After meeting as a result of their kids’ homeschooling experiences, Stacy Foley, a therapist and educator with a trauma-informed approach, and Devany LeDrew, a former kindergarten teacher and a homeschooling expert, ran into a pandemic where suddenly, seemingly everyone was interested in both remote education and mental health.
Making the best of a historically awful situation, the duo from Annville combined their powers to create Cardigan Academy, a digital parenting, mental health, and education help, services, and support consultancy organization.
Now, they have brought Cardigan Academy to a potentially global audience with a new podcast, with episodes on topics including locating the right therapist, setting boundaries with coworkers, and even what to do when your kid is lying and how to accept a compliment.
“We started to realize that our work is really about parenting, mental health, and education, we think of it as a sort of Venn diagram of the three,” said Foley, whose children Kate and Max have created online services themselves. Before the pandemic, she had been already been setting out ideas for classes and support groups on parenting and mental health, and LeDrew had been wanting to do a podcast.
Over the past year, the two have also been hosting virtual “Cloups” – part-classes, part-support groups that meet regularly to discuss key issues such as therapy, gentle parenting, healing from toxic childhoods, and other issues, Foley said.
The podcast concentrates on the same mental health, education, and parenting issues. Two episodes come out per week, with the two recording episodes over Zoom from their houses’ walk-in closets.
The first episodes appear on Tuesdays and are based on a Q&A format for teacher and therapist advice. Podcast listeners can submit questions via a Google Form “Dear Cardigan Academy,” which can be answered in upcoming episodes. Those submitting questions can choose to remain anonymous.
The second is a longer discussion of a pre-chosen topic, often mirroring the week’s Cloup topic, such as stigmas associated with mental health, trauma, and affects of neurotransmitters.
As a result of the digital format, both the Cloups and the podcast have attracted people beyond Annville and even the USA. Podcast listeners have been as far afield as Singapore.
“It’s sort of been a blessing in disguise,” Foley said.
The podcast’s title refers in part to Mr. Rogers, a major inspiration behind the philosophy and themes the two hosts aim to advance.
“What Stacey and I found is that…someone might come to us for home education, but we were always talking about those mental health aspects as well,” LeDrew said.
Some of the parents and kids that met via the online services offered by LeDrew, Foley, and her children have corresponded offline among themselves after meeting each other via therapy or education, a development that thrills the two hosts.
“What I love most about the podcast is hearing my friends have conversations about topics that we have been having conversations about for years,” stated Desiree Hoffman, a homeschooling mom who has gotten to know the two co-hosts.
Other parents have been similarly laudatory.
“I became a client of Cardigan Academy when I was faced with a decision last summer whether to send my son to public school or to decide to homeschool him for the 2020-2021 school year,” said Michelle Kean, a local resident. “He had been asking for years to be homeschooled…my son had his best school year yet!”
“Stacy and Devany are wonderful leaders and teachers,” she added. “Their podcast highlights their chemistry and proves over and over again that their methods work…They talk of successes and fails, how those successes happened and how they fixed the fails. They are just all-around amazing humans.”
Zelie Laframboise, a Lebanon resident, also appreciates their work.
“They are engaging, passionate hosts that are covering a wide variety of topics relating to mental health and parenting,” she enthused. “In a community where I struggle to connect with others, Cardigan Academy has helped me find my people.”
Foley said that a more recent rise in concerns over schools and coronavirus mitigation measures in the autumn might result in an uptick in the number of people asking for advice, something unexpected earlier this year.
“We kind of thought this school year things would be back to normal,” she concluded.
People can learn more about Cardigan Academy at cardiganacademy.com and listen to the podcast through any major provider.
Hal Conte is a quality of life and Central Pennsylvania issues reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. You can find him on Twitter at @conte_hal.