The first homeschool convention/book fair I ever attended was in Plano during the late summer of 2001. Our children were just three and 1½ years old at the time. My wife and I had both experienced public and private schools as children, and as a result we knew some of the pluses and minuses of those two choices. However, we knew practically nothing about homeschooling; it was not even on our life map of things to seriously consider. A friend told my wife about the convention, which she then mentioned it to me. The idea intrigued me because my parents had briefly considered homeschooling one of my sisters and me when we were around middle school to high school age (early 70s). Therefore my wife and I attended with no expectation of deciding to homeschool but thought it best to educate ourselves regarding our options since our children would be school age in just a few short years.
This convention made such an incredibly favorable impression on Phyllis and me that we decided we needed to give homeschooling careful consideration and began to pray about it and cogitate on it over the next months. We were probably most surprised by the volume of curriculum choices and support materials that were available for people who were interested in schooling their children by this method. We are also very much encouraged by the overwhelming preponderance of materials being based on a Biblical worldview. Later, someone told us that the homeschool convention in Arlington hosted by Hearth and Home Ministries, held annually in May, was an even larger event with more booths, curricula, and materials. We made the decision to attend the spring 2003 book fair sometime in 2002, and because we wanted the time to learn about and to carefully consider various curriculum options, we chose to make it an overnighter.
Thus began our annual ‘date night’ in Arlington. Some might consider this a rather unusual and unromantic version of a date night, but we have always savored our brief private time away from the children. Since we normally do almost everything together as a family (and prefer it that way), it does not seem so odd to us to enjoy getting away for the purpose of thinking and planning for our children’s future. Typically, we either drop our children off at my retired parents’ home on Thursday evening or one of them comes over to our house to stay and supervises them until we return.
We generally stay at a hotel which is adjacent to the convention center. However, one year we stayed at a nearby motel because we thought it might be good to save a few dollars. I think we were on the second floor of three stories. In the middle of the night we were awakened from a deep sleep by a traveling youth soccer team that had begun kicking one of their balls around in the room above us as well as in the adjoining third floor hallway; they were stomping around quite vigorously. After listening to this racket for a while, we called the front desk and requested help in regaining our tranquility. It seemed like the balls kept bouncing and the stomping continued on forever, but it finally settled down about 30 to 45 minutes after calling the front desk. After waking up at daylight and feeling unrefreshed, we resolved never to stay in an inexpensive motel again for our special date night.
Typically, after spending Friday wandering around in the convention center, acquiring brochures, making a few purchases and sitting through workshops, our feet and minds are weary. So we generally leave the convention hall a bit early to check into the hotel, rest our feet for a bit and look over some of the items which we picked up. After that, we enjoy driving around looking for a new (to us) restaurant to try out their culinary skills and ambiance. We prefer something on the quieter side. We have generally had good luck with our selections, and we always relish the special time together. Then it is back to the hotel to kick off our shoes and crawl into bed or into a chair to read something interesting that we picked up at the convention. We bounce ideas off one another and try to plan strategically for several years in advance (usually future decisions about curricula are made one to three years in advance). For us this is a wonderful break from interruptions, and it allows us to discuss and to mull over ideas that we often cannot easily do in the presence of the children.
My wife greatly values the time that I spend with her and my personal involvement in the decision-making process with regard to choosing curriculum. I enjoy the one-on-one time with her without the constant distractions that the children normally interject into our conversations. We sleep in on Saturday morning (sleeping in for us might be until 7:00 to 7:30 a.m.) and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel which I treasure very much (all you can eat buffet with eggs made to order). We then wander over to the convention hall and continue visiting booths, making purchases and attending workshops.
One special treat for us is that we always purchase one or more books, CDs, or DVDs for our own personal pleasure; I have even been known on occasion to make a sneaky purchase or two as a Mother’s Day gift for my wife and then slip out to my car to hide it somewhere inside.
All in all, it is a charming experience for both of us. We end up being pumped up and encouraged for the next year of teaching with reenergized minds. Our children enjoy their special time with their grandparents. When we reunite late Saturday afternoon, we all get to share what happened with each other on the way back to our home in Garland.
Brian Shepherd can be contacted by email at TheShepherdFlock@Verizon.net.