Today was my day to judge speeches at the Nationals for the NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communications Association – whew!). I judged a couple of years ago at the Regionals and had a blast, so I jumped at the invitation to judge at the Nationals (which are being held in Birmingham). The NCFCA is a very large, very well organized speech and debate association for homeschoolers. I think it must have just been getting started when I graduated, because I had not heard of it until after I was out of school. However, it has become “all the rage” in the past few years with many of the homeschool families that I know.

Disclaimer: I greatly respect homeschoolers, was homeschooled myself, and plan on homeschooling my child(ren). Everything I say below is meant in fun and is not meant to negatively shade homeschoolers in any way.

Being a former homeschooler (all 12 years! Never “went” to school until college), it’s always interesting to “resubmerge” myself in the homeschool culture. And every time that I do, I am always very aware of the dramatic changes that have taken place in the last nine years. What I remember about “homeschooling culture” was that I, known as a complete goody-two-shoes by all of my non-homeschooling friends, felt like the complete rebel and very worldly in homeschool world. Mainly because I didn’t wear denim jumper dresses with tennishoes and tall white socks, talk quietly (or not at all), and wear my hair extraordinarily long and very unkempt. Oh, and I wore makeup and shaped my eyebrows .

Not to say that there weren’t other homeschoolers “like me”, in fact, and all of my friends were “like me”. But anytime I went to some sort of homeschooling conference or get-together, I certainly felt outnumbered.

I was one of those homeschool kids that could pick out any other “homeschooler” within 500 feet, but would have completely freaked out if I thought that anyone else could pick me out of a crowd as a “homeschooler”.

ANYWAY, the world of homeschooling is definitely becoming more modern. Not to say that you can’t still easily find those socially and physically awkward kids – they are definitely still there (and to be honest there are those kids in all schools – ever seen “Beauty and the Geek”? I haven’t heard of any of those guys being homeschooled yet), but there are many more “modern”, “normal” kids homeschooling. So much so, in fact, that I went to meet my Mom at a homeschool DANCE last year and was, first of all, amazed that homeschoolers were dancing (we’ve come a long way from denim jumpers), and second of all, amazed at all of the “goth“, “emo“, and other types of ultra-mod, ultra-cool kids that would have made me look like a “homeschooler” compared to them.

Today was another opportunity to see the “new homeschooling culture” – there was quite a lot of kids that you’d never be able to pick out of a crowd as a homeschooler, but there were also still some more “typical” homeschoolers.

Disclaimer section over. Now for the unbelievable amazingness of these kids:

What astonished me was the level of preparedness and knowledge that these kids had to have to do what they did today. I judged Extemporaneous speeches, which means that they are given a choice of three topics thirty minutes before giving a seven minute speech about the topic that they just laid eyes on for the first time. They all had an introduction, stated the question, had two or three well thought out points, and a conclusion. AND, they have to have multiple sources and properly cite them!! The ones I heard quoted at least 6 different articles or books. From what I’ve heard, these kids have boxes of magazine and newspaper articles with them to hopefully be able to find articles that relate to their speech (I do not think that they are allowed to use the internet during their 30 minute prep time). Sounds pretty hard, right? Oh, but it’s so much harder. Here are the topics that I judged today :
1. Will Saakashvili’s election promote Georgia (the country, people) to NATO membership?
2. Can the new administration in Kenya clean out years of corruption?
3. Can Malawi’s agricultural success be repeated throughout the continent?
4. Will recent election successes move Serbians away from the recent deadly tensions?
5. Can anything end Mugabe’s reign of power to end the violence in Zimbabwe?
6. Will South Africa get serious about fighting crime after the disbanding of their special forces?

OK – I admit that I could not have put together a single intelligent paragraph about any of these issues. I just don’t stay in tune to international situations. I was particularly glad that the following question wasn’t chosen by one of the students: “Is the international community finally making headway with the Janjaweed?” because I would have thought it was some sort of war on drugs issue. For those of you as uninformed as me, after looking it up, I discovered that the Janjaweed are armed gunmen in Darfur, Sudan, and Chad.

So, you are wondering, “how were you qualified to judge??”, and I can say that I think I did a pretty decent job – I remember quite a bit from my speech class in college (which is really amazing, considering that I have a very poor long term memory), and so I was able to judge them on their technique, ability to clearly state and follow their outline, and, since I knew nothing about their topics, I could judge their ability to educate and convince me all at once. It was a very fun experience – I wish I could judge more of the events this week, particularly humorous interpretations and duo interpretations sound like fun to me. If you want to judge, it’s going on all week long at Berry High School and they need over 1,000 judges. Sign up at or email me for more info.

Altogether, I was blown away by the talent, preparedness, poise, and abilities of these kids!! From their abilities in public speaking, it looks to me like the NCFCA’s underlying purpose is to prepare a WHOLE bunch of homeschooling kids to run for president one day, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Especially since they wear makeup and shape their eyebrows nowadays. ;)

3 thoughts on “Judging Homeschoolers. No, Literally.

  1. Wow sounds like a interesting day. I could not have answered any of those questions either and I try to stay informed on international topics(it’s the history major in me).


  2. I’m so sorry about Mr. Dempsey. Makes you wonder how a “Malawi” Fish virus got to USA. . .hmm.
    And Leanna, I’m so glad for the confirmation that I’m not the only uninformed person in the world! :)

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