As a slightly nerdy mom who delights in practically all things homeschool, I can tell you there are few things I will enjoy more than a good homeschooling convention. I recommend every homeschooling mom or dad go to as many of them as they can as often as they can!
In fact, I would even go so far as to encourage all Christian parents to attend a homeschooling convention, whether they home educate or not! These events are chock-full of workshops and materials meant to help us in our marriages, our parenting, and virtually every aspect of our walk with Christ. It seems a shame all this wonderful information and support and encouragement should be reserved exclusively for those who homeschool!
Yet I’m surprised how many homeschooling moms and dads, even veteran ones, have never even attended a homeschooling convention.
For me all it took was one visit and I was hooked!
My very first homeschooling convention was a large regional event and I was both overwhelmed and overjoyed at all the information and support it offered. Before I’d been there more than a few hours I was already making plans to be back the following year. How devastating then to learn that a conflict in the dates would make it impossible for me to attend! How would I survive without that encouragement? What would I do without all those wonderful new ideas? Where would I find my inspiration and motivation for the new school year?
Ah, but then last summer I somehow stumbled across the website for the Teach Them Diligently Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, scheduled for May 16-18! My prospects for 2013 began to brighten! Nashville is just a 2 1/2 hour drive for us, so I immediately began making plans to attend and presented the idea to my little sister. (Okay, she’s not really my sister, but she might as well be!) Amanda, another slightly nerdy homeschooling mom, had never visited a convention, but the two of us have a tendency to talk homeschooling a lot, so I knew this would be right up her alley. Though the months of waiting were agony for a convention-loving mom like me, I found it was well worth the wait.
This convention was fantastic!
The speakers were phenomenal, including Ken Ham, Pam Tebow, Heidi St. John, Todd Friel, Sonya Shafer, Colin Gunn, Dr. Jason Lisle, and Hal, Melanie, and Samuel Young, just to name the few I was able to hear myself. Topics included things like the relevance of Genesis in our modern culture, evidences for Biblical creation, joyful parenting, the Charlotte Mason method, and help for struggling readers. There were many more sessions with many more speakers that I would have loved to have attended, dealing with everything from organization to building a stronger marriage to becoming a successful entrepreneur. But since I never figured out a way to be in three places at one time, I had to limit myself. It wasn’t easy, believe me!
|Amanda and I pouring over our schedules, strategizing
our game plan for the weekend…
What I probably appreciated most about the Teach Them Diligently Convention was its very gospel-centered approach. My goal as a Christian homeschooler is to disciple my children in the faith first. I want them to be capable students with a well-rounded education, but everything else is secondary to me teaching my children in the ways of Christ. It was refreshing to find that every single workshop I attended encouraged the same approach to homeschooling. I also loved that every session opened and many of them also closed in prayer.
The vendor hall, always one of my favorite aspects of a homeschool convention, was delightful!
You can come away with a wealth of free information and scour through enough books and magazines to fill a couple of libraries, plus find some amazing deals on curricula and other resources. I saved 25% on Apologia science, 30% on Visual Latin 2, and I also purchased All About Spelling Level 2, and got free shipping on all three! That means I already have most of the curricula I’ll need for next school year! What a relief to have most of my homeschool shopping done before I even finished the current school year!
I really like the free bag I got from Apologia!
But this may have been the purchase I’m most excited about.
It’s a Picture Study Portfolio from Simply Charlotte Mason and I’m really excited about putting it to use. It’s even better that my “convention buddy” bought a different portfolio so we can trade at some point in the year. Homeschooling-made-easier by sharing with a friend! Aren’t we resourceful?
My kids were thrilled with the audios I brought home from the vendor hall. A story from Lamplighter Theatre. Adventures in Odyssey. Jonathan Park. That should give us listening pleasure for quite some time. For Polly Wolly, who accompanied us on this trip, it was like Christmas in May!
The fact this convention was at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center only added to the pleasure. I had visited the hotel briefly once before, prior to the 2010 flood that caused over $200 million in damage, and back then I came at nighttime only to see it decorated for Christmas. Granted, the place is spectacular at night…
but I think it’s easier to appreciate the real expanse of in the daylight. What an amazing place! We wandered through the atrium and the conservatory, admiring the plants and fountains and waterfalls.
Polly Wolly was in absolute awe and, truthfully, so was her mother! It’s truly an incredible place.
|Me and Polly Wolly, my “little” girl|
Visiting an out-of-town homeschooling convention can be costly, I understand, but I definitely believe the benefits make it a worthy investment. And there are ways to make such a trip more affordable. For one, if you can bring along a homeschooling friend, or even more than one, you can share the expense. (Not to mention a little trip with a friend can be so much fun!) And of course you can shop hotels in the area to find a great rate on a room. I would have enjoyed the convenience of staying there at the Opryland Hotel, but we found a very nice room 5 minutes from Opryland and saved over $50 a night. And there are scores of hotels from luxury to economy within a 15-20 minute drive.
And for future reference: Should you be interested in attending the Teach Them Diligently Convention, don’t be scared away by the exorbitant Opryland Resort parking fee! If you’re willing to do a little walking, you can park for FREE on the backside of the Opryland Mills Mall and walk to the hotel. It’s a 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile trek, which isn’t bad at all, and part of the walkway is even covered. The parking lot is also well-lit and was always busy with other people, so we were never afraid for our safety.
Also be warned: While there are restaurants inside the hotel, they are fairly expensive and a couple of them are very much so! One day during the convention two of the more casual restaurants did offer special deals just for homeschooling families, which was very nice. Leaving the hotel for lunch or even packing sandwiches and snacks in your car is also an option and a great way to save on food. And we saw scores of families doing exactly that! Sometimes all it takes to make an event like this affordable is a desire to see it happen and the foresight to do some pre-planning!
I came away from the Teach Them Diligently Convention with a ton of information, some incredible new resources, and a whole host of wonderful new ideas to implement in our homeschool. But most of all I came away with an encouraged heart and a deeper commitment to do what I truly believe is the absolute best thing for my children’s faith and education. It was a wonderful experience and I simply cannot wait to return.
|Amanda horsin’ around again…teeheehee.
I’m sure she’s going to LOVE me for sharing this one! 😉
Oh, and did I mention that Amanda is hooked now, too? Already she’s planning her return visit next year and this time we both hope to bring our husbands along, if not our entire families! With so many wonderful things to offer, the Teach Them Diligently Convention is just too good not to share…