A really fun way to introduce drama into your homeschool fine arts plan is to form a class or club with other homeschoolers and work on producing individual monologues and scenes rather than starting with a production of a play.
Click here for A Successful Approach to Teaching Acting and Directing, my 22-page manual including a syllabus (for a full year or half), reproducible resources and lots of ideas for teaching an Acting and Directing class or starting a Drama Club for homeschoolers in your community!
When I have done this in the past, I have preferred to meet weekly, but you could meet bi-weekly instead if your schedule doesn't permit more than that. Meeting only once a month means you lose a lot of the momentum of your developing actors; it's better than nothing, but I wouldn't recommend a once-a-month format.
There are lots of published collections of monologues, scenes and cuttings for student actors. While many of the scenes and monologues contained in these collections would NOT be appropriate due to offensive or age-inappropriate material, the collection overall contains enough good material to make it worth my dollar. I include a list of my favorites of these collections in A Successful Approach to Teaching Acting and Directing.
An evening of scenes and monologues is a great performance alternative to the challenge of producing a full play. With simple costuming that merely suggests the characters, simple sets of chairs and a table or two, and simple props to indicate setting and time period, your actors can perform a series of unrelated scenes that thoroughly entertain your audience.
By using these "cuttings" (only a small portion of the script lifted out of the whole) you can often perform material from a show that would be inappropriate in its entirety. You can help your audience more fully appreciate the characters and stories they are watching by including a brief synopsis of the plot of the play from which the cutting was taken in their programs, or simply explained aloud by you before each scene begins.
Foundational goals to set for young actors include the following:
- Projection -- Clear, loud speech
- Character research and development
- Non-verbal communication -- body language and posture on stage
With only these 4 simple goals as a starting point, you can spend many rewarding hours working with young actors as they prepare their cuttings for performance.
(Be careful not to violate copyright/royalty law by charging admission to your show; as long as you perform without selling tickets, you are using the material in fair use percentages of the whole, and it is solely for educational purposes. If you sell tickets, you are in violation of the law, even though you are not performing the work in its entirety.)
What have you done to incorporate Drama into your fine arts plan for your homeschool?
Have you downloaded the FREE white papers, "Why Drama is Important in Your Homeschool" and "Introduction to Directing"? Click here to get them!
Whether we like it or not, "reality shows" has captivated the American culture. A great way to create some onstage drama in your homeschool community or church group is to produce The Search for the Solution, a play about a whole different kind of reality show.
In 2006, I decided to take the idea of reality shows to a cerebral level, and imagined a show where contestants would prove their smarts by trying to solve a social and ethical problem presented to them. Whatever conclusion they reached as the "ideal solution" would then be carried out in the situation of the man whose life they were now responsible for.
In 2013, I produced this play again in our local Homeschool Drama Camp (the ebookstore has a manual and DVD curriculum if you might like to offer a two-week summer intensive like I do each year). The audiences loved it both times!
Here's a synopsis of the play, The Search for the Solution:
Welcome to the newest reality TV show! “The Search for the Solution” takes pairs of contestants
and presents them with a moral and ethical dilemma fraught with political implications. Each pair
may then use any means they choose to search for clues to the solution – expert advice, public
opinion, research, inside-information, etc. – and bring those clues back for evaluation by a panel of
judges. Is your information helpful or not helpful? Based on the results each pair produces, teams
are voted off the show as time goes on.
As the number of pairs grows smaller, the host reveals more complications, and solving the dilemma
seems overwhelming. Contestants still competing struggle to accept the solution and its impact on
If you've considered producing a play with your homeschool group and would like something really DIFFERENT from the run-of-the-mill Christian teen production, download a SAMPLE copy of The Search for the Solution for just $0.99 and see if this might be a good fit for your actors.
The impact we experienced on our actors and our audience when we first produced this play in 2006 was profound. The plot twist near the end truly sent up a gasp from our audience members....and there were very few dry eyes in the house as the final curtain came down.
Student actors want something meaty to perform; they are often insulted by fluffy, silly scripts that don't challenge them deeply. The Search for the Solution offers a meaty script that also requires NO SET or special costuming, lighting or props. It's cheap and easy to produce, and rewarding to direct and perform.
