Whether it’s your first time or your fifteenth, attending a homeschool convention can be a challenge. You can come home enriched and encouraged, or you can come home defeated and drained—physically, mentally, and financially.
Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes the beginning of homeschool convention season. The following tips are offered to help you become the victorious conqueror of the homeschool convention.
How to Survive a Homeschool Convention
Planning for the Event
Even if the convention is weeks away, avoid the temptation to procrastinate—start planning early! If at all possible, make alternate plans for young children, who are likely to become tired, restless, and/or hungry. (Many families make this a couples-only time or a “girls’ day out”.) Think through your travel and lodging plans, considering both economy and convenience. (For example, it may be cheaper to stay with Aunt Connie, but if she lives two hours away from the venue, it may make better sense to book a hotel.) Register for the convention early, taking advantage of any “early bird” discounts, and get all the information you can about the convention ahead of time: speakers, schedule, vendors, site map, and directions. With this information in hand, you can begin planning your personal agenda.
There are several important considerations to keep in mind when deciding how you will spend your time at the convention. First, look at the workshop schedule and highlight the sessions you really want to attend. Consider alternate choices so that, if your first choice is full or turns out to be a dud, you can quickly slide into another session. Don’t feel that you need to schedule a workshop every time one is offered. If it’s a vendor workshop, you may be able to get the same information by visiting the booth in the exhibit hall; also, many conventions provide recordings of the sessions, which you can purchase for a nominal fee. (Do think carefully about recordings, though—if the session includes a demonstration or relies on visuals, it might make better sense to attend these in person.) Think ahead to the exhibit hall. Be sure your personal agenda includes plenty of time for visiting the exhibit hall and for just plain resting. Homeschool conventions can be exhausting if you don’t stop to recharge your batteries.
Before You Go
The convention is only a few days away, but there is still more preparation to be done. Print out your registration confirmation, lodging information, directions, maps, and any other materials that you will need. Pack your bag with comfy walking shoes, a sweater or jacket (for chilly buildings), and a notebook or electronic device for recording information. Most importantly, you must arm yourself for the exhibit hall. If the venue allows, pack your own water and food, as you will be talking a lot, and refreshments sold at conventions are notoriously expensive. Take a large tote bag (or, better yet, a bag on wheels, if permitted by the venue) for catalogs and purchases. Some families find it helpful to list the specific curriculum needs of each child, to avoid purchasing more materials than are needed. Of course, you will already have a budget in mind, and bringing cash (as opposed to a credit card or check) will help you curb the temptation to buy on a whim.
At the Convention
Into the fray! Armed with your personal agenda, you arrive on time and find a seat in your first workshop. Not what you expected? Don’t feel obligated to stay! Either slip into your alternate selection or revise your agenda–it’s meant to be a guide, not a dictator.
Perhaps you decide to visit the exhibit hall first. Be sure to give yourself time for at least three laps around, if the venue is not too large. The first time, look over all the booths, without stopping, to get a general overview of what’s available. Then take some time to decide which booths you want to visit more extensively. (You may need to skip this first step for a convention with large or multiple exhibit halls.) On your second trip around, stop at the booths where you would like to get more information, enter drawings, or pick up catalogs. (It’s perfectly fine to tell the vendors that this is your “exploration trip” and that you are not making any commitments at this time. You may even want to make an agreement with your spouse that you will not make any purchases without the other’s informed consent.) Now plan an extensive break that will allow you to make your final purchasing decisions. Remember–whatever you buy at the convention must be lugged home, so you may want to limit your purchases to convention-only bargains that you won’t be able to order later.
Since you have scheduled your day wisely, given yourself breaks, and kept hydrated, you will come to the end of the convention feeling tired but happy. You will have gained inspiration and a renewed focus, ready to continue leading your family in its homeschooling adventure. You—yes, you!—have survived the homeschool convention!