The Down-and-Dirty Guide to Editing a Great Story (from hours of raw video)

Ever since teaching film at the middle school and high school level I have loved helping students learn the skills to become great filmmakers. I recently got a pretty open-ended question from one of these students on how to turn 4 1/2 hours of video into a story worth watching. This is a topic that is near and dear to me, as I have to do the same thing (on a much bigger scale) in editing Schoolhouse Rocked. Luckily, the fundamentals are the same, and learning these fundamentals is the key to becoming a great filmmaker.

4 1/2 hours of footage is a lot! This young filmmaker had recently gone on a mission trip and had come back with hours of assorted footage, people talking and sharing their experiences, people working, kids playing, etc. Now it was time to turn this footage into a film – and one that is actually worth watching. This is no small task, but by following some simple steps it can be done.

How long is too long? Filmmakers are usually tempted to think in terms of “how long should the final video be” when approaching projects like this. This is the wrong question to be asking, and will lead to the wrong outcome. Whether a video is fifteen seconds long (most commercials), or four hours long (Gone With The Wind, The Ten Commandments, Dances With Wolves), what really matters is STORY!!! I have seen completely boring 15 second commercials, and have been completely engaged through four-hour epics. Story makes all the difference.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

1) Watch ALL the footage

Sit down with a notebook and pen and watch every grueling minute of footage and take great notes (mark clip names and start and stop times with specific notes about content and story). This makes all the difference in getting this much footage edited.

Look and listen for STORIES! You want to listen to everyone and be looking for unifying threads of story that run throughout the dialog. It is great if you can tell a single story with a start, middle, and end (a 3-act structure). It is better if it has dynamics (rising and falling action, rising and falling emotions), It is best if this single story can be told by several people (not repeated, but multiple viewpoints unified into a single story). Story is king!

2) Once you have your story in mind and have great notes, it is time to start the ROUGH edit. (We’ll get back to that “rough” bit in a minute)

Only bring the clips in to your project that you know you need, and use folders to organize clips. I use the following folders to start every project: Music, Titles, Story (broken into subfolders by character and camera/angle), b-roll, and behind-the-scenes (not always necessary). This way you don’t have to scroll through miles of files to find what you need. I create all the folders first, even if they don’t have content yet, because I know I will need them.

3) Edit dialog first.

Don’t even worry too much about visuals. As long as the footage isn’t a mess, get the dialog edited. Use good headphones and listen critically. Make sure that pauses at cuts are natural (not too long or too short), and make sure there are no pops at the edits (use crossfades or ramp the volume down and then up for the next clip). Make sure that there is no distracting noise (wind, hums, static, etc. – don’t be afraid to use noise reduction, but don’t overuse it. If you can hear the noise reduction you are using too much).

Once you have the story put together in dialog, EQ, compress, and mix the audio to get the levels and sound right. I usually try to get my dialog peaking at about -6db on the meters, and pretty heavily compressed. If you don’t do this viewers won’t be able to hear it on little laptop speakers. You want it pretty loud (get to know your compressor well!)

4) Think about music REALLY early.

This is almost as important as the dialog. While the dialog will make the story, the music will set the mood for the story. Pick carefully. Listen to lots of music and choose something that will set the proper tone.

Drop your music into the edit sequence early and listen to it while you cut. If you can, cut to the music (put cuts on the beat). Cutting to the music is more effective with uptempo songs, but works on slower stuff too.

You don’t need music through every minute of your edit, but all your music should work together, and you should open and close with music.

Watch your levels. Dialog is your primary audio (unless you are doing a music video or montage sequence), so make sure every word can be heard clearly. If not, the music is too loud.

5) Once your dialog and music are edited it’s time to work on picture.

Since your dialog is edited, much of the picture edit should be done. Now it’s time to make it look good. If there is an edit while one person is talking, switch to another camera angle or use b-roll over the cut so that you don’t see the person’s head jerk.

