Friday, June 15, 2012
I spent all last Saturday at our statewide homeschool convention. I didn't exactly know what to expect. I had just heard that it would be overwhelming and yet very helpful. Thankfully I went with an open mind and feeling no pressure to come away with a commitment to any curriculum right away. Since I had been to the same location the week before, I had no problem driving the hour road trip to the convention facility. Registration check-in for day 3 of the event began at 7:30. I walked right up to no line. Most people had been involved in the convention since Thursday. The grounds were expansive and it took some time to figure out how to get around. There were two indoor bridges (hallways) that crossed major roads to get to other parts of the facility. Feeling no rush I made my way to the ballroom for the 8:30 start to the keynote speech. There were about 20 people in the room already and other event staff bustling about settling up. I walked up to find an aisle seat on the fourth row. The room was huge. I sat there for awhile going through the packets of information they had just given me and trying to figure out which sessions I wanted to attend throughout the day. Several minutes into my wait, a couple from our church walked by a few rows in front of me to find a seat. I called out the wife's name who I had spoken with several times before. They live in our neighborhood and have five or six kids that they just started homeschooling two years ago. We talked for awhile. I was so encouraged to have run into someone I knew so quickly. She took her seat some distance away with her husband who was already settled. As it got closer to 8:30 I looked behind me to see the auditorium filling up. I am not sure how many people fit into that room but they had 12,000 people registered to attend the state convention at some point during the weekend. There were definitely a few thousand sitting behind me. The convention was run by the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV), an organization that I had just recently become familiar with. They do a lot in our state to fight for homeschool rights and the name of Jesus was said several time from the platform during this presentation. I am glad to be aware of their resource at this early stage of this process for me. A local state senator was present and sharing his desire to support issues that homeschoolers face. It was kind of empowering. In any case after a few more people spoke who are leaders in the HEAV organization, Tedd Tripp stood as the keynote speaker. I was really excited to hear him speak as his book Shepherding a Child's Heart is one of our favorite godly parenting books. We need to probably reread it for a third time. It turns out that he and his wife have been married 44 years and have 3 kids who they homeschooled and are now adults. A lot that he had to share was similar to what he writes in the book but still very encouraging. It gave me the motivation to remember why we choose to parent the way we do (addressing matters of the heart) even though it can be exhausting. I know God will bless our obedience in this area. He already is. I so enjoyed hearing all that Tedd Tripp had to say. He was quite funny too. Who knew? From there I went on to my first session which was called Homeschooling from the Beginning: What to do when your kids are young. The speaker was a little interesting. She was definitely one of those people who thinks public education is evil. I don't hold that same thought. But she did say a few things that stuck with me. She mentioned that they put emphasis discipling before academics. She brought up the very real experience of spiritual warfare and homeschooling. She talked about mental plateaus (which I would have never considered). She encouraged us that this was not the time to be buying books for our kids but to be reading books for us. We should be making decisions, setting priorities for our family and figuring out how we want to approach homeschooling. That took any of the pressure off. I really enjoy hearing what other people have learned through the years. One thing I have noticed is that most people are hesitant to tell you what curriculum they use or love (which I have come to appreciate and loathe). When you are first starting out you have no idea which direction is up and really the truth is there is no right way. Each person has to figure out what works best for their kids and for the teacher. But I do love hearing how people return curriculum that doesn't work. That because one child learns this way we had to choose a completely different style of schooling for him. Hearing how people navigate this world of homeschooling gives me hope that we will find our way too. I am not discouraged...yet. Anyway after that session I felt good about what we have been doing so far with Brother. He sure has made this start easy for me. Next was a 2 hour lunch break. I found my way to the gigantic exhibit hall where there were 350 homeschool vendors. 350?!?!?!? I know I walked around there like a deer in headlights. If I had come there with an agenda to find material for the next school year I would have probably gone into shock. Instead I just wandered, browsed. My eye caught a rather large exhibit from the company Brother is currently learning from. I was drawn to the familiar. On my way, I ran into (not literally) a woman from our church. She is the coordinator of our homeschool support group (I don't think that is the official name but I can't remember what the group is called) and was very kind to me from the get go. We chatted briefly. I started exploring the material from Brother's curriculum that I didn't purchase wondering if I should splurge when another girl from my church came up to me. We had talked at length at one of the group meetings and I had just learned the week before that she was to be my small group leader in the marriage Bible study that the women are doing (which I will write about later). I unloaded on her about