Need some advice on how to get started directing? Download the FREE white paper Introduction to Directing, or investigate our teacher's manual for A Successful Approach to Teaching Acting and Directing.
Drama is important; how are you including it in your homeschool?
Drama is a powerful vehicle for ministering to young people, and it also trains them to minister to the audience through effective storytelling skills on stage. Many homeschoolers would love to act in a play but need someone in their community to organize a group with which that can happen.
Writing a script to produce as a play with homeschooled teens always begins with a lesson the Lord is teaching me. In 2008, it was:
"Everything you do, every seemingly insignificant thing MATTERS tremendously if it is done because of Christ."
I wanted to create a story that would become the script for Drama Camp 2008. I knew that 25 or 30 teenaged homeschoolers were going to sign up for the summer's two-week theater intensive, and I needed to find a way to get all of them some stage time while still sharing the lesson God had put in my heart. What emerged was A Weekend in Calcutta.
Drama Camp had grown over the years, and the sheer numbers of kids involved made it harder and harder to write scripts to accommodate them. Our stage space is small, and while I didn't want to turn anyone away, I knew that just packing them all on there wasn't going to be effective. I spent a lot of time asking God what this play was supposed to look like, because Drama Camp is really about ministry first; it's a ministry to teenagers using drama as a vehicle.
Suddenly, while I was driving one afternoon, I understood the answer - 3 stories, parallel journeys to the same destination. I would split the kids into essentially 3 casts so they could all get a part with something to it, but the play could remain clear and orderly for the audience. Before I knew it, I had roughed out an outline:
- There was a writer in the present who longs to create ART but writes for a textbook publisher to pay the bills while he waits for his big break as a playwright.
- Running parallel to his story was the play he was writing, the characters in it facing the question of how to sacrifice for what you love to do.
- And finally, the chapter in the upcoming textbook he was writing was a piece on Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity who work with passion among the poorest of the poor.
On that framework I was able to hang the stories of three people facing the frustration of longing to do something huge and beautiful, but feeling trapped by the mundane tasks required for daily existence. (Sound like homeschooling some days?)
As is always the case, God did something vastly beyond what I had anticipated with the script, the Drama Camp, the kids in the cast, our audience, and me as I directed the show. We learned from researching Mother Teresa to do "the smallest things with the greatest love." We learned as Stephen Curtis Chapman sang to the Lord in Magnificent Obsession that we "want You to be my one consuming passion." And we learned from Jamie Miller, the writer in the story, that time "in Calcutta" can change your life forever -- it did for us in Drama Camp that year.
All I did was ask God how I could communicate to a bunch of kids the lesson "every little thing matters" using Drama as a vehicle. From that was born something larger and more powerful than I had ever expected, A Weekend in Calcutta. (If you'd like to read the script, the sample download is just $0.99 in our EBookstore. Full rights to produce the play with your drama group are available as well; see EBookstore for details.)
Drama is a great tool for:
* building confidence,
* practicing clear speech,
* understanding non-verbal cues in communication,
* strengthening reading skills,
* developing teamwork strategies,
* setting goals and creating a plan for reaching them.
It's also a lot of fun! Some students are naturally comfortable on stage, others need to be coaxed to participate, but everyone can get a lot out of the experience.
Many homeschool parents are hesitant to become involved in local community theatre if their child isn't just desperate to get on stage. The time commitment can be overwhelming, some productions aren't appropriate...while community theatre CAN be a great experience, there are also many factors to consider before jumping in.
If your child just wants to dabble in drama, here are some fun ideas for bringing drama into your homeschool:
1. Start with some monologues. A monologue is a dramatic speech designed for an individual to perform alone. It may be a cutting from a play or movie, or it may have been written simply as a stand-alone piece. There are many collections of monologues for young actors available at your local bookstore or library. There are also lots of monologues on the internet. Another option is to let your child pick a narrative passage from his or her favorite book, one that lends itself to lots of expression, and work with it as a monologue.
