Monday, June 8, 2009

Creating My Own Homeschool Conference and a Plan for More "Teacher Inservice"

Our local homeschool conference was this weekend in Houston. I have attended for three summers now and received great encouragement each time. I had pre-purchased my ticket and was ready to go...until I sat down on Thursday night to read over the seminar schedule. There were lots of new speakers and several new workshops on all sorts of topics. But none of them spoke to me and where I am in my journey. I couldn't justify spending two days and a half a tank of gas to sit listening to talks that really didn't apply to me at this time. Not that they weren't great; they were. They just weren't great for me.

Immediately a thought jumped into my mind, "Why not plan my own two-day conference?" Dh was already planning on staying with the kids and I really needed some time off re-ignite the fire that had somewhat dimmed in recent months. I made my own schedule, packed a bag full of books and goodies, grabbed the laptop and headed off to Panera Bread, a place with free Wi-Fi and yummy food. I think their Cinnamon Crunch Bagel and Honey Walnut Spread just may be my new passion in life. ;) I spent the next two days reading, researching, listening, reflecting and journaling. I was able customize my day and utilize so many mediums: books, websites, blogs, message boards, my trusty journal and seminars on MP3. It was wonderful, enriching and a very motivating time.

I missed the fellowship of friends but most of them were not attending the conference this year for various reasons anyway. I also missed walking around the Exhibit Hall at the conference; it's so fun to see all the great resources out there. But I had fun replacing that with time walking around Lakeshore Learning. I found some great things to add to our wishlist!

Saturday when my "conference" was done, I thought back to when I was a ps teacher; we had regular "Staff Development" and/or "Teacher Inservice" days scattered throughout the year. They were nice days to recharge batteries, get some fresh ideas and have a little fun in the process. As a homeschooler I could definitely benefit from some ongoing "Staff Development" so I decided I will try to schedule my own "Teacher In-Service" days about once every eight weeks or so. Next time I will invite other homeschool moms to join me. We may all be doing different things but just to be able to visit on our breaks would be such a treat!

Here is the schedule I went by:

And here are links to most of the things listed in the schedule:

Charlotte Mason, Volume 6 in Modern English at Ambleside Online
HANDLE Therapy
Grace Based Parenting
AO - Ambleside Online
SCM - Simply Charlotte Mason
Laying Down the Rails MP3 from SCM
Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival
Higher Up and Further In Blog
Handbook of Nature Study Blog
Lakeshore Learning
Masterly Inactivity e-book from SCM

If you are thinking about your own planning your own conference/teacher inservice here is what I would suggest for your consideration:

1. Start making a list now of things you might like to do. Research online seminars you can download and or CD talks you can go ahead and order so they are ready. What homeschool related books are sitting half-finished or maybe haven't even been started? Any new curriculum you've been wanting to take a good long look at? Order the catalog now so it's ready. Need time to do some goal-setting or long term planning?

2. Then, prioritize. I tried to make the majority of my conference a time of enrichment. Conferences are supposed to motivate, inspire, introduce new ideas or new ways of doing things. Make sure your conference has plenty of time for personal growth, not just practical planning out your year (although I did a tiny bit of that, too). This is a time to recharge batteries! What will recharge you?

3. Make a schedule and stick to it, just like you would at a real conference. The accountability of having mine printed and on the table next to me kept me on-task and not mentally wandering off.

4. When I made my schedule, I tried to alternate between reading, computer time and listening. I didn't want to be staring at a computer screen for 4 straight hours or plan all my reading back to back.

5. If you have a laptop, research places with wi-fi, preferably free to keep costs low. If you don't but internet access is needed during your time, consider going to a library so you can use their computers. When choosing a place for my days, I chose restaurants where you order at a counter and get your own drinks; tips are not expected. If you go to a traditional restaurant and sit in a server's section for several hours, it is appropriate to tip him/her enough to make up for the money s/he would have made from all the tables during the time you sat there. Now if you are there during a dead time and you are really, really low maintenance (don't need your drink refilled every two minutes) , don't worry too much. Can you tell I worked at restaurants for years? ;)

My two days were just the start of my plan to fight off the burn out I've been facing. And what a great start it was!



