Online Learning Balance

Online Learning Balance

By Tammie Polk

I see what’s happening here. With everything that’s going on, you want to maintain that sense of normalcy that you know and love.

You know what your strong points are and what you need help with. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge, and although it seems like an endless resource, you know that your home education plan needs balance!

Is there such a thing as balance?

Yes. Yes, there is!

When it comes to online learning, the main thing is monitoring how long your child is ON the computer.

Signs to monitor:

  • Do they get up?
  • Do they move around?
  • Do they eat?
  • Do you see them during the day?
  • Does their mood change?

Believe it or not, ALL of those things impact how they learn.

Balance means that there are limits!

Don’t Forget About Real-Life Lessons

Child having fun learning onlineOnline learning balance also means that you take time to show them how what they are learning online applies in their daily lives. Remember how we used to wonder if we were EVER going to use some of the things we learned? Your child has that same sentiment!

They need to know that what they’re learning has meaning.

Let me share with you an example. A friend’s son was having issues with fractions. He came and asked for help as she was cleaning windows. Their windows were divided into sections of eight. Armed with window paint, they worked through the fractions, and he went away somewhat happy – his mom made him clean the windows once they were done. 

When we show our children how a concept applies to their daily lives, it increases their desire to learn. Help them find opportunities to use what they are learning.

Keeping Our Sanity

Having balance keeps YOU sane!

Some balk at the notion of using online tools as ways for parents to take a breather, but when used correctly, online learning can allow a homeschool parent to take a vital sanity break.  

If you have reached the point where you wonder why you had children in the first place, give them time online. That gives you a moment to calm and center yourself. 

Have a list of websites you know, like, and trust that your children can go to. This can keep the flow of your day on track. Allow them to choose one of your approved sites and be sure to let them know their time limit in advance. 

Tips for Offline Learning

In addition to those life lessons, it could be time for your child to take the reins. Child-led learning often yields more retention of skills than any other resource. It is also essential to have offline resources at the ready for such a time as this.

Exploring outside, playing board games, making board games, making and trading lessons with their siblings, scavenger hunts, and the like can help strengthen their learning acumen. I’ll never forget the day my daughter found mushrooms in our yard – that turned into a whole project!

Take a drive…a walk…a hike….something!

With schools closing nationwide, there are more people online using more of the sites that you know and love, and new resources are being created all the time to help meet those demands.  Use an effective combination of online and offline educational activities to make learning fun and exciting!

Change Things Up

Even if you’re using a set program or curriculum, find other ways to do what’s on the menu for the day- sign them up for an online class that is interactive or help them check out a new computer game that can help them learn what’s on the lesson plan. 

At the end of the day, the goal is to ensure that your child learns and gleans as much as possible. It can be done without stressing yourself (and your child) out. 

Reinvent the wheel. Learn something new. Find your passions. Cultivate theirs.

Online learning, such as classes, clubs, educational games, and videos, can be part of a balanced education plan.

You’ve got this!

Homeschool mom celebrates finding resources for homeschooling online

Special Needs Resources

Special Needs Resources

Special Needs Resource Listing

Just in case you didn’t know about the many resources available through True North Homeschool Academy that accommodate learners with special needs and equip and support parents of students with special needs, we thought we’d list them here!

Services that we offer:

Blog posts on our site:

Reviews on our site:

Save Money NOW on our services:

 

Sunday’s Coming!

Sunday’s Coming!

Life is Uncertain

The cross in the distance with the sunrise and the graveclothes folded Sunday is here - He is risenI originally wrote this ten years ago and wanted to share my testimony again at this uncertain time.

Ten years ago, our house had burned, my 47-year-old sister had died unexpectedly, my oldest ended up in an E.R. several states away with Bird Flu, our contractor was crooked, we moved three times in ten months and threw away 90% of our possessions. We moved back into our partially finished house during the worst flooding in our region’s history (though last year topped that). My dad died a few months later.

It was a stressful year, to say the least.

One thing we all have in common right now is that life is uncertain.

And with that uncertainty comes anxiety, fear, possibly depression. Stress. Will we get sick? Will we get better? Will we have a job? What will the world look like in 2, 4 or 6 months?

