2013 Conference Sessions and Family Programming

For information about our current conference, see VaHomeschoolers Conference.

2013 Conference


Please note that some of our sessions have filled and are closed as noted below. 

Friday, March 22

Three FREE Friday Sessions!

Homeschooling 101: Homeschooling for Non-Homeschoolers

Friday, 2:30–4:00 p.m.
Jeanne Faulconer

This session is an introduction to homeschooling for the media, businesses, educators, librarians, researchers, legislators, grandparents, child-care providers, new-to-the-idea spouses and others who want to know more about homeschooling but don’t homeschool themselves. We’ll cover the status of homeschooling in Virginia, the growth of homeschooling, approaches to homeschooling, why people choose homeschooling, who homeschools, statistics on homeschooling in Virginia, issues that affect homeschooling and answers to your questions about homeschooling.

Homeschooling parents are encouraged to bring their family members and babysitters and to spread the word about the availability of this free session to librarians, local reporters, school administrators, businesses and non-profits interested in serving the homeschooling community. Registration is required. Please indicate on your registration form if you will attend this session. This session does not count against the number of sessions allowed in full or limited registrations.

Beginning Homeschooling*

Friday, 4:30–5:30 p.m.
Stephanie Elms

Thinking about homeschooling but feeling overwhelmed? New to homeschooling and wondering what you got yourself into? Join us for this free session by VaHomeschoolers Board Member Stephanie Elms. Stephanie gives an overview of the law and answers to your questions and concerns about how homeschooling can work for your family. You’ll gain the knowledge and confidence you need to get started on your homeschooling journey. Registration is required. Please indicate on your registration form if you will attend this session. This session does not count against the number of sessions allowed in full or limited registrations.

* Please note: This is the same information given in session 1.1.

Advocating for Sports Access and Homeschooling:
How to Influence Perceptions, Attitudes and Votes.

Friday, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Parrish Mort, VaHomeschoolers President and Amy Wilson, Director of Government Affairs

Were you disappointed by the failure of this year’s homeschool sports access bill in the General Assembly? Are you dismayed when you hear others express negative and inaccurate stereotypes of homeschooling families? Join us as we share insight on how you can make a difference! We’ll present information on effective advocacy about homeschool sports access and homeschooling in general. We’ll provide background on the sports access issue, effective rebuttals to opposition arguments, information on the educational materials we have to offer, and do’s and don’ts about speaking with legislators, members of the media, school board members and others. Any interested homeschooling parent or student is welcome, as are grandparents, friends, public school students, coaches, and any other member of the public who supports homeschool sports access or wants to learn more about advocating for homeschooling. To attend, you need only be a registered attendee under any option including shop-for-free.

Saturday, March 23

Session 1 9:00–10:00 a.m.

1.1 Beginning Homeschooling, Part 1: Navigating Paperwork and Legalities

Stephanie Elms

Thinking about homeschooling but feeling a bit overwhelmed? New to homeschooling and wondering what you got yourself into? This session helps you understand the home education statutes and addresses your concerns about filing a notice of intent, showing evidence of progress and finding support.

1.2 Homeschooling Your Gifted Child

Sherene Silverberg

Join Sherene as she explores why and how gifted children need a different education approach and how you can craft an education and peer group that best suits your gifted child’s needs intellectually, emotionally and socially. Did you know that learning disabilities show up differently in gifted children? In this session, you’ll also learn about the signs to look for and how to go about having your gifted child tested for LDs.

1.3 Vocabulary the Smart Way

Brett Brunner

Retaining the meaning of any given word is like holding an eel on a banana peel: in your hand one moment but slipping away the next. Teaching vocabulary is a challenge and has often been taught in a non-differentiated format, usually by a form of ineffective drudgery known as rote learning. Even students with remarkable memories often forget the meanings of vocabulary words, mostly because those meanings have not been sufficiently encoded within their longterm memories. This presentation covers mnemonic techniques that help your child hold onto those slippery meanings.

