Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My First Homeschool Conference

I went to a homeschool conference. This is a really big deal for me. First, because I am cheap. I hate spending money on something for myself. Second, because I'm pretty satisfied with how I'm homeschooling and really don't feel a need to learn anything new about it (at least not what the talks were about anyway). Yep, I'm self-satisfied. Yet, I did go. I mostly went for the chance to talk to some other homeschool moms I know. Of course, I spent most of my time helping Flurpee navigate the children's area.

The conference was run by the Connecticut Homeschool Network. The Connecticut Homeschool Network is a statewide inclusive homeschooling group. I can't say for sure, but it seems like a rather quiet group. The conference was the most I had heard from them. The cost was quite reasonable. There were a number of homeschoolers giving talks. I did go to one lecture and I let Flurpee choose from a number of interesting talks.

Flurpee picked one about public speaking and Toastmasters. The talk was supposed to be about how adults and homeschoolers can benefit from Toastmasters but most of the parents (as you can imagine) wanted to know how to teach their kids public speaking skills. We did learn about a Toastmasters Youth Leadership program. It sounds very interesting. While our speaker had not run a group for youth, he did give us some information about it. I would like to note that the talk was given by Mike Arons, with some input from Judy Arons. I got to meet the owner of one of the blogs I follow regularly.

The Toastmasters Youth Leadership program is run with the help of a local Toastmasters member. They would serve as a coach for a group of kids (up to 25, but seems like around 10 or so would work much better) on public speaking for 8 sessions (probably every two weeks). The kids would mimic the format of an adult club and thus would get to experience different sorts of leadership roles as well as learning some Robert's Rules of Orders. The cost would be limited to some materials provided by Toastmasters (very reasonable, about $10 per child) and the adult member volunteers. As far as age limits, the speaker felt that the kids should be able to write and he thought 12 might be a good age. On the Toastmasters site they have an article about 10 year olds going through the program.

Although I thought I would like to get to more talks, I enjoyed watching Flurpee learn something different and meet a new friend. (Whose mom assures me that I should potty train Bamm Bamm this summer and her kids were potty trained at 11 and 16 months or something.)

Here is the representative of Two Coyotes, a nature program in south-western Connecticut demonstrating how to start a fire using friction.

Here is the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) demonstrating and discussing medieval armor and weapons. The SCA is full of people who enjoy reliving and recreating the age of knights. Although I thought the presentation was very disjointed, the kids really perked up when the presenters passed around some chain mail, plate armor gauntlets, arrows, and a sling. There were some geeky point-of-pride vocabulary corrections (not Vikings, viking is a verb, they were Norsemen) and disdain for popular characterizations (the aforesaid Norsemen would never have had horned or winged helmets because the ornamentation would catch a head blow instead of deflecting matter how cool they look. Of course I wanted to know if it was true.).

Here is a plate armor recreation. The arm, hands, and leg guards (not shown) were made from shiny metal. The body (shown here) was covered plastic barrel parts cut to mimic the armor.

I don't know if I could picture Flurpee as a fierce warrior.

After the armor and weapons demo (which became much more interesting for Flurpee as I pointed out which weapons and armor she used on her Dungeons and Dragons character and why they were two-handed or one-handed and why leather is weaker than plate armor), she got to play chess. That's when she met a new friend. After chess she mostly played with the new friend. I was very ready to leave by then.

It was ironic that a homeschool conference was held at a high school. Funny things: the classroom set aside for the talk I attended had a bunch of those educational posters up. There were about 10 math posters, about 12 science posters, about five health posters, a couple of history posters, some grammar posters, and even more. There was not a bare area on the walls. We could not figure out what subject was taught in that room. I wish it was so in the room for the medieval armor demonstration. The room was used for health and they had recently gone over human reproduction and had left their blackboard notes up. I'm guessing that was an education some parents weren't expecting for their own children.

Another thing I got to observe was the horrendous condition of some of the school. I am not petty, so I expect dirty grout, old fixtures, and scraped up paint. What I was not expecting was the shoddy job done by school employees. Check out the paint job below. There was not even an attempt to keep from spreading the newer black paint onto other surfaces.

In this case, it is the opposite side of the door that is painted black.


Amy said...

I'm going to my first homeschool conference today! (It's free). I'll write up something about it tomorrow.

Amy said...

That paint job looks like the one in my own house. We need to get on that repainting task soon.

Kim said...

Enjoy the conference. I look forward to seeing what yours was all about. You're certainly starting early!

Good luck with that paint job. Hubby finished a small laundry room upstairs and it took over a week. Blech! I can't imagine how long for the baby's room--especially since I'm not sure I can even move any of the furniture out. What colors?

Shez said...

I love that your conference had such great kids' programming. I love listening to SCA enthusiasts. I could never devote the time to their activities, but they do appeal to my geekness. I am going to contact Toastmasters and find out about junior Toastmasters in our area. I forgot all about them, even though I did Junior Toastmasters as a high schooler.

I'm going to a homeschool conference today. Ben's playing in the chess tournament and Shira and I are trawling the exhibition fair. I was given a press pass because of the writing I do for the Examiner. How cool is that?

I would never put my kids in their kids programs though as this is a highly Christian conference and I don't need my kids dealing with the indocrination. I told Shira to wear a short shirt today and I'm wearing trousers because we need to bring down the denim jumper quotient.

That said, this is always an awesome conference. It's huge and full of really juicy talks, and of course they have their incredible curriculum hall.

Amy said...

A week?!? Well, we need to repaint pretty much the whole house, so we're taking it one room at a time. First step: the hallways, which were "touched up" in a slightly different color using a roller, and they were too lazy to use a ladder, so the "touch up" stops halfway up the wall. Nice. Usually, I try to do the prep work and then my hubby paints. It does take a couple of days to do a small room. The hallways will stay a neutral beige for now.

Shez, I love the clothing comment. I was on the lookout for the long, straight, dirty blond hair and no makeup that I associate with Christian moms. But it wasn't really that noticeable. I wish I had thought to wear something skanky.

Kim said...

I have ruled out religious conferences. Aside from the two of you hear who have or recognize you could get good information from such a venue, another secular mom I know has also recommended some of the bigger ones. She said that there was just no comparing how much more curriculum you can review or the resources. I guess I am convinced that I can fight through the religious stuff to find out more interesting information. Thanks for sharing!

Now getting a press pass is a great way to go to a conference. You'd probably be writing about it anyway.

The Toastmasters for kids does seem really interesting and worthwhile. I don't know if I can work it with just the older one. The younger one is getting quite sensitive to not understanding why there are age limits.