Mar 18, 2020
There are so many reasons parents consider alternative programs for their children. I'm not talking about special education schools today, I'm talking about alternative programs that have the freedom and flexibility to offer out of the box schooling. While not specifically designed for students with disabilities, sometimes the nature of such programs (small classes, individual attention, smaller building, project based learning, nurturing environments, etc) allow them to meet the needs of the individual child as well as those of the larger group.
Today we are meeting with Lockey Coughlin, founder and director of Education Without Walls, an alternative program in New Milford, CT. Lockey is a homeschooling parent whose journey with her 3 children through their schooling (all are off in college now!) led to the creation of an alternative program for middle and high school students located in the historic down town of New Milford, CT. Lockey talks to us about how Education Without Walls came to be, what it has turned into, and the students who go there - because it is always all about the students.
Education Without Walls (EWoW) focuses on interest-based classes whenever possible and, despite a well-established program, Lockey is always open to and excited about new ideas and interests from the children. EWoW has a new building this year, right off the green in New Milford just steps from the historic down town. The location is perfect because EWoW incorporates the downtown into their campus utilizing many of the resources found just within a stones throw. Lockey ensures all children at EWoW feel heard, safe, and part of a community. In addition to critical academics and an outdoor program, students learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and social skills that they will need to prepare them for college and life.
Episode Link: https://ntkwdj.libsyn.com/what-is-the-alternative
TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)
kids, children, college, homeschooling, education, students, classes, talk, program, parents, find, school, people, feel, homeschool, public school, connecticut, middle school, admissions counselors, world
Dana Jonson, Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls
Dana Jonson 00:03
Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know, to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS. And I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your school's obligations, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear or comment on, you can find me and this podcast at special ED dot life. You can also find me on Instagram at special ED dot life. Or you can email me, Dana at special ED dot life. Now the first thing you need to know is that sometimes I have a bit of a potty mouth. So if your environment isn't ready for that, feel free to pop in your earbuds. Okay, let's get started. So today, we're going to be talking about alternative schools. And before we get into that, I want to be really clear about what we are not talking about which there is a term alternative placements that pertains to public school settings. And if a child is disciplined and potentially dangerous, the school is allowed to move them for up to 45 days to an alternative placement. I want to be really clear that is not what I'm talking about. What we're talking about today are more non traditional school programs. So programs that are not necessarily accredited private or public schools in the state of Connecticut, those kinds of schools fall under the homeschooling laws. If you're not in a public school or a private accredited school, it is homeschooling. So and there's no definition of homeschooling. So you get a lot of different definitions from different people and what they do. But specifically what I'm talking about are programs that are built in Connecticut, they fall under homeschooling, but their actual school programs. And today we have a great guest to talk about this. Locky Coghlan. No Hello, and lackey is the founder and director of education without walls in New Milford, Connecticut. She is also the founder and president of Webb Youth Services, which is a nonprofit, which I'm going to ask you to talk about in a minute. And also a founding board member of rebuilding together in Litchfield County, which keeps elderly people and disabled children and low income families in their homes and helps fix up the homes. I guess you do that in all your spare time. Yes, yes. Yes. Okay. All your free time. And she's also a contributing columnist to the Greenwich Sentinel in their education series. So Locky? Yes. Tell me about education without walls.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 03:10
Okay, well, it's a long story. Okay. It starts with my children who I homeschooled from when they were very little and began as a co op, a cooperative.
Dana Jonson 03:22
We should also say I'm going to interrupt you and say that Locky also has three children who are doing very well in college and pursuing their own individual careers. Yes, I
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 03:32
can brag about them all day long. Yes.
Dana Jonson 03:34
I talked about my kids all the time, but they yes, they're doing
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 03:36
very well. But I started homeschooling them when they were very young. My youngest toddler actually never went to a traditional school. So we did what most homeschool moms do which is we we joined coops or cooperatives in the homeschool world, where a bunch of families and moms get together and then they teach classes to each other's children based on what they are good at and what they enjoy doing. So those you should meet once a week, maybe twice a week. If they're really ambitious. It's usually younger children, because homeschool kids tend to go on to more traditional schools when they hit ninth grade.
Dana Jonson 04:18
My understanding too is when children are homeschooled more traditionally, I guess. The amount of time that needs to be dedicated towards academics is not the same as if you're in a classroom full of 25 kids.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 04:30
Yes, that is correct. Well, Coop, the only academics that homeschool students have it's an opportunity to get together with a bunch of other kids and learn other perspectives and have other people teaching your children a homeschool is a misnomer. We joke about that a lot in the homeschool world. Because we spend very little time at home people tend to arrange and the kids getting up and sitting at a desk in the morning and staying there all day. That's absolutely not what happens. There's a lot of visits to museums. There's a lot of visits to Other people's homes for playdates, there are classes that people put together all the time that have a bunch of kids going and having a guided tour where they've hired someone at a museum trips to the city, that kind of thing. So it really is a misnomer, people.
