On today’s podcast, Russ and Mika are talking about education: their school backgrounds, how they picked schools for their daughters, and how they implement learning into their home life.
While Russ and Mika both have parents who are teachers, they have pretty different educational backgrounds. Russ was born and raised in Arizona public schools and Mika hopped around schools in Japan, living in urban cities and rural villages, before coming to the states.
In this episode, Russ & Mika talk private, public and charter schools, what they look for in a school and its teachers, and the education they try to teach as parents, outside of the classroom.
In this episode, you will learn:
• How Russ & Mika deal with education over a wide age range of kids
• Why they start school young
• The importance of intuition in picking a school
• What they value in education
Mentioned in this episode:
• Russ Perry on Instagram
• Mika Perry on Instagram
• The Sober Entrepreneur by Russ Perry
• The Russ Perry Show
• Picklecon 2019
• “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
• “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport
• The Popcast with Knox and Jamie
• Breakfast Kitchen Bar in Scottsdale, AZ
• Felicia Romero, Mika’s trainer
• Diet Dropout podcast
• “George’s Marvelous Medicine” by Roald Dahl
• “A Place Called Slaughter Race” from the Ralph Breaks The Internet Soundtrack
• Arizona State University
• Northern Arizona University
• “The New Global Student” by Maya Frost
Do you have questions, comments or suggestions for this show? Send us an email at Hello@GoodtoBeHomePodcast.com!
Russ Perry: I’m Russ Perry.
Mika Perry: And I’m Mika Perry, and you’re listening to Good to Be Home.
Russ Perry: Good to Be Home is a weekly exploration of entrepreneurship, family, marriage, sobriety, and how we balance our business and life.
Mika Perry: From our family to yours thanks for joining us and welcome to our home.
Russ Perry: Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of Good to Be Home. I’m your co-host Russ Perry.
Mika Perry: And I am Mika Perry.
Russ Perry: Today we are talking about, of all things, education. It’s a topic that we were kind of brainstorming about, and a light bulb moment went off with both of us, and we were like, “Holy cow, we are actually very, very well qualified to talk about this,” not only in our background, which you’ll get into a second, but with our kids. We have three different kids in three different school systems, different ages, a big age gap between them. So, we’re in the middle of it. Also, we see high school and college on the horizon. So, today we’re going to dive into that, what we’ve learned, the experiences we’ve had, our background and kind of how we’re planning for the future.
Mika Perry: So, as you mentioned, Russ, we were brainstorming this topic. Someone had brought it up and we said, “You know,” or I did I said, “Well, who are we to talk about education? Are we qualified, Russ, to go on air and share this with the listeners?” The more we thought about it, we realized, yes. So, I have my Masters degree in elementary education. Our parents are teachers. My dad is a tenured professor at the University of Arizona. Your mom, Russ, is a 30 or so, maybe more, plus years veteran of teaching. She is a teacher in Mesa, Arizona, teaching third grade for a long time. Your dad is a substitute teacher in Payson, Arizona.
Russ Perry: Starting the second career as a teacher, like in his 60s.
Mika Perry: He specializes in Special Ed, right? Even my mom, who doesn’t have a teaching degree, she is a Sunday School teacher and back in Japan she was a piano teacher. Then, finally, Russ, although not technically education you now are a coach. You are coaching people and to me that’s a form of education. Anything that has to do with learning and facilitating that, I think, counts.
Russ Perry: Well, let me add. When I worked for Apple I was a creative, and what did I do all day? Taught people how to use their computers. And, my grandfather and all of his brothers, were teachers. My grandfather also was a tenured professor at the University of Arizona in hydrology, the study of water.
Mika Perry: That’s right. That’s right.
Russ Perry: Massive lineage of teaching here.
Mika Perry: The more we thought about it we said, “You know what, we actually do have the experience and background, the lineage of education, and it’s something that’s very important to us.” So, today, we are sharing on how we have brought all that together to now apply it to our family. There are plenty of parents listening to this podcast, and I know some people who don’t have kids yet. But, I think this is a great topic to discuss, because it is all around us. All of us have gone through some form of education in our lives. We’re just sharing a little bit about our experience with it.
Russ Perry: Awesome. Well, before we get to that let’s jump into our lists of what we’re reading, listening, eating, and loving. Mika Perry, take us away.
Mika Perry: I hope you guys are excited about this, because it’s been a while. We’re had interviews, solo episodes, so this is return to our normal segment. So, for reading I’m really not reading anything right now. I have a stack of books next to me. As you all know, or maybe you’re new here. Hello if you are. My name is Mika, and I struggle to read.
Russ Perry: You’re working on it.
Mika Perry: I’m working on it, so actually this year my Word of the year that I set an intention for is Read. I just wanted to read more, and I actually love to read, but I just can’t get to it. Maybe some of you out there can relate. I either fall asleep or I get distracted, or bothered by kids. So, to find a good length of time to read is a little bit of a challenge but one that I’m not going to use as like an excuse.
I often choose listening to podcasting for information, and if I have some free time that’s what I’ll do instead of listening to like an audio book. So, anyways, the books I have on the side of my bed right now, I have Big Magic by, she did the Eat, Pray, Love. Then, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport which, Russ, you have read and you passed that along to me. So, those are the two books that are on the docket for me.
Russ Perry: Have you mentioned your friend, Michelle’s, book that you’ve been reading? Michelle Obama.
Mika Perry: I already finished it.
Russ Perry: Oh, did that make it on the list?
Mika Perry: Yes.
Russ Perry: Okay. Hey, I’m trying to find things for you.
Mika Perry: Thanks. No, I finished that one.
Russ Perry: Okay, good.
