The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Homeschool Group in Wayne County is hosting a homeschool conference and fair for the community on Monday, Aug. 21, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Wayne Center.

The event will showcase homeschool groups and feature a variety of educational vendors, concessions and speakers as well as a built-in "teachable moment."

The date of the fair coincides with the solar eclipse so will provide an opportunity for a lesson and viewing of the eclipse, said Mary Moon, one of the organizers.

The mother of four -- ages 17, 15 and 9-year-old twins -- has been a homeschooler for five years and knows what a popular educational option it is for area families.

"There are almost 800 active home schools -- schools, not students -- in Wayne County," she said.

"We have at least 50 to 75 active families on base, so that's a lot of kids. We always have 140 to 150 at every event we have."

Her son Nathan, 9, didn't have to think too long about what he enjoys about being homeschooled.

"I can wake up whenever but I have to do my school," he said.

His favorite subject is history, but he also likes the field trips he gets to take.

"We went to the police station and we were going to the Alamo (in San Antonio)," he said.

"Even on vacation, we're still learning, 24/7," said his mom.

The Seymour Johnson group held its back-to-school kickoff Wednesday at the splash pad on base.

The event was a relaxing and fun way to get everybody together before the school year resumes.

"Our kids really look forward to this," said Audrey Shapiro, mother of two, ages 8 years old and 18 months.

She began homeschooling about five years ago, she said.

"I like not missing out on my kids," she said. "I see them all day. I don't miss the things they do. I get to be involved in their lives."

Jami Rugg, another leader in the group, started homeschooling about seven years ago, when her now 10-year-old daughter was 3. She also has a 7-year-old son.

"I like it because they can kind of go at their own pace," she said. "She (my daughter) doesn't have to wait for anybody to get caught up and we can customize it to their needs.

"And since we're military, as we move, we can take it with us."

In addition to an impressive lineup of speakers, more than 100 educational vendors will be represented at the fair, Mrs. Moon said.

The conference is free and open to the public, whether they are long-time homeschoolers, those new to the concept or simply interested in finding out more.

The speakers schedule is as follows:

*9:15-10 a.m., Kristen Eckenwiler will speak on the struggling reader, "Why is Reading so Hard?"

*10:05-10:35 a.m. and 2:15-2:45 p.m., Lorie Waller from Wayne Community College will talk about the dual enrollment program

*10:40-11:25 a.m., Diane Allen, N.C. Department of Non-Public Education, "The Law and the Average Home School Family"

*11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Penny Mayes, "Created to be Creators"

*12:35-1:20 p.m., Kristen Eckenwiler, "Strategies to Teach a Struggling Reader"

*1:25-1:50, Venessa Therrien of Wayne County 4-H Volunteer Leaders Association, "4-H 4 You: Making the Best Better"

*1:50-2:30 p.m., Solar eclipse

*2:50-3:50 p.m., Mari Fitz-Wynn, Heart For Homeschool Ministries, "K-12, 26 Things to do Before Your Student Graduates."

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