Today I received an email notice for an upcoming Christian homeschool conference. I'll not be attending that conference, I did once and I was disappointed. I have attended other Christian homeschooling conferences with mixed opinions. I have the same problem with Christian homeschool magazines.
My issue is that the topics are so centered around general Christian living that often has nothing to do with homeschooling. One conference I attended was marketed to homeschooling Christian mothers and was run by a Christian homeschool curriculum company but 100% of the conference was about living the Christian life. Actually if I broke down that part, most of it was about being a Christian in general and some about being a Christian woman but nothing at all was about homeschooling or education or even about the curriculum the company the company sells.
At one conference there was a choice between attending three sessions per time slot. Some were homeschooling but they were not applicable to my family: homeschooling a child with ADHD and homeschooling children of very young ages (but not offering balance about homeschooling an upper elementary grade or older child). Sometimes every lecture in the time slot was about general Christian living such as how to know what God has in store for your future and your own life's path? This centered on a man speaking of his career choices in the employment world. This did not even focus on a woman's path, the woman/wife homeschooling the kids, the woman may have left a career to homeschool her kids or what the woman's life path was when homeschooling the children was finished.
In some sessions at conferences the titles sound great but there is little description. Sometimes when attending the lecture the content is weak or is completely different than the stated title. In a session about how to choose curriculum for your child the advice that was repeated over and over was "just pray on it and God will lead you". I wanted to hear something maybe about learning styles or matching how the child learns best with different specific company's curriculum or some study methods that the mother could teach the child to help them remember what they've learned.
In my experience, the most knowledgeable and helpful speakers at Christian homeschool conferences tend to be the vendors. They speak of their field in detail but of course this is done with a bias toward pushing their product or service. They feel there is one right way to do a thing and sometimes that includes the homeschool family buying their product in order to access the information.
One session I attended advertised to tell about teaching kids literary analysis. The speaker said right in the lecture that he wouldn't tell much or else he'd be giving away the content in his product that he sells for almost $100. I honestly didn't know if his book or method was worthwhile, so I hesitated to pay $100 sight unseen. In any event it focused on high school and I didn't yet need that content. He sells this mostly at Christian homeschool conferences. Later I spoke to a homeschool mom friend who also values teaching literary analysis to her homeschool high schooler about this issue and she said that the same content to teach the homeschool parent how to teach that is available in books sold in trade paperback to the general public for under $25. Now who is helping the homeschool parent and who is preying on the Christian homeschool parent?
While I understand the need to make a profit to support a family I resent being overcharged for a product by a Christian man when I can buy the same thing for a fraction of the price at a regular bookstore. Let's remember that my family is making financial sacrifices in order for me to homeschool my kids. I have to watch the bottom line. I don't mind paying for a unique product but to package up something that already exists elsewhere and charge four times the price and to market it to homeschoolers would be deemed bad if a secular company did this so is it not also a problem when a Christian homeschool father does it?
In New England we do not have gigantic homeschool conventions such as I hear happen in other parts of the country. My best chances for great lectures is at a large Christian homeschool conference. The large venue means that about ten lectures are held at once. Of these offerings some I avoid as they fall into one of the above categories. I want lectures about education, home education, teaching methods, and teaching strategies and materials. I choose my sessions wisely. I tolerate some bias and some product pushing to get to some of the best advice and information.
If I want general information about Christian living I can get that at my local church and within the community at my church. There are many books on the market about general Christian living. Umpteen free articles on the Internet and on blogs are about living the life of a Christ follower. I don't understand why so much content at a Christian homeschool conference is about general Christian living. I just don't get it.
A Christian man who works with computers might attend a computer convention to learn about the latest developments in his field and no one would take issue with that. As a homeschooling mother who is not hold a college degree in education, I need to learn the basics about teaching and education and home education, as well as keep my eye on the latest products and services that are available to me on the market. I use these conferences as a training ground for how to home educate my children. Just like computers, the homeschooling field seems to be widening and each year more and more educational products and services are available to us for purchase. Making the best decisions can be tricky with so many options. Why can’t a Christian homeschooling conference be mainly about homeschooling from a Christian perspective and maybe, if necessary, a small fraction be about Christian living in general?
If someone can explain this to me I’d love to hear it.
Meanwhile this spring I’ll be avoiding one Christian homeschool conference and I’ll be attending one other. I’ll have to drive farther, spend more money and pay for a hotel room to access the better information and access to more vendors, that’s all.