Dana Jonson 05:15
I know, that's always the first thing I hear when someone says homeschooling the very first thing is, well, my kid needs to be socialized. So I couldn't do that. Right. And I think well, where are these kids at home? Locked in their bedrooms? Right?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 05:29
Yeah, about that, actually, we we used to get about about it a lot, because most of what they do is socializing.
Dana Jonson 05:39
You can't stop them.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 05:41
No, no, you can't stop them. Kids want to be with other kids. Right. And they will push their parents for what they really need. And so they're in their parents. Entire objective in homeschooling is to give their children what they need to have a happy and well educated life and to be well educated and informed citizens of the world. I truly believe that that's why people homeschool. So they listen to their kids, they have conversations, and if their kids need to be with other kids there, they will be vocal about it. Yeah, I'm sure everybody knows that West kids. Yeah. And ask them what they
Dana Jonson 06:12
do at home. So when did education without walls come about? How did that start? And because it's the full program now it's middle school and high school. And high schoolers can get transcripts and accreditation for their classes. It's not an accredited school. But you can get that for them. Correct?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 06:31
Yes. So yes, very often, I wonder how how this happened. happened very organically grew up on its own. So we started with the one day a week Co Op, the place where we were meeting, which was great Halloween, New Fairfield closed, because they were trying to sell the property. And I was kind of done. My kids were in middle school, I was ready to do something different with them. And I wasn't going to do a co op anymore. But a lot of the members really wanted something. So I said, Okay, I have this crazy idea for just taking over the town of New Milford one day a week. That's it. And I knew I know a lot of people in New Milford and the library here is incredible. We use New Milford on Fridays, it was Fridays New Milford fineline, theatre arts loaned us space. The Village Center for the Arts loaned us space, that library, let us use space, we would go see movies, at the Bank Street Theater, and I just love this town. So it's a great walking town, lots of great restaurants. So we did not have a space of our own, which is normally coops, rent space and churches. But it was incredibly successful. So we hired professional teachers to teach things like biology and French and calculus. We have maybe 1010 kids. And then I had an art teacher who was losing her space that we were using her quite a bit in town. And I wasn't willing to part with her. So I finally decided to rent space around it seemed like a huge deal at the time. 1000 a month, I was like, I don't know if I can do this. But I had a lot of support from the other people in the group. And we just did it. And then we rented more space that was attached to that space, and then more space. And eventually we had over 40 kids. And it really just grew from there. I had people asking for more programming things that were not necessarily the same age range as my children, which is where my folks had been, of course. And that's when we added high schoolers, mostly for siblings of people who were already in the program. Yeah. And then it just sort of grew. It grew and grew. And now I own a building. And in New Milford a lot of full time kids. We're looking at doing college programming here, which is very exciting. And my kids are not here anymore, which is weird, right? This is my first year without them here. So
Dana Jonson 08:44
did you think you would continue it after they went to college?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 08:48
You know, I wasn't sure it's a lot of work. It's a huge commitment in terms of your time and energy. And, you know, parents are, can be tough sometimes. So, really sure, but it's so gratifying. And watching the kids grow is so gratifying. So I really just couldn't walk away.
Dana Jonson 09:04
Yeah, no, it's great. And in full disclosure, I have three children in your school, which I love very much I love. So we came to the homeschooling world through we were not homeschoolers, I was actually an active anti homeschooler for a long time. And then, yes, I was, I was, you would not have liked me very much. But we got to a place where the public school was not working for my son at all. And we found ourselves in a bit of an emergency situation and we had not budgeted for private school. And we found ourselves in the homeschooling world in in a facility that did homeschooling programs, and that was my introduction to it. And I recognized that we needed a little more structure. That's what I needed because I'm no longer a teacher. And I have a full time job so I didn't have time. I am more the ability to be on top of their programs, which is how we sought you out, and why they are here. My son ended up with mental health issues that he couldn't go to the public school anymore. And so the program that they've offered for him is a therapeutic school, which would be great. And he would do well there. But we found that this environment being much smaller, and by the nature of the program, not that there's any form of special education, yes, but the fact that it's small classrooms individualized for the student, yes. Do you do have a an animal play therapist who comes twice a week? Right? Thank you, I just learned it, I just learned the full term animal play therapist, and she's wonderful. So that is also another benefit. And then my other two really just wanted to be somewhere different. And it really wasn't a quote unquote, new thing. I get that a lot too. Why did why did they need to go? Why? What what was wrong? What was wrong with them? So when you get people who come to you, when I came to you at all Free Kids, were looking for all three of them. So but when parents come to you, and they say I'm looking at your school, what do you hear what why or what are the reasons that people come to education without walls?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 11:17
There's so many reasons. One is because they're looking for something that's a little more academically challenging for their children in a small classroom environment where their children really have a voice. We have students who come because they suffer from anxiety, which is really prevalent right now. Yes, it's so sad. They, they really just can't function in school, because they're anxious about, you know, their safety.
