WMAL radio producer Heather Hunter started in radio before having kids. Now a mother of two young girls and the producer of one of the nation’s most popular morning drive programs, Heather explains how she balances it all and how she plans to add even more to her plate as her daughters get ready to start school.


TRANSCRIPT

Julie Gunlock:

Hey everyone. I’m Julie Gunlock, host of the Bespoke Parenting Hour. For those new to the program, this podcast is focused on how parents should custom-tailor their parenting style to fit what’s best for their families, themselves, and most importantly, their kids.

So one thing I’ve been trying to do this year with Bespoke is interview parents who really do practice bespoke parenting. And that means doing it the way that best suits them. They may choose to do it that way because of philosophy or need. And when I say need, I mean, sometimes we have to adjust the way we parent simply because our schedules are different, or there could be something like divorce, or heaven forbid single parenting because of the death of a spouse. Sometimes things like just changes in location, or changes in jobs, mean that you might have to start parenting in a different way.

So we want to explore that. And one of the guests that we have had on recently is a trucker, she is a mother and a grandmother, and we talked about how she managed to be a mother while having an unusual schedule and an unusual type of work. We’ve also interviewed some doctors. We hope to interview someone in the law enforcement field. And I think it’s just really interesting to interview these people, see how they’re parenting, and it sort of demystifies parenting and tells people, look, you can do it in a variety of ways. There’s really no good way and no bad way. And we live in an era where parents are definitely told there is a specific way that you should parent that’s best. And we try to debunk that a little bit here on this podcast.

So today I’m going to be speaking to my friend, Heather Hunter. She is actually a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, but I work with Heather mostly at WMAL, which is a radio station in Washington, DC, where I am a co-host of a morning program. Heather is a journalist and she is a veteran radio television and film producer. And again, as I mentioned, she’s been managing Washington DC’s popular morning drive show on 105.9 FM since she joined WMAL in 2010.

I only started co-hosting this radio program this year. That’s not true actually. I started in October of last year, but I’ve been doing it for far less time than Heather. She has produced three top 10 nationally syndicated radio programs. The G. Gordon Liddy Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, and most recently The Lars Larson Show.

In addition, she produced the top Orlando Morning Drive Talk radio program, The Shannon Burke Show and various shows for XM Satellite Radio. Again, she’s been working in media for 24 years. She started her career as a radio host on an alternative rock station in her hometown when she was 16 years old. And I got to tell you, Heather’s pretty cool, she has a lot of rock and roll in her. I love working with Heather on O’Connor & Company again, which is on WMAL in the Washington DC area. She is just an amazing producer and I’m really thrilled to have her here today.

Hey, Heather, thanks for coming on.

Heather Hunter:

Thanks Julie. Appreciate it.

Julie Gunlock:

Well Heather and I were actually on the radio this morning. Heather, as I mentioned in the intro, Heather produces the O’Connor & Company, which is a morning drive program. So we are both up early, and Heather is up early five days a week. I’m only a co-host two days a week. So how you feeling Heather? I’m a little tired. Are you a little tired?

Heather Hunter:

Well, getting up at three in the morning, and then with two little kids, as you know, you have multiple children as well. It’s a lot of energy that you have to … it’s kind of like figuring out how to be a marathon runner. You just figure out your energy throughout the day you know, just like how can I finish the race? But I mean, I love what I do, and I know you enjoy doing it as well. And it’s early hours, it’s long days because we also … you know when the news cycle, as we’re starting the day at four in the morning, we’re meeting to do a pre-show meeting when most people are … I mean really it’s not really early morning, it’s more of in the middle of the night that we’re actually starting our day.

And then as far as producing, it’s doing the pre-show meeting and getting together with the host and figuring out what we’re going to talk about, and what guests we have and then putting the production together as the show’s going. And then after the show’s done, then my day is actually not even close to being done because then I have to prep for the next day and watch all the news conferences and what’s going on in the world and book guests and post the podcasts and cut audio and edit, and add commercial, take out the commercials. I mean I’m probably still working until usually maybe like eight o’clock at night, so-

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

… and just tracking what’s going on in the world. And sometimes I mean, sometimes it’s even later, I mean, depending on when Bin Laden was captured and killed, I remember getting a phone call from somebody I thought, oh, I’m going to actually sleep in today. And then you know try to get them real sleep and go to bed at like nine. And then I get a call that, “Oh, did you see what happened to Bin Laden?” I’m like, “No, what happened?” And then I’m booking guests at midnight and scrapping everything I had done that day before because it’s breaking news story, and it’s just a long day.

Julie Gunlock:

Well, it’s interesting, I think about this, and I think about my life before kids, and my life after kids, you have really young kids. Really little kids. You were saying you know, you try to pace yourself throughout the day, but the thing is that my kids can make themselves a sandwich. Right? And my kids … they’re not driving yet, cannot wait until they are, but they’re not driving yet, so they still need me to take them places, but they really are self-sufficient. But your kids need a lot more help. Your kids are-

Heather Hunter:

Yeah.

Julie Gunlock:

… what are they? Are they three and five? I can’t remember exactly.

Heather Hunter:

Yeah. My youngest is three and then the other one’s four turning five soon.

