An Introduction to Speech and Debate

An Introduction to Speech and Debate

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. 

Here’s why: 

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.

Public speaking is an often overlooked area of child's education.  However, think about all the times it could be required in your child's life.  Will they be ready?  If not, maybe it's time for a speech and debate class.  Check out this great posts on the benefits of speech and debate.  #homeschooling #speechanddebate #homeschoolcourses

From humble homeschool blog to remarkable opportunity

From humble homeschool blog to remarkable opportunity

How I went from a humble homeschool blog to a remarkable opportunity.

Blogging Beginnings

In 2007 and 2008, blogging had surfaced as an interesting new opportunity. Several of my friends were blogging and I was eager to get in on the action. Oddly too, I felt prompted to start a blog. You know that feeling; you have a niggling thought that won’t let go. I believe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but that seemed silly to me. Why would it matter to God if I blogged or not? But, the prompting to blog didn’t diminish and so, tech skills or no, I gave it a go.

I learned as I went and found blogging buddies to compare notes with. My little, non-seo named blog was born. One of my first posts was a review of a curriculum I loved. I posted it because I wanted others to know about it, too. As a die-hard bibliophile I added book-reviews. I am constantly telling people, “Get the book,” and so book writing reviews was a natural addition.

My blog was simple and personal. I shared about what it was like to have a full house, with 5 kids with a 16 year difference between youngest and oldest, homesteading, graduate school, simple living, and more. I loved the fact that the art of writing gave me perspective on the hardships that we faced and caused me to be thankful for the blessings that we received. Blogging made me pause and reflect on what we were doing and why. It also opened up relationships with other homeschoolers around the world.

Curriculum Reviews

I continued to promote the books, curriculum and programs that I believed in and used. I began approaching companies about doing reviews for them and received products and curriculum in exchange for honest, well-written reviews. This is a more difficult art form than what it sounds like!

At one point, I heard about The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew and applied. I was accepted and beyond thrilled to be part of the team! With each review I did, I researched the company, adding links and details for my readers so that they could get to know the product and the company better.

Working Homeschool Momma

Five years ago, we did a review of an on-line class. My son loved it. I wrote the review and actually applied to the company for a job. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years but I created a resume, rallied some references and put in for a remote Advising position with a large educational company half way across the country. It was a shot in the dark because they required a Teaching License, which I didn’t have. My graduate degrees, however, proved sufficient. I was offered a job, not unlike one I held years ago working for a private graduate school.

I worked with this company for 4 years, and continued blogging, now as an officially recognized Working Homeschool Mom. It was a challenging adjustment, but I found that I was not alone as more and more families are homeschooling while both parents work.

Remarkable Opportunity

A year ago, I was working in a local coffee shop and a friend asked what kind of work I did. When I explained, she mentioned that Homeschool Works 4U was looking to sell. I called them to learn that sadly, the owner, Wanda Burdick, had died recently after a very short illness.

Wanda’s husband, Jeff, returned my call and we developed an immediate connection. He was interested in selling the business and after a few weeks we closed the deal. Jeff, by the way, continues to teach for Homeschool Works 4 U, now re-named to True North Homeschool Academy and if you are looking for an amazing Government & Economics or Western Civilization II course, consider his!

Since then, I have been working to re-build and expand True North Homeschool Academy. We have world class teachers who were or are homeschooling and decades of teaching experience between us. Our program consists of not only live on-line full year classes, but Academic Advising, Career Exploration Courses, an expanded Struggling Learners program, testing, community and more!

Linking Arms with for Success

Education has been the heart beat of our home for decades. My husband and I believe that Education is the Transmission of Culture and we are dedicated to transmitting a culture of Christ- Truth, Beauty and Goodness- when and where we can. True North Homeschool Academy gives us that opportunity in a fresh and new way. We hope you’ll join us on the journey; our mission is to link arms with you to help you have the best homeschooling year ever!

Obedience & Dipping in the River

From humble homeschool blog to a remarkable opportunity! I honestly believe that what I am doing today is a direct result of my starting a blog a decade ago. Such a silly, simple thing! I often think of why God asked Naaman (2 Kings 5:14) to dip in the river 7 times in order to heal his leprosy. Why not 3 or 10 times? I believe it’s because God wants us to trust Him implicitly, even when things don’t make sense to us.

Just Do It 

What crazy, humble thing is God asking you to do? I encourage you to do it! He often uses the simple, small, humble things to grow us to where He wants us to be.

To find out more about the amazing happenings at True North Homeschool Academy, check out our Catalog!