With everything becoming connected online, is there really any reason to physically attend a homeschool convention? After all, that comes with the added expense of travel, and then you can’t just shop online in your pajamas…
There’s just no substitute for community and face-to-face contact, and a homeschool convention offers benefits that you won’t find anywhere else!
Finding Your Tribe I can’t prove it, but maybe the reason homeschool conventions begin in early spring is because they know we’ve been cooped up all winter, and most families are suffering from ‘February Fever.’ We have to break out, find other homeschooling families, and shake off winter!
An Ounce of Encouragement It can be lonely homeschooling, whether you live in a big city or a rural area. Getting into a crowd of people who have made similar life choices can be affirming. Plus, you’ll be able to bounce ideas off of others, get new ideas, and remember that we’re all in this together.
Information from the Source It’s one thing to read a book. It’s another to actually sit down and talk with the author and get personalized information. You can actually do that at conventions! Reap the benefits and wisdom of experienced homeschoolers. You can do this in the vendor hall, in a one-on-one setting, walking around the hotel (but be mindful of their limited free time), or within the workshops themselves.
Workshop Paths Many conventions these days are creating ‘paths’ of workshops, meaning they have a series for new homeschoolers, those with special needs children, and those preparing for college. You’re not confined to those workshops, but by following the path that fits your family best, you have a pre-set schedule that will allow you to maximize what you learn from these experienced speakers. Oftentimes, there are special discounts offered within the workshops, too! J
Curriculum Discounts The exhibit hall is packed full of vendors offering fantastic discounts on their curriculum. There are usually some pretty nice extras to supplement the curriculum that you won’t find anywhere else, too! If you’re in the market for something new, you can actually flip through and examine various selections, talk to the publishers (or authors) about them, and make a well-informed decision for your family. You can maximize your time by looking ahead to see which vendors will be represented and make a note to visit their booths. (There’s a page for this in the convention planner!)
It’s a Family Affair There seem to be two types of convention-goers….those who take the whole family, and those who make it a girls’ weekend. (Having done both, my preference falls toward the latter…everybody needs to cut loose with friends sometimes, right?!) If you take the whole family, though, you’ll have a (typically) rare opportunity to get Dad involved.
Usually the dads are off working full-time so that moms can stay home and homeschool. Both parents care about education, but Mom is the one fully-entrenched. Taking Dad to a convention will give him a different perspective, and new appreciation, for the daily grind of homeschooling. As for the littles, there is usually some sort of day camp set up for them to enjoy time with other kids while Mom and Dad get some one-on-one time to either attend workshops or go sleep in the hotel room…
We’ve put together a convention planner to help you organize your weekend and keep track of workshops and vendors. Take this FREE 20-page convention planner to your next event!
Tips on Choosing a Homeschool Conference
Some questions to consider include:
Are there any speakers that you really want to see? (Research some of the ones you don’t know and you might locate a gem.)
Is there child care or an activity available? If not, are children allowed in the presentations?
Will there be a vendor hall or used curriculum sale? (You can usually get great deals here!)
Does the total price (tickets, transportation, and hotel) fit in your budget?
Is it religious or secular? Does that fit with your beliefs?
Jointhe Homeschool House crew in Rogers, Arkansas!
Top Ten Best STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math – Subscription Boxes
The use of hands-on projects is a great way to reinforce concepts learned while having fun! With the subscription box phenomenon, you can get all the pieces needed for a project delivered straight to your door, along with extras like video lessons. Here are some of our favorite STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art, and math – boxes to encourage growth and a love of these subjects…
Some of these boxes have fantastic coupon codes for first time buyers, so be sure to check the purchase information and look for the code!
This is the perfect box for teens who want hands-on projects. It’s also a convenient way to try out new hobbies, use your hands to create, learn skills you can keep using, and have fun, too! Comes with real tools, complete kits, and a new project every month. There are also video reviews for this box on the Homeschool On the Range YouTube channel.
Each month is a new project based on the old-world craftsman skills from the 18th and 19th centuries, and they combine math, engineering, and art skills. Your students will be using real-world math as they measure materials for woodworking, create proportional dimensions in woodcarving, and calculate how many chains are needed for each row of chain maille. They’ll also put artistic skills to use in life drawing and leather tooling!
