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Sunday April 5th 2020

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Virginia Homeschoolers Conference or Bust!

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On Thursday, the weather was terrible. Still, the awful buzzing of the emergency weather radio came as a surprise, as did its tornado warnings. With a last minute rush to find a hotel room in Tampa (one I wish I hadn’t found), our trip to Richmond, Virginia for the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers annual conference on Saturday began about 15 hours ahead of schedule.


photo by Stephanie Elms

As predicted, the rain and gusty wind continued all night and into the morning when we arrived at the airport for our 9:00 am flight. Even though we’d made sure my checked bag was a full pound under the 50-pound limit, the airline scale said it weighed 54 pounds. As we stood there digging out four pounds of “stuff” and figuring out where to put it, I couldn’t decide which of two scenarios was worse: the airline making extra money with out-of-sync scales, or that I weigh five pounds more than I thought. I’m going with a crooked airline.

Upon arriving in the airspace above Atlanta, due to weather-related delays we circled for an hour, missing our connection – or so we thought.

The connecting flight to Richmond was also delayed for yet another hour, so instead of getting to Richmond at 2:15 as scheduled, we’d be a couple of hours late. Then the flight was delayed for another 30 minutes. Then another 45. Then another 15. This went on for hours until they announced the flight was canceled. But wait! Don’t go anywhere; they were working on getting another plane.

About an hour later the airline announced they’d gotten another plane. Thirty minutes went by and they announced they’d lost the plane, and they’d do their best to book more than 150 passengers on three more flights leaving for Richmond that night.

The reality was the best they could do for the vast majority of us was put us on a really long stand-by list for an 8:15pm flight. Whoops – I blinked! Make that a 9:00pm flight. Nope. The crew was hung up flying in circles above Atlanta and it would be at least 9:30…no, make that 10:00.

VaHSers Table

Photo by Stephanie Elms

The pilot of the flight, enjoying the world’s busiest airport with us, announced that a crew just in from Richmond reported a turbulent flight, with several people getting injured because they weren’t belted in. He told everyone to use the airport restrooms, as he wasn’t going to have any injuries on his flight. No one, including the crew, was going to get up. Just in case we might actually be two of the lucky ones to get on the turbulent flight, I swear it was the voice of my dearly departed mother telling me to at least “go try.”

Once the “real” boarding pass holders were finally seated, stand-by “winners” were announced in the painful manner of one or two names; pause; one or two more; pause. I never imagined I could be so happy to learn I was chosen for a white-knuckle ride into the night.

Little did we know that it wasn’t our luck at all that got us on that last plane outta town. When Parrish Mort discovered a little pink bracelet she received from Maddie McCant that night was for luck, several other ladies associated with the conference got one, too. (If they’d called me at the airport and told me about all of this luck, they could have saved me a lot of stress that night!)

Shay Seaborne and Mary Wilson were still smiling when, well after midnight, they picked us up at the airport. The room was so lovely when, at last, we were checked into the hotel, I really wished I didn’t have to go right to sleep…that is, right to sleep after we scattered about all the soaking wet clothes that came out of the soaking wet suitcase. (They must have left it out in the rain while waiting to see where it ultimately needed to go. At least it came with us!)


Photo by sailordude

In the blink of an eye it was time to get to the conference, held in the perfect venue, the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, just on the outskirts of Richmond. The joint was jumping, and I always find it a sheer delight to see so many families that include really little people who are eager to learn about homeschooling. I’d missed Friday night’s Ice Cream Social (doggone it, I love ice cream), art exhibit and talent show, but what a Saturday teeming with a delightful mix of workshops and activities the conference had lined up for us attendees. (Of course I was working, so I had to enjoy them vicariously through the folks with whom I spoke.)

There were sessions on beginning homeschooling, field trips, lapbooking, language immersion, unschooling, a dads’ panel, a teen panel, homeschooling outdoors, and so much more! I was honored to provide the keynote, as well as two afternoon sessions.

At one point I had time to be “with my books” at VaHomeschoolers table, so I was privy to comments from several vendors who were tickled pink with the attendees and who stated they wanted to be added to the invitation list for next year.


Photo by Stephanie Elms

I spoke at VaHomeschoolers very first conference, and over the years I have watched this organization grow and thrive, becoming increasingly effective, not only helping new homeschoolers get started, but also harnessing the power of numbers to advocate on behalf of homeschoolers in their state legislature, and providing wonderful benefits to their members (like free access to The Happy Scientist beginning April 1), and this year’s inaugural $1000 scholarship presented by Kalani Consulting, Inc. to its essay contest winner.

The dedication, hard work, and professionalism of VaHomeschoolers’ Board of Directors and devoted volunteers were evident in every aspect of the conference. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for so warmly including me as part of your amazing event, and for your warm hospitality. And last, but hardly least, a very special thank you to Maddie McCant for getting us on that plane and out of the Atlanta airport.

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