Friday, June 17, 2011

The Home School Convention

The home school mom walked into the annual convention, thinking she was prepared for the weekend. The schedule of workshops she wanted to attend and the list of curriculum she needed was all tucked into her bag. So filled with expectation of what she'd hear and what she'd find, she attended the first session, then, another, then, another. Oh, this was going to be great! She knew she had to continue in this calling that God had placed on her and her husband to disciple and teach their children in the Lord, but it had been another exhausting year. She wondered if she was doing enough. There were days she struggled with thoughts of failure, contemplating if she really had the ability to persevere. Some days, she was simply tired. But, to hear speaker after speaker giving passionate talks on why we are to be diligent, why we should continue in this journey of home schooling was such an inspiration. She learned so many other things, too, like reasons one child may be struggling in certain areas and how to solve those problems, new strategies for putting life into their studies and realizing once again that she was not alone. Other moms have their frustrating days, too! What a wonderful weekend this was going to be! Suddenly, it dawned on her that she had not eaten lunch, but this was not a problem. Being the prepared home school mom that she was, she had packed a sandwich, some fruit and a bottle of water. The first day was moving along nicely.

Then, she stepped into the vendor hall. Each year, she would take a deep breath and quietly remind herself of her small list of books she needed, but each year it happened. Her head felt like it was spinning, her shoulders sank, her knees became weak. She thought she heard strange music as if from a movie. She pushed herself to begin walking, looking straight ahead, not looking any vendor in the eye, even though she felt like every vendor was staring at her like a bird of prey. Occasionally, she would hear one calling to her, sounding far away, asking if she had heard of their curriculum before, but she continued on and on. She suddenly couldn't seem to find her list anymore. It was still tucked into her bag, but something prevented her from reaching for it. "What books did I need? Where do I need to go? Wait, how many children do I have? Oh, no, what's my name?" Oh, good. Her name tag was hanging from her neck, so she could at least answer the last question. Finally, she gave in. Another vendor called out to her and she felt this incredible force pushing her to their table. She ended up buying books she felt she couldn't live without, and yet felt a tinge of guilt. She put her self talk into practice again. She miraculously found her list and scolded herself for purchasing items that were not on it. This time, she was going to be disciplined, but it wasn't long before it happened again. She kept hearing promises of yet another book or curriculum that would revolutionize her home schooling experience. She did buy most of the books she needed, but added many more.

The guilt wasn't a comfortable feeling anymore, so she decided to replace it with excitement. "Wow, look at all these things we can learn this year!" Of course, when the children saw the weighted down cart and the mysterious smile and glazed look over their mother's face, they weren't sure what to do. Play along and get excited over the new found treasures or run away screaming? What really took the cake was when this home school mom began laughing in a rather sinister way. "Oh, kids. There is so much to learn. We have our work cut out for us, but boy, this is going to be fun. Even if it means that we won't finish home schooling until you're 30, we can do it!" More laughter to follow. A look of terror came upon their faces. And, remember, this was only the first day of the convention.

Every June, we look forward to our home school convention. For the first few weeks of the month, we continue to home school until the day before the convention starts. Going to this big event is a reward for us after a long year of schooling. We really don't ever finish school, but the conference is the beginning of a nice break for us before we pick up again later in July. Every year, we are greatly encouraged by the speakers, by seeing old friends, meeting new ones and of course, finding some great books and other items to enrich our home school. However, I have to admit that during the first couple of years, I was a bit overwhelmed. So much information. So many choices! And, even now, it is still easy to get carried away and to lose my focus.

One of the beautiful things about home schooling is that I am learning things I never learned in the public school system or sometimes, I'm simply relearning concepts that were a struggle for me when I was younger. I love books and I love learning and one of my desires is to instill that same love into my children, but at what cost? This is a noble cause. It is wonderful when children really want to learn and want to obtain a rich education, but if I'm driving them and myself crazy in the process, spending too much money and losing sight of the most important reason to home school, then, it is a waste. The truth is that I'm never going to be able to cover everything. I won't be able to read out loud to them all of those books on my shelves, just like they probably won't be able to read all of those books on their own, but I will read what I can and I can steer them in the right direction, so that they can read for themselves and research information on their own. None of us stop learning in this life.

At this time of year and at other times throughout the year, we must keep ourselves in check. It is good to evaluate where each of our children are in their learning process, seeing what works and what doesn't. Going to the home school convention is an excellent time of renewal and encouragement for us moms. Yes, we will need to purchase books, sometimes spending more on extra things, but we have to ask ourselves why before we go full speed ahead. Do we remember how many books we still haven't used from previous years? Do we remember that the library is always a viable option? Or how about sending those kids outside and having them explore the world around them? Books are great, but they aren't the only tool that we have. Most importantly, do we remember that these children who really belong to God, will get what they need and that if they love and serve Him that everything else will fall into place?

Here are a few suggestions that I'd like to share with home school moms who are either new to this convention thing or even seasoned home school moms that may drift from the right focus:

First, pray before you even go to the convention. Pray that God would show you what workshops would be of the greatest benefit and what books would help you in teaching your kids. Secondly, always consult your husband before handing over the money to any vendor. You are his help meet and spending without talking to him can be very disrespectful. Deciding on a budget ahead of time is helpful, too. If you are a single mom, go back to the first suggestion and pray for wisdom. Thirdly, do not compare what another home school family is doing. Your family is unique. God made you that way. Fourth, have a list before stepping into that vendor hall. Sometimes, it's okay to add to that list when you see something new, but use common sense. Be kind to the vendors, maybe even listening to what they have to say about their curriculum. They're there because they really believe in their product and after all, they have families, too! Fifth, know that we are discipling these children for God's glory and that He will give us what we need to accomplish this task. He is more than able to give us strength and courage to keep up the good fight. Joshua 1:9 says, "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Finally, rest. Rest in Him. Do not worry and do not forget that He carries you. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

May you be blessed during this convention season. Have fun and keep your eyes on the Lord.


Beth Calderwood said...

So true. Even though I am no longer homeschooling, teaching at a small Christian school is so similar! God bless you, Dawne!

Tracy Zeigler said...

Beautiful Dawne! I'm ashame to say we've never been to a Home School Convention, but have spoken to many who have enjoyed and have benefitted from them.