Saturday, March 27, 2010

Liberty Tourney! HSPN East Coast Homeschool Basketball Championships 2010


We just returned from 4 days in Lynchburg, VA where our Lighthouse Eagles Varsity Boys and Varsity Girls basketball teams competed in the HSPN East Coast Homeschool Basketball Championships, known around here as plain ole "Liberty", because it is held at Liberty University. 

We really look forward to this tourney every year - "Homeschool March Madness"!!!   This year there were 64 teams there, coming from GA, SC, NC, TN, VA, PA, NJ, MD, and  IA.   On Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles Varsity Girls first played in a 4-team pool against the Cabarrus Stallions (NC), Frederick Warriors ( MD), and Albemarle Cougars ( VA) - and won all 3 games!!

This placed us in the top bracket of 4 out of all 16 girls' teams, with the Greater Gwinnet Barons ( GA), Surry Co. Runnin' Patriots ( NC), .......... and the New Life Storm!!!!! The Storm practices about 10 miles away from us, and is the other Varsity Girls team in our NCHE Eastern Conference!  There had been a lot of trash talking between these team this season, creating tension between girls who normally would be good friends.  How ironic that here we were, both in the top bracket at Liberty.  The Storm and the Runnin' Patriots squared off at 8:30 pm on Thursday night at Liberty Christian Academy Gym.  Surry has long been a virtually unbeatable powerhouse in the NC homeschool conference, and had beaten Storm twice during the season. But Storm came out ablazin'!!! and took the game into overtime, vanquishing the Surry giant to advance to the championship game!  Immediately following that very intense and emotional game, our Eagles took the floor for the 10:00 pm game against the Barons from GA - a team that was intimidating in size and reputation.  Our ladies took an early lead - and despite the lights going with just six minutes left to play, causing a 20 minute delay while we waited for the adjoining court ( which still had lights) to become available -  our girls won!!  INCREDIBLE!  Out of 16 teams at Liberty, the 4A Championship would be Lighthouse Eagles vs. New Life Storm!!  Our rivals! 

Game time was 6:30 pm on Thursday in Vine Arena, with tip off actually happening at about 7:00 pm.  After playing a grueling four games over 2 days , both teams had to dig deep to battle for the title. Lighthouse got behind by 10, but then fought hard to tie the game and put it into OVERTIME!  Back and forth, back and forth, both teams kept answering the points put on the board by the other...until finally at the buzzer  New Life was ahead by 2, to claim the trophy.   A disappointing ending for our team, but a fantastic tournament experience after a hard, injury-filled season.

The Liberty Tourney isn't just about the basketball games - it is also about the bonding that happens between teammates and families, the fun, the stories, the smiles, and tears.  Most of the team stayed in the same hotel, and went out to Starbucks and Panera and Chick-Fil-A and Golden Corral together.

The Lighthouse girls formed a tight bond this season, and there were tears that the season was over... but we have NO seniors, so all of them will return next year!

Our Varsity Boys also competed at Liberty, and we enjoyed watching them play as well. They ended up winning the 3A Bracket, finishing 17th out of 28 teams at the Tournament.

Jason competed in the 3-Point Contest again this year.  He made 13 in 60 seconds to advance to the finals, where he competed against his friend, Chris, another boy from our town!  wierd, huh?   Anyway, he sunk 9 shots from the 3-point line to Chris's 10, so he got the runner-up medal AND a $50 certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods.  Pretty good for an 11-yr-old!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carnival of Homeschooling

The "Carnival of Homeschooling" is being hosted by : Homeschooling this week.  You'll find links to lots of great blog posts about homeschooling - even one by me!   Enjoy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How to Plan a Homeschool Prom

Hey, I know it is a hot topic and something you've been dying to know. haha!  So since I am in the thick of prom planning right now, I thought I'd share what's going on!

First, the background. There have been a couple of homeschool proms in this area over the years, mostly simple affairs held in a church hall or community center gym. My older daughter attended 2 different events during her high school years, and enjoyed having a reason to get all dressed up, go get her hair done, and have a special night out with friends. My boys weren't that interested - dressing up and dancing weren't high on their list of ways to have fun.   Well, almost a year ago, I was browsing through some homeschool websites and came across one for a big homeschool prom in Florida. On impulse,  I casually mentioned to my then-15-yr-old daughter that maybe we should plan a homeschool Prom for next year ( I am a support group leader and prone to taking on scarily big projects ). She got very excited about the idea and called a couple of her good friends, who also got very excited about the idea.  Me and my big mouth. Okay, so after deciding that we wanted to plan our own prom, we found out that there was one being held very soon in a town about 45 minutes away from here.  Amanda and her friends decided to go scout it out - they bought tickets, went shopping for dresses, and spent the afternoon of the dance at Emily's house, doing hair, putting on makeup, and getting dressed in their finery.  They had a lot of fun, and took some mental notes of the things they liked and didn't like.  Then we started planning in earnest for a date one year away.

