Monday, March 14, 2011

Blog Cruise: Why I'm not Attending Convention

This week's Blog Cruise topic:  Homeschool Conventions - do you attend, what are the benefits, pitfalls, etc. Share your experience!

I am incredibly grateful for the years where I could attend a homeschool convention.  I attended my very first small event in May, 1999.  That happened in Colorado Springs, and is where I was first made aware that there were options out there besides text books.  I was floored, as I had assumed that to do what I wanted for my two baby boys (Connor was 2, William only 6 months) I would have to create it all myself.  What a relief!

I attended my first state convention a few weeks later.  That was incredible.  CHEC really did put on a fabulous conference.  Dale & I had the chance to visit a bazillion vendor booths, and to hear a few speakers.  And we had the chance to interact with a lot of plain old everyday homeschool families.  I specifically remember seeing such polite teenage boys holding doors for me, and smiling at William (Connor stayed with a friend, but William was in a Snugli) and I thought, "That is what I want."  It made me realize we weren't alone, and it gave me a long-term vision.

We vowed to attend conventions faithfully -- or at least for me to.  Dale didn't necessarily feel the need to go every year, but we saw the benefits of ME getting that extra burst of energy and reassurance.  I did attend convention every year for quite a while.  One year was the North Dakota convention, and another was the Minnesota one.  One year, my best friend was there with me for a couple of days of it.  I usually had a nursing baby in tow.  A couple of the years, my mother-in-law stayed at the hotel with the kids, and then I was able to get them over to the vendor hall.

What I really loved about convention:
  • the chance to see and touch curriculum that I was considering
  • the chance to interact with the vendors and get questions answered
  • just seeing all those moms who are homeschooling like me (but not JUST like me)
  • attending workshops led by homeschool moms who seemed to totally understand where I was coming from
  • or attending workshops led by homeschool moms who had a totally different perspective to share
  • attending workshops led by "The Homeschool Pros" sometimes was really inspiring as well
  • It was so refreshing to do the whole small talk thing and rarely get negativity when I said I had five kids.
  • and when it worked out that way, this was such an amazing time period for me to regroup and plan
Why I don't attend convention anymore:
  • well, honestly, if I lived someplace else I probably would still be attending
  • CHEC seems to be leaning a lot more towards the main speakers that make me feel inadequate, unworthy, and like a horrible person for not homeschooling in "THE RIGHT WAY"
  • My state convention is also no longer a homeschooling convention.  It is a "Super Conference on the Family."  I am wholly unimpressed with these family conferences.  I want a homeschool conference instead.
  • My state group also is super picky about who they feel is "good enough" to be a vendor at their convention, and since they disapprove of so many vendors that I want to see (like Sonlight), I cannot rationalize the exorbitant price to get in. 
  • Did I mention their speakers are incredibly effective at making me feel worthless and not good enough?
  • the people who run our state organization strongly feel that there is only one "Christian" way to homeschool, which irks me to no end
  • And Dale is totally opposed to me going and hearing "all that crap" that they promote.  He is adamant that our money is not used to support the state association in any way, shape or form.
If I lived somewhere that wasn't so dogmatic, I am to the point that I would still pick and choose when it came to attending convention.  Because there are other negatives too:
  • the cost of attending can be rather steep and may be better spent on some good, encouraging mp3s.  Or an online convention.  Like the Schoolhouse Expo.
  • it can be incredibly overwhelming.  All the vendors, all with the perfect answer to something. Only they can't all be "the" perfect answer, can they?
  • Speakers can be discouraging instead of encouraging.  Especially if you don't fit their mold.
  • it is easy to spend money on things you really don't need.  My biggest homeschool spending mistakes have happened at conventions.
  • The support seems geared more towards new homeschoolers and elementary ages.  
I really, truly miss the casual conversations with other homeschool moms though.  I wish that attending convention was a possibility for me.


Lori Watson said...

I'm concerned that this may be the way our convention is heading. The emphasis seems to have moved from homeschooling to hometraining/family discipleship type speakers and focus. In fact, the theme this year is Family: God's Plan for Discipleship. I'd rather see a theme like, Homeschool Philosophies: How to Determine Which Fits Your Family or Homeschooling: Yes, You Can!

You get the idea.

I have not found that they are keeping vendors out, but there does seem to be more and more ultra conservative vendors and speakers coming in. Thankfully the great speakers like Diane Kraft are still there and encouraging attendees.

After 15 years of loving my state convention, I don't want to see them walk down this road. But we'll see.

Debra said...

I wasn't going to post on this cruise at all... but I decided I really had to. Because our state is so wacky, and I want people in other states to be thinking about it as they do things like fill out evaluation forms. List people like Diane Kraft as a favorite... suggest topics for them to include that ARE actually homeschooling related...

I'll tell you, it sucks (not a word I use often) to not have a decent conference to attend...

Cristi said...

Thank you! I've been moping lately about not getting to go to the big convention nearby. Thank you for reminding me of the good, encouraging mp3s I already have and the Schoolhouse Expo that I'm already planning to attend.

Sheila said...

Debra, I am disappointed as well to see homeschool conferences head down that path. It is happening here, too, though maybe not quite to the extent of what's going on with CHEC. Why can't we get back to discussing 'homeschooling' at homeschool conferences??

Thanks for posting!

Vickie said...

Hmmm....I've never attended a homeschool conference. The one in my state is about 75 miles away, which is fine, but typically happens during VBS week...which makes it tough. Thanks for the tips in your replies about what we'd like to see at conventions. I figured homeschool convention meant exactly that...homeschool. I appreciate the heads-up. The person that is enticing me to want to attend our state convention this year is Heidi St John is suppose to be there. The only name I recognize.

Rodna Allman said...

I've never attended a convention yet. I have always wanted to, but money or something else has always kept me from it.

I don't mind too much if there is a lot of focus on family, or Christian homeschooling, because i believe homeschooling is part of raising Godly children, and you really can't separate that from family.

But I see what you mean if you were going for encouragement on homeschooling specifically.

This year they are offering free admission to those who have never attended, so i am hoping to go!

Sorry that your convention does not work for you.

I am also stopping by from the Blog Walk. I know I am way behind, but am catching up.

I am already following you!!/pages/Training-Children-up-for-Christ/160788030643225

Have a great night.

Alexandra said...

Timely post! I just went to my second ever convention and blogged about it. We loved the diversity represented and the fact that there were lots of speakers on... homeschooling, curriculum, college.

That's a shame that you don't have one that is nearby, affordable, and "speaks" to you. This was not nearby for us, but definitely worth it.