- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

It's that time of year. State home-school organizations across the country are gearing up for the home-school convention season. If you are considering home-schooling as an option for your children or you need to recharge your home-school battery, you can attend any of four state home-school conventions within three hours of the District during the next few months.

The Maryland Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE) will hold its annual curriculum fair at the Frederick Fairgrounds in Frederick on April 20 and 21. The fair will feature a "help booth" where participants can receive answers to their home-school questions. New this year: MACHE members may attend free; nonmembers must pay a nominal fee.

The Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania will hold its 15th annual home-school convention May 11 and 12 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. Since it began in 1986, this convention has grown from a handful of exhibits, workshops and participants to the largest of its kind in the nation.

The Education Network of Christian Homeschoolers of New Jersey (ENOCH) will hold its convention at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center at Raritan Center in Edison on May 18 and 19. ENOCH's convention will feature a used-book sale for home-schoolers to buy and sell used material.

Finally, the Home Education Association of Virginia (HEAV) will hold its 18th annual convention June 14 through 16 at the Richmond Center and Marriott Hotel in Richmond. The HEAV convention will offer a "new home-schoolers track" where parents looking into home-schooling for the first time can attend workshops on how to begin, choose curricula and learn about the home-schooling law of Virginia.

All home-school conventions are designed to equip and encourage parents as they educate their children at home. No matter which event you choose, however, it is best to realize you will not be able to see and do everything.

Home-school conventions typically have two major components an exhibit hall and workshops. The exhibit hall is where parents can examine and purchase curricula, check out supplemental resources and ask about video and satellite school programs.

Workshops make up the second major portion of the convention. Convention planners work hard to see that there is something for everyone. Parents considering home-schooling will find presentations on complying with state home-school regulations and how to begin a home-education program. Families that have been home-schooling for a few years may opt for workshops that can help them teach specific subjects or give them new how-to instructions or teaching tips. For the veteran home-schooler whose child may be entering the teen years, presentations on home-schooling through high school, teaching upper-level mathematics and preparing for college are helpful.

Home-schooling is a family affair, but unless you have an infant or your children play a major role in choosing curricula, leaving them home with family or friends may be the best plan. Most conventions do not provide child care. Children seem to enjoy the sights and sounds of the convention for the first hour or so and then wonder when they are going home. Planning at-home child care can free you to focus on your convention goals. The weekend also could be a special getaway time for you and your spouse.

Home-school conventions usually are reasonably priced and allow you to come for one or several days, but plan to attend the entire event if at all possible. The first day might be spent reviewing and purchasing materials, and subsequent days may be devoted to attending workshop sessions. Trying to cram everything into one day may leave you feeling overwhelmed.

After 15 years of going to conventions, I have two pieces of advice to offer: First, wear comfortable clothes and a good pair of walking or athletic shoes. Even if the convention is held in a hotel or convention center, walking for hours can be tiring. Second, bring along a tote bag to carry your purchases because an armful of books quickly can become too heavy. You don't want to find yourself halfway through your to-do list unable to take another step.

I like to think of home-school conventions as parent-teacher in-service weekends. As home educators, we should take our jobs seriously. Attending a home-school convention is a wonderful opportunity to equip yourself with resources and information that can help you do a great job teaching your children.

Finally, plan to arrive early and stay late. Yes, this makes for a long day, but home-school conventions only come around once a year.

Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 17 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail ([email protected]).

More information

For more information on home-school conventions in the Mid-Atlantic region, including hours, admission costs, workshop topics and directions, contact:

• Maryland Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE), PO Box 417, Clarksburg, Md. 20871; 301/607-4284, www.machemd.org.

• Education Network of Christian Homeschoolers of New Jersey (ENOCH), PO Box 308, Atlantic Highlands, N.J. 07716; 732/291-7800, www.enochnj.org.

• Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP), PO Box 115, Mount Joy, Pa. 17552-0115; 717/665-6707, www.chapboard.org.

• Home Education Association of Virginia (HEAV), PO Box 6745, Richmond, Va. 23230; 804/288-1608, www.heav.org.

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