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How Fathers Can Help Their Young Orators

… no one can be called a perfect orator unless he be an expert debater

Quintilian Institutio Oratoria VI.4.3

So, your offspring has decided to participate in Stoa, congratulations! Whether this be your first or fifth year, know that this is an investment in your child’s success in life. No other single activity or sport will better prepare the youth of today to be tomorrow’s leaders. Now that you are a “Stoa Family,” it is time to be “all in.” But what does that mean? Well, that’s up to you, but as the head of your Christian Household, your homeschooler will deeply learn from your experiences, if you share those with them. After years of Stoa tournaments, I was richly rewarded by watching my orator grow in national ranks, year after year.

Fathers of homeschoolers have both an opportunity and obligation to help their Stoa competitors. Work, baseball games, golf, chores, and hobbies can take up time, but you can always find a few minutes to help your son or daughter to improve their skills. After all, we agreed to educate our children at home, so we tacitly agreed to be part of that process.

Regardless what fathers do for a living, unless you are travelling most of the time, you will see your children regularly. Although our physical and mental energies may be low at the end of the day, it is still possible to help our young orators. Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Incorporate Apologetics into your scheduled devotionals or church activities

  2. Focus dinner table conversation around relevant topics for speech and debate

  3. Turn off the radio while in the car and listen to your competitor’s debate cases and ask questions!

  4. Arise early and hear your in-house lawyer’s case over a cup coffee, and provide feedback

  5. Instead of watching the ballgame, set up a table and listen to their AC and NC cases in a mock-formal environment, and discuss weaknesses of their constructive speeches

Many fathers who have experienced rhetoricians at home have likely developed routines whereby they can be of assistance. However, these stars were novices at one time, and men who pay careful attention and participate with their newbies will be richly rewarded as they see them blossom into mature speakers of the house. What do you do if you are new to Stoa?

  1. Learn the rules for each debate format (LD, Parli, and TP), as well as the speech patterns your questers have selected; go to the Stoa website and print these out for reference (SPEECH = DEBATE = )

  2. Familiarize yourself with the speech ballots ( ); these explain the success factors for each event

  3. Use these rubrics of each specific event to evaluate your speaker, and provide encouragement where they exhibit weakness, and affirmation where they demonstrate mastery

  4. Listen to one of their speeches once or twice per week, using the ballot as a measuring stick

  5. Fill out the ballot; be gentle where needed, and firm when necessary to tweak their speech for improvement each and every time

Just a few minutes per week can give your speaker confidence, experience, and steady improvement. If you are a novice yourself, you will learn along with your son or daughter. Lastly, don’t be surprised if they out-pace you in skill, and begin to debate you on whether to watch the Angles or the Dodgers.

The highest service fathers can provide is participating at tournaments … but that’s another blog post.

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus

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