This past Memorial Day Weekend (most of it, Thursday through Sunday) was spent at a hotel about 30 minutes from home. We were attending our first "Life is Good" homeschooling conference. Although we have been out here for almost 9 years, this was the first year we had heard about it. And, to be honest, after homeschooling for 20 plus years, Joseph and I had a general feeling that we had "been there, done that" and didn't really need to go to any more conferences. We had gone to 10 or so over the course of our children growing up and now that they were all teens, and we had moved to a much more nurturing, supportive place, we hadn't felt the need to get to a conference for a while. If we did go, we tended to go as vendors or presenters and I spent most of the time sitting at a table selling books or teaching workshops.
Not this time. We just went as us!
It truly was an amazing experience. We took a great deal away from it, including:
(1) The refreshing, renewing experience of being surrounded by loving parents was inspiring. How wonderful to see parents respecting their children and vice versa. To see gentle words and honest affection instead of the yelling, unkindness and violence we so often see around us. To even be able to go to a class on how do we handle uncompassionate/violent parenting when we run into it . . . .
(2) Ah, to be next to nursing little ones again is just an experience that makes me happy. I even got to hold a four month old baby for about 5 minutes . . . . highlight of the weekend.
(3) To have the opportunity to talk to hundreds, yes hundreds, of other families who think like we do--so validating.
(4) To realize that after this many years of homeschooling, we can STILL learn new things and improve. That was an eye opener. I went with very few issues but I walked out having changed my mind on how I had approached them. The kids will see the changes immediately. They will like them too!
(5) To see your children in a new light . . . . that was one of the best gifts. I saw sides of my children I hadn't been as aware of before. Coryn was a social butterfly and he blossomed in an atmosphere of making new friends and connecting with old ones and playing games and doing DDR and going to the concert and hanging out. Caspian spent time with a select few, and at least half of the time, they were mothers and fathers or little ones. I can't tell you how many people came up to me over the course of the weekend to compliment us on our amazing son. His strength is on being one on one people and their age doesn't matter. When I couldn't find him one afternoon, where was he? Standing next to the outside hotel pool in the cold, pouring rain babysitting for a little boy so the boy's mom could go to class. "When is she coming back? I don't know . . . I just promised I would stay with him." And Nicole . . . . I spend a LOT of time with her and you'd think I knew her inside and out. But then the Talent Show came along and she didn't have anything prepared. She contacted two other teens she knew to see if they'd like to do a Buffy the Vampire Slayer song with her. They said ok, she put her name in the list--and then those two decided NOT to do it. I figured she would cancel. Nope. She got up, walked on stage and, holding the microphone, did the song alone, a capella. She sang really, really well. She looked utterly at ease. We were blown away. We hear her sing in her room to a CD but this? We had NO idea. People came by and asked her when her CD was coming out. :)
(6) I connected with new friends and had the chance to meet up with a few old ones we hadn't seen in years. Finding them again was such a blessing.
(7) I desperately wanted to take people I knew that really weren't familiar with homeschooling and attachment parenting ideals and say, please, just stay here for a few hours and watch the families interact. See the mutual respect. The teenagers who love their parents--and vice versa. The affection. The kindness. The relationships among siblings that touch your heart. The enthusiasm and passion and uniqueness of these children who are not in school every day. Immerse yourself in this and see why I really want to create my own "parenting pre-nup" agreement that all serious boyfriends and girlfriends of my children must read and sign before wedding bells enter the picture. :)
I walked out of this conference with my soul and heart utterly refreshed and renewed. I saw a generation of children being raised by amazing parents and was so glad to be a part of it. I was even prouder of my own children than I had been before going. I had more hope for the world that all of these people were in it. If I had ever once had a flicker of concern that we had forged the right path for our children by homeschooling the way we have, that concern disappeared.
Now, if I can just get the hotel to charge me the RIGHT amount for our stay, I will call this trip an unqualified success--and something I am already marking in my calendar to do again next year. Heck, we hope to one day go and watch the grandkids while our kids go off to classes . . . . how is that for planning ahead?