I thought about giving this post the following headline: “Confessions of a Debate Coach who is still afraid of public speaking.” After further reflection, that title (while accurate) seemed a little long and perhaps you might stop reading and immediately pull your student out of the Speech and Debate course. Stick with me; I promise I have important information about the upcoming Speech and Debate class!
This year, True North Academy is offering Speech and Debate to students as an opportunity to hone their critical thinking abilities. Students will also be building extremely practical skills like public speaking, researching, peer review, and writing. If that sounds like a noble goal, it is one; but it’s a goal that we will accomplish as a team, learning and working together this semester.
I began my journey through the crazy world of speech and debate at the very young age of seven years old. I thought I was the most intelligent 1st grader that had ever lived and was quite proud of my ribbons that I earned for a speech about hypnotizing bunnies. (Somehow I convinced them to let me bring a live animal into the building). My older siblings were competing, and I was enthralled with the idea of someone, anyone, everyone, listening to me. Make no mistake; I was also terrified of the idea. Perpetually shy, and absolutely appalled when anyone spoke to me, public speaking training was exactly what I needed. Fast forward a few years, and I started in “the big kid league,” competing in both speech and debate events. The shyness remained, and that roller-coaster-stomach-drop came back every time it was my turn to speak. However, I gained confidence in the knowledge that I would be able, every single time, to stand up and speak my thoughts without fainting, puking, or running out of the building screaming.
Speech and Debate was the single most important thing I did in high school.
That’s a big claim to make. More important than Algebra? Really? Yes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the Big Four (Math, Science, History, English), but if you ask me what shaped me as a learner, what helped me prepare for college, or what gave me the skills to be a successful young professional, my answer will always and firmly be Speech and Debate.
Debate provides an unparallelled format that requires people to think and research issues from both sides and then have a structured conversation. It necessitates a high level of critical thinking, an ability to evaluate an idea, and, perhaps most importantly, listening skills. It’s impossible to be successful in debate unless one learns to listen closely and carefully to an opponent’s arguments. Regular practice in critical listening provides the foundation for deep thought and educated decision-making.
From a public-speaking perspective, the benefits are probably more obvious. As I said above, I make no promises that I have a cure for nervous butterflies. The goal with this class will make the fear of public speaking fade into something manageable while also giving students the confidence to find their voice and speak out.
Speech and Debate will be a fun, supportive, and challenging class that will give students the opportunity to develop their speaking skills, train their minds to think critically and deeply, and prepare for college and/or their future careers.
(You can sign up for Speech and Debate, taught by Mary Russell, at True North Homeschool Academy.)
Mary Russell is an (almost) life-long participant in the world of speech and debate. After competing in the “junior” homeschool speaking league, she began debating at the age of 12 and had a successful career in Team Policy, Lincoln Douglas, and Parliamentary Debate. After graduating high school, Mary earned a B.A in English and an M.A. in Teaching and Instruction from Columbia College. For the last six years, Mary has coached STOA debaters at all levels of experience, while also serving as the Program Director/Traveling Coach for American Logos, an international debate team. Mary loves working with new debaters and seeing the progression of confidence-building and skill development that occurs when students find their voice.
(The following is a guest post from True North Homeschool Academy teacherAmy Vickrey, MSE)
I first heard about Cheryl Swope and her approach to Classical Education through my volunteer work with SPED Homeschool. The more I heard, the more I was interested in learning more. So, I finally took the time to read Simply Classical, A Beautiful Education for Any Child.
With Simply Classical, I learned a lot about Classical Education in general and discovered some fantastic parallels to my own approach to education. Here is a little about what I learned…
The introduction of Latin at an early age and the focus on other languages can be very beneficial to children who have language delays.
Brain research shows that there is an area of the brain in the back of the head that is only activated by learning and using a second language. The introduction of Latin,Spanish, Sign Language, or another language can be so beneficial to children who struggle with language. First, it gives additional pathways between the two sides of the brain to help process language. Second, it can be used to add “fun” to therapy, games, and other activities. Finally, learning vocabulary from Latin, Greek, German, or other Romancelanguages helps break down words and their meanings as you get into higher reading and writing levels.
Classical Education, at its truest, is about focusing on the thorough education of 1 or a few students.
