This is Our Story

We're the Sprayberrys and we moved to Los Angeles about four years ago to have our go at Hollywood. When we met the folks at Children In Film, they thought it would be a great idea if we documented our story. After all, our failures and successes (hopefully more the latter than the former) can be your lesson book.

So here you have it - Dylan and Ellery working through the ups and downs of being child actors - their mother and I working hard every day to ensure their success not only as actors, but also as well-adjusted members of society.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Preparing for School on Set

When it comes to working on set during the school year it becomes very important that we accomplish our schoolwork each day and in a quality fashion. From the beginning we've always prepared and organized the kids' schoolwork the night before they filmed. As a home schooling family it has been simple to have our act together - K12 has a nicely laid out plan for each day/week making it much easier to prepare. K12, to us, is the perfect home school program; It's as if it were designed with our industry in mind. Plus, this award winning school learning system is free and excellent! Our new school SFVSFP has changed how we approach going on set. As referenced in another BLOG ,one of the reasons we chose this school was because of their experience with industry working children; as always the trick is communication and planning. There are times when last minute work opportunities or other preparation demands arise, and when this happens we e-mail our teachers and work as a team to accomplish staying on schedule. There have been times when we will place Dylan in an afternoon tutoring math class for insurance that he is on track and he feels confident. Dylan will ask us for tutoring support if he needs it which is a beautiful thing to see: a kid asking for help then experiencing successful one-on-one learning. We are fortunate we have the tutoring available at our school. It is very convenient and helpful. You arrive on set, meet the set teacher and review your objectives for the day and show her/him that you have your schoolwork in order... and there you have it.

I will interject this: I have spoken with many set teachers that shared experiences of kids not coming to set prepared for the schoolwork day. The set teachers have a few responsibilities: physical safety of the child, ensuring breaks and work hour guidelines are respected and that schoolwork is done. If you do not bring your schoolwork, the set teacher will typically have a bag of schoolwork related tricks to work on; however, your child's regular schoolwork may get neglected. I guess it is just important to remember that it isn't the set teacher's responsibility to prepare lessons, simply to act more as a tutor in helping your child complete his or her regular assignments (whether those assignments are coming from a public/private school, online school or directly from you).
We have learned that the better we prepare for schoolwork the better the set-teacher processes flows. We have three things in mind when we are on set: do great work for the director/production team, complete schoolwork with quality, and having a fun/safe/respectable time. I have not met a set teacher that didn’t work with us on our school objectives or who failed to appreciate our schoolwork game plan. We are responsible for our kids' grades, so we make sure it gets done and nothing within reason can get in the way of that objective. With Ellery in particular, Dana will often take a portion of the schoolwork and work through it herself; it’s that important to ensure we accomplish clearing any hurdle in our learning path. In a nutshell: get ready for school the night before, meet the set teacher and review as a team what needs to happen for your child’s education that day and stay on track with it. Occasionally we work on tricky shoots and when that happens we work as a team to ensure production accomplishes their objectives too. We realize we too are part of a team so being a team player is essential. It can get tricky when production gets behind schedule - this is a whole different situation and that requires finesse which we will BOLG about at another time. Be it home, public or private school, the success of the day comes down to the parent’s quality planning/preparation and then ensuring the school game plan is followed through. The kids too have a responsibility, but as we know, we must (with most kids) guide them or they will float off... if you know what I mean. Ultimately we want our kids to grow up and take responsibility of their lives.

Do The Right Things...

I believe we are setting the example in everything we do and they will follow. If you believe this, then you can appreciate how instrumental we are to what they learn and what values they take from us when it comes to responsibility an education.
Often I say to Ellery & Dylan you gotta MAKE IT HAPPEN!!! Have a great school year kids! ~CS

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back to School

Here comes that time of year when the reality of school begins and summer fun ends! For Ellery and Dylan, getting back in the school grove is a process just like filming; it’s strategic and comes with a good amount of direction and conversation.

Now, I don’t know about your children, but my kids would rather play and have fun all the time, thus making the beginning of the new school year school a chore for them and us. They do, however, recognize the value of a good education and enjoy school, but I would be less than honest if I failed to say they do fight against school at times. Like most kids they would like to sleep in stay up late and so on; going to school is like going to work for many parents.

