>>I am sure yo do not want to think about this now, but what about next year? It would be such a shame to lose the momentum you have built up.<<
I’ve been asked a number of times if there will be a conference next year, and I’ve vacillated within myself about if I would continue organizing it from a distance (most of the arrangements I do online or by phone anyway) for the future and then have a couple of people do the hands-on aspect for the day of the conference itself.
I feel that it’s really important that there be a venue in the Orthodox world for accurate information and support with regards to homeschooling (which is sorely missing), and know how much people appreciate it (some have told me it was life changing for them). At the same time, it requires a substantial effort on my part, and every one of us has to choose where to invest her time and energy. I finally decided to make it strictly about numbers and not about my feelings: if there were a given number of people (I predetermined this) in attendance this year, that would justify the continued effort.
The first year of the conference, we had about 50 people, which was quite good considering that it was the very first time, and I began organizing it only six weeks before it took place (and my baby was four weeks old at the conference!). The second year we had about 100 people, which was wonderful, as I felt like the interest and awareness of homeschooling as a reality was growing.
This year, my hope was that there would be a significant increase from last year’s turnout, which I felt was reasonable for a number of reasons. However, I decided that even if we didn’t increase the numbers from last year, I’d be willing to continue organizing the conference if there were close to 100 people.
Well, fortunately for me but maybe unfortunately for those who would like this to continue, the attendance wasn’t enough to make it something I’d have to rethink. I believe part of the lowered attendance is due to the crunch many are feeling economically, combined with the rising gas prices – it makes it hard to spend the money driving even a few hours away.
And part of it is that people take what they have for granted until they don’t have it. They are so pressured by all that they have to do, that they don’t make time for things that aren’t urgent – even if those options would create better possibilities for them. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to say they want something but when it comes down to it, not follow through.
My kids asked me how I felt about the attendance. And my honest answer is, I felt somewhat disappointed that more people didn’t avail themselves of this resource. Though I downplay how much time and effort I put into the conference, it’s honestly a lot of work; I don’t think without doing something like this yourself you have an idea of how much is involved in it. The effort that I put in is the same regardless of how many people come, and when I know how great the need is and then see how relatively few people actually make the effort to be there, it’s disheartening. Also, when I extend myself to accommodate people who make specific requests and then don’t even show up, it’s disappointing. I understand it, though.
So I finished the conference with a lovely sense of completion and closure. I’ll continue to support people one on one, and to make the recordings available (I’ll let you know when the ones from this year are ready), and I’m very grateful for the clarity that this isn’t something for me to continue.
Interestingly (to me, anyway!), someone in Israel has taken the initiative to arrange a monthly homeschool gathering in the north of Israel – in Karmiel, actually! (the city we’re moving to) – and the first gathering was held on the same day as the conference. When one door closes, another opens! So as the door on my active advocacy for homeschooling in the Orthodox world in the US swings shut (though I suspect that it will never totally close), it is very, very nice to feel that there are others where we are going who are making the effort to create a framework that we can participate in.