In 1999, we made the single best decision of our homeschooling experience. We decided to get involved in competitive speech and debate.
With an open slot in my schedule at the NCHE conference and on a whim, I walked into Teresa Moon’s workshop on competitive debate. I had heard of debate, of course, when I was in high school. My impression was that it was difficult and time-consuming. All that was about to change as she walked me through the benefits you receive from debating.
She pointed out that debaters learn critical thinking skills. Her example was that they learn that nuking everyone is the not the best choice. I already recognized how important critical thinking skills were in this fast changing world. In this information age, the ability to evaluate is essential.
Public speaking was next on her list, and we all know how important that is. It was recently pointed out to me that everyone will find themselves at some point or another in a class or job or committee where someone will need to speak up or present for the group. The person who volunteers will be seen as the leader. I wanted to raise leaders. So okay, I was on board.
She mentioned research skills. Hmmm. Writing college papers and essays, knowing which information to listen to and what information is worth repeating is a much needed skill. Since you probably know how this ends, I will tell you that all four of my children have said researching was one of the more important skills they learned. If you’ve ever been on the Internet trying to sift through all the conflicting information, I’m sure you’ve wished you were better prepared.
Debaters learn to write. They learn to summarize, to write concisely and clearly.
They learn to think on their feet. All students struggle with this, but I’ve seen the transformation too many times to doubt that it is going to take place with every student.
Reading and comprehending difficult material becomes second nature. Their vocabulary goes through the roof.
History is covered as background to how we arrived at this particular policy, lots and lots of history. They know more about government and how it works than any high school government course will teach you. They learn economics with real world applications. Dining room conversations go to a whole new level as you may discuss marine natural resources, trade policy with Africa and the Middle East and, my favorite, electronic surveillance.
They learn the Law of Unintended Consequences.
These were the skills I wanted my child to have when they graduated. And the part I really liked as a homeschooling mom—I never had to nag or push or prod. Because there was competition involved, they were motivated and did it on their own. I was sold.
Now all I had to do was sell my kids. I went home and presented it to my ninth-grader and twelfth-grader. After I finished, I looked at them expectantly.
But I wasn’t finished. I went over their head to the superintendent. We decided to make it non-negotiable. One year, participating cheerfully and willingly, and then it would be their decision. Eventually all four participated in speech and debate and ultimately decided on their own to continue. All four of my children will tell you that it was the best thing they participated in as part of their education and, no, college was not the choice for each.
I think most students are not encouraged to take debate, because the parents are intimidated. If I can do it, anybody can.
You should research this! Christian Communicators of the SouthEast offers Team Policy Debate for ages 14-18, Public Forum Debate for ages 12-14, Varsity Speech for ages 13-18, JV Speech for ages 9-12, and Junior Speech for ages 5-8. For more information, go to: ccofse.com, or contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org