Public Speaking and Homeschooling

Do your kids love public speaking?

Can you picture your kids being up on stage talking and presenting?

Do you picture your kids being good leaders one day?

How many hours a week, or a month or a year, have you spent in building public speaking skills with your children?

Running a clinic with multiple doctors and staff requires my wife and me to review countless resumes and interview many people. Many people flunk their interview within seconds simply because they were either not able to hold eye contact, were overcome by anxiety, or were not able to think critically under pressure when answering questions.

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking, and it is one of the most common phobias in the world. Whether people realize it or not, their career and life decisions are often decided by their public speaking skills. Some people may choose to pursue a career where they will interact with many people daily. Some may choose to do the opposite, where they will work in private, or have less interaction with people. If your kids learn to speak in public today, they can prepare themselves to speak properly in public, and to manage the fears of presenting in front of others for the future. To put it simply, your children’s future careers may depend on these skills.

We all want our kids to do well when they grow up. We want them to be confident enough to be on stage, especially when God opens doors for opportunities to influence others. We want them to be leaders. Our family intentionally decided to invest in public speaking skills and stage presence skills when homeschooling them on a daily basis. I’d like to share some ideas you may find useful in your homeschooling journey.

MEMORIZATION

There are three benefits of memorization. The first is emotional health benefits. Remember that the brain is a muscle that must be exercised. There is a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is in charge of making and keeping memories, and partly responsible for managing emotions. People with Alzheimer’s disease have their hippocampus fail first and severely before other parts of the cortex fail. People with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizoprenia have a hippocampus that shrinks gradually.  The hippocampus also is now known to control the hormone estrogen, which controls emotions and mood changes.

By training yourself and your kids to memorize things, it may prevent you and your children from depression, anxiety, mood changes, Alzheimer’s, and other mental illnesses!  

The second benefit of memorization is, as your children spend time memorizing passages, tables, and poems, they learn to focus. Studies have found that students who were required to memorize from an early age often go on to have more capacity to focus on educational tasks as high school and college students. Researchers from the National Institute on Health and Aging have found that adults who went through short bursts of memory training were better able to maintain higher cognitive functioning and everyday skills, even five years after going through the training. Practicing memorization allowed the elderly adults to delay typical cognitive decline by seven to 14 years!

The third benefit is increased confidence.  When a child learns to do something difficult, they earn a great sense of accomplishment. This is especially true where plays or presentations are concerned; children often receive praise or even applause after they recite a poem or act in a play, which increases their self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.

Start with a simple task such as memorizing short Bible verses. This is something you can even do with a two-year old. Ask them to do it while standing up before meals and during morning and evening worship times. Ask them to keep their eyes focused on you and to speak clearly with a smile on their face. I make it more personal and understandable by modifying some of the Bible verses so they can understand the meaning of them. Here are 12 simple verses that you can use for each month of the year or the first six months of the year (two verses a month, depending on your child’s ability to memorize):

    1. Numbers 6:24 The Lord bless you and keep you.
    2. Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
    3. Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world.
    4. Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey Mommy and Daddy in the Lord.
    5. Matthew 28:20 Jesus said He is with me always.
    6. John 10:11 Jesus said He is the Good Shepherd.
    7. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
    8. Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
    9. Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
    10. Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
    11. Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will trust in Jesus.
    12. James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Some kids who are kinetic learners will find it easier and enjoyable to memorize Bible verses while doing an activity such as running in circles, hula hooping, dancing to a song, doing signs or hand gestures, etc. Make sure to repeat these verses daily during dinner time or worship time.

Older kids can start memorizing a whole chapter of a Bible or a long passage. Have them present to you during morning or evening worship, or in the middle of homeschooling session in between subjects. Even better, parents should also memorize these passages and maybe even do a competition with the older kids!

