Activities, Pray and Give Thanks, Reflections

FIRST SG Homeschool e-Convention 2020

‘Should we postpone the convention?’
‘Should we bring the whole convention online?’
‘How will we do it?’ 
‘What about the speeches?’ 
‘How about Village?’ 
‘Can the Curriculum Fair go online?’ 
‘What about security?’

Those were some of the questions the organisation team had to wrestle with for a whole week in February this year when the government stepped up the risk assessment from DORSCON Yellow to DORSCON Orange. As we talked over and over and considered the various possible options, it became very clear to us that the only socially responsible thing to do was to do away with the planned convention on the ground. But HOW do we do an online convention? None of us have any previous experiences. We researched about online platforms, checked out online workshops, looked at our budget and talked some more. We all juggled with staying home MORE with our family, planning MORE home-cooked meals, coming up with MORE creative ideas to engage our children at home, thinking about how to present the speeches AND learning everything about Zoom and how to run the 20 Village workshops online.

Being the Village Chief, I found myself overwhelmed with hundreds of messages (I have to qualify that these ones were voicing out valid concerns so they were not merely chit chatting) just in one chat while trying to keep abreast of what’s happening in a few other group chats. I felt I was drowning!! I had to abandon my phone and laptop and hid in my room with my Bible and my journal. I had to find some quiet space!

I realised that with home quarantine orders, this would be the new normal – that unless we are sleeping, we will be facing our screens 24/7 for classes and keeping touch with family and friends! I had to pray about how I want to manage this reality – for my family and I. I felt the need to intentionally schedule time for face to face conversations with immediate family members and to call our parents regularly to touch base with them. As I spend time with the Lord, I was reminded of these verses in Galatians 5:16, 22-26

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”

I know what it means to challenge one another…The daily dying to self is so crucial for the sanity of each one. It’s super tough for me and I know I won’t be the only one facing these challenges. So I pray for opportunities to connect and support my team of facilitators as they balance their plates too.

Having an online convention is not necessarily a bad thing. It was a huge challenge as it was a FIRST for the whole team! And we only had 4 weeks to prepare, so the learning curve was extremely steep for everyone. I am very grateful for my core team – Mark Lim, Audrey Teo, Sabrina Salleh Quek and Kay Zhao. They stepped up to fill in the gap when I needed to hide in my room for a spell and helped with the administration of the Village workshops, working till wee hours of many mornings a few days in a row. I am grateful for all the 20 facilitators who were so diligent in preparing and scheduling test runs for their workshops with other facilitators as participants. Here’s the part I LOVE – each one was quick to take on different roles in the test runs – some were involved and eager to ask questions while others were ajumas who were errant, quiet or ‘creative’. (You know who you are! I doubt I have good acting skills to match!) I am so so proud of this team – such unity, such love for one another to ensure that the entire Village was READY for the ticket holders on 16 April!! It was such a blessing to connect with so many of my friends within a month and to get to know them better.

The days leading up to the convention were filled with jitters, excitement and anticipation. It didn’t help that the Starhub network was down on the eve of the convention!  But we knew we had done our best for our preparations and considered our contingency plans, so we would soldier on to meet whoever or whatever comes! Fighting!

Day 1 of the convention finally came! We dressed our best, got to the brightest and tidiest spots in our homes and waited in front of our computer terminals as the time drew near to 2pm. In spite of a mom who had lightning that caused a trip to her electrical system just as her workshop started, and a ticket holder needing to tend to the baby at 2pm, everyone handled his/her workshops really well!

I know we had not only touched lives (one mom connected with us from overseas as she couldn’t make it back due to COVID-19) with our rich experiences through our years of homeschooling, we had successfully run our very own workshops online!! WE DID IT!! There was such an inexpressible joy and deep satisfaction!  Look at all our triumphant faces! What a precious and historical moment for the Singapore Homeschool community!

My Village Facilitators!!!
Photo credit: Mark Lim

For the Keynote and High School Day speeches, they were released as recordings. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears (ok…maybe not blood unless someone had a cut) there for Connie, Tsui Ling, Magdalene and Caleb as they walked the whole way with the Keynote and High School Day speakers respectively. BIG HUGZ!! Most of the recordings were completed at City on A Hill (COAH) before the Circuit Breaker came into effect. These speakers refreshed the hearts of many and brought tears to those who could identify with the situations and struggles.

We applaud two power homeschool dads – Hoon Sze Siang from Snapshot Imaging, Mark Lim from The Social Factor and a power mom – Valerie Tan, who pushed beyond their comfort zones to ensure that videos of the highest quality possible were uploaded onto our Homeschool Singapore website for viewing. Along with these 3 power parents, we have our team of amazing young people as well – Caleb Tupili, Mark Chia and John Teoh. What an awesome inter-generational team!!! 

The awesome Media Team!!
Photo credit: Mark Lim

On Day 2, the kids and I had to prepare for the Curriculum Fair (CF). Each of my kids and I took a 15-min slot. Each one told his/her story and shared helpful resources with our audience.

It was a very highly strung 2 hours for us – while one person is telling the story, another was co-hosting to provide technical and administrative support. I wasn’t sure if I was breathing normally for those 2 hours! Thankfully there were short breaks in between. We had a total of about 70 attendees for our 4 sessions. They were so attentive and asked many good questions. I ran over time trying to answer all the questions! I hope those who came took away precious gems. Here’s where you can can check out the resources we shared at CF tinyurl.com/GOVasiaresources

YEA!!! TWO days of e-Convention! WE DID IT!!! We are all done now!!

Kudos to the CF Team, headed by the energetic Sheryl Ang, who worked tirelessly to make all that happened! They came up with a beautiful Ezine, availed themselves to extend support to families and vendors for test runs and tech familiarization and were busy popping in and out of rooms to make sure everything would run smoothly.

Great job, CF Team!!
Photo credit: Sheryl Ang

Then we have the steady Sabrina Salleh Quek and her cool mama KDOZ Team who put together a number of our favourite online resources and had 2 live sessions of storytelling and craft sessions for the kids.

And there is the meticulous Melissa Nathan with her ever ready Registration Team, who made sure that the ticket holders were served well with accurate and timely information for the e-Convention.

We do not forget the calm and collected Chua Shan Shan, who ran the first Homeschool Curriculum Fair in 2017 and had been ever so willing to put her hands to the plow at every Homeschool Convention. When her food team was disbanded with the e-Convention this year, she stuck with the team and continued to offer her practical nuggets of wisdom and encouragement whenever she saw the need.

Thank you for sticking with us, Shan! (third from right)
Photo credit: Connie Lim

Last but certainly not least, I want to say a HUGE ‘WE APPRECIATE YOU’ to our visionary Dawn Fung, who organised the first Homeschool Convention in 2017 with Shan Shan’s help and subsequently got the teams together for all the Homeschool Conventions, including this e-Convention. I simply love this dear friend who is so passionate about loving and growing the families in her community. THANK YOU for reminding us what it means to persevere resolutely with love.

We started our planning for HS Convention in 2019 with FOOD and FUNG!
Photo credit: Connie Lim

Now we need to put our feet up and chill with ice-cream, chocolates and chips. It’s time for R.R.R – Rest.Relax.Recover!

“Wait….how about debrief?” Mark Lim, our affable e-Convention Coordinator, reminded us. Yes, the organisation of an event is not complete without gathering feedback from the teams and the ticket holders. Sure! Bring it on – with coffee, cake and champagne!!!! WE CAN DO IT!

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