Julie Gunlock:

Okay.

Heather Hunter:

Yeah. I got to motherhood kind of late, but my husband and I got married when I was about 35 and then we kind of had the discussion, do we have kids, or you know, what do we do?

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

And then we just … you know my husband said, “Well, let’s see how it goes.” And then two kids later. You know?

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:07:35] You’re in an industry that certainly you know … I mean I think about when Bin Laden was killed, and you probably were up all night, but you didn’t have a kid to take care of. It’s a totally different thing now. Right. And it’s a totally different dynamic now with having kids and having to … you know, and even I’m only on two days a week and you know, I go, I leave the studio and I have … you know, I work for the Independent Women’s Forum, so I have other work as well.

But yours can change in an instant if something happens like you say. How do you balance that? Are there pockets of time? As you know, I used to home school my oldest. And I would sort of break out time where I would homeschool him and then I’d work some, and then I’d get dinner ready. I mean, how do you sort of do that? Do you break it up into blocks?

Heather Hunter:

Well, I’m up earlier than everybody in my house. And then my husband watches the kids during the show itself from 5:00 to 9:00 AM. And then after that, I’m pretty much with the kids. But you know, he makes sure he takes care of breakfast for them, and makes sure the kids are kind of set and then I can navigate dealing with them while I’m trying to do work throughout the day.

I look at it as … you know some people may look at their work as, “Oh, I got kids, and I got work.” I mean I just feel blessed that I have the work that I do where I feel like I do fulfilling work. And even though it’s yes, long days and you know, being a mother is something where you really learn how precious time is because you see how quickly they grow. And it makes you actually, I think grow as a person because you realize … I mean, you’ll get these Facebook alerts of what just a year ago, what your child looked like or was doing. And you’ve realized, oh my God, time has flown by. And when you’re single or even when you’re without kids at that period in time, you didn’t realize how quickly time moves, and how much life just happens while you’re making other plans.

And so you have this realization about priorities in your life, and so you try to be present and it’s so hard when you’re a working mom to be present. And so you really try to grab those moments when the kids want to show you something. So the nice part about my job is that even though my workload is heavy on the front end, where I’m up at three in the morning, and I’m putting a whole show together till nine. And then I’m still working throughout the day, but I’m able to kind of spread it out throughout the day. So I you know, I get some interview requests in for some guests and I’m still kind of tracking the news throughout the day, watching the press conferences. So, you know, while I’m fixing lunch, I’m still watching like Biden doing a press conference, or Kamala overseas doing a press conference. I kind of have like a [inaudible 00:11:01] and my ear is kind of half on things all the time. And even during dinner, I’ll be watching [inaudible 00:11:09] meetings.

And my husband does get annoyed by it to some degree, but it’s one of those things where you just, you have to … when you commit to working in the news, it’s not like you’re working like a cashier at a grocery store. Like your day doesn’t end. You know like your shift isn’t over. When you work in the news you are always on, and something’s always breaking. And I kind of learned that from when I went to work at Fox News Channel where you’re always hands on deck, and you know, it’s always a sense of urgency and paying attention to what’s going on.

So it’s a struggle when you become a mother, because then you’re like, I can’t … you also have to balance out the new cycle owning you and your life and it’s a constant … as a mother, you always feel guilty that you’re not doing enough. And so you always like really wish you could spend more time with them. And so it’s a balance. It really is-

Julie Gunlock:

It is.

Heather Hunter:

And I don’t know how to really give real advice as far as just figuring out what works for you, and all of us are just doing our best, and just trying to be the best mom we can be.

Julie Gunlock:

Well, I think to some degree you know that’s why I wanted to start this bespoke parenting hour, because when I became a parent, I was really stressed about everything from the food they were eating to, am I getting the right shampoo? Oh my gosh, is the … you were told to slather them with sunblock, but then you’d read an article that said like, sunblock has chemicals that are toxic, which by the way, is all, all baloney. You should put sun block, 100% on your kids.

And then like the food, should it be organic? Should it be non GMO? Like all this stuff is coming at you. And then of course parenting style, should you be a helicopter parent? Should you be a free ranger? Should you sort of try to find a place … And what I realized is that, you know it’s funny because I feel like when I first started parenting, I was both like overwhelmed by information, but I was also super judgmental about … So I would make a decision, this is how I’m going to do it, and then I would kind of feel a little bit judgey if people made different decisions.

As I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve been going through this now for … my oldest is 15, it’s funny how I’ve mellowed out completely. And that’s why I wanted to start this podcast is to sort of explain to people, look, people are going to parent in different ways and there really isn’t a right and wrong. There are things we can agree on. Don’t beat your kids. That seems pretty simple. Like don’t hit them, right? Or don’t … okay actually I do believe in the soft swat on the backend when they’re about to walk into traffic [crosstalk 00:14:00]. Yeah, I’m okay with that, but I do feel like looking at figuring out how to parent, is something that is individual to everyone, and especially when you think about, like you say, you’re in the news media.

