This past month, I did something I’ve never done before: I attended my very first homeschool conference as a parent.
Having grown up as a child of a major figure in the homeschooling movement, I attended homeschool conferences fairly regularly as a kid. I’ll be honest, though: I never really liked them. I have always been more introverted, so being around a lot of people (especially strangers) isn’t my favorite thing in general. It becomes more awkward when you’re related to the keynote speaker and tend to be viewed as some kind of celebrity. I was often more interested in hiding in our hotel room to read than checking out the conference or the children’s programs.
With this being my homeschool conference background, I wasn’t terribly interested in conferences when we began our own homeschooling journey. Besides, my husband and I are both second generation homeschoolers already…We should know how to do this thing pretty well, right? In addition, I have three older sisters who have each homeschooled for over a decade, and I can call up a couple of homeschooling experts (my parents) anytime I want, for crying out loud. What do I need a conference for?!
And yet, somehow this year (my fourth official year of homeschooling) has really been tough for me. I think we’ve gotten into more of a groove with establishing which curriculum to use and getting through our subjects on a better schedule, and the kids have been doing well. But I as a teacher have been struggling. To make a long story short, I suppose you could say I’m still deciding whether I am truly committed to this homeschooling thing. Some days are great, but let’s be real: some days I feel like it would be best for all of us if I could just drop my kids off at the bus stop every morning.
I could write several more posts on the things I’ve pondered and wrestled with over this school year (and probably will eventually), but in the end, I decided that – despite all the reservations carried over from my childhood – maybe attending my local homeschool conference would be good for me. I attended the “Thrive!” conference put on by North Carolinians for Home Education, and I wasn’t disappointed! Here are some of the things I got out of my first homeschool conference as a parent.
Or rather, here are the first two…My list got a little too long for one post! More to come next time.
1. IT HELPED REFRESH MY PERSPECTIVE
Homeschooling means you are most likely going to spend most of your time at home. I am something of a homebody, so that doesn’t bother me too much in general. But when it seems like most of your time at home is spent arguing with children about their assignments and chores, looking around at clutter you don’t have time or energy to organize, and just wishing you could get through one hour without someone climbing on you or asking you one zillion questions…getting out of the house can sound really nice sometimes.
Going to the conference not only served to get me out of the house for a few days, but it also helped me to lift my eyes up out of my rut and remember that there is so much more to homeschooling than just the daily grind. It helped remind me that I’m not as isolated as I feel sometimes. There is a whole network of homeschoolers in my state and my area…I just need to get connected (more on that in Part 2)!
2. IT HELPED RENEW MY PURPOSE
I don’t know your reasons for homeschooling, but while I’m sure academic excellence is one major goal, I’ll bet that isn’t the whole picture. One of the points brought out by every keynote speaker at this conference was that it’s not all about the math, the science, the history, etc. There is always far more than we could ever know or teach, so what is the ultimate goal of all these things? For most schools, it is to produce productive citizens of the state. That is a fine objective, but is that the only thing I want for my children? No. Above all, I want them to love the Lord, love others, and be ready to serve.
So while I certainly want to give them the academic tools they will need in adult life, the most important thing I can do is to help lay the foundation for them to become people of character and lifelong disciples of Christ. Having this purpose in mind is helpful in those times when I get bogged down in the curriculum and scheduling and daily corrections. These have their place, certainly, but they are not the be-all, end-all of my children’s lives.
With the weighty burden of our children’s education on our shoulders, it can be easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. Being able to hone in on a singular vision for our homeschools can help clear away some of the mental clutter. The Scripture that I’m left pondering after this conference is 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The apostle Paul may not have been talking about homeschooling here, but I think that makes a pretty good purpose statement for our family and our homeschool!
These first two benefits meant a settling of some of the more foundational questions and doubts on my mind. Come back for Part 2, where I will discuss some of the more practical benefits!
Photo Credit: HSLDA.