Episode 53: Jean Miller

Entrepreneur Conundrum Podcast

Episode Summary

Jean Miller helps parents embrace and succeed in the realm of homeschooling

EC 01   |    4min

About The Guest

Jean is a homeschooling mentor who helps homeschoolers build their lessons around hands-on creative activities so they can customize the curriculum and create a homeschool plan that they love. That’s more than just school at home.

Jean offers, courses, coaching and a membership at art of homeschooling.

She’s the mother of three now grown children and has been teaching and parenting for over 30 years.

Jean has a master of arts in teaching and has taught in every possible setting from public and private classrooms to homeschooling co-ops.

When she’s not supporting homeschooling parents, you can find Jean out for a hike with her husband and their sweet dog Gus stirring up a new yummy dish in the kitchen, reading poetry or birdwatching.



Episode Transcript

Virginia: [00:00:00] Welcome to entrepreneur conundrum with Virginia Purnell where growing entrepreneurs. Share how they get visible online. Hi everyone. Today, I’m talking with Jean Miller about how she helps parents embrace and succeed in the realm of homeschooling. Jean is a homeschooling mentor who helps homeschoolers build their lessons around hands-on creative activities.

[00:00:21] So they can customize the curriculum and create a homeschool plan that they love. That’s more than just school at home. Jean offers, courses, coaching and a membership at art of homeschooling. She’s the mother of three now grown children and has been teaching and parenting for over 30 years. Jean has a master of arts in teaching and has taught in every possible setting from public and private classrooms to homeschooling co-ops.

[00:00:45] When she’s not supporting homeschooling parents, you can find Jean out for a hike with her husband and their sweet dog Gus stirring up a new yummy dish in the kitchen, reading poetry or birdwatching. Welcome Jean.

[00:00:58]Jean: [00:00:58] Thank you so much, Virginia. It’s great to be here. 

Virginia – I’m glad to have you here. 

[00:01:03] Virginia: [00:01:03] Thanks. So what kind of brought you on the journey to, branch out and I guess you’d have start your business, like helping other homeschool families.

[00:01:16] Jean: [00:01:16] Yeah. It’s a great question there because my kids now are between the ages of 21 and 31, so they’re young adults and so I had the homeschooling phase and then when our youngest. Really, I think when she started high school was when people, people have been asking me for help.

[00:01:36] Other homeschoolers had been asking me for help for years but in a more serious way, people were saying, we really need you. We need you to help us. Just briefly about my journey. I didn’t really expect to homeschool. So I have a  master of arts and teaching and I was a classroom teacher.

[00:01:51] And of course I thought my kids will go to the neighborhood school. I’ll have I’ll teach. And we’ll all have summers off, but. Didn’t pan out that way, our oldest was real hands-on learner. And so we embarked on the homeschooling journey. And so then, like I said, when my youngest really hit the high school years was when I began to have some time freed up to help other homeschooling parents.

[00:02:16]Virginia: [00:02:16] Okay.

[00:02:18]So what do you like most about the work that you do? 

[00:02:22] Jean: [00:02:22] Yeah, it just, I love the work that I do.I really, honestly, I just have such a soft spot in my heart for moms in particular.  And then when we add homeschooling to the parenting mix, I just think there is, there’s something very brave about homeschool, but also very tender. Sweet about, being willing to take on this responsibility. When parents started asking me over and over for my help I feel like I help with the practical hands-on piece, but I also help with the kind of caretaking of the mom piece. And yeah. And it really all started.

[00:03:05] I was a presenter at a live homeschooling training weekend that my mentor Barbara Dewey. I started 15 years ago and it’s something that is still going on every August. And now I host it and here in Northeastern, Ohio. And and it’s an amazing experience because when moms, a lot of times moms arrive and it’s the first time they’ve ever left their children, they come to this homeschooling long weekend to learn about hands-on approaches.

[00:03:40]That they can take back to their families and they are, they’re kind of, in this vulnerable tender place. And we create this amazing community and they go home feeling confident and inspired. And I just love that transformation in four days. And that’s really what was the initial inspiration for me to start?

[00:04:02] My business were parents from that taproot teacher training asking me okay. We don’t, we want your help. Not only for one weekend in the summer, but throughout the year. 

[00:04:12] Virginia: [00:04:12] Oh, that’s fun. Yeah. So I don’t really want to say that as mistakes, but is there like a common trend that you see. Some of the homeschoolers.

