ve taken all of these skills. Most parents are just like, “What? How? I don’t even know what skills my kids need to know by kindergarten.” It’s a big black box, and it sounds kind of technical. It sounds hard. Even when they hear that they need to know phonemic awareness. Well, what is that? What does that even mean? So, what we do is we’ve done all the heavy lifting and taken the skills. We’ve mapped those skills to the ages that a child needs to learn those skills by, and then, we’ve thought about what is the best way? How do we, how do we teach those best?

That’s really kind of what we call the HOMER method, which identifies the skills, it presents the skills, kids can practice those skills, and then what we really think is that the beautiful part of it is we really focus on how kids transfer those skills. Once they learn a particular skill in one setting, mastery is really when they can take that skill in that one setting and transfer it someplace else.

I give this example of a HOMER parent who wrote into us saying she was amazed that her child had stacked up all of his stuffed animals and he had categorized them. What are the reptiles? What are the mammals? What are the amphibians? He was talking to them. He was like, “Well. You’re a mammal. I’m going to put you over here.” The mom was like, “How did you even hear about this? How do you even know what that means much less categorizing them correctly?” He said, “Oh, I learned that on HOMER.” So, that child had learned something, a knowledge concept, and had taken and transferred that. To us, that is success. When kids can take those skills and transfer them into different settings, and that’s really our mission at HOMER.

Teri Miller:

Nice. Well. I’m going to veer from our little interview plan here, and just for our listeners and even for my own application and understanding, I’m going to ask if you can help guide me into how I would apply this. For example, one of my grandsons is going to be five on August 16th. It’s complicated story; won’t bore you with details. But, actually, my oldest daughter is his legal guardian, and he’s had some neglect and struggles, so he’s not at the place we would wish he would be to head into kindergarten. She’s looking at just doing preschool right now. He doesn’t understand basic phonics. He doesn’t have basic math concepts.

For a kid, even if it’s just anybody’s kid. Just for example, a kid that’s four or five-years-old, you’re looking at, “Should I start my kiddo into kindergarten? What skills do they need to have? I’ve done nothing to prepare them for this.” Tell me, what would I do? Where would I go? How do I get my little Andre hooked up with the HOMER Learning Program, so that in the next few months, maybe over the next year, he can begin to prepare those skills so that when he does head into kindergarten, he’s not a dumb kid. He’s a smart kid. He feels successful. He’s got the tools he needs? Where do I go? How do I start?

Stephanie Dua:

That’s great question, Teri. I love his name. That’s my husband’s name.

Teri Miller:

Andre? Really?

Stephanie Dua:

Yes, it’s really Andre. So, I think of it in three steps. First, in terms of getting access to HOMER product, go to learnwithhomer.com. You can download the app. I would start with the app. What the app does that’s quite unique, and it would be especially good for a child like Andre, is it’s the only product in its kind that really is not just a supplement for reading. It doesn’t assume you’re being taught reading some other place. It’s actually sequentially teaching a child to read. It starts at the very beginning with the earliest sounds, and it really focuses on phonemic awareness. For your audience, what is phonemic awareness? I would say don’t even worry about understanding what phonemic awareness is. The most important thing is to know is it’s the most important component of reading. It’s the thing that most schools get wrong. We can go into as a separate conversation of why that happens, but it happens. It’s most correlated with later reading success.

So, I would say focus on the sounds. Focus 100% on identifying the sounds, practicing those sounds, tuning the ear to the sounds. What HOMER does is it repeats that sound in the same way, so it trains the ear to hear that sound and then map it to a letter. I would start there with Andre, really focusing on building that skill of hearing the sounds, mapping the sounds to a letter. It’s the decoding and encoding, so that they can start to learn to read and spell at the same time. HOMER was proven after six weeks, 20 minutes a day, to deem a kid kindergarten ready. Now, every child is different, right? I would say try and use it. The kid’s aptitude is their ability to sit doing a lesson is about 20 minutes. I think that’s about what I would say is the right amount of time, and I would build the reading skills.

I would also build the math skills. We have a math section in the product as well. That really helps similar to phonemic awareness. It helps with numeracy, so it’s really helping kids create that flexibility with numbers, understanding how to understand what a number is, and then understanding how to manipulate numbers. If you just did those two things, I think that I would try it. If it were me for Andre, I would try and focus on a few things that he could feel mastery because the key is confidence. You want Andre to go in feeling in kindergarten that he’s at least doing one thing really, really well. The other things can come at a different time. You can scaffold those in and introduce them at a different time.

