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.
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.)