Look for b-roll that enhances your story. Don’t be afraid to slow down b-roll. Most b-roll looks better slowed down (I always try to shoot my b-roll at 120 fps to slow it down in post)

Use “J” and “L” cuts to bring some excitement to the edit. Have someone start talking during b-roll, then cut to them, or start on them talking and then cut to b-roll.

6) Cut rough, then polish! (Here’s the scoop on that “rough” business – This should actually be point #2, but it is a bit easier to understand here. Just remember to implement it at point #2)

This is one of the hardest skills to master. People tend to want to polish every cut as they make it. DON’T! Make a really rough cut first, just to get the story put together, then go back and polish one thing at a time (first dialog and music, then visual edit timing, transitions and effects, then color). This not only helps you get a good story put together more quickly, but it makes your computer run better throughout the edit, because you save the heavy lifting (audio plugins, transitions, effects, and color correction) for last. Learn this well and early and you will thank me for the rest of your career!

7) Less is more!

Nothing screams “amateur: more than a million crazy transitions, weird color correction, bad effects, etc. I used to tell my film students that they could only use cuts and dissolves in their edits. Cuts are appropriate for most edits. Dissolves signal that you are in a new time or place, or that the subject or topic has changed. I use fades to and from black (and occasionally white) for beginnings and endings (when appropriate), Mostly cuts for all normal edits, and dissolves to signal some big change. That’s pretty much it, unless there is a really important stylistic reason to do something different.

Note: I’m not saying you can never use that cool “glitch” transition, or a zoom or wipe transition when appropriate, but they have to be APPROPRIATE and serve the story! Unless you are editing action movies, extreme sports, or music videos you will find that you can get by with cuts and dissolves 99.999% of the time. I challenge you to develop this discipline, master the art of the edit using cuts and dissolves, and when the time is right for that special “page curl” or “star iris” transition you’ll know it (hint: the time will never be right for either).

8) Don’t forget titles and graphics

Us appropriate opening titles and closing credits to put the finishing polish on your edit. This little step takes it from “home video” to “short film”. Remember rule #7 – less is more! Use simple titles and look like a pro.

Dig Deeper

Backstage Pass members can listen to the following talks I recently gave at the Miracle Mountain Ranch Photography and Media Summit. Both classes are around an hour and include presentation slides, notes, and additional resources.

https://www.schoolhouserocked.com/members/filmmaking-masterclass-garritt-hampton-introduction-to-videography/

https://www.schoolhouserocked.com/members/filmmaking-masterclass-garritt-hampton-hollywood-worldview/

A HOMESCHOOL Documentary?!?

On December 15th, 2016 our family left California in a truck and travel trailer and set out across America to make a homeschool documentary. The irony of this situation wouldn’t be lost on anyone who knew our family just a few years before. You see, like so many other homeschool families, we were NEVER going to homeschool! 

The Backstory

Prior to having children we bought into nearly every homeschooling misconception. Our limited exposure to homeschooling enforced the notion of socially maladjusted, poorly educated kids, taught by ill-equipped and under-qualified moms. We believed that missing out on the classroom dynamic and structure of school would lead to poor academic outcomes, and that without a “real” diploma, college acceptance was a gamble. Not to mention, why would we want to spend all day with our kids? We said many times we would never do that to our kids or our ourselves, but God laughs in the face of “Never”!

After 11 years of marriage we had our first daughter and our perspective began to change. We wanted to do what was best for our kids and for our family. Parenting was a great responsibility that we accepted whole-heartedly.

As our oldest daughter approached school age we began to carefully consider our options for her education. The public schools in our area weren’t even a consideration. We knew that we could not allow our daughter to be subjected to the indoctrination that she would experience there. We didn’t believe that our short time with her at night and on the weekends would be sufficient to uncover and undo the anti-Biblical teaching she would undoubtedly receive during the week. Additionally, we were in an area where the public schools weren’t even safe. At the time, we would have preferred to put her in a Christian school, but we just couldn’t afford this option. As a last resort, we thought that maybe we would give homeschooling a try for a year, and see how it went.

