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What to Expect Your First Time at the AFHE Convention – GCU Edition

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to attend the AFHE Convention and we are so excited to have you join us!

We know that attending the convention for the first time is very exciting and can be a lot to take in … perhaps even a little overwhelming. Gathering together with thousands of other homeschoolers, having over 100 featured speaker and exhibitor workshops to choose from, plus browsing in the exhibit halls filled with vendors selling curriculum, resources, products, and services … there’s a lot to see and do!

Newcomers often have a variety of questions … everything from, “Where should I park?” to “How do I find the right curriculum for my family?”

We are here to help! We have put together some tips and hints to help make your experience at the convention enjoyable and easy to navigate.


Review the information we have published on the convention pages of our site. You’ll find:

  • Daily convention schedule
  • Speaker bios, workshop schedule, workshop descriptions
  • Parking, food/dining, and hotel information
  • Tips for getting the most out of the convention
  • A list of participating exhibitors
  • Exhibitor workshop schedule and descriptions
  • Details about various aspects of the convention including Teen Program, Young Entrepreneurs, and more
  • Convention FAQ with answers to the most commonly asked questions about the AFHE Convention


Review the workshop schedule and highlight the sessions that you most want to hear in person, making note of any that you’d like to purchase recordings of to listen to later. Planning ahead can help you avoid the stress of last-minute decision-making or the disappointment of missing a workshop you really wanted to hear.

WORKSHOP HANDOUTS: About a week before Convention, workshop handouts will be posted on the Speakers & Workshops page of the AFHE website in June. Be sure to print out handouts for any sessions you plan to attend as copies will not be available on-site. Note, not all workshops will have a handout.


Parking is plentiful on the campus of Grand Canyon University. AFHE Convention attendees should park in the 33rd Avenue Garage near the GCU Arena. Turn north from Camelback Road onto 33rd Avenue and you will be directed to the parking garage entrance.

The address for Grand Canyon University is 3300 West Camelback Road, Phoenix 85017.

Once you park, make your way to the GCU Arena. This is where you will check-in for the Convention.


Please check-in at registration to pick up your name badge before going to the keynote, other workshop sessions, or into the exhibit hall. Your name badge is your admission to all areas of the convention and must be worn at all times.

Volunteers who are earning free admission will go directly to the “Volunteer & Special Guest” check in counter in the lobby.


If you pre-registered for the convention, your name badges will be available for pick up on Friday morning through the box office windows outside the Arena lobby. Look for the alphabetical directional signs to find which line to join.  You will pick up your name badges and holders, convention program, and welcome bag. After Friday morning, pre-registration check-in will be at the Registration counter.  We will have signs to make it easy for you to find where to go first.


If you did not pre-register, you may register when you arrive. Follow the signs in the lobby or ask one of our helpful greeters to direct you. One of our volunteers at the registration counter will assist you, process your registration payment, and give you your name badges, welcome bag, and convention program.


Your convention program is your guide to all aspects of your convention weekend! We’ve loaded it with everything you’ll need at hand – schedules, maps, directories, speaker bios and workshop descriptions, dining information, and more!

Check out the four-page pullout section in the center of your program for a workshop planner, exhibit hall shopping list, photo scavenger hunt guide, and your own “Hot Sheet” to compile your own collection of the best action points, quotes, recommendations, and revelations from the weekend!

Your other best source of information will be our mobile app, Homeschool Arizona. Download it before you arrive and you’ll receive timely notifications and event updates throughout the weekend.


You will find a few different types of workshops at the AFHE Convention.

  • Keynote sessions
  • Featured speaker workshops
  • Exhibitor workshops
  • Sponsor workshops

Workshop schedules can be found on the SPEAKERS & WORKSHOPS page.


We have a keynote session at the beginning of each day, when no other workshops are scheduled and the exhibit halls are not open.  We will all be together in the Antelope Gym for this special opening session.   

Seating in the Antelope Gym is divided between chairs on the gym floor and bleacher seating. There will be designated spots for wheelchairs at the ends of rows. These spaces may be used for strollers if not needed for wheelchairs. Strollers may also be parked at the back of the gym, but not along the front row of bleachers.

FRIDAY & SATURDAY 8:30 AM – Join us for worship to start the day at 8:30 AM Friday and Saturday in the ballroom as we kick off each day. A few special pre-keynote activities and announcements will begin at 8:45, and then we will hear from our keynote speaker.

