In this four-episode podcast series, we had the opportunity to have a candid conversation with the creators of Makeshift Homeschool, the McPhail family. Joseph, the father, and his two daughters, Sumay (11) and Aila (8), discuss what drew them to create this self-directed learning program during the pandemic. 

Listen: Makeshift Homeschool: How to Inspire Your Family with Self-Directed Learning (Episode 1)

Below are a few highlights from the episode:

Sumay: "During this lockdown, we've had to figure out many different ways of changing our lifestyle to adapt to this new way of living. And that has opened up this new perspective for me, where I can see things in a whole new light. And I can do things in a lot of different ways because I have a lot of freedom in time. And I'm very passionate about a great number of things, but one of it, uh, one of those things is how I can learn effectively and, uh, learn about the things that I'm passionate about."

Aila: "When this opportunity came up, I never knew it was an opportunity. I was just like, 'Okay, I'm going to do my schoolwork.' But then my dad or my sister came up with idea to make Makeshift Homeschool. I wasn't very good at writing, but after what has happened, I've learned a lot of things that I've never known."

Joseph: "The interest there was all about technology and how we can try to better use technology to give kids a better education, with the obvious thing being that the way that we teach kids hasn't changed in maybe 150 years since we first came up with public schools. And yet, almost everything we want to teach them is actually right there on the internet. Now we have computers, they have the access, we have the tools…and yet no change...even though we've had this massive change in terms of the technological availability." 

"This summer, when we hit the lockdown, it was a bit of an experiment in 'Let's go ahead and take that idea that you kids can just learn whatever you want.' As long as you're able to show that you're improving yourselves and that you're becoming interested in a wide variety of things, exposing yourself to new ideas, that you can drive your own education.” 

"It's not just about homeschool. It's about self-directed homeschooling. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that parents have this huge opportunity to help teach their kids to love learning and to teach themselves because of the tools that are available. Self-directed education doesn't mean that there's no parent involvement, but it means giving the kids the tools, helping them know how to use the tools and then helping them to find how to connect their passions with doing something constructive when they learn."

"The key ingredient here is curiosity. Kids are especially curious. And when parents and other adults and teachers ask kids, 'What are you interested in? Tell me what you're excited about?' Instead of saying, 'I have on my curriculum, you're going to learn this today,' if you ask kids what they're excited about, then that's the positive reinforcement. And then if they do anything constructive with that, then you provide positive reinforcement because then they start to build on it. If you come in there and you start criticizing, all you're gonna really do is kill the passion. It's not any fun anymore. And if it's not fun, they're not going to direct their own learning process."

Check out Episode 2 as we discuss how Makeshift Homeschool works, children’s natural curiosity, and how to inspire them to write.

Episode Guide:

Episode 1 - A New Way

Episode 2 - The Child Takes Charge

Episode 3 - Return of the Parent

Episode 4 - Stuffy Awakens