7 Everyday Public Speaking Opportunities for Your Kids
I recently came across a post from a mom looking for a debate group or public speaking class for her child. Of course, there are many great opportunities for speech and debate in the homeschooling world, including national organizations for homeschoolers. And these can be ideal for kids who are specifically headed toward a career in a field such as law or politics, for example.
But not all children need this kind of deep training, and if you’ve been homeschooling long, you realize the temptation to sign your kids up for all kinds of extracurricular classes and co-ops, and before you know it, you are spending most of each week just driving around!
This is one more reason lifeschooling is so beneficial. When you learn to see the opportunities around you for learning that are hidden in plain sight, it can really take the “mom-guilt” off your shoulders when you decide to lighten the “class load.”
So much learning can happen naturally if we simply include our children in what we are doing. And if we take some time to put in a little more effort, we can even set up some simple learning experiences that don’t have to be as much of a commitment as formal classes. Some of these ideas might not seem like “public speaking,” but there are definitely speaking skills required that will serve in more formal situations later.
Here are 7 ways that you can lifeschool public speaking with your children:
- Family puppet shows and plays – These are a great way to introduce young children to the concept of being in front of others and performing. If you attend a small church, as we do, you may even want to see if you can put something together for a special program.
When our children were young, our church at the time had a Christmas program every year where each family presented something. Our oldest two put on a short play two years in a row, and a couple years ago, our youngest did a puppet show with me. I was able to convince him to do the puppet show with me because he could perform without having to even be seen!
- Show and Tell – Along the same lines, you can also set up a show-and-tell with a group of friends. This is another easy way for your children to become comfortable with speaking. After all, what child doesn’t want to talk about their favorite toy or stuffed animal! Even the shyest of kids will usually be excited about the opportunity, especially if they are with friends they feel comfortable around.
- Practice introductions – This is so important, and something I neglected with my youngest! Start by practicing at home, then train your children to politely smile and say hello when you meet new people in public. Church is an easy, friendly place to start.
Even shy children need to learn that when we don’t say hello to someone, we can hurt their feelings. It’s much harder for some children, but they need to learn to be polite and “esteem others better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). Set the expectations where your child can easily meet them, then work up to harder things. For example, you can start by training them to simply look someone in the eyes and say, “Hi,” then work up to longer interactions.
- Purchasing items at the store – I have not done this as much as I should, but I do make it a practice once in a while. When your child is getting to purchase something they want and using your money rather than their own, this can be a great motivating factor. Of course, another skill that comes into play here is counting money so go ahead and count this as a little math for the day, too!
- Praying at church/small group – Again, this may depend on your church, but having your child pray can be a wonderful way to practice public speaking. And they even get to close their eyes! Have them start with prayer time at dinner or family devotions and work up to praying in other groups.
- Making phone calls/answering the phone – I think this generation, at least in conservative circles, has a harder time learning this skill because most kids don’t have their own phones until they are teens, and there is usually not a home phone.
This is probably one area I can say that I failed in! Neither of my older two children are too excited about answering a phone, even their own, and they rarely make calls. This is something I plan to be more intentional about with my youngest, and he can use my phone for practice!
- Speak in front of an abortion clinic – Here is an unconventional lifeschooling experience that is only for the “advanced” public speaker, but one with eternal impact! For years, my kids and I did ministry with an organization called Cities4Life. We would share practical help and the hope of the Gospel with the women coming to get abortions, either over a microphone or simply by calling out to them.
It is not an easy way to speak and definitely only for those who can handle the advanced element of heckling! But sharing the Gospel is definitely a practical skill that every Christian should learn, and even the little toddlers would sometimes get on the mic and say, “Jesus loves you!” or “Jesus loves your baby!” My daughter even stopped a car all by herself at age 9 and convinced a woman to choose life for her twins!
Above all, be sure you are encouraging and affirming to your children when they make the effort to step outside their comfort zone and speak in public. And keep the constructive criticisms minimal, especially at the beginning!
Most of us know that the number one fear is not death but public speaking! So, any effort on your child’s part is to be commended and celebrated. Think of ways to reward them according to their achievements and age, even if it’s something simple like a sticker or their favorite meal for dinner.
The world is our classroom, and lifeschooling opportunities for public speaking are all around us! The key is to keep our eyes open and ask God to show us those opportunities that will help our children grow in this area.
Danielle Papageorgiou has been homeschooling, or “lifeschooling,” for 19 years (She counts birth as day 1!) and runs a blog and online conference at www.LifeAsALifeschooler.com. She has a passion for helping other homeschoolers learn how to homeschool in a way that does not compete with family life but actually enhances it—homeschooling done in a spirit of freedom, not legalism. Her desire is to see more families set free from the world’s expectations of what education is and to discover that God has made each family unique and has also placed in each of their children special gifts and desires that He wants to use. The verse that guides the Papageorgious in their pursuit of lifeschooling is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Emphasis is Danielle’s).