How To Prepare For A Homeschool Convention
Why You Need To Attend A Homeschool Conference And How To Prepare So You Can Fully Enjoy It.
Attending a homeschool conference can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time.
It’s important to go prepared to get as much out of it as possible, to make sure you don’t miss anything.
There is so much to see and do, lots of shopping and many fantastic speaker sessions or workshops to attend, it’s hard to know where to start.
The first year I attended a homeschool conference I went with my husband. We both came away encouraged and inspired to keep going on our homeschool journey.
I wish I had known about the homeschool conference at the beginning of our journey, but it wasn’t until we were going into our 3rdyear that we attended. Somehow, I had missed the memo about the conference that was held locally, 5 minutes from where we live. It’s the biggest one in BC, so not sure how we missed that, but we did.
If you have the opportunity to attend a homeschool conference, I highly recommend it. It gives you a chance to be refreshed and encouraged, time to connect with other families, and the opportunity to see curriculum and resources in person.
Another reason to attend is for the opportunity to make new, like-minded friends. I met a good friend 7 years ago and our children are close in age and get along really well. She has been a great friend and an encouragement to me over the years.
Over the last 5 years I have had the opportunity to attend our local conference as an attendee, a speaker and as a vendor. I have also attended numerous other conferences as a vendor. These experiences have given me a thorough perspective on some of the best ways to prepare for attending a conference.
Preparation is key to getting the most out of your time at a homeschool conference, as it can be extremely overwhelming and easy to get side tracked. I’ve included some convention planning printables so help you prepare. Get your copy by subscribing here:
How To Prepare (And Survive) A Homeschool Convention
Planning ahead is important to a successful homeschool conference experience. Here are 14 tips to help you get the most out of your time there.
1. Choose your sessions in advance
Decide ahead of time what speaker sessions and workshops you would like to attend, and which are the most important. If there are two going on at the same time or many sessions that you’d like to take, but you still want to get some shopping time in; buy the MP3 copies of all the sessions so you can listen later.
2. Evaluate your current curriculum
Make sure to evaluate your current curriculum and resources well ahead of the conference. Do not overhaul your entire system on a whim while you’re there. Decide what’s going to be needed for each subject and each child well in advance.
Do your research of different curriculums before you go to conference.
Check the vendor list to see what will be available.
Once you’ve evaluated your curriculum and done some research, create a shopping list to bring with you to conference to help you stay on track and focused.
3. Create a shopping list
When it comes to shopping, there are so many fun resources to look at in the vendor halls and it can be easy to get carried away…ahem I may know this from experience ;)
Decide what resources/subjects you need and are the most important to see in person. Create a detailed list before you attend, otherwise you’ll be distracted with the shiny object syndrome.
Make sure to refine your list. Writing down “language arts” is too broad. If you are unsure of what resources you want to use for a particular subject, then make a list of the top 3 resources you would like to look at for that subject. Don’t end up with buyer’s remorse or second guessing yourself because you didn’t look into it ahead of time. Take a bit of time to look around before settling.
4. Set a budget
Believe me, setting a budget ahead of time will help you stay focused on the necessities. There are so many resources that you could purchase, that your children would enjoy; however, it’s easy to blow the budget on the fun stuff and forget about the more important things (guilty!). Setting a budget will help you avoid overspending on items that are not essential.
5. Go with a friend
More specifically, go with someone who’s familiar with the conference and has attended before. It’ll be like having your own personal tour guide. Eventually as an experienced attendee, you can play tour guide for your new to homeschooling friends.
If your friend hasn’t attended either, you can help each other navigate the conference, swap session notes or keep an eye out for things the other might be looking for. It’s a lot of fun going with a friend!
6. Dress comfortably
Remember to dress comfortably. You will be doing a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. You never know what the temperature will be like in the sessions or the vendor hall. I have found it usually goes either way. Hot because it’s cold out and they have the heat cranked, plus all the bodies makes the temperature rise. Or cold because it’s hot out and they want to keep things cool with all the bodies. Either way, bring layers.
