In order to encourage and equip homeschool families, convention coordinators work hard to provide an array of speakers and vendors. With this wonderfully wide array of amazing resources and information, however, one can sometimes find themselves a bit overwhelmed.
These 10 steps will help ensure that you have an uplifting and educational experience at the convention without getting knocked off track.
Now that you have decided to attend a homeschool convention, pre-register by visiting the corresponding convention website (if you haven’t already). Don’t forget to plan your travels, reserve your lodging, and preplan meals.
2. Establish goals and budget.
Sit down with your spouse and children a week or two prior to the homeschool convention.
Write down your short- and long-term educational goals for your child.
Write down the virtuous characteristics you would like to help your child develop.
Write down what you would like your child to learn in terms of worldview.
Write down what daily activities are important to you and your family as you homeschool (sports, volunteering, etc.)
Determine your budget.
Take a moment to pray for your homeschool community, the convention staff, the speakers, the exhibitors, and all who will be attending the convention.
3. Plan your visit.
A. Print the preliminary workshop schedule (available on the convention website or in your registration confirmation packet).
Highlight the workshops that might interest you.
Visit the speakers’ websites, reviewing their missions and beliefs.
Decide on which workshop would be most beneficial to you during each timeslot.
Circle the workshops you have decided to attend.
B. Review the children’s programs.
Take note of the times, prices, descriptions, and age parameters.
Decide which children’s programs you would like your child(ren) to attend.
C. Print the list of vendors (available on the convention website or in your registration confirmation packet).
Gather information about participating vendors that may interest you. (Visit their websites. Also check social media, blogs, and YouTube.)
Make a list of items you are most interested in purchasing. Be mindful of the educational goals and philosophies you have discussed with your family in step 2.
Circle the vendors you wish to visit at the convention.
Make a list of questions you wish to ask as you visit a vendor.
D. Check for any special events offered at the convention. (Some conventions offer parties, family events, etc.)
4. Pack for the convention
Hotel Confirmation (if applicable)
Convention registration confirmation
Preliminary notes, schedule, and wish list
Address labels (saves writing and time when registering for drawings)
Backpack or tote
A fold up wagon, rolling tote, or stroller
Items to keep your children occupied
Snacks (may need to be left in your hotel room or car depending on facility rules)
Sweater (in case of varying temperatures in session rooms and the vendor hall)
5. Arrival Checklist
Take note of where you parked.
Check in at the registration desk and get your name tags, program, and other information.
Visit the audio recording booth to inquire about purchasing audio recordings for workshops.
Double check the program for any changes to the workshop schedule or exhibit hall hours.
Survey the exhibit hall to quickly gather brochures and catalogs from participating vendors.
6. Review and revise your plan.
Peruse the information you have gathered from the exhibit hall and plan which vendors you would like to revisit.
If you are wanting to view certain curriculum or want to best steward your budget with the savings offered at the convention (many vendors offer exclusive convention savings), make sure to plan for shopping time between the workshops you would like to attend.
Taking into account that you may be able to purchase a workshop recording, circle a workshop or two that you are comfortable missing, should you need more time to research curricula and visit with vendors.
7. Workshop etiquette
Silence your cell phone in workshops.
Move to inner seats if possible, leaving seats with easier access for others.
If you have young children or an infant, sit near an exit.
If you need to leave, leave as quietly as possible.
Fill out and turn in workshop evaluations.
8. Strategies to deal with overload
The number of materials and programs will be abundant. An assortment of educational strategies and views will be presented. Sometimes areas can be teeming with people. If you start feeling pressured, overloaded, confused, or have feelings of self-doubt, it is time take a break! (Go out to eat, rest in your hotel room, etc.)
9. Processing Information
As you attend workshops and meander through the exhibit hall, you will discover multiple educational strategies, learn about various educational views, and hear many personal stories. You will be amazed at the myriad of resources and tools you can use to help your child learn.
As you sort through the information you have gathered, be careful not to change direction with the tailwinds. Remember, you don’t have to agree with everything you hear or all the information you receive.
Refer back to your discussion that you had with your family prior to the convention (step #2) to help you decipher what will work best for your family. Since each family is unique, you must consider your own family dynamics and priorities, choosing what best meets your needs, goals, and reasons for homeschooling your child. Do not be eager to change something that has been working for you and aligns with your goals and philosophies. Review the tools you are considering to double check if they align with your worldview, your principles, and the goals you set in educating your children. Remember that no one understands your situation, children, faith, principles, goals, and family dynamics better than you.
10. Making Decisions
Exhibitors take great care to serve at conventions so they can answer questions and explain their programs and materials to homeschool families. Let them know that you value their time and expertise. If you decide to purchase their materials or program, support their efforts by purchasing from their booth at the convention. If you don’t feel settled about a decision, however, don’t feel pressured. Talk to vendors about return options or other sales that may be available in the future. You will be thankful you took the extra time and steps, if necessary, to feel at peace with your decision.
While it is helpful to gain knowledge and insight from others, faith and prayer should be the compass that guides you to the decisions most appropriate for your family. Trust God’s guidance as you prayerfully make decisions relevant to your family’s needs.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)
Conventions are packed with information, ideas, fun, and encouragement. Knowing that you don’t need to feel pressured about making decisions while you are at the convention and you can usually purchase a workshop recording, you can relax, learn, have fun, eat, and enjoy the fellowship. With a little planning, you are sure to have a fulfilling, educational, and encouraging experience!
Resource: Here is a list of conventions across the United States with quick links to their corresponding websites.
Photo Credit: Canva.com