Fast forward to Saturday morning and I was freaking out. Why? Let's back up a bit. When I first read the list of lectures and workshops being offered I noticed one by Jen Reyneri that was about the value of adding travel to your homeschool plan. Since we pretty much lived that dream I decided we did not need to attend the lecture, but we should certainly stop by her booth and share our experiences. So that is what I did Saturday morning.
Jen instantly struck me as one of those people who has never met a stranger, and if you are going to travel much I can tell you that is a good quality to have. Opening up and getting to know people where ever the road takes you is one of the most enriching aspects of travel. That sort of intense friendliness is also a character trait that can possibly cause you to say to a person you have only known for five minutes, "Wow! What a great story! Why don't you come to my lecture this afternoon and come up on stage with me and share that!"
My knee-jerk reaction was to say, "Yes! That sounds awesome!" But then the more reasonable side of my brain, the one that remembered how much I hate public speaking (and also caught the part where Jen mentioned being located in the ballroom that seats 1100) caused my other knee to jerk and I started frantically back-pedaling with something like, "Oh...wait....ummmm, I was supposed to go to an art lecture in that time slot....." But then she pulled some sort of Jedi mind trick on me and I heard myself say, all dreamy and faraway like, something about not really needing to go to that art thing because they were probably hocking a book I don't need to buy and yes, I would be there at 2:50 sharp. Then I quickly texted some friends asking for prayers.
I am not kidding at all when I say I positively loathe public speaking. BUT, I must add that every single time I have had to do it I volunteered. It ALWAYS feels like someone just pulled a Jedi mind trick on me, but the truth is that something somewhere in my brain overrides my fear and I do it because I am sharing personal experiences that I feel really excited and passionate about.
Holy Spirit much?
Kevin was right there with me and he spoke too (in a much more steady, cool voice than I used) and since he is always my better half this helped immensely. What I shared with the audience was mostly what I have shared here before, about how the field trip should happen first and that seeing a place is a wildly different experience than reading about it. I also felt obligated to warn parents that traveling might cause test scores to drop.
A few weeks ago my kids took a standardized test as part of our state requirement. We got the scores back right before the convention and I was somewhat surprised. Their scores in all core subject areas (reading, writing, math) went up, despite the fact that we did not touch these subjects for a full year. Well, yes, they read a lot and they blogged and they did real life math. They each kept a spending account and calculated our hiking speed based on distance and time. Once Joel and Harrison even figured out how high up we were by dropping a stone and counting how long it was before they heard the splash in the river below. But traditionalists would tell you that does not count as school.
But their scores in geography, social science, science and history all dropped to about average. That is not too low, just lower than we expected based on having seen all that stuff with their own eyes. My friend Melissa helped me sort out the reason: a standardized test asks a student to read and answer questions based on that reading only. My kids tried to answer based on what they actually experienced, and THAT is a totally different thing.
When we returned to our seats a woman near us immediately told me how encouraging that was to her, as she has unschooled for several years and feels like her evaluator always writes her son off as having no potential. Another parent talked at length with Kevin about their own plans to hit the road soon. But the best for me was the woman who came dashing up and said she would have tackled me had I tried to leave. When Jen invited us to the stage she introduced us as the writers of the DareYou2Move.com blog. This parent thought, "Oh my goodness! I've been following that blog! I have to talk to them!" She told me that we gave them the courage to make a major life move and that we should never doubt whether or not God has used us. That one bit alone was worth facing my fear and speaking.
P.S. Jen Reyneri's website is WordTraveling.com. It's a "non-profit social enterprise building world changers through extraordinary experiences." If you would like to hear her lecture on "The Pricelss Benefits of Homeschool Travel" you can get the mp4 here.