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Maybe right now you can relate to these words that I wrote 10 years ago:

I have been tossing and turning for nights. If there were an Olympic event for turning 360’s under the covers- I’d win. Cause while we are home, we are far from settled. The house remains undone and critically demanding from both a time and money standpoint. I feel pulled in a 100-directions at once for a myriad of reasons. Like Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, flurrying around, scurrying in all directions, wondering if she should pack the kitchen sink for their flight from imminent danger, flustered because she’s worried she won’t make a good impression, concerned that Mr. Beaver will fall into the path of danger. Geez, mahn, she’s a worrywart.

Oh, how I relate. Cause I’m faithful and true and a diligent and hard worker and busy and industrious and mindful of things, and thinking of what’s next and on and on. But I’m concerned. Concerned about all that’s not being done and what’s up ahead and how I look and what’s next.

When Mrs. Beaver finally meets Aslan, his comment to her, which sets all things right in her life is, “Peace, Beaver.”

And with those two little words, the High King sets it all straight. He recognizes who she is, calls her by name, dignifies her presence and speaking words of power and might, straightens the crooked places by His ruasch, alive and manifesting His strength and vision for her. The fussing and stressing and striving cease and she can relax in His presence knowing He’s got her back.

I’ve had a hard time getting there for the past many months. I’ve been grief-stricken and weary and flustered. And it’s not that things aren’t better than before, we have been blessed in amazing and profound ways; it’s the process of how they’ve gotten that way. Inventorying time and materials, thoughts and actions, sorting through possessions that were meaningful because of memories or people, profoundly feeling the loss of family, moving yet again in a matter of months.

I look around at all of the projects and consider how we’ll make due this fall and feel, oh so rocked by the waves of the circumstances. The work is something we enjoy, but the amount of it seems ominous, and while Dr. Dh is confident we’ll get it done, it’s all in the context of a day job and homeschooling and the living that will take place around it. And I see how we get tired and sore in a way we haven’t before. Age, stress, the demands of the year, manifesting themselves in practical ways.

This year, in the midst of the chaos and flurry of once in a lifetime circumstances I’ve longed for ritual. For benchmarks that say it’s this season or that. This is what you do when, the words you say now, the posture you take in response. I’ve needed guides, markers, mindless actions to go through that indicate time and life go on in a sensible and pleasing pattern despite disruption and chaos and hurt and fear and unrest and inconclusiveness”- the ritual and meaning and confirmation of faith and death and loss and living.

My youngest came up to me where I was sitting a few days after we moved back home and said, very quietly, “Momma, the fire scared me.” Just so plain and simple and straight forward, but sad and apologetic, like her little 7-year-old self should be braver. The very fact of being home again, I think, finally allowed her to say these simple words. I said, “I know, Baby, of course it did.” And she crawled into my lap and snuggled against me, curled up like when she was two and stayed there for a while. Later she looked up at me and smiled and gave me a big hug and hopped up and went to find kittens to play with. I’m grateful she could be as little as she needed to be and snuggle up with someone older and bigger and stronger and sit and soak in my strength and comfort until she’d absorbed as much as she needed.

God is our refuge and strength, an everpresent help in trouble. … Come and see the works of the LORD. Psalm 46:1
On so many levels, I’ve felt like my little girl and I’ve wanted to say the same thing; “The fire scared me, Sue’s death rocked me, I feel the loss and lost.” And I want to feel and hear and know Abba is saying, “I know, Baby, of course. Rest in My peace. I’ve got you. Despite the worry and chaos and confusion and disorder and the house undone and work ahead, I’ve got your back.”
And He does.
I know He does for me and I know He does for you!
Sunday’s coming and with it, the Living Christ!
Easter Cross with a gowing sunrise behind it happy Easter
Online Learning: A Homeschool Primer

Online Learning: A Homeschool Primer

Online Learning

Online live interactive classes teacher for elementary, middle school and high school students of True NorthThe world of online learning is burgeoning, the options varied and choices better than ever before. And that was before Covid 19 hit the streets and forced public schoolers home! So many choices, so many opportunities. How does one choose? Not all online education is created equal. Here’s a beginner’s guide to sorting options!

What to Look For in Online Classes

A Primer

Check the “About” page of whatever program you are considering. Many on-line programs are now run by savvy business owners, looking to make money from the billion-dollar alternative education market.

That’s just good business but it might not be a good fit for your student or your family.

