There are currently about 2.2 million homeschoolers in the United States. It is growing incredibly and is more and more visible locally, according to Sue Puchferran, a member of the Home Education Foundation Board of Directors. Still for parents and students who are new to homeschooling, it can be intimidating. Newcomers may wonder where to start, how to get involved, how to purchase curriculum and many other concerning questions. Fortunately, the Florida Parent Educators Association comes along side new and veteran homeschool families to help them make the best decisions possible for their children’s education. This is partially achieved through their statewide homeschool convention, which takes place at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando from May 21-24. Now in it’s 30th year, the FPEA Florida Homeschool Convention has grown to be the largest homeschool convention in the country with over 17,000 people in attendance.
Laura Melvin, a homeschool mom who has attended the convention seven or eight times, explained that although the convention can be intimidating, it is very informative and displays a huge support system for homeschooling. If you are considering homeschooling your children, the convention is an incredible opportunity.
Finding the right curriculum
Vicki Montgomery, a homeschool mom who has attended the convention for 17 years, is going back this year for the Leadership Forum. She shared that one of the main reasons she attends the convention is for the exhibit hall. This hall houses vendors with many booths with different curriculums offered at each booth. The different vendors carry the best curriculum for different learning styles, ages, grades and many other aspects. Parents can browse the curriculum offered and pick what they feel would best suit their children.
Karah Melvin, a homeschool student from Loxahatchee, explained that one of the things she most enjoys about the convention is having the opportunity to help her parents pick the curriculum that seems most appealing to her. She said she enjoys being so involved in choosing the way that she will be learning. Being able to pick the curriculum parents feel is best for their children is one of the many positives of homeschooling.
In addition to the exhibit hall, Montgomery said the convention speakers are also an enormous help to homeschool families. She said the speakers often elaborate on how to teach a wide age range at once, which requires a different approach from the traditional classroom where children are all the same age.
Puchferran explained that what she finds most helpful is when the speakers inform parents of opportunities to have free dual enrollment, eligibility for scholarships, the ability to play on school sports teams and many other things. Brenda Dickinson, president of the Home Education Foundation, has fought hard for these rights as a lobbyist for home education in Tallahassee. She and other speakers help the parents understand that and the many rights and privileges they have to home educate their children.
Events for kids
Events for children and teenagers make the convention an enjoyable experience for the whole family. McKinsey Duquette, a homeschool student from Coconut Creek, explained that she felt the convention allowed her to connect with other homeschoolers through events and other opportunities at the convention in the past. This year, children ages 5-12 can partake in a two day children’s program hosted by Mad Science.
For teenagers 13-19 years old, the convention is offering “A Teen’s Future in Science: To Boldly Go and Explore Creation.” Many speakers will share with them the future of science and how science can help them grow closer to God. Engaging and fun activities can be found for the whole family.
This year the convention offers a father/daughter event and a mother/son event on Friday night from 7:30 to 9 p.m. For fathers and daughters, a night of fellowship is offered with father-daughter games, encouraging words and the opportunity to grow closer together. Todd Wilson will be the guest speaker for the night. Meanwhile, mothers and sons can battle in a Lego building competition.
On top of all of the exhilarating events taking place this weekend, FPEA also allows Florida Homeschool Seniors to have their own high school graduation where they can physically walk across the stage in a cap and gown to receive a diploma with other students who share in the unique quality of being homeschooled. Hundreds of students come from many different counties to graduate in this enormous celebration.
Jamey Hallas graduated with the FPEA last year and said it was an incredible experience. Hallas said many enjoyable activities allowed her to get to know the hundreds of people graduating alongside her, and everybody was so excited to graduate that she would not change the experience for anything. This year, the graduation event takes place on Sunday, May 24 at 11 am at the Gaylord Palms Resort. This graduation is a delightful way to close out a wonderful weekend full of educational opportunities and homeschool fun.
To sign up for the convention, visit fpea.com. According to Montgomery, if you are a homeschool family who has never been, you should definitely go. The convention allows you to rethink and better your homeschool techniques. This weekend will create learning experiences and many memories for your family that you will not want to miss.
Kaylee Greene is a homeschool student and a Good News intern. She can be reached at [email protected].