The first thing we did was research homeschool proms online, scrutinizing websites for ideas and guidelines. Okay, there aren't a ton of these out there, but enough to get us started. The girls made a list of the things they wanted - a nice location, a catered meal, DJ and dancing, non-homeschooled guests allowed ... a fancy, formal, but fun affair.  Next we made a list of possible venues in the area, looking for sites that did wedding receptions and things like that.  

hint: planning a Prom is a lot like planning a wedding reception - except you get to sell tickets.

In May, we visited four different locations in Wake Forest, and fell in love with The Sutherland. It is a beautiful old estate dripping with Southern charm - brick walkways and patios, a walled garden, huge oak and magnolia trees.  Ashlee, the event planner at The Sutherland, has been working with us and sharing her event planning experience - which we desperately need.  Our committee is made up of 5 moms and 7 teenage girls, and only one of us has ever even hired a caterer before. The first scary thing was having to sign a contract and put down a deposit on the venue. Gulp. We knew we couldn't wait long because this place is a hot location for weddings and May is the start of wedding season, and we didn't want to lose the opportunity to have the Prom here.  One mom put up the deposit money - since we didn't have anything to start with. * Brave woman. *

We decided to call it the Carolina Capital Homeschool Prom. We are located just north of the capital city of Raleigh and The Sutherland is right off of Capital Blvd. We knew we would need to sell a good amount of tickets to afford the nice venue and things we wanted - hopefully the name would seem welcoming to homeschoolers from the entire area, and not just our support group or our town. 

Now that we had chosen a date and had the location pinned down, we got our little committe together and divided up some jobs - different people to research and make recommendations in certain areas. The jobs that needed to be handled were the following:
  • determine ticket price 
  • call DJs
  • research and call caterers
  • publicity
  • come up with Guidelines / Dress Code
  • work out the registration process
  • fundraisers
  • decorating
  • create website
  • open bank account
To come up with the ticket price, we set a goal for the number of tickets we thought we could sell for this event, based on the number of homeschool teens in the area and attendance at other events. Then we made a list of all the expenses we could think of:  venue, DJ, caterer, tent rental, event insurance, photographer, additional entertainer, printing/mailing costs, decorations...  We added up our expenses ( our best guesstimate) and divided by the number of tickets we hoped to sell, and voila - $65 per ticket.

One of the moms volunteered to create the website.  It is
As soon as that was up, we sent emails out to all the homeschoolers we knew, through our support group email loop and other local networks! We have continued to send out email updates , as well as create a Facebook page and hand out flyers to friends and acquaintances!  I drew up a poster and displayed it, along with a stack of flyers, at all of our homeschool basketball home games. We also put an ad in the state Homeschool newsletter and in the program of the Regional Homeschool Basketball Tournament ( it helps when you are in charge of making the program!)  If the mantra for real estate is "Location, Location, Location", then the mantra for event planning is "Publicize, Publicize, Publicize"!

hint: Shelley used a  free website hosting site that she thought would work but which has been giving her a lot of grief. Her words... next time, it would be worth paying someone to do it right. 

After looking at other Prom guidelines, Emily and Eve came up with a list of Guidelines for the Prom.  These guidelines include a dress code which we tried to make not TOO restrictive, but still requiring modesty and good taste - no revealing necklines, plunging backs, or transparent midriffs for ladies, with hemlines or slits to be no higher than 3" above the knee. Guys are required to wear a jacket, buttoned shirt, tie, and dress slacks, or a suit or tuxedo. No jeans. No T-shirts. No tennis shoes. Behavior guidelines include respecting the authority of chaperones, staying within the physical boundaries set for the event, wearing a wristband, and clean dancing. Attendees are expected to be mature and respectful, and of course, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and weapons are not allowed.

update: we amended our policy the 2nd year to allow medical devices such as inhalers and epipens. 

