As promised, now that I’m semi-lucid and less sleep deprived, I’m writing about the SEA Convention experience. It was crazy for this admitted introvert, but a lot of fun! Plus, I was alone. No kids, the hotel room all to myself – that alone made it a restful experience.
Seriously though, I left the convention feeling energized about homeschooling, excited about the next year, and sad that I wasn’t going to see all of these folks until 2020 at the next convention. We joked (a tad seriously) about buying an island and living in a SEA commune together for that community that we all feel is lacking in our own lives. Getting to spend time with everyone was an amazing experience!
On Thursday, I fought traffic and managed to arrive in time for the Homeschooling 101 session that I was part of. That session had a ton of experienced people willing and ready to offer advice and suggestions not only as speakers, but as individual attendees. It was a great session. I was secretly worried that no one would come to my table for the round table discussion portion, but I shouldn’t have worried at all! In fact, I loved how helpful and supportive the attendees were to each other, offering advice and commiseration for those feeling overwhelmed or lost.
I think this session should be offered for every homeschool convention, because it’s a chance to sit down and talk with people in a very personal way. Sitting up on the podium or standing in front of the audience is impersonal – the round table experience was a wonderful way to connect with each other as attendees and as speakers.
The nerve-wracking session
On Friday, I had my talk. And let me tell you – next time I’m upgrading my technology. 4 devices and 2 projectors later, we couldn’t get my presentation to work. My outdated laptop is going in the trash bin! For those who attended, I’m working on getting the presentation and handout uploaded to the speaker page – or here. Here might be easier. I’ll figure it out and post when it’s up.
As someone who hates public speaking, I was super happy to get my talks out-of-the-way early on. Many thanks to the Executive Director Kathryn Grogg – I know she didn’t plan it that way, but it worked perfectly! My audience made everything so much better – they had the best questions and I really felt like I was able to connect with them.
I can’t really talk about all the interesting speakers because I was at my vendor table, but I can tell you that keynote speakers Julie Bogart and Barbara Oakley were amazing individuals to chat with. I got a chance to meet Barbara Oakley at one of the meetups, and she’s such a down-to-earth, kind individual. I highly recommend her book Learning How To Learn, and there’s a workbook/curriculum coming out soon to accompany it as well.
I have no experience with the Brave Writer curriculums, so I went into this conference completely ignorant. My vendor table was right next to Julie Bogart’s table, and after 2 days of watching her interact, wow! She’s an amazing, caring, genuine person. My kid doesn’t need the curriculum now, but I am certainly getting it when he’s older. She has a practical, thoughtful, calm approach to homeschooling that is so helpful, especially for new homeschoolers. I highly recommend Brave Writer to everyone who needs a thoughtful writing approach.
The kids’ programming
I was really bummed that my kids weren’t able to come to these. Everyone I spoke with raved about the maker space and the art room – their kids had a blast! I hope that those features come back for the 2020 conference because my kids are planning to attend next time. The kid’s programming was thoughtfully done and fun, according to every kid I talked to. Big thumbs up on that!
I think for me, the highlight of the conference was the ability to network and interact with people I wouldn’t normally meet, whom I consider to be highly influential in the secular community. People like Amir Nathoo, co-founder of Outschool, J.R. Becker, children’s author of the Annabelle and Aiden series, Amanda McClure , owner of Groovy Kids Online, and Vallery Grosso, of Be Naturally Curious, whose unit studies we already own and love. And of course, SEA founder Blair Lee, who literally snagged my out of my introvert shell and dropped me at a table to talk to people (thank you, I think?)
All of these people were amazingly down-to-earth and willing to sit down and talk. They care about the secular community, and they are involved in ways that you might not be aware of. Emily Cook of Build Your Library, Amanda McClure of Groovy Kids Online, Amir Nathoo of Outschool, and others are all active in the SEA Homeschoolers groups and frequently answer questions and respond to issues about their products. SEA member don’t just purchase their products – we interact with them in a personal way.
I didn’t just interact with the vendors and speakers, of course. I had the chance to meet you guys: the SEA members. And you guys were just as amazing! The SEA community is strong because of its members – you guys are supportive, caring, sharing, and fun to be around. I was blown away by the support for my art curriculum and the positive attitudes towards the small fry that I am. I might not have many products in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you guys made me feel like I belonged there as a vendor.
The SEA community is awesome!
Suggestions for the next conference
A PSA about glass elevators would have been appreciated! The hotel was lovely, but oh my! 47 floors of sheer up and down, with elevators that showed every viewpoint on your way up. My anxiety levels shot way up over that, and I was super grateful that my kids didn’t stay with me on the 21st floor with its walkways lined only by an optimistic iron grate on the edges.
I would like to request a Midwest conference location near my in-laws’ so that we can combine vacation with conference – I’m happy to share precisely where that is if the SEA team is interested 🙂
I think that the first conference location at a college fit the SEA model better, but that’s my own opinion. The hotel was lovely but expensive, and I worried that the costs would be excessive for SEA to deal with. The costs for attending were a little high as well, and I wistfully remembered the low-cost dorm option at the first conference. Even with the convention prices it wasn’t a cheap trip for me when the price of food, hotel, and parking combined. So next time, I’m hoping we’ll go back to a college.
Overall, great job and I really enjoyed it – looking forward to 2020 already!