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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Homeschool Conventions

Sarita's Word

Ever since I began Sonlight, I avoided homeschool conventions. I already liked what I used (Sonlight) and I personally found I could use my time more effectively doing other things.

But this past month I had the opportunity to speak at two conventions on opposite ends of the country. While I don't particularly love public speaking, I realized this was a great opportunity to encourage homeschool parents. And, I really do enjoy meeting and talking with Sonlight moms!

Before going, I read the titles and summary statements about some of the speeches others were going to present. And after attending the conventions, I began to wonder if over the years the agenda at homeschool conventions had shifted. Instead of a primary focus on how to equip and encourage homeschool parents for the year ahead, I sense they may now focus more on telling parents what to think and how to raise their children.

Now, this is just my perception from the conventions I visited. You may have very different perceptions and experiences. John, for one, says he disagrees with my premise here. So can we start a dialogue about this?

Are conventions headed in the right direction? In an ideal world, what would a homeschool convention look like?

Years ago, when I was just beginning to homeschool,the conventions I attended taught me how to teach math more effectively and how to encourage my children to write creatively. The keynote speaker reminded us that we were more than able to homeschool. I remember leaving the convention feeling recharged and ready to teach another year.

But when I reviewed the lists of workshops at one convention I was attending, I was surprised and a bit disconcerted to see such "crucial" homeschooling topics as how to make soap and how to plant a garden! Now, some moms may thoroughly enjoying gardening and making soap, but should those be workshops at a homeschooling convention? I wonder if workshops like this make busy homeschooling moms feel like they have to add these life skills to their already busy lives. I wonder if we're adding unnecessary burdens on the backs of homeschoolers.

When I asked a convention committee member how her convention chooses its topics, she happened to mention that they added sessions about parenting skills because some moms need help learning how to parent effectively.

That made some sense to me, and I thought, yes, some (maybe many!) parents could use help in the area of parenting. But again I wondered, shouldn't homeschool conventions maintain their focus on homeschooling? Yes. Let's address parenting. But let's address it primarily from the perspective of: "Discipline in the Homeschool Classroom," perhaps, but not simply (or broadly) a seminar on "Effective Parenting." To me, that teaching could better be elsewhere, maybe more in the church at large.

I'd be really interested in hearing your thoughts. Perhaps your view is much different than mine. Is your local homeschool convention helpful to you? Are there topics you wish were covered at your convention but are not? Are there ways we here at Sonlight can encourage you? Please let me know.

I have a passion for speaking life into homeschool parents, especially moms. I love reminding them that they can do this! They are serving their families well, and they do have what it takes to homeschool. It warms my heart when a mom approaches me after my talk to say "Thank you! I feel recharged and ready to face another year!"

Indeed, let me encourage you. If you're headed to a homeschool convention soon, seek out speakers and workshops that will encourage and challenge (but not overwhelm) you. If you think something will discourage you, just avoid it! Choose uplifting alternatives.

Whatever your convention experiences have been like, I'd love to encourage you right now. In case you haven't heard this lately, please know:
  • Homeschooling is a good thing. It's good for families, kids and society. (I spoke on this topic at our Virtual Meetup back in late May. —You can watch a series of short videos from my presentation here on YouTube. Look to the playlist on the right and choose "Sarita 'Why Homeschool' Part 1".)
  • You CAN teach your children well. You do have what it takes. There are resources to help in areas where you feel weak. Call a Sonlight Curriculum Advisor free or head to the Sonlight Forums if you ever need some help.
  • You don't have to go at it alone. You can find community in local homeschool groups and on the Sonlight Forums.

Blessings,
Sarita

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