Build Cool Machines! Code Your Creations! Grow As You Go! Bring your child’s STEM learning alive with fun hands-on projects that get kids excited about engineering and coding. Turn basic electrical components into working machines while learning about circuits, sensors, and more! Learn to code with easy step-by-step help!
Using the Arduino platform, students learn basic electronics and computer coding skills. In our digital age, these are the building blocks for innovative technologies! Middle and high school students can get in on the ground floor with Make Crate projects, which walk you through the beginning concepts, step by step. Each project also comes with an educator curriculum and videos to help you, the parent, work with your child for deeper understanding.
The perfect box for Lego enthusiasts, each month you will get unique items including LEGO, LEGO compatible products, and brick items. These are bricks that you won’t find in any store, and they’re pretty unique! Some of the themes we’ve received in the past include Ancient Mythology, gaming, Thanksgiving, magic….the list goes on…each box is uniquely fabulous!
Building blocks are the tools for young engineers, and this box combines both the structural design and math calculations aspect with pop culture through themes such as Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Christmas! Each box contains a pre-designed build, extra blocks for creating an additional design, a poster, design booklet, stickers, plus other cool gear (such as t-shirts) to get your child excited about building. Perfect for the Lego fan who wants something new and unique.
Learn how to program and build electronics with new and more challenging projects delivered to your door each month! Creation Crate uses hands-on projects to teach 21st century skills! Users receive a new project/course every 30 days with access to an Online Classroom. Projects become more challenging as you learn new skills. All projects and courses are approved by STEM.org
Combing coding and electronics, this box fosters creative thinking and designing innovative technologies at the middle and high school level. Each box comes with access to educational curriculum to supplement the projects, and the boxes build upon each other. With each new project, your student will reinforce skills learned earlier and then learn another new electronics skill!
Explore space exploration and the specialized machines built to study the dark frontier and the mysterious worlds floating around us. Each month’s package may include pins, mission patches, stickers, info cards, concept art, or more about a specific spacecraft, its mission, its design, and its journey.
There are two options here – space and prehistoric life. We’ve used the space exploration one, and the boxes are fantastic for the astronaut dreamer! Box contents are designed to encourage further study of the topic through research, and can be used to prompt writing assignments as well.
Beautiful Discovery kits use visually and kinesthetically engaging patterns of nature to unleash your hidden pattern power and give you STEAM skills. Items include eco-games, art, origami, drag and drop code, models, natural wonders, full color informational cards, full color picture books and booklets, paints and colored pencils, drawing sheets with art lessons on patterns seen in the natural wonders.
Perfect for the student who is hesitant about math, but all about art! This box combines the beauty of nature with real-world math through projects with seashells, crystals, dried leaves, flowers, for their beautiful patterns. There’s even an computer coding element with simple drag and drop block coding that will simulate the patterns seen in the natural wonders studied in each box.
When you join Owl Crate, you’ll get a cool themed box of high quality young adult books and bookish items. There are two young adult options – writer and artist. YA Artist subscription comes with one new YA book and a new art medium every month! The YA writers subscription includes one YA book and writing materials that will inspire any modern day writer!
Each month brings a new book with hands-on projects to accompany it. Your student can choose between artistic projects or writing projects that will center around the theme of the reading selection, and the box includes all materials and extra curriculum needed for these projects. Perfect for the creative teen!
Salty Owl Box is an innovative activity box that is made for families with kids 9+. An art project, a new game, a unique snack, a recipe, and a monthly movie pick does the prep work for you. All the materials, instructions and inspiration you need is shipped to your home.
For the family that likes to learn together, this is a unit study in a box! Each month has a theme, and all of the supplies are centered around it. There is a cooking project and hands-on creation (drawing, painting, building) to accompany the movie selection….and it’s all included, so you don’t have to dig up any of the pieces!
Each month, you will receive a selection of art supplies. You’ll get to try a wide range of products, from pens to paint. You will receive everything you need to create a work of art. The supplies in the box are ideal for beginners, professionals, or anyone in between.
With three different options to choose from, you can encourage a budding artist, exposure younger children to various medium, or create an entire art curriculum for older children from the tools and projects included here! They also have a YouTube channel with tutorials for the lessons.
