How to Understand Your Neurodivergent Student

How to Understand Your Neurodivergent Student

Twice exceptional (2e) students have a foot on both ends of the bell curve. They are highly gifted in some areas and have huge challenges (are neurodivergent) in others. They are often described as "smart but lazy" or "bright but scattered." ADHD, dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorder fall under this neurodiversity umbrella. Join guest Sam Young, an expert on special needs education who is himself neurodivergent, as he provides a wealth of insights for homeschooling your 2e/neurodivergent child.

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Podcast Transcript

Janna Koch (00:36):

Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm Janna Koch, your host and BookShark's community manager. In today's episode, I am joined by Sam Young. He is the Director of Young Scholar Academy. He's going to be explaining how to understand the neurodivergent student. We hope that in this episode, if you are searching for an understanding of your student, that maybe having a working definition from Sam might be just what you guys need. So without further ado, Sam, thank you so much for being here.

Sam Young (01:05):

Thanks for having me, Janna. I'm super excited to be here.

Janna Koch (01:09):

Stumbling upon your academy, which is a funny story in and of itself, I like to tell Sam I pulled him out of the trash because unfortunately some communication between us ended up going to junk mail and I happened to see it, but Sam, you do not belong in the trash. You belong in a billboard, you belong on the mountaintops where we are just shouting out loud the things that you are bringing to light in the arena of neurodivergency in students and twice-exceptional. Now, those are some terms that I myself was not incredibly familiar with, so I'm going to hand it over to you, want you to go ahead and introduce yourself to our listeners and give us a great working definition of those two things.

Sam Young (01:50):

Awesome. Yeah. And thank you for having me and thanks for that liberating I'm worth it pep talk. It really feels great. So again, I'm Sam. I go by, a lot of my students call me Mr. Sam, and I am the director of a program called Young Scholars Academy, which is a virtual enrichment program which offers strength-based and talent-focused courses. So what that means in layman's terms essentially that we have courses that help students develop the things they're interested in and so that they can feel good and be challenged in a place that's appropriate for both their strengths, areas of interest, and areas in which they struggle as well.


And the idea is, to kind of answer your question about what is neurodiversity, what is twice-exceptionality, and what do those mean, there's some basic definitions here, but there are sort of two different areas. So if we look at neurodiversity as a kind of an umbrella, we could argue that the brain is sort of like a fingerprint, that we're actually finding out that there's actually a lot more diversity in the brain that used to be. We like to plot things and say, "Oh, well, there's sort of a what's called neurotypical, which is the mean, it's like the norm, and then there's brains that are sort of off to the fringes. This would be people who have ADHD, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, different things like that.


And neurodiversity largely arose actually out of the autistic community to give space to celebrate diversity in the way people are kind of wired and the way that people's brains are set up and understanding that that really is not just one experience or one set of expectations. Under that neurodiversity umbrella, there are a bunch of different groups who have different identities and so forth, as you might imagine, because again, we say the spectrum. It's a spectrum. And one group that I'm particularly passionate about and identify with and have committed the last over 10 years of my life to supporting is a group called twice-exceptional.


And this is a really interesting group because twice-exceptional, often abbreviated is 2e, is in my opinion, one of the most underserved communities because they are essentially people who ... I'm a visual thinker. So I think of someone who's simultaneously gifted and has learning differences. So this is someone who has a high IQ or a high intelligence area. And that doesn't just have to be, we have to let go of what intelligence means. It's kind of loaded, like gifted and intelligence, they're kind of loaded words. That doesn't mean necessarily that they're always schoolhouse gifted. It doesn't have to be the student who can take information, process it, and then spit it back out on a test or in an essay. It could be a Simone Biles, who's highly gifted kinesthetically.


So at the same time, someone like a Simone Biles has ADHD, right? And maybe the things that serve her well in a certain setting do not always serve her well in another setting like a classroom. So this is someone who, if you picture a bell curve, kind of has a foot on both ends, right? On the one end, they're straddling over to the right, they're in the highly gifted, highly talented, highly intellectual space, and then on the other end they have high learning differences, high struggle areas, high challenges. And I like to say they're always in both. They're always both. Sometimes they might seem, because the context might make them seem like Simone Biles, might seem really stellar, and then in a certain context she might seem like she's really struggling, but she's always both. She has these dual exceptionalities and that's where we get the term from.

