Each year, thousands of homeschoolers gather at the Lansing Center in Michigan’s capital city for Michigan’s Inspirational Networking Conference for Homeschoolers (INCH). Whether you are a veteran of home education conventions, or are considering visiting for the first time, here are some reasons to consider making this an important part of your schedule each year.
A Great Heritage
When my family first began home educating in the late in 1970s, there were no homeschooling conferences. In fact, homeschooling wasn’t even legal because of compulsory attendance laws. In 1984, Dennis and Roxanne Smith started the first INCH convention, with the intent of creating an event where homeschoolers could gather together for encouragement, training and the opportunity to purchase curriculum and supplementary resources. 2019 will be our 36th annual INCH Michigan Home Education Conference, held every 3rd weekend of May in downtown Lansing!
Faith, Family and Freedom
MiCHN (the organization that puts on the INCH Conference) has always had three primary goals. While MiCHN desires to equip and encourage all Michigan homeschoolers, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), the leadership of MiCHN has always been comprised of Christians.
Faith: It is our desire, as Christians, to pass on our faith and beliefs to the next generation. This is a primary reason that many in our state have made the decision to homeschool. While there are many resources and workshops at our convention that are focused on teaching academics, we seek to present materials and ideas that will not be offensive or contrary to the historic Christian faith.
Family: Far removed from the non-relational, cookie-cutter approach to learning embraced by institutional government education, we view education as being primarily relational. It is the passing on not only of information, but also of beliefs, values and convictions.
Freedom: We realize that in order to continue to homeschool legally, and be free from needless governmental restraints and regulations, we need to network together, to support each other, as a community. MiCHN has always sought to protect the right of all homeschoolers to teach their children freely in Michigan.
Main Things to Expect at the Convention
MiCHN always brings in some of the top homeschooling speakers from across the nation. The break-out sessions offered throughout the day on Saturday are practical workshops, with unique tracks addressing topics like: Special Needs Homeschooling, Homeschool Dads, Teen Sessions, Legal Issues, and various workshops on how to teach the different academic subjects. These workshops are how-to and hands-on, and will equip you for the task of teaching your unique child(ren) at home.
The Keynote Presentations with this year’s special guests Kirk & Chelsea Cameron and Steve & Megan Schiebner will help to give you the big picture view. They will equip you with the “why” of homeschooling and help you to avoid burnout, giving you strategies to excel rather than merely survive in your homeschooling experience. Our many speakers are dynamic, informative and will charge your batteries for the task of homeschooling!
The Exhibit Hall
One of the most exciting aspects of our homeschooling convention is the shopping — both during our Used Curriculum Sale (Friday morning) and in the exhibit hall (Friday afternoon & all day Saturday.) Some of the top homeschool curriculum publishers in the world buy booth space at our convention. Their representatives are knowledgeable about the resources they publish and how it can be best implemented by your family. If you are new to homeschooling, or are considering switching to a new curriculum, the face-to-face consultations they provide are invaluable. You can ask specific questions and expect instructive answers from the vendors. Many also will be offering Vendor Workshops about their products on Friday afternoon, as well as running convention specials, allowing you to save more money than you would online– plus there is no shipping cost when you buy at the event!
In the Exhibit Hall you will also find numerous ‘hands-on’ exhibits for you and your kids to enjoy, along with a ‘Talent Showcase‘ stage, highlighting some of Michigan’s many talented homeschool students!
If you’re a busy homeschool mom needing some encouragement, join us for our Evening of Real Refreshment (Thursday evening Pre-Conference activity– added cost of $15) with Rachael Carman… an event for moms only! A delightful evening of fun, fellowship, games, giveaways, laughter, prayer, worship, teaching, chocolate, and more!
If you are new to homeschooling, make sure you attend our “Taste of Homeschooling” seminar (Friday morning) that will help equip prepare you with important information before you begin your journey.
If you’re wondering whether you can really homeschool all the way through high school graduation, check out our “Jumpstart Your Future Fair” (Friday morning) to visit with representatives from schools, ministries, and other opportunities that are actively recruiting homeschool grads. Or attend our “Charting Your Course: Homeschooling through High School” seminar (Friday afternoon), as well as our Graduate Recognition Ceremony which is a part of our Closing Keynote on Saturday afternoon. We also have testing opportunities available to help your teens discover what might be next for them… Look into signing up for the ASVAB Career Planning and Exploration Program, or having them take the CLT – the Classic Learning Test, a new college entrance exam alternative to the SAT & ACT.
