“All good things are wild and free.”
Henry David Thoreau
The first thought that came to my mind upon arriving at the Wild + Free Homeschool Conference in Virginia Beach hosted at the beautiful Founder's Inn was:
This ain't your mama's homeschool conference.
And I should know, because I went with my mama to quite a few of them growing up. Let me tell you, this conference had some hip mamas. No jean skirts were in sight for as far as the eye could see!
In some ways, the conference was a bit strange as far as homeschooling conferences go. It was billed as a homeschooling conference, but not all the women who attended or spoke homeschooled their kids--some had their children attending public or private schools. The speakers and audience were made up of a mix of Christians, hippie mamas, environmentalists, bloggers, and women who not only homeschool but are also writers, photographers, and run their own creative businesses. I loved the eclectic mix! But there one thing we all had in common: intentional motherhood.
I don't talk much about homeschooling in this space but allow me to do so for a moment. I homeschool because I love it. As a homeschooled student I found this educational style very valuable, especially when I entered college and the work force. I realize it is not for everyone and have no wish to proselytize but allow me to gush for a moment: I love love love homeschooling! I love the planning, the teaching, the lifestyle, the everyday learning. I don't do it because of my faith. I don't do it out of fear of the public school system. I do it because I love it and as a student it allowed me to excel and I hope it will do the same for my kids.
Now, back to the conference. Friday evening was kicked off with the music of The Last Bison, which I really enjoyed. They reminded me of Nickel Creek. Kinda folk rock, so check them out if you like that kind of thing.
Naomi Gal gave a stirring testimony about battling depression and hopelessness, her main point being that joy gives strength. She discussed joy stealers, like failure, comparison, jealousy, and perfectionism, which are struggles that often haunt women.
Saturday morning, after an amazing breakfast (the food was good--I mean good, people!) Kelsey Koslowski spoke on "Saving Sisterhood" with the main point that comparison is a poison to community. Then Kirsten Rickert, an artist, writer, and environmentalist, spoke next. I appreciated her life story and talking to her later in the day with a small group of other ladies about her homeschooling methods. Check out her blog. Her photography and posts are beautiful.
Bethany Douglass of Cloistered Away spoke about intention. One of my favorite take-aways from her talk was "Don't be motivated by what you don't want your kids to be. Turn it into a positive of what you do want your kids to be."
Next, Tiffany Gray of The Gray Gang hit it out of the park. I scribbled two pages of notes from her talk because it was just so stinkin' great. Granted, she was talking about something that is something of a hobby horse of mine: margin. Several years ago Josh and I read the book, Margin, which along with the Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talkinginfluenced some major shifts in our lives. Tiffany used the book Margin as the basis of her message on motherhood margin. She defined margin as "the space between ourself and our limits." She discussed the need for margin in our lives as mothers so that we can be emotionally available to our children.
Two breakout sessions came next. I wanted to attend them both, but went with Stephanie Beaty's The Well Balanced Mama talk. Ironically, I realized I already knew who she was, but by the name Lifeographer. As someone in the photography world I new of her photography work as well as her writing over at The Creative Mama. Stephanie's talk was fabulous and centered on the fact that "balance is infeasible, but peace is achievable."
That afternoon there was substantial free time before a lovely evening dinner party in the garden. Once again there was delicious food, conversation, wine, and laughter. We got to meet and talk with Terri Woods, who was the final speaker the following morning. It was a delight to pick her brain, as she has 16 years of homeschooling experience. Her talk centered more specifically on homeschooling than the pervious speakers and she shared some of her "homeschooling tenants" for a lifestyle of learning.
Overall, the weekend was a delight. A road trip with good friends, great food I didn't have to cook, encouraging speakers, and meeting new and inspiring women. Granted, I didn't get much sleep, but that's okay. :)
One of the lovely ladies I met during free time was Melissa Lyon West. Her contribution to the swag bag was this lovely hand-lettered print. If you're interested in purchasing one for yourself, you can do so here.
I think it's message is a great way to remember my time at the Wild + Free conference.