Apple Teoh leads the Homeschool Village 2020 and will be sharing with Daniella Ng all about The Village, how it works, and how her team is responding to the COVID-19 situation. The Village will be held on the 16th of April and feature unique workshops and connection time.
Daniella Ng: Hi Aunty Apple! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. We’re excited to hear from you about the Homeschool Village. How did you come to lead the Village this year?
Apple Teoh: Aunty Dawn just asked me and I said yes! It helps when we work together as a team, it’s really not easy for just one or two persons to manage; the convention really is a big thing.
Daniella: What makes you passionate about doing organizing work for the HS Village?
Apple: Aunty Dawn was the one who got most of the things going for the original in-person plan for the Village. I wasn’t able to handle a lot of things on the ground, but when the decision was made for it to be virtual I really stepped in, I had to make sure the facilitators knew what to expect.
Daniella: Is this your first year organizing this event? What difficulties have you encountered?
Apple: This is the first year I’m part of the organising team. In terms of the Village, because there are close to 20 facilitators, it’s about how you connect with each one. It helps if we are able to do that with each other so there is that difficulty. Whether it’s in person or online, it’s a huge group so there’s the difficulty. Now that we have moved it online it’s really about encouraging each facilitator to become familiar with zoom, what it can do, and how to actually present your workshop online versus in person because it’s actually very different.
Daniella: ‘The Homeschool Village’ is a unique name! Is there a story or reason behind calling it a village?
Apple: I think it started last year when we had workshops so the name came about because of that: small groups, workshops, people coming and sitting down–seminar style.
Daniella: What is your favorite part of the HS village?
Apple: The fact that we are able to offer a lot more discussion topics this year. Last year the idea was to have a few small workshops where people could go in and have slightly more in depth discussions. This year we have more facilitators on board which means we are able to have more topics and smaller groups to encourage deeper connection.
Daniella: The Village offers a number of workshops for attendees- covering a wide variety of topics. How do you hope these groups will encourage and equip those who attend for their homeschooling journey?
Apple: We hope to give homeschooling families an opportunity to connect where usually they are not able to. These workshops are focused on what the facilitators have to share with the attendees–it’s not like a chit-chat session. Hopefully they do not only hear stories from the keynote speakers but they are also able to interact with current and past keynote speakers and think about their homeschooling journey and what they hope they can do for their family.
Daniella: Due to the COVID-19, the village is online this year! What are your thoughts about it?
Apple: I think it’s a wonderful initiative, because if we choose not to go online we might not be able to have the convention, and might not allow the attendees to go away knowing they have some interaction with the other participants of facilitators. Now with the COVID-19, interaction is even more important because everybody is pretty much isolated unless there’s a real reason for you to be out there. Everyone’s really cautious about it–maybe not for themselves but for their family members, especially so when you have elderly or young children. It’s a wonderful initiative and I think it equips the facilitators to be able to manage online platforms, communication, as well as how they present their workshops. These skills are helpful to pick up now.
Daniella: Tell us about how this decision was made and what you hope to see come out of this innovation.
Apple: So the organisers were discussing what was the best way to go about it because we did make a commitment to the venue to go there in person for the convention but we knew it wasn’t going to be possible. Therefore, we had a set deadline to decide if we would take it partially digital or go all in with a full online convention. We went back and forth, calling meetings to decide, with a lot of chats going on the side. What I hope to see come out of this innovation is the community knowing it’s a safe place for us to learn something new–because it is a steep learning curve for many facilitators. Whatever their experience is with interacting with media and online platforms, they are now the hosts of their own groups. They’re learning how to manage tech, conversations, and themselves–how they prepare is crucial. We are here to help one another out, no one walks alone. We prepare as a team: a whole Village team.
Daniella: Because the village is online this year, will more people be able to attend?
Apple: No, because we have already closed registrations–ticket sales. So we will continue with the numbers we had.
Daniella: How did the keynote speakers who are leading workshops feel about this change?
Apple: We had to talk about it with them, they are some who are more comfortable facilitating in person, but we really do not have a choice. Really the thing that led us to make the tough call is remembering the purpose of having the Village, and if we agree with this goal then we are here to help one another to meet it.
Daniella: What were their reactions? Were they surprised? What about the attendees?
Apple: Because we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and every other day the measures were tightening up, we were not surprised–in fact a number of the speakers expected that we would not be able to have the convention as planned.
When the email was sent out by the registration team to inform the ticket holders that we are going online, a number of persons said they were quite glad because they would not have been able to go to the venue, and we actually have people stuck overseas, so the fact that they can still connect virtually is a comfort to them.
Daniella: We’re glad to hear that! You and the organising team for the Homeschool Convention 2020 have done an amazing job at keeping our community safe and creating experience for them. Thank you for your time and we’ll see you soon!
Editor’s note: The Village will be held through Zoom, all ticket holders have been given details.