Homeschool convention. Yesterday our family made the 2.5 hour drive to Winston-Salem, NC, to check out the book fair at this year’s NCHE homeschool convention. We weren’t particularly interested in the convention or its workshops (which were probably fine), just in seeing what the current state of homeschooling is, curriculum-wise. It was the first time I’d been to one, but Debbie has been to many and she made an excellent tourguide.
We arrived around noon, which was ideal; enough people had left the convention center parking garage at that point so that they could be just turning off the “FULL” sign as we drove up. We got a spot on the ground floor, and only had to walk across a city street and into the center to be standing before the registration desk. That was particularly nice at the end of our stay, as we struggled back out of the center to the car with our purchases.
Debbie says that the book fair probably wasn’t quite as big as those at the three major conventions (Harrisburg, PA; Richmond, VA; and somewhere in California), but it was the biggest of the second tier, right up there with the Denver book fair. It took us about two hours to make the rounds. It surprised me that half or more of the displays were devoted to either large mobile bookstores or publishers who also carried lots of books by other publishers; I had expected it to mostly be curriculum vendors or publishers who only displayed their own wares. As usual we couldn’t resist the easy availability of so many good and often hard to find titles, and so even though we arrived looking only for one book, we left with thirty-eight.
The hottest area by far was ancient Greek and Roman history; the number of books available was overwhelming, and just about every book vendor had them prominently displayed. This is apparently due to the influence of The Well-Trained Mind, which not only outlines a classical curriculum but also approaches history in a four-year cycle of ancient, medieval, early modern and late modern. The Well-Trained Mind is hot, and so lots of people are currently deep in ancient history, hence the abundance of available titles; Debbie says that three years back none of this stuff could be had. (Note that I have nothing to say about the quality of these titles, just that lots and lots of them are now being published.)
Character-focused material was also big, although usually as a component of some curriculum. I don’t recall seeing too many standalone titles (e.g. William Bennett’s books) that were focused on teaching character.
I expected to find more material on courtship issues, but there wasn’t much to be had. Most of the traveling bookstores had a few titles, but mixed in with other family-related titles; nobody was featuring them.
Many of the major presences in homeschool curriculum had very large booths: Bob Jones, ABeka, Alpha Omega. One of them had tables where you could sit with a consultant who would help you fill out your order for the year’s curriculum, it being a very complicated (and expensive) process. Alpha Omega was demonstrating their Switched-On Schoolhouse, a CD-based version of their workbook-based curriculum.
It was fun to see the kind of crowd in attendance; definitely not your average group of convention-goers. There weren’t an overwhelming number of children, but there were quite a few, and it was pleasant to see them; homeschoolers just have that homeschooled look, don’t they?