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.)

Entire series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Homeschool How-to’s: Free While They Last

While unpacking from our recent move, I found a box of homeschooling booklets we used to sell for $5 each at homeschool conventions. (They later became part of my book The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling.)

I don’t have room to keep these here, so I’m offering them FREE on a first-come, first-served basis. Just send me a self-addressed business (4 1/8″ X 9 1/2″) envelope stamped with TWO first-class stamps, and I’ll send you a booklet. THIS OFFER IS ONLY GOOD WHILE SUPPLIES LAST. You can request a specific title and if we still have copies left, you’ll get it. Otherwise, it’s potluck. :)

The booklets are:

115 Organizing Tips for Homeschoolers

Need help getting organized? This 34-page booklet is packed full of proven ideas for:

  • Getting your homeschool organized
  • Establishing a homeschool filing system
  • Running your home
  • Living (and homeschooling) with small children
  • Keeping up your energy

Learn to handle the many responsibilities and challenges that come with being a homeschool mom.

Covering All the Bases

Do you ever ask yourself:

  • How do I know if we’re studying the right subjects at the right times?
  • Are we covering all the bases?
  • What are the bases anyway?
  • Are we using the right materials?
  • Are my kids doing OK?

This 30-page booklet includes information about curriculum choices, Scope and Sequence, and achievement testing, as well as tips for designing your own curriculum.

Overcoming Obstacles to Homeschooling

Do you struggle when it comes to homeschooling? Are there obstacles in your way? This 30-page booklet covers topics including:

  • Defeating the habits that keep you from working with your children
  • Dealing with relatives’ disapproval
  • Thriving despite personal or financial difficulties
  • Boosting your homeschooling confidence

Discover the personal habits and traits that may be holding you back, and learn how to eliminate them. Don’t let obstacles keep you from homeschooling!

HOW TO ORDER

Just send your SASE (remember, you’ll need two 44-cent stamps on your SASE because these booklets are big) to:

Cardamom Publishers

P.O. Box 743

Janesville, WI 53547

(Feel free to share this offer with your homeschooling friends.)

Changing My Game Plan

Like many people, I began homeschooling by imitating the schools of my youth. I bought a boxful of curriculum, divided it into daily assignments, and taught my kids right out of those books.

And there wasn’t anything especially bad about that, except that after the initial excitement wore off, my kids started to get bored. Instead of being excited about doing school, they ranked it right down there with making their beds and setting the table—something we have to do, so let’s get it over with. Continue reading