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    by Mike McHugh

How Best To Direct Discussions With Students
Date Posted: August 7, 2008

A great deal of the instruction that takes place within a home school setting involves the simple act of informal and often spontaneous discussions between parents and their children. Because home educators are not bound to the rigid schedules that are commonly found in traditional school classrooms, they often enjoy a more intimate and steady dialogue with their students. For this reason, it is critical for parent educators to maximize the effectiveness of the time that they spend discussing educationally related topics with their students. The opportunities for personalized instruction may indeed be more numerous in a home school setting, however, unless parents communicate well no tangible benefits will be realized.

Home school parents should take the time to incorporate some of the following suggestions as they seek to improve the level of communication between themselves and their students.

  1. Although it may be painfully obvious to many teachers, it must be said at the outset that the most important thing that instructors can do to facilitate good communication with their students is for them to foster an open and encouraging environment where discussion flows freely.
  2. Don’t wait to approach your students until after you recognize that a problem is brewing. Be pro-active in your communication, by providing frequent interaction with your students in order to address issues or problems when they are still small. Verbalize your expectations to your students on a regular basis to ensure that they clearly know what is expected of them in each area of study.
  3. Don’t scold students simply because they ask frequent questions. Praise them for taking small independent steps to secure needed information. Encourage a spirit of curiosity within your students, as they seek to learn more about the subjects in which they are engaged.
  4. Strive to create a covenantal atmosphere within your home, so that every member of your household can sense that they are part of a noble community of learners. Although it is proper to maintain a healthy distinction between the roles of student and instructor, it is also beneficial to promote the truth that all human beings are unified in their calling to learn more about how best to subdue and exercise dominion over the created order.
  5. Avoid telling your children the answers to each problem they confront in their studies. Encourage your students to verbalize proposed solutions to the problems that are initially unable to solve. In this way, you will help your student to learn how to think through complex issues in a logical way.
  6. Be enthusiastic, yet genuine, as you interact with your students. Heartfelt enthusiasm is as contagious as apathy or indifference.
  7. Teachers can and should open up the lines of communication with their students by extending to them some meaningful opportunity to direct the scope or direction of their study of a given topic. This type of communication will help students to be more personally invested in their studies each week and will encourage them to take ownership over their own learning.
  8. Instructors should avoid making frequent use of threats or sanctions as they interact with their students. The more often a teacher resorts to the use of threats, the less impact it will have on those they are trying to reform. Christian teachers should strive to be slow to anger, and to have the law of kindness on their tongues at all times. Making demeaning remarks to students may make an instructor feel good for a season, but such remarks do nothing to successfully motivate students.
  9. Be specific when giving feedback to students about their course work. Students need to know exactly what they have done correctly, as well as those areas where they have failed.
  10. Instructors should schedule a time each month to sit down with their students in order to assess their progress in academic as well as spiritual matters.

I am confident that the suggestions listed above, if acted upon, will help home educators to increase the quantity and quality of communication that takes place within their schools. Wise teachers will understand the power of their words, and the urgent need that exists in every teaching situation for them to properly communicate with their students. Perhaps the man of God named Job said it best as he declared, “How forcible are right words!”

Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at www.homeschools.org.
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