The Homeschool Minute ~ Speech and Debate–should we?

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Speech and Debate–should we?
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The Wuehler Family

Speech and Debate: Should we? Let me answer that in two ways.

Here is my Speech:

Speech and Debate programs are increasing in number across the country. These teams of highly motivated and academically successful students are shining stars in the homeschool community and abroad. Among them are gifted orators, humorous narrators, and just plain, normal kids who didn’t think they could stomach standing in front of other people and communicating until they tried these programs. Speech and Debate are worth the consideration of adding to your child’s academic transcript.

How was that? Okay, now here is my

Ladies and Gentlemen, I will take the affirmative position that Debate is a fundamental necessity for any student wishing to further his academic career. Thorough preparation, topic research, excellent writing and communication skills, as well as logical arguments and strong conclusions are all necessary in a debate setting. The student will gain strength of conviction, becoming confident in other academic, civic and social settings, and all due to the rigorous study and practice of debate.

Obviously, I would have benefitted if I had the opportunity to participate in this kind of program when I was young. Today, our own homeschooled children have so many more opportunities for growth and learning than I ever did. If my little speech and debate do not convince you to look into a program in your area, maybe these articles will:

Developing Skills and Character Through Homeschool Speech and Debate by Andrew Pudewa

Speech and Debate: The Activity That Transformed My Life by Olyvia Chinchilla

Speech and Debate by Chris Jeub

And, of course, here are some Scriptures that give us true wisdom and great reward:

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:6-8).

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11).



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Raising Real Men    

The apostle Peter admonished that we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV) That’s a strong suggestion that learning to speak up in public, even to make a gracious argument sometimes, is something we should seek for our kids to master!

For many people, public speaking is one of the most fearsome tasks of all! But being able to collect their thoughts, take a breath, and make a useful comment in a meeting or gathering will give your students more confidence … and make them better contributors to the church, community, or workplace.

Note that Peter is talking about more than just our personal opinion–the word translated “defense” is apologia, which means a logical argument like you might hear in a courtroom. Learning the tools of debate is the next step from public speaking to persuasive speaking.

You may be blessed to have speech and debate instructors in your area. Our oldest son really benefited from his debate coach’s instruction. However, if there are no classes nearby, or the schedule or costs don’t fit your family’s budget, there are many ways to build confidence in your young speakers:

  1. Have them read aloud. Try reading different styles of writing–passages from the Bible, stories from literature, even articles from the newspaper. Encourage them to read with expression–it’s more interesting for the hearers. Then it’s only a short step to expressing yourself in your own well-chosen words.
  2. Invite your children to pray out loud. Actually, this is one of the most common forms of public speaking in Christian circles, so believers ought to learn to compose a simple, extemporaneous prayer for a group situation. It doesn’t need to be eloquent–just real.
  3. Discuss ideas and challenge them to make their case. You can choose questions with no right or wrong answer–“Is a Mustang a better car than a Corvette?”–and have your students choose sides for a calm debate. Require them to define what they mean and back up their statements with evidence!
  4. Use special events as opportunities for small presentations. On birthdays, our whole family takes turns to offer a blessing, share advice, or express appreciation for the person we honor. Each person is challenged to come up with a short statement
  5. Be sure your student knows the difference between “debate” and “rebellion,” and you be sure you know it, too! Debate can be vigorous, spirited, and dramatic, but should always be conducted with respect and love. Our goal is not to crush our opponents and carry away every argument, but to encourage one another to greater love and service of our King–and all our fellow servants! So go and be valiant for truth!

Hal & Melanie Young 

Would you like your kids to grow up with an entrepreneurial spirit? Or maybe you’re hankering for a home business your whole family can engage? Do you know where to start, how to get a business going, and most importantly, how to avoid losing your shirt in the process? You can learn about all of these in the Family Business Greenhouse, a series of online classes led by experienced entrepreneurs. For more information, visit!

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The Art of Reading

Adam Andrews

Speech and Debate: Tips from an Old Campaigner

After many years as a public speaker, I have come to the conclusion that a single technique makes the difference between success and failure in debate. I call it the “irreducible principle” of public speaking, and I firmly believe that if your students can master it, they will inevitably be successful, regardless of their calling in life. Without it, even the most articulate of them will become nothing more than talking head. 

