Parent Coach Matt Barnes on Embracing a New, 21st Century Learning Model

gender nonconformity kids

In search of a new learning model for your differently wired child? This episode is for you, because this week I’m speaking with Matt Barnes, the co-founder of The Education Game and a parent coach who helps parents navigate the education system and raise kids who are curious, competent, life-long learners. Matt is passionate about a new 21st-century learning model that de-emphasizes grades and academic compliance while emphasizing learning, problem solving, and student-engagement.

During this conversation, we talked about how Matt witnessed the educational system fail from the inside while he was part of educational boards, the advantage that parents who know how to advocate for their children have, the roadblocks that prevent parents from navigating education systems, and some of the critical skills that are not taught in the traditional model but are essential for our kids’ success. We also talked about who Matt sees as the “weird kids,” and why they have an advantage when they embrace their unique style of focus and learning, and so much more.


About Matt Barnes

Matt Barnes is the Co-Founder and Parent Coach at The Education Game. Over 25 years, Matt has run an $18m hospital department, distributed $500m in philanthropy, led an education reform nonprofit, and served on nine educational boards. In 2020, Matt co-founded The Education Game as a speaking, coaching, blogging, and podcast platform that inspires parents to “embrace the weird” and a 21st-century learning model that shamelessly deemphasizes grades and academic compliance while radically emphasizing learning, problem solving, and student-engagement.

Matt is the father of three amazing teens who were educated in traditional, hybrid, micro, and self-directed learning models. One was a high school valedictorian, another started college at age 15 and recently published her first book, and a third is a communications consultant at age 15 while also winning several awards in theater.

Matt’s upcoming book is titled: Educating a Parent: A comprehensive learning guide for early adopters, visionaries, and game changer parents striving to striving to defy outmoded educational systems and grow a future-ready child.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • How Matt has tried to “fix” the system from the inside and what we can do from the outside to help
  • The advantage parents who know how to advocate for their children have
  • Why some people will double down on the traditional college model and what opportunities are arising for those who embrace a different route
  • The skills today’s kids need to be prepared for the future of work
  • Why some of the students who excel in a traditional educational system might be learning the wrong lesson about failure and problem solving
  • Why the “weird kids” might have an advantage in choosing their path
  • How to get started with a transitional model if the traditional model is not working for your kid


Resources mentioned for embracing a new learning model


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Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

If your neurodivergent child is struggling to focus on daily to dos and routines, check out Joon It’s a highly rated app that uses a game to help motivate kids with ADHD to stay on top of their tasks and habits. To learn more visit

Matt Barnes  00:18

I sat on the board of a couple colleges, one was a selective public university. And they are actually really hungry for a kid who comes in and says, I’ve been interested in mice since I was five years old. And here are the things I’ve done. And I’ve got mice growing at home and or, you know, in my, you know, cages at home, and I’ve done studies on them, and I’m working with this researcher about mice, that kid that kid can write his ticket to university in fact, that kid better yet will say I want to go to this university because that professor is an expert in mice, and I want to study with them. That’s why I’m going to university not to check the box, but because I’m actually really passionate about this topic, and I want to go deep.

Debbie Reber  01:04

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. This week, I’m speaking with Matt Barnes, the co founder of The Education Game and a parent coach who helps parents navigate the education system, and raise kids who are curious, competent, lifelong learners. In 2014, Matt launched The Education Makeover, a learning lab that studies parent decision making mindsets and capabilities. And in 2020, he launched The Education Game as a speaking, coaching, blogging and podcast platform that inspires parents to embrace a 21st century learning model that deemphasizes grades and academic compliance, while emphasizing learning problem solving and student engagement. During this episode, we talked about how Matt has witnessed the educational system fail from the inside while he was part of educational boards, the advantage the parents who know how to advocate for their children have the roadblocks that prevent parents from navigating education systems, and some of those critical skills that are not taught in the traditional model, but are essential for our kids success. We also talked about who Matt sees as the quote unquote, weird kids, and why they have an advantage when they embrace their unique style of focus and learning. And we get into so much more in this conversation. If you are exploring your child’s learning path and considering alternatives to traditional educational models, this episode is definitely for you. 