2. A co-op is a great place to put together a casual, silly drama production. Assign parts to act out a scene from a book you are reading for literature, or an event you have studied in history. "Script" your play very loosely; have the kids work together to write an outline of the series of events that will occur, but then let them ad lib their lines, just acting out the characters as they choose to. Capture it on video and you will enjoy it immensely years later when they are bigger.
Here's a video some of our co-op kids did a few years ago when we were studying Columbus:
3. There are lots of great reader's theatre pieces available in collections and on the internet. Reader's theatre is a style of dramatic presentation where the parts do not need to be memorized, the performance is done with the actors seated (traditionally on stools), and the drama is brought to life through their vocal interpretation and facial expression. It's so much more than just reading aloud!! Good reader's theatre is a joy to watch, and students in my experience learn a lot from trying it out for themselves.
4. For your more "serious actors," family holiday gatherings provide a great venue for a short performance. If you have kids who are going to prepare a monologue, a scene, or a reader's theatre selection for a family gathering, make sure they really put planning, time, and effort into it. What they create should be artistic, even though it's amateur. Remember that your audience will be a captive audience....don't make them feel that they've been captured AND tortured!
5. Cooperative talent nights in your homeschool community are another opportunity for showcasing young actors. Remember when preparing for one of these that "Less is more" when it comes to scenery. You will have limited access to the stage and won't be able to build and set up anything visually impressive. So instead encourage your actors to create the scene for their audience, putting their whole hearts into helping the audience imagine all the scenery that cannot be there. Your energy will be better used in rehearsal and interpretation of the material than it will in painting on an unfolded cardboard box.
Don't be shy; let the drama start here!
Acting is storytelling, and teenagers who want the chance to act want a good story to tell. In our local homeschool community I've had the blessing of producing plays with teenage actors for over a decade. One thing I have observed again and again: young actors are capable of so much more than we might think! It seems that the higher I raise my expectation, the more excited the students are to sign-on for the adventure.
Producing a play with student actors is often “dumbed down” – both the substance of the play itself and the expectation regarding how demanding an experience the actors can handle. I began writing plays that spoke to the things that I saw my own children and their friends encountering, and the actors just dived in with astounding ability and dedication.
Over the years we have created drama that dealt with:
- the death of a loved one, and the struggle to see God's love in the midst of pain
- fear resulting from terrorist activity in the world
- artistic and spiritual frustration when God's timetable and ours don't sync
- unjust accusation and the importance of refusing to take revenge
- bullying, and the potential in each of us to judge someone unfairly
- the limitation of humans' ability to answer life's deepest questions in our own understanding
- how hard it is to truly give thanks in all circumstances
- trusting God when the danger in our lives is very real
Do these sound like the topics that you typically think of for a Drama Club to explore? Where are the cute tales with a moral, the stories where everyone lives happily ever after? I love a happy ending as much as the next girl, and finding material for clean comedies and fun musicals is not difficult. The missing resource seems to be compelling drama.
In my experience, students who love to act want a story worth telling. They are insulted by shallow material. By 7th - 12th grade (the years for which I offer a Drama Camp two-week intensive each summer in our homeschool community) kids have experienced situations in life that don't turn out as a neat little package.
They have witnessed injustice, loss, and adult fears. They want the chance to tell compelling stories, to portray characters who face enormous challenges and allow God to reveal Himself in the most surprising places.
Perhaps you have a child who wants to act, but you haven't found a satisfying venue for pursuing that goal. Perhaps you love the idea of directing a play, starting a drama club, or creating a Drama Camp intensive but don't know how you could bring that idea to life. Or perhaps you would love to see your local group tackle something meatier than their usual fare. Start dreaming and praying, and this summer we will see what God provides for compelling drama for your homeschool or community!
What types of drama opportunities interest you and your students?
Have you ever thought “If I could just figure out what was going on in that person’s mind...”. Well, this is a book that gives you insight into the workings of the mind of a teenage boy with Asperger Syndrome.
Luke Jackson does a marvelous job of relating how he perceives the world - and how he sees the world reacting to him. He includes topics such as when to tell people you have Asperger Syndrome, sleep & dietary differences, how he reacts to various sensations, interests that have helped him cope, friends and dating, and morals and principles.
