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Yes, Homeschooling Really Does Pay Off: An Interview with Andy McDermott

January 23–27, 2017   |   Vol. 129, Programs 46–50

Do you ever feel discouraged about homeschooling your kids—maybe wondering if it’s even worth it? Then today’s Homeschool Heartbeat program is for you! Here’s actor and homeschooling dad Andy McDermott, with an important and encouraging perspective on homeschooling your kids.

“There [will] be bumps in the road, and you’re going to have a tough day here or there. . . . But I promise you that this will pay off.”—Andy McDermott

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Andy McDermott has seen a lot in his career as a professional athlete, a police officer, and an actor. And through it all, this homeschooling dad has come to realize the one thing that matters most. Find out what it is on today’s Homeschool Heartbeat.

Mike Smith: My guest today is Andy McDermott. He’s a former soccer player and a police officer who now works as an actor in Los Angeles. He and his wife are homeschooling their four kids. Andy, welcome to the program!

Andy McDermott: Thank you sir! It’s an honor.

Mike: Well, I appreciate you being with us today.

Created for relationships [0:35]

Mike: Andy, you grew up wanting to be a soldier. So how did you go from there to being a professional soccer player, then a police officer, and now and actor and a bodybuilder?

Andy: Well I can tell you that it wasn’t planned like that. Very little of my life has been planned. But you know, soccer just kind of kept going. Soccer was a huge blessing in my life. It got me through college, it got me an education. And then the opportunity to play professionally came up, and I just chased that dream.

And then when my wife Julie and I, we started our family, it was time to get a real job. And so at about 27, [I] retired from soccer and the most fun and rewarding real job I could think of was being a cop. I’m not the kind of guy who can sit still very long and I always have to be helping people and trying to make a difference.

So I was a cop in Phoenix for about eight years, and after that—very long story short—they came and filmed a movie called “Everything Must Go” in Scottsdale. And I ended up in this movie with Will Farrell and Michael Peña and just got some very strong encouragement from that. And it awakened the childhood dream of being an actor. And we moved to L.A. about four years ago.

Mike: So you got the acting bug. Before we talk about that, though: You’ve got a varied experience in your background—are there any lessons there that you’d like to share with us that you learned during that time?

Andy: Yes sir, I think there are two main lessons. One is relationships. I really learned to believe we were created for relationships. I mean, throughout all my life adventures I’m grateful to have rubbed shoulders with some absolutely amazing people and learn that we all need help sometimes, and that we have to help each other.

And then I think the second lesson is just timing. Very simply, I’ve learned that if you wait for the perfect time to do anything, you will never do that thing. Because there never really is a perfect time. But if you jump at something and give it everything you have, then you kind of create that perfect time yourself.

Mike: So when you say relationships, Andy, what do you mean by that?

Andy: I mean good relationships. I feel like a lot of humans, and especially successful ones, go through life with their heads down and just try to achieve, achieve, achieve. But I think you just miss so much of the joy in life, and you miss so much of helping each other, and laughter and love. So I think from my background, I’ve just learned how much better life can be when you are interacting with people and helping each other, and then every once in a while you need some help, and there’s somebody there who’s willing to help you because you have helped others.

Mike: You know that’s an interesting insight, because I like to ask successful people that I meet and get to know a little bit, “What’s most important to you: relationships or being right?” How would you answer that?

Andy: I would say, If I can’t take the easy out and say both, I would say relationships. I really would. I’ve learned that I’m not trying to anymore be the greatest single human on earth, as I was when I was younger. Now I’m just trying to be the best that I can be, be the best husband that I can be. And if I can achieve some success before it’s my time to go, then so be it. But in the meantime, it’s the relationships, it’s the day-to-day interaction with people around me.

Mike: I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think actually success builds on relationships.

The craziest show on earth [3:37]

Mike: Andy, what are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had throughout your career as a professional soccer and a police officer as well as an actor?

Andy: Well I’d take that in each part. I would say as a soccer player, for me it was the travel. I’m grateful that it took me all over the world. I got to live in Germany for a while and got to play soccer in all different countries and really learned what an international language soccer (or football) is.

And then as a police officer, I just remembered the laughter. Of course we had to see some of the most terrible and some of the roughest things you could imagine, but there was also some of the highest, funniest times interacting with people. I call it “a front row seat to the craziest show on earth,” because you just never knew what you were going to see.

But then as an actor, even though I’m grateful to have worked on some big sets with some “big stars,” this past weekend, actually, I got to film a short film that was created by me and the director. So it came out of my head and [it’s] just really exciting to see. We had probably 50 people on set over the weekend here in Phoenix. And it’s just so exciting to see something that started as a dream come into reality, and I think that we really killed it this weekend. So that was really exciting for me.

Mike: Well Andy, let me ask you this: How has working in these different fields influenced or changed your perspective or perception of people around you?

Andy: You know, I think it has just enhanced it. I was blessed to grow up in a good family with good parents, so I had no prejudices as a kid. And then I think that that just was enhanced by—as a soccer player, as a cop, and now as an actor—just being amongst so many different cultures and so many different diverse people groups. You know, my love for languages and speaking different languages and just interacting with people on their level and relating with people, it just has enhanced that. I’ve just gone through life with an open mind, and I think that has just helped me to enjoy life even more and then also just to make better connections with people from all different walks of life.

Schooling on the go [5:31]

Mike: Andy, why did you and your wife initial decide to homeschool your children?

