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More Reasons You Should Buy From Your Local Homeschool Resource Center

A local homeschool resource is a valuable asset to the community. Not only do customers have a wide selection of new books and curriculum to choose from, often local homeschool shops offer a place for homeschoolers to buy and sell used materials.

While this variety is important to homeschool families, an even more precious resource resides in local stores specializing in homeschool resources.

People.

Not just any people. Caring current and veteran homeschooling advocates whose sole mission is to help parents and grandparents succeed and thrive as they home educate their students.

We had a chat with Julia Harris, the former owner, and Laura Stowers, the new owner of The Homeschool Gathering Place in Raleigh, NC.

Julia and Jim’s Story

Julia began her homeschool adventure over 25 years ago, back when resources were few and far between. At the time, many home educators passed dog-eared catalogs back and forth as they took a stab at choosing what they hoped would be the ideal science book or math program for their kids.

The only available opportunities to have a hands-on experience prior to purchase were homeschool conventions and the occasional curriculum fair at a local church.

Seeing a gap that desperately needed filing, Julia listened to the still, small voice that urged her to provide a solution. She and her husband Jim began a curriculum consignment shop in their basement. In just 18 months, the business needed more space, so they moved it into a shopping center.

Before the year was up, demand for just such a place had them upgrading their space again, and yet again until they landed in the current location offering both new and used curriculum, resources, and loving support to the community and to visitors from all over the country and around the globe.

Clearly, Julia and Jim created a solution where demand was high.

Over the years, they helped a wide variety of people from brand new homeschoolers testing the waters to veteran home educators who not only shopped at the store, but also offered their encouragement and advice to other customers.

In short, they created a community.

After 24 and half years, they felt the call to pass the torch to someone else. Enter Laura and her husband, Mark.

Laura and Mark’s Story

Earlier in 2021, Mark took early retirement from his corporate job to join Laura. They both felt the urgency to support the homeschool mission through the sweeping changes currently taking place.

Laura says she and Mark inherited a true legacy from the Harrises. Indeed, the Stowers have become the stewards of this legacy and continue to provide a warm community atmosphere for all homeschoolers who enter the store.

While this is just one example of one location, it is a shining beacon of hope and promise to others hearing the call to provide their local homeschool community with resources and support.

Julia offers a word of caution, though. Running a local homeschool shop is not for the faint of heart, nor is it a way to get rich quick. It is a true mission, delivered from the heart and bolstered by the unwavering hand of God.

What’s In It For You To Shop At A Local Homeschool Supplier?

So really, what’s the point of hauling yourself down to the local homeschool bookstore to stock up for next year’s lessons?

The reasons are numerous, and some you won’t expect.

  1. Obviously, the first reason is so you can touch the books and leaf through the workbooks and compare and contrast all the options in real time. You can’t do that online. Sure, you can click back and forth between two math programs on a website, but the limited bits of product descriptions often leave you with more questions than answers.
  2. More importantly, local shops are staffed with experienced, knowledgeable homeschool moms and dads eager to consult home educators on the best options for their families. These people offer their time and expertise at no charge as their personal mission to assist everyone who enters the store with their questions and concerns.
  3. Speaking of consulting, the influx of new homeschoolers has created a wave of parents in need of calming reassurance and the chance to begin their homeschool adventure on solid footing. Local shops graciously provide this support for free. An army of chat bots on a website cannot create that sense of understanding and peace that comes from talking face-to-face with a parent who’s been in the trenches.
  4. A unique feature of some local homeschool shops is a well-stocked, year-round curriculum fair right in the store. Instead of waiting 364 days for the church to host their year-end swap, these shops provide gently used materials at considerable savings every business day.
  5. In addition to physical resources and support, the store acts as a liaison for local co-ops, testing services, and homeschool events in the form of a community bulletin board and word-of-mouth references. This community connection brings together diverse people from around the area to meet and offer support to one another. No online book retailer can embrace the community as well as an in-person location dedicated to homeschoolers.