1.4 Refining Your Homeschool: New Ideas, New Energy and New Strength for Homeschooling

Parrish Mort

When your approach to homeschooling doesn’t seem to be working, homeschooling can overwhelm and feel like a chore. Join Parrish to explore how to evaluate your homeschooling program and consider changes to make your homeschooling more effective and enjoyable. Parrish will share ideas for spicing up your homeschooling days and discuss the importance of social time and support for the kids and for you.

1.5 Waldorf Homeschooling

Monica Cody and Joanne Muir

Waldorf education is one of the fastestgrowing independent educationalmovements in the world. Classical education within a specific framework of child development, Waldorf is a wellrounded, lively education method that connects children to learning through their hands, hearts and minds and honors the spiritual essence within each human being without being religious. In this session, you’ll learn from two Waldorf home educators about Waldorf education and how to incorporate it into your homeschooling.

1.6 Incorporating Alternative Narratives into Your Homeschool History Program

Gwen McCrea

***This session is closed***

Most homeschoolers already know history is more than a dry list of dates, names and events. We watch compelling documentaries, play games and visit museums and living history exhibits to bring history to life for our kids. But we can go even farther, using the study of history to build critical thinking skills and encourage thoughtful analysis of both historical and current events. Exposing kids to multiple interpretations of historical events and trends gives them the opportunity to weigh evidence, consider the credibility of various accounts and understand the social contexts in which events occurred. Whether you unschool or use a structured history curriculum, this workshop offers resources and concrete strategies for incorporating historiography and alternative historical narratives into your homeschool.

1.7 I Saw It On The Internet!

Robert Krampf

***This session is closed***

Carbonated sodas are horrible for you because they can dissolve an iron nail. I know, because I saw it on the Internet. Cell phone radiation is so strong you can use it to pop popcorn. It has to be true, because I saw it on the Internet. In these days of Facebook, YouTube and email chain letters, one of the most valuable skills you can learn is how to look at “scientific” claims and tell if they are valid. It’s surprisingly easy once you learn a few basics. This session combines Internet skills, hands-on experimentation and scientific thought to help parents and students evaluate “scientific” claims from the Internet, news media, emails, Facebook and other sources.

Session 2 10:15–11:15 a.m.

2.1 Beginning Homeschooling, Part 2: But What Do I Do Monday?

Stephanie Elms

This overview of “how to homeschool” includes time for your questions and concerns about how home education can work in your family. Gain the knowledge and the confidence you need to get started on your homeschooling journey.

2.2 Music and Autism

Cathy Bollinger

Music is a wonderful tool for helping children on the autism spectrum learn new skills. Join music therapist and children’s songwriter Cathy Bollinger as she demonstrates musically how songs can improve body awareness and motor control, ease transitions and teach social skills.

2.3 Core Classical Mythology

Brett Brunner

Mythology is a hydra-headed beast, having been used and misused in the media forever. Just what does one focus on when beginning a Greek and Roman mythology curriculum? And why does it seem like every version of the same myth is different? This session reviews the core stories that could form the basis of a classical mythology course and how these stories might be presented. Brett also shares a tale of Perseus, Theseus or Jason in all of their glory and majesty, using nothing but the ultimate multimedia tool, the human raconteur.

2.4 Real World Math: Making Sense of Algebra and Middle School Math— Extended 90-minute Session

Karim Kai Ani

How long does it take to burn off the calories in a Big Mac? In basketball, is it worth the risk to foul your opponent at the buzzer? To many students, math can seem like a mishmash of random skills to memorize and repeat. In this presentation, Karim discusses how to use real-world topics not only to foster conceptual understanding but also to encourage kids to think about the world more critically. Karim focuses on three important skills in particular: converting from fractions to percents, solving proportions, and writing and solving linear equations (algebra). This extended session includes a range of lessons which extend and apply these skills in creative ways. Both parents and students are welcome. This session will extend into the lunch break by 30 minutes.

