Monday, August 01, 2005

Mississippi Homeschool Day was a success!

PEAK sponsored its first ever statewide event Saturday at the Edison Walthall Hotel. Members from all five regional groups attended with their families. It was a fulfilling, enriching, enlightening experience. Truly a testament that families with diverse backgrounds could come together--in a state considered by many to be impossibly conservative and fundamentalist--to not only learn from but also thoroughly enjoy one another.

We kicked off with a poolside welcome reception, sponsored by the Metro Business Chronicle, where families who have communicated online throughout the last year finally met face to face. The children were relegated to "swimming" in the hot tub due to a sudden, unexpected chemical reaction that left the pool the color of PowerAde, obscuring the bottom of the pool and dying the skin and hair of previous swimmers blue (I wish I were kidding). However, the abundance of food, conversation, board games, and bubbles provided enough entertainment to keep this blogger/event planner from having a nervous breakdown.

Saturday started early (especially for me) with breakfast at 7:00 AM. Workshops began at 9:00 AM and lasted until 3:00 PM, after which Jeanne Faulconer gave a stirring keynote address. It's hard for me to pinpoint my favorite moments, but here are a few:

--All of the PEAK moderators were there, only one of whom I'd met in person previously. We were able to sit down together and talk about the future of PEAK, and it was wonderful to be able to LOOK at them and hear their insights and ideas (I can't believe I didn't get a picture of us all together.).

--My mother, a public school teacher (it's ok, guys, she's safe) came in from the Delta to attend three sessions on algebra and Cuisenaire rods. Now she not only enjoyed it, she also got to meet other homeschoolers and see firsthand what I've been up to for the last few months.

--Seeing my friends, whom I'd met before, meeting each other. Watching everyone sharing ideas and stories. Confirming that friend-matches that I'd made in my head were right on.

--Watching Sam and his little brother perform impressive karate maneuvers by the (inaccessible...did I mention that?) pool as I talked to a couple who are about to set sail on a boat they built. We marveled at how our daughters, both of whom are remarkably shy, talked as they worked on a jigsaw puzzle together. Later they took over the hot tub and insisted that we have breakfast together the next morning (hence the early start the next day).

--Knowing that three of those attending are public school affiliated, and realizing that they were being exposed to something new in a very positive way.

The workshops were interesting and interactive. I led a discussion on Homeschool Basics. Several attendees suggested that Robert Shinn, who gave an intense and quick-paced talk on Common Sense Algebra, write a book or even an algebra curriculum. Karen Slovak led two demonstrations using Cuisinaire rods, which were a mystery to me until I attended her fraction workshop (apparently you can use them for teaching algebra, too...great topic for next year!). Vonda Keon (aka Lady in the Barrel) talked to several people about teaching children of multiple ages and accommodating those with special needs. Jeanne Faulconer, our keynote speaker, conducted sessions on homeschooling styles, how to best utilize your home to homeschool, and sent off with a moving keynote address on how to adjust our mindset to that of a minority.

The children were well-mannered and well-behaved. When they weren't attending sessions with their parents, they were huddled around a table making crafts, sitting in circles playing cards, working on personal pieces of incredible anime art, translating song lyrics from English to Russian, (no kidding), or testing the laws of gravity with my new favorite game, Jenga.

I have to say that, despite a couple of minor hiccups, I was surprised at how seamlessly the event flowed. It's one thing to plan an event and quite another to watch it unfold before you. I can only thank the speakers who came energized and prepared, the attendees who were anxious to participate and network, the kids for being absolute gems and Earl Gaylor of the Edison for giving us such great rates on hotel rooms and meeting space.

I also want to extend my warmest, most sincere thank you to my husband whose business not only sponsored our Welcome Reception and gave me a half-hour spot on his radio show, but who also has been patient, loving, and understanding throughout the chaos of the last several weeks. Without his support both of our educational efforts at home and of my wacky support group endeavors, none of this would have been possible.

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