So, I would focus heavily on reading. I would focus on math. I would also try and get a few little books that he could start to read with you. I think the key in that for parents is not to pressure the child, so you really have to let them lead. If they don’t know the word, that’s okay. You can fill that in. It’s really about getting the practice of opening a book, looking left to right, and really building that habit of reading. The third thing I would say is what I did with my children since they were very young is I said you have to read 20 minutes a day. I don’t care whether you’re sick. I don’t care whether we’re on a plane traveling. I don’t care where they’re on holiday. You have to read 20 minutes a day, and I wanted you to keep a little log about that. I got one of those tiny little notebooks, and they’d write in there what they were reading. They would go through and they would try and write the book. Then they would put the page numbers that they read.

It seems small, but it builds the habit of reading. Even if you have to read to Andre, which you would in the beginning, that’s okay. He can still write it in his notebook that he did his 20 minutes a day of reading. I will tell you now as a having 17-year-olds, my 17-year-old just went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and came back with four books that were on The New York Times Bestseller List. One is a book on the economy. She bought a book on a tipping point, so she’s reading really quite intellectual. She’ll also read the YA novel of the summer, but she reads and she reads. She’s a voracious reader, and so I think that’s all because you build that habit. Learning is a habit of mind, so building that habit of mind is, I would say, the third thing I would do. Start with reading, then introduce math, pick one or two things he can do really, really well before kindergarten, so he’s confident. Then, I would apply the sort of 20 minutes a day of reading.

Teri Miller:

So great.

Dr. Amy Moore:

We need to take a quick break and hear a word from our sponsor. When we come back, I want to transition to hearing some cool stuff about your parenting philosophy that you shared with us.

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Stephanie Dua:

Awesome.

Teri Miller: (reading sponsor ad)

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Dr. Amy Moore:

We’re back talking to Stephanie Dua, co-founder and president of HOMER Learning. So, Stephanie, you have an 80/20 philosophy of parenting. I’d like to hear more about that.

Stephanie Dua:

Yes. 80/20 is often used in business really talking about how do you think about the kind of 20% effort that leads to the 80% of value? I think that what that really means is how do we narrow our focus as parents? How do we disabuse ourselves of having to be perfect all the time? My parenting mission is to help us reject perfection as parents and looking at all the ways in which that slowly creeps into our parenting mindset, and how do we simplify? So, the 80/20 for me, and how I’ve applied it. When I was starting HOMER, running The Fund for Public Schools, I had three kids, my husband traveled all the time, I felt tremendous pressure to do it all. I felt pressured to make sure that the kids had everything they needed at school, that all the healthcare was done, that there was dinner that was a nice dinner, that was a home cooked dinner every night. I was completely fried. There was nothing.

Teri Miller:

Superwoman.

Stephanie Dua:

You’re right, Teri. We kind of think of superwoman as a positive, but it’s not a positive because it’s so hard for us to take care of ourselves if we’re doing everything, trying to get everything right. So, what I like to think of is how can we help parents understand what matters and what doesn’t matter? I think as parents, we apply the same value to everything. The kids have to have great clothes, they have to have the latest this, they have to have, and our effort is spent in that way. It’s just not possible to sustain it.

When I think of the 20% in that 80% equation, I think of it in two ways. One is how do I focus on the special things and not the everything? There are going to be a few things that my kids are always going to remember. What are those? What becomes part of our family story? How do I make sure that that is where my energy goes? For us as a family, we love on Sundays to go have brunch together, and we play UNO with the kids. We’ve done this all the time. We always do this. We always have family dinners. No electronics. Family dinners. We do this rosebud thorn. Everyone talks about their day: what was great, what was not so great, and what are they looking forward to? That’s an important thing for us. We also like to spend holidays together as a family, and we don’t invite anyone else. It’s just the girls and my husband and I, and we really like that. That’s a special time for us together as a family to reconnect after everyone’s so busy.

But, those are special things. I also do scrapbooks for the kids, so they have these really beautiful memories. That’s a special thing. Do I have to cook a homemade meal every night? No. My kids are pretty happy sometimes if we just scramble some eggs or something like that and have breakfast, so it’s really good about balancing and thinking about where do you spend your energy in a way that is special to your family instead of trying to do everything well as a parent.

