This conference for home educators, one of the biggest in the US, was an eye-opener for us. With about 1,000 participants from all over America, our family attracted much attention from the speakers who were fascinated by the fact that we had traveled all the way from Malaysia (they do know where it is) just to attend the conference. And how did we get to know about the conference? From the internet of course! It’s a great tool for homeschoolers to find resources and to network with other homeschoolers around the world. We were there with our kids (2 at that time, aged 4 & 5).
August 17-19, 2001
Radisson Hotel Sacramento
Organized by the Homeschool Association of California
The conference program had too many parallel sessions for us to attend every one of them. So, we had to pick and choose those that we felt would be relevant to us. Amongst the more notable speakers that I chose to listen to were: Linda Dobson, author of many books on homeschooling, (who also gave the key-note address); Pat Montgomery (who started the Clonlara School that adopts homeschooling principles in its teaching of children), and David Albert (author and speaker on homeschooling, particularly for gifted children). KV “babysat” the girls after having “lost” his case about letting the girls participate in the children’s activities without his presence, but could not take it any longer after the 1st day and decided to bring the kids with him at the talks. The girls were great throughout and won the admiration of the people around them.
In summary, we heard the various speakers speak from their heart and the joy and calmness they exude from their experience of home-educating their children was indeed very inspiring. Some of the common messages that were delivered were:
1. That home-education is a joyous, sensible, and rightful choice that parents can make for their children. In some cases, it was the children who had requested to be home-schooled.
2. That families have the total freedom to choose the kind of home-schooling they want to adopt for themselves, whether they want the structured or unstructured way, the curriculum-based or non curriculum-based method.
3. That home-schooled children are generally happier, more matured and better socialized than are generally perceived to be by non-homeschoolers, and there are many success stories of home-schooled children having made it successfully through college and working life.
4. That home-education is no longer a phenomena but a reality that has taken America and other countries by storm and is continually growing at a rapid speed.
5. That home-educators need not be alone for there is a big network of home-educators out there if we care to look to network and share resources with. During the pioneering days, most homeschoolers were quite alone in their quest when few families adopted it as their way of life. But things have changed now in the U.S. especially, and the other countries are catching on as well.
6. That there are ways around getting homeschoolers into college, as Wes Beach shared in his session: Possibilities After Homeschooling. To quote him:
“I believe that homeschoolers will do well in college whenever they make deeply personal decisions to enter college. If early college admission is not what teenagers want, they can find unlimited number of productive and educational ways to spend their teen years. Traditional high school academic subjects do not have to be part of what they do. Since my students do well in college with very limited or no high school experiecne, certainly alternative “high school” experiences, however radically they depart from a traditional cource of study, can be the foundation for success in college.” (From his talk on Possibilities After Homeschooling)
1. That home-education is about listening to our children, to learn how they learn and to help them learn best using their strengths instead of harping on their weaknesses. Home-education is about being better parents to our kids as we learn more about ourselves through our children.
2. That “Everyone can be a homeschooling advocate” (Linda Dobson) and that we are much less powerless that we think we are about our children’s education that affect their future.
3. That teaching our children at home does not need to be stressful or a nightmarish experience if we stop bringing the school into our homes and start to enjoy just being together as a family and learning together along the way.
4. That home-educators have the option to choose to stay within the legal system of the country by:
* enrolling in a private school
* form your own private school
* use a private tutor
* enrol in a public school home stydy/independent study program/charter school. (applicable to the States only)
* or do nothing!
1. That if there is a will, there is a way!
2. That nothing cannot be solved with a little ingenuity and a lot of creativity.
Besides listening to the speakers speak about the joys and benefits of homeschooling, there were workshops on Family Math – Doing Mathematics with your child (by Jose Franco); The Road to Real Literacy (Elizabeth Gibson) and Raising Readers (Paula harper-Christensen); Songs to Take Home (A Concert workshop by Linda Book) and Life is all Song and Dance (Marty Layne); Book-Making (Suggestions For Making Books With Young Children by Carrie Pilon) as well as many other children’s activities.
One very interesting thing about the conference was that none of the participants or speakers bothered about curriculum. Everyone seemed to be totally for the child-led method or the Unschooling method as espoused by John Holt, and that any form of structured method was unappealing. Nobody asked about what curriculum to follow or about exams to take or how to get into college. But a lot was stressed on natural learning methods, making use of local resources and libraries, being interested about learning, and listening to the children and following their cues.
We realized that we are not too far from what the Californians are doing and that is a very reassuring thought. We have gathered some resources from there that we hope would be of benefit to the families back home who are planning on home-schooling their children.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip with visits to interesting and educational places in the State of California. We could not possibly cover every interesting place but the few that we managed to visit was memorable enough. This is the best part about home-schooling – we get to travel during non-peak period while the rest of the student population are at school!
Happy learning everyone!