Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Very First Homeschool Conference

So, I have to share about my fabulous weekend! I went to my VERY FIRST homeschool conference and can I just say...WOW! I have so much to say, but I promise not to ramble on too much We'll see! (smile)

The weekend started off with Rob taking a half day from work on Friday. He came home, we ate lunch as a family, we got the kiddos down for naps, I packed and we said our goodbyes as I headed off to Orlando for the conference. I was not only excited to go to my very first conference, but alas, my best friend Jo was going to come along with me! Jo is my old college roomate when we attended Greenville College in Illinois. We roomed for 2 years and walked away from the experience as true sisters in Christ. Jo is also a 4th grade teacher here in FL and an aweseome one at that!
Here's Jo with some of her kiddos (from the past)...
(Couldn't find a photo of her and I. What's the deal with that?)

Okay, so on to the weekend...

We met each other at the conference in Orlando first. It was an adventure finding a place to park since it was PACKED, but never-the-less, we did park and found each other after a little 'hunt'. :) We signed our badges in and grabbed a schedule to pick out our first workshop we wanted to attend. We wound up splitting up due to the fact that I wanted to go to the "Handwriting Without Tears" workshop and she, a different one. I LOVED "Handwriting Without Tears" (perfect for my little boy who isn't keen on writing like his big sister was) and even scored a used kit from a lady at the vendor station later on. The whole beginner's kit is $80.00, but I was NOT about to spend that. Well, as she overheard me talking to the HWT vendor, she perked up and asked if I wanted the whole thing for $30.00. Well, YEAH! So, she and I have yet to meet up, but I can't wait because she's a homeschooling mommy of 5 and what a darling woman.

There were many reasons why I wanted to attend this conference: 1. thumbing through and getting my hands on the different curriculums out there, 2. going to the workshops, 3. having some time with Jo (just girl time), 4. snatching up some great books and teaching materials and 5. networking and meeting other homeschool families. I felt like I over-accomplished all of those areas during our trip! Thanks Lord.

1. I was able to physically go through different curriculums and make mental notes of all the positive and negative things with each curriculum (I'll have to share a whole different post on this one...can't wait to share what we chose!). In a traditional school setting, a teacher must use the curriculum provided. Well, what if that curriculum isn't the greatest? What if that curriculum doesn't meet the needs of all of your students (which it won't)? I discovered some new authors that I just fell in love with. Ken Ham was one that I was extremely impressed with. He is an author who writes books on the topic of creation and the dinosaurs. You have to check him out HERE. I bought a few books (they were 20% off and no shipping!) of his and am contimplating a timeline that goes along with my teaching methods of The Well-Trained Mind. Although I'm impressed with The Well-Trained Mind, it saddens me somewhat that the authors don't take a Biblical approach. Both authors are believers, but they simply use one chapter to address implementing our faith in what we teach. Anyway, I met this great girl and we had WAY too much in common to even share today, but she told me about Tapestry of Grace and how it is the same teaching methods as The Well-Trained Mind, but with a Christian perspective, implementing Creation and other Bible stories. I did jump on their website, but wasn't impressed with how planned out things were. One of the beautiful things about home education is that you CHOOSE what you want to teach to your children and HOW you want to teach it. Tapestry of Grace is good for a beginner with no teaching experience that might want everything laid out.

Anyway, I was impressed by so much more...the Boy Scouts who were there guiding little ones in making homemade rockets and shooting them off towards the ceiling; the science experiments in the middle of the book fair room (Tobin's Lab was there); the little workshops going on in the vendor booths (okay, so I've fallen in love with Lap Books and can't wait to try them. I bought THIS BOOK and it's so packed with information that my mind feels like it wants to explode with great information when I read it). You'll see (if we can get a camera up and running) photos of our lapbooks that we do along the way this next year and for years to come.

Here is a photo of a Lap Book for those who don't know. Possibilities are endless. I'll talk more about them another time.

2. The Workshops that we planned on going to didn't really happen. Okay, so we went to two or three, but we mostly hung out in the vendor area (it was HUGE and intimidating, but I knew God would lead me to the right curriculum for our kiddos). It took us the two days to go through everything and even when we left, there were vendors that I'm sure we wouldn't have minded going through again. :) I attended the Handwriting Without Tears workshop, the Lap Book workshop (the acutal author and creator of Lap Books, Tammy Duby, was the teacher and was she GOOD!) and that was it. I think next year, I'll be going to many more.

