Each year, thousands of homeschoolers gather at the Lansing Center in Michigan’s capital for the annual INCH Convention on homeschooling. Whether you are a veteran of home education conventions, or are considering visiting for the first time, here are some reasons to consider making this an important part of your schedule each year.
A Great Heritage
When my family first began home educating in the late in 1970s, there were no homeschooling conventions. In fact, homeschooling wasn’t even legal because of compulsory attendance laws. In 1984, Dennis and Roxanne Smith started the first INCH convention, with the intent of creating an event where homeschoolers could gather together for encouragement, training and the opportunity to purchase curriculum and supplementary resources.
Faith, Family and Freedom
INCH has always had three primary goals. While INCH desires to equip and encourage all Michigan homeschoolers, despite their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), the leadership of INCH has always been comprised of Christians.
Faith: It is our desire, as Christians, to pass on our faith and beliefs to the next generation. This is a primary reason that many in our state have made the decision to homeschool. While there are many resources and workshops at our convention that are focused on teaching academics, we seek to present materials and ideas that will not be offensive or contrary to the historic Christian faith.
Family: Far removed from the non-relational, cookie-cutter approach to learning embraced by institutional government education, we view education as being primarily relational. It is the passing on not only of information, but also of beliefs, values and convictions.
Freedom: We realize that in order to continue to homeschool legally, and be free from needless governmental restraints and regulations, we need to network together, to support each other, as a community. INCH has always sought to protect the right of all homeschoolers to teach their children freely in Michigan.
Main Things to Expect at the Convention
INCH always brings in some of the top homeschooling speakers from across the nation. The workshops are practical, with special tracks addressing topics like: Special Needs Homeschooling, a track for Fathers, Teen Sessions, Legal Issues, and various workshops on how to teach the different academic subjects. These workshops are how-to and will equip you for the task of teaching your unique child at home.
The Keynote Presentations will help to give you the 30,000 foot view. They will equip you with the “why” of homeschooling and will help you to avoid burnout and excel rather than merely survive in your homeschooling experience. These speakers are dynamic, informative and will charge your batteries for the task of homeschooling.
The Vendor Hall
One of the most exciting aspects of our homeschooling convention is the vendor hall. Some of the top homeschool curriculum publishers in the world buy booth space at our convention. Their representatives are knowledgeable about the resources they publish and how it can be best implemented by your family. If you are new to homeschooling, or are considering switching to a new curriculum, the face-to-face consultations they provide are invaluable. You can ask specific questions and expect instructive answers from the vendors. Many also run convention specials, allowing you to save more money than you would online, and of course, there is no shipping cost when you buy at the event.
If you are new to homeschooling, we offer a FREE preview tour through the convention hall on Thursday night. You will receive a guided tour but a veteran homeschooling parent (often area homeschool co-op or support group leaders), who can give you hints and tips on how to maximize your time in the vendor fall on Friday and Saturday.
One of the many side benefits of attending your state convention is that you will get to meet hundreds of other families, living in Michigan, who have made the exact same choice you have made (or are making). It is great to talk with other families, ask them questions, and learn from their experiences. There are families who have met at our convention and have become life-long friends (this is true for my family as well!).
At the convention, you will also have opportunity to get connected with homeschooling co-op and support groups in your area, or even possibly to meet your local homeschooling group leaders or facilitators.
Great for the Whole Family
We have sought to make the INCH convention affordable for the entire family to attend together. We understand that you like to do things together as a family. We also realize how difficult it can be to find child-care, especially for an extended weekend, so at the INCH convention, children attend for FREE when both of their parents attend.
We also have optional, affordable programs for children and/or teens, so your children can experience great teaching and fellowship (if you choose) in their own age-appropriate events.
There is nothing like taking time as a married couple to get away, and have a focused planning season for the education and discipleship of your children. Whether the event is a romantic get-a-way for you as a couple, or a trip for the whole family, there is nothing like hearing new ideas, and discussing them together, to really light a unified fire of enthusiasm for the task you are facing.
We strongly encourage dads/husbands to attend with their wives. Homeschooling is NOT just for women. Homeschooling is something that is for the whole family, and we help to teach you how to do that more effectively.
Why Your Own State Convention?
You may be thinking, “I’ve heard about those large regional mega-conferences with dozens of top speakers and a huge vendor hall a state or two away. What is the difference between INCH and those events?
A key aspect of INCH, that sets us apart from every other homeschooling convention, is that we are the ONLY convention that helps to fund legislative and lobbying work to keep homeschooling legal and free from government intrusion in Michigan. Through relationships we have cultivated over the years with many state legislators, including key members of the house and senate education committees, we have been able to help avert many harmful bills that would have restricted your freedoms. Many of these pieces of legislation have been stopped before they even made it out of committee, thanks to the fact that many key Michigan legislators have come to respect INCH as a collective voice for home educators throughout the state. They often present bills to us for our input and we are able to help eliminate harmful language that might restrict your freedoms.
For example, there was a bill proposed in 2015 that would have made Michigan one of the most restrictive states in which to homeschool (required annual home visits from state workers, and more). Because of the groundwork that has been laid for more than 30 years, and the positive reputation INCH has carefully cultivated with many legislators, we were able to help stop that bill in the state House and Senate Education Committees, and the bill never saw the light of day!
