When my children were little I took them back to one of my favorite childhood haunts - a ginormous swim park carved out of a mountainside and surrounded by a pristine man- made beach. This wonderland was complete with diving boards jutting out of high rocky crags, trapeze swings, and death-defying slides which dumped brave swimmers into pools of churning water. I described to them in detail the mesmerizing boardwalk complete with the smell of chili dogs, cheesy fries, and the sound of blaring music. After hours of driving, we pulled up in front of this iconic park and walked up to the chain-linked fence and peered in. They must have moved the swim park somewhere else! In its place stood a small, dirty, concrete swimming pool. It had one swing and slide in the kiddie end of the pool, a dirty sand pile, and a small concession stand where I am sure my mother would never have let me eat! I was devastated!
Now I will leave it to you to decide if my childish memory was to blame or if time had eroded the once magnificent park. Either way, things change. From experience we know that things are either changing for the better or for the worse and that leads me to my point....
Megan and I were privileged to attend the HSLDA Leaders Conference in Orlando recently. It had been several years since I was actively involved with HSLDA or in a leadership capacity in my state organization, so I was curious to "peek through the fence" again. I am delighted to report that not only has no one moved the park, but HSLDA is bigger, better, and stronger than ever before!
This conference was a time for leaders to come together to renew, refresh, and re-tool - but definitely not retire! I was so encouraged to see many still in leadership roles providing wisdom and guidance even though their own children had long ago completed their academic schooling. HSLDA is the kind of organization that fosters that type of commitment.
I was excited to see young people who attended college with Megan now in places of leadership and innovation. These young people with fresh ideas and insights are contributing and learning from the experience and wisdom of their elders. How refreshing to see a living, breathing organization that is replenishing itself in order to leave a legacy for future generations!
I was able to attend multiple workshops and visit with many of the state leaders. I was thrilled with a theme I heard repeatedly: raising a generation that loves the Lord, themselves, and others is the real measure of a successful home education.
Thank you Michael Farris and Mike Smith for responding to God's call to start HSLDA to advocate for family and freedom and for continuing to propel it forward for future generations. I know my family will be eternally grateful...
(And thanks for the opportunity to "peek through the fence"!)
I could say so many things about the HSLDA Leaders Conference. I think it was brilliant to have the conference in Orlando - one of the happiest places on earth! I was so glad that they scheduled a “play day” in the middle of the conference so we could visit the local attractions (a major bonus for those of us who love Disney:) And I really loved getting to re-connect with HSLDA leadership, staff, and spouses.
But I think the best things about the conference were carbon-based life-forms, approximately 8-12 years of age. When you volunteer for a conference, you are never sure what you will be asked to do. So when I was asked to help out with the Middle Grade Cartoon Camp, I had no idea what lay ahead of me...
Now, let me say something directly to the state, national, and international HSLDA leaders – YOUR KIDS BLEW ME AWAY! They were not simply quiet, well-behaved, little versions of you. They were unique, fun, creative, interactive, social, intelligent, and amazing little people!
I have spent years teaching kids of all different ages and backgrounds in various settings. The kids at this conference (whether in class, in the halls, or other settings) were kind, respectful, and well-behaved. I even was able to join two delightful young ladies in this age group for the Ladies’ Tea. (They might have been better behaved than I was – you’ll have to ask my mom to be sure:)
But what was refreshing to me was that they were all still kids...in the very best sense. Fred Rogers loved to say, "The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self." I am so glad to see homeschooling parents raising such unique and delightful people who get to be their honest selves.
When introducing Dr. Farris at the closing banquet, Dr. Roger Sayre stated that while familiarity may breed contempt in some cases, familiarity with Michael Farris led to further respect. I MUST echo this for the children that I had the privilege of interacting with over the four days of the conference. Unflattering homeschool stereotypes may be alive and well, but they were blissfully absent from this group.
Thank you parents – you are doing an amazing job!
p.s. For those of you Adventures in Odyssey fans out there, I got to meet Phil Lollar!!!! Big thanks to Jeremiah Lorrig and Peter Forbes for helping make it happen. :)