I am a homeschool convention junkie. Actually I’m just encouragement needy and homeschool conventions seem to fill that need for me. I love that for those 2-3 days, I am surrounded by like-minded people who are right down in the trenches with me.
At the beginning my husband and I went together. Sometimes our spouses don’t see the same things we do or experience homeschooling the same way we do, so I think it is important that they also get to see the broad picture of homeschooling and feel supported and encouraged in their decision just like we do.
Now days, I use the convention as a time to get together with some of my besties. Last year we decided to travel out of town for the weekend. We had a blast, chatting and planning and reviewing curriculum together.
Over the last 10 years of convention going I have learned a few things. Let me impart all of my wisdom to you right here. And don’t forget to grab your convention planning guide before you go!
Before you go:
- Purchase your tickets early so that you can take advantage of the early bird specials. -(in full disclosure, I rarely do- because I can never get it together in time- but you totally should!)
- Decide who you are going with and coordinate your plans, if a hotel needs reserved go ahead and secure your room now.
- Look over the list of speakers and classes you might want to attend. Take special note of which speakers are selling products. I have found that I only want to attend those classes if I am already interested in the product. Otherwise it tends to turn into a marketing ploy.
- Review your current curriculum and decide what needs to be changed, revamped or done away with altogether.
- Make a list but be flexible in case you see something that would be an amazing addition to your homeschooling.
While you are there:
Pace yourself. Make sure you allow yourself time to catch a few workshops and walk the convention floor.
Walk the convention floor all the way through the first time. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and you feel pressured to do all your shopping right away. If you do that then you might miss something and regret that you already blew through your budget
When you walk the floor the first time, try not to make too much eye contact with the vendors. They are all so friendly and want to chat, but there will be time for that your second time around. You are on a mission to get the lay of the land and to see where all the cool things are. I like to smile and nod and typically keep my eyes focused on the name of the companies which are either placed on a banner above or below the table. This makes avoiding eye contact easier. ha! Trust me.
Once you have it all figured out and you have chosen your workshops and keynote speakers that you want to hear, forget that other point. Go talk to the vendors.
- This is the best time to really get to know different curriculums. Ask questions. Ask lots of questions. After all they are the experts at what they are selling. Maybe you have a child struggling in an area, or a part of your curriculum isn’t working, be sure to mention that. You will often meet the writers and they will be able to tell you the ins and outs of their curriculum. Speaking of which- here are a few things you might want to ask.
- Can this be taught with multiple ages?
- Is this teacher Intensive?
- Are these consumable products?
- Does each child need their own book, or can I make copies?
- Does this curriculum fit a particular style?
- How much time is an average lesson?
- Are all subjects included?
- Don’t disregard the small vendors. I almost missed a great opportunity at the last convention when one vendor caught my attention. At first glance her product wasn’t anything I was too interested in, but once she shared her passion for it, and demonstrated how it works, I was really intrigued and ended up purchasing a great supplement to our curriculum.
During Class sessions-
- Okay I’m not exactly proud of this, and if you are a speaker I will apologize now. But I won’t stay in a class that doesn’t interest me, or doesn’t turn out to be what I expected, or turns out to be mostly a sales pitch. I will quietly slip out the back and slip into another class or go back to the convention floor. My convention time is too precious that I want to make every moment count. I usually will sit towards the back from the start and if it turns out that it’s a great class I may worm my way up closer. Please don’t feel like you have to stay in a classroom when it was clearly not what you expected. I keep a convention notebook and all of my class session notes stay in one place. So I can quickly reference them years later to see if I enjoyed a speaker, or learned a lot, or know that it’s not one I want to repeat.
After the convention:
Take some time to reflect on what you have learned, review your new purchases and dream about what an awesome year you will have next year! You got this!
What are your favorite convention tips?