Soft Skills are those personal attributes that allow us to interact well with others, allowing us to have peaceful and healthy relationships. They are also known as power skills or personality traits. Soft skills are those skills that everyone seems to understand implicitly. They are related to manners and social mores. For kids with learning disabilities, however, soft skills can be elusive and confusing.
Hard skills are easily definable skills that are often job-specific, such as knowing how to speak German, code a computer, or write in cursive; those skills that get us the job. Soft skills are more difficult to define and are those skills that allow us to keep the job. You know the adage,
“You are hired for your hard skills, you’re fired for your soft skills.”
What are Soft Skills?
Integrity is the foundation of all soft skills. It is the quality of basing our behaviors on principles instead of situations, being honest and morally upright—integrity based on the Gospel of Truth, instead of our own or others’ desires.
You might have recently heard about the “4 C’s of Education.” These would include
- Collaboration (Teamwork)
- Critical Thinking
Public Schools are beginning to work specifically to train kids in these basic soft skills, as they are so necessary for success in academics, job ability, and stability, and managing and maintaining healthy relationships.
Communication, in particular, is easily identified as the queen of soft skills, as without it, we can hardly function.
Communication Skills Consist of 4 areas:
Employers are currently stressing the need for students to have excellent communication skills, including the ability to persuade by written and spoken communication. In particular, they want to hire those who can “sell” (i.e., persuade) both orally and using the written word.
Collaboration is better known as teamwork. Can you lead, follow, and interact maturely with other team members? Do you problem solve and handle your own emotions well, or are you causing problems for others on your team? Do you understand the team hierarchy well? Are you willing to lead, follow, and get out of the way?
All of these skills go into being a good team player, at different times and various seasons.
Critical Thinking is the ability to analyze facts and form a conclusion, using deductive and inductive reasoning, formal and informal logic, and the scientific method. Critical thinking allows us to be proactive, instead of constantly reactive, strategize, and take the long view, deferring our own short term gratification for long term pay-offs.
Creativity is all about thinking outside the box, generating new ideas or tweaking old ones to fit new situations, and interacting with materials, people, and resources in unique ways.
Time and Distraction Management
Time and Distraction Management is the ability to manage one’s time effectively to accomplish small and large tasks, repetitive as well as on-going tasks. This also has to do with the ability to manage distractions, be that a little sibling, social media notifications, or our self needs or interest. Developing good time management habits is critical to being able to interact with the world maturely.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Flexibility and Adaptability require having the ability to change and flex as needed. Our world is growing increasingly complex with radical and sudden shifts occurring on both a micro and macro scale. We must teach our kids to flex and adapt as needed as well as to know how to set appropriate boundaries and to stand firm when time and circumstances demand it.
Work Ethic is the value that hard work is intrinsically valuable and worth doing for its own sake. Having kids who are diligent and detailed oriented in their work can mean the difference between success and failure in so many areas of life.
Leadership is both the ability to research and prepare for what’s ahead as well-being to lead, guide, or instruct a group or individuals, teams, or organizations.
In a world that makes it increasingly easy to “block” or “ghost” someone, loyalty is a soft skill worth developing. Standing by one’s faith, family and friends is the mark of someone with integrity and other well-formed, soft skills. Everyone is irritating, demanding, and in need of salvation and standing by and next to each other while recognizing our own and each other’s humanity is what being loyal is all about. The soft skill includes patience, kindness, self-control, and the willingness to overlook the other’s failings.
Soft skills are those skills that take a lifetime to master and can always be improved upon.
All of us have soft skills that come naturally to us, and those that are a struggle. Regardless, we can all develop a lifestyle of learning so that we continue to grow and develop to glorify God-given who He has made us to be, and in doing so, shine His light in a world that is growing increasingly dark.
Where to Find Out More About Teaching Soft Skills
Click on the links in this post to view courses offered by True North Homeschool Academy teachers who have goals that are aligned with yours as a homeschool parent.
We believe in the importance of Soft Skills so much that we host a weekly podcast on Soft Skills 101: Life Skills for a Digital Age!
Please join us over at the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network for more great discussion and information on Soft Skills!
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.
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
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ~Helen Keller
The value of working as a team is obvious, so let’s talk about some common teamwork “killers” and how to fix them!
- Lack of self-awareness & lack of empathy
- Settling on the First or Obvious Solution
- 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!
In every group, there are extroverts and introverts. The extroverts will be happy to do all the talking – happy to be front and center of every decision. The introverts will be glad to sit back, stay quiet, and fade into the background. The problem with not giving equal time to both types is that everyone loses out, and synergy doesn’t end up happening.
Fix-It: give everyone equal time and take turns talking about ideas and working them out. Work on developing excellent communication skills by waiting for quieter members to speak up and teach the more exuberant talkers in your midst to spend time listening and hearing others on the team. Practice the art of not interrupting. Value the input of all team members
Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities, it gets easy to duplicate effort or overlook things. Roles and responsibilities allow people to take ownership, make mistakes, and problem solve.
Fix-It: be clear about significant roles and responsibilities: who does what, under what circumstances? Positions may change according to age, gender, skill, and project. For example, the roles for making Thanksgiving dinner will be different than for finishing the basement, going on a vacation, or caring for someone who is disabled.
