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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 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 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 – 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.

AFHE Home Blog Encouragement Homeschool Help Uncategorized

Unprecedented Times Call for a Positive Perspective

by Marie Tynan

These are crazy times. Unprecedented times. Dramatic shifts have occurred worldwide and in our local communities. These changes happened fast, and they morph daily. The circumstances are frightening. But this crisis has provided us with multiple opportunities for personal growth, increased learning, and discipleship of our children.

Make Room for Personal Growth and Discipleship

How we as parents respond to all these new challenges is one of the most important lessons our children are learning. Since more is caught than taught, adopting a positive attitude (like a can-do approach and looking for the good) will help to instill confidence and flexibility in our children, now and over the long term. If we have found ourselves being grumpy and discouraged, it’s also an opportunity to role model repentance and self-correction. Learning early that life is difficult but that we can choose our attitude and actions (or correct them) is foundational for facing adult challenges later on.

Besides positivity and flexibility, other good character traits that we have a unique opportunity to role model right now include checking on and helping others, conserving resources to limit trips to the store, being resourceful and living independently, being patient with one another, and walking out a confident faith in our all-powerful and loving God.

Thank an Everyday Hero

The everyday heroes around us are also exhibiting extraordinary traits we would do well to emulate and acknowledge. Courage and duty in the face of fear and inconvenience are on display right now as few other times in living memory. What are some ways we and our children can express our thanks to grocery clerks, first responders, truck drivers, and medical personnel? How can we act courageously for the benefit of others? How can you impact those around you for good?

Many of those essential-services workers are pressing on despite being “outside their comfort zone.” With their example, and in solidarity, this can be a good time for us to practice this, too. Every one of us needs growth in some area. We can challenge ourselves and our students to stretch a little bit. (This stirs up very vulnerable feelings, so be very cautious– especially with sensitive children– and with all children, create a very safe and affirming environment before proceeding.) Maybe each family member creates a work of art, or presents a report, or tastes that awful vegetable!

Learn Through Current Events

Academically, we can take advantage of the impact of these events to perhaps step away from our usual studies and dive into topics of more immediate relevance. Because some of today’s topics can be frightening, this is best overseen by a parent and presented carefully, especially with young or anxious children. But this approach can assist with understanding the times, perhaps stimulate new interests, as well as cement retention.

For example, a lot of science can be explored through learning about viruses and the various methods by which we tame them. Effective handwashing can be practiced as we learn why that works. Reading about earlier pandemics can provide a historical perspective and inspire hope. Math can be done by looking at statistics and doing some calculations: it’s encouraging when one looks at the low percentage of the population infected rather than just absorbing scary-sounding numbers. (That alone is a lesson in why math is useful “in real life”!) Geography can be incorporated by looking at maps that track the spread of COVID-19 . The wide scope and swift spread of the disease point out how connected we all are as human beings across this enormous and diverse globe.

Embrace Digging Deeper

Older students can go even deeper into examining the scientific, economic, and ethical issues suddenly thrust to the forefront by current events. Controversial issues like the swift implementation of untested but potentially life-saving treatments, the pros and cons of vaccines, or what constitutes an actual “essential service,” might be topics for research and discussion. Career exploration may also be enjoyed by some teens as they think of ways they would like to help others: through the medical arts, manufacturing, research, mechanical engineering, materials science, transportation specialties, public administration, charitable outreach, or spiritual leadership, to name a few.

New skills can be gained during this pandemic as we sew masks for hospital personnel, cook more meals from scratch, garden, or tackle home and auto repairs. Civic responsibility is reinforced as we act out of respect and concern for others and comply with regulations and recommendations. By contrast, what can happen when people behave selfishly?

