Wednesday, April 8, 2009

IAHE Convention

Last weekend, my wife and I attended the 24th annual Indiana Association of Home Educators convention, in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was the third or fourth year we've attended (we couldn't exactly remember). I thought I'd post some pictures and thoughts about the convention specifically, and homeschooling in general.

Though the name of the association doesn't contain the word "Christian", it is wholly and unashamedly a Christian organization. Anyone attending that didn't know that before, was in for a surprise and could be nothing but convinced of this fact. The state of Indiana is divided into approximately 14 areas with representative to the association from each. The convention is on Friday and Saturday, from nine a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Throughout the day, there are seminars on a number of topics, including; teaching special needs kids, parenting issues, developing a strong Christian world-view, record keeping for high school students, different ways of teaching math, science, grammar, etc., to how to coach a sports team for homeschoolers, and much more. There are always two main speakers that present messages at the beginning of each day, and seminars throughout the convention. Additionally, there is a spelling bee and art exhibit/competition. Let me tell you, there are some seriously talented homeschoolers! This young lady won Grand Champion in her age class. WOW!

This year, we were honored to have Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and director of The Creation Museum (in Kentucky, wonderful place... go see it!), and Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum, who has a degree in Constitutional Law and worked for the Home School Legal Defense Association for a number of years.

Mr. Ham is always a wonderful speaker. I've heard him before and he is always convincing, convicting, and inspiring. Basically, what I came away with this year from him is (in a very small nutshell), if you don't believe in the historical truth of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, then you call the validity of the rest of the Bible into question. This is one of the biggest reasons that Christian children grow up and leave their faith later in life. I'll be working for awhile to retrain my mind, because I too was a product of public education and I always had questions about the Earth and how science and the Bible fit. However, I'm learning that science, when properly applied and honestly approached, actually supports the Bible more than evolution or the big bang.

Mr. Phillips took most of my attention for the weekend. His seminars weren't about legal issues, that's not what he does now. He works to help parents (fathers in particular) develop a vision for their families. He teaches about the necessity of passing on a Godly heritage, about discipling our kids for the Kingdom of God. Frankly, I've been struggling with my kids the past few months and I needed some encouragement. I can't say that I came away thinking, "WOW that was amazing, best thing I've ever heard!!!" But I think sometimes those kinds of talks are quickly forgotten after the excitement dies a bit. I'm thinking this'll stick with me a bit longer. Good stuff. Visit Vision Forum.

Well, we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express about two blocks from the convention center. Here's a picture looking out our hotel window (a la Keetha-style... a bloggy friend). You'll see in the center, what remains of the former RCA dome where the Colt's played football. The building was imploded not too long ago and is being carted away, piecemeal. Also in the picture, you'll see a lovely Catholic church that has stood beautifully downtown for ages. You might see the two green-patina spires toward the middle of the pic.

"But wait, where do the famed Indianapolis Colts play football now," you ask? Right across the street in this monstrosity:I kid you not! It looks like an enormous barn and it dwarfs the rest of the city from I-70, just a block or three to the south. In my opinion, it's ugly, it's an eyesore, and it detracts from the city. 'Nuff said.

There were about 4000 attendees at this year's convention. This isn't the best picture, but you can get an idea. And of course, that number is only a small sample of the homeschoolers in Indiana. We really are blessed here in Hoosierland to have such opportunity.

There is always an exhibition hall where vendors of all sorts set up. Speakers come with their books and wares, curriculum companies send reps and supplies, individual book sellers.... you can buy everything from grain mills to preserved frogs for dissection, microscopes to slingshots, foreign language programs to grammar books. And a number of universities and colleges send representatives as well. Thankfully, my wife and I spent less money this year than in years past. Now that we have three years homeschooling under our belts, we feel a little more like we know what we need and what will be helpful. Here's a shot inside the exhibition hall.

Well, my pictures may not be the greatest, but it gives you a taste. But the question always arises, "Why homeschool?" My answer: There are as many different reasons as there are people that do it. There's no one set reason. Though there are many people in our nation that homeschool who express no Christian faith or belief, homeschool began as a specifically Christian movement. Our decision to homeschool started out with my wife. I just kind of went along for the ride. But as time has gone on, I've gained a deeper appreciation, understanding, and vision for it. My wife has all kinds of ideas about curriculum, but she realizes that unless I like it, it'll be a waste of money to buy it, since I use it most.

