Great Homeschool Convention Recap 2013

Olivia wanted to weigh-in on her favorite part of the trip.

I wasn’t going to go to the homeschool convention this year. There were a number of reasons — one of which was the fact that I had kind of “been there, done that” — but in the end the opportunity presented itself, and I decided to take it. In hindsight I am so glad I did.

My first convention year was two years ago. That year I was overwhelmed and overjoyed to be there. I wanted to do everything and see everything and ran myself ragged with the experience. Last year I was still focusing our education to more of an unschooling bent. I took in the conference with that filter in place, focusing on learning styles and vendor-hall purchases to entice kids to learn.

This year, I attended the conference from a state of rest. Our focus around here has been decidedly classical all year and that is where we plan to remain. To that end, I attended far fewer lecture sessions and visited far fewer booths in the vendor hall. I was not tempted to make purchases that did not fit with my philosophy or be swayed by the latest and greatest idea. I am sure of the path I am on (though I am constantly hashing out the details of its refinement), and it felt great.

So as I did last year, I will offer a recap of the sessions I attended and the purchases I made; just in case anyone is interested in that sort of thing. This post I am focusing on the sessions. I am going to present my biggest take-a-ways and a line or two from my notes as well as my overall impression of the talk. I don’t want to ruin a talk for anyone else.

We had first-rate seats for the second classical panel.

How to Get the Education You Never Had: A Crash Course on Classical Education (Martin Cothran) We came into this one about 20 minutes late and ended up sitting in the back of the room (big mistake — tons of hall noise). Martin Cothran did give us a list of the five most important books we should read and some notes on how to work up to those. I ended up chatting with him later in his booth about the topic and this ended up being one of my biggest “take-a-ways” from the conference — I have to stop reading books on how to educate classically and start reading classic books.

Designing Your Own Lit Program — a Scope and Sequence Workshop (Adam Andrews) Arguably one of the most talented speakers I saw, Adam Andrews keeps you on the edge of your seat no matter what the topic. There was a bit of trickery in the titling of this session, but it was very valuable nonetheless. In fact a main theme of this talk — it is better to teach little and teach it exceptionally well than to teach much poorly — became a running theme in a number of the sessions I attended.

Why We Believe in Classical Education (Chris Perrin, Martin Cothran, Andrew Kern, and Andrew Pudewa) This session was informational and just a hoot to attend. These four guys played off of each other. You could tell from their interaction that they are old friends, love their topic, and really want to share it with the homeschool community. I was enjoying this so much, my notes are a little sketchy. I do remember CS Lewis and GK Chesterton being mentioned repeatedly. There was also a focus on imaginative literature — we don’t begin thinking about things in the abstract. The imaginative literature can make these abstract thoughts real to us and to our children. Classical education in a nutshell is the focus on the seven liberal arts and the great books.

Conquering Corrupt Culture by Raising Christian Communicators (Andrew Pudewa) This was a hard session. My biggest take-a-way — throw out the TV. Right now I am surviving by the TV, so this is hard to hear, but it is something we have been discussing in our home for a while. I see a huge reduction coming soon. Ditto on video games. The talk was about much more than that, though. Depressing at times and a hard call to action, it was probably the most useful talk for the Christian family.

How to Teach Classically When You Weren’t Educated Classically Yourself (Chris Perrin, Martin Cothran, Andrew Kern, and Andrew Pudewa) I guess word got out after the first of these sessions, because this one was standing room only. We were fortunate to have front row seats. I did not enjoy this one quite as much as the first one, but that could have been because I had Olivia in tow — the children’s program was closed for lunch — and she was not quite as excited about the talk as I was. And it needed to be longer — both of these sessions could have been twice as long, and I still would not have been bored. A few great nuggets were for us to lead the way as parent and teacher (read those great books yourself), work up to those books by reading the really good books to your kids, don’t wander through the convention hall thinking, “What can I buy for my kid?” but instead, “What can I buy for myself?”

The Recovery of Contemplation (Chris Perrin) I have never heard Dr Perrin speak before, but you can bet I will again. This was by far my favorite session of the entire conference. We left the classical panel sessions thinking that this was all great, we were in agreement, we know we need to read great books for ourselves and for our kids, but still what should this look like in our homes? This talk helped to start to answer that question for me. A few notes: to acquire a skill should be a long, patient journey instead of a crash course; you must take time before truth and beauty in order to know it; if you are going to pass-on beauty then you are going to have to know it yourself. This talk is so rich. A few practical suggestions to these ends: change your decor, play beautiful music, take long walks, create a rhythm of prayer (Liturgy of the Hours), light candles, find the rhythms of study and play (rest).

But…but…but…What About Grammar? (Andrew Pudewa) AP called us die-hards for attending this session as the last one of the conference, and I think he is right. Of course it was totally worth the wait. A very practical and enlightening workshop, a few things jump out from my notes: grammar is a logic stage activity, not a grammar stage one; teaching grammar through composition corrections is ineffective (instead make the corrections yourself and hand it back for them to recopy); the best way to teach grammar is through a foreign language; grammar IS important (The War Against Grammar by David Mulroy).

So my three biggest take-a-ways in summary:

  • Spend my personal reading time reading the good and great books.
  • Read good books to the kids in great quantity.
  • Align the home atmosphere with truth, beauty, and opportunities for contemplation.
More blog posts coming soon about all of these things and my purchases.

I shared this on Trivium Tuesday. Click over to see other Classical Homeschooling ideas.



  • Thank you for this awesome glimpse into the convention. I really wish I could have been sitting beside you for those lectures. They sound fabulous.

  • Sarah says:

    Swoooooon! You KNOW I was positively green all weekend. This is a great write-up!

  • Mermaid says:

    Great recap! This was my first ever convention. I definitely felt overwhelmed but learned so much. I greatly enjoyed the Classical Panels and Adam Andrews, as well. I left the convention with a lot to think about. I had great restraint in my purchases, but really liked getting to flip through so many of the titles I’d heard about and had come so recommended. I think my kindergarten plans are taking shape.

  • Angel says:

    Thanks for the recap! There isn’t a convention in Memphis this year, so I have to live vicariously. My big kids are disappointed because they like hunting through the used books. (One of my favorite things about conventions, too.)

  • Thank you Pam!! I’ll be attending the great hschool convention this April and this has given me some great direction!!

  • Chelli says:

    Loved your synopsis! Now I’m interested to see how you structure your homeschool this year. What are you using and planning? Come on…share! 🙂 I would love just to focus on literature and the three R’s but I’m too afraid to do it.

    • Pam says:

      You know I am working on it! I am not ready for a long post yet, but Olivia will be language arts (spelling, writing, handwriting), Latin, math. John is reading, handwriting, math. Morning Time stays. Memory work and all the fun science and history projects at co-op each week. Reading lists and some simple note booking (copy work and reinforcing Olivia’s writing skills) will round out history and science. The memory work is the spine.

  • Amy Maze says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I have yet to go to ANY homeschool conference. I think I just like to stay home too much…and I’m a little cheap…and don’t like to do things I’m unfamiliar with =) So, thank you for at least helping me become a little more familiar with what is available at a conference. I wish I could have been sitting by you and soaking in the great wisdom too! Please link up any more posts you write on this subject to Trivium Tuesdays, because I really want to remember to read them! I’d love to hear what a few great read-alouds you plan on reading this coming year.

  • Amy Maze says:

    I’m featuring you on today’s Trivium Tuesdays! Thanks again for linking up!

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