HSLDA
August 18, 2008

Homeschoolers Sweep First Round of
Children’s International Arts Festival

Four homeschooled children from across the U.S. have won dude ranch vacations for their families in the first round of the Children’s International Arts Festival. They entered by answering and illustrating Bible questions for an online book the festival organizer plans to publish.

Hannah Levin, 7, from California, and Stephen Brackley, 10, from Maine won for their writing. Sarah Wickenhauser, 11, from California, and Clarissa Magley, 12, from Arkansas won for their artwork. Three of the four winners found out about the festival through a news item from the Home School Legal Defense Association. Festival organizer Carey Kinsolving has created a special web page to thank HSLDA for letting its members know about the worldwide festival.

Although the festival is open to all children ages 5-12, “we got an overwhelming response from homeschoolers,” said Kinsolving. “They really embraced this as a way to encourage their children to study the Bible.”

Hannah Levin’s prize was a week at Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado with her family. She enjoyed many stunningly scenic trail rides with her parents, Tom and Amy. When asked how she likes riding, Hannah replied with a gleam in her eye, “I like to go fast!” She was quick to develop a bond with her horse for the week, Dollar. To see an online video of Hannah's vacation, click here.

Although Hannah’s 4-year-old triplet sisters were too young to participate in the trail rides, they had a blast in the ranch’s lovingly supervised children’s program, which included opportunities to ride a docile horse led by a wrangler, play in a real teepee and have the run of a large, grassy playground.

There were plenty of activities the whole family enjoyed together, such as the covered wagon ride, roping lesson, horse grooming lesson, hay ride and all meals and evening activities. In fact, the family bonding time was the most precious aspect to Hannah’s parents, who raved that this was their best family vacation ever. Amy said that even if Hannah hadn’t won, “the time that she and I shared in sitting down together, discussing and reading Scripture” was extremely fruitful. “God does reward.”

Stephen Brackley and his family were thrilled with their week at Tarryall River Ranch in Lake George, Colorado. Stephen especially appreciated seeing his mom on a horse for the first time. He improved his own riding skills by practicing in the arena and going on trail rides with his horse for the week, Gilligan. To see an online video of Stephen’s vacation, click here.

Stephen spent some time on trail rides with the whole family, such as an all-day ride to a box canyon where they picnicked beside a cool, sparkling stream. Other times, he and his younger brother Patrick went on the kids-only rides. One of these took them to a “secret fort” where they played “pine cone baseball” with the other kids and checked out an abandoned gold mine.

At the end of the week, Stephen didn’t want to go home. In fact, he’s already counting the years (only nine!) until he’s old enough to apply for a wrangler position at the ranch.

Stephen’s mother, Susan, appreciates the bigger picture as well, sharing her feelings that the festival is “not just something fun for children, but it’s something that is spiritually soul-searching and educational in a godly way.”

Eight more dude ranch vacation prizes are available for summer 2009. Children who wish to enter the festival can get their parents to download an entry form at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. There is also a list of festival questions available to answer and illustrate. There is no entry fee. Transportation to each ranch is the responsibility of the winner’s family. Deadline is March 31, 2009.

The Children’s International Arts Festival is sponsored by KidsTalkAboutGod.org, a non-denominational, Christian ministry that empowers children by publishing their faith expressions and making them available without charge to website visitors. Its website features 60 Kid TV Interviews, Children’s Bible Art Gallery, “Kids Color Me Bible,” “Mission Explorers Streaming Video” and a Bible Lesson Archive. Visitors may download pictures from the Art Gallery and lessons from the “Kids Color Me Bible” for free. As a newspaper column, Kids Talk About God has been in syndication for more than seven years.