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We attended the NCHE Thrive conference last month. I’ve been attending regularly since 2017 and speaking yearly since 2018. 

Some of the talks I’ve done include:

How Unschooling Saved Our Homeschool– sharing our story of homeschooling through the crisis of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

Middle Schoolers are Weird and I Love Them– It’s true. Middle Schoolers are special little creatures- amazing humans who are caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood. They need a special kind of love and care. 

Homegrown Homeschooling– Using analogies from the garden to remind people why they started homeschooling in the first place and how to stay grounded through the journey. 

Homeschool Lingo Defined– helping sort through all those terms that seem to be a second language to veteran homeschoolers. Check out THIS VIDEO my kids helped me make to intro that talk. 

Avoiding the Comparison Trap

Minimalist Homeschooling

Creating a Culture of Homeschooling 

Most of my talks have similar themes- homeschooling for the long game, having a lasting vision, slowing down, and leaving wide margins. 

Last year and this my kids went with me to the conference. Having them there adds a different level. I don’t know that I would have appreciated it much when they were little. I looked forward to the conference for a getaway and refresh time. But now that they are a little older, I love having them there. The Thrive conference has a teen dance one night and a teen game night the next. I have no shame being that mom who goes and plays games! We had a super fun group that started with me and my four and grew to about ten! We played Bananagrams and Apples to Apples. Those are both low-key games that are great for groups. 

The kids and I also played our own game of “Who can get the most free stuff?” My oldest won the game hands down… why? Because he was willing to actually talk to people! He ended up with more pens that he knows what to do with, stickers, books, notepads, candy, and a tiny silicone baby (fetus) from the pro-life booth. That last one was the winning item for sure. 

Taking the kids with me also changed the talks that I prioritized visiting. I asked the kids to look at the schedule and pick what they were interested in. My 13-year-old was feeling very 13. She opted to go back to the room and rest any chance she got. The 18-year-old picked a couple of talks about figuring out what to do in life. He just graduated from high school and is feeling a little aimless. He and I visited the college fair. He told every booth he visited something different when they asked, “What are your next steps?” He told one person he was interested in horticulture. To another, he said he wanted to go into storytelling. A few other answers included film, art, music, and writing. 

My 16-year-old and 11-year-old went with me to hear a talk about engaging in this current culture. It was a little intense when the subject of abortion came up. That’s ok though! We had some great conversations after. 

Because the convention center was connected to the hotel, I felt comfortable letting the kids wander around the vendor hall and back and forth to the room. The girls enjoyed shopping around on their own and seeing friends who were also at the conference. 

The kids came to both of my talks and helped me set up and sell decals and our new book, Livvy Goes to Homeschool. 

On the second morning, we took a walk around Winston Salem. We visited our favorite bakery and then found a little bookstore tucked back in an alley. We took our time and enjoyed the city before returning to the conference. 

Going as a speaker/ homeschooler who is pretty secure in my homeschool choices is definitely an experience different that going as a new homeschooler. I didn’t feel as anxious or worried that I will somehow miss out or not find the gem of a curriculum that would change my life. I am able now to just soak it in and enjoy conversations with others.

To those who are newish to homeschooling, consider these tips when going to a homeschool conference:

1. Look at the speaker schedule early.

2. Make a plan.

3. Don’t go to a speaker in every session. 

4. Leave yourself time to decompress. Maybe go for a walk or find a coffee shop and take a breather. 

5. Visit the vendor hall. Do a couple of laps before you buy anything! Ask lots of questions. Make sure you really want to buy that curriculum before you purchase. Don’t get sucked in by that new curriculum smell!

If you’re secure in your homeschool choices, maybe consider these tips for conferencing:

1. Take a look at the schedule early and plan to attend some that you wouldn’t normally attend. Maybe if you’re a classical kind of mom, you could visit a talk on unschooling?

2. Take time in the vendor hall to get to know some of the vendors. It’s not all curriculum. We came home with a box full of jerky from Rugged Meats. 

3. Take your kids. Let them choose the talks. 

4. Find a coffee shop or fun restaurant to treat yourself and take a breather. 

5. Look for opportunities to encourage others who are attending the conference. 

Do you have a homeschool conference you attend in your area? Do you travel to attend one? Why do you go? What are some tips you have for people who haven’t been before? Comment below and share the wealth!

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