I haven’t been to Rockaway Beach, New York.
I haven’t been to Trestles Surfing in California (let alone the championship).
I haven’t been to Ibiza, Spain.
But I do have a collection of $5 t-shirts from Old Navy that make me look like the hippest world traveler!
I don’t think I own even one t-shirt from any of the places I’ve actually traveled to! That goes for the family trips, for sure (of course, if Costco sold t-shirts…)
Truth is, I’m always a little sheepish (and surprised) when people ask me if I’ve visited any of these places. My response is usually something like: “$5. Old Navy. I’m cheap.”
Most of the places we vacation as a family aren’t the t-shirt shop places, anyway. A few have been, but we’ve been blessed over the past couple of years to spend that rare and special time in a cool way with the whole family – family conferences. Yes, you read that right – a conference for families.
photo credits: Noah Conference 2016
What? and Why?
OK, so if you’re picturing TED Talks on how to up your sales game, or grown men running around in comic book hero costumes, or lectures on the newest dental implants hardware…this is not that type of conference. There are several organizations which host Family Conferences around the U.S. and other countries: Generations.org, NCFIC, Teach Them Diligently, state home education associations (like CHEC), and Voice of the Martyrs for example. These conferences all vary in subject and program, but the ones that our family have attended have held sessions over the course of several days on biblical parenting, discipling children, apologetics, worldview, mentorship, science, life-skills for teens, and fostering entrepreneurship in the home.
Some of the conferences have had teen learning paths or kids programs, as well.
Alexander would probably say one of his favorite conference sessions was in Denver from a professor at the University of Colorado. He spoke of advanced mathematics’ revealing a universe of intelligence and design (Fibonacci numbers, etc.).
Damaris would say that her favorite sessions have been related to tips and truths for moms on how to thrive in the busy years of raising little ones.
Probably the most motivating reason that Damaris and I have focused our efforts of vacation planning on family conferences is because our time with our kids is so short and there is so much to learn! It has been fun to see the older kids enjoy choosing sessions to attend and then holding discussion afterward about what they took away.
As Americans, our first-world challenges always seem to be choosing between limitless options of…toothpaste, potato chips, cell phone plans, and where to spend our time (and $$) on vacation. In the sea of vacation spots, condo rentals, and destination ‘”been-there, done-that’s” it can be an up-hill battle to be purposeful and intentional in how we spend our family ‘down-time’.
Making it a Success
Traveling across country (or at least out of state) with 7 kids, 12yo and under to stay at a hotel for 4 days of conference sessions takes some serious planning, as you can appreciate! Maybe Damaris will share some secrets to success on a future post – we’ve had some great experiences and some lessons-learned.
A few things I would throw out there would be:
Plan for downtime – for the sake of everyone’s sanity, plan beaks from the schedule and a place/way to spend those breaks.
Put your Bug-Out bag to use – spending an entire day at a conference center is not exactly conducive to nap-takers, diaper-doers, or seat-squirmers. You’re essentially camping in a building. Meals have to be prepared, snacks stocked up, crayons and dolls in-queue! Over-prepared is under-prepared.
Become a Local – the hotel pool saves the day…every day for us. Local tourist spots (museums, cool parks, city centers, donut and ice cream shops) are an awesome way to break-up the conference schedule and make the trip even more memorable.
It’s worth looking into! We’ve enjoyed the close family time that attending conferences has afforded us. We’ve loved the mix of fun and relaxation with challenge and stimulation. We’ve felt the satisfaction at the end of the vacation, knowing that we’ve made some decisions of how to spend our free-time which will, we pray, produce fruit where seeds have been planted. We’ve met some great folks from all over the country and talked about God, family life, businesses, farm animals…you name it!
a thought, Nathan