Janna Koch (05:23):

That is fascinating because I think that most people, when you think of someone who's gifted, you don't actually think of that they could have a deficit somewhere. No, if you're gifted, you're 100% gifted and then you're gifted in every area. And that is not life, that's not reality. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And so to bring light to this idea of being twice-exceptional, that we can recognize the strengths and giftedness in our children without taking away that they may need help in other areas, and that's not a negative for their gifted. And it's not like, well, you're so gifted, so why is this so hard for you?


Confession, as a homeschool parent, I have said that to my children in several different ways, like you're really good at this, why is this so hard for you? And not understanding that just because they are great readers and they're exceptional writers, yeah, math, numbers, they might actually have some dyslexia. Sometimes I think as parents, we want to see our children in just the most beautiful light. My teenagers say that there's some type of day that when the sun starts to go to the golden hour, that's when you want to take all your selfies. That's when you want to get it just right because in the golden hour it puts you in the perfect light. And I think sometimes as parents, we view our children in that golden hour 24 hours a day, and that is not reality.

Sam Young (07:05):

I like the imagery that comes with that. And I would just playing devil's advocate, I mean in my line of work and what's unique about the population that I work with is that a lot of parents, while they see their child's greatness and they do, they're hearing, they're being told a lot of the deficits. So in the twice-exceptional world, I think a lot about the Japanese proverb, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. And so a lot of times we have this really deficit focus or what's often referred to as the medical model, the idea that we identify what's wrong, we focus all our energy on that, and we try to bring the bottom up. The student is, as you said, struggling in math or not writing or not organized, and we just focus on let's just hammer that home until they're better.


And that deficit focus, it really brings a lot of harm. So while I agree with you on it, I think a lot of parents do objectively see their children in the greatest light, that they hear a lot what their student isn't doing. They worry a lot about where they're coming up short. I'm using air quotes for anyone who's just listening. And that's really challenging and I think that that gets quite a harmful worm in the ear of the parent and then it kind of permeates into the child's ear as well.

Janna Koch (08:28):

Well, we're talking to a community of parents who have chosen a different educational route than is traditional. So for a number of reasons, it could be because they were told something about their child that A, they didn't agree with, or B, they didn't see that they were getting help with, or they're choosing to do it a different way because they themselves are outside-of-the-box-thinkers and so they want their child to be able to foster that as well without the circle shoved into the square area. So when you're talking about this idea and trying to help parents understand, hey, you see or you've heard that your child has a deficit, but could it be that the very thing that you're seeing as negative has an opposite and equal greatness on the other side?

Sam Young (09:21):

Absolutely. Yeah, it's such a good point. And I often say that schooling is not, and I think homeschooling is so important for this reason, because it's I think arguably more aligned with the way in which we work now. If we think of the goal of public schooling, it was largely like a Tayloristic turn of the 20th-century model, and anyone that doesn't know Taylorism, that's essentially the approach to sort of industrialize, how can we make little tweaks, what's the ideal time for a worker before they need to rotate a task, and it was largely prepping for industrial life. But we are not, we in the United States I say, we are not an industrial nation anymore. We are an intellectual nation. We produce intellectual property and school hasn't kept up.


And homeschooling is so important because as you say, Janna, it allows parents to customize environments that allow our students to be steeped in their curiosity, to be entrenched in the things that allow them to be at their intellectual prime. But even in that environment, it's important that we focus on their strengths because we can have the best intentions, but as Sir Ken Robinson once said, the late Sir Ken Robinson, "Everybody's had an education and we all have an opinion and it's not necessarily right." Just because you did it one way or it worked one way for you, your child's not you and they're different and it's important to try to flex even when we're already very flexible.

