Learning With Stuffed Animals

Yesterday was the first time I taught a workshop for the homeschooling audience. I’ve spoken at conferences and seminars for years, always to church leaders or volunteers.

This time, I spoke at the Valley Home Educators, a homeschooling convention in Modesto. According to the website, it looks like it is put on by the local homeschooling group, but it is quite amazing how large and impactful this conference is. There are people that attend from all over!

We ran into people we knew from our previous Fremont church, Bridges Community Church, as well as from Bayside Church in Granite Bay, where I used to work. It was fun to run into so many people!

The topic was Learning With Stuffed Animals: Teaching the Highly Distractible Child. I talked about 23 different techniques to use stuffed animals more effectively in teaching children so that they engage and learn the material.

After doing this with my highly distractible daughter and seeing her comprehension skyrocket from 10% to about 90%, I knew I was onto something! So I wrote 19 (or maybe it was 17) plays about ancient history biographies, and what is amazing is that years later, she still quotes stuff to me from the plays that I don’t even remember writing!

I put all the plays together in a book Learning With Stuffed Animals: Ancient History.

During the workshop, I talked about how to use stuffed animals in different subjects, such as math, physics, and language arts, giving little sample plays. Perhaps someday I will write more books if people find them useful. (Some people did ask for more books. But I confess Book #2 on history has stalled because I’m only motivated to write if people tell me it will help them, and I honestly haven’t done much promotion with this book so very few people know about it.)

I must admit, I felt a bit silly acting out stuffed animal plays in front of a group of adults, particularly when it came to singing a silly musical, but they were all good sports and put up with it.

I guess the tables were turned at the end when I told them it was their turn to practice and they all gave a collective moan. But as I listened to people doing plays with the stuffed animals, I was quite impressed what a good job they did!

Hopefully they will take those ideas home and implement them with their kids to help them learn better!

My next time speaking will be at University Covenant Church on Aug 10 with my hubby Albert, where we will be speaking on Desperate Households (sermon series) on American Idols. Albert and I have started doing team teaching, and it is a blast! In fact, this conference was the first time he ever went on a conference with me and helped me during a seminar and it was such a big help.

Since I usually speak at low budget conferences, here’s how things usually go:

  • I travel to the conference by myself.
  • If I’m lucky, the conference has someone pick me up. Typically, I have to try to find the location (I’m very good at getting lost) and find parking.
  • If the parking spot is not close to the location (which is sometimes the case), I have to bring my car to the loading zone, unload my books at the book table, drive my car to the parking area, unload my stuff (computer, video projector, notes, handouts, promotional materials, and some cart or suitcase to lug everything around).
  • Try to find the the room.
  • As soon as previous person is done, rush into the room.
  • Set up computer, video projector, books, notes, handouts.
  • Give handouts to people as soon as they come into the room. (Sometimes there is a room monitor, which is wonderful! But often there isn’t.)
  • Talk to the tech person who gives me some sort of mic to wear to record, while I’m getting ready to teach.
  • Give my presentation. Or, start to give my presentation and my cell phone rings because I forgot to silence it. (I am usually the source of the interruptions during teaching!)
  • People come up afterwards and ask questions.
  • While people are asking questions, other people come to buy books and I handle sales while answering questions.
  • Pack up computer, projector, books, etc. by myself in a big rush because now the next speaker is coming in trying to set up their stuff while I am packing.

So speaking at a conference is somewhat of a stressful situation! But with Albert there, it went soooo smoothly. I could not believe how great it was to not have to worry about everything. He even made me a prop for my animals because I left it at home. Sure is handy to have an engineer husband!

And a bigger plus… we were able to decide on homeschooling decisions since he went to the conference. So, all in all, the conference was a big win!

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