SATURDAY 5:30 PM – We will wrap up with our annual big prize drawing. We’ll be giving away four $100 cash prizes and a bunch of additional donated prizes from exhibitors too. Learn more in your convention program about how to enter for a chance to win in the Buy It Here! promotion.

Beyond the two keynote sessions, there are three types of workshops at the AFHE Convention. Workshop schedules and descriptions for each type can be found on the SPEAKERS & WORKSHOPS page.


We have an excellent line-up of featured speakers with workshops covering a variety of topics, from encouraging talks sharing the vision for home education to nuts-and-bolts “how-to” homeschool sessions filled with practical ideas and inspiration. There is something for everyone, whether you are brand new to homeschooling or have been homeschooling for many years. Featured speaker workshops are selected to offer encouragement, inspiration, ideas, and information without requiring the use of a particular product, service, or curriculum.

These workshops have open seating. It is not necessary to sign up or reserve a seat for individual workshops you wish to attend. Most of our workshops at GCU are in lecture halls which have 100 seats. The exceptions are the Antelope Gym, Ethington Theater, Sunset Auditorium, Baseball Stadium classrooms, and the exhibitor workshops in the COT classrooms.


Exhibitors at the AFHE Convention have the opportunity to present informational workshops. Many exhibitor workshops focus on demonstrating or elaborating on their product or service. Several exhibitors also choose to use this time to encourage parents in the homeschool journey.

Exhibitors pay a fee to reserve one of the exhibitor workshop time slots. We encourage you to attend these workshops to learn more about the products and resources these quality exhibitors have to offer.

All exhibitor workshops take place in classrooms in the College of Theology building just northeast of the GCU Arena. The exhibitor workshop schedule is available on the website and will be included in the convention program.


AFHE is grateful for the partnership with our valued sponsors who have made financial contributions to enhance the convention experience for our attendees and to support the work of AFHE as we serve the Arizona homeschool community throughout the year.

Several of our sponsors will be presenting informative workshops so that you can learn more about them in Howerton Hall in the College of Theology (COT) building during the regular workshop schedule. We encourage you to learn more about these great partners by attending their workshops.


The AFHE Convention exhibit hall provides a one-of-a-kind shopping experience … the only one like it in Arizona each year. You’ll find approximately 100 exhibitors selling curriculum, books, resources, art supplies, science materials, literature guides, laptop computers, Christian products, and much more in the exhibit hall. You will also find exhibitors sharing information about local resources, services, and activities such as homeschool PE classes, speech and debate, museums, colleges, tutoring, etc.

Don’t miss visiting our inspiring Young Entrepreneurs! These homeschool students and graduates (age 11-24) have created products or offer services that you will want to support! The Young Entrepreneur booths are located on the concourse level in the GCU Arena, so make your way upstairs and take a stroll along both sides and the south end to shop at these enterprising and enthusiastic vendors.


Selecting curriculum is one aspect of homeschooling that can be daunting for new homeschoolers because of the vast number of options to choose from. As parents, we all want to make the wisest decisions when purchasing curriculum.

Begin by doing some research before the convention. Read about curriculum approaches if you are unfamiliar with them. Understanding the difference between a textbook/traditional approach and classical education, unit studies, eclectic, or the Charlotte Mason approach will be tremendously helpful in selecting curriculum for your family. It is also beneficial to have a basic understanding of the typical learning styles: auditory, visual, or kinesthetic (hands-on).

Once you understand the basic curriculum approaches and have an idea of your child’s preferred learning style, take a look at Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum ( and Carol Barnier’s The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles (available on Amazon). Each of these resources does an excellent job at giving an overview of some of the most effective, most popular curricular resources available today. Carol’s book helps you match your child’s learning style with curriculum that may be best suited for him/her.


Be sure to stop by the Mentoring Moms booth inside the Arena exhibit hall and ask questions of these experienced homeschool moms available to assist you Friday and Saturday during exhibit hall hours. We have scheduled moms who are able to address particular topics of interest at certain times throughout the day – the topics schedule is in your convention program and is posted at the Mentoring Moms booth.


In order to minimize feeling overwhelmed in the exhibit hall, it can be incredibly beneficial to simply start by walking through the entire hall, aisle by aisle, checking out various booths as you go to get a big picture overview of what’s available. Make a note of any booths you want to come back to later, using the Exhibit Hall Planner in the center of your convention program.

Budget can play a big role in what you choose to buy. Most of us have limited funds available and we try to make the best decisions possible, saving where we can. Attend an assortment of featured speaker and exhibitor workshops. Take time to think, pray, and compare. Decide what you really want and then buy.

