By Anne Gebhart
What do you get when you have nearly 4,000 home schoolers, 175 vendors, 13 top-notch speakers, and excellent children and teen programs? An amazing home school family conference, of course! But, what if you add some extras, such as an exciting field trip to a working ranch, discounted tickets to popular area attractions, and engaging entertainment by popular children’s author John Erickson? You have not only an amazing home school conference, but also the perfect family vacation!
The Texas Home School Coalition’s 2007 State Convention and Family Conference was held August 16-18 at the Waterway Marriott hotel in The Woodlands. It has become a yearly tradition for many home school families wanting to make last-minute curriculum purchases, while scheduling in some end-of-summer fun before buckling down to begin their school year.
The convention began Thursday evening with two keynote sessions, which were free and open to the public. Debra Bell gave an encouraging talk, Recovering Our Vision: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense Now More Than Ever, followed by Andrew Pudewa’s thought-provoking message, Conquering Corrupt Culture by Raising Christian Communicators. Many home schooling families, as well as those interested in home schooling, came to hear these uplifting sessions.
When the convention doors opened Friday morning, streams of registrants filed in. Adult members of THSC Association were able to attend the conference for free, and they came in droves to scope out the large array of home school products, as well as to hear their favorite speakers, including Debra Bell, Andrew Pudewa, Eric and Joyce Burges, John Erickson, Jim King, Rosie Watson, Doug and Patsy Arnold, Mary James, Steve Demme, and Tim and Lyndsay Lambert.
“Being able to attend the conference for free as a THSC member is such a blessing to our family,” stated one attendee. “It allows us more money to spend on the things we need for our home school.”
Friday night included a special showing of Taking a Stand in Texas: The Battle for Home School Freedom. This captivating documentary, produced by THSC, depicts the struggles that Texas home school families endured in the “early days” of the modern home school movement and chronicles the events of the Leeper vs. Arlington case, which resulted in the landmark Texas Supreme Court decision establishing that Texas home schoolers have the freedom to educate their children at home.
Saturday marked the final day of a very successful conference. The vendors in the exhibit hall helped families make their curriculum purchases, and the speaking rooms were packed with parents desiring to catch an extra dose of inspiration and wisdom before embarking on this year’s home schooling journey.
John Erickson, author of the Hank the Cowdog children’s series, and his wife Kris were the highlight of each evening. The talented duo captivated their audience of several hundred children and adults with engaging excerpts from Hank’s ranching adventures, including some from his newest book, The Case of the Most Ancient Bone. The Ericksons kept everyone in stitches as they brought Hank’s character to life through hilarious songs and sidesplitting tales of his canine antics.
Is the idea of an all-in-one conference and family vacation successful? Judging from THSC’s convention attendance numbers, which have steadily increased each year, many families find the idea very appealing.
“We [THSC] are in existence to serve Texas home schoolers,” said THSC President Tim Lambert. “We know how busy home schooling families are, and we are happy to provide a venue where these families can browse and purchase curriculum, while taking advantage of the area’s recreational opportunities. The concept of combining a conference and family vacation has been very successful for us, and we will continue to offer this type of format as long as home schoolers find it beneficial.”