The second thing I like to say is in terms of my parenting philosophy, many parents would say, “I just want my kid to be happy.” That’s kind of a common refrain. “If all else doesn’t work, I just want my child to be happy.” I think it’s correct, and many parents take that as a burden that they need to make their child happy. My philosophy is a little bit different. I don’t view my job as trying to make my kids happy. I view my job as they’re going to go through this huge range of emotions.

They’re going to have jealousy. They’re going to have fear. They’re going to have sadness and loss. They’re going to lose a pet. They’re going to lose a friend. They’re going to lose a grandparent. They’re going to have joy. They’re going to feel pride. They’re going to feel this huge range of emotions. Some of which are wonderful, and some of which are going to be really hard for them. My job is not to band-aid that feeling, but rather to say, “I’m here with you. I’m your support system. As you’re going through this really hard time, I want you to know I can’t take it away, but I’m here with you. I’m here with you when you need me in whatever form you need me.” I view that as a much more powerful framework.

For example, my oldest daughter had a lot of health challenges when she was in high school. She had to get pulled out of high school and be put on bed rest. I remember those times because she was on bed rest for two months, and she couldn’t literally leave the bed. She had to be flat on her back because she had a spinal leak, and there were moments where she was just crying saying, “I hate this. I’m not sick. I want to be back in school.” Just these really low moments, and I remember as a parent, yes, my desire was just to solve it and fix it, but I couldn’t. All I could do was sit there by her bed on her floor, holding her hand through the night and letting her know that I was there for her. I think that is our job, to me, as parents is helping them not fix the feelings but rather honor the feelings and help them know that those feelings are a natural thing to feel when they’re young.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that because if we don’t help our kids manage those big emotions in the emotional safety of our home, then they don’t know what to do with those emotions when they’re adults. Right? So, that’s how they end up getting fired from jobs. That’s how they destroy their relationships with their mates because they didn’t learn how to handle those emotions, or they learned that those emotions were bad.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Stephanie Dua:

Exactly. Exactly. We often think that they’re too young to handle them. We’re like, “Oh, we have to protect them from those feelings.” But rather, if they don’t learn that from an early age, then you’re right. They don’t have that confidence that when bad things do happen because they will happen.

Dr. Amy Moore:

It’s life.

Stephanie Dua:

Bad things will happen. There will be great times, and there will be difficult times. But, if they think everything’s always going to be good or someone’s always going to come in to save me from this feeling, then you’re right. They’re not going to have the skills they need, really the most important life skills that they need.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And they have a sense of entitlement too, right? “This shouldn’t be happening to me.”

Stephanie Dua:

Correct.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Mom saved you your entire childhood; therefore, someone will be your savior for the rest of your life, right? That’s not going to happen either.

Stephanie Dua:

Dr. Amy, that’s right. It also leads to tremendous anxiety for kids because they don’t feel confident. If somebody is always coming in and doing something for them, that kind of fixer of the family, then they don’t have the same sense of confidence that they can do things themselves.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So, I was a teacher before I was a psychologist, and I taught in a school that was based on the Reggio Emilia approach that Loris Malaguzzi created. He said, “Young children are strong, powerful, and competent. When we do things for them, we rob them of the opportunity to show what they can do and to grow.” So, when you apply that across childhood and so I say this to my clients all the time, you are strong, powerful, and competent. You can do this. You can do this. There’s something amazing that happens to a child’s face. “I’m strong, powerful, and competent. I can do this.” Then, you’re there to guide them.

Teri Miller:

I love that.

Stephanie Dua:

Yeah. That’s a hundred percent right. I’ve done that with my three girls. Sometimes better, sometimes not as good. I remember my oldest when I told her that I was no longer going to book her doctor’s appointment, she started crying. She sent me some TikTok about “When your mom says she’s no longer booking your doctor’s appointments”. They have this push-pull, right? They want the safety and the comfort, but the need to kind of also be out there. So, it’s a bit of a dance. At each stage, you can allow a little bit more autonomy as they go.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

For moms listening to this, I would challenge us all to do the hard work that that requires. I would say number one, it’s going to be hard work. When Petey the goldfish dies, it is easier to flush Petey the goldfish and pick up a new goldfish.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Buy an identical one.