Teen+ Comic Crate has comics with detailed artwork, advanced language, violence, and occasional profanity/suggestive themes. Examples of Teen+ Rated comics include Avengers, X-men, Justice League, Wolverine, and Wonder Woman. Comic books are a great reading experience for all types of readers. Reluctant Readers enjoy comic books because the short bursts of text and vivid images are easier to read than the solid text in a prose book. English Language Learners can match the text to the images in comic books to help decode and understand the text. Also available in PG and G rated.
Reluctant readers can appreciate the artistic format of the illustrations while still getting the content from the book. They are not all pop culture-based, and include some scientific concepts that can be taught through graphic novels. Use the Comic Crate as a jumping off point for having your students write their own comic! Choose a scientific topic, research the basics, and create a 6-10 page comic illustrating those concepts.
Subscription boxes make an excellent gift suggestion for family members who aren’t sure what to get….they are the gift that continues to give each month, and this selection also helps boost your homeschooling! So which one of these do you think your students would most enjoy?
For some parents, having a special needs child is the impetus to homeschool. For others, it’s a nerve-wracking concern. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, homeschooling a special needs child is an adventure!
With the advent of No Child Left Behind, special needs children both gained and lost in the classroom. There is more advocacy and information, and accommodations are understood and generally more accepted, but there is still much temptation to box students in. Many families are choosing to homeschool because their special needs children’s needs are not being met in the traditional classroom.
It can be very overwhelming to homeschool a special needs child, especially at first. You not only have to plan the academics, but also the therapy and interventions that are required for your child. In some states, the school system will still help with these needs, but Oklahoma is not one of those states. We parents are required to find therapists and cover that cost on our own. It is one of the prices we pay for a lack of legislation and state-mandated testing for homeschoolers.
Getting a Diagnosis & IEP (Individualized Education Plan)
If your child has been in the school system, then he probably has an IEP. Know that it will expire and you cannot get a new one once he’s been pulled to homeschool. Don’t fret over it; just know it. Keep a copy of the IEP paperwork to take to therapists and doctors when seeking assistance. Your therapist will probably do a therapy-specific evaluation, so be sure to keep that paperwork, too. Start a file…
If you are starting from a homeschool environment, your first stop will be the family doctor, who will refer you to one or more therapists. They will do initial evaluations, which you will want to keep on file.
All of this paperwork is your ‘leg to stand on’ should there be any questions about your child’s performance in the future (not likely, but possible). They are helpful in building your case once you reach the upper grades — as your child may need testing accommodations. You are eligible to file for accommodations on tests such as ACT and SAT.
You are the Expert
No one understands your child like you do. You know his likes, dislikes, what bothers him, and what works best. Working with therapists, you can use his strengths and weaknesses to tailor a program specifically toward his needs.
For example, our son loves airplanes and aviation, so we have used many aviation-oriented games for therapy. Because he’s interested in the topic, he puts forth more effort into mastering those difficult tasks.
Providing Tailored Instruction
As parents, you have already spent years teaching your child and learning in which ways he learns best. Equipped with this knowledge, you are prepared to become an individual classroom teacher as well! Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses will help you to tailor the lesson plan to his needs.
For example, if he has dysgraphia, allow him to orally discuss topics, or teach keyboarding at a younger age. If he has trouble with multiple instructions, provide short, individual directions.
Moving at a New Pace
If your child grasps a concept immediately, feel free to move forward. By the same token, if he’s having trouble understanding something, take as much time as you need. For subjects like math and language arts, a failure to build a strong foundation leads to crumbling academics later on. In a traditional school setting, there is only so much time for each concept, but in the homeschool, you have the freedom and flexibility to take as much time as necessary!
Don’t look at it as your child being six months behind in math. Look at the fact that you are putting in the time to cement a solid foundation. Some children are ‘jumpers,’ meaning they don’t show any academic growth at all for a long time, but then ‘jump’ two or three grade levels over a short period of time. Given a strong foundation, things will eventually click into place! Without that foundation, however, you’re merely building an academic house of cards. Move at your child’s pace…
You are Not Alone
Support for special needs homeschool families comes in many places! Here at Homeschool House, every single one of our leaders has at least one, if not more, special needs children. Feel free to ask us questions, and we’ll do our best to point you in a helpful direction.
