Spring 2023/Laura Adams

When I stepped into the Benton Convention Center for the 2022 Thrive! Conference, my soul was exhausted. I had just completed my first year of officially homeschooling my kindergartener, along with doing some preschool activities with my three-year-old and chasing my toddler.

As a second-generation homeschooler, my experience as a homeschooled student was extensive. My experience as a homeschooling mother, not so much. I knew I needed help.

My mom made this look so easy…what was I doing wrong? I wondered.

Before I arrived, I perused the list of workshops on NCHE’s website and made a list of the ones that were most pertinent to my situation. I knew I needed to learn more about testing and teaching reading, and I also wanted some parenting encouragement.

I filled my suitcase with notebooks, snacks, and comfortable shoes and made my way westward to Winston-Salem. Over the next three days, I found refreshment in listening to dynamic speakers, chatting with workers in the vendor hall, and even making new friends in the hallways.

One of the first sessions covered standardized testing. Since my son is only six, we have not yet dealt with the standardized testing process. A kind and experienced speaker eased my fears and provided clear information. The lecture helped me to understand my options and to develop a plan for when I need to test my son.

I also attended sessions on teaching reading, which reassured me that learning to read is a process that takes time. I also learned some helpful tips on presenting the material to my son. Another talk focused on best practices in early childhood education. Each session brought value, education, and encouragement.

Homeschooling is a way of educating, but as I’ve done it, I’ve realized that many other things are tied in with it. Homeschooling is a magnifying glass of the failings and foibles of the entire family. This being the case, workshops on parenting caught my interest. One speaker gave a talk on teaching children how to be resilient. She pointed out that we adults also have to be resilient! We all make mistakes, and homeschooling gives us the opportunity to grow along with our children.

When I wasn’t attending workshops, I loved browsing through the vendor hall. Some companies brought back fond memories of my childhood. Their booths were lined with books I loved as a girl. Others featured new products that my son would love. I made several purchases and enjoyed the cheerful bustle in the atmosphere. I chatted with complete strangers in the hallways and while standing in lines. Everyone was so kind and congenial.

I had gone a few years without attending a large convention or conference of any kind due to the coronavirus pandemic. There is something deeply encouraging about being around a crowd of like-minded people, and Thrive! is no exception. Every parent there is deeply invested in their children and their wellbeing. I knew I was not alone.

When I pulled into my driveway, three little noses were pressed against the glass in the front window. As I approached the door, I smiled. After three days of Thrive!, I felt refreshed and ready to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).


Laura McKinney Adams is a wife and mother to three. She holds a bachelor's degree from Liberty University. While at Liberty, she met her husband, who is a fellow homeschool graduate. She writes about classical education, lifelong learning for moms, and homeschooling the early years at lauramckinneyadams.com.