Teri Miller:

Exactly. That is way easier. You don’t have to deal with your three-year-old or two-year-old. You don’t have to deal with even your eight-year-old’s tears. You don’t have to deal with the tears. You don’t have to deal with taking the time to comfort that kiddo. Taking the time to help them work through grief, and that’s the easy way out. I’m going to say number one: let’s challenge ourselves, moms, to do the hard work to let our kids have the dignity to fail, to let them feel negative emotion, and know that they can express that in the safety of home, so they can learn how to work through that. That’s hard. Number one. Number two, I would say let’s give ourselves grace for the times that we need to go buy another Petey to goldfish.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And grace for the times that we screw it up.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Let’s face it. We’re going to screw it up.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Stephanie Dua:

Of course. I love that Teri, and I would add a third one, which is, I think our natural reaction is to fix everything. It’s like we’ve got the to-do list, have it in front of me here. I want to check it off. I need to go get the new goldfish. We get into this sort of this productivity loop where we just have to be hyper productive and we have to be doing all the time and fixing all the time. I think we need to challenge ourselves to pause and say, “Does this actually really need to be fixed right now?”

Teri Miller:

Right.

Stephanie Dua:

This goldfish. Maybe it doesn’t need to be fixed. Maybe you don’t even need to have the big conversation. Maybe Andre won’t even notice the fish is missing.

Teri Miller:

Right. Right.

Stephanie Dua:

You are spinning trying to get the new goldfish, worried about the conversation, and maybe there isn’t even a fix needed. We’re previewing our own anxiety to try and fix something. I also think this comes up all the time in kids’ relationships with friendships, where somebody says something hurtful or upsetting to one child, and then you feel the need to call the parents say, “Hey. By the way, did you know that Sally said something not very nice to Jane?” That to me is a classic example of why are we being involved in this? Why can’t we just instead say to our child “That must really hurt. That hurts to hear that. How do you feel? How did it make you feel?” and have them talk about how they felt. Even if they can’t put words to it, maybe if they’re young, they can draw a picture, write a story about it.

If it happens again and again, equipping them to say, “Well, what do you want to do about it? How important is this friendship to you?” Because before you jump and call Sally’s mom, maybe this is not even an important friendship. They’re just kind of sharing how they felt that day, but we’re jumping to, “Oh. We need to fix this and make sure that the friendships are fine and everyone’s happy.” So, I think that’s another case where it comes up often where we need to pause. Does this need to be fixed? Is this something our kid can do themselves? We are the sort of coach on the side to help them rather than the person coming into the middle.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I like that.

Stephanie Dua:

Awesome.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I want to go back to your 80/20 philosophy. What one tip would you give to moms that they could start implementing today?

Stephanie Dua:

Yeah. I would look at everything that you have on your plate that you’re trying to do: transportation, food, laundry, cleaning, scheduling, sports, studying. Figure out how you get a C on something. List them all down on your notepad. 15 things you have to do each day that you’re doing in service of your family, and which of those do you want to get an A on that you want to do really well because it means something to you. Maybe you’re an incredible chef and cooking is a way of contributing to your family. That’s great. Do that. Maybe you hate cooking, so how do you look at takeout or food delivery or something else that’s super simple. Of your 10 things, get a C on at least three of them and name where you’re going to get a bad grade and you’re going to be okay with it. That would be the one tip I would give.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Because we’re not going to get it all perfect.

Teri Miller:

Right. Yeah. That goes back to Amy, you would remember. Was it Laura Coe? I can’t remember. No. It probably wasn’t Laura. Someone else we interviewed, anyway, and she talked about her parents encouraging her to not do well, to not get straight A+’s.

Dr. Amy Moore:

They offered her a reward to not get an A in math because she was so stressed about thinking she needed to be perfect. They said, “No. You can have a brand new bike if you get a B.”

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Stephanie Dua:

That’s an incredible thing that the parent did because if you think about it today, parents and children are growing up in the society of social media, looking at everyone’s life is perfect. The perfect meal, the perfect clothes for the baby, everything looks so beautiful.

Teri Miller:

Right.

Stephanie Dua:

That’s a very high bar to live to. The kids, the pressure academically for them to get into school. Well, college has changed, and it’s much harder to get into schools today than it was even 10 years ago. No one’s having that conversation with kids today to help them manage that process and the stress around that process really.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. Just for our listeners, that was Dr. Pooneh Roney if you wanted to go back and listen to that episode because it was really neat.

Teri Miller:

Thank you! I knew you would know it.

Stephanie Dua:

Yeah. I think the last thing I would say in terms of the 80/20 is today, we don’t have the same community around us. Not all, some of us are very blessed to have that, but some of us don’t. We’re far away from our parents, so find community from an early age, whatever that means, for you as a family because I think that also can help in tough times for kids. Knowing that there are other people they can turn to besides just you as they’re going through their ups and downs in life.