Luke even includes an appendix about idioms and their meanings. The reader begins to understand how confusing some of our language and “rules” are to those who take everything very literally.
Luke has a very upbeat attitude towards life. He refers to his disability as a “gift”. If you know someone with Asperger Syndrome this book will help you understand some of their unique challenges and gifts.
In my work as a counselor, I often help children who are being bullied at school work to become bully-proof. Sometimes the problem seems to have reached crisis proportions and the parents decide to remove their child from the toxic environment and homeschool for a season.
I was tickled when I ran across an essay in Psychology Today called Mean Girls and Homeschooling Moms. In the article, Laura Brodie, an instructor at Washington and Lee University, discussed a trend she has noticed: when children are being persistently bullied at school (despite the school administration's best efforts to stop it), some parents are bringing their children home for their education.
She noted the story of Katrina Stonof, author of the Stone Soup book blog, who brought her elementary-aged son home after repeated bullying (name calling, teasing, being stuffed into a trash can). She homeschooled her son for several months,and later enrolled him in a charter school.
Brodie also told the story of Beth and Shari, who moved to a new town when Shari was starting middle school. The first year went fine, but by 7th grade, she became the target of a particularly sly and cruel group of girls. She was pushed, had clothes stolen, was harassed by phone, and more. At one point the police were involved. Alert teachers and administration could not stop it. Finally, Beth brought Shari home to finish out the school year.
This is what Beth had to say:
"By taking her out of the situation and homeschooling, we showed Shari that she was the most important factor in this equation. We love her and would do anything for her. It enabled her to take a breather, to let her figure out what she was made of, to role play and learn how to say "back off b****" (oh yes, we taught her many fabulously foul phrases), and to grow as a person and gain her self confidence back (totally absent at this point). It may not be right in every situation or for every family, but it was right for Shari." (www. Psychology Today)
In my 16 years as a homeschool advisor, I have worked with some families who made this choice for their bullied child. Sometimes the student takes the chance to get back on his/her feet emotionally and then heads back to school. Often, the family becomes immersed in the supportive homeschool culture, loves it, and never returns to a traditional school.
Either way, the parents were brave enough (and had the resources and support) to help out their suffering child.
Have you ever had that experience?
Sometimes a bullied child looses confidence in himself. One way to help restore that confidence is to arm him with specific social skills. OurSocial Skills for Children teaches 10 important social behaviors to help empower children. The skills are taught by role play with the parent and then peers. Fun and easy and only $3.99.
This is a classic post that bears repeating. Now, for the GOOD stuff. Here is Sabrina's vlog talking about character-building curriculum:
Homeschoolers in middle and high school are developing their identities. It is important to give them role models and experiences with inspiring people. One of the best modern-day heroes to learn about is Mother Teresa.
My son has had the opportunity to learn about Mother Teresa through a series of activities.
1. When he was in 8th grade, he attended a performance of A Weekend in Calcutta by Sabrina's Drama Camp.
He learned from the play about her answer to God's call to sacrificial work for the poor and dying in India, about her inspiring together a team, and about her own personal struggles (which was good- he needed to know she was a "real person").
2. We followed up the play by watching Olivia Hussey in the dvd: Mother Teresa.
He learned the story of her life: her courage in starting her ministry, more about the people and culture she ministered to, her spunky personality and perseverance. One of our favorite scenes is Mother Theresa traveling with her two assistants- one carried the money, one organized the schedule. I tell you, I know I could never do the great work she did but I thought I might keep organized if I had two people handle those for me
3. In 9th grade, he read her biography by Malcomb Muggeridge: Something Beautiful for God.
In Something Beautiful for God, my son learned about her personal faith and dedication to God. He learned about her call to the "least of these" and about doing small things with great love and great joy.
The things he learned about Mother Teresa are ideas that will help him as he is developing his identity. If he has a vision of serving, of all people being valuable to God, and the power of one person in starting a cause- then he will have more courage to listen to what God may say to him about his own place in the kingdom, whatever that will be.
Of course, there are many, many modern-day heroes a homeschooler can study. What modern-day heroes will your child study?
