Keys to a Successful Homeschool Convention Experience (Part 4)

After Your Homeschool Convention

Hopefully, you enjoyed your time at the homeschool convention. Now that you’re back home, there’s so much to think about: what the speakers said, what you saw in the vendor hall, what you bought and how you want to use it with your children.

Before too much time passes, go through the big stack of papers you brought back. Weed out the sales flyers you don’t need, and file those you may want to refer to in the future. Add the catalogs to your collection; you’ll want to refer to them in the future when your child finishes a book or program and you need ideas for what to do next.

Think about the speakers whose sessions you attended. What will you do differently in your homeschool because of what you learned from them? Were there some who were especially helpful? You’ll want to remember their names for future conventions.

What about the convention itself? Was it well-organized? Was it worth the money you spent to attend it? If you were not happy with the convention, you can always attend a different one in your state, or in a nearby state, next time. Whether you were pleased or displeased with the convention, let the convention organizers know. They need input from attendees so they know how to proceed in organizing future conventions. Often, they will include a survey form in the convention program for just this purpose.

Hopefully, by attending the convention, you came away with renewed enthusiasm for homeschooling. How can you keep that feeling alive long after the convention is over? Listen to the recorded sessions when you’re in the car. Read books and magazines about homeschooling. Find a support group (if you haven’t already done so), attend the meetings and volunteer to run at least one group activity per year. Being with like-minded people is the surest way to keep up your energy and enthusiasm for homeschooling.

Next year, when that convention brochure turns up in your mailbox, you’ll find a new group of speakers and sessions that you’ll want to hear. By then, with another year’s worth of homeschooling under your belt, you’ll have an even better idea of how to make your homeschool convention experience a good one.

(Excerpted from The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling. Order direct from Cardamom Publishers and get a free 111-page eBook with your purchase. )

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Keys to a Successful Homeschool Convention Experience (Part 3)

Special Tips for the Vendor Hall

The vendor hall is probably the most overwhelming part of a homeschool convention. There are so many great books and resources to look at, and unless you’ve come with an unlimited budget, so many decisions to make. Get ready to tackle the vendor hall with these tips:

  • Leave yourself plenty of time to peruse the vendor hall.
  • Check the convention program for vendor coupons that you might be able to use.
  • Pray before you buy anything! God will give you guidance, as well as peace about what to buy.
  • Sign up for free newsletters and mailing lists.
  • Keep an eye out for free samples of curriculum, and pick up every free catalog you can find. If you end up not needing some of them, pass them on to homeschooling friends who weren’t able to attend the convention.
  • Some of the largest curriculum suppliers (like A Beka and Bob Jones) offer free shipping if you place your order at the convention. But it’s crowded and hard to look at their wide variety of curriculum in the vendor hall. Ask if they offer meetings at local motels in your area; they usually offer free shipping at those meetings, and it’s a much more relaxing and uncrowded environment in which to make your purchasing decisions. In the meantime, be sure to take their catalogs home so you can study them.
  • Step outside for a breath of fresh air every hour or so. A break from the commotion of the vendor hall helps clear your head.
  • Go out to your car and regroup at least once during the day. Enjoy the silence while having a cold drink and a snack. Call home to check on everyone. Think about your goals for the rest of the convention. Occasional trips to the car also let you pack away your purchases instead of carrying them around for hours.
  • Buy something fun for your children: new construction paper, clay or maybe a special book for each child.
  • “Dance with the one that brung ya.” If you spend 15 minutes quizzing a vendor about a certain curriculum or resource, then cross the aisle to buy that very product from another vendor because it’s a few dollars cheaper there (or decide you’ll buy it later from an online discounter), you have cheated the vendor who spent time talking with you. Be careful not to use vendors in this way. Remember that many of them are homeschooling families trying to earn a living while serving their fellow homeschoolers.
  • When exhaustion sets in and you can’t think anymore, it’s time to go home. But before you go, remember to buy tapes or CDs of the sessions you missed (or the sessions you enjoyed so much that you’re going to want to hear them again).

(Excerpted from The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling. Order direct from Cardamom Publishers and get a free 111-page eBook with your purchase.)

 

Entire series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Keys to a Successful Homeschool Convention Experience (Part 2)

Attending Your Homeschool Convention

The big day is here! After finding a parking spot (not always easy at the bigger conventions), you enter the convention’s main area to find parents everywhere. Try to find a quiet spot off to the side where you can go through the registration information.