I wonder, are there a lot of women in particular that are executive producers? Is this something that is an industry? So two-part question, are there many of you moms that have these sort of high level producer positions in the news media? And two, how do you think technology has made that more of a possibility for women these days? So answer the first question. Are you one of the few? I know, this is probably like a bit … you’re telling me, “Julie, this is very bad interviewing,” but do you have a lot of female colleagues in your industry? And then we’ll get to the second question.

Heather Hunter:

I tend to find that I’m probably an anomaly as far as women my age, who are in their forties, who are executive producers. I guess I know more men who are experienced executive producers. I think the radio industry has changed a lot ever since media consolidation in the end of the ’90s. A lot of large media companies bought up a lot of smaller mom and pop companies. And what happened was a lot of positions started to get eliminated. I mean, from a radio broadcasting perspective, I don’t know a lot of female executive producers because usually nowadays, and when I first started in radio in the mid ’90s, I’ll be going on I guess 25 years in broadcasting now this year. And there used to be multiple producers working on shows.

And you would have an executive producer and in your producer, an associate producer and a production assistant, and you would have a level like a tier of producers. And you know, the show would really … like you’d have people doing a bunch of tasks, and the show had a lot of production, and it still does, actually show have I think even more production nowadays. But it’s a different sounding show today.

But when consolidation happened, I noticed that a lot of executives would try to figure out how do we squeeze blood out of a stone? How do we keep making more money, and more money? How do we downsize, but still make more money? So people are making bonuses for slashing staff, and over and over again throughout the radio industry, just staff just kept getting slashed, and often it was producers.

And nowadays in the radio you industry, I mean I think it’s almost rare to find somebody who’s a full-time producer. And now, the industry is like in smaller markets. I work in Washington DC, which is number seven market in the country. So I’m actually a full-time producer, but in a lot of markets elsewhere, their producers are part-time, or they don’t have a producer. The host books their own guests and also cuts audio and runs their own board.

And I think that’s a shame because it’s the devaluing of having a staff. Imagine like Jimmy Kimmel or Johnny Carson, not having writers you know? And so there needs to be production within a show. You need to have a team of people to really put on a good show.

And it’s really an injustice to broadcasting to just kind of devalue the staff, and there are multiple talents that are within a show. There’s people who are on air, who are great at presenting the information and the ideas, but then there’s also the executive producer operates as a 3,000 foot level person to oversee the production, make sure all the elements are coming together, making sure you’re getting all the top tier guests, and you know even Barbara Walters, I mean when she was doing all those amazing interviews in the ’90s and early 2000s, she had a producer who was booking all those big names.

And every show that you see that has top-tier guests, you know it’s not Joy Behar, or it’s not you know, Whoopi Goldberg booking those people, it’s somebody who’s working their butt off to go get a top-tier guest on that show. It’s a booker, it’s a producer. There’s a staff that actually makes those things happen. And so it’s a shame that I think in broadcasting … in television, there’s more female producers just because there’s more budget. And I don’t know if it’s necessarily a gender thing, it’s just I think producers are starting to get cut a lot more in the radio broadcast perspective. In television, I would say, not so much, but you know, yeah.

Julie Gunlock:

Well you know, isn’t part of it also just extreme competition and that you know, anybody can have a podcast nowadays. Like right now, you’re on a podcast.

Heather Hunter:

Yeah. It’s great.

Julie Gunlock:

Now, of course this is sort of officially an IWF podcast, and we have tremendous amount of support here. We have Tim on the line here, who’s our producer and who helps do all this recording, and you were booked by Megan who works in our press office. But the bottom line is, anybody with a computer can have a podcast, and they don’t need any staff.

And I imagine that too is a big competition for your industry. And yes, technology is great in that anybody can do this. And we believe in that sort of as people who believe in the free market and we strongly believe that competition makes things better, but that also has to be kind of hard I would imagine for radio to compete with that as far as … But I do want to sort of pivot over to technology. How has technology, which it sounds like in some ways, like not having the level of staff maybe to make a job easier, how has technology made … has it made your life easier as a producer, but also just as a working mom, how has technology helped you?

Heather Hunter:

I think there’re different levels of how technology, the pros and cons of it. I think looking at producing from kind of an early internet time to now where it’s a lot easier to get audio clips. It’s a lot easier to find something you’re looking for from that perspective. However, there’s also a lot more out there to actually be searching for as well. I mean live streams now are more readily available. I think the pandemic has made live streams also a little bit more available as well because people wanted to have things available in case people physically couldn’t be there anymore.

And so there is some benefit to technology in being able to get your job done. And I know … I mean, I didn’t go to school board meetings when Fairfax, or when Loudoun was having all their school board meetings, but on our morning show, I was watching all of them and cutting all the audio. And so our audience was able to hear what people were saying, and what was being experienced in those meetings because I could watch the live stream of it and cut that audio and present it to our audience. And honestly I would say even as far back to 2013, 2014, I was watching those school board meetings, even Fairfax. I mean, there was a whole parent movement happening even back then, and everyone acts like, “Oh, and it was [inaudible 00:22:40], and it was …” you know Northern Virginia [crosstalk 00:22:43] movement.