Janna Koch (10:50):

I think one of the biggest hashtags in homeschooling is be flexible. And another thing that I have experienced is you just don't know what you don't know. So as a parent, I'm one of those parents that will gladly tell you, I don't know, I have no idea, we're going to try to figure it out. And so as we school at home for whatever our why has been and parents start to see things in their children that maybe pulling them out for the pandemic and then they kept them home, they were like how come I didn't know this was a struggle for you? Why didn't I know that you were having a hard time processing it this way? There is a temptation to then try to make your child conform to the traditional idea of school even in homeschooling. I don't know that that's the majority of homeschoolers, but my personal experience and the people around me, we still have our norms, we still have our benchmarks that if our child isn't hitting somehow they're missing the mark, or we internalize it as parents that we're not doing the right thing.


But you are here to tell us that there could be another reason, there could be another way of looking at it. And so I've told my nine-year-old a million times how to do something, I've given him instructions three different ways, visually, I let him do it, he's still not getting it, but that doesn't mean that he is not intelligent and it doesn't mean that he won't one day get it. So what are some things that you can tell parents to look for or recognize that your child is not being rebellious, because that's one thing that I immediately think like why are you rebellion against me? Just do it like I say, but really the brain is not understanding what I'm saying. So the parent isn't necessarily doing anything wrong. The child isn't necessarily being wrong. But there is an alternative that their brain is just taking it in a different way than we are used to.

Sam Young (12:47):

Yeah, it's a really good point. I think looking at the root, if we translated this, like if you were speaking Mandarin to someone who speaks Portuguese, you wouldn't be upset at them for not understanding. But we're doing that a lot of the times with our students and that could be in the way that we process, it could be in the way that we verbalize, and it might just be in the way that our brain functions. As you said, you could differentiate something and get it to them six ways to Sunday, but they just might not be interested. And that's why I use those four words, strength-based, interest-focused or talent-focused, because we want to build around our students' interests. I always go back to this and I will answer your question, I promise. But when we think about what society is looking for, right, when we zoom out of school and we think larger, we're looking for people who have incredibly niche interests and who can identify incredibly niche problems and then develop incredibly niche solutions.


And so we might have an idea, to come back to your question, how we think things should be done, we do it this way, or use your agenda book, why aren't you using your agenda book? And there isn't a lot of agency in that and there may not be a lot of interest. And we know where the brain goes, the energy and the focus flow. So with our students, if we can instead ask questions. I don't want to use this agenda book. Well, instead of that being an assault on me, can we ask why? What is it about that and how do you think would make the most sense to get organized and why? And what's worked and what hasn't worked and why? And if I think that if we can turn everything into a workshop, we can inquiry-based problem-solving. I get things done this way, this is our goal, let's plan backwards. How do you see getting at this goal? Is it even an appropriate goal? What matters more than this? And being able to involve them and give them agency, because that's one of the most important things.


We know that if people build things, right, if they're part of writing a constitution, they're more likely to follow due to the social contract. They feel like they're getting something in exchange. The same is true with our kiddos. If we can include them in workshopping decisions and building systems with us, then they're probably going to be more likely to follow through on them.

Janna Koch (15:00):

I know personally, I don't like to be told what to do. Some called out a character defect, some call out a character strength. So I have found with my children that when I first was a parent and starting to homeschool, and I got all the answers, I know how it's done. I personally homeschooled, so I've been where you are. So I had this narrative in my mind and when I started to get pushback or when I started to have them not fall in line, shocker that kids just don't fall right into line, I really started to question myself, which I think is always good. I'm always about question everything, but I had to be open to a different way. And I think as parents, especially right now with the pressure of coming out of a pandemic, coming into economic uncertainty, the last thing I personally have resources for is to get into another conversation with my kids about how to do it differently.


But the value is if I take that time and that pause, I'm actually creating a system that then we can work forward in instead of cycling back to the, do what I said because I said to do it. Why didn't you do what I said because I said to do it? And recognizing that even young children who think differently can bring something to the table. It's kind of this getting out of this thought process that if I didn't come up with the idea, it's not a good idea. Our kids are amazing and they have great insight and input to put into things, but so many times we just don't ask.

Sam Young (16:39):

Yeah. It's so important. Sir Ken Robinson and one of my colleagues, Dr. Sindi, both constantly remind me of the importance of curiosity. There's that famous Einstein quote, which I always mess up, but it's something to the effect of curiosity is more important than intelligence or imagination is more important than intelligence. I think that's it. And it's so true. And yet what we do is we're converging to the mean, we're squeezing our students. I would say if a student's thinking differently and questioning things, then we should encourage that. Because again, if we go back to, at least what I accept as valuable contributions to science and society, it's often the kinds of things that are different thinkers.