There are special needs-specific homeschool conventions, Facebook groups, and even local playgroups (look toward your cities, Tulsa and OKC) for these families.
Most curricula offer ways to tailor toward special needs learners. You may have to call the curriculum publisher directly, but they’re usually amenable to discussing how it can be adapted. The Book Shack can also help you with locating curriculum to fit your child’s learning style.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
Whether you’re new to homeschooling or about to graduate another child, there will come a time this year when you need to hear words of encouragement. Here are some of our favorite encouraging books…just for you!
If you think you should only read aloud to your children until they can read on their own, then this book will convince you otherwise! Sarah does a great job of laying out the benefits of reading aloud as a family even as your children grow into middle and high school. Perfect for: Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Unschooling, and anyone who loves snuggle time!
Homeschooling 101 is a great book if you are just embarking on your homeschooling journey or if you need a little pick-me-up. Erica walks you through steps like choosing a curriculum, planning lessons, organizing your day, and staying on schedule. Perfect for: New homeschoolers and those looking to make some changes
Your child doesn’t have to have ADHD in order for you to benefit from this book. Carol started researching ways to help her son, who does have ADHD, but I don’t know a parent who doesn’t have a child at some point is just plain fidgety. This book gives great tips on getting them focused on learning at different stages. She’s also an entertaining convention speaker! Perfect for: Moms who are ready to pull their hair out…
At over 500 pages, this is a huge resource! Debra not only gives tons of resource suggestions like curriculum suggestions, homeschool supplies, and parent-tested ideas and solutions, but she also provides guidance on making homeschooling more enjoyable and effective for everyone involved. Perfect for: New homeschoolers and those transitioning (such as to high school)
I didn’t realize how narration builds into so many skills later in life until I read Know & Tell. Better late than never! Karen does a great job in this book of talking about what narration is, why it’s so important in your child’s education, and also how to help your child improve their narration. Perfect for: Unschooling, Unit Studies, Classical, and pretty much anyone who talks with their kids
If you have a family member who is skeptical of your decision to homeschool your children or if you are just starting out and have some doubts about whether you can do it, this is a great book to pick up. Kent was a skeptical homeschool spouse himself, but when he started researching homeschooling statistics about academic success and socialization….he turned into a huge proponent of homeschooling! Perfect for: Those with ‘well-meaning’ friends and family
John Holt explains that “learning is as natural as breathing” for young children. In this book, he explains how children learn best and how we, as parents can encourage this learning. This is a great read for parents if you are feeling the pressure to have school look like a classroom. Perfect for: New homeschooling parents and anyone who is interested in multiple intelligences
A bunch of homeschool moms share what homeschool in their house really looks like. It is more like a reference book on homeschooling methods than a “cover to cover” read. You will see what Charlotte Mason looks like or maybe classical education in the high school years. Does unschooling interest you? Unschooling moms describe their days, too. The book is divided by age groups, so you can skip to see whatever interests you most. Perfect for: New homeschoolers or those needing a change
Providing your children with good books is a fantastic way to encourage a love of reading in them from an early age. Gladys discusses how to give your child a broad world view and to spark their imaginations with books. The book starts by discussing what is a good book and how to choose one, then the book lists are broken down by age group, making it very easy to find what you are looking for. Perfect for: Moms who want to incorporate more reading books into their school day
If you want your child to have an “exciting, even enchanting experience” in homeschooling, then you should read this book. Julie gives inspiration and advice from her experience homeschooling her five children (now all grown). This book will inspire you to model life long learning for your children. Perfect for: Parents of younger homeschoolers
Could you use a little more peace in your homeschool? Teaching from Rest is a great read for the type-A mom who needs a reminder that she is not in charge, God is. Sarah’s book is such a great reminder about what is important and how to ‘teach from a position of rest’ that we all need in our hectic homeschool lives. Perfect for: All moms at least once a year
This book is a must read for every parent and teacher. If you are considering taking a more relaxed approach to your homeschool of if you feel like it needs to be very structured and look like a regular classroom, please read this book. Laura does a fantastic job of making the case for a slower-paced, more relaxed learning environment for children. Perfect for: Unschoolers and those who want to step off the gas for a bit
