Murray Homeschool Academy
Last year, my kids Anaya, Shaun, and Jared, participated in the 6 month Indie Memphis Crew Up teen film program. After putting in over 100 hours of planning, writing, casting, filming, and editing, Anaya (Writer, Director, Actor, Editor), Shaun (Writer, Actor, Boom Mic, Editor), and Jared (Writer, Cinematography) completed their first-ever award-winning short film "Amorphous."
This short film took so much work and this blog series "And...Scene" will give you an idea of how much time and effort was put into this really cool project.
Day 1 of Filming: We had all our teen actors outdoors in the hot southern sun. We were able to find a location at a beautiful home in Memphis that had a gorgeous wooded backyard. We arrived to set up around 7:30 a.m. and finished filming before dinner.
Day 2 of Filming: The setting took place in the basement of our public library. With one adult actor and all the teen actors filming scenes in the library's stairwell, basement, and office. The crew used the Black Magic camera and lots of lighting to create the overall suspenseful feel of the movie.
Day 3 of Filming: The setting was a conference room with all adult actors. It was exciting for the crew to use the camera dolly and chairs to create different cinematic angles.
The essence of cinema is editing. It's the combination of what can be extraordinary images of people during emotional moments or images in a general sense put together in a kind of alchemy.
Francis Ford Coppola
Once filming was complete, the team had two weeks to edit and submit the film to the Indie Memphis Youth Film Festival. Shaun was the lead editor and used Adobe Premiere Pro as his choice of software.
However, Anaya spent even more hours getting everything just right and to her liking. Let me just say, as an observer, editing is a very tedious process. I am so proud of how they created such a believable and suspenseful product.
In the following video, Anaya shares the job description of an editor and just how important their role is to every film project.
For two weeks during the editing process, the kids' film mentor, Kimel, had no idea how the film was being stitched together. She stepped back during this process, and the kids handled everything.
Anaya, Shaun, and Jared were so happy when Kimel and her mom were able to view the finished product. They sat at the edge of their chairs, screamed, and laughed at just the right spots in the film.
Kimel's approval made the film ready for submission to the festival. See the pictures below to see Kimel and her mother's first response!
Seeing it on the big screen at the Indie Memphis Film Festival was so exciting. There were about 100 movie watchers who were given a sheet with all the videos in the Crew Up category. Sadly, Anaya had covid and was unable to attend, so I used the Marco Polo App, so I could record live, and she could watch with us in the theatre.
When their film ended, it received a loud applause which was a great sign. The competition was fierce, and the other Crew Up teams created some incredible films. However, the kids were voted "Audience Choice Award" which was an amazing honor!
They felt so good to know that the audience selected their movie in first place! It was such an affirming moment, and the kids look forward to making more films in the future!
Click here to watch "Amorphous." and check out the bloopers! Make sure to like and subscribe to Anaya's film channel and leave an encouraging comment.
Just in case you missed them--please read the first two blog posts in this series to get the full scoop on the film project:
"And...Scene! (Part 1/3)"
"And...Scene! (Part 2/3)"
From left to right: Jared Murray, Anaya Murray, Kimel Fryer, Shaun Murray
In 2021, I had the kids apply for the Indie Memphis Crew Up program for the second time. The first year they were not approved, but this time, they were accepted into the 2022 cohort of young filmmakers! What's really cool about this program is that the teens are paired with a local filmmaker who mentors them in all things filmmaking.
Anaya, Shaun, and Jared were paired with Kimel Fryer, a local independent filmmaker and producer. Kimel operated as a producer of the feature film "Life Ain't Like the Movies" (currently on the Amazon and Tubi networks). In addition to a mentor, Indie Memphis committed to giving the team $500 for the film budget.
Kimel mentored the kids for six months and literally spent two-three hours every other Saturday helping them plan their film. They spent over 100 hours educating themselves on filmmaking and writing short film scripts. Initially, they brainstormed plot ideas and then created the storyline.
Next, they wrote and edited the script.
After the script was complete, the team researched and scouted out film locations.
Location Scouting for "Amorphous"
Once the team settled on the sites, they had to find actors. They organized and implemented the casting calls and selected cast and crew members. The kids were surprised to have so many local actors sign up for the auditions.
