Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PBS Kids' Writers' Contest 2015

Our Mary (6) loves writing, whether it is simple penmanship or leaving me numerous notes or writing actual stories. A few months ago, after hearing of a little friend who had won a poetry contest, I was inspired to mention the concept of writing contests to our children. John wasn't interested but Mary felt inspired.

We read about various writing contests for children online and found that our local PBS station was having a short story contest for grades K through third. Mary wrote and illustrated her story, following the various rules about word count, number of illustrations, and so forth, and sent it off months ago, with my repeated caution that we must expect that she wouldn't win anything. I declared that the fun was in the process of entering.

We had forgotten all about it when last weekend, a bland envelope from PBS arrived addressed to Miss Mary. She had won second place in the Kindergarten competition! Mary was overjoyed and this Mama shed tears.

Reading her letter of notification

The "reception and taping" at the WTVI television station were to be held just a few days later on Wednesday.

Our guardian angels were looking out for us on the day of the Big Event. Normally, I am quite the stickler about the fact that mornings are for school time: I do not go on spontaneous errands or change our plans because we are doing school from 9:00 to 11:30, period. But this morning, I felt I simply had to buzz to the grocery store because we were flat out of dishwasher detergent, which couldn't wait, and I couldn't go in the afternoon either. I felt that dishwasher detergent was important enough to lose an hour of school--weird.

Thank God I did because I loaded up the kids and discovered that our car wouldn't start. It turned out that some little person had left on the interior lights and run out the battery. Our roadside service had us fixed up an hour later. But, had I not gone out in the morning, I wasn't going to attempt to drive until we left for the reception. Roadside service could not have helped me quickly enough, my husband was on a business trip, and we would have missed the event!

Thank you, Guardian Angels!

Mary's grandparents are utterly devoted and the type who drive hither and yon to attend all these events of their ten grandchildren. They couldn't attend this one because it was (obviously!) trumped by another grandchild's Confirmation into the Catholic Church at the same time--so they sent flowers! Imagine Mary's stun to receive her very first flowers delivered to the door.

Mary's first flowers

Also imagine the feeling of a stabbing knife in the four-year-old's heart as it had to be clarified to her that these were Mary's flowers, not hers. Pink roses with pink baby's breath in a pink vase! Her preschooler's heart just couldn't withstand it and Margaret was very angry.

Margaret's vase of roses
Now, Chris and I believe it is important not to give all the siblings gifts when one child gets a gift. It's a Very Important Life Lesson--but that doesn't make it any less painful to experience as a child or to watch as a parent. My amazement and joy were great when I got to see another life lesson unfold . . . when my 6- and 8-year-olds later picked a bunch of red roses and pink flowers from our own garden to make up a vase for Margaret.

When so many days I feel like our discipleship is making no difference whatsoever, these moments are like rays of sunshine bursting through the overcast sky.

I brought along a mother's helper to the reception since Chris couldn't be there to help me. She was worth her weight in gold! I was able to have our whole family present (which I wanted) but relax completely. We all witnessed Mary's part of the event, but then I sent the 2- and 4-year-olds outside to play with the mother's helper for the rest of the reception, not having to worry about their running around or shouting during the filming for television. Phew!

Arriving for the reception

We arrived without incident and enjoyed cookies and drinks. Excitement was buzzing in the air!

An impression was made upon me to note the winners who were first generation Americans of obviously immigrant parents for whom English was not their first language. Think of the high priority those families place on pursuing education that their tiny children are winning writing contests in this new land. How well would our children do if we emigrated to India and plunked our kids into the local public school?

Each child was invited up to receive her certificate of award and a tote bag full of prizes from Miss Beverly. Then the child would be asked questions about her story while the camera man filmed for the piece being put together. Mary actually went first, as the Kindergartners were invited up first and the third place winner wasn't present.

At home, I had prepared Mary for some questions, not knowing if she'd be asked any or of what kind. File her answers under 'You Know You're a Homeschooler When . . .'

Mama: "Now, Mary, if she asks what grade you are in, what do you say?"

Mary (worried): "I don't know what grade I'm in!"

Mama: "Honey, you're in Kindergarten. Now, what if she asks what school you attend? What do you say?"

Mary (confidently): "I say that I don't go to school!"

Mama: "Oh, no, dear! You say that you are homeschooled."

Thankfully, Miss Beverly did not ask any of the above questions. But when she asked Mary about some details of the plot of her story, Mary answered with a twinkle in her eye, "You'll just have to read my story to find out!"

We don't anticipate ever seeing the short piece on television. Miss Beverly said it would not air until at least mid-May, and we don't get network television anyway but watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Nine of the twelve winners--out of more than 400 entrants

We had such a lovely time and Mary now feels even more "bitten by the writing bug."


  1. Congratulations Mary! Oh, how proud you must be K! This is really cool.

  2. This is so wonderful! Congratulations Mary!

  3. I loved reading this! ...the soap, entering the contest (my oldest always wanted to but I never made it happen)...Mary winning 2nd place...both flower stories...thanks for all you shared! Congratulations to Mary and to the whole, beautiful family!

  4. What a great experience! Congratulations to you and Mary both!