7. Stay fueled and hydrated
It’s hard to remember to stop to eat or drink when you’re trying to cram so much in a few days or hours. Plus, there’s usually a pretty big lineup for the food vendors, so save yourself time by packing some water and a lunch, or at least some type of energy bar to keep you going. The nice thing about a bar is it’s portable and you can eat and shop at the same time. Multi-tasking at it’s finest ;)
8. Bring a suitcase, a wagon…or a pack mule
You may think I’m joking, but I’m not…just about the pack mule ;) Bring either a rolling suitcase or a wagon for all your purchases. Once you start shopping the load gets heavy fast and it’s really frustrating to have your hands full when you’re trying to pick things up to look through different books.
The first year I remember looking around and wondering why so many people had rolling suitcases or wagons. Now I get it!
The first few times we attended the conference, our vehicle wasn’t parked too far away so my hubby and I would haul each load out to the vehicle, but that was inconvenient and wasted valuable time.
Do yourself a favour and bring something to haul your books and other purchases around. Your back will thank you.
9. Bring cash
Bringing cash is beneficial. While most vendors will take other forms of payment, not all do. Cash is faster for checkout and it’s easier to keep track of money spent.
10. Remember where you parked
Depending on the size of the conference you are attending this may not be an issue, but if it’s a large venue, this will be important at the end of the day when you’re exhausted and trying to get back to your vehicle.
11. Don’t forget to bring a pen and notebook (with a hard surface)
There will be lots that you want to write down during sessions or things you want to remember. You may even want to swap contact information with a new friend. Be prepared by making sure you have pen and paper available.
Tables are not guaranteed, so make sure your notebook has a hard cover or bring a clipboard to make writing notes easier.
12. Leave little ones at home (if possible)
Homeschool conferences are very kid friendly, and most attendees have at least 10 each…ok not really, but having a large family are normal in that environment.
It’s hard to focus on the session if your child is fussing and you may have to leave the session all together. It’s also hard to concentrate on curriculum choices if your kids are running around touching things.
My suggestion to keep the little ones at home is out of practicality for you so that you can get as much out of the conference as possible.
If you have the option of leaving them with someone, do. Or check into the kid and nursery programs that they usually have available at homeschool conferences. The year our children attended they had fun!
Bringing your kids is fine, it just makes it easier for you to do what you need to do without them there, especially if you are in a hurry.
Like I said, we only live about a 5minute drive away. Once I’ve done everything that needs to get done as far as shopping and sessions go, I will bring the kids to have a quick look around at some point on the second day. They enjoy it and I can relax and enjoy the time with them because I’ve gotten what I needed to out of the way.
13. Go for the whole time
I know it’s not always possible to go for the whole 2 days (the average length of conferences), but if it is possible, do it.
If you go for the whole time you won’t feel as rushed to make decisions and you’ll have more time to do both sessions AND shopping.
14. Stay as close as you can to the location of the conference when picking your accommodations.
Early mornings and late evenings. Save yourself time by staying close to the venue. You won’t regret it!
That’s it! A little preparation and planning and you are on your way to having a great time at the homeschool conference.
· Choose your sessions in advance
· Evaluate your curriculum before you go
· Create a shopping list
· Set a budget
· Go with a friend (if possible)
· Dress comfortably
· Bring water, snack bars and lunch
· Bring a suitcase or wagon
· Bring cash
· Remember where you parked
· Don’t forget a pen and notebook
· Leave little ones at home or in offered programs (if possible)
· Try to go for the entire time
· Book accommodations close to the event
These tips will help you have the best experience you can at the homeschool conference. Print off this Curriculum Planning Worksheet and create your shopping list to bring with you and help you stay focused.
Tell me, what are you most excited about when it comes to homeschool conferences?