Mika Perry: Listening. I have recently listened to a few episodes of a podcast called The Popcast with Knox and Jamie. So, Jamie I met her at Alt Summit. She was one of the presenters for podcasting, and she did a fantastic job. She’s hilarious. Their podcast is about pop culture. They’re so funny, and the tagline, I believe, is like Helping You Learn Things that Aren’t Important. We talk about the things that aren’t important. So, I’m not a big pop culture, celebrity gossip person, but even I have found their podcast to be very funny, and entertaining. So, if you love like The Bachelor you will love this podcast. Check out The Popcast.
Eating. I just ate the most delicious breakfast bowl, like 10 minutes ago before we started this. Where did you get it for me?
Russ Perry: Breakfast Kitchen Bar at the Scottsdale Quarter.
Mika Perry: Oh my gosh. It is so good.
Russ Perry: It’s a cauliflower mash bowl.
Mika Perry: So, there’s mashed cauliflower on the bottom that tasted like grits, or mashed potatoes, and then on top of it there is mushrooms, and bacon, and Brussels sprouts. Oh my gosh, you guys, I want to eat this every day.
Russ Perry: Really good. You can’t eat eggs but I had it also with over easy eggs.
Mika Perry: So good. So, if you’re in Scottsdale head over to Breakfast Kitchen Bar. Finally, loving. I am loving my trainer, Felicia Romero. So, Felicia and I, it’s interesting how we got connected. I actually had heard of her name just because she’s actually pretty big in the fitness industry. She’s local. She has been on the Olympia stage, which is body building, several times, Fitness cover model. I had just heard of her name, but she actually became a listener of Good to Be Home, because she is engaged and she is going to be a stepmom, although she is definitely filling in those roles already in the relationship of being a stepmom. In that we started connecting online. Now, she is my trainer.
So, for the past several weeks she has been coming to the Design Pickle Gym here and training me on Wednesday mornings. This is Wednesday and so she trained me about an hour and a half ago. She is so good. It’s like I finally found the perfect trainer. She does an insanely hard workout but you don’t kind of feel like you’re dying throughout; you just notice the next day you’re like, “Wow.” What I love about Felicia is that she times everything for me, and counts reps. I’ve had trainers that don’t. She just knows what’s she’s doing. I also am on her online program, which you can do remotely with anyone. She has a meal plan and sends me workouts through a very intuitive app. It’s the best fitness app I’ve ever used. Now, she is going to be coaching the Design Pickle team, because she does corporate wellness.
So, what’s also awesome about Felicia is that she has also started a podcast, so we talk about that during our workouts. Her podcast, I just want to shout out, is called Diet Dropout. So, she herself has also gone through thyroid, healing her thyroid, metabolism, kind of stepping away from that competition world and really tuning into her body. I can really relate to that, not the bodybuilding part but tuning in and healing from within. So, just wanted to shout her out. She’s awesome, so thank you, Felicia.
Russ Perry: Awesome. All right. Well, for my list I’ve actually categorized my list, the kids edition. I notice that all my items I think are appropriate when we’re going to be talking about a kid a lot today, kind of were relating to kids. So, what am I reading? We just finished Read Aloud With Me and Reese. We were going through the Roald Dahl Collection, and we finished George’s Marvelous Medicine. Now, this is a lesser known title by Roald Dahl. Basically it’s a super dangerous book to read your kids, because effectively George goes around his house and puts all this stuff into a bucket, including cleaners, medicine, like all the things under the sink you don’t want your kids to access and then gives it to his grandma and then Grandma has all these crazy reactions. I’m reading this book and I’m like … It’s like one of those books that you read in today’s society that you’re like, “No way could this book be popular.” A parent would freak out that he’s encouraging kids to go and create poison, basically. But, it was really entertaining. It was a fun book.
Mika Perry: What did Reese think of it?
Russ Perry: She was laughing, and it’s short. It’s like 100 pages. So, it’s almost like a long, long short story about it.
Mika Perry: So now we need to be aware.
Russ Perry: Right. You know she didn’t … Reese is very creative and she gets ideas and she wasn’t necessarily like inspired to go …
Mika Perry: Kill us with-
Russ Perry: … make her own medicine to kill us.
Mika Perry: Good.
Russ Perry: Right.
Mika Perry: Phew.
Russ Perry: What am I listening to? On heavy rotation in my car is Slaughter Race by the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Ralph Breaks the Internet AKA Wreck it Ralph 2. [singing] It is an interesting ballad, a vocal by Sarah Silverman. Reese is always like, “What’s wrong with her voice? Why is her voice so scratchy?” But, it’s pretty good. We know all the words. What am I eating? I’m sure we’ve mentioned it before. I love rice, like the rice cooker rice. The kids consume it. I steal bowls every now and again. It’s just delicious.
Mika Perry: It’s gluten free.
Russ Perry: Oh, really. I mean, I know. But, clearly rice out of an authentic Japanese rice cooker. Make sure you guys know that. This is not stove-top rice. This is really, really solid stuff. Then, what am I loving? Video games, specifically Skyrim. I’ve been getting back into that. I play a half an hour a couple times during the week, maybe an hour or two during the weekend. It’s been a nice unplug. So, that’s my kids edition. All kid stuff throughout it out.
Mika Perry: Not Skyrim.
Russ Perry: Well, Skyrim video games.
Mika Perry: Okay.
Russ Perry: Skyrim is not a kid game at all.
Mika Perry: So, you’re a kid? Playing video games? Kind of.
Russ Perry: Eating rice, listening to Wreck it Ralph.
Mika Perry: You are.
Russ Perry: And reading Roald Dahl before I go to bed.
Mika Perry: It’s a big kid.
Russ Perry: Okay, education. Huge topic. We’re going to cover a lot of stuff today. Let’s go into our background. How did we get into this whole education lifestyle? Mika, let’s go with you second, because your story is a bit more original than mine.
