kitchen table math, the sequel: Homeschooling Conventions: no foldables here

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Homeschooling Conventions: no foldables here

I have attended the Northern Virginia Homeschooling Convention (NOVA Conference) and a Homeschool Curriculum Fair in Maryland. There were no sight words or whole word reading programs to be seen, no fuzzy math, and no foldables. Actually, the only thing even close to a foldable was a locally produced phonics flip chart that made a variety of different words to sound out as you flipped it around.

Disclaimer: while I don't really "know" the people in charge of the NOVA Conference, through a series of e-mails, I gave them permission to use a quote I had previously written about their conference, and they let me purchase some of their old data DVDs to send to friends (both school teacher friends and homeschooling friends) as Christmas presents.

Here's some of their workshops (If you're interested, you can buy the DVD-ROM of all the workshops for $40, but you won't get it until a month or two after the conference ends in July):

Algebra Alcatraz!
Why not just break out of Algebra prison and study some practical subjects? If you’ve ever felt this way, you owe it to yourself to invest just 50 minutes to find out whether this Algebra stuff is right for you. (Oh, by the way, bring Mom or Dad with you to this seminar! They need answers, too!)

Homeschooling Through High School
Can it possibly be a good idea to homeschool all the way through high school? Can homeschooled teens get into college? What about teaching advanced math and science? This encouraging seminar is designed to reassure parents (and teens) that it’s not only possible to homeschool through high school, but that it is a wonderful choice. Learn how other families have made it through the high school years, and how you can too!
Seeing Fractions is Understanding Fractions
Four out of five people don't understand fractions! With one hands-on model, Steve demonstrates how to do the basic operations and see where the formulas come from. The grand finale is how to convert a fraction to a decimal to a percent.

Spelling and the Brain
Many children (and some adults) have difficulty learning to spell, but the difficulty may not be with the student so much as with the method of presentation. Find out in this workshop how spelling information is most efficiently stored in the brain, and why. With a greater insight into the nature of spelling and neurological function presented in this workshop, the parent/teacher will be well-equipped to meet the needs of all their children, not just the “naturally” good spellers.
Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Had Rather Be Making Forts All Day

This one was very interesting! He talked about the differences between boys and girls and how each learns best and how to keep their interest. He's very funny, too.

The Good Reader
An overall plan for teaching reading to children. Includes the development of good language skills, starting at birth; tips on pre-reading instruction; appropriate phonics instruction for ages three, four, five, and older; reviews of a number of phonics programs along with recommendations; beginning reading lists; suggestions for remedial reading; and a discussion on encouraging reluctant readers. Jessie Wise has over thirty years' experience in reading instruction and has field-tested many of the reading programs now on the market.

There's a lot more, you can see all the workshops online.

By the way, the top 3 choices in a survey of homeschoolers for math in a homeschooling magazine I subscribe to were Math-U-See, Saxon, and Singapore Math.

If you just want some good ideas about how to better teach your children and some great resources, a homeschooling convention is an interesting and fun place to learn about learning, no matter what type of schooling you choose for your children.

visual learning

why lawyers burn out
Independent George re: foldables
your tax dollars at work part 2
my busy day
not your father's formative assessment
remembering key concepts in math with foldables
south of the border
Steve H and palisadesk on foldables
homeschooling convention: no foldables

you may have to hit refresh a couple of times to load these pages:

21st century skills in Singapore
the master plan
horselaughs are heard in Singapore
more horselaughs in Singapore


PaulaV said...


Do you live in northern Virginia? My northern Virginia county continues to add more and more homeschoolers to its list. Thanks for posting the conference information!

ElizabethB said...

We used to live in Northern Virginia, we're military and have moved 5 times in the last 6 years!

PaulaV said...

Oh, yes, I remember you now! I'm a former navy wife...husband's been retired for three years now. I've been thinking of homeschooling, but I'm terrified to make the leap; however, after my nine-year-old's last educational pysch. evaluation something tells me it is the right thing to do.

