Add the Secret Ingredient
So many things can stand in the way of effective conversation, including distracting physical habits, missed cues, not knowing how to start a conversation and seeming inability to end it. All the skills, training and practice in the world, however, will not make our children outstanding conversationalists—distinguished ambassadors. We must add the secret ingredient: Character.

A child is naturally bent to keep the focus of conversation ever on himself. Again, he needs training. We cannot teach the art of conversation long without also addressing character. One of the primary elements that fuels good character is wisdom. We try to feed our children much wisdom and filter out foolishness.

Like a sponge, a child's mind soaks up ideas and the words to express them. Sure, the words and ideas do not always come forth when we think they should, but they are all stored up in there, somewhere. As parents, we wish our minds had not been saturated when we were young with advertising slogans and the words to popular songs. Our children will encounter foolishness, but they will overcome if we fill their minds with the words of the wise.

Fill with Words of the Wise
We had our children copy a famous wise quote each day and then memorize it. We then encouraged them to seek fitting opportunities to use those wise words in conversation. Like advertising slogans and song lyrics, the words of the wise settle into the mind for a lifetime of recall. May a child faced with racist banter, for instance, readily respond with the words of the Declaration of Independence and echoed by Lincoln at Gettysburg that "all men are created equal." This response is more fitting than the suggestion that a garden hose be inserted up a nose.

We all chuckle over that question people ask about our decision to homeschool: "What about socialization?" Yet, let us not take for granted a home-educated child's conversation skills. To develop true ambassadors of Christ and children we are proud to send into the community, we must take affirmative action to develop the conversational skills and character that can impact the world.

Bill & Derri Smith are authors of "Conversation with Character" and "Quotes with Character," curriculum for homeschoolers, available from Sweet Home Press, Joelton, TN,

This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug '04 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, please visit