Thankfully, God changed our hearts. Before we even began homeschooling, we met with a pastor and his wife who homeschooled their kids. They began to encourage us and tried to unravel many of the misconceptions we believed. They also encouraged us to attend a homeschool convention; an experience that was both eye-opening and extremely encouraging, as we saw how many “normal” people homeschooled. It was then that we began to learn about the very real benefits of homeschooling.

Six years into our one-year experiment we were huge fans of homeschooling! We were blessed to have participated in great co-ops and a fantastic Classical Conversations community, experienced support and encouragement from most of our family and friends, and our children had benefitted from the excellent academic and social opportunities that were available to them. We were enjoying the freedom to travel and to tailor school to the strengths of our children and to the needs of our family. We savored the blessing and privilege of integrating God’s Word into every subject and weaving a Christian worldview into every aspect of “school.” While we experienced many of the challenges faced by other homeschool families, we were extremely privileged to see the benefits as well, and we desired to share these benefits with others.

Time For Change – BIG CHANGE!

After many years of working in Hollywood, I knew it was time for a change. Heavy travel and long hours on set had cost me precious time with my wife and young daughters, an my health and family were suffering. I loved my job and the people I worked with, but I could see that a continued career in Hollywood would have grave costs. It was not worth trading my family and health for my job, so without a back-up plan, with only the conviction that something had to change, I quit. When I called Yvette to tell her the news, she could only respond, “Praise God”!

In the months that followed, God showed his great power. He provided a perfect new job for me and began to lay the foundation for Schoolhouse Rocked. I would teach film at a local Christian school and produce short documentary content for our church. While it was only a one-year commitment, we knew that this was exactly where God wanted us. He had met our immediate needs, but He was also preparing us for what was to come.

Toward the end of the school year, God provided another opportunity that set the wheels in motion for Schoolhouse Rocked. A well-loved fellow teacher asked if I would film some b-roll for his sister’s student film. As her final project for her film degree at Biola University, she was making a short documentary on homeschooling and needed a few shots of this teacher, himself a homeschool graduate, teaching his AP History class. I gladly agreed, and when I saw the finished film I became excited about the opportunity to encourage prospective homeschoolers through a feature film. I was reminded of what an impact the documentary, Indoctrination had had on Yvette and me in our own decision to homeschool. This young film school graduate had no intention of making a feature-length documentary, but this experience had birthed a desire in me to see this film become a reality.

At the end of the year my contract with the school and church ended and it was time to seek God’s guidance on the next chapter of our lives. Our family had long felt prompted to leave California and believed that this period of transition provided the perfect opportunity. Reluctant to pursue a new job in California, and feeling increasingly convinced that we needed to make a documentary on homeschooling, we laid a fleece before the Lord. We prayed and asked that if it was God’s will that our family make this film He would make it abundantly clear. We knew that we would have to travel to film the movie and we knew we didn’t have the money to travel – let alone make a movie – so we asked for God to answer clearly. If He wanted us to make Schoolhouse Rocked we would need to sell our house. We listed the house and put it in God’s hands. The next day we had a nearly-full-price offer. We took that as confirmation! While that first deal didn’t go through, the house sold quickly and God continued to work. We started pre-production on Schoolhouse Rocked: The Homeschool Revolution.

Next, we would have to sell everything in our house. We had a house full of furniture and possessions that certainly wouldn’t fit in an RV. Right away, friends began to call and ask if we were selling things. One family bought most of our furniture. Our cars quickly sold as well. To get rid of the little stuff – dishes, decorations, books – we held an estate sale. We advertised that the sale would start at 7:00 am on a Friday, and by 6:30 there were people lined up on the sidewalk. We opened up our house and moved a few items onto the lawn. By 2:00 almost everything was gone. The next day we had a few tables of odds and ends on the front lawn, and at the end of the day there was nothing left.