Dana Jonson 11:42
And well in in my field, we go through waves. So you know, when I first started practicing, as an attorney, I had a ton of autism cases, because there was a lot going on with that back then. And then there's a phase where I had a lot of dyslexia cases, it just suddenly they all kind of came up. And I'm finding that in my practice, that the vast majority of calls I'm getting right now are mental health related. And there's often other components to that. For children with learning disabilities, particularly girls, if they're not properly programmed for they turn into emotional issues by the time they get to high school. Yes. And so, but I'm seeing a lot of that in my practice right now.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 12:20
Yes. Well, I talk about it on two different levels with parents when they're coming in. One is the there's a lot of bullying that goes on. Yes, obviously, in the school system that really isn't properly addressed.
Dana Jonson 12:34
We have in Connecticut, we do have laws, which is good and better than some states, but there's no right of action. There's no teeth to it, it just says we can't do it. You know, you shouldn't bully, which is great for awareness purposes, but we're not following through.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 12:51
No. And it's it's incredibly difficult for educators in the public school system to follow through on that. There are so many areas in a public school environment where there just really isn't enough supervision.
Dana Jonson 13:05
There can't be that's just not capable. Yeah,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 13:09
it would be too expensive, right? It's just It would require a huge amount of staff. So an environment like this, where you have an adult within hearing range everywhere, is really helpful. So that it never well, hopefully, we'll never get to the point where it's even bullying. It's just an unkind word. So the adults on site can say, Hey, would you like it? If someone said that to you, or pull the child aside? Who may be saying something that's not very nice and have a conversation about it? That's important that it needs to be taken care of in the moment. You have to keep it from escalating. It's a very difficult thing to address.
Dana Jonson 13:45
Yeah, you spend all your time doing that is that
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 13:50
I spend a lot of my time doing that. Yes, yes, I do. Especially with middle schoolers, because short tend to be very dramatic. But everything is larger than life was middle schoolers. Yeah. So and that's another thing I talked about a lot. Parents don't realize with their middle school students that it's normal for them to really turn into a mess when they hit middle school age. So I very, very rarely talk about age range. I talk about things that you look for developmentally right. In a student,
Dana Jonson 14:20
when you say when you're looking at a student, how they present in the classroom, where they are developmentally, that sort of extra Thank you developmental markers, developmental
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 14:30
markers. So you look for things developmentally, with students, when they really forget, start forgetting what you told them 15 minutes ago, and they they turn into a really hot mess. They're really disorganized. They can't remember things. That's normal. So a lot of parents come to me and say, what's going on? Is it the school system? Is it my child? Is there something wrong? No, there's nothing wrong. This is a very normal developmental step that they're taking. And the reason is they're going there. Moving from in terms of their brain development, memorization and imitation into really coalescing all of the information they've gathered so far, and trying to make their own decisions. So in that effort to make their own decisions, they will ask a lot of questions, they will get very sassy. It's very normal, familiar with the staff. And so realize this is a very normal, yeah, elemental stage. And they feel a lot of relief around that. We tried to sort of beat it out of them, I think a little bit in public schools, you have to do what you're told, don't talk back stand in line, you know, all of that stuff. Here, we allow for a little bit more freedom for the middle schoolers, when they begin to really think about what they have to do for tomorrow, and plan maybe a little bit ahead, and then they're ready for high school work. And then we talked about high school, sophomore year, the middle of sophomore year, they start to get a little bit more interested in their academic future.
Dana Jonson 15:58
Yeah, that's what I'm waiting for. Yes.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 16:03
And then halfway through this, and that's wonderful, until about halfway through their senior year when they get senior itis and they're kind of done.