Things to Think About:

  • Do their values align with yours?
  • Do they contribute to causes that concern you?
  • Are they privately or government-funded?
  • If they are privately funded, what is the underlying value system of the people or organization behind the school? I had to dig pretty far into a very popular on-line company to find that they were privately funded by alt-right Conservatives.

Consider the Company’s Underlying Educational Philosophy

Remember, everybody who is providing you an education is also providing an ideology and a world view. There are no exceptions to that. So, when you consider on-line education, think about:

  • Who gets your money?
  • Who they are funding?
  • What ideology or value system is being conveyed

Don’t forget that companies that market to homeschoolers might not understand and appreciate the flexibility of the homeschooler.

Speech class live interactive for homeschoolers to practice writing and performing speechesThe Evolving Homeschool

Homeschooling IS changing. This month proved that in a profound way. Both parents still work, but they need oversight. And that is fine. But homeschoolers have far more flexibility and can adapt and change things up as needed for fun, greater learning, and unusual opportunities.  Make sure that whatever company you are working with understands and cares about the adaptability and flexibility that homeschooling can afford.

Because you have options. Credits don’t have to come out of a book. Each platform and program is different and can utilize a plethora of various on-line tools.

Questions to ask about any program you are considering:

  • Asynchronous vs. Synchronous learning- are the students learning the same materials, but at different times (like with Khan Academy), or are they learning the same materials, at the same time (like with True North Homeschool Academy).
  • Can students see/hear and interact with other students?
  • Can the student engage with the teacher personally, or only through “chat”?
  • Will the teacher respond to “chat” during class time?
  • Does the program have access to a virtual white-board, chat-room, break-out rooms, audio or video recording?
  • Can you get a copy of the video recording if you miss a class or is it posted where you can access it?
  • Is there screen sharing and will the teacher utilize multi-media in their classroom?
  • How will assessments be delivered?
  • Will grading be done by the teacher?
  • How frequently are grades given?
  • Is the teacher accessible by phone or email during the duration of the class time?

And while we’re talking about FAQ’s, this might be the biggest one of all:

The Accreditation Question

What is accreditation?

Accreditation refers to an accrediting board that sets the standard for an organization and ensures that they meet those standards. Accrediting boards vary widely, so don’t assume that because a school is accredited that it necessarily means that there are clear quality controls in places. Accreditation is a spendy endeavor, and we in the homeschooling world know the value is questionable.

Furthermore, accreditation might demand that the school utilize licensed teachers, many of whom have fled the public-school system. Accreditation and teachers’ licenses are no guarantee of quality education. They are a guarantee of conformity – for better or worse.

Questions to ask:

  • What accreditation do you carry?
  • What does the accrediting agency oversee?
  • How does accreditation affect the cost of classes?
  • What percentage of your teachers are from the public-school system?
  • Is being a licensed teacher a requirement for teaching with this company?
  • Who has experience with homeschooling in your company?
  • Will you be considered a homeschooler by the state in which you reside?
  • Will you have to register as a homeschooler in your state, regardless of their accreditation?

When You Need Accreditation

If you live in one of the few states that will not accept homeschooling high school credits and you plan to put your student back into public school at some point during their high school career.

Why You Don’t Need Accreditation

It’s expensive and that expense will be passed down to the consumer. Most colleges, universities, tech schools, internships, and jobs don’t care. They’ll be looking at test scores, applications, essays, and references. Accreditation is often simply a marketing tool.

When Accreditation IS Important

After high school and when looking at colleges or universities, accreditation becomes important. You will want to go to an accredited school if case you ever transfer or want to go to graduate school.

Other Things to Consider

  • Does my state recognize homeschooling high school credits?
  • In what instance would I need (i.e. need to pay for) an accredited program?

 Non-accredited Institutions

These programs set themselves up and will let you know the standards that they utilize in order to meet the demands of the customer. Marketplace demands offer correction as needed.

What types of Online Programs Are Out There?

Live Online Classes

This refers to real-time interaction between teachers and students. This can happen on a variety of platforms such as Skype, Go-to Meeting, or our personal favorite, Zoom. Schools vary widely on how they utilize this format. Some schools allow the students to see the teacher and interact with them only via chat. Others allow students to see and interact with both the teachers and students- it is a virtual classroom. Teachers are often highly qualified to teach their subject matter and engage with the kids. Students, also, can see and interact with their classmates, and often online friendships are formed.