With no home and no stuff it would be easy to travel to film the documentary, but now we needed an RV. We had been looking at travel trailers, 5th wheels, and motorhomes for weeks to determine what would suit our family best. Again, God provided perfectly. One day we got a phone call from some friends who asked if we were still looking for a trailer. It turned out that just a few miles away a family had the perfect trailer for us, and a truck to go with it! We had been looking all over Southern California and the perfect truck and trailer were just across town.

Making a Homeschool Movie

Honestly, had God not confirmed his call in so many ways I don’t know if we would have done this. We left family and friends and a church we loved in California. We left our home and a lifetime of stuff accumulated in our 22 years of marriage. We went out not knowing how God would provide, but certain that He would, because he had given so many clear confirmations. He has proven Himself over and over again. Not only has He provided for our family in miraculous ways, He has provided for the movie in miraculous ways.

When we set out to film Schoolhouse Rocked we had a wish list of people we wanted to interview, but almost no connections and no idea how we were going to get in touch with these people. God opened doors! It was only by His amazing power that we were able to get interviews with such an amazing cast. He provided exactly who we needed to tell a great story and to make a strong case for homeschooling.

Filming for the movie has taken place all over the country. This has provided a very broad view of homeschooling across the United States and has allowed us to build a base of support in several different regions. We have also been blessed to have made great friends in several states.

In March we finished filming the last of the interviews for the movie. Now the real fun begins. While we will still shoot a bit more b-roll (shots of kids and families living life and doing school), most of our time over the next several months will be spent editing and fundraising for post-production and marketing. We are planning for a nationwide theatrical release with Fathom Events in 2019, and a release like this takes a substantial budget and network of marketing partners. We are extremely thankful for our great sponsors, generous donors, and the marketing partners who have already provided excellent support.

We are thankful that God has called us to this important task. It has been a privilege for our family to work on this important project, but more importantly, we know He will be glorified by the film and many families will be blessed and strengthened through Schoolhouse Rocked.

Support this important project

Schoolhouse Rocked will encourage new families to homeschool and equip homeschooling families to start strong and finish well. It will break down common myths and misconceptions and answer important questions about homeschooling. We need your help to advance the homeschooling movement through this important film! 

Donate – Your donation goes directly to production on the film.

What About Secular Homeschoolers?

A few months ago I received an email from a woman wondering if Schoolhouse Rocked was appropriate for secular homeschool families. I appreciated the question and felt like it warranted a sincere and thoughtful response, so I sat down and gathered my thoughts and emailed her back. The question continued to gnaw at me, so I kept my response, knowing that at some time I should address the issue in a more public way.

As I am sure you have noticed, many of the posts on the Schoolhouse Rocked website and Facebook page emphasize a Christian worldview. This will continue to be the case, as my wife and I are Christians. We are in our seventh year of homeschooling our own daughters, and one of the main reasons we chose to homeschool was to provide a great Biblical education for our girls. Schoolhouse Rocked is an outgrowth of our love of homeschooling, our belief that it is important and beneficial, and our desire to support and encourage other homeschooling families. We feel privileged to have the opportunity to make the movie and because it is such a personal project it will obviously be colored by our beliefs and values. Additionally, many, though not all, of the cast members are Christian leaders in the homeschooling movement and their faith has influenced their contributions to the film.

While the film will have a Christian point of view, the majority of the content will benefit all homeschoolers, as it will break down many of the misconceptions about homeschooling and will provide practical advice and encouragement for homeschooling families.

