It can happen so easily! You find yourself on your third session of the day, after attending two classes with speakers who ignited your passion for teaching your kids science and math. You’ve loved the convention you’re attending, but then…the speaker starts discussing something that is working beautifully in your home….and starts bashing it. You thought you had that aspect of this homeschool craziness covered, but now you’re not so sure and doubting yourself.
Ugh! What a tough place to find yourself during what you thought would be a great, encouraging, and uplifting weekend! The fact of the matter is, 99% of the time, your homeschool convention experience is going to be great and encouraging. Unfortunately, there will likely come a time when you sit in on a session that undermines where you are as a homeschool parent. You have the ability to decide whether that speaker is going to have any influence on how you teach your children, and your confidence to do so.
There are several things to keep in mind when you are attending a homeschool convention that will keep a speaker’s presentation from disrupting your homeschool experience.
1. First and foremost, you are the parent. You know your child and school best. If a presenter is extolling the virtue of a certain method, but you know that it would not work well with your particular child, don’t use the method. Just because it worked well for one family, or even a large amount of families, doesn’t mean whatever the method or idea is would work well in your home. You are the guard to your school and you get to control what enters. Don’t jump into something just because a speaker is selling you on the idea. Conversely, if a routine or system is working well in your home, but the speaker is talking about how it would not work, don’t abandon what’s working!
2. Don’t run out and buy a curriculum just because you’ve sat in a session and the speaker has sold the idea to the audience. The only time to immediately visit a speaker’s table and purchase a curriculum is if you are already researching a curriculum and you wanted to hear from the speaker before actually buying it. If you’re in a session and the curriculum the speaker is discussing sounds like a really good idea, research it. Take a few minutes and look for reviews online. Was that curriculum on your list of things to purchase at the convention? Will adding it to your days cause a strain on your school? Does it line up with your beliefs, both educationally and faith-wise? Pause and consider the long-term before buying an item just because it was recommended. I can’t tell you how many books sit on our shelf just because they sounded good at the time!
3. Don’t let a curriculum that sounded like a great idea in the session become a burden on your school, if you do purchase one. Many times it may not work well for your family, or can be too much added to your calendar. It is completely fine to start a curriculum and realize that it’s not going to work well, and abandon it. This is especially true in your first 3 – 4 years of homeschooling. There is a lot of trial and error as you figure out what works. Just because it worked well for the speaker or for other families doesn’t mean you are obligated to finish that course. Box it up and put it on the shelf until later, sell it to a friend, or sell it in a used curriculum sale. You may lose out on some money, but losing a small amount of money is better than creating a burden on your school.
4. Acknowledge that you’re not going to agree with every speaker. The homeschool world is growing by leaps and bounds in the U.S.A. and around the world. There are homeschoolers from every walk of life, and homeschool speakers from every walk of life. At some point you are going to very likely end up in a session that looked good on paper….but was different when you attended. It’s O.K. to have that happen. You are not obligated to agree with each presenter. Convention organizers generally cast as wide a net as possible to bring in as many attendees as possible. If you don’t agree, let it roll off your back, tear up your notes, and simply move on.
5. Don’t abandon a system that’s working just because you were in a session and the speaker went on and on about his or her system and how great it worked for him or her. If you have already built a system that is effective in your home, keep it going. There is no perfection in homeschooling, and abandoning what works in pursuit of what sounds like a perfect system, can easily leave you in a frustrated mess. Make tweaks slowly instead of the day after you return from a convention! The best time to implement changes is at the beginning of a new school year, after you’ve had time to prepare in advance.
Bonus: * One more note for our faith based readers: Don’t allow your homeschool to become hijacked by a charismatic speaker. Especially for Christian homeschoolers, there are many great faith-based curriculums that can be used to give your children a strong foundation in the Bible. Sadly, there are also many that will twist scripture and can be extremely harmful to your family unit and your children as they grow. Many families have been sold on using harmful curriculums or programs because a speaker was charismatic and promised well behaved, God-fearing children. As with other curriculums, do your research. Look for reviews, testimonials, etc. Also, make sure you’re spending more than a few minutes researching any faith-based program. Comb the web for both the good and bad sides of families’ experiences with the curriculum you’re interested in. You can’t always trust the first three or four reviews you come across. As a Christian homeschooler myself, it is my firm belief that any educational program that demands complete and total allegiance in the name of “Godly kids” cannot possibly deliver on what it is selling. It is not an educational program that will draw our children to making the choice to follow Christ in their lives. It is our job to live out our faith while teaching them God’s Word, and His job to draw them to him. Forcing kids to follow a prescribed curriculum will only serve to drive them away. Exercise extreme caution when it comes to purchasing faith-based curriculum.
Again, you will most likely have a great experience at the convention you’re attending. Just keep these points in mind to protect your school, and you will be ready to thrive as a homeschool parent!
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