I attended the MassHope Christian homeschool convention this weekend, by myself. I usually go with a friend but this is the second time I've gone alone.
I have given advice to others to go to a homeschool conference with a plan in mind. I'm quite distracted about our life in the fall, due to uncertainty about where we'll be in the fall (we may be moving). So, more general family life matters are occupying my thoughts lately and planning out the next academic year seems less important. Now, I logically know that starting my oldest child's high school year is certainly NOT unimportant but I just am not obsessing over it or worrying about it or anything.
Since Dianne Craft was speaking I decided to attend the conference. I heard her talk the last time she was at MassHope and I wasn't sure if I needed to hear any of her talks again but didn't know if new material was there.
Regarding academics a main worry of mine right now is how to teach literary analysis and what list of books should be read in grade nine. I was also confused about how much writing my son should do and how much should be about literary analysis.
Well I'm happy to report I left the convention feeling confident and capable. I spoke to Adam Andrews and his wife at their booth Center for Literary Education and wound up buying their curriculum Teaching the Classics which has a manual and a DVD for the parent-teacher to watch to train them how to discuss literature and how to do literary analysis. In a nutshell it teaches the parent to be the facilitator of the 'class' and they do not advise discussing every single book read, to only discuss the books the parent has also read themselves. They also advise to choose common books for a reading list but to tailor the list to the student and underscored that there is not enough time to read every great book out there so we have to pick and choose what is do-able. I later heard Andrews speak and then really felt confident. I also bought another of his lectures on audio CD to listen to at home since I'd missed that session.
I also heard Jim Stobaugh of For Such a Time as This speak about writing composition and about SAT prep topics. I bought his Concept Builders for Literary Analysis program which can be used as young as grade 7 but is still good for high school. I was surprised at his recommendation for a writing load, 45 minutes a day and a two page essay per week and also one speech per week.
Both of those speakers seemed confident that homeschooled kids are readers and that they are getting a fine education. They both advocate reading whole books (which I wholeheartedly agree with). They both are supportive of the classical method of homeschooling. They are both serious about academics but somehow made me feel capable not incompetent and that homeschooling high school is nothing to be afraid of. They also both want students to read closely and to have good reading comprehension. Some things they both said reminded me of things I've read about in How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. There was a general message that the education and learning is important, what is not the focus is checking boxes or achieving high grades. In other words, the goal is to have a great foundation education and then the student can't help but get high test scores and be a desirable candidate in the college admissions process.
As for Dianne Craft's lectures I heard three of them. Mostly this was the same stuff I'd heard in previous years. There was a bit of new research there and some newer brands of supplements available (i.e. what cod liver oil tastes best). I bought the CDs for the sessions I missed.
I also really enjoyed being in the hotel alone because it was one of the best rests I've had in years. I had no cat walking on my body in the night, no snoring from my husband, no having to bark at my kids to be quiet and go to bed already (they are still sharing a bedroom and keep talking into the night), and I had no skylight that lit up my room in the morning.
I'm glad to be home. I feel energized and happy about homeschooling. I don't feel worried about gaps or incompetent as I face starting homeschool high school. I can't wait to start making some of our own plans and my own book lists and making the swirling ideas in my head into real plans written out on paper in ink.