In Hollywood, “faith-based films” is a politically correct catchphrase for movies like Schoolhouse Rocked. There is no doubt that the film is faith-based, but even more to the point it is a Christian film. Schoolhouse Rocked will hold up Biblical values and will encourage parents to train up their children in Christian morals, values, and ethics. These are many of the same universally beneficial principles that our country was founded on (love your neighbor as yourself, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t covet, don’t lie, etc.), and that for several generations have been the foundation of a prosperous, safe, and truly “tolerant” society – one which allowed for secular families (and families from every other religious background) to prosper alongside Christian families. These same values have been largely abandoned in the past 50 years in society, leading to widespread cultural decay, unchecked immorality, and rampant violence in spite of ever-increasing government legislation. Public schools have reflected this great societal shift and have become unsafe, academically ineffective, and intolerant “safe spaces” so obviously lacking in value that secular families are now pulling their kids out in droves.

It is our goal to empower all homeschool families to better enjoy the benefits of homeschooling by clearly outlining the common challenges and then providing real-world advice and access to resources to overcome these challenges. In an effort to encourage the support of family and friends of homeschoolers, the movie will also dispel many myths that can lead to opposition to homeschooling. Finally, the movie will provide heart-felt encouragement from real people who have experienced the common struggles and blessings of homeschooling. We believe that by providing a realistic picture of the benefits, challenges, and real-world outcomes of homeschooling, by disseminating wise advice and valuable resources, and by offering heart-felt encouragement we can effectively carry out our mission.

Schoolhouse Rocked doesn’t just give lip service to the homeschool revolution. We believe that we are at the leading edge of a very real revolution in education, which will provide enormous societal benefits. Therefore, we want to provide valuable tools for current homeschoolers and encourage the next wave of families to join the revolution. Along with the film, SchoolhouseRocked.com will offer many hours of free and subscription content, including videos, articles, product reviews, and recommendations to equip the next generation of world changers.

It may surprise you to find out we didn’t set out to make a Christian homeschool movie. When we started pre-production on Schoolhouse Rocked we were excited about the opportunity to advocate for homeschooling and point families in the right direction to get started, knowing that a large majority of homeschooling families were Christian, but that there was also a very large contingent of secular families and families from other religious backgrounds who were a part of this revolution in education. The reasons for choosing to homeschool are many and varied. Each homeschooling family exhibits a commitment to training their own children that is no less resolute and requires no less sacrifice or determination than that of any other family. While the worldview, educational philosophy, and goals of every homeschool family are different, every homeschooling family can benefit from heartfelt encouragement grounded in experience, excellent resources, and the generously shared wisdom of experts. That is what we set out to share, and while we did not initially set out to make a Christian film, we were never opposed to it. Like many documentaries, we were not sure how the story would evolve over time. As filming progressed it quickly became apparent that Christian principles would be central to the story, as they figured so heavily in many of the interviews we conducted, as can be seen in the example below.


Andrew Kern – Seek Ye First

I hope that Schoolhouse Rocked will be a valuable resource and encouragement for you. Our mission with the film, website, and Facebook page is to encourage and equip homeschooling families to start strong and finish well. We believe that homeschooling is one of the most practical ways a family can invest in their children’s future, and we are encouraged to see the growth in the homeschooling movement and the wealth of resources available to homeschooling families. While many may consider the growing homeschool movement to be a simple response to the decline of public schools, we believe that it signals something more important and valuable, namely a desire for families to take personal responsibility for the training of their children. It is one thing to complain about public schools, it is another thing entirely to make the great sacrifices and investments of time and effort to homeschool your children. We believe that this change of hearts and commitment to our children will yield great results for our society and culture as these kids become adults and leaders.

That said, we (Garritt and Yvette Hampton) are Christians and we are committed to working for the glory of God in all we do (knowing we fail many times, but thankful he uses unworthy and unqualified people to do His work). When we started we dedicated the project to the Lord, set out to make it for His glory, and asked for His blessing and supernatural provision. He has provided and continues to provide in miraculous ways. He is being glorified!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash

Photo by London Scout on Unsplash

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Marketing Vs. Advertising – How Do They Differ, or Do They?

