Teamwork can take you farther faster than working alone or independently. Families are teams, as is your local homeschool group, athletic club, and your church. Teaching your kids how to work together as a team, how to both lead and follow, will allow them to enjoy the beauty of synergy- where working together can produce far more than working independently.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ~Helen Keller
The value of working as a team is obvious, so let’s talk about some common teamwork “killers” and how to fix them!
Lack of self-awareness & lack of empathy
Settling on the First or Obvious Solution
Not Taking Time for Reflection
Doing it All Yourself
Lack of Self Awareness & Lack of Empathy
Not being aware of yourself and others, not taking the time or energy to try to understand another’s perspective, makes teamwork difficult as the group can easily organize around one person’s perspective.
Fix-It: learn to listen well. Seek to understand as much as you seek to be understood. Learn to be curious about others. Teach your kids to be interested as well.
Settling on the First or Obvious Solution
When teams (or families) get comfortable with each other, it is easy to assume we all know what we’re talking about. This can lead to confusion on many levels; good ideas may be overlooked.
Fix-It: learn how to appreciate, develop, and utilize the art of brainstorming. Encourage your team to do the same. Invite all ideas, without editing, including the absurd and politically incorrect. Set all judgment aside and generate as many ideas as possible. For even greater fun, set a timer and see who can produce the most ideas in the shortest amount of time!
In every group, there are extroverts and introverts. The extroverts will be happy to do all the talking – happy to be front and center of every decision. The introverts will be glad to sit back, stay quiet, and fade into the background. The problem with not giving equal time to both types is that everyone loses out, and synergy doesn’t end up happening.
Fix-It: give everyone equal time and take turns talking about ideas and working them out. Work on developing excellent communication skills by waiting for quieter members to speak up and teach the more exuberant talkers in your midst to spend time listening and hearing others on the team. Practice the art of not interrupting. Value the input of all team members
Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities, it gets easy to duplicate effort or overlook things. Roles and responsibilities allow people to take ownership, make mistakes, and problem solve.
Fix-It: be clear about significant roles and responsibilities: who does what, under what circumstances? Positions may change according to age, gender, skill, and project. For example, the roles for making Thanksgiving dinner will be different than for finishing the basement, going on a vacation, or caring for someone who is disabled.
No Time for Reflection
Without clearly assessing how your team is working together (or not), it will be impossible to know if you are working as a team.
Fix-It: make time for regular assessment. Check to see how everybody is doing, what everyone needs, and how well you are meeting your objectives. Again, objectives will vary, depending on the vision, mission, and goals, ages, stages, resources, and skills. Regular assessments allow the team to adjust as necessary to gird up weak links, take full advantage of skills and abilities, and shift team members around for training as needed.
Doing Everything Yourself
Great teams have to work together- that means everyone is working. If your group consists of one person doing all the work, it’s time to train and expect others to do pitch in. As moms, it often feels easier to do it all yourself, but that’s a short-sighted view that won’t equip your kids or allow your team to work as effectively as it potentially could.
Fix-It: train your team to work together. Allow people to rotate from leadership roles. Let your team learn from mistakes and celebrate success. Look at the big picture and invest time in training – you won’t regret it.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
As a homeschool family, your team may have additional challenges to overcome. Get more tips specifically for Using Teamwork in Your Homeschool. Working effectively in a group is a soft skill that is sure to catch the eye of modern employers. Learn more about tools and resources that position your homeschool student for career success at our Soft SKills 101 Podcast and become versed in how to teach the essential life-skills for our digital age!
Communication is the most important of all the soft skills. It is a valuable basic life skill and affects every area of our lives. It enables success at work and in relationships with family and friends. It’s our ambition at True North Homeschool Academy to help you teach those critical and practical life skills, so, of course, communication skills are of the utmost importance to us. Through the years, we have discovered and utilized many resources that we will share right here!
Four Essential Types of Communication:
Verbal – Verbal communication skills are ranked first among a job candidate’s “must-have” qualifications.
Written – This type of communication is essential both for business and enjoyment.
Non-verbal – Non-verbal communication includes things such as the way we dress, signals, and body language.
Emotional – Emotional communication skills vastly improve both business and personal relationships.