This will not only help them understand important spiritual lessons, but also help their brain cells to handle large amount of information which improves their cognitive functions. Here are a few ideas of important Bible chapters or passages that older kids and adults should memorize:

    1. Numbers 6:24-26
    2. The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-17
    3. The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-12
    4. The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15
    5. Psalm 23 & 46
    6. 1 Corinthians 13
    7. Romans 8 & 12

REGULAR GIGS, AWARDS, AND REWARDS

As mentioned previously, when children receive applause and praises, their sense of self-worth and confidence are also increased. Even better, treat them with rewards or awards every so often.  

  • Have them present what they just learned from science or history lessons in the morning to the rest of the family during evening meal.  Ask them open-ended questions: “What did you learn about amphibians this morning? What did you learn about the Egyptians today?”  
  • Morning and/or evening worship times are perfect for them to present a Bible verse or chapter.  
  • Have the kids present what they memorize in front of church as part of the worship program or Adventist Youth program.  
  • Challenge other kids in their Sabbath School class to memorize verses and passages as well, and have them present during church service.  
  • Have your kids present their school project or what they learned this past week to their grandparents or family friends when they visit.  
  • Make a calendar with goals of which passages to memorize for the month and for the rest of the year.

USING VISUAL AIDS AND PROPS

Just like with a science presentation, help your kids with their speaking presentation using visual aids and props. I have been invited to be a judge at the local schools’ science fairs, and it’s always interesting to watch how some kids with average project can shine because of their public speaking skills, while some kids with average or amazing projects end up not winning because of their presentation skills. Younger kids can start with simple objects, while older kids may use slideshow software or props.  

Have your children be involved in a play at church or school where they get to do speech as a character. Preparing for a role, and preparing visual aids and props — both of these activities teach them to be prepared for their presentation in advance, which will help lessen their anxiety.

JOINING A PUBLIC SPEAKING CLUB

Toastmasters International or other local groups are often found in local libraries or churches. Look up Toastmasters International to find a local chapter. You’ll be surprised how much you and your older children can benefit from attending this weekly meeting of various people from all walks of life who simply want to improve their public speaking skills.  They will give you constructive criticisms, and they will help you to be a better speaker.

Our children at the time of this writing, are eight and four. They do fairly well being up on the podium or on stage with other kids at church or at a dance recital.  However, they still have some stage fright when they are up there by themselves. They are getting better at it, though. The oldest one actually recently asked when she could do special music all by herself. And, both of them enjoy doing mini presentations during evening dinner from what they learned in the morning.

I hope this article is helpful to you and your little ones. We have the responsibility to train our children to be pillars of the church and to be leaders wherever they go in life. Leaders are not necessarily bosses. Leaders are influencers. Everybody is a leader when you can influence others around you.  With the Great Commission as our task, we must equip our children with public speaking skills to reach others and to spread His love.

Maranatha!

Arthur P.

Sense-ational Writing for Beginners

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We learn with our whole body. The more senses we use to absorb and manipulate information, the more likely we are to remember it. My kindergartener is at the very outset of his reading/writing journey. Those typical handwriting papers full of solid and dotted lines are still novel, but I know they won’t be for long. So, I encourage myself to break loose, teach handwriting with more than just a pencil, get messy, and make it sensory.

My second son, age four, tried desperately hard at the beginning of the year to do everything big brother was doing. We began by learning our vowels and vowel sounds with pictures, poems, songs, and written letters. A few weeks in, I added sign language to our alphabet lessons, and BAM, my second son caught on instantly. As soon as he could use his hands, it clicked in his mind. He’s kinesthetic.

Is yours auditory? Linguistic? Naturalistic, responding strongly to the great outdoors? Visual? Tactile? Spacial? The truth is that, to varying degrees, we are all of them. Use them all! The following are some of my favorite ideas for learning letter formation.

I take no credit for any of these ideas. As Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and these ideas have come from friends, family, and years of wallowing online.

1. Finger paint with pudding, shaving cream, salt, or sand. Spray shaving cream or plop pudding directly onto the table. Use a cookie sheet to contain salt or sand. Let them taste a little pudding while they write. Will a tiny taste of salt make the lesson more memorable? The unique texture certainly will.

