Are you seeing all the news about the upcoming Thrive! Homeschool Conference (May 27-29, 2021) and wondering if your family can afford to attend? Here are some tips that might help you find a way to work it into your budget.

The first place to save money is registration itself. Thrive! offers a limited number of scholarships for single parents with an application deadline of March 31 (something to think about for next year). First-time attendees whose oldest child doesn’t turn five before September can attend for free. (You can indicate this on the registration form). If you are willing to give up some of your time to volunteer at the conference, you can also earn free admission. If none of these fit your situation, you can still save money by making sure to preregister before the May 20th deadline. 

Next, you need to decide if it will be more cost effective to stay in one of the onsite hotels or one offsite. There are several factors to consider about your choice of lodging location. The onsite facilities may cost more, starting at $125 per night while a short drive can find a place for as low as $61 per night. One other option that families who own an RV or camper may enjoy is the Winston-Salem fairground where water and electrical hook-up is offered for $30 per night. 

To figure out the best place for your family to stay, you also need to consider the two main issues that contribute to the overall cost: parking and meals. There is free parking available on a first come, first served basis behind the Benton Center, but be warned that it fills quickly. You can expect to pay $9-$10 per day in the other parking lots. The Thrive! webpage lists various parking options and even has a map you can download.

Other than the cost of lodging itself, providing meals for your family can be the greatest expense. For those staying at one of the onsite hotels, meals can be easier to manage. One trick my own family has employed when staying at the Embassy is to start our day with the provided breakfast, bring healthy snacks for a mid-day boost, schedule an afternoon break around the complimentary reception the hotel offers, and have sandwich supplies on hand in our room fridge for dinner. Many attendees bring a Crock-pot to use to have a quick and easy meal ready at the end of a long day of conference sessions and shopping. 

By figuring out these expenses, you can get an idea of how much money you will have to SPEND in order to attend the homeschool conference. But don’t stop there! Now you need to consider how attending will SAVE you money. That’s where we enter the vendor hall. There are three main ways you can save money by visiting the vendor hall. Don’t you love ordering your curriculum each year, hitting the checkout button, and then getting broadsided by the shipping costs? No? Neither do I, which is why I love the chance to purchase our materials for the upcoming year in the Thrive! vendor hall where I can walk away with everything I need without having to pay one cent for shipping. In addition, many vendors offer conference specials that can save you EVEN MORE money! 

Not sure what materials you want to use yet? This is where our third way to save money in the vendor hall comes in. It is always a frustration when you have purchased a curriculum only to find that it is a bad fit for your child when it comes time to use it. For those of us on a tight budget, it can feel devastating to have spent our allotted amount on material that doesn’t meet our expectations or needs. The opportunity to compare the various materials first-hand, to flip through the pages of the books, and to gauge your child’s reaction to the approach the publisher takes is an invaluable asset that can only be gained at the conference. 

My husband and I use our cellphones to take pictures of items that catch our eye on our first walk through the hall. Later that night, we compare notes and decide what we will go back to purchase the following day. This spares our carefully-planned budget from the danger of impulse buying and helps us remember that really cool science gadget we may have seen. Besides our school materials, we never leave the vendor hall without at least a few Christmas gifts in our shopping bags. 

I also bring home a flyer or business card from any vendor that had an item that I may not need (or can afford) at the moment but will refer back to later when the time is right. For example, two years ago I was intrigued with an art program that I learned about at the vendor hall but was not able to sign up for at that time. Months later, when tax refund time came, I pulled out the information I had saved and set it up.

Whether you are a penny pincher by nature (like me) or run a tight financial ship due to circumstances (also me!), attending a homeschool conference such as the upcoming Thrive! Conference can be a worthy expenditure for your family.  There is no price that can be placed on the value of the encouragement, insight, and knowledge you will gain from the experience. I hope that you will be able to join us there in a few weeks.

– Jessica Frierson, May 20021

Webinar: Embracing Ethnic Diversity in Homeschooling

This is a free webinar from NCHE on May 11, 2021, 3:00 pm. Te’Essence Mack will be one of our panelists. Click the image above to sign up for free.

“Hey, how are you?” I nod with a smile, as I walk into the room. Adjusting my bag on my shoulder, I speak to those passing by as we all shuffle to get into our seats. Weaving the stroller through the crowd, I scan the room, hopeful. Unable to find what I am looking for, I sit down whispering positive encouragement to myself. Then, just like that, walking into the room I see what I had been looking for. I know that I am not alone.

