Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Homeschool Convention
Homeschool convention season is here and it’s time to start making your plans to attend one near you! You’ve been hearing everyone talk about homeschool conventions and you’re probably curious about exactly what one is like. Perhaps you imagine a large arena filled with curriculum, school supplies, and precious speakers. Or, maybe you envision it as being a collective gathering of organized chaos. The truth is, it’s a little bit of both! So how can you best navigate through such a thing?
Tip 1: Do Your Research
This means researching not only the curriculum you plan to look at but also the speakers that you’d like to hear. Be open-minded and use this time to learn new things. Why? It’s possible that you’ve been misinformed about a particular speaker or homeschooling method. The homeschool convention is the perfect time to set your mind straight. Maybe you’ve heard bad things about a specific speaker or homeschooling method. This would be a good opportunity to listen to that speaker or hear more about that method in person. You should also research the convention itself. Different conventions have different agendas, though they’re all basically made of the same components. Still, you might find that your state-sponsored convention doesn’t fit your needs but instead a privately-run homeschool convention is perfect for you.
Tip 2: Handle the Food Situation
Whether you’re attending a convention out of town or are going to a local venue, you don’t want family members to go hungry. You also probably won’t feel like cooking for everyone when you return home for the evening. Thus, it’s a good idea to ensure your refrigerator has meals ready-to-go and that there are plenty of snacks on reserve in your pantry. Small children can help themselves to snacks you make available and older children can be responsible for cooking easy meals. If you’re planning to attend the homeschool convention as a family, you may want to pack your lunch. (Actually, even if you attend alone you might want to pack a lunch since convention food can be expensive.) In addition, you probably won’t feel in the mood for cooking dinner at the end of such an exhausting day. Plan ahead and have a meal ready to just pop in the oven for reheating or use your CrockPot that day.
Tip 3: Make Childcare Arrangements
If you aren’t bringing your children with you to the homeschool convention, you’ll need to make arrangements for their care. Be sure to do this well in advance (and maybe even have a backup childcare plan just in case your sitter is sick the day you plan to attend the convention).
Tip 4: Visit the Library
It doesn’t hurt to know what’s already available to you free of charge or find out what your library can get for you through an interlibrary loan. While the library likely can’t get curriculum for you, they may be able to get nonfiction books (like the books speakers write) for you. Instead of paying for those things at the homeschool convention, have the library get them!
Tip 5: Bring Moveable Storage
Chances are, a tote bag won’t be enough to hold everything you end up leaving with. Some conventions sell moveable carts AT the convention, but you can’t count on that (and they’re probably much more expensive at the convention). Check Amazon for deals on rolling carts or suitcases on wheels. Be sure you have one that is sturdy enough to carry heavy books because some are only meant for “light duty” storage. Rolling suitcases, small carts, large backpacks (ideally, the kind on wheels) and even a wagon all make suitable options.
Tip 6: Talk to Your Spouse
Ideally, your spouse will attend the convention with you. If that’s not possible (perhaps because your spouse is handling childcare for you while you’re away), bring your spouse up to speed on your convention plans – like who you plan to listen to and what booths you plan to visit – before leaving. This way, your spouse can request that you attend certain speakers’ presentations or check out specific curriculum. Doing so will go a long way with a spouse who may not have been on board with homeschooling at the outset but who may be “settling” with the idea.
Tip 7: Arrive Early
The last thing you want to do is pull up to the convention and fight for parking! In addition, you don’t want to have to leave the convention to go get parking money. These are just a few reasons arriving early is a good idea. You’ll have enough time to leave for that parking money if you need it (though it’s a good idea to include this in your research) and be able to find a good parking spot. In addition, it’s easier to figure out where you’re going when the convention center is empty than when it’s packed with people.
Tip 8: Get Plenty of Sleep
You certainly don’t want to be nodding off during any speaker’s presentation, nor do you want to be too exhausted to visit a booth that’s at the other end of the convention center! Getting a good night’s sleep the night before (if you can sleep through your excitement) is necessary. If you’re unable to get the sleep you need, consider taking snacks or coffee to help stay alert. Conventions can be very overstimulating, causing you to be tired earlier in the day than you usually are. Plan for this by getting the rest your body needs.
Tip 9: Bring ALL Forms of Money
Not all small vendors or booths accept credit cards and not everyone wants to carry around large sums of cash. It’s a good idea to attend a convention with credit/debit cards for big purchases, checks in case the credit card machines are down, and cash for parking, small booths, valet tips, or vending machines.
Tip 10: Check Your Goody Bag!
Conventions always supply you with a goody bag that usually contains some great coupons. Don’t miss out on opportunities to save money by tossing your goody bag aside until you get home! Vendors will usually put literature, pens, and coupons in your goody bag, so be sure to check your bag before you make any purchases.
Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.