2.5 Developing Writing Skills

Ann Duncan

As our world becomes more competitive financially and socially, developing excellent writing skills is increasingly important. Fostering good writing in students can be difficult, especially during the tween years when kids are trying to establish new boundaries and may not see the “wisdom” in a parent’s advice. However, writing need not fall by the wayside. It can continue to blossom. You can even implement a writing program for the first time with your tween or teen—it’s never too late. In this session, Ann discusses how to incorporate a writing program for your tween with a focus on the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) curriculum. Join this discussion on implementing formal writing instruction with your tween, the nuances of IEW and its resources, and the pros and cons of this program.

2.6 Homeschooled Graduates

Panel Session - William Angel, Meridian Ganz-Ratzat, Sarah Lapallo and Will Skelton; Karen Skelton moderating

***This session is closed***

This panel of young adults who were homeschooled is eager to share their experiences in the “real world.” Do they recommend or regret their personal paths? Are they in college, taking a gap year, working, learning a trade or running their own business? The answers are as unique as they are.

2.7 Unschooling Unzipped

Jeanne Faulconer

***This session is closed***

This discussion of what unschooling is, what it isn’t, how it works and how to cope with parental panic attacks reveals that self-directed, interest-based learning is a valid approach to education at home. If you’re seeking support for your unschooling philosophy, exploring unschooling or wanting to add some of the benefits of natural learning to your traditional homeschool approach, join us. You’ll learn how empowered unschoolers can create their own paths to education, college and vocation and how loving parents can responsibly facilitate the process. This session is back by popular demand from the 2010 conference, with some additional thoughts about the parent’s role as guide and how unschooling and “structure” are not mutually exclusive.

Lunch & Shopping Break

11:15 a.m.–1 p.m.

Session 3 1:00–2:00 p.m.

3.1 The Art and Joy of Storytelling and Reading Aloud to Children

Jim Weiss

Who doesn’t like to be read to? This workshop helps parents make the very most of their precious read-aloud time with their children. At the heart of each story he tells, Jim Weiss’ renowned ability to make even complex subjects comprehensible and memorable to young children is evident. This delightful and immediately useful workshop guides parents to become even better readers, more clearly define their children’s listening skills, facilitate the consideration of the freshness, outlook and interpretation of the stories they choose to read, and assist in using one’s voice as an instrument with rewarding and dramatic results.

3.2 Crisis Schooling: Whatever Happens, Learning Can Go On

Janice Campbell

Robert Burns was right when he wrote that the “best laid schemes o’ mice and men” often go awry. No matter what the crisis—illness, job loss, natural disaster or caregiving—you’ll want to keep education happening. This practical, reassuring workshop offers basic resources to help you sustain big-picture learning, keep teens on track for college and maintain basic records so that learning continues no matter what happens. If you keep your heart fixed on priorities, your family can survive and thrive, even in the tough times.

3.3 The Power of Latin Roots

Brett Brunner

Do you ever wonder why Latin, a language that has evolved into more than 40 Romance languages but has itself dissolved, still exhibits such a linguistic pull in the modern world? Once the Romans had a world empire; now they continue that global domination with a word empire. In this session, Brett discusses the supreme influence Latin has had on the titanic, gargantuan, leviathanic lexicon that is the English language, primarily via a utilitarian discussion of English morphology as it particularly pertains to classical morphemes giving rise to meanings of English vocabulary. Brett will also present word trees culled from the software Word Empire III: Clarity.

3.4 Reintegrating Science Education

Sudhita Kasturi

***This session is closed***

The sciences are integrated, so how about teaching it that way! As a trained scientist and homeschooling mom, Sudhita’s quest to teach science using most popular curricula resulted in frustration. Curricula that teach scientific concepts in an integrated manner are almost non-existent, and the parent or student must shoulder the burden of making connections across the branches of the sciences. Experiments are cookie cutter and don’t promote scientific thinking or follow the scientific method. While major universities and research institutions are moving toward multi-disciplinary learning, the same is not true for primary and secondary education. With conceptual learning and experimentation as the cornerstone, Sudhita shows parents how to integrate the branches of science and take charge of scientific learning on their homeschooling journey. This approach helps students methodically connect new knowledge and relate it to their natural curiosity of the world around them, making scientific learning meaningful and fun. By reintegrating science education, parents can better prepare their student for the rigors of higher education and STEM careers.

