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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

My 2nd Homeschool Convention

Cultural anthropologist and social commentator that I am, I looked forward to attending my second-ever homeschool convention. A microcosm of diverse and often-contradictory viewpoints, it confirmed to me that there are no stereotypical homeschoolers.

By appearance alone, the participants spanned from jean-clad, laid-back, hippie un-schoolers; to Rod & Staff publishing Mennonites; to classicists studying the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric with liberal doses of Latin and Greek; along with the long-skirted, conservative Christian crowd. I have no way to tell for sure, but I have a feeling that no atheists were present: it’s been said that if you homeschool for over a week, you must know how to pray. Much more than a handful of homeschooling dads, the numbers looked like an even balance of both parents taking a couple of days to focus on their children’s present and future. Guesstimating the size, the crowd probably numbered 10,000.

I traveled to the convention with my husband and oldest son. I should have allowed the two of them to go on their own, but felt, for some reason, that they needed me to babysit both. If left to their own devices, they might be found lounging in the hotel, ordering room service, and surfing the internet, for all I knew. These youngsters required supervision.

“I need to check Japan’s stock market, the European markets are down today,” my husband announced as we were walking the football field expanse to our first meeting hall of the day.

“Papa, if the internet is too slow from the convention center, I’ve already hacked into another option,” Petya let us know.

“Would you two stop? Put the electronics away,” I told them.

You see what I mean?

I’ll do a follow-up blog on leaving the three younger children behind (reason enough to attend many conventions, some days-!), along with the doggies. Taking three days, we were away from them for all of one full day, since Days 1 and 3 were drop-off and pick-up days. I missed them, but focused on the conference, attending classes from 8:30 am till 9:30 pm.

Classes convened every hour, separated by a half-hour break which just barely gave one time to stand in long lines (though they were polite lines) for the restrooms, get a snack, or head to the exhibits hall. It was impressive. These days, homeschoolers are not to be trifled with. Take it from me, a fairly jaded urban pioneer, a rather well-educated and well-heeled jet-setter who would have laughed at the thought that I would one day be walking the hallowed halls of the homeschooling public.

Speaking of walking the halls, that was another noteworthy point: homeschoolers walk slowly, probably because they are used to being at home, locked in closets by their parents. Our brand of homeschoolers, on the other hand, are used to being in airports, running to catch a plane (or a child) and find it difficult to slow down. Maybe they thought me rude as I zipped around them (which is a shame, because these people are very, very polite), weaving in and out to get to the next lecture held in meeting rooms for hundreds and ballrooms for thousands.

It reminded me of university in many ways: tight schedules, exciting workshops, and long distances to cover to make it to the next class. Many were Ph.D. presenters, or extraordinarily qualified in their own right. They were witty, and compassionate, and interesting speakers. My hand hurt from taking notes longhand in a composition notebook with a Goth-looking Queen of Hearts character on the front.

Don’t judge. It was on sale at WalMart.

Naturally, others used laptops or i-Pads, which for some reason did not even occur to me, trendy techie that I am. Then there were those who submitted their e-mails to individual lecturers who promised to e-mail a full outline of their talk to every attendee, or have it available for download on their website.

So what did we hear? Using the divide and conquer method, sometimes Petya came with me, sometimes he went with his dad, and occasionally we all went together, listening to such gems as: “Nurturing Competent Communicators: The Power of Linguistic Pattern”, “Secrets of Successful Multi-Generational Visionaries”, “Amused to Death: Dealing with Entertainment Culture”, “Dual Credit on Steroids”, “The Well-Prepared High School Student: How to Get Ready for College”, “Study Like a Genius: Unlocking Your Brain”, and more. I even attended by myself one packed-out talk by a young lady who had just graduated from high school homeschool and in a poised and enthusiastic manner, was giving other preteen girls tips on navigating their teen years.

Whenever the two guys were alone for an hour, I surreptitiously checked their faces and fingers afterwards to see if there were any signs of ice cream, pizza, or internet game finger cramp in evidence. Meanwhile, I wrote reams on what university admissions offices were currently seeking, and how many research -versus- response papers of what length and depth each grade of high schoolers should be producing on an annual basis. The educators made themselves extremely available for questions, and were liberal with generous words of guidance.

The hardest thing to figure out was when to eat, with no real room in the non-stop schedule for that. I heard more than one spouse commenting to another, “You don’t mean to say that we won’t be eating until after 9:30 pm?” Everyone knows that low blood sugar is not good for educational pursuits.

Once or twice we skipped out ourselves to grab a bite onsite or tour the exhibit hall crammed full of curricula. Petya found his way to chess tables, populated mostly by young guys playing each other, while guessing at the posted chess problem and deciding the next move. Benedetto gravitated toward the Latin and Greek textbook, DVD, and CD vendors, chatting with professorial mirror-images of himself, while I flashed the plastic, investing in educational laminated placemats (I know you’re breathless over that one), along with Petya’s long-awaited Chemistry curriculum for next year.

Cost of registering for the three-day extravaganza: under $50 for an entire family. At those prices, you’d have to be a dummy not to go.


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