Let’s Break Down Each Type of Communication:
Verbal Communication Skills
We are all familiar with verbal skills: this includes how well you speak or write, how concise you are in conveying your message, and how winsomely persuasive you are during verbal interaction. There are four types of verbal communication. They are:
Intra-personal Communication – This form of communication is extremely private and restricted to ourselves. This can include private journaling, our thought process, and even metacognition. Positive self-talk is an important skill your child can learn that will help them through difficult times when they may be tempted to dwell on negative thoughts. Check out our Affirmation Cards to keep positive thoughts flowing!
Interpersonal Communication – This form of communication takes place between two individuals and is thus a one-on-one conversation.
Small-Group Communication – This type of interaction takes place amongst a small group.
Public Communication – Speaking to a large group publically or even public writing can be considered as part of this form of communication. Our excellent Speech Club is a resource for teaching students to speak and gain the confidence to participate in public speaking.
Written Communication Skills in Business
Transactional Written Communication – This is a message sent to get results.
Informational Written Communication – In this type of business communication, the sender is delivering a message for the receiver’s benefit. Since this is less dependent on the receiver, there is no response needed. If the receiver has questions or concerns that would bring the conversation back to transactional communication.
Instructional Written Communication – This message gives receivers directions for a specific task.
Written Communication for Entertainment
Instead of written or oral words, non-written communication relies on non-verbal cues like physical movement, symbols, signals, etc. to express feelings, attitudes, or to give information. These most often include:
Posture and Body Orientation
Space and Distance
Depending on how and where you were raised, you may express some emotions differently. Factors that can affect our emotional communication include gender, social morays, and more. Here we will consider six basic feelings:
Emotion is commonly expressed with:
Facial Expressions (such as smiling)
Body Language (using a relaxed stance)
Tone of Voice
Now that we have broken down the primary forms of communication, you can see that excellent communication is a worthy goal. Skills like how to communicate with one another have a massive payoff in our work and personal lives. Be sure to include projects and lessons that will help your child learn to express themselves in your home and your homeschool.
What are the vital communication skills to teach your kids, regardless of age?
Basic etiquette and Good Manners
Netiquette (good manners and thoughtfulness online)
The Art of Small Talk (conversational skills like simple jokes and stories)
Name Emotions (pointing these out to your children will help them to identify and deal with them readily)
Help Them Set Goals (knowing their end game will allow them to communicate effectively in any situation)
Show Them How to Evaluate (and then use the most effective form of communication)
Mindfulness (let them know it is ok to “push the pause” button and be mindful of themselves and others)
Awareness (help them become aware of their nonverbal communication)
Active Listening Skills ( they can become engaged and active listeners)
The Capacity to Communicate with Self-confidence and Humility
Identify and Understand (so they can empathize with the emotions of others and deal with their feelings as well)
We all need to be able to express thoughts and feelings well and accurately. We are so confident that communication is an essential soft skill that it is central to many of the resources you will find on our website or at the Soft Skills 101 Podcast.
It’s easy to fall into the idea that these types of soft skills are just something we are good at or not! But that’s not true – everyone can learn to be better at these types of things. Like we mentioned, soft skills like communication make our lives and relationships better! In this digital age, as careers and our workforce continues to change, the human touch of excellent communication becomes even more valuable. Take a quick look at some of our ideas and resources (listed & linked below), and as always, let us know how we can support you in your homeschooling!
Want support in teaching your kids communication skills?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…No. It’s. Not. Every stinkin’ Christmas a tragedy occurs- every Christmas, thousands of us die. Do we deserve it? No. Do we like it? No. But do we wish for a different way of life? Um…yes. I have often dreamed of being a rock, cold and smooth. Or a book, treasured and kept safe. Even being a jack-in-the-box looks appealing right now!!! But no. Here I am, just bein’ a tree. A pine tree. A Christmastree.
Yes, that’s right. I am one of your precious decorations for a holiday; you chopped down my brother last year, my parents the year before, and my girlfriend the year before that. Ellie…she was hot. No, I mean literally. Someone thought it would be a good idea to put candles on the Christmas tree that year, and when Ellie twitched while trying to hold in a sneeze, she caught on fire. And the guilty party did not even have the DECENCY to send a sympathy card!
The Legend of the Mighty Cliff
Legend has it that the very first North American martyr to Christmas was my great-great-great-great-great…y’know what, this will take forever…my extremely great grandfather. (I don’t know why everybody likes him so much, none of us have ever met the guy. How do they know he was so great??) Anyway, his name was Cliff, and he lived a peaceful life filled with simple pleasures; the chatter of squirrels and songs of birds, the fertile earth and sweet breeze.
