Every year, the Texas HomeSchool Coalition puts on a huge conference just outside of Houston in The Woodlands, Texas at the Waterway Marriott. In case you’ve never been to a homeschool convention, I hope I can explain a few things here – namely…
1. Who is THSC?
2. Of what benefit is a homeschool convention?
The Texas Home School Coalition is a statewide group that acts as a political awareness and grass-roots lobbying organization, fighting to protect the rights of homeschooling families in Texas. They formed in 1986 and incorporated in 1995 as an educational non-profit to disseminate information to the public and home educators – believing that government restriction is not justified and parents should have the complete freedom to educate their children and socialize them as they see fit.
SAD FACT: Only an estimated 4% of Texas homeschoolers are paying members of THSC… safeguarding the rights of ALL Texas homeschoolers.
Why You Should Join THSC Association (the last 2 on the list are my own additions to the list I found on the THSC website):
* Free Legal Assistance in Texas with problems related to home education
* Free State Convention Adult Registration (best conference ever)
* Student and Teacher ID Cards (snazzy, glossy, official-looking and pre-laminated)
* Free Texas Home Schooling Handbook
* 10 percent discount in the THSC store and other discounts from select home school providers
* Support the advocacy organization that works for your home school and parental rights
* Information, Information, Information – keeping you up to date with everything going on within the Texas homeschool movement
* Teen leadership and volunteer opportunities and micro-conferences such as Capitol Days, Gala & Fundraiser Event, Parental Rights (CLE) Seminars, and a State Leadership Conference.
BENEFITS OF A HOMESCHOOL CONFERENCE
As a parent and teacher for the past 16+ years, I will be the first to admit that the job(s) have both come without instruction manuals… and yet, are the most important jobs I have ever – or will ever have. While I believe that God equips us for the task of parenting, I also believe that He desires that we SEEK WISDOM so we aren’t just “winging it”.
Nobody wants to do a mediocre job of raising their own children. Why not pray for wisdom and seek understanding and knowledge? Couldn’t hurt.
Daniel 12:3 – “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
We value education in this country – and yet not all of us agree on how a child should go about becoming educated – or what education really is. What is beautiful about the homeschool movement is that you have ONE common factor (Education) that brings everyone together, and most everyone agrees that each child is unique and each family is able to seek their own path in a customized educational plan for their kids. There’s no one-size-fits-all mold here; only genuine trail-blazers, leading the way towards inspiring a child to grow in wisdom (and hopefully in virtue and spiritual strength as well).
Just because you want your child to be the very best, unique, individual person they were meant to be doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from hearing how other homeschool parents and teachers have found success with home educating, though. Listening to pioneers and topical experts speak about issues you are struggling with or want to learn more about is VASTLY beneficial for a homeschool parent.
The first time I went to a homeschool conference I spent more time in the vendor halls looking at every curriculum and resource booth and product I could find. I am not sure I even went to one speaking session. This was over a decade ago, and I was sporting a 2 and 4 year old and an “in-the-box” idea of education back then. Boy would the subsequent years of soaking up all the advice from other homeschool moms (veterans) and speakers at conventions change my image of what home school should look like.
PS: I’m going on my 12th school year of teaching my kids and I STILL feel inspired and learn new things at homeschool conventions.
At THSC this year, they had a number of well-known speakers, but they also had smaller sessions (some of which I probably wouldn’t have attended if I weren’t the photographer); and I was pleasantly surprised to come away with good things from almost every speaker I took the time to stop and listen to for a while.
A great benefit to homeschooling are actual homeschoolers. There’s been nothing like it in my life – the friends I have made on this journey. It is even more special when you find a friend who has most things in common with you. I have a handful of blogging friends who homeschool and even a fewer set that I get to visit with IN TEXAS at the THSC convention.
I didn’t get to take a photo with Lisa, Bon, Patti and I on our crazy HEB lunch out Friday, but I did have someone snap this shot for me in the convention entry-way of just Patti and I. I was so blessed that her son was in the teen program with my kids and they really enjoyed hanging out with each other. Patti blogs over at Joyful Mama ( @becomingjoyful on Twitter ).
It’s always nice to run in to local Austin homeschool mama’s too! I heart Barbara. We get so busy in our little family “worlds”, that we just don’t get enough fellowship time in with friends. I’m glad I’m the mom’s fellowship coordinator for this year in my local co-op so I can try and remedy this for 2013-14. We are doing a monthly mom’s night and rotating homes each month – complete with potluck dinner, a devotional or fun game, and time to just be ourselves, sans the men and kids.
I have mentioned that I love homeschool mom friends, right?