Most of the adults had no idea Shaun, Jared, and Anaya were teenagers because they handled the process so professionally.
The hands-on learning was incredible.
Behind the scenes video on the casting call process for "Amorphous"
Watching Anaya, Shaun, and Jared work together was a beautiful thing to observe. They created an award-winning suspense thriller short film, "Amorphous."
The plot is about five teenagers who are chosen to beta-test a new VR game from a mysterious tech company. Tasked to play what they believe is a simple game of "Hide and Seek," the seemingly easy game becomes more than what they bargained for.
Read the final blog post of this series, And...Scene! (Part 3/3) to get the link to the film "Amorphous." Make sure to like, subscribe, and leave a comment on Anaya's YouTube channel.
Photo by Pixabay
When my kids were in middle school, they would write movie scripts with their friends and shoot short videos. They spent hours working as a group to complete their script.
As their creative writing teacher, I loved it when they spent their free time working on the movie script. But truth be told, once they handed it to me to proofread--I was honestly shocked at the horrible writing! Lol!
The plot made absolutely no sense, and you could tell the boys were heavily involved because, in every other scene there was a fight or battle. But the kids were passionate about the project, so I kept my feelings to myself and let them happily proceed.
The kids discussing plot ideas in the van.
As a family, we have always loved movies. Still, the love of filmmaking died as everyone started focusing on other interests. However, once our family moved to Memphis, I heard about the Indie Memphis Crew Up program--it’s where they pair teens and local filmmakers up to create a film.
I applied immediately, but they were not accepted.
However, I did not give up. In the summer of 2020, I signed Anaya up for a free filmmaking camp at the library, and she created her first short film with her phone. It was submitted to the Indie Memphis Youth Film Festival, and to our surprise, she won the “Rising Star Award” for her film, "Pen Pal."
Anaya, online, receiving the Indie Memphis Youth Film Festival "Rising Star Award"
Anaya didn't win because "Pen Pal" was a great film. Instead, she won because the film festival jury noticed the thought and effort she put into finishing the project within the one week of camp.
After the festival, to my surprise and wonder, Anaya declared that she wanted to study filmmaking in college! I had no idea that a summer camp could have such an impact on her future. I mean, I knew she loved to perform, but filmmaking was a totally new direction. We were all excited about the journey ahead.
Click here to read part two of this series: "And Scene...Part 2/3"
I have two fantastic twin sons, Shaun and Jared. They are the youngest in the family and are taking their time to develop all interests outside of gaming. Lol!
So many moms of sons who also have daughters have assured me that boys will eventually mature but that it might take a little bit longer than their older sisters. I think they are right!
Pictured from Left to Right: Jayda, Shaun, Jared, and Anaya
"The rational part of a teen's brain isn't fully developed and won't be until age 25 or so." -Rochester Medical Center.
Many have held that birth order definitely impacts behavior, especially if boys are birthed after their sisters. My sons, Shaun and Jared, don't mind their sister's bright lights. In fact, they like the fact that the attention is not on them so they can hide in the shadows.
But they forget that I see them trying to hide and remind them that they have their own light to shine--so no hiding allowed!
To help assist in their growth and personal development, I had Shaun and Jared apply to an all-boy summer intensive computer science camp called "All-Star Code." And they both received an acceptance email! The email stated, "The admissions process this year has been highly competitive, and we are so happy that we're able to deliver this good news! Your application stood out from the rest for its self-reflection, its enthusiasm, and for how you demonstrated your willingness to take risks and embrace failure."
For two months, they spent hours learning Java, how to build a website, and other really excellent computer science skills. They both rose to the occasion, and I didn't even have to remind them to attend the class. They were early to class and responsible for actually completing all homework.
Honestly, I was really impressed with their personal drive. During the school year, I regularly feel like I have to drag them along and pull their teeth to complete a task. But praise God, I saw some tremendous growth this summer! The seeds are starting to germinate, and I see they are headed in the right direction.
On the last day of camp, the boys presented their project, a website informing constituents about their app, "HairWise." They had their presentation down and executed flawlessly. Truth be told, when they put on their dad's suit coat--they didn't even recognize themselves.
I loved seeing the pride on their faces, and they loved looking so professional. Shaun even added glasses for the extra effect! Lol!
