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:

Why Use Homeschool Academic Advising?

Why Use Homeschool Academic Advising?

Why do you need homeschool academic advising?

As homeschooling parents, we are called upon to choose curriculum, teach the kids, keep track of credits and graduation requirements and guide our kids to a successful launch. We are the school board, administration, academic advisor and teacher, all rolled into one.

It can be difficult to do all of that on one’s own. I’ve heard several times on homeschooling forums and message boards who state that their parents didn’t help them navigate college or career and they came out just fine. And while I do believe that resiliency and grit are often overlooked and possibly under-expected, I caution parents against leaving their kids to figure it out on their own for two compelling reasons.

Time and Money 

The average student in American is graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in 6 years instead of 4 with $37,000 in debt. Couple that with the fact that only about half of all students who enter college complete it and you could have a very expensive recipe for disaster.

Hacking High School for Future Success

The savvy homeschooler will view homeschooling high school as the opportunity for two things:

  • Time to explore new opportunities and options
  • Time to prepare for a successful launch

When I am putting together our “school” for each school year I am thinking about academics. I am also thinking about extra-curricular, camps, internships, sports, clubs and other possibilities. I am thinking about how my kids are developing and growing in unique areas (developing their “otherliness”), how to develop their professionalism in specific areas of interest, what kind of personality skills or traits that they need shoring up on, or natural areas of ability that can be further developed.

(Need more great career advice for your homeschool student?  Check out all our other great career readiness posts!)

Why hire someone when you can DIY Homeschool Academic Advising?

So, what does this have to do with Homeschool Academic Advising? Many, if not most, homeschooling parents short change the high school years. They under-credit what they have done, don’t know where to invest time and energy based on students interests or callings because they are worried about what a transcript “should” look like.  They tend to forget to think about things like camps, awards, sports, roles, responsibilities, and community service.

That’s where a seasoned Academic Advisor is helpful.

I see the credits you overlook because it’s your normal. For example, I recently worked with a high school student who basically flunked most of last year’s courses. After digging a bit deeper I discovered that he had extensive camping and fishing experience – like he provides fresh fish each year for more than one family; has hundreds of hours of Community Service (mowing and plowing his Grandmas and neighbors driveways and walks) works full time laying fiber optic cable (because he has such an amazing work ethic and is a responsible worker), and has re-built a diesel engine for the truck he bought with cash that he’d earned watching YouTube videos.

Along with identifying a processing disorder and getting him the academic help he needed, I was able to create a transcript for him that reflected the hard working, high PIQ (Performance IQ), kind and generous young man he was. Additionally, we were able to lay out a doable plan that will get him the professional certification he needs in life to earn the kind of money he should, given his abilities, despite academic struggles.

Similarly, I worked with a family earlier this year who has hopes of graduating from college while still in their teens. This student has the intellectual capability of doing just that but he is also very interested in going into an art field, doing creative, free-lance work. His Personalized Learning Plan included CLEP and Dual Enrollment classes.  These classes were coupled along with developing an online presence, going to professional conferences, developing his artistic abilities, and going to graduate school in a location that would allow him to create the best connections possible.

Story Telling and the Art of High School & Career Counseling

Here’s the deal. At heart, I’m a writer, a teller of stories. I love listening to people, hearing their hearts and learning about the story they’ve lived so far and the story that God is writing. From there it’s easy to create an Action Plan that makes sense, to resource the students and parents with camps, classes, competitions, books and ideas to make the story they are living be cost and time effective and lead to success.

Whether you have a fast burner or struggling learner- We Can Help!

Whether your student is on a fast track or struggling to just keep going, we can help. We have worked with homeschooled students from around the world for many years- from profoundly gifted to disabled. Along the way, we’ve mentored everyone from Olympic hopefuls to kids who use P.T. for PE credit. We have helped kids go on to Internships, the military, community college, State and Christian colleges as well as Ivy League schools. Every student has a story and we would be honored to work alongside you to help write the next amazing chapter!

Check out our Podcast on Soft Skills, Academic Advising, Orienteering Course.