If your homeschool marriage could use a little recharging, you’ll not want to miss this year’s Friday evening special event: Living Room Reset, with Kirk and Chelsea Cameron!
If you’re in one of these unique groups, don’t miss our Panel Discussions especially for: single-parent homeschoolers, parents of special needs kids, those involved in foster care and/or adoption, those homeschooling preschoolers, and for grandparents and non-homeschooling pastors — our honored guests, whom we invite to attend free of charge with any paying attendee.
If you’re a homeschool leader, you’ll want to be sure you join us for the INCH Leaders’ Legislative Briefing on Thursday afternoon as part of the Day Under the Dome event, as well as for the Leadership Luncheon and Summit on Friday.
One of the many side benefits of attending your state convention is that you will get to meet hundreds of other families, living in Michigan, who have made the exact same choice you have made (or are making). It is great to talk with other families, ask them questions, and learn from their experiences. There are families who have met at our convention and have become life-long friends (this is true for my family as well!).
During our Friday afternoon Regional Meet-Ups, you will also have opportunity to get connected with homeschooling co-op and support groups in your area, and to meet local homeschool group leaders, facilitators, and MICHN’s Regional Representatives from your part of the state!
Great for the Whole Family
We have sought to make the INCH convention affordable for the entire family to attend together. We understand that homeschool families like to do things together as a family. 🙂 We also realize how difficult it can be to find child-care, especially for an extended weekend, so at the INCH convention, children attend for FREE with parents.
We also have optional, special yet affordable programs for children (Walk Through the Old Testament) and teens (Communicate for a Change!), so your students can experience great teaching and fellowship in their own age-appropriate events, should you desire this for your kids.
There is nothing like taking time as a married couple to get away, and have a focused planning season for the education and discipleship of your children. Whether the event is a romantic get-a-way for you as a couple, or a trip for the whole family, there is nothing like hearing new ideas, and discussing them together, to really light a unified fire of enthusiasm for the task you are facing.
We strongly encourage dads/husbands to attend with their wives. Homeschooling is NOT just for women. Homeschooling is something that is for the whole family, and we help to teach you how to do that more effectively.
Why Your Own State Conference?
You may be thinking, “I’ve heard about those large regional mega-conventions with dozens of top speakers and a huge vendor hall a state or two away. What is the difference between INCH and those events?
A key aspect of INCH, that sets us apart from every other homeschooling convention, is that we are the ONLY conference that helps to fund legislative and lobbying work to keep homeschooling legal and free from government intrusion in Michigan. Through relationships we have cultivated over the years with many state legislators, including key members of the house and senate education committees, we have been able to help avert many harmful bills that would have restricted your freedoms. Many of these pieces of legislation have been stopped before they even made it out of committee, thanks to the fact that many key Michigan legislators have come to respect INCH as a collective voice for home educators throughout the state. They often present bills to us for our input and we are able to help eliminate harmful language that might restrict your freedoms.
For example, there was a bill proposed in 2015 that would have made Michigan one of the most restrictive states in which to homeschool (requiring annual home visits from state workers, and more). Because of the groundwork that has been laid for more than 30 years, and the positive reputation MiCHN has carefully cultivated with many legislators, we were able to help stop that bill in the state House and Senate Education Committees, and the bill never saw the light of day!
On the rare occasions that a bill threatening our homeschool freedom reaches the House or Senate floor, we contact our members and encourage them to contact their legislators directly. MiCHN is one of the main ways that many homeschoolers in Michigan know what is happening regarding home education legislation in Lansing, and they appreciate the opportunity to let their voice be heard on issues that are important to them.
The funds for doing this legislative work come almost exclusively from revenue generated at the annual convention, along with MiCHN Membership fees. We take the profit from the annual convention and put it to work, protecting your right to home educate in Michigan, the way you see fit.
MiCHN also facilitates special legislative action days at the State Capitol in Lansing– and you don’t want to miss out on Homeschool Day Under the Dome, on Thursday, May 16, the Thursday of conference week! There are often opportunities to meet your legislators from your district in person, and express your thankfulness for the freedom we have to homeschool legally, and with minimal regulation, in Michigan.
MiCHN has been and remains consistently committed to promoting privately-funded, parent-directed, Christian home-based education. Some other conventions sell curriculum that promotes an anti-Biblical worldview, or have speakers who promote government education. MiCHN does not, and will not do that. We seek to ensure that our speakers and the products in the exhibit hall are not antagonistic to traditional, historic Christianity.