ElizabethB said...


It's actually really easy! At the kindergarten level, we spend less time doing school than I would spend getting her ready for school. You'll spend a little more time with a 9-year old, but still probably not much more than getting them ready for school and helping them out with homework.

You could go to the conference, pick up some materials, and try it out for a month starting the day after the conference. If it seems to be working out, you're all set and have some extra vacation days stored up!

You might also see if you could find someone who homeschools nearby would let you watch them for a day or two to see how easy it really is.

Seriously, I had more trouble with teaching potty training than with teaching math and phonics.

Catherine Johnson said...

boy, if you don't mind another opinion....I feel like it's time to throw in the towel on your school.

Also, you'd have a lot of support around here; you can ask questions & people like Elizabeth & palisadesk (& so many others) can answer.

The other thing is that, as Elizabeth points out, nothing is written in stone.

If you feel homeschooling isn't working out you can go back to your school.

PaulaV said...


I love the idea of going to the conference and trying it out for a month. My neighbor homeschools and I've been gathering up the courage to email her to see if we could sit down and talk.

Thank you so much for your encouragement.

PaulaV said...


I think you are right!!!

TerriW said...

One thing to consider in "trying it out" -- almost universally, every time I hear about folks who pull their kids out of school -- and especially if they are coming from a frustrating or otherwise crappy situation -- is that a "decompression" time is needed before things can run smoothly. The oft-quoted rule of thumb is one month of "deschooling" per year of schooling.

My kids have never gone to school so I can't speak from experience, but it's something to keep in mind/explore if you do a trial run.

concernedCTparent said...

Paula, you will do extremely well. Your son will flourish. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of. Catherine's right, you have great sources of information right here at KTM.

Starting out early is a great idea. I wish I had begun earlier in the summer and plan on doing that when I add the other two children to our "school". I've already got curricula all picked out and everything.

Just jump in, feet first. No regrets. You'll sleep better at night.

VickyS said...

And try not to worry too much about reproducing school at home. Remember: that's what you're trying to get away from!

I had a very successful homeschooling year for my 7/8 grader where we did the following:
(1) Math at university
(2) Spanish tutor (full year)
(3) English grammar tutor (3 mos.)
(4) Let him read anything he wanted to; suggested books; he read stuff like Jules Verne and Animal Farm
(5) Other than reading the news, websites, etc...that's really about it! I would bring him to work with me and just let him read or do math.

He needed a decompression year, and I gave it to him. He more than held his own. I even skipped him a grade b/c I was so disgusted with middle school. He entered 9th grade (high school) raring to go.

There are as many ways of homeschooling as there are homeschooling families. It's *so* worth it to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Wow! All that for $30 and your spouse can attend free!

I wonder how much the school systems are paying for each teacher to attend Dinah Zike's foldable seminar?


LynnG said...

Check your public schools' policies before you assume that you can "try" homeschooling for a month and go back if it doesn't work out.

Last year, my public school district passed a homeschool policy that prohibits kids or families from homeschooling for anything less than the full year. Don't know if it is enforceable, but I imagine you'd have to be prepared to litigate if you wanted to get your child back into public school.

concernedCTparent said...

Wow. That's interesting. I'd not heard of that. I imagine it complicates things for the districts and messes with the flow of money per student. I can see why it would be a problem.

Catherine Johnson said...

Vicky - I didn't know you homeschooled one of your kids for a year!

I am now a HUGE proponent of homeschooling. Huge.

We had a great time here in K-5 & we've had fantastic SPED teachers with one exception - who was not given tenure.

But life changes when you hit middle school, and "hit" is the operative term.

That said, if I were having the kind of problems Paula is having in K-5 I'd have to figure out a way to homeschool (meaning I'd have to figure out what I was going to do about earning a living AND homeschooling.)

Of course in my case I have 2 autistic kids to boot....yikes.

This is a rock-and-a-hard-place call. I strongly suspect we wouldn't have the quality of SPED teachers we've had elsewhere.