It’s important to note that the exhibitors at our convention invest a great deal of time, energy, and resources to come present their materials. They are an essential part of the weekend’s activities. Please be mindful of the investment they’re making to be here for you, and consider purchasing from them directly instead of buying their products from another exhibitor or an online supplier for a few dollars cheaper. This encourages knowledgeable exhibitors with quality products to return year after year and ensures a better experience for all of us.


The most important thing to know is this … curriculum is a tool. It isn’t the end-all, be-all of your homeschool journey. Curriculum does not provide an education for your child, and it shouldn’t become your master. It is just one of many tools in your tool kit as you nurture, disciple, and educate your child at home.

Do your research, talk to experienced homeschool parents, browse the exhibit hall, talk to the exhibitors, and ask lots of questions. Some curriculum providers have online or phone consultants or Facebook groups that are very helpful as you get used to that curriculum and understand its best use in your situation. Use the tools wisely and thoughtfully, but don’t let curriculum become a burden to you or your children.

Sometimes, even after doing all the research possible, you may choose a curriculum or resource that simply does not end up working for your family. When this happens, you might feel obligated to press on and finish the curriculum because you spent good money on it. And yes, sometimes, pressing on and persevering can be rewarding, but sometimes it can become counterproductive, unraveling the love of learning we are working so hard to build with our children. It is okay to adapt and adjust as needed.


Consider purchasing recordings of general session workshops—either individual copies or the full set MP3 downloads. Resounding Voice offers an excellent deal on the full set of recordings if purchased on-site during the convention.

Even when you attended a workshop in person, it can be beneficial to listen to the recording of that session again later. It’s amazing how many nuggets are packed into each hour-long workshop and we can often glean more the second and third time we hear a particular talk.

You’ll find the Resounding Voice counter in the Arena lobby.

Note: Recordings of exhibitor workshops are available for sale with permission from the exhibitor. Not all exhibitor workshops will be available for purchase.


For those not able to attend the convention or who didn’t get a chance to purchase the recordings, Resounding Voice will offer a full-set MP3 special through their website Monday, July 19 – Wednesday, July 21, 2020.



If you are new to homeschooling, you might wish to attend the free pre-convention “YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL” mini-conference AFHE offers the day before the convention. You’ll enjoy several workshops specifically geared for parents who are considering homeschooling or are just getting started. This mini-conference is held Thursday afternoon in the Antelope Gym. No advance sign-up is required for this pre-convention event.

We also are hosting a “Getting Started Homeschooling with Special Needs” event similar to the “YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL” mini-conference, where you can hear speakers who will address those concerns particular to the special needs homeschooling journey. This will take place in the Antelope Gym lecture hall 102/104 at the same time as the “YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL” mini-conference.


“YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL” and “Getting Started Homeschooling with Special Needs” will take place Thursday, July 15, 2-5 PM in the Antelope Gym and Lecture Halls. No registration or reservation is required. Arrive a little early to park and get to the building, and you can browse our sponsor tables and get acquainted with other attendees before we begin at 2 PM.

We are eager to help you get started or learn what you need to decide on your child’s best educational option for the coming year! Many others have set out on this path before you and understand your concerns and questions – come invest an afternoon to get informed and inspired!


The AFHE Convention weekend is jam-packed with workshops to attend and exhibitor booths to browse. There is a lot to see and do and we want you to enjoy the weekend and get the most out of your time with us.

  • Take breaks.
  • Spend time sitting, reading through the convention program, and chatting with your spouse, friends, and fellow attendees.
  • Drink plenty of water. You may bring water with you or there are concessions on site where it can be purchased.
  • Plan time for lunch. Eat snacks for energy throughout the day.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • If you get chilly in air conditioning, bring a light shawl or sweater. And as we will be moving between several buildings across the GCU campus this year, you might also want a hat, sunglasses, or even a small umbrella to shade you from the sun.
  • Enjoy some moments where you sit back and notice the community of like-minded families surrounding you.
  • Arrive in time to enjoy worship before the keynote address.
  • Stop by the Mentoring Moms booth and ask questions.
  • Soak it all up.

It is our desire that each person who attends the AFHE Convention would return home feeling refreshed, energized, inspired, encouraged, and equipped for the homeschool journey.