We decided to start taking registrations on January 15 for our May 7th event, and will continue through April 15.  To register, a student must print off a Prom Registration Form and Prom Guidelines Agreement. There is a form for guests as well. Every person attending the prom must mail that completed and signed form in with the payment for their ticket.  I opened a bank account and we were ready to go. 

hint:  next time we will offer an incentive for buying tickets during the first four weeks, rather than waiting until the very end of the registration period. Duh. Should have thought of that earlier. It is a little nerve-wracking to not have registration forms pouring in .. but we have heard so much positive feedback, both in person and on the web, that we are pretty sure we're in good shape. Still...

The Prom is open to all area homeschool students ( not just those in our support group) AND alumni ages 14 - 21. Each homeschool student or alumni may invite a non-homeschooled guest. 
Students do not need to come to Prom with a date;  lots of kids will be coming alone or with a group of friends!  This isn't just a "date night", but a celebration of friendship and homeschool community!  

One perk of being on the Prom Committee has been the opportunity to attend "tastings", events set up by caterers to lure new clients.  mmm... mmm.  Ashley and her girls did a lot of work, calling and emailing a long list of caterers to compare offerings and prices. Since we are novices at this whole event planning thing, it was also important to us to work with someone who was experienced and who made us feel confident that all the details would be covered. We discovered through this process that there is a whole "catering vocabulary" that it is important to know.

hint: price quotes sometimes include the extras like servers, chafing dishes, serving utensils, dinner plates ;silverware, beverage service... and sometimes they don't!

We have held 2 fundraisers - a Pampered Chef fundraiser, a low-effort choice which brought in $145.  And a Silent Auction - which we pulled together rather quickly and learned a good bit about what not to do next time -  that netted us another $300.  

We have booked our DJ - Brian Pate of Brian Pate Entertainment. He will be setting up a way for students to submit song requests prior to the Prom. He also promised that he only plays clean music - something we feel strongly about as parents/planners. Brian's DJ services include a light show and also video screens, which we can use to show music videos, candid photos being taken by the Prom Photographer ( using the camera memory card ), or whatever we want!    We also would LIKE to book a professional magician who will mingle with the students and perform up-close magic and illusions, as additional entertainment. We aren't sure about the money, so we are waiting on that... but I think it would be awesome and really add another element of class and fun.  This isn't a birthday party magician, but a local entertainer with lots of experience performing all over the country for teens and college-age kids.  

Today we went to the Classic Party Rental store and talked with Jenna, picking out table linens and talking about the event tent that we will need to rent ( since the Prom will be outdoors ).  Our theme is "A Starry Night", inspired by the Vincent Van Gogh painting. We were looking at plain navy blue or periwinkle tablecloths and talking about maybe adding a sheer topper or colored runner when someone saw these shiny, silky tablecloths hanging on the wall.  There was a gorgeous dark blue cloth- I think it was called "deep blue crush" - that shimmered and flowed and and looked like a dark night sky. PERFECT.  They cost $4 more each than what is included in the venue "package", so we will need to pay for the difference. But they are so elegant and go so well with the theme - we just have to do it. We chose periwinkle cloths for the food tables, to pick up another of the blues in the painting.  And black napkins.  Heather has an idea for centerpieces that would include a mirror square, on which would sit a glass fishbowl filled with yellow or blue lights and metallic confetti and water - it would be very "glowy" and "shiny" and "reflect-y"... ( and apparently they found some lights that can be submerged in water!)  The tent will have white lights outlining the edges and white fabric draping the poles. The girls are going to look for some  navy blue ribbon or fabric to tie in bows around the white fabric on the poles as well, and maybe some metallic star garlands.... Can't wait to see it all set up!

We have just started soliciting door prizes from individuals and businesses, so we have some fun items to give away to Prom attendees.

In addition to being a fantastic, memorable night for our teens, we decided to also make our Prom a Benefit to help those in need.  Several families we know, including one of the girls on our Prom Committee, are heavily involved in orphan care ministry, especially in Africa. So we will be contributing a portion of our proceeds to the Kolfe Orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We'll also be showing a slideshow and collecting donations the night of the Prom.

Stay tuned for more Prom News as we count down the weeks ....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Girls Art Class

The High School Girls Art Class I teach on Wednesdays started off doing several weeks of still lifes in pastel, and now we are working on portrait and figure drawing in charcoal. We are also experimenting a bit with gesture drawing and contour drawing.  Here is some of Amanda's work....