Debbie Reber  02:44

Before I get to that, I know there are many, many new listeners of this podcast. So if you are newer to Tilt Parenting, welcome! And I want to be sure you know about another resource I created to support you. And that is my book Differently Wired: The Parents’ Guide to Raising an Atypical Child with Confidence and Hope. So Differently Wired … it’s kind of like a part manifesto and part how to navigate this unique journey of parenting a neurodivergent child. If you haven’t read it yet, I invite you to download the first chapter on my website at And because there are so many new members of the Tilt-verse, I thought it might be fun to hold a virtual book club for people who haven’t yet read Differently Wired or have read it, but would like to go through it together with me and a group of other readers. I’m thinking five weeks with weekly zoom calls, a downloadable workbook and plenty of time for q&a and discussions. So I’m just noodling this up right now. I don’t have all the details yet. But if you’re interested in learning more, or you just want to download that first chapter and have a read, just sign up at Lastly, don’t forget to check your podcast feed on Fridays this season as playback Fridays, where I re release some of my favorite episodes from the first two years of the show, is here again, I’ve got episodes with Dr. Ross Greene, Alfie Kohn, Karen Young, Dr. Dan Peters, some special Asher episodes with my child, and many more. Again, you don’t need to do anything special. If you’re subscribed to this podcast, the playback Friday episodes will show up wherever you listen to this show. Alright, thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Matt.

Debbie Reber  04:40

Hey, Matt, welcome to the podcast.

Matt Barnes  04:42

Thank you, Debbie. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Debbie Reber  04:44

I love conversations like we’re about to have because we’re going to be talking about disruptors and shaking up the system and what’s next for education and all of those good things. But before we get into that, obviously, yes. So relevant right now more than ever, right? Yes. But I’d love it if you could just take a few minutes and tell us who you are in the world. And I always love to know people’s personal why for the work that they do?

Matt Barnes  05:13

Yeah, yeah, thank you. Yeah, I’m happy to do it. And again, honored to be on the show. I’ll start with my why, because that is actually the most relevant to your audience. And I’ve got three kids. And so every parent realizes, I think this is like God’s humor, that every child is like, very different in the home. But we have three kids, and I tell you what, each one is as different from the other as night as from day, it seems. And what we realized pretty early on was that the more that we were following the system, the more that every one of our kids were treated as the same. And, you know, very quickly, we said that that doesn’t work for us. You know, thankfully, we had the supports that we could explore different types of learning models. But we allowed our kids to explore and learn and, and that was kind of the big why. But there’s a couple other smaller ones, Debbie, if I could talk about briefly. So I was on the board of nine, or maybe 10 educational institutions from select public universities, private colleges, a bunch of K 12, charter, private public schools, and a headstart system. And in every example, every circumstance, I realized that the system is actually in charge, the system has a way of trying to operate, that doesn’t want to change for the unique circumstances of a child or family. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not really a criticism, it’s actually a fact. And as I lived through that, and tried to change it from the top down, I realized that there’s only so much that can happen from the top down. And so I started working with parents to help them learn how to make sure that they’re advocating for their kids from the bottom up. So that’s the other part of this why that’s also important.

Debbie Reber  07:05

I think it’s such an interesting time to be having this conversation because, dare I say, We’re nearing the end of the COVID pandemic, and it’s been such an opportunity to really spotlight where all the cracks are in the system. And so I’m just wondering, even your thoughts on that. Are you feeling a renewed sense of, or just more urgency, momentum around this shift that you’re pushing for?

Matt Barnes  07:35

Yes, so urgency, yes, we have this window where everyone is alerted to the reality that this 150 year old model of education just doesn’t really work. It certainly doesn’t work today. But at the same time, we’re seeing all these new options that are coming, coming online, whether they are micro schools, or hybrid models of education, or online structure, I mean, all sorts of different models. And those things are happening simultaneously. And then the third part, like you said, parents are now waking up and seeing Oh, my gosh, there’s real, real deficits in the system. And so those three elements are causing me a renewed sense of optimism. But I will tell you, where I get pessimistic honestly, Debbie is when I think about where our world is, where our society is, and how how desperately important it is for our young people to grow up knowing how to think critically, how to hear comments from someone that you like, a politician that you like, and be able to criticize and critique it. And then to hear the same or same hair policy from a politician that you don’t like, and to critique it and go, that’s actually not a bad idea that that skill set is not taught. And if it’s not taught, then we are going to continue to have a society that’s divided. And that makes me really nervous.