Dana Jonson 16:09
Yeah, so one of the issues that I had, which I didn't realize I had, but as I'm learning more about alternative schools, and we call it alternative schooling, because whenever I say homeschooling immediately, if somebody isn't in this world, their perceptions of whatever that is, comes to the forefront of their head, and that that's what I'm doing. I'm at my kitchen table, teaching my kids how to do stuff, which is not at all what we're doing. So that's why we always say they're in an alternative program or an alternative school. And you know, what I mean by that is non traditional. But what I realized and what I what I saw lacking in my children's education, was learning how to problem solve, and critical thinking. And I think that those are two really key pieces that kids today need to know, they no longer need to learn the name of Christopher Columbus's ships, they need to understand invasion of an indigenous country exploration, all those components that come with it. And I was seeing my children memorizing learning for one specific task. And then once that task was over, whether they'd mastered it or not, they were on to the next. Yes. And that wasn't working for me. So when you have kids come in here, do you feel like there is what age typically do people come to you? Or is it all ages? Do you have middle school, you have basically whatever middle school age work is through high schools,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 17:38
we say very mature 10 year olds, which really means the ones that are ready for middle school, right. And they, you know, they need to be mature and able to follow the rules here, which is Be kind and really do, we don't have a lot of rules, I don't like to have a lot of rules, because I want the kids to think for themselves. Yeah. And to problem solve around issues that come up. And we do a lot of meetings. So a mature 10 year old up to 18, or 19, if they want to do a PG year, they're offering us college university programs, great.
Dana Jonson 18:08
What ages typically people enter education without walls, like when parents call you do you find it's mostly beginning a middle school, middle of high school,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 18:17
it's like 1112 1112, they come into the middle school program, when we have new students for the high school program, it's generally the end of freshman year or the middle of sophomore year, try to make it work. And this is what you see is that they give the middle school about a year and a half, they give the high school about a year and a half, and they really try to figure out a way to make it work, that's when they are going to the specialists getting IEPs by befores. That kind of thing. And then that takes time to develop and to figure out that it's not gonna work. Right. So that's about a year and a half, it takes them
Dana Jonson 18:55
as I was saying, with my son, you know, when he's in the public school, he can't function he can't get in the building. He comes here. And we don't have an issue with that. Right? So do you find that the nature of your program is what works for kids? It's not that you have like a specialized, specific, yes, saying
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 19:15
that, what what it is, is it's that it's individualized for each child. So and the child has to have the student, the learner has to have a buy in? Yeah, so we have conversations with the parents and the students. And ask the students, what do you like? What do you not like? What classes do you want to take? What time would you like to arrive? You know, we can't accommodate all of their requests, but take it seriously when they request things. And they appreciate that they see that they're respected, and that their opinion is important to us. And so we, you know, we try to accommodate them. Yes. So I think it's the individuality and that we acknowledge that there are individuals we do have a lot of school refusal. Kids come in, yeah, they walk in the door. They have a first meeting with me and they can't wait to
Dana Jonson 20:00
Start. Yeah, that's awesome.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 20:03
Because they want to learn. And that's the thing they want to learn. If they don't refuse to go to school because they're lazy or because they don't want to be there, they refuse to go to school because they don't feel safe there. And that's the other thing I talked about all the time, which is Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is, what a lot of our model is based on, if they don't feel physically
Dana Jonson 20:23
safe. And can you explain as I say, can you explain that? Sure.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 20:27
Oh, sure. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's a hierarchy, which is in the form of a triangle. And the base of the triangle for human needs is physical needs, obviously, you need to be well fed, you need to be warm, you need to have clothing, you need to have a home, those are your physical needs, you need to have water. And I talked to the kids about it all the time, when you're hungry. What are you thinking about? You're not thinking about, you know, what year the Civil War happened, you're thinking about I need to eat. So this is this is the basis of our philosophy here is that their physical needs have to be met, so that we always have food. And they're allowed to eat in class and, you know, take care of themselves physically, and then they have to feel mentally safe. That's the next thing. They have to feel like, someone isn't going to be saying to them, you're dumb and stupid, I can't believe you don't know that. And then that includes their peers. Teachers apparently, have said this to students that I've heard of recently, in the post school, call them stupid. That makes me crazy. I hear that all
Dana Jonson 21:29
the time. I hear that all the time. So many times parents come to my office, and half the story is how a teacher spoke to their child. Or recently, I had one where, you know, when the mom found out from another parent who was in the classroom and overheard it, this other mom called her and when she talked to her son, he's like, Well, I don't want to get anyone in trouble. So this kid had been listening to this all year long. And the mom is watching him spiral without any concept of what's happening. And then to turn out that whatever the phrase was the teacher was using for him. It was just chipping away at him the whole year. Yeah. And that's just astounding to me
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 22:10
that conscionable it really is. I can't imagine someone put who's in that position, making a child feel that way. Because like I said, they feel emotionally unsafe. And then they cannot focus on anything else other than, are they gonna say to me again, today, am I going to feel stupid today? Somebody's going to call me dumb. And then they try to mask it?