Do you have a plan for your child's high school years? If not, it's time to make one! Check out the perks of homeschool academic advising. #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #academicadvising #homeschool

Career Exploration for Homeschool Students

Career Exploration for Homeschool Students

I love working with parents of tweens and teens to develop a Personalized Learning Plan for their Jr and Sr High School years. High School should be a time when students are considering and exploring opportunities, being exposed to possibilities, and honing their work ethic, academic and skill sets.  During this time they should begin career exploration. 

For many parents, it can be overwhelming to think about covering all the basis for High school, let alone start thinking about what comes next. But, when I am working with families during Academic Advising sessions, I always start with where the students/parents think the young adult will end up after high school. Will they go to college, go to work, go to an apprenticeship, a ministry or the military?

Answers to these career exploration questions will help determine the course students should take during high school.

For instance, if a student or parent is relatively certain that their student wants to go military enlisted right out of high school, and the sooner, the better, I would advise them differently than if they wanted to go to a Military Academy. Their high school programs will look a lot different, even though a rigorous Physical Education program would be recommended for both.

If a student thinks they want to go into a Creative Field, like Writing or Movie Production, I will advise them to begin building their online presence as soon as possible, with either a blog or a YouTube channel, along with opportunities and classes that will develop their skills, along with their Transcript.

They are hired for their hard skills and fired for their soft skills

Of course, not every student is going to know what they want to do “when they grow up.” The reality is that many of them are probably going to be doing a LOT of different things as the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out. Most young adults should expect to have over 14 jobs during their vocational life-time. This statistic indicates that young adults need training in the soft skills of adaptability, flexibility, critical thinking, and so much more! Focusing on life skills such is always a good idea; if your kids are flexible, good communicators and know how to learn, they’ll go far regardless of what career field they go into!

For Career Exploration, think in terms of Career Clusters

With the changing world, and having to prepare our kids for jobs that may not even exist, focusing on career clusters, rather than a specific career, is a more logical way to approach career exploration. The following are Career Clusters, as defined by the Bureau of Labor:

Do you still need more career exploration?  Try clubs, camps, jobs, and internships!

Exposing young adults to clubs, camps, jobs, and internships might spark an interest that takes them in crazy directions. Both of our sons have done internships for our State’s Family Heritage Council in the State Capital during Legislative Sessions. While this hasn’t led directly to a job, per se, it has exposed them to policy-making, lobbying, connections around the state,  allowed them to rub shoulders with men and women with an incredible work ethic and led to other internships and opportunities. These kinds of opportunities also give our kids the confidence to do the next big thing.

Still need more help?

What if your student can’t decide on what’s next?  Check out our Academic Advising program, where you’ll get help not only creating a Personalized Learning Plan for High School, but suggestions and curriculum for career exploration and development. Our Survive Homeschooling High school E-book, is full of resources to kick start what’s next brainstorming. We also offer an Orienteering course which will allow the student to take responsibility for their career exploration with plenty of surveys, brainstorming, discussion, practical tips, and more!

Are you exploring career exploration options for your homeschooler?  Check out these tips on how to point your child towards their desired career! #TNHA #career #homeschoolinghighschool

Homeschool Tools for Tomorrow Employability Skills

Homeschool Tools for Tomorrow Employability Skills

Employability Skills

I’m often asked, “What are the top five skills a young adult should have?”  In other words, what employability skills should we be teaching our kids and students? I suppose after many years of coaching and mentoring young adults, I likely rattle these off much like a tour guide on a tour bus.  In case you’ve not had the opportunity to hear this lecture, read on. If you have, scroll on by – there’s nothing here to see… but I bet you won’t. The challenge is whittling down the list to just five, but let’s give it a try.

1 – Communications.  Professionalism, timelines and conciseness in communications, regardless of the medium is non-negotiable. At Apprentice University, we teach a class in Professional Communications. We assert that you may be the smartest guy/gal in the room, top of your class and all that jazz… but if you cannot communicate professionally, you’ll be labeled second rate.  And, contrary to the belief of many young adults, using your phone as a phone – as in a phone call – isn’t going away anytime soon.