If you own a small business, one of the most important responsibilities you have is generating business. In an effort to do just that, you need to promote your product or service.

There are a variety of ways to promote a business. Some methods are more creative than others. Most can be categorized under two main headings: marketing and advertising. We’ve all heard those terms thousands of times, but do we really know what they mean? Are they the same or different? Does it really matter? Do they both produce the same results? Can we expect a return on investment from both?

Let’s take a quick pop-quiz… look at the items below and determine if they are marketing or advertising:

  • Billboard along the interstate
  • Facebook page, Twitter & Instagram posts
  • Bi-monthly ad in a local newspaper
  • Promoted Facebook posts
  • Digital banners on various websites

What do you think…are these examples of marketing or advertising? Well, before we get to the answer, let’s define what marketing and advertising are so we know for sure.

Marketing is the action of finding your target buyer and giving them the experience of your product or service.

How about advertising? What is advertising really? Advertising is exposing your brand. It’s really that simple.

So, now that we have defined the two, let’s take another look at the pop-quiz above. Do all these items allow the target buyer to experience the product or service? No, they do not. Therefore, all the items listed above are examples of advertising. They all expose the brand through different avenues but none of them actually allow a potential customer to experience the product or service directly.

Here are a few examples of ways a current and/or potential customer can experience your product or service:

  • A tire company hosts a driving event where dealers drive on the tires and compare them to competitive brands.
  • A drink brand offers free samples to shoppers in the grocery store.
  • A plumber hosts a demonstration at a home show where he shows attendees how to repair a small pipe leak. Attendees are challenged to try it themselves.
  • A local dentist speaks at a Rotary meeting where he explains the latest technology in teeth cleaning.

All of these examples offer customers a chance to experience a product or get to know the personality of the person offering a service. There is much more interaction with these examples than there are with the advertising examples. Remember, marketing is about the experience. Marketing also provides an opportunity to measure your return on investment more accurately than most advertising. It’s a challenge to determine how many sales are directly connected to a billboard along the interstate. However, you can measure how many drinks you sold at the store during the time you shared the free samples.

The reality is, anyone who has a business should spend 50% of their time and effort related to marketing. The administration, product development, invoicing, staff training, sales, etc. should not equal more than 50% of your time and energy so you can spend the additional 50% on marketing.

One last thing to think about when it comes to advertising. Times have changed in a very dramatic way as it relates to the effectiveness of advertising. Take the DVR for instance. Besides recording your favorite shows or games, what do we all love about the DVR? We can skip the commercials!

Are you familiar with Pandora music service? How do they make money? Your first assumption is probably advertising. That is only partially correct. Their main revenue is generated by memberships that allow the listener access to ad-free music.

We now live in a time where the public is willing to spend their hard-earned money to avoid your advertising. On many occasions, ads make us mad. Think about your initial reaction to online pop-up ads. Do you actually click on them and say, “Oh, that’s awesome! Even though you just completely interrupted me and invaded my space, I’ll buy your product now.” No, most of us get upset and now have a negative opinion of that company. Something to think about…

So, back to the original question in the headline. I hope you now have a clearer understanding of what marketing and advertising is and how they do indeed differ from each other.

 

Written by John B. Robinson with Purple Monkey Garage… Fixing Businesses and Repairing Lives.

The Business and Entrepreneurship section of the Schoolhouse Rocked blog is brought to you by

Photos by James Sutton and Kate Trysh on Unsplash.com

What a Year!

