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Communication, Answering Critics, Home from Ukraine

Added by Heather Idoni

Monday, October 20, 2014
Vol. 15 No. 10, October 20, 2014, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2014, Mary Beth Akers and Heather Idoni

Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you enjoy our newsletter, please share it with a friend! 



Notes from Heather & Mary Beth
-- Home from Ukraine... and Back Again!
Winning Website
-- ConversationMatters.com
Helpful Tips
-- Keys to Communication & Tips for Teaching
This Issue's Question
-- Answering the Critics
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather & Mary Beth

Dear friends,

What an adventure we've been on since returning from Ukraine! Our family has grown by 3 and our lives have been so blessed. We had so many miracles in Ukraine -- from paperwork and government approvals at the last minute -- to protection in close encounters with pro-Russian separatists on nearly every corner.

We were right in the middle of the war zone in Donetsk; in fact, our youngest son's orphanage was located only 10 miles from where the passenger plane was shot down. Thankfully we had been home in the U.S. a week already when this happened, but it was even more sobering to realize what God brought us through so faithfully. He never failed us in any way. Now whenever I look into the eyes of our new sons I am so thankful for the Lord's constant guidance and provision. It was an amazing journey!

I actually lived in Ukraine for 2 months while Jim made 3 separate trips to complete our adoptions. And I learned the basics of the Russian language while there -- just enough to be able to communicate to survive! Now our boys are learning English very quickly in America -- nothing beats immersion for language learning! :-)

Here is a photo showing 7 of our 8 sons together:

And now for our BIG NEWS...

We are going back to Ukraine! :-)

Our family is preparing to adopt 2 more boys who are brothers, ages 10 & 13 currently. We will be going fairly close to, but not directly "in" the current war zone, but of course we believe God will bring us through once again. Crazy to think about, but when we are finished we'll have 5 biological sons and 5 adopted!

Here is a photo of our 2 new sons-to-be:

If you'd like to follow our new journey, you can request to join our Facebook group here:


And if you'd be willing to help with a financial contribution of any size, it would be a huge blessing to us. Here is our donation page where you can also receive email updates to follow along:


Thank you for remaining a faithful reader of our Homeschooler's Notebook! And thank you for continuing to pray for our family whenever you think of us.



Communication and Conversation Skills

Traditional schooling places much emphasis on reading and writing. But think for a moment about the communication you do in your daily life. Isn't it largely speaking and listening?

Good communication skills have a huge impact on success in most areas of life -- relationships, business dealings and social situations. If you'll observe people around you, you'll see that communication skills are seriously lacking in people of all ages, all levels of education and in all types of work places. Imprecise or slang vocabulary, sloppy diction, general rudeness, and failure to adequately express or understand ideas too often prevail in personal conversations.

By fine-tuning these skills we can give our children significant advantages that will serve them the rest of their lives.

In this issue I'll share tips for teaching communication!

-- Mary Beth


"After 5 years of homeschooling, I knew I wasn't giving my kids the 'best of the best'. I didn't want them to turn out like me, a great student who 20 years later, with high school and college diplomas in hand, doesn't remember much of anything taught.

When we notebook our studies, quite frankly, the knowledge STICKS. Lightbulbs click and eyes shine! We have a growing treasury of their homeschooling journey."

-- Debra Reed, Homeschooling Mom and Publisher of NotebookingPages.com


Helpful Tips

Three Keys to Good Communication

Conversation is a collaborative effort between two people. Each has a responsibility to make it work. The speaker must make the information interesting and clear, and the listener must try to understand. Following are some keys for teaching and practicing communication skills with your children.

Brevity is one key. A listener will more easily remember what is said if it isn't cluttered with lots of extra words and irrelevant information. Keeping comments short shows respect for the other person's time and assures him that he'll have equal time to speak. For practice, have your children read a passage of 500 to 1000 words, and summarize it in 50 words or less.

Calmness is another key. Speech should be relaxed and peaceful; expressive but not agitated. Volume should be easily heard, but not loud. Many females would be wise to consider lowering the pitch of their voices. Practice calm speech by reading poetry slowly and with expression. Take slow deep breaths between phrases, as if giving your listener time to digest what was said.

A third key is personality. Enthusiasm is contagious and so is a sincere smile. Look people in the eye. Project a confident, but not arrogant, posture. Warmly empathize with joys and disappointments that others share with you. Practice communication skills at dinner or tea time, or set aside time during your academic studies. Work on specific techniques, or create conversation starters and address skills as the opportunities arise. Conversation starters can be questions, topics, or sentences to complete. You can find them online, or make up your own. You could have each person write down a conversation starter, put them all in a jar, and draw out one each day. A conversation starter can be as simple as, "What is your favorite food?" or as involved as, "What do you think your life will be like five years from now?"

