Homeschooling / Unschooling Conferences in California 2015 – The List

It’s that time of year I’m most likely to feel on edge. The school year isn’t over yet but the weather is great. I want to dream about what we’re all going to learn next year, I want to plan camping trips, I want to get out on dates my husband and dinners with my girlfriends. Oh, and I want to stay in bed and read.

The last thing I want to think about is a schedule. But alas. We still have another month before we’re done. So I’m taking the time now to dream.

Here’s a list of homeschooling or unschooling conferences this year that seem interesting to me and close enough that I can at least hope to attend them. I plan on making it out to at least a handful for inspiration, curriculum and new friendships.


Great Homeschool Convention in California – promises to be good. They have speakers like Heidi St. John, Cathy Duffy, Dr. Jay Wile and Matt Walsh. Registration is $45 per person and $60 per family. (Pricing increases the closer you get to the date.) Conference runs June 18th – 20th, 2015.

Homeschool Association of California Conference – is in San Jose from August 6 – 9. I’m especially interested in this one. It definitely seems closer to my general philosophy of homeschool / unschool. Their keynote speaker is Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn. Registration is $220. There is also a one-day pass available for $100 per person.

Valley Home Educators Conference was the one I attended last year. No pre-registration necessary. It runs July 24 and 25 in Modesto. $32 per person or $120 per family. Speakers include Andrew Pudewa, Annette and Steve Economides, Kathy Lipp, Teri Spray and Rebecca Keliher.

Christian Home Educators Convention – will be in Pasadena. Registration is $92 and your spouse attends free. They also have a free e-conference if you’re unable to attend as well as teen and children’s conferences on site. Click the link for more information. Convention runs July 16 – 18, 2015.

Sacramento Christian Organization of Parent Educators (SCOPE) Conference has a different location this year. It will be held in Rocklin from June 11 – 13. Registration is $65 per person (spouse free) or $85 per family. Keynote speakers include Dr. Jobe Martin, Bryan Osborne from Answers in Genesis (AIG) and Mike Smith from Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA.)

California Homeschool Network Family Expo will include a used curriculum sale along with their conference on June 25 – 28 in Torrance. Registration is $75 per person or $90 for a couple.

TriCounties Home Education Network Conference is on May 15 and 16 and includes speakers James Glenn, Sharon Hensley and Pat Roy amongst others. The conference will be held in Santa Rosa.


(Note: I had to extend my search to all include all of the Western USA because I couldn’t find as many unschooling conferences in California alone. Please don’t hate me.)

Homeschool Association of California Conference – is in San Jose from August 6 – 9. Their keynote speaker is Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn. Registration is $220. There is also a one-day pass available for $100 per person. Yes, I included this twice. It seemed to fit here.

Free To Be Unschooling Conference will be held in Phoenix, AZ from October 1 – 4. Registration is $160 per person.

Life is Good Conference will be held in Vancouver, WA from May 22 – 25. Registration is $80 per person. Presenters include Shannon Loucks, Pam Sorooshian, and Marina Shuman, amongst others.

So that’s it. I’m off to make plans. Summer is a great time to recharge and meet other homeschoolers and unschoolers and plan and think, and mainly, to dream.

Did I miss any? Let me know and I’ll include them here.

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Obedience Versus Self-Direction

In my younger years, I had a distinct aversion to the word “obedience.” If you had prodded a little, you would have found that you might have agreed with me.

I did want to obey my parents – I loved them. What I pictured in my mind when the word “obedience” was used was however walking rank and file and doing everything they said immediately with my head bowed. In other words, I mistook obedience for obsequiousness.

Today, as a mom, I realize I am not raising an army and I am no commander. I am working with children. And while I do love obedient kids, I do not want them to wait to be told what to do every time, every minute of every day. Am I treading a fine line here? Certainly.

When I instituted (or allowed, as you might argue) unlimited screen time in our home, I knew what I was doing. I had spent years teaching my children to check the clock, we had schedules for quiet time, nap time, bed time, lunch, dinner, you name it, that they were well entrenched in. They checked the clock often. They could tell time. They even obeyed me when I told them that bedtime was at seven. They could argue their cause for twenty minutes of play over ten.

But what they had still not learned was managing their time.