Debbie Reber  08:56

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So just to touch upon COVID Again, like when this all when COVID started a lot of people in my community, right, so my audience, our parents raising neurodivergent, but I called differently wired kids, who, we’ve always known that the system hasn’t worked for our kids and our kids have been the outliers. And so I too, saw this sense of opportunity, like okay, maybe Now’s the chance to push for bigger change. And so you said that you’ve tried to do this within systems and, you know, from the inside and, and you realize that that wasn’t working. So I’m wondering, what do you do now? Like, what is your kind of plan? Well, how are you gonna fix this?

Matt Barnes  09:45

Right? Well, by the end of this call, we could have this all resolved. So listeners, just stay tuned. We’re gonna have this all fixed up for you. So, so kind of for me, I, again, you’re right, the neuro debt you’re the parent of a neurodivergent child. has known this from the start. So you all had to learn how to advocate early. And you all had to learn how to not accept a no, but how to negotiate and how to press for the things that your child needs. That to me is exactly what every parent needs to learn. But most parents don’t realize that, again, the language I use is that every kid is unique, right? But the system wants to treat them all like they’re the same. So if every parent had the skills and the urgency that the parents of neurodiverse kids have, I think we’re going to change the system really quickly. So now that’s where I’m actually focused on how to help parents of all types, recognize that their kid is unique, and they’re going to push the system to respond to that, and to require the system to be uniquely present for their child.

Debbie Reber  10:55

So I’m super curious to know what that entails or not. Like even before that, I imagine there are a lot of roadblocks or barriers to that for a variety of reasons, whether they’re culturally there are barriers there, knowledge and awareness that we have a voice in this conversation. So what kind of gets in the way? Or what are you up against when it comes to working with parents?

Matt Barnes  11:23

Yeah, so I’ll start with, there’s really two big ones. Culture is the first one and that, let me describe that in more detail. So when I say culture, I mean, the assumptions, habits of behavior and beliefs that large numbers of people share. And one of those is that I should drop my child off at the school, and everything should happen. Okay, from there, right, that’s a well established norm. And most people might have a, you know, you know, standard degree standard deviation around that norm, they may say, Well, I will be involved in the school, or I won’t be involved. But there’s generally that assumption that I can drop my kid off, and the school is gonna take it. So that’s a cultural norm that we have to really disrupt. And that’s where COVID comes in. Because COVID has said, that doesn’t work so well. And everyone now is starting to realize that, but the second part of this is really one of fear. Every parent, so I’ve been doing parent coaching for 15 years. And every parent, myself included, the dominant emotion that we feel is fear, worry about our kids’ future, worry about how they’re going to be treated, worry about, are they going to be prepared for this very different world that they’re going to be stepping into. And so on this last point, this fear element, to me the biggest opportunity is for us to have real conversations about what the future is going to look like. Because when parents start kind of really wrestling with the reality that we’re moving into a world that is going to be decentralized, that’s going to be disrupted as a regular matter, of course, we have to prepare our children for a completely different set of assumptions. They have to be flexible, they have to be agile thinkers, they have to be problem solvers, the various skills that are not taught in a traditional educational model. So culture is the big one. But fear is the one that I see as universal amongst all parents. And I think you drive out fear with love, and you drive out fear with a plan. So that’s what I’m trying to help parents grab on to.

Debbie Reber  13:37

I love that love and a plan. That is really the solution to everything, isn’t it? Yeah, it is. It is. So as you were talking, first of all, I just have to ask, have you read Stephanie Krauss’s book called Making It? 

Matt Barnes  13:51

No, I have not. 

Debbie Reber  13:53

She’s someone I had on the podcast. And listeners all include a link in the show notes. Stephanie’s book really talks about the future of work, and what the future is going to look like and what are the skills that our kids need. And we had a fascinating conversation. So I just want to put that on your radar and our listeners’ radars to go listen to that.