Hone Your Skills

We all know that homeschoolers are used to social distancing (hahaha!), but now we actually are pretty housebound, just like everybody else. In the absence of our usual activities, we can direct our children’s free time to individually honing those skills they would normally be practicing in groups (like sports, acting, or speech and debate), or we can encourage them to try out new activities. Pick anything you or your children want to learn, and you can be sure there are articles, books, and internet tutorials to get you started: dance, art, mechanics, woodworking, baking, starting a business…

We can expand our family’s creativity by finding new ways to break up the monotony: take nature walks, watch and identify neighborhood birds, make blanket forts, have a picnic and a footrace in the greenbelt, encourage a child to play teacher or nurse to the family pet or a stuffed animal, plan a family talent show, compete in a sibling cook-off, or take turns doing funny skits.

Has your child shown a particular interest in something that didn’t fit into your curriculum? Now may be the time to pursue it. Got a gearhead? Aspiring fashion designer? Computer nerd? Born performer? Novelist-in-the-making?

The world may seem scary and unpredictable, and change throws us off balance, but embracing the many opportunities for growth in character, learning, bonding, and faith gives us a new perspective and many reasons to be grateful.

Marie Tynan was blessed to homeschool her only child from birth through graduation. With her son now away at college, Marie desires to share her passion and encouragement with the next generation of homeschool parents. She resides with her husband in Maricopa, AZ.

AFHE Home Blog Homeschool Solutions Uncategorized

Starting a Kids’ Book Club

Starting a Kids’ Book Club: The Power of Reading Together

by Lisa Varner

“Whether or not people read, and indeed how much and how often they read, affects their lives in crucial ways. All of the data suggests how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals—whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed. The cold statistics confirm something that most readers know but have mostly been reluctant to declare as fact—books change lives for the better.”1

Reading Is Foundational

Most of us agree that developing our children’s love for reading and great books is one of our most important goals as parents and home educators. Everywhere we turn, it seems, we encounter study after study stating that a person who voluntarily reads will do better in school and in life.

Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and its nationally recognized studies Reading At Risk and To Read or Not to Read, summarizes this well, “If you could know only one thing about a 17- or 18-year old to predict his or her future success, you’d probably want to know whether they voluntarily read. If the answer is yes, you can be reasonably sure they will do better in school, they’ll do better in the job market, they’ll become more integrated with their community, and they will have higher odds of successful personal outcomes.”2

Obstacles to Cultivating a Love of Reading

We want our children to grow into lifelong readers. It can be difficult to encourage our children to love reading, however.

We often face many obstacles. Not only is the act of reading complex and difficult for many of our children, but also we can struggle to find books that they are interested in reading. Some of them haven’t yet discovered the enjoyment of a great story, and so they have declared that they do not like to read. As a result their “mental reading muscles” are underdeveloped. Finally, digital media can prove to be one of our most significant obstacles.

The Rise of Digital Media

Today’s generations are growing up in a world no longer dominated by books and literature. Instead, according to the Center for Disease Control, the average American child aged 8-18 years old spends 6-9 hours every day in front of a screen.3 The U.S. Census Bureau conducted a large survey in 2002 on participation in the arts with startling conclusions: “With the rise of digital media, less than half of U.S. adults were now reading literature.

The survey found there had been a 10 percentage-point decline over two decades, which was a loss of 20 million potential readers. The drop spread across every age group, every ethnic group, both genders and all income levels. Worse yet, the steepest decline was among those 18 to 34, who 20 years earlier had been the most likely age group to read a book. The survey also indicated this backsliding of a literate America had rapidly accelerated with the advent of social media networks, streaming services and all-consuming video games. Experts extrapolated that, if the trend continued, reading as a pastime would be all but nonexistent in another 50 years.”4

The Reading Crisis

It is the sad truth that every group in America is reading less than 20 years ago and also reading less well—kids, teens, young adults, adults, and even college graduates.5 Dana Gioia’s 2007 NEA team discovered that people who didn’t read were less likely to vote in elections, volunteer for charities, attend public events, and support cultural institutions. Additionally, Gioia was correct in his suspicions that the dangers didn’t end there. Later neurological research and MRI testing confirmed that reading increases brain connectivity and improves basic human empathy, while exposure to most screen-based media has the exact opposite effect.6

Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media, they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading. “The general decline in reading is not merely a cultural issue, though it has enormous consequences for literature and the other arts. It is a serious national problem. If, at the current pace, America continues to lose the habit of regular reading, the nation will suffer substantial economic, social, and civic setbacks.”7 America is facing a reading crisis. We need to do all we can to lead our youth to rediscover the gift of great books.

