I’ve already posted about my decision to restructure the History of the Entire World series, and my intentions to balance out all that researching and writing with a little more farming.
That’s two updates about future plans, but–as my favorite writing handbook points out –triads are always rhetorically effective. So here’s the third part of the update.
Next year, I’m taking a break from conference travel.
Since 1999, I’ve been going to conferences, speaking at educational gatherings, schools, retreats, you name it. I have always loved talking to parents and teachers (and fans of my history books) face to face. But there are three reasons that I’ve been turning down invitations for 2013.
First, I’m a little burned out. I’ve been doing conference travel for fourteen years. Conferences are hard work. There’s a dead day on either end for travel; hotel rooms, which are like little tiny Gardens of Eden when you have a houseful of toddlers, are less exciting over a decade down the road, when you can actually sleep and eat and shower in your own home without anyone sticking their fingers under the door; restaurant food really packs the pounds on, once you pass that fortieth birthday; and when you’ve been saying the same thing in workshops for one-third of your adult life, sometimes it’s just time to stop and rework everything from the beginning.
Second, I need a year to take care of things back on the farm. Home education conferences are at their height in the spring, which is exactly when lambing, fruit-tree spraying,pasture-planting, chick-hatching, and a host of other things are right smack at their height. We’ll be doing lambing for the very first time in March and April of 2013; I’ll feel better sticking around. My parents are older than they were; I don’t want to leave them to watch over the farm in my absence. And the kids are older than they were too. They miss me when I’m gone, and they’re not going to be home that much longer.
Third, I’m discouraged by the conference scene, which is becoming increasingly polarized. Those of you who attend home education conferences may have noticed this.
I love to teach; I love to help parents and teachers teach. That’s part of what I do. But conferences seem, increasingly, less focused in education and more on lifestyle: whether that’s back-to-the-earth, drop-out-of-the-system, or build-God’s-kingdom-through-home-schooling. Check out the workshop offerings at your nearest conference, and look at the percentages: how many of the workshops are dedicated to teaching and learning? and how many focus on parenting, marriage issues, family dynamics, church matters, theology, bread-baking, organic gardening…?
Let me be clear: I don’t pay for the hotels, the meeting spaces, the tech support, the insurance, or anything else for these conferences. If the leadership of a conference wants to make it an Education Plus Preferred Lifestyle sort of get-together, no problem. I’ll still come and talk about education.
But in the past few years, I have been asked, by multiple different conference organizers, to promise to NOT talk about certain theories, or certain types of education; to give any appearance of endorsing certain organizations, life choices, or philosophies; to swear I won’t bring certain books for my book table; to mention certain words. None of which, I should say, have anything to do with what I normally talk about: grammar, history, writing, reading, learning. I have been told that I am not welcome, in some cases, because I talk too much about the psychology of learning, and not about the Bible. Or because I have a theological degree and am obviously pushing a Christian agenda. Because my “professional associations,” however loose, are too liberal, or too secular, or too Christian.
And many of the conferences that put these restrictions on me don’t advertise themselves as “A Conference on Education For People Who Hope To Follow X Philosophy of Life.” They present themselves as “The Official State Home Education Organization For Your State!” or “The Only Education Conference You Should Attend if You Teach Your Kids!” or…
I’m weary of it.
I’m not sure where we go from here, to tell you the truth. I just know that I am increasingly frustrated, and that my particular set of gifts (I am darned good at teaching people how to do things; I inherited that from my mother) do not seem to be what many conference organizers are looking for.
So those are the three reasons why I won’t be at 2013 conferences.
Honestly, I’m hoping that in 2014, I’ll be able to speak at home education conferences again (and that this post plus my sabbatical won’t deep-six that possibility). But that remains to be seen. I do think there’s an increasing need for education-focused conferences that don’t require parents to affirm a particular set of beliefs at the door. The need for home education is only growing greater, not less. I may experiment, over the next year, with some smaller local workshops, and with some online options. I expect there will be some History of the Renaissance World-related events. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, though: if you want to come hear me speak before 2014 (or possibly ever, depending on how my brief exodus is received), you might want to check out my 2012 dates.