Welcome to NextGen Homeschool’s Homeschool Conventions 2013 Series! This year the authors of NextGen Homeschool are covering several conferences all across the country, and we’ll be posting on the experience, the vendor hall, and the big-picture issues discussed at each conference. We’ve also posted a wonderful planning tutorial — Homeschool Conventions 101: How to Plan — to help you prepare for attending your own homeschool conference.
Homeschool Conventions, Part 3: OCHEC Tulsa — The Vendor Hall
This year in between each regular session was an hour break, and in the middle of that hour, we could choose to go to a half-hour exhibitor workshop. The first day we used these hours to check out the vendor hall and eat lunch. However I did end up attending an exhibitor workshop the next day.
When I attend homeschool conventions, I plan to spend the first day window shopping in the vendor hall, checking out which vendors are in attendance and what they have to offer. My sister Elizabeth and I always enjoy the Rainbow Resource Center booth, the Miller Pads & Paper booth, the Lamplighter Publishing booth, and this year, I loved the J.M.Cremp boys adventure supplies booth. This is also the time when we collect catalogs and information from the vendors.
This year I decided to attend an exhibitor workshop with Dee Jones of Mardel, who shared about “A Simple Plan; Bringing Beauty & Order to Your Home.” She told the story of how she came to create this homeschool planner (below). I was interested in this workshop because I recently bought this homeschool planner at Mardel’s — here’s what I think so far.
She also said quite a few things that struck a chord with me. She said that a good plan should be simple, not overwhelming, should keep you on your mark, should be flexible, and should be encouraging. You should not be ruled by or prideful of your plan. A planner is a good way to get your thoughts on paper.
As I said before, I have already pretty much acquired the curriculum I need for next year. However I did purchase a couple more Life of Fred math books, as well as some Middle Ages project and coloring books from Rainbow Resource Center.
At Lamplighter Publishing, I bought the book “The White Knight.” At Miller Pads & Paper, I bought a few more middle ages project books and a blank timeline book for me. Somewhere in the vendor hall (I can’t remember where), I also picked up a book called “Tower of Babel” by Hodge and a Zoo Field Trip Planner.
If you are new to homeschooling or simply in the market for any new curriculum, the convention vendor hall is a great opportunity to check out a lot of different publishers at one time, see what they offer in person, and ask any questions you have. You can look through samples and compare prices. The danger is that every publisher is there to convince you that their curriculum is the best. Many companies provide great curriculum, but you need to find what will work best for your family.
Be sure you go into the vendor hall with a plan. (See Homeschool Conventions 101: How to Plan for my planning tips). It’s important to know your children’s learning styles, your teaching style, your homeschool mission statement, and what your circumstances will be next school year.
For example, if you are also working, have just had a baby, are battling any chronic illness, you want to go with a curriculum that is streamlined and fairly ready to use “out of the box.” If you are a hands-on, activity-driven kind of family, you probably want to stay away from workbooks. Also be aware that many times you can find the curriculum you’ve decided upon at a lower price at another time and place. Some price checking ahead of time might be worth your while if you want to be ready to buy on the spot.
I will say that many of the publisher booths — especially the smaller ones — will be staffed by the actual writers or creators of the curriculum. This is a great time to meet them and create a working relationship with them. Then later, when you have questions and need help, you will already have that initial relationship and it can make things easier. I have become Facebook friends with several of the vendors and speakers I met this week.
The energy in a vendor hall is also something to experience. I love to just wander around looking and picking up conversations. I even stopped to talk to some people who were checking out a vendor booth (Diana Waring) that I loved. I expressed my opinion, how I had used the curriculum, and why I loved it. It’s not just about people speaking to vendors, but about homeschoolers speaking to other homeschoolers. It is truly an awesome experience!
If you have attended a homeschool convention this year or in the past, how do you navigate the vendor hall? Do you have a plan in place for shopping? Do you plan to browse or buy? If you haven’t attended before, what resources do you use to shop for homeschooling curriculum & supplies?