I don’t know about you, but homeschool conventions have been something I look forward to every year since I began homeschooling almost six years ago.
Does that make me a nerdy homeschool mom? Maybe. However, I can’t deny how much I love them! In fact, I have added two additional conventions to my schedule for next year….one as a “for sure,” and the other is still on my wish list.
But regardless of whether or not you have attended a few, or you are a “convention rookie”… I have 10 tips to help you make your time there a success!
1. Traveling Or Staying Local?
You’ve got some decisions if you are headed out of town. Are you going by plane? If yes, then you need to weigh when you would like to be there vs. cost of traveling on certain days. Then there are hotel reservations to consider. Obviously, the budget will dictate what is workable for you. My friends and I split a room four ways for our local convention, and make it a girl’s weekend. (And yes, I did say local…but local in the Greater Houston area is not necessarily around the corner…lol!) That is definitely one way to make it affordable to stay in the hotel where the convention is being held. This will make some of the other things we will talk about a lot easier…IF you can swing it.
2. Timing is everything
One of the first things I always do is download the convention schedule, and pre-register to avoid a lot of “red tape” upon arrival (not to mention that pre-registering usually gives you the best available price!). Next, I need to know when the doors open for registration, and then I plan to be there (if possible) about 30-45 minutes before that point. I love starting my convention off without having stood in a very long line. OR I may plan not to check in until after the crowd has subsided. Whichever is going to work out best for my schedule.
3. Mapping It All Out
It really helps to know what vendors are located in which halls….where the workshops are being held….where are the restrooms? And most importantly…where is the caffeine?? This will help you make sure you can make it anywhere you need to be on time. If the workshops at your convention are anything like some of ours, you’ll definitely want to be there in time enough to get a great seat.
4. Choosing Your Workshops
There are always more speakers to listen to than I have time available. Combing through this list is always a really tough one for me, as I seem to have an interest in every workshop available. One tip I would offer is to contact the convention ahead of time and see if they utilize any type of service that records the sessions and has the audios for sale on CD or MP3 downloads during and after the conference. The main one I have attended for the last five years has a service like that, and it has been wonderful! If there is no such avenue for you, then I would concentrate on the topics and speakers that address the needs in your homeschool TODAY, not five years from now. This will help you get the most out of the convention during the coming school year.
5. Sizing Up Your Curriculum Needs
You can usually view the vendors that will be at the convention ahead of time on the convention website. This may not be the case 100% of the time, but I’ve always been able to do so. This lets you know ahead of time if your main curriculum providers will be there, and you can even contact them ahead of time to determine if they are offering conference specials. I find that the majority of them do…however, as an example, my daughter’s math provider does not. It is free shipping no matter when you order, so I typically purchase that at a different time, and stick to the ones that have special pricing during those two or three days.
6. Sticking to Your Budget
It is easy to get completely carried away in that Vendor Hall! Putting together a budget before you go, both for planned and unplanned purchases, will help make this a successful shopping experience for you. I always try to leave myself additional money beyond what I have planned to spend (if it is possible to do so), because no matter what, I find a new vendor or two each year that I have NEVER heard of but seems a great fit for our homeschool. And I don’t feel as though I’ve gone off the rails because it was all part of my “mad money” to begin with.
7. Carting Around Your Wares
Whether you are purchasing full years worth of curriculum or just bits and pieces here and there…between that and the catalogs and such that you will pick up at every booth, that nice bag they gave you when you get there is going to get very, very heavy. If you are staying in the hotel onsite, you can easily make trips to the room to store your purchases, relieving you of all those bags! If not, you can utilize the totes on wheels that I’ve seen so many moms puling around in the vendor hall…much more convenient than a heavy bag on your shoulders.
8. Comfy Is the Name of the Game
Remember….you wouldn’t wear that pair of new shoes to an amusement park with your kids, would you? Same rule goes for this! You’re going to be standing a lot more than you will be sitting, so whatever is the most comfortable for you is what needs to be on your feet. For me, that is almost always a pair of Yellow Box sandals! I could go all day in those!
9. A Girl’s Gotta Eat
This is another place to consult your workshop schedule. Are there places close by to grab a sandwich? If you are trying to get to a workshop that is right after the lunchtime break, you may want to consider taking time before the break to have an early lunch…OR vice versa. Do you have special dietary needs OR just want to be a frugal eater? Consider keeping lunch up in your room if you are staying at the hotel…OR if not, bring something with you that won’t spoil before lunchtime. Are you interested in a quick, grab ‘n go lunch, or sitting down to visit with friends? I always enjoy taking that time to visit and fellowship with my sweet homeschool momma friends…it’s one of the highlights of the convention for me. And snacks? I DO have some special food needs, so I make sure I have those nibbles readily available in my bag or room. Not to mention that snacks can get kinda pricy at these events!
10. Have Fun!
Above all else…enjoy! Soak up the time with your family and friends, enjoy being refreshed as a homeschool mom, delight in the role that you have taken as your children’s primary educator, and know that God has trusted you with this responsibility because He made you for it!
There are benefits for staying onsite at the convention, so if you want to look in to that, click here.
If you’re taking your kiddos, and want tips about traveling with them, check out Teach Them Diligently’s Pinterest board.