Accessibility. That’s the buzzword we use when we talk about ASC’s passion for sharing Shakespeare with the general public. We want to provide easy Shakespeare access to everyone, which includes students from various education backgrounds. This year, we’re increasing opportunities for homeschool groups to visit us through Homeschool Days.
Occurring three times each school year, a Homeschool Day is a comprehensive package allowing homeschool families or homeschool co-ops to participate in an entire day of classes at the American Shakespeare Center. Supplementing a matinee performance with interactive experiences, Homeschool Days offer either new material outside of the parent-educator’s comfort zone or companion material within the curriculum the family or co-op is using.
Starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m., Homeschool Days encompass:
- Student matinee (live arts)
- Talkback with actors (public forum)
- Sit-down buffet (social engagement)
- Playhouse tour (historical context)
- Two workshops (interactive education)
It takes a team to get Homeschool Days off the ground, so Group and Education Sales Manager Jacquelynne McClelland and the ASC Education Department work together to organize all of the aspects of the Homeschool Days. Jacquelynne notes, “Because we have such extensive educational offerings, we are able to provide workshops that speak directly to that performance.” For instance, it’s possible that the workshops corresponding to the performance of Macbeth for the Homeschool Day next spring will be the Combat workshop and the Stage Blood workshop, and we will arrange for spaces that are large enough for combat and resilient enough to contain a mess of fake blood.
Jacquelynne has a personal investment in Homeschool Days: her husband was homeschooled, so she understands the challenges that some homeschool families can face. “While we can’t provide some of the same grants or initiatives for them that we can for public schools, we can create packages that are better-priced, more immersive, and cater to the specific needs of homeschoolers.” She keeps abreast of homeschool trends by communicating with homeschoolers in her social circles, and she has an open line of communication with homeschool groups who have been coming to the ASC for years. For even more tips on homeschool events and trends, Jacquelynne stays up-to-date with the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) website.
Jacquelynne’s best tool for sharing information about Homeschool Days with Virginia and the surrounding states is classic word-of-mouth. Once the Homeschool Days information is out there, collecting participant information in a timely manner is essential to creating the best Homeschool Day experience for everyone. Gathering participant responses after the Homeschool Day is just as essential: feedback from participants helps Jacquelynne determine if the day was successful in supplementing curricula, and it helps her determine a plan for the next one. The more communication Jacquelynne has with the homeschool group leaders, the better she can cater the next Homeschool Day to the general needs of these groups.
Homeschool Days cater to small groups looking for a full day of theatre-centered activities with other small groups. Jacquelynne acknowledges that “it seems… more and more families are participating in co-ops and various homeschool groups, but those families that don’t have that available in their area or have chosen not to pursue that – we still want the American Shakespeare Center to be accessible to them.”
ASC actor Josh Innerst fondly remembers the influence that arts activities had on his homeschool years: “We would write plays and perform them for our local community, but it was important to my mom that we take part in other sorts of cultural activities with our homeschool co-op. Concerts, debates, museums, and theatre – those outings sparked a family-wide interest in the arts.” The ASC understands that there are groups with flexibility of time, curriculum, and transportation, and we’re passionate about giving them access to Shakespeare as a tool to learn, grow, and affect the community around them for the better.