1. Watching all the colorful teens gleefully bounding about the hotel like oversized 4-year-olds, not a sullen face among them.
2. Inspiration! Inspiration from new ideas** and new twists on old ideas***.
3. Seeing people of all ages crafting everywhere, with workshops on mosaics, amigurami (small Japanese crocheted animals), artist trading cards and matchbox shrines, to name just a few. Then there was the amazing Swap-o-rama-rama where kids got to take donated clothes, cut them apart, and stitch them into something new. Pure bliss for Lulu. She made H a trench coat out of old jeans and duct tape.
4. Eating pizza, drinking sangria and laughing with my homeschool homies–otherwise known as my fellow homeschooling parent friends–on a balmy Sacramento night, beneath a full moon.
5. Lots of knitting time during larger keynote sessions.
6. Watching Lulu and her equally absurdly-competent friend somehow manage at least 20 kids at a time during their popular Rag Doll-Making workshop.
7. The vendor hall and Recycled Resource Room. I’m not so tempted by curriculum stuff, but I have to restrain myself with all the great books and games. Found a cool computer program on art technique and history that Mr. T adores already, and a brilliant hands-on set for exploring the Pythagorean Mr. Trem.
8. Offering my own workshop for the first time.
I gave a workshop on facilitating writer’s workshops, and it was such a thrill. I’ve been facilitating writer’s workshops for homeschoolers for years now, basically gathering kids together and giving them a chance to to share their writing with one another. I’ve also participated in workshops myself, through adult ed courses and with my beloved writing group. Let me tell you: there’s nothing like a workshop to inspire writing! I could talk all day on the topic! What a joy it was to share this with a roomful of eager folks who seemed truly interested.
(Incidentally, If any of those workshop attendees find your way to this blog, please let me know if you start up a workshop–my email address is on the handout, or leave a comment here! And to anyone who may have bought a CD recording of the workshop, leave a comment here as well, and I will gladly email the handout which I referred to half a zillion times as I spoke. (You must include your email address when you leave a comment, but I’m the only one who will see it. You can even leave a pseudonym like, say, Homeskool Harriet or John Holt, Jr.)
I know people who don’t like this conference, or feel that they’ve attended so long that there’s nothing new to learn. I also know a woman who homeschooled three kids, and has sent two off to college. This year her youngest will attend high school, so her homeschooling life is theoretically ending. Nevertheless, I found her beside me in more than one of the Charlotte Mason workshops. I asked why she was there, since she would no longer be homeschooling. She’ll be tutoring a young boy this year, she explained, and she thought the workshop might be helpful. But mostly, she said that she loves history, and was enjoying hearing about this woman, Charlotte Mason, who had so many innovative ideas, so long ago. My friend attended the workshop, I think, because she’s a curious person who likes to learn. Interestingly, her youngest daughter–who attended my writer’s workshop–is one of the most enthusiastic, eager-to-learn teenagers I know. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
* My local conference is put on by HSC, the HomeSchool Association of California. It takes place in Sacramento the third weekend in August every year. Hard to believe, but last weekend I went for my twelfth year.
*** I’ve read about Charlotte Mason in the past, but it was fun to revisit her ideas via Catherine Levinson. I’m newly intrigued with Charlotte’s ideas about narration as a precursor to developing a writer’s voice; the use of nature journals; and the idea of very short lessons in subjects such as math. (Not that I offer lessons to my kids on anything. But they seem to be teaching me lessons constantly…)