For the twenty-three years that I called myself a homeschool mom, the end of our school year was marked by the NCHE conference.
I went to my first NCHE homeschool conference in 1994, a few months before we actually started homeschooling. I had read the books and magazines, talked with the few homeschool moms I had met, and was eager to start teaching my nine-year-old and six-year-old, confident that I could make it work even with a four-year-old and one-year-old in the mix. To say my husband was hesitant would be an understatement. Attending that first homeschool conference, seeing all those families and their kids (in 1994 it was a fraction of the number that now attend), looking over all that was available in the vendor hall, and hearing words of encouragement from the many speakers gave my husband the confidence to give the green light. He agreed that we should try homeschooling for at least a year.
For the next twenty-three years, the NCHE conference was a must do on our calendar. Homeschooling was my career during that season, and attending those three days of workshops was part of my professional development.
Some years we went as a couple for a weekend getaway. Many years we all went as a family—with strollers, backpacks, snacks, Adventures in Odyssey tapes (yes—cassette tapes!) and coloring books. When the children’s program was introduced at the Thrive! conference, it was something that my youngest got to enjoy. When my children grew older, we counted the teen-track workshops (which often focused on spiritual growth and navigating the culture) as part of their school requirement for the year. Occasionally, the NCHE conference was a mom’s getaway. It was a wonderful treat to share a hotel room with my homeschool friends, talking late into the night about curriculum, homeschool philosophies, and parenting challenges after long days at the book fair and workshops.
Some years, it was like drinking from a fire hose as I frantically took notes and bought all the CDs to listen to in the car! Other years were less intense, but I always I felt that the wisdom, encouragement and insight gained made me a better teacher and homeschool mama. It brought motivation to stay the course. It was my conviction to make a change. It provided affirmation of my current direction and encouragement for my doubts.
Even today, now that all five of my children are graduated and in their 20s and 30s, I get a thrill of excitement as I read through the list of workshop titles, and I am tempted to make the drive to Winston-Salem for at least one day (or maybe all three!) to sit in on some workshops and soak in all those good homeschool vibes. I might browse the vendor hall, and with great restraint choose one or two books to take home for myself. (And maybe find one or two to tuck away for that perfect grandbaby of mine.)
Do it. Go to Thrive! Invest in yourself and your decision to educate your children. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you and direct you. You have so many resources available to help you be the best possible teacher for your children. Believe that you have what it takes to teach, to guide, to mentor, and to facilitate an excellent education for your children!
Beth Herbert, who has been married to husband, Mark, for thirty-seven years, lives in Wake Forest where she homeschooled for twenty-three years and co-founded Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association. Now that her five children are grown, she remains active in Lighthouse as a mentor and advisor and loves spending time with her first grandchild! In addition to encouraging homeschool moms in person and online, she chairs the Carolina Capital Homeschool Prom and enjoys baking, reading, spending time with her family, and a variety of creative and artistic activities. She does not enjoy housework.