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I’ve already attended two homeschool conventions this spring – a moderate sized one in New Hampshire, held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Manchester, where politicians and newsmen gather during presidential primary campaigns, and a large one in Massachusetts held at the Worcester Centrum, where teen-agers usually gather for big rock concerts.
But this weekend, the center was devoted to Mass HOPE’s convention, which drew thousands of homeschoolers from all across New England. (HOPE stands for Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators.) It’s at these conventions where you can see the best America has to offer its families willing to educate their children at home.
Despite the fact that Massachusetts is known as a liberal state with probably the worst congressional delegation in the nation, homeschooling has grown tremendously here because of the same reason it has grown everywhere else: lousy public schools. By the way, it is even growing in Japan. I was called from Tokyo the other day by a Christian promoter of home education who wants to translate my book on homeschooling into Japanese.
It should also be noted that these organizations are Christian in worldview and are the liveliest manifestations of the Christian revival in America.
The big vendors at these conventions are A Beka Books from Pensacola Christian College, Bob Jones University with its vast array of textbooks, Christian Liberty Academy, founded by the late Rev. Paul Lindstrom, Christian Light Education, Accelerated Christian Education, Math-U-See, a popular math curriculum founded by Steve Demme.
There were a lot of smaller vendors – many mom-and-pop enterprises – selling books, supplies, curricula and services. I had my own booth, offering Alpha-Phonics, my well-known reading program, for parents with small children in need of a good phonics-based reading curriculum.
Since I have been at 13 of MassHOPE’s 14 conventions, I’ve seen how the conventions have grown from a small church basement, to the largest hotels in the state, and finally to the Worcester Centrum. As public education has gotten worse and more anti-Christian, the homeschool movement has expanded.
Since I have spoken and /or exhibited at homeschool conventions in California, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Oregon, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Auckland and in all six New England states, I have a pretty good idea of the dynamism behind the homeschool movement, and know many of its leaders. (My speeches include such tantalizing topics as “20 Reasons Why You Should Homeschool Your Kids”; “How to Help Your Child Achieve High Literacy”; and “How Behavioral Psychologists Have Destroyed American Education.”
Early on, it became apparent to me that the conservative revolution for restoring political and cultural sanity in America would not be carried out by politicians, but by the brilliant leaders that have come out of the homeschool movement. Michael Farris, attorney and ordained minister, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and founder and president of Patrick Henry College, is no doubt the best example of the kind of enthusiastic, well-educated, deeply Christian leadership the homeschool movement has given birth to. Farris and his wife practice what they preach. They have 10 children, at last count. By the way, if you want to contact the HSLDA or Patrick Henry College, they have websites on the Internet.
Dr. Brian Ray, a chief speaker at the MassHOPE convention this year, founded the National Home Education Research Institute in 1990. Working out of his office in Salem, Ore., he has provided the media with enormously useful data, research, statistics and general information regarding every aspect of the home-school phenomenon. He and his wife Betsy also practice what they preach. They have eight children. Demographics clearly favor Christian homeschoolers! And many homeschooling dads are now in Congress and state legislatures.
Many good friends came by my booth to say hello, including one gentleman who had taught all five children to read with Alpha-Phonics and wanted to take my picture. He told me that one of his young sons had just finished reading Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, a book of over 600 pages.
I also spoke to a mother, a non-homeschooler, who was at the convention to see if she could find materials to use with her kids whom she intended to enroll in public school in September. I told her that she was making a terrible mistake and that she and her children would pay dearly for it. I told her that it only takes six months in first grade to destroy a child’s brain and that she would be paying for remediation and special ed for the rest of the child’s school career. I intended to shake her up, and I believe I did.
I could write a book about these wonderful homeschool conventions, the families that attend them, and the fabulous entrepreneurs who offer their products to parents who truly care about their children’s well-being and happiness. If you want the thrill of seeing with your own eyes the beautiful benefits of educational freedom, go to a homeschool convention. You’ll love it.