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Frequently Asked Questions

What opportunities are available to my children through WPACO?
Some of my children are enrolled in cyberschool/charter school. Can they participate in WPACO?
At what age should my child start speech classes?
How many students are in each speech class?
How are speech classes divided - by age level or ability level or both?
What if I have children younger than 4 or 5 years old?
How often does WPACO meet?
Is there homework involved with the classes?
How much weekly time will my student spend preparing for speech and/or debate?
Does my child need to take the speech classes before he can participate in debate?
Is there a fee to join the WPACO?
Are there other fees involved in speech and debate?
What is involved in tournament competitions?
Will my child be required to be in competitions?
Do the parents have responsibilities in WPACO?
All right, we're ready! How do we register?



What opportunities are available to my children through WPACO?

WPACO offers bi-weekly speech classes, training in basic and intermediate debate, and provides opportunities for students to compete in speech and debate tournaments.

Some of my children are enrolled in cyberschool/charter school. Can they participate in WPACO?

No, they cannot at this time.

At what age should my child start speech classes?

Although the focus of WPACO is to serve students ages 10 and above, we welcome their younger siblings, in order to free parents to give their assistance and teaching expertise during the classtime itself.

How many students are in each speech class?

The ideal would be approximately 10-12 students. This allows for good class discussion and time for everyone to do a short speech in most of the classes.

How are speech classes divided - by age level or ability level or both?

Classes are divided primarily by age and then some by ability. We usually divide up the younger groups into ages 4-6, ages 7-9, and ages 10-12. Ages 4-6 have stories, games, and activities designed to increase listening and speaking skills, along with "show and tell" and "miniature" speeches. Ages 7-9 and 10-12 run through the Beginner Speech Program with different activities added based on skill level.

What if I have children younger than 4 years old?

We have a nursery available during speech classes (but not during debate classes) for children ages 3 and under.

How often does WPACO meet?

We meet on Friday afternoons 2 times a month from September through April. For a complete schedule, check out the Info link on the home page.

Is there homework involved with the classes?

Yes, definitely! Homework is a very effective tool to reinforce class instruction and interaction. Usually students spend about 2-4 hours during the two weeks between class meetings doing their assignments. The completion of these assignments is expected and recorded, along with attendance. Therefore, failure to complete them may result in a gentle reproving of the student and/or moving down a level, if in excess. Of course, occasional emergencies do occur. Problems can be avoided by contacting your teacher in advance of class. To get the maximum out of these classes, students are encouraged to put forth their best for God's glory.

How much weekly time will my student spend preparing for speech and/or debate?

The answer to this question varies. For Speech Class - see above.

For Speech Tournaments - depending on what IE categories the students are participating in, they will need to spend time locating selections and/or writing their speeches and memorizing them. On the average, this can take anywhere from 5-10 hours in the beginning. Once selections are found, written, and prepared for presentation, preparation time drops. Often the same selection(s) is used for several tournaments throughout the year, as the student continues to work on presentation style and the strengthening of content. Participating in practice tournaments can serve to encourage and sharpen the writing/speaking skills of the student. It is a great format for practicing the skills they have learned.

For Debate - The resolution for the NCFCA league comes out sometime in early summer. Most students will begin reading and researching the topic to build their understanding of it. Optimally, they could spend about 5-6 hours a week doing their own research. Most debaters spend the majority of their time in blocks - agressively researching and building their arguments right before a practice tournament. In addition to their own research, they will also spend time in WPACO meetings (2 times a month) and in discussions with their team partner. There may also be learning opportunities centered on the topic along with additional coaching sessions.

There is definitely a learning curve for first-time debaters. They could end up putting in more time in the beginning to get acquainted with the terms and the logic involved in this forensic sport. But once they learn the basics, they quickly turn their attention to researching and writing their arguments. I recommend that you keep track of time spent and give a high school credit or 1/2 credit (depending on hours) for debate.

Does my child need to take the speech classes before he can participate in debate?

The easy answer to this question is NO. Jr and Sr. high school students who are fairly confident in their ability to speak before an audience (especially impromptu), can jump right into debate with little or no problem. But doing a semester or even a year of Speech with or before Debate can be another tool to help them build confidence and to learn Christian, professional presentation styles that will complement and support their arguments in debate.

