Fear of speaking in public is one of the most common anxieties. In fact, three in four people say they are afraid of public speaking. This can be problematic because speaking to a group is a skill that is necessary in many careers. Offering your homeschooler the opportunity to overcome this fear by participating in public speaking can give them a big advantage. Public speaking during high school helps students demonstrate in their college applications that they’ve been active in their communities and have learned to present themselves effectively. Speech can also be an ideal vehicle for students to develop critical thinking and organizational skills.
Speech as an Academic Subject
Speech can be included on the homeschool transcript in two ways. A traditional high school writing course can include both oral and written communication. Speech can be a single unit in a full-year English course or it can be incorporated throughout the year. Your student may also opt to take a public speaking course as a high school elective. One resource to consider for a full public speaking course would be one of the free self paced public speaking courses available through Coursera and other MOOCs. These courses often combine study of historical speeches going back to Ancient Greece with assignments designed to give students an awareness of rhetorical devices and speech techniques.
Speech as an Extracurricular Activity
Homeschool public speakers can develop their talents in speech as an extracurricular activity through speech clubs and competitions. Involvement in speech can help students demonstrate they are well-socialized and connected to their communities. Opportunities available vary by community, but here are some of the most common ways homeschoolers can access speech activities.
YMCA Youth in Government programs are available in 40 states. Students meet to participate in a model government simulation. YMCA Youth in Government programs offer public speaking opportunities for middle and high school students.
Model UN: Many states have model UN programs. Students study their country and prepare presentations. They meet together in a simulated Model United Nations. This offers the opportunity to learn about international politics and to practice public speaking and working as a team.
4H: Many state 4H youth programs include communications classes and public speaking contests. Check with your local 4H program for more information.
Gavel Club: Toastmasters doesn’t allow students under 18 in the regular group; however, many Toastmasters clubs have Gavel Clubs which have more flexible rules and do permit students under age 18.
Speech Scholarship Contests
Homeschoolers may also wish to investigate local and national scholarship competitions that include public speaking. Many local Rotary clubs sponsor events. The Veterans of Foreign Wars also sponsors a National Voice of Democracy scholarship contest. This contest offers two million dollars each year including a $30,000 scholarship for the first place winner. This contest is open to homeschool, public, and private schooled students in 9th to 12th grade.
The Optimist International Oratorical Annual Contest is another great opportunity for students interested in public speaking. Optimists International offers many local level awards as well as national scholarship.
The American Legion also sponsors local and national speech contests.