Why do even veteran homeschool families need to attend homeschool conventions?
 
Good morning, all!
 
The Lord woke me up this morning with these thoughts pouring out of my brain.  So I thought it best to write them down and offer these to you, hopefully as a source of encouragement, after a big weekend.  May the Lord richly bless your efforts!  
Susan Iverson
 
Several veteran homeschool mamas expressed to me over the course of the weekend that attending homeschool conventions leaves them and their husbands (if they are present) feeling down and discouraged.  They run into families they only see once a year and fall prey to comparing their own children’s progress to others – a surefire way to destroy contentment and joy.  Some also said that they battle extreme temptation in the exhibit hall.  They know how restricted their budget is and struggle to resist the latest, greatest of all the vendors have to offer.  I felt sad to learn of their burden and did my best to offer another perspective because I would not want these feelings to keep families away.  Even those of us who have been homeschooling a long time can still benefit from attending homeschool conventions.  Here is my review of this topic and the FEAST Convention.  
 
My husband, Justin, and I attended our first homeschool conference in The Woodlands over a dozen years ago when we only had two little ones, and I do not think we have missed a year since – whether attending the regional FEAST or state THSC conference or both.  Of course, over the years, our needs have certainly changed.  At first, we required a lot of ‘how-to’ instruction, information about our legal rights, as well as an introduction to the plethora of curricula available to homeschoolers.  That may mirror the story of many.  We still believe it is essential to keep up with changes in the law, and we do seek out curricula as needed.  
 
As a family, we continue to recognize our need to make it a priority to support our homeschooling community through attending these annual events and volunteering our services as we are able.  In addition, we purpose not to adopt the attitude of “We’ve heard it all, and we have nothing to learn from any of the convention speakers or vendors.”  As tempting as it may be, we also make a conscious effort to avoid the comparison trap and hold each other accountable in this area.  The benefit of our homeschooling experience has freed us up to process the incoming information on our own terms, as the Lord leads, and only apply what suits our family and homeschool – nothing more, nothing less.   
 
We experienced 2017’s convention differently than we ever have.  To start, THSC and FEAST put on a fantastic leadership training which absolutely enhanced the framework for building the foundation of the two support group/mentoring initiatives I am about to undertake with Jeanette Watje and Amy Decker.  With seven children, it was wonderful to be able to offer choices for the weekend too.  Our oldest wanted to participate in the teen program for the first time, and she was so blessed by that decision to learn under the leadership of Nathan Macias.  Our 11 and 14 year-olds decided against participating in any programs in order to attend the five creation science sessions they saw on the schedule offered by Scott Lane.  They cannot stop themselves from sharing new Biblical evidence they’ve acquired, though they were disappointed that not many others were present to learn this amazing information.  Two of our elementary-aged children expressed interest in the children’s program – none of ours had been a part of this before at FEAST.  Well, they had such fun learning more about their great state of Texas and developing new friendships.  In fact, they were careful in their instructions for us not to drop them off late or pick them up too early.  They did not want to miss a thing!     
 
FEAST really knocked it out of the park when they scheduled Steve Demme and Doug Flanders, two speakers with bold, impactful messages of grace and love specifically for homeschool fathers leading their families with a vision to continually seek the Lord’s will and draw near to Him in all areas of life.  Jennifer Flanders, Vicki Bentley, and Valerie Felder shared practical, uplifting lessons from the trenches for women on some topics rarely addressed within the homeschool community.  It was also great to hear Pamela Gates teach on topics pertinent to families with struggling learners, an ever-increasing need that has touched us personally.  Tim and Lyndsay Lambert are always a blessing as they share such vast legal and pragmatic wisdom.  I was also blessed to offer mentoring services to others at FEAST’s booth, as well as to participate in a panel discussion with other seasoned homeschool moms.  It seemed as though each member of our family was headed in different directions, but varied needs were being met through it all.  Praise God!
 
Justin and I are aware of our continued desire to obtain encouragement to STAY THE WAY on this journey.  We know that we need to refresh our vision from time to time in order to homeschool well as our family dynamics have certainly changed over these years.  It is also useful to fellowship with other homeschool families as a reminder that we are not walking this path in isolation.  In addition, our presence helps us discover impromptu opportunities to mentor others and allow ourselves to be mentored in areas too. 
 
We all are susceptible to burnout over time.  We can all just wear down.  Justin and I acknowledge that we are still growing and learning.  For us, attending a homeschool conference is like an annual pep talk.  We always leave feeling inspired and knowing that we are better because of the time we have invested in engaging with other homeschoolers and those who support the homeschooling community.  Our desire is for others to sincerely consider how attending a homeschool convention might provide just what they need to make a big difference in their families and their upcoming homeschool year. 
The BIGGER my Lord gets, the smaller my world gets.