Banish Winter Lag


Feeling unmotivated? Join BookShark's Community Manager, Janna Koch and Aimee Eucce, owner of Play 'n Talk, in a lively discussion on how to banish the doldrums of winter. From metal detecting along a streambed to using army figures for math, store up the great ideas for you and your student and get tips on how to give yourself grace and to learn to adapt as life moves along. Aimee Eucce is a 2nd generation homeschooler, currently homeschooling her two children and owner of Play 'n Talk. Find out more about Play 'n Talk here.

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Podcast Transcript

Janna (host): [00:00:30]
Welcome. My name is Janna. I am your community manager, and today I am joined by Aimee Eucce. She is from Play 'n Talk. We are going to be just discussing this idea of winter lag. I know that I've talked to some of you and you have asked for some ideas on how to get back into the swing of things of homeschooling after you've had a holiday break. So we're going to kind of touch on all those things. But before we do, I'm going to let Aimee introduce herself and give you a little bit of background because like myself, she is a second-generation homeschooler, and so we have that connection that we really enjoy. Aimee, thank you so much for being here.

Aimee: [00:01:00]
Hi. Thank you so much, Janna, for having me on. I'm so excited to be here today, especially the topic because getting back into it after the new year, it's sometimes a tough thing for every homeschooling mom. But yes, I'm a second-generation homeschooler. I have a five and a seven-year-old that I'm currently homeschooling. I was one of four kids that were homeschooled, but I was homeschooled in the eighties when the truant officer was a real thing back then. So I am the owner of Play 'n Talk phonics company. We are a phonics and spelling company. We teach kids to read and we do it through play-based learning. It is a 60-plus-year-old company. I am not 60-plus years old, but I am the current owner and I am bringing it back to today's generation and I am loving it. I learned to read with it when I was just five years old.

Janna (host):[00:02:00]
So this idea of Play 'n Talk, this concept of playing while you are learning is so perfect because one of the things I really encourage our customers to do is to incorporate play, especially when you're struggling to get back into a routine after the holidays. I know I have an issue with waking up on time during the winter.

I shared with our listeners earlier in the year that I had gotten a sunrise alarm clock that will slowly brighten up and light up your room to help wake up. I have to tell you this morning, it didn't work. Nothing was going to work. But to be fair a snowstorm came in last night in Colorado, so there was no extra light. I felt like my alarm was trying to get me up at midnight. So the struggle to not only get back into the routine of homeschooling, but the struggle is real even to get back into a routine personally. I know that as the moms or the parent, we steer the ship of our home. So when we are struggling, it makes the struggle even more so when we are trying to steer that ship.

Janna (host): [00:03:00]
You are in Southern Cal. So do you experience that winter kind of un-motivation as much as maybe some of us who are a little bit further into the mountains or to the east of you?

I'd say probably not as much, but we do have our rainy days and it has been raining pretty much nonstop for the last two weeks, which is really uncharacteristic for Southern California. So I've had to get really innovative. Instead of running errands during like sunny times, I've chosen to run my errands during rainy times because then we're not all cooped up together inside the house all day long. So you just roll with it. I think as homeschooling parents, just being adaptable is the biggest thing because someone's going to get sick, someone's going to have an accident, or something else is going to happen that's beyond our control. The more we can adapt and flow, the better life is. We won't get hard on ourselves and be upset because I just yelled at my child because I'm hungry, because I've been on no sugar for seven days type of thing.

Janna (host): [00:04:30]
Yeah, yeah, I gave up that resolution years ago. But I do think it is a common denominator because we are at home and typically in the winter unless you're in the southern hemisphere, you are in a different season of either cold or rain. So instead of being hard on ourselves, I've always said as homeschool parents, we need to make sure we extend grace to ourselves. I would say January, and  February is a double measure of grace. If I can't get out of bed at six, then I need to rearrange my schedule so that seven works for us instead of getting upset and frustrated and then the more frustrated and upset I get at myself, it spills out into my family, into our homeschool, and nobody has fun when that's happening.

