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Give Kids an Education They Enjoy

Dr. Leman says he did poorly in school growing up in Buffalo, NY.  His brother and sister were A students so Dr. Leman distinguished himself by getting into trouble in order to be noticed. As a senior in high school, Dr. Leman graduated fourth from the bottom of his class; his SATs were in the zero percentile.  No institution would accept him.  Nine days before school started, Dr. Leman was admitted on probation to North Park University in Chicago.  He managed to squeak by with a C- before the prankster in him started acting up.  “I was thrown out by the dean of students for stealing the ‘conscience fund,’” says Dr. Leman.  “It was just a college prank gone awry.”  

After getting kicked out of NPU, Dr. Leman moved to Tucson, lived with his parents and got a job as a janitor in a hospital.  One day, a nurse’s aide walked by.  Dr. Leman asked her to lunch, split a 20-cent cheeseburger and 10-cent coke because that was all he could afford.  “I gained motivation in my life for the first time,” he says.  He went back to school at the University of Arizona, carried a full-load of classes, worked part-time and made the dean’s list. “From that point, I never looked back,” he says.  At last he knew who he was and what he was good at.  “If my elementary and high school teachers could meet me now, I know they would be shocked that I amounted to anything,” says Dr. Leman.  (The nurse’s aid is now his wife!)

There were no other options for schooling other than the school down the block for Dr. Leman, but today there are many options.  “One of the most important things you’ll ever do is steer your child’s education,” says Dr. Leman.  “There is a deep-seated desire in me to ensure that every child is given the opportunity for the right school match.”  That’s what led him to start the swiftly-growing Leman Academy of Excellence in 2015.  Currently there are three of his charter schools in Arizona with one opening in Colorado and two more in Arizona next year.  “One of the things that makes us different is we give authority to the classroom teacher,” he says.  For example, if a child acts up. The child calls home, not the school.  He says there’s a lot of Vitamin E (encouragement) balanced with Vitamin N (no).

It’s important to factor in your child’s uniqueness and learning styles.  Some children are visual/spatial (learns through sight, like image and photos), auditory/musical (learns through music and sound), verbal/linguistic (learns through words, writing and speech), kinesthetic/physical (learns through motion), logical/mathematical (learns through logic and reasoning), social/interpersonal (learns through working with others) and solitary/intrapersonal (learns by working alone).  Dr. Leman says there are keys to getting your child to do his or her homework.  “Number one: don’t do it,” he says.  “It’s their homework, not yours.”  Rewarding and punishment doesn’t really work.  What’s best for the child is by learning the connection between the work they do in class, the homework they do and the grades they receive.

Dr. Leman says it’s difficult when there is more than one child because parents don’t want to send children to different schools.  Understand your child’s natural gifts.  Explore the possibilities.  Keep options broad (allow kids to try out different interests). Engage their natural curiosity. Keep expectations realistic but set the bar high.  Some options for schooling include: charter (public state-funded school), home (educated at home), magnet (public, upper-end school for focused students), military (trains students for military careers), private (religious or other fee-paid schools), public (tuition-free, funded by local, state and national governments), online (virtual schools) and vocational schools (trade schools).  Dr. Leman believes it is important to match the right school with your child.  “It’s not only getting your kid on the right bus,” he says. “It’s getting him or her in the right seat.”

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Guest Info


NY Times best-selling author of more than 50 books, his latest: Education a la Carte, Baker 2017


Has appeared on Fox & Friends, The View, etc.

Served as contributing psychologist to Good Morning America

Founder/President, Couples of Promise

Founder, Leman Academy of Excellence

Wife: Sandra; 5 children

4 grandchildren