AFHE Home AFHE News Blog Community Homeschool Law Legislative Updates Uncategorized

Election 2020

It’s election season. And, that means we are all bombarded with information. To be sure, there is much to decide–everything from candidates for public office (federal, state, local), to judges (in the three most populous counties the vote is whether judges should be retained in office), to ballot propositions (laws and ordinances proposed for direct adoption by the voters).  There’s a lot at stake. How do you plan to cast an informed vote?  One tool we recommend highly is Our friends at Center for Arizona Policy have surveyed the candidates on a variety of important issues. You can review candidate responses–or, if they elected not to respond, you can view their public position. The website allows you to customize a voter guide for you, focusing on the local candidates and issues that appear on your ballot. The guide may not answer every question you have, but it is a very good starting point for your own research. Here are a couple of specific thoughts: Judges: One of the most asked questions is: “How do I find out information about the judges that appear on the ballot?” Judges play an important, and often controversial, role in public life–but they do so in a way that is fundamentally different from elected lawmakers. Unlike elected officials, judges are forbidden from taking public positions on issues that are likely to come before them as they decide cases. This is the reason why this week Judge Amy Coney Barrett–as every nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States before her–declined to answer questions about her specific position on issues, yet readily answered questions about her judicial philosophy. When you look at the responses from judges to the survey at, you will see that many judges did not respond. Other judges responded with a statement of their judicial philosophy.  There is also a system for rating the performance and competence of judges in Arizona called the Judicial Performance Review Commission, which relies on surveys from attorneys and litigants who have appeared before the judge being evaluated. Learning of a judge’s approach and temperament is challenging, even for attorneys, so every piece of information you can glean is valuable.  It’s not a perfect system. At the end of the day, there is no reason to cast an uninformed vote on judges. If you are unable to locate information that satisfies you that a judge should be retained in office you can simply not cast a vote for or against that judge. Ballot Propositions: This year there are two statewide ballot propositions on the ballot: Proposition 207 (legalizing recreational marijuana) and Proposition 208 (new taxes for increased public education spending). In the voter guide you will see that our friends at CAP are urging a “no” vote on both measures.  Our Take: No on 207: The AFHE Board has decided to also recommend a no vote on 207. This is the second time in four years that legalizing recreational marijuana has been on the ballot in Arizona. Arizona voters said no to legalization in 2018 (by contrast, medicinal use of marijuana was approved by the voters in 2010). Like it was in 2018, the effort to legalize recreational marijuana is overwhelmingly funded by marijuana dispensaries.  AFHE exists to support home education because children are important. They are so important that parents make tremendous sacrifices to give their child the best education at home they possibly can. Ultimately, we are not persuaded that legalizing recreational marijuana use in Arizona will help children in any way. And there are many ways that it could be harmful. Take these examples:
  • In the states that have legalized marijuana, use by people younger than 21 has risen dramatically.
  • The human brain is still developing until the early-to-middle twenties and marijuana use has been shown to stunt and impair that development.
  • Prop. 207 would decrease the penalties for underage use of recreational marijuana, sending the message that it is not a big deal and fueling a culture of underage use.
  • Prop. 207 places strict limits on law enforcement’s ability to stop impaired driving.
  • Many neighborhoods will have a surge in marijuana growing, because HOA’s will no longer be permitted to place restrictions on marijuana home growth.
  • In other states, recreational marijuana has adversely impacted the availability of marijuana for medical reasons such as chronic pain.
As a final matter, Prop. 207  will take away the ability of lawmakers to make changes to its provisions–even for emergent priorities like public safety, public health, or financial downturns. This problematic feature of our state Constitution that hamstrings the ability of our elected representatives to respond to our needs is known as “voter protection.” Voter protection is a good reason to be wary of any law proposed at the ballot.  For more information on what is at stake in the vote on Prop. 207 please visit However you come down on this issue, and on the other decisions on the ballot in 2020, we wish you the best as you exercise the wonderful privilege of voting, and demonstrate civic engagement and responsibility to the young learners in your home. Peter Gentala Board President
AFHE Home AFHE News Blog Community Leaders Uncategorized

New AFHE Board Couple – Michael and Kristina Abbott

We are pleased to introduce AFHE’s newest board couple, Michael and Kristina Abbott.

Michael and Kris Abbott have been married since 2006 after meeting in college in southwestern Pennsylvania. They felt called to homeschool their children shortly after experiencing the birth of their first son. With the older of their two children now entering kindergarten in 2020, they stand with excitement at the starting line of the journey to lead their children unto a knowledge of the Lord.