Questions to Ask About Live Online Classes

  • Does this school allow my students to interact in real-time, during class with the teacher and other students or not?
  • When can my student engage and interact with the teacher and other students?
  • Will the teacher simply be lecturing the student for the entirety of each class or is there an interactive component to the virtual classroom?
  • What benefits are there to this type of learning over and above a self-paced, pre-recorded program?

What About Self-paced Classes?

  • Self-paced classes refer to those classes where students log in to a platform and watch or listen to pre-recorded classes, either video or audio.
  • Students work through the information at their own pace, doing the assignments when they are ready to do them and reviving a grade based on homework assignments, quizzes, tests and projects which are graded via computer or docent.
  • Students do not engage with a teacher, but simply the material.

Questions to consider about Self-paced Classes Online:

  • Is my student self-motivated enough to complete these courses?
  • Is the quality of the program worth our time and money?
  • Is there an option that is not passive learning?
  • Is there a less expensive alternative?

Online live classes teacher for elementary students of True North

What About Blended Online Programs?

Blended programs involve using a combination of self-paced information and live online interaction. Often, the students go through material at their own pace and then meet with a live tutor or have grading done by a live tutor on a regular basis.

Questions to consider about the blended program:

  • When and how does live, interactive learning take place?
  • How are the assessments done?
  • What qualifications does the teacher bring to the class?
  • Does my student have the self-motivation to complete the course?

Types of Online Schools

One-time Classes or Workshops

These classes are offered one at a time, by an individual or group of people who have gathered together to offer their expertise. Often you’ll see homeschool parents whose kids have graduated developing and offering classes in an area that they are passionate about.

Marketplace

This is a company that allows teachers to offer classes. There is no vetting of teachers’ qualifications or world view, though teachers must often teach from a secular, “objective” point of view, especially if the program takes government funding, including vouchers.   Teachers offer classes they want to teach, and set their own terms including pricing, length of course, etc. and then pay the overseeing company a percentage of what they make on the class. Teachers teach, the company takes care of logistics and may provide a background check. Prices and quality of teaching can fluctuate wildly.

Questions to ask about Marketplace Courses:

  • Who is funding the company?
  • Do I want to fund this organization?
  • How will I determine the quality of the classes?
  • How will I determine credit or grades for the work my kids have done?

Curriculum Suppliers Now Offering Online Classes

Many successful homeschooling curriculum companies have taken their curriculum to online classes, such as IEW, Memoria Press and The Well-Trained Mind. These companies have branded themselves and are furthering their brand through courses, with vetted teachers, set meeting times and grades. Classes meet 1-4 times a week live on-line with homework assigned and graded. The cost can be prohibitive and classes may fill quickly though.

Full-service Programs

Full-service homeschool programs offer live online and self-paced classes, testing, advising and more. A Full-Service program offers the flexibility that homeschoolers need, classes that suit your needs and a fundamental understanding and respect for the homeschooling lifestyle while helping you navigate the way from K-12th grade. They will help you successfully launch your students into higher education or the working world. These companies have often been founded by home educators who started umbrella schools in their local area and then went online to provide more robust services to families in their region and beyond!

Here are some types of full-service programs to consider:

A Consortium

This is a group of dedicated teachers or homeschoolers who come together to provide classes, usually pulled together by a long-time homeschooler who loves to teach and has some talented friends.

A Membership Site

This type of program is usually self-paced. Families pay a monthly fee and have access to whatever classes and services are offered. Fees may vary for the same site, depending on services offered.

What to Think About When Planning to Use Online Classes

There are a lot of great options out there and they offer many benefits to your child. Educators agree that these are some other educational components you need to think about when you are planning to use online classes in your homeschool. You should think through all these aspects of an online school or class if you think it is something that will benefit your family.