And yes, those were very important factors last year, but this parent movement has been just growing and becoming more vocal. And I think it’s because of places like WMAL giving them a voice, and giving them megaphone. I mean I think also podcasts probably help to that degree of parents getting their voice out on some things. But I mean, I think traditional media like WMAL has been that megaphone of you know, when people were driving to work into Washington DC, there’s you know Fox news producers, Fox hosts, there’s, you know people who work in government who are driving into DC and they’re hearing WMAL, and they’re hearing those parents making that plea to please do something, help my kids get back into … reopen the schools, you know take maths with my kids.

And so they’re hearing those and that I think really empowered them. So having that live stream, that technology of us being able to grab that audio, it’s huge. I mean I guess some of the cons I guess with technology is that as a producer, now you have to do … you have no staff, and then you have to do everything. So as a producer you’re doing all the social media, you’re posting everything to a podcast, you’re having to cut all the audio and your editorial ism. You’re having to post everything on the website, and you have … I mean it probably takes me after the show is done, I’m still working maybe two and a half hours after the show, just doing the digital side of the show and getting everything up for the audience. And whether it’s a web or digital, everything. And so it’s extra work that didn’t quite exist in like 1997.

Julie Gunlock:

Right. Well you know one thing, and this might be a good place to pivot, because I do want to talk about how you’ve got an almost five year old, and a three year old. I’m not sure actually where your kids are in terms of … because I know there’s preschools and kindergarten starts, but I don’t think you’ve started kindergarten yet. Have you?

Heather Hunter:

No, not yet. My oldest will be five in May, so-

Julie Gunlock:

Right.

Heather Hunter:

… right now, I’m working on figuring out what that plan is.

Julie Gunlock:

Well, [crosstalk 00:25:12] that’s what that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about. It’s funny because I think in some ways modern life brings with it … and we had just talked about technology, there is some flexibility there, right? And in some ways I think, “Oh gosh, you produced a show that’s done at 9:00 AM,” and it’s funny Heather, because I guarantee you there are some people who think, “Oh, and then she’s done for the day,” right? You must get a lot which probably makes your head explode, right?

Heather Hunter:

I think a lot of people don’t realize what producers do, and legitimately I understand why, because you hear the voice of people, it seems so seamless. You see our run downs and all the [crosstalk 00:25:47] show prep that’s involved in the show and all the guests that we have. And so you see the prep that goes into that. But I think a lot of people who don’t see the behind the scenes, kind of how’s the sausage made, they don’t really … they just go, “Oh well, what do producers do? They just kind of you know …”

Julie Gunlock:

Right. Sit back and listen.

Heather Hunter:

… they just must sit on their hands after the show’s done.

Julie Gunlock:

No, so I’m going to just … and you may say, “Hey,” and by the way to anyone listening to this podcast right now, you may occasionally hear things in the background. That because my kids are actually home today. So there’s doors opening, my dog wants to go out. So I apologize I don’t have … I’m sort of doing what I’m talking about here. I’m sort of parenting and working at the same time. So pardon the interruptions here and there, but I will tell you … Heather, I hope I don’t get in trouble for giving people a peek behind the curtain, but it is interesting. I’ve been doing this show that Heather produces, I do two mornings a week, and it is astonishing watching this … you know I’ve gotten used to it now, but watching how this show rolls out in the morning and the work that Heather does, she really is sort of the wizard behind the curtain because you know, we’ll be talking about an issue, and we have, as Heather mentioned just a few minutes ago, this thing called a show prep, and it’s a schedule essentially of what’s coming up next, and what needs to be done during the show, but Heather is constantly filling out questions, filling out information for us. So as the host, while we’re live on air, Heather’s in the background giving us … literally sometimes writing out questions or giving us articles that have been written in quotes. She’ll sometimes highlight quotes that are interesting things to say on the air.

So as the host, we have tremendous help behind the scenes, but it is really amazing watching you work, and watching you do that, and especially as someone who’s sort of new to this world, it is the kind of thing where now I also, because you know, I’m in the studio, I hear you talk about what you’re going to do later in the day, book other guests. We sometimes have a staff meeting. We have a staff meeting at 4:00 AM, but we also have a staff meeting after. And we talk about the very next day where this whole thing has to happen. But in order for the host and the co-host to be ready, Heather is at home booking new guests and setting up the next.

So it’s a tremendous amount of work and it’s something that I didn’t have exactly an appreciation for. And it’s interesting because I think you’re at a phase now … earlier we were saying you’ve got a near five year old, you’re starting to figure out what that’s going to look like. And while you do have some flexibility in your job, I think we’re both lucky in that we do work in industries that give us that flexibility. You know school is another thing that you’ve got to consider. And I find it interesting that during all of these last couple years, you’ve been watching this parent movement build. You’ve been a part of it. You’ve been booking these angry parents. You’ve been booking these educational reformers. You’ve really been sitting in it, you’ve really been a part of that movement, a little bit removed because your kids aren’t in the schools yet. But how has watching all of this … you know when you say you’re making plans, you witnessing what has happened in the last couple years in education and with the public schools and all the woke crap that parents who currently have kids in the schools are dealing with, what’s your thoughts on this? Are you going to start your kids in the public schools? Are you looking at private? Are you looking at homeschooling? And how have the last two years affected the decision? Like, were you originally like, “Oh yeah, they’ll just go to the public schools,” and that’s changed? How has that impacted your decision making?

