Lessons Found in Family Travel

Lessons Found in Family Travel

Jet-setting Families

Why travel with your family? It can certainly require a lot of effort! But family travel is full of teachable moments for our children and us! Diapers, strollers, pack-n-play, car seats, boosters, snacks, toys, busy bags, wet wipes, extra clothes, passports, phone chargers…etc. Oh! Don’t forget the babies and the older children! You finally got yourself half-packed for this international trip. Then you went for a bathroom break, only to find that the kids “help” you unpack your bags again. Out the door, sitting in traffic, checking in at the airport, only to find out the airline is slapping extra charges on you for checking in baby gear. Take a deep breath, cue the airport scene from the movie “Home Alone,” apologizing to the people sitting next to your children on the plane, only to arrive half-way across the globe jet-lagged and exhausted.

Sound familiar? Yep! Then why in tarnation would any parents go through the trouble taking young kids to travel, even taking them half-way across the globe?Boys in a car hanging out the window

We Are Global Citizens

When I was single, I worked as an international educator at a University.  Both my research and my mission were centered around teaching college students to be successful global citizens.  I have directed study abroad trips that hosted 300+ students. But now that I am a stay-at-home educator and mom, I can vouch that it is more a lot more work to take three little preschoolers on trips than 300+ college students.  I still have the same mission – to train my children to become successful global citizens, to show them a world that they have never seen before, and to increase their appetite for differences and tolerance.  

A Vision for Homeschooling That Sparks Communication

My vision of homeschooling is not only to impart knowledge and see them off to college in twelve years. My vision for our home education is to train our kids to be effective in a global economy, and ultimately, advance God’s Kingdom to the nations.

So how do we get there while we change diapers and haul those strollers? We lift our eyes and look beyond the hassles of traveling. We model flexibility and problem-solving.  We set examples of cultural appreciation, and God’s love the red, brown, black, and white little children. And while we do it, we as parents learn the most! We get to reexamine our hearts and attitudes towards others in this diverse world. Teaching moments are everywhere while we travel. Being outside of our usual social circle, our kids get to see people and things outside of their routine.  Then Boom! They ask innocent questions that make us think and make them love.

For example, my six-year-old child saw a Muslim woman in headdress when riding the subway. His questions sparked a whole conversation about “modesty” and “respect.” These types of discussions sometimes serve as a mirror into my own heart and attitudes. 

Teachable Moments for Parents and Kids

If you ask me, what’s the one thing that I learned most of my own heart? C.O.N.T.R.O.L. During our travels, we take along the curriculum that we are scheduled to complete, but I have to turn over my need to control and flow with the circumstances. Sometimes the bus doesn’t show up, that tropical rainstorm lasts an hour, the museum is closed for maintenance, and the child with motion sickness drenches you in puke!  One has to learn to laugh it off. I have learned to repeat to myself and our kids “When God closes a door, He will open up a window”. 

The Art of Distraction

True story, we planned to visit an art museum in Taiwan. After forty minutes of commuting, we discovered the museum was closed for an art installation. Both parents and kids were disappointed. We allowed kids a few minutes to be sad and disappointed. My oh-so-dramatic five-year-old even let out some wails. Then I remembered that I had mastered the art of distraction: “Oh! Wow! Look at this little gecko on this tree!” The kids then started to observe that tiny little gecko for five minutes while I search for the next living creature on the sidewalk. Ants, spiders, roots, tree bark and other random things have made up the best teaching moments. Sometimes there is nothing better than a simple observation lesson. Then, you betcha, I will say, “See? If we had gone inside the museum, we would have missed all these interesting sights!” There, drilling the concept in. Flexibility is essential for both homeschooling and parenthood. 

We Learn Everywhere

As homeschooling parents, we do what we do best – make anywhere our classroom!  Homeschool mommies are excellent CEOs of their families. We thrive on lessons, logistics, planning, routines, and order. But any big-name CEO will tell you the value of risk-taking and flexibility. So yes, traveling with little ones can be hectic, but what better way to learn how to give up our control of life and turn it over to God? So, I accept the challenge and imagine that my 100m dash through the airport is a scene on the “World’s Amazing Race” Reality TV show.  Both pit stops and final prize are glorious. 

About the Author: Yating Chang Haller is a freelance writer and international educator.  She works full time as a mom and home educator of 3 little ones (3, 5, 6 years old) and part-time at Purdue University, USA.  She was born in Taiwan and grew up in Singapore.   

To read more about homeschooling and family trips, check out the blog post on Homeschooling Basics. Get tips on adding family field trips to your curriculum and learn more about how traveling and foreign language study work together or read about how to build a unit study. 

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.

6 Quick Fixes for Common Teamwork Mistakes

6 Quick Fixes for Common Teamwork Mistakes

Working Together Leads to Productivity

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.

Families working together as a team shown by kids hugging each other in a group or team.

“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!

Teamwork Killers

  • Lack of self-awareness & lack of empathy
  • Settling on the First or Obvious Solution
  • Taking Turns
  • Role Confusion
  • 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!

Taking Turns

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

The Romans battle as a team showing the productivity of working together and the resulting victory.

Role Confusion

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!

A group of young people at a job working together as a team.

Communication is Key to Success

Communication is Key to Success

The Basics of Good Communication

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!

An orange megaphone on an orange background depicts how communication is key to success.

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
  • Plays
  • Poetry
  • Novels
Non-Verbal Communication

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:

  • Eye Contact
  • Dress
  • Facial Expressions
  • Gestures
  • Posture and Body Orientation
  • Space and Distance
  • Touch
  • Silence
Emotional Communication

Blonde woman in a yellow field of flowers using body language to communicate.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:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Surprise

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?
  1. Basic etiquette and Good Manners
  2. Netiquette (good manners and thoughtfulness online)
  3. The Art of Small Talk  (conversational skills like simple jokes and stories)
  4. Name Emotions (pointing these out to your children will help them to identify and deal with them readily)
  5. Help Them Set Goals (knowing their end game will allow them to communicate effectively in any situation)
  6. Show Them How to Evaluate (and then use the most effective form of communication)
  7. Mindfulness (let them know it is ok to “push the pause” button and be mindful of themselves and others)
  8. Awareness (help them become aware of their nonverbal communication)
  9. Active Listening Skills ( they can become engaged and active listeners)
  10. The Capacity to Communicate with Self-confidence and Humility
  11. 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?

Listen on your favorite app or visit the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Website for more discussions about teaching our children and check out our Podcasts on Communication:

Teaching Stewardship

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.

Encourage Empathy

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!

Young woman's hands holding money and a quote that says make a change- Pinterest version with Bible Verse Proverbs 11 25

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