  • Study your brochure to see which sessions you want to attend, and then check the building map to locate each of those sessions.
  • Check to see if recordings are offered of sessions you can’t attend due to schedule conflicts. You can buy them before you go home.
  • If you want to attend a session that includes a panel of speakers, make sure there is a moderator. Otherwise, panel discussions have a tendency to be more vague than helpful.
  • Are there any vendor workshops for products you might be considering? If so, make a note of when they’re held.
  • Make a quick sweep of the vendor hall, quickly checking out the booths to see who and what’s there, before you buy anything. (Warning: this takes self-control!) While you’re at it, pick up free catalogs to add to (or begin) your homeschool catalog collection.
  • Remember to turn off your phone as soon as you enter a session.
  • No one is going to check to see if you took notes, so don’t feel you must. But don’t think you’re going to remember every important thing you hear, because your brain is going to be overwhelmed with good advice today!
  • Sometimes speakers offer handouts to help you understand the information they’re sharing. Be sure to hang on to these; you may want to refer to them later on.
  • If you’re not sure you’ll stay for an entire session, sit at the back so you can leave without distracting the speaker. The same thing goes if you’ve brought your baby; a screaming baby in the front row is embarrassing for you and distracting for everyone else.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the speaker at the end of the session, or during the session whenever questions are invited. Speakers want to know if they can provide further information; people who are too shy to ask a question can learn from the speaker’s response to yours.
  • Be sure to thank the speaker at the end of each session. Whether or not they’re being paid for their work, they put in a lot of time and effort to share it with you.
  • Finally, don’t forget to network while you’re at the convention. This is your “work,” so you’ll want to learn from the others in your field. Make conversation with those sitting around you while waiting for a session to start. Ask questions when you need to, and be willing to stop and answer questions from those who need help. The very best part of homeschool conventions is all the wonderful people you’ll meet!

(Excerpted from The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling. Order direct from Cardamom Publishers and get a 111-page eBook free with your purchase.)

Entire series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Keys to a Successful Homeschool Convention Experience (Part 1)

Homeschool conventions are exhilarating, informative, interesting and exhausting! I vividly recall my first homeschool convention, even though it was nearly 25 years ago. There was so much to see and learn! I loved being around so many like-minded people who, like me, actually spent their days with their children.

Today, there are far more vendors, workshop presenters and homeschoolers than there were when I began attending conventions. These events can be quite overwhelming, particularly for prospective and new homeschoolers.

The best convention experience is one for which you’ve prepared yourself. Here are a few keys to success as a convention attendee:

  • Study your convention brochure closely ahead of time, so you can choose which sessions you especially want to attend. Highlight them so you can easily refer to them on the day of the convention.
  • Be sure to read the speaker biographies. By learning about each speaker, you’ll have a better idea of where they’re coming from in terms of experience.
  • If your husband cannot attend the convention with you, try to arrange carpooling with one or more homeschooling friends. It makes the travel time pass faster, plus you’ll be able to compare notes about speakers and sessions on your way home.
  • Many homeschool convention organizers don’t allow children to attend; they see the event as an educational opportunity for parents. If that’s the case at the convention you’re attending, be sure to make childcare arrangements far enough ahead of time so that you’re all set for the big day.
  • If you’re a nursing mom, you’ll likely be allowed to bring the baby. Be sure you also bring everything your baby needs for a full day of comfort, including extra clothes and diapers, a pacifier to prevent crying during sessions, and an extra blanket in case of excessive air conditioning.
  • Pack a cooler with plenty of bottled water, snacks, and your lunch.
  • Wear comfy shoes and clothes; you’ll be on your feet a lot in the vendor hall.
  • Bring a sturdy tote bag (for purchases), a notebook and several pens. (Some people like to bring a wheeled tote or box to drag around, but it’s a real nuisance in a crowded vendor hall.)
  • Make sure you have cash and/or checks on you; some smaller vendors don’t accept credit cards.

Don’t forget your convention brochure and the passes or name tags that were sent to you! If you didn’t register ahead of time, be sure to arrive early so you have time to register on-site without missing the first session.

(Excerpted from The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling. Order direct from Cardamom Publishers and get a 111-page eBook free with your purchase.)

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Patience

When people find out that I homeschool my children, they almost always say something along the lines of, “I could never do that. You must be a really patient person.”