[00:04:24] Jean: [00:04:24] Yeah. It’s an interesting question because I agree with you. I don’t really want to see it as mistakes, but I will say I did this exact same thing myself early on, and I think what we do, homeschooling is an interesting mix of. Planning the lessons or purchasing a curriculum or something like having an idea of what you’re going to do with your children each day, but it also.

[00:04:48]It can really tap into our self doubts and uncertainties, about our own abilities. And so the biggest mistake that I see homeschoolers making is when they, when we run up, I’ll say we, cause I was, I did this, when we run up against challenges, with our children or the lessons.

[00:05:13] We go out and we buy more curriculum. And to me, yes, that can give us more ideas. But it can also actually undermine our confidence because we, then we’re not seeing ourselves as the expert, quote, unquote, we’re externalizing that . And while yes, there are people that know more, that knew more than I did when I was first starting out. I also. The trick is to be able to like, learn how to do this homeschooling thing while you’re homeschooling you, can’t just leave your kids and go off somewhere and learn. So I think curriculum is, I think a packaged curriculum is super helpful.

[00:05:59] As long as we are able to see it as a resource, it’s a resource that is on the shelf. And I feel like we need to make some decisions ourselves first about the overarching vision of the year. And. Now when we’re gonna, if we have more than one child, when we’re going to do some activities as a whole family, in one, we’re going to do activities, one-on-one with the kids or with the older ones.

[00:06:28] And then the younger ones, we need to make some of those decisions first and then pull from a curriculum package the specific activities or ideas that might apply. 

[00:06:40] Virginia: [00:06:40] It’s kind of like baking recipes are just guidelines. 

[00:06:44] Jean: [00:06:44] Exactly. And when we assign a curriculum as like a the thing, that’s when we get into trouble, because what happens is that, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but you order the curriculum package and it arrives in the mail.

[00:06:58] And. You open it up. And you’re really excited at first and by like day eight, you’re behind. And then you start to feel like I’m never going to finish this whole thing and there must be something wrong with me. What no teacher, even in a classroom or parent finishes an entire curriculum, the way it’s written, we have to customize it and make it our own so that it works for our family.

[00:07:26] Virginia: [00:07:26] Yeah, don’t get stressed out about that part, 

[00:07:29] Jean: [00:07:29] for sure. For sure. And then there is one other mistake that I think we often make, which is comparing ourselves to others. And and that’s really hard with social media. When I first started homeschooling, there wasn’t curriculum to purchase, there was no Facebook, no Instagram, not even an internet in the same way that there is now.

[00:07:51] And so we thought all of us back then we are these homeschooling pioneers. We thought that was really challenging. I actually think it’s more challenging today because you see pictures, you wake up and look at pictures on Instagram, and you immediately start to have feelings about  how you compare to those other homeschooling parents.

[00:08:11] And yeah, I think that can be really challenging too. 

[00:08:15] Virginia: [00:08:15] Yeah, I know for me, like when we had our plan along was at the end of February, I had a whole bunch of anxiety after it’s like all about teaching next year. And I ended up watching this one family on YouTube, but they just talked about like how they do the un-schooling type of method.

[00:08:36] And then that gave me a little bit of As peace, I guess it’s just basically, like you’re saying, like I don’t have to follow the curriculum. per tee and or else the child’s not going to be where they need to be. Like life we’ll also teach the child and so will their interests. 

[00:08:52] Jean: [00:08:52] Yes. And I say that all the time, children are learning all the time and yeah.

[00:08:58] One of the beauties to me, I am not an, I do not call myself an unschooler. I just don’t think that I could do it. I know my kids, especially my older two had lot of friends who were unschoolers. And I just think there are a lot of benefits to us providing some structured activities for our children each day, or at least, a handful of days every week.

[00:09:21] And so what I like to think of is we have the best of both worlds, right? We have there’s time in a day to have just a few hours of focus time with our children that we lead or facilitate. And then there’s time in the day for them to follow their own interests too. And then that all of course also means that when life throws us curve balls, we could be flexible too.

[00:09:46] And it’s interesting because with this year of the pandemic, I think we’ve learned so much about, so many Brick and mortar schools have had to rethink, how many hours should children can focus each day. And what’s really, I think what it’s given us, actually, if we can see any sort of silver lining in this year of the pandemic, what it’s given us is the whole world is.

[00:10:12] Looking at education from the perspective of what children need. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

[00:10:22] Virginia: [00:10:22] Yeah. And hopefully it’s not. Cause I know some schools, especially in the early years of the elementary school, they had them on screens for a really long time. And it was like mandatory that they had to be there.