3.5 If You Build It, They Will Come

Renee Jackson

One of the homeschooling goals many parents share is the desire to feed our children’s passions and interests. Finding just the right class, club, activity or event to encourage our children can be difficult. Have you considered starting a club, hosting an event or organizing a social forum yourself but just don’t know where or how to begin? Renee shares her experiences growing several clubs and social groups over the past five years. She shares suggestions for networking and getting the word out about your group, tips for finding locations to host your event and things she has done to encourage participation.

3.6 The College Search for Homeschoolers

Pier Penic moderating

***This session is closed***

What should homeschoolers do to help their students prepare for college entry and life at school with all of its academic and social demands and challenges? Come hear a panel of eclectic experts ranging from alumnae, college reps and admission counselors from various institutes of higher learning. Moderated by Pier Penic, the Northern Virginia alumni representative for Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA.

3.7 Eclectic Homeschooling: Combining It All and Making It Work

Barb Benfante

For the past 15 years, Barb has used many different methods of homeschooling, from unschooling to packaged curriculum to various co-ops. She’ll share her experience with taking different approaches and methods of homeschooling and forming her own unique package of resources and experiences tailored to the needs of her individual children.

Session 4 2:15–3:15 p.m.

4.1 Homeschooling a Child with Learning Challenges

Kathy Kuhl

***This session is closed***

How do you prepare to homeschool a child who has difficulty learning and paying attention? Whether you are new to homeschooling or not, you’ll learn what mistakes to avoid and what resources you need to help you help a child with learning problems.

4.2 A Thomas Jefferson Education Model for Learning the Classics

Mimi Dempsey

Homeschooling using a Thomas Jefferson education model focuses on the classics. Have you ever wanted your kids to read the classics but were intimidated by them or weren’t sure what to do with them? It’s not as difficult as you might think. In this session, you’ll hear how a very average homeschool mom who works part-time uses this methodology as a cornerstone of her kid’s education. Mimi managed Thomas Jefferson education book groups for a number of years with a variety of age groups; she’s seen even reluctant readers and dyslexics enjoy this kind of group and read amazing and challenging books. Her own daughter said the book group was the thing that most prepared her for her rigorous college experience by having her read difficult material, analyze it, form an opinion about it and discuss the opinion in a group of peers. Come find out how to start your own TJ book group and go home with sample booklists for a variety of ages.

4.3 A Homeschool Mom Looks Back

Jeanne Faulconer

Join Jeanne Faulconer as she reflects on homeschooling her three sons through 14 years, 12 grades, 10 homeschool groups, eight math curricula, seven moves, six guitars, five part-time jobs, four colleges, three states, two Eagle Scouts, one kid left at home—and approximately a thousand soccer games. Jeanne talks about what the journey has been like from the preschool years through transitions to college and includes thoughts on the major themes she’s discovered in her family’s homeschooling and how these themes relate to the community of homeschoolers and society at large. Not a how-to-homeschool session, this look back provides perspective, inspiration and ideas for your homeschool journey going forward.

4.4 Real World Math: Making Sense of Algebra and Middle School Math

Karim Kai Ani

Many teens would rather take out the trash than do math. In this presentation, Karim discusses how to use real-world topics not only to foster conceptual understanding but also to encourage learners to think about the world more critically. Karim focuses on three important skills in particular: converting from fractions to percents, solving proportions, and writing and solving linear equations (algebra). By helping kids use real-world concepts, parents can cover more material in less time and with better results. Both parents and students are welcome. Please note: This 60-minute session does not include the extended lessons offered in session 2.4.

4.5 Homeschooling Preschool

Marjorie Cole

Homeschooling preschool can be a lot of fun and is a great way to begin your homeschooling journey. Come learn about resources for preschool learning, prepare for when you will be an “official” homeschooler and discuss the challenges and joys you may encounter.

4.6 Gap Years and Map Years: Helping Teens Take Time Out for Travel, Service and Personal Growth

Pamela Schmidt

***This session is closed***

Discover how taking the road less traveled might benefit your teen, whether in the form of an international trip to volunteer during the high school years, a summer academic study experiencing another culture and language or an intentional gap year between homeschool graduation and beginning college or serious career. This session explores what teens can learn by straying from the common path and covers how to determine whether your child is ready for such an experience, how to make the experience “theirs” and possible logistics you’ll need to help them juggle.