Yes, we know it’s already the middle of February, but today is tax day in the Hampton household. That means that we have spent the past few days (very long days and late nights) pouring over our receipts and records for 2017. Preparing for our tax appointments is always a lot of work, but this year it gave us a great opportunity to reflect on what God has done in our lives over the past year. A receipt from the Billy Graham Library reminded us of the great friends we have made and the wonderful families who have hosted us in and around Charlotte. $25 in road tolls and a $20 parking receipt from Washington DC reminded us of the fun we had visiting our nation’s capital and the great friends we made in Virginia, and how VERY expensive it is to drive and park in DC! A ticket to the Andy Griffith Museum reminded us of the fun we have had interviewing and podcasting with Durenda Wilson, and the few days of much needed rest we were able to get at the Wilson Cottage in Mount Airy. There were dozens of these reminders. 2017 was a great year!

In the spirit of looking back we want to share some of the amazing things God has done, and is doing, with Schoolhouse Rocked. When we started production on this movie we knew that it would only be by His mighty hand that we would be able to finish it, and that would mean He would get all the glory! He has shown Himself worthy of that glory as he has led us through production, opened doors, and provided in miraculous ways.

My favorite screen capture from our first shoot day.

While we started pre-production a few months earlier, our first official shoot day was September 17, 2016. At the time we didn’t even have a name for the movie, we didn’t have any interviews lined up, and we didn’t really know anyone in the homeschooling world, outside of our city. Still, we set up lights, cameras, and sound in the living room of our house in Lancaster, California and Yvette started talking about our family’s homeschool journey. That day we shot about an hour of video with Yvette and a great interview with our oldest daughter Brooklyn. If you have seen the first official trailer for Schoolhouse Rocked you have seen and heard some of what we shot that day.

Just a few months later, by the middle of December, we had filmed interviews in Washington, Oregon, and Southern California. We had filmed at the Masters University, a Classical Conversations community, and on the streets in Downtown Portland (these interviews were used in the short film, The Road to Portland and Behind the Scenes on The Road to Portland – our entry into the My RØDE Reel short film competition). These early interviews allowed us to get a teaser trailer put together, which helped us get the word out about Schoolhouse Rocked (which we now had a name for) and allowed us to line up a few more important interviews. So we packed our family into a travel trailer (having sold our house and everything in it) and headed out across this great county to film a movie. Looking back, that first 3 months is a blur, but God was working very quickly and doing mighty things.

We arrived in Georgia a week before Christmas and were blessed to be able to spend the holiday with family and enjoy a bit of down time before picking up production again the first week of January. Our shooting schedule has been pretty crazy ever since. Filming for Schoolhouse Rocked has taken place in 20 states. Not including Facebook live interviews, or b-roll, or the gigantic homeschool graduation we filmed we have interviewed 105 people – homeschool moms and dads, students, graduates, authors, speakers, publishers, educators, activists, and even strangers on the street! You can see a partial list of cast members here. Having been in on the action, I can tell you these interviews are excellent. You will be blessed by the wealth of wisdom and encouragement that these people have shared.

At the same time as all this shooting, God has been raising up a team to bring Schoolhouse Rocked to theaters and to provide homeschooling families with great resources and encouragement on our website and social media sites. We have a great communications team who have begun posting excellent articles on homeschooling. You can see their latest posts here In addition to making a great film to encourage and equip homeschooling families, we are committed to bringing you excellent resources and uplifting articles to help you in your journey. Make sure you are subscribed to our mailing list for exclusive content.


We need your help! A film like Schoolhouse Rocked doesn’t get made without the support of the homeschooling community (and the power of the Almighty Creator of the universe). As you may have heard, recent changes in Facebook algorithms have made it much harder to get the word out. If you believe in this project and want to help, please do two things for us (and a third if you are feeling really generous). First, visit our Facebook page, click the “Like” and “Follow” buttons, and under the “Following” button, click “See First” (Ironically, you won’t actually see us first in your feed, but this will make sure you actually have some chance of seeing our Facebook posts). Second, share this post on Facebook. Third (but only if you’re feeling extra generous), please consider making a donation to support production on the film. We still have a long way to go before the film is fully funded, so every donation makes a difference.