We celebrate the Elon Musks and the Jobs, but then in school, we're like, okay, bubble these sheets and do these things. And again, even if it's homeschool, we sometimes aren't doing those things even though we think that we're a step away and that we're more progressive and that we're outside the system. It's still very important, agency, involvement, curiosity, flexibility, and being able to let go how things come to pass and just pursue interest because that's where your child is going to shine. It's in the niche interest, it's in those long hauls.

Janna Koch (18:58):

So as a parent who maybe this is the first time that I'm really even hearing these terms and these concepts, help me understand what it might look like for my student who I just see as maybe struggling with academics or attention deficit disorder or something, but I'm labeling it through my lens. Give me a different lens that I can look at this through, like some of the things that I might be seeing that I'm thinking it's negative, but how is it really positive?

Sam Young (19:32):

And this is great, Janna. There's a lot of phrases out there, smart but lazy, bright but scattered. If you're talking about someone like that, odds are, I'm not a clinician, but odds are you're talking about someone who may in fact be twice-exceptional. Now, there's three jars that we need to understand to really start to pay careful attention and maybe try to assess things around us. So the three jars are called masking, and there's three kinds of masking. So one kind of masking is when you have a student who's maybe profoundly gifted, really bright and shining, often it's going to show up most in academic settings. That's where we see it because that's where we're looking, is the key here, and they're going to sometimes mask their learning difference or disability. They're performing so well, we may not notice that they struggle because they're so verbal. This is like the classic, right? The student, yeah, so verbal, so highly articulate that I never even noticed they couldn't write or they struggled to write, right? Okay. So there's one, where the gift masks the difference or disability.


Go to the other end, you have a student who's highly capable, but their learning difference is so loud that it masks, casts a shadow on, as we were talking about before, casting shadows, casts a shadow on their gift. It may not show. Again, a Simone Biles in the classroom, I wasn't there, not with her, but would not probably be a rockstar like Simone Biles on a balance beam. So in the wrong setting or in a particular way, we can sometimes not see the gift.


And then you have students who are dually masked, which is the most difficult. Where, jar three, you have someone with loud both, but they actually have either burnt the child out, made so much noise that it's hard to hear either, and separate the two, and so forth. So first I say look at those three spaces and try to understand those as sort of a framework for where and how and when is your student thriving and where and how and when are they struggling, and try to shift the focus into an environment. But if this is a new concept for you as you are asking, an environment, a setting, a situation where they're turned on, they're excited, they're learning content that they're interested in, and then assess the way that they ... Because what do we typically want in education, we want them to intake, process, and then output. How are they going to intake it, what are they going to do while it's in there, and then how are they going to show some level of mastering? How can they create something meaningful?


And I think if we break that step down and we think, okay, my student does really well with documentaries, so let's just let go of reading for a bit. Let's just have them watch a bunch of documentaries and maybe we shift the focus onto understanding this topic and also we can maybe pepper in looking for bias. That could be fun. Okay, now that we've got these loaded documentaries. Who funded them? Where did they come from? We're looking at stuff they're interested in. Okay, cool. Now, maybe they want to make one. So now they're going to make a documentary.


And so we're exploring their interests, we're developing their strengths. We might not be focusing on the writing if that's one of the deficits, but that's okay for now because we're doing something that they love and we're rebuilding that faith, that love of learning, and we're helping the whole child. We're helping the student feel good. So I don't know if I totally answered your question, but I think it's important to parse out when and where the student is successful, what it is they're interested in, and just kind of shift more toward the space where they're successful and let go of bringing up the bottom and doing some of the things that we're often trained to focus in on.

Janna Koch (23:17):

I think a tendency in homeschool, because the parent is 100% responsible for what their child learns, and then as a parent what they become. Although the older I get and now I have teenagers, I'm really letting that definition go entirely. I remember my children were little and I allowed them to dress themselves, it didn't bother me, whatever. And my husband would say, "You're letting her go out like that?" and I was like, "She's her own person, she gets to be me." And he goes, "She represents you." And I said, "No, no, no, no. She represents herself." I had to take that into the teenage years and let go of some of that.