Michael has worked in the banking and financial industries since 2003, and he plans to leverage these skill sets to function as the Treasurer of AFHE. Michael is a passionate advocate of limiting screen media access to young children due to the complications it presents to the natural cognitive development process. Kris worked as a pharmacist from 2004 through 2020, recently stepping down from her position to lead the family academic curriculum. She tutors the third grade class of her local, cooperative homeschooling group, and she also leads a weekly women’s ministry group at her church. Michael and Kris both serve in the youth ministry program at their church in Scottsdale.

AFHE Home Blog Encouragement Getting Started Homeschool Help Homeschool Solutions Uncategorized

Free Resources for those Considering Homeschooling

How do you climb Denali? How do you build a rocket and send it into orbit? Or compete in a decathlon? Is that how it feels when you consider the prospect of homeschooling your kids?

Walking away from the familiar into the unknown can be mighty intimidating! That is especially true when the stakes are high. Few things are as important as your child’s education. Is it really possible for parents to take charge of this vital area and be successful?

We get it! Parents just like you have been concerned about the same questions, faced the same unfamiliar territory, and wondered whether homeschooling was possible for their family. Here’s good news: you’re not alone and help is just a few clicks away!

AFHE’s set of three free MP3s provides a great way to get started, as you listen to experienced homeschool moms address those common concerns and share how you can get started in this new endeavor.

Doing anything worthwhile takes effort. Climbing Denali or building a rocket might seem beyond your abilities, but when you get connected with someone who has done it before and can shed light on the unknown, the challenge looks completely different, making something intimidating into something exciting and inviting!

Also, check out AFHE’s Ten Questions About Homeschooling in Arizona

Note: Because this event took place in Arizona, descriptions of the legal aspects of homeschooling may not be the same as in your state. To learn up-to-date information for your state, visit or

AFHE Home Blog High School Homeschool Help Uncategorized

Easy Steps to Filing Your FAFSA

by Sylvia Miller

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is applying for any financial aid to help pay for college, you or your student will fill out a FAFSA every year they attend college. This is for graduated students only, not high schoolers participating in dual enrollment. In Arizona, you can file a FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year between October 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by September 12, 2020. You can file online at

FAFSA Determines Financial Need

The purpose of the FAFSA is to evaluate a student’s ability to pay (their expected contribution) and to help a college determine how much help the student needs (unmet need). The form asks questions about income based on your last tax return. It also uses family size and number of children in college as part of the equation. The results determine whether the student is eligible for Federal and State aid and is used by colleges in part to determine eligibility for need-based scholarships.

Filing Steps

There are seven sections or steps in the FAFSA. The first section is general information regarding the student, including contact information. The second section asks for income and expense information from the student’s tax return, if applicable. step three determines if a student is required to list parental information (those under 23 years old, single, listed as a dependent typically do). The fourth section is for parent information, if required. Step five asks household size, number of students in the household attending college, and two questions regarding other governmental assistance. In step six, the student should list any college to which he or she intends to apply. (NOTE: write them all down, even ones that seem out of reach.) The last section is signatures.

Student Aid Report

See? Easy! If, after submitting your FAFSA, you find you’ve made a mistake or omitted a piece of information or school, never fear! It is easy to file a correction online once your data have been processed. If you apply online you will receive an email confirming receipt and then, once your FAFSA is processed, another with a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR gives basic information about what your expected contribution is and whether you are eligible for federal grants (free money), loans (money you must pay back) or work study (money you can earn). After receiving the data from the FAFSA and a completed financial aid application from the student, a college will send an award letter with these federal awards listed, along with any school-based financial aid they have given, such as academic or need-based scholarships (free money, although with some strings attached usually).

For more information about student aid, go to or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

Sylvia Miller lives in Phoenix. She and her husband, Kevin, have the privilege of co-discipling their four children through homeschool. Sylvia works part-time and is going to school verrrrrry slowly with the goal of becoming a nurse in the next eight years. She finds joy in flowers, people-watching in airports, and phone conversations with friends.

AFHE Home Blog Field Trip Ideas Uncategorized

Arizona Field Trips – Montezuma Castle and Well

Article and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale

Growing up in rural Indiana where farm lots meet wooded, deciduous forests, the seasons greeted me
with endless beauty: trout lilies, purple grape hyacinths, redbud blooms, and spring peepers in the springtime. In the summer there were quiet light displays of fireflies and noisy cicadas. Fall brought displays of color as maple trees shed their summer green. Winter gifted our region with pure white, powdery snow with an occasional red cardinal or squirrel darting across the cold terrain. I’d describe myself as a nature lover, and I fondly remember watching Marty Stouffer’s Wild America episodes with my dad, dreaming of being right there filming the scene of clashing, battling rams.

