Are you wondering how in the world a homeschooler can learn public speaking skills?
I mean giving a speech in front of your adoring mother is not really the same life experience as speaking in front of a bunch of bored classmates who would love to see you trip as you walk back to your seat.
This is true.
The homeschool mom has to be a bit more creative and intentional when it comes to public speaking.
Why is Teaching Public Speaking Important?
One Reason: Public speaking is a huge life skill that every person will need at one time or another.
Even if your child will never get up and present in front of a “typical classroom,” they will likely be called on to speak in other areas of their life.
I was an RN for several years, and most people would not think that I needed much public speaking ability. But I was asked to teach classes to pregnant mothers and to new mothers. Many of those groups had dozens of people in a large auditorium.
I have been asked to speak in front of scouting groups, pray in front of large groups of people, and lead meetings.
Whether it is a speech at a wedding, a presentation to the new boss, or a pitch to a potential business partner, strong public speaking skills and experience will serve your child very well in life.
In some ways, more than many other things you are teaching right now.
When Should you Start Teaching Public Speaking in Your Homeschool?
I don’t care how old your kid is. It is never too early to start teaching them how to have confidence when sharing their thoughts with people!
Further down in this post I’ll show you how to get started in a gentle way that will ease your homeschooler into public speaking!
Top 4 Tips for Teaching Public Speaking in Your Homeschool
So these are actually the tips that I learned from my mother and they have served me well through my life – including my college level speech class.
1. Memorize Your Beginning and Ending
Teach your homeschooler that one of the most important things they can do is have a strong introduction and conclusion.
It should be tight and memorized, so they confidently know how they will begin and wrap up their presentation.
2. Only Write Down an Outline of Key Ideas on Note Cards
When your nerves get the best of you, it is too easy to read your presentation to your audience.
I recently went to a co-op event and watched a good number of sweet kids literally read their entire tri-fold board to the audience.
The kids were shifting their weight back and forth in boredom, and the moms were checking their phones.
My kids didn’t do that because I intentionally only let them put headings and pictures on their board. No long sentences to read, just key words.
They had nothing else to look at, but their audience.
This helped so much to make a more engaging and interesting presentation for them!
3. Practice, Practice. Practice
I had a fantastic friend who once forced me to practice my speech for a wedding with her. I *really* did not want to practice, but she was insistent.
I ended up nailing the speech without even glancing at my notes, and it was ALL because my friend saved me from doing a lazy, unpracticed, half-done wedding speech that I probably would have regretted.
In the same way, be insistent with your kids about practicing their public speaking. They will hate you for it, but it’s good for them.
Tell them that is like brushing your teeth – everyone hates it, but it has to get done or the consequences are far worse.
4. Identify Your Nervous Tells and Learn to Control Them
Tell your kid that they will be nervous and that it is normal!
They may get the courage to get out there and speak, but their body may betray their nerves to the audience. Maybe their hands will shake. They will speak too quickly or too softly. Possibly they will struggle with eye contact with their audience.
Only experience will reveal your kid’s nervous tells. Whatever they may be, help your kid develop strategies to hide or control them.
As an example, my hands usually shake when I speak in front of large groups of people. For that reason, I put my hands behind my back (or grip a podium) until my nerves have calmed down and I know they won’t shake.
Yes, I know that’s not the best public speaking posture, but it’s better than showing people my cringe-worthy tell of nerves.
10 Ways to Teach Public Speaking in Your Homeschool
1. Dinner Time Sharing
This is the very beginning of public speaking skills training – just sharing what happened in your day!
Whenever your family gets together to have a meal, have each of your kids share the most interesting thing they learned or their favorite part of the day.
All eyes are on them and they have to speak up to be heard and share.
Our family does Rose (best part of the day), Thorn (worst part of the day), Bud (what they’re looking forward to) at dinner.
This may seem like a bit of a silly way to share about your day, but for kids it’s a gentle, impromptu way to get them talking, sharing, speaking up, and for their siblings to be a good audience (be still and listen).
2. Morning Presentations
In my homeschool, my kids have to stand up and present their morning time work.
It is usually the answers to their Bible Study work or an art project. This is a bit different from dinner time, because now my children have to stand up.
This is a huge shift and some kids can be resistant. They want to stay causal and seated, because when all eyes are on you (even family member eyes) the nerves start to kick in.