But then, one day, a wimpy, harmless-looking thing on two spindly legs came and RUINED IT ALL. It used a weird, deceptively tiny INSTRUMENT OF THE DEVIL to chop down my extremely great grandfather Cliff, and after watching him crash to the ground, proceeded to drag him in a very undignified manner through the forest.
They say the angels wept that day. With his dying words, Cliff informed his brethren (via carrier-owl) that the strange little creature had propped his broken body up in its abode, and wrapped him ‘round with impaled little corn-children on a string. The creature hung paper from his branches and crowned him with a golden star; crowned like some pagan king prepared for a sacrifice ritual. I shudder simply thinking about it.
A Reign of Terror
When they heard of this atrocity, the Council of Trees got together (and by got together I mean communicated by owl, since, y’know, we’re kinda stuck). They compiled all of the information gleaned from various informants in the International O24U Association and discovered that the inhumane practice of chopping trees was all the rage in Germany. Many plans were conceived to put this reign of terror to an end. However, by the time a solution was settled upon, the barbaric tradition had spread to the point of no revocation (tree councils are not known for their timeliness, owls and all. Maybe we should look into drones). Since then, all conceivable options to rid the world of this savagery have fallen flat. World domination has been discussed, but the lack of opposable thumbs (in addition to legs, brains, and other useful organs) has proved problematic.
So here I sit, just waiting for fate to laugh evilly and point some merciless wood’s-bane of a human my way. Oh. Oh no. Oh, heck no! Are those…footsteps?? Somebody knock on wood! KNOCK ON WOOD!!!
I see a small female break through the foliage. I breathe a sigh of relief; that little sprout is no match for my brawn! But…I tense as she sucks a greedy portion of air into her lungs.
“DADDYYY!! I FOUND THE PERFECT TREE!!”
Oh, root rot, not another one! Another bumbling happiness-killer ambles into my clearing. And. He. Has. An. AXE! Oh, for the love of all that is green, please keep that thing away from me!! He advances like death itself! I’m comin’ Ellie, I’m comin’! Oh, the humanity! -Or rather…oh the forestry!! SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT!
“Oh Daddy, not that one.” The disgusting little creature wrinkles her nose. “That one.”
I glance behind me in disbelief and see my shaking neighbor, Steve. Might I add that Steve is the single, most annoying tree I have ever…and I do mean ever, met. And he’s not nearly as robust and amply-chlorophylled as I am. You want…HIM?! I gape as Steve is promptly cut down and hauled away. Too late, I yell after them: “HOW VERY DARE YOU!!! I AM CLEARLY THE SUPERIOR TREE HERE!! YOU JUST GIT YERSELF BACK HERE THIS MINUTE OR I WILL PERSONALLY-
About the Author:Emily Wilford is a sixteen-year-old homeschool student. She lives in Iowa, which is always either really hot or really stinkin’ cold. She really likes a lot of stuff, so trust me, I’m sparing you by only listing writing, mythology, Tae Kwon Do, horses, procrastinating, theater, and gazebos. You can usually find her reading a book while hiding in her natural habitat (aka under a blanket), and if not there, she’s probably trying to wrangle her five siblings (it never works, btw). She loves to sketch and listen to music, too; it’s truly amazing she ever gets anything done! Also, she finds it really weird to write about herself in the third person. Emily is part of the True North Homeschool Academy Writing Club and has written previous articles for us, including Creative Writing for Awesome People!
In 2013 our family started taking mission trips with an organization called Leah’s Kids. In the past six years, we have traveled to Central America to serve in Guatemala ten times and have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its’ people. When we are home we work to raise awareness and funds to support the people we have come to love.
About the Ministries
First, here’s a little information about the ministries we serve with. Leah’s Kids is a group of people from all over the United States that travel regularly to Guatemala. Leah’s Kids raises funds to help support ministries on the ground 24/7 in Guatemala.
The Casa Angelina Orphanage is one of the ministries where we serve. It is a campus that consists of ten homes, each housing 10-15 children who have been rescued from abuse. Some lived on the streets or in garbage dumps. Casa Angelina has a private Christian school, a church, and a medical clinic. They care for over 150 children, 40 staff and their family members as well as those who live in the surrounding villages.