No Time for Reflection
Without clearly assessing how your team is working together (or not), it will be impossible to know if you are working as a team.
Fix-It: make time for regular assessment. Check to see how everybody is doing, what everyone needs, and how well you are meeting your objectives. Again, objectives will vary, depending on the vision, mission, and goals, ages, stages, resources, and skills. Regular assessments allow the team to adjust as necessary to gird up weak links, take full advantage of skills and abilities, and shift team members around for training as needed.
Doing Everything Yourself
Great teams have to work together- that means everyone is working. If your group consists of one person doing all the work, it’s time to train and expect others to do pitch in. As moms, it often feels easier to do it all yourself, but that’s a short-sighted view that won’t equip your kids or allow your team to work as effectively as it potentially could.
Fix-It: train your team to work together. Allow people to rotate from leadership roles. Let your team learn from mistakes and celebrate success. Look at the big picture and invest time in training – you won’t regret it.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
As a homeschool family, your team may have additional challenges to overcome. Get more tips specifically for Using Teamwork in Your Homeschool. Working effectively in a group is a soft skill that is sure to catch the eye of modern employers. Learn more about tools and resources that position your homeschool student for career success at our Soft SKills 101 Podcast and become versed in how to teach the essential life-skills for our digital age!
“The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
A Heart of Service
I love the holidays because I love giving. I love considering what will bless people, and I love being able to give good things. Our family culture has always been one that recognizes that we have a responsibility to steward our time, treasures and talents. How do we encourage a heart of service in the lives of our kids?
Share Your Core Values
What drives your financial giving and volunteer hours? Talk to your kids about why you do what you. Have conversations about the values and passions in your life so that they connect your behavior with beliefs. They might not know that you tithe regularly to church. They might not know that you support a child in Africa financially. Include them in your giving.
Expose Your Kids to a Wider World
If you live in America, you are part of the blessed 5% in the world that has freedom, choice, and prosperity at your fingertips. The American Dream is just that; a dream, for a large percentage of the world’s population. Make sure that your kids don’t live in a bubble. Travel around the country and out of it- if you can. Talk to people wherever you go. Read extensively and study history. Donate to the food bank and serve at the shelter. The world is an amazing and beautiful place and while we should protect young minds and hearts from darkness, there is much good in going outside of our own neighborhood.
“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.” Kathy Calvin
Practicing Good Stewardship
Give your kids three jars to manage their money with: spend, save, and give. We have known millionaires who have lost everything overnight and seen the impoverished go on to make fortunes. Teach your kids that money may come and go but the values of stewardship can become part of their heart- regardless of circumstances.
Volunteer as a Family
Service organizations in your very city are seeking generous souls to serve, donate, gather, and teach. Our local hospital is always looking for kind souls to rock babies. In the far north, coat drives are an important way to ensure health. There are many places, from half-way houses to literacy programs, looking for teachers to teach basic life skills, phonics, and English as a second language.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank
Create Family Rituals of Giving
What can your family realistically manage year after year? Is it putting together a few shoeboxes or hygiene packs for the homeless each Thanksgiving, or serving at a food giveaway every quarter? Find something that you can all do together and then put it on the calendar. Plan on it. Teach your kids that serving others with your time, talents and treasure is an important part of life.
Serve as a Family
There are many service organizations around the world. Find one that speaks to your heart and serve as a family. We have friends who go to South America yearly for medical missions. Our family serves with an organization that raises support for the Persecuted Church; we’ve written letters, hosted speakers, raised money and gotten the word out about this important ministry. Find an organization that you believe in and invest as a family. Your kids will see you in a new context and realize that you are living what you value. This creates opportunities to talk about what’s important and what has spoken to your heart. This also gives them a new context in which to shine, allowing them to grow.
Join an Organization With a Strong Service Component
My daughter recently joined American Heritage Girls and she has already had several opportunities to serve others in her troop and beyond. Last month her unit served dinner at a half-way house for recovering addicts. While they served, they were blessed; by the many personal thanks they received, the laughter they shared and a wonderful conversation with the staff and residents about God and the importance of faith.
”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
Donate Money to a Cause Where You Can Donate Your Time and Talents
Adam Pruzan, who teaches for our True North Homeschool Academy, recently spoke to our Orienteering course about money and investing. He strongly encouraged the kids to give generously of their money, but at the same time, to donate to a cause that would appreciate their time and talents. Investing oneself in an organization or project can often be just as important as giving money.
Generosity starts with thinking about how others feel. As our talented Spanish teacher, who is momma, to a beautiful, disabled daughter, told her class before Thanksgiving: “swallowing, eating on your own and the simplest movements are not a given for some people”. We should all be grateful for the freedom we have through health. This gave all the kids something to think about.
Praise Generous Deeds
Children naturally do kind and generous things for others. Praise and encourage this when you see it, promoting your values of living a life of generosity and service.
“Selfless giving is the art of living.” Frederick Lenz
How do you promote a generous heart in your kids? Is serving others part of your life curriculum? We would love to hear about it!
