If you’ve ever been to a home education convention, be sure to read this article (by Sherry Stacy) from Home Education Magazine.
Have you ever gone to a homeschool convention and wished that you could have picked the workshops that were offered? A simple way to have that decision-making power is to organize your own homeschool convention. Did I say simple? Well, if you have a computer, are a fairly determined person (what homeschool mom isn’t?), and know the Five Secrets to Convention Organization, anyone can do it.
I won’t reproduce more of the piece since I’d rather drive traffic to the magazine’s website (I’ve always been a fan). But I admire the way this piece breaks down what seems like an inaccessible, impossibly complicated process into manageable steps.
I’m not telling all of you overworked homeschooling parents that you should shoehorn yet another responsibility into your frazzled schedule. But if you’re a veteran, with your kids out (or almost out) the door…or if you’re a grandparent…think about it.
In my opion, far too many home school conferences are centered around religious training. Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a conference that centers around biblical parenting, or family dynamics. The problem is that there are so few conferences that offer multiple sessions on teaching. On math, science, history, grammar. On transcript-keeping, essay-writing, critical reading. On academics.
I just went through the workshops offered by invited speakers at one major state conference. Here’s how they broke down, in terms of topics:
Exhortation (“Don’t give up! Homeschooling is good!”): 6 workshops
Theology: 8 workshops
Parenting: 15 workshops
Philosophy of education: 15 workshops
Peripheral issues (cooking, running a home business, starting a home school support group, teaching kids to be organized): 22 workshops
And as for actual academics:
FOUR workshops on humanities subjects (all offered by the same speaker)
TWO workshops on maths and sciences.
Every other workshop focused on academics was a vendor workshop–that is, a space sold to a particular curriculum writer or publisher to hawk their wares.
We need alternatives, folks.
If you’ve been to a state conference, you probably think of a conference as held in a big hotel or conference center, with dozens of sessions over two or three days, an enormous vendor hall, and hundreds of attendees. But that’s shouldn’t be our only model. I speak at six or seven or eight conferences a year (I’m always trying to limit myself), and often my favorite conference of the year turns out to be a one-day, smaller meeting that’s tightly focused on one or two subjects.
Home education would be energized if we had the option of attending multiple small, one-day conferences covering specific topics: teaching math in the high school years, writing for non-experts, how to read the great books, doing science at home in grades 7-12. And yes, speakers will come. Sherry Stacy writes,
I enjoy finding great speakers for the convention the most! I only pay $25 a workshop, but I have found that almost all homeschool speakers are willing to come and prepare a workshop for this amount. If a speaker has a product or curriculum they wish to sell at the convention, I will give them a free booth rental in exchange for a speaker’s fee.
Hey, even with limiting my conference appearances, I do one or two every year for expenses only because I think the organizers are likeminded, or because I’ve never been to that city before, or because they’ve invited me to speak about a specific topic that I don’t usually get to lecture on. You’ve just got to ask.
Having said that, don’t everyone email us simultaneously. There are plenty of experienced, thoughtful home educators out there who have valuable information to share. The big conferences tend to book the same “big ticket” speakers over and over and over again, but smaller conferences shouldn’t try to follow that same pattern.
A good starting place might be for some dedicated home school veteran to start a list of qualified speakers who would be willing to talk about ACADEMICS. Any takers?