My move to Arizona as a young adult, specifically, the giant metropolis of Phoenix, was quite a culture
shock to this Hoosier. However, springtime in the desert is like coming across a buried treasure that might be missed if you aren’t intentionally looking for it. It is a most wonderful time of the year to be raising and homeschooling children in Arizona. Now is the time to go outside and enjoy the pleasant weather and the state’s natural riches. One of my family’s favorite places to visit is Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde; it’s a quick 90-minute drive north of Phoenix. Well-preserved Sinagua ruins rise above the riparian area in Verde Valley. Montezuma Castle is Arizona history: a cliff dwelling that bears evidence of the remarkable past culture in our state. It’s a short, easy walk to the dwelling, and the surrounding area is beautiful.

Plan a field trip with your family, and you’ll quickly unearth the truth: the ruins are inaccurately named
for Montezuma. Make it a true nature study and observe the trees, birds, reptiles, and insects that call this area home. Beaver Creek supports thriving vegetation. Day trips with our children break up the monotony of the school day. It’s an opportunity to learn with your children by exploring the area together, inviting young minds to communicate from their perspective. Can you see the order, attention to detail, beauty and intelligence wrapped up in nature? There is significant value in discovering the world through a child’s eyes, and in homeschooling time is on our side. We instill a love of learning by experiencing it outside a textbook. When Dad gets to come along, we all benefit from making memories and participating in the learning process.



Don’t pass up visiting Montezuma Well, a nearby natural limestone sinkhole. Its origin remains a
mystery, and it hosts some unique organisms that you’ll definitely want to learn about. There’s a nice picnic area between the castle and the well with Arizona sycamore, cottonwoods, and lush green grass: a perfect place for a packed lunch. Look for the original canals built by hand that have calcified over time and were used to irrigate the fields of the past. As you climb the hill to reach the well, imagine being the first Sinagua to see it.

On our first visit we picked up Jr. Ranger Programs for the kids from the Park Service, and they earned their
commemorative Jr. Ranger badges by taking part in age appropriate activities. I pray that as you take time to enjoy the great outdoors here in Arizona in the springtime and in all seasons, whether it’s observing nature in your neighborhood or driving to Montezuma castle and well, something resonates in your heart about the beautiful memories to be made with your children.

While attending the AFHE Convention a few years ago as I took those first steps toward homeschooling. I realized I have a legacy to pass to my children. I want to give mine my very best effort. I looked back at my own school years and decided to take the great parts mixed with what I was learning about being a good teacher from other seasoned homeschoolers. I remembered that my favorite days involved field trips. So, I’ll be packing many more into our school years, and you should too. This is the freedom of homeschool. May you have your best family adventures this season!


AFHE Home Blog Field Trip Ideas Uncategorized

Arizona Field Trips – Mini Time Machine Museum, Tucson

Article and photos by Cindy Duell, Tucson

According to, only five museums in the US are devoted to the art of miniatures.
The Mini Time Machine Museum exists right here in Tucson,Arizona due to the generosity and vision of a passionate hobbyist whose private collection became the foundation for this marvelous museum, and it offers many delightful displays to discover.

You might primarily think of miniatures as dollhouses, and that is partially correct, but visitors here see
so much more than that! Guests of all ages find plenty to fascinate and spark the imagination. Beyond the welcome desk, seeing the enormous “tree” inviting you into the Enchanted Realm Gallery is irresistible! Here you may look down on a little wintry village through the glass floor beneath your feet, find cohorts of dragons and elves, and admire collections of vintage toys (perhaps some of your – or your grandparents’ – favorite childhood playthings). For scavenger hunt lovers, the quest to find Caitlin (the resident fairy) keeps you looking around every corner throughout your visit.

Moving on from the Enchanted Realm, you enter the History Gallery. Featuring historical recreations,
antiques, and scale models of actual buildings, these creations reflect a great variety of time periods and
settings. My favorite is the model of the Gamble House in Pasadena, a celebrated example of the
Craftsman style of architecture from the mid-20 th century. Your favorite might be the “Little House on
the Prairie” log cabin! Some of the models here are quite old, themselves, constructed as long ago as
the 1700s!