Aimee: [00:05:00]
Along those lines, when mentioned adaptability, yesterday, it wasn't flowing well. It was raining and the kids were antsy. I was antsy. So what we did is I skipped math and instead we played Farmopoly, which is a version of Monopoly, but guess what? He was counting, he was counting his money, he was buying property, he was doing all the things. That's just the beauty of being a homeschooler you can do that if you decide, you know what, we just need to take a break on this and we're going to do this instead today.

Janna (host): [00:05:30]
Yeah, sometimes I do feel like I need permission, Aimee, from you or someone else who says it's okay. It's okay if nobody's feeling it and you know you need to get it done. Monopoly is a great way to do the math. There are so many ways, but it's just feeling okay with doing it differently.


Yeah. Well, I think the biggest thing is if just everyone thinks about it is not a race. It's not a sprint, but homeschooling is a marathon. So it's the consistency over time.

Janna (host): [00:06:00] [00:06:30]
I even encouraged parents last week like, "Hey, watch a documentary." Depending on where in history you're talking about, where in the world, the region that you're in, just find something so that you feel like you're doing something and some are better than none, and that’s enough. But I feel like so many times we look at those guides and we're like, but I didn't do what it told me to do. Then because we kind of come from a society that's all or nothing, we are just like, we want to just not do any of it. So, I'm trying to encourage myself just a little bit. One subject a day, yes, that's going to throw off your calendar, like your plan, but hopefully, we wrote our plan in pencil and it'll work out okay. Then when the spring comes and you have more energy and the kids have more energy, you can rebound your efforts and there will be days that you can double up on things if you feel the need to get through it all.

Aimee: [00:07:30]
 A hundred percent. I know that even I've spoken to a lot of moms where they're pregnant and they're having a baby and it doesn't all go okay in terms of they've got morning sickness and they're trying to homeschool their kids. You know what? We go through seasons and that, as you said earlier, that's the thing, grace. Because if you're pregnant, you're nauseous or you're just having one of those days, you just rearrange things and you mentioned a documentary. I've got two shows that I love. I don't know if you've ever watched with your kiddos, but Dirty Jobs is a great educational show and then there's, oh, it flew out of my brain. What was it? There was one more show. Oh, How it's Made is amazing. It shows how rubber is made or how cows are milked and it's actually just really entertaining and educational, so I'm just throwing that out there. Yeah.

Janna (host): [00:08:00]
Well, another one that my family really likes is the Amazing Race. Not only do you get to see all around the world, but you get to experience some of their culture and the different activities that they have them do during the race. So someone might be like, "Well, that's not school." Well, why not? I learned things that I never would have, no book that I would've picked up would've given me that information. So to get creative and make it work for you, there's nothing wrong with doing these types of out-of-the-box things. I remember playing, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? I learned so much geography from that.

That one, there's one other one too. What about Shark Tank? We have kiddos that want to run Lemonade stands and start their own business. That's a great one for kids too.

Janna (host): [00:09:00]
Yeah, it really is just giving yourself, again, permission to do things non-traditionally and that it really is part of the beauty of homeschooling is that we don't have to follow traditional ideas and schedules. So if you're going to do it, let's just get crazy and do it. Let's do these things that you wouldn't normally consider educational. But because we are in charge, this is the other thing I have to remind myself of constantly. I'm an adult, I'm in charge. I can do these things. I don't need permission from anyone else. Don't get me wrong. Permission is nice, but I don't need permission from anyone else. But if you're the type of person that feels like they need permission, I'm your girl. I will give you permission. You have permission.

We've given it. Done.

Janna (host): [00:09:30]
Well, Amy, what are some of the ways that you incorporate gaming into your education, whether it be in January or in May?

Aimee: [00:10:00]
Well, gaming, so gamifying things is, I think, the key to everything because there's actually been studies done that show that kids learn best from play-based learning. So, you have two choices, either A, you only buy a curriculum that is gamified, that has games in it, or B, you already have a curriculum and now you need to adjust it. So if you're in the A category, great. This spring when you purchase all your curriculum, make sure there's learning in there. If you are not and you already have your curriculum, you can change it. So I have a lot of ideas. Are you ready for this?

Janna (host):
I'm ready.