BuildinGuate is a ministry that supports The Land of Hope- a community on the edge of the garbage dump near Escuintla, Guatemala. This ministry opened our eyes to the tragic reality of the lives of these orphaned children who are living in poverty and squalor in these dumps.
Guatemala is located in Central America just south of Mexico. It is the most populous country in Central America with the highest fertility rate in Latin America. This trend will likely continue due to the large reproductive-age population and high birthrates. Nearly half of the estimated 16,581,273 population is under the age of 19 years old therefore, Guatemala has the youngest population in Latin America. Unicef estimates there are more than 370,000 orphans in Guatemala (many other estimates are much higher).
The country was embroiled in a 36-year guerrilla war which ended in 1996. Because of this, people are very poor. Rural indigenous groups were greatly affected. More than half the country’s population lives in these rural areas in a country that is already un-developed. Frequent natural disasters occur due to earthquakes and active volcanos. There is virtually no middle class in Guatemala. In fact, more than half the population lives below the national poverty line and 23% survive in extreme poverty. As a result, Guatemala also has the sixth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. Unbelievably, half of the Guatemalan children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition!
Due to the extreme poverty of the country, there are hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children that live in or near one of the many garbage dumps in Guatemala. In the dump, people build their “homes” which really are sticks (or corn stalks) and perhaps a tarp they have scavenged from the smoldering trash. People scavenge during the day to find recyclables or anything that can be sold to a “broker” who gives them a pittance for their finds. The dump can be a place of extreme danger from collapsing mounds of trash, constant fires, and toxic chemicals that contaminate the land and air. There is no limit on what can be deposited, so everything makes its way to the dump. The extreme poverty of the population at the dump leads to issues such as high rates of alcoholism, drug use, prostitution, and abuse.
The Land of Hope
In 2016, our family was introduced to BuildinGuate, which founded The Land of Hope (LOH) on the edge of a garbage dump near Escuintla, Guatemala. We are grateful to now partner with them to help provide for the community at the LOH. The LOH is a safe community that is a stepping stone to help people get out of the dump. It is a place for the nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit for all who enter its gates. Currently, twelve families live there.
The church there is also a feeding center, a birthing center for mothers, and a clinic for visiting medical teams. There is a malnutrition clinic under construction. They founded a nearby school which supports students and staff. This is a young community, so there is still much need for funding and support. BuildinGuate hosts three fully funded soup kitchens each week, where people from the area can come to receive clean water and a nutritious meal at no cost. We are currently raising funds to increase this to FIVE soup kitchens a week in 2020. For $150 nearly 200 people can be fed.
If you are interested in helping, BuildinGuate has a generous donor who will match $10,000 in funds raised by January 1.
There is much going on at the LOH each week! There are Bible studies, church service on Saturdays, and classes to teach the women skills to support their families. Many of the women have come from a life of prostitution and have minimal education. Leah’s Kids is excited to be taking a team and seven new sewing machines in February 2020. Up to fourteen ladies can now learn how to sew!
BuildinGuate distributes infant formula twice a week. Women and children walk several hours one way in the smoldering heat to come to the Land of Hope ministry for Bible study and free formula. The distribution of formula has drastically reduced the problem of malnourishment. Two years ago the ministry found a family with five extremely malnourished children. One of the children was Oliver, who was seven years old and weighed only fourteen pounds. BuildinGuate was instrumental in getting him into a government-run malnutrition clinic along with two of his siblings but within days of their release from the short stay at the clinic, all three of the children died. This is one of the heartbreaking realities of life in this rural area of Central America.
It is stories like that of Oliver which has given us a passion to build a malnutrition clinic at the LOH. A clinic that would take in not only the child but the family – a clinic where they would stay for an extended period of time until healed. A time to feed and nourish the whole body, soul, and spirit. The clinic is now under construction but is partially funded and we are in the beginning stages of finding an organization to staff it. We are praying for a medical school from the states to take this on as a mission. However God leads, we know He will help us to finish this vision He has given us!
In conclusion, there are amazing things going on at Land of Hope but there is still so much to do! We feel called to be there, to speak life and truth to all who will listen. We are called to share hope and help provide for the desperate needs of the Lord’s people. In the words of the apostle, James, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27.
