I’m excited and (more than) slightly nervous – I got the email this week confirming that I will be a speaker at the upcoming SEA Homeschooler convention in Atlanta. SEA is one of the only (if not THE only) secular conference/conventions on the East Coast, so this is a big deal. A really big deal! I wanted to share why I think it’s a good idea to join us if you can.
First, I should state that a secular conference isn’t anti-religion. There are plenty of secular homeschoolers who are also people of faith. A wide range of faiths, by the way! Some of the people I met at last year’s conference were Buddhist, Unitarian, Methodist, Baptist, and everywhere in between. The only thing that we have in common is a determination to homeschool from a secular basis.
First, what does secular homeschooling mean?
What does secular mean from a homeschooling viewpoint? Does it mean erase all religion? Spew hate towards religion? Ignore religion altogether? Nope. It means teaching established science, a balanced view of history, and not including a faith bias. Curriculums that include bible verses in their copy work, for example, are not secular. Curriculums that use words like “created,” or “designed” for science are not secular. And of course, any curriculums that include bible lessons are not secular.
To quote my last article on this:
“Secular doesn’t mean sanitizing and erasing religion from history, but looking at it from an academic viewpoint and presenting all sides of the issue.”
Reflections: Why We Chose Secular, Homeschooling2e
When you look at it in that light, secular conventions are actually inclusive. We welcome anyone, as long as they homeschool following those guidelines. You can go to church or mosque 5 times a week and still be a secular homeschooler. For more on defining what secular homeschooling is, this is a great article to read from SEA founder Blair Lee.
So what are the reasons I think you should pack up and head to Atlanta in the middle of July? Lots of them, but several main points.
I’m a little piddly nothing compared to some of the speakers attending this conference. SEA is still finalizing the speaker list, but the keynote speakers alone are worth coming for. Barbara Oakley, Julie Bogart, Blair Lee, and Sam Cook are the top names. Don’t recognize them? Let me share.
- Barbara Oakley is a super smart individual – she co-teachers the UC San Diego Coursera “Learning How To Learn” course. That sounds interesting and helpful, but I should note that the course has over 2 million registered students and over 30K reviews. Clearly, they’re on to something! In homeschool terms, she’s a self-learning guru.
- Julie Bogart is the creative of Brave Writer and Poetry Teatime. If you’re not familiar with those, I suggest you hop on over to the website and check them out. They’re hugely popular in the homeschooling world because of the nurturing, compassionate approach. The Brave writer blog is a wonderful resource even if you’re not using the writing program. It’s filled with suggestions, ideas, and book lists. Julie Bogart is a homeschool rock star of epic proportions.
- Blair Lee is the founder of SEA Homeschoolers. The original group that Lee started in search of like-minded homeschoolers has exploded into a massive beast: over 25K members. She’s a scientist, and has written multiple curriculums, most currently the Science of Climate Change. In the secular homeschooling world, Lee is a super star.
- Samantha Cook is a big deal – from what I understand, she runs the Maker Spaces at some of the California conferences. She’s an advocate for the maker movement as well as the unschooling movement. She leads workshops from her Rose Hill Studio in Berkeley California, and she has a ton of educational experience to pull from. She’s definitely a speaker worth hearing.
Where else do you get a chance to flip through purely secular materials in person? A whole host of vendors will be at the conference, including Oak Meadow, Sequential Spelling, Outschool, Pandia Press, Build Your Library, Groovy Kids Online, Shiller Math, and more. So many more. Finding secular materials is difficult, and often we have to order them without knowing exactly how they will work for our families. The vendor tables were one of the highlights of last year’s conference for me.
I will be there as a vendor for Homeschooling2e – lugging all of my Teachers Pay Teachers products for you to look at. As much as I love the TpT website, I have to admit that it’s always more fun to actually look at the stuff in person. So I’m giving you that chance – to see the products put together and finished, instead of a multi-page pdf. I’m small fry compared to Oak Meadow, but I’m really looking forward to meeting you guys!
Where else can you find such a large group of your tribe? We secular homeschooler embrace diversity, and weird is normal. That’s huge for our kids – especially the older ones. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many homeschool teenagers in one place at the same time! The kids hung out, volunteered, played tournaments, games, and did various kid workshops together. I think that the opportunity to interact with so many other kids they can identify with is amazing!
I was also very surprised at how many homeschoolers attended the gifted/2e talks. The ratio of gifted and twice exceptional students skews very high for secular homeschoolers, and that was clearly represented at the first conference.
For the parents, it’s a great opportunity to network. To put a face on that person from behind the screen, the person you’ve spent your entire year talking to. Our kids need support, but so do we. Sometimes it’s hard to find that support locally, and the conference helps with that community kind of feeling. It’s worth the trip and the expense just for this reason alone. Homeschooling can sometimes be a lonely, difficult journey. We need to stick together and support each other as much as possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about the convention, please join the convention group to stay up-to-date on all the details. If you’re interested in being a vendor or speaker, click the links to go to the forms. We’re coming up on the deadline in March (at some point, not sure what the date is) so hop to it!
I hope to see you there!