As Mika mentioned, my mom has been a teacher my whole life. I remember even before she got her first teaching job she was a volunteer at a preschool. That was one way she paid for me to go there, is I got free tuition at the preschool, that while she was in school. I have just all the memories of being in classrooms helping her tear down, prep for the year, knowing all the teachers on a deeper level. Even getting in more trouble than the average kid because I was under the spotlight.
Mika Perry: So, you were a teacher kid.
Russ Perry: I was a teacher kid for sure. As I mentioned, my grandfather he was a professor, so going to the UofA, hanging out there, learning all about it, total values. I wrote an essay in high school on how Arizona schools are funded via property taxes, and how the inequitability of different neighborhoods, and all of this.
Mika Perry: How astute of you.
Russ Perry: Yeah. No, I was dialed into it. So, growing up, though, I also cared about money. I knew that the teacher life path wasn’t a very lucrative one and decided that it wasn’t going to be for me, but ended up always loving to teach, always really valuing it. That was something that I carried over into a ton of my business endeavors, including my first real cool job I had out of college which was working for Apple. So, I think at the end of the day … What I was attracted to you, Mika, was that you had a very similar background. You and I had … I remember being taken to museums and learning about stuff and my mom always had so many facts about things, and knowledge, and books. This was just part of our life.
I didn’t go to summer camp, like cool jump on the inflatable things the the lake summer camp. I went to history camp. I loved it, like it was really fun. I think that was kind of my background with it. I think what has been really cool raising kids with you now is that we lean more into that side. We’re more into the arts and the education side …
Mika Perry: Academics?
Russ Perry: … of enrichment for kids. So, my background I would say wasn’t that out of the ordinary.
Mika Perry: And you went to public schools.
Russ Perry: I went to public schools. My high school had over 3000 kids in it. I was a big product of public school. I went to Arizona State University. I have a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies, which is a degree you get when you just needed to get a degree, and you need to graduate because your scholarships are running out and you’re taking too long.
Mika Perry: You should mention about your scholarship.
Russ Perry: Yeah, I got a Leadership Scholarship at Arizona State, so I had all my university paid for. It’s called the Leadership Scholarship Program, LSP. Some of my closest friends, even people I still connect with today, were from that. It was … The best I could describe it was like a co-ed fraternity. We had monthly meetings. We had retreats. I had an advisor. I had a big buddy. Very academic focused. There is no hazing or anything [crosstalk] of that.
Mika Perry: You got that because you were a Student Body President.
Russ Perry: Right. It was also one of the only full-right scholarships with the lowest GPA requirements.
Mika Perry: Oh, really.
Russ Perry: So, you only had to keep a 3.0 GPA for this one, and it was all about your involvement and your leadership skills, clearly with the name. So, I applied for that, and I was Student Body President of Canyon del Oro high school, go Dorados for all the Dorados listening out there. Then, I was also Junior Class President, which I started later on. I didn’t do student government until after I kind of like was done with sports, and I pursued that. So, that’s my background.
Mika Perry: That’s your background. I will explain how we converged, how Russ and I like converged in Tucson. So, for my background. Like I mentioned, my dad is a professor, and he’s also a translator. That’s the more lucrative side. I think that’s what pays the bills around my parent’s house. He’s translator of Japanese books and a professor of Japanese literature at University of Arizona.
I grew up moving around a lot. When I share that a lot of people ask if it’s because of the military. But, it’s actually because my dad was getting his PhD as I was growing up. So, I was born in Nagasaki, Japan and moved to the States in New York when I was about three and went into a regular just preschool, English-speaking preschool without knowing English. So, the first time I learned English was when I was three. I learned it very quickly. My mom is Japanese but also speaks English. My dad is American but speaks Japanese, so I grew up in a bilingual household. By the time I had learned English and everything was good it was time to move back to Japan. He had a teaching job there. In New York we actually lived in Ithaca. He was getting his PhD at Cornell.
We moved back to Tokyo. I went to a Japanese public school. This is first grade now, so I was Reese’s age. She’s in first grade right now. Let me tell you about Japanese schools. It’s very different from America. I went to school in Tokyo, which is the most … It’s like going to New York, Manhattan. Very urban, very …
Russ Perry: Metropolitan.
Mika Perry: … metropolitan. That’s a great word. So, it was pretty normal for Japanese schools. Very strict, large. All schools in Japan it’s very uniform as far as all the backpacks that kids wear are the same. They all have to wear like certain kind of hats. All schools, or most all schools, are uniform, so very uniform, very similar. Everyone’s kind of the same. Individuality is not very encouraged, at least it wasn’t back then. I don’t think it still is as much as America. But, what is more encouraged is performance.
I learned like my multiplication table when I was in first grade, had it all memorized. In second grade we moved to southern Japan. This was in stark contrast to Tokyo schools. I went to this little mountain elementary school. You’ve seen it, Russ. We’ve gone back to this village in Japan where my mom was from. We moved into my grandparents house, because my dad got another teaching job at a nearby college. So, this school … My mom went to this school. Did you know that?
Russ Perry: No.
Mika Perry: Yeah, my mom went there, and actually my grandmother taught there. So, my grandmother was a teacher, too. We walked to school …
Russ Perry: This is where you brush up the “back in my day” stories.
Mika Perry: Yes, yeah. So, I use this experience when our kids now complain about school. I say, “Well, when I was your age I walked to school barefoot.” In the summer you walk barefoot, because they imagined that it strengthened you.
Russ Perry: I want to point out like, this is real. You’re not making up the story.
Mika Perry: No. You don’t wear shoes. I remember being hit by my teachers for forgetting homework. So, she would line us all up and grab a ruler and anyone that forgot homework she’d just go down the line and hit us on the head.
Russ Perry: Oh, man.
