The greatest academic opportunity that homeschoolers have today is, hands-down, speech and debate. Speaking and debating in a competitive environment (known as "forensics") is a nationally recognized homeschool extracurricular activity. 

Junior high and high school students nationwide practice in the fall to compete in the second semester of the school year. They prepare speeches and debate topics set forth by the leagues. Unparalleled by their public school counterparts, these students build up quite a resumé that is a strong complement to leadership and speaking skills. 

How do homeschool families get involved? I am the president of Training Minds Ministry, an educational nonprofit ministry that caters to homeschool families desiring to build communication skills in their students. We host the nation's largest debate and speech camps and conferences, and we launch classes for students every fall. I have more information about these opportunities, but let me first run through the basics of academic forensics for your homeschool. 

The NCFCA and Other Leagues 

There are three leagues available for homeschool students, the largest and widest reaching being the National Christian Forensics & Communications Association (NCFCA). Although the league's official numbers aren't posted online, it is rumored that more than five thousand affiliate families are currently participating in the league. 

The NCFCA creates the speech and debate rules for competition, hosts open tournaments and monitors regional ones, and hosts the National Tournament every June (the end of the competitive year). Christian Communicators of America (CCA) and Christian Communicators of the SouthEast (CCofSE) are two off-shoots of the NCFCA that serve smaller (but growing) regions of the United States. Rules and debate resolutions vary among all three leagues, but all three are intended exclusively for homeschoolers. Last summer California (the state with the largest number of forensic participants) began a new league, Stoa, which is anticipated to host the largest tournaments in the nation.

The National Forensic League (NFL) is, by far, the largest league in the nation and does include homeschoolers, but it is considered a public school league. I personally advise homeschoolers to avoid the NFL because of its questionable worldview. However, I have known homeschool families to prosper in the NFL. 

Your Homeschooler 

When you and I were attending high school (assuming it was in the public school system), we typically labeled certain individuals as the "cool kids." Usually those were the jocks—football players or sports enthusiasts. The "nerds" were those in forensics, the Bill Gates types who are now corporate executives and six-figure wage earners. 

The exact opposite is true in homeschool circles, where the speakers and debaters are the cool kids too. At homeschool conferences or within local communities that have a strong forensics program, you may have noticed that the students with the best leadership skills and brightest futures are those who participate in speech and debate. And no wonder! Forensics trains students for leadership opportunities far beyond their high school and junior high school experience. Students learn to speak confidently, to articulate themselves to ruling judges, and to think through the most complex logical and political dilemmas. 

Bottom line is that homeschool forensics is one way of carrying out the instruction found in 1 Peter 1:13: "Train the mind for action" (NIV), my ministry's key verse. God has big purposes for your children, and homeschool forensics trains them for action in the world. 

The communities of speakers and debaters that have developed since 1996 (the founding of the NCFA) has been incredible. Students have gone on to the best colleges and universities, into civil service and pastorate positions, on to mission fields and families—all with discerning minds to do good work. I couldn't be more proud of our students.