As I wrap up my conferences for 2019, I’m reflecting on this new thing I’m doing. Before starting 5SLL, I had attended homeschool conferences and conventions of all different sizes. This year, I experienced them not as just a homeschool mom looking for solace and support. This was my first year as a vendor and speaker.
Over the last few months, I have had a booth at 3 different conventions. Two were in my home state and fairly convenient; the third one required more travel.
Each was an interesting experience of its own.
The first Convention of the year was the Virginia Homeschoolers Conference. This one will forever be my home convention. I’ve spoken at this conference for a few years now. I’ve covered topics ranging from teaching handwriting to working with kids with learning challenges. This year I got to speak about my passion for developmentally appropriate education and what that really means for young children. Connecting with the audience about how our children need time to play, and how teaching them about the world doesn’t necessarily mean reading and writing, was wonderful. As home educators, we all need to look past what our schools are doing, to see what our children really need at each age.
While I’ve enjoyed speaking before, this was my first year with a table. It was wonderful to get to continue the conversation I felt I had started during my talk one-on-one with people who stopped by. We discussed their children and what education means to them. Of course, I did point out my curriculum options that I thought would help them. That was fun too.
Next, I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit.
The second convention I attended this year was one where I didn’t know many people. The conference is well established but I had never been to it as a participant or speaker before. I did not get to speak at this conference; I only had a booth. While I missed the speaking part of the event, I enjoyed talking to every person who came to the table to see what I was offering as a new vendor. I met some lovely people and felt like I was able to encourage many of them in their homeschooling journey. This job is not for the faint of heart!
A few moms at this conference approached me specifically because they have a child who is in OT, and they were excited to find a curriculum that would support their child’s fine motor development in addition to covering their academics. Occupational therapy is not always well recognized, so having a woman come up to me and light up, excited to talk to me because of my OT skills is delightful.
The final conference I attended this year was really special.
This conference was the first-ever East Kentucky Homeschool Conference in Pikeville, Kentucky. This conference was special for several reasons. Not only was it the first one to ever happen there, but it was organized by my friend, Katie. Katie and I have been friends since childhood. She was a part of my wedding and we were pregnant at the same time with our first babies. Katie and I have lived in different states for most of our adult lives, but we’ve done our best to stay in touch over the years. When she started to think about homeschooling, I encouraged her to give it a try.
So, this conference gave me a chance to not only speak to new homeschooling families but to see old friends. Katie also gave me the opportunity to do a workshop on my curriculums at this event—which was new for me. Most people I see at conferences get a 3-minute talk about what I am trying to do. But this gave me a chance to speak for a full 45 minutes about my theory of developmentally appropriate education, how to use my programs, and how I do things differently than other programs. Those who attended the talk seemed to enjoy it. And it helped me to start thinking about how I need to offer some vlogs as another way of sharing my message and mission.
Every single conference has been just an amazing experience.
Meeting homeschoolers and talking to them about what they need in educational materials and how I can help them meet their child’s needs is my passion. While I missed out on attending a convention just to hear others speak, it was amazing to be on the other side of things this year. I’m looking forward to next year’s convention season and all it has to offer!
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.