During the last week of February and the first week of March our family, along side some team mates, headed down to Hungary to attend an education conference put on for missionaries and their families. We were blown away by the wealth of experience, knowledge and encouragement from the conference, and left with our heads and our hearts full as the organisers really sought to bless both us and our kids during the week.
Our more seasoned team mates have always raved about the SHARE Education Services conference. We did not know what to expect as we walked through the hotel doors, but we were greeted with much warmth and blessing - it really was an indication of what we would experience throughout the week.
As the program started we quickly realised that it was not just a conference about education and our kids, it was a conference centred around refreshing missionaries by worshipping together, sitting under scripture together, learning on how to best educate our kids together, networking and beginning life-long friendships together and blessing and being blessed by the people who attended and organised the conference. The attendees came from all over the globe, from similar and also varied contexts with every education option under the sun being represented. It was comforting and confusing at times wading through reasons to homeschool, attend national school, combine the two, look at online schools or choose a private or international school option.
The common theme was encouraging though - pray, pray, pray and as our faithful God leads our family, we will go. The plenary speaker was a former missionary to Latin America and her dissertation had been on missionary children in national schools. It was great to be able to pick her brain and see things from her perspective. She also encouraged and reminded us to give thought to our educational goals for our child, the meta-results of attending local schools, balancing the cultures of our home and host countries, social and emotional health and areas of development that we want to foster in our child. It was good meat to chew on as we enter the early stages of education for our daughter.
But perhaps the most impacting sessions for us were the worship and following sermons that started every day of the conference. There was a gifted husband-wife team from Texas that led us in music each morning that really filled our souls. I have learned that one of my favourite things is to sing in a room full of missionaries, each knowing the blessing and the hardship of missionary life, crying out yet also basking in the truth and grace of His promises. Right after we sat under the enlightening teaching of Pastor Chuck Jacob, who illuminated familiar scripture to us in new and encouraging ways. It really was the highlight of our days.
Of course the conference was also about education and there were workshops on a variety of topics. Reading fluency, neurofeedback, supplementing English for kids in national schools, helping distractible students succeed, internet security, travel as education, behaviour modification, spelling for Third Culture Kids were some of the choices we attended. Honestly it felt like there were two separate conferences going on - one for the adults, and one for the kids. Anika attended a phenomenal children's program centred around 'the body' and came back each day with new things she had learned! One of the things that we treasure are the beginnings of relationships that have started to build through conferences like these. For the first two days Anika kept saying to me, "mum, everyone speaks English here!". And as the days progressed, more and more 4-yr olds cam up to our breakfast table to say hello. It was super sweet.
We are so thankful for opportunities like these while we are overseas. Anika was able to be tested for Kindergarten level so we were able to get advise on different things to work on at home. We were given a fountain of resources on the web and personal experience for educating or supplementing at home - especially for English instruction - and I was afforded other mums! Personal experience is unmatched. We are already looking forward to next year's conference and are excited to try out some new ideas and resources for education while we serve here in the Czech Republic.