I think sometimes as homeschool parents, we put so much pressure on ourselves. There is no admin that's over us checking in on us. There is, depending on your state and your rules, there's not a lot of oversight necessarily or even check-in with a district. So we have all this pressure to produce an intelligent child from what we have chose to put into them, and I think we still use the measuring stick of traditional academics. And that, in my home, has done a disservice in some ways because instead of ... I remember my daughter trying to do math, it was taking her an hour, she was crying and I was like, just do the math. What's the big deal? I'm the mom, I'm responsible to make sure you know how to do math. You have to get this math done. And finally, I had to take a step back and go, you know what, let's just not do the math right now. Let's find other ways to do math without making you think you're doing math, right? Because we all do math all day long whether we realize it or not.


So as homeschool parents, I feel like we put this undue pressure on ourselves. Instead of enjoying our children, looking at their strengths, letting them be focused on their interests, we feel like we have to make sure we check the boxes, we have to get this done. It has to look like when I went to school and this was my grade and then this is a college I went to. So I love that you're giving us permission to just stop and really assess our child versus assess their performance according to this chart that nobody gave us and we don't even have to follow, but we keep doing it. We keep repeating this cycle and it's a disservice to our children and then personally a disservice to the relationship we have with our children when we're forcing them to be part of a cog in the wheel that we've created, when really they're like, hey, I have this whole other part of me that if you just let me be, it's going to be great.


But that's a trust thing too. Because I hear you saying let it be student-led, as a homeschool parent, all my one daughter would do would be to watch nail videos on Pinterest, how to do nails, how to design nails. While that may be your future, I need to make sure that you can do some other things as well. So I finally went on Amazon and ordered her one of those fake hands with nails on them, and I said, "You can watch the videos but I want to see you producing something from them." Because then at least I know.

Sam Young (26:33):

That's the three bits, right? It's not enough and it can be really satisfying and give us false feelings of productivity. That's why I like audiobooks and self-help and all that stuff. It's like I'm growing because I'm reading. Okay, the reading is good and it's stimulating you but you have to process and then do something with it. And that's why I say there's like those three directions: 

  1. How are you taking in information?
  2. How are you processing the information?
  3. What are you doing with the information? 

Because the worst thing that we can have is the best minds in the world who don't develop their talents and strengths and don't serve. If we have these incredible minds that have all these prophetic ideas and then we're not equipping them with the ability to then go develop and make change, be agents of change, transformation, you're right, then we're not taking it far enough.


And you said a keyword, which I love, Janna, which is assess. Going back to the math example, why are we teaching math? Is it that we think that there's a foundational level of math everyone should do? That's reasonable. Is it that we want them to be able to think logically and sequentially? Also very reasonable. I think if we drill down with why and again include our students, why math? We have calculators. Do we have to? I have an accountant, do I need to know this stuff? Yeah, because no one's going to care as much as you do. So it's important to have a basic understanding of these things. But if we drill down and have a conversation about why, we can break away from what you're talking about, which I think we call the Stockholm syndrome. It's again, Sir Ken Robinson, we all have an education and we all have an opinion, right?


And you're right, some people fight so long, so hard, and then they get the independence, they get the homeschool, they get the funds, they get all the things, and then they just kind of go back to what they were doing before. And something I wrote, I think two months into COVID I wrote this article, which kind of came to me in a dream and it was called The Netflixication of Education. And I basically said, cable's dead, right? Everything is transformed. We now get playlist-styled entertainment. It comes to us immediately. It's stimulating. It's so many things and it has forever transformed the way that we intake entertainment. But you wouldn't want to rush back to Blockbuster, right? So don't COVID be a moment where you have this awakening and then you just get lulled back to sleep. Times are changing. As you said, there was a massive disruption. People pulled their students home, they got valuable insight.