A huge “thank you” to True North Homeschool Academy family member, Rene Ingle, for sharing about ministering in Guatemala. It is important to know about the many needs in Central America.
If you want to learn more about the ministries mentioned in the article, click the links to visit their websites. For inspiration and ideas for volunteer work and homeschooling take a look at this review of Practical Proverbs or read Teaching Stewardship.
“The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
A Heart of Service
I love the holidays because I love giving. I love considering what will bless people, and I love being able to give good things. Our family culture has always been one that recognizes that we have a responsibility to steward our time, treasures and talents. How do we encourage a heart of service in the lives of our kids?
Share Your Core Values
What drives your financial giving and volunteer hours? Talk to your kids about why you do what you. Have conversations about the values and passions in your life so that they connect your behavior with beliefs. They might not know that you tithe regularly to church. They might not know that you support a child in Africa financially. Include them in your giving.
Expose Your Kids to a Wider World
If you live in America, you are part of the blessed 5% in the world that has freedom, choice, and prosperity at your fingertips. The American Dream is just that; a dream, for a large percentage of the world’s population. Make sure that your kids don’t live in a bubble. Travel around the country and out of it- if you can. Talk to people wherever you go. Read extensively and study history. Donate to the food bank and serve at the shelter. The world is an amazing and beautiful place and while we should protect young minds and hearts from darkness, there is much good in going outside of our own neighborhood.
“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.” Kathy Calvin
Practicing Good Stewardship
Give your kids three jars to manage their money with: spend, save, and give. We have known millionaires who have lost everything overnight and seen the impoverished go on to make fortunes. Teach your kids that money may come and go but the values of stewardship can become part of their heart- regardless of circumstances.
Volunteer as a Family
Service organizations in your very city are seeking generous souls to serve, donate, gather, and teach. Our local hospital is always looking for kind souls to rock babies. In the far north, coat drives are an important way to ensure health. There are many places, from half-way houses to literacy programs, looking for teachers to teach basic life skills, phonics, and English as a second language.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank
Create Family Rituals of Giving
What can your family realistically manage year after year? Is it putting together a few shoeboxes or hygiene packs for the homeless each Thanksgiving, or serving at a food giveaway every quarter? Find something that you can all do together and then put it on the calendar. Plan on it. Teach your kids that serving others with your time, talents and treasure is an important part of life.
Serve as a Family
There are many service organizations around the world. Find one that speaks to your heart and serve as a family. We have friends who go to South America yearly for medical missions. Our family serves with an organization that raises support for the Persecuted Church; we’ve written letters, hosted speakers, raised money and gotten the word out about this important ministry. Find an organization that you believe in and invest as a family. Your kids will see you in a new context and realize that you are living what you value. This creates opportunities to talk about what’s important and what has spoken to your heart. This also gives them a new context in which to shine, allowing them to grow.
Join an Organization With a Strong Service Component
My daughter recently joined American Heritage Girls and she has already had several opportunities to serve others in her troop and beyond. Last month her unit served dinner at a half-way house for recovering addicts. While they served, they were blessed; by the many personal thanks they received, the laughter they shared and a wonderful conversation with the staff and residents about God and the importance of faith.
”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
Donate Money to a Cause Where You Can Donate Your Time and Talents
Adam Pruzan, who teaches for our True North Homeschool Academy, recently spoke to our Orienteering course about money and investing. He strongly encouraged the kids to give generously of their money, but at the same time, to donate to a cause that would appreciate their time and talents. Investing oneself in an organization or project can often be just as important as giving money.
Generosity starts with thinking about how others feel. As our talented Spanish teacher, who is momma, to a beautiful, disabled daughter, told her class before Thanksgiving: “swallowing, eating on your own and the simplest movements are not a given for some people”. We should all be grateful for the freedom we have through health. This gave all the kids something to think about.
Praise Generous Deeds
Children naturally do kind and generous things for others. Praise and encourage this when you see it, promoting your values of living a life of generosity and service.
“Selfless giving is the art of living.” Frederick Lenz
How do you promote a generous heart in your kids? Is serving others part of your life curriculum? We would love to hear about it!
Join our True North Homeschool Tribe on FB and take part in the conversation! As I mentioned, we love to give- so go to the link here to download our FREE Winter Bucket List and while you are there, opt-in to get our weekly e-news. The Compass is full of homeschool inspiration and free resources that help your education go in the right direction!
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