Boys Art Class

Here are a couple of pictures of the projects we've been doing in the Boys Art Class that I teach on Mondays.  We spent the first 3 weeks making papier mache monsters.  The Lesson Plan I loosely followed is here.   And here is a cool video of a real papier mache artist who makes monsters - we watched this at the beginning of class and the boys thought it was very cool!


The next project was using clay.  We  made pinch pot "face jugs" or "ugly jugs".  The lesson plan, along with some history of "face jugs" is here.    We used air-dry clay, and the boys learned about wedging, making coils, slurry, & scoring to join layers together. It took 3 weeks for this project as well, and we kept the pots moist between classes by wrapping them in plastic shopping bags.  After the pots were dried, we painted them with acrylic paint and sprayed them with glossy acrylic sealer. 


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Geography Club

I host a Geography Club at my house twice a month for some families in my homeschool support group. There are about 15 kids between the ages of 7 and 14, plus parents, who gather for 2 hours every other Thursday afternoon for geography games & quizzes, presentations, and refreshments. We focus on a different continent each month for our refreshments amd presentations. 

This all started because my friend Faye used to host a similar Geography Club once a month back when my older kids were elementary/middle school age, and they always enjoyed that.  I like looking at maps and books and learning about different places in the world; we have several geography games sitting on our shelves; J is always up for getting together with a bunch of other kids ~ so voila!   Geography Club has been resurrected and is going strong! I actually had so many responses when I put a note out on our email loop that we wouldn't have all fit in my house, so I recruited another mom to host a 2nd club at her house on the same afternoons! 

What do we do at Geography Club?

First, the kids all gather in the living room ( on the couches, chairs, floor...) for presentations. Anyone can volunteer to do a presentation - usually just a very short talk on a certain aspect of the continent of the month.  This offers great experience in talking in front of a group and provides an opportunity to practice public speaking skills like enunciating, making eye contact, using visual aids. We have had presentations about animals of the Amazon rainforest, traditional food of North America, and a Christian missions organization that drops Bibles into remote & dangerous areas of Colombia via parachute! 

After the presentations, I give a brief overview of geography facts pertaining to that month's continent, maybe pointing things out on a map or in a book.  Then the kids break up into groups to play various geography games & quizzes, with parents spreading out to help.  I print off worksheets from Enchanted Learning
and giant maps of the continents (3 x 3) from Mega Maps. 
I tape the giant maps together,draw on mountains and rivers and color in the bodies of water, and then laminate them with clear contact paper. Then I print out small labels on white cardstock, laminate them, and attach to the maps with Velcro Dots.  The kids have fun taking the labels off the map, and then using a digital timer to see how fast they can relabel the map. The older kids write down their times and see who can do it the fastest! ( make it a game/competition and they can't wait to play!)  

I created a Landforms BINGO game by making a list of 24 geographic landforms and using Google Images to find pictures that I could print off and glue to a Bingo Card I drew on four 16 x16 pieces of poster board.  I wrote the description of each landform on an index card. To play, a parent reads the description and the kids have to find the correct landform on their card and cover it with a marker( we use Skittles!)  The kids get lots of help finding the correct picture - this is all about learning! Whoever gets 5 in a row first is the winner, everyone gets to eat a few Skittles, and then play again. :-)

Jeopardy is another game the kids love! Come up with 5 or 6 categories -  Capitals, Physical Geography, People, Superlatives ( biggest, smallest, coldest, etc), Famous Landmarks, etc.  Then make a poster with the Jeopardy categories and amounts listed. Come up 5 questions for each category, ranging from easy to hard, and write them on index cards. To play, the kids can either play is individuals or as teams ( depending on how many kids you have), and take turns choosing a category and point amount. If they answer that question  correctly, they get the points and play moves on to the next team. If they don't, the parent reads the correct answer and goes on to the next team. Everyone hears the correct answer so they are learning as they play!

Some of the other board games and card games we have are Great States, Where in the World?, GeoSafari, Professor Noggins card gamesWorld Map Game.  I also have several maps on my dining room table, under a clear vinyl sheet ( sold by the yard at fabric stores), atlases and library books on the various countries, continents, regions - which the kids can use as reference.  We play games for about an hour to an hour and a half, then have refreshments, and clean up! 

Everyone has been having a blast so far. The kids are making some new friends. And I have another motivation to get the house picked up twice a month!