The MTM has a third permanent gallery, dedicated to Exploring the World. The models and items here
depict architectural styles and furnishings found in very different cultures, and they also demonstrate
how miniatures themselves are used in other countries. Throughout the museum, visitors will see
exquisite (and yes, amazingly small) examples of handicrafts such as pottery, needlepoint, jewelry,
carving, sculpture, and clothing.

Temporary exhibits have featured such marvels as miniatures carved on the tips of pencil leads, hand-
built figures of famous people throughout history, mechanized miniatures, and much more. There is a
gift shop with souvenirs, dollhouse furniture, and kits to construct on your own. Classes and seminars
are offered throughout the year for children and adults. You can even take a virtual tour at the
museum’s easily navigated website,

I hope you will enjoy the Mini Time Machine Museum as much as our family has!

AFHE Home Blog Field Trip Ideas Uncategorized

Arizona Field Trips – Sky Harbor Airport

Article and photos by Megan Allison, Glendale

Through the giant glass windows minute after minute we watched commercial jets of all colors take off and approach for landing. From our high view at the PHX Sky Train platform you could see the long length of the runways, the mountains in the distance, and the beautiful blue Arizona sky. It’s a perfect viewing spot for my boys who are fascinated with airplanes. Dubbed America’s friendliest airport, I understood why as the pleasant tour guides described their passion for air travel and passenger comfort at Sky Harbor Airport.

At the beginning of this school year, our family visited this major airport for a guided tour. Airport staff and volunteers were ready for us with a headset for each attendee. First we visited the different aviation levels starting in the baggage area. Then we learned about the airport’s history, operation, and amenities. Next we spent time at the art museum, and took a ride on the PHX Sky Train. In addition there is an outdoor eating area.

Unquestionably, my children’s favorite part was the sky high ride. We stepped into a large pod without seat belts and glass windows from the floor to ceiling surrounded us for the ultimate viewing experience. Traveling above the ground at a good speed is like something out of the movies for a young person. Who else gets to spend the middle of their school day standing on the platform at a busy airport watching massive jets haul packages and people from one destination to another?

Some of my family’s best elementary years are spent stepping into the real world and getting up close and personal with the people who work in areas that interest my children. Arizona has endless opportunities for us to meet the world. My children make connections between what they’ve learned and real life when we do field trips together. It’s fascinating to learn about airport work: the sights and sounds help sear the learning into my children’s memory. I love these special times with them.

The tour at Sky Harbor continues as volunteer navigators explain the current airport improvement projects including the modernization of terminal 3 and how the airport operates daily to ensure safe, timely flights. With 44 million passengers every year it takes great organization and efficiency to meet the needs of each traveler. Sky Harbor works hard to help put passengers at ease as they proceed through the airport. Free pre-scheduled airport tours are offered each month. Your family can do a self-guided tour or organize a trip. We enjoyed one with our support group. Overall, this family friendly tour satisfied every child’s desire to ride elevators, escalators and watch air traffic go in and out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

With a little bit of prep work you can easily tie this trip in with a study on aviation. Be intentional and use field trips to enrich your lesson plans. Sometimes I have my boys think up questions they can ask during a tour. How do the 1,200 planes a day keep from crashing into one another? Where does the baggage go once it leaves the check-in area? What skills are people using during a work day at the airport? What education do you need to become a pilot? Questions can be used to encourage learning and focus the attention to certain things we want our children to pay attention to during the trip. I follow up our trips with asking my children to retell the best part of the trip or what was something new they learned. Older children can write a summary. Sometimes we’re spurred on to do more research. Whatever direction the wind sock may be blowing today, one thing is sure: you cannot go
wrong with adding a little air-venture to your school day.

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Top Five Benefits of Listening to Audiobooks

by Jim Hodges

I’ve been recording books for 20 years now. My desire to record books was actually a selfish one. I loved reading out loud and thought that recording books would be a fantastic at-home business to start after I completed 20 years in the U. S. Navy. While I knew that listening to audiobooks could be fun, what I didn’t realize at the time is that listening to an audiobook has lots of other benefits to the listener. Here are the top five.

Benefit #1: Audiobooks Improve Time Management

One of the greatest benefits of audiobooks is that you and your kids can save a lot of time by multitasking—provided the other tasks do not require too much of your attention, of course! Times like when you’re driving to soccer practice, piano lessons, or church, at nap time or bedtime, or together as a family in the evening. Other times people love listening to audiobooks is in the gym, or while going for a walk, or while carrying out daily routines such as cooking or cleaning.