4.7 Technology Teardowns

Todd Coram

Technology is moving fast. That smart phone you carry around has more computer power and storage than was used to put a man on the moon. The seemingly magic gadgets that surround us in our homes are increasingly sophisticated, tiny and digital. How do we help our kids keep up? How do we encourage them to be technology tinkerers and explorers rather than just technology consumers? Taking things apart is key to understanding the technology that powers modern toys and gadgets. What goes inside a cell phone? Where is the antenna? What is that part? What does it do? What country does it come from? In this session, Todd will discuss answers to these questions, show you what tools you’ll need to safely approach taking apart (and sometimes putting back together) such devices as old cell phones, desktop computers, laptops and electronic toys. He’ll also give you resources for identifying unfamiliar parts, how they work and what you can learn from them.

Session 5 4:15–5:15 p.m.

5.1 Homeschooling Questions: Asked and Answered

Karen Skelton

Are you new to homeschooling or thinking about trying it? You might have questions on how to plan lessons or how to determine your children’s learning styles. And what about the questions others ask of you? “How will they learn to get along with other kids?” “What about the prom?” “Do you have a teaching certificate?” “How will they ever get into college?” A veteran homeschooler in her tenth year, Karen offers guidance and reassurance that you, too, can do this—despite the doubts of neighbors or relatives.

5.2 The Thrifty Homeschool Household Rap Session

Ann Clay facilitating

Have you ever invested in a curriculum, only to find it gathering dust on a shelf? Do you wonder how you’ll be able to afford to send your children to college or even purchase all this year’s materials? Have you gone into shock over the price of a museum membership or sports equipment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, have others related to budget or, even better, already have the solutions, please join us for our first conference Rap Session. This is not a formal presentation, just a chance to share and gather tips, suggestions and questions on the age old topic of homeschool and household budgets. If you have great resources to share in advance, please email Ann (ann.clay) and she’ll include them in the handout. She’ll bring cookies!

5.3 Fidgets, Doodles and Distractions: Working with Them to Improve Comprehension

Parrish Mort

Many children wiggle while listening to a lecture or doodle in their margins. This does not mean they’re not paying attention; it may even increase comprehension. This session discusses ways to help children stay on task, keep their focus and increase learning. Much of the discussion will focus on active learners but will also include strategies for supporting dyslexia, dysgraphia and auditory processing delays. Parrish emphasizes practical suggestions for working with different learning styles, not “fixes.” Please bring your practical suggestions to share.

5.4 Reading, Rhyme and Repetition: Using Music to Teach Early Reading Skills

Cathy Bollinger

Come clap your hands and tap your toes as music therapist and children’s songwriter Cathy Bollinger demonstrates fun ways to teach early reading skills through music. Cathy shows how music can be used to develop phonemic awareness, vocabulary and fluency. Participants will take home new tools and songs to use with their children.

5.5 Transcripts Made Easy: The High School Transcript as a Marketing Tool

Janice Campbell

A high school transcript may be the most important piece of paper created during your student’s homeschool experience. More than just a list of what your student studied or an outline of the grades received, it’s like a résumé—a marketing tool that should highlight your student’s strengths and skills. Join us to learn how to select the best format, effectively name classes, decide on weighted grades and present information in a clean, professional style that is easily comparable to others. You might find yourself getting fan mail from college admissions counselors who appreciate your work!

5.6 Work-Homeschool Balance

Tom Cole, Christi Macomber, Kelly McCants, Kelly Muzzin and Pete Nuwayser; Barb Benfante moderating

The work-life balancing act is difficult for everyone but maybe more so for homeschoolers. Join our panelists as they discuss how to homeschool around a work schedule. Whether you are the primary homeschooling parent or the one “at home” with the kids, whether you work from home, run a family business or strategically use vacation and off time, hear how homeschooling parents advance their careers while remaining an integral part of homeschooling their children.