2 – Timeliness. I’m often shocked at how many young adults do not manage their schedules with a calendar. Working from memory was acceptable in junior high, but as a young adult with demands on your time, scheduling conflicts, drive times, traffic delays, back to back meetings, etc., all place pressure on our schedules. Being timely in delivering a project, meeting attendance, phone calls, and so on, is crucial for one’s employability and career advancement.  Timeliness in communications demonstrates respect for the other(s) and shows you’re paying attention.  If you attended a school, or were homeschooled, and deadlines were mere suggestions – think again. Timing is crucial, absolutely crucial, when others are depending upon you.

3 – Technological Agility.  I recently overheard a young adult – not one of our students at Apprentice University, by the way – say, “Better not let Mr. B. know you don’t know how to do that…”  For certain, given my career in technology the last three decades, my expectations are probably higher than others when it comes to agility in using modern tools and technology.  Regardless, the workplace assumes you’ve mastered tools common to the office – regardless of your career path.  Whether you want to be a plumber, programmer or a policeman, you absolutely must master common technology tools found in an office.

4 – Critical Thinking. Few problems or opportunities present themselves with instructions.  Understanding how to think critically about a problem helps to combat the absence of an instruction manual.  We hear the phrase “critical thinking” all the time, but what exactly does such a process look like?  Let’s explore.

  • Defining the problem (or opportunity). A clear understanding of the problem being solved is half the battle. Albert Einstein is attributed to having said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
  • Divergent thinking. Imagining and brainstorming ideas to solve a problem starts with fresh thinking and considering all ways in which a problem might be resolved.
  • Design thinking. Much has been written about design thinking and this little article certainly will not do it justice. For our purposes, we’ll reduce design thinking to the art of starting small and iteratively improving upon the previous attempts.  At Apprentice University, we practice this skill routinely.
  • Evaluation means measuring one’s results, learning from what worked and what didn’t and adjusting accordingly.

5 – Failing. In this series I discuss failure in more depth in another article, but a critical employability skill is appreciating and accepting failure.  Today’s society looks upon failure negatively. I’m not talking about failing because you did something stupid or had a lack of judgment. I’m speaking of failure that is a certainty because you’re trying. Thomas Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 999 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”  Failure that demonstrates an insatiable appetite to learn from mistakes (like design thinking) is good, welcome and desirable and creates employability in often unusual ways.

Communication is Key!

Today’s top employees communicate effectively and timely. They leverage productivity improvements through technology, think both critically and innovatively about problems and aren’t afraid to try – and fail.  Those who refuse to communicate and are afraid to fail at solving a problem are destined to be frustrated in the modern-day workplace.

Read the entire Tools for Tomorrow series!


Empolyability Ron Brumbarger

Ron Brumbarger is one of Indiana’s most recognized technology and education entrepreneurs and visionaries. As a dedicated husband, father, friend, mentor, business owner and volunteer, Ron continually strives to weave his many passions into a unique tapestry to serve others. He has spent his entire professional career leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset to help disruptively change education, apply technology to enhance business practices and facilitate organizational growth. He co-founded BitWise in 1992 and served as the company’s president and CEO until January 2018 He was tapped in 2006 by Indiana’s Governor Daniels and Ball State President Gora to start Indiana’s first, statewide, virtual-charter school. In 2013, he founded Apprentice University®, an award-winning, competency-based college of higher education, preparing future leaders.

Homeschool Tools for Tomorrow Healthy Imagination

Homeschool Tools for Tomorrow Healthy Imagination


Perhaps the most important tool in a young adult’s toolbox is imagination.  Imagining where your career might take you enables you to play out future scenarios without expending significant resources.  Game-changing innovations are often the by-product of a healthy imagination.  So how do you sharpen and direct your imagination?  Read. This. Post. Slowly. It’s meant to be an opportunity to let your imagination relax and stretch before running wild.

Actively Feed Your Imagination

First, actively feed your imagination. Look for new things to learn, places to explore, and people to meet.  Intentionally learn something new so you go to bed smarter each day.  For example, let’s say your home town has an old museum that you have driven by a hundred times. You wouldn’t be caught dead visiting there because it’s just not cool. That stuffy old museum has existed as long as you can remember. It’s a fixture on the street corner that neither you nor your friends would ever dream of visiting. However, at one time, something historically remarkable occurred which motivated thought leaders of the day to catalog and memorialize that event.  The museum has elements that were innovative and creative and still demonstrate exceptional imagination.  Even though something is “old,” what might you learn from the work of the past?

