Originally Sent: 3/6/2014
March 6, 2014
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Beginning in the spring (and sometimes even earlier), a number of homeschool organizations promote and hold their annual conventions. With many homeschoolers now ordering curriculum on the internet, some may think that conventions are relics from the past. We don’t agree—we believe that conferences offer many benefits. We encourage you to attend a homeschool convention near you, and we’d like to address some common misconceptions about conferences that may persuade you to think again.
It’s too much of a hassle to attend—I’m already burned out with all things related to homeschooling!
We truly understand. We are former homeschool moms who vividly remember the days of juggling many responsibilities. However, the earlier you make plans to attend a conference, the easier it will be to actually get there. Many conferences offer early bird registration with great discounts. The best and nearest hotel accommodations to the convention generally go quickly, so jump on the discounted block room rates. Staying near the conference saves time and is convenient to all of the action.
A homeschool parent may enjoy going to the convention alone and using the off hours as a respite to quietly plan, pray, and relax away from home responsibilities. On the other hand, sometimes it’s fun to attend the conference with another mom or several friends in order to share travel expenses, and also have a sounding board as you contemplate curriculum choices.
If you are part of a support group, why don’t you consider all going together? At the support group meeting following the conference, you may want to share your experiences (what you learned, how you benefitted from attending, and the camaraderie you enjoyed). It may encourage others to attend the following year!
Although it’s not nearly as much fun as a weekend away at the beach , you and your spouse may want to attend a conference together. Conventions are eye openers, especially for some homeschool dads(!), as they have the opportunity to witness the myriad of options and be exposed to the information overload that can be part of a homeschool conference. Spouses then have the opportunity to discuss things they’ve seen and heard, and it facilitates the decision-making process as homeschool plans are fleshed out for the next school year.
I think I’m set. I’ll just order my curriculum online and be done with it.
Don’t get us wrong—we love the convenience of internet shopping. But, there’s just something to be said about actually seeing the materials. Visiting exhibitor booths allow you to do comparison shopping, and vendors are equipped to point out practical ways to use their resources. At many conferences, vendors present workshops providing helpful advice that will save you hours in trying to figure out on your own how best to utilize the materials. You’ll be relieved from the headache of learning how parts of the curriculum fit together, so that you can expend the majority of your time actually teaching the material.
To tell you the truth, I typically come home from a conference discouraged that my teen and I don’t measure up.
Yikes! That’s not how it’s supposed to work. But, unfortunately, in some cases it’s true. Homeschool conference planners and speakers walk a tightrope. They want to encourage parents by showcasing the achievements of homeschool students who are doing well. That’s commendable. However, hearing about the over-achievers (all day, every day) can cause parents whose teens are not doing so well, to feel guilty, burdened, and … hopeless.
Years ago, we wrote a newsletter entitled “Eureka! Average to the World, but Special and Unique to God.” The newsletter struck a chord with many parents and helped them to see their teens as God created them. Each of your teens has talents and skills to be used for the glory of God. Your teen fills a spot in God’s universe that no one else can—he’s special, he’s distinctive, and he’s matchless to the Lord!
Succumbing to comparison is an easy thing to do when attending a conference, but there are steps you can take to guard against it. First, pray. Ask the Lord to help you absorb information that will encourage you, and to block out knowledge that’s not helpful. Second, have a willing heart that desires to learn from others, so that you can incorporate a speaker’s good ideas into your homeschool. No one is meant to incorporate all (or even most) of the suggestions that a speaker recommends. You should feel very comfortable incorporating only those options or advice that makes sense for your family. Third, rejoice with those who rejoice, and realize that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg when a speaker shares about his or her homeschool or children.
Don’t believe for a second that everyone else at the conference is a perfect homeschool parent, has ideal children, and homeschools flawlessly. It’s a lie from the enemy to defeat you, and to make you believe you are the only one who may be struggling. We hear from many homeschool families each day, and we know at times they are discouraged, they feel they’ve failed, they have children who have walked away from the faith, their teens refuse to do their school work … and on it goes.
We’ve prayed with many homeschool parents at conferences, who have approached us after a seminar and poured out their hearts. It’s holy and precious ground when we are given the opportunity to intercede for someone. If you are doing well, the Lord may have someone at the conference that needs your support and help. We are in this together, and a conference setting reminds us of this.
I’m a bit nervous—I don’t want to find out what I’m not doing, what I should be doing, or how I’m doing everything wrong.
We totally relate! It can be mind-boggling to try to take in everything that’s mentioned in a seminar or workshop. Sometimes even keynote speakers—who are there to motivate and hearten you—can be intimidating when you hear their inspiring words. Here’s a suggestion for lowering your expectations a bit. Determine ahead of time that you will take away just one nugget from each speaker. One piece of advice, one item, or one resource, that resonates with your heart … just one thing. Let everything else go. See the workshops and seminars as opportunities to train you as a teacher. Benefit from the ideas, the experience, and the good intentions of the speakers, but please don’t be demoralized or unsettled by them. The speakers are mere humans. We know that for a fact.
I’ve never been to a homeschool conference. I’m the new generation of homeschooler—conferences are for the old-timers.
We admit that we are “old-school homeschoolers.” We were homeschooling in the dark ages. (We know things have changed and we promise to get smartphones before the end of the year.) Homeschooling has made great strides, but one thing we are saddened by is the slow erosion of the community of homeschooling.
Yes, we understand that internet chat rooms, webinars, even online homeschool conventions are now available, but nothing takes the place of live, in-person conferences where you feel the vibrancy and vitality of homeschoolers just like you. Attending a conference provides opportunities to laugh—and cry—with other homeschoolers and bridges the gap between our individual homeschool settings. Some conferences include teen programs where your teens can interact with others. Another benefit may be the opportunity for your teen to take part in graduation ceremonies that are a part of some conventions.
Being around veteran homeschoolers (who have been around the block not once but several times) is beneficial. These homeschool veterans have looked past the starry-eyed view of homeschooling, and can share the deeper reasons why they still believe the cost is worth it all. Pioneers who helped to blaze the homeschool trail have stories to tell that will remind you homeschooling is a prized blessing. It’s a blessing for which many have expended tears, time, and hard effort to preserve homeschool freedoms for generations coming after them.
Yes, old and young homeschoolers have much to gain from getting to know each other, learning from one another, and enjoying each other’s company. All of this happens at a local homeschool conference, coming soon to a location near you!
Check out the conferences and symposiums where we’ll be speaking in 2014 and know that we would love the opportunity to shake your hand, exchange smiles, and encourage you in person.
Join us next month when we offer some tips for choosing high school curricula.
Hoping to see you at one of our speaking events,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants
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