I have never in my life won a door prize before. Until yesterday. And now I am the proud owner of a Time Travelers History Study CD from Home School in the Woods, entitled "Colonial Life!"
I have to say that winning the door prize sticks out as the most memorable part of my first homeschool conference this past Friday and Saturday. I was one of two winners in the workshop talk I went to on Saturday afternoon, about teaching multiple grades together. I kinda wish I had gotten the other door prize, which was a History Pocket book, since I already am planning on buying more of those to use in the near future (we just finished the Native Americans History Pocket ebook last week). But maybe it's good to get something different, which I probably wouldn't have bought on my own, since I will have a chance to try out something the kids might really love, even though I wouldn't choose it myself. It's a set of 25 lesson plans covering the American Colonial period, with lots of hands-on activities dealing with history and science and even handwriting. It's geared toward 3rd-8th grade, so I probably won't use it yet, but I think my oldest, at least, will really enjoy many of the projects. It has a lot of notebooking and lapbooking projects, which I am not really into doing, but again, I'm not the one being taught. In my "master plan" (which may or may not stay in place), I should be doing this part of history in about 6 years, when the kids will be in 6th, 4th, and 3rd grades, so it should be a really good fit, age-wise, to do then.
As for the rest of the conference, I went to 4 talks, and spent a lot of time in the exhibit hall. Some of the talks were really good. My favorite was Carol Barnier, who actually sang some of her "ditties" to us. Others were so-so. But I still learned something in each talk. I also re-learned that everyone has a different idea about the best way to teach. I think this is one thing that bothers me, coming from a science and engineering background, where there are definite right answers to most every problem. In teaching, there isn't a "right" answer. It depends on the child, the teacher, the subject, the current age of the child, the current mood of the child, the mood of the teacher, the day's weather, the color shirt you're wearing, etc. And the very next day, the answer might be different!
Of course, I'm exaggerating a bit. There are some things that are always better to do than others. Like being encouraging to your children instead of pointing out everything they're doing wrong. But everyone has different ideas about most everything else. I think out of the 4 talks I went to, each speaker said something that contradicted one or more of the others. For example, concerning grammar, one speaker said that diagramming isn't necessary unless your child plans to major in English in college, and another speaker said that diagramming is essential for everyone in order to help explain how best to write proper sentences. Personally, I plan to teach diagramming, because I think it's pretty cool, and my own mom is a English teacher and I think passed on some sort of gene that makes me want to teach it. But it's probably not essential for everyone in every situation.
As for the exhibit hall, I am extremely glad that I didn't attend a conference until after spending months and months researching curriculum on my own. I can easily see how new homeschoolers would be completely overwhelmed by all the options available. Even I picked up tons of handouts and catalogs that I'm sure I will be wasting hours looking through in the next few weeks - even curriculum that I've already decided I don't plan to ever use. But it's fun to look.
I wish Sonlight had been at the convention, or CLE, but they did have a Rod & Staff distributor, which was the only one I bought actual curriculum from this weekend. I don't really need anything for this coming year, but I went ahead and got some stuff (just a little bit - it was 5% off, after all) for the next year, since I like planning ahead. I also bought a book and kit from Accountable Kids. I had seen their stuff online before and really liked it, so I got one kit at the conference, where it was on sale. I'll let you know later how it works, after I manage to read through the book....