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If you want to optimize your homeschool convention experience, don’t wait until you get there – start prepping before you arrive. Many homeschoolers just like you have been stunned by the enormity of these conventions when first confronted by the crowds, speaking sessions, curriculum options, and special events that the organizers put together.
But if you prepare yourself, you’ll understand that these conventions are really an event where other homeschoolers like you can share, experience, and appreciate all the amazing components that make homeschooling special. So don’t wait until the last minute, prep a few weeks before to ensure an enjoyable experience.
Nothing will ruin a good convention faster than travel plans that go awry. Start by figuring out where you’re staying. Many conferences are close to hotels or even held in hotels, and often include discounted rates for attendees. If you’ll be staying a distance from the convention location to help save on costs, be sure to factor travel to and from the convention site and parking.
Many parents treat a convention like a family trip. With that in mind, are you bringing your children? Conventions provide really fun events for kids, and the interaction with other homeschooled children gives them a special feeling. Some families make plans to attend with friends who also homeschool, this way they can split a room and save some money.
Preparation is Key
If you wait until you get to the convention to pick out what exhibitors you’ll visit and sessions you’ll attend, you’re likely to be overwhelmed. That’s no fun. Instead, check out the organizer’s