Is there a fee to join the Western PA Christian Orators?

Yes, there is a fee. These monies are used to cover the cost of debate and IE instruction - including books and videos for teachers' training and use, miscellaneous handouts, facility donation, certificates/awards for special programs, snacks and paper supplies for special events, and the maintenance of this website. Click on the registration form samples to see the costs for the previous year.

Are there other fees involved in speech and debate?

In addition to WPACO fees, you should anticipate some tournament fees as well. There will be various opportunities for students to participate in a practice meet. There are also tournaments scheduled in other states, as NCFCA and Stoa are national leagues. It is not mandatory for WPACO members to compete in ALL scheduled tournaments, but newcomers will be expected to participate in one. Once a schedule is put together of area tournaments, we will publish them for parents' discretion in planning. The cost varies greatly; competing with one speech at a local tournament could be as low as $8 (plus food), while an experienced student competing with debate and many speeches locally might pay $50 (plus food, and if it is a tournament that competes on a national level, there would be national membership costs). Meals, travel, and motels are an extra cost.

At the beginning of the school year, NCFCA requires families to pay an affiliation fee. WPACO does not require our students to participate in these types of tournaments, but if your student is of a competitive nature, you may want to plan for that.

Other Costs:

  • Miscellaneous debate supplies - legal pads, binder, card file, other assorted office supplies for organizing your research.
  • Topic-related books and evidence briefs
  • Travel expenses for tournaments away from home - transportation costs, motel room (if host housing is not available) and meals during tournaments
  • Professional/business attire (mandatory at all competitions) - Girls: dresses, skirts, suits (below knee) & dress slacks. Boys: suit or dress pants with sports jacket and tie.

What is involved in tournament competitions?

A tournament is a 2-3 day event in which students have the opportunity to compete in various Speech Events (IE) and/or Debate, in accordance with the NCFCA league. These events serve as a perfect format for students to practice and sharpen their skills in the various areas. Judges for these events come from a pool of parents, friends and community supporters. Each student is required to provide a judge when he competes(usually a parent!). WPACO hosts 2-3 tournaments per year, and all our parents will help with those. But there are also excellent opportunities at greater distances - Ohio, eastern PA, Michigan, New York, etc. When traveling for tournaments, anticipate overnight accommodations(some host housing is available), tournament registration fees (as stated above) and food. Also, business attire is required for student competitors(see above).

Will my child be required to be in competitions?

Students from most of the classes will be required to participate either in one tournament OR one community-type speech (that is, some type of event where the student gets up in front of people other than his/her family and gives a speech or a little talk). Some of the more experienced students are required to do two. Students can attend our local tournaments or travel to other ones. Some of our tournaments are very low-key and are much fun! There is no limit on the number of tournaments a student can enter. Not to sound redundant, but the benefits of tournaments far outweigh the anticipation anxiety. The children who compete improve their skills and have fun in the process.

Do the parents have responsibilities in WPACO?

It is first and foremost the parents' responsibility to assure that their students attend classes faithfully and on time, with homework assignments completed by designated deadlines. At least one parent MUST attend the WPACO class meetings. In order for us to have a well-run coop, all the organizational responsibilities need to be shared, and all parents are required to help in some capacity.

Every family is required to assist with any tournaments we may be hosting. You may either have a role in planning and running the tournament or as a community judge. When a student competes in a tournament, his/her family is required to provide at least one judge. Complete training (provided by WPACO) prepares parents for this fun and exciting event!

Parents are also responsible for their Christ-like example as teachers and helpers.

Every parent attending WPACO must agree with WPACO's Statement of Beliefs and give the WPACO board a written copy of their testimony.

When a student competes in a tournament, his/her parent is required to be a judge at that tournament. Complete training prepares parents for this fun and exciting event!

All right, we're ready! How do we register?

Please go to the registration page on this website to learn more. Because a building can hold only so many students, there is usually a waiting list. Ask to be put on the waiting list, and you will be notified in the spring when it is time to officially fill out the registration forms.