[00:10:36] Jean: [00:10:36] Yeah. And that’s, a lot of parents came to me have, come into my world, especially last spring. But this year too for that very reason, because they could recognize. They were probably for the first time in, in a similar space where their children are trying to do their learning and they could recognize this isn’t really so healthy for children to be online for, five hours or seven hours.

[00:11:02]And then some schools were very strict and penalized kids for not doing that. It makes me happy that some parents have been able to juggle their lives in such a way that they could start down the homeschooling path

[00:11:17]Virginia: [00:11:17] and that they realize that really all you need is a couple hours.

[00:11:22] Some even if that just, and then just let them go play that the go be kids at the go process. 

[00:11:28] Jean: [00:11:28] Yeah. Yeah. And, there’s an interesting little chart that came out that was circulating on social media. And I think it was either Illinois or Indiana, one of the departments of education of someMidwestern state published, these guidelines for the amount of time that a child should be online.

[00:11:48] And it was, I think, eye opening for a lot of parents and teachers. So the kindergarten years. Like preschool years, it was preschool and kindergarten. I think it was 30 minutes. And then it grew as kids get older, but even high schoolers, it can be, you can have a four hour school day.

[00:12:09] Without any problem, four hours, five hours, but you don’t need to have it be, it’s not equivalent to the amount of time a child would spend in school in a brick and mortar school.

[00:12:21]Virginia: [00:12:21] Yeah, not at all. Yeah. I’m just going to ask you this to pause here for just a quick sec.

[00:12:26]So who’s your ideal clients? Do you have a broader niche or is it just like who parents?

[00:12:35]Jean: [00:12:35] No, I do. I come from a Waldorf inspired background. That’s the approach that I’ve used with my own three kids. And so my ideal client is really.

[00:12:49]It’s a little tricky, because I would say I like to frame it a little bit more like the people who benefit from me the most, from my services the most, I think are those who Of course are really committed to homeschooling for now, whatever that means right. For this period of time. And they want to bring a lot of hands-on learning into their days.

[00:13:15]So even if someone isn’t. Wouldn’t call themselves a Waldorf homeschool or a Waldorf inspired homeschooler. They still can benefit from these lively arts, of the, of storytelling and music and movement and weaving those types of activities into the lessons because children are much more engaged and the learning itself is more memorable when we bring those types of activities into the learning.

[00:13:46] And most of the parents who come to me. I have sort of two groups, one group our parents who are very familiar with Waldorf and perhaps their kids have been in a Waldorf school and they’ve pulled them out for some reason. And then the other group is homeschoolers. Sometimes who’ve been homeschooling for a while, but now maybe they were unschoolers.

[00:14:10]And now they want to bring some more structure or they want to bring more hands-on engaging activities. So it tends to be people who aren’t brand new to homeschooling, like meaning, they have a. Five or six year old, but I still, I have some of those clients too. It’s mostly homeschoolers with kids in the grades who want something more than a duplicating a classroom at home.

[00:14:38]Virginia: [00:14:38] How do they find you? Do you run Facebook ads? Do you like, how do you get out in front of those ideal clients? 

[00:14:47] Jean: [00:14:47] Yeah, it’s a really good question. And so from a business perspective, I will just say that, I. As I said in the beginning I started because people, I started my business, which originally was called Waldorf inspired learning.

[00:14:59] It’s now art of homeschooling, but I originally started my business because parents were asking right. For my help. So I started this website when I go back and look, this is really funny because when I go back and look, I didn’t know anything about marketing. And so I. I ha I started a blog and most of the blogs at that time were like these mommy bloggers.

[00:15:23]And so I didn’t know what I was doing. My very first blog post is about getting our puppy Gus. So our dog, we have now the w we got him in the fall of 2013. And so I decided to start blogging. And what am I going to write about? I have a cute picture of our puppy. So now a days I find people through my website because now I have over 300, I think blog posts and my podcast, which I just launched in 2020 in the fall.

[00:15:56] And and then, I’m mostly on Instagram, Pinterest drive some traffic and I’ve been doing Pinterest for quite a while. And a lot is word of mouth. I’ve done Facebook ads here and there for specific events or launches. But , I still feel like I almost have too many offerings.

[00:16:19] And so this is my year. My word of the year is clarity, and this is my year of really honing in on Being able to clearly communicate what exactly I offer. I have courses and an ebook and a membership and, there was a lot and I offer one-on-one sessions too. I’m really trying to narrow all that in and a lot of word of mouth.