5.7 There’s an App for That?

Stephanie Elms

Join Stephanie as she explores the myriad of apps on the market that can be used to organize and supplement your homeschooling program. Whether you need an app to help organize your time and your homeschool resources or one to help your child learn, there’s one out there! Come prepared to share your most useful apps and learn about apps that others have found helpful. We’ll look at apps across various platforms, from Macs and PCs to Androids and Apples.

Family Programming

Celebrate with Us on Friday Night With a Talent Show, Art/Science Exhibit and Ice Cream Social

Friday, March 22, 7:00–9:30 p.m.

This year’s conference is not only a conference: It’s a celebration! 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of VaHomeschoolers, and we hope you’ll join us Friday night for our annual talent show, art/science exhibit and ice cream social—complete this year with birthday cake, balloons, pointy party hats and other goodies. Look for more 20th birthday celebration details in the coming weeks via our online announcements. The talent show, art/science exhibit and birthday celebration are open to kids of all ages. If you’d like to perform or display a work of art or a science project, please sign up with the party coordinator at Friday Party. Please indicate on your registration form if you’ll attend.

Open Acoustic Jam Session

Saturday, March 23, 9:00–11:00 a.m.

Teens who play any kind of portable instrument won’t want to miss our second annual conference jam session. Bring your guitar, bass, fiddle, banjo or whatever for a free-for-all jam with other musical homeschoolers. A moderator will be on hand to give tips for jumping in on songs you don’t know, but this is for and by the kids. Amplifiers and criticism of others not allowed. Participants should be mature, at least 11 years old and responsible for their own instruments.

Rivanna Music with Cathy Bollinger

Saturday, March 23, 9:00–10:00 a.m.

Join Cathy Bollinger and friends as they sing and entertain with catchy tunes that teach! This is a fun and interactive performance; you might find yourself on stage, performing right along with Cathy. Visit Rivanna Music for samples of Cathy’s music.

Mysteries of Flight by the Virginia Air & Space Center

Saturday, March 23, 10:15–11:15 a.m.

Explore the forces and principles of flight and how aircraft are similar to birds and bats in this exciting presentation by the Virginia Air and Space Center. You’ll discover how aircraft use energy to overcome the force of gravity, how they adjust from the effect of heat from friction and how to identify the simple machines which make up complex machines like airplanes.

Energy Transformation with Robert Krampf, The Happy Scientist

Saturday, March 23, 1:00–2:00 p.m.

What do you get if you combine flaming marshmallows, water balloons, dust flares and lots of other amazing stuff all into one show? Robert Krampf’s Energy Transformations. This exciting presentation explores all kinds of energy: nuclear, electrical, chemical, light, heat, kinetic and potential. Along the way, you’ll discover that instead of making energy, you transform it from one form to another. The Happy Scientist winds up the program by setting his hand on fire, showing how the science of energy even applies to movie stunts. By the end of this program, you’ll have had tons of fun, and you’ll understand the concepts of energy as well.

Mystery and Intrigue with Sherlock Holmes and Other Sleuths by Jim Weiss

Saturday, March 23, 2:15–3:15 p.m.

In this entertaining session, Jim Weiss brings to life the genre of mystery and one of the greatest literary characters of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Sit back, relax and marvel at fabulous stories that are an integral part of world literature.

Watt is Electricity with Robert Krampf, The Happy Scientist

Saturday, March 23, 4:15–5:15 p.m.

In the words of David Letterman, “If you’re like me, you have always wanted to see a guy stand barefoot in a pan of water, connected to a million volts of electricity.” Robert Krampf’s award winning Watt is Electricity has thrilled and amazed crowds in the US and abroad. Robert and his high voltage demonstrations have been featured on “Late Night with David Letterman,” “Fantastic Facts in London,” CBS’s “This Morning,” CNN and Discovery Channel’s “The Know Zone.” Using the hair-raising Van de Graaff static generator and million-volt sparks from the Tesla coil, Robert keeps you oohing and aahing, while teaching the basics of electricity and electrical safety. This presentation involves lots of audience participation.

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