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2. Try paint in a bag. Do you prefer the mess contained? Squirt paint (or even ketchup and mustard) into a large ziplock bag, and squeeze out all the air bubbles. Tape the bag to a window and let them use their fingers to write. One thing I love about this method is that you can use a permanent marker to draw the solid and dotted handwriting lines on the outside of the bag.

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3. Use washable markers or dry erase markers directly on the window. This is fabulous for those of us who don’t own a whiteboard. You could even use your own breath. Breathe on the window, make it foggy, and write in the condensation. I feel a science lesson coming on. And, you can teach them how to properly wash a window when you’re done — good home ec credit!

4. Convert a breakfast bed tray into a dry erase lap board. Any opportunity to use a variety of colors will help a visual learner.

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5. Go outside with sidewalk chalk. Feel the sun on your shoulders and enjoy the change in scenery. If you prefer artwork-free sidewalks, give your child a paintbrush and a cup of water. It’s fun to write with the water and it evaporates in a few minutes. I’m teaching a little perfectionist, and one of my favorite elements about some of these is that it takes away the eraser. You can’t erase sidewalk chalk. It forces him to accept the line he just drew and move on, continuing his practice.

6. Use a stick in the dirt. What a simple treasure that is to the naturalist child.

7. Wax sticks, sometimes called Bendaroos or Wikki Sticks, are colorful wax-coated strings that bend and stick to paper.

8. Get out the play dough or modeling clay. Kids can form “snakes” and bend them into letters, or they can flatten “pancakes” and cut the letters out as negative space. SO much fun if you have alphabet cookie cutters!

9. Food! Nibble letters into shape with strings of licorice or pretzel sticks. You can even make fresh pretzels and form them into letters before baking.

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10. Use liquid school glue on 3×5 cards and make your own 3D flashcards. This was our favorite last year. I wrote a letter with pencil, he traced it in crayon, and then he traced over that with the bottle of school glue. Those glue skills used a lot of big muscles. The glue dried into bumpy letters, and we used them for multiple games.

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11. The Leap Frog writing pad was a nice gift from a grandparent. As you use the electronic pen to write in the book, it responds with words and sounds and tells you where to start, when to stop, if you did a good job, etc. It’s good for the auditory learner and is a nice form of independent work when the teacher is busy.

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12. Another high-tech option is the Boogie Board LCD writing tablet. I don’t promote going out and buying the latest-and-greatest, but I do recommend looking around the house and viewing toys or tools with new potential. That was the case in our house with this item. Scribble away and then press the white button on the top for a fresh, clean screen. Remember those Dollar Store Magic Slate Paper Savers? Same concept. This used to just be a quiet-time toy, but now it makes handwriting class exciting.

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The God who gave us colors and textures and tastes and sounds gave us a brain that thrives on variety. Explore!

Tang Hulurs

imageWhen my son was small and we were just beginning our homeschool journey, my good friend, Tanya, loaned me her Sonlight curriculum for grade 1. Although I chose not to use it, I did read most of the books to my little boy. I have wonderful memories of sitting under the big maple tree in our backyard reading one of our favorites, “Little Pear,” by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. In this enchanting book, the main character’s favorite treat to buy is a tang hulur. My child liked this book so much that we borrowed the others in the series from the library. Our favorite part that has stuck with us all these years (he is 12 now, but still likes to be read to!) is the fascinating idea of a tang hulur. We have our own idea of what they look like, and when we see a resemblance of our conception, whether it be in a store or picture, we always exclaim, “Look! It’s a tang hulur!”

In this blog post, I share with you the day we made tang hulurs, better known as rock candy. This is a fun activity to go along with a science lesson or unit on rocks. We actually made the rock candy with our small Pathfinder group as part of the Rocks and Minerals honor. We had attended a gem and fossil show the week before, a first for all of us. A day or two later, I received an email to sign up for a free online science class to learn about rocks, including experiments to do at home. Thinking this was perfect timing, I bought the necessary supplies for the experiments and showed the video to the Pathfinders. To be honest, the video wasn’t a big hit, but everybody loves an edible experiment so that saved the day!

