The last speech and debate qualifier tournament is now officially behind us. There were five qualifiers over the season, and we went to every one. In case you were wondering, the "qualifier" means that if you have a winning record at a tournament, you get an invitation (or qualify) to compete in the regional competition. Middlest and her debate partner qualified four times over, and learned valuable lessons in the tournament where they did not qualify. A winning record, in case you were wondering, is winning at least four out of six debate rounds. There's also a deal where you can win three and lose three and still qualify if the judges give you high points for your speaking skills, but I don't really know how that works.
We traveled all over the region to these tournaments. Well, not quite "all." There wasn't a tournament in California, but there were tournaments in each of the other states in the region. Our shortest drive was about 40 minutes, the longest took the better part of a day.
We were blessed to have "host housing" when we traveled out of town. This is where people open their homes to far-from-home students and their families. Some of the hosts have students who are competing, but this wasn't the case in three of the four homes where we stayed. Some were church friends, some had been involved in speech and debate but their children had graduated, and the last family we stayed with were homeschool graduates themselves, and had competed in speech and debate in the early days of the NCFCA!
Not only do I find homeschool graduates encouraging, I find a lot of them amazing, and this young family fit into that category.
They apologized for the fancy car parked in front of their house. (I hadn't even noticed the car -- in our neighborhood, other people park in front of our house all the time. Makes it hard to find parking sometimes.) They wanted us to know that they weren't the kind of status-seekers who go into big debt to buy an impressive car; they had won the car in a contest.
I've never known somebody who won a car in a contest before. Amazing.
They showed us the ad with them and the car. Not only did they win a car in a contest, but they won a car in a contest in Rolling Stone magazine, and went to the Grammy awards, and were featured in a full-page ad in the magazine. The photo they submitted for the contest was on their refrigerator, and I can see why it caught editors' attention: The family business is zipline gear, and their Christmas card photo (the one on the fridge) shows the mom dangling upside down from a zipline, calmly kissing her hubby while the little kids hang around in helmets and zipline harnesses (not literally hanging from the zipline, I mean, just casually standing around looking preschool cool).
Now, we were told repeatedly that host families only provide a spot to sleep. You might very likely have to bring your own sleeping bags and be prepared to camp out on the floor, or a sofa, or a blow-up mattress. Host families might provide refrigerator space (we always asked for this as we are gluten free) but they don't, as a rule (this was emphasized to us when we were learning about the host housing option), provide any meals.
These guys had been to tournaments; they knew what we were facing: grueling 14-hour days, a 40 minute drive from their house to the school where the tournament was held, leaving before 7 and getting back late. The mom baked a huge batch of gf muffins the day we arrived, one big bowl of dairy-free and one big bowl with dairy. She used a Pamela's mix as a base for her muffin recipe. I'd never eaten Pamela's products before. Let me tell you, those muffins were delicious. She also set up a French press before she went to bed each night, and a teakettle full of water waited on the stove when I got up, which meant all I had to do was turn on the stove on my way to the bathtub, and pour the boiling water into the French press on my way back to the spare room where we were bunking in. Coffee and muffins and even yogurt for breakfast, perfect for a quick starter.
They also fed us dinner after our long drive to get there, the day before the tournament began. What a treat! It was good, too, roast chicken and cottage potatoes and fresh green beans, pretty similar to the way we cook at our house. They have gluten-free family members as well, so they understood our constraints and concerns.
Oh, and that spare room? No sleeping on the floor, no, the two girls shared a futon and we parents had an inflated mattress, and our host family provided bedding and towels, what luxury!
Probably the best part of our stay were the conversations. The evening we arrived, we talked over chocolate and tea, a wide range of subjects, from ziplines to adventure movies to literature to homeschooling. The talk was lively and interesting -- and so was the early morning conversation I enjoyed with the little ones as I poured out the coffee, peeled hard-boiled eggs and set out muffins on plates. With Youngest being 14, I miss those childish insights in the morning. (Of course, when I was a younger mom, I didn't really appreciate them, being desperate for more sleep and wondering just how a child who'd been up and singing in her bed at midnight could be so bright and chatty at six a.m....)
Anyhow, it was a good trip, and now I'm in full-blown catch-up mode. So I'm going to have to cut this off short today. Hope to see you again in a day or two! Thanks for listening.