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Raise your hand if you love homeschool conventions!
I don’t know if it’s all the books and resources, or the wonderful speakers, or just being in a giant room full of other homeschool families, but I find homeschool conventions to be encouraging and inspiring. After attending a convention, I feel refreshed, renewed, and refocused.
But as fun as homeschool conventions are, they can be extremely overwhelming – even to someone who has attended in the past.
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I’m going to share some helpful planning tips so you can get the most out of your homeschool convention. Make sure you’ve printed your worksheets so you can start planning!
Before you attend a convention, reflect on the reasons why you want to attend that particular year. Do you need curriculum for a certain subject? Are you about to enter a new phase of homeschooling (middle school or high school)? Or do you need encouragement or help for a particular challenge?
Take time to write down then things that you hope to gain or the challenges you are having. This will help you choose which workshop to attend and which vendor booths are a priority. It will also help you feel less overwhelmed with all of the options.
- For this year I’m specifically needing math and grammar curriculum ideas for middle school. I’m about to enter the middle school phase so I want to find topics that address those years. I’ll be looking for speakers to address those topics as well as sitting in on a few high school sessions so I can think about our end goals. I also plan to stop by every booth that offers math or grammar options.
Don’t wait until you hit that giant convention hall to become familiar with the vendors. Read (and print) the list of vendors and visit many of the websites to know what will be offered at your convention. Then highlight your top 10 vendors – these should fit within your focus to help you solve a problem or address your unique curriculum needs. These are the vendors that you absolutely MUST visit during the convention.
Also create a list of a few vendors that you’d like to learn more about or ones that are new to you. Plan to stop by those booths as well. Know that you will walk past all the vendors during your convention, but by having a focused list you can be more intentional about your shopping experience.
- This year I’m looking for vendors that specifically market to upper elementary or middle school. I’m also putting a star by a few high school specific vendors so I can start thinking ahead and becoming familiar with my options.
One of the best parts of a convention is the self-education and encouragement you can receive by attending the speaker workshops. Usually there are an overwhelming number of options. This is why you have to do your homework and become familiar with the various speakers and their messages. Highlight the ones that fall within your focus for the year and plan to attend some of their sessions. Circle other sessions that sound interesting – even if you can’t attend, you can usually order copies of their session.
Go ahead and make another list – the speakers that you absolutely MUST hear and then those that you’d LIKE to hear.
- I know that I’ll never be able to attend all the workshops that I’d like to enjoy, so I’m strategically paring down my list to a few speakers that seem best suited for encouraging and challenging me as we jump into middle school. But I’m definitely planning to order other sessions to enjoy at home.
Don’t forget to study the convention schedule! You’ll find that many workshops overlap, and if you don’t plan carefully you’ll miss half of the sessions you wanted to attend. You’ll have to make some difficult choices about the speakers you’d like to hear in person and the ones you can listen to later. Grab your speaker list and write down the times of each session and circles the ones that you plan to attend.
And don’t neglect to block off time specifically for browsing the vendor hall! You don’t want to be running to every available workshop and never have the chance to page through the numerous resources. Speaker sessions often go all day long, so if you don’t plan blocks of time for shopping, you might never see the inside of that vendor hall.
- I find that choosing the workshop sessions that will fit into my schedule is one of the most challenging parts of attending a homeschool convention. Plus, I always plan added shopping time because I know that I’ll find something unexpected, and I’ll want time to enjoy browsing. I usually plan more browsing time on day 1 with more speaker sessions for day 2.
You will definitely need to review your budget before you go to that convention. But can I make a suggestion? Give yourself a little flexibility in that budget. You never know what you’ll find at a homeschool convention. Set aside funds in the months prior to a convention so you have a little cushion to make planned and even spontaneous purchases.
- I’ve made a few “splurge” purchases at homeschool conventions. And guess what? They turned out to be wonderful additions to our homeschool (Right Start Math and Nancy Larson Science are two examples of some budget-stretching purchases). I’ve also found some fun extras – art DVD’s, Bible study guides, and some sewing kits at conventions. Those were some “unexpected” purchases, so I was glad to have a little wiggle room in my budget.
Plan to spend the entire first day browsing, collecting catalogs, and making lists. On the evening of the first day, read back through your curriculum information and crunch some numbers and make a purchase list.
Then on day 2, plan to make all of your purchases. Yes, I said to purchase at the convention. It’s not just to get convention specials and save some money. It’s actually to support the vendors – those vendors are the ones who help fund a lot of the convention through paying for booths. They’ve also travelled to be there and are spending long hours manning their booths. By supporting those vendors, you support your convention and ensure that those vendors will return the following year.
- I might have become a little passionate about this one. Why? I have been a vendor multiple times. Let me tell you a little secret – being a vendor is fun and exciting but it has to be one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done. It’s amazing to get to chat with all the other homeschoolers at each convention, but it’s quite a feeling of accomplishment to have made a few sales too. So, please do support the hard-working vendors. You can read more about my experience as a vendor also.
I hope you enjoy your homeschool convention! They can be places of encouragement, inspiration, and motivation. By doing a little planning beforehand, you can ensure that you have a wonderful experience without feeling quite as overwhelmed.
So, grab some comfy shoes, a few snacks, your plan, and a notepad and then go explore your local homeschool convention!
I never leave home without one of these water bottles (my favorite color is Tidal Pool). And don’t forget a pretty notebook so you can take plenty of notes – this journal is a favorite of mine. You’ll also want to bring a backpack or a tote bag to help carry all your brochures and notes. This one with zippered pockets is a great option!
And stay tuned – I can’t wait to share my convention experiences toward the end of this summer.
Be sure to read my entire Convention Planning Series!
- 6 Tips for a Successful Homeschool Convention Experience
- 12 Questions to Ask a Homeschool Vendor
- Words of Wisdom for a Homeschool Convention Attendee
So, who’s going to a convention this year? What are you hoping to gain?
Also, if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get some great convention planning printables delivered to your inbox. So don’t forget to sign up and grab those freebies!