Public speaking is one of people’s greatest fears, but practice does make a difference. My kids are comfortable with it because they have been part of a homeschooling group that holds a monthly presentation club called Kid’s Forum where students of all ages share something from their ongoing work. It is not only a wonderful opportunity to get used to speaking in front of an audience, but the audience learns a lot as well. And the variety of topics is amazing! After being at 75 of these occasions and counting, I am always entertained, impressed and encouraged by the wide range of quality presentations.
My kid’s other pubic speaking opportunity is 4H, where there is a yearly, judged, public speaking competition. This has given my kids a chance to try their skills in a different venue, and get critical and helpful feedback on how to improve. The best speakers move on to the state level to get further experience under more pressure.
Both these activities were bunched up for us in the last couple days; the 4H speech competition was on Sunday and Kid’s Forum was on Monday. At the 4H competition, my fifteen year old son Andrew, gave a detailed, fascinating talk about the origins of the Han Dynasty, complete with a PowerPoint showing hand drawn maps of the movements of armies and the resulting shifts of power. A very interesting story, it would have been impossible to follow without the graphics, so he could not simply reproduce this talk on Monday for Kid’s Forum as we have no PowerPoint projector. Having spent his time getting ready for 4H, Monday showed up and my son was clueless on what to share next.
I had out of town guests for lunch and was busy with other things, but the next thing I knew, a couple hours before Kid’s Forum, Andrew comes in asking for a big piece of poster board. Like any good homeschooling mother, I directed him to where one might be. Then off the top of his head he made the chart below. And off we went to Kid’s Forum, with him never having given his speech even a dry run.
I thought he did a great job. The beauty of doing this regularly is that all that previous training with writing out speeches or doing flash cards when he was littler underpinned him. This is where you want them to be able to get to be – just to speak clearly and lucidly off the top of their head about a topic they know something about, considerate of where their audience might be. He explained a complex process simply enough for the eight year-olds to understand but also with enough depth and scope that the grown ups present had audible ah-ha moments. Andrew reads eight or ten news sources everyday, and is taking an American Government class currently, but claims to “know it all already.” He taught our group so effortlessly, that I believe him.
The comments afterward were interesting. One parent of younger children moaned that she just realized she’s going to have to teach “that stuff” in her homeschool too, to which I offered the obvious disclaimer, “You think I taught him any of that?!” (Kids learn if you provide a construct within which to do so and lead by example of being a life long learner yourself.) But mostly what became clear is that the grown ups didn’t know this stuff. One said he’d even gladly pay Andrew for a copy of his chart and knew that other people would as well.
That’s when it occurred to me to post it here, so I obtained his permission before doing it. Never in my life have I videoed my children, but I wish I had a video of his speech, just the way it was. I’d put it up on YouTube to educate people more broadly. Meanwhile, Andrew’s thinking he may already have hit on his winning 4H speech topic for next year! And it all happened by being forced to scrounge around in his back pocket for something he could talk about.
So see his chart below, and forward it to someone who needs it too!
Process of how a bill becomes a law