Saturday, June 07, 2008

2008 HEAV Conference

Llewellyn and I are attending the annual Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) meeting in Richmond. This is the big gathering for Christian homeschool families each year. The Exhibition Hall in the convention center has about 300 displays by homeschool curricula vendors, book sellers, and homeschool related ministries.
Yesterday (Friday) we skipped the morning keynote and did shopping in the Exhibits and in the Used Curriculum sale (found a copy of Machen's NT Greek Grammar for a $1!).
I did go to the morning workshop by Dr. Jay Wile on "Why Homeschool Through High School." Wile is a good presenter. He has an earned Phd in Nuclear Chemistry from the University of Rochester and taught at the University of Indiana and Ball State. He is the author of the Apologia science curriculum, used by many homeschoolers.
He started off by discussing low achievement standards of public school students and moved on to the social and spiritual issues of public schooling. One of many facts: 78% of public students responded "yes" when asked if they had been picked on or bullied in the last month in school.
For parents who feel inadequate, he noted the key factor in a child's achievement (public, private, and homeschool) is parent involvement. He noted that as children get older you should not have to teach them. The parent role changes over time from teacher to tutor to fellow learner.
As an aside, Wile had one of the best lines of the day. Regarding the Virginia homeschool group's name (HEAV) he said he and a friend decided it should be changed to Virginia Organization of Moms Involved in Teaching (that's VOMIT)!
In the afternoon I went to the session with the Botkin sisters on writing a book. Here's my review of their book So Much More. The young ladies, along with their Dad, Geoffrey Botkin, spoke very articulately and confidently about the writing of their book (began when they were homeschooled teens).
They began by quoting historian Paul Johnson who said, "I write books to educate myself."
They stressed that their parent had trained them to be disciple-makers. They want "Biblically defined success." They noted that the books that have made the biggest impact over time were not always best sellers at first. The key was a writer who was passionate about the message (citing works as diverse as Luther's Bondage of the Will, Friedan's The Feminist Mystique, and Darwin's Origin of the Species [without, of course, expressing approval for all these]). They suggested that history is dominated by minority opinions.
They described some aspects of their own home education. They noted Ben Franklin's account of sharpening his writing by imitating the style of the best writing. Their mom made them write one page each day as children. Their home was full of intellectual curiosity. Their parents encouraged them to read things that were "too hard" for them. They had vigorous discussions around the dinner table.
They ended with a string of practical tips:
1. Write to answer a need.
2. Aim for excellence.
3. Read more than your write.
4. Write what you know.
5. Know your place and jurisdiction. So, as young women they wrote to their peers, not to married women or fathers.
6. Choose your angle.
7. Be humble, flexible, and open to change. Especially be willing to edit and omit. If it is not absolutely necessary, remove it.
8. Write so people can understand. They noted their love for old books and that they had to resisit a tendency to write in archaic fashion.
9. Make sure what you're saying is true.
10. Feel the weight of your responsibility. Writers are teachers.
These young women did an excellent job is presentation. One pet peeve. At the end their Dad read from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and applied it to the point above on writer's responsibility. This may be true in principle but the text is not directed to writers but to pastors.
Finally, we went to the final plenary session in which HEAV celebrated its 25th Anniversary. There were testimonies (from folks like the Boyers of Lynchburg) on court cases on charges of truancy for pioneer homeschoolers and the fight in the General Assembly in 1983 to pass legislation allowing homeschooling. Now over 27,000 students are reported to be homeschooling in Virginia (and there are likely more unreported).

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