Each year I travel to The Woodlands for the THSC Convention. As soon as the date for the next year is released, it is written in red on my calendar as a DO NOT MISS event. The THSC Convention has become a healing tradition for me.
I have been home schooling now for approximately fourteen years. So, depending on in what life season I find myself or even what home schooling struggles I may be experiencing, my reasons for attending the Convention vary.
At times I have attended simply to hear conference speakers who helped me with new ideas in organizing school schedules, house management, and more. Because we have six very unique kiddos, there were times when I searched through the Convention schedule, seeking out speakers dealing directly with teaching tools, methods, and ideas to help me teach to the learning style and special needs of each child. In the incredibly overwhelming, busy years, I sought out conference speakers and topics that would soften my burnout and re-motivate me to persevere in the important task to which God called me: home schooling.
Not only have my reasons for attending varied each year, but my companions at Convention have varied as well. Some years I go it alone for a time of recharging and rest. There have been several years in which my enthusiasm for the upcoming Convention vacation piqued the interest of a home schooling friend who had never attended, and we turned it into a girls’ weekend of shopping, learning, and laughter. My husband and I have used it as a “date” weekend to spend time together in uninterrupted conversation and to plan for the next school year. Finally, at other times our family of eight attended, registering our family through the entire spectrum of adult conference, Teen Program, and Children’s Program. (As a side note, the Teen and Children’s Programs are wonderful, but you must Early Bird Register, because they fill up fast. We missed the Teen Program one year because we waited too late to register.)
I admit that the Exhibit Hall full of vendors can be overwhelming with so many choices and opportunities meshed together in one location, but consider approaching it prayerfully, asking God to bring to your attention the items pertinent and needful to your family. My husband brings great clarity for me in this area. As we peruse books and curricula, he seems to have a better eye for what will work for our family. Even a friend or family member, whomever you are with, can provide a “second opinion.” What is incredibly helpful about the Exhibit Hall is that it provides a good overview of everything that is available to home schoolers, such as a plethora of curricula; Houston-area choral, band, karate, and sports groups; colleges and universities all over the country; field trip opportunities; and more. Another plus is that many vendors will give Convention discounts and/or free shipping on items ordered.
The THSC Convention has also become a “Convention vacation.” THSC has masterfully created Add-On events for families, so there are opportunities for discounts at varying local venues, such as Moody Gardens. We bought Add-On tickets to the Bob Smiley Comedy Show last year and the Tim Hawkins Comedy Show the year before. These shows were much-needed times of setting aside our serious schedules and concerns of life and laughing as a family—laughing so hard we cried! As much as I enjoyed the comedy shows, the look on my children’s faces and their laughter will be forever ingrained as a treasured memory in my mind.
When my children attend the Convention, we ride the free trolley from The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel to The Woodlands Mall food court for lunch at least one day of Convention. The trolley ride provides giggles and laughter from some little boys who think it is incredibly cool, and it also gives riders a glimpse of The Woodlands area, passing by local shopping and restaurants and the Cynthia Woods Pavilion.
Another fun Convention lunch tradition our family has is what we call the “THSC Picnic Lunch.” Families who choose to bring their own lunch to Convention congregate picnic style in the walkway between the parking garage and hotel. Our boys enjoy watching the cars and activity on the street below, and there is a feeling of family and community as many home schooling families all enjoy lunch together.
If a trolley ride or a picnic lunch in a walkway does not sound attractive, or a walk through traffic is not appealing, there are waterway taxis that run along the waterway surrounding the hotel. These boat taxis will pick you up and “ship” you back and forth between the hotel and The Woodlands Mall for a small fee.
Some additional activity options for Pre-Convention fun include the Riva Row Boathouse, which offers kayak rentals for paddling the waterway, and spray-and-play parks in the local city parks, which provide free fun in the sun and playground time.
THSC Southwest Convention & Family Conference is so many different things to so many people. It is affirming and informative for those considering home schooling. It is knowledge building for those in the thick of their home schooling years. It is encouraging for those who feel beat down by the daily grind, who lose their focus or merely their energy to do what needs to be done, and it can change those feelings of inadequacy by giving you tools of capability. It is family fun and is full of memory making that will last through generations.
Wherever you are in your home schooling adventure, I encourage you to come to The Woodlands, catch a glimpse of the diversity of all of the other families who have also chosen to home school, and be encouraged that you are not alone in this journey. Come and enjoy. I’ll be there.
Pertinent and Helpful Links
Woodlands Waterway (literal waterway)