It's summer and homeschool conventions are in the air. I've traveled to four so far this year to represent Sonlight in various exhibit halls. Perhaps because I am reaching the half century mark this year, I found myself comparing this year's conventions and attendees to those I remember when I first began attending conventions some 17 years ago. Reflecting on the differences has made for some interesting conversation with others of my "generation".
I also have the privilege of acting as the program director for a state convention here in the northeast. We will be holding our post-convention recap and strategy meeting this weekend. Each year this meeting causes me to consider the perceived needs and wants of homeschoolers and whether or not we are effectively meeting those needs.
In the "early years" of homeschooling, conventions were eagerly anticipated as an opportunity to gather with others of like-minded thought when it came to educational choices. It was a chance to re-group and be encouraged in the rather unique path you had chosen. There was an almost desperate need to hear that what you were doing was right and good.
Today's conventions seem to be more consumer-oriented. With so many to choose from, most folks have the option of attending at least 2, and maybe 3, within driving distance. In this age of Facebook and Twitter, "virtual conventions" are also beginning to appear on the horizon. Curriculum choices are available to preview online, live chat services offer a homeschool advisor at your fingertips, and homeschool forums, chat rooms and blogs, provide virtually everything that a "skin on" convention has to offer without ever leaving home.
So are homeschool conventions and local support group meetings headed the way of the dinosaur? Will they soon be extinct? I truly hope not. While I believe that technology is a wonderful and useful tool, there is just nothing that meets our built-in need for relationship and encouragement like a homeschool convention (or a support group meeting). As I stood on various convention floors this year and talked with new homeschooling parents, admired their babies and toddlers, engaged in some Homeschool 101 conversation, encouraged them that they CAN indeed do this homeschool thing, and hugged them before they left ... I considered time and time again that nothing will ever replace that eye-to-eye, face-to-face experience that an "in-person" event has to offer. It is worth the effort of finding child care, saving pennies for convention registration and possible hotel stay, and arranging transportation.
A thought to contemplate ... if you're a "veteran" homeschooler as I am, and really feel no compelling need to attend a homeschool convention ... consider how valuable your life experience would be to new homeschoolers just beginning their journey. Give some thought to volunteering or working on your local convention team as a means of "giving back" to those who supported you during the early years of your homeschool experience. I guarantee you it's worth your time and effort.
Still traveling the path ...
Sonlight Customer Champion