Monday, April 30, 2018

Reflecting on the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) 2018...

For the past couple of weeks, I've been thinking about my trip to Cincinnati, OH for the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention (GHC). This was my third year attending and I wasn't disappointed. The vendor hall was grand as usual and the speakers were amazing! I thought I'd take a bit of time today to review my notes and record some thoughts for those of you thinking about attending an upcoming GHC.

After over nine hours, we arrived in Cincinnati Wednesday evening. I rode with a friend from our CM Study Group and her husband, but didn't have a roommate this year, which was highly unusual. RileyAnn has traveled with me to nearly every homeschool conference I attended for the past seven years. I was bummed when she didn't want to go this year, but I totally understood. However, Wednesday evening was really lonely! Thankfully, it didn't last long, as I woke to an action packed Thursday.

First off Thursday, I worked at helping set up the Beautiful Feet Books booth. Then I finally met in person and had lunch with Brandy Vencel from Afterthoughts blog and Mystie Winckler from Simply Convivial. What a treat to meet online friends in real life! Thursday evening was spent in seminars, as well as much of Friday and Saturday. I will highlight each session below. But, first, I want to share a list of the purchases I made in the vendor hall...

Excellence in Literature by Janice Campbell
- Introduction to Literature
- Literature and Composition
- American Literature

Old Western Culture: The Greeks - The Epics by Wesley Callihan, sold by Roman Roads Media

Jack's Insects Narration & Nature Study Notebook by Karen Smith at Simply Charlotte Mason

Beautiful Feet Books
- Around the World with Picture Books, Part 1 guide by Rea Berg
- Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
- Anno's China by Mitsumasa Anno

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World John Stonestreet

My purchases were much less than in the past because I tried to be very intentional in my choices. Really, the only unplanned purchase was the Excellence in Literature. I was just so impressed after hearing Janice Campbell speak that I took the plunge and bought a few of her high school literature courses. I have a couple of different ideas for their use, of which I will write more about in future posts.

There were so many great speakers and seminars to attend at the Midwest GHC. It was really difficult to choose. Usually, I had checked anywhere from 3 - 5 sessions every hour on my workshop schedule. Obviously, this is not possible, so I had to narrow it down. Thursday was a bit of a bust simply because both sessions I chose turned out to be more of a 101 on familiar topics. Friday and Saturday held more depth.

Like I mentioned above, I was very intrigued by Janice Campbell since she spoke on many of the topics of which I've spoke in the past and are relevant to my homeschool situation. She felt like a kindred spirit. I ended up attending three of her talks. Martin Cothran from Memoria Press is another of my all time favorite speakers. He appears extremely well-read and intelligent, and yet, he can bring it down to a highly understandable level. I have great respect for him. The Classical Education panel is always entertaining. However, given time constraints and the fact that I've seen them several times in the past, I only attended one of their panel discussions this time. Speaking of panels, the Schole Sisters panel was fun. I loved their book sharing ideas and was pleased that I owned and/or have read all but two on their list.

Here's a brief rundown of my notes and/or a description of each session I attended...

Thursday Workshops

Living Books: The Ultimate Box-Set Curriculum by Adam Andrews - This turned out to be an introduction to Teaching the Classics by Adam and Missy Andrews, which is a program I'm familiar with and have used with our Middle School Book Club. Adam read aloud The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward and then showed us how to talk through it by using the Socratic method of asking questions. One of my biggest take-aways from this session was a comment Adam made at the very beginning, when he said something like in order to teach your children, all you need is love. He was making a point that you don't need fancy degrees because you are already vested in your child and that love will help you provide the best for them. One thing I'm still questioning/pondering about Adam's talk is when he said, "A living book doesn't come alive until you understand what the author is saying." I'm not sure Charlotte Mason would agree with this statement....hmmm?!

The Child as a Person by Lisa Cadora

Ms. Cadora was representing the Charlotte Mason Institute and I was excited to see and learn more about their organization. I love Charlotte's Principle 1, Children are born persons, so I was interested to hear her expound on this. Unfortunately, there wasn't much new information so I only stuck around for the first half hour. Cadora primarily reviewed Charlotte's twenty principles, which I've studied in depth with our CM Study Group. It didn't really give me more insight on Principle 1. I left early and popped into the following session...

Faith & Thinking: Is There Room for Both in the Homeschool? by Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern always provides food for thought, though sometimes too much. He speaks very philosophically so jumping in at the mid point of his talk, was extremely difficult! He was talking about the differences/similarities between faith and thinking. Something that stuck with me is, "Faith is not the same as thought - faith allows for thinking." He also talked about the Prodigal Son vs. the older brother. He said the following in regard to love and harmony at random points throughout the latter part of his talk...

"We can't love without Truth."
"Harmony is in the Holy Trinity."
"When we find harmony we overcome discord in ourselves."

I finished up Thursday evening helping out in the Beautiful Feet Books booth. It was family night and the last hour was quite busy in the vendor hall.

