As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my goals in educating my children at home is to raise adults who can think critically. While there are many tools that I use to help accomplish this objective, competitive speech and debate probably tops the list. Whether you are a professional teacher, a homeschooler, or a concerned parent, I urge you to look into speech and debate opportunities for your children/students.
The most obvious benefit of competitive speaking is that the kids become better public speakers. (Duh, you’re probably thinking!) No one who knew my oldest daughter in elementary school ever would have predicted that in her sophomore year she’d be top speaker out of 56 debaters at a tournament drawing kids from throughout New England. My younger kids have followed her lead and are better public speakers (at ages 14, 12, and 10) than many adults.
While public speaking proficiency is important, the ability to analyze what they read, look at issues from multiple sides, draw conclusions based on in-depth research, quickly evaluate a question or argument and formulate a response, and remain friends with opponents after a heated debate are equally valuable takeaways from speech and debate. Although I must admit that it can be disconcerting when your child spots the flaws in your reasoning and calls you on it!
If you’re a homeschooler, there are several leagues you can consider: NCFCA, Stoa, and CCA are three with which I’m familiar. For teachers at public or private schools the leagues I know of are NSDA and NCFL. Homeschoolers can form teams in NCFL (we did that this year), but they have to go through their local public school to compete in NSDA. Different leagues are more popular in various regions of the country.
If you’d like more information, please let me know in the comments. If I don’t know the answer to your questions, I can probably direct you to someone who does.
Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.