Julie Knowles of the Collierville Arts Academy in Collierville, TN explains the importance of staying busy during Safer at Home. She and her husband are offering resources to parents who are suddenly being asked to home-school their children.
See the transcript below.
Anna Bell: Today I’m thankful to have co-owner and director of the Collierville Arts Academy, Julie Knowles, on the phone to talk with us about how she’s spreading some joy in the community through her free online classes and even giving us a few homeschooling tips for parents and caregivers with children at home. Julie, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
Julie Knowles: And I thank you so much for inviting me on.
AB: Yeah, absolutely. How have the last few weeks been for you and Tom, has this been a learning experience as a business owner?
JK: Well, I think, no one could have anticipated just the far reaching effects of this, right? At first, although for us as a locally owned business, we were able to adapt to a lot of our online classes very quickly because my husband and I had had some familiarity with doing online webinars and other kinds of things like that. Switching to that online class wasn’t difficult for us as much as you might have thought, but I’ll tell you what the challenge has been. It’s really been finding the extra time to reach out more individually to our clients and their families because you know, so much of what we have done in the past has been in a group format where, you know, we would be mixing and mingling in larger groups and now we find that we’re having to do more of that individually in order to keep the connection very strong. And that’s a big challenge.
AB: I bet. I bet. You know, honestly, that’s kind of one thing I’ve been telling people. I feel like I’ve been given a little bit more time at home, but as a business owner, it really never stops does it?
JK: No. Yeah, it’s so important. And one of the things that we discovered right away, you know, in the community that we are in, we have many homeschooling families that we have been connected with over the years and we teach group classes and we get to know people from all walks of life with all different children at different ages. And you know, we teach adult students and even college-age students. So we are constantly, you know, getting to know people at different stages and ages in life. And one of the first things that we noticed was parents, particularly with younger children were immediately very worried that somehow there were going to be these massive gaps in their children’s education. And that, you know, somehow they were not rising up to the occasion the way that perhaps they should. And we wanted to just reach out really quickly because not only have we had homeschooling experience of parents ourselves, but we know so many of the families in the community that do homeschool.
JK: We wanted to let parents know, first of all, take a deep breath and realize that it’s really, you know, a very temporary situation and that you’re not going to do or undo anything in a few weeks that is going to be, you know, horrible. You know, we want to let them know that first of all there’s so much education that goes on that doesn’t necessarily come out of a traditional school classroom that you can thoroughly enjoy with your child. And of course a lot of wonderful learning does come from the classroom. And of course we are classroom folks ourselves and of course we miss that environment a great deal, but there’s still so many other opportunities and we felt like we just wanted to reach out and let parents know it is going to be okay.
AB: I know. I’m so glad you’re doing that because that is top of mind for a lot of parents and caregivers right now. And the fact that you are offering some homeschool resources, is that right? That’s, that’s a good thing. Can you kind of tell us a little about those resources and maybe a little, your experience with homeschooling?
JK: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, you know, our studio, we work with all different ages and many of our families are homeschooling families. And so over the years we’ve kind of compiled a list of good resources that people can go to, whether their child is an average student, a special needs student, a student that is testing way above their age bracket. For example, we compiled some of these resources just to help parents be able to go online and find, you know, steady help, things that they can use at home that are practical, that kind of put their mind at ease if they’re not accustomed to being a classroom type of teacher. We wanted them to realize as well, not only are these online resources great, but it’s okay for you as a parent to realize you don’t have to do it just like the book either.
JK: You know, so many times, I think we as parents are afraid to say, Hey, you know, I want to do this exactly correctly, I don’t want to do anything differently from the teacher, but that may or may not necessarily be the best learning style for your child. So, you know, when you’re at home and you don’t have a lot of other options and you’re left to your own devices, so to speak, it’s okay to kind of reach out and ask for help. You know, if you have a student that is perhaps not performing the way you think they should or maybe they’re struggling with a subject, reach out to someone. There’s so many good resources and people with lots of experience. I mean, just have to be, you know, not a little too shy. You have to, squeaky wheel gets the grease, so to speak, jump up and go get it.
AB: That’s exactly right. We’re all having to put that hat on, aren’t we? And too, so kind of in addition to these homeschooling resources that you guys have, you’re also offering some free online classes to the community. And I think that is such a beautiful thing, you know, in the middle of all of this. Can you tell me, maybe why free and tell me briefly about, about the videos?
JK: Absolutely. Well, we just finished filming a new series yesterday, which is great fun. It’s great to go. Yeah, it’s great to go in the studio and create these videos. We’re doing it for our community because we felt like when you’re at home and your mind begins to wander and you think to yourself, do you know, I’ve always wanted to try dot, dot, dot and you fill in the blank. And so we discovered that a lot of folks were reconnecting with us and saying, you know, this dancing with you, I’ve always wanted to do the fencing thing with Tom. And I began to say, well, we’ve got a little extra free time now because we can’t go and do our regular sports routines or whatever. And they sort of reached back out to us and, and I said, No, well let’s just go ahead and put a few things out there just for fun, just to get somebody up off the sofa and moving again or thinking about something that they had tucked away in the back of their mind and said, you know, maybe on a rainy day, I’ll try X, Y, and Z.