Dana Jonson 22:31
Yeah, I know, my son was very cognizant of, if other children were ahead of him. So I can only imagine if somebody spoke to him that way, who was in a form of authority? That would have been, you know, we would have been here sooner. Yeah. But you know, because I know that kids are very, they're looking at what is everybody else doing?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 22:53
They want to fit in? Yeah, of course, they want to be the same. Yes. They're trying to find their path
Dana Jonson 22:57
while trying to be completely different at the same time, while trying to stand
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 23:01
out Yes, exactly. Yes, we find that actually, we have a pair of twins here. They, you know, it's, yeah, elevated with with twins,
Dana Jonson 23:09
because they want to separate from each other. Yes. But
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 23:11
they're genetically, you know, the same, exactly the same. That makes it even harder. Yeah. So that's Maslow's hierarchy of needs. So after that, we can focus on
Dana Jonson 23:20
education. And then well, and I guess it would be in this environment, you have the staff, you have the time you're here, when some one comes in from public school and isn't used to this environment, and they're trying to find their way. And then you have the time and ability to pull them aside to set up an extra class if they need it, you know, do all those kinds of components. What are some examples of maybe some outside of the box things that you have done with students to help accommodate them?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 23:51
Well, I think the most outside of the box thing is our ISP program, academically anyway, which is independent study project. So we allow students to get credit for work that they're doing outside of education without walls, which is a very homeschool thing to do. They need to present us with some kind of evidence of the work that you're doing a paper or a video or, you know, photographs, or presentation. It's done in colleges quite a bit. But we give credit for that here. And that really is amazing for some of our students. Your son, for example, is amazing, collaborative storytelling program that he's running here. Yes. been very successful.
Dana Jonson 24:36
Yes. And I know there's another student who's going to be running a business. So that sounds amazing. a middle school student and middle school student no less. Yeah. I mean, imagine being in seventh grade and having your own business.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 24:48
Yeah. And having a community that supports that. So we have, you know, all of the parents donating things for this kid to do research on he's gonna have to, you know, there's history and Oh, there's math involved, there's, you know, well, as
Dana Jonson 25:03
somebody who just went through my own business model, I know it's not an easy task, it might sound a little easy, like, Oh, he's gonna sell stuff. Yeah. But I know that behind the scenes, I know what you're asking for from the student, which is a business plan, a proper projection, all of those components. And that's a lot, there's a lot involved in that
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 25:24
it is a lot. And he doesn't, like I said, he needs help from the community. So we'll have a high school student, of course, who's assigned to help him and a parent who's assigned to help him and he can always come and talk to me about it. But he has a lot of time to put into that it comes along with strings, that is your ticket. So this is something that I talked to the kids about a lot, this is your ticket to get to where you want to be. And that actually they understand that they get that, that it's currency. So you need to go to math class, if you want to continue with your ISP program. So that's
Dana Jonson 25:55
very much an alternative way of looking at education, which is figuring out where you want to be, and then backtracking and saying, okay, here are the steps I need to take. And it's very entrepreneurial perspective as well, sort of towards education. It is. So definitely,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 26:12
as I talk here about keeping doors open. So my goal is always to keep as many doors open for the students as possible, while allowing them them to make a goal for themselves. Because it doesn't really matter what the goal is, if they have a goal, and they're working towards that goal academically, it will be with skills that they're learning that they can apply to other things. So it doesn't really matter what the goal is, because the goal is going to change. And as an educator, and as a parent, we all need to understand that the student who thinks they want to be a professional dancer for exam, right, that's the goal, it's kind of unlikely that that's going to happen. That's, that's a very odd circumstance where they actually make it to sure that they're looking to get to. So we support we support the goal. As parents and educators, we support students who want to be professional artists, or who want to be professional dancers, or actors or whatever it is, they need to take classes, they need to go to shows they need to go to rehearsals, they need to have the grit to get through whatever it is that they need to just sort of keep focused on that goal. And those are skills that they will be able to apply to anything. So
Dana Jonson 27:22
again, that goes back to I think the problem solving and the critical thinking and the grit, as you just said, that they need to develop.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 27:30
Yes, those are all things that they need to develop. Course. The next question
Dana Jonson 27:33
I always hear is, what about college? How can they go to college? They're not in school. Right? Well, right, we for homeschool. Let me just throw every stereotype at you. And I'm gonna have you speak for the entire homeschooling world.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 27:53
Okay, so for homeschoolers, homeschooling parents actually have to put together I joke that they should get a PhD for doing it. It's really like a dissertation, they need to provide a lot of information for colleges, colleges want to see what books their kids read, they want a small paragraph about every single class, everything that you're giving their child your child credit for. And you
Dana Jonson 28:16
do that outside of education without walls, right? You consult with parents to help them do that? I
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 28:21
do. I do. And I'm always happy to do it. I do it for free. Okay. So because I went through it with my children, I know how difficult it is really, it's just a matter of pointing them in the right direction, because homeschool parents are used to doing things on their own. Yeah, they're highly motivated. And they're generally pretty organized. So although they will never tell you that they're organized. But they are generally pretty organized. So I'm happy to help with that we have before we began offering accredited classes and transcripts. We had kids who came here, you know, and but they also did other things because they're homeschoolers. So they take classes here, they go to other things. Kids go to Cornell, Connecticut College, a really, really top notch schools. I never had a student who came to education without walls, who didn't go on to some kind of post secondary education. So we really stressed that I feel like a college degree is absolutely essential in today's world, is not a master's degree. Yeah. So we do stress that quite a bit. However, it's never pushy, right? We push that on students, they need to come in their own time in their own way to the idea that college is a good thing for their future.
