Friday, July 31, 2009

Guest Friday's Answer: Stop Interrupting, Please!

We're excited to bring you leadership wisdom from wonderful veteran leaders around the country in our "Guest Friday's Answer."

This month's guest post is written by Heidi St. John. Jay and Heidi St. John have been married for over 18 years and are the homeschooling parents of six children who range in age from sixteen to two. They founded First Class Homeschool Ministries to work with parents and pastors establishing an international network of homeschool cooperatives.

Here Heidi answers this homeschool group leader with understanding and wisdom that we are sure will encourage you today.
~Denise & Kristen

We have one mom who is your typical 'take over' mom. She is full of ideas for our group, yet she is extremely unreliable and is a poor example to others, especially our new members. Whatever she says she will plan for the group seems to fail.

When I'm leading our homeschool meetings she talks whenever there is a pause in conversation. She interrupts others as well (or talks in great lengths), and often I see the frustration others feel when she does this. She talks with a very slow voice, yet one that is commanding, so it is hard to interject and stop her.

I want to be polite, but inside I'm just thinking, "Why won't this woman stop talking so much and just listen to the wisdom of others!?!" She seems to constantly have to build herself up and is your typical 'know it all', yet her children are fairly young and she is not a seasoned homeschooler.

I have to remind myself that I not only am a Christian, but a leader, and I need to be a good example to others- especially those I lead. I seek to do His will and lead the group with true humility and wisdom, but this issue has me stumped. Please help!

Oh boy - I think everyone can relate to this on one level or another.

I've experienced that many times over nearly 10 years of leading homeschool co-ops. We have had serious splits in leadership and even in our co-op over personality differences too. I remember once when our very first First Class Co-op was young (in 2001) we had a mom who was always interrupting. It was a challenge for me not to throw my coffee at her at times! :0)

There is never an easy answer for things like this but I thought of a few things the Lord has taught me over the years that have helped me through similar situations:

  • Remember Colossians 3:13: "Put up with each other, and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." We need to be about our Father's business. Women, Christian homeschooling is a target of the enemy!! He will target us and do his best to bring about disunity. We need to be on guard against it. So often, I see homeschool groups split over things that have little or no eternal significance and yet we give them a lot of attention and energy, and as a result, we get side-tracked from what God really wants us to do.

  • Be careful not to let yourself become easily offended. Now I'm not saying that this gal is not offensive :0) Ask yourself, "what is the underlying issue here?" Pray for God to show you. Is it insecurity? A need to feel needed or included? It could be that this mom needs affirmation and doesn't know how else to get it. Ask the Lord for His eyes and heart toward this mom. I believe that if we ask the Lord, He can and will give us a measure of grace. Your Christ-like character will prove itself over time, and God will reward your desire to become more like Him.

  • Walk in the light. This is what my dear friend Diana Waring is always telling me - and what she means is that everything we do needs to be able to stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. Are we being patient? Longsuffering? Gentle? Bearing with one-another? Loving? Telling the truth? And speaking of the the truth...

  • Speak the truth - in love. (Eph. 4:15) Check your motives. If you decide that you do need to talk to this mom - then do it by yourself first --follow Matthew 18. Just last week I had the unpleasant job of "confronting" two women who were gossiping. I hated the thought that I had to confront anyone. I put it off for three weeks hoping the situation would "right itself." It didn't. Two weeks ago, the Lord reminded me gently that it's our enemy, satan, who wants us divided! My enemy is not these homeschool moms. It is satan himself! My job as a leader is to lead in a way that brings unity. My role was to remind these precious women of God's desire that we model unity, not only as Christians, but as Christian homeschoolers! Because of prayer, I was able to speak the words I needed to in humility and love, and in both cases, we were able to pray together and hug each other. :0) (I've had it go much worse, and I have made my share of mistakes over the years!)

  • Wear the mantle of authority God has given you as you lead this group. If God has called you to lead, do so with boldness, authority and humility! ( I know it's a tough combination.) It's okay to say to a mom who interrupts constantly, "Excuse me, please wait until Susan is finished and then you may speak, too." However, if you can, talk to this mom in private first.

I hope this helps you a little. I'll be praying for you and the families in your group.

-heidi st. john
Connecting the Christian Homeschool Community
Building a Network of Independent Homeschool Cooperatives

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

Learn To Give a Good Compliment Series

Tip #1--Make eye contact and smile!
Tip #2--Make it all about them
Tip #3--Say it from the heart

Tip #4--Never over-compliment. A gushing well of niceties can drown the very one you are trying to bless. Space your compliments out so that they are true treasures and carry maximum impact.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday's Answer: Kids Running Wild

"How do I inspire more structured time (like co-op art/ music/ etc.) classes - when so many people just want to let their kids run wild at the group meetings?"

This same question came up during a group leaders' meeting at a recent homeschool conference. Everyone had great ideas and encouragement for the leader:

  1. Have separate meetings for "free" time, mom's time, and class time
  2. Gather for a meeting to explain the problem and set rules and guidelines together
  3. Choose classes and activities that everyone is interested in
  4. Divide the meetings with half of the time being structured and half of the time given to free play
  5. Recognize that boys play more wildly and give them freedom to be boys

The leader graciously accepted these points and expressed that she had done all of them to no avail. She said that half the group wants rules and structure and the other half does not. None of these solutions had helped her group.

Hank Tate, a veteran leader since the eighties, began to get to the heart of the leader by asking if she had spoken to any family individually. She had not. There was a fear issue, especially with confrontation. He explained that she needed to choose one family with the most difficult problem and go to them directly (preferably with her husband or another leader) and be very firm in explaining the problem and expectations. Don't get worried if they threaten to leave. He said whether they get mad and leave or stay and change, you have solved your problem. Then deal with the next family, if needed. This isn't a fun or pretty part of leadership, but it is necessary sometimes.