They'd be very, very hard to find.

Catherine Johnson said...

Vicky's right.

You're going to have a year to decompress.


concernedCTparent said...

Allowing your child to decompress and reminding yourself that it's not supposed to be like being "in school" are extremely important.

When you finally get to that point where you trust yourself, really trust yourself, great things begin to happen.

Alexandra, who is definitely a reader, has never read so much, and partcularly so much quality literature EVER. Aside from some of the great things that are part of her studies, she is beginning to develop more discriminating taste when it comes to what she's reading. Today, for example, she's finishing up Tom Sawyer. Meanwhile, her friends can't even see straight after two weeks of mind-numbing CMT's (standardized tests).

It has been a huge year of growth for her. She wouldn't be where she is had she stayed in school. Of this I am convinced beyond a doubt.

It's really a commitment, it's extremely hard work, and there are some days when I am exhausted beyond belief. I wouldn't trade it for the world, though. In our case it really was the right choice.

VickyS said...

Because my son is an avid reader, our homeschooling year (grade 7/8) was infinitely easier, on both him and me, than our 6th grade school year. Way back before compulsory schooling, didn't at least some people self-educate through reading? That's the informal model we followed. Other than the Math/Spanish/Writing that I "contracted" out, reading was my son's primary activity. I rearranged my office for him at work, got a second chair and a little desk space for him, and that was "school." I'm sure it would have been much harder with a younger child, but this worked nicely for a 13 year old.

ElizabethB said...

"Way back before compulsory schooling, didn't at least some people self-educate through reading?"

Yes, they did! Lincoln, for example.

Most Homeschoolers have the same experience as VickyS. Except for math, you can choose a rigorous curriculum that the student can read themselves with occasional help when they need it. That's probably why there are no sight words to be seen at the homeschooling conventions--they've figured out what works, they have huge motivation to get their students on the path to self-education.

Homeschooling parents strong in math generally choose Saxon or Singapore math. People not as strong in math generally choose Math-U-See and use their videos to help teach. (In our case, I'm strong in math but have started with Math-U-See because it is working better for our daughter. I'm going to purchase Singapore Math as well and start using both.)

Latin is also popular. I'm looking forward to learning Latin with my children in a few years!

concernedCTparent said...

Way back before compulsory schooling, didn't at least some people self-educate through reading?

That's precisely the point of the Thomas Jefferson Education people.

Thomas Jefferson Education Consortium

I read A Thomas Jefferson Education and actually found it quite inspiring. The first premise is to change NOTHING of what you're doing about schooling your child until you've prepared yourself.

"You must become a better teacher, a mentor, before you change your teaching and mentoring."

Your first step is to build your own confidence in homeschooling your child-- they don't come out and say this explicitly, but that's what I suspect the effect the suggested reading is supposed to have. So first, you prepare yourself.

Step 1: Forget the kids
Step 2: Read a classic*
Step 3: Read 3 more classics*
Step 4: Read & annotate a classic*
Step 5: Annotate 2 more classics*

*There is a suggested list of books for each step. They are listed on the TJEd website as pillars, I believe.

It's not until month 3-4 that you are actually supposed to get started with your student.

I got as far as step 4 and eventually plan on completing the process because so far, I found the exercises worth the investment of time.

The books I read from the classics suggested for each stage were interesting. Some I would never have picked if they weren't recommended. Of them, I had actually previously read only one- Anne of Green Gables. I read The Chosen, Little Britches, Laddie, and The Lonesome Gods. Each story highlights a parent as a mentor/teacher to their child. They actually help you appreciate what a strong role parents play in the intellectual and moral devlopment of their child. We all know this at our core, but somehow reading about it reminds us that we are capable of more than we realize.

Anyway, even if you don't follow the TJEd approach to the letter, I found it quite inspirational in preparation for homeschooling.

Of course, my favorite homeschooling resource is still Susan Wise Bauer and The Well Trained Mind.