Mika Perry: Yeah, not right in the face but on the head. So, there was hitting involved. Then, I remember everyone ate the food there that’s like prepared by the cooks there. If you didn’t finish, if you didn’t eat it all, I wasn’t picky but I just didn’t like it, I would be the one person to not finish lunch and so I’d have to take it out to this like furnace on the other side of the school property and put it like in a furnace, barefoot still.
Russ Perry: An incinerator.
Mika Perry: An incinerator, yes, and incinerate the food that I didn’t, the leftovers that I wouldn’t eat. There are no janitors at the school. Maybe they come in like for a deep cleaning, but on a daily basis the kids clean schools in Japan. So, after lunch we always push all the desks to one side of the room. Everyone has an assigned task. I would get a rag. They wouldn’t give you brooms, you get a washcloth or a rag. Then, you get down on the floor and you like run pushing the rag across the floor back and forth. You were the physical [crosstalk]
Russ Perry: A dog position?
Mika Perry: Yes, like a, mm-hmm. So, you just like scooch it across and run. We’d have fun. We’d run, like race each other. But, the older students would clean the toilets, the bathrooms. So, a lot of manual labor and maybe some violence. But, let me tell you we knew our multiplication tables.
Russ Perry: Right.
Mika Perry: So then I moved back to the States. My dad taught at University of Washington for about half a year and then we moved to Tucson.
Russ Perry: But hang on. Was coming back to the States, did you remember your English?
Mika Perry: No.
Russ Perry: Was it … Talk about the language piece.
Mika Perry: So, I was nine, turning 10, and I had now forgotten English. So, I re-learned English when I was nine. That was hard. My parents said that I was upset, obviously. But, what was really a blessing was that we moved to Seattle. Seattle has a decent Japanese population so that it made the transition a little bit easier, because I could still speak Japanese to a couple of my classmates, and I made friends. So, it wasn’t like all of a sudden everything around me was English. There was a little bit of like a Japanese feel around it, so that was helpful. Then, we moved to Tucson. By then my English had come back and I went to a public elementary school, public middle school, and then I went to a private high school, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, which was across the street from your high school.
Russ Perry: CDO.
Mika Perry: CDO, so that’s kind of where our lives started to parallel. Russ is going to the giant public school.
Russ Perry: Heathens.
Mika Perry: Heathens across the street from my small Christian high school. I had about 100 people in my graduating class, so very different from your experience. Then, I went to ASU, simply just because I wanted to leave Tucson. I, luckily, had a very reduced rate for attending a state school because of my father having taught at UofA or being there. So, I went to ASU for four years. I was actually talking to someone about this the other day that I wish I hadn’t rushed and finished in four years. For some reason I was like … You know I work well with a deadline. If you tell me four years, it’s like “I will get it done in four years,” and then I left and I was like, “Oh, I should not have rushed that. That was really fun.”
My degree … I went in wanting to major in marketing and pivoted that into a Japanese major, so I have a BA in Japanese, and a minor in business with a certificate in International Business. So, my idea was to work for a multinational corporation, a big firm. No idea what industry, but to bridge the cultural gap between Japan and America. Actually in my mind I came up with this position to be a liaison between corporations so that they would understand each others cultures, like those going to Japan to work in Japan to understand the nuances and subtleties of the Japanese culture. And vice versa, helping Japanese people dealing with business in America, why Americans are the way we are. So, that didn’t happen.
I went into finance, worked there, and then decided I really loved the experience I had growing up in Tucson in high school, helping with kids at church. I had been on a missions trip. I had taught Sunday School and I loved working with children. So, when I was in a cubicle thinking of what my next step in life would be, I wanted to teach. To do that I had to go back to school. So, I went and got my Masters in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. I didn’t even have to step foot on the NAU campus.
Russ Perry: Right, which is in Flagstaff about two hours north of Scottsdale.
Mika Perry: Yeah, they had a remote campus here, so I went to night school, online school, right as we were getting married and then went back into teaching. I had a shorter career as a teacher than I would have hoped for. Just our life circumstances, having kids, just didn’t pan out. This is also when Russ was struggling with his agency. It was just a rough time. Had this happened in a different state maybe where the pay for teachers would have been higher, it could have worked out. I don’t know. But, our life story this is how it shaped so I stepped away from teaching. But, right around that time is when we had our kids and then our experience with education shifted away from ours to our own children and their path.
Hey guys, we wanted to quickly send a personal invitation to you for an upcoming event we have here in Scottsdale.
Russ Perry: It’s called Picklecon, obviously inspired by the name of my graphic design company. But, this is the conference for creative entrepreneurs. Me and Mika are assembling our top influencers, folks that have influenced us, entrepreneurs, business owners, people just getting started in their business for two and a half days here in Scottsdale.
Mika Perry: So, there are a few reasons why we think you should attend. One, if you haven’t been to Scottsdale this is your chance. We will be offering multiple sessions of coaching and personal development, and you are going to hear from some amazing entrepreneurs on their personal journey and have a ton of take aways for you to take home with you.
Russ Perry: Right now, if you’ve been to entrepreneur business conferences you know they can get pretty big and gnarly. This is not one of those conferences. It’s small. It’s intimate and it’s going to be a lot of fun. If you’ve never been to a conference this is your chance to get started. I’m telling you, you will walk away clear and inspired for what you want to accomplish in 2019.
Mika Perry: So, it doesn’t matter if you have a small business, big business, what type of business you have, you are all welcome to join us for these three days of intense, awesome learning and growth.
Russ Perry: Early bird ended but we’re extending a special offer for Good to Be Home listeners. You can use the code goodtobehome and get our discounted early bird pricing, which is going to be the best pricing we’ve offered this entire time. Just head over to picklecon.us and use the code goodtobehome when you buy your ticket.
Mika Perry: We really, really hope to see you there.