This principle comes from James 1:19 in the New Testament, which says “Let everyone be quick to hear and slow to speak.” 


There it is. The most important thing to learn about speech and debate is how to refrain from talking so that you can listen. It’s almost as if James understood what every classroom teacher knows from experience: a kid with his hand up, waiting to talk, has no idea what you’re talking about. He’s preoccupied with his own words, so he isn’t paying any attention to yours. Consequently, you don’t really want to hear what he has to say!

James suggests that when we lay down our prerogative of speaking and decide to listen first, we encourage a relationship between speakers and listeners that is the goal of all communication.

Many homeschool parents want their kids to be well-spoken above all else. After all, we work hard to create an educational culture where our students can acquire the skills that will guarantee them success, and even leadership, in the next generation. We have a sense that good speakers and good debaters will have a higher chance of achieving these goals.

And we may be right. But but we often overlook the fact that speaking well involves knowing your audience. Being “well-spoken” involves understanding the needs and words and assumptions of those you’re speaking to. In fact, I would argue that listening – hearing what the other has to say – tops the list of most important leadership skills by a good margin.

This is why Missy and I love literature so much. When taught correctly, it is the best nursery of careful listeners ever devised. To understand an author without the benefit of speaking to him directly is a great accomplishment. It requires patience and diligence.  It requires asking questions instead of proclaiming answers. Above all, it requires the willingness to put our hands down and stop interrupting.

Put this way, good reading sounds a lot like good manners, and I think the comparison rings true. When we teach our kids to read correctly, we teach them to treat other speakers with respect. If they can learn to treat long-dead authors with respect, think what they’ll do with live neighbors, or audiences, or opponents in debate!


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“Don’t let what you don’t do well define you. Dive in and be ready to be amazed!”

I have always loved this quote from Rebekah Bell’s Introduction to Public Speaking course. Through her class, high school students can grow as researchers, performers, and speakers while building their confidence. In September, a new Advanced Public Speaking course will debut with Bethanie Frank (taking Introduction to Public Speaking is not required).

Learning how to deliver your message is important. Knowing what you want to say and why you believe it is vital. has several classes that can help your students sharpen and refine their message. Biology with Ruth Sundeen lays a strong foundation in science while teaching teens how to defend the creation account found in Scripture. Kurt Hoffman’s Social Justice challenges students to think about the issues of modern-day slavery, why it is wrong, and what can be done to change it. Dr. Hake’s Literature courses are about more than simply stories. They focus on the ideas that drive the stories, the questions of eternal importance, the worldviews conveyed, and how all of this relates to our individual lives today.

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One membership to serves your entire family, regardless of how many children you are homeschooling or their ages. There are no per-child fees or additional fees for textbooks, and courses are not live, so you can start them at any time.


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Contest Corner 
For the month of May 2015

 Jim Hodges Productions Audio CD, In Freedom’s Cause

In Freedom's Cause
Many homeschool families have enjoyed the G. A. Henty educational classics. Jim Hodges Productions provides unabridged recordings as audio books for our generation.

Recently members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were privileged to receive MP3 CDs of some of these G. A. Henty classics. Most also included an accompanying study guide in PDF format. If you are not familiar with this author, you may be interested in Jim Hodge’s free audio recording:  How Henty Helps with History, Geography, Language, and Character.

Because these recordings follow the unabridged versions of the books, children can follow along with the books while listening to the audio version. Jim Hodges shared that one of the reasons he chose to record Henty’s stories was because they portrayed such accurate history. They are filled with action, adventure, and excellent role models.

“His use of the English language is quite advanced and his vocabulary is vast. So much so that some paragraphs I’ve read turned out to be one sentence, and it seems every page has at least 5 to 10 upper level vocabulary words. I am pretty well read, and have encountered words used by Henty that I’ve never heard before and had to look up myself.”

Stories range from elementary through high school (and beyond.) You can reference the scope and sequence shared on their website for specific levels recommended for each story. Most are not recommended for children under eight years old.

“My sincerest prayer is that all young men who read or listen to Henty historical novels will desire to become Mighty Men of Valor.”

~ Jim Hodges

(Click here to read more to read the reviews of the Crew families for the many titles available!)

YOU can WIN In Freedom’s Cause MP3 Audio CD!

TO ENTER: Email Heather with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line, “In Freedom’s Cause” for a chance to win* it for your family!

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