Why You’re Important to Your Local Homeschool Resource

All the features and benefits listed above are all about what YOU can get from a local homeschool shop.

But what about what your patronage gives back?

Every time a loyal customer supports a local homeschool shop, the shop benefits, and not only financially.

Buying from the store does help keep the doors open. But what about the non-material benefits?

The used curriculum section is an enormous boon to the community. Buying and selling locally blesses other families in your city. You make a bit of money, they make a bit of money, and these funds can be spent on next year’s resources. Everyone wins.

As Laura says, “It’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s a unique model.”

In addition, the veteran homeschool moms and dads are blessed as well by being able to share the wisdom they’ve garnered over their decades of combined homeschool experiences. They have a calling and are eager to support others on their homeschool path.

The shops can host seminars that bring together the “accidental homeschoolers” of the past year or so with the parents who’ve been at it a while to offer support and encouragement. Some parents are struggling, some are thriving, all can benefit from a genuinely caring homeschool community.

Laura tells a story of a gentleman who enjoyed an hour of personalized assistance in her store. He left with an armload of books and materials and a confident step.

Imagine her surprise the next day when the gentleman returned with three 18-count cartons of eggs from his farm an hour away. Just to say “Thank you.”

That is the power and beauty of a thriving homeschool community.

Awesome! So What’s The Problem With Not Buying Local?

Well, we’ve outlined the absolute gift to the community a homeschool shop can be. Unfortunately, not all communities have such an amazing resource. And, according to Julia, providing such a resource takes a special sort of people.

Aside from the geographical logistics of homeschool resource real estate, there lies an ominous dark cloud on the horizon.

What do we mean by this?

As we mentioned in the post about purchasing from homeschool vendors at conventions, many people tend to soak up advice and answers from the person behind the table, then scurry off to purchase the resource from a big box retailer to save a couple of dollars.

We can’t stress this enough:

The pennies you save by clicking “buy now” on your phone are vastly outweighed by the monumental value you receive while interacting with the author or creator of your chosen homeschool resource.

The same heartbreaking scenario plays out at homeschool resource stores.

Imagine spending an hour consulting and instructing a brand new homeschool mom on the best curriculum or program for each of her children based on their learning styles and educational needs.

Now imagine that homeschool mom thanking you while proclaiming, “Now I know what I’m going to buy!” and walking out of the store to save a collective $7 by buying online.

Of course, we’re being facetious about the savings, but you get the point.

The VALUE of the interaction, the support, and the professional consulting is exponentially greater than the mere dollars you perceive you’re “saving” as you walk out of the store (away from the actual products) to click around online and wait by your front door for the delivery truck to arrive.

Do You See The Disconnect Here?

In all fairness, not everyone makes the connection between buying at the local homeschool shop and actually helping keep that shop open and supporting their local homeschool community in the process.

People go out of their way to buy organic vegetables at the local farmer’s market and head to the consignment shop to purchase name brand clothing at a discount.

Both of these actions not only save money, boost health, and make you feel good about your stewardship of your funds, they also help the local community.

It’s no different buying local from the neighborhood homeschool shop. Your purchase, yes, helps the store stay open and pay the bills. Your purchase may also help another local family fund their next year’s homeschool supplies because you bought items they had on consignment.

Perhaps you’re in the store when a brand-new, frightened-of-the-unknown homeschool mom tiptoes in with a basket of questions and fears.

You may be the exact person she needs to hear offering suggestions and may breathe a sigh of relief that she’s in the right place as she forges ahead into a life-altering decision to educate her children at home.

Perhaps you’re at your wits end with questions about a particular resource.

Because of the relationships these local homeschool shops have with the authors and providers of the resources they offer, they can pick up the phone and call the author directly to find answers to your questions.

Wait, you can do that? You certainly can.

Can you do that in a big box store or through a faceless online retailer? Doubtful.

The ultimate goal here is to help all homeschoolers make educational success a reality.