[00:16:42] I 

[00:16:42] People now, because I’ve been doing this for a while and I am, because I’m unique in that I’m not publishing a curriculum, there are other homeschooling. Mentors in my who’ve been doing this as long as I have, but who are also selling their curriculum. And I think I’m the only one who does not have a curriculum to sell.

[00:17:03] So I am truly committed to helping parents make this work no matter what curriculum you use, right? No matter what approach you use, no matter how many children you have and all of that. Yeah, I’m really still trying to figure that out the marketing part. And and I just, I really do appreciate the word of mouth.

[00:17:23] A lot of Facebook groups, my name comes up and so I, people who’ve worked with me before. That’s how I, a lot of people come to me because they’re recommended to me by someone else. 

[00:17:33] Virginia: [00:17:33] That is cool. Yeah. Just to let you know, I found you from a school that I was looking at close to us and they actually referenced your blog on for like resources.

[00:17:47] Jean: [00:17:47] Yeah. It’s really amazing to me because I will say that how do I say this politely? Homeschoolers were not. Really welcome into the Waldorf movement for a very long time. And I’ve been at this long enough to have been part of that as a parent. And now  schools reach out to me a lot these days, and I hear that.

[00:18:11] So often I was going to go, I was going to be right before the pandemic. I had been invited to go to California to one of the large Waldorf schools and be a keynote presenter. Yeah. At one of the schools, because they really wanted to put on a conference that was for both homeschooling teachers. No homeschooling parents and classroom teachers.

[00:18:37] And that hasn’t happened a whole lot. We tend to be in sort of separate circles, but I really think two things. I think homeschooling has really come of age and the Waldorf movement itself hit this hundredth anniversary and. A lot has happened as a result of that because people are really willing to look at, okay I guess this home schooling thing is here to stay.

[00:19:03] And let’s find ways to work together.

[00:19:07]Virginia: [00:19:07] That’s fun. What are some big goals that you have for the next one to two years? 

[00:19:14] Jean: [00:19:14] Yeah, that’s a great question. 

[00:19:15]I would say that my biggest goal really is, like I said to Mo to consolidate my offerings in such a way that I can. Be clear  I would say my biggest goals for the next couple of years are to really get clear on my offerings and In order to do that I’m moving my, this is all backend stuff, but I’m moving my membership and my courses into a new platform so that I can have.

[00:19:55] Some of my offerings running more evergreen.  And because really what I want to do is focus T to be able to free up my time, because what I love to do is work with homeschoolers. I have this membership, I do weekly  coaching calls inside there, and then I have a one-on-one clients every week.

[00:20:16]And that’s what I love. So I don’t, I honestly, personally don’t love the marketing so I want to find ways Really to , clarify my offerings, simplify how they’re delivered and set up some marketing systems so that I can be freed up to work with homeschooling parents. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:20:40] Yeah. And I have two assistants now, which is fabulous. Oh my gosh. I couldn’t do it without Sarah and Dominique. So that’s a wonderful thing. And I’m so grateful that in the past two years for, I was able to first bring one on and then last year, a second one. 

[00:20:58]Virginia: [00:20:58] That’s how you know you’re growing, right?

[00:20:59] Jean: [00:20:59] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And they’re both homeschooling moms and I love that I can support two homeschooling moms who want part-time work, so that they can continue homeschooling that’s right. 

[00:21:12] Virginia: [00:21:12] Yeah. So how do you think that’ll be able to change your business? 

[00:21:17]Jean: [00:21:17] Yeah. It’s, it’s more subtle probably from the end user, for me, I feel like I’m really taking ownership of being a business owner.

[00:21:27]Whereas I think in the beginning, I was really more of a blogger , who offered some services and created a course. Cause that was fun, and now I love those things, but I think. My,  main focus is my membership. And I have two courses that I love too. So I shouldn’t say that it’s just my membership, but  the way it’s affecting my business is streamlining, I would say is the word.

[00:21:57] Virginia: [00:21:57] Yeah. Yeah. Do you feel like you have any roadblocks that. From help from you achieving that.

[00:22:05]Jean: [00:22:05] Yeah. It’s the trying to do all the things myself. That’s my biggest roadblock is me.

[00:22:10]My business has grown very organically, which I love, I think that’s great. And at the same time I have been reluctant to get help or, reach out. I finally. Three years ago, invested in my business by taking a course in running a business and hiring my first virtual assistant.