Russ Perry: [Party] one. Now back to the podcast. Okay, so you and I have definitely had a lot of similarities, also a lot of differences. I always want you to tell those hard stories to our kids about Japan to remind them how lucky they have it. But, we have kids in very different situations, life, like active parenting situations right now with school, with education. It’s been this way since we’ve been together, because we’ve had Maddix since we were married. We’re going to end with her, because we have the most stories about her. Let’s start with, what is going on in Paige’s world with education? How have we made those decisions?
Mika Perry: So we have three kids for anyone new joining us today. We have Paige who is three, Reese who is six almost seven, and Maddix who is 13, and she will be going to high school. Now, let’s start with our youngest, Paige. She is in a private preschool. It’s a Christian preschool nearby. This is the same preschool that Reese went to when she was in preschool. Reese went there for three years, including pre-K. This is Paige’s second year. Paige has loved it. Reese loved it. I love it. The teachers are amazing. When we walked into this school when we first toured it for Reese they had one spot open the week before school started. It was when our Nanny had quit and we were like almost desperate. I didn’t know what to do. I had a client job starting the first day that she was going to school. It was just like this moment … It was like a meant-to-be school situation.
So, after Reese left it was Paige’s turn to go in. She has a lovely teacher. It is just one of those schools that is very much like what I imagine school was like when we were growing up. It’s not just academic. They’re really focused on the whole kid, having fun, making crafts, learning ABCs, singing songs, having lunch, taking a nap, just a really vivacious, caring, wonderful school. We started Paige young. She was two. Russ and I have a philosophy with school and our kids for all of our kids, to start young and not be afraid of that. The reason being from the socializing aspect. There’s only so much that they’re going to learn from being around us for so long. Learning from their peers, watching, interacting, being with others is how kids learn. They model what they see. So, being in a classroom environment early on helps them.
Coming from a teacher’s perspective, and also raising our two older ones, the more experience they get with school the easier it is for them when they actually have to go to school starting in kindergarten. I notice, and I know other teachers can say the same, too, they can tell a difference between a student that has been going to school early on, preschool, versus a student that hadn’t. So, it will take that student that hadn’t had that experience … You know, walking in a line, asking to go to the restroom, sitting and eating lunch, following direction, holding pencils, using scissors. A lot of that you can teach in the home environment but there’s just certain social queues that you can only pick up by being in a social situation.
Russ Perry: Right, and a lot of that we’ve seen reflected in self-confidence and certainty with our kids. How do they interact in public situations with others, with themselves, with knowing what they want even though sometimes that’s kind of backfires for us, because they’re very, very opinionated on things. With all three kids now we have enough data to say that that has been a huge advantage for them as kids. Putting them into that situation where they’re going to have to learn how to have and navigate social dynamics and maybe not get what they want, or have to speak up for it.
Also, more-or-less we’ve been working parents the whole time, more-or-less. There’s only so much quality time we can generate as working parents keeping them at home trying to have more time with them, an hour here, two hours there, three hours there when we are running to work, having to manage this, having to do this, just truly isn’t beneficial for either of us. Now, having them in a schedule, and structure, and all of that, even from a young age … Like when I go pick Paige up from school on Friday it’s like total plug in. It’s part of our routine. We get to have that time together. I just think that I enjoy my time more with them because I’m not around them all the time. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say.
Mika Perry: No, no. I think a lot of parents can relate to that. Yeah, we have not regretted putting the kids into daycare for [Maddie]. When she was little she started out in daycare and then eventually transitioned over to preschool. It’s been wonderful for each of our kids. That’s something I wouldn’t change.
Russ Perry: Now, one specific thing I have to point out is this preschool I did not even think at all. Like, I judged it so hardcore when we first were told about it and we rolled up and it’s in like a strip mall next to a tire shop. We heard like, “This is the best preschool in Scottsdale.” Like, “This is best one. You got to get in. There’s only one spot left.” We rolled up and I was, “What?” I’m imaging some Shangri-La-like-
Mika Perry: Cute little schoolhouse.
Russ Perry: Scanning my retina, eyeball to get in, like all the tech and technology. It’s not. Like you sign in on a paper sheet.
Mika Perry: No, you have a computer.
Russ Perry: There’s a computer and sign in.
Mika Perry: And a keypad at the front that locks the door so-
Russ Perry: It’s very secure. Let’s just say that it was important for us to get there and meet the teachers, to talk to the students. There are people teaching there that attended there when they were kids. I think that’s something that you can get real caught up on. Like, if you’re in that mode right now where you’re thinking about where you want to send your kids for preschool, you have to go there and feel the energy and feel the vibe, and talk to it. Don’t judge it by the website. Don’t judge it by what cool building it is and how much technology or whatever. Do they have cameras or not, or this or that? You want, obviously, a certain amount of safety and security, but you really have to think like, “What is the vibe and energy my child is going to be experiencing for two days a week, three days a week, five days a week?” And that you’ll never be able to find out unless you go spend some time there.
Mika Perry: Yeah, I would say go with your intuition.
Russ Perry: Right, totally.
Mika Perry: Because that’s what we did and it just clicked. So, moving on to Reese, because this is an example of intuition, as well. So, Reese is in first grade. This year is her first year at a Charter school. She is going to a Classical Academy. There are many locations here in Arizona of this brand of Charter school. We have moved her to this school this year from the local public school, our neighborhood school, from last year kindergarten because, one, a new campus opened up nearby, like just down the street from here. We could walk from the office and also from our house. Having this new campus, they were able to extend the attendance. They like tripled in size, so just a really great opportunity and time for us to give it a try. So, we went to tour it, and it is very different from the public school. It is a Classical Academy so their curriculum is based on works of … They have the Socratic method of arguments and talking and problem solving. They use phonograms. They do Singapore or Saxon math.