3. My girl time with Jo was just what the doctor ordered. :) Jo and I have known each other for 11 years now and it could be two years since we've seen each other, but she's just one of those friends where you jump right back in where you left off, and like nothing happend. We enjoyed some time at Downtown Disney Friday night, chatting away about our future plans over an incredible icecream sundae at Ghiardelli's, sharing about what the Lord is doing in our lives and how He's physically and spiritually working. We enjoyed just being girls. We enjoyed sleeping in (a little!) on Saturday morning. I can't remember the last time I attempted to sleep in without a little one crawling in bed with Rob and I and snuggling. We enjoyed picking each others' brains about 'teacher stuff' (since we're both educators and have taught in traditional schools), comparing curriculums (still sticking with A Beka math this year, but I'm liking Saxton more and more...not as colorful and visually stimulating as A Beka, but better content and repitition). We just enjoyed each other. (smile)

4. The teaching supplies and materials that I got weren't too abundant, but my favorite two purchases were...

The above photo is of 'Mat Man'. He's the mascot for the Handwriting Without Tears program. There's a song that goes with Mat Man, where children learn about the different shapes that are needed to write the alphabet. I have to pick up Mat Man from my new friend Ruth, and I'll share about Lincoln and Mat Man in the future. I was skeptical in the beginning, but I walked away quite impressed. You really don't need to purchase many of their items for teaching, just copy and apply their strategies to your own.

5. Finally, I was so overjoyed to have met some new homeschool moms and their families. I have to admit that I was very impressed with how the FPEA put on the convention. The hotel was amazingly beautiful, everything was insanely organized, it was PACKED with neat families, there were workshops for the kiddos while mom and dad attended their own workshops, the parent workshops were layed back and little ones (too young for the bigger kids' workshops) were included into the teaching by the leaders, they thought of everything (including a nursing mother's room, complete with dimmed lights and tables of refreshments and water!). I was touched the most by watching other families interact. I loved passing the hallway where the graduating class (which was HUGE, by the way...hundreds and hundreds of graduates) was getting their picture taken and parents were screaming for their kid(s). You could sense the accomplishment in their voices and see it in their eyes. They were so PROUD. I'm sure it's a bittersweet feeling knowing that you raised your child the way God called you to raise them, you poured everything that you could into them and now, you're sending them off into the world to be salt and light. I got goosebumps...seriously. It was neat.

I'm wrapping up, I promise. (smile)

For non-homeschooled families:

If you ever get the chance to attend a homeschooling convention, try it. I'm serious. Even if you're not called to home educate. There are so many neat books, children's literature, science experiments you could do over the summer, the possibilities are endless. It's a great way to meet other Christian families and let your kiddos interact.

Sad Thoughts

One thing that I will close with is sad. If I'm being completely honest, I was sad at the fact that there will come a day where homeschooling will not be allowed. I don't know if God will call my own children to home-educate, but one thing is for sure, I'll be very sad for them if that is what they feel lead to do, but it's no legal. I feel blessed because although there has been talk about conforming home education in the future (only parents with an education degree may teach at home...don't worry, nothing is in the works that I know of...hmm, maybe some 'Kelli research' should be in the works), the Lord lead me to get an education degree (so I'd be covered IF something did happen with this freedom).

The Wrap Up

I just want to thank my incredible, awesome, handsome, caring, loving, sacrificing husband for lovin' on our three kiddos this weekend, allowing me to go and enjoy this conference. Will I go again next year? YES. Hands down. Will I bring my children? Not sure. Will I bring my hubby? I'm hoping. :) Did I enjoy it this year with my Jo? Yes. Thanks for coming with me friend. Love you girl!


Taryn said...

I stay with the King James Bible curriculums: Abeka for science and health etc., keepersofthefaith.com(good articles and book reviews), Christian Light Education and Rod and Staff. We used Landmark Freedom for algebra and geometry. They each have must-have catalogs. Christian Liberty Press sells some Abeka with answer keys. Timberdoodle has the Amish Pathway Readers. I started homeschooling in South Florida in 1985 for 3 years but moved back home to Long Island.

Taryn said...

I found homeschool reviews.com helpful. stevenandersonfamily.blogspot.com has an interesting review of Alpha Omega Publications in March. We hope to visit Ken Ham/answersingenesis Creation Museum in Kentucky someday.