Heather Hunter:

Well, I’ve always pondered the homeschooling idea. My parents were educators. My dad was a history teacher in public school. He taught world history in middle school, and my mom was a school board administrator.

Julie Gunlock:

Wow.

Heather Hunter:

And so I always kind of had a somewhat of a knowledge … I won’t say I was knowledgeable in education. I don’t want to say that I knew how to do my parents’ jobs or anything, but I always kind of got a peek of what their views were of what was going on in education. And parents had said to me over the years that the public schools aren’t what they used to be when you were growing up. And so there seems to be a lot more of an agenda behind teachers, I won’t say teachers, just the education system in general, there’s certain people who I think have gotten into just like when you look at the media industry, there’s certain people who feel like it’s their life’s purpose is to get into propaganda with the children and their purpose is to kind of drive them in a certain route.

That’s not necessarily teaching them just math or science. It’s you know, let me … I want to shape their minds into a way that’s not necessarily teaching them knowledge and information. And so I’ve been leaning towards homeschooling for … I mean even before I had children. So this is something that I’ve been thinking about, either private school or home school. And so I’ve been looking into it for a long time, and I kind of had it in the back of my head for a long time, even since I was a teenager, that the radio industry would be a good place to work, because I remember Dr. Laura, the radio host talking about how she really enjoyed as a mother … she’d do her radio show, and then she would be able to be with her son during the day. And that was kind of a unique career to have in that you could really have some time with your children and also have a career at the same time.

And I mean, little did I know I’d be waking up at three in the morning and still be working till nine o’clock at night. But I do have some like flexibility throughout the day with what I do, because the show is over at nine and I’m still working throughout the day, but I am still able to be with my kids.

And so I’ve explored the homeschooling option quite a bit and been looking into it, looking at classical conversations, which I know you have been working on with your son. And there’s a few moms that I was kind of inspired by as well. When I saw this over the years, I’ve seen various homeschool moms really do amazing work. And especially, I saw these moms in the Northern Virginia movement who wanted … I love [inaudible 00:32:50] Northern Virginia public school parents because they were still trying to fight for their schools.

And so it’s a struggle in that you don’t want to give up on the public schools because all of our children are eventually going to be working together. They have to live together in the society, and you don’t want to just go, “Well, you know I’m just going to homeschool. And my kids are going to have a better education.” You really hope for the homeschool. You really hope for the public school system to get better and you want to continue to fight it because those kids do deserve to have a better education.

But then you also struggle with, “Okay, I only get this one shot as a parent to really provide them the education that they need too.” So I think it’s important that parents when they are figuring out what they want to do, I think they should still cheer on those parents, like the Megan Rafalski who was fighting the administrators over the masks, and the Stacy Langtons who are fighting them over the insane books that are in the libraries because it would be much easier for those parents to just go, “Okay, forget this, I’m just going to go private,” or, “I’m going to go homeschool.”

Julie Gunlock:

Yes.

Heather Hunter:

And so I cheer on those parents, but then I also, I look at the homeschool situation and I think, “Okay, I think this might be the route I want to go for my own kids and my own life.” And so I’ve been really looking into it. And there’s one mother in DC that really inspires me, and her name’s Delice Bernard, and she has a website called survivinghomeschool.com and I don’t know what her politics are, but she is absolutely amazing in that her son, at the age of 11 was building computers. He had a curiosity about engineering, and so she was homeschooling her kids, and she has this concept of, we are our children’s first home school teacher. So our kids learned everything from us, and so parents shouldn’t find it daunting to be a home school teacher because they learned how to walk, they learned how to talk, they learned everything from us.

And so it’s not like for us to go that next level of teaching them other things that somehow it won’t be better, or that some other teacher knows better.

And I think a lot of parents who’ve turned to home schooling realize that the education system wasn’t necessarily providing for their kids what they thought the teacher would provide. And Delice talks about how she takes the attitude of roam schooling. Like she says, homeschooling is not homeschooling it’s roam schooling. When you look at the DC area, DC is a mecca for homeschooling because, you want your kid to learn science, you can go to Smithsonian, you can go to the Air and Space museum. You want to learn history? You go to the National Archives. You know? You want to teach your kid art, go to the Gallery of Art.

You know, I mean there are so many programs that you can get your kids into. You want to learn about civics, well, you know you [inaudible 00:36:12] in Congress, or … I mean there’s just so many cool things that kids can get into in this area, that I’m just excited to think that my kids could learn. And there’re battlefields, I mean there’s just so much that your kids can … if you could really take the time to home school, your kids could learn really cool things. And actually have that hands on experience instead of just being in a classroom learning about it. You know?

Julie Gunlock:

Well, one thing that’s very interesting, and what I learned from going from all three of my children in public school, to two of them at a private Catholic, and one of them homeschooled using a classical curriculum, which by the way, the Catholic school, my other two are in also teaches in a classical way, which is a particular type of … there is a sort of philosophy with classical learning. And so we’re very lucky that all of my kids are sort of on the same page.