  • Dynamic learning – requires the student to actively participate in the course material, responding to the teacher’s questions, prompts, possibly using break-out rooms and doing group activities. Assessment tools can include quizzes, tests, as well as projects, presentations, essays or dramatic performances.
  • Passive learning – allows the student to sit while they are being lectured to or show a presentation of some sort. Assessments are usually done via quizzes and tests.
  • Asynchronous learning – communication is not in real-time and the teaching/ learning can take place at different times and different places. Because the learner views information and responses at different times and from different places, there is much flexibility. The teacher does not have to be “live,” and content can be delivered via written, audio or video recordings.
  • Synchronous learning – communication is in real-time so teachers and learners meet at the same time although they are in different places. Learners view content at the same time so responses can be immediate. Because of the set meeting time, there is less flexibility than with asynchronous learning. The teacher is “live” via whatever platform is utilized for transmission.
  • The Learning Management System/ Course Management System – (or LMS/ CMS) allows on-line schools and teachers to deliver course materials, correspondence, lessons, assessments, and grading and other features electronically.

Why Choose Online Classes?

With all the amazing resources out there why choose an online class or academy? Well there are many reasons your family may want to adopt this type of educational resource as part of your homeschool. Here are just a few we thought of:

  • Outside accountability
  • World-class teachers are just a “click” away
  • Friendships and relationships form  with students and teachers from around the world
  • Colleges and universities are making use of online education and LMS/CMS- give your student a jump-start on understanding how an online system works
  • The quality of teachers you might not find locally
  • Exceptional and unique classes that might not be found in your community
  • A wonderful supplement to a traditional day school or homeschool
  • To build independence and pride in one’s academic achievements
  • Because the Goldilocks Syndrome is at work, and our kids want a challenge

About True North Homeschool Academy

We hope this article is helpful to you if you are thinking about investing in online classes. If you have not considered it as a benefit to your homeschoolers we hope you will see now how adding an online class component to your homeschool can contribute to a well-rounded home education.

This blog is part of True North Homeschool Academy and we blog here because we love homeschooling and believe in education.

Each semester we are excited to provide live online and self-paced classes, delivered by exceptional teachers who love homeschooling- and love their subject matter. We are teaching from a Judeo-Christian point of view with a love for the flexibility and freedom homeschooling brings to the table. Yet we provide grading and assessments, to ensure that your student is learning, growing and excelling in each class. Students see, hear and interact with their teachers and fellow students from around the world.

We value a rich education and you will see from our course selections that we firmly believe it should be vibrant, creative and will allow your children to stretch and grow. Students develop real-world relationships and real-life skills.

Check out all of our fall classes!

Register now for fall classes that are online, live and interactive for all ages

Coping During a Crisis

Coping During a Crisis

Coping During a Crisis

Coping during a crisis takes thought and intention, which might be in short supply when a crisis hits. Ten years ago, we had one of those years. You know the type; the tough, painful type. Maybe you can relate. One Thursday morning, as we were all getting ready to leave for work and co-op, we discovered that our house was on fire to the point of being totaled by the insurance company, although it did not burn down. A day later, our college-aged daughter, several states away, landed in the ER. Four days later, my 47-year-old sister died. My husband contracted bronchitis and then pneumonia, and then back again. We threw away around 90% of our possessions, but we had to inventory it all first for insurance purposes, an exhausting and laborious process. We went from an extended hotel stay to a rental to an unfinished house during the worst flooding in our area in a century and had to walk through 4″ of freezing cold water to our only working shower for the first month after we moved back into our house. My Dad died a few months later.

Yeah. It was one of those years. It was stressful. We learned a lot. Including, set up and clean up are at least half of every project, it’s o.k. to rest and take breaks as needed, huge jobs don’t get done in one sitting, laughing and crying are good for the soul and sleep is cheap medicine. We had to let go of things we treasured. We had to embrace the new – even when it felt scary and uncertain.

Maybe you are needing some help coping during a crisis, even when we aren’t exactly sure what the emergency is or when it will hit.

Here’s a shortlist of helps as we all get through one of “those years.”