There is something about an unlikely person becoming successful that encourages the underdog to pursue their passions. There is something about seeing a woman in a position of influence that inspires a little girl to be whatever she dreams to be. There is something about a father’s presence, that motivates a little boy to grow up strong. There is something about seeing someone who looks like you doing something great that informs you that you can do it too.

This is why I was scanning. That is what I was looking for. Another brown face in a sea of non-brown faces to encourage me, to inspire me, to motivate me, and to inform me that I can do this. I can in fact homeschool my children with confidence and joy. I can instill a love for learning into my children. I can stand against the oppositional ways of culture and instead cultivate traditional values and godly morals within our home. I can take the time to develop relationships and memories with my children that will last a lifetime. I can do this, and I am not alone. I am not an outsider. My children are not the odd ones out. We should not just go back to where we came from. We belong here. We can do this.

Unfortunately, in the absence of such examples the opposite effect is too often proven true. The underdog remains as he is. The little girl remains discouraged. The little boy remains unsure. The minority remains uninspired. This is why it is necessary to intentionally create spaces and seats for diverse families within the NCHE and homeschooling community. When it is not done, we run the risk of communicating to such families that they do not belong within the homeschooling world. We unintentionally point such families towards isolation or worse, back towards the broken educational system and value systems prominent in the public and worldly sector. What a disservice that would be to us all!

So let us do something about it. Let us take the time to invite our non-white families to be a part of our clubs, our co-ops, and our organizations. Let us invite our fellow ethnic homeschooling moms and dads to share their perspectives and insights as members on our boards, speakers at our events, and leaders within our communities. Let us be sure to go above filling the “quota” of one or two “other” families and strive for truly representative seats and voices in the homeschool community. Let us glorify God by endeavoring to love – in deed – all of His children, and teaching our children to do the same by our own example. Let us be intentional so that when families from all ethnic backgrounds walk in and scan the room, it is clearly communicated to them that they belong here and that they can do this.

– Te’Essence Mack, May 2021

My name is Te’Essence Mack and I am a child of God and lover of Christ. I believe the most potent ministry is that of motherhood, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to do so full time to three beautiful children in various stages of life – a tween, a preschooler, and a budding toddler. Therefore, I gladly accept all prayers offered up for me! I also have the privilege and honor of serving as a wife for almost 5 years and counting. This life that I am living is one I never imagined for myself, yet better than anything I could have dreamt. I look forward daily to embracing the beauty of this simple, natural, and abundant life in Christ!

Don’t miss our upcoming webinar, Embracing Ethnic Diversity in Homeschooling: A Conversation on May 11, 2021, 3:00 pm. Sign up for free.

by Steve Demme

During the past year, many families have had the opportunity to spend more time together. Perhaps your family has always wanted to read God’s Word together. The inspired Scriptures were written to be read. 

Moses, inspired by the Spirit of God and speaking of God’s commandments and statutes, instructed parents: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)

When our children were young, my wife and I read the Bible to them. As they learned to read themselves, we took turns reading aloud, one chapter per day. At first, we sought to gather a few times per week to study together. Eventually, our special times seeking to learn more about Jesus became a habit, and we met almost every day.

Jesus promised that “where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) After many years of continuing to meet, I can testify that God always came close to us as we came close to Him. 

Here are a few tips we learned that I hope will help your family times be successful. 

  • Pray together and use your combined wisdom to determine the best time to meet and the best place to sit. God designed parents to be a team. If you have older children, include them in making a plan. Some families read at the dinner table. Others convene in the evening in the living room. A few sit on the trampoline while Dad reads. Siblings of a child who was confined to her bed suggested they all gather in her bedroom so the family could be together.
  • Keep it simple. As the husband, I took the lead in gathering the troops. Then we opened with prayer. Our goal was to read a chapter of Scripture daily. If the chapters are long, consider reading half of a chapter at a time. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Ask each person who is able, to read. When we first began our family worship times, our children were young, and Sandi and I took turns reading aloud. When they learned to read, we purchased several Bibles of the same version. Then each person, who was able, read three verses as we went around the room. We discovered that reading aloud added an extra dimension to simply reading. As John says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear.” (Revelation 1:3) If you have toddlers, consider having them sit with Dad and Mom playing or drawing quietly. Even though they may not understand the content intellectually, they sense the impact of the eternal Word in their spirit.
  • Interact with shared verses. Time is always a factor, and some days were busier than others. If we had time after the reading, we took turns discussing what we had read by giving each person the opportunity to share one insight they had gleaned. One family had the children draw a picture representing the theme of the chapter. At the end of the reading, they could share their artwork. Another family had dramatic children, and they would produce a skit depicting the content of the verses covered that day while Mom and Dad applauded vigorously. Feel free to experiment and find your own flavor.
  • Sing a hymn if time permits. Scripture and singing go hand in hand. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
  • Close in prayer. Gathering together, with Jesus in our midst, was such a blessed experience. The atmosphere in our home was tangibly improved after these special times. On average, reading a chapter took about ten minutes. If we included a hymn and testimonies, perhaps it took about twenty minutes. Investing this short amount of time produced wonderful dividends.

