At the end of June, my daughters and I were fortunate to be able to attend the second RFWP Curriculum Conference in Valley Forge, PA. I had attended the inaugural event in 2011, and I was thrilled to learn this next one would include sessions for kids.
I know there are a lot of homeschoolers, especially secular homeschoolers, who are completely turned off by the homeschool convention industry. They don’t want aisle upon aisle of competing takes on Godly curricula. They don’t want cyber school pitches. And they don’t want session after session on how to raise blanket-trained children, watering down academic standards, and improving their wifely attentiveness while leaving the eventual outcome to a higher power. The subset of homeschoolers demanding quality academic conferences is growing, and their voices are finally being heard.
Royal Fireworks Press specializes in gifted education but, as many of us have discovered, their materials are well-suited to kids of all abilities, sometimes with very minor accommodations or adjusted timelines. And I beg you not to judge their effectiveness by my writing, considering I haven’t yet had the chance to complete their high school level programs!
The conference was held at Valley Forge Christian College, with comfortable dorm accommodations and affordable meal plans for the college’s cafeteria. Though Susan Wise Bauer was unable to participate this time, this year’s list of speakers had some exciting additions.
I attended all of Michael Clay Thompson’s sessions in 2011, and my main goal at this conference was to see them again. His passion is incredibly inspiring, and just what I needed to transition from wrapping up a school year to beginning a new one.
This was my first time hearing Dr. Shelagh Gallagher, and I’m glad I did. I’ve had her book, Problem Based Learning In Your Homeschool, on my shelf for about a year, but I’ve also put off truly digging into it for the same amount of time. Listening to her explain the PBL concept and walk us through an example made it seem less intimidating and more enjoyable than I had originally believed. I was excited to pick up copies of Concept Development and Ferret It Out and I’m looking forward to taking it all for a spin and reporting back once it’s underway.
I was also fortunate to attend sessions with Bill Stepien, Dr. Frances Spielhagen, and Dr. Dave Purvis. “Doctor Dave” demonstrated a variety of quick, easy, and exciting science experiments to do with kids. Dr. Spielhagen shared a sneak peek of her upcoming Latin program, and Bill Stepien gave us a taste of what’s to come in his American History program. All three were enjoyable, not only providing information about their products, but really getting to the heart of their philosophies and pedagogy, giving ideas and principles that can be used in any program and across the curriculum.
I wish I could have been in every session, but I didn’t manage to make it to Laurel Dodge’s Nature Study sessions or Dr. K’s session on using iPad textbooks. I tried to see Jen Seron discussing Full Circle Science, but the power outage we were experiencing at the time had me distracted and trying to keep tabs on my daughters and on the sky that was threatening to let loose.
And speaking of the kids, my 10 and 11 year-old daughters had a fabulous time.
They were able to have exciting sessions with most of the speakers mentioned, and loved every minute of it. They made things “explode”, took a nature hike, talked about Ancient Greece and Rome, got very interactive with early US History, and wrote poetry with MCT himself! They truly did feel privileged to be able to spend time with adults whose works help to shape their education. These authors are no longer faceless entities who impose their academic will upon them from the page; they’re real people with whom they’ve shared a fun experience, and now the pages serve as an extension of that time.
I feel the same way. Every one of the presenters welcomed questions and conversation throughout the weekend, including over meals. And the friendly atmosphere among the parents was fabulous. It was great to see familiar faces and to welcome new ones.
I’m looking forward to next year’s conference. There’s talk of including even more activities for the kids, and I would very much enjoy refresher sessions from this year’s event and the opportunity to meet new speakers. We may consider taking the whole family so nobody misses out on such a great experience.
Come join us!