So if you are a homeschool parent of teen sons who seem like late bloomers compared to their sisters, I encourage you to take a deep breathe and relax! Even though there are moments when you question if they will ever mature, remember they are steadily changing daily.
Keep loving, encouraging, and correcting them; you'll see the slow and steady growth you've been waiting for.
Watch Shaun & Jared's Full Presentation Below:
The entire family surrounding Jayda--we were all so proud of her!
In May of 2021, I launched my first high school graduate into the world! I started homeschooling Jayda when she was in kindergarten. For years, I dreamed about having a senior in high school.
I pondered whether or not I would do a good job, especially in high school.
I often wondered whether my kids would be as competitive.
I asked questions like, "Will they be able to win academic scholarships?"
And "Will they have successful college careers if they are homeschooled?"
Jayda graduating from homeschool kindergarten!
I'm excited to know that the answer to all of the above questions is "Yes!" With Jayda being the first student to graduate from "Murray Homeschool Academy," I have learned some fundamental principles about homeschooling and how to stand out on college applications that are worth sharing:
#1 Let Your Kids Be Unique. Often there is social pressure to have your kids involved in the same activities as other kids. If everyone is playing soccer, your kid should play too. Or if all the kids are in a particular after-school club, then your kid should get involved.
But the truth of the matter is college admission teams are looking for unique children. Children who have distinct interests and passions. So my advice is to not give in to the pressure. Allow your kids to travel on a different path. It will pay off in the end.
Jayda received her first NCWIT award in Connecticut for her technological achievements.
#2 Don't be afraid to let your child specialize. Jayda chose to pursue the arts and computer science. Most of her activities centered around those two things. She spent so much time on these activities that she gained superior skills. In addition, Jayda earned accolades allowing her to stand out from her peers in the college application process.
#3 Your Child Needs to Show Leadership. Jayda not only pursued art and computer science to grow her knowledge but also took the time to teach others. She taught weekly art classes and free computer workshops for young girls. She also volunteered over 200 hours to help St. Jude hospital develop tech solutions for raising money for the hospital. Pretty cool, right?! Parents, remember that colleges want to see that kids aren't just smart but also passionate about sharing that knowledge with others.
Jayda and Anaya served on the Memphis "Mech Warriors" Robotics Team
#4 Show Your Students Are Academically Challenged. Throughout high school, I made sure that Jayda took Advanced Placement and college-level classes. Due to age restrictions, I had to find online colleges that would allow dual enrollment for freshmen year. In addition, I picked a cover school that offered AP exams at the end of the school year. With this combination, none of the colleges questioned Jayda's academic ability. If you desire your child to win merit scholarships, then make sure the student's transcript shows an academically challenging, unique, and rigorous curriculum.
#5 Let the World Be Your Child's Classroom. For high school, Jayda wasn't active in any homeschool co-op groups. We relied heavily on organizations in our community for volunteer and extra-curricular activities. In fact, the public library was one of the best places to learn about everything in our city for youth. There were so many unique opportunities beyond the local homeschool groups.
In addition, the library was a great way to find community groups that shared Jayda's passions and interests. So get online, research, and find out what's happening locally and nationally. Remember, the internet allows participation in national and international programs without them leaving your home. In fact, Jayda was able to participate with TedEdx youth and was selected to give at TedTalk, which was a stand-out opportunity.
Jayda is now a college freshman, and I'm here to tell you that you can do it! Your homeschooled son or daughter can have an excellent education at home. We had some ups and downs throughout the process, but it all worked out!
I'm thrilled to report that Jayda received a prestigious merit award and thousands of dollars in grants and merit scholarships because of the above principles.
But I saved the best principle for last.
#6 Trust God With the Process! I pray so often about each one of my children. God made my children, and my worldview is that children come already filled with their gifts. It's my job as a parent to see what God has placed inside and to help cultivate their talents into maturity. I'm always asking God for his guidance, and you know what--He comes through with wisdom, insight, and direction every time!
So take each year, one year at a time, and know that you can make it across the graduation finish line with success!
