One of the first pieces of advice I received from fellow homeschoolers was: Don’t miss the conference! One far-sighted mom made me make my reservation right on the spot, sitting at the kitchen table of another homeschooling mom, on my i-Phone. I’m sure glad I did.
The conference is an annual event organized by the Homeschool Association of California (www.hsc.org) held in Sacramento. I dutifully registered for the conference and booked our rooms way in advance. I am now sitting in our motel room, reporting.
It is a blast! I had not seen such an eclectic group of free-spirited people for a long time. Kids run around in various groups or singly all day. Curfew is 1 a.m. The swimming pool teems with splashing kids and is circled by adults lying on their towels like beached whales. On the grass naked toddlers somersault and the esplanade is traversed -- back and forth, back and forth, all day – by mohawked teenagers and skipping little girls, arms linked.
The hotel where the conference is held is big and sprawling, with lots of outdoor space: courtyards, pools, outdoor stage, many gathering areas, a pond… It is large enough that you can actually take little walks in. Excellent choice. The kids can roam independently and yet be contained. The staff is super friendly and doesn’t mind kids’ antics.
And then there are the events. From chess and Yu Gi Oh tournaments to all-day Math and Brain Games Salon. There is a Construction Zone, Bead, Fiber, and Paper Art Salon, and an Alchemy Alcove. There is a Recycled Resource Room (books, toys, crafts kits) and the Swap-O-Rama-Rama where you can alter, decorate, and swap clothes and accessories. Every night homeschooler bands perform on the stage and kids dance with their parents or with their “first dates.” The San Francisco “unschoolers” hosted a party in one of the courtyards last night and a nice big group of people sat together under the stars, drank Mojitos, and talked about everything and nothing in particular.
All day long, of course, there are also sessions. I won’t list the obvious ones: lots and lots of art, science, writing, and resource and self-help workshops for parents. Martial Arts and dance. Yoga. Story-telling… But let me list some of the most unusual ones.
For little kids: Battle of the Ninjas vs. the Pirates; Make Your Own Fairy Wings; Doll and Stuffed Toy Hospital; Tea Party; Make Clothes for Your Toys.
For adults: Homeschooling the Gifted/Sensitive/Special Needs Child; Benefits of TV and Videogames; Teaching Quantum Physics to Young Adults; Internet Resources; Conquering Homeschooling and Parenting Anxiety; Families-on-the-Road: Lifestyles, Philosophies, and Budgets (“spending less than living in a traditional stick house”); In Defense of College.
For teens: Music Industry; Sex Ed; Transitioning In or Out of School; Youth Activism; Indescribable Sexiness (“people with totally average looks”); How to Help a Friend in Trouble (“you may never use drugs, but it is highly likely that you will know someone who does get into trouble”); Wilderness Survival; Web Design.
For everybody: Bird Walk; Civil War Confederate Artillery Demonstration; Light, Illusion, and Fire; Owl Vomit (“why owls make pellets, where to find them, and dissecting them”); Noise and Explosions; The Discovery of Electromagnetism; Atomic Spectra; Duct Tape Creations; Story-telling: Real Life Heroes.
Before we came we printed out the schedule and highlighted the sessions we wanted to check out. But did we? No! The first evening and the next day all my son did was run around with old and new friends. Room to room. Area to area. Talk, talk, talk. Swim, run, eat. Crash at midnight. And I spent most of my time in the motel room catching up with work and just plain resting. I’ve had a hard few weeks. My mother broke her leg and I’ve been in and out of hospital and rehab, and on the freeway driving back and forth between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. So the first couple of days I did nothing.
Today is Saturday, the peak day of the conference. Nearly one thousand people have already arrived. One thousand! This is the biggest turnout in the twenty years of this annual conference. You keep hearing that more and more people are leaving schools and that homeschooling is turning into a movement. There’s certainly evidence for that. It is fascinating to observe it.
And today I finally feel rested. No more sitting in the motel room behind the computer. I will now close down shop and go join the fun. Wish you were here!