The inspired Word of God should be read by people of all ages. I am continually amazed at how the Spirit of God can apply the same verses to speak new truths to each person regardless of where we each are in our journey with Him. John says towards the end of his gospel: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

Family Worship Resources

I wrote a book called Family Worship. It is available as a paperback, a free PDF, and also an audiobook. If you would like to incorporate singing we have Hymns for Family Worship that has the hymn with the lyrics on one side of the page and the history on the opposite page. 

Both of these resources were designed for families, and I hope they will enrich your family assemblies. You can learn more here:

Nowhere does the Bible say how often to read or how much to read, but we are encouraged to teach God’s Word to our children. Since parents were designed for this role, God will bless any and all of your efforts to make this a part of your home. 

Steve and Sandra Demme have been married since 1979. They have been blessed with four sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, and two special grandchildren. Their fourth son has Down syndrome and lives with them in Lititz, PA. Steve has served in full or part-time pastoral ministry for many years after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the creator of Math-U-See and the founder of Building Faith Families,


Come hear Steve speak at our 2021 Thrive! Homeschool Conference, May 27-29!

by Andrea Hall, April 2021

This past year I spent some time focusing on teaching math from the Bible and in many other practical ways. Throughout this process, I have fallen more in love with God and with mathematics. I now look for the spiritual lesson in every math lesson that I teach. So, what does math teach us about God? It teaches us that God is infinite, that God is a God of order, and that Jesus is the answer.

God Is Infinite

First, math teaches us that God is infinite. There is no beginning, and there is no end. We see this in the number infinity, shown here:

In mathematics, when we are writing the domain of a linear function, we say that it is all real numbers (or -infinity, + infinity). If numbers can have no beginning and no end, and we accept that, then why do we doubt an infinite God! Psalm 90:2 says: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” I am reminded through math that I serve an infinite God.

God Is a God of Order

In mathematics, we learn about the order of operations, affectionately called PEMDAS or “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” The order of operations states the order in which we must multiply, divide, add or subtract numbers. The P indicates that any operations that are within the parentheses must be done first. The E indicates that exponents must be evaluated second. The M and D indicate that you must multiply or divide from left to right (those can be interchanged). The A and S indicate that you must add or subtract from left to right (those may be interchanged). You cannot add or subtract before you multiply or divide. The order of these operations cannot be interchanged.

Through I Corinthians 14:40 and the order of operations, I am reminded that I serve a God who wants things to be done “decently and in order.”

Jesus Is the Answer

In math, there is only one correct answer. There can only be one! You may write it differently but there is still one answer. You may go about solving your problem differently than the person next to you, but there is still only one correct answer.

For example: Solve 3x + 2 = 6 for x.

Option 1:

To solve this problem you can subtract 2 from both sides then divide both sides by 3 as illustrated here:

Option 2:

On the other hand, you could divide both sides by 3 first and then subtract 2/3 from both sides then as illustrated here:

Notice that in option 2 the fractions are introduced earlier, which might be more difficult for some students. Option 1 might be more direct.

In our Christian walk, some of us might take a more direct route while others of us might be like the children of Israel, wandering in the desert for forty years. The route we choose will depend on how much we are submitted to the Holy Spirit. God gives us a choice, just like you have a choice on which method(s) to use when solving the math problem. There is one thing that is constant though. There is only one answer.

In both options, the answer was still x = 4/3.

John 14:6 says: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” So while we might use a different method to get to the answer, math reminds me that there is only one answer, and that is God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

May you continue to be blessed as you see God in every aspect of your life.

Andrea Hall, M.Ed., is a certified educator, executive director and mom of three with over seventeen years of homeschooling experience. As an educator, she designs online courses and teaches through The Study Hall Education Consulting Company, LLC. She was motivated to start the In Real Life Math Community,, by her love of math. She is also the founder and executive director of EPIC Homeschool Network, Inc., a nonprofit homeschool organization that seeks to enrich, enhance and empower home education in the community ( When she is not working, she likes to blog at where she shares her journey as a busy, working, homeschooling mom. Andrea will be a speaker at the 2021 Thrive! Conference.