If you follow me on social media than you already know that I enter my kid's into a lot of contests surrounding their interests. Visual Art, writing, singing, and coding contests are usually our area of focus. Although--I would really love it if one of them picked up an interest in film. I'd love for them to create a short film or commercial--but right now no one is biting the bait! 🤣
Anyway, my kids are so busy at home working. learning new skills, and doing all kinds of creative things (some require and some during their free time) and once I realized other people, groups, organizations were interested in their work--I began to have my antennae out for contests for a few of the following reasons:
In the picture above, is my eldest daughter Jayda who I had enter into the New York Times "Coming of Age" Teen contest. Over 5, 500 submissions were entered, and her art piece was selected along with 29 other students for the online and print edition of the newspaper.
She has won other national awards, but this is by far the most prestigious award won in our family and Jayda in particular felt so honored to have her work picked as a memorial of when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a world-wide pandemic.
So I encourage all parents--research contests in your child's specific area of interests--the benefits are pretty amazing!
Click here if you would like to purchase a print of her artwork, "2020 Thoughts" (New York Times Winner) or click the Shop Tab and select Merchandise. All proceeds will go toward her college fund!
P.S. Feel free to check out my Pinterest Board for Contests
What do you get when you add Valentine's Day + Black History Month + a Homeschool Student? Well last month I decided that I wanted to do something special for Valentine's Day and Black History Month, so I partnered with homeschooled artist Keala Venema (one of Jayda's friends). Keala is a senior in high school and together we produced the "Love Knows No Color" product series in my gift shop.
I wanted to bring awareness and acknowledgment in particular to inter-racial couples because at one point in our country's history this type of union was illegal.
The art piece "Loving" and "Love is Love" is to honor the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court (the Warren Court) decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
We all owe so much to those who fought for the rights that we have today!
And if you haven't seen the movie, "Loving" check it out on Netflix--it's so good!
Since releasing the "Bear Learns to Share" series, my daughters and I are learning so much about entrepreneurship. When I released the journals last month with my daughter Jayda---I expected people to love the art for the cover, but I did NOT expect people to ask for prints. I thought that was such a fantastic idea because although I absolutely love to write in journals there are a lot of people who do not.
So because Jayda's art was so well received--prints of all the journal covers can be purchased in my gift shop!
There are some additional goodies in the store so click the "Shop" link in the tab, click the "Shop Merchandise" button and you'll enter the store.
This has been such a wonderful journey---my girls and I are definitely engrossed in "business school!" Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think so please leave a comment below.
African Women's Empowerment Journals (Designed by Ayanna Murray/Cover Art by Jayda Murray)
I have been homeschooling for over a decade and let me tell you---schooling definitely merges with home life so that oftentimes it's hard to distinguish between the two. This year as a homeschool high school course, Jayda and Anaya are both receiving high school credit for publishing their writing and art work. They are learning so much about the entire publishing process--something I never dreamed of learning at their age!
I love how they are able to learn the practical uses of their creative writing and art skills. In the picture above you can see the new journal series that Jayda and I created together. The artwork is just stunning and reflects the beauty of black women everywhere.
I am hoping to partner with Jayda in the New Year to create a multi-ethnic journal line because representation is so important!
P.S. Listen to this podcast if you are interested in learning about some of my creative writing resources that I recommend for homeschool.
I am so lucky to have a very talented and gifted teenage daughter who absolutely loves to draw. Years ago I wrote a post about what got Jayda started towards her love of art and I owe a ton to children's illustrator Brian Pinkney.
After she met him at a children's program held in Mount Vernon, NY she hasn't stopped drawing. That moment literally changed her life.
Take a look at one of her speed drawings:
Jayda has literally been making art non-stop for the last 5 years. It's been amazing to see her progression--just check out her portfolio and you'll be able to see the growth.
As a homeschool mom, I’ve taught so many classes, from science, choir, literature and art being one of my favorite subjects. I loved using techniques from Mark Kistler--he actually has a great YouTube channel for kids that I highly recommend.
As Jayda’s first art teacher, I was the first person to introduce art to her but I never imagined that it would become one of her passions.
So when it came to hiring an illustrator for my first children's book, Jayda was a no-brainer! She took my story “Bear Learns to Share” and look at some of the pictures she developed:
Murray Homeschool Academy
I have been a homeschool educator since 2008. Here I blog about our educational experience and hope you can learn something from our journey.