I know by experience that homeschooling a child with learning differences or learning disabilities can be a challenge.
One of my children had dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, and a bit of childhood ADD-inattentive. Fortunately for me I had training as a counselor and my mother, Dr. Rose Kelleremann, was an educational psychologist. I had good support and lots of ideas.
God made each child to have gifts and a special place in the universe. Homeschool parents have the opportunity to help their children discover and develop these gifts. My son is creative, visual, and loves movies. His strengths are in story-writing, art, silliness, and (as we learned over time) filmmaking. In elementary school, he told and drew stories, he scribbled pictures, he reveled in silliness.
Today, he's an education major at Lancaster Bible College. All his strengths from childhood give him sparkle in his studies.
My son's dyslexia was a weakness because it hampered his ability to read. We worked on compensating for his weakness by using sight words instead of phonics. (Our favorite books for sight reading are Mary Manz Simon's Bible Stories.) We would read these aloud together (me reading just a little louder than him), pointing to each word as we read. We read over and over, for days, until the book (and each individual word in it) was memorized. Simon's books revisit those same words so there is much re-enforcement.
To help with his auditory processing struggles, we found a 1904 diction book that was filled with ditties and rhymes. We memorized and said them daily, enunciating consonants carefully and emphasizing leaving space between words. Here's one of our favorites: Round and round the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran.
He had just enough ADD to feel awkward in social settings, so I worked with him on 10 basic social skills. (They can be found in our book Social Skills for Children- just $3.99, btw.) This paid off with his ability to employ skills and make friends at church, AWANA, karate, and co-op
3) Use multi-sensory techniques
We did lots multi-sensory learning. We did hands-on work with reading: making letter and word cards of glue and glitter, felt, and sandpaper. We wrote in shaving cream, finger paint, and sand. We rubber banded 4 color-makers together to write multi-colored letters and words. We sang spelling words. (We hopscotched math problems, too.) It took a long time to get the basics down. But it clicked in around 3rd grade.
4) Have fun
My son specialized in silliness. We made sure to give him plenty of time for fun (this often included interrupted lessons while he and siblings made up noisy conversations between imaginary characters).
Of course. "Nuff said. (But if you'd like some encouragement look at our prayer journals- activities to help expand your prayer life.)
To this day, my son leans into his strengths to enhance his success at college and just to have fun with his friends. Here are 2 of his You Tubes, one from his college lesson on Ralph Waldo Emerson, one with his buddy, Jake, spoofing Lord of the Rings:
Sabrina shared some important skills in this classic post.
Parenting a child with special needs is no easy job, and I have the utmost respect for these parents. I also have the responsibility to equip my own kids to understand how to appropriately interact with peers with special needs. Here are some suggestions for helping young people become confident in reaching out to build relationships with peers who may look, sound, communicate, process information or move differently than they do.
* PRAY. One of the things we need to pray for our own kids is that they would grow in love for others, and grow in understanding those who may be confusing or frustrating to them in their flesh. By beginning with prayer (in this endeavor, and in all things) we are going to the Source of all love, and asking Him to enlarge our children's hearts to extend love to all men.
* TALK AHEAD OF TIME. Sometimes we fail to talk to our kids about physical disabilities, speech impairments, autism, developmental disabilities, or the myriad other challenges that are a part of everyday life for many individuals but may not occur in our own immediate world. Intentionally introduce the subject of ministering in love to people with special needs in your homeschool. Use video, books, and conversation to honestly and fearlessly explore the topic.
Allow your kids to begin with using whatever words they need to in expressing their feelings when they think about interacting with someone with special needs. If they say things like "weird," or "scary" or "embarrassing" in this private conversational context, they are not being mean -- they have to be able to honestly articulate how they feel in their flesh in order to recognize that they need something more, something from God, in order to deal with relationships that are out of their comfort zone. When you make it safe for them to admit that they are intimidated by certain situations, you can then lovingly show them that Christ is our strength in weakness, and that we need to ask Him to equip us to reach out in love, to change our view of people who are different than us, and to teach us to minister to them in His love.
If I wait until a situation is unexpectedly thrust upon my child, I have done him (and the person with special needs) a great disservice. My child needs to be equipped through conversation and research before the situation is in front of him.