Friday Workshops

What is Classical Education? by Martin Cothran

I assumed this workshop may not provide a ton of new information, but again, I really enjoy listening to Mr. Cothran speak. I was not disappointed. Throughout the talk, Cothran explained the history of classical education. He began by briefly discussing The Lost Tools of Writing by Dororthy Sayers. He then went on to explain two educational movements in America:

1. John Dewey - Progressive
2. Pragmatism

Cothran talked about the progression of modern public education as a result of the two movements. I am familiar with some of the initiatives he mentioned as they were in effect while I was on my local public school board.

After this, Cothran went back to describe classical education in ancient times, comparing and contrasting it with today. He talked about his son that practiced law. Then left that career to start a very successful software engineering company. His story was reassuring.

Cothran closed with three cultures to study if you're interested in classical education: culture of Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem (Hebrew). He stated classical education is a culmination of the Great Books, the Liberal Arts, and the study of those three cultures. Down in the vendor hall, I also picked up a brochure written by Cothran, published by Memoria Press, titled, What is Classical Education?. It's a wonderful overview of his talk in an extremely understandable format. I highly recommend getting a copy if you're interested in learning more about what classical ed is.

An Introduction to Effective Socratic Discussion: Why Do We Do It and How to Do It Well by Dr. Christopher Perrin

Mr. Perrin began with a similar sentiment to Adam Andews when he said, you don't need a degree to teach your students. Perrin went on to discuss the Socratic Tradition, of course, dating back to Socrates, and the four styles of Socratic discussion. A few thoughts that resonated with me from Dr. Perrin's talk were:

1. Socratic discussion takes 5-10 years to master. It's a skill or an art.
2. There's no substitute for a well trained mind.
3. There is no substitute for reading the books and talking about them.

Charlotte Mason's Secret to Successfully Leading Your Homeschool by Brandy Vencel

This was my first chance to hear Brandy speak and I really enjoyed it! Her talk focused on "masterly activity", a concept taken from Charlotte Mason's Vol. 3, School Education, which is a volume I have not yet read. Brandy highlighted nine characteristics of masterly inactivity and some tools for helping us to attain it. I'm really looking forward to reading Vol. 3, particularly after hearing Brandy's talk.

Schole Sisters Panel: Carpe Librum: What to Read as a Classical, Charlotte Mason Mom by Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill, and Mystie Winckler

It was great to see the Schole Sisters in person! Mystie moderated the panel, beginning with an explanation of "schole". Then each of them took turns sharing a recommended book to further knowledge on a Classical Charlotte Mason Education. There were five categories of books including: 101, 201, 301, non-fiction, and fiction. Not only did they share their love of books, but they also gave away copies of most of the books they recommended. It was fun to see each of their personalities come out in their book recommendations.

How to Teach with Living Books by Janice Campbell

This is a subject very near and dear to my heart so I couldn't miss this talk! I was thrilled to find out that Janice Campbell was a veteran home educator, who had homeschooled her four boys throughout. I find it very difficult to find veteran moms that have stuck with home educating through high school and are willing to share their wisdom. Ms. Campbell is a gem! Again, this talk was not new information, but I loved hearing about her experience and the fruit of her labor, as well as, seeing her recommended book lists. Campbell also talked about the importance of narration, copywork, and commonplacing.

Classical Education Unhinged! - panel discussion with Dr. Christopher Perrin, Andrew Pudewa, Dr. Carol Reynolds, Andrew Kern, Leigh Bortins, and Martin Cothran

As usual, this panel discussion was lively and entertaining. It was a great way to end a long day of brain drain and thought.

Saturday Workshops

How to Homeschool High School by Janice Campbell

Campbell's main message in this workshop was "Education is not a rat race!" She focused on continuing to spread the feast in high school as a means to educating a child for any career/job. I could see definite Charlotte Mason love throughout each of her talks. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing home education stories about her boys and how they have succeeded in life beyond home education. Again, I found this talk very reassuring.

Spreading the Feast: How to Teach Great Literature to Teens by Janice Campbell

This was the third Janice Campbell workshop I went to and it really tied together the first two I attended. Once more, Janice suggested spreading a feast for your high schooler. She talked about beginning with the end in mind. She advised on the importance of laying the groundwork when children are young so you can read and discuss higher level classics in high school. She explained what a classic book is and how not to kill your child's love of reading them. Campbell further shared how to build reading time as a routine. She closed with information on how to present and teach classics to a high school student. Ms. Campbell has written a series of five college prep English courses with an optional honors track. I mentioned above purchasing the first three and after studying them more in depth, I'm considering buying the final two. If you are interested in home educating through high school and or using living books, I highly recommend Janice Campbell's workshops!

Well, there you have it! My thoughts on the 2018 Midwest Great Homeschool Convention. I attended many more workshops than usual this year and attempted to give a brief run down of each here. However, my experience has sparked many ideas and connections that I look forward to expounding on in future posts.

If you're interested in reading more about my adventures at the 2017 GHC, here are some thoughts I shared from last year.

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