Important "Don'ts" of Communication

Not only discussions, but relationships, can be seriously damaged by the following:

Interrupting -- Set an example, and train your children to allow a speaker to finish before taking a turn to speak. Interrupting is rude, and it conveys to the speaker that the listener esteems himself and his ideas to be more important.

Rehearsing while listening -- Resist the temptation to plan your response while the other person is speaking. Give all your attention to the speaker. When he or she is finished, take a few seconds to organize your thoughts if you need to.

Take-aways -- This happens when a speaker is sharing an experience, and rather than acknowledging that experience, the listener chimes in with a story of his own.

One-ups -- The speaker relates something and the listener tops it with something bigger or better.

Squelchers -- The listener puts down or ridicules the speaker and/or his ideas.

We all have difficulty listening closely, and sometimes we speak before we think. Here are some fun exercises to practice both.

1. Say, "Spell 'spot'." Student will respond with "S-P-O-T" Ask, "What do you do when you come to a green light?" Most students will answer, "Stop".

2. Do the same thing with , "Spell 'silk'." . . . "What do cows drink?"

3. Tell your children to say, "Joke" every time you raise your hand. Raise your hand three or four times, four to six seconds apart. Then ask, "What do we call the white part of an egg?"

4. Say, "Imagine you are a bus driver. You go west three miles, then turn south. After going six miles, you turn west again. You travel another thirty miles, turn north, and drive twenty-four miles to your destination. How old is the bus driver?"

Hopefully, after enough of these, your children will discipline themselves to listen carefully and give careful thought before blurting out an answer.

Communication is at the heart of almost everything we do. It forms the foundations of relationships and often a path to soul-winning. Strong leaders must be good communicators.

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11

-- Mary Beth

Winning Websites


At ConversationMatters.com you'll find helpful strategies for effective communication, as well as vocabulary words, interesting trivia, helpful resources and motivational quotes.


JoJo Tabares also has a website where you can listen to archived audio recordings of her "Say What You Mean" convention talks. This is a free resource and highly recommended as well.


Last Issue's Question...

How would YOU (or how have you) responded to critics of homeschooling?

Our Readers' Answers...

"How I reply to critics:

'Isn't it great that we have so many options? Public schools, private academic schools, private religious schools, charter schools and homeschooling? There is something to fit everyone.'

To the 'But why not support your local public school?' I DO support my local public schools. I give money whenever kids come by and ask. I don't mind that my taxes go for the school even if I am not using it. I want the schools to be good for my kids' friends. Good schools are good for the community, they keep down crime, bring in good families. My kids would have required aids or extra tutors... I am happy that money gets to go to other kids rather than stretch the system thin.

'But you pay taxes for the schools, why not use them?' My taxes pay money for other things that I don't use too. Programs that I am very happy we have. Programs like food stamps to feed the hungry, programs like housing authority so that ALL kids can have a home. I hope that I will never have opportunity to use these programs, but I have known families who have used them and I am VERY happy that they had access to them in their relatively short times of need. My taxes also pay for fire, police and emergency services. Again, I have not had opportunity to use them, but I am glad that they are there if I need them.

'Aren't you afraid there will be gaps in their education?' Of course there will be. There are gaps in EVERYONE'S educations. Education cannot predict everything that a person will need to know. My kids WILL know how to go out and LEARN what they find out they are lacking. They will not complain that no one taught them....they will figure out what they need to learn and learn it if it is important to them.

Overall, I just don't take it personally when people question what I am doing. They questioned my choice of where and how to birth my kids. They have questioned how I fed my kids the first year of life and what type of diapers I use. They questioned when my son was almost 4 and still in diapers. They question what I choose to feed my kids, how I teach them about God and religions, what car I transport them in, the fuel I put in that car, that I spend time in my garden, that I have weeds in that garden, that I let my kids play outside - alone, that I let them ride their bikes around the county, that I let my sons grow their hair long if they wanted. (Genetics says they will not have much hair the latter part of life, so they should enjoy it now!) They question that I don't have cable, that I let them watch TV. They question that I am sheltering them when I say they can't spend the night (with the family that is giving me bad vibes.) They question me that I allow my daughter to be supervised by a male who is not her father, that I let my kids talk to strangers, that I give them chores, that I don't give them enough, that my house is too clean, that my house is not clean enough. Point is, I sure can't please everyone (or even anyone,) so I might as well just live a moral, clean life, doing what I feel is best for my kids and ignore the rest. It pretty much makes things a lot easier."

-- Cheryl W.


"Reply to critic (husband): When my husband complained about the cost homeschooling, citing that we pay our property taxes and that our daughter should go to public school because we've already paid for it, I consulted some seasoned homeschool moms on a local Yahoo group. One of them said 'Our taxes support the prison system also. Does he want her to use that too?' ;-) That reply left him speechless."

-- Terri in TX

New Reader Question...

How do you cultivate good communication skills in your children?

Please share your thoughts and/or experiences! :-)

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