(Note: This post was written before virtual conferences were as common but it DOES mention about them. 🙂 )
I like the reminder in Proverbs 27:9 – that God doesn’t want us to feel alone and one of His ways of caring for us is to provide us opportunities to have a friend(s). Here is that Scripture verse in a few different translations:
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. (NLT)
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. (NIV)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and so does the sweetness of a friend that comes from his earnest counsel. (ESV)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. (NASB)
Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel. (KJV)
Today’s post is about attending a homeschool conference/convention and why you should consider one if you are or will be homeschooling. 🙂 As I pondered the blessings of the conferences I’ve attended in the past, I ended up with words which spell out the acronym F-R-I-E-N-D for whatever reason and, when you think of it, this acronym DOES really fit well, even though it might not be what one first thinks about for a conference.
Before I lose the readers who are now saying to themselves, “I have no close friends to go to conferences so this post isn’t for me,” let me ask you to continue reading anyways.
This post still applies in many ways, even if the only conferences you CAN attend are VIRTUAL. 🙂
F- is for friendships and fun!
I first heard about a homeschool conference in my teen years when a family we knew were going to one. It sounded boring but they apparently enjoyed it. I think they had to leave Canada to go to it so I didn’t consider looking for one when we started. I didn’t know that homeschool conferences existed in our province until a new friend from church offered to take me down to one. It would be a very long drive, a very long day, but our husbands were fine with the plan to care for the littles all day, put them to bed, etc. so it sounded like a nice break with another mom. One problem…
Although this mom had children essentially the same ages as mine, she somehow woke up with tons of energy each morning. I mean, this lady was amazing – her kids could finish their homeschooling by the time our family were finishing our breakfast! Sometime she would even phone me as we were still chewing and wonder if we’d like to do something with them (e.g. go for a hike) for the rest of the day because they were already done! And I’d think, “rest of the day”? I’ve barely started it! 😀
So she warned me, “Joy, we HAVE to start from my house EARLY to get there on time.”
I agreed (almost like signing a contract) but in the back of my head, a plan was soon brewing that I just couldn’t resist. My old roommate from camp days used to say that my middle name was “Fun” but this new friend didn’t know me very well yet.
You see, the homeschool conference was set for April Fool’s Day – seriously! 😀 And so, I arrived promptly at my friend’s house ON TIME, “ready” for the day… I had dressed (but had put some nightclothes back on), I had combed my hair (but put a few curlers in), I had a mismatched boot and shoe or slipper, etc.. in other words, I looked a mess (on purpose). I knocked at the door to wish them a “Happy April Fool’s Day”.
“Hon,” her husband called as he surveyed the situation, “You’ve got to come here…”
And her little boy peeked around his dad’s legs with his big eyes wide, shocked at seeing this lady from church whom he had never known to look this sleepy.
“Joy,” she said sternly, with a twinkle in her eye, “I am NOT taking YOU like THAT!”
“But it’s early,” I replied, faking a yawn. “You know I’m not a morning person like you.”
Shortly thereafter, I put my extra costume in our car quickly and we were on our way down the highway in hers – a whole day of adventure!
The trip both ways was a huge blessing as we shared stories and thoughts together. Can I repeat here that we weren’t old friends from years and years – you don’t have to find an OLD friend to go with! She was willing to take a new one. And that impacted me just as much as all of the neat stuff I learned and saw at that conference.
And yes, I loved the vendor’s hall! It was like a craft fair, a farmer’s market, and a science fair to me! (I didn’t grow up in a city so I rarely saw trade shows.) I met a few people I knew from years past. The seminars were very interesting. Just the part about SEEING and HEARING that many other moms who were in my age/stage was a huge encouragement!
The next year, I went down to the same conference with my husband (yes, he’s my friend too 🙂 ) and it was also a FUN day away together. By then, we had made the decision to homeschool for the long-term so this time, we shopped more. The seminars we both attended were so useful that we still keep some of those notes or contacts to refer back to.
(Update: In more recent years as we’ve experienced more online conferences, this connection with other moms is often (although not always) missed. However, one place I can find this connection is to be a part of the Teach Them Diligently 365 group that meets periodically online to chat throughout the year. This is how I’ve met many of my homeschooling friends. You can join TTD365 too! (This is not an affiliate link but I do personally recommend this group and have a discount for my audience: to get $30 off the annual membership fee, use my coupon code “JOY”!)
R- is for relevant and refreshing!
The people you meet share a lot in common with you – many of them are parents raising characters who are the same age/stage as yours. Many of them understand the same sorts of groans and laughs, disappointments and anticipations, body changes and hormones, childhood quirks and unpredictabilities!