Buy Local. Your Patronage Is Vital.

We want to encourage you to frequent your local homeschool resource store. But more importantly, we want to encourage you to buy from that store.

And no, you don’t have to drop your entire homeschool budget there.

But won’t you set aside at least a portion of your funds to help keep these rare jewels, these educational blessings alive in our communities?

Your homeschool community and your local area will benefit from your contribution.

And if you are called to provide such a beautiful resource in your community, talk to Julia and Jim and Laura and Mark first.

They’re living examples of fulfilling their mission of service to others. And we’re so grateful to know them and share their stories.

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Homeschool Curriculum Providers Need You To Shop Local

Imagine this:

You’re a homeschool vendor.

You’ve poured your heart and soul into a beautiful math curriculum.

Or a stunning homeschool science text.

Or the most amazing subscription box for kids.

You’ve worked in the homeschool space for years, maybe decades.

You’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands of homeschool parents and grandparents in person, by email, in a virtual setting, or through your printed materials.

You understand how homeschool moms and dads think. How they feel. What they say they need.

And what they don’t say, but you still know, because you’ve been there.

When convention season rolls around, you’re excited.

You pack up your books and supplies and banners and laptop for shipping or in your car or SUV or the trailer you haul around.

You’re optimistic. You get to talk to even more homeschool folks to learn even more about what they need so you can make your product even better.

You check in to your hotel. You check in to the convention hall. You check in with the equipment folks, the electrical folks, the scheduling folks.

You’re ready.

Then in come the people. Your people.

These are the people you serve. This is your ministry, your calling, your life.

You want to help them. You aren’t here to make millions.

You’re here to offer advice, support, encouragement, and a clear path to success for their children.

They come.

They visit the booth you so carefully arranged.

They laugh, they ask questions, they analyze your offerings, they talk amongst themselves.

They take pictures. They make notes.

They head to the next booth.

What happened?

You’re here at a great physical, mental, and financial cost.

They’re here to experience your educational offerings up-close and personal.

But they didn’t buy anything.

Why?

The View From The Other Side Of The Homeschool Convention Table

This scenario is playing out over and over around the convention halls throughout the seasons.

With the convenience of the internet right on their phones, homeschoolers are able to browse in person, then purchase online from a big-box retailer.

This seems like it makes good financial sense for them, right?

Let’s flip this perspective.

You’re a homeschooler. You’ve done your research. You’re planning to attend a convention in your area.

You’re excited. You’ve got the whole year mapped out, and all you need are the resources to make it happen.

Convention time rolls around, and you head to the vendor hall, notes and phone in hand, ready to take in all the information presented.

You visit the booths of your chosen vendors. You attend their talks and workshops.

They give all they have, and you are the grateful recipient.

You ask your questions and make your decisions.

You pull out your phone and take a quick snapshot of the book cover or box or grab a brochure to stuff in your swag bag.

And you walk to the next booth.

Hang on a second.

Please take a moment to consider the vendor behind the table.

Very often, these folks are homeschoolers, too. They’re not just business folks trying to make a buck.

Vendors are part of your homeschool community.

They’ve hauled their wares to your front door and laid bare the work of perhaps a lifetime.

If we don’t support these vendors, conventions could be a thing of the past.

That’s a bold statement, and let’s explore the reasons behind it.

As outlined in the scenario above, exhibiting at a convention is a labor of love. Tiring, stressful, but rewarding just to see and visit with other homeschoolers and offer help in numerous ways.

But if a vendor can’t afford to attend a convention due to rising costs, what becomes of the beloved convention?

Jamie Erickson of The Unlikely Homeschool, who inspired this post, said it best:

“The last five or so year’s worth of sales have been underwhelming for many homeschool vendors. Consequently, more and more of them have stopped traveling to conferences.

Consequently, conference organizers have struggled to make enough from vendor booth fees to be able to pay speakers. Consequently, speakers have stopped coming.