 Aimee: [00:10:30] Okay. The first idea is you can take facts and figures that you're learning and instead of just memorizing those, putting those on a flashcard, whatnot, you can put them up on the wall and you can shoot Nerf guns at them. You can create a matching game with them where the kids have to, put them up on a big poster board and draw lines matching them. So all different types of things. You can use Play-Doh for shaping letters. You can use Play-Doh for shaping the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can actually study about maybe a place or a location in your history of geography and maybe make a map of it out of Play-Doh or a piece of food item out of Play-Doh. If you can also do crazy things like you decide you're learning about Marie Antoinette and you're going to dress up and do a play about it, or you're going to find a recipe from that era and make mutton or something from that era.

 Just finding ways to actually bring whatever it is that they're learning and make it 3D. I think that's the best way. It's all about gaming, but it's about bringing it to life so that they can see it, they can smell it, can taste it, they're having fun and they're doing something challenging, and it changes the game.

Janna (host): [00:12:00]
 Yeah, I love the idea of acting things out because I have, I've honestly confessed, I don't love to read aloud, but because we're a literature-based curriculum, I love to read. I just don't particularly care to read out loud, but if you're comfortable enough to either have your child read and you act out what the character is doing or vice versa, you read and have your kids that act it out, is it going to be perfect? Is it going to be Broadway-worthy? No. But are they going to remember those things because it was different? You were having fun. I mean, as you said, studies show when kids are having fun, they're going to be remembering, they're going to be learning. Because when you can connect emotionally with an idea, that's when it really sticks.

Banish Winter LagBanish Winter Lag

Aimee: [00:12:30]
A hundred percent. There's, there's no trading, just even the memories. So, when you're making it play-based, just think about that aspect of it. Yes, they're learning something, but they're also creating lasting memories with their siblings and with you, and you'll never want to trade those in a million years. You're creating a lifelong thirst for learning, number one, but you're creating lifelong memories. I'm sure you do too. But I have so many fond memories from homeschooling with my mom and my siblings, my sister, and my brothers growing up. I remember, not the facts and the figures, but I remember experiences.

Janna (host):[00:13:30]
 I had said to my daughter, who will be reading To Kill a Mockingbird coming up in the next couple of weeks. I said, well, Denver's Performing Arts is actually running that soon. Would you like to go see it instead of actually reading it? Now, if that's not available to you that the movie is just as good, it is black and white. So depending on your child, they may be like, "What is this film?" But there are so many ways that we can switch out the have-to with the want-to.

My daughter wasn’t sure. She's like, "I don't know if I want to do that." I was like, "Well, you get to think about it." At a certain age, I've always tried, no matter how old my kids were to get their input, to see what they wanted to do. I was always the final decision. When they're so many holes in their brain that nothing is really going to stick anyways, I just flat out make that decision. But letting my children see that we can think outside the box, and you may be surprised. They may come to you and say, "Hey, I heard about this. Can we do this in place of that?" Then you're going to start seeing that they're starting to think creatively about their education. The more you're vested in what you're learning, the more it's going to impact you. I mean, that's just truth.

Aimee:[00:14:30]  I think you just hit on something really important there, and I've always tried to do this within homeschooling as well. Making sure that they're vested in it. Well, how do we make sure that they're vested in it? Well, if you have a kiddo that loves firetrucks if you have a kiddo that loves military if you have a kiddo that loves treasure hunting if you have a kiddo that loves whatever, Legos or Star Wars. If you can actually incorporate those things into learning, it makes it so much better. So an example, my kiddo is very much into treasure hunting. He asked for a metal detector for Christmas last year. So in studying different things, we'll actually go out and we'll go out into nature and we'll go on a hike, we'll go learn about what it is that we're learning about, and we'll actually bring the metal detector with us and we'll go to an empty creek bed and we'll go like, look for gold.

Now, do we ever find anything? No, but it's all in the excitement of the experience. We're out there, we're at nature, we're looking at the rocks that Indians used to use to grind up corn, and we're out there learning. So if you can find things like that your kiddos are really into, then they'll remember it. You might wonder, Star Wars. So if you're doing math, do it with Star Wars Legos, right? Or if you're doing some other activity, just bring the things that they love into whatever it is.

