“I have always enjoyed painting simple things like cups or flowers,” says Emma, a 16-year-old homeschooler from Upland, California. “We see them every day, but do not truly treasure their beauty.”

Young people see things others don’t. They can have unique—even startling—perspectives. I know of adults whose life directions have been transformed by a simple truth brought home to them through a child’s point of view. Maybe you’ve experienced this, too. “Out of the mouth of babes . . . ”

Our children often live slower lives: lower to the ground, closer to its beauty, and with time for reflection. Their insights can be humorous, keen, thought provoking, and deeply relatable.

HSLDA offers contests to encourage homeschooled kids around the country to express themselves and pursue excellence through the powerful mediums of writing, poetry, art, and photography. These contests seek to inspire creators and their communities to greater achievements. Though each category had multiple winners, here are some selected highlights from the last two years’ contests.

Congratulations to all of our recent winners! And, if you know a budding artist, photographer, or writer, please invite them to submit an entry in the coming year’s contests.

Essay Contest | Fall 2021

We launch each school year with our essay contest: this past year, students’ writing prompts included the following:

  • Ages 7–10: Introducing a friend (real or imaginary!)
  • Ages 11–14: Selecting the contents of an emergency backpack
  • Ages 15–19: Passing on valuable lessons to a future generation of teenagers

“My parents may not know it, but if we evacuate, my pet chicken is coming with us,” declares Marianne Fisher, age 11, from Lubbock, Texas.

From the ages 15–19 division, Victoria Bassette, 18, compares the pandemic-era world to a dark forest where weary, lost travelers must look upward for hope and direction:

When I wander alone through the woods at night, I lose my way. If I keep my eyes fixed upon my feet, I deviate from the path. When I call out into the darkness, no one answers. Losing hope, I surrender to the shadowy world—that is, if I fail to look up to the heavens, for when the sky is darkest, the stars shine brightest. Some nights the stars spread across the sky by the millions, but other nights, they are sprinkled sparingly, not because the rest do not exist but because clouds conceal their light. Such seems to represent the COVID-19 world—a dark forest that shrouds the way if travelers fail to let the glimmer of hope in the night sky guide their footsteps . . .

Art Contest | Winter 2020–21

Participants focused on creating a personally meaningful that captured one or more of the defining characteristics of following periods:

  • Ages 7–10: Expressionism
  • Ages 11–14: Renaissance
  • Ages 15–19: Realism

Tuna by Portilla

Tuna by Gerard Portilla, 10

Gerard loves connecting with the aquatic environment. He spends countless hours on the family oyster farm, and enjoys learning about and drawing all creatures, especially those in the ocean.

Appropriately, water was one ingredient Gerard used to create this piece with acrylic paints. He employed short, thick brush strokes reminiscent of Expressionist art.


Spirit by Rose

Gentle & Quiet Spirit by Reagan Rose, 14 

The inspiration for this piece came from 1 Peter 3:3–4. “This type of person brings peace in the midst of chaos, and joy into a broken world,” Reagan said. “I wanted to paint a woman who had no fear for what life would bring but rejoiced in the blessings God had given.”

Gold leaf accents applied with a paintbrush and tweezers add detail and luster to the dress and flowers.


Memories by Gramlich

Deere Memories by Ethan Gramlich, 17

Ethan’s great grandpa was a John Deere mechanic, and his grandma would frequently accompany him on service calls in the country. “The John Deere company provided for their large family,” Ethan explained. “This artwork was inspired by those memories.”

Ethan used burnished colored pencils over alcohol markers to create the large, dark shadows.

Photo Contest | Summer 2021

Our judges were highly impressed with the creativity and skill demonstrated by this round of young photographers in these categories:

  • Ages 7–10: Small
  • Ages 11–14: Natural
  • Ages 15–19: Dazzling

Just One Drop! by Danea Vidales

Just One Drop! by Danea Vidales, 8


Chippy Reminds Us to Always Recycle

Chippy Reminds Us to Always Recycle by Eliana Nebbeling, 10


African Sunset by Landon Hopper

African Sunset by Landon Hopper, 14

Poetry Contest | Spring 2022

Students sent us their rhyming reflections in the following categories:

  • Ages 7–10: Morning
  • Ages 11–14: Afternoon
  • Ages 15–19: Evening 


This brand new day is moving on,
The colorful sky is almost gone.
Here and now as often said,
I really should get out of bed.

Excerpt from The Wonders of Morning
by Mary Rossetti, 9


This all to say that afternoons are dreams
with no progress.
They float between realities of ‘school,
then lunch’ and ‘dinner,’
Where anything is possible and perfect.
So I guess,
Afternoons, to me, are just a perfect

Excerpt from Perfect Nothingness
by Abby Price, 13


Far, so far away, from childhood fences
steeped in sunsets,
Homesick for the land once set aglow with
gleeful cries—
Still, I step outside to wonder deeply
at His goodness,
Facing new horizons, evening memories
in my eyes.

Excerpt from Evening Nostalgia
by Teresa Padilla, 19

Interested in sponsoring a contest? Contact us at contests@hslda.org.