(Below you will find my semi-annual self-talk about why we do speech and debate. It is here for you to read, but its main intention is to convince ME for another year. I always get tired, but a little internal lecture quickly puts me on the right path again.)
It is that marvelous time of year when speech and debate tournaments are over, we are finally home, and the cost benefit analysis of this crazy activity is kicking in with a vengeance. Our pockets are empty of cash, our bodies feel the effects of too many meals on the road, and I am left to analyze our lesson plans and figure out how many weeks into the summer we are going to have to do school. With all of that, I think it is legitimate to ask: why in the world do we do this?
I will know the answer more clearly in five or ten years, but I am confident enough to keep on jumping into the insanity. Why? Well, to begin with: skill sets for students, social opportunities for parents and children, and a challenging competitive environment. Add to it that it motivates the study of issues not normally of interest, forces students to work together toward a common goal and gives the chance to learn how to win and lose with grace, and I suddenly feel more willing to pinch pennies and do lesson plans.
I see very specfic skills in my older children that were birthed or strengthened within the speech and debate arena. The experience of public speaking is a given, but it impacted my children in different ways. For my introverted daughter, it was challenging, but it provided a chance to relate to groups of peers, to speak in front of judges, to write and to perfect memorization. The teaching of impromptu speaking was a direct help in her SAT writing exam, even though she did not compete in that event.
But what about my more extroverted sons? It was never a problem for them to talk to peers or to fill a five, eight or ten minute speech, but speech and debate has given them something to talk about. They do not feel intimidated talking in front of people, and they can stand up, organize their thoughts, and give a speech with very little notice. They are using these skills in service at church as a greeter and in youth leadership, in their sales jobs and in their conversation skills with friends, strangers, and family members.
Without the relationships made within the speech and debate community, though, we would probably not stick around. We have a club of friends, the kids get input from other adults who care about them, and there is the chance to meet families from all around the state, and sometimes from around the country. Homeschooling can be isolating, but we have found an antidote in speech and debate. As a parent, I have made close friends, thanks to time at tournaments, and I know my children have as well.
These friends become their worthy adversaries in competition. There are very talented kids in this league, and it keeps everyone working hard and improving. It isn't fun to lose, it can be hard to work with a partner to achieve success, but these are the sanctifying parts of tournaments. Learning to be gracious, whether winning or losing, is hard work, and not just for students. It has done good work in our souls.
And so we start cleaning up from this year. They're already throwing away old ballots, dry cleaning the suit borrowed from a friend, thinking about speeches for next year, and wondering what case to run for next year's resolution. We all need a break from the running around, but not for too long. We'll be ready to jump back in the race before you know it.
If you are a homeschool family, interested in joining speech and debate, I highly recommend STOA (our speech and debate league) to you. If you want to talk more about what it involves, feel free to email me (acircleofquietATyahoo.com) and I would be happy to talk to you. If you ever hear of a tournament in your town, I encourage you to volunteer as a judge for speech and/or debate. We always need judges, and I hear from volunteers how glad they were to have the experience. Interesting kids and relevant topics can make it quite fun.