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.
Below are a few highlights from the episode:
Sumay: We were wondering what would be like a way for all kids to start doing it. We were contacting different kids and asking them about their passions, leading them to writing their own blog posts for those things. But we were also wondering, “there's probably an easier way to do this.” Then we started making an app where children can go on, and they'll first start out as a student, and they can only read other people's blog posts. But as they progress, they can become a tutor. And when they become a tutor, they can actually post blog posts. And then the next step is a professor, and professors can go on to podcasts and talk about different lessons and principles.
When a child first starts out, they won't know what they want to write about, but also that's where the app will be in handy because then they can try to learn about all the different things out there before they can start to know what they're interested in. So at first, I guess the parent can help with that, or they can expose the child to many different things and see which one their kid is most excited about.
It will be different because every child is different. But I do think that it is also just a way to cultivate that curiosity to drive them to grow themselves and to try to motivate others to grow themselves as well.
Joseph: Just about anything is a learning opportunity. It's not really homeschool. It's life school. It's learning to see everything in life as a learning opportunity.
Where it gets really exciting is when you have kids teaching kids in a way where there are no grades, but they're also helping to improve each other. ‘Cause they're reading each other's lessons, and they're getting ideas from other kids about what's exciting to learn about.
It's the most organic way forward. Kids learn better when they're learning about things that they're interested in. And so it takes advantage of that. Kids learn better when they're teaching, just like everybody. So this gives them an opportunity to teach. Kids learn better when they see other kids doing things that they find interesting so they can collaborate. When they see other kids doing it, then they want to do it.
Aila: When I started writing, of course I needed to learn how to use tools. I was learning a lot. It kind of got easier and easier for me. But then when I kept writing, I was like, “Oh, I'm actually kind of good at this. I want to keep going.” By the end, I was really happy about it. I went to show my parents, and then they were like, “Wow, this is amazing.” So I felt like I wanted to do more stories inside that post.
The parents also have a big job in when they [the kids] start to write. You can't just sit your kid in front of a computer and say “Type a post...start writing, work harder.” Kids don't know what they're interested in at first. They also need help figuring out what they're interested in and learning how to type and stuff.
Check out Episode 3 as the kids share what they miss most about school and how Makeshift Homeschool is different from traditional school. Aila also tells us about the Happiness Burger and how it relates to education!