The Ultimate Guide to Homeschool Conventions
Homeschool conventions could be just what the doctor ordered for all homeschool families. Whether you’re just starting and have yet to embark on the first year, or you’re a veteran with tons of experience, there’s always something new to learn from attending one of these spectacular events. Not only is there a vast assortment of workshops and special events, along with dozens of special speakers, you’ll also have access to tons of curriculum resource choices that could make this the best year ever!
For the busy homeschooler, a homeschool conference is much like a form of continuing education. You’ll be able to stay abreast of the latest topics, resources, and trends, with information that comes through only the most trusted sources, in addition to getting your hands on the homeschool curriculums that you may want to look at. Those in charge of organizing these events spend countless hours researching every speaker, vendor, curriculum company, and proposed piece of information so that you are exposed only to the best of the best in each area.
What's the Excitement Over Homeschool Conventions?
In the homeschool world, convention season brings excitement to veteran homeschoolers who have previously attended a homeschool convention. Especially if they’ve attended more than one. They know the encouragement, opportunities, and refreshment that comes from spending time at these events. For some, especially those new to the opportunity, it’s just a chance to come and shop for a curriculum. Some home educators admit to never having considered a special event or workshop attendance, simply because they didn’t realize how beneficial it was.
So, consider this your “tip of the day”: there are far more things to do at a homeschool convention than shop for curriculum and resources! The curriculum fair shopping is a great opportunity, and you’ll gain a lot from browsing the exhibit hall, and getting your hands on curriculum, but it’s far from the only option.
Homeschool Conventions Allow You to Choose from Only the Best Information
Sure, there’s tons of information on the internet. And you could easily sit down with other homeschooling families to get advice on curriculum, co-ops, future planning, and more. But why take all that time, browsing and sifting through the internet until you find something that actually applies to your own situation? It can be frustrating, especially if you’re a Christian homeschooler searching for quality, faith-based materials, to spend hours searching through all the results Google thinks you should have. At homeschool conventions, finding this information is certainly no chore. It’s all laid out for you, with schedules and easy-to-digest information that you know you can trust.
Homeschool Conventions Help You to Get Your Homeschooling Fire Back
Encouragement can be hard to come by in the homeschooling world. Finding excellent outlets such as homeschool co-ops, social media groups, and other parents that homeschool can be a great way to remain encouraged. But not every homeschooler has access to all of those avenues. In fact, some homeschoolers don’t have any of them.
At homeschool conventions, you can rekindle your “why” and get a fresh new hold on the goal instead of focusing on any struggles you might be going through. From time to time, everyone just needs to reconnect with the very foundational ideas that made them want to homeschool in the first place. From the amazing workshops, offering uplifting new twists on the information you thought you already knew, to the amazing fellowship you might not get anywhere else, you’ll find yourself thoroughly refreshed after attending a homeschool convention.
The Anatomy of Homeschool Convention Workshops
Homeschool convention workshops are the place to do one thing: offer you plenty of information that you can put to good use. These home education workshops might be a “how-to” workshop covering topics such as grading, lesson plan writing, transcript writing, or any one of hundreds of other topics that will be important to you in your homeschool journey. Some workshops will cover current legal issues or legislation that you should know about for your particular state. Still, other workshops can speak directly to parenting, familial relationships, or how to encourage your child towards success.
Attending workshops with your spouse is an excellent way to make sure you’re both on the same page. You don’t have to worry about relaying the amazing information you learned at a workshop to your spouse later, with the fear that you’re missing something in the translation. However, there are those couples who take the “Double-Header” approach, with one going to one set of workshops and events, while the other covers all the rest. This way, they can both share later with one another the excellent notes, recordings, and resources they each came away with from their respective endeavors.
It isn’t often that you’re in a single place that presents so much information. What’s more, that information can come from every side! When you attend a homeschool convention workshop, make sure you have some way to take detailed notes. You could use a voice recorder for later playback, a phone or tablet with a notetaking app, or even a good old-fashioned paper, notebook, and pen. You might think recalling all this information will be easy, but as fact upon fact is added to the amazing insight you’re given, it tends to become buried. Before you know it, you will have forgotten more than you learned.
