How often is it that homeschool moms are able to get away to a lovely place in the woods, with no children or husbands, and hang out and talk about homeschooling things?
Yeah, that’s what I thought until this past weekend. I had an experience that rocked my homeschool mom world.
I heard about this opportunity from a friend in my homeschool co-op. She sent this information about a homeschool moms’ retreat put on by Landry Academy. I had heard of the place, simply through my homeschool resources and connections, but was not particularly familiar with it. Well, the info explained that Landry Academy was hosting this 2-day retreat for $25. Yes, $25. That’s for the conference, materials, lodging at a conference center, and full meals.
I was dubious, to say the least.
I mean, let’s get real. I can’t stay home for $25 for 2 days.
I figured it must be some kind of homeschool version of a timeshare deal, where you go but have to listen to a 3-hour, high-pressure sales pitch for whatever Landry Academy sells. But, I reasoned, if a bunch of my friends went, and I was able to get away from the kids for a while, it might still be worth it.
I signed up. Along with about 10 of my friends.
Is It For Real?
We attended the Lynchburg, Virginia retreat at Eagle Eyrie Conference Center, but Landry Academy’s Moms’ Retreats are held all over the country. Upon arrival, we were given a Landry Academy Homeschool Moms’ Retreat t-shirt, a lab booklet that had lots of labeling diagrams in it, and instructions on our accommodations. I was feeling pretty good, so far, about my $25 expenditure, since I would at least be able to take a t-shirt back from the whole shebang.
What we didn’t get was an itinerary. I was sure it was a confirmation that my timeshare-hostage-situation guess was right on.
We unpacked our things, and then ate a full dinner in the cafeteria of the conference center. I was a bit surprised, thinking it was likely to be a sandwich-and-chips kind of event, but we enjoyed ham, two vegetables, scalloped potatoes, rolls, a potato bar, a salad bar, and dessert. At this point, I felt like I’d already gotten my money back for the event, what with the t-shirt and food; I think I was the third gal at the table to gleefully comment that it was worth $25 to just not have to cook the meal.
Next, we met in a conference room with about 100 other homeschool moms. Tea, hot chocolate and coffee were provided, as well as all the chocolate we could eat. And it wasn’t the crap chocolate, either. We’re talking Dove Promises, Ghirardelli Chocolate and Caramel Squares, and Hershey’s chocolate bliss. Suffice it to say, my estimation of the event was going up by the minute.
Landry Academy, Resource for Homeschoolers
Greg Landry, the creator of Landry Academy, welcomed us and explained that this retreat was their ministry, and that they wanted to encourage homeschool moms and help them in their endeavors to teach Science – one of the most challenging and neglected subjects for homeschoolers. Greg explained about his background as a biology professor who also, once his wife began homeschooling their children, taught his kids science. Eventually their friends came over to learn science as well, until they had 1,000 children per week in their home for Greg’s classes, some driving as far as from three hours away.
Greg and his wife decided it was time for him to start teaching online.
He eventually had to hire other science teachers, because the demand was so strong, and then, about 3 years ago, expanded their online class offerings to include many subjects other than science, at which point Landry Science Academy became simply Landry Academy. When I questioned one of the staff members about the number of students they serve, she explained that they had gained 1,000 students per year in the past three years.
I was impressed.
Starting Off With Creativity
After Greg introduced himself and his staff and the purpose of the retreat, we opened up our lab booklet and he helped us fill in the proper terms for the muscles of the body, one of the diagrams provided. He explained that we were going to do hands-on science throughout the retreat, and that there would not be a specific itinerary, although we would do lots of “very fun” things.
I was sure it was a bait-and-switch for the timeshare pitch. But I honestly didn’t care too much, now, since I was full of chocolate and was getting to chat, childless, with my peeps. About homeschool things, no less.
Before leaving for the night, they passed out plastic aprons with the diagram of a frog’s anatomy on it, and told us to decorate our aprons however we wanted. We were going to enter our aprons into a contest, the winner of which would take home a full, life-size human skeleton. I worked diligently on my frog even though I knew that I had no prayer of winning, and enjoyed every minute of the therapeutic coloring process, while kibitzing with friends. Winner or not, girl time made me feel like I’d already gotten a prize.
Science and Stuff
The next day, after a full breakfast, we jumped into science. We pricked our fingers and put them on little cards to find out our blood type. We swished Gatorade around in our mouths to scrape out skin cells and then combined them with a solution and alcohol to see our DNA. We tasted little strips of paper with a bitter chemical on it that some of us could taste and others of us could not (a fact that was genetically determined). We learned about the importance of graphing to help our kids think critically, and how to prepare them adequately for the SAT and ACT. We saw pig’s lungs (which are similar to human lungs) inflated and deflated with air, and got to touch them. Then they brought out a pair of black lungs that had been smoked with nicotine, and we got to see the comparison at how much less they were able to inflate.
Somewhere in there we ate a full lunch, and the staff even let every attendee choose a science-related door prize to take home. And then, as the coup de grace, they passed out about 10 sheep and cow uteruses. We worked together in groups and dissected them, finding the perfectly formed babies inside.
Greg had been right. It was fun.
Encouragement and Support
After another fun evening of girl talk and pajama bonding, we began our final morning of the retreat. Rather than doing science, on this last day two of Landry Academy’s teachers provided motivational talks on issues that related to homeschool moms. We were encouraged to look at each of the major areas of our lives and to reevaluate the ways we needed to get ourselves back on track (taking care of ourselves personally? Spending more time with our husbands?). We did an exercise in which we reconnected with our personal dreams, and reflected on the ways we could avoid losing ourselves to our homeschooling responsibilities. The staff also answered any questions we had about Landry Academy, and then they passed out buy-one-get-one-free coupons toward the purchase of their online classes, or their two-day lab intensives.
I kept waiting for the sales pitch, but it never came. Not during the whole entire retreat. In fact, the only time they explained about the online courses Landry Academy provides is during a question and answer period when we, the attendees, asked about them.
Long story short, I was impressed.
I realized why they didn’t give out an itinerary – it got everyone to stay engaged and involved. Instead of picking and choosing those things in which we wanted to be involved (and disappearing to hang out elsewhere during those things in which we didn’t), each mom showed up for every part of the retreat… because she didn’t want to miss something! It was smart, it was effective – and, as a result, we all got something worthwhile.
The whole event really was an uplift, a respite, an encouragement, and a good resource. Truly, the Landry Academy staff provided a ministry to us homeschool moms, and they didn’t ask for anything in return. We got Science, we got tips, we got camaraderie, we got “stuff”, and we got a wonderful resource to support us in our homeschooling. And, have no doubt, I will definitely be using their online courses for my children. Their courses, which are for students 4th grade through high school, cover every imaginable subject, including Architectural Drafting and Design, Biblical Greek, Pre-Law, Anatomy and Physiology, Clothing Construction and Fashion Design, Statistics, Creative Writing, Introduction to Veterinary Medicine, Calculus, Biblical Worldview, Arabic, and American History with the American Girls. They are a wonderful supplement to the parent-led home education process, and the quality of the staff and heart of Landry Academy makes it a guarantee that I will be utilizing them in the future.
Yep, they got me on board, and they didn’t even need a sales pitch.
So whether you are looking for online classes for your students, are needing some extra science support (with their two-day lab intensives), or just need to get away and experience a little homeschool encouragement, Landry Academy has something to offer. And, by the way, I highly recommend finding their next Moms’ Retreat near your area and signing up. It’s only $25. Really. And there’s no catch.
This is one case where “too good to be true”… isn’t.
And every homeschool mom can use a little of that.