Dana Jonson 29:30
Well, so it'd be part of that goal, right? It's their ultimate goal. Like it's what I find really interesting when you talk about someone who wants to be a professional dancer, typically, you don't get to have all those experiences. If you're in public school or any traditional school, you can't miss a week of school to go try out or rehearse or do something like that. You don't have that flexibility. So you're waiting until your career age to try
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 35:00
Dana Jonson 35:01
the peers encourage each other
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 35:03
they do. It's it's part of the culture. So, you know, they become colorized. Yes to education without walls. So there's a book that's actually called the culture eyes, okay? Which has a similar sort of way of looking at helping children to follow the rules and do what they're expected to do without the negative consequences that come along with not doing those things. So one
Dana Jonson 35:25
of my children is telling me about a student who is new at some point and saying that something they were doing that was like, annoying, say, and then they follow it, but you know, they're new to this school, so they just need some time to get to adjust. And I almost fell out of my chair. Like, what? Okay, then let's give them time. And you say yes. Okay. And so it's just, it was interesting to me. Anyway, one of the things I was asking you about was college because, you know, the two main questions when you say homeschooling are, how do they have friends? And what do you do about college? Right? And so you were talking about the transcripts, and going on to post secondary? So when you have parents come here, who are non homeschoolers is that I'm guessing that's the first thing they ask. In fact, I think it might have been one of my first questions. What about college? How did they get there?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 36:15
So, um, colleges really like to see students who do things differently. The key is to help an admissions counselor to sort of put it in perspective or in relation to what all of the other applicants have done and are doing so that it feels measurable to them. And that is part of filling out the common app and all your applications, appropriately answering questions. Well, talking to your admissions professionals, a lot of people don't think that that's a good thing to do to call up the admissions counselors at colleges, but they have assignments they have some colleges have admissions counselors who are only devoted to homeschooling interest. That's all they do. To Elaine, for example. Really, yes. homeschooling in New England, they have someone designated for that specifically, yes, talking to them is a wonderful thing to find out how much they know what they want to see. They're always happy to answer your questions. It never ceases to amaze me how open and warm and welcoming admissions counselors are into colleges and universities. So definitely call them and ask them questions. I just booked someone the other day from South Carolina, who was a little bit confused about one of our students applications, and he's assigned to Connecticut. Oh, interesting. Yeah, really nice guy.
Dana Jonson 37:37
When I was looking into homeschooling, or the this dis alternative schooling world, you know, that was one of my main questions, you know, what do we do about college? And one of the things I learned in my research was that freshmen are dropping out at an alarming rate right now. And that one of the guys Yeah, one of the main reasons is a lack of time management. Yes, because they're so overbooked, and their parents are so managing their schedules, that when Yeah, then when they get to college, it's the college cliff that they fall off of, and what they're finding, and now that we have more information and more data on it, are the ones who aren't failing out are the homeschoolers. Because they most of them have been managing their schedule, and their education and whatever else they're doing themselves. Yes. And I was actually at a conference the other day where it was, it was specific to something else. But what one of the college counselors said was, if your child is in eighth grade, and they do not get up on their own, complete any and all hygiene routines, take any and all medications they need, and get out the door on time without any assistance from you do not send them to college. They should start do they should be able to do that by eighth or ninth grade, which I think is insane. But that's just me and my kids. That may say more about me than it does this college counselor. But she's saying that, you know, that carries over because they don't suddenly learn that skill. Yeah, it doesn't happen overnight, because you put them in the right situation.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 39:15
Yes, it's definitely something that is is has to be learned. It's interesting. One of the things that we do the senior year here for our students is really prep them for college. That's not one of the things it's all we do. Yeah, New Year or the real world. But mostly, we're prepping them for college. So they complain very often about the writing class, for example, we write a paper every week. And it's that's what they have to do. Because when you're in college, to write a paper every week, usually Yeah, and the reason we do that is because I have talked to students who have come from education without walls, and have been in college for a few years. And I asked them, What could we have done differently? How could we have prepared you better? And one of my kids said, well, writing I wish I'd written more. So we added the writing class, a lot of what we do is give them freedom, like you were saying it's very important. So they have the freedom to leave if they want to. They are expected in class when they're on site, but nobody's really checking to make sure or going to get them if they're not in class. So they really need to manage your time, right? Appropriately, they can leave the building to go and get lunch or go for a walk or go play basketball at the park, whatever it is, but then they have to be back for their class, and they know it. So that's actually it has been really, really good. It's not something that we did to prepare them specifically for college, but it happens to have it's just the nature of the