In addition to taking notes on the information you’re receiving; you can also reserve a page or so for questions you may have had that went unanswered by the speaker. If you have a chance to speak with the presenter after the workshop or event is over, you’ll be able to ask that question and very likely get an answer. If you’re not able to get an answer at the convention, you can spend time later researching on their website, if they happen to have one. So be sure to bring something for notes, even if you think you won’t take them. You won’t regret it!
Homeschool Conventions Are a Great Place to Purchase Homeschool Curriculum
The convention center exhibit hall plays host to extensive homeschool curriculum vendors as well as those who offer other homeschooling resources. The truth is, you likely cannot walk into your local bookstore and find a homeschool curriculum or single textbooks. For the majority of your curriculum shopping, that means you have to either purchase, sight unseen, from an online company or website, make use of a social media trading or buy-and-sell group, or purchase used materials from co-ops or homeschool friends.
The problem with buying used materials is that they may not be complete. Workbooks might already have pages that are filled in, and CDs may be scratched. There’s nothing wrong with using gently used materials but buying brand new always leaves you with more room to make them truly your own. It also assures that you aren’t simply settling because it’s all you could find.
There is great freedom in browsing the vendors at homeschool conventions, especially since you can examine all the pieces in person. You’ll have the choice of purchasing a boxed curriculum, with every piece you will need to get through an entire year, including teacher’s manuals and lesson plans. On the other hand, feel free to piece together a specific plan that fits your child’s exact needs, from books and workbooks to supplemental pieces and supplies.
One of the greatest advantages of freely browsing an extensive selection of curriculum choices is that you can precisely match your child’s learning style. If, for instance, you are using the Charlotte Mason Method, you’ll find plenty of choices for that style. If a Classic academic line is what you’re looking for, you’ll find that as well. The same rings true for all the various learning and teaching styles so you never have to “settle” for something less than perfect.
It’s also helpful to look at the convention website before visiting to get an idea of all the vendors that will be set up in the exhibit hall. This helps save time, especially if you are trying to stay on schedule, by allowing you to visit only those vendors with the materials you are looking for. That way, you can spend more quality time examining the curriculum and asking questions.
Important Homeschool Convention Planning Tips
Attending a homeschool convention is very exciting! Sometimes, you have to travel a bit to attend one in your region, so it’s important to make sure you cover all the most important aspects of the trip. To make sure you don’t forget anything, here are some important tips that can help you get the most out of the event.
- Give yourself plenty of time to preregister to make sure you reserve your spot at the convention. Not only will this save you time at the door upon arrival, but it can also allow you to take advantage of any preregistration discounts that might be available.
- Check the list of workshops that will be offered and make sure to create a schedule, so you don’t miss the ones that are most important to you. There are so many workshops, there’s simply no way to attend them all. This usually isn’t a problem as not all workshops are relevant for all convention attendees. If you’re faced with the tough decision of choosing one over another, because they both present at the same time, you can always purchase DVDs, CDs, MP3s, or transcripts of the workshop you’ll have to miss. This helps reduce stress as well as gives you ample opportunity to review the materials once you get home, at your leisure.
- Make sure you reserve a hotel room well in advance. Again, this saves time once you’re at the convention location, but there are other benefits as well. For instance, many conventions, like the Great Homeschool Convention, arrange special rates and hotel packages for those that attend. These can include discounted room prices, room service, airport shuttle service, indoor pool, fitness centers, free Wi-Fi or high-speed internet, and so much more. The fact is these discounts and packages don’t last long and usually get completely booked. Making sure you book your reservation as early as possible means you’ll have a better chance at taking advantage of all these great deals. Also, when you reserve your room, you can make any special arrangements that may be necessary concerning babies, toddlers, or special-needs children. Once your plans are completed, be sure to print off the information and reserve it for when you arrive, to avoid any conflicts or misinformation.