Consequently, the homeschooling community is losing advocates to encourage and equip the rest of us…and even educate the naysayers and policy-makers who make state and national decisions about homeschooling. It’s an ecosystem.

When one part dies off, the rest gets affected.”

 

Can we boldly say that if convention-goers continue to purchase from big-box retailers after attending conventions, pretty soon there won’t be any conventions to attend?

And what of the desire for homeschoolers to see and touch the offerings firsthand?

And what of the presentations and workshops where homeschoolers learn so much from the vendors who give them?

And what of the camaraderie experienced in the convention setting when homeschoolers and vendors share space and concerns and wishes and encouragement?

What becomes of conventions?

What becomes of vendors when they don’t make enough money selling their curriculum or other products and must close their shops, virtual or otherwise?

If the vendors no longer produce their products, you won’t be finding them on the big-box sites anyway.

What then?

We Homeschool For A Better Future

Let’s remind ourselves why we’re homeschooling in the first place. We homeschool to give our children the most amazing educational experience we can provide.

And we do this using books and videos and resources from a variety of companies, many of whom are mom and pop operations.

These moms and pops are just like you.

They’re also homeschooling to give their children the most amazing educational experience they can provide.

And they love what they do so much, they took their experience and knowledge and solidified it into an offering for the rest of us.

We do an enormous disservice to these generous vendors when we glean and gather from their booths or websites or seminars or workshops then hand over our money to faceless corporations to save a buck or two.

Those savings may very well signal the end of mom and pop homeschool shops.

Frankly, we think it’s not worth it.

We need moms and pops and their beautiful ideas to help us maintain the freedom and flexibility of our homeschooling lives.

If we don’t support them, they won’t be able to support us as we journey down our chosen paths.

Remember this as you venture out to homeschool conventions. Do your research, make your rounds, gather information.

Then consider purchasing from the vendors.

As Jamie says, “It’s an ecosystem.”

Your patronage and support of local vendors, of moms and pops standing behind the table with their hearts in their work, will go a long way to keeping the homeschool ecosystem healthy and thriving for years to come.

If you’d like to read Jamie’s inspiring post, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/331021703603422/posts/4108803719158516/?sfnsn=mo

 

 

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Building Bereans

young woman holding book and thinking

As we say on our About page:

Acts 17:11 says the Bereans received gospel information with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. We think that is exactly what education should be.

We want to help parents teach their children to become critical thinkers. We want to build continuing generations of Bereans who will seek the truth and build a life-long foundation on those guiding principles.

What Does It Mean to Build a Berean?

Diving deeper into this mission, the following explores the meaning behind being a Berean. In addition, we’ll discuss why these role models highlighted in Acts continue to demonstrate the firm desire behind our aims.

Although mentioned in Scripture, the term Berean is not recognized by the majority of homeschool families. However, the methodology is.

At the risk of using a tired term, homeschoolers who follow the Berean principle are raising critical thinkers.

And just like the Bereans of Paul’s day, these students take in information willingly.

But their differentiation arises as they are encouraged to analyze the information critically before they reach a conclusion or make a judgment on the facts as presented.

Dr. Wile’s Berean Style

Dr. Wile has taken information he learned while pursuing his PhD and, with this same Berean research and discernment, written his thoughts and opinions in his books.

However, he doesn’t intend for his students to take what he’s presented at face value. He encourages his charges to think critically about the facts and opinions he organized.

By this action, his students become like the Bereans. As they hear the teachings and then examine both scriptures and other scientific research, students build their own library of independent thought.

Student Examples of Critical Thinking

In his writing, Dr. Wile offers examples of students who have looked thoughtfully and critically at a notion presented to them.

The Eagle

One student heard a sermon at church containing an object lesson about eagles. The story seemed inspiring and encouraged the listeners to welcome the often-difficult efforts required to change for the better.

However, the science of the story didn’t make sense to the student. He brought his questions to Dr. Wile for discussion.

In his article, Dr. Wile dissected the story, explaining the inconsistencies of the lesson with the facts of nature and biology.