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Here is what we did to create our version of tang hulurs. This makes a big batch, so you might want to reduce it. We added eight cups of sugar, which was a small four-pound bag, to three cups of water gradually, and then heated it on the stove. Do not let it boil. We did not use a candy thermometer, but you can. The mixture should change into a cloudy yellowish color with all the sugar dissolved, and should be hot to the touch. Let it cool enough to pour into a glass container. We used mason jars. You can add flavorings and/or colors at this point.

imageThen position a skewer in the middle, holding it in place with a clothespin laid across the top.

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The skewer should be moistened and rolled in sugar to give the crystals something to adhere to.

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Now you just wait for the crystals to form. That can take hours or even days; we just kept checking ours.

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Break up the edges and pour out the excess liquid after it has crystallized, and set the jar in hot water to remove your creation. It’s not the healthiest treat, but fun to make to demonstrate crystals when studying rocks. Enjoy your tang hulur while reading a good book, like “Little Pear,” or even a book about rocks.

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Oh, and by the way, here’s what tang hulurs really look like! Much more tasty to me!

 

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Making Holiday Memories That Last!

I absolutely love this time of year! I have so many fond memories as a child that I find myself sometimes going a little overboard trying to bring that specialness to my own children — so much so, that I can even resemble Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”! It can be stressful!! So, I began to think back and evaluate what I really remember as a child. Honestly it wasn’t any of the presents I received or all of the holiday parties we went to. It was those simple traditions that we did together as a family. One of those memories that stands out is of us making sugar cookies together. We made them every year and have carried that tradition on with our own children.

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What is it about cookie-making for us? It’s not that they are yummy, or pretty, or messy, or fun….well it’s actually all of that plus more! It’s that we do it together. We get flour on our cheeks and frosting on our fingers. We laugh, talk, create, and eat. Togetherness is what creates the memories that really make an impact on our children’s lives!

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During the month of December, I like to switch up our curriculum and take on a more simplified and holiday-focused theme. We learn compassion through gift giving and random acts of kindness. We learn counting and calendars through our Advent calendar. We read classic Christmas literature and poems and work on math, science, and home skills through baking. We also tie in art and music through special church programs and creative crafts we do. We help feed the homeless, and collect items for those in need. There are so many different subjects you can tie into Christmas-themed projects. But, to really make whatever you do memorable, do it together as a family!

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Just for you, here is my late mother’s tried and true sugar cookie recipe!

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Fun at the Library: The Flexible Homeschool

Have you ever gone to the library with a well-researched book list, only to discover that they don’t have 75 percent of the books on your list? I’ll still do this on occasion, but today I’d like to share another method I’ve been using to find books at the library in a non-conventional but semi-organized way. Think highly flexible, fun, and rewarding!

Here it is, very simple, though not scientific in any way:

  1. Go to the kids’ picture book or easy reader section of the library.
  2. Choose one small section, say two or three short shelves.
  3. Find a step-stool to sit on.
  4. Browse through this section thoroughly, choosing books that meet your criteria for good literature for kids. I don’t ask my kids which books they want. Sometimes they wander by and chime in.
  5. Check them out and enjoy reading together.
  6. When you find a gem, turn it into a project.
  7. Repeat on the next visit, moving to the next section. Our library organizes children’s picture books alphabetically by author. We started with the A’s and are working through. Sometimes I go to the Z’s and work backwards.

With this simple method we find some wonderful books, and I’m never disappointed because a book isn’t available.

Here are two sample projects we loved:

Book: What’s Alive? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.
Subject: The difference between living and non-living things.
Project: Cut out pictures of living and non-living things in magazines and paste on categorized paper.

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Book: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche.
Subject: Different kinds of houses people in various places live in.
Project: Choose one of the houses in the book and make a collage home.

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I love “school” ideas that are simple, flexible, fun, and educational. Do you have any tips for utilizing the library in a fun and simple way? Share in the comments below.