The people you meet at a conference tend to be humble, even the leaders. That is refreshing too because you don’t feel like a failure if you’ve forgotten or never thought of something! Plus, you’re generally having “adult conversation”, a break from speaking “children-ese” and that is refreshing too! (Note about children: If your older offspring are also at the conference, they get to see others their age and have a program just for them. Many, but not all, conferences in Canada traditionally only allow nursing babies, not the other children. Teens are often welcome. Please check with the one(s) you are planning to attend to abide by their regulations/insurance policies.)
I – is for ideas that can be intriguing!
You might ignite a passion to learn something new yourself! Going to a conference could be a catalyst to remind you to be a life-long learner in something interesting that you see or hear there. Perhaps it is a book you see or a seminar/workshop you attend – there are lots of things to learn which are absolutely fascinating! 🙂
E – is for exciting, entertaining, efficient use of time for “professional development”, especially helpful, encouraging for parents!
(In preparing for this blog, by this stage, I was asking my family for word suggestions to fit my acronym and they came up with some great ones so I had to include at least some of them! 😀 )
Efficient learning time: Spending just one or two days (or more) a year for P.D. (professional development) time is really a great idea to keep a balanced perspective on everything. And homeschool conferences tend to fit in a lot of practical tips/help for us within a short period of time.
Beyond getting helpful ideas, the people we meet at a conference can be encouraging spiritually too. At a number of conferences when we were vendors, we were personally facing some challenging situations those particular weeks (e.g. a miscarriage that began when we arrived, a friend who was dying and asking to see us, slander, an inconvenient travel arrangement). A handful of people, whether they knew us before or had just met us, prayed for and/or with us. Seeing God’s love truly shining through these other parents at those conferences was an unforgettable encouragement which strengthened us. Think about making an impact in someone’s life by taking a few moments to get to know them a little bit during a conference day – perhaps just saying a few words about how God is working in your life or even taking time to pray briefly with them! 🙂
N is for Notes (take them), for motivating NEXT steps in your plan, and my favourite – to remind you that you are NOT ALONE!
The last HS conference that I attended in-person a number of years ago has two “extra-special” memories that I’ll share with you here – think of something other than the vendor hall or the seminar rooms…
The first memory is of the hundreds of parents and teens singing together in 4-part harmony acapella “Fairest Lord Jesus” when we met in the main auditorium – worshipping the same God with grateful, joyful hearts!
The second memory is of meeting and chatting with another young mom of a different Christian ethnicity than I, in the changeroom when we were both nursing our babies. She told me a story of reaching out to a secular teen who had come to their door wanting to know Christ. What a story of God at work – how He was using a homeschooling family to show someone in their community that the important thing in life is not about educational choices or dress or foods but rather about a relationship with the living God!
We are not alone in our worship or our mission for our God. When we meet with other Christians during a conference (or visit a church in a different community or elsewhere), this aspect is especially a blessing because of the unity and fellowship we can share with one another.
D is for delectable – a meal you don’t have to cook; discovery, daring to leap into new things, devices!
The first 3 “d” words are self-explanatory. 🙂 “Devices” though, is a bit different.
Now I know that many moms take their cell phones along with them to “stay in touch” with the caregiver of their kiddos and/or check or add to lists.
But here’s where I’d like to bring in another point.
To me and to a number of other moms, “attending” a homeschool conference these days also means using a piece of technology to access the conference itself. This is the way we now tend to “attend” a conference and I’d like to highlight this as an option, especially to those who can’t travel to the typical other kind!
My device is a wired (no wireless) desktop computer with a “shielded screen”; for some moms, it would be a wireless device. True, it is not the same as meeting in-person, but using a device can help us to learn, to share, to encourage one another, etc. in our common choice of home education. Watching and interacting over a device will never replace the actual meeting together as a crowd – I do miss the “real in-person” conferences in many ways. But virtual conferences and meet-ups are becoming more common and I personally appreciate them because it reaches those of us who normally could not, for various reasons (e.g. distance, care needs), attend a large convention in-person.
Thinking about attending a homeschool conference/convention this year?
Walking together in life is much sweeter! ♥
P.S. HSLDA Canada’s website has a list of the homeschool conferences/conventions across our country for this year -check this link here for that info: https://hslda.ca/conferences/
P.S. Join our newsletter list and/or check our Facebook page for current possibilities for homeschool conferences. I try to remember to put posts up there to announce ones where we have been or are currently either attending as a participant or vendor. 🙂