On the rare occasions that a bills reaches the House or Senate floor, we contact our members and encourage them to contact their legislators directly. INCH is one of the main ways that many homeschoolers in Michigan know what is happening regarding home education legislation in Lansing, and they appreciate the opportunity to let their voice be heard on issues that are important to them.
The funds for doing this legislative work comes almost exclusively from membership and revenue generated at the annual convention. We take the profit from the annual convention and put it to work, protecting your right to home educate your in Michigan, the way you see fit.
INCH also facilitates special legislative action days at the State Capitol in Lansing. There are often opportunities to meet your legislators from your district in person, and express your thankfulness for the freedom we have to homeschool legally, and with minimal regulation, in Michigan.
INCH has been and remains consistently committed to promoting privately-funded, parent-directed, Christian home-based education. Some other conventions sell curriculum that promotes an anti-Biblical worldview, or have speakers who promote government education. INCH does not, and will not do that. We seek to ensure that our speakers and the products in the vendor hall are not antagonistic to traditional, historic Christianity.
Granted, there are other conventions that are very selective in promoting exclusively Christian materials and speakers, but with the INCH Convention, you never have to wonder. Our history and commitment remain firm.
While some attendees just plan to come and browse the vendor hall, we strongly encourage you not to skip the teaching sessions. I talked with a lady who had attended the convention for five years and had never once attended any teaching sessions (because she didn’t feel she needed them). However, after she began attending the speaking sessions for the first time, she was so overwhelmed by how powerful and applicable they were to her life that she was actually in tears, saying she so wished she had gone earlier, as it would have helped to solve most of the problems she had been having in her homeschool for the previous years.
“But I Don’t Think I Need To Go!”
Many people believe they have no need to attend a live event, such as the INCH Convention. Here are some of the main reasons they may express:
I Buy All My Curriculum Online
Despite the ease and convenience of clicking a button, nothing can replace the professional counsel and advice you can receive from talking directly with the publishers (or meeting the authors!). Amazon will never take the time to explain to you how to best utilize your materials to maximize your experience, or how to create right custom package for your unique child.
Another thing to consider is that most of the vendors at the INCH Convention are homeschooling parents, just like you. When you buy from Amazon, you make Amazon even richer than it already is. Now, we’re not against Amazon, but let me let you in on a little secret: They aren’t hurting for money right now!
Many of these vendors (at least their representatives) live in Michigan, and many make a full-time living from selling their curriculum. You are supporting other families, with similar values, just like your own. You are enabling them to maximize their profit and continue to provide you with quality materials for years to come.
The fact is, in many cases, new curriculum will be more affordable at the convention because of convention specials and discount, and the fact that you never have to pay shipping. And you have the peace of mind of knowing that you didn’t just waste money on something you thought was going to be a good fit for your child, only realize on receiving it blindly in the mail, that it wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Those mistakes can be costly indeed!
My Homeschool Community is on Facebook
There is value in virtual community, but there is also something very important about interacting with real, like-minded and like-hearted people. It is true that we could sit at home and just watch TV preachers. But most of us don’t do that. We make the effort to meet with other Christians on a weekly basis, to worship together and encourage one another in a real-life context.
I believe that God meets with His people when they carve out special time to meet with Him. I know in my life that I have never regretted taking time away to “sharpen the axe” so-to-speak. Even though I may initially be thinking of all the things I could be getting done elsewhere, I find that God penetrate through my distraction through a convicting word by the speaker, or a timely conversation with a new friend. It is my conviction that God uses these special meeting places in our year, just as He did in the Bible when God’s people carved out special times to gather together in His name. Come expecting God to touch your heart in ways you didn’t even know you needed to be helped, challenged and encouraged.
We’re All Set. We Don’t Need Help.
Many veteran homeschoolers simply don’t see a need for a homeschooling convention. I sometimes hear people say, “We are all set with our curriculum. We are all set with what we are doing, and we don’t really want to change. We are already convinced that we should homeschool, and we don’t feel a need for a booster shot. We’re fine. Don’t need to go.”
I’d like to respond to this in two ways. The first is to say that regardless of how many decades I have been attending homeschooling conventions, I still learn from the ideas and experiences of others. Other people see things with a unique angle and perspective that I don’t have. That is why we need the Body of Christ. We are all different, and we need each other. So I would suggest that we should always remain open to improvement and growth.
My second thought though, is that perhaps the convention needs you more than you need it. What I mean is that each year we seek to serve new and aspiring homeschoolers to meet their needs. Perhaps you could be a part of that? Maybe you could volunteer your time to help with registrations, or to teach a workshop, or to be available as a “Mentor Mom,” for those seeking answers. Maybe you could bring a friend along who is new to homeschooling or considering it? Perhaps you could come along with them, and help them walk through the vendor hall, and help to guide them through the sometimes intimidating process of choosing curriculum, or selecting the right workshops to attend? You may find that there is more “take home” value for you than you think, but I am also convinced that someone else needs and will benefit from your expertise. Even if you don’t feel you need the convention, others at the convention undoubtedly need what you can give.
To register online for the 2016 annual convention, REGISTER HERE!
Israel Wayne serves on the leadership team for INCH as the Communication Coordinator.