Sunday, March 13, 2011

Continuing Education for Home Educators

This week's cruise topic is Homeschool Conventions. Whether or not I attend and if so, what are the benefits and pitfalls?

When I was in the working world, I always looked forward to training opportunities. The break from the normal routine and the chance to learn new things was always worth the investment of time and money. Then as a new mom, I looked forward to mom conferences where I could be encouraged and inspired to be a better mom. During a several year stint as a rubber stamping demonstrator, I attended trainings whenever possible as they were guaranteed to be times of creative energy and refreshment!

When we first began homeschooling it was mid-year and we really didn't know what we were doing. So when the advertisement arrived in our mailbox for our state homeschool convention, we knew it was just what we needed. That conference gave us the encouragement we needed to tackle the next year (and the next and the next).

Some of the reasons we have attended almost every annual conference since then:
  • Provides uninterrupted time as a parenting team to evaluate the year past and strategize for the year ahead
  • Opportunity to view and compare materials first hand before buying
  • Attend vendor presentations on the philosophy and methods of a particular curriculum
  • Learn valuable lessons from more experienced homeschoolers
  • Receive encouragement to persevere when the way seems so hard
  • One stop shopping-hundreds of vendors in one place
  • Great source of educational games & godly literature to help sprinkle fun in our school days
  • Great resource for craft and art supplies
  • Admonition and charge to raise a godly heritage (this message is so hard to remember in the trenches of dirty dishes, laundry, and unending clutter)
  • Time of fellowship with like-minded parents
We've now homeschooled for nine years. I can say unreservedly, that one of the singlest biggest factors in helping us keep on the course has been attending our annual homeschool convention. There are many heroes of homeschooling and as much as I love to read, hearing an author in person is infinitely greater than just reading their books. Some of the most memorable speakers from homeschool conventions we have attended (in our own state or a neighboring one) have included:
  • Doug Phillips of Vision Forum
  • Marilyn Boyer
  • Sally Clarkson
  • R.C. Sproul, Jr.
  • Todd Wilson
  • Steve Demme of Math-U-See
  • Stacy McDonald
  • Voddie Baucham
And so many others I can't recall but who were an encouragement to me and my husband along our journey.

The amazing thing is that a homeschool conference is far less expensive than the types of professional conferences I attended while in the work world (which often ran $300 on up). Most homeschool conferences will be under $100 (some far less; Iowa's conference is less than $50 if you are a member of the state organization). There are so many speaker and exhibitor workshops on just about any topic imaginable: identifying your child's learning style, organizing helps, helps for history, math, language and ideas for unit studies, encouragement to stay the course and most importantly how to raise a godly heritage.

I just can't recommend conferences highly enough. The time with just my husband to discuss and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our school have always proved invaluable. We are within driving distance of our conference so we drive both days or sometimes just choose one day to attend. If your state convention is not local, then the cost of utilizing on-site childcare or student conferences may be worth considering. Our conference has started offering some top-notch programs for school aged kids--basically a wonderful learning conference of their own.

If you have older children, you may want to inquire about volunteer opportunities. It gives students not only an opportunity to serve, but allows them to meet other homeschoolers and interact with some of the speakers and leaders within your state organization. And for teachers in need of continuing education credits, find out whether CEUs can be earned through your state's homeschool convention.

Take advantage of the tools available to you as a homeschool parent. You will not regret it!

I invite you to visit the TOS Blog Cruise website to read thoughts from other homeschoolers on a variety of homeschool topics. For the specific topic of homeschool conventions, drop by on March 14.

Happy Cruising,

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