Oh, and by the way… BOOKS everywhere.
I mean everywhere. Surely that in itself is a great reason to attend a homeschool conference. Am I right?!
If you aren’t a homeschool mom, you wouldn’t understand. Curriculum and books are like crack for homeschool moms.
This year there were nearly 6,400 people at the convention. It gets larger every year. I can’t imagine them moving to a new hotel since I love the Woodlands Waterway Marriott and know how to get around really well… but even with moving the children’s program off-site this year, it was still overcrowded. Most of the well-known speakers had standing room only, or people sitting in the aisles while they spoke.
I was on the move, so I didn’t get to sit through an entire speech besides the comedy show, Carol Barnier’s keynote (great tips on your ‘tone’ as a teacher) and Ken Ham’s keynote (which was A.Mazing, even if the lighting on the stage left this photographer less than enthused).
Thankfully, I’m expecting sweet Stephanie Lambert to mail me a copy of the sessions from all of the speakers so I can listen to them after the fact. They will come in handy when my enthusiasm wanes at mid-way through the year after Christmas break!
I hadn’t ever heard Ken Ham in person before and was totally wowed by his keynote speech and sickened by the fact that a dozen or so people showed up at the entrance of the hotel to protest his presence. [They say if the devil isn’t after you, you aren’t a threat. I assume Ken is pretty important in the grand scheme of things when he has hate sites and boycotters everywhere he goes. You have to really hate someone to give up your Saturday and stand out on the sidewalk – in August – in Texas. Not sure what they aimed to accomplish – besides a heat stroke – since pretty much everyone at the conference liked Ken Ham and aren’t interested in having other people tell them what they can and can’t teach their own children.]
Another plus to this year was the comedy show. For the past 3 years THSC has booked a great show on the Saturday night that convention ends, following the vendor hall closing. This year, I wasn’t expecting much since I didn’t know who John Branyan was and I had taken photos of both Tim Hawkins and Bob Smiley in years past. A favorite quote from John was something he said after his show was over, actually: “I have to go. I’m on my way over to the Smithsonian to protest. They aren’t teaching enough Bible over there.”
He was great… and for the first time in three years of these shows, I wished I had taken some spending money for “gear” because his Three Little Pigs story (A Triune Tale) had me in STITCHES. As much as we love classic literature and talking in our best English accents around here, I’m sure to be adding this book to our 2013 Christmas list!
While taking photos, I popped in on a session about blended families, large family homeschooling, and adoptive kid homeschooling. Seriously, I was just taking pictures. I wasn’t there for myself. [Not unless God knows something I don’t.] I was admiring the speakers and listening to this small session, and couldn’t help thinking this lovely silver-haired gal was familiar looking to me. Then I realized it was THE Heather Sanders – homeschool voice at Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman blog. I really enjoyed getting to
stalk, er, meet her this year. She’s not only beautiful, a talented and thoughtful writer and a great photographer… but she has great taste in curriculum.
Hopefully I won’t be needing any of the blended or adoptive family advice any time soon, though. I have enough chaos and insanity in my little 4-kid hive. Some of us aren’t meant for EXTRA multiples of 4 when it comes to kids. Just sayin’. I can be honest about this. Tipping my cowgirl hat LOW to you, my Texas friend!
They had a lot of great new and interesting booths and attractions for the kids this year. If you were young at heart, there were plenty of things to keep you busy while the “responsible” people shopped for curriculum: a Lego Movie, Block Towers, Math Manipulatives, Rocks and Minerals, Painting, and even a tiny put-put golf area!
Being the art nut that I am, I took at least 3 or 4 shots of kids painting or showing off their paintings at this booth. My daughter was so bummed when she saw my photos, “WHAT? You could paint in there? Awwww!” She was too busy with the Teen program to even notice they had this option. She also didn’t get anything at her favorite booth this year: Miller Pads & Paper. Maybe next year we can plan ahead with an art-supply money jar that we save up for all year.
If you haven’t come to the convention because of not having babysitting options, the children’s program could be for you. In the past, the program was run on site at the hotel – but it got to be so big and cause so much of a traffic jam in the hallways, that it had to be moved to a near-by church this year. I visited to take photos even though I didn’t have any kids in the program, and I felt like it was a safer environment this year, even if it was a little less convenient for parents.
I’m not sure I would put my little ones in a program off-site, but I can say that I have been very impressed with the people working for the program and the people who organize it… and having security present and a church where there are actual doors on the rooms for each class is much preferred over the chaos of makeshift curtain walls in a hotel hallway.