Before moving forward I must be respectful and clear that each family must do what’s best for them. We were so set on home schooling and did it for 3 years; then one day Dana realized that she was not doing the kids or herself justice with this schooling choice so we moved on to something different. In retrospect we could have evaluated the school options earlier than we did and maybe we would have changed our game plan. My point would be to take a look at what is taking place with school so that you may ensure that, to the best of your ability, you and your children are pleased with the setup. This review could be based on educational objectives to be accomplished not necessarily changing schools, the idea is to ensure our children are set up for success!

The one great thing we have going for us currently, education wise, is that we made the choice to enroll Ellery & Dylan into San Fernando Valley School for Professionals. This school is designed to focus on the core fundamentals of education: Math, Science, Language Arts and History and offers on-site tutoring when/where needed. Additionally SFVSFP offers excellent educational field trips and more. The school is all about student unity and parental involvement with a tight group and team working for the kid’s education.

One of the things I’ve noticed and appreciate is how the kids seem to all get along with no bullying taking place amongst the group. For the most part, these kids have career objectives (or it could be that their family's work schedules fits with SFVSFP school hours and education system. The thought of Ellery & Dylan being around bullying children has always been a concern of ours; it is so great to see the kindness and respect amongst these kids. We do not worry about them being picked on and all of that mean stuff that can often occur amongst young people!

There is, at times, drama amongst the kids, which is more entertaining than harmful. The drama experiences allow us to help our kids understand matters they were not dealing with when they were home-schooled. A big reason for enrolling them in a social school system was so that they could experience the daily exchange of interacting with students and teachers- an element we were missing before. For this reason their manager was very persuasive when it came to enrolling them into a school. As a team we discussed the objectives and what outcome we wanted, and I must say it turned out excellently.

The kids start school each day at 8:30am and wrap at 1:00pm. This schedule allows us the time for their coaching, auditions and other athletic personal choice activities that fit with their needs and our schedules. Many schools are not designed to work with the industry demands, which is why the school choice is so important when it comes to working with industry children. When the time comes to be on set you must have a school that embraces your objectives and knows how to balance your child’s education while allowing them to fulfill their pursuit of acting.

Shortly we will start preparing for the new school year, we will start warming up with reading and math, a couple of weeks out we will start with a new sleep schedule so we may ease them into the morning wakeup call and so on. There is no easy route to get these two great kids to fall right into the school schedule. Come September 2010 the starting of school will take inspiring conversations which focus/target on our family balance: school, health, friends, family and of course ... acting!

Have a great school year kids!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Balance - a word about homeschooling

A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions


After weeks of discussion we finally agreed to home-school Ellery and Dylan and boy what a feat it was to home-school! We had no idea what we were doing and were very nervous once realizing we were taking on the responsibility of our children’s early education. In Houston Ellery had only attended one semester of Montessori School and Dylan was a first grader at the time, thus making us, for the most part, starting from scratch.

After reaching out to a professional school administrator who ultimately created a summer 2006 curriculum for Ellery & Dylan (Dad as the teacher) and who guided us to our K12 home-schooling journey we moved forward. K12 is an award-winning program funded by the state of California, an excellent teaching system it is. We worked with and enjoyed K12 for three challenging years; what an experience for all of us, good and at times, crazy! Then one day in the fall of 2009 Dana had it with home schooling; she was done with it and ready to get the kids into a new school system of some kind. Her final words to me were, "I’m their mother and as such I am not intended to be their teacher too." That was the end of it for Dana, and so again we moved on.

So the school search began. Dana looked into public and private schools then quickly decided on San Fernando Valley School For Professionals. SFVSFP came highly recommended to us for many reasons. We quickly gathered what an excellent school it was- a school designed to work with industry children- plus, its convenient location to Studio City and lastly, the Principle and staff made it a no-brainer decision.

We have figured out for us that the balance of school, work and everyday life for our family members should come with a break from each other. Ellery and Dylan are experiencing a busy life schedule that is topped off by an excellent education at San Fernando Valley School For Professionals. The school provides us with an outstanding team of teachers and principle that work very closely with our young child actors' educations while supporting their career dreams.

The Big Bonus is the many new friends Ellery and Dylan have enjoyed meeting through SFVSP and the friends of friends to even broaden their social life and activities.

The kids are so pleased to start a new year at SFVSFP... yes another year of educational success, fun and social fulfillment!

For more information on SFVSFP you may contact Angie Peiris at 818.985.9485 and please reach out to our family for any support we may offer you and yours.

Have a great school year and may 2010 be the beginning of many great HOLLYWOOD years to come.

Love your children first!