To your fearlessness,

Denise & Kristen

Leader Store

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

Learn To Give a Good Compliment Series

Tip #1--Make eye contact and smile!
Tip #2--Make it all about them

Tip #3--Say it from the heart. A faker can be spotted a mile away. Whatever you choose to say--mean it! Compliments must be truthful and sincere to hit the mark.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday's Answer: Spouse Support

About a year ago, I was able to meet some wonderful homeschool group leaders at the Woodlands conference here in Texas. One couple I met has worked together in leadership with the wife being the primary leader of the homeschool group.

The husband stated that with his job, etc, he was not able to lead, but that he was able to support her. I was able to ask him how he serves his family and wife while she attends her meetings, talks on the phone and serves the group. This husband (who wished to remain anonymous) had some really great answers that I'll list here. (Disclaimer: We are not responsible if you use this list as a not-so-subtle hint for your spouse!)

9 Ways a Dad Supports His Group Leader Wife
  1. Cooks--frees up time for her to be on the phone with group members by cooking a meal for the family
  2. Bathtime--gives the kids their baths during the evening while she is on the computer answering emails
  3. Grocery Shops--does the grocery shopping while she is home reading with the kids
  4. Mr. Principal--is involved as the principal of their home school to keep the family on track
  5. Grades--grades the subjects of math and science for all the kids each evening lightening her load
  6. Labs--is responsible for the science labs with the family
  7. Watches--takes care of and watches the kids during leader meetings
  8. Encourages--lifts her up when down and encourages her to continue leading and keep going even on difficult days
  9. Freedom--tries not to ever put her on a guilt trip

It's such a team effort, isn't it?! Let's remember to appreciate our supporting spouses and recognize all the wonderful ways they serve, help, support, give, encourage, balance, pray, lead, and care for us and the success of our families and our work. They are amazing!

Hats off to our spouses,
Shop our Leader Store.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

Learn To Give a Good Compliment Series
Tip #1-- Make eye contact and smile!

Tip #2-- Make it all about them. Never focus on what you think of them, rather on how what they did or said affected others in a positive way. OK compliment: "You did a great job coordinating the graduation breakfast." BETTER compliment: "The graduation breakfast turned out so well! The smiles on the teens faces were contagious. They clearly felt special and honored."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday's Answer: Motivating Your Kids

How do you get a child motivated to do their lessons?

We've all been there. Some kids are self-starters and you hardly have to do anything to motivate them and then some (even in the same family) need a lot of encouragement to stay on task. One thing I have found that works to motivate no matter what their learning style or your teaching style is to let kids have large doses of time to do what they LOVE. When the creative streak strikes, let them surrender to it. Set the books and schedule aside and let them LIVE. May we never forget why we homeschool--for the FUN of it! Allowing time for the fun of homeschooling is just one way to keep the balance in your life as a homeschool educator and leader.

One recent, beautiful summer evening, as my husband and daughter were headed to the Texas hill country for church camp and my baby girl and I were snuggling inside the house, my boys got a hankering to tinker. This is what I caught them up to.

Yeah for homeschooling! It's moments of discovery like this that make all the hard work and diligence of constantly encouraging and inspiring our kids to do their lessons worth it.

Breaking it down for you,

The Economides' book that gets you right on the money is NOW in our Leader Store! I personally own this book and have loaned it out to several friends--it's that good.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

Learn to Give a Good Compliment Series
Tip #1--Make eye contact and smile! In a world where many avoid real intimacy, looking someone in the eye and smiling as you offer them a compliment gives weight to your words and helps the blessing of those words go straight to the heart.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday's Answer: What To Do When Together

What do you do at support group meetings?

The answer to this question depends on the purpose of your homeschool group. Are you meeting because homeschooling moms need like-minded friends? Are you meeting for children's socialization? Are you needing classes or educational opportunities? Maybe your families come together for all these reasons and more.

Here's some options that many homeschool support groups, including ours, do at our meetings:
  1. Fellowship ~ Sometimes we have found the best meetings were those that were laid back, relaxing and free-flowing. Every member of the family could come to the meeting stress-free and just enjoy being together with other like-minded families.
  2. Educational Stimulus ~ It's always fun to see the homeschool students rise to the occasion and share their science project, art piece, drama presentation or geography study in an educational fair. Not only do they shine and get recognition for their hard work, but they also get practice speaking in front of other people (an important skill).
  3. Parties ~ Children and teens love a special occasion party, and being together with friends makes it especially fun. Games, Graduations, Fourth of July barbeques, Valentines, candy and presents give meaning to "the more the merrier."
  4. Topic Discussions ~ Encouragement, how-to's, homeschooling testimonies and great ideas give your families inspiration for their home schools. As a group, plan discussion topics ahead of time or, as a leader, prepare materials to bring for them. For a list of super great topic ideas, see The Old Schoolhouse Archives of "The Homeschool Minute."
  5. Sports ~ Even casual team-sport games need players. Your support group meetings could supply fun memories for all with kickball, volleyball, softball, races, or a track and field day. These times of laughing and making friends are always winners with every age. Serious sports teams can be developed as well for skills and competitions.

We could go on and on with things to do during support group meetings, but the best thing to remember is know what your group families need and find your group's purpose. Then fulfill that purpose and have fun. Homeschooling is an adventure, and it is exciting journeying together!

Planning the next successful meeting,
Denise & Kristen