- Take the time to find out which curriculum vendors will be set up in the exhibit hall, so you know what to expect before you arrive. Window shopping is, of course, a great idea, but if you’re pressed for time, or if you must adhere to a budget, you’ll want to avoid the temptation of shopping with every vendor. Look over the list of vendors, do a bit of research on which ones fit your specific teaching style and your child’s learning style, and plan to visit them first. If you still have time and remaining funds left over after checking with your preferred vendors, then window shopping can help fill in the gaps with supplemental pieces or other resources. Also, be sure to bring a bag to carry all of the homeschool curricula you'll purchase. Resources get heavy when you're walking around an exhibit hall and bringing something that has wheels is a plus!
- Set a budget. Even if you’re not particularly frugal, it’s very easy to allow spending to go much farther than you intended. With the extensive number of vendors that will be available in the convention center, overspending isn’t just possible, it’s something that actually happens to some homeschool families. You can even simplify the process by setting a certain budget for curriculum, and separate budgets for resources, supplemental materials, and other miscellaneous things you might see and fall in love with.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. One of the worst things that could happen, especially if this will be your very first homeschool convention, is to wear improper shoes or clothing that will cut your experiences short because of pain or discomfort. Comfortable shoes making walking around the massive areas much easier, while dressing for the weather can support your comfort level should things change a bit while you’re there. There’s an old saying that states, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” and that is especially true in circumstances such as these.
- Bring a convention buddy. If possible, invite someone who has previous homeschool convention experience so you’ll have insider knowledge about specific convention aspects you might miss on your own. They can help you cross off the most important items on your to-do list while offering a great lunch partner as well. A seasoned home educator friend also provides a way to work through, what can be, an overwhelming experience.
- HAVE FUN! If you’ve made the proper plans and executed these tips, you’ll be ready to simply show up and enjoy the convention experience. You’ve already set aside this time, so use it to make new friends, bond with family members who have come with you, learn lots of new and important information, and take home an extensive variety of curriculum and resources. Have a great time!
Still Not Sure You Want To Attend a Homeschool Convention?
You still might not be entirely convinced a homeschool convention is worth all the effort. However, if you take just a little time to speak with anyone who has already attended a few of these homeschool expos, they’ll let you know that you certainly should. No one can really put into words the benefits you’ll walk away with, as it’s an experience far better carried out in person than anything else. The refreshing, the focus, and the energy you’ll gain from attending will be unique to you. One particular aspect of the weekend might appeal to some people, but there might be something completely different that draws your attention, warms your heart, or teaches you something you desperately needed to know at this very time. It could easily be viewed as a form of continuing education vitally necessary for a first-year homeschool teacher.
On the other hand, if you’ve been at this thing a while, then it could be that you have as much to give away as you could stand to gain. Your experience, passed along in precious moments of fellowship during the homeschool convention, will be a treasured thing for those who don’t have that kind of experience yet. It can be incredibly soothing to a new homeschooling mom or dad to know that you’ve been at it for some years now, and both you and the children are doing fine. In fact, probably better than ever. Do you have any amazing stories, testimonies, or close calls? Share them! It may be your bit of experience and the story's retelling, which helps someone else avoid a potential mistake.
Instead of spending a lot of time searching for a good homeschool convention, why not consider attending a Great Homeschool Convention? This regional convention is held in locations across the United States, with US and Canada attendees.
Great Homeschool Conventions are often hosted in these states, Missouri, Texas, Florida, California, South Carolina, New York, and Ohio. With all of these choices, you're sure to find one close to you that you can attend. Find out all of the current locations and dates on our GHC website here.
Each convention has dozens of speakers, hundreds of exhibitors, a variety of special events, and discounted hotel packages, as well as vendors and special “tracks” that address specific situations, or levels of schooling, you might need further guidance on for your homeschooling journey.
On the Great Homeschool Conventions website, you can sign up for email updates, check a list of frequently asked questions, learn more about the featured speakers, workshops, and events, and even read the ongoing blog entries. You can also follow our social media accounts and apply to speak or host an exhibit while you’re there.
Most of all, you’ll find out why our conventions are: Equipping! Encouraging! FUN!