When education first began, private tutors took on 1 or a few students to teach them all the things they knew. It was about focusing on those few, not on the masses. This method allowed detailed, direct studies of material. This teaching model is so important for students who struggle. One on one and small group settings are very desirable for children with attention, behavior, or learning challenges.
If you really want to memorize something, you read and study it over and over. You use your eyes (visual), you say it out loud to yourself (auditory), and a lot of times, you move your body (kinesthetic). It takes 20-40 times of doing something or experiencing something correctly to transfer that skill from short term to long term memory. If you learn it wrong, it takes 200-400 times to correct the error. In special education, direct teaching is such an effective tool. Classical education is all about memorization at the lowest level and a great approach for many special needs students. Simply Classical offers suggestions for supporting students who struggle with memorization by adding a visual cue, movement, and other tips.
Levels of support and prompting
Simply Classical is full of ideas of adding visual cues, movement, and other supports and prompts (hints) to support students with different disabilities. Cheryl also stresses not moving forward until a concept is mastered, even if that means repeating a level using a different curriculum or different approach. This is so important to give students that struggle additional practice, more time to learn the material, or to move at a slower pace.
Incorporating Therapy into Instruction
When you have a child with special needs, you often have therapy that needs to be incorporated into the school day, and homework from the therapy to follow up with. These can be done using materials from your school day, in tandem with your schoolwork, or in place of different subjects. Find a therapist who supports your homeschooling efforts and works with you to achieve academic goals as well as the therapy goals.
Teaching to your child’s strengths
Cheryl Swope is very big on teaching to your child’s strengths and interests, especially as they mature. She explains that not every child may reach the upper levels of classical education in every subject. However, children should be allowed to move forward in any areas they are strong in.
Sometimes you have to get creative to fit everything in for school, doctors’ appointments, therapy, and life! Cheryl offers advice for how she managed to juggle it all as her children grew and matured. She also offers other creative solutions for integrating subjects, schooling on the road, and other ideas.
Upper Levels of Classical Education
Some children may never reach the Logic or Rhetoric stages of the Trivium (Language), or in the Quadrivium (Math). However, the skills gained in the Grammar stage in these areas can give a good foundation for any child to achieve as much as is possible. She offers several reading lists for various ability levels for classic literature, as well as ideas for including elements of those higher levels of Classical Education in ways that are accessible to students functioning on lower levels. She also includes her experiences with how Logic, Latin, and other elements of Classical Education positively shaped her children’s futures.
Simply Classical Curriculum and Teacher’s Guides
Cheryl Swope has been working diligently over the last few years to expand her Simply Classical book into a full curriculum specially designed for special needs. While no curriculum is going to be one-size-fits-all, she has done an excellent job of putting together resources and daily lesson plans that are routine, detailed, and easy to follow. Each level is 34 weeks, with an additional eight weeks for review and reinforcement. The checklist-style can easily be used in different ways to make it work best for your child. Some thoughts about how it might be easily modified:
Each day could easily be split up into multiple days to accommodate students who need more time to complete activities or tire quickly. This method would expand the time to complete the material, but still effective for students who need this.
Specific subjects could be switched out for a different level if your child is ahead or behind in that particular subject
The morning routine is great for consistency. It is a great guide to follow each day or to easily create a similar routine that fits your child’s needs.
Thank you, Cheryl Swope, for creating such a wonderful, loving book and curriculum to help any child receive a beautiful education. The tools, tips, and resources in the book are wonderful and helpful no matter what approach to education you choose. You can easily read the book, and use some of the techniques and suggestions, or you can follow in Cheryl’s wise footsteps and utilize her system to guide you more thoroughly. Simply Classical truly is Simply Amazing to help guide parents through their homeschooling journey.
Amy Vickrey holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy, and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.
Having taught for 16 years, I have seen many different approaches to math. I have found that the best approach is to be hands-on, visual, consistent, and thorough. Manipulatives can definitely meet the requirements of this approach, but so can games! RightStart’s Math Card Games is a set of games with custom cards.
While you have to read the directions in the book very carefully to play the games, the included DVD and instructional videos available on the website make these games easy to explore and play! The students and my own son have enjoyed these games we have played in the True North Homeschool Academy Math Games Classes and at home.
