Westman Homeschool Connection Conference

I thought I’d repost something I wrote for a newsletter about our conference on Saturday.

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Manitoba has another homeschooling conference! When it comes to a job like homeschooling, more ideas and more support can’t go amiss.

After years of chatting about how great it would be to have the kind of support we wanted, and how nice it would be to have answers to our questions, we decided to see what we could do. It was daunting in a way: a committee of three people, putting our own money into the deposits, casting about for speakers and topics. In another way it was freeing – small groups can be incredible when they’re dedicated.

We had two goals when we started out: break even, and have a conference based on the idea that there is no One Right Way to homeschool. We wanted to present a range of normal experiences so that people could come away with tips that suited their family. One way to do this was through panel discussions – multiple speakers on one topic tend to inspire listeners rather than give one vision of how things ought to work.

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We also focused on having a wide range of speakers dealing with a wide range of ages. We had a session on science education by a PhD and homeschooling grandfather that dug into what science is at its core and what real education means. The “Fantastic Resources at the Manitoba Educational Resources Library” workshop both gave tips for families with kids of any age. For instance, did you know you can contact them and they will compile books, games, and kits on a topic for the ages you need and then send them to you free of charge?

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Two sessions for beginners were a very popular draw. We all know just how many questions deciding to homeschool generates – like dust bunnies they seem to multiply every time you turn around! John Shaw, liaison from the Department of Education, talked about the regulations and how to fill out the forms. Tracy Rimmer gave a great overview of homeschooling for beginners that was so packed extra chairs needed to be brought in twice.

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Many of us with homeschooling teens know that conferences often focus on the early stages of learning to read and starting multiplication tables. But parents of older kids need resources and ideas just as much, if not more, as our kids grow. So we brought post-secondary institutions in to talk about their admissions policies so parents could know more about transcripts, marks, and other things that worry them. We also had a panel discussion of parents who were homeschooling teenagers. It was fun to talk about dealing with hormones, helping teens find passions, and what days with older kids look like.

It was a small but successful first year. There were about 50 people in attendance as well as 5 teens who took advantage of our program just for them. We have exciting plans for next year, including more coffee!

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