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Blog review of the PHAA High School at Home Conference, July 15, 2011
Polly Castor, 8/2/2011

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: I was delighted to receive a link to Polly Castor's blogsite, where she wrote up a review of her recent experience driving with another homeschool friend all the way from Connecticut to attend our PHAA High School at Home Conference. Her teens will be taking part in three of our AP online classes for homeschoolers this coming school year. Shows that this conference sparks interest from families beyond Pennsylvania-- we welcome families from any state to take part in this great annual day of focused learning and thinking about the high school at home experience. 

polly castor's nametag

Today I went to the High School at Home Conference in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was a 4.5 hour drive from here, and I went with a friend who is also a homeschooling mom.  We left at 4:15am and returned at 11:30pm, having shared a full and enlightening day.  This is the first time either of us had ever been to this particular conference and it was a delight for both of us, having thought that the big, general homeschooling conferences were rather weak on higher level homeschooling support. 

This conference was put on by PA Homeschoolers, and two of my children are taking online AP classes with them next year. (I can’t help wishing I knew about them when my oldest was homeschooling!) These classes promise to be rigorous and fruitful.  My son will take both AP Economics and AP World History with them next year, and I was delighted to get to meet his Econ teacher.  He invites debate and encourages competition in a way I’m sure my son will love.  My daughter will be taking AP Studio Art (Drawing) and I met her teacher as well.  She also seems to be very competent and a good fit.  I saw some of her previous student’s work and it was incredible.  

The keynote speaker was Jeannette Webb, a college admissions consultant specializing in homeschoolers.  The talk she gave us, “Ten Mistakes Students Make When Planning for College,” is available for a free download on her website aiminghigherconsultants.com.  Her talented homeschool kids (admittedly with the enviable demographic advantage of being from Oklahoma) got in every Ivy League school to which they applied, and both turned down acceptances to Harvard.  Her son, a science geek – who was the first place National Merit Scholarship winner and therefore was honored by getting to meet the President – went to CalTech.  Her daughter, on the strength of a college essay entitled “Red Rubber Boots” about growing up on a farm, is studying engineering at Princeton. I was grateful to have a lengthy conversation with Jeannette specifically about my son’s application, and was intrigued that her recommendations of where he should apply were very similar to our own list.

Later in the day, I heard Jeannette talk about why one should consider applying to a premier college.  Many homeschoolers are afraid of putting their children out into the evil world and therefore encourage either college at home or small Christian schools.  Jeannette debunked this so beautifully I could have cheered out loud.  Many Christian homeschoolers cite PS 127:4-5 as a reason to have large families, therefore filling their “quiver” with arrows (i.e. children.)  Jeannette took this the next logical step further in a pointed rebuke by saying, “The arrows are worthless if they stay in the quiver.”  She was preaching to the choir with me, but I pray she was heard more widely, as it is so important not to clip kid’s wings.  The world needs them!  She also encouraged asking: “Does what we are called to do relate to what we are prepared to do?”

Also inspiring, was a session I attended given by the mother of a winner in the International Science and Engineer Fair.  Her son worked diligently for 200 hours on his project which proved the increase of diabetes cases does, in fact, correlate with the increase of technology use.  I saw the project and it was awesome. The young man himself was impressive in his earnest, studious humility. My youngest daughter has expressed interest in a higher level science fair than what our homeschool group puts on each year so I was especially glad to learn how to loop into this program.

I was also grateful to learn about Research Science Institute's High School Internship Program, as well as a grading, rubrics, online testing, and assignment submission program called Instructure which has all sorts of teacher helps to check out.

All in all, it was a day well spent.  We drove home exhausted, accompanied by the largest and most beautiful full moon you have ever seen.  Thank you God!


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