Dana Jonson 40:38
program. Again, once again, yes, it's just
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 40:41
the nature of the program. As a matter of fact, my son, who is just started college this year, finds it very restrictive, because there he is not okay, with the restrictions on his education,
Dana Jonson 40:53
he was just telling me that he said, I don't have the autonomy that I want
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 40:58
to pick his own classes. So he is very upset at how strict they are. He wants to take certain classes, and he can't take certain classes until he's taken other classes. Right, you know, that kind of thing. So he's, do you find that
Dana Jonson 41:10
some schools are more accommodating to that than others? Or is that just the nature of kowski,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 41:14
where he happens to be right now, is extremely structured. If you go to school like Hampshire, for example, College of the Atlantic, those are very unstructured and much more similar to perhaps what a unschooling homeschooler may be looking for. Tucker would want something in between. Okay, so we're looking for maybe a better fit for him for next year. But he's still doing great. And he still straight A's? Yeah, really well. So as you know, my all my kids, and all the kids who come from education with that, well, so far, have done extremely well in college. So
Dana Jonson 41:50
that's great. Now, I was talking to some of the students who had back to work as interns. And I always ask that when I when I meet a kid who's in college or going to college, who has been homeschooled and universally I hear no, I felt prepared.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 42:04
You know, and love it when they come back. Yeah, I love it. It makes me so happy.
Dana Jonson 42:08
Well, I think it's great for the other kids too, because they get to see what's next. You know, they and they get to reconnect with those students and see where they are. Yeah. And it sort of gives them that. You know, I think a lot of kids don't know what they don't need to know what's next. But I always say you need a plan to deviate from a plan. That's right. Right. If you don't have a plan, it's just chaos. Yes. But if you have a plan, then you can change your plan. Yes. You have to start somewhere.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 42:37
Yes, absolutely. And the changes happen, like we talked about before keeping doors open, having a goal and changing that goal regularly. It requires a lot of conversations. But yeah, yes. It's wonderful when those kids come back from college. And it gives them you know, I mean, they can look at us and say, oh, you know, right, but we're the parents and were the adults and yes, their age they don't they're not interested in well, we weren't teens. No, they are like you don't understand. Yeah, exactly. Very often we
Dana Jonson 43:06
don't right up until my mother started telling them all the stories about when I was a teen that that started changing a little time, but yeah, good times, good jobs over here. But okay, well, I really, really have enjoyed this. And I feel like we've covered a lot I do want to get back to and just talk a little bit about your other passions and projects. So the rebuilding together I found fascinating. Yeah, so a little bit that
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 43:31
rebuilding together. We started in 2001. And it is a national organization. We are a local affiliate. And the mission is to keep low income families and elderly individuals and veterans in their homes. So we will go to a person they need to own their home. Because like I said before, we're not, you know, fix up the landlord's house. So we go and we replace windows and we redo roofs and put in handicapped bathrooms and handicap ramps, whatever it is that's needed for them. They apply through social services. I think we've done over 400 houses now. Wow. So yeah, that was my mother's baby. She was the executive director, she passed away over the summer. And so we've all had to sort of hop in and take a little bit more of a of a role with Rebuilding Together Litchfield County, but it's it's very gratifying.
Dana Jonson 44:29
That's awesome. And tell us that Webb Youth Services,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 44:33
yes. Which was also inspired by my mother. She has her whole life sort of adopted troubled teens and taking care of them. And so and really help them to lead very successful lives. So it's amazing. We wanted to start with you services in her honor. It's a lot of what I do here. I'm definitely not as good at it as she was. She's incredible. But so we've used services is designed To add a not for profit to get money to kids who need it to help them overcome whatever their anxiety or mental health issues are. So if they feel that dance classes will help them with their anxiety or their mental health issues, then we can pay for dance classes, yoga, art classes, mental health services, education, without walls, whatever it is that they are requesting, we would like to be able to help them and that's such a huge need. Now, it is a huge need. I think a lot of people don't understand really how a child's mental health Yes, and mental health services are very important seeing a therapist sure seeing a psychiatrist obviously. But having some kind of activity outside of school is also incredibly helpful physical activity, perhaps center, getting them outside, in the sunshine, these things and having them in a location where they're with kids who have similar likes and dislikes and who are interested in the same things, swim team, whatever it is, rowing,
Dana Jonson 46:05
doesn't matter. Anything, a lot of that is coming to the forefront. Now I know 10 years ago, in my practice, when parents wanted awkward therapy or equine therapy, or play therapy, or whatever it was, it was sort of considered really out there. And crazy. And you know, but now I think I'm seeing a lot more understanding around the benefits of this types of activities and programs for kids and how much that does help with the mental health component?