JK: This just makes it so fun for them because they can try it in the privacy of their own home. Right. So I have many adult students that have just blossomed that I’ve always wanted to do tap dancing, that I’ve always wanted to take a ballet class. Or teenagers that maybe would not normally say, Hey, I want to do dance. Or maybe they’re active in theater and they think, you know, I could learn to do a couple of time steps and do better on those musicals.
JK: We’ve actually had such a good response to what we’ve been doing, and really I think the key is that you just can’t hold people back. You know? I mean you, you have this free time and as long as you’re presenting things in a very accessible way, in other words, not asking them to do things that are too difficult or presenting something in a hodgepodge sort of way. If it’s very orderly and it makes sense, but the timing is, is such that you don’t have to spend too long in front of their computer to master a skill or something, it makes it great fun. So yeah, we’ve had a good time.
AB: Absolutely. I love to hear, you know, the silver lining in all of this and like you said, we were given a bit of time, let’s use it wisely and do something creative and honestly one of the things that you’re offering the story time is something I’m so excited about. I have a four year old and almost two year old that are bouncing off the walls and to get five minutes, you know, just a couple minutes of story time. That sounds awesome to me. And so I love that.
JK: Absolutely. Yeah. Well we’ve had a great time doing story time. I have a couple of other members on our staff that have younger children and mine are mostly grown adults now. But, you know, I remember those days when you would just say, could I have 10 minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, just to sometimes have a diversion. You know, I had children that were just a few years apart in age and there were often times when I just needed five or 10 minutes to have some focus time with one child while another child was doing something else. And, you know, I discovered really early on, it doesn’t take a lot to capture a child’s attention, but sometimes it’s just in the voice. It’s just having someone different to listen to. And I’ve really always been an avid reader and my children love to read, but something magical about being read to and just listening, you know, even if you can’t see all the pictures perfectly, there’s just something great about that.
JK: I think that’s one of the reasons why, you know, just letting your imagination go and having that creativity is so important. And sometimes that’s what young children need. They need that little spark of creativity. So we, we brought the story times into our video components because we felt like that was a great connection. Whether your child was a dancer or not, whether your child takes martial arts with us or not. Everybody loves a good story and it’s fun to hear something. It’s fun to hear someone else tell a good story. So yeah, that’s why we started doing this.
AB: I’m so glad you started to say this about, you know, imagination and getting creative, you know. How important is it incorporating the arts, whatever avenue that may be, into our lives at a time like this?
JK: Oh, I think it’s huge. I think it’s absolutely vital, you know, being idle, it’s very tough on you mentally. And I think you don’t steal your time, that idle time, that emptiness really breeds negativity. I think it’s very dangerous to let that go for a long period of time without channeling it somewhere positively. So we try to tell our students no matter what ages they are, you know, fill your days with movement, but also fill your mind with movement. Give it something to do. So, you know, we’ve offered to our dance students for example, to self choreograph a dance and send a video to us. Show us what you’re doing, you know to listen to good music, to move your body to exercise and to stay healthy.
JK: There are kids and some of our teens and adult students that are at home painting and they’re drawing and they’re doing this to music and they’re just freshly discovering a new page and filling it with something – color, textures, movement. That’s so important for us as human beings. And if you take those kinds of things away, it just really lets a lot of the dark and negative things creep in. So when you’re at home alone and there’s a lot of empty time to fill that and you’re healthy and you’re feeling well, fill it up with good things because that’s so important for us as human beings.
AB: I could not agree more. I love exactly what you said. It’s so true. And so for those that are looking for these resources, whether it’s your free videos, and I’m assuming that’s for all ages, correct?
JK: Yes, we are. In fact, I just did a seated senior stretch yesterday for example. So I have people up into their nineties that participate in some of my senior stretch classes that I teach in the community. And so even if you’re not able to get up and dance like you would love to be able to do on two feet, if you’re seated in a chair, this is a wonderful way for you to move. So we’ve posted classes for three year olds all the way to people in their nineties and everything in between. We’ve got dance and fitness and fine arts and martial arts and all kinds of wonderful things. So there’s something for everyone to discover and they can find those online.
JK: It’s called colliervillearts.com. And our music teachers have even been teaching piano and voice online and guitar lessons. Isn’t that marvelous? I mean, so even if you’re not interested in moving your body necessarily, but you love music, see there’s something for you to do there too, so.
AB: That’s good stuff. Oh, I love it. I’m so thankful, Julie, that you have spent your time with us today and you shared this advice and this tips and what you’re doing for the community is a wonderful thing. I’m so thankful.
JK: Sure, Anna. You’re so welcome. Thank you. I hope everyone is staying home and staying healthy and I do hope this passes us soon, but in the meantime, we’ve got to do something to keep ourselves not only entertained, but also educating ourselves and moving forward in a positive way.
AB: I like what you said, give your mind some movement. Right. Let’s stay moving. Yeah.
JK: Yes, indeed.
AB: Right. Until next time for all those who are listening, I’d like to send you well wishes from my home to yours. Until next time, I’m Anna Bell.