Favorite Memories from WPA Conferences
When people were asked about their favorite memory from a WPA conference, this is what they wrote. The responses show the richness of the conference and what people gain from it. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend this year’s conference.
My favorite memory from a WPA conference is a feeling of being welcomed. Every room I walked into had smiling people. I chatted with people I only see once a year. I talked to strangers who seemed like long lost friends. I went to classes and was welcomed with a smile, a handout, and shared information. From the time I stepped up to the registration table, to the end of the WPA Membership Meeting, I felt welcomed and that is worth remembering.
One of my favorite memories from the last WPA homeschool conference wasn't really an event or speaker or vendor. It was instead this settled feeling that crept in throughout the day and the realization of what it was at the end of the conference. It was this feeling that I wasn't homeschooling in isolation. There were hundreds of other families who were homeschooling, too, and struggling and having questions and getting frustrated and having victories. It was exhilarating to be reminded that there is not one way to homeschool. There is not one right way. Hope to come this year.
My favorite WPA Conference memory began with doughnuts. They were round and still warm. I shoved them into my mouth with gusto, allowing the powdery coating to explode from my mouth and settle in sticky clumps at the corners of my smile. “C’mon! Hurry up! We are going to be late for the first session!” my eager brother bounced on my hotel bed, already dressed and ready to drive the short distance from our hotel to our first WPA gathering in Stevens Point Wisconsin.
Upon our arrival we joined the lines of people just like us: families with strollers, dads with chattering toddlers, groups of older kids hugging their reunion in the crowded entryway while waiting for their name tags and session numbers. I remember the powerful feeling that washed over the then 11-year-old me. The amazing feeling that we were not alone, it was not just us against the world, my family was not the only family in Wisconsin that chose the homeschooling option. For once, we were not the weirdoes others thought were skipping school, or the people who were thought to eat ice cream all day at home because what else would we do as homeschoolers? Instead we were surrounded by and a part of a community of people, diverse in religion, dress, background, but all alike and completely understanding in our choice to homeschool.
My first session was ‘teen games’. Being only 11, I was caught in between being a kid and a teenager. I held tight to my older brother’s hand and shrunk beside him as we entered a room full of older and unknown children. I was expecting no one to notice me, not to make friends but to blend in and slip quietly through the session as an observer. Instead I was greeted with smiles, bombarded with names, and pulled into an ever widening circle of new faces that were later to become old friends. We played get-to-know-you games first. I as a newcomer appreciated their openness and willingness to play these sorts of games despite the fact that many knew each other already. In later years, I was to become one of those ‘older’ kids, familiar with the conference people and place, yet always ready to welcome newcomers into the fold.
The rest of that day passed by as a blur. I remember attending workshops such as ‘Algebra Made Easy’, ‘Fun Trips to the Field’, and ‘Outdoor Games’. That first WPA conference opened my eyes to a network I would not have otherwise known existed. I hold it as my favorite memory for precisely that reason, it was a wonderful experience that showed me homeschooling is not a solitary effort of one or two families, and instead it is a choice that ties one into a network of support. WPA presents a place where all homeschoolers can come for advice, ideas, or just a good time. This network was displayed wonderfully at that WPA Conference then and continues to shine through ten years later in the WPA Conference now.
My favorite memory from a WPA conference is finding one of the letter boxes that we couldn’t find in a long time. My father and I looked all around. Finally we came to the last spot that we could look and I found it!
Being new to homeschooling, I remember attending the WPA conference a bit unsure of what I was about to embark upon. I pulled into the UW Oshkosh parking lot, wondering if I should even be there ... I had 1 year of homeschooling my 4th grade son under my belt, and we had done everything by the book. Fourth grade curriculum made up of a wide range of quite boring textbooks, math, science, history, English, etc ... I kept track of grades and tried to keep my eyes open while using the reading workbook. It was a very dull school day, and looking back I now don't know how my son or I made it through. My favorite moment of my first WPA Conference was the moment I remember sitting in an unschooling class and thinking, “This is awesome.” I was awakened to real homeschooling, and I realized I had been going about this school stuff all wrong. I suddenly became excited about teaching my son, because from now on we were going to learn our way. Sitting in that class I began creating my own curriculum ... less boring textbooks and more following my son’s interests. Reading what he wants to read, adding art into our projects and creative writing. That was a great moment, and it changed my life. Now 3 years later, I am homeschooling all 4 of my children and loving it everyday. I remember pulling out of the UW Oshkosh parking lot on my way home thinking, “This was a great idea. I am so glad to have come.” ... And I think that my kids are glad, too.
Looking back through the past years, I would have to say our first favorite memory had to be the very first year. So many questions were answered! It was okay to put the pencil down and find alternative ways to teach. One where they (we) could come to a complete understanding before forging on thus losing self-esteem along the way. We became inspired about what we were doing when we looked around and realized how many other families were involved and believed as we did. We took a big step so many years ago (twenty-three to be exact) and wisely invested in our children's future. Confidence didn't come until we saw our children succeed and the torch passed. I'm going to enjoy helping to guide the next generation ... or perhaps they'll guide me. Sure, there were a few battles throughout the years ... nothing we couldn't eventually figure out together. No, one can't remember everything (even as a teacher) ... but it sure made re-learning with them more fun! Our Family Motto: The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. Quoted from William Arthur Ward.
My favorite memory from a WPA conference is seeing all the children and their parents in the lunchroom. I enjoyed seeing such a wide variety of people all coming together to eat and talk about homeschooling and the conference.
At the WPA Conference a couple years ago, I was running late. My next scheduled workshop was due to start in about 2 minutes, but I was a 12-minute walk away. Knowing I'd never make it in time, I stood there in the hallway, wondering what I should do. Glancing up, I noticed a sign announcing a WPA workshop about to start in the room across the hall. "Choosing the Right Math Program For Your Child" it said. Well, why not? I walked in and sat down. It ended up being the most beneficial work- shop I have ever attended at the WPA Conferences. With the information I learned from the speaker I overhauled our entire Math program which has since turned my little Math-Hater into a Math- ... well, let's be honest here ... a Math-Tolerator. Tolerator enough, however, to have worked her way to a level one entire grade level higher than her chronological grade. My advice to Conference goers ... Don't worry so much about choosing exactly the right sessions at the conference. Every one will present you with information so helpful, sometimes in unexpected ways, that it can completely transform your homeschooling experience.
My favorite WPA conference memory was the time that there was a craft table. I made a big robot out of boxes!
Last year I attended the "Homeschooling Boys" seminar and felt enlightened. The first thing I did after I heard what she said about boys having a delay in writing ability was to apologize to my husband. For 11 years I had told him how awful his handwriting was. That seminar showed me that he was probably forced to write too early and that negatively influenced his writing. I promised to not pick on his handwriting again, but requested he not show our boys how to form letters :).