The ultimate takeaway is that creative license may get in the way of the listener seeing the deeper meaning of the lesson as they try to understand the literal meaning of the tale.

In this case, Dr. Wile was pleased his student was diligent in his questioning and underscored the importance of critical thinking, not only in school lessons but also in everyday encounters with leaders and teachers.

The Question of Half-Life

A university student attending Dr. Wile’s chemistry course was introduced to the concept of half-life in radioactive decay. After listening to statistics that describe the time it takes for half the amount of a certain element to decay, the student asked a thoughtful question.

The time of decay is over 5000 years! So how can we know this to be true if we’ve not been measuring it for that long?

This critical thinking led to a lively discussion of how conventional science uses extrapolations to determine these time spans. Dr. Wile encourages his students to think for themselves and not simply accept conventional wisdom because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

Self-Esteem vs. The Truth

Elli, a talented musician, shared a fun quiz about musical knowledge on a social media feed. She’d scored 100% and was understandably happy. When several of her non-musical friends also scored 100%, Elli became suspicious.

She ran a few tests on the quiz and found that no matter her answers, she scored 100%!

Elli then announced to her friends the results of her investigation and astutely encouraged all her friends to keep their day jobs.

While this is a humorous example, the lesson is that some official-sounding presentations are meant to raise self-esteem without actually providing accurate results.

Only critical thinking can expose these feel-good exercises. And though this is a fun example, the deeper concern is that students may be encouraged to accept certain outcomes as fact when indeed the methods for reaching those outcomes should be questioned.

How You Can Apply Berean Principles In Your Homeschool

Encourage your students to follow 1 Thessalonians 5:21:

“But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.”

Dr. Wile expands on this verse by saying students should, “Examine all things and hold to what can be shown to be good and true even if one doesn’t want to examine the information presented.”

Often, students find it easier to follow the path of least resistance and simply accept what is taught, taking what is presented at face value.

But Dr. Wile reminds homeschool parents to help their children keep an open mind when taking in new information and research for deeper understanding.

Then the students can weigh any differing opinions and base their ultimate conclusions on their personal findings.

Hold What Is True

In addition, students should hold to what is true in order to be a good Christian.

Dr. Wile mentions Robert Boyle who said in his book The Sceptical Chymist,

Robert Boyle

“He whose faith never doubted may justly doubt of his faith.”

Although Boyle pursued scientific study, he never dismissed the importance of viewing the universe from a Christian viewpoint.

This allowed him to question the conventional wisdom of the day and use science to support the claims of Christianity.

Encouraging Scientists Who Are Christian

By providing open areas of inquiry and a solid Christian foundation, you give your student the gift of free thought and examination while yet holding fast to the good they uncover.

As your student is exposed to more information, even that which does not seem to fit certain paradigms you personally hold, you set them up to better understand the ideas as presented or even to create fresh ideas of their own.

Enough information will allow your student to know what scientists know or don’t know. This sets them on the path of being capable of judging the truth for themselves, just like the Bereans.

For, as Dr. Wile mentioned, clones do not advance science. Parroting back what is presented does not allow for free thought. Tests may only offer options in black and white, yet there are so many more colors of the spectrum your students can investigate.

They can learn what data appear the most meaningful or are more well-known. Your student can then draw clearer scientific conclusions with fewer mysterious deductions.

Robert Boyle wrote, “God would not have made the universe as it is unless He intended us to understand it.”

Building Bereans takes patience and a willingness to allow your student to explore the world around them, compare contrasting viewpoints, and draw their own conclusions.

As one of Dr. Wile’s students said, “I’m still not sure where I land on the whole creation/evolution issue, but I still appreciate the information I got from your books.”

He says in one of his articles,

“…listening to serious scholars who disagree with you is an important part of the process of critical thinking. The only way I can properly evaluate my positions is to listen to those who disagree with them.”

As we continue to build Bereans, we can see the wisdom in this.