This year's keynote speaker, Andrew Pudewa, presented a couple of talks on the importance of reading, writing and speaking. He also led several workshops on more specific topics. Those we attended included "Humor in Teaching", "Reaching Reluctant Writers" and "Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day." If you ever get a chance to hear Andrew speak, please try to attend. He's an amazing speaker who makes a lot of sense and at the same time makes his subject entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny! A friend told us that she overheard another person say that in the ten years they've attended this conference Andrew was the best speaker they've ever heard.
Andrew's first keynote was about the nature of the public education system and how it was originally designed to produce better workers and not better people. He then went on to talk about what we could do as home educators to ensure our children turned out to be the opposite - people with character and the knowledge to pursue their passions.
The first workshop we attended was "Teaching The Way They Learn" and our instructor was Carol Krahn. We learned some ways we can help children learn depending on which side of their brain is dominant. The next workshop was somewhat related and had to do with neurological brain development - "OK, Now I'm Teaching So Why Aren't They Learning?" This workshop had to do with children who may have some sort of glitch in their brain that may make it difficult to learn, possibly signals from eyes or ears not being processed by the brain properly. We were given suggestions on what to look out for and suggestions on how to deal with these possible problems. These two sessions were important for us to attend as Matthew is behind his twin brother Michael in physical and intellectual development and we want to be prepared for educational issues. So far we're hopeful he's just "behind" and he'll just learn at his own pace but it's better to be prepared, right?
The next two workshops were both Andrew's and as the two above were somewhat related - "Reaching Reluctant Writers" and "Boys and Forts". Andrew asked us if we had children who would rather clean all the toilets in the house for a week than write and I immediately thought "That's Mitchell!" In the first talk he gave us a process to follow to get these kinds of children writing. This involved taking a short passage (his suggestion was an Aesop fable) and have the child underline three words from each sentence that were important and write them in an outline. Then the child can take those words and recreate the passage. Andrew also suggested concentrating on the composition and not the spelling and neatness and went so far as to suggest allowing them to use a pen to enforce this as correcting their writing would distract them from the important part of the exercise which was the composition. The "Boys and Forts" talk expanded on this above by suggesting ways to encourage children who may have difficulty writing and suggested ways to provide an environment for them to excel. We learned boys prefer a cooler room than girls and it also might be good to make chairs optional for boys as they have a hard time sitting still to work (boy do I know that!).
Andrew's closing keynote was "Nurturing Excellent Writers and Speakers". This talk emphasised the importance of reading out loud. It didn't matter who did it. It could be the child, the parent, or even audiobooks. He also spoke on the importance of memorization as a way to build a child's brain. All these would help to counter the negative/improper language of the media and peers as well.
Those of you wishing to learn more about Andrew, his Institute For Exellence In Writing and their products, you could visit the web site at http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/. Their Canadian distributors are at http://www.excellentresources.net/.
Although this was a homeschooling convention it had a bit of a physical fitness component as it was a bit of walk between the main exhibitor display room and the rooms and auditorium where the workshops were. I guess walking isn't a bad thing but when you're carrying bags of goodies from the used book sale and shiny new books from the exhibitors it's a bit of workout. Good thing there was a room for checking coats and our bags of goodies...upstairs! We were also supplied with a couple of tasty meals. Friday supper was salad and pasta with a couple of trays of awesome treats for those of us with a sweet tooth. Saturday lunch was salad and cold cuts for sandwiches as well as those trays of goodies again! Sooo yummy...
My only complaint is that they should have added another day so I could get to some of the other workshops I couldn't attend as they were scheduled at the same time as the ones I did attend. I'd have liked to attend the one on unschooling and another on digital creativity. But hey, there's always next year! I'm looking forward to it already!