Brent and Claire Berninger decided early on that homeschooling was the right choice for their family.
They wanted to implement child-directed learning, to allow their sons to learn about themselves and develop their individual skills and passions to better prepare them for college and careers. It was working, Claire says, but over time they began running into hurdles with the boys’ academics.
As her boys — Jackson, Ethan and Joel — got older, they struggled with reading and mathematics. Individual lessons became a fight and reading programs didn’t seem to work. Jackson also began displaying speech issues.
“I felt like we were falling behind,” Claire says.
In 2013, a friend told Claire about the National Association for Child Development (NACD). She did some research, and was attracted by the individualized programs and science-based techniques. She decided to give it a try.
A year and four months later, her sons’ academic performance has skyrocketed. Jackson’s speech issues are gone. They’re excited about learning and about their academic futures. So how did they get here?
Starting the NACD journey
Following initial “baseline assessment” for each of the boys, Claire used personalized development plans for each child within their existing homeschool model.
The NACD program features short but intense learning and memory exercises that the student completes several times a day; Claire said scheduling for all three of her boys was a challenge at first, but she loved how much she was learning about her sons’ brain development and discovering what training was effective.
“They empower the caregiver with what to do and how to do it,” she says. “You’re not on the sidelines anymore, you’re the expert.”
Claire was given the tools to further customize her sons’ learning, and she administers regular assessments, testing their comprehension, retention, and analytical skills.
Results started rolling in. “Math was fantastic!” she says. “There were no tears, there was no frustration. This is easy, this is fun, let’s keep going!”
After just a few months, her sons’ performance started to improve in the assessments. “After 6 months, all of a sudden everything exploded!” she says. Each of her sons has progressed between one and three grade levels. “It was so cool to see how far they were really coming in that short amount of time.”
Welcome to Simply Smarter
Last year, the Berninger’s NACD coach said the boys were ready for more self-directed training, and they added the Simply Smarter online system to the mix. Simply Smarter implements personalized training activities that complement the NACD program, but allows the student to complete the exercises independently online.
“For me, it definitely felt like now they were capable of managing independent activities,” Claire says. Her sons developed memory and computer skills, mentally retaining information and typing it into the program instead of responding verbally or writing on paper. And they were further motivated by Simply Smarter’s rewards, which feature exciting, oft-coveted badges.
“You get the badges when you achieve certain goals and my kids love that. They get all excited about it,” she says. Claire adds incentive with fun activities and treats when one of the boys reaches a new level in Simply Smarter.
Rewards are fun for the kids, but Claire loves the Simply Smarter dashboard, which displays the student’s progress over time in easy-to-read charts.
Over the course of 16 months with NACD and Simply Smarter, the Berninger boys’ results speak for themselves:
- Jackson progressed five grade levels in math and word recognition, and six grade levels in reading. At age 11, he’s considering starting college courses in the next few years.
- Ethan progressed four grade levels in math and word recognition, and five grade levels in reading.
- The youngest Berninger Joel, age 4, recently started the NACD and Simply Smarter programs, and Claire is excited to see his progress.
The Berninger family is continuing their journey with NACD and Simply Smarter and they’re preparing their sons for a bright future.
“Simply Smarter has really opened the door for academics to flourish,” she says. “Then when academics flourished, my goodness, their social skills and their confidence in life really flourished. It really works.”