* BE DIRECT. Every individual with special needs is just that: an INDIVIDUAL with special needs. There is no cookie-cutter that can be applied to a person because of a diagnosis. The vast majority of people with special needs appreciate direct questions like, "Is there a way that I can help with this, or do you prefer that I stay out of your way?" Asking the parent of a child with special needs very basic questions like, "What kinds of help may I offer your child?" will do more equipping in a few moments than weeks of fumbling and fearing offense.
If the child or parent is taken aback by your question, don't be offended. That is simply your answer; this is a person for whom help from strangers or casual acquaintances is not desired. Typically this type of reaction is NOT what you will get, but sometimes an individual or family is in the process of emotional adjustment to the special needs, and may not be comfortable to talk about it with you. If you have asked the question in love, you can rest assured that you have not really offended, only offered help and been told that it is not needed at this time.
* DON'T CRINGE. If your children are young, they are likely to ask something of a person with special needs (especially visible physical disabilities) that may make you want to cringe. Of a person with atrophied limbs, "Why do you legs look like that?" is not an insult, it's a genuine request for information. The person who is dealing with those atrophied limbs every moment of every day is likely to simply answer the question. Don't make the situation complicated by jumping in to answer for them unless they seem unwilling to answer for themselves. Following up with a gentle word of appreciation for the information validates everyone involved.
* GET SPECIFIC WHEN YOU NEED TO. An ongoing relationship (a co-op, a Sunday school class, a drama production) with someone with special needs will result in specific challenges where a solution will not be obvious. Pray, take a deep breath, and deal with them specifically when they arise. The longer you put off asking the awkward question or suggesting the delicate suggestion the harder it will be for everyone.
A hygiene issue arose in a play I directed in which a teenage student on the autism spectrum was unable to process my instructions to the whole cast about being diligent in using deodorant when we were working up a sweat close to one another onstage. (Honestly, our church sanctuary where we held rehearsals was beginning to smell like a locker room!) I had already spoken to the parents to make sure that the student was able to use deodorant, and I knew that the parents had sent a stick in to rehearsal. But group admonitions like, "Wow, guys, we are really work hard here and it's starting to smell like it! May I tactfully suggest we all check our deodorant?" were lost. The response I got was a big smile: "I made sure I put it on when I got out of the shower!"
What to do? How to breathe? The other students were struggling mightily with the situation. I prayed, I took my student leaders in the cast aside privately and explained the new plan to them, and then I turned the challenge into a new cast-bonding activity. In a cast meeting, I explained that as we approached opening night the sweat was getting out of control, and we would have to re-apply deodorant whenever I called for it. Regardless of when you last put it on, it would be an act of cast solidarity to add a little more when asked to. My student leaders piped in with encouragement to everyone - "I make sure I shower and put on deodorant before rehearsal, and I STILL am getting smelly by the end of the first hour. I think re-applying during rehearsal is a good idea."
Guess what? It worked beautifully! "RE-APPLY!!" became a rallying cry for the cast. I would call it out, or one of the student leaders who noticed things "going south" onstage would start it, and before you know it every member of the cast was calling it out in response, marching merrily to their duffle bags to pull out a stick of deodorant. It was the craziest thing; what could have ostracized a student became a rallying point for everyone in the cast.
* ADDRESS YOUR OWN FEARS. Sometimes we struggle to equip our kids to deal appropriately with special needs because we ourselves are uneasy or face fears of our own related to the particular disability or challenge. Be honest with God first about your fears. Then find someone with whom you can share honestly about your struggle. Seek education for yourself via the internet or community resources. Joni and Friends has fantastic resources for understanding individuals with physical disabilities. Autism Help offers good information about spectrum disorders.
One VERY important book for homeschool high schoolers to read is Joni by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is the autobiography of Joni, who was confined to a wheelchair after a diving accident when she was a teenager. She shares about God's redemptive love as she encourages others with her Joni and Friends ministry. Check out our $3.99 study guide to Joni!
What has helped you equip yourself and your homeschoolers to minister lovingly to individuals with special needs?