I'm taking on this and I'm running on a little tangent, I'm sorry. But it's so important that we wake up and we look around and we really assess our students and think about how they're thriving and where they're shining and all these things, and don't just say, okay, well that was good, time to go back now. It's important that we take these changes, and just like you're saying with students, like with your daughter, we have to make the realization, we have to process the information but then we have to do something with it. And that something could be homeschooling, it could be hybrid schooling, it could be anything else. But just doing something different where your student is in a space where they are thriving is so, so important.


Janna Koch (29:44):

So tell us a little bit about Young Scholars Academy, what do you offer your students?

Sam Young (29:49):

Yeah, so that's actually a great segue. So the idea was, I taught at the school called Bridges Academy for almost 10 years, and Bridges was the first school really, and I would say one of the most significant in terms of their serving twice-exceptional population. My mentor, Dr. Susan Baum is one of the big figures there who developed inventorying strengths, focusing on students developing their interests, and is an incredible school. And I realized, it's a shame that not everyone can access this. It's a brick-and-mortar school in Los Angeles. And I had this kind of epiphany where I thought I could create a virtual version of this and I could give students an hour a week of understanding, of not feeling marooned, of not being isolated, so I could give them connection to both like-minded students and like-minded mentors, which I always say are the salt and pepper of success. These are the basic ingredients.


So they can look over and say, these kids are like me, and they can look up and say, there's a successful adult who's just like me. I think that that's the basics of what you need. It's the salt and pepper. So what we do is we have different courses, like 15 to 20 courses per semester, and they're enrichment courses, no grading. It's simply learning for the sake of rebuilding that love, having a safe space, and doing all the unconventional stuff that a lot of programs aren't. So it could be taking a cryptocurrency course or a course on being a content creator, an influencer, executive function mastery, and building your own task management systems, and by the way, doing these things for very young ages.


So I've got a task management course for students from 7 to 10. Over six months, they're building these complex strength-based systems. Am I visual, am I spatial? I'm kind of an auditory, so I want to make a system that allows me to record voice notes, whatever it may be. And then we've got courses that are about the areas that they're interested in. Another one of our courses for young students, we had two eight-year-old girls build a website on climate change, and between research, putting together different pages where people could take action and get quick downloadable information, and it's real-world problem-solving.


And what we try to do is just focus on the depth and complexity and let go of how they get there. Get rid of all the production stuff. There's no books, there's no worksheets. It's collaborative, informative learning where students can just feel really good. So yeah, we have college-level courses. We do classic stuff like APs. Speech and debates are out most successful one, entrepreneurship, there's so many different courses. But the idea is just bringing students together and doing everything that I've said in the last however long we've been talking, entrenching them in their strengths, connecting them with community, and creating this brilliant environment.


I want to share a 30-second story with you. I know I'm long-winded, so sorry. I had a mom email me last week and they're transitioning into homeschooling, and her students at school had a really rough day at school and had kind of a meltdown, which lasted all weekend. Was sort of exposed to some content and a story they were reading, which was sort of traumatizing for him. She said we had the hardest day, but the best thing came out of it, which was that our son asked to transfer into a different section of the class because he said, my friends are in that class and it was the first time I've ever heard him say the friend word, and he asked if he could move from one section to another because his new friends from this climate course were jumping ship and going to a Lego engineering course and he'd rather be with them than be in a content area that he's passionate about.


And that was the first time in her life that she'd ever heard that, and it made me cry. And I just thought, this is what it's all about. We have a student who's never felt a sense of belonging before and is now kind of following the pack as kids instinctively just move to another group. And that's what Young Scholars Academy is. That's what we're doing.

Janna Koch (34:10):

Well, what an exciting opportunity for you as an educator to create space for, as you had said, maybe an underserved area of a population of students that because they're on the fringes, they don't get a whole lot of space to be themselves. But as a parent, it's exciting to hear that there are opportunities to get involved in what you're doing remotely. You had said it's virtual. You always planned for it to be virtual so that anybody can be a part of it. It's kind of funny now to say in 2022 that something's virtual because it's like, yeah, isn't everything now virtual? But it was virtual before. It will stay virtual, but it's an opportunity for people who are choosing to educate their children a different way, but get them connected with other students that have similar passions.