But one thing that was so great about starting to homeschool is you learn along with them. Now, Heather, you might be different than me, but I can’t remember most things I learned in second grade. Okay. I can’t remember most things I learned in fifth grade. Okay. I mean I have trouble with long division. Okay, but [crosstalk 00:37:27]-

Heather Hunter:

Oh my gosh, me too. I didn’t get into radio for math.

Julie Gunlock:

But one thing that was really fun was for instance, my … now, I am a writer by profession, but it was really fun to actually review the 30-some actual grammar rules that you have to … you know this is memorizing the prepositions, right? It was so fun to go through that with my son. And also, history was so great. I did a year of Roman history with him, and Ancient history with him, and it was so neat to hear about this history. I actually don’t remember learning that. I might have. And then it’s so interesting how you’ll hear reference to them. My son and I were watching a movie, and they mentioned some ancient ruler, and Jack and I looked at each other and said, “Yeah, look, we learned about him.” We were so excited.

And so there is a joy of learning along with your kids because as it was in the public schools, I had to wait for a worksheet to come home, or a test to come home to get a sense of what they were learning. You really do feel on the outside, and certainly with public schools now, increasingly seeing parents as the enemy, or an entity that you keep things from, from which you keep information, and treating parents like they’re kind of a nuisance. Parents get even less and less information. And again, with the start of computers now taking over, and in public schools at least in my experience, there’s very little paper and pencil work. And so you really actually don’t see things coming home that are graded. You can kind of look on the computer, but oftentimes the teachers don’t update it. Anyway, public schools are kind of a mess. And we haven’t seen that in the private schools.

The private schools seem to be much more attentive to parents, much more willing to have conversations with parents, and so even for my kids in the private schools, we get a lot more information. And again, but homeschooling is just tremendous fun in some ways.

And I think one thing that I try do, and I know you and I have had these conversations is, you don’t have to … you can try homeschooling. And when they start to get older, because it really does get tough, right? Especially like my son was in advanced physics, and then he started Algebra. And at some point, we thought, oh gosh, we need help here, so we brought a tutor in to help with some of the harder things. And then eventually we looked at re-enrolling him in schools.

And so when things do get tough, you don’t have to sort of … and the other thing I will tell you is as your kids get older, there’s also co-ops, there’s usually like places where parents kind of pool their resources. So parents have so many choices in education, but I liked what you said about not abandoning the public schools because you know what, kids are still stuck there. They’re stuck in these public schools.

And so I like the idea of looking for the situation that suits you best, but also still pushing for reform in the public schools, or as I like to say, the only thing that’s really going to reform the public schools, is ultimately school choice. And so pushing for that movement, getting way from giving the money to the institution rather than the family I think is really the most important advocacy we can do for kids stuck in the public schools is a shift from where that money goes to, instead of going the state funding the public school itself, the state should be funding the parents so that they can choose, hey, if they want to stay with the public school, God bless, give them your $10,000 or $15,000.

But if you want to go to a specialized school, for instance one that helps special needs kids, or maybe musically inclined kids, or maybe there’s … it’s so fun to think about what could develop. Let’s say there was a school that really centered around baseball. My middle son would love that. So I think the future of education is bright, and I think it’s great if you can get your kids started in a homeschool model when they’re young, and you have a bigger role in that.

So you’ve got kind of an exciting future ahead of you. And I think you are well positioned in a way that you’re going to see a lot more reforms in the education system than I did. So it’s exciting for you.

Heather Hunter:

Well, hopefully. I mean it’s still a work in progress, I’m still you know … I think for every mother who is working, you struggle with the idea of, okay, how much time in my day do I actually have for this.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

And I know you were doing it with your son. It’s a struggle because you’ve got a roof over your head that you have to focus on as well-

Julie Gunlock:

Right.

Heather Hunter:

… and I really think that a part of the migration of people moving … because you noticed how housing prices have been insane right now.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

And so many houses being bought up and people moving farther out, or they moving to Florida, or they’re moving to more cost-effective places, they’re getting out New York. And I really think that a part of that, a piece of that … I mean people are also trying to get away from insane bureaucratic governments and everything too, but part of that I think is the education system. People against what their kids were going through in school.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

And like I said before, you only get this one shot. And so as a parent, you want to make sure that your kids are going to the right places. And some of that may be homeschooling parents where parents were like, “You know what, we’re going to go find a house where we can afford for us to be on one income, or one and a half income,” you know where maybe someone’s working part-time, and the other person’s working full-time, but we have actual space to homeschool to kids, we actually have a homeschool room. We’re not living close to the city where we have this tiny 1,000 foot house, but we’re spending almost a million dollars on this house.

And so parents, I think a lot of the migration that’s been going on just in the past two years has been parents discovering that the school system’s not working for their kids. They see … you know having seen the virtual learning. A lot of parents complaining about, “My kids were in this house, and my kid can’t even hear their teacher, one because they’re talking through a mask, or because they’re sitting next to their sister who’s also in class, who can’t … they’re hearing both each other’s lectures, and they can hardly understand what’s going on.” And then the house isn’t big enough, and then the parents when they try to homeschool, there’s not enough of a homeschool room to actually … you know they’re doing it over their dining room table, or …

So I think some of this movement of housing has also been people choosing … and you see by the numbers, the home schooling numbers of … even Fairfax county, the enrollment dip was more than 10,000 students just in the past year. So-

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah, it’s enormous.