So, it’s very much a more you could say rigid school than public school. They have a very strict uniform, and everything is inside. They are very academic leaning. That’s there focus. To be honest, having had come from her kindergarten the year before, there was just kind of this intuition of like, “I kind of feel like Reese deserves more.” She is very smart. She’s a sharp kid. I remember this happened in pre-K, too, and definitely in kindergarten, she was almost regressing and bored. We haven’t tested her for gifting, and I don’t know if I would want her to go that route. I should mention here, you were in the gifted program growing up. That’s not something that we’re pushing on our kids. We’ve never been like, “You need to be in the gifted. You are so good and you need to achieve.” But, it was just like, “I think she needs more.” Reese likes doing good and doing well and learning. This school when we toured it just immediately had a sense of that’s what this is going to give her. It was going to stimulate her brain and her social development.
Also, some people may say, “Well, a school like that it’s so rigid. Being a kid is the time to have fun.” The thing is that Reese has no problem being social and having fun. She will find every opportunity and gets along with everyone. So, she’s not the shy, reserved kid that needs help being more social. In fact, it’s the opposite. So, her social skills are like on point.
Russ Perry: Thanks to her super loosey-goosey preschool that she went to.
Mika Perry: It was not loosey-goosey. That’s just her personality.
Russ Perry: Yeah, no I know.
Mika Perry: She is motivated by fun, and loves fun, but I just thought, “You know what, this is a chance for us to give her a little bit more of a strong academic experience.” So far we’ve loved it. She has blossomed. She still does talk about the public school but I think it’s because-
Russ Perry: It was kindergarten.
Mika Perry: It was kindergarten.
Russ Perry: I mean, everyone misses kindergarten.
Mika Perry: It’s so fun.
Russ Perry: I wish I was in kindergarten still.
Mika Perry: Me too, me too. So, we’ve been really happy with it. So, as far as like the elementary age. It’s not preschool anymore like you’re getting grades. You’re being tested. There’s more opportunities being presented. There’s homework now. She has a good amount of homework. I really like this year because I have felt that I have had to stay on top of it because of the volume of communication and homework but that, in turn, has made me feel more involved. I’m also the room mom. I’m the room parent, I guess is the more PC way. So, I’m the room parent this year, and that also has added another level of involvement. So, I feel very meshed with the school this year.
Russ Perry: Or room person.
Mika Perry: Room person. Sure.
Russ Perry: Now, I know not every state has Charter schools. That’s a very Arizona thing. In some situations Charter schools are very polarizing. Not to get too far off track, but Charter school is like a seven-letter bad word in my family because I have such a legacy of public educators, and there’s been a lot of controversy over the money, and the funding. We’re not going to get into that. It exists, and there are, unfortunately, a lot of Charter schools that have totally messed things up. They’ve taken money from pubic schools. They haven’t been run … They’re, basically, private businesses in a lot of ways, and they’ve spent money, wasted money. So, if you are in a situation where a Charter school is an option they can be very good, but you have to be triple, triple check the school itself. What are they about? What is their history? What are their standards? What do they do? Because it actually is very, very much less regulated than public schools, 100% less regulated. It’s not regulated.
So, you have to ensure that the people that have founded it, or the programs that your kids are going to be on the right track. There’s some legit horror stories with Charter schools that were just money-making schemes. So, the one we chose super established. It’s actually nationally based. It’s very, very well-
Mika Perry: Yeah, they’re very communicative and transparent.
Russ Perry: Exactly. All the standards, all the structures, all of that kind of thing. Deep down inside my heart aches for the public school situation, but at the end of the day it’s a crazy huge problem that no one parenting decision is going to fix. So, I am thankful that we have choices and options now. But, with any choice and option you just … It’s like I just want to give a disclaimer to everybody to make sure that you really, really do your due diligence on it.
Mika Perry: On the other side of that, if you have your kids in public school, or you’re exploring it, the teachers there make a huge difference.
Russ Perry: Oh yeah.
Mika Perry: So, you could go to a public school with an excellent teacher and have the best year ever. But, what’s sad is that because of the lack of funding and support that the public schools are getting, teachers are getting tired, and overworked, and underpaid. That can really seep into and have a trickle-down effect into the classroom. It’s not their fault. So, I would definitely … If you’re thinking of public school it’s not bad. That’s not what we’re saying at all, but you can have both kinds of experiences.
Russ Perry: Absolutely. Just to repeat, the child and what is good for their environment. I loved big schools. I loved public schools. There were private options. There weren’t really Charter options, kind of sort of towards the end of high school. I was also very self-directed. I was able to navigate things on my own. I had a very clear compass that I was working towards. So, put me in any situation I’m going to be okay. I feel like that’s going to be a big decision for any parent out there, as well.
Mika Perry: One final note I want to make about Reese’s school. One thing I really like about it is that they walk the halls silently. That expectation just brings me back to being in school in Japan. While I have shared, you know, the hardships of that, I like that they take it seriously and have these really high expectations. You don’t talk in the hallway. Don’t talk. You can talk some other time. I just feel that … I like that strictness.
Russ Perry: It’s self-discipline, which is like a life-long characteristic.
Mika Perry: It really is. There’s something to be said of like follow the expectations, or have respect. They do it in a way that like … They have words on the wall that says, “Truth, goodness, and beauty.” That’s their guiding principles of the school. So, it’s a really great combination of like a really strict structured environment but also values are in growth and enrichment.
Russ Perry: Totally. So, on to our third, and oldest child, Maddix. 100% public school child. So, again, individually looking at what is great for each child. Now, Maddix is in eighth grade, graduating next month. Graduating eighth grade. I do remember that, too.
Mika Perry: We are throwing a graduation party for her.