Don’t you hate that look? You know the one, when you’ve just explained for the hundredth time, in the last way you can think to do it, how to work the math problem . . . and realize your child is looking at you as if you were speaking in Swahili? 

Unless you happen to be on the African plains, this look means your child has no comprehension of what you just poured your teacher-mommy heart out to tell them. Now you have two people feeling bad about themselves and probably not that great about the other person. You begin to fear that all the worries that you weren’t good enough to homeschool are being confirmed. Your child is starting to drown in discouragement. Where do you go from here?

I learned long ago that the best move is to try a new move. A different approach to how to continue the lesson may provide the key to unlocking the door to understanding. Let me take you back with me to a memory that started out with this look, but ended up with the wonderful, beautiful, soul-satisfying look of joy.

We were on DAY 20 something (or was it 120 something?) of learning the times tables. We had started with the ones. We were still on the ones. I was beginning to think we would be practicing the ones as we drove to get his driver’s license in ten years. We had finished up a rousing science experiment, breezed through reading, and enjoyed a history video. There was no avoiding the next subject any longer. It was time for math and we had been parked on multiplication for a Very. Long. Time. I said a quick prayer and started with one last muster of hope. 

“One times one is…”
“No, it’s one; it means you have one, one time.”
“Okay, one times one is one.”
“One times two is…”
“Oh dear. Let’s look at this again.”

And I proceeded to go over it again, only to get THAT LOOK. My heart broke for my son, knowing how discouraging this was to him. If only we could get this down so he could get back to his happy, running, climbing, jumping, leaping, skipping self. 

Suddenly I had an idea. “Let’s go outside,” I suggested. We went out to the patio where I had him stand facing me. “We’re going to do jumping jacks,” I told him. “As you jump, we’ll say our times tables.” And so we started, with him echoing me as he jumped in rhythm to our chants. We worked our way through the fives, going through each a few times as I gradually stopped giving him the answers.  By the time I was ready to drop from exhaustion, my son’s face was beaming as he reveled in the sense of accomplishment he had achieved. Now THAT is a look I treasure!

What I had hit on that day was the power of finding my son’s “learning language”, as I called it, or learning style as it is often referred to. The key to unlocking that door to comprehension in his brain was moving and verbal rhythm. Within a week he had progressed through the twelves tables! As I applied this valuable tool in the years that followed, he mastered his spelling words by writing them outside with sidewalk chalk; the larger movements he could make with his arm as he wrote turned that learning key in his brain. 

I utilized the same insight with my other children as the years passed.  My touchy-feely son quickly learned to read when I gave him a pan of cornmeal to trace the letters in.  We memorized long Bible passages such as the fifth chapter of Matthew by saying it in a singsong manner. The active ones tapped their feet in accompaniment, while the more visual learners among them wrote out it verse by verse over and over. 

What I had discovered, and later researched more thoroughly, is that the ways our individual brains think, read, learn, remember, reason, solve problems, and even pay attention varies greatly from person to person. What helps one person process new information, store it in the appropriate area of their brain, and recall it as needed later may hinder the process in another person.   

The VARK model demonstrates this. Visual learners thrive with pictures, images, and spatial organization of elements. Those who learn well with the aid of rhythm, rhyme, music or other sounds are auditory learners. Reading/writing learners excel with the traditional mode of education by reading and/or writing the material. And kinesthetic learners, like my son, need movement and touch.

Understanding the way your child learns best and finding ways to work his or her lessons in through those channels can turn that horrible look of confusion and despair into the wonderful countenance of a child whose joy of learning has been sparked with hope and confidence. Although you can learn a lot about your child just from observing them through their daily life and their approach to learning, a cognitive skills test can be a handy tool to get a fuller picture of their strengths and weaknesses. It can be a valuable investment to help set the stage for an effective learning atmosphere in your home classroom. 

As part of a grant from the Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research, LearningRx Raleigh and Cary has been awarded the opportunity to provide FREE cognitive skills assessments to a limited number of schools and co-ops in the area and has selected NCHE Homeschoolers to be one of the beneficiaries! The Gibson Test is conveniently taken at home, using a laptop or tablet; it only takes about 45 minutes to complete and it has a retail value of $97 each.

Learn more about this assessment and register here.

I look forward to discovering more about my children’s cognitive development and gaining some new ideas on how to coordinate my teaching methods to suit each one best. 

Jessica Frierson, April 2021