Heather Hunter:

… 2,000 kids leaving Fairfax.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

Was it Prince William County was 2,135 in … I mean it was just basically … even kindergarten. Parents decided to not enroll their kids in kindergarten because they just didn’t want to put their kids through virtual learning in kindergarten because, you know how do you put a kindergartener through virtual learning? So-

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah. And I think also, I mean if that many people are leaving, those are the people that can afford it. Imagine that you give the choice to every single student, every single family in that school, a lot more would leave. And that would tell these public schools, we got to change. We got to get better. Right now there’s nothing, there’s no reason for them to change. Yes, it’s going to hurt them that this many people have left the public schools, but they get so much federal funding, so much.

And then all this COVID funding. They are so fat right now that it’s really not going to impact them. So that’s why I say ultimately the way to reform is giving these parents a choice, and making the money go directly to them because competition is a big-

Heather Hunter:

And workplaces need to also help with people who want to make this choice as well.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

And I think you know, there’s nothing more I think pro-family, and pro-woman than allowing a mother to work at home.

Julie Gunlock:

Yes.

Heather Hunter:

And the homeschooling aspect really can’t … I mean it can happen … like you could do a nine to five job and also homeschool, but then that means you’re probably homeschooling at night afterwards. And you have somebody else watch your kids during the day. And if a workplace could actually work with a mother to be able to be remote working, then that is a very pro-family company.

And as long as she’s doing her job, then what does it matter? In many regards. And even husband. You know, there’s a lot of dads who want to home school too. We’ve had amazing stories of people have called into our radio program who have talked about how they were retired, they’re grandparent, and they actually wanted to help their kids who are working too. And so there was a great grandmother who called in just the other day to our show, and she talked about how she decided to homeschool her grandchildren.

So she drives in at six in the morning to go and homeschool her grandkids, while her daughter and son have to go off to work. And you know, they just say they got sick of the school system. And so they needed alternatives. So I mean even family, beyond even a mom, you know, family members can pitch in on that homeschooling as well.

And as you were talking about how it gets harder when your kids get into their teens, and it’s kind of areas where you’re kind of like, “Oh God, I can’t remember this information.”

Julie Gunlock:

Right.

Heather Hunter:

There are so many resources though as far as tutors and people that you can reach out to. And I know my sister got into homeschooling and she wanted to teach her kids Hebrew. And so she actually had a tutor from Israel who was talking to the kids in Hebrew, and they were conversing back and forth and learning language. I mean there’s just so many options nowadays with technology that has made it fascinating for your kid to just learn so much.

And I’ve seen stories of homeschool kids who learned how to fly a plane, and learned you know … it’s just, the hands-on experience of homeschool is incredible. And really it’s fascinating to watch. And there’s a great story of a kid who, his name was Jeremy Shuler who, he was 12 years old and he went to go attend Cornell University. And I remember people talking about how, oh, this kid’s never going to be ready for Cornell University at 12 years old, that’s insane.

He was a homeschooled kid. And people argued that, oh, he’s not going to have the social skills for this. But he wasn’t an average kid though. He knew the alphabet at like 15 months old. And he read in both Korean and English by the age of two. He did calculus by the time he was five. And he did better on the SAT than 99% of people who took the SAT that year.

But he also … I mean his social skills, you know everyone made this argument like, home schooling, you know, you don’t have any social skills, right? Because you’re not around other kids. And that is probably one of the biggest arguments I hear about people saying that, “Oh, well, home schooling, you don’t have social … they need socialization.” They need socialization is always the argument, but do kids really need to be socialized? Because [crosstalk 00:49:51] what I mean by that is that you have multi-generational experiences every day with your family, your neighbors, through-

Julie Gunlock:

That’s right.

Heather Hunter:

… I mean the whole workplace that you experience every day is people of all ages. And so the community experience that kids have, if they’re around adults all the time, they start to act like adults. If you’re around kids your own age, then you act like kids your own age. And he wasn’t limited by kids his own age. He actually gravitated towards kids older than him because he was around adults all the time.

So even though yes, he’s a 12 year old, he still was more mature than the average 12 year old because he wasn’t around 12 year olds all day long. And the thing is kids can actually be far more advanced. They can be years and grades more advanced. If you homeschool them, you go at the pace that they are, and not at the pace that the education system tells you your kid is supposed to be at this age. You know?

Julie Gunlock:

Well, [crosstalk 00:51:02] no, I will tell you that that is absolutely true. It’s true of my case in that my son needed … because of years in the public schools where the instruction was not what we thought it was because of course in the public schools, my son was getting A’s, yet was actually falling behind in math. So we had to take him back and review a couple years of math. But in things like literature, he was reading in a much more advanced pace, and he was able to go in on a higher grade in history.

And so we kind of did a cafeteria style. And I think for people who, what the industry calls COVID home schoolers, and these are people who home schooled because of COVID, they might find that flexibility to be wonderful because I think for a lot of parents during COVID, they realized that the public school system does, and this kind of goes back to Heather, what you were saying about your parents, how they said, “Boy, these are not the public schools of your childhood anymore.”

