We are quickly approaching the homeschool conventions season. I love this time of year, and every year I eagerly anticipate our local homeschool convention in Oklahoma.
This year is going to be even better: I am also planning to go to the “Teach Them Diligently” convention in Omaha, Nebraska. Teach Them Diligently has three homeschool conventions across the country this year. My sister Elizabeth always go with me to the Tulsa convention because we live close to each other. But my sister-in-law Renée lives in Castle Rock, Colorado, so we decided to attend the TTD Omaha convention together this summer. I am so excited!
Of course, the first step in preparing for homeschool conventions is thoughtful planning. However, knowing what to expect in advance and what issues to consider before attending makes a big difference. If you’ve never attended any homeschooling conventions, have been unsure about why you would want to, or you have attended one but were left overwhelmed and determined not to return, these Homeschool Convention prep steps are for you!
Step One: Make arrangements for your family
I spend quite a bit of time planning for homeschool conventions. First of all, I have to arrange for babysitters. Last year and the year before, I took my youngest son (who is now 2) with me. When he was an infant it worked, but last year taking a toddler was rough. So this year I have a sitter. My older son (8) usually attends the children’s program. It is an extra cost, but it is a great time for him to socialize for a few days with other homeschooled children.
Step Two: Map out your schedule
Once I have these arrangements made, I am free to plan my days. As soon as the workshop sessions are announced, I print them off and start highlighting the ones I want to attend. Sometimes these decisions can be tough to make if there are lots of great options and their session times overlap.
Knowing as much as you can about the speakers helps narrow things down. I have learned that sometimes the sessions that sound interesting turn out to not be because of the speaker, and I make note to avoid that speaker in the future. So if you know anyone who has attended your local conference before, ask them for speaker recommendations.
Then there are those that sound interesting, but I know I don’t need that content right now. For example, teaching teenagers, organizing, record-keeping, etc. So I look for sessions that are currently relevant, with speakers that I either know already or have heard about.
Of course, there is always the issue of timing: Some time slots may have too many interesting sessions. This is when it is especially important to prioritize what you want to learn now, and then note sessions you can buy audio for later. Our convention here in Tulsa also has all the session worksheets available ahead of time to print off and bring with you. I like to write questions and notes on them to prompt me for what I want to listen for.
Most homeschool conventions record all their sessions, and you can buy the digital downloads. For the past several years (including this one), I have just ordered the whole convention on MP3s. Why? They are great to listen to all year long, especially when motivation lags.
Step Three: Have a strategy for the vendor/curriculum fair
The vendor hall or curriculum fair is another fun place to explore and enjoy. Many homeschoolers plan ahead for this opportunity to shop for homeschool curriculum and tools, making a budget ahead of time to keep things from getting out of hand. That is a great way to keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed (and overspending) on site.
I usually have all of my main curriculum for the next year purchased before convention season rolls around. So my strategy is to explore the vendor hall and check out all of the booths for new things that might catch my eye or revisit things I have used in the past. I do plan to shop, but it’s mostly for supplemental extras, such as manipulatives and fun enrichment activities.
If you’re planning to do the majority of your curriculum shopping at the convention, be careful and do your research in advance. Pricing isn’t always the best on site at the vendor hall. Personally, I have found that I can usually get better prices online or find popular items used. Some curriculum companies do run good specials at the convention, but just make sure you check prices in advance so you can decide if the show special is worthwhile — especially if you are on a budget.
That said, the vendor hall is a great place to get a hands-on look at any curriculum that you are interested in purchasing later. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions from the curriculum representatives in person, compare many options at once, and maximize your time for researching curriculum.
Step Four: Plan to enjoy yourself!
One of my favorite things about going to homeschooling conventions is the motivation boost. Just being around so many other homeschool families in one place is energizing. I love to walk the hallways and sit in the cafe and watch and listen and soak up the energy.
As an introvert at heart, I don’t generally start up conversations, but I definitely join conversations when prompted. At this stage in my homeschooling journey, I feel I also have a lot of experience and knowledge to offer others. Take the opportunity to be inspired, receive encouragement and interact with the larger homeschooling community in your area.
I think homeschool conventions are a great place to take a break from your day-to-day routine, learn how to be a better mother and teacher, and renew your motivation for the calling God has given you. There’s definitely practical application from the workshops, speakers and vendors assembled, however that’s not the only reason to attend. As a bonus for me, it’s also a wonderful way to spend some time with my homeschooling sisters.
Are you planning to attend any homeschool conventions this spring? If so, what do you look forward to most? How do you prepare in advance so you’re not overwhelmed? If not, where do you look for homeschool resources, education and inspiration?
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