Why You Should Go
to a Homeschool Convention
By Audra Talley
Three years ago, with a soon-to-be second grader, another ready to start school, and a 10 month-old on my hip, I went to my first homeschool convention. Another homeschool mom encouraged me to go, so I went out of curiosity, hoping to find new ideas. Mostly I went out of sheer desperation. The program I had used for my oldest had become frustrating and it was clear it wouldn’t work for my kindergartner. I needed an “ah-ha” moment, an idea, an approach, a curriculum . . . a whole lot of help.
I went with high hopes. I came away overwhelmed. Yes, I said overwhelmed. I was also blessed in ways that I never anticipated. So, why go to a home school convention? Do the blessings compensate for the challenges? The simple answer is, yes! Some of you may be asking, “What if I want more than the simple answer?” Well, I am glad you asked!
Here are my “Four M Blessings” for going to a homeschool convention:
Blessing #1: Meet with Other Mothers – The first challenge is just getting there. Carving out two days of my busy life is daunting, and I have come to convention nearly frazzled by the process of just getting there. So, I’ve taken to planning waaaaaaayyyyyyy ahead. I literally black out the dates on my calendar. Honestly, I even block out the day before (in case of last minutes issues) and the day after (to rest and process everything I learned). Then I pray that God clears the path before me.
My second challenge is that I am an introvert and being surrounded by hundreds of people makes me ping. So, I also pray that God will let me be an encouragement to someone there. Most importantly, no matter what, I actually go. And when I plop down next to another parent who looks like they worked just as hard to get there as I did, I blessedly don’t feel so alone. Homeschooling can be isolating. We can opt not to be involved in outside activities so we aren’t spread too thin, but we become physically isolated. Or, we get involved in so many outside educational activities that we become emotionally isolated (our busy-ness doesn’t allow relationships to truly develop). In either case, we can feel terribly alone and overwhelmed. The mental and spiritual blessing of just knowing I am not the only one trying to find a balance brings a great deal of encouragement and relief. Further, giving a word of encouragement, an idea, or just having a conversation on common goals, may be the one thing that other parent needed to keep them in the fight. Sometimes it is you that gets that word.
Blessing #2: Meet with Teachers – As homeschool parents we are learning all the time. We learn our kids, new ways to teach subjects, about electrons and protons, the many ways to write multiplication problems, to school in the car, to nurse an infant while reviewing phonics sounds, to cook dinner while teaching a lesson on fractions, and on . . . and on. The difficulty is, we are learning in a vacuum; our scope of knowledge and understanding narrows a great deal as we perfect teaching our children. And if you have younger kids that translates to a whole lot of “b-as-in-bell” and “3+4=7” and “sit down” and “your upper case letters start with a backward loop.” Yes, we are continuously adapting and learning what our kids need to know, but how often do we get to sit down and learn the things we need or want to learn, to actually take a “class?” How often do we get to learn from another adult, a teacher, the concepts and mechanics of a specific topic? How often do we get to sit in a class and learn something entirely new just because we want to? How often do we get to ask the questions? A homeschool convention offers a variety of classes on a plethora of topics, taught by experts in their arena, for the sole purpose of educating you! What a blessing to just learn for the sake of learning!
Blessing #3: Meet with New Ideas and Solutions – This area presents pretty big challenges and is the most cited reason for NOT attending a convention that I have heard. Truth be told, my first experience at a home school convention was terribly overwhelming in this area. There is so much stuff: curriculum, tools, aids, approaches, types, and so on. Brilliant ideas flow freely from class to class, tips and tricks are offered in abundance, tweaks and advice ooze from every corner, and I walk away with pages of handwritten notes of those “ah-ha” moments. By the end of my first convention I found myself nearly in tears because I couldn’t figure out how to fit it all into my home school. Of course, convention organizers do not intend to make you a crazy, emotional wreck. Their heart is to provide the most encouragement, the most practical advice, and the most options in a short amount of time.
But here’s the deal: convention offers a buffet of homeschool blessings, but like any buffet we should not consume everything offered or we will be sick (i.e. overwhelmed). Here is what helps me not “overeat” at convention: I spend the weeks leading to convention in prayer, asking God to guide me to the classes that will meet our needs. I go with a plan and an open heart to God’s leading. Generally, I try to attend classes that obviously address our needs, but I do my best to let God lead me to those classes He knows I need. I take a notebook full of notes. Then I go home, pray some more, and review my notes. Ultimately, I try to pick out one or two of the most helpful or practical ideas/tips/solutions and implement them. I tuck the rest of my notes away to be reviewed a few times a year. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone back to my convention notes only to find a gem that addresses a newly developed problem or a tweak I need to make. This blessing doesn’t end when I leave convention.
Blessing #4: Meet with God – I shouldn’t have been surprised when I attended my first Christian homeschool convention and God showed up, but I was. I think I was expecting a watered-down, generic, intellectual acknowledgement of God, with the primary focus being on academics. I was so wrong. God was there, reading my mail, speaking to my heart in ways I never expected. The challenge here is being ready to receive what God wants us to hear, to let go of our preconceived ideas of what our homeschool should look like, what it should be, how it should work.
Coming face-to-face with the power of God’s Word, applied to our roles as homeschool parents, and diligently taught by convention speakers who are focused on the things of God, cuts right to the heart. At the same time, these speakers are walking the same road we all are: following hard after God, raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and doing all we can to give them a God-honoring education. And, as if it could get any better, they share that bounty of Godly wisdom wrapped in practical insight and application. Homeschooling my children has always been a matter of conviction; but, what amazes me the most about attending a homeschool convention is that I walk away with a deeper, stronger, better relationship with God. This in turn has led to a deeper commitment to the home school path and a greater desire to let God control every part of it.
So, why should you go to a homeschool convention? Pick an M. Any one will do. Pray. God will meet you there. You won’t be disappointed.
Looking for a homeschool convention in your state? Go here for an interactive map!
Audra Talley was born and raised in Idaho, was homeschooled K-12, and graduated from CofI with a degree in political science and history. She is currently a full time domestic engineer and homeschooling momma. Married to the man of her dreams for nearly 12 years, Audra and her husband have four children (16, 8, 6, almost 4 years of age). The youngest is the only girl in the bunch. The Talley family loves spending time together and does lots of fishing, camping, hiking (anything outdoors). Calling Nampa home, Audra is involved in her church, various homeschool activities, and whatever adventures pop up.