Matt Barnes  14:13

Excellent. I definitely will listen to that. That’s hugely important. Again, just to put a point on that, if parents really understood that, I’m going to direct people to this show as well. Because as parents, we understood that then the question is this, if that’s where the future is, let’s evaluate where they’re what they’re currently learning. And the gap between those two should cause a parent to go, Okay, I’m going to need to figure out a different plan. And that’s where again, we then create a crosswalk from current to future and that’s, again, you know, part of the part of what I hope to help parents do,

Debbie Reber  14:49

I don’t know if this is going off on too much of a tangent right now because I have a junior in high school. And, you know, we’re starting the exploration of college and of course, the whole landscape for college admissions has changed also because of COVID test optional, and is college important? But what I’m seeing in just Facebook groups and discussions that I’m witnessing, there’s this, it’s a very class division, the people at the top, the wealthiest people are still kind of, you know, forging ahead, pushing for this. And so they’re it’s kind of almost like, they’re just walking around with their fingers in their ears like, Nope, we’re gonna stick with the program because this is the way it goes. And so I’m just asking, like, Are you saying that the more opportunity is coming from people who don’t have as many resources, but that’s where the creativity comes in.

Matt Barnes  15:42

You’re exactly right, what I talk about is the families who won who were winners in the old model, they have no reason to believe that it won’t work again. Right. And so they are actually in a really weird way, they are going to be the very last families to transition into the new world of preparation for young people. And so the opportunity actually law and they’re going to double down, they’re going to spend every dollar necessary to get their kids to college, and they’re going to go into however much debt or they’re right, though, they will do whatever it takes, because they are looking at college as at minimum, and insurance policy. Right? They might know or believe or, or suspect that the world, the future is gonna be different, but they want that insurance policy, they’re willing to pay anything to get it. What I’m seeing, though, is that now there are 14 and 15 year olds, I’ve got two in this household, who are developing the skills right now that are making them actually career ready and ready for a changing world in a way that I got to I got to ask the question is unlikely to be bested by the four year college degree, the time lost during that period of time of being away in college. And by the way, just for the listeners, I have one who’s in college, and two who don’t look like they’re going to college and I can talk about the yin and yang I’ve seen those two experiences as well, if you’d like.

Debbie Reber  17:11

Yeah, I’m really curious to hear more about the skills that you said your two at home are developing that, you know, are going to really support them and having a self fulfilled are, you know, kind of be able to create the life that they want for themselves. Because I want to have a better understanding of what those opportunities are for, you know, our listeners, kids, many of whom are forging their own paths, many of whom are being homeschooled, I know you’re really into self-directed learning, who I’d like to talk about that too. But what do you see as those skills that are really important for our kids?

Matt Barnes  17:48

Yep. So let me go through a couple. And again, this will be really based on how much time you have. But the first one I’ll start with is problem solving. And this, you know, you’ve probably heard of the problem solving cycle of setting a goal, developing a plan, executing on that plan, evaluating your progress, and then repeating the process again, right. That’s how all problems get solved. And every high functioning adult does this all the time without even thinking about it. It’s just that it’s automated, that is entirely disrupted in a traditional model of education. Because the child can’t set any goals. The school sets the goals, the school district decides the plan. The school department decides the execution strategy, like when the test is going to be what you need to study, etc. And then the school evaluates the child. So the whole process is interrupted. But when you have a child who’s now moving away from that model, you’re asking the child, what do you want to learn about? What’s a skill that you want to develop? Once they identify that now you start the process? All right, well, what’s your plan? Let’s talk about what your plan looks like. And there’s a ton of coaching, that oftentimes a parent is going to need to play in that in the parent role shifts into what we call a learning coach. So you’re coaching your child, you’re not solving problems for them, but you’re helping them get access to the tools of problem solving. Right? Here’s another one: how to fail. Now, everybody knows this, right? I saw you kind of snicker when I said that. Right? Every parent knows that. The school strongly discourages failure. Right? It shames failure. But the world is constantly changing. Failure has to be accepted, you will fail, and you’re going to fail a lot. The question is, are you going to learn through failure? And oftentimes the answer in an educational model is no, because I failed and now I am a failure. Right? There’s this whole kind of shame thing that comes on to the child. So how to fail is the second one and then the third one is the real way that we learn. Now, watch this. If I want to learn about anything, let’s say I want to learn about neuroscience. divergent kids, what’s the very first thing that I’m likely to do?