Join our True North Homeschool Tribe on FB and take part in the conversation! As I mentioned, we love to give- so go to the link here to download our FREE Winter Bucket List and while you are there, opt-in to get our weekly e-news. The Compass is full of homeschool inspiration and free resources that help your education go in the right direction!
Are you teaching soft skills and career readiness in your homeschool?
A well-known adage in the business world is, “You’re hired for your hard skills, you’re fired for your soft skills.”
Hard skills are those easily measurable and defined skills, like the ability to create an excellent PowerPoint, program a computer, speak a foreign language, or re-build a diesel engine. Soft skills are less quickly defined, perhaps, and can also go by power skills or personality traits. Soft skills are things like your ability to communicate effectively, work on a team, use critical thinking, and live and play with integrity.
Why are soft skills just as, if not more important, than hard skills in today’s quickly changing job market? Hard skills are easily taught through classes or training, but no amount of technical knowledge can make up for lack of integrity or work ethic.
What does this mean for us as homeschooling parents?
In the same way, we spend time, money, and effort looking for the all elusive perfect math curriculum; we should be strategizing ways to help develop our kids’ soft skills.
These skills include things such as:
- Critical Thinking
- Work Ethic
- Time/Distraction Management
Now how do we focus on teaching Soft Skills?
Communication goes hand in hand with academics as we teach our kids to write and speak well. A robust writing curriculum works best in a group setting, in my opinion, where kids are required to read their writing out loud and give and take feedback from teachers and fellow students.
A solid Speech and Debate class or regular presentations or recitations will help develop communication skills as well.
Working on teams, be they sports or academic is a great way to develop teamwork. Your student can learn collaboration skills by getting a job or volunteering or even working with parents and fellow students on projects and events. Also doing simple things, like yard work with your family can require you to develop teamworking skills. Here students learn essential tactics such as communicating clearly, listening well, and doing tasks they wish were delegated to others.
Perplexors, or logic puzzles, are a super fun way to develop deductive reasoning skills. Parents also need to ensure that their students use a solid math and science curriculum. Lego League, Odyssey of the Mind, National History Day and Science Fair Competitions all demand and develop critical thinking skills in a fun and challenging way. Don’t overlook learning Logic- both informal and formal –a tremendous critical thinking training tool.
In my mind, nothing develops creativity better than actually being creative regularly. Take part in daily or weekly writing, painting, drawing challenges, start a blog, take up photography. Students can even join our Writing and Art Clubs. Here students set their own goals (developing critical thinking), get regular prompts, assessments, and challenges. Most importantly, kids are inspired by each other!
In today’s job market, flexibility and adaptability are more important than ever! Today’s students will probably have around 15 jobs during their working life span. Many of them which will probably be Independent Contractors, collaborating with teams from around the world. This global market makes flexibility and adaptability more crucial than ever! Learning foreign language, religions and culture, travel, and campaigning are all excellent ways to develop these areas. Reading about history, and understanding geography allows us to take into account different times, people, and places, which in turn gives us a broader perspective.
The best way to teach work ethic is by having your kids work. Work alongside them and teach them the value of work. Tie their work to meaning, so it doesn’t seem like a time waste. Have them do chores, and contribute to the family in significant ways. For example, setting the table, vacuuming, taking out the trash, etc. They can even work on larger projects, like painting the living room or laying a brick wall. Work can take on many forms, and the academic work of powering through a tough logic curriculum or winning a medal on the Latin National Exam should not be overlooked.
Teach your kids to use planners and daytimers from an early age. Have family planning meetings weekly, so kids get a big picture overview of what is happening in the lives of their families. Teach your kids to SMART goals and how to prioritize so that they can meet their goals.
Have filters and timers on electronics with an electronic free day each week. Use your electronics as tools that you manage, so that your kids aren’t hindered or addicted to them — place parameters around what happens when. For example, you can set between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. as electronic free, because that time is for sleeping. Turn off the wifi, take the phones, and make sure your kids get the right amount of sleep. Their ability to set and accomplish goals will be so much more doable on a good nights sleep. Teach your kids media etiquette (netiquette).
Integrity is all about character. I talked in one of our podcasts about how when my Grandpa shook your hand, it was going to happen, even if it cost him. My Grandpa’s word and commitment was a binding agreement, in his mind, and he would do what it took to make sure he could follow through on whatever he’d agreed to. Telling the truth, showing up, creating and keeping commitments, understanding limits (yours and others) these are all marks of integrity.
We’ve done in-depth Bible studies with our kids from the time they were very young. These studies, along with in-depth history studies, have allowed us to talk about what has worked and what hasn’t in life. Teach your kids empathy; have them get involved in serving others. Develop Grit goals so that your kids can learn to persevere through difficulties, hardship, and trials. Teach your kids to pray and give them living examples of what it means to live our faith out loud.
There’s a lot to think about as you train and educate your kids. It doesn’t have to be either or as we teach our kids hard skills and soft skills- take an integrated approach and use academics to teach soft skills! Not sure where to start? Our Academic Advising program can help!
(For more information on teaching soft skills to your students check out our Podcast – Soft Skills 101 from the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network.)