the drama that had unfolded before my arrival (ie. weekend mix-up, fractured ulna, and seizure). Some people just have that listening spirit that makes me talk. I hardly know her. I am pretty sure she thinks I'm crazy but she never lets on, bless her heart. (Yes, I just said that. Deal with it. I live in the South now.) Anyway she encouraged me not to be overwhelmed by all the exhibits and sent me in the direction blindly of a credible publishing company she had bought resources from. After a little more wandering I ran into the teenage daughter of the group coordinator I had spoken to earlier. She walked out of her circle of friends toward me to ask if I went to her church. Sweet girl. By noon I had seen five familiar faces out of thousands of unknowns. How does God do that? I got a few texts from my dear friend in Tennessee that morning. One reminded me to eat lunch. You would think the fact that I was about to pass out would have clued me in but her note was just the nudge I needed to venture out on the ghetto streets of Richmond in search for the nearby Subway. Next year I am packing snacks and a sack lunch. So what was my take away from the exhibitors? There are endless resources out there for homeschooling. ENDLESS. Enough said. I felt very encouraged that when I return next year (with My Love) we will be able to come prepared with ideas and questions for all the vendors we are interested in. We will hopefully have a better idea in years to come of what exactly we are doing. I laughed at all the rolling cubes these women had with them. There were people there to do some major shopping. I think I came bagless on purpose. I'm cheap like that. But in the future I can see how this location would be the perfect place to explore curricula and resources for each child before deciding on buying. I can't wait to get more out of this part of the convention in the future. I followed the map on my phone to the sandwich shop when sitting along the sidewalk in the shade were 4 more people from our church. Our youth pastor and his wife and the leader of women's ministry and her husband (who I am sure has a title but I don't know what). Both women jumped from their seats to give me a hug and asked how I was doing. These women are heading up the Bible Study I am doing now and I look forward to getting to know them better. God used one of these particular couples to open our hearts to foster care and adoption. They are all really neat people. They warned me of the long lines at Subway when I said I was headed across the street and offered me a snack while I waited. Which of course I declined because that is what I do. I walked away further encouraged that God paved a way through this bustling convention center for me to connect with NINE different people from my new church family. Oh how he loves me! I ate my lunch and was fueled up for the next session which was called The Ultimate Planning Tools for Homeschool Moms. I was excited to hear this speaker who is an author (named Debra Bell) of a book I read about getting started with homeschooling. I didn't quite realize that the session was really her just walking through three planners that her publishers had created for homeschooling moms, students and teens, but it definitely seemed like something I would be interested in buying in the future for keeping life organized academically and spiritually. I was blessed that every session I sat in the speakers spoke about their relationship with God. What a community I am entering into!! She was really fun and down to earth and shared lots of stories about things she learned along the way of homeschooling her four kids who all learned very differently from one another. There were two more sessions left in the day that I was planning on staying for. One class was about Classical Conversations through High School and another was called Seeing the Big Picture of Homeschooling. Both sounded interesting but really my introverted body was ready to be home with my family and just process all that God had shown me in one day. So what was my take away from the sessions? The design of this convention will be a HUGE resource for our family in the future. We haven't really experienced a lot of the issues that most homeschool families run into just yet so most of the session titles did not apply to me. But I can see how they will in the future. Just a few of the specific session topics... *Know the Law: Notifying and Testing Demystified * Curriculum for hands-on, creative and gifted learners *Financial Aid *College Prep and the Homeschooled Student *Teach your child music *Math from a biblical worldview *Making American History Come Alive *How to cut your grocery bill in half *Planning field trips on the cheap *Homeschooling a houseful * ADHD, Dyslexia, learning disorders, and Asperger's: Overcoming these problems without drugs *Loving and Teaching the Difficult Child *Teaching and Evaluating Writing. I could go on. I share all of that to remind myself what an amazing encouragement and resource this experience will be in the future. My Love and I could totally take on several sessions individually during a long weekend and regroup for time to plan for the year ahead. The topics were numerous. 12 sessions over three days and 14 courses offered per session. So....that is 168 classes about homeschooling. Impossible for us to attend all of them but still a wide variety of topics to make us feel like we are not alone in this. You know, with at least 12,000 other people surrounding us in our state and all. I think I will stop abruptly now and continue in another post since the layout currently makes this text one long paragraph. In the end, the convention was a huge blessing for me. The kids had a great day with their Daddy even though Babydoll was fighting a fever back then. God knew exactly what he was doing while the Enemy was working hard to keep me from going. I made it there and God knocked my socks off. He is so good. Up next: Homeschool update post. Yes, there is more.