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 46:34
Yes, yeah. It's it's so important. It's it also provides them with strategies, coping strategies that they can utilize the rest of their lives. So I talk a lot about, you know, if you're, if you're taking dance classes, or yoga classes, when you're 1314 15, you're going to continue doing that through your adult life. Right. And it's an easy thing to do. You don't have to join a team. You don't have to, you know, find a volleyball team or whatever to join, right.
Dana Jonson 47:01
You don't have to spend a lot of money if you don't have it exactly. You just go
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 47:05
take an art class or go take a dance class. They're everywhere. And it's wonderful. For there.
Dana Jonson 47:11
Do you find that because I don't know, this is my theory, and I'm just pulling it out of the air. So I think kids are so over scheduled to get to college, that they don't have time for those things. You know, we're reducing the arts in school. We're reducing the fun after school programs. We don't have fun camps. We have coding camp and reading camp and math camp. Yeah, you know. Yeah,
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 47:39
I Yes, I agree that that's a little crazy. My kids when they were in middle school had two full days at an outdoor education program for homeschoolers two full days. And they did a lot of academic type things when they were out in the woods, you know, they identified plans, they talked about botany, they talked a little bit about chemistry, biology, of course, that kind of thing. Survival Skills, building fires, but it was really, really good for them. It's makes me sad that a lot of kids don't get outside at all now. Yeah, I feel like it's so important. I had them do that with other people. Because I was too much of a nervous Nellie, like, I was like, Oh my God, you're gonna. So I needed someone else to sort of take them out in the woods and really, really have a good time with them. So I feel like that helped to mold them into the humans that they are today, who still have to be outside and still go for a walk as
Dana Jonson 48:35
well. And now we have a lot of science around the fact that if you're in your office all day, and you need to take a break, take it near a plant, take it near a tree, try to get outside, you know, 15 minutes a day outside in the air just sitting there. Yeah, those things, create positive, whatever it is that your body creates, and dopamine and it helps you focus it helps you get back on track. It helps you organize your thoughts that to just have that time. And you know, they say if you can't get outside, where are the plants? Yeah, that kind of thing. Even just that can help. Yes, having your screen savers be all nature related that all those things, actually
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 49:17
having a lot of plants helps people to feel more relaxed in any room. Anyway, no, we incorporate that into our program. So we have the kids go out for a walk. We have our morning walk and stretch for the middle school program. They have a nice long lunch. They are encouraged to go and play basketball outside and Yeah, go for walks. So that was great. Awesome. Yeah, I
Dana Jonson 49:40
feel like that's and then just the last thing I wanted to talk about was you're also a contributing columnist to the Greenwich Sentinel. Yeah, you write for their education series. So is there a specific theme that they follow? Or is it
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 49:56
that Sentinel is a? Yes, it's one of the papers in Greenwich. and they have decided to really focus on education on a regular basis, not just as a once in a while thing. So they have requested that area heads of school to make columns once a month, okay, went around to all of the private schools in the Greenwich area. And ask them to do this, though columns are incredible. I love it. They have a page devoted to education every single week. So they came to me as an alternative to the private school or the public school. So not necessarily as a homeschooling parent, but and but as sort of a different perspective. Yeah, so I get to write for them once a month. It's really exciting. I love I didn't think I would, but I really love seeing what I've written in print. Yeah, we read it 100 times.
Dana Jonson 50:48
No, it's great. It really is. And I love that they dedicate so much time to education in their publication. So if anyone's interested in looking at education without walls, how do they find you
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 50:59
online education ww.org, okay, W's not three, I was put in three, WW. And we're just call and they can always give a call 860-350-3006. I'm here pretty much all the time.
Dana Jonson 51:17
And I'll have all that information in the show notes too. So if anyone didn't have time to write that down, go back to the website. And I'll have all that information there.
Lockey Coghlin, Founder/Owner Education Without Walls 51:27
Thank you so much, Dan.
Dana Jonson 51:28
Excellent. Thank you Locky. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications whenever new episodes are available. You can also find this podcast on his website at special ED dot life. You can follow me on Instagram at special ED dot life or you can email me at Dana at special ED dot life. I want to know what you want to know. So please reach out with your comments and questions. And I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson Have a great day