Most of the time, I respond that I wasn’t patient when I started (my husband can vouch for that), but that my patience developed over the years. I don’t go into too much detail because I’ve discovered that most of these people don’t really want to know how to become more patient. They’re just grabbing onto the first excuse they can think of to explain why they can’t (read: don’t want to) homeschool their children.

But the question of patience is an interesting one. My mother-in-law has commented many times that she is amazed by my patience with my children. Please don’t be fooled by that; I am not always patient with them. In fact, in certain situations, I have to send myself into time-out so I don’t wring someone’s neck (usually that someone is a teenager).  But I do think that I have more patience than I once did, thanks to many years of trying to get my children to understand concepts and ideas because I want to help them learn. It is so rewarding to see the light go on when a challenging idea becomes understandable. That light won’t go on if I’m breathing down my child’s neck.

Early on, when trying to explain a concept to one of my children, I would start asking questions to make them think. But soon I’d find myself clueing them in on the answers right away because I got tired of waiting for them to say the right thing. Of course, they weren’t learning anything when I fed them the answer. The next time the subject came up, I could see that they didn’t know anything more this time than before I’d explained it. The answer wouldn’t make sense to them unless it came from their understanding, not my spoon-feeding method.

So I learned to wait for them to catch on. When they’d ask me a question, I’d answer it, and come back with a few of my own to make them think a little harder. Then instead of coaching them to the correct answers, I just waited. Sooner or later, they’d figure it out.

After we’d been homeschooling for several years, I was given a new opportunity for learning patience: our son Josh was born with Down syndrome. In most areas, it took him far longer to learn things than it had taken his siblings. He didn’t crawl until he was 1, and didn’t start walking until 21 months. He’d been in physical therapy since he was tiny, but I’m not sure whether he would have crawled or walked later without it. What I’ve seen with him is that he will not do something until he is ready, and in this way he is much like his brother and sisters. He is my graduate study in the School of Patience.

For example, he did not become toilet-trained until he was seven. We tried coaxing, training and occasional forcing him to use the toilet starting at age three. We bought him potty books and a video. We even tried bribing him with M&M’S®. But he wasn’t ready yet.

When he was five or six, he started using the toilet once a day or so. When he was successful, he would make the general announcement (“Poo-poo! Poo-poo!”), and cheering and applause would break out from every corner of the house. Still, it would be well over a year before he could go without diapers all the time (and probably two or three years before he stopped demanding M&M’S® after each successful bathroom visit).

What a golden opportunity toilet-training him was for teaching us about patience. Nothing we did spurred him on. But when he figured it out, the triumph was all his.

This concept also holds for children who are not mentally delayed or disabled. For example, when a teenager finally figures out quadratic equations, it’s his victory. Sure, Mom and Dad have answered numerous questions, most more than once, and each was a stone in the path leading up to the day when he figured out the concept. But he’s the one who succeeded in grasping the concept.

Now imagine if each time he’d asked his parents a question, they’d responded with a sigh, or worse, with anger (“How many times do I have to explain this to you?”). That would have discouraged him from asking any more questions, and it would have taken that much longer for him to pick up the concept. Or, he might never have figured it out. How sad if he was just one question away from understanding, but was afraid to ask that question.

Some kids need to ask more questions than others, and that can be very wearing on the homeschooling parents who spend their days coming up with the answers. It’s important for us to remember that each question brings the child closer to the point of understanding. Allowing him to reach that point, no matter how many questions it takes, is something that can’t be done in formal school, because the logistics of teaching a group don’t permit it. That’s one of the reasons homeschooling is so successful: the child can move at his own pace, with the support of an adult who will answer his questions and patiently wait for him to “get it,” so that he can move on. A classroom teacher can’t possibly do that with a roomful of students.

The longer you homeschool, the better you get at patiently answering the same question many times. You also get better at waiting for the answers to questions you’ve asked in order to make your child come to a certain conclusion. Your patience in such matters greatly benefits each of your children.

I wish I could tell you that the patience you develop over years of homeschooling translates into more patience in other areas of your life, but I can’t. Ask my son Peter, who had to keep me calm throughout 90 minutes in line waiting for him to get his ID at college registration ($26,000 a year, and they can only afford one ID machine?). Or you could ask those people who drive in front of me at 10 mph below the speed limit; I’m on them like a cheap suit. I guess it’s going to take more than years of homeschooling to make me into a totally patient person.

(Excerpted from The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling. Learn more about this book HERE.)