Last year I attended my first home school convention. That is shocking since I am a home school graduate and have been homeschooling my own children their entire lives. I simply never realized what a plethora of knowledge and resources these gatherings are. Now that I have experienced the wonder for myself, I am hooked.
Recently someone asked me how to get the most out of her first home school convention. The following are seven tips I gave her:
- Make your list, and check it twice. Conventions are overwhelming sources of information, resources, and materials. Your shopping list should be divided into two parts: needs and wants. Needs should include any curriculum, textbooks, or resources you and your children must have for the coming school year. Wants are resources you already know you would like for your home library.
- Budget your spending money. Save up for shopping. Home school conventions are an ideal time to do your curriculum and resource shopping for several reasons. First of all, you save on shipping, and many publishers offer convention specials. Second, you can handle the materials before you purchase them to make sure you are getting what you really want. Best of all, you can, in many cases, meet the authors and publishers of the books and curricula, asking questions and establishing personal relationships.
- Dress and pack appropriately. Be certain to wear comfortable shoes and clothes for your active day; bring a sweater because conventions are notoriously cold. Wear a watch so you will not miss an important workshop. Bring a rolling cart for your purchases, if you have one, or extra tote bags. Inside your bag or cart, pack a notebook, pen, and highlighter for workshops and conference materials. If you are attending with a young child, throw some small, quiet toys and books in there, too, to amuse him during the workshops; keep in mind that some conferences do not allow strollers in the exhibit hall or workshops. Check the conference website for meal information, and pack a lunch or lunch money accordingly.
- Schedule workshops. Before you begin shopping, be certain to check the workshop schedule and plan for the sessions you want to attend. Highlight them in your conference packet, or circle them prominently so you do not miss out on something important.
- Plan your child strategy. Last year I lost my three-year-old, not once, but twice in one hour. I soon became very aware that to an energetic little boy, a home school conference looked like a very large toy store with very friendly people and children everywhere. He had a great time getting to know every vendor with an educational game, while I was frantically searching the exits. The only way we could survive was by dedicating one person to watch him while I perused the merchandise. Be aware that many home school conventions have children’s programs with pre-planned activities.
- Grab business cards and pamphlets. I am very grateful for the relationships I established through the convention vendors I met last year. Their business cards are all organized in my files, and many have become dear friends. Take information from conference vendors; file it away in a catalog or home school material file at home so that, when you are looking for resources later, you will have a good starting point.
- Stop by the THSC table. Be sure to get updated information from Texas Home School Coalition and say hello to the representatives at the table while you are there! Thank them for supporting home education freedom in Texas. Tell them Lea Ann sent you.
I hope you will attend a home school convention or two this year. I plan to pack up my family and enjoy a few. The fellowship, information, and resources are invaluable. With a little planning, strategic shopping, and friendly mingling, you will get the most out of each conference you attend.