IHM … the Immaculate Heart of Mary National Home School and Parent Conference … is an amazing two-day event held in Northern Virginia that (so far, anyway) is free admission and the chance to hear some amazing speakers, look at the new curriculum and resource offerings and get some great ideas for the coming year. Dh loves to go as he gets excellent advice he can use in his “traditional” classroom of teens while I get a shot-in-the-arm as one year winds down and the other gets cranked up.

A win-win conference!

We went this past Saturday — a whole date-day — and even though the drive is about and 90 minutes each way (on Friday, that travel time would have been at least doubled!), we both came back singing the praises of IHM and all those wonderful folks who plan this annual event.

Dh did the “teen track” with speakers like:

  • Mo Woltering, the Academic Dean and Director of Development at Holy Family Academy in Manassas, Virginia. He also teaches religion, philosophy, Latin, and algebra. Woltering spoke eloquently and compellingly on Ecclesiology and the importance for teens to connect to the Church.
  • Regina Doman, owner of the new Chesterton Press and author, spoke to the teens on the imagination, good vs bad characters, how to determine good literature and how to apply Catholic concepts to works of fiction.
  • Fr. Larry Swink, associate pastor for a parish in Maryland and pro-life speaker and evangelizer to teens, spoke about how to be a good Catholic young adult with a strong prayer life in an age of secularism.
  • Fr. Joseph Fessio, educator, publisher, builder of schools and an administrator, spoke about the reasons to obtain a strong liberal arts education and some alternatives to the traditional Catholic universities such as online degrees and programs.

Dh came away from the conference with some great plans for teaching his teens next year … some ideas for implementing with our own kids … and some good, basic knowledge of resources available.

I hadn’t meant to go to so many of the speakers — I usually go to IHM to see all the cool new curriculum and resources available for loving, living and learning in the home. But a few speakers I just couldn’t resist:

  • Andrew Pudewa, owner of Institute for Excellence in Writing, gave a talk on how best to grow natural communicators. He spoke about how students today (from kindergarten through college) are losing their ability to communicate because of dummied-down media exposure, lack of reading good books, and when they do read, reading too fast and not audiating the prose. Some ideas he recommended: constant family read-alouds of books at a level ONE STEP ABOVE the highest reading level of the oldest child until they go off to college; listening to audiobooks, especially for slow readers, to improve oral communication and structure (extra benefit: when the child is finally reading/writing fluently, he already has a grasp of the best structure and vocabulary); memorization and presentation of poetry and speeches. Pudewa reminded the audience that human nature is to go to the lowest common denominator — so for reading, read-alouds, audio books and memorization selections, always push the envelope by going slightly above the current reading level.
  • Elizabeth Yank, a long-time homeschool mom (20+ years) and writer, spoke on technology and some of the tools currently available. Unfortunately, this was such a broad topic that Yank could only give an overview. Since I’m a closet techno-geek, I got very little out of this talk.
  • Marie Kennedy, director of the fitness center at CUA, homeschool mom to engineer-graduates and an athlete herself (she was ranked 4th in the nation for long-jump), gave a great talk on first, why to build exercise into our days (for ALL of us) and second, how to create a home-gym. She recommended the use of the BOSU and a balance ball, simple exercises and “circuits” to add to the days, and generally got me revved up to add this to our days. Kennedy mentioned that, because the current generation of high school/college students is so sedentary, their life expectancy is lower than that of their parents and grandparents! We should be exercising anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes per day, every day (breaking it up throughout the day). This is very doable in a homeschool setting! She also mentioned a few websites for further information: the American Council on Exercise, America on the Move, Perform Better, and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
  • The vendors were a great mix of curricula, resource providers, and Catholic merchandise. My favorites were all there: Hillside Education, Family-Centered, Homeschool Connections, and Sacred Heart Books and Gifts. There were many others there too whose wares tempted me but I resisted. It’s always better (and cheaper) for me to browse and pickup and go through all the resources and then go home and order — and many of the vendors will extend their “conference specials” for about two weeks after the conference!

    So, off to order from these fine vendors … after I take my morning walk, of course!

    Oh, and for those who are curious … I did knit in public at the conference … but found last night as I was finishing the left-front of a jacket, that I’d cast on 4 stitches too few and had to rip out all the work I’d gotten done on the ride up and back to IHM and during the talks. I cried and went to bed with a good book.

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