The young adults who run the kid program are also really fun and plan way ahead for keeping them entertained and busy. They have a tween boy program called Mighty Men of Valor, a tween girl program called Inner Princess, and a Kids Vision ministry for all the rest, separated by age (smaller kids were upstairs in kid-classrooms with their own schedule and activities).
By far the most fantastic part of taking pictures for THSC are all the smiles. The THSC Special Buddies program always makes my day brighter. I love that THSC tries to accommodate everyone – no matter their challenges or gifts!
It’s also nice to see Texas big shots like Lt. Governor David Dewhurst at homeschool conventions and…
Dan Patrick (with Tim Lambert). Great to see conservative leaders in our Texas Legislature standing up for homeschool freedom and taking notice of the impact the homeschooling community has on grass-roots election efforts. We can be a huge and positive force.
Speaking about making an impact, the TEEN program at THSC makes a “MAXIMUM IMPACT”. It provides the parents with some time to focus, while giving the teens a chance to learn leadership skills, benefit from teamwork, and the teens bless the entire conference with volunteer service! One of the people who organize the conference told me personally, “We wouldn’t be able to do it without our teens.” They truly value the kids who come each year and work so hard! I love a lot about THSC’s conferences, but if I had to pick ONE thing that stood out as the best, it would be their teen program.
My teens would never let me just stay home and not go – even if I wasn’t the photographer. I did attend THSC many times prior to taking photos for them, but my teens weren’t teens then, so I didn’t know much about how involved the kids are in putting on the convention. My fourteen-year-old daughter has said she thinks she’ll just end up having to work for THSC when she’s too old to be in the Teen Program, because she loves it that much (she’s in the middle here in this photo, in the hipster glasses – helping to make chocolate souvenir boxes for the moms with her team).
Yes. I did say CHOCOLATE. Each year they have an “Encouragement by Chocolate” and bring in a motivational (and encouraging, go figure) speaker. This year it was Carol Barnier. The year before it was Zan Tyler… and the year before that? Sally Clarkson. I can’t wait to find out who they are asking to speak next year. Who-ever it is, I hope they continue the chocolate theme. Maybe next year they can add some DARK chocolate to the menu – and turn the lights on while the speaker is talking so I can get better pictures?
It goes without saying that a THSC conference has super-cali-fragi-listic vendors. I can’t share ALL the photos of the vendors here or it would take up your entire bandwidth allotment for the week… but let’s just say there’s a lot of good stuff to pick from if you are interested in buying new (or even used) curriculum and books and resources while you are at the convention. I would highly suggest having a budget and a set amount of cash on hand if you are anything like me… but if you have the wherewithal to plan ahead, and you know what you need by the time convention season rolls in, you can save a mint on shipping and possibly take advantage of convention-only deep discounts and sales that vendors often offer ONLY on site.
The hardest part of taking photos for THSC for me is trying not to be jealous of all the sweet couples enjoying quality time together (doing what I love to do). We tried bribing my outdoors, non-reader kind of guy to a convention one year and he felt like a caged animal. His eyes glossed over and he was quickly looking for any excuse to take the little ones and go visit family who lived in the area. It can be a little overwhelming for a homeschool dad if he’s not “in to it”. But don’t think you can’t still enjoy the conference if your man isn’t interested in the fine details of your lesson planning.
I would love it if my man was enchanted by lectures about whether homeschool math was straining the relationship between us and our kids… but that wasn’t in the cards for me.
That being said, it’s quite possible my husband is lamenting the fact that his lovely wife isn’t thrilling over spending a weekend in a deer blind, getting acquainted with a slew of Texas insects she’d much rather be indoors avoiding. We all have our different personalities and interests, to be sure.
The key (to wedded bliss) is to cheer others who are engaged in it on and to aim for finding things you do have in common with your spouse. So what if homeschool conventions aren’t that thing. I count my blessings that my husband supports us with homeschooling as long as I don’t drag him with us to THSC. [But of course, there’s no harm in hoping God will make a happy convention camper out of him someday.]
Hey. Stranger things have happened.
A girl can dream.
There’s not enough room to tell you in this post how much we love this convention, but I hope you can get a glimpse of the AWESOME that is THSC and will plan to join us there next year if you weren’t able to make it in 2013!
I’ll tell you about our Moody Gardens field trip soon (THSC calls that a “fun add-on” to their convention and we LOVE fieldtripping).
OH, and if you want to see more of our convention photographs from last weekend, I have a Flickr set of my favorites… or you could check out THSC’s facebook page. I’ve also created a THSC public GROUP on Flickr for you to add your own photos to if you have any from the conference. I would love to see them!
In His Grip,