Converse with Others

Feeding your imagination requires you to experience new things routinely, and conversations with others is a great place to start. Begin by touring that old museum or seeking out conversations with people who are diverse from your traditional domain.  An intentional conversation with an elderly person who tells you their “story” forces your mind to see the world through a lens of yesterday. Conversely, spending a little time with a research scientist working to bring a new technology to market will cause you to imagine future scenarios and applications for their work.  Take time to feed your imagination.

Exercise Your Imagination

Second, exercise your imagination. Try this little exercise…  With the stage lights to the theater of your mind burning hot, the amp cranked, your cell phone off (and in another room), your gaming console in sleep mode and your headphones put away, pause and explore the picture out the window before you.  What do you see? Your car parked in the driveway? Trees in the background? The sidewalk in front of your house? The neighbor kids playing in the front yard? Same picture, different day, right?


Now… With your imagination in stretch mode and the theater of your mind prepared for showtime, think back to the day you bought your car. Remember the excitement and freedom you felt that day?  Think about where that little four-wheeled freedom maker might take you next. What about the trees? Consider the picture of the people who planted those trees so many years ago. What was their story? Why did they plant in that spot? Where are they today? How long have those trees been there?

Let’s explore the sidewalk for a minute.  The sidewalk in your picture was formed naturally right after Noah’s flood, right? Ehm… cough, no! Somebody took time to measure, dig, form and pour the concrete for that sidewalk – probably on a hot summer day. How many people helped pour that concrete? Because it’s old, it’s likely the concrete was mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow.  Maybe a dad used the “sidewalk project” as an opportunity to teach his sons the value of hard work.  Imagine a couple boys, one on each handle of that heavy wheelbarrow, clumsily pushing the heavy load from the mixing location to the wooden forms of the sidewalk.  They’re staggering and stumbling as they practice synchronized wheelbarrow pushing (a future Olympic sport!).  They pour the concrete while dad smiles.  Well done, boys.

How’d you do?  Was that stretch?  Might you set a reminder on your phone to do this for three times a day for five minutes?

What Did You Fail to Imagine?

Think back to our sidewalk and what you failed to imagine. Rewind those images of the dad and his boys pouring concrete.  In your haste to get through the movie of that dad and his boys, what did you fail to imagine? What color were the boys’ shoes? Did they have their shirts on? Were dad’s helpers all boys? Was one significantly older than the other? The scene was set to cause you to think the boys were small, yet their age was never stated.  Maybe they’re older and working in their dad’s concrete business. Did you fail to imagine the length of the sidewalk they’re pouring?  Did you fail to imagine how the concrete might be decorated?

What’s Limiting You?

As you consider decisions before you – academic choices, career options, or choosing a mate – pause and ponder what is limiting your decisions.  Are the limits placed upon your decisions self-induced?  Are you limiting your imagination through biases, prejudices (not talking about racial prejudices) and clichés due to your upbringing or cultural surroundings?  Or, heaven forbid, are the limits due to a lazy imagination because you couldn’t put down your smart phone?

Everything you see in your world is connected to a story.  The person you passed on the sidewalk, the kid boarding the school bus, even the mug you’re sipping coffee from has a story! It’s these stories which feed and stretch your imagination.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat

Remember: repeat three times a day for five minutes.

Read the entire Tools for Tomorrow series!

Empolyability Ron Brumbarger

Ron Brumbarger is one of Indiana’s most recognized technology and education entrepreneurs and visionaries. As a dedicated husband, father, friend, mentor, business owner and volunteer, Ron continually strives to weave his many passions into a unique tapestry to serve others. He has spent his entire professional career leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset to help disruptively change education, apply technology to enhance business practices and facilitate organizational growth. He co-founded BitWise in 1992 and served as the company’s president and CEO until January 2018. He was tapped in 2006 by Indiana’s Governor Daniels and Ball State President Gora to start Indiana’s first, statewide, virtual-charter school. In 2013, he founded Apprentice University ®, an award-winning, competency-based college of higher education, preparing future leaders.Content goes here