Teri Miller:

So good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. You mentioned that the importance of creating a path to confidence as kids head back to school. Talk a little bit about that.

Stephanie Dua:

One of the things that we learned a lot of how important kindergarten is when I was running The Fund for Public Schools, and it’s important for one thing mainly, which is confidence. It’s the first time they’re ever assessed formally. Most preschools, Pre-Ks, don’t do formal assessments, so coming into kindergarten, most children are assessed. They’re assessed in reading. They’re assessed in math. That is a stressful moment. We think that it’s not obvious to kids what letter they’re being placed in for their reading level, but it is quite obvious as they start to get grouped. It’s an important thing for teachers to be able to do to be able to group same skilled kids. But, it’s a challenging time for kids because they’re being evaluated for the first time.

The second thing that’s really challenging is parents feel evaluated by extension, so it’s an easy opportunity for parents to get anxious. So, finding ways to kind of bring that anxiety down are important. As you prepare for school, I come back to think of one or two things that the child can be really proud of as they enter school. It could be their music. It could be their sports. It could be they know every fact about a dinosaur, and they’re really proud of their dinosaur facts. Or, they’re really a great reader and really celebrate those strengths, so that in the moment when they feel like they might not have all the skills lined up that they need, could even be social skills, that they don’t have strong social skills, but they have a couple of things that they know they’re really good at to feel proud of. As a parent, reinforcing those things that they’re really good at and having a child demonstrate that I think is really important. It’s a big transition for kids. It’s one of their biggest transitions.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. Right. We see in the transition from elementary school to middle school as well, and so, I think that is applicable for both age groups.

Stephanie Dua:

It is. It is, and that’s why I think to some degree, part of our job as a parent, is to help them navigate that. It could be sports. It could be they’re just a great runner, and that’s the thing that they love the most. What I also find is children tended to follow their families. If your parent is in the food service business, the child may love cooking. All of that is actually really nice to be able to introduce to your child. A musician may introduce music to their child, and that can be also kind of one of those special things, not the everything. Again, it’s just picking a few things that are important and doing those really well and not trying to do everything.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that.

Teri Miller:

So great. I love the idea that you can help build that confidence in your kiddo without it having to be an academic subject.

Stephanie Dua:

Correct.

Teri Miller:

Even with that kindergarten or that seventh grader or whatever, that it can be, “You know what? You know so much about Petey the goldfish. It’s amazing how much you know about Petey and how much you know about fish in general.” To build that confidence that for us as moms to remember, we don’t have to berate our kids if they’re not a good reader yet, if they’re not good at math. But can I, as a mom, just focus on “You know about Petey the goldfish. I am going to help build your confidence in that one area because that will transfer to your developing reading skills, to you’re developing math skills.”

Stephanie Dua:

Exactly. That’s 100% right. Yeah. Even using knowledge as a way of furthering their skills so when kids are passionate about something, if they’re passionate about dinosaurs, using the passionate about dinosaurs to learn math. So, again, let the child be the lead a little bit. Find that one thing or two things that they’re really excited about. I remember Isla, my baby who’s not a baby anymore, loved the Rubik’s cube. She was like really fast on it, so she was so proud to show everyone. She’d be like, “Time me. Time me. Time me.” She wanted to go to school and the show & talent to show everyone how fast she was on the Rubik’s cube. That’s amazing, right? That’s great. It’s great to have something that you’re proud of.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

So good. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

We are out of time and need to wrap up, but this has been a fantastic conversation today. I would love to thank our guests, Stephanie Dua for sharing the tips that you shared for parents and the information for moms that you did share. If you would like to connect with Stephanie or learn more about the HOMER learning app and programs, you can visit (corrected: learnwithhomer.com) homerlearning.com, and we will also put those social media handles in the show notes. So, thanks so much for listening today!

Stephanie Dua:

It was wonderful! I had so much fun. Thank you guys.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Oh, we were so happy you took the time to be with us.

Teri Miller:

Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore:

To our listeners, thank you for listening to us today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube, so subscribe to that channel. You can find us on social media @thebrainymoms, @dr_amymoore, and @terissamiller. Until next time, look we’re busy moms. You’re busy moms, so we are out.

Teri Miller:

See ya!

Show Notes and Links:

Connect with Stephanie Dua
Instagram: @learnwithhomer, @stephanie.dua
Twitter: @LearnWithHomer, @stephanie_dua
Facebook: @learnwithHomer

Learn more about HOMER Learning:
visit www.learnwithhomer.com

 

 

 


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