Debbie Reber  20:04

Google What is neurodivergence?

Matt Barnes  20:07

Yeah, yes. However, that’s, that’s actually probably the second or third thing I’ll do, the first thing I’m going to do is tap my network. Right? I’m going to now call Debbie, Debbie, hey, I’ve got a question, Who do I talk to? And you’re going to say, go to this website, talk to this person, etc. So the network is actually increasingly the most essential element of a child or an adult’s life, right? You talked about your Facebook groups, that’s a form of network, you can go there and ask for questions and get resolution,  right answers. This is a skill. And it is a hard skill, because it creates a sense of insecurity. When you ask someone that you know, you don’t know them very well, can I talk to you for a little bit. But I can see this in my kids, how they get better at it, they get better at it. And now any problem, they know how to learn about that problem in a way that shortcuts, the Google searches shortcuts, the YouTube searches, because they’re going right to source. So those are three elements: problem solving, how to fail, how to learn. I could also talk about how to quit and when there’s a whole conversation about quitting, and quitting is actually a healthy thing to do. We do it all the time. We don’t usually talk about it. But it’s a skill. So anyway, these are all elements of things that you learn when you’re outside of the system, and they’re absolutely essential for a world that’s changing.

Debbie Reber  21:33

It’s really difficult to learn these skills, if you’re just kind of humming along. I believe that the traditional educational model works for pretty much no one. But there are some kids who managed to kind of do okay, and get through that system. But for those kids who even managed to get through it, and from the outside appear to be thriving in that system, unless they’re kind of putting in the extra work. They’re not leaving with these skills.

Matt Barnes  21:58

No, no, no, they’re not. In fact, they’re leaving with, with these skills being atrophied almost to the point of not being there at all, as an example, the child that is killing it in the traditional model, straight A’s, right? What is the message they’re getting their messages never fail? Right? And that is a hard message to unlearn. But again, parents, here’s a question I ask of every parent I work with Debbie, and I’ll put it to you and your listeners. And it’s really about your vision, the parents’ vision of what the future is going to look like. Do you believe that the future is going to be less stable? More change in the future or less? And if the answer is more change in the future, then we have to prepare our kids to fail. If the answer is less change, then we have to prepare them to succeed. So it’s really a function of how much transition we expect. And if we expect lots of transition, then we naturally get to a point where we were like, Okay, we’ve got to make sure our kids are ready for constant disruption. And that is, for the kids that are successful in the current model, that’s actually going to be a quiet danger that they’re going to have to unlearn at some point in. And that’s a hard lesson to unlearn.

Debbie Reber  23:18

Yeah, absolutely. As you were talking about those three things, problem solving, ability to fail, how to learn, I was reminded of a TED talk, and I’ll try to find it to post in the show notes about math, and how the important thing is not knowing how to solve the math problem or is not getting the right answer. It’s knowing how to approach the problem. That’s where the learning is, you know?

Matt Barnes  23:41

Yes, yes. And the confidence that comes from trying multiple different angles, and eventually figuring it out. That’s literally the key. And again, you know, I’ll get off my high horse here in a second. But speed is always encouraged in a traditional model. But you can’t speed your way through disruption. It requires time and it requires patience and the internal fortitude to tolerate change.

Debbie Reber  24:11

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Debbie Reber  So I love that you keep using this word disruption and I did a TEDx talk in Amsterdam several years ago called why the future will be differently wired. And the whole point of it was that our kids, our neurodivergent kids are labeled as disruptive when they’re kids and not in a good way. yet. We need them to be the disruptors when they’re grownups. Right. So one of the things that you say is that normal is broken in school, and from now on weird wins. And so that really got my attention. Because I, you know, no offense to any listeners, but we’ve got the weird kids. Right. But can you talk more about what you mean when you’re referring to the weird kids?