I know so many times we're on our Facebook group pages and we're like, "Whose kid likes to do this?" and crickets. You know what I mean? That your pool is a little bit smaller in some of these groups. So to know that maybe they can access a bigger pool and find students with similar interests for their children, as a mom, not only is that great to hear for academic reasons, but just the mom who wrote in, there's just something about when your children are connecting on a personal level with people when you haven't seen it before, it's life-changing, and Sam, it's life-giving.


So I appreciate that you have created an environment that students and parents can connect with that and just thrive. I mean, in a world where it feels like we're barely hanging on, it's nice to see that there are places where people are thriving and that we can be a part of that and encourage our students to be a part of that, so thank you so much for what you're doing. Before we go, do you have a hack, we call it a homeschool hack, but it can be a life hack or an educational hack that you can share with our listeners?

Sam Young (36:02):

I do. If it's okay, I'll share a resource with you where people can go and input their email and they'll get this resource and then you also get follow-up videos. So I've kind of created this email sequence that you get and it's that task manager, it's my most popular resource. I spent years creating it. It doesn't look like it at first appearance. You're like, this is just a Google document, but it's this strength-based task management system. So you start, there's a little video that you watch, and the hack, and whether or not you get it, I can tell you the hack, the hack is that you break down task management. I break down task management into three domains because a lot of parents say like, okay, my student's great, but he's not doing this stuff or he's not turning his work in or he's forgetting things or she's never quite crossing the line, and so what we've done is we've broken down task management into three tiers.


One, we have to have a system to capture ideas and tasks, right? In the middle of the night, you have a brilliant thought, oh my god, cool, how do you record it? Two, how are you then prioritizing, right? Not everything is the same. Life is not Whac-A-Mole. If you just respond to things and you are not writing the narrative, you are not in control and you're not moving towards a goal, you are just responding, right, so not even reacting. So we want to capture tasks, number one, or ideas. Number two, we want to help our students start to prioritize what matters most, can we assign weight? And then number three, create an actionable to-do list.


And so what this resource does, whether or not you create the resource or not, is it helps students to think about task management in those three domains. Okay, I'm really good at writing things down, but then I get paralyzed because I don't know what to do first. Oh, we have a priority issue. So how are you doing best? Is it because it's all digital and you're the kind of person that needs a Kanban system where you can move sticky notes around and that is really gratifying for you? So just getting students to reflect.


In there, there's a link to a document that exposes them to 25 of the most important systems that a lot of CEOs and executives use to be successful. And again, I always try to think, let's ground this in the real world, but not like, hey, use your three-ring agenda book. I don't know that that's solving everyone's problems. And then how can we test it, collect data on it, and then keep tweaking it? And if you make that just kind of a lifelong journey, mine's changing all the time and I love that. I really nerd out over it. Should I start with the most important thing of my day or should I start with something small and get a little win? I don't know. And just being able to kind of gamify and have fun with it, I think is the best hack. And then if you can do that, you start to unlock a lot of other doors. Then all of a sudden the production, the different struggles, the different challenges become a little bit easier because there's a system in place or a developing system.

Janna Koch (38:42):

I have to say, I watched the first video and I downloaded the PDF, and I was like, yes, this is great, and now I need to have my kids sit down and watch it with me because at 44 I'm getting a lot better at that, but I want my kids to have those tools now so that they aren't at 44 going, "Yep, it took me a long time to figure out how to do that." They can do it now at 13, 14, 15, and then have success earlier on in life. Isn't that always our goal?

Sam Young (39:11):


Janna Koch (39:11):

And success is different for everybody, which I also appreciate in our world. But I just have to say, I really enjoyed it and I was excited to receive that. So we will definitely be putting that in our show notes so that our listeners can get ahold of that.


Sam, thank you so much for being here today. We appreciate what you have brought to the table for our listeners. Me, personally, just getting some more insight into this whole other fringe of students and possibly being able to help those who, maybe parents who just didn't understand, and now they have a little bit more understanding in how they can be helpful with their students, so thank you so much.

Sam Young (39:49):

Thank you, Janna. You're so good at what you do. I've been on a lot of podcasts and this was an incredible episode, so thank you so much.

Janna Koch (39:54):

Thank you. Thank you, guys, for being here. Until next time, bye-bye.