And I think people have kind of figured that like the jig is up. We know now that you’re pushing kids through a system, a broken system in a lot of cases. And this isn’t all public schools, but at least in the Northern Virginia area … and like you look at the literacy rates of kids in Baltimore, and those kids are graduating, who cannot read. And we have terrible proficiency in math.

In Alexandria City, [inaudible 00:52:34] it’s something like, I think there’s … I can’t remember how many … there’s something like 300 and some high schools in all Virginia and were rated like among the 25 worst in … And Alexandria city gets the highest amount of money, the most amount of money from the state.

So there is this disconnect there. And I think with homeschooling, you get to take control and you get to sort of be in charge and really intimately understand what your children’s needs are. And I think part of it is having this flexibility to do that is what’s so great. And we’re coming up here on an hour, and we got to tie this up, but I think of women like you who have these jobs that’s are a little bit unusual, and maybe unusual hours, or they do unusual things or kind of unique things. And I think in this day and age, particularly as a mom, having that flexibility.

And in some ways the job that you have, which is you know, you’re working really early hours and then have a little bit more flexibility in the afternoon, or late morning and afternoon times is something that you know, I think is, you’re in incredibly fortunate to have that, although it must be exhausting. And let me tell you, I’m only on two days a week and I get it.

But in your closing thoughts, I mean what advice would you give to women that are new in the news business that sort of do still want to have a somewhat traditional life of children and marriage. What advice would you give them if they’re considering a career like this?

Heather Hunter:

Well, Mary Wright … Well, I mean you need support as far as your spouse needs to also be on board with you on whatever decision that you want to make. And I know my husband has said numerous times, “If you want to stay at home with the kids, stay at home with the kids.” But I personally don’t want to do … I mean I want to stay at home with my kids to some degree, but also you know, you have to pay the bills, and you struggle with, okay, I have to make an income as well in order … you know, I would like to have retirement one day.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

But also I want the kids to live in a good area, and so you struggle with that and then you go, “Okay, so how do I do this?” And you know God bless the couples that … there’re lot of couples who just make that sacrifice and just go, “Okay, you’re going to commute two hours each way, each day to get to work,” you know? And meanwhile I can stay at home. You know?

There are those couples that agree to that, and that’s incredible for the family. And so people do make those sacrifices. And so you got to figure out, “Okay, so how do we make this work?” And so I think you should do the best you can in your career, but then when you go to make that pivot that you’re going to have children, I think you really need to focus on, “Okay, how can I be with my kids as much as possible?”

And you know, “What kind of career path can help me get there?” And as I said before, technology is helping us get there with the remote working, and try to get as high as you can in your career, and establish yourself in your career, and then try to figure out, “Okay, how can I maximize this experience I have with my kids? How can I find a flexible schedule?” And it may be one where you go, “Okay, I have to get up at three in the morning, and I have to work all day, but I can still be with my kids. I can still see them.” You know?

Every job I’ve ever had, it’s always one of those where you have to really work hard. And there’s never going to be this … I always see these you know, you can have four day week jobs and stuff. And I’m like, “That doesn’t exist.” You know?

Julie Gunlock:

It doesn’t. Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

It just doesn’t. You have to work for everything.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah.

Heather Hunter:

And so as a mom, you need to figure out if your career path is what is conducive to your kids, and so you need to figure, do I want to be … and there was a time where I thought, I want to be Roger Ailes, I want to be a broadcasting executive. And then I kind of veered off into the path of having kids, and then I realized, you know what? I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but that’s okay. You know? I’m an executive producer of a top morning drive show in Washington, DC. So I’m happy with that. That’s good. You know? And because you know what, my kids matter. [crosstalk 00:57:31] And my family matters.

Julie Gunlock:

Well, I will tell you Heather, I’m glad you’re happy because I’m happy working with you. I enjoy it so much. I am constantly amazed at how you put that show together and make everything so easy for the hosts and co-hosts, and I’m a big admirer of yours. And I can’t wait to watch as you go forward, making these decisions about schooling in the next couple years.

And I hope for the best for you because I think this really is an exciting time to be a mom and to be a mom at the point where she’s deciding on the education of her children. I think this is a time where there’s a lot of opportunities for you and your kids. So I’m so glad you came on. I think having moms on that have unique parenting circumstances is really important, and you’ve given us a lot of great advice. Thanks for coming on today.

Heather Hunter:

Well, thank you, Julie. It’s always a pleasure to work with you, and I love what you’re doing as well and all the women at IWF and you are just doing such important work. So God bless all of you. I appreciate it.

Julie Gunlock:

Last thing I’ll say. Sorry about this. You’ll have to come back and update us next year on the decisions you’ve made. We want to keep up to date with that.

Thanks everyone for being here for another episode of the Bespoke Parenting Hour. If you enjoyed this episode or liked the podcast in general, please leave a rating or review on iTunes. This helps ensure that the podcast reaches as many listeners as possible. If you haven’t subscribed to the Bespoke Parenting Hour on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcast, please do so, so you won’t miss an episode. Don’t forget to share this episode and let your friends know that they can get Bespoke episodes on their favorite podcast app.

From all of us here at the Independent Women’s Forum, thanks for listening.