They had become used to me standing over them, directing them into different activities. And, yes, when they were five and under, there was a time and place for that. But not any more. I want them to move from simple obedience to self-direction. It’s a higher form of obedience, I’m beginning to believe. My instructions are clear but they are not exhaustive. I still do expect obedience, but I will not micromanage their time. I will not shield them from making mistakes and suffering the consequences of their behavior.

Will there be some hand holding along the way? Of course. But we’re getting very close to the time when they will have to learn not just to walk without hanging on my hand, but fly. These are the first flutters.

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When Should You Start Homeschooling?

Ah, homeschooling! The pictures in our heads one small word can evoke! Little children sitting peacefully at the dinner table writing. Or swinging in the backyard as the school bus trundles through the neighborhood. Nice pictures and true, I might add, on some days. Except that they have the power to ruin the reality in front of you everyday.

When my oldest daughter (now six) was two, I decided to take the leap into school. I had read a few reviews on Amazon. I was very excited about it all, I had done all my research and preschool homeschool seemed to be my thing. I was ready to go.

Except for one small thing. She wasn’t. And no matter how many counting bears I lined up, no matter how colorful the books I wanted to read to her, she wasn’t learning. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong.

It wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me. She wasn’t ready! What a revelation!

In spite of every homeschooling book out there I had read, I had jumped the gun. I hadn’t given her enough time to catch up developmentally before dumping her into academics. I know, I know, counting bears isn’t exactly academic. Still. I also had her style of learning and my style of teaching completely wrong. Once I figured these things out, it changed the way I saw my role. It also saved me time, money (those counting bears were lost, barely used) and my sanity.

So I put it all aside – the schoolwork, the books, the curriculum. You know what I did? I waited. A whole two and a half years. And even at that, we did minimal things for homeschool – Lego Duplos, some play dough, Leapfrog DVDs for phonics. That’s it.

I often say a lot of parenting is waiting. Homeschool isn’t much different.


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The Unconventional Guide to Time Management (for my kids)

Well, we’re at the point where enough is enough. I have been teaching my children the routine for far too long.

We have been doing the same thing – well, almost the same thing – every single day. There is school, free time, quiet time, breakfast, lunch, dinner, chores, you know, a life lived together.

So I’m going to try something new. I’m going to give them the gift of learning the art of time management for themselves. It isn’t that different, really.

How it’s been going so far is this. Me: Okay, kids. It’s now eight. Chores. Kids: All right. Me: Okay, kids, it’s now nine. Time to have breakfast. Kids: Yes, mom. Me: Okay, school. Kids: Okay, mom. You get the drift. And this is how I want it to go. Me: School starts at 9, guys. At nine o’ clock, kids: Mom, I’m ready for school.

Really, how hard can it be? Well, I might have found out today.

Five minutes before our scheduled time for school, I confront my daughter, video game controller in her hand.

“But I didn’t hear you!” “But my brothers are always playing.” “But… but I didn’t know.”

After about ten minutes of listening to her non-excuses and explaining how things are going to go from now on, we moved on to doing the things we wanted to get done in the first place.

After all, since we’ve decided to unschool – at least on a small level – they’re going to need to learn to manage their own time.

Ultimately, I’m choosing to focus on the effort and energy I will save in the future by guiding them to learn to manage their own schedule. It will take effort now, but it will pay off in the end.

I’m eating my frog and they’re going to learn to eat theirs.

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Unschooling Homeschool: Seeing Limitations as Strengths

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the matter of limitations lately and how it relates to being a mother and a homeschooler.

I have come across this idea of seeing your limitations as strengths a few times now. Seth Godin talks about embracing your boundaries and then today I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell who says the same thing in a different way. And unless I’m mistaken, Rework says something similar about staying small.

There is real wisdom here.

How many times have you thought, “I can’t do that because I don’t have the resources,” or “Well, it’s great that you homeschool, and I would like to, but I can’t because I’m not _______ (fill in the blank with your specific limitation) enough.” And while that may be true, this way of thinking invites us, at least for a short while, to consider something other than the limitations, to think differently from others, to see what we possess instead of what we lack and see if it could somehow enhance what we are trying to achieve.

Then again, isn’t that the essence of motherhood? Or, for that matter, all parenting? Why should school be any different?

