My problem with homeschool conferences is a lot like my problem with homeschool magazines: They’re out there, but they seldom feel like they’re really for me. That’s why I’m so excited about SEA’s homeschool conference, a totally secular homeschool conference that has the potential for real staying power—as long as we secular homeschoolers give it some support! Toward that end, I’ve asked Blair Lee, SEA’s founder and HSL’s high school science columnist, and two of her cohorts—Kat Hutcheson, vendor coordinator, and Tina Harden, conference organizer—to give us some details on the upcoming conference, which we at HSL are THRILLED to support.
Most of us have been to a lot of homeschool conferences. What specifically makes the SEA conference special?
There is real value to the camaraderie one can experience when gathered with others who share similar objectives, standards, and purpose. The SEA Homeschoolers conference is that gathering for those who seek to provide their children with a secular, academic, innovative home learning experience. As secular homeschoolers, especially in certain parts of the country, the challenges are unique in the homeschooling world as we seek to immerse our children in an education that doesn’t use religion as a focus or a foundation of their educational experience. The encouragement one can feel empowered by after attending such a gathering is immeasurable; having the opportunity to learn that you are not alone, that the challenges one faces are being faced by others, and solutions are available. This conference will help give participants the energy, motivation, and confidence we all need and seek for our homeschooling journey.
Blair Lee: The SEA Homeschool Conference is a secular, academic conference, which is pretty special. It isn’t all about academics though. We have worked hard to make this a fun and exciting event for conference attendees of all ages. There are also three service projects going on during the conference: Teens can receive community service credit by volunteering for the conference; we have a blood drive on Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and we have partnered with non-profit group Bringing Food Forests to NE Florida to raise money for a permaculture project on the Lakota Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We have a raffle during the conference to raise funds for this.
What are some of the talks you’re most excited about?
Tina Harden: The college offerings: The college fair, how to write a college essay, questions for college physics
BL: I hate to pick favorites. I am honestly excited by the breadth of talks at this conference. I will have to admit, though, I cannot wait to hear Michael Clay Thompson speak. My son is excited by the college essay workshop, Sytil Murphy’s physics talks, Ian Guch’s workshops, and wilderness training.
Kat Hutcheson: Blair’s Project-Based Learning talk is definitely something I can’t miss. Homeschooling 101 and Homeschooling High School with Beverly Burgess should be great, too—Bev is even giving her new webinar package free to everyone who attends her Homeschooling 101 talk. Mari Buckroth of NASH and The Inappropriate Homeschooler is on my list, as well as talks by Zinn Education Project and workshops with the National Parks Service. Amanda McClure of Groovy Kids Online is giving talks on Transitioning to Independent Learning and Creating a Culture of Learning in Your Home, both of which I’m looking forward to, along with Lauren Connolly’s talk on using comic books and graphic novels in education and a talk on Permaculture, Biodynamic Soil, and Compost from Bringing Food Forest to NE Florida.
What opportunities will attendees have to connect with other homeschoolers?
TH: Games for children and teens, blood drive, vendor hall, bookstore social
BL: We have worked to include several activities to connect, but honestly, this happens naturally at homeschool conferences. My favorite way to connect at conferences is to sit down and just talk to people. I have made some great friends that way.
KH: Community is a big part of SEA Homeschoolers and a big part of this conference. There will be lots of opportunities for homeschooling families to socialize with new friends and familiar faces. From the meet-and-greet at the local bookstore to the parents mixer to just grabbing lunch in the dining hall, we hope everyone makes lasting connections within the community.
Would this be a fun event for families to attend together?
TH: My family is joining me, and this will be a great rejuvenative endeavor for our whole family.
BL: Absolutely. We have worked hard to make this weekend a highlight of the summer for conference attendees.
KH: Absolutely. Conference organizers have worked really hard to make this a fun event for the whole family. There are tons of kids and teens programming, a Magic the Gathering tournament, Smash Brothers contest, children’s book readings with author JR Becker, teen formal, art show, talent show, and some really wonderful opportunities for those starting to plan a path to college.
What else will be happening at the conference that people should be sure to check out?
TH: The talent show, blood drive, Smash Brothers tournament, game room, magic tournament, the college fair, and the raffle.
KH: Book signings by JR Becker, Beverly Burgess, and Blair Lee. Blair will have the prototype of her new book to check out. You definitely won’t want to miss the raffle. We have so many cool books and products donated from our vendors and sponsors, plus Blair’s new book and a SEA swag bag.
BL: Wilderness training and the history of fire.
Who do you have lined up for the vendor hall? I’m assuming they are all secular homeschool resources?
KH: We have 27 secular vendors and sponsors. For a new homeschooling conference that is a big number. It means a lot to those of us planning the conference to have the secular vendors and sponsors in our community support our group. We have trusted favorites like Royal Fireworks Press, Pandia Press, Build Your Library, Teaching Textbooks, Shiller Math, and more, as well as some new and lesser known companies that we are excited introduce to the homeschool community.
What do you hope people will be saying on their way home from the conference?
TH: Let’s do it again next year! I got to spend time with my friends, and we all made great new ones too!
BL: About two hours into the drive home from a homeschool conference we had just attended, my son said, “You know my favorite thing about homeschooling?”
“What’s that?” I replied.
“The homeschool conferences,” he told me.
That is what I hope the kids and teens are saying. I hope parents are talking about the new strategies and materials they discovered and the new friends they made.
I know conferences depend on people power to keep going, and this is a conference that we’d really like to see keep going! If people just can’t attend this year, is there anything they can do to support the conference from afar?
There are two great ways to support this conference. Please share about the event on your social media platforms and on any homeschool groups you belong to on Facebook. That sort of grassroots messaging is important to any fledgling endeavor. The second way to support us is to support our vendors. We will be sharing about our vendors into the group, and purchasing through them using the conference links ensures that it is worth it to those vendors to come back again next year.
And nuts-and-bolts: Where can people sign up, how much does admission cost, and what else should attendees know about the conference?
You can buy tickets (Adults $100, Teens $65, Kids $50), one-day passes (Adults $45, Teens $30, Kids $25) and vendor hall passes ($25), rent dorm rooms for on campus accommodations, and purchase meal cards to save money in the dining hall at seahomeschoolers.com
While you’re there be sure to check out our updated conference schedule. Also, our college fair, starting at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, is free to all who would like to attend. If you come to the college fair and decide you would like to see more of the conference, you will receive $5 off the purchase of a one-day or vendor hall pass.