  1. Stick with your routine: When in crisis, do the familiar habits, as much as possible. This will lend a sense of normalcy and familiarity in otherwise unusual circumstances. This is especially important for younger children who rely on the familiar to tell them that the world is safe and all is well. My kids listened to the Story of the World CD’s for hours after our fire- to the point my son memorized portions of it. Jim Weiss’s voice was familiar and kind in a year of loss and upheaval.
  2. Create a new routine: when and if the old one is disrupted, create a morning time with Mom, Dad, and whoever else is home where you share a cup of coffee and cocoa, and chat. Create rhythms to your new normal- read for an hour after breakfast, walk the dog after you read, make lunch, do laundry, etc. When we were living in the hotel, after the fire, we spent hours, literally hours, at the hotel pool doing what I called “Pool school.” It was fun, easy, and relaxing.
  3. Rest & laugh: stress is exhausting. Give yourself permission to take a nap or take a break. Do something relaxing, like watching a movie, going on a walk, taking a warm shower. Something to get your mind off of the current situation and settled. Lower your cortisol levels and breath deeply. Did you know that 15 minutes of laughing is equivalent to a 2-hour nap, releases endorphins into your system, lowers your cortisol levels and gives everyone around you permission to relax? Not sure what to laugh at? Dick VanDyke’s re-runs are a great place to start.
  1. Realize that you really don’t have that much control over things in life anyway: your paygrade, no matter what your position, is not that high. So, take a breath and realize that God is in control, and He is a good God who loves His people well. You don’t have that much power, but you can know the One who does. And that is great comfort and great joy, regardless of whatever upheaval or frightening circumstances we find ourselves in.
  2. Be thankful: no matter what the stress, there is so much to be grateful for. The sun comes up every morning. Spring is coming. We live in a time with hand-soap, modern medicine, and paved roads.

And for those of us homeschooling, life continues, in many ways, as usual. My Orienteering class and I had a great live on-line meeting today, with students from coast to coast participating in an excellent discussion and break-out rooms.

What were we talking about? The Life Skill of Self-Care.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the term- I prefer the term “stewardship” because it recognizes that some things are beyond our control, but we can steward well regardless. The kids went around our Zoom room and shared what was happening in their part of the world, which ranged from school shutdowns to advised homestays.

We then broke into break-out rooms, and they came up with lists of ways to cope during a crisis, utilizing four categories: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Emotional. Here’s what they came up with:

Ways to Cope During a Crisis

  • Spiritual – Stay in the word, pray, listen to worship music, and go to on-line church. Keep talking to God; keep connecting with Christ. Work on creating fellowship with others, even during a time of quarantine.
  • Social – Call and text people, set times for FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Zoom meetings. Write letters. Check-in with friends daily, if even with a simple text message, and make chat and coffee dates on-line!
  • Emotional – Do something that makes you happy; eat cake, take showers, limit your news intake! Stay informed, but keep good boundaries to avoid depression and catastrophizing the situation. Read something inspirational. Celebrate the everyday.
  • Physical – Get outside, walk the dog, and teach her a new trick or two, work-out. Don’t neglect yourself; practice regular hygiene (which can be disrupted due to change of schedules or depression). Hot showers are a great way to relax and unwind.

And while class was in session, one student put on a crazy St. Patty’s Day Hat (Celebrate, y’all!) and they all made plans to meet up outside of class via google hang-outs! Which is precisely what we’re talking about!

coping in a crisis family emergency COVID 19

Get Support

Need support as you cope during a crisis, or even when you’re not? We love to come alongside fellow homeschoolers, those who planned to homeschool, and those homeschooling as an emergency measure! Check out our FaceBook page and groups for fellowship and occasional freebies for moms and kids- a great place for a little self-care.

6 Quick Fixes for Common Communication Killers

6 Quick Fixes for Common Communication Killers

Communication skills are such a big deal. Without honing these skills, we may convey things we never intended to – or leave out important pieces of information that can change everything! Poor conversational skills can potentially offend or hurt, or don’t make the sale. Excellent communication skills are one of the top job skills potential employees are looking for in new hires. Expertise in this area will contribute to your kids’ success, vocationally, and relationally. So, let’s take a minute and talk about common communication killers and how to fix them.Three young women learning about communication together in a filed of bright tulips

Communication Killers

Avoiding Eye-contact

Not meeting someone’s gaze can communicate that you are trying to hide something, such as an agenda or information. It can also convey social awkwardness. In our culture, eye contact speaks loudly.

Recently, my husband was in a situation in a store where one of the people in line was getting loud and quarrelsome. My husband was speaking to the clerk when this person started directing belligerent comments to him. My husband stopped, turned around, and just looked at the man; did not engage verbally, just looked at him.

Now, my husband is a trained psychologist and martial artist and thus, not easily intimidated, so I don’t recommend this approach for everyone, however, this man who had been causing extreme discomfort in this public space stopped ranting. All because of someone with a calm, non-anxious presence who was willing to make eye contact.