This is why it is a gentle training ground for future public speaking! You can still ask questions, guide them, and offer light corrections.
Morning presentations gives your child experience and confidence with speaking in front of others.
3. Read Compositions Aloud, Recite Memorized Poetry, etc.
Anything that your homeschooler has written or memorized is an opportunity for public speaking!
Have them read their work aloud, recite their poetry, or any other memorized facts (presidents, state capitals, math facts, etc.).
This will only take a few moments, so have your student stand up in front of your homeschool and give them a moment to shine!
4. Poster Board/Project Speeches
Many curriculums, such as science and history, will have your child make a poster board, lap book, diorama, or some other project.
Honor those achievements by having your child present them in front of the family. This can just be a simple explanation of why the student picked the topic, what they learned, and then answer questions from the family.
Your homeschooler may feel a little silly, but you will be training them and preparing them for bigger public speaking challenges to come!
5. Grandparent Zoom Party
Yes, the retired grandparent is a treasure to the homeschool mom who is trying to teach public speaking skills.
All of the above assignments would be perfect things to have your child share with a family member. This increases the pressure a *little* bit. The audience is still likely to encourage and enjoy the presentation, but they are not a nuclear family member that your student sees all the time.
Consider having your child present to the family, but then having a special day every month where the children can video call their grandparents and take turns sharing what they have worked on that month.
6. Entrepreneur Day
Many homeschool co-ops or organizations have an entrepreneur day. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is when homeschoolers bring things they have made (baked goods, jewelry, etc.) to sell at an event.
It is really easy to want to jump in front of your kid and help them as they shyly try to explain what they made, what the prices are, etc.
But you need to take a step back and let them muddle through it! Engaging a total stranger and briefly presenting what they are selling, how they made it, and what they are selling it for is a great way to build confidence for speaking in front of others!
6. Geography Showcase
Our co-op recently did this and it was wonderful!
Each child picked a country to present using a tri-fold poster. It was very open ended, so your child could research any part of the country that interested them – history, geography, culture, food, holidays, language, government, etc. I practiced with each of my kids to make sure they had their facts down straight, natural transitions, good eye contact, and a loud voice.
They were expecting to give short, informal presentations as people came by their table, but the director decided to have the whole group walk from poster to poster together. She wanted to save time and make sure nobody missed out, but suddenly the presentation went from 2-3 people to over 20!
Some kids crumbled under the pressure and could not maintain eye contact and simply read their entire poster in a whisper of a voice. I was so proud that my girls applied what they learned (despite the nerves!)!
They faced their audience, spoke loud enough to be heard, and remembered their facts. This was not their first time standing up to speak and it was clear.
7. Science Fair
A Science Fair is another great co-op friendly way to give your homeschooler experience with public speaking.
Help your child pick something they are excited to do an experiment about and hopefully that energy will flow right into their presentation!
Instead of “winging it” at the fair, have your child practice in front of you what they want to say and how they want to say it. Encourage eye-contact, using keywords to guide their speaking points, and a tight conclusion.
If you don’t have a co-op near you that does a yearly science fair, consider getting your homeschool mom friends together to do it! Even if it’s just one other family, your kids will love the experience and the fresh audience to speak to!
8. Scouting Groups
Scouting groups are usually a very rich training ground for public speaking.
Whether it’s going door to door to fundraise, teaching a survival skills task, or presenting a poster on an assigned topic, your kid will likely be asked to speak I front of her peers from time to time.
9. Debate Club
If you have older kids, look to get them involved in a homeschool debate club in your area!
Whether it is online or in person, this is a great skill for your kids to develop and a great opportunity to refine their public speaking abilities!
10. Take an Online Public Speaking Class
If options are limited in your area, consider exploring public speaking classes on Outschool!
Professional teachers moderate the live virtual classes for all ages!
This is an inexpensive, low stress, and low commitment level option that will work for many homeschools.
Public Speaking for Homeschoolers Recap
Seriously, Homeschool Mama, public speaking is a crucial skill that may make all the difference for your child.
It cannot be learned overnight (for most kids). It will take time, practice, and maturity to develop a strong public speaking presence.
Luckily, no matter what your homeschooling schedule or style is – you can fit in public speaking!
Remember, start early and encourage your child to step out with speak up!