The Power of Reading Together

Kids’ book clubs can be such a powerful help in this effort. J.K. Rowling states that if a person doesn’t like to read, they haven’t found the right book. We can take that a step further and also conclude that if a person doesn’t like to read, perhaps they have not yet encountered the joy of fellow readers. I have seen my own amazing proof of this in the last several years.

May 2019 marked the end of the third year of our girls’ book club and the end of the second year of our boys’ book club. We read ten books a year, or one book a month, from August to May. We have had a range of ages in our book clubs, although most of our girls were 13 and most of our boys were 10 when we began. Our girls and boys absolutely love book club!

Positive Social Influence

Book clubs are just wonderful, in our experience. They bring us together around a great book and provide community, accountability, and fun. Whether a child is a nonreader, reluctant reader, or a lover of books, all of the members will grow in their eagerness to read. I most attribute that growth to the positive social influence of a book club.

There is nothing quite like the influence of friends and peers who are excited about the same book and excited to talk about it together. When you add in the chance to grow in friendship with others, along with games and snacks, it is easy to see how book club has the potential to transform children into lifetime readers.

Starting Your Own Book Club

Have you considered starting a book club for your child? If so, perhaps you were unsure of what to read, how to get other kids to come, or what to do during book club? I’m excited to share my experiences with you from my years of leading these two book clubs, along with lots of information on my Facebook page, Starting a Kids Book Club – The Power of Reading Together, to help you get started.

Step One: Deciding on the Format

Once you’ve caught the passion to start a kids’ book club, the first step is to decide on your format.

  • How often will you meet?
  • Where and when will you meet?
  • What will be the size of your book club?

Enjoy the freedom of designing a book club around your schedule and interests.

While my groups have enjoyed meeting once a month in our home, book clubs can happen with different frequencies and a variety of locations such as in libraries, coffee houses, churches, etc. I encourage you to decide on the group size you would like and extend invitations slowly so that you don’t grow too big. The average size of our groups has been 16 kids.

I have been amazed by the enthusiastic response from every girl or boy we have invited and can assure you that you will not have trouble finding kids to join your book club. It is very fun to have a large group and yet also challenging. Generally speaking, the optimal size is probably 8-12 members.

Step Two: Planning the Reading List and Book Club Dates

The second step will be to plan the reading list and book club dates. Others get even more excited about your book club when you have a great line-up of books and specific dates already selected for the upcoming year all presented in an attractive way.

You will find all of the book lists we have used—nearly 70 books in all—on my Facebook page. I have chosen books from a variety of genres so that our kids are stretched to read books beyond what they normally would read. Our girls and boys have stated that they really love this aspect of our book clubs.

There are so many available resources beyond my book lists to help you discover great books for your book clubs. I have used all of the following titles for help: The Read Aloud Revival by Jim Trelease, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin, Books that Build Character by William Kilpatrick, Books That Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson, and Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson.

In addition, the following websites have been a fantastic help:

I frequently consult lists of Newberry Award winners, read many book reviews, and ultimately read lots and lots of books. I encourage you to use my book lists and all of these wonderful resources to choose books your kids will love.

Step Three: Inviting Others

The third step will be to invite kids to join your book club. Consider inviting your children’s friends from homeschool groups, church youth groups, neighbors, sports teams, etc. We have really enjoyed having a mix of homeschooled and public/private-schooled kids in our book clubs and have seen it as an outreach of sorts. Be sure and have your book list, book club dates, and location all ready to hand to each child you are inviting.