Trinity Mommy said...

LOVE this idea! Thanks for sharing this with us!

carole said...

Thank you! This is a wonderful idea and one that I will definitely try to implement. This past weekend there was a homeschool conference locally and it wasn't a fit for me and what is on our learning agenda for the fall ... but I hadn't thought to block the time out for myself!!

Bella Art Girl said...

I'm going to a homeschool conference this weekend but I will definitely think about the "teacher in service" days and setting up my own homeschooling conference. Doing this homeschooling, stay at home mama thing is like all personal endeavors in that we need to build in the things that will help us do this for the long run and not get burned out. Thanks for the ideas.

mom24 said...

What organization! I can hardly find 2 days to put together like this but if I do, I tend to NOT prioritize and waste time on little things.
You are completely right though - we hs teachers need teacher in-service days too! I always feel better when I've been able to set aside time to focus on research and planning (I can NOT do this with the kids around - just can NOT). It's such a great motivator!
So glad that you could turn a convention that wouldn't have met your specific needs into one that did!

btw - Love Ambleside Online!

Beth said...

Such a good idea! I will be attending a conference next month(my first!) which is being offered free to first-timers with children 5 and under. I can't beat that, but this is a great idea especially for years when the budget is tighter and I have to pay full price. Thank you!

Jennifer said...

Jennefer, I love this! I would love to go to a conference like yours. : )

argsmommy said...

What a great idea!

BTW, I've been learning some about HANDLE lately too. I blogged about the book, The Fabric of Autism, last month and need to finish up a follow-up post. I know a great consultant if you are interested in more information.


School for Us said...

What a great idea! And, I'm glad you are starting to fight through your burn out. Thanks for the links, too!

Kim said...

Great post Jennefer!!! I'm hoping to do this very same thing.
I wish I had a Lakeshore Learning to go to!
Love your blog!

Angela said...

Great ideas here and the Cinnamon Crunch bagels are the bomb! We need you to put on a conference for all of us! I would fly down:)

thebookbaglady said...

What a great idea--I also love the idea of removing yourself from the premises to study, think and pray. (You don't really get to get away, unless you get away. Otherwise, the little ones will find you). :-) This year I had 'office hours', just like a professor. I set aside one night, Tuesday, during the week for 'office hours', and enjoyed counting on that time to make copies, run errands for our school, and plan/prepare lessons.

JESSICA said...

I absolutely LOVE your ideas about having your own homeschool conference and teacher inservice days! You have inspired me...I think I'll be doing something similar at some point this summer! : )

ByHISgoodGrace said...

This looks amazing. I love that you did this. Can I come to your conference next time?? Heee heee
I am so amazed that you made that schedule and stuck to it and got so much done. Inspiring!

On another note, we've written to one another before and you asked me if I ever blogged my story of meeting my husband on the internet...I've started to and wanted to let you know.

jillian said...

what a fantastic idea. thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I was previledged to sit in two workshops with Simply Charlotte Mason's Sonya Schafer. She is such an awesome speaker. I thought of you, and knew that you would have enjoyed her just as much as I did! Have you ever heard any of her talks? Her "Laying Down the Rails" workshop was really good!

Corrie said...

Thanks for your great ideas. You could keep all your inspiring thoughts to yourself! So glad you share; you are such an inspiration to me. On another note my kids always ask, "when do we get to play with those fun boys again?"

Tracy said...

Fabulous post!!!! I have done this for my Photo business...why not for our homeschool!!!

Heritage of Home said...

Girl, I think your a genius! Kind of like a "Stay-Conference"! I just love it and think if I lived near you, I would much rather go to your conference! Hah! I want to do this for our little homeschool now. Thank you for posting this!!! Yay!