Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home from Homeschool Convention

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.


Xa Lynn said...

I am a new reader of your blog, and am really enjoying it. We don't agree on everything, but I find your posts well-written and thoughtful, and am very grateful for that.

Let me give you another reason not to stress about specific books in ninth grade - it doesn't matter WHAT year of high school your sons study any particular piece of literature, as long as somewhere along the line, they get a good dose of American Lit, BritLit, and WorldLit. It doesn't even have to be divided up that way, although if you are on a classical plan, it is fairly easy to match the lit to the appropriate time period. Don't forget to have fun with it!

Xa Lynn

Max Weismann said...

We are a not-for-profit educational organization, founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery--three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos--lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

Three hours with Mortimer Adler on one DVD. A must for libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are--we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

Thank you,

Max Weismann

victoria.kempf said...

Hi Christine,

Looks like a great blog!

I enjoyed meeting you at the MassHope convention. Thanks for coming to our table to learn about ScreenRetriever, our new internet safety product. I'd love to talk with you further. I loved your enthusiasm. I don't have your email address so thought I would try to get in touch with you this way.
My email is

I look forward to hearing from you,


Susan said...

Thank you for your kind words about our convention. I'm glad your time was beneficial. Dianne Craft is always well-received and the name Adam Andrews pops up often on our convention evaluation forms as a favorite speaker! Jim Stobaugh does indeed help parents prepare their high schooler in a number of ways. If anyone wants to hear our sessions, recordings should be available soon on our website, www.