Step Four: Planning the First Meeting

The fourth step will be to plan your first meeting. A two-hour book club meeting works well. For about the first 30 minutes, we typically play ice breaker games (an online search will lead you to many great games) or share a bit of what’s been happening in our lives since we last met by sharing a “high” and a “low” from the last month. Then we move into the book discussion which usually lasts 45-60 minutes.

Our teen girls lead their own discussions, while adults lead our middle school boy discussions. We usually use some kind of object to pass around and to be held by the person speaking. This is a helpful visual reminder that it is another’s person’s time to speak and a time for all others to practice listening.

It has been thrilling to watch our kids grow in their ability to listen, reflect, and respond to each other’s opinions and perspectives on the books. Then we end our time together by eating snacks and playing games or playing outside. You’ll find more information about this schedule and some lists of general book discussion questions on my FB page.

Step Five: Planning Snacks

The last step will be to plan snacks. Snacks are essential for a great book club. Consider having a family snack sign-up list and decide how many people will bring snacks each time. Sometimes our families have brought snacks that match the book theme. That is always fun and so enjoyed. Be sure to send reminders to those signed up, and be ready with a backup plan just in case. As the host, I provide water and plates, napkins, silverware, etc. The kids love snack time. They love everything about book club!

Leading a Book Club Is a Worthwhile Endeavor

It is my great passion to be a small force in this bigger battle to get our kids reading again. The evidence of literature’s importance to civic, personal, and economic health is too strong to ignore. We must do all we can to reclaim our youth for books, for reading, for the power of a great story, for the ability to imagine, reason, ponder and reflect, for community in a non-online world, and for the opportunity to encounter role models in books who are brave, good, fascinating and different than us.

As Sarah Clarkson beautifully states, “…to read a great story is to begin to learn how to live one.”8 I believe this is even more certain when we are reading these great stories together.

I want to encourage you that leading a book club is definitely something you can do and absolutely worth every effort. I hope this will be the year you start a kids’ book club. Everyone will be so glad you did. Happy reading to all!

Lisa Varner

Lisa Varner has always loved books and been an avid reader. She loved teaching high school English for 11 years and then moved into professional counseling. Her career path changed again in 2011 when she and her husband, Mark, decided to homeschool their three children. She has loved homeschooling for the last 8+ years—even on the difficult days—and has been thrilled to grow her children into readers. When she’s not leading a book club or homeschooling or counseling, she loves any chance to be with her family and friends, especially when that includes hiking, camping, and reading. Lisa lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, children, and, quite arguably, the world’s best dog. Follow Lisa’s Facebook page Starting a Kids’ Book Club – The Power of Reading Together for more helpful information.

End Notes

1 National Endowment for the Arts. (November 2007). To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence.  (Research report #47). Washington, DC: Office of Research & Analysis.

2Burger, John. “Dana Gioia Shares the Key to Your Teen’s Success.” Aleteia,  28 January 2014, Accessed 14 June 2019.

3 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Screen Time vs. Lean Time Infographic.” 29 January 2018, Accessed 10 June 2019.

4 Anderson, Scott Thomas. “The Man Who Saved Reading: Dana Gioia’s Battle for the Future of the Arts, Literature and Critical Thinking in America.” Medium, 22 December 2018, Accessed 13 June 2019.

5 National Endowment for the Arts (n1)

6 Anderson (n4)

7 National Endowment for the Arts (n1)

8 Clarkson, Sarah. Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Transformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children. Monument, CO: Storyformed Books, 2013. Print.

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Box Tops for Education Goes Digital

Box Tops for Education Goes Digital

by Cindy Duell, October 2019

For nearly a decade, AFHE has been participating in Box Tops for Education (BTFE) as a fundraiser that benefits the Arizona Homeschool Scholarship Fund. Families all around Arizona have clipped and collected these cardboard chits and brought them to support group gatherings, the AFHE Convention, and even mailed them in (sometimes with handwritten notes of encouragement).