Matt Barnes  25:41

Yes, yes. Well, you know, it’s it’s a play on words there, of course, but the idea that the weird kid, the one who is curious about weird topics, right, unusual topics that Yeah, I heard about a young man who was really interested in rodents, right, just like fascinated by rodents. In a traditional model, that kid wouldn’t have any space to really explore. But in a model that’s, you know, weird. using that language, again, that child would be able to go as deep as they want. And through that weirdness, they can learn about all forms of biology and history and mathematics and writing all of it through the lens of a mouse, or the mouse’s reproductive cycle or their mouse’s, you know, placing, you know, moving plagues around and in history, like, there’s all sorts of learning that’s available there. But that requires a purse, highly personalized learning experience. And a learning coach that’s walking alongside that child, entirely different from the sage on the stage, which is the historical role of a teacher who has the content is delivering it to the child. The guide by the side language is the person that’s saying, Oh, are you interested in miles? Or mice? Why? What do you like about mice? Let’s explore that more. How would you explore that? Who do you know? Who could tell you more about mice? Right? Your seating the questions that that young young man or woman could learn how to solve their problems and how to explore and who knows where that interest will take them. Maybe it’s related to mice, maybe it’s not, but no doubt that their interest and their weirdness allows them to learn far faster, and allows them to be far more engaged. And to be far more interesting than the typical kid who just dutifully does what’s told to them every day, in order to get that a, you know, last point, I mean, I sat on the board of a couple colleges, one was a selective public university. And they are, they’re actually really hungry. For a kid who comes in and says, I’ve been interested in mice since I was five years old. And here are the things I’ve done. And I’ve got mice growing at home and or, you know, in my, you know, cages at home, and I’ve done studies on them, and I’m working with this researcher about mice, that kid, that kid can write his ticket to university, in fact, that kid better yet will say, I want to go to this university, because that professor is an expert in mice, and I want to study with them. That’s why I’m going to university not to check the box, but because I’m actually really passionate about this topic, and I want to go deep. That’s the difference. And that kid can write his ticket.

Debbie Reber  28:28

That’s really kind of like the ultimate outcome of self directed learning what you’re describing. So first of all, many of us have those kids, right, who really go deep into some sometimes obscure areas of interest, sometimes multiple. And I love this language of, of the head coach, the learning coach, and that that’s something we as parents, that’s a role that we can play two questions. One is, can we do this, even if our kids are still in an old educational model? And how do we as parents really become better learning coaches for our kids?

Matt Barnes  29:04

First question, how can you do this in the old model? The answer is yes. But it’s hard. And the reason it’s hard is because you’re really on your on…You know, that circus act where the, you know, the woman is standing on top of two different horses and they’re running full speed, right? That’s where the parent actually is where the child ends up being. So at school, they’re, they’re rewarded for one type of behavior at home, the reward for a very different one. There’s a whole socialization of being around other kids, we’re all competing and all, you know, buying into that model, and then you come home and you’re kind of alone. And Mom is telling you, grades don’t matter. And curiosity matters, but the child’s going, okay, Mom, you’re the only one saying that. Right? So the longer the child is in that environment, the harder it gets, because the child starts to get aculturated into that. It’s possible but it’s hard. But the way that you move out of that is now Not necessarily the light switch where you know, day one, you’re in the school day two, you’re not. I argue that the best model is actually a transitional model, where usually in January, it’s the best time to start. And so, you know, first of the year is usually right when I do this with families, and that is to have the conversation, what I call a mission map, or a dream map, where you’re asking the child, hey, what’s one thing that if you knew you couldn’t fail, that you would do? What’s one thing and you did a process to kind of blank, brainstorm some things and put them on. And then they choose the thing that they would do. If they knew they couldn’t fail, or the or the thing that they would change in the world. That’s the mission map, if they knew they could not fail. And then you begin a process of saying, Okay, well, let’s, let’s just start spending a little time on that. And let’s start to figure out how we could start to develop a small plan. But the point is that actually from January until May, you’re actually slowly building steam on that plan. So that when you hit summer, it’s actually an intentional summer, where you are now going into that plan. headstrong, right. And, and oftentimes, after six months of this sort of progression, and a summer of like, really going deep, some kids will go, Mom, I really want to continue this, right. So the child now is saying, I really want to continue my study about mice. Again, I’m using that bad example. But I actually was around a kid who was their interest. So that once the child starts to realize that they have a passion, then when they’re in school, they start going, huh, I’m not able to really connect with that. So now there’s a little bit of a break in the social monopoly that schools have on kids, the kid will go, Hey, schools fun. But boy, there’s something that’s in my heart that’s really pushing me and one that I want to really dig into. And so sometimes this takes a year and a half of investment, but the steadiness of the parent to kind of keep asking those questions can start to create the conditions where the child will go, you know, mom, next year, can we do something a little differently, right? And again, many schools nowadays, this is actually a great bonus, many schools nowadays are more open than ever, to unusual models. You can negotiate with the school, Hey, can I, my child come to school, two days a week, because these other two days, we want more flexibility, because he’s going to be going to the museum and studying this or that, or can, you know, we’re going to take off a semester, or we’re going to take off a month and work remotely, because we’re actually going to go someplace else, and learn in country are in, you know, in the research lab, for a semester or a month, these are things that can actually be negotiated. And again, the parents on your show, the parents and your listeners know that almost anything can be negotiated. If you have a good case, and you are ready to actually, you know, fight the battle for the sake of your child. And that’s all I’m ultimately arguing. Does that help? Yeah, absolutely.