Andy: Well, very simple reason, and that was time, and being able to see my son. We now have two boys and two girls, but our oldest—when it was time for him to start school, I was working as a police officer. And I was working 2pm-to-midnight shifts, and so if he was going to a regular school, I would have missed him in the morning and then missed him at night. So we initially started just so that I would be able to see him before I went off to work. You know, we said we would try it for a year, and that was, man, six [or] seven years ago. And now we have all four that we’re homeschooling, and it’s just been fantastic for that reason and others as well.

Mike: Andy, how old are your children?

Andy: The boys are 11 and 9, and the girls are 6 and 4.

Mike: So would you say now as an actor you have more or less time to spend or help out as a homeschooling dad?

Andy: Oh, so much more. I have a very busy schedule sometimes with auditions and meetings and stuff, but if they were off at school, I don’t feel like I would be able to spend very much time with them. So now, when I’m home during the day, then I can help out with the schooling.

And more than that, we really just enjoy traveling and things. So when I’m off on set, or off on photoshoots or whatever, then these guys always come with me. And I think that’s the best thing about homeschool: we can bring school with us.

Mike: And I bet they like that, don’t they?

Andy: Oh, they love it. They love it. Because you know how living in Los Angeles, it can feel like a concrete jungle sometimes. So getting out to experience some fresh air and the real world a little bit is always fun.

Learning beyond the books [7:04]

Mike: Well that’s great, Andy. What are some of your favorite moments from homeschooling your children?

Andy: Well Mike, I think the biggest thing that pops into my head is travel with them. That’s my favorite thing about homeschooling: we can bring school with us. And this past summer, we actually took a big road trip—Hollywood kind of slows down in July—and so we actually took three full weeks and we drove from L.A. out to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and spent a week out there, and then drove back in a different direction.

So I think for me, that’s the coolest thing about homeschooling: they don’t have to just read about something in a book, you know. For example, we stopped in Washington, D.C. for a day and got to walk around and actually see things and touch things, and go to the museums. And you know, stopping in hotels along the way, and even doing some school in our family truckster minivan. You know, it’s just so cool to actually see the world and see education through their young eyes. I feel like I am learning about this stuff at the same time they are. For me, those are the most memorable times.

Mike: I’m going to ask you about your wife. She’s the homeschooling mom, she’s doing most of the work—let’s face it, correct?

Andy: Absolutely.

Mike: Alright, if there was one thing that she could ask you to do to help her—the most important thing—what would that be?

Andy: I think encouraging the kids. You know, I definitely give her a break every day so she can do her own stuff. She needs her “me time” just as much as anybody else does. But I think it’s just encouraging the kids and tell them how important it is that they keep their focus and keep their energy. You know, I’m just kind of a motivator guy, so just telling them, “Hey, good job!” or “That sounded great!” or “You’re doing really well!” I think kids need that, but I think moms need that too. So I think that’s probably the best way I can help her is keep encouraging everybody.

Mike: You know, Andy, that’s one of the best things you can do based upon some surveying my wife did many years ago when we were homeschooling—[it] is that moms need encouragement and they need some free time. And you hit them both!

Andy: That’s good to hear!

It’s all worth it [9:06]

Mike: Andy, what are the most challenging aspects of homeschooling, for your family?

Andy: Well, I would say there are a lot of challenges to living in L.A. Homeschooling is a little bit quieter there than it was in the Phoenix area, where we first started homeschooling. And so I think it’s just navigating those conversations with people of the stereotypes of homeschooling and just explaining why we do it.

And then I think, you know, the best seller for homeschooling is when people interact with our kids. And not that they’re superheroes or anything, but they’re good kids, and they interact really well with people, and I attribute that to a lot of homeschooling time. And so I think that’s the challenge: just navigating those conversations and finding other homeschoolers in the L.A. area.

Mike: Well Andy, you are a veteran now of homeschooling—you’ve homeschooled for eight years. And so I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you to give some advice to folks who are listening out there—many of them are just getting started and some of them are just contemplating homeschooling. So if you could give some good advice to those folks, what would it be?

Andy: Oh, yes sir. I am a hundred percent advocate of homeschooling, and I would just encourage other parents by reminding them that this is a long-term investment. There’s going to be bumps in the road, and you’re going to have a tough day here or there, and you might not feel appreciated by your kids or your spouse, or whoever. But I promise you that this will pay off. All the energy and all the time you’re putting into this—it’s a long-term investment in these little humans, and they will be so much better off spending their time with you, learning from you—and you will too. So just remember this is a long-term investment, and you’ll get past today, I promise.

Mike: Well can I say amen to that?

Andy: Yes sir, amen to that!

Mike: Well amen, brother. It’s been so great getting to know you and the tremendous encouragement that you’ve given our folks out there in radio land. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Andy McDermottPhoto of Andy

Andy McDermott graduated from Northwestern University 1998 and played soccer professionally for 7 seasons in Chicago, Germany, Indianapolis, and Charlotte, NC.

After that, Andy worked for the Phoenix Police Department as a police officer on the Tactical Response Unit of the Phoenix Police Department for 8 years and as a reserve officer for 2 years. During that time, he worked mostly on a pro-active street crimes squad and as a certified translator in Spanish and French. He also served as one of the Head Instructors for Fitness for all police departments in the state of Arizona.

Andy is a U.S. Soccer National Coach (B License) and coaches three soccer teams in LA (one for each of his sons and one Men’s League team). He has also taught martial arts and holds a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Andy currently works as an actor and model in Los Angeles, as well as a writer and Training Expert for Muscle and Fitness, USA Today, and Men’s Fitness. He also founded a family fitness/nutrition community called McDermottFamilyFitness.com.

Andy has been married to his wife Julie for 18 years. Andy and Julie have two boys (ages 11 and 9) and two girls (ages 6 and 4).

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