Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host, Janna Koch, and BookShark's community manager. My guest today is Ethan Demme from Demme Learning. If you tuned in thinking that you were going to hear about Demme's philosophy or their amazing products, you're in for surprise. We are actually going to be talking with Ethan about how his homeschool journey took him into his business adventures and how his adventures have been shaped by his involvement in endurance sports and never backing down from a challenge. Ethan, thank you so much for being here.
Thanks for having me.
Your name is a very common name in the homeschooling realm, Demme Learning, we see that's your last name. Why don't you go ahead and tell us how you are involved in the company?
My current title is I'm the CEO of Demme Learning. If you've ever used it, the Math-U-See products are the ones people probably most easily recognize. If you've watched any of those videos, there's a bald guy in those videos and that bald guy is my dad. I've been in the homeschool world since I was born, and then, I was homeschooled all the way through high school, went to college, and then joined the family business as the marketing guy back in the old days. I've grown up in the homeschool world, and then I joined the family business, and then slowly grew it and took over as the CEO. We've added a few more products since then, but we're still continuing to help build lifelong learners and support families in their journey.
I do wonder if those who are listening who had grown up or have used the videos for Math-U-See, if they feel like your dad is a little bit like their dad too.
It's funny. It's the only world where you go to a homeschool conference and you see a line of kids bringing their math books to have their math teacher sign their math books. You tell that to someone outside of the homeschool world and they just go, "Who would ever want to have their math teacher sign their book?" My dad's, in the homeschool world, I always say he's a little bit of a rockstar and makes the crowds go wild when he's on stage.
Now, growing up, were you happy to share your dad with the rest of us in the homeschool world?
I was. I also got to go on the road with him a lot more. There are four boys in our family, I'm the second oldest, and I was the one that was, by nature, a little more adventurous, so I like to go on trips. If my dad was going even to the hardware store, he would just say, "I'm going, who wants to come?", and I would just, "I don't even know where you're going, I'm ready to go." I always like to get out and travel. I got to hit the road with him a lot more as a younger kid, and then I still do. In the last couple of years, I haven't traveled as much now that I have kids, but we've been on a lot of flights and a lot of hotels together.
Well, with all of that experience, I would love for you to share a homeschool hack with our listeners.
Probably, the biggest homeschool hack, and this is one I learned from my parents and I would say we still do, and I would say there are two ways to do it. One is just on the education side. When you're looking at what's the best thing for your kids to take it one semester, one year at a time. Don't try to plan out the next 15 years. The hack would be to start where you are and plan the next step and do that and then figure it out the next time. What worked one year may not work next year. Even though I was homeschooled every year, my parents every year made the decision whether we were going to do it again or not.
I love that your parents actually waited a full year. There are some times when I am in the day-to-day with my children questioning my life choices of choosing to homeschool.
We had threats of, "If you keep this up, we're putting you in school," which was a pretty regular occurrence.
Well, that's comforting, because I have been known to say, "Get in the car. I'm driving you down to the school right now." Glad to know I'm not the only one.
Some kids may look and say, "Finally!", and other kids may not like that.
Yeah, and when you have twins, you had one who said yes and one who started crying, so I could never win. I gave up trying to win.
Yeah, you'll always, especially with twins, I've got a set of twins and you'll always lose.
Yeah. Modeling to your kids that you don't know something is very healthy and good. When you mess up you go, "Oh, I didn't know that. I should learn better," and then you can apologize and you can learn a new thing together. That modeling is one of those key pieces for us. One of the things that we've worked with kids, so we've had the current set that we adopted, but we've had other longer-term placements and short-term placements, siblings and just friends' kids because we're the adventure house. One of the things that we do pretty well, and it's weird if you watch us, is teaching kids how to play who don't naturally know how to play. If you have a sensory-rich environment with a lot of attachment and a lot of shared experiences, a lot of kids will naturally, they'll naturally learn how to play, but if you don't have those, you have to have someone teach you.
The group, Home Parents, was supervising us and we were running around a gym playing puppies, learning to sit and roll over and then we'd be a puppy, and then the kid would be the adult, and then we'd be sitting down and barking and then we built a little dog house out of some foam blocks and we played in that. We did that for a couple of hours and the kids still talk about that, so that was our first shared memory. But we also do the same thing when we go hiking in the woods. Sometimes we're sword-fighting and sometimes we're playing puppies, and other hikers will come along the trail and see two adults and four kids running around off the trail pretending to be chased by a dragon or play puppies.
It's weird to see a grown man and a grown woman on their hands and knees walking around like a dog. But if that's what it takes to model what that play is, and now we don't do that as much, we still do it sometimes, because it is fun once you learn to do it, but now, the kids go off on their own and our rule is, as long as you can see us, you're good. Now, they go way off-leash and they're playing in the woods. Teaching kids to play, practicing being creative, modeling, using your imagination, using funny voices, as the parent, you have to do all of those things, so that's something my wife and I naturally do, but we took it to the next level of intentionality and we have to get down, teaching kids how to play with a car.