[00:22:36] And that was a game changer for me. So the roadblock is still kind of there, but I’m working with it. I’m getting out of my own way more and more often.

[00:22:46]Virginia: [00:22:46] Good job. Good. See ya.

[00:22:48]So I gotta change it up just a little bit. Yeah. What’s the best advice you have ever received?. 

[00:22:54] Yeah. 

[00:22:54] Jean: [00:22:54] If that is such a good question and this, it was hard to answer from Do I go from a business perspective or a parenting perspective, so I have to, can I give you two answers?

[00:23:05]Virginia: [00:23:05] Sure. 

[00:23:06] Jean: [00:23:06] Okay. So from a parenting perspective, this is really fun.

[00:23:10] I had, I have two boys and a girl, and when my boys were little. It goes boy, girl. And when the boys were little, we worked, I was the volunteer coordinator at a farm, a CSA and farm. And so we would go work a whole day a week. And I loved homeschooling because we could go on every Thursday right out to this farm all day and farmer Molly, the owners of the farm said to me once I’m sure.

[00:23:40] She probably heard some exchange between me and my boys, my boy children. And she said to me, three to five words, that’s all sentences of three to five words. And sometimes you just say. That’s interesting. And that was really helpful to me because I know that I tended to over verbalize a lot with my children.

[00:24:05] And then from a business perspective, the best advice I got was. Initially in those early years was to just be yourself, be authentic, be yourself, and you’ll find your way. And then at a certain stage to invest in, in your business. And that really was a game changer for me.

[00:24:25]Virginia: [00:24:25] What’s the best advice you’ve ever given? 

[00:24:29] Jean: [00:24:29] Yeah. That is such a hard question. I think the best advice I’ve ever given is to, there are so many, I have a lot of mantras, that I share with parents. And one of them is That confidence comes from taking action, right? So we think we’ll just think about it and we can conjure up this sense of confidence.

[00:24:54] And so this is true in homeschooling parenting and business, right? Confidence really comes from taking action. So we have to be willing to make mistakes. And for some of us that’s really hard. Yeah. So I would say, it’s be willing to, go out there and make mistakes, but that’s how you’re going to learn.

[00:25:18] Virginia: [00:25:18] Failing forward. Isn’t that what they call it? 

[00:25:20] Jean: [00:25:20] Yes. Yeah, for sure. That’s how we learn and how our children learn. So yeah, I have a few others. One of them is when you’re trying to decide what to do. Cause sometimes we get so they’re just, we get overwhelmed and then we are so indecisive and we get.

[00:25:37] Decision fatigue and all of that. And so I have a mantra think in threes, pick one. So think of three possible answers to your conundrum and pick one and do it. I like that one.

[00:25:52] Virginia: [00:25:52] So is there anything that you’d like to share with us that I haven’t asked you yet?

[00:25:56] Jean: [00:25:56] I’ll just say as we wrap up that. We never know really where life is going to take us. I just love what I do and I never, in a million years would have, when I was in the thick of it with homeschooling three kids, I never would have thought that this might be a possibility for me. And and I’ve really been able to embrace it and have, it’s been, it’s such a joyful journey for me, really.

[00:26:26] Virginia: [00:26:26] thats 

[00:26:27] awesome.

[00:26:28]Jean: [00:26:28] Oh, lovely. Thank you so much. And I do can I just share where people can find me? I have a couple. 

[00:26:37] Virginia: [00:26:37] Yeah, please do. That was going to be my next question. Are you good? Okay. How can we find you? 

[00:26:42] Jean: [00:26:42] Great. So art of homeschooling.com is my website and I have my podcast is there so people can listen to my podcast rate on the website or on any podcast player.

[00:26:54] And my blog. I also have a free guide there called save your homeschooling day. And then I am. Probably most active on Instagram and you can find me at art dot homeschooling, no art dot of dot homeschooling. 

[00:27:13] Virginia: [00:27:13] Awesome. Thank you so much. 

[00:27:15] Jean: [00:27:15] Thank you, Virginia. This was really fun.

[00:27:18]Virginia: [00:27:18] I’m glad you had fun and I’m glad you were here with us today.

[00:27:21] Jean: [00:27:21] Thanks.

[00:27:22]Virginia: [00:27:22] Take care.

[00:27:23]Thank you so much for joining us today. Be sure to subscribe and leave some love through a review and I’ll catch you on the next episode.




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Virginia Purnell

Virginia Purnell

Virginia lives in Northern Alberta on a small farm with her husband and three children.  

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