Communication Skills: (Defining)Words Matter(s).

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Okay, I know that you may already know this, but, it needs to be said: words matter. I don’t mean in the sense that “words can hurt our feelings,” or in terms of the inherent power of the spoken, or written, word – although, those are true statements. I’m talking about the meaning of the word that you’ve chosen to use – and the significance of making sure that the person with whom you are communicating understands the meaning of the word that you’re using – as you are defining it.

If that entire concept sounds like semantics, that’s because it is. The word semantics is defined as “the meaning of a word.” We’ve been very misguided in our dismissal of the significance of this task – and recently, a great example presented itself. You may have heard, recently, that scientists discovered a new organ! For now, I’ll ignore the fact that we still understand so very little of our bodies, earth, solar system, universe, etc., that there was an “organ,” that is so pervasive that it exists in a significant portion of the human body (a post for another day, I suppose). Let’s just focus on the fact that it might not actually be an organ (hence the quotation marks around the word organ, above).  You see, the thing is, “no two anatomists will agree on a list of organs in the body,” according to Paul Neumann, a professor of medicine at Dalhousie University in Canada and member of the  Federative International Programme for Anatomical Terminology. If you’re anything like me, you respond to that statement with incredulity and a solid, “beg your pardon,” or even a disbelieving, “come again. now?” How is it possible that anatomists cannot agree on how many organs are in the human body – a number which is debatably as high as 79 or 80 (yes, you read that right – they contend that there are as many as 79 or 80 organs in the human body)? Well, the answer to that is the easiest part of this story to explain. They can’t agree on the number of organs, because there is no agreed upon definition for the word “organ,” except in terms of the musical instrument.

The real kicker is that it doesn’t actually matter whether you call it an organ or not. Are your organs the most important part of your body? That depends on who you ask as well. To the person that has failing organs, I suppose they’d answer, “yes.” However, to the person battling an autoimmune disease that causes their white blood cells to attack their platelets (a condition called “I.T.P.”), the fact that neither the white blood cells, nor the platelets are defined as “organs,” is of no consequence at all. Therefore, the new discovery of some aspect of our human anatomy is significant, irrespective of the label given to that discovery.

You might think, well, that’s all great, but, I don’t discover organs, so why are you bothering me? You’re obviously right: you don’t discover organs. On the other hand, your work is significantly more important than discovering organs. You’re educating someone that has the chance to be taught the lessons that are completely missed in the traditional educational setting. Someone who will soon go out into the world – and, by virtue of the fact that you educated them, and are the type of person that is still reading this blog post, they will likely be the sort of person that succeeds and has a significant impact on the world around them.  Someone that has the ability to be the voice of reason in a society that has forgotten – or in some cases, never learned, how to reason. Our social and political divisions come down to a handful of ideological differences. However, the chasm that most of society has come to believe exist between ourselves and those that possess opinions which differ from our own, is related to an even smaller number of root causes. Among them, the failure to define our words, and the failure to define the meaning of someone else’s words.

Aside from being able to communicate better with everyone around us, the decision to carefully and deliberately define our words has the potential to determine whether our kids end up learning the lessons that we are trying to teach them, or, end up heeding the advice that they mistakenly believe that we were trying to give them, only to end up way off the mark, and incredibly frustrated.

Jeffrey Hoffmann, Esq., Founder – RealSchooling.com & RealSchooling.blog

Welcome To RealSchooling.blog!

RealSchooling.blog is the official blog-site for  RealSchooling.com. I founded RealSchooling.com with some very specific goals in mind. I wanted to give homeschoolers the chance to have the best education possible – not because homeschoolers lack something that students in traditional schools possess. It is because they have something that students in traditional schools lack: freedom! Homeschoolers (in most states) have the freedom to pursue their interests, the ability to redefine every aspect of their approach to education and the ability to greatly exceed any student in a traditional school setting – if they are given the right tools. That statement isn’t meant to be an attack on the traditional schools, though. It is just the practical reality of a student’s ability to hide amongst the other students, combined with the practical limitations placed on any teacher with more than a few students. For instance, if little Johnny is scoring 80% on his math tests, he doesn’t understand some portion of the material. However, the entire class cannot wait for Johnny to grasp the concept – they must move on to the next topic, because the needs of the group exceed the interests of the individual student.

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Sorry, Johnny.

So, why did you choose to home school? There are certainly many unique situations and specific factors, but, I’d argue that there was only one legitimate reason that unites all of us. Whatever the specifics were, you chose to home school because it is what you thought was best for your kids. You believed so strongly that it was the best thing for them, that you were willing to defy convention and social norms; you were willing to face criticism and interrogation from every corner. That takes true bravery and speaks volumes about how far you will go to give your kids the best opportunities that you can.

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However, as homeschooling parents, we wage wars on every front. From the outside, we defend our decisions. Many of us struggle to maintain a balance between trying to prove something to the outside world and focusing on giving our kids what they need. Inside the fortress of our homeschool, we battle with our kids to get them to stay on task, do the work that needs to be done, lesson plan, and maintain our sanity. Then there’s that war that we wage internally –  the one where we wonder if we are measuring up… with public school, or with our kid’s potential, or with someone’s expectations.

Often, lost in the chaos of actually homeschooling are all the cool things that made you want to homeschool in the first place. The chance to dive deep into a topic; to take the classroom to a battlefield, laboratory, or museum; to get to enjoy time with your kids while they learn. RealSchooling.com was created to give parents the opportunity to homeschool the way that they always wanted to homeschool. The name Real Schooling came from the idea that we have the chance, as homeschoolers, to turn school into what it should have always been; into what real education – real schooling, actually is. Even if you don’t take any of our classes, I thank you for taking the time to check out our blog and invite you to make the most out of our blog and podcast, because I genuinely believe you will find something of value here. It may be encouragement, insight, or direction, but there will unquestionably be something of value.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Hoffmann, Founder of RealSchooling.com and RealSchooling.blog