Russ Perry: She has always gone to the local public school wherever we’ve lived, from when we were dating to when we were married, and so on. That now will continue into high school. We tried looking at other options for Maddix this year. We actually went on a very extensive journey, her and I, around five different high schools, three private, two public. Our whole plan was let’s just keep our options open. Let’s see. We have the luxury … I even told her, “You are so lucky. You can choose. You can make a choice on this.” There was no choice for me. There’s was just public, or public, or more public. We went and her and I had a really great experience. For anyone with older kids, what we did is I just, basically, said, “Look, here are the rules. No decisions will be made. We are going to go through all of them and at the end of every tour, we were able to visit them, we’ll try to sell each other on it and then we try to convince each other why we don’t want go there.
So, at the end of every tour I had to tell her, try to like sell her on why she should go there and then I had to look at the reasons why she shouldn’t go there. She did the same thing.
Mika Perry: I love that.
Russ Perry: It was a cool, fun experience, and it took the course of, I think, three to four months to get all the tours and all the visits. At the end of the day truly, truly, truly the local public high school was the best choice.
Mika Perry: The best fit, which is interesting, because we went in saying, “You will not go to this public school.” She was in tears. We had many tearful nights of her wanting to go to this public school, because all of her friends were going there. We were like, “You are not going to a place just because your friends are going. You are going to a school that is the right fit for you.” At the time we didn’t think it was this neighborhood school. So, we went on the tours and low and behold that original school is the best fit for her, because of her interest in the arts, and that was the school that offered the best in music, and that’s her interest. Also, actually her friends this year are really great girls. To be able to follow them into high school we just thought would ease that transition and help her. I think it’s scary being a freshman in a school.
Russ Perry: Maddix has had to go to at least four different schools. Now, everyone changes from junior high to high school, but to change into an entirely new environment where you don’t know anyone, that’s a much different story than when you know a handful of folks, or your crew moves into that group. This was a decision that absolutely was made for Maddix specifically. Great fine arts program. She started to pick up some honors classes this year in eighth grade, and she wants to continue those programs in high school. At the end of the day, do we need Maddix to go to the most rigorously elite academia school? No, we want her to continue to grow as a young lady, have self-confidence, be independent. You know, find her path to higher education, which we’ll rant on in a bit here. That’s why that decision was made. At the end of the day Maddie was very, very, very articulate.
In her own arguments for it with looking at all the different programs, and being in agreement with that. That wasn’t just parent judgment we passed down. She in this process was like, “Yeah, they have the biggest musical program. They have all these XYZ classes that sound really interesting to me, which truly the other schools didn’t.” I’m excited for her, and she gets to ride the bus.
Mika Perry: That will be nice. Yeah, so that’s a point with managing three kids and three different schools this year, and it will continue for the next few years because Maddie will be at the high school, Reese at the Charter school, Paige has two more years of preschool. So, we have two years of the system of three drop offs, three pickups, three different schedules, because they’re all on different calendars. A lot of it goes together, thankfully, but there are different, like teacher appreciation are different weeks. So, that’s been challenging but I think the biggest tip for that, if you’re managing kids at different schools, is just take the time every week to go over calendars. At the beginning of the year really set it down. Put everything into a paper planner, or your Google calendar, and then just stay on top of all the communication, the papers that come home from school.
Russ Perry: Right. Now, I’m a bit hypocritical for what I’m about to say, because I didn’t do it today. But, I have tried to incorporate pickup and drop offs as part of my routines with the kids, as well. So, for Reese most days I’ll drop her off at school when I’m in town, and then for Paige I’ll try to pick her up at least once a week. That’s time that we have. I’ll pick Paige up on Friday so we can … It’s slower. We can go get dinner. We can run around a little bit, stop by the park. Looking at your own work schedule and how do you integrate that with your kid’s schedules is really important.
I have a coworker, not going to name names, but I’m begging him to get one of his kids to go to the same preschool our kids go to, because it’s right around the corner from where we work, because right now he’s having to drive an hour, hour and a half, leave work early, work late, get up early, and navigate so much to just have a certain school where it’s closer to his house. But, at the end of the day that’s like the least convenient option. That’s something we’ve been very, I don’t know, like very conscious of. How do we make sure that this is balanced with us, too. Like, we’re the primary caretakers.
Mika Perry: Yes, and convenience is a factor, I think, you should not feel guilty about factoring into your decision. Because, think of the time spent driving and how you’re going to have to arrange your schedule. That could wear on you after a while. If there’s an emergency or something, it makes it harder. So, if you are trying to pick schools, and you’re thinking, “Oh, am I being selfish for thinking about this school is closer?” Don’t. Don’t feel guilty about that. This is your family’s life and time. So, find a school … If you’d rather go to the one that’s closer, that’s going to make life easier.
Russ Perry: Well, and every parent’s felt the mass pressure of picking kid up late from preschool and it’s like $400 a minute every time they’re late and you’re like racing, “I got to get there.” You just avoid that.
Mika Perry: Yeah, definitely, so there’s like traffic and stuff like that. So yeah, so that’s where we’re at with our three kids. Every day is a learning experience with kids. For example, like this morning before school Reese and I were arguing because she had missed assignments that she need to catch up on from missing school on Monday. She was sick. The school has a lot of … They make you come pick up the work that you missed during class, not homework, like classwork, all the things they did in class you have to now do at home and turn it right back in. So, volume wise it’s a lot and it was really a struggle. So, there’s things that come up. Maddie has … I just got an email for all the eighth grade graduation information coming up. Paige. What’s going on with Paige? Paige is just having a great time at school.
Russ Perry: She just does cowboy day and art fairs and-
Mika Perry: The cutest. But, what I love about Paige being in preschool is just her vocabulary has just exploded. I can even just tell by like weeks, even days, the words she comes back and says. It’s slowly turning in from words to sentences to phrases to paragraphs. It’s just really cool to see.
