Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Homeschool Conference: A Review

This past weekend I attended my second homeschool conference. The initial thing that struck me was how much I've learned since we embarked on this journey two years ago. Throughout the first conference my head felt like it was going to explode from information overload. At times I felt they were conducting the conference in another language. They were throwing out names, terms and acronyms left and right: Classical education, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, trivium, living books, deschooling, WTM, BJU, ETC, Chris Klicka, et al. I had no idea what they were talking about even though I have an education degree! They seriously need to consider handing all newbies a dictionary of commonly used terms in the homeschool world before sending them up the escalator to their first meeting!

This year was different in that respect. I have had two years to slowly ease myself into the waters of homeschooling, to carefully research different methodologies and decide which curriculums I feel will work for my child and with my personality. That made this year's conference so much sweeter. I was able to choose seminars I needed to hear and this year none of them were about the technical "hows" of homeschooling (not to say that I won't need to hear those again in the future). This year when I saw the two keynote speakers' topics I knew it was going to be a good conference for me. The first was Homeschooling from a Foundation of Grace by Debra Bell, and the second was Raise Them Up, Don't Crush Them Down by Mark Hamby. I won't go into it here but you can read all about why these were so perfect for me in the first three posts on my other blog.

The conference started with Debra Bell's Homeschooling from a Foundation of Grace and after her opening line, "God called me to homeschool so I could understand the gospel of grace!" the tears started flowing. My sweet friends were pulling Kleenex out of their purses for me as fast as they could. If I was a pentecostal I would have shouted an emphatic "Amen! because that line pretty much sums up my year: through homeschooling God is teaching me all about his grace. And the lessons have been sweet but a little difficult at times - swallowing pride and self-righteousness can taste a little bitter I've learned. The other thing she said, which was almost a side-note for her but really struck a cord with me, was, "I told my children that I was not homeschooling them to protect them but to prepare them to fully engage the world and be used by God for his purposes." That is something my husband and I feel very strongly about but we've never put it into words so succinctly.

Mark Hamby's talk, Raise Them Up; Don't Crush Them Down was also very powerful for me. As he talked about how his relationship with his oldest son, Jonathan, was damaged by his exacting and controlling personality, he said some things which really made me think. His son is now 25 and much healing has taken place but it was a long, hard road. He used the passage from Malachi 4:6 as a reference: And he shall turn the hearts of the Fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. He then said, "Sometimes our children hear the beating of our voice but not the beating of our heart." Ouch! I wonder if Thatcher was a little older he would say he identified with that statement. He also made the comment that people are drawn to humility but repulsed by pride. Another ouch! Lastly he said, "You can protect your children from all the seemingly evil forces in the world (tv, secular music and books, undesirable friends etc. . . ) but unless you reach the heart there is no lasting change. Remember, Cain killed Abel and had none of those influences in his life!" Ouch, ouch, ouch! How much time to I spend trying to control my children's environment and how much time do I spend trying to mold their heart? Sadly, many weeks I can surely say, "Not enough!"

It was a good...no, wait...it was a great conference!

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