Monday, June 14, 2010

Homeschool Convention 2010!

Homeschooling can be a very solitary venture sometimes. Even with the explosion of homeschool groups both online and locally based, it’s easy to feel isolated sometimes as a mom or dad teaching at home. Additionally, curriculum purchasing can be frustrating when it’s done completely online; not getting your hands on the books or materials sometimes means that homeschoolers end up purchasing the wrong tools. And that is why homeschool conventions exist. 
When I began my homeschooling journey back in New Jersey, I attended my first convention at the end of my first year as a homeschooling mom. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I drove a little more than an hour away from home, taking my oldest daughter with me. When we arrived, we found a small convention hall (Edison, NJ isn’t exactly the epicenter of anything!) with vendors set up in rows. Workshops (basically informational lectures) were offered in various rooms adjoining the hall. Right outside the vendor area there was a large area for the sale of used curriculum, and even a table of “Take me, I’m free!” materials. It was an eye-opening experience for me. 
I hadn’t been around so many homeschoolers—ever. And the opportunity to put my hands on books I’d been examining on the internet made me giddy. I don’t think I bought too much during that first convention. I know I took away lots of information and brochures, and later in the summer, I placed an online order based on what I found there. I also attended quite a few workshops. That was nine years ago. In the interim, I’ve both attended and worked several NJ homeschool conventions, and over the past four years, I’ve become a regular attendee at the country’s largest homeschool convention offered by the Florida Parent Educators Association. Each May, FPEA takes over a resort. Homeschoolers from all over Florida and other bordering states swarm the convention floor. The first FPEA convention I attended was overwhelming. Coming from my little NJ show, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer scope of the vendors’ hall. It opened on Thursday evening, with both Friday and Saturday offering full days of shopping opportunities.
Since that first experience in Florida, I’ve gotten used to the size of the convention. I’ve learned how to navigate the floor quickly and easily. But I never fail to be impressed and amazed by the whole thing. Imagine the varied shapes of homeschooling families. Now picture a representative group of those families. That’s a good sketch of what a convention looks like. There are lots of very large families as well as the more “typical” smaller ones. It’s not unusual to see conservatively dressed children and women, as homeschooling is very popular among groups who embrace that lifestyle. There are certainly lots of children on the show floor, from tiny nursing babies to those who are about to graduate.
The vendors include what you might expect: larger homeschool companies offering a rare chance to examine all their materials and book and supply companies with every kind of paper, pencil, crayon you can imagine. There are also college tables, as well as reps from different attractions that cater to the homeschool set. I haven’t participated in workshops or lectures for several years, but they are certainly available for those who need guidance, inspiration or information. Really, all the inspiration I need comes from simply walking the convention and seeing all these families, thriving and growing together, learning in every different style under the sun. It never fails to get me excited for a new school year

Tawdra Kandle is stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four children who range in age from 9 years to 21 years. She and her husband of over 22 years live in central Florida, where he is in seminary. Tawdra spends most of her precious free time writing and reading, and she loves to travel. She is also a resident writer for Taking Time for Mommy. View more of her Articles HERE. You can also follow Tawdra on twitter and her blog, Publishing Quest
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Deana on Mon Jun 14, 01:55:00 PM 2010 said...

My step-mom and dad just went to the home school convention in Virginia. They love going and getting connected through these and apparent;y something has worked. My step-mom homeschools all 5 children (one just graduated with almost perfect scores and received a full blown scholarship to BYU. But she says she learned so much through these conventions.


Homeschool Convention 2010!

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