Professional Development For Homeschoolers

Professional Development For Homeschoolers | HSLDA Blog

I’m told that many millennials (and others) don’t see a need to attend a homeschool conference.

Would you please indulge me while I try to persuade you otherwise? There are so many more, but here are my TOP FIVE REASONS to attend a homeschool conference!

DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL — LEARN FROM OTHERS

Many certifications and occupations require “Professional Development” or “Continuing Professional Education” hours. According to edglossary.org, professional development is a “variety of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning intended to help . . . improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness.”

It is most often taught by those who are experienced and successful in their field. So why do we think that we can do this daunting mission without input from the “experts”; the ones who have gone before us? The conferences are just filled to overflowing with the collective wisdom and experiences of many. Shouldn’t we all be hungry to increase our “competence, skill, and effectiveness”?!

You will gain so many new insights and ideas and find resources you never knew existed. I found that I would often discover answers to problems that I hadn’t even encountered yet. I can’t tell you how many times I learned something that addressed a situation that I hadn’t seen coming. But I was prepared when it came. God is just amazing like that!

Additionally, if you attend a local conference, you will greatly benefit from learning more about the political and legal homeschooling issues as they relate to your state. It is truly all of our responsibility to stay vigilant and proactive so that homeschooling freedom will continue to be available for generations to come.

THERE IS JUST NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SEEING CURRICULUM AND RESOURCES IN PERSON

Yes, I know we can sometimes see a few pages online, but nothing compares to actually getting your eyes and hands on materials that you are considering or even discovering things you had no idea even existed. This is an amazing opportunity to talk with the authors and creators, to ask questions, and to compare. By seeing the materials in person, I believe so many purchasing mistakes can be avoided.

I learned so much by talking to the authors of various resources at conferences. I doubt that Tom Clark of VideoText Algebra remembers me or my tears, but he sure was an incredible help and encouragement. After a year of Algebra disaster with a different curriculum, VideoText and their free 800 number (student can talk to a teacher!) saved my sanity and allowed me to continue to confidently homeschool high school. After only the first few lessons of VT, my student was having all kinds of “aha!” moments, and all my kids went on to successfully and fairly painlessly complete Algebra 1 & 2.

I have talked to many other authors at conferences, including hearing the passionate vision that Jeff Borders of CollegePrepAmerica.org has for our young people. He has an incredible website that teaches conservative, biblical, and common sense principles using fast draw videos, a new(er) media format that is designed to instill wisdom and discernment, and really appeals to young people. What an incredible idea—I wish this had been around when I was homeschooling! I would have never learned about it without seeing it myself at conference.

I have talked to so many others including Katharine Loop, the author of Principles of Mathematics and Leslie Richards of A Year of Playing Skillfully. It was so enjoyable and educational to discuss with them their experience and philosophies and what inspired them to write their unique curriculum for the benefit of homeschoolers. Additionally, the authors will often give a workshop on how best to use their curriculum, saving the teacher lots of “figuring-it-out time” and encouraging a more effective and productive use of the materials.

Many homeschool curriculum vendors are small, family-operated businesses. I love to support the “mom-and-pops” that have poured their heart and soul and hands-on experience into creating a wonderful resource in order to share it with others. Additionally, you can enjoy cost savings in the form of special convention pricing and, of course, saving the cost of shipping.

And lastly, you can save curriculum from going to the dump! There are often used curriculum sales at conferences. Remember, you are helping many homeschoolers raise the funds for next year’s curriculum by buying what they are finished with.

MAKE IT INTO A REFRESHING GETAWAY

Recharge, refresh, be energized and encouraged, as well as receive training. Recapture your vision and be reminded why you are homeschooling. Don’t stay in the vacuum of your own home. See what others are doing and avoid burn-out.

Some of the sweetest times in those busy and sometimes overwhelming years was getting away to a conference either with my hubby or a gaggle of girlfriends. Or you could tack it on to a family vacation. Often the bigger conferences have kids and teen programs. It’s like going to camp! It will open up their world—they will never feel like they are the only ones being homeschooled ever again!

I remember the first time I dragged hubby to a conference. It was life-changing for him as he experienced firsthand the excitement, vision, and momentum of the homeschooling movement. He could now see the big picture.

You might be feeling burned out with homeschooling and think there is no way you can pull off getting away. But that is exactly the same reason that you need to make it happen! Plan ahead and take advantage of early bird discounts and discounted hotel block rates. Even if it may cost a bit more, staying close to the conference makes for an overall easier, more enjoyable experience and saves time. So make the most of it.

BE ENCOURAGED AND UPLIFTED LIKE NEVER BEFORE

If you are one of those that tends to feel like you don’t measure up or can be discouraged from hearing about others’ successes, take a deep breath and remind yourself that every homeschool student and parent is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses. Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, ask the Lord to help you discern what you need to glean from the presentation and leave the rest. And don’t for a second believe the lie that everyone else is doing it better. Instead, go and be encouraged and encourage others. Remember, the speakers are there to share their best ideas so that you can benefit from them. A wise woman takes advantage of their many years of experience.

IF FOR NO OTHER REASON, GO AND BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF

Honestly, the unity and the diversity is absolutely life-changing. In my younger days, I would literally get chills and almost be overwhelmed with emotion to see the vastness of the homeschooling movement and realize that I was so not alone. There was nothing better than being in the company of hundreds or even thousands of others that were committed and willing to sacrifice for the same incredible journey that we were on — to better our child’s future.

It was also an inspiring, eye-opening reminder that all homeschoolers don’t look, act, and sound the same. I know how easy it is to stay in our own little homeschool bubble where everyone around us has similar values. But I believe it is really good for us to embrace the diversity and collaborate on our shared mission.

MY FINAL APPEAL

I realize that the modern-day homeschooler has access to resources that we – ahem – older veterans never dreamed possible. There are webinars, online chat rooms, Facebook support groups, and internet shopping. But gals, I have to tell you, nothing can take the place of live, in-person interaction, teaching, encouragement, and hands-on curriculum perusal. Coming together with the homeschooling elders is a blessing that can’t be matched or found online. Those veterans, the ones that have blazed the trail for you, have learned an awful lot (and if they are anything like me, often the hard way). Get to know them. Take advantage of their years of experience and wisdom. Find out what has kept them going. Let the trailblazers share with you the deep cost, yet inexplicable joy and pride of finishing well.

So what are your thoughts? Millennial or not.

Why do you attend conferences? I would love to hear from you!

-Stacey

Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.

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