Russ Perry: As we look ahead, a couple things that I want to mention, and talk about. One is the importance of our own design of education and the experiences that we give our kids. So, as listeners may or may not know, we really highly value global travel. This is something that’s high on our list. We now are looking at our fourth summer in a row taking trips. Most of them have been abroad. But, this is a key part of education. So, we can have all of the perfectness of timing and schedule and schools and everything like that, but there is a big piece of our educational plan where we’re just trying to expose our kids to other stuff, things like mosquitos, or the fact there is no TVs, or riding around in golf carts, and just these things that give them more than the academic experiences by some organization who feels that that’s what kids should learn.
Mika Perry: Exactly. Me moving around, that in itself was an education. Learning how to make new friends, how to learn a language, different cultural differences. Life is an education. It doesn’t have to be inside of a building, like you said. I think travel has been one way that we have brought education into our family. We work, and we may not be able to sit at home. We definitely never considered home schooling. That wasn’t an option for us. But, there’s other ways that you as a parent can educate your kids outside of the school walls.
Russ Perry: Actually, I have considered home schooling and then it’s like 20 minutes of homework and I’m like, “I’m not. No way would I do this.”
Mika Perry: I know. There’s some people I follow on Instagram that are home schoolers. Part of me thinks I could do it. There’s actually a family I know that I’ve talked to that home schools, and in Arizona it’s pretty like easy as far as standards, what you have to and don’t have to turn in. I was kind of shocked. So, I don’t know. I’m sure these kids are learning a lot of great life experiences at home but just the academic expectations, or benchmarks I just wasn’t very clear on it. I was like, “Really, you don’t have to turn that in? Interesting.” I was like, “Oh, that sounds kind of easy. Maybe we should do that.”
Russ Perry: I think there is probably a wide spectrum.
Mika Perry: I’m sure there is, but I’ve seen moms preparing like the lessons for the day and I was like, “What a cool experience to give your kid at home to learn.” I mean that takes a lot of self-discipline on the parent’s part for sure, and tons of scheduling. So kudos to any home schoolers out there.
Russ Perry: So, related to experience, and I think kind to close everything out is like what’s after high school? College or no college? You and I are both university grads. You have two degrees; I have one degree. Is that something for our kids?
Mika Perry: So, my thought right now is, “yes.” Growing up for me, and I think for you, too, we grew up on college campuses. I was always at my dad’s colleges, in his office, in the libraries. When I was in high school I would use the [inaudible] at UofA to study and do homework, because I just like environment. I grew up on college campuses, so there was no question for me. It was like, “I am going to college. Where else would I go?”
For our kids, because we are not educators, we are not professors. Your mom was a teacher. You’re a teacher’s kid. I was a college professor’s kid. For us, it’s business. So, I think that I would love to explore the option of gap year. If our kids decide to not-
Russ Perry: What’s a gap year, by the way?
Mika Perry: So the gap year, just to clarify here, is that you don’t to college right away and you spend that gap, a year, traveling, working, exploring the world as close or as far as you want to go. Just because of the travel we’ve done together, individually, and as a family there’s just so much benefit for that. I would be fine with our kids doing that as long as they worked. I’m big on that. You and I both worked throughout high school and college and still do. If they want to go to certain colleges I think we’re going to approach it just in the way that we kind of approached Maddie’s high school selection, is let’s make this decision somewhat together. I think they’ll be much more autonomous for the college choice. But, consider all the financial, and social, and life choice options and factors into that decision. We have joked with our kids that they can go wherever as long as they get a scholarship. But, I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I think our options are open.
Russ Perry: I heard of this other program that exists where you can like Photoshop your kid’s faces onto sports teams and they get into colleges.
Mika Perry: Oh my gosh. What a fiasco.
Russ Perry: I mean, on that note, it’s all about the experience. I would say, “yes” to colleges not because of some academic requirement that they must achieve, and get to, and have that degree, because that’s the only way for opportunity to arrive. It is, “What is the experience going to be like?” I have this vision of Maddix going to Northern Arizona State University and just loving it and having this awesome experience and being in this environment not too far away, but it’s not about the academic rigors of NAU; it’s about her life transition-
Mika Perry: Into adulthood.
Russ Perry: Right. Whether that’s right out of high school, or the gap year, whatever. For me the “yes” on post education is more of like experience, post experience not post education.
Mika Perry: I agree with you.
Russ Perry: There is a great book I want to recommend, and it’s a very, very broad-reaching book, but it’s a book about this whole concept of experiences. I read it last year. It’s called Global Student by Maya Frost. She coins this term Smart Education Design. So, effectively how as a parent do you create the best educational system for your kids, combining travel, combining unique things like dual enrollment in high school to get college credits and get ahead while you’re still a younger student? I love this book. We won’t have time to get into it, but it really sums up this whole idea of like the value of experience inside of education, which is … I just think of so many things on how much I value that now as an adult. That could be the best gift we give our kids.
Mika Perry: So, to wrap it up. The things we value from education, whether it’s inside of a school, or outside in the world, is fostering independence, a sense of confidence, exposure to just a variety of things, interests, opportunities, and a safe and caring environment, people there that love and care about the student. That’s what we look for.
Russ Perry: Awesome. I agree. So, we’d love to hear, what has your journey been? We have friends and listeners with kids around our ages, or kids that have graduated. They’ve done the high school. They’ve done the gap year. They’ve done the college. We’d love to hear on what your thoughts are in hindsight, or going through that experience. You can email us at email@example.com. If you have any other thoughts just reach out. We’d love to hear from you.
Mika Perry: Thanks for being here today, guys. We really appreciate it and we’ll see you soon.
Russ Perry: See you next week. Bye.