As the number of homeschooling families increases nationwide, support groups and organizations are stepping up to help parents explore this alternative education option.
The Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) nonprofit will host its 32nd homeschool conference and curriculum fair April 1-2 at the KCI Expo Center. Attendees will have access to more than 70 workshops and a large vendor hall featuring curriculum, learning resources and other educational materials.
“There is something for everyone and in every season of your homeschool,” said Jacklynn Walters, the organization’s media director.
Workshop tracks with specific themes
The conference workshops will cover a range of topics, including learning tracks for first-time homeschoolers, special-needs homeschooling, and how to homeschool students in high school and beyond.
Walters has been attending the conference ever since her oldest child was 18 months old. She’s now 11 years old.
“Every year I have learned about a new curriculum or local homeschool resource,” she said. “I found our homeschool co-op after visiting their booth six years ago.”
Walters said the conference provides a place to find answers and community, including the opportunity to sit and visit with a local mentoring mom who has homeschooled for several years.
Browsing through curriculum before purchase
The vendor hall also provides the opportunity for families to browse through curriculum firsthand, Walters said.
“I can’t just view it online, I need to put my hands on it and see if it is right for our family,” she said.
Walters encourages families to set aside time just to navigate the vendor hall, since there will be many options that may seem overwhelming at first.
“Take a few opportunities to walk through the hall and then go back to the booths that stuck out to you,” she said.
In addition to many local speakers, the conference also invites experts who have received national recognition for their accomplishments in education.
One of these is Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries. Beyond teaching for 14 years at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, Dr. Myers also has authored 14 books, including Understanding the Faith, Understanding the Times, and Understanding the Culture textbooks.
The conference also will feature Hillary Ferrer of Mama Bear Apologetics. With a master’s degree in biology from Clemson University, Ferrer is co-author and general editor of the popular Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies.
Homegrown childcare and volunteer service
Parents of children ages 5-12 can register them for MPEKIDS, which has designed its schedule to fit around the overall conference schedule.
A group of 18 homeschool teens and adults developed the MPEKIDS program within the organization, writing the curriculum, skits and activities needed for the children’s ministry.
The conference also depends on its teenage volunteers, who manage various positions such as introducing workshop speakers, providing A/V support, serving in the vendor hall and working in registration.
“My hope is that parents walk away from the MPE conference feeling confident that they can homeschool their children,” Walters said. “They may not have all the answers, they may be undecided on curriculum choices, but they have resources they can use to get started and to narrow down those tough choices they still have a few months to make before the next school year begins.”