Helping Homeschoolers: Speaking and Listening Skills

Develop speaking and listening skills through analysis, imitation, and technological assistance.

By Elijah Ammen


Mother and daughter

In my experience being a homeschooler, interacting with other homeschoolers, and leading homeschool groups, the ability to talk has rarely been an issue. In fact, compared to my experience teaching in public school, homeschooled students are on average more opinionated, more willing to converse, and more comfortable with a variety of age levels in the audience.

However, comfortability with speaking does not always translate into excellent speaking skills. As public schools move in the new Common Core standards, we are placing an emphasis on Speaking and Listening standards which essentially say that students need to be able to dissect speeches for their rhetorical devices, and be able to communicate to a variety of audiences in a variety of settings.

This essential skill is necessary because of today's job climate. In a perpetually shifting world of information, employers look for the ability to communicate and collaborate — skills that will translate into any job. Because of this, homeschoolers have the ability to leverage their unique situation to teach speaking and listening skills for the modern era.

Know Your Purpose

There are four key types of speeches:

  1. Informative
  2. Persuasive
  3. Instructional
  4. Entertaining

The two former, in particular, must be explicitly taught and practiced in order to become natural. 

Within these groups, there are a variety of purposes. Are you persuading people to join a cause? Persuading an employer to hire you? If it's a formal occasion, you can organize your speech using Monroe's Motivated Sequence. If it's informal, you need to have a repertoire of persuasive points so you can remain flexible in conversation.

The more your child is able to quickly identify the purpose of their speaking and the type of social setting, the less anxious he or she will feel.

Imitate Multiple Styles

Because of the variety of purposes for speaking and listening, it's important to not get locked into one mode of presentation. There are a number of great lessons to help you model your speeches after different styles of speaking:

  • Analyze great speakers of the 20th century.
  • Identify and imitate the rhetorical devices that Martin Luther King Jr. uses.
  • Write your own "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • Study speeches given in response to great tragedies.
  • Compare and contrast speeches from the Republican and Democratic Conventions.
  • Look at inaugural addresses as both persuasive and goal-setting speeches.

Good speakers are good listeners. Absorb the speeches of famous orators, both in written and audio format. If possible, find YouTube clips of the speeches. Read speeches out loud — the way they were intended to be heard. The more you listen, and the more styles you observe, the better you will be able to adapt in your speaking.

Find an Audience

Speaking without an audience is meaningless. While there are the classic sources for a homeschool audience (co-ops, church groups, and the next-door neighbors), technology has gifted us with a new way to reach audiences. Use Edmodo as a message board to communicate with other homeschoolers, or create a private YouTube channel and upload your speeches for a review and critique. Video conferencing is already a staple in the workforce, so it's important to translate your skills into modern-day technology. 

Practice Posture

When you're in the comfort of your own home, it's easy to slack off on the seemingly little things like posture and hand motions; however, these nonverbals communicate as much as anything you say. Again, this is where technology can be helpful to supplement for the lack of peer reviewers. Record your speech and focus on specific criteria such as your facial expressions, posture, and hand motions. Practice giving a speech with and without a podium, and both sitting down and standing.

The toughest obstacle to overcome is the lack of group discussions with the natural back-and-forth of group discussions and the automatic feedback. But, with consistent practice and the supplement of co-ops, public speaking groups, debate teams, and a plethora of other available communities, you can raise an insightful and eloquent speaker.

Previous Homeschooling Articles:

Below you will find previous articles I've written on how to help homeschoolers be college-ready, and specific reading and writing strategies for middle and high school students.

Helping Homeschoolers: Rigorous and Relevant Writing

Maximize the strengths of the homeschooling relationship to improve the quality and focus of your child's writing.

Helping Homeschoolers: Reading Critically and Analytically

Strategies for creatively monitoring reading to gauge comprehension and stimulate analysis without taking the joy out of reading.

Helping Homeschoolers Be College-Ready

Advice on essential skills for college from a homeschooled, public school teacher.