SMHEA Homeschool Expo

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Every June, my local homeschool support organization, the Smoky Mountain Home Educators Association, puts on a free mini-convention. There are vendors and local organizations who cater to homeschoolers, like the Knoxville Zoo, the Titanic Museum, and Ripley’s Aquarium. There are seminars, too. I am one of the speakers.

Adriana Zoder, Claiborne and Lana Thornton

With THEA President, Claiborne Thornton, and his wife Lana

This year, I spoke about Preschool and Kindergarten in one seminar. The other one was about different homeschool approaches. Education can be done in a myriad of ways. By the way, you can find the slides of my PowerPoint presentations under the tab called Workshops on this blog. Continue reading »

Every homeschooling family should attend a homeschool convention at least once a year. It is a time to come together with like-minded parents and to connect. No man is an island. I know many of us are fiercely independent. If you are like me, you do not want to get involved with a co-op. I get it. But there is something to be said about renewing your strength as you gather together with other homeschooling parents.

Your vision may get a bit blurry and a convention will help you wipe your homeschooling lens so you can see clearly again. Or you may be so happy with your homeschooling effort, you just burst to share your enthusiasm and help those who are struggling. You don’t have to wait until you are in crisis mode or burned out to attend. Just put it on your calendar ahead of time and make it a priority.


This year’s Expo happened in a Methodist church in Powell.

SMHEA makes an effort to have the event free. You may not be as blessed where you live. Whatever the price of your convention, I promise you it will be worth it. And you don’t have to buy anything in the vendor hall – though their special convention sales may be worth a second thought. Just gather information and look at the books and products they have. I got my questions answered about Saxon math, for instance.

SMHEA Expo Vendor Hall

My husband and children looking around in the vendor hall.

The internet can help a lot with research, but there is nothing like thumbing through a book and talking to a mom who has actually used a certain curriculum. You can fill in the informational gaps that way and make a more intelligent decision.

Rich Melton, Todd Sparrow

Former SMHEA President speaks and current president Todd Sparrow looks on

One neat feature this year was a scavenger hunt for the children. They loved it as they walked around the building, picking up different odds and ends from the list provided. It was also a chance to listen to the previous SMHEA director, Rich Melton, and to THEA president, Claiborne Thornton and his wife. THEA is the Tennessee Home Educators Association and the parent organization of SMHEA, which only covers 18 counties in East Tennessee.

Their stories of how homeschooling became legal in Tennessee in the 80s brought tears to my eyes. We have forgotten how precious this privilege is and how much others sacrificed to pave the way for our freedom to educate our own children. For that alone, the $28 SMHEA annual membership fee is totally worth it, especially as some of the money goes to THEA to help with lobbying.

Homeschool Parent Support Night

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Once a month, homeschooling moms in Sevier County get together in a hospitable home in Pigeon Forge. We bring something to munch on and we have a good time talking.

Sometimes there are 15 of us and the room gets noisy. Other times there are only four of us. That’s when the conversations get deeper and trouble spots work their way into the conversation. “How do you know you are doing enough?” “What if my son is two grades behind?” “How can I make myself stop from worrying?” and many other similar questions come up.

What strikes me is that homeschooling moms really have the same questions as public or private school moms. Sure, we have a few additional questions about curriculum choices, umbrella schools and dealing with negative people in our lives. Besides that, it all goes back to parenting.

“Are you already praying for your son’s future wife?” somebody asked me. I answered in the affirmative. “Since he was born.”

We don’t see each other between meetings. We are all too busy and scattered across our county to get together. Maybe we should make an effort. Maybe not. I find that many homeschooling families uphold standards they are proud of. But they are all different. While we respect each other’s freedom of choice, we just don’t want to impose our standards on others. And getting to know what somebody wants to do with their children takes time. Who’s got any extra these days?

“Who is your best girl friend and does she support your decision to homeschool?” I was relieved to find out other moms confessed they did not have a “best friend.” Neither do I. When you are married with children, there’s no time for a BFF. There, I said it. But my close friends do support my decision to homeschool. They even homeschool themselves. They just don’t live nearby. I wish they did. But life has spread us all over the world after college and now we stay in touch as well as we can.

The friendship of my local homeschooling support group means a lot to me. I get refreshed and encouraged every time. I am thankful to the hostess and the group leader who keep us all going.