Two weekends ago, I attended the CHAP conference with some friends. This was the first homeschool conference I had ever attended, and it was HUGE! Apparently it's the biggest in the area. It was held at the Farm Show Complex, in Harrisburg, PA. The main speakers were staged in a horse arena! Alas, no horses to be seen. They would have really added some excitement, especially with Ken Ham's (Answers in Genesis) presentations.
Aside from the curious lack of farm animals, I had a great time! It was good just to get away with "the girls" for a few days, something I haven't done since Rory was a baby. It was also good to see so many homeschooling families congregating in one place. I was amazed at the variety of people represented there. Groups of women (like ours) mingled with whole families who attended together. There were far more men in attendance than I expected, as most fathers I know are not as involved in their children's schooling as the mothers are. Probably because Harrisburg is located near Lancaster, there were quite a few Mennonite attendees. Many of the men seemed to come from this group. It was amazing to see whole families, down to nursing babies, attending the workshops together. It was also amazing that the children were so quiet during these 45-minute talks!
The vendor section was also huge, taking up two gymnasium-sized (at least) halls. Just browsing to see what was offered took hours. I was happy to be able to see a lot of curriculum first hand, as I usually end up ordering things on the internet. I also spent quite a while in the used curriculum section, and walked away with a large canvas bag filled with books for only $32. I actually walked around with about twice as many things as I bought, but ended up putting some back when I realized how many books I had (and that I would have to carry them around all day!)
The workshops were informative, entertaining, challenging, and sometimes depressing. The first workshop I attended recommended "sending your TV out for a walk," something that would never fly in our house. This was a workshop about keeping your children's hearts. There were some specifically geared to electronic media, which I sort of avoided after the whole "walking TV" episode.
I really enjoyed Todd Wilson from Familyman Ministries. For one thing, he is really funny! And for another, he was really encouraging. His ministry is really geared toward Dads, but his presentations were directed towards parents in general. His message, in fact the general gist of most of the messages I heard, was that you must have a relationship with your kids. If you don't have that relationship built, you are not going to be able to teach them anything else. While this may seem like common sense, it is so easy as a homeschooler to focus on the curriculum, or the regulations, or the "three R's" in general (which obviously don't include spelling - think about it!), and forget that your children are, first and foremost, your children. This is probably exasperated in my case because I spent several years in college learning how to teach in a classroom. I've found, however, that classroom methods don't always translate well to home education. Since I've been trying to form a Philosophy of Education for our family, this was a timely message.
I also learned that the prevailing educational system is built on a Greek, rather than a Hebrew system. This includes the public school system and many homeschool curricula. This never really bothered me, before, especially since many homeschoolers use Classical education methods. However, I've realized that the Greek method was built on Pagan beliefs, rather than Biblical beliefs. I have been researching, and have found something called "Discipleship Homeschooling," which seems to be more in line with the scriptures. One proponent of this is Clay Clarkson of Whole Heart Ministries. It is based on the section of scripture in Deuteronomy 6, which instructs parents to teach their children God's laws while their walking, and when they get up, and when they go to bed, and during the day, and night, and really, all the time. It involves families working, playing, and learning together. It contradicts the "Do as I say, not as I do" philosophy many of us hold, but really seems to make sense.
So, I am beginning to get an idea of what God wants me to do with my children. It will take much work and prayer, but I am grateful for the guidance of those who have gone before! Please keep me in your prayers!