The Homeschool + Conference: Should It Continue?

The Homeschool + Conference 2014, the second, free online homeschooling event created by Steve Hargadon and Pat Farenga (with tremendous help from Amy Brinkley and Rochelle Hudson!) took place in August. Despite a great lineup of speakers and topics, and the addition of an alternative education film festival, we drew a much smaller audience than we did last year at this time and we’re flummoxed if it is worthwhile to do a third event like this.

We aren’t sure if the poor turnout is due to the time of the year (many people are on vacation in August), the webinar format, our speakers/topics, our publicity, or just burnout with online conferences. We know it can’t be the price since it’s free, but now we’re wondering if doing this as a free gift to the community makes sense given the amount of work we do and the poor response. Perhaps this is a gift no one wants or needs?

We also wonder if the small change in the title—the addition of “Plus” to indicate outreach and influence beyond the homeschooling/unschooling community—made people feel we were somehow commercializing the event this year. Frankly, we hoped the “plus” would encourage a wider group to participate in the conference, but that didn’t pan out.

What do you think? If you have any thoughts or opinions about this, please comment here or send Steve or me an email with your ideas.

The complete set of 32 recordings can be seen and heard for free on the Homeschool + Conference site.

We also converted some of the talks so they can be played on YouTube. The 2014 keynote speeches can be found on this page.

The 2014 distinguished speakers can be found on this page.

I’ve also embedded my talk, “Why we need alternatives to school,” and a few of the distinguished speaker talks on a new page on this site. I hope these talks will spur you to listen to the many others listed above, as well as adapt their ideas to your own learning outside of school.

Amos Blanton, “Digital Tools for Learners with Agency.” Amos writes, “In this talk I’ll describe some of the thinking behind Scratch ( and other projects created by members of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group (at MIT), with emphasis on learner agency and other values shared by Constructionists, Makers, and Unschoolers.”

Luba Vangelova, “An Introduction to Self-Directed Learning.” Luba notes, “How does self-directed learning differ from conventional education? Why do some parents and educators prefer this approach? Is self-directed learning for everyone? How have self-directed learners fared later in life (including in college and in the career arena)? How are the parents' and educators' roles different in a self-directed learning environment? How does this type of learning affect students' relationships with family members and people within the broader community? What are the range of ways that self-directed learning can be practiced in institutions, in informal groups, and/or in homes? What are the necessary ingredients to success?”

Jackie Gerstein, “Maker Education: An Idea Whose Time Has Come.” Jackie’s presentation took some time to load, so I suggest you start watching this around the 7:50 mark on the timeline to get into it quickly. Jackie’s not a homeschooler and her slides often refer to classroom situations, but she has the right spirit about learning and teaching and the maker space can be anywhere, as she clearly indicates in her talk: “I don’t do teaching for a living. I live teaching as my doing . . . and technology has amplified my passion for doing so.”