Just the title makes me feel like I need to read this. Ugh, isn’t this one of the biggest worries a mother has…am I doing what’s best for my child in the long run? Esolen gives suggestions on how to encourage imagination in your child, too. Don’t worry, he builds you up after he tears you down! Perfect for: Any parent who wants reassurance that they’re doing the right thing
Susan Wise Bauer and her daughter do an amazing job of laying out the concept of a classical education in The Well-Trained Mind. This was one of the first homeschooling books I read and it took away a lot of the “I don’t know what to teach” anxiety. Perfect for: Classical and new homeschoolers
Relaxed Homeschooling is a “step-by-step guide that will teach you how to inspire learning at home”. I mean, what homeschool mom doesn’t want that?! The table of contents includes candy floss, the hidden secret of books, how to pick an awesome book, to watch or not to watch, and what toys are worth it. Perfect for: New homeschoolers and those with young children
Traditional schooling usually means an early morning wake-up call, followed by a mad dash to get to school dressed and fed, a full day in a classroom, an afternoon of extracurriculars, an evening of homework, and bedtime. Rinse and repeat. The family becomes more like a group of people who share the same dorm! Switching from traditional school to public school can be daunting for some parents because suddenly they are together all. of. the. time. And it’s a transition. However, once you get through that (usually short) transition, there’s nothing like it! You are there when the concepts click. You get to see the milestone successes. You get to snuggle as you learn to read together. You get to play with the manipulatives right beside them during basic math. You are the educational light, mama!
But what about socialization? That’s a question homeschoolers often hear. What folks don’t stop to consider is that true socialization doesn’t look like a group of 100+ peers, all the same age, sitting in a tin can classroom. That’s a petri dish. Socialization is a mix of ages, races, and cultures interacting in real time out in the real world. I would argue that homeschoolers can be better socialized than their traditional school peers!
Siblings as Friends
Having a close sibling relationship doesn’t mean that there aren’t squabbles…like an old married couple, any time you have people who spend that much time together, there are bound to be ticks. Getting to spend this much time together, rather than separated by different grades in school and mounds of homework in the evening, is a beautiful benefit that your kids won’t recognize until they are older. They are working together, growing together, and helping each other develop. On those days when you want to beat them with a broom – from the personality conflicts – remember that they are smoothing each other’s edges!
How often have you seen a seven year old girl who is dressed and acts as though she’s going on twenty? One beautiful aspect of homeschooling is that our children have the opportunity to really BE children. They don’t have to pretend to act grown up, or grow up too fast, in a worldly environment. That doesn’t mean that we’re sheltering them, but rather that we keep things age-appropriate…allowing time for reading, exploration, free play, and boredom (one of the best gifts of childhood!) well past kindergarten.
Unlike Common Core, and even schools who don’t abide by that, homeschoolers have the opportunity to jump down bunny trails! What do I mean by bunny trails? When your child develops a sudden interest in space, you can study the history of space, the science of microgravity, etc etc etc…your whole school day can revolve around the topic of space, OR you can simply take a day off of school for in-depth research, following a trail of topics as the child explores his interest. No matter the age of the child, this is a valuable asset to your homeschool!
Everybody’s got an opinion…but as homeschooling parents, we have the option of introducing sensitive topics, often at the time we see fit, and discussing them with our children. That’s not to say that we don’t discuss different worldviews, but we’re able to be the first opinion they hear, to help guide them through difficult issues with our morals.
While there are still appointments, co-ops, and other time commitments, as homeschooling parents we have the flexibility to plan our own schedules. The school year (9 month or year-round?), the school week (4-day or 5-day?), and the school day itself (start at 8? start at noon? take a 2 hour siesta?) are all places where we can tweak the schedule to suit our families’ current needs. It also allows us the opportunity to build in times of rest, which is so important for both physical and mental health!
If you’re new to homeschooling, and need a bit of time to get your feet under you, come by the Homeschool House and chat with us! You can also check out SchoolhouseTeachers, which has tons of full courses that are taught by experienced teachers. (We wouldn’t recommend it if we hadn’t used it ourselves quite a bit!)