This year will mark my THIRD time attending our state’s annual homeschool convention, and even in a bad economy I’m looking forward to it—- because frankly, I deserve it and my kids do too.
Here are my tips for a attending a homeschool convention:
Obviously, Make a point of attending your homeschool convention each year to whatever extent you can. I know of some homeschoolers who only go one day to avoid hotel expenses, others share a hotel room with other mothers and some, like myself, make it a family trip and extend their stay.
Even if it is your first convention. Have a plan. You can always tweak it as you go, or change it up next year when you reflect on what worked and didn’t work for you (I keep a notebook), but it’s always best to go with a plan, rather than no plan. Otherwise, you may become overwhelmed by everything.
Take the time to read your convention literature or website. Included should be: tips on parking, transportation, hotel discounts, list of speakers and lectures, vendor list and any activities available for children during the convention.
If there is a convention hall map, highlight all the booths that you would like to attend in one color (attend those first) and bring a highlighter in a different color to highlight the booths that look interesting or that you hear about (to attend last). Everything looks good at convention and there are many choices, instead of wandering around and getting overwhelmed only visit the booths you highlighted FIRST.
Decide what lectures you will attend in advance. Don’t feel the need to attend a lecture for every time slot. If there are two lectures going on at the same time consider having a friend go to one, while you attend the other or purchasing a tape/cd of that lecture (if available).
Pack a convention survival kit.
Tissues, hand sanitizer, a sweater, snacks (avoid noisy snacks), gum, mints, water, notebook, pen, highlighters, receipt envelope, convention brochure, money, checkbook, credit cards, address labels, and Calling cards for networking.
If you are unsure about a speaker, sit in the back on the aisle. That way you can leave quietly (without disturbing others) if the speaker or lecture isn’t what you expected. While this may sound rude to some, I value my time at convention and if a speaker is truly unprepared or I find out that the lecture is not for me, I’d rather leave quietly and do something more useful with my time.
Arrive at your lectures on time. This is where your itinerary comes in handy. Carefully plan what lectures or workshops you will attend and allow proper time to arrive, pick up your hand-outs and find a good seat. By arriving early you won’t feel rushed, won’t miss getting the hand-out (sometimes they run out unexpectedly) and will even have time to chat with other homeschoolers.
Talk to other homeschoolers. Don’t be too shy to strike up a conversation with someone while you are waiting in line, waiting for a lecture to start, or on break. Homeschoolers are usually a friendly bunch of people with knowledge and experiences to share. Last year while in line at a popular booth I was turned onto a curriculum I had never considered before, which I now love! So strike up a conversation or at least look approachable and smile.
If this is your first time attending a convention make a decision to buy your purchases AFTER you’ve toured as much of the hall as you would like. There are MANY great things out there and sometimes it all looks good and we cannot help but want to buy it all, and sometimes we try to. What I do now is create a running wish list of products I’m interested in along with the booth number. Then, towards the end of the convention or when I’m absolutely certain that I’ve finalized my decision, I go back and buy it. This helps me with impulse spending.
If you have questions about a curriculum write it down. Sometimes our brain goes into overload inside the convention hall and we forget what we came in there to buy or find out. By writing down all your questions you’ll be sure to ask the right questions or find out the information on your own to help you make a more informed purchase.
While we are all on a budget, please purchase materials from vendors who have taken the time and expense to attend your homeschool convention. They show up not only with the materials but with staff available to answer your questions and show you the product. You do them and fellow attendees a disservice when you visit their booth, take up their time and purchase from another vendor online (often times for just a few dollars less). Remember, one of the reasons your online vendor may be less expensive is because they didn’t take the time and expense of bringing their materials to your state’s convention hall. That said, there is nothing wrong with comparing prices within the hall or asking a vendor if they are able to match a price that you’ve seen elsewhere (remember to be polite if they decline).
Bring or purchase a rolling cart. They are great for hauling around all that great curriculum you bought and catalogs you are taking home to review. Usually there is a vendor selling them at the convention. I purchased mine for $38 and love it!
If you absolutely cannot attend a homeschool convention, consider attending a virtual one for the encouragement and educational lectures. This year, Heart of the Matter is hosting their second virtual conference, the Parenting and Home Education conference.
For more convention tips you may also want to read these articles:
Crosswalk‘s tips for attending a homeschool convention,
Tips from my first homeschool convention or Surviving the Homeschool Fair by the Homeschool Classroom.