This group effort has been a significant way to provide encouragement and support for many deserving homeschool graduates. We have raised more than $7,200 through Box Tops for Education with our community’s participation!

Exciting Time of Transition for Box Tops

This wonderful fundraising opportunity is now in a time of transition. Box Tops for Education has determined that it is time to take the program to a fully digital format. What?!? No more clipping and saving and remembering to take the Box Tops to the next meeting? No more counting and bundling little cardboard squares? No more postage expense? That’s exactly right!

You may have noticed that those product packages which used to have that little dotted outline on the top now have a new logo highlighting this new digital approach. Through the end of 2019 there will still be some packaging with the clippable coupons found in grocery stores. Those Box Tops can still be used, and so can any Box Tops you have at home with expiration dates in the future.

Please do continue bringing those Box Tops to AFHE events and mailing them to AFHE as they can still be redeemed during this transition period.

Scanning Box Tops is Easy and Fun

Moving forward, the new method for participating in the fundraiser is by using their app. Available from Google Play or the App Store, this free app has the redemption mechanism built right in. After making a purchase with eligible items, you simply open the app and scan your receipt! Done! Box Tops are still worth 10 cents each, and in the app you will be able to see how AFHE’s scholarship fund is benefiting in real time!

The new format for the program will be much easier for participants, volunteers, and organizations. The app will also be useful for identifying eligible products and tracking special offers that will benefit our scholarship fund even more. Some of the special offers listed have huge bonus earning opportunities, made so easy with the app!

We hope you will take a look at the app and give it a try. Receipts do need to be scanned and redeemed within 14 days of purchase.

So, no more clipping and collecting for you or counting and bundling for AFHE volunteers—but feel free to go ahead send us a handwritten note anytime!

When you set up your account, search for Arizona Families for Home Education as our school name to make sure proceeds are going to support AFHE. Thanks!

Your Help Makes a Difference!

The Arizona Homeschool Scholarship Fund (AHSF) provides eligible Arizona homeschooled students with financial assistance in pursuing post-secondary education from a college, university, or trade school.

100% of the money raised through Box Tops for Education is distributed to Arizona homeschool graduates in the form of scholarships for college/post-secondary education.


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What Makes Grand Canyon University a Great Choice for Homeschoolers?

What Makes Grand Canyon University a Great Choice for Homeschool Students?

2019 AFHE Convention Sponsor – Guest Blog Post
by Sheila Jones, Grand Canyon University

At Grand Canyon University (GCU) we absolutely love homeschooled students! They come in with a missions background, a BIG love for the Lord, and an exceptional work ethic. We are finding homeschoolers flocking to our vibrant campus from all over the nation and we want to do all we can to nurture them. Here are a few big reasons why Grand Canyon University is the best university in the nation for homeschooled students.


We have an incredible community! One of the best things about homeschoolers and their families is how well they build community. You often find homeschoolers giving back to the community and each other, worshipping, and taking adventures. This is exactly what GCU does. If you stop any student on GCU’s campus and ask them what their favorite part of being at GCU is, they will likely say “the community.” GCU is a natural fit for homeschoolers because, despite our growing campus, we work hard to keep the community at the forefront, just like homeschooling parents do.

Would you like more information on GCU?
GCU Introduction


According to Barna Research, roughly 70% of high school students who enter college as Christians will leave with without their faith and we strive hard to fight those odds. GCU has life leaders on every floor of every dorm who lead bible studies, Chapel on Mondays where over 7,000 students voluntarily come to listen to God’s word, and The Gathering on Tuesday evenings where students lead worship together. We have mission opportunities both in the local neighborhood and overseas. It is cool to love the Lord on our campus at GCU!