Our Unexpected Homeschool Journey

Unexpected homeschool journey

Unexpected homeschool journey

Over the years, I have seen a lot of people give reasons why they can’t homeschool their children.

I understand it, I really do. Before I started homeschooling my son, I was convinced that I would never be able to do it, either.

Two weeks before my son asked me to homeschool him, I was talking with a couple of ladies I’d recently met. When I found out that they homeschooled, my first reaction was something along the lines of, “I’m sure it’s great, but y’all are nuts.” (Yes, I live in the South!)

Our Unexpected Homeschool Journey

Fast forward a couple of weeks to my son’s first day at his new school. We had recently moved to a new state, and in the process, had vetted a number of schools in the area. We chose the one we felt would be a great match for him.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

It turned out that the educational laws in our new state were very different from those in the state we had moved from. (The first allowed progression by readiness, the second solely by age.) As a result, he was required to repeat almost two full years of school.

He left for his first day of first grade excited to learn; he came home crying and begging me to homeschool him.

I was caught off guard, to say the least. I thought it was probably just the first couple of weeks of school being review and getting a baseline for where all the students were at.

So, like any helpful classroom mom, I offered to tear out worksheets and put them in folders for the coming weeks. You know, to help the teacher out, so her focus could be on her students.

I took all the workbooks home and spent the morning organizing all the pages. I found out my son really had learned all the material two years before.

When I returned that afternoon, I asked the teacher if this was for the first quarter, first semester, or if she had a different schedule.

She proudly announced that the bundle I’d brought back was the work for the entire year and thanked me for getting it done so quickly.

She then took me aside and told me, in no uncertain terms, that my son was “an extreme problem child” and “severely ADHD,” and that he “will be medicated if he is to remain in my classroom.”

I was speechless.

On the way home from school, I told my son that I would be happy to homeschool him. I would need a few days to research the legalities and find materials, but I was willing to do it.

The following week, we started homeschooling. That was 14 years ago, and we have never looked back.

Is Homeschooling Worth It?

I can’t say that the past 14 years have been easy or smooth, but honestly, what parenting Unexpected homeschool journeyjourney is? As parents, we are raising our children to be able to take on challenges, learn from mistakes, and do whatever they can to make a difference.

Those are not things that come easily.

Homeschooling encompasses all of this. I like to describe it as “parenting with academics thrown in.” Again, this does not come easily.

It is, however, worth it in every way.

My son is now 20. He is a senior in college, preparing for his future and pursuing his goals. His path is not a traditional one, but it is one that fits him perfectly.

He has successes and failures, like anyone else, but he actively learns from them and seeks to use them to grow. He also mentors others to do the same.

In choosing things to pursue, the first question he asks is, “God, is this what you want me to do?” If the answer is a clear “yes” or “no,” that is the path he takes. He may not always be comfortable with it, but he is obedient to God’s call.

If the answer is unclear, his second question is, “Is it worth it? Will it make a difference?”

He chooses to spend his time doing what will bring the truth of Christ to the people he’s given to reach. That is something that is rarely easy, but it’s always worth it.

To me, this is worth every minute of lost sleep, every headache over which curriculum to choose.

It is worth the in-depth discussions that kept me researching and the silly times of just hanging out.

The Most Important Job

There is no more important job that I could have been doing over the past decade and a half. I wasn’t always sure of it at the time – we never are in the midst of the task – but looking back, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that homeschooling my son was well worth it.

Are you “in the midst” right now, wondering if you’re making a difference? Please, let me be the one to tell you that you are.

Everything you do, whether it seems large or small, is making an impact on your children’s lives. This is an impact that will go far beyond what you can now imagine.

You’ve got this, mama. You’re making a difference that will be felt for years to come. Be encouraged, be strengthened, and be present with your kids. It’s worth it.

Jennifer Duncan Helping Hand HomeschoolWritten by Jennifer Duncan from Helping Hand Homeschool