Janna (host): [00:16:00]   I think that is something that a lot of parents, myself included, get caught up in the curriculum and forget to include our children. I know this sounds silly, but my family can attest. I actually do this in almost every area of my life. I get caught up in the activity that I forget to ask my kids if it's even something they had wanted to do. Then I get that crazy determination. So we had gone geocaching one summer when we were camping and we were two hours in and we were not finding anything. But I get determined and I kind of lost my kids along the way. That's something I have to keep in check on myself that I need to stop and assess. Are they connecting or am I just having fun or am I just being stubborn? Aimee, I can get so stubborn and it flows into the curriculum and the teaching, and then I lose not only the fun, but I lose my child in the midst of it because I'm like, "We're going to do this," and maybe I'm the only one. Maybe I'm the only one.

No, no, you are not. Trust me. I think there's one of those activities we did the other day on a field trip, and I was like, "No, no, but we're supposed to do this." My kids were going in a totally different direction, and it was okay that they were going in a different direction. They were still going to get the same value out of the trip, but I was trying to stick to my little clipboard. So yes, as moms and dads, I think that it's really important for us to just sometimes flow with where our kids are and their interests in terms of whatever it is that we're teaching them, and be back to the word adaptable.

Janna (host):
 I like the word flow because we definitely, if we are in tune with our children as opposed to being so in tune with our agenda that we can see, okay, wait, it says that we're supposed to keep reading, but we can't keep reading because we've lost them, right?

They're rolling on the floor. Yes.

Janna (host):[00:18:00]
Right. But it says, we have five more minutes or five more pages. It's like, you know what? Shut the book. It's okay. Get on the floor and roll around with their means, I feel like as a parent, I've got to do a better job coming to where they're at as opposed to asking them to come where I expect them to be.

Aimee: [00:18:30]
A hundred percent. Every single time. I agree a hundred percent. Yeah. I think you're right. You just don't stick to the schedule. You have your outline, but then you just have to flow. So if there are tears, then don't be afraid to end that day and start again. Then maybe before you start next time, whatever it is. Say you're doing history before you start wherever you left off with tears, maybe actually find a way to do a craft or activity related to that to kind of soften the blow a little bit. Help them to forget what happened last time and just gamify it as much as possible in the very beginning so that they start to have fun.

Then it's kind of like you give them a little bit of fun and then give them the meat and then give them a little dessert and a lot of my homeschooling and try to do that way. I don't actually teach all the hard subjects all at once, or I will always give kind of a fun, nice, easy one than a meaty hard subject. Then I'll do another fun. Because as kids, they need mind breaks. Everyone needs mind breaks. What do you do when you need a mental break? So we have to make sure that when we're teaching our kids, we layer it kind of like seven-course meal.

Janna (host): [00:20:00]
 Yes. Well, yeah, like you said, to be in it for the long haul. If we want sustainability in this homeschool journey, we need to start thinking about more than just the books and the curriculum, but how our children are receiving it and how we're feeling when we're giving it, and the things that we can do to change for the better, for the enjoyment of everyone. So in closing, Aimee, do you just have some encouragement for parents? Maybe someone like myself who struggled to even get up this morning, let alone hit the books with homeschool.

Don't be afraid to, as you said earlier, do it differently. There's no right way to teach a child because every child is different. Every single child has a different destiny that they're walking into. Some are kinesthetic learners, some are audio learners, and some are visual learners. So don't be afraid to customize it for your kiddo or multiple kiddos, your kiddo's journey. You know how they learn best, so don't be afraid to swim upstream when everyone else might be swimming downstream.

Janna (host):
That is good. That is a good encouragement. I know I needed to hear it, and hopefully, there were some other parents this morning. They will feel encouraged as well. If someone is interested in Play 'n Talk Aimee, how can they find you?

Aimee: [00:21:00]
They can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and online at If anyone has questions and they'd like to email me about any of the topics we talked about today, just feel free to go to and I will answer your emails.

Janna (host):
Aimee, thank you so much for helping banish our winter lag this morning. I'm trying not to be jealous that you are in sunny/rainy California and I am in snowy/cold Colorado, but I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing your heart with our listeners, and we hope to see you soon.

 Thank you so much. Have a great one, everyone.

Janna (host):
Bye, everybody.



BookShark Reading with History: Literature-based learning that engagesBookShark Reading with History: Literature-based learning that engages