Debbie Reber  33:08

You know, I imagine as our parents are talking with their kids about this, they’re also having to constantly be addressing their own fear, which is going to keep coming up, right? Because the further you go down this path, it can feel really good. But there’s always going to be moments where like, well, we’re really deviating here.

Matt Barnes  33:25

No doubt, I and again, I feel it to this day. I still feel this kind of hesitancy like oh, my gosh, am I really setting my kids up, but I keep looking at my kids and looking at what they’re doing. And I at some point, I have to now compare that to what I see and have seen from the university side. And the difference is so stark that I have no, I’m not at all concerned, I’m not at all concerned. Just briefly, I’ve got one child who wrote a book at 17, a published author at 17, another who is a consultant at 15 in tech in some tech space. And again, these are the areas that they’re interested in. one’s interested in flight and theater. Like he can’t make that up, right. So they are going to figure this out. And I have absolute confidence that the time between now you know, they’re 1516 and 17 issues or ish, 17 1617 or 18. Now, to the time that they’re 21. That’s a long period of time. And there’s a ton of lane learning that can happen during that time. And we actually have a bit of a schedule set out for how that next few years looks like they can always go back to college if they choose to. And I have no doubt having talked to a bunch of admissions officers that these are the type of kids that admissions officers are looking for. But I also know that there’s a chance that they will go you know what I’m going to take a few courses because I’m interested may get a degree may not but I’m definitely going to be prepared for world that’s changing that’s that’s the fear but that’s that something at some point parents are going to need. You know what, here’s an idea, Debbie, as soon as possible, contact admissions officers and ask them to give you the names of kids that were homeschooled at their university, right? And then go and talk to those kids or parents and see if they can create a connection for you to find out what experiences and paths they followed, some were homeschool, but they followed a traditional path. Some were homeschooled and followed that very non-traditional path. And you’ll see both. And so I want parents to feel some comfort that the non-traditional path actually is increasing in value, every single year that we go, and it’s increasing in value. So maybe I’ll shut up there.

Debbie Reber  35:44

No, I’ve heard that as well. And that is very inspiring, I think, again, for our kids who have always been on a different path, and have just such unique ways of moving through the world and approaching problems and doing all of those things. So it’s, it is exciting. And I and I do you know, this is one of those conversations that’s making me feel optimistic as well, I have two last questions. And then we’ll wrap up, one I just want to know, with regards to age, is their age of kids to sit down and have that conversation you were describing that January to May plan is their ideal age to start that.

