Monday, July 23, 2012

Whole Lotta Extreme Awesomeness!

This past weekend, we had an experience of extreme awesomeness - we got to attend the Arizona Family Home Educators Homeschool Convention in Phoenix!!

I am here to report that we had an absolutely fantastic time!!

We have been to this convention once before - three years ago - and it was just as amazing then. However, this time was a little different. When we went three years ago, we were thinking, "We want our kids to be as amazing as the homeschooled kids at our church, so we're going to homeschool." Since then, I have gone through a period of rebellion - "I don't care how awesome homeschooled kids are, I am NOT going to homeschool!" - and come back to homeschooling after a long period of finally realizing that homeschooling is God's will for our family right now, period. It's been a long journey (three years!), but I am now at a place of peace (and even joy) with God's will, and I went into this conference with an entirely different attitude. 

Additionally, this convention wasn't as overwhelming as it was last time. First-timers, be prepared - your first homeschool convention will be utterly overwhelming. There's really no way around it. And the first time, I was overwhelmed. This time it was still overwhelming. But now, having been immersed in the culture and the community for a year or so, I know some of the people, some of the cultural lingo, some of the groups and organizations, some of the curriculum vendors - so it feels a lot more familiar and home-like than it did three years ago. 

This convention was such a blessing to our family. Just like last time, we came away energized, inspired, refreshed, and renewed - and with so many ideas for next year and for the course of our family's future. Even if we weren't homeschooling, this convention is awesome as a great way to get ideas and inspiration for our marriage, our homes, and our parenting. It is awesome in so many ways. 

Here are some snippets from this weekend!

In the main ballroom - there are thousands of seats, but you notice we're sitting near the doors! (The only place for people with a baby.) Baby Moose accompanied us, and had a grand time. He obliged us, too, by being fairly compliant - I'd say I only had to miss about 30 minutes total of classes because of crankiness - otherwise he was content with being held or bounced in the back of the room.
Ready to hear the first speaker!
Listening to Heidi St. John.
Listening to Heidi St. John
 Before this conference, I had never heard of Heidi St. John, but she was awesome!! She was such an inspiration. Heidi has seven children, ages 1 to 20, and all are homeschooled. We ended up hearing her speak four or five times, and I learned so much! She talked about marriage, about mothering, about homeschooling (and inspired me to learn about notebooking) - everything was great!

Some snippets from her teachings:

Marriage must come before mothering - Because if my marriage suffers, my children are the ones who will pay.

Character comes before curriculum - Because if I pay attention to character issues (which are the foundation of a good and well-educated person), curriculum will be easier to implement and will largely take care of itself. But if my children are allowed to be selfish, disrespectful, dishonest, and unprincipled, then the best curriculum in the world won't make a bit of difference in the end.

Focus on relationships - To homeschool successfully, I must be in positive, growing relationships with my children. If a curriculum is bringing my children (and/or me) to tears on a regular basis, choose the relationship over forcing a curriculum that is not working. 

I have pages and pages of notes from her sessions (and the others I attended), but rather than bore you all with them, I will just say.... come join us next year!

You can follow Heidi St. John on Facebook at The Busy Homeschool Mom

Onto the exhibit hall, where we spent 5+ hours (lunch and every other free minute). You only see a tiny speck of it here! This is where curriculum vendors display their products, and other organizations and business also exhibit (museums, colleges, homeschool organizations, educational toys, etc.)
Entering the exhibit hall
At the used book section.
Found something!
This next part was absolutely crazy. 

Two years or so ago, a church friend gave me the name of a naturopathic doctor that she thought might be able to help our middle son. Well, to be frank, I've procrastinated on it. I only got around to emailing the center two months ago or so. It seems rather like God got tired of waiting on me, because we were literally thrown at this doctor's feet when we walked through the exhibits and he was standing right there as if waiting to talk to us! (This was the only medical practice to have a booth!) 

Guess I'd better get busy on that! (Ahem.)

The nursing mother's booth! (I only used it once, being a nurse-anywhere kind of woman, but it was definitely handy while in the exhibition hall!)

Baby Moose, having fun: 

"Who, me? You weren't thinking it was ME making all that noise during the sessions, were you?"
With Daddy, waiting for the next speaker!

At dinner after Day 1. Can we say exhausted and bleary-eyed?

Day #2 begins!
Ready for action! Woohoo!
"Was I supposed to be taking a NAP?"
 Hanging out in the hallway during lunch time....


In the exhibit hall, we got to visit the booth of an organization co-led by a friend of ours - Voices for the Voiceless, a teen group which is valiantly joining the fight for our unborn children's lives. They are doing an awesome job at a fight which is so worth fighting: 

DH displaying his shirt bought at the booth
At the Vision Forum booth, I got my free copy of "Tea with Michelle Duggar" - so excited to watch this! Michelle Duggar is one of my favorite public figures - I have read both of her books and consider her a mentor-from-afar. Love the Duggar family!!

Mine, mine, all mine!!!
While we were in the exhibit hall, I absolutely fell in love with Christian Light curriculum, and with the sweet Mennonite families who were selling it. I don't know if we'll actually use it (logistical problems), but we made some friends and saw some lovely curriculum.

Saturday's keynote was Todd Wilson, who was absolutely awesome and amazing - and, like Heidi, overwhelmingly and hilariously funny. I will never forget his turkey-in-the-RV story. And on a serious note, he was really inspiring - especially for the guys present. We heard him twice as a couple, and then DH attended two of his "for guys only" talks - and he came away completely inspired.

Below are the books we bought! I know there's some way to rotate the picture, but I'm too lazy to find out what it is. Read sideways.

We bought three of Todd Wilson's books:

"Help! I'm Married to a Homeschool Mom"
"Father Power: Inspiring Every Dad to Be His Child's Superhero"
"Dream Big, But Beware of Dream Killers"

One book from the Mennonite table (Christian Light Curriculum): "Homeschooling With Joy"

And one book from the Vision Forum: "Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices"

We also got to hear two more speakers - Heather Haupt, who was awesome and is a local mom (see her blog here) and Mary Schofield, also awesome. I have pages and pages of notes - techniques, books to read, blogs to follow, anything and everything!

We also got to hook up with a lot of friends - some well-known, some seen only occasionally, and some whom I had previously known only online!

All that to say... We had a great time! It's really like a marriage, parenting, homemaking, and home education seminar all at once, and we loved it.

Now, as far as actually choosing a curriculum - the answer to that mystery still eludes me. I'll save that for a later date (but hopefully not too much later of a date - we need to get started!).

Now off to come down off of a mountaintop-experience-high, get back into the real world, and recover from extreme exhaustion. 'Later, all!


  1. Woot! I'm so glad you enjoyed this years convention! There is nothing quite like that first year, is there?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! As I was following over here, I couldn't help but chuckle, because I'm pretty sure I was on your other blog a time or two with either this last pregnancy or the time before that. I tend to go into tunnel mode at the end of pregnancies and read anything and everything that I can find as I prepare for birth! :)

  2. Awesome! I'm so glad to connect! I still have your blog up on a tab trying to finish reading back-articles, and I'm overwhelmed with how much cool stuff you guys do!! Great ideas!! Looking forward to getting to know you in bloggerland. :)


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