Would you like more information on our Spiritual Life? 
GCU Spiritual Life


Our Dual Enrollment is top notch! Dual Enrollment helps homeschoolers get a jump on college and save money. Over 70% of our students graduate in less than four years. GCU understands most homeschooling parents operate off one income, so we have worked hard to make our dual classes extremely affordable or even free for local homeschooled students who attend on our campus. Our dual students save money on the front end of their college career and this helps students reduce their debt load on the back end when they graduate and head out into the workforce.

Would you like more information on our Dual Enrollment?
GCU Dual Enrollment


For more details on this homeschool-friendly university …
CONTACT Sheila Jones,
FACEBOOK: Ask to join our GCU Homeschool Facebook page at

Sheila Jones, Grand Canyon University

Sheila Jones currently serves as program manager for Strategic Educational Alliances, working closely with homeschool groups within GCU’s Alliance Program for Homeschool Achievement (ALPHA) program. Sheila spent her previous years in admissions at GCU and supplementing education by running and owning a private tutoring company servicing the state of Arizona. Sheila earned her undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University and completed her Master’s degree in Business Leadership and Grand Canyon University. Sheila’s hope is to explore and learn more about how she can glorify the Lord through her opportunities as a servant leader. She adores working and advocating for homeschool groups and hopes to have a hand in furthering their opportunities for growth through GCU.

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54th Legislature Wraps Up

Sine Die

by Allison Gentala, AFHE Government Affairs

May 28, 2019

As the school year wraps up for many of us, so does the 1st regular session of the 54th Legislature at Arizona’s State Capitol. Much like school years, sessions are exciting and fun, but we’re always ready for a break at the end. This legislative session was largely uneventful for homeschool freedom—which is exactly the way we like it!

A bit of History: The session opened on January 14 and adjourned sine die at 12:58 am on May 28. This year’s legislative session was longer than average, but by no means the longest. In 2013, the 51st Legislature 1st Regular Session lasted 151 days as Governor Brewer pushed for Medicaid expansion. Previously, in 2009, the 49th Legislature 1st regular session ran 170 days due to budget disagreements. As if that wasn’t enough, summer of 2009 was full of special sessions where lawmakers were hard at work for an additional 71 days. But the record for the longest session was set back in 1988 by the 38th Legislature 2nd regular session, which ran 173 days, as the impeachment of Governor Evan Mecham was underway.  

AFHE’s Involvement

The 54th Legislature is closely divided. There are 31 Republicans and 29 Democrats in the House, 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats in the Senate. While AFHE is a non-profit and stays bipartisan, legislators do not. The close vote margin makes it difficult to both pass favorable legislation for homeschoolers and to oppose legislation that jeopardizes homeschool freedom. We are grateful there were no bills limiting or regulating homeschoolers this session and no special situations for homeschoolers requiring legislation to rectify or clarify.

AFHE’s legislative team spent the session watching bills, meeting new legislators, joining school choice coalition meetings, and getting homeschool information packets to all legislators. Additionally, throughout the session, our government affairs team responded to questions from lawmakers about how pending legislation might affect homeschooling.

In addition to legislative work, AFHE’s Government Affairs Team also works to build relationships with elected officials outside the Legislature. This year we have been gradually meeting with county school superintendents and mailed each one a homeschool information packet. It’s important to know that many bills pass or are killed by one or two votes. Although as a nonprofit organization which is bipartisan, AFHE does not support candidates. We do, however, support homeschool freedom and parental rights. If you want to be a part of protecting this freedom and rights, we encourage you to research the candidates and be certain to cast your vote every election cycle in accordance with your views in these areas.

Partner with AFHE

AFHE Membership has benefits for your family and your membership supports the work of a non-profit organization that serves Arizona homeschool families all year long.

Not a member? JOIN TODAY 

Together, we are making a difference to preserve homeschool freedom!

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Learning at Home and in Nature

Learning at Home and in Nature

Guest Post by Charlene Notgrass, Notgrass History

President Theodore Roosevelt received most of his childhood education at home. He learned from his father and mother. He also learned from his aunt and grandmother who lived with his family in New York City. Their lessons equipped him with knowledge, values, and habits that would guide his life.