Matt Barnes  36:21

So the mission map and the dream map really can happen almost at every at any age, you have to tone it down, of course, if the child is, you know, four or five, and really, you’re not looking at months, when the child is in there, you know, three or four or five years old, you’re looking at days, what’s one thing that you’d like to try to accomplish in the next two days, right, so you really tone it down if they’re two or three years old, but they’re capable of starting to think about that. Now, if you wait until probably the, you know, the, the transition time for most kids that I see is around 11 or 12, when they start realizing that their kid is capable of far more than the school is asking of them. That may be the next window. Middle school also is oftentimes very tough for kids because of the whole structure of middle school, etc. So that could be another window to take this on. But there’s no lower limit to helping a child learn that there are things inside of them that cause them excitement. And that’s okay for them to pursue those things. No, no, that can’t be done too soon. I mean, it works for adults. So the parents should be doing the same thing along with the child, by the way.

Debbie Reber  37:34

I love that. Yes, we get to be lifelong learners and keep kind of creating what we want for ourselves. Yeah, that’s great. So before we go, I know that you are working on a book, or maybe it’s done and it’s called educating a parent. Can you tell us about that? And when listeners can grab that?

Matt Barnes  37:55

Yes. So this is the most interesting thing I think I’ve ever attempted. And right now we’ve got 45 authors from 14 countries, all who have subject matter expertise on areas related to the things that I’ve seen that parents need to understand about the future, right. And so each of these authors is going to contribute a small amount, you know, 4000 words or so to wet the whistle of parents around specific topics, then those subject matter experts will be available for those families to to work with in a free or very low cost model. Essentially, what we’re trying to build here is the crosswalk for from parent from the old model to the new, and to try to allow parents who have very different kids and circumstances to have one resource where they can pick that up, we are now in the process of slowly pushing that out on LinkedIn, we’re pushing it out by chapters. And you know, and we want feedback, as we’re doing this, we expect it to be ready for publishing probably at the end of this year. But over the next several months, we’re going to be pushing out. So if you connect with me on LinkedIn, you’re gonna start seeing these excerpts that are going to be coming out to help wet the whistle for parents, and also to let parents know that there is a plan that they can follow.

Debbie Reber  39:11

I love that and that idea of a crosswalk. I love that visual. And, gosh, what an incredible resource to be creating.

Matt Barnes  39:20

I hope so I am pulling every hair out of my head in order to get this thing done. But it’s from 15 plus years of work with parents and these are conversations that every parent needs to have. I didn’t feel like I could write one book and do that. So I started asking others that have that are in my network to contribute and so far sexually pretty amazingly, illustrator from the New Yorker who’s going to be participating. There’s a US Secretary of Education who will tell much more about that. There’s a whole bunch of interest around this. And so hopefully by mid summer, we’ll announce the plans for publishing and then by the end of the year, we’ll be out. bookstores.

Debbie Reber  39:59

That’s great. I hope that you’ll come back and talk with us about the book when it is available to listeners, I will have links for where you can connect with Matt, on LinkedIn and any other things that you want to be sure listeners check out before we say goodbye.

Matt Barnes  40:15

Well, is where I do my individual parent coaching, although that is really I’ve toned that down. Because I’m focusing on this book, I want to help 1000s of parents rather than hundreds, hopefully, 10s of 1000s rather than hundreds. So that’s those two ways to get a hold of me. But LinkedIn is where I’m most active, and so I hope to connect with families there. 

Debbie Reber  40:35

Wonderful. And is there one last thought that you want to leave listeners with who’ve been kind of their curiosity has been sparked by this conversation? What would you want them to take away?

Matt Barnes  40:45

Fear is a paralyzer. And so this idea that love and a plan are the two things that can overcome fear. So remember, the passion and the excitement you had when your child was born? The vision you have for that child, that’s the love. And the plan is this crosswalk. How do we get them there? How do we support them in that, though, with those two pieces, you’re going to do fine. So be encouraged, parents, you’re doing great work. Keep it up.

Debbie Reber  41:14

That’s a great note to end this on. Well, thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. I’m excited to stay connected and to support this book sounds amazing when it comes out. So thank you.

Matt Barnes  41:25

Thank you, Debbie. Thanks for the time.

Debbie Reber  41:29

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