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.

Homeschooling Is Parenting

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I know, I know. Blanket statements do not stand the test of real life. Let me explain my title. “Homeschooling is parenting” means one cannot homeschool without being really good at parenting. You don’t have to be a certified teacher to teach your own children at home, but you do need to be a good parent to homeschool. Academics, believe it or not, are not as important in homeschooling as parenting skills.

Girl with lion statue in Gatlinburg

My daughter in The Village, downtown Gatlinburg

That does not mean your child will suffer academically if they are homeschooled. On the contrary, most homeschoolers score higher on standardized tests than their peers who attend public or private schools. But it does mean that unless you have some parenting skills, you will never even get to the table to teach junior how to read.  Continue reading »

I have had several moms tell me, “I would have liked to have homeschooled my children, but I know my daughter and I would have killed each other if I had gone that route.” Hmmm… Yes, mother-daughter relationships can be tricky, but you just told me you never really got the hang of it. I have a daughter and want to get the hang of it. Not just for homeschooling, but for life in general.

The good news is that parenting skills can be learned. None of us were raised by perfect parents and some of us have some serious learning to do in that department. I know I do.

Which is why, besides praying for wisdom, I have been reading parenting books. Since I started homeschooling though, it has been so easy to focus on how-to-homeschool books, that I have neglected parenting books altogether. The result was that I allowed some bad habits in my parenting and, over time, this affected our homeschool. You see how the two are connected?

Recently, I reached a point where I was desperate to have a better grip on my children’s attitude and behavior. I finally opened up to a good friend who homeschooled two children successfully. She gave me wonderful advice and then the title of a book by James Dobson: Parenting Isn’t For Cowards. I will be forever grateful to my friend for steering me in the right direction.

I will be blogging about this book in a future Tuesday Tome post, but I can tell you right now it is exactly what I needed to understand parenting as a whole, to have a big picture of what to expect, how to cope, and to learn how some Bible passages about child-rearing can be misinterpreted even by pastors. This book is an answer to my prayer for wisdom.

It also reminded me to check out other resources from Focus on the Family. How could anybody go wrong with these books and seminars? If you are feeling tired or discouraged as a parent, you should definitely reach out for help to a friend or a website or a support group. Don’t wait until it is too late and your burnout will cause you physical distress or worse.

Leave your pride aside and open up to somebody you trust, a spiritual leader in your life, a book somebody once mentioned, or a Google search at the very least. Take care of yourself so that you can take good care of your children.