By Rita Lambert
I grew up attending home school conferences: Local, Statewide, and National. I loved it. Sometimes I attended the adult workshops; parenting seminars were my favorite! Weird, I know. But more often than not, there would be a teen track with workshop topics of special interest to those in my stage of life. I am fortunate to have sat under a lot of great teaching over the years and for the most part, I always enjoyed myself. However, not all teens shared my enthusiasm for workshops and looking back, I realize almost every teen track I ever attended had one thing in common — young people sitting quietly while wishing they were doing something else.
Don’t get me wrong, workshops are not inherently boring. I attended some exceptional workshops in my day, and I learned a lot while doing so. But no matter how interesting a topic or engaging a speaker, sitting all day for two days is taxing, even for a workshop-junkie like me! Time seemed to slow down. Youthful exuberance became droopy and glassy-eyed well before the noon break. There was just. So. Much. Sitting.
Then there were my peers– also just sitting there. They looked nice; and I probably had a lot in common with them. If I was intentional, I could make some new friends but I had to act fast because “America’s Christian Heritage” (or some other exceptional workshop) was starting and mom really wanted me to take good notes. Let’s face it, filling a room with young people and then not facilitating interaction leaves many teens begging the question, “What about socialization?” (See what I did there?) When you put a bunch of socialized home schoolers in a room, they want to…well, socialize.
Regardless, workshops remain a fundamental aspect of any home school conference.
In addition to attending, I also grew up working at conferences and events. My parents were on the boards of two home school organizations. This provided many, many opportunities to work and volunteer and work we did! Setting up tables, stuffing packets, printing nametags, working registration, manning booths, etc. Events are hard work and to pull them off takes an army of people. But I’ll let you in on a little secret — volunteering is fun. Really fun. There’s an excitement, an electric undercurrent felt by those involved in a big event. Working alongside others, knowing each small job is helping things to run smoothly, is fulfilling! You may be a small cog in a big machine, but you’re still part of that big machine. And being part of something bigger than yourself is special.
Volunteering is also a big part of every home school conference but one that only a fraction of attendees experience.
In 2000, I began working for the Texas Home School Coalition as Convention Director of their brand new State Convention and Family Conference. The first few years, we had a Teen Track with some really great speakers. Even so, we didn’t have much participation. We got feedback that the workshops were good — there were just so many of them back to back. At the same time, we were also short on volunteers to help run the Convention.
One day my husband Peter and I were talking about plans for the Teen Track when we had an epiphany. Peter and I met as young teens at a home school convention. We got to know each other while working at book fairs and conferences. In fact, what we loved most about these events were the friendships developed while volunteering! Being on the inside built camaraderie and we would look forward to seeing friends each year in various cities. Could we offer that same experience to our teenaged attendees? we wondered. Maybe we should ditch the Teen Track and encourage the teens to volunteer? But if they’ve never volunteered, how do they know they will love it? And some parents really want their teens to attend workshops. These were some of the thoughts running through our heads. After some God-given inspiration and a lot of brainstorming, the Teen Staff Program was born.
What is Teen Staff?
The THSC Teen Staff Program is unique; it combines the richness of quality workshops, the fulfillment and camaraderie built through volunteer service, and the sheer fun of games and team activities. The beauty of the Teen Staff is that everyone wins. Everyone gets something they love out of it. So your 13 year old isn’t super interested in the workshop on foreign language study? That’s okay– he can nerd out during the engineering challenge! Your 18 year old may not have a burning desire to perform a silly skit with her team but the workshop on missions may truly spark a fire. And, perhaps surprisingly to their parents, teens really enjoy the service jobs; hands down, this is always their favorite part. Over the two Convention days, teens rotate through a series of Workshops, Service Jobs, and Activities. The weekend is then topped off with a slide show and t-shirt signing! Teen Staff is an experience like no other. Your teen will love it.
The 2015 THSC Convention in The Woodlands is shaping up to be the best conference yet! Check out more about Teen Staff and our incredible Speaker for your students today.