Home-Schooling? Encouragement and Tips Abound at Second-Annual Catholic Homeschool Conference
Free event May 19-22 features 60-plus speakers and more than 11,000 registered participants.
When Paola Ciskanik of New Castle, Delaware, was a young mother in the year 2000, she returned from an in-person home-school conference with a cassette tape recording of speaker and author Kimberly Hahn about the importance of failure along the journey toward success.
“That talk sustained me through 20 years of home schooling,” Ciskanik said.
Fast-forward two decades, and Ciskanik herself is now the coordinator of a free virtual conference for home-schooling parents. The second-annual Catholic Homeschool Conference will run May 19-22, with 60-plus speakers and more than 11,000 registered participants.
The conference features Kimberly Hahn, Father Robert Spitzer, Sarah MacKenzie, Andrew Pudewa, Pam Barnhill, Danielle Bean, Laura Berquist, Kendra Tierney and many others.
“We’re creating a storehouse of content,” Ciskanik said, adding that the range of topics was designed for new and seasoned home-schoolers alike.
Ciskanik said the keynote talks will air live, following a predetermined schedule, while the prerecorded ones will be available to watch anytime during the four-day window.
“We’re encouraging ‘watch parties,’” she quipped. “I’m releasing a checklist so people can mark out how they want to binge-watch.”
In addition, Ciskanik said participants may purchase a “VIP Pass” for unlimited future access to all the recordings.
The virtual gathering is a fruit of The Catholic Homeschool Network, created in 2020 by Ciskanik, along with Maureen Wittmann and Walter Crawford.
In addition to the conference, the network also provides the Catholic Homeschool Directory (an extensive listing of Catholic materials) and the Catholic Homeschool Community (an online platform for parents to share ideas and receive ongoing support).
“We were determined not to make this a one-and-done deal,” Ciskanik said.
Ciskanik said the Catholic Homeschool Network was born out of the pandemic in 2020, as she heard about many parents choosing home schooling for the first time.
“Many people were hesitant about home schooling, and the pandemic kind of forced them to try it,” she said. In Ciskanik’s experience, many parents enjoyed immersing themselves in their child’s learning and discovered the freedom to tailor curriculum to their child’s needs.
Matt and Rachel Dickinson of Naperville, Illinois, began home-schooling their kindergarten-age twins in 2020 as an alternative to the virtual learning offered by their local parochial school.
Rachel found The Catholic Homeschool Network through a friend and signed up for last year’s conference in preparation for their home-school journey.
“The talks were extremely helpful, because you realize you’re not alone,” Rachel said. “We had advice from these women who have been [home-schooling] for years.”
“Let’s not reinvent the wheel,” she said.
The Dickinsons purchased the VIP pass last June and listened to the talks throughout the year. Rachel said she plans to purchase the pass again this year.
Rachel also appreciated the ongoing support of the Catholic Homeschool Community forum. She said that when one of her children struggled with a particular subject, helpful ideas for tweaking the curriculum were just a click away.
“All of sudden [my daughter] wasn’t fighting phonics anymore,” she said.
Greg and Kerry Climaco of Vista, California, are a seasoned home-schooling family of five. Kerry set aside a few hours each day of last year’s conference to watch videos on a variety of subjects, from home organization to creating a strong marriage.
She especially appreciated MacKenzie, author of Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace and creator of the Read-Aloud Revival website and podcast.
“I really like how she talked about … allowing yourself to do the job that you can and let the day’s work be sufficient for that particular day,” Kerry said. “It’s important to turn to God and know that we can only do so much, and he will take care of the rest.”
Ciskanik reminded parents that while they are the primary educators of their children, they do not have to do it alone.
Kendra Tierney, a conference keynote speaker and creator of CatholicAllYear.com, agreed.
“The idea of the conference is to bring people together so we can build friendship and support one another,” Tierney said.
Ciskanik likened the conference to a toolbox.
“We’re helping families reimagine school for themselves,” she said. “What does home school look like for your family?”
“It’s about reaching people where they are and bringing the joy of learning back into their children’s life,” Ciskanik added. “Once you have that awe, wonder, discovery and joy, the rest is icing on the cake.”
Kimberly Jansen writes from Omaha, Nebraska.
REGISTER FOR FREE
To register for the free online gathering, visit CatholicHomeschoolConference.com.
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