It’s summer. Well, at least for most of us. We have maybe two weeks left of tidying up and tying loose homeschool ends and we are DONE with 11th grade for my teens, Kindergarten for the 6 year old, and Preschool for my littlest guy. I’m in purge mode, research mode, curriculum buying mode, class scheduling mode, organize mode, transcript mode, and CONVENTION MODE. You might wonder why I listed convention there if you’ve never been to a good convention before, but let me explain. Ever since I started homeschooling in 2001, I have been going to a convention – almost every year – and they have been INVALUABLE to me as I have grown as a teacher, helping me to stay the course.
I get a lot of questions from friends of mine in real life asking me why I would or wouldn’t recommend a conference or convention to them. I can’t imagine having home-schooled for over a decade and not going to a conference, but that begs the question again: why? If you follow this post below (best part is at the end), maybe you’ll understand a little more about why I think home school conventions are so important.
To keep things on the up and up, I’ll admit up front that I am the official “conference photographer” at this year’s Woodlands, TX THSC Homeschool Convention (near North Houston Metroplex Area) on July 23-25, 2015 (just a few short weeks away). For the first time ever, they are asking that I share what I like about THSC with my readers. There are a lot of new conventions on the block, so I don’t blame them. I’m not trying to detract from anyone else’s convention, but I wanted to give you a little idea of why I love THSC so much. Honestly, as much as I love photography, the job I do for them is not for the money – I do it because I love THSC and what they stand for. I also am very thankful for all the years that their convention has breathed life back into me when I was burnt out and didn’t know if I could keep moving forward.
THSC is a non-profit oganization and another huge plus about the THSC Conventions is that a lot of the money they make goes towards fighting anti-homeschool legislation each year that seeps through the Texas legislature like a disease, trying to erode away our parental rights. Less than 10% of homeschoolers in the state are paying members of THSC and that is just a crying shame. They have a team of “watchmen” that they support (homeschool graduates) that read every word of every bill that gets introduced into the house and senate and watch for potential dangers for each of us out here who are too busy homeschooling to be able to.
This is a VERY worthy service they are doing for homeschoolers, and I love supporting people who are supporting my freedoms. I have been to some of the court cases they have fought and heard the disrespect from a few of their “hall of shame” judges, and believe me, it is good to have advocates out there to fight against the culture tide that is poised to do great damage if not kept in check.
[ In case you didn’t know this: THSC members get a discount to a lot of amazing products and services and get free admission into the conventions each year (which a parent or grandparent can use). ]
I used to attend THSC every other year or every few years before I started taking photos for them because I also went to the Arlington Convention (at the time it was run by another homeschool group) and some other conventions in the Houston and Austin areas. Now THSC owns the Arlington Book Fair (near Dallas/Fort Worth), so I’m excited that I will probably get to do both each year because I’m their photographer. This year I already have been to the Arlington, TX convention (Mother’s Day Weekend every year) for their debut year and it was amazing – even though they were working out a bunch of kinks with a new venue and a new list of attendees who may have never been to a THSC Convention before. It is always fun to see familiar faces and meet new exciting vendors.
Over 7,000 homeschoolers in one place is a crowd of academic proportions. :::insert punny snicker here:::
Some of the lead speakers for the Woodlands convention in a few weeks are Steve Demme (Mr. Math U See himself), Crystal Paine (Money Saving Mom), John R. Erickson (of Hank the Cowdog fame), and David Barton (Wallbuilders). They also have Christian Illusionists, David and Teesha Laflin, doing a fantastic show for the whole family on Saturday night. [ Family friendly clean entertainment is hard to come by these days. ]
Another plus about homeschool conventions in general is getting to save on shipping when you buy curriculum. Just an FYI, those books can get HEAVY! I bought an entire year’s worth of Biblioplan at the last convention and it filled a small box – so I would imagine the postage would have been rather expensive! The convention-only specials the vendors have are a big money saver! I love being able to see books in person before I buy them… and talk to people working the booths who know how to use the curriculum (and are passionate about it) so I can ask questions.
