Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writing Speeches With Kids

We're in 4-H this year, and by we I mean all 3 kids AND me. Max is in the club as a member and the twins are in the same club doing what's called Special Projects (or something along those lines, I can't remember the proper title and everyone has corrected me so many times I can't remember which one IS the correct title anymore). And I? Well, the club was in danger of folding because it had no leader, so yes, Sheila the great big idiot so I stepped in and saved the day. Well, technically I saved the day, but I managed to boss the other parents into saving the day WITH me, because gawd knows I hate to be the lone wolf in these kinds of operations. And for some mysterious reason (mysterious evidently ONLY to ME) people think homeschooling mums don't have a lot to do during the day, so I had to make sure they knew that I too had a Very Busy Day (I think I live in a Richard Scarry universe for adults), and that I would not be able to complete the task as Club Leader on my own.

Fortunately these parents are all blessedly reasonable, except for perhaps secretly holding the notion that homeschooling mums have more time on their hands than People With Official Jobs Outside The Home. And you know, I really really don't mean this rudely or disrespectfully, because even my own parents have had to be gently (well, okay, so I wasn't very gentle about it) pried free of this notion. But now that I've been at this homeschooling business for 7 years, I have to confess that it's an exasperating fallacy to deal with on a continual basis. People think that because I'm home with the kids, I have more time: more time to answer their telephone calls at 10 in the morning; more time to act as Treasurer for their organization; more time to sell over-priced gift wrap to perfect strangers in my neighbourhood; more time to organize schedules and write up reports. More time, in other words, for what THEY want me to do.

(Do I sound philosophical but exasperated? Or do I merely sound irritable? I was hoping for a delicate balance of all three)

Technically I suppose I do have more time during which I can call the shots. Of course I do. I don't need to remind anyone when I take a coffee break. I don't need to glance at my watch to make sure that coffee break doesn't go over the allotted time. I don't have to be IN the office AT 8:30 every morning between Monday and Friday (when I worked in offices I always used to type FIRDAY so now I tend to think of Friday as being a woody sort of day).

But what most people don't realize is that yes, I have swapped a career (with all its attendant benefits of pension schemes and financial security, a move which I sometimes think was worryingly Grasshopperish as opposed to the Sensible Antishness of other mothers I know) in order to stay home, but staying home for ME isn't just watching my kids do whatever, while I do whatever. Remember my Richard Scarry metaphor? We're all pretty busy here.

But I digress...

However I write it, we're now really entrenched in this 4-H club business. Sometimes I want to add "worryingly" to the space in between "really" and "entrenched" but I don't want to appear churlish, because I do like the fact that my kids are in 4-H. They've gotten a lot out of 4-H: camaraderie, presentation skills, speaking skills, learning how to run a committee. My kids LOVE being in 4-H. They love being busy even more than I love being in my garden (two facts which frequently, um, clash, ahem). And this weekend is the Public Speaking event, something the 4-H organization seems inordinately fond of. Truth be told, I've become inordinately fond of it as well, but that's mostly because of two things: 1) it's an extremely useful skill to speak clearly and affably in front of a group of people (look at the viral success of the TED talks), and 2) it's done wonders for the writing abilities of my offspring (remember, the ones I stay home shepherding about the Educational Universe?).

So this week saw us writing our speeches. I say "our" because I am not one of those parents who thinks kids should be expected to choose a topic and write up a speech on their own, then deliver it without any editorial/presentational assistance whatsoever. I'm sure I part ways with a number of parents on this point (in fact I know I do, lol), but incorrect grammar, spelling, and rambling sentence structures really bug me, and I don't think anything is to be gained from leaving what could be a really compelling speech in such inchoate form. Which means a lot of fine-tuning. Standing in the middle of the living room, experimenting with methods of delivery. Learning how to calm those flutterings in the stomach. Learning how to speak from the diaphragm as opposed to the throat, so that all us Hearing Challenged Parents out in the audience aren't left thinking "Huh? What did she just say?" Memorizing it so they don't need to stand with it in front of their face, clutching it in all it's crumpled, sweaty glory. Finding topics that stretch their brains, even if they aren't Safe & Sensible 4-H Topics.

Stuff like that.

I haven't given much actual advice for writing speeches, have I? Maybe another day. As it is, I'm off to watch my own kids do their speeches. Wish them luck, would you?


Suji said...

Not one of those to let a presentation go unedited either so I'm totally (worryingly?) with you on that. :)

All the very, very best to all 4 of you. I applaud you for stepping up like that!

remoonic: when being moonic doesn't work, try, try again. lol.

sheila said...

Thanks Suji! Things went exceedingly well today, so we're all celebrating here tonight. Much glee was had by all!