Welcome to NextGen Homeschool’s Homeschool Conventions 2013 Series! This year the authors of NextGen Homeschool are covering several conferences all across the country, and we’ll be posting on the experience, the vendor hall, and the big-picture issues discussed at each conference. We’ve also posted a convention planning tutorial — Homeschool Conventions 101: How to Plan — to help you prepare for attending your own homeschool convention.
Homeschool Conventions, Part 1: OCHEC Tulsa — The Experience
The OCHEC Tulsa Convention was on April 30 and May 1st this year. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I really look forward to convention time, and I plan well in advance. It never fails that some break-out sessions have more than one workshop that I want to attend, so this year I took the pressure off the choices by pre-ordering all the convention sessions on mp3. That being done, I was ready to just enjoy the experience.
This year, not only did my homeschooling sister Elizabeth attend with me, as usual, but my mother happened to be in town, so she came along with us. It was so much fun having my mom, a veteran homeschooler, experience the convention with us. During lunch on Tuesday, she told us more about the homeschool convention we had all attended in 1984 at the Mabee Center in Tulsa. It turns out it was a national homeschool convention, and there were a lot of big names of the time there, such as Tim LaHaye. All I had remembered about the experience back then was having to sing a silly homeschool song on stage with a bunch of other homeschooled kids I didn’t know. It was great to learn more about what the experience was like for my mom.
The convention kicked off with an early morning general session, which we always miss. This year it was by J. Michael Smith of HSLDA, who was one of the keynote speakers this year. Although we missed his opening session, we would have another opportunity to hear him speak later in the convention.
This year there was an hour break in between each regular break-out session, and during that hour, we could choose to go to half-hour exhibitor workshops. On the first day, we used these hours in between sessions to check out the vendor hall and eat lunch. I’ll be sharing what we saw and purchased at the vendor hall in Part 3 of this series. That afternoon, we ate lunch at the nearby Chick-Fil-A along with at least half of the convention goers.
On Wednesday morning, we all went to hear J. Michael Smith’s session on “Homeschooling & Parental Rights-Freedom Under Fire.” This session was a great reminder that although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states right now, and although Oklahoma is probably the best state to live in for homeschooling, there are many people continuously trying to take those freedoms away. We need to remain ever vigilant. I’ll be sharing more on what we learned during his speech in Part Two of this series.
Every year the convention features entrepreneur booths set up by homeschooling teens, and I always try to buy a few things from them. This year, I bought my seven-year-old son Joel a survivor bracelet and a small sewing kit. The convention also puts on an art and photo exhibit for young homeschoolers. In years past, my daughter Virginia has entered her photos, however she graduated last year. I still enjoyed looking at all of the entries by the other homeschool students.
As I have mentioned before, I have pretty much already acquired most of the curriculum I need for next year, so I was mostly looking for fun add-on supplements. I ended up shopping at J.M. Cremps several times for the boys. I bought Joel a fishing set, a leather working set, and work gloves. I also bought my two-year-old Leif a couple pairs of the cutest little work gloves. In fact, Leif loved the gloves so much, he would not part with them after we got home that day.
For lunch on Wednesday, we went to Applebee’s. It was a little quieter than Chick-fil-A but lunch took longer. The food was good though, and mom, Liz, Melody and I had a good time replenishing and resting over a more relaxing lunch.
Speaking of Melody… Every year we have a baby with us. The past two years it was my son Leif. Last year was rough for me because Leif was a toddler and was not willing to sit still through the sessions. This year, Liz’s daughter Melody came along with us, and she was such a good baby. My sister didn’t miss very much of the sessions. The only times she had to take her out of a session was when she was making too many happy noises.
Elizabeth’s daughter Melody being soothed by Grandma Gotcher
For the closing session, we went to hear Todd Wilson of Family Man Ministries speak about “Choosing the Hard Things” — another great reminder of why we do what we do. The hard things are the good things, such as marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. It seems the times of our life that we think are hardest, we look back on as the good times.
The message was: Don’t give up! Don’t miss the harvest! Don’t miss the reward! It was a great session to end the convention on. Now I am pumped up and ready to continue pursuing God’s calling in the “hard” things!
Are you planning to attend any homeschool conventions this spring? If so, what do you look forward to most? If not, where do you look for homeschool resources, education and inspiration?