When we first started homeschooling, I wasn’t interested in replicating schools. I wasn’t trying to do school at home, but somewhere along the line, with the discussion of curricula, schedules, history and science, math and reading, that desire began to overtake me. Until I consciously shrugged it off. It’s not me. And it’s not my children. It’s not compatible with how my children learn best, so why was I doing it? Simple answer: because everyone else I spoke with was. It wasn’t until I took a step back to see the bigger picture, to plan and think that I thought about change.

Your children’s style of learning, the way they keep their room, even the way they hold their head and say, “huh?” when they don’t get something, the size of your home, the schedule you keep, the books you read, the clothes you wear, your personal perspective on life, on food, on education – it all matters.

And the fact that you simply cannot teach like the schools do, far from being a weakness, is a strength with unfathomable depth.

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The Quote About School That Got Me Thinking

And this is exactly is why I read books seemingly unrelated to homeschool. Here’s a quote from Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants that stuck with me.

Parents still tell their children to go to the best schools they possibly can, on the grounds that the best schools will allow them to do whatever they wish. We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is – and the definition isn’t right. And what happens as a result? It means that we make mistakes. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants. It means that we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage. It’s the Little Pond that maximizes your chances to do whatever you want.

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Unruffling our Homeschool by Unschooling

Years before the kids were ready and I was delving deep into the library shelves to research education, learning and homeschooling styles and resources, I was inspired by ideas where the children could learn at their own (developmental) pace, where learning would be organic, where we wouldn’t try to replicate the classroom environment and where we all could just relax about it all.

But ever since my oldest turned six and our little homeschool entered the “official” age, by which I mean that I had to file as a private school in the state of California, something changed in our school, potentially changing something in the way I relate to my children and education in general. I had to keep an official record of attendance, vaccinations, a scope and sequence for each child and copious records of what we were covering in the “school year.”

Gone were the relaxed, lazy learning days, I told myself.

Now we had curricula to think of, a certain amount of learning had to get done during the day, there were dates, days, hours, minutes. And while I have liked to keep records, pictures and memories, doing so in an official capacity changed what I perceived as important.

It hasn’t been until now, almost a year in, that I have begun to relax into it again, unruffling our homeschool.

So this is what we do now – we focus on some key areas and everything else is learned organically. The key areas are simple. Reading, writing, math and Bible. Everything else is learned through videos, library books and websites. This includes history and science. More importantly, I don’t panic when they don’t learn something on schedule. I don’t buy the hype about early childhood education and I recently started to allow unlimited screen time.

There is a method to the madness, but it’s not instantly obvious.

If you come to my house, you won’t see the kids’ heads in books. Learning, I’m finding out, doesn’t necessarily happen how and when I think it does.

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Three Ways to Eliminate Mom Guilt

I recently read Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I devoured it whole in one sitting last evening.

Even though it is a business book, I think our current culture of harried moms who eat this concoction we refer to as “mom guilt” would benefit immensely from reading it.

Take for example this nugget I found.

An editor is not someone who merely says no to things. A three year old can do that. Nor does an editor simply eliminate; in a way, an editor actually adds. […] a good editor uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life. […] Likewise, in life, disciplined editing can increase your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter.

I might be an editor at heart.

I find that moms who know their number one priority on any given day seem happier in general and are less likely to say they suffer mom guilt.

So how do you avoid mom guilt? Here are some suggestions.

Discern what’s really important

McKeown suggests setting aside some time to discern what’s most important. As moms, we are bombarded with decisions every minute and they all can seem vital. Add to that the pressures of social media and each day seems to evaporate before it even begins.

Set some time aside periodically to think, not just about the daily or weekly to-do and grocery shopping list, but the bigger picture. What are you trying to achieve? What do you want to teach your children? How do you want your home to look?

Be realistic. Be concrete and then ruthlessly eliminate everything else that takes away from those goals. And suffer no mom guilt for it. Mom guilt stems mostly from feeling like you should do something when you have no desire or inclination to do so. It is a result of letting others decide for you.

It is easier to eliminate mom guilt if you have consciously chosen one thing over another.

Don’t downplay the trade offs

These are inevitable because we’re human and we cannot do everything. But I don’t think we realize that.

As moms, we think we must do everything and do it right away. Not true.

When my husband and I decided to homeschool, I knew there were certain things we were going to have to give up – things like me having a job outside the home, or being able to go places during the day without children.

When we decided to unschool, there were certain assurances we were sacrificing – things like whether the kids would in lock-step academically with their public schooled peers. When we decided to save money to pay off the mortgage, to never be in debt, there were consequences to that – the budget had to be maintained, there were no long vacations, we had to live frugally and make the most of it.

Everything has a trade-off. If you haven’t taken the time to think through these things, guilt will likely follow and you will be right back running from one form of mom guilt to another. 

Hang on tight!

Choice, says the author, is not a thing, it’s an action.

We don’t have choice, we choose. But there is an art to choosing. His criterion is that if something isn’t an absolute yes, then it’s an absolute no. (He says that if your reaction is not a Hell, yeah! you should go with No.)Tough, but effective.

Thought about this way, every decision is put into perspective against your (limited) time, your (short) life. I think mom guilt assumes we have more than twenty-four hours in a day, that we have no need for sleep, that we have unlimited room in our tired bedheads, and no need for any other human contact but the kids. All are fallacies.

When you choose, hang on tight; chances are you will be required to continue choosing the thing you have chosen.

Which brings us right back to the quote about editing above. Moms without mom guilt are great editors.

I have been teaching my kids subtraction lately and I can’t tell you how nervous it makes my daughter. Even though she is good at it, she wants to jump straight to multiplication.

I think we’ll stay here a while, subtracting, removing, eliminating. It could be the best thing she has learned all year.

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It’s (Unlimited Screen)Time in our Homeschool Unschool!

“All eyes up!” I said to little heads deep in pads and phones this morning. Six eyes stared back at me. They had passed the test. I was going to let them feel the full force of this win.

There seems to be a common thread in the unschool-homeschool community lately – screen time. How much is enough? Should it be limited, unlimited? I have tiptoed around this issue of technology in our homeschool many a time, even flirting with the idea of unlimited screen time for my children.

Well, the time has come. Did I hear you gasp? No, that was me. And maybe not just in my thoughts.

As I have said elsewhere in my blog,

If you have a well-developed conviction about avoiding technology and you’re the sort of person who doesn’t use it yourself, trust me, I totally get it. I have friends like you who would rather live in the countryside and be perfectly happy churning their own butter, raising hens and never seeing a computer screen again. But I’m not one of them. Recreating the past without my modern conveniences does not appeal to me and I don’t have any reason to think either is better or worse.

I have thought long and hard about it and it’s happening, people. I’m no longer toying with the idea. It’s becoming a reality as we speak. With the help of K9 parental controls – which I have heard nothing but good things about – I am actually going to let my children have all the screen time they want. The caveat, of course, is that their chores and their “sit down school” must be done. They are to eat their meals with no electronics at the table and interact with us. Beyond that, it’s going to be an electronic jungle.

My daughter already has a virtual pet cat. So it begins.

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I Don’t Buy the Hype about Preschool Education

Another study has come out saying how early childhood or preschool “education,” especially of the academic kind does not help children do better as they get older, but is anyone listening?

Even as I write this someone has sent me a private message with a list of things children need to know before they enter – get this – kindergarten! The list includes: know their ABCs, be able to write their name, count to 20, the ability to sit still for twenty minutes, memorize their phone number and street address. Wow. My kids don’t stand a chance!

We did very little preschool, choosing to do crafts and other unimportant things like playing outside, reading and singing songs instead. What a waste of time. I should have been holding Hucksley’s hand, teaching him how to write his name, which he still, at five, cannot do well. I’m such a failure.

What bothers me most about this push for earlier and earlier education is that California has tried in the past to make kindergarten mandatory and will try again.

No one is paying attention to the myriad studies that insist over and over that children develop at different rates and the best thing at younger ages is to let them play. This is where I agree wholeheartedly with the unschooling community that wants the government out of their children’s education altogether. Sounds perfect to me!

If you want to read about it, look into the research for yourself. Read David Elkind, read John Holt, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Thomas Sowell, amongst others.

Don’t go by popular opinion, ubiquitous as it might be, reiterated by politicians.

I’m afraid mandatory kindergarten is becoming more of a certainty every day at the expense of parental rights and I’m worried how the place we live will look to our children and our children’s children – if they will even have the right to homeschool or we will have creches, like the French.

Yeah, put me down for the Ugh size.

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