Young Theodore’s parents gave him and his siblings opportunities to experience the outdoors. Their family took wonderful field trips and vacations. They spent summers in the country, roaming, exploring, riding horses, and climbing trees. The children went barefoot much of the time. They watched the haying and harvesting, picked apples, hunted frogs and woodchucks, and gathered nuts to sell to their parents.

In the country, the children had all kinds of pets—cats, dogs, rabbits, a raccoon, and a Shetland pony. Theodore loved these extended vacations so much that he felt eager to go when spring came and sad when the family moved back to town in the late fall.

While he was a student at Harvard, Theodore made two trips to Maine with friends and a local guide named Bill Sewall. Mr. Sewall told his family later that Theodore would take his Bible each day and go alone to a certain place in the woods. There he communed with God and admired the wonder and beauty of the natural world. (Now known as Bible Point, the location is a Maine State Historic Site.)

Touring America

Theodore Roosevelt spent many years in public service. Elected vice president in 1900, he became president after the death of William McKinley in 1901. In 1903, President Roosevelt left Washington, D.C., for a nine-week journey across the United States by train, automobile, and horse. He traveled 14,000 miles, visiting twenty-five states, and speaking more than 250 times.

Celebrating the beauty and majesty of God’s Creation was an important part of his trip. Roosevelt spent two weeks camping at Yellowstone with naturalist John Burroughs. He also asked conservationist John Muir to give him a personal tour of Yosemite.


President Theodore Roosevelt at the Grand Canyon, 1903
President Theodore Roosevelt at the Grand Canyon, 1903

Visiting Arizona

Roosevelt made his first visit to the Arizona Territory on this trip. He had served with soldiers from Arizona in the Spanish-American War, so he felt a connection to the area. His visit to the Grand Canyon made an impact on him, as he expressed in this speech while there:

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country–to keep this great
wonder of nature as it now is. I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope that you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it. If you deal with irrigation, apply it under circumstances that will make it of benefit, not to the speculator who hopes to get profit out of it for two or three years, but handle it so that it will be of use to the home-maker, to the man who comes to live here, and to have his children stay after him. Keep the forests in the same way. Preserve the forests by use; preserve them for the ranchman and the stockman, for the people of the Territory, for the people of the region round about. Preserve them for that use, but use them so that they will not be squandered, that they will not be wasted, so that they will be of benefit to the Arizona of 1953 as well as the Arizona of 1903.

Conservation and Compassion

President Roosevelt returned to Washington wanting even more to preserve America’s treasures. He made the Grand Canyon a national monument. While president, Roosevelt encouraged Congress to set aside land for five new national parks. He also set aside 150 national forests, fifty-one national bird reserves, four national wildlife preserves, and eighteen national monuments. Theodore Roosevelt was the conservationist president. In all, he helped to set aside 230 million acres for government protection.

According to Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (NASB). As homeschoolers today, we can follow the example of Theodore Roosevelt’s parents. We can teach our children and grandchildren to take care of the world God made and the people he put in it.

Special Links

Watch the Notgrass History video series to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt’s homeschool experience:

Retrace President Roosevelt’s 1903 cross-country journey with photographs and summaries of his speeches:

Charlene Notgrass, Notgrass History

Charlene Notgrass, Notgrass HistoryCharlene is a Christian and a veteran homeschooling mom. She is the wife of Ray, the most wonderful man in the world. Charlene has always loved being a mother and now relishes the role of mother-in-law and grandmother. She is proud of her grandma name, “Little.”

Charlene oversees curriculum development and is a lead curriculum author at Notgrass History. She loves to encourage homeschooling mothers through her Daily Encouragement for Homeschooling Mothers blog and free online community for moms. Charlene enjoys reading, quilting, drawing, sewing, and improving their old house.

Author portrait by Kevin Wimpy