Wow! That is really the best word I can use for now. It was a great experience. I was looking forward to it - the shopping and seeing friends. The part that I wasn't expecting was the amazing group of speakers that I heard there.
I'll start from the beginning. I went into this conference feeling a little unprepared. I hadn't planned what I wanted to use for the year with my oldest children - thankfully the younger ones are all prepared to use Five In A Row!
This year my oldest daughter Rebecca went with me. We went with a dear friend and her daughter. Just the girls. It was a little odd - all those years of being a vendor and having at least 2 children in tow. I was asked if I enjoyed the freedom. Well, yes in some ways. I also missed being a vendor. I missed the opportunity to share Five in a Row with so many other new homeschoolers. I missed the time of sharing and encouraging the people that would come to our booth. I missed having my oldest son with me as he has gone for many years. He wanted to stay home so he wouldn't miss his football game. I also missed having a baby in tow.
I loved the freedom though of having lunch with some dear FIAR friends at the Mellow Mushroom. I haven't ever eaten out while at conference before this year! It was fun to catch up, to laugh and just have fun together. (No picture though as we thought we would get one a little later - bad idea!) I loved being able to shop until I dropped ... literally! I also loved being able to attend some incredible workshops and have the chance to talk with some of the speakers and vendors.
So, how do I begin to share the 3 days there. I brought my camera - intending to take pictures, but only took 1 the whole week-end. Maybe I'll do better next year - but probably not.
The bookfair is wonderful! Huge hall with so many books! Oh, the books. I love books. I bought some curriculum, but mostly I just bought books. Lots of wonderful books - science experiments, history books, fiction novels and more. I'm not a big shopper. But when I do shop, I like to get a lot done at once so that I don't have to do it often.
For my oldest (11th grade), some of what he'll be doing includes Advanced Biology, Algebra 2, Write Shop, Wordly Wise, Analytical Grammar review, American History, and a study of the Presidents. (This picture does not include all of his materials as some are being shipped.)
For my oldest daughter (8th grade), her subjects include Algebra 1, Write Shop, Wordly Wise, Logic, Rainbow Science, Analytical Grammar and a study of the Presidents.
My next 3 boys will be doing Five in a Row, Handwriting without Tears, Wordly Wise, MathUSee (various levels) as their main curriculum items. They will also join in on the Presidents study, science experiments and more fun things.
New Product I'm most excited about using: Trail Guide to US Geography
Rebecca has been interested in doing more with geography. We visited the Geography Matters book and talked with "Uncle Josh" (of the timeline maps fame). He is so engaging. He spent time explaining the curriculum and also quizzing the girls in a fun way. They loved it! I bought the US set because I'm planning on doing a unit study on the Presidents next year. (One I'll put together hopefully soon!). Rebecca really wanted to do the world, but I thought US would go better with our President study. Maybe next year for the world.
I don't know that I would have thought to look for this, except for reading about it on Michelle's blog. Thank you! I love that the curriculum is designed for multi-ages. The questions and activites are marked by age so that I can use it from elementary to high school! There is a CD to print out pages for notebooks - again based on age. There is also a fun cookbook with recipes from each state. Rebecca was loving this part of it. Between this and FIAR, I'll have a couple of meals a week taken care of!
I also bought art supplies, nature materials, CDs, games and more! Lots and lots of fun things! Rebecca was asking how soon we would be able to start back to school! We just finished last week! Gotta love that!
At this point, I was getting tired of unloading bags and just spread a lot of the books and things on the floor. I'll try to post more during the year as we are using and enjoying things. Here's a peek at some of what I came home with though.
Most fun new vendor : Frik n Frak
Wooden toys and games that are so neat. I can't share all that I bought because some of the items are gifts. Check out their website if you are looking for an interesting game to give as a gift or to add to your collection.
New event: I attended the support group leader's luncheon along with another friend from our group. It was a nice event to encourage leaders and whlle we ate we heard from Michael Farris on the topic of leadership. His message was encouraging and also funny at times. There was a second workshop for leaders on Vision by Norm Wakefield which was awesome - for groups or families - it was a relevant message!
Keynote speakers: There were 3 this year and all were great! They each spoke numerous times and there just wasn't enough time to hear them all - in addition to the other speakers. I bought quite a few CDs this year to listen to at home.
The first keynote speaker was Norm Wakeful of Spirit of Elijah ministries. He spoke on idolatry. I thought it an unusual topic for a keynote. It was wonderful - convicting in a gentle and even humorous manner. Even my daughter thought it was great. I went to a number of his workshops the next couple of days and enjoyed all of them.
The Wakefields also have a daughter with Down syndrome who is 25 years old. They shared in one session about the blessings and things that they had learned from their daughter. It was sweet and encouraging.
I don't begin to know how to describe his messages - filled with scripture and with encouragment to follow God's leading in all areas of your life. I would highly recommend going to hear him if you ever have the opportunity.
Another keynote was John Stonestreet of Summit Ministries. Again - wow! His talks were on worldview and were awesome. I am looking forward to using some of the materials put out by Summit in the future and was very tempted to get them this year. I know that our plate is full though and this will be great for next year. (Though perhaps I'm saying that as I'm still wavering on getting these now!)
Both of these men were amazing. You may never have heard of them. If they are in your area, I highly recommend going to hear them. I think you will be challenged, encouraged and blessed. I know that I was.
The third keynote was Michael Farris. I have only heard him at the leaders luncheon, but was told that his keynote was great. I bought it and hope to have time to listen to it soon. His name is a little more familiar to most homeschoolers as the founder of Home School Legal Defense and also Patrick Henry College. I enjoyed hearing some of his story and had God has led him and guided him through his life. It was very encouraging.
So, I left this event feeling energized and ready to tackle a new year. I also left feeling humbled knowing that I need to repent and turn my heart more fully to God in areas that I had not even realized were lacking. I left feeling thankful for the time I had to spend with friends. I left feeling blessed that I'm able to teach my children at home.