Fix-It: Practice making eye contact with the people in your home when you are talking to them. “Look at my eyes” is a significant first step with littles. Put the phone or other tech devices aside as you converse with others. Eat meals together with no tech present and make a point of seeing and speaking with each other. The family table is a great place to gather and practice all sorts of communication skills

Win-Lose Relationships

Often, we approach situations with the attitude that there is one right or wrong way of dealing with an issue. Instead of this type of “black and white” thinking, consider the possibilities. This is much like creating a pro-pro list instead of a pro-con list. When conflict arises, how can a win-win outcome be achieved? What would be a positive solution for everyone? Of course, sometimes people opt-out and you can’t win with them. It will take even more creative brainstorming on your part to come up with a winning scenario for both of you when the other person lacks the maturity or concern to help make it happen with you.

Fix-It: When conflict arises, pause and reflect on how you can contribute to positive outcomes for everyone. Brainstorm those “win-win” possibilities. Create a  “pro-pro” chart in a problematic situation and determine how to bring about a good result.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw.

Attacking Character

Attacking someone’s character instead of commenting on what they say or do. Be clear about what a person is doing versus who they are. Attacking someone often can mean that we don’t have empathy or compassion for them.

Fix-It: Teach your kids the difference between actions or behavior and the value of the person. Discuss the difference between what your kids “do” and their value as a person. Talk in terms of behavior. For example, you might say “You broke the dish.” or “You did not do your chores.” instead of phrases such as “You are careless.” or “You are lazy.” Help your kids name emotions and teach them to identify the feelings of others. Use phrases like “Mommy is sad that the dish was broken”, “Suzy is disappointed that the toy is lost” and ask “Are you happy that snow is falling?” Knowing how to name specific feelings is a great first step in understanding people. Understanding can lead to empathy and compassion, which leads to clear communication!

Not Listening

It’s easy to assume we know what someone is trying to say and interrupt or jump to conclusions. Listen to understand. Do you listen to hear someone’s heart? This goes beyond just listening to the words, but taking the time to listen to the other person’s heart.

Fix-It: Don’t interrupt when someone else is talking. Hear them through to the end of what they have to say. Respond, “So what I hear you saying is this.” Develop excellent listening skills. Maintain objectivity in the conversation. Push the pause button and take breaks as needed. Remind yourself and the other person that you are on the same team with the same objectives.

Adulsts ignore one another while on social media their phones

Showing Disinterest

We should all display a healthy curiosity about people and what is going on in their lives. Social media teaches and enforces self-absorption. People are hungry to be known, to share what’s important to them, to have someone hear their deepest hopes, dreams, and longings- to have a friend.

Fix-It: Develop the art of questioning with curiosity. Be a student of the world and people. Learn to find out about people; discover their likes, dislikes, wants, and needs.

Being Indirect/Avoiding Difficult Conversations

No one likes to have awkward or difficult conversations. But sometimes they are inevitable. Whether it is sharing about a difficult diagnosis, confronting someone you love about unhealthy behavior or problems at work, we all tend to avoid talking about it.  Avoidance can bring its own set of challenges, especially in regards to issues that have a time factor attached.

Fix-It: Practice what you want to say- write it out to get clear on what the real issue is and how you might go about solving it. Do a test run with someone who is objective. In other words, act out the potential conversation. Bring your notes with you if they bring you confidence and pause. Take breaks as needed to get perspective, calm down, and reiterate the belief that you are all on the same team, working towards the same goals.

Practice and Intention

Like all abilities, communication will improve with practice and intention. Teaching our kids how to communicate well is one of the most vital skills we can give them. That is true regardless of what job or industry they go into or whether they have a large family or stay single.

I’d love to hear how you are intentionally teaching communication skills in your family, so drop me a line here or on Instagram and Facebook.

If you want resources for teaching these types of Soft Skills in your homeschool, take a look around our website and blog. Or listen to our podcast at the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network where we focus on tips and resources for teaching soft skills and life skills for all age groups. Our podcasts, blog, e-books, and online classes can help with teaching your homeschoolers about Stewardship, Teamwork, Career Choices, and Public Speaking.

Proverbs 25:11 A Word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

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