Three weeks ago, I attended my first homeschooling conference in Ontario, representing Tree of Life. Being a foggy Maritimer, the Upper Canada scene is a bigger pond for me, but the fast-pace environment, the bustle, and the sheer volume of attendees was both energizing and encouraging. What often impresses me about homeschooling is the interest and engagement from parents seeking to educate their children at home, and at this conference, seeing parents even sharing their knowledge and experiences by presenting to others; that's a healthy learning community. I think Christian homeschooling is alive and well in Canada! Not only did the conference provide the opportunity to meet Tree of Life parents doing their best to teach their kids, but I also met not a few students for the first time, with whom I have interacted for several years by marking assignments and leading online discussions. It was a real privilege to put faces to names, and to add personal acquaintance to the somewhat isolating role of email evaluation; I hope this feeling is mutual.
From my experience, homeschooling conferences can be dizzying places where it's easy to become overwhelmed by curriculum choices and competing options. Here are four tips to help you get the most out of those conference registration fees.
1. Take notes. Whether you are attending a workshop or presentation about some aspect of homeschooling, or speaking with vendors about their products, jot down ideas, book titles and tips that you can look at later. I've seen some parents equipped with clipboards comparing options from several vendors.
2. Don't make any sudden decisions at a conference. Don't feel pressured to buy into a huge curriculum package if you are still unsure if it will meet the needs of your children and your preferred homeschooling style. As much as I would like to encourage a soundly classical and Christian approach to homeschooling, it would be folly to completely drop everything you are doing in order to follow a new method that suddenly seems appealing. Take time to make the right choices. Tree of Life will gladly follow up on your conference visit by phone or email if you have further questions about our curriculum or evaluation services, or if/when you become ready to order materials and register for courses.
3. Never be afraid to ask. That's your right as a customer and your responsibility as a parent. Tree of Life doesn't just sell books and curriculum; we know about the materials we provide. If you are wondering how a particular program could be applied for your situation, or if you are unsure what book is best, please ask.
4. Feed yourself too. Although your primary goal at a conference is likely to obtain necessary curriculum materials for your own homeschooling program, don't forget to consider your own continuous learning. Find a good book for yourself to 'sharpen the saw' and to refresh your own perspective on this crazy journey called home education.
This is a busy (and happy) time for Tree of Life, and also for many of you as you start to prepare and refocus for next year. See our 2015 conference schedule on the left side of this page.
So here's to the Spring conference season! See you there.