Reflecting on the Wonder Conference

November 1, 2019 | Sharon Cumberland

At the Wonder Conference, I felt a true sense of community among others who desire the same as me: to make new discoveries and enrich our home education.  I love being challenged by new ideas and making sure I stay “fresh” in my teaching. I easily fall into a routine with our grids where the aim becomes checking all the boxes, and I forget to seek inspiration. The Wonder Conference was the perfect fresh outlook I needed.

–Ariana Spaulding

Our theme this year was Less. But Better––the theme was not simply about doing less, but about discovering what is essential and focusing on what is important and truly worthwhile.

Today, I (Sharon) wanted to share with you about my Wonder Conference experience. For those who were unable to attend, I hope it gives you a taste of what the weekend was like and piques your interest for next year. Keep in mind, this is merely my perspective and a summary of the classes I attended (I wish I could have done them all!). Be sure to find someone else who attended and ask them what their highlights were from the conference.

I’ll be honest, when I signed up for the Wonder Conference, it wasn’t because I was super curious to find out what Wonder Boxes were (I now know, they are awesome), or because I was anxious to brush up on my Singapore Math skills, or because I wanted to learn more about Nature Play. I was intrigued to meet Diane Stanley, but for the most part, my main motive for attending the conference was that I would have two days kid/responsibility-free (thanks to my supportive husband who encouraged me to go). However, now after attending I can say with confidence, had I needed to pay a babysitter to watch the kids it would have been totally worth it (and if you know me and my love for frugality, that is saying quite a lot). At the conclusion of the Wonder Conference, I left with my mind full of ideas that I immediately wanted to implement. Some were just reminders of things I had neglected to do recently and others were brand spanking new and I couldn’t wait to try them out.

Day One

Friday was a mix for me of what I would call “homeschooling help”. My day began with the seminar titled Beginning Your Essentialism Journey. This was an excellent place to start. I read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown this summer, so I was interested to hear what Susie and Betsi had to say in regard to how SLOCA life and essentialism work together. It was a relief to hear that not even Susie is fully embracing essentialism as the author presents it. She did, however, offer insight into the process of how to discover what is essential to you. Questions like “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “Which problem do I want?” are still fresh in my mind as I embark on my own essentialism journey.

I was not originally planning on attending the Wonder Conference, but after my plans changed, I’m so glad I did.  The conference schedule provided a great mix of instructive seminars for homeschooling parents and soul-feeding seminars to encourage and grow us as people.  To say I feel better equipped to homeschool my son after attending the seminar on homeschooling multiples and organization is an understatement. I walked away with a wealth of information shared by experienced homeschooling parents who have been in the trenches and figured out ways to make it smoother, allowing them to keep the focus on enjoying the homeschooling journey.  Even if I implement only a fraction of what they shared, it will radically improve our homeschool experience.

–Ashley Ernstrom

Diane Stanley was next. Hearing her share about her mother and the impact the stories she was told as a child had on her was a compelling reminder to me of the power of story-telling. I feel challenged to not only read to my kids but also share our own family stories with them.

My biggest takeaway, however, was at the end of the session when she had us attempt to edit some short excerpts, two of which were her’s from an upcoming project. We dialogued about the errors and her process and discussed how often something you have written just needs to be completely scrapped and started anew. To be able to come home and say to my 5th-grade son (who wants all first drafts to be perfect and hates to have to go back and make changes), “See, even Diane Stanley does not write amazing things on every attempt,” was extremely impactful. 

Diane Stanley

The lunch hour arrived and I didn’t really know how I would spend this hour. As an extroverted-introvert these situations can be slightly stress-inducing. The time ended up flying by as I conversed with a few other moms. This in and of itself was just as valuable to me as the sessions I attended. We shared our insights from the seminars, chatted about our kids and life, and offered suggestions and encouragement. I felt nourished in a way my simple lunch could never provide.

I then scurried off to Anna Ingalls’ Wonder Boxes having no idea what to expect. I had really debated about which session to attend for this particular part of the day. There were too many good choices, but I’m so glad I went to Wonder Boxes. Anna read Diane Stanley’s Goldie and the Three Bears and demonstrated to us how to create our own Wonder Box and the fun peg characters that can be designed to go with a story. At the time, I didn’t know I needed it, but this creative outlet was rather therapeutic.  And I can’t wait to share my three little bears characters with my kindergartener.  

I finished the day off with some much-needed reminders from Jennifer Wright about IEW as well as the tools to support and encourage my son on his next LMS writing assignment.  

The Wonder Conference provided me with practical and hands-on training that no podcast or homeschool event has yet. This is conference is a must for any homeschooling parent.

Jaime Hendrickson

Day Two

Saturday for me was less about homeschooling and more about parenting (which we all know can be a huge part of homeschooling). I opted to spend the day listening to Lea Payne Scott. I was again really torn about which sessions to choose but after sitting in on her first session, The Whole Brain Child, I knew I was right where I needed to be. After attending all three of her seminars, my brain was filled to the brim with information about the brain. She challenged us to wait for the teachable moment with our kids and reminded us of the importance of connection and empathy. My favorite takeaway was the idea that “rupture and repair build relationship”. Our kids will face “ruptures” in their lives, but when we are there to help them, when we say sorry for our mistakes, or guide them in “repairing” whatever needs mending, we are helping them build relationships. 

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I was excited to implement all that I had learned. An opportunity to try out some of my newly acquired knowledge presented itself at the start of the week when one of my children was having an issue with the other (shocker, I know). Rather than default to my usual response to their bickering, I took the time to connect with the kid that was struggling. I expressed empathy and understanding while listening to his frustrations and when I felt he was ready I offered options for possible solutions to the problem. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I walked away from that interaction feeling confident that we had actually made some progress.

The Wonder Conference was a unique and invaluable experience for me. Next year when it comes time to sign up, I won’t hesitate. Evaluating what is essential, being equipped to succeed in homeschooling and parenting, and having some quality community time is what I consider worthwhile!

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