The best routine I’ve heard is from a homeschooling Mom in South Carolina: Every day at lunchtime, Mom puts on the next chapter of a G.A. Henty audiobook. Everybody gets to listen to a chapter while making and eating their lunch. Chapters are typically 30-40 minutes long so that works about right. After the chapter is over Mom gets to ask questions about the chapter. This makes sure everyone is following the story. She can also define new  vocabulary words (or look them up!) or clarify relationships between characters or show on a map where the
action took place.

Once the book is completed and everyone’s had a chance to listen together as a family, there’s a drawing to see who gets to listen to it alone first, and then everyone takes turns listening on their own devices when it works for them. Everyone hears the story.  Mom gets to ensure they all followed along and comprehended it. She also ensures that the moral lessons exemplified are clearly understood and emphasized and that there is a connection made between good morals and good outcomes.

Benefit #2:  Audiobooks Improve Pronunciation and Fluency

As the narrator reads, you will notice and learn—quite passively and accidentally—the way he is pronouncing different words. Not only that, but you will notice his reading speed, his pauses, stresses, and intonations, which are crucial in having fluency and command over any language. What you may not know is that I spend nearly a month preparing a book for recording before I ever turn on a microphone. While reading the book quietly to myself, I’m underling words I’m not sure how to pronounce. Specifically, I’m looking at the names of rivers and mountains and cities and actual people from history.

I own a regular dictionary, a geographic dictionary, and a biographic dictionary which I use to look up unusual words, places, and people. It’s been a huge help to me. You can also do an internet search for “how to pronounce [insert word]” to hear how a word is pronounced.

If your children follow along in the text of one of my recordings, they will see that words often aren’t pronounced the way you’d think based on their spelling! Think of the word Versailles. It’s pronounced ver-SI. Who’d have thought that? Nobody, unless they were French.

Benefit #3: Audiobooks Are Wonderful for Struggling Readers

You may have noticed an increase in the number of people diagnosed with reading difficulties. Maybe, just maybe, it’s really that we are just better at identifying their issues. It is now widely believed that Thomas Edison, Nicolas Tesla, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, and Jules Verne were all dyslexic. There was no diagnosis, of course, but all the evidence appears to be there.

Do you think they would have loved audiobooks? I’ll bet they would have! Do you have a child who is a struggling reader? Or who has been diagnosed with dyslexia or any related issue? What benefits would accrue if you included audiobooks into their day?

Benefit #4:  You Get an Interesting and Lively Experience of the Story!

Not to toot my own horn (well, maybe a little!), but the personality of the narrator can really enhance the flow and feel of a story. My goal when I record a book is to translate the written word into mental pictures for you—of people and places and situations—and also help you to understand the plot better. When you are watching a movie, everything is done for you. Facial expressions, tone of voice, actual appearance of a character, seeing where the story takes place—no imagination required! On the other hand, when listening to an audiobook, it’s almost entirely up to the reader to take the words of the author and help you visualize all that in your head.

Of course, the author’s descriptions form the foundation of the story, and many authors are quite descriptive, which is really helpful—not only to the listener, but to the reader. If it weren’t for the author’s description, how would I know anything about the character? How am I supposed to translate that into their voice, their attitude, their story?

The narrator’s job is to get into the author’s head—to take the words of the author and accurately present the story and bring the personality of each character to life. I do this with character voices of course, but also by varying my inflections, emphases, pauses, accents, and cadences. So much of a story can be told with those elements, in addition to the actual words spoken.

When a narrator uses all of the tools available to him, it really does transform the words of the author into an interesting, lively, and fun experience for the listeners!

Benefit #5: Audiobooks Build “Critical Listening” Skills

Not surprisingly, listening to audio books assists in the development of listening skills. In life, it’s vital to be able to really listen when people speak. Whether it’s a teacher or pastor or parent or employer or friend or spouse, truly listening is one of the most important skills you can develop.

First and foremost, you want to ensure that you completely understand what is expected of you or what an authority over you has required of you or what your friend or spouse is feeling. If you haven’t developed the critical skill of listening, how are you going to know if you got the information right? Anyone can just listen to a story or a book. However, the purpose for listening—or reading for that matter—is not just to be a recipient of a story or information. That’s great for younger listeners, for sure, and what many people refer to as “pleasure reading” or “pleasure listening.” But eventually, we all need to develop the skill of analyzing the logic of the information being transmitted, determining if the author has “made the case” so to speak, and judging the accuracy and legitimacy of the information being shared.

A popular speaker at the AFHE Convention, Jim Hodges produces audiobooks treasured by homeschool families nationwide. Check out his website at