Granted, there are other conventions that are very selective in promoting exclusively Christian materials and speakers, but with the INCH Conference, you never have to wonder. Our history and commitment remain firm.
While some attendees just plan to come and browse the exhibit hall, we strongly encourage you not to skip the teaching sessions. I talked with a lady who had attended the convention for five years and had never once attended any teaching sessions (because she didn’t feel she needed them). However, after she began attending the speaking sessions for the first time, she was so overwhelmed by how powerful and applicable they were to her life that she was actually in tears, saying she so wished she had gone earlier, as it would have helped to solve most of the problems she had been having in her homeschool for the previous years.
Reasons People Don’t Attend
Many people believe they have no need to attend a live event, such as the INCH Convention. Here are some of the main reasons they may express:
“I Buy All My Curriculum Online”
Despite the ease and convenience of clicking a button, nothing can replace the professional counsel and advice you can receive from talking directly with the publishers (or meeting the authors!). Amazon will never take the time to explain to you how to best utilize your materials to maximize your experience, or how to create right custom package for your unique child.
Another thing to consider is that most of the vendors at the INCH Conference are homeschooling parents, just like you. When you buy from Amazon, you make Amazon even richer than it already is. Now, we’re not against Amazon, but let me let you in on a little secret: They aren’t hurting for money right now!
Many of these vendors (at least their representatives) live in Michigan, and many make a full-time living from selling their curriculum. You are supporting other families, with similar values, just like your own. You are enabling them to maximize their profit and continue to provide you with quality materials for years to come.
The fact is, in many cases, new curriculum will be more affordable at the conference because of convention specials and discount, and the fact that you never have to pay shipping. And you have the peace of mind of knowing that you didn’t just waste money on something you thought was going to be a good fit for your child, only realize on receiving it blindly in the mail, that it wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Those mistakes can be costly indeed!
“My Homeschool Community is on Facebook”
There is value in virtual community, but there is also something very important about interacting with real, like-minded and like-hearted people. It is true that we could sit at home and just watch TV preachers. But most of us don’t do that. We make the effort to meet with other Christians on a weekly basis, to worship together and encourage one another in a real-life context.
I believe that God meets with His people when they carve out special time to meet with Him. I know in my life that I have never regretted taking time away to “sharpen the axe” so-to-speak. Even though I may initially be thinking of all the things I could be getting done elsewhere, I find that God penetrate through my distraction through a convicting word by the speaker, or a timely conversation with a new friend. It is my conviction that God uses these special meeting places in our year, just as He did in the Bible when God’s people carved out special times to gather together in His name. Come expecting God to touch your heart in ways you didn’t even know you needed to be helped, challenged and encouraged.
“We’re All Set. We Don’t Need Help”
Many veteran homeschoolers simply don’t see a need for a homeschooling convention or conference. I sometimes hear people say, “We are all set with our curriculum. We are all set with what we are doing, and we don’t really want to change. We are already convinced that we should homeschool, and we don’t feel a need for a booster shot. We’re fine. Don’t need to go.”
I’d like to respond to this in two ways. The first is to say that regardless of how many decades I have been attending homeschooling conventions, I still learn from the ideas and experiences of others. Other people see things with a unique angle and perspective that I don’t have. That is why we need the Body of Christ. We are all different, and we need each other. So I would suggest that we should always remain open to improvement and growth. Consider this as your annual “Teacher Training” or “Educator Inservice” days.
My second thought, though, is that perhaps the convention needs you more than you need it. What I mean is that each year we seek to serve new and aspiring homeschoolers– to answer their questions and to meet their needs. Perhaps you could be a part of that? Maybe you could volunteer your time to help with registrations, or to teach a workshop, or to be available as a “Mentor Mom” for those seeking answers. Maybe you could bring a friend along who is new to homeschooling or considering it? Perhaps you could come alongside someone, and help them navigate the exhibit hall, help to guide them through the sometimes intimidating process of choosing curriculum, or selecting the right workshops to attend? You may find that there is more “take home” value for you than you think, but I am also convinced that someone else needs and will benefit from your expertise. Even if you don’t feel YOU need the convention, others at the convention undoubtedly need what you can give.
Don’t miss this great opportunity to Refresh. Reset. Renew. As it says in Romans 12:2, this is your chance to come “… be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” To register online for the 2019 annual INCH Conference, click: REGISTER HERE!
Israel Wayne serves on the MiCHN Board of Directors as the Communications Director.