Each year THSC also does excursions at discount prices but they sell out really fast – so this year’s trip is already sold out. They do a Thursday-before-convention “field trip” each year. This year was a journey down the Houston Ship Channel on a tour boat. We have been to quite a few of these “Add-Ons” to convention and had fun at all of them. We have done Moody Gardens, NASA, and even the Houston Downtown Aquarium where my kids disected a squid. [ You had better believe that went down on their biology disection list along with all the other 10-12 items I thankfully didn’t have to disect with them because we were doing Biology at a one-day academy. ]
My teenagers would tell you that their favorite part of the THSC Conventions is the teen program. The teens get to rotate into different jobs – helping with the children’s program (like a HUGE VBS where the kids craft, sing, memorize scripture, have Science experiments, etc), helping in the Special Buddies program (with special needs kids), helping hand out bags to attendees or open doors for moms with their hands full – the list is endless.
My kids have been racking up service project hours working every summer at THSC for half a decade or longer and they count down the days until they can have fun doing it again each year. This year my daughter is going to try and get a “Gold Shirt” status and be a team leader – which has been her dream for many years now!
My younger boys (and even the oldest teen boy – but he won’t admit it in public) love the “Lego Guy” booth they have there each year on the convention floor where you can buy special biblical accessories that fit your Lego men, turning a regular guy into an “angel of the Lord” with a harp and wings, or a Greek mythological creature or historical character. Each year we budget for them to bring home a few toys at the convention, too!
My husband isn’t big on conventions, but I see a lot of moms and dads there together. I have a good friend who uses convention as a husband-wife date weekend every year and has her parents babysit. You don’t really need a babysitter, though, since they have a kid and teen program. They even have stuff for just guys – like the newer “Discipleship with Donuts” breakfast (this year led by Steve Demme, speaking about “The Heart of a Man”). There’s really something for every age and gender.
For me, my favorite part of convention now is not the Encouragement by Chocolate which is a fantastic get-away for moms to be encouraged by a great speaker (this year it is Crystal Paine and previous years have seen Sally Clarkson, Zan Tyler, and Rachael Carman to name a few). It isn’t the amazing speakers – that so often I have credited with helping get my “butt back in gear” and “priorities back in line” for the coming school year. My favorite thing isn’t even the discounts and free shipping!
My favorite part of going to THSC now is the VISION – I see it in the smiles of people I photograph. I see it in the hopeful vendors with amazing new products they want to share with bright young minds. I see it in the HONESTY that homeschool speakers share when they level with you on disappointments and hardships they endured as parents and educators – and how fighting through discouragements is WORTH IT. [ Really enjoyed Roxanne Park’s talks about this in Arlington! ]
I see it in the beauty of in-tact families, husbands and wives holding hands, dads taking care of cranky or sleeping babies so moms can listen to speakers, grandma pushing strollers and helping buy curriculum, brothers and sisters hugging each other, teens teaching kids about Jesus so parents can focus on the education of their young ones.
The vision that THSC has caught and fights to defend is a sweeping vision of parental and educational freedom through Christ – a groundswell of actively involved parents investing in their kids to effect our culture, the future and ultimately eternity.
I had no idea I was going to turn this post into a sermon, but it doesn’t surprise me. I love homeschoolers. I often find myself crying when I go through the images after a convention just because I see Jesus all over them. I can’t explain it, really – other than to just say that convention photography for THSC leaves me very tired, yet very energized at the same time.
I guess you just have to be there to experience it and find out for yourself! I hope you’ll come up, introduce yourself and smile for me if you do. I’ll be the one with the camera stuck to her face, enjoying the conference from behind my lens.
This year the pre-registration ends on June 30th. Yeah, I know – tomorrow. But even after that, it’s still worth every penny if you ask me! They also are always looking for volunteers and you can get part or even all of your admission marked off if you help out. Check out their website for opportunities! I hope to see you there!
Disclaimer: I’m the photographer for this event and may be a little biased. :::grin::: They sponsored this post, not knowing that I would have probably shared about it anyway. Shhhh! Don’t tell them, OK?
EXTRA CREDIT: If you are planning to go to the conference and you want a blog button to spread the word… you can find them HERE (I’ve been telling them forever that they needed to publish these – and they are listening! Woohoo!) Share the geeky homeschool love!