Here are some of the games we tried, and what we thought of them:
Making Ten Game
My student and my son both really enjoy this game. We even modified it to add to 9, 8, 7, and 6 to reinforce those facts as well. The directions in the book were a little unclear, though. Because I have played the game on the IPad app, I understood most of the directions. The instructional DVD or the video on their website would also be useful to someone who wants to learn the game quickly and easily, or for those who are visual (like me). I did not discover the videos until after we had played the game. After reading through the directions several times, I was still unsure whether I was supposed to turn the cards over all at once, one at a time, or if that mattered. My conclusion was whichever made the student feel more successful. Overall, a fun game.
Multiples in Common
This was a fun game! Took about one round to get it down, but the kids really enjoyed it! Really made them think as at first, they wanted to just multiply the two numbers together to find the Least Common Multiple. As we went, they got faster at finding the right answer the first time! I let the students (I had 3 in class) team up against me. The first game I won by 1. As we entered into the second game, the comment was, “Come on guys, let’s bring it!” What a fun way to reinforce the Least Common Multiples!!!
We have played War in my classes and with my son, who is at about a second grade level for math. We have played it adding 2 cards, adding 3 cards, multiplying, and multiply then add. Kids really respond well to this game and seem to enjoy it. It is a game of luck, though, so they get disappointed when the cards don’t go “their way.”
I have one student who has fallen in love with this game. It is definitely a game of strategy. He will think through all the possibilities to see how many points he can earn. He currently holds a high score of over 700. He prefers to play by multiples of 3 rather than multiples of 5, as this offers more possibilities for play.
This is another game of strategy, so my strategic thinking students really like it. You have 4 sets of multiplication fact families you are working with, so it is a good way to reinforce those facts once they start to get them down, or to reinforce skip counting when first learning.
Here are a few other thoughts to consider when looking into whether or not to buy the RightStart Games set.
Making My Own Game
Using the cards, I was even able to create a “game” for my 3-year-old, who wants to do everything Big Brother does. We took one of each card (1-10), and worked to put them in order. These games and cards are great resources to create your own games, expand on a game in the manual, or play the game as written. It’s all about exploring math together, having fun and enjoying time together. When your child is relaxed and enjoying himself, math will “click” and make more sense!
Abacus and Custom Cards
When we are on the go, or I want to my son to “see” the problem a different way, I have found the Abacus a useful tool. It helps him to subitize (know how many without counting), the numbers quickly, an important skill in math. I even saw a Mini-Abacus available on their website now! The custom cards with fractions, time, multiplication, and money allow for math games to be played beyond what other programs I have seen allow. They really have given a lot of thought and consideration to putting together a set of games that can range throughout their curriculum.
Even after having the book for several months, I am still discovering new games and enjoying them with my students and my son. I really appreciate the wide variety of games – both “luck” based and “strategy” based that appeal to different types of learners. No matter what curriculum you are using as a base, it would be worth the investment to buy the RightStart Games set to use to supplement and add to your math routine.
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.
When our kids struggle with math, it is often difficult to find a good “fit” to teach skills. Older students who struggle with lower math don’t want something that looks “baby-ish” or has a lower grade level plastered all over it! Here are some suggestions and ideas for helping your struggling learner with his struggles in math.
Finding the Right Curriculum
When you first start homeschooling, you soon realize that everyone’s homeschool looks different. There are so many curriculum options and homeschooling styles it can be overwhelming!! The biggest questions to ask yourself when looking at a curriculum:
What kind of teacher are you? Do you like to have a script to follow? Do you like to be able to “change” things at times? How much support do you need to teach a subject (how strong are you in that subject)?
What kind of learner is your child? Every child is different and learns differently. Some need visual, some need more auditory, some are hands-on. Some like colorful worksheets and some are distracted by cute pictures and poems on their worksheets.
When parents sign up for the classes and want a curriculum that will work with our program, I always recommend they look at Math U See. I have used Math U See with my own son, who has Autism. The simple layout of the worksheets and hands-on presentation of concepts through Decimal Street (place value) and the use of the colored blocks, makes math meaningful and visual for learners who struggle. It gives them an image to “see” in their mind when they are trying to find the answer. The introduction of place value addition and subtracting (adding and subtracting 10’s and 100’s) in Alpha has allowed my son to have a strong foundation continuing into Beta. A strong foundation at the beginning allows students to soar higher and faster later.
Why do we love Math U See?
First, there are the video explanations
The video presentation is great for showing parents the concepts behind what is being taught, and how to teach the lesson. Some older students have reported watching the DVD lesson with parents or by themselves to learn the material. I understand how this might work with some students and circumstances. My son needs me teaching him one on one for him to really grasp the concept. The wonderful thing about this curriculum is it is easily tailored to your child’s learning style.
Mastery vs. Spiral
I love the way this program teaches to mastery and is easy to modify for students based on need. I have divided up worksheets into parts to be completed at different times. I have used more or fewer of the lesson and review pages depending on how much practice my son needed for a lesson. Some parents and students do prefer a spiral method. Sometimes, though, a spiral method (where a concept is addressed again and again, each time adding more to it) can be confusing and frustrating for struggling learners, or children with memory issues who need repetition and daily practice to retain and increase skills.
Memorization vs. Strategy
I love the approach to addition and subtraction this program uses, with emphasis on how many it takes to get from 9 to 10 or 8 to 10 in order to help students have a strategy to solve problems, not just memorize facts. Many of the students who come to me struggle with memory problems, and the ability to use a STRATEGY, not just rely on memory enables them to be stronger in math.
Finally, Math U See is great for struggling writers.
Have a child who struggles with fine motor skills? My son does too. When we started our first year of homeschooling, my son could not even hold a pencil. He struggled with writing simple things like numbers and letters. Math U See allowed me to teach him math concepts without having to worry about a lot of writing. I could even write for him on days that writing numbers was too much. I was able to teach to his strengths while supporting his weakness. Because of this, he is thriving in math while we work to support the writing.
Should you use the blocks vs. digital app vs. no blocks?
It is important to have the blocks in the beginning. If cost is an issue, you may be able to buy a set used or even borrow a set for a while from someone. However, I don’t see how you could successfully implement this curriculum as it is intended without the blocks (or at least using something equivalent such as an abacus). The Digital App would work well for visual students or older students. It would allow the same visual concept with lower cost and take up less space.
I have found that when my son begins a new concept, he goes back to those blocks for a day or two until he learns the concepts, then is able to “see” the blocks in his head again to continue working through the concept as he continues through the lesson and test. He needs to be able to touch, manipulate, and otherwise experience the math through the blocks. While we will use an abacus at times (it is easier for travel), it is always the blocks we return to. Also, the blocks are used in the curriculum into Algebra, so they are a good investment if you are planning to stay with the curriculum long-term, and there are enough to use with more than one child at a time.
Whatever your decision, ultimately you have to find something that works for you and your child. For us, that was Math U See.
Whether your child is struggling with addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, or fractions and decimals, we have a class for you! These interactive, hands-on games and activities help give students a strong foundation in math to help them whatever their post-high school goals are. Our positive, collaborative learning environment means the students feel supported, and comfortable enough to “try” even if they don’t know the answer for sure!
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning.
One of the services that we provide through True North Academic Advising is career and life coaching. Kids often have a big idea of what they want in life but don’t have the experience get them there in an expedient and cost-effective way.
Why does Career Exploration matter to high school students?
Career Exploration, as Cheri explains:
Increases students awareness of career options
Helps students see how they fit into the working world
Encourages students to plan high school courses based on their future goals
Improves academic performances
Saves time and money by pursuing a defined goal
Introduces students to employment skills valued by all employers
The Career Exploration and preparation course guide consists of 2 parts.
Career Exploration & Prep Course Part 1:
This section is designed to allow the student to get to know themselves better and gain a clearer understanding of their vocational interests. This section also helps the student confirm their interests through various activities.
Part 1 Overview – Career Exploration: Choosing a Best Fit
Keys to your future
Your Vocational Profiles
Part 1 is designed to be used in homeschools or co-op settings. Cheri includes many web-links and resources right at the beginning of the guide to get you started on the road to understanding your student. Some examples include Learning Styles, Motivation Triggers, Grit Scales, Business Essentials, to name a few.
Career Exploration & Prep Course Part 2:
In part 2, students are guided through a capstone project in their career area of interest. This section will allow students to define and hone skills relevant to the career areas that they have selected in Section 1.
The Guide consists of reading, assignments, and projects. Students should plan on 3-4 hours per week to complete the lessons, reading, and longer-term projects. Students should prepare to partner with their parents or a cohort, such as our Orienteering course will provide, to make the most of this course.
So what do I love about this program?
I love how this program starts off right by encouraging students to seek and find a team of mature mentors that they can learn and grow from. It is an excellent exercise in seeking out Godly leaders who can speak into their lives.
Additionally, there is a fantastic Bible Study right out of the shoot that sets up the Biblical basis for work. Conscientious, hard workers are in high demand these days. Cheri guides the kids through a Bible study on this and lays such an excellent foundation for the joy, responsibility, and God-given inspiration for work. Directly following, there is a study on family and cultural expectations. This facet is an oft-overlooked section of most career exploration programs. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I love the fact that students look at the careers and vocations that are part of their family. We are often more influenced by family members and legacies than we realize.
A Cost of Living Project is also included. An excellent project that every high schooler should complete before their graduation from high school!
All of this before the student begins a Vocational Profile, which includes Personality Inventories, Occupational Profiles and Evaluation, Credentialing Evaluation, and Job Shadowing. This Vocational Profile is a thorough and detailed overview of career exploration for each student based on their personality and interests.
Part II will focus on students building their skills and showcasing them in a way that will take them into the beginning stages of developing their professionalism.
The Capstone project includes critical thinking, public speaking, research skills, self-sufficiency, team-work, planning, media literacy, planning, and goal setting. Students will learn and understand the difference between hard and soft skills. As a podcast host, focusing on Soft Skills, this makes me happy. The Capstone project asks the student to create a quality program or experience for themselves that will develop their professional self and ability. SMART Goals, resumes, and interviewing skills are covered.
Career Exploration and Prep is an excellent course for young adults of all ages. The target ages are 16 and up, but the resource is acceptable for motivated younger students as well. I would recommend this Guide for families and co-op situation.
(Be sure to catch the AMAZING giveaway we have going on at the bottom of this post!! It’s only good for a limited time so check it out now!!)
Getting your teen started in life planning
The hardest part of this process is getting started. Respecting your teen’s input and independence is crucial. In the end, they will be responsible for their life, but we can resource and equip them for the journey. Creating an overall 4-year plan for high school is a great way to start. Of course, expect twists and turns along the way, but having a clear path, to begin with, will give you a simple guide that can be easily modified.
When talking about your child’s future, it’s very easy to share your own career story. It’s also easy to over plan for your child without letting them give input into their hopes and goals after graduation. On the other hand, a teen’s “I don’t know what I’m doing next” is a cry for structuring in the decision process. How do you give them this balance of independence and structure?
With your kids, come up with a list of things your student loves to do or study. Don’t edit as you brainstorm that defeats the purpose of brainstorming. The sky is the limit. The power and purpose of brainstorming is not to be practical; it’s to generate ideas.
Use a graphic organizer or a mind map, if that will be helpful to you. Get a big whiteboard and add to it over several days.
What are some great sources for brainstorming?
What are your child’s favorite books, movies, and TV series? Many young kids are discovering interests based on T.V. shows. NCIS has generated an entire group of students fascinated by Forensic Science.
What does your student do in their free time? My history loving, botany loving gardener, has been thinking about paleoethnobotany since our visit to Mt. Vernon.
Youtube is an excellent source of recorded interviews of professionals explaining their careers and talking about how they got where they are at today. Check out our friend Alex Steele for inspiration on many levels.
Take steps to help your high-schooler find a post-graduation plan: are they work, vo-tech or college/ university-bound, military, marriage, or entrepreneurs?
Brainstorm and make a game of researching options
Explore job -shadowing and volunteering. Kids may discover areas of interest they didn’t even know existed. They may also find that they dislike certain things. A friend of ours was totally sold on Forensic Science as a Career until they job shadowed at a Mortuary.
Research Clubs, Activities, Camps in areas of interest to build skills and explore jobs.
Think about Test Prep. Test scores can make or break scholarship and career opportunities.
Need more great tips on life planning for your home-school high school student? Our Orienteering Course is specifically designed to help students take ownership for high school and beyond! Check out our other career planning posts.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, our High School Life Planning Giveaway! You can win one full year of a live, online writing club; our Surviving High School Ebook, or a FREE Academic Advising session. Don’t wait, enter this one today!
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