Covenant Baptist Church is the site for the fifth annual Eastern Panhandle Home School Conference on Saturday, March 23. The conference will run from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
According to Donna Bent, chair of the conference, the gathering is the only one of its kind in the area. It caters to the tri-state area, drawing attendees from Winchester to Hagerstown. Bent said that approximately 150 are expected to register for the event, not including vendors and speakers.
"In Jefferson and Berkeley counties, there are over 1,000 home schoolers registered," Bent said. "There are over 7,000 in the state of West Virginia and that number continues to grow," she added.
Bent shared that benefits to home schooling include a tailored education. One on one teaching allows for focused learning for every student, from gifted to special needs children, she said.
She went on to say that parents want a direct influence on what their children are learning, something they don't get in a public school atmosphere.
While opponents of home schooling often cite lack of socialization as a downfall of the practice, Bent believes the opposite is true.
"Most home school students are involved in many social endeavors," she said. "These include such things as 4-H, church activities, music lesson and sports."
Bent said that another benefit to home schooling that she has observed is that students are not stuck in their own peer groups.
"These kids are comfortable with all age groups," she said. This is because the students interact with all ages when learning and attending home school cooperatives and other gatherings.
The conference Saturday has adopted a theme of creating a road map of education and all classes take on titles pertaining to traveling that map. The will include topics such as charting your family's course, resolving sibling rivalry, building family bonds and much more. Attendees will have the option of sitting in on four to six classes throughout the day.
In addition, vendors will be on hand to provide home school materials.
A variety of speakers will present talks on various topics throughout the day. Among those to share insights are Bernie and Linda Beall, the founders of Great Commission Families, a local family ministry helping families to "take steps of faith toward greater involvement in the Great Commission."
Also speaking will be Vicki Bentley, the mother of eight daughters, foster mom of over 50, and grandma to 15 wonderful grandbabies (so far).
Bentley has homes chooled 17 children since 1988, alongside her husband Jim, and led a local support group of over 250 families for 14 years. She has served on the executive board and convention committee of the Home Educators Association of Virginia and has addressed state and national conventions, university teacher organizations, and many mothers' groups. She is the author of My Homeschool Planner, Everyday Cooking, The Everyday Family Chore System, Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, High School 101: Blueprint for Success, and other homeschool and homemaking helps, and coordinates HSLDA's Toddlers to Tweens and Group Services programs.
More information on the conference can be found at www.ephsc.org.