Here's the thing with us. It's not just about educating our children. Yes, we want them to read and write well. We want them to understand math and science. That's all important. But it's more than that. Before I go on, let me first say that I realize that homeschooling is not for everyone! Neither do I judge or condemn anyone that doesn't homeschool! But I believe, more and more, that I have a mandate from God to train up my children in the way they should go so that when they are old they won't turn away from it. Further, I believe that homeschooling is about discipling my children to be more like Christ and applying His principles to life and study. I find the most beneficial way to do this is through homeschooling. We could send our kids to public school, but then we'd spend hours each night trying to undo and deal with the relativism, humanism, and evolutionism they picked up all day. I truly am beginning to feel that this is a calling that God has placed on my wife and I. I think God wants my family to choose a path less traveled.

On a practical level, homeschooling doesn't make sense. It's expensive, time consuming, requires a lot of sacrifice on the part of the parent (did I say a lot, try enormous), tiring... BUT, on the other hand, I know that my daughter would be behind were she in public school. She and math aren't friends and a teacher can only wait for one student so long. There would have been many more tears in public school. My sons? Sheesh. The older one would be in trouble all the time because he can't sit still, likes to touch others (not hitting, but hugging, patting, etc.), and is very loud and noisy. Yes, homeschooling is best for them. And despite what the UN might think, I, their parent, DO know what's best for them, thank you very much.

All of that, not to mention the spiritual aspect of homeschooling. We can pray whenever we want (or need) to. Bible reading is a part of our curriculum. And nice spring days aren't relegated to the indoors. Warm and sunny? Out we go with lawn chairs and our books. In our homeschool the principal and the teacher are in love with each other and even kiss in front of the students! And our kids never have to experience the torture of riding the school bus, or 'jail bus' as we call it. Seriously, my wife and I both have very unpleasant memories of riding the bus to school.

Well, I've gone on long enough. If you have questions about homeschooling regarding why or how we do it, I'll be happy to answer them. Hope this entry has been interesting and enlightening for you. Thanks for reading!

I Love Hymns

Recently, my wife and I have been feeling like something's been missing. We attend a rather large church and for the most part, hymns have been laid aside for contemporary worship songs. Once in awhile we'll get a remake of a hymn, and that's nice. But we feel an emptiness there. Maybe we're getting old?

Don't get me wrong, we like the new choruses, etc. That's one reason we chose to attend our church, we enjoyed the worship style. But still...

A few weeks ago, my wife was talking about this, and went and got one of the several hymnbooks I keep on hand. I was sitting at the counter reading and she stood opposite me thumbing through the songs. I looked up and her eyes were filled with tears as she read the words that had, unbeknown to us, grown so dear to us. Recently, we've been in a few situations where we've heard or been able to sing some hymns, and I find myself choking up as well.

You see, we both grew up on hymns. As children, we sang them because that's what you do in church. But now, as adults, we understand and value the messages, theology, encouragement, and truth these old songs embody. These are characteristics often missing from newer worship choruses. Oh the choruses are encouraging at times, but really, do any of them hold a candle to "Oh Worship the King"?

To combat this dearth of hymns in our lives, I purchased two CD's of hymn music. I'm quite pleased with my choices. My kids even seem to like them. My son, Eric, now 6, said today, "I like this music, it's calm and smoothing". Yes, 'smoothing'.

I do prefer the true hymns over the gospel songs or testimony songs, but they're all good. Some of my favorites? Immortal, Invisible; Come Thou Fount; This is My Father's World; Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven; Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above; Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past; A Mighty Fortress; To God Be the Glory; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.... to name but a few.

Hymns offer words that can bring peace and comfort, strength and encouragement. I mentioned to my wife the other day that it took us years of singing them to begin to understand them and learn them by heart. We've got some catching up to do with our kids if they're to learn and appreciate them someday.

So what are your favorites?