Jayme Yazzuni is a stay-at-home mom to a 3-year-old and creator of TeachTalkInspire, an online platform in which she shares hands-on activities for young children to learn and play at home. She has a Masters in Elementary Education and taught first and second grade for 7.5 years where she was awarded Teacher of the Year!
1) As a former teacher, what inspired you to create a business around early education?
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I absolutely loved my time in the classroom and my favorite aspect of being a teacher was the relationships I created with my students and their families. So, when I decided to stay home with my daughter after a cross-country move, I knew that I wanted to hold onto that aspect of teaching and form relationships with other caregivers while I stayed home. Teach Talk Inspire has allowed me to continue my passion for education with my own daughter as well as reach more children and families than I would have inside the walls of my classroom.
2) How do the teaching methods that you promote on your platform differ from the methods you used while teaching in a traditional school?
I would say that my teaching methods are not all too different from when I was a teacher in a traditional school. Part of being an effective teacher, whether that’s to other students or your own children, is recognizing their interests and skill levels and being able to create learning opportunities based on their interests. That is why I focus on hands-on activities because children need to learn by engaging all of their senses.
3) A lot of parents were blindsided by the sudden switch to homeschooling. Did you feel better prepared as a former educator or was there still some resistance?
Even though I am a former teacher, teaching my own children is a completely different story. I think it’s important for all parents, whether they have an education background or not, to give themselves grace and recognize that there is a learning curve for all of us. So of course, there was resistance for this upcoming year as we are going to homeschool my daughter for preschool primarily because I don’t want her to miss out on the social and emotional benefits she would have had in a traditional school. So, I am going to make it my mission to get creative to provide those opportunities to her while we homeschool during this time.
4) What options do you recommend outside of traditional school?
There are so many wonderful resources at parents fingertips right now but sometimes all of those options can be very overwhelming. I urge parents to do their own research and determine what activities or programs best fit their family’s needs. That being said, there are many homeschool curriculums, virtual schools, co-ops, parent-led programs, online enrichment programs, apps, and tutors that you can use to supplement a traditional school education.
5) Virtual school may be the most popular option. Are there any “signs” or “red flags” to determine if virtual program is good?
This is such a difficult decision and truly must be based on an individual family’s needs. The first thing I would look for is the amount of time that a child would be required to sit in front of a screen. Children’s attention spans vary but it is not recommended for a young child to sit in front of a screen for long periods of time. I would see if a program could be completed in 30 minutes or less or broken up throughout the day. I would not recommend a program where a child under the age of 6 would have to sit for extended periods of time in front of the screen with no breaks.
I would also recommend parents to seek out the standards being used to create the programs as well as the qualifications of the creators. If it is a virtual program that has an adult on the screen I would want them to have education credentials and a background working with early childhood. I would also want a smaller class size just like I would in a traditional school. I would hope that the educator would not be overwhelmed with a large class size so that they weren’t able to help a young child if they needed it.
6) How can we shift our perspective to make alternative schooling less intimidating?
I have always said that parents are their child’s first teachers. One thing I would want to assure parents is that homeschool/virtual school shouldn’t look like a traditional school day. Lessons, activities, and projects can be spaced out throughout the day and you do not need to have your child sit at a table for 5 hours to have a successful homeschool day. Lessons and activities can be done during snack, or lunch, or even on the weekends when it’s not in a traditional school setting. You can find a schedule and predictable routine that best fits your family’s needs.
7) Can you share with us what you implement in your own day-to-day that helps balance your WFH life, your child’s education, and your own wellbeing?
I would have to say that it has taken a lot of trial and error to feel like I can balance all of these things. Some days I am better at balancing them than others. In terms of getting a lot of my creative projects done, I choose to wake up at least 2 hours earlier than the rest of my family so that I can get a bulk of my uninterrupted work time in for the day. That did not come naturally to me but it has taken so much stress off of the day so that I can focus on my daughter and the activities we do together.
I try to do some administrative tasks during her naps, like checking emails or engaging on my social media platforms. I also make sure I fill her emotional tank by spending 10, undistracted, minutes at a time playing or doing an activity with her before I go off to complete another task. That uninterrupted time is so important!
In terms of self-care, this is something my husband and I had to work on. My husband and I switch on and off bedtimes throughout the week so while one is doing bedtime, the other can go for a walk or run or whatever they want to do for themselves. This has really helped carve out some me during the week.
8) What’s been the hardest for you in this switch to SAH?
I think the most difficult thing for me when I switched to staying at home was how much I missed the camaraderie and collaboration with my coworkers. I lost a significant part of my social interactions because I wasn’t around other adults throughout the day.
9) Do you ever worry about academic regression? If not, how do you prevent it?
I think every teacher has referred to the summer slide multiple times in their career and the idea that over the summer, students regress because they aren’t working to retain the skills they have learned during the school year. I think providing children with playful opportunities to learn and explore outside and at home will help them so much more than we realize.
10) How do you feel about the future of early education? Do you feel like more parents will continue to stick to alternatives classrooms?
I think that’s really hard to answer at this time and will be a personal decision for each family as they move forward. For my family personally, as I homeschool my daughter for preschool this year, we will revisit the idea of traditional school after this year is finished and we have a better idea of what things will look like.
I do think, however, that after all of this parents should feel empowered and realize that they have many wonderful ways to educate their children that may be different than what they originally thought. While school may look different this year, I don’t think that the importance of play, hands-on experiences, and exploration will be lost from early education.
11) Do you have any words of encouragement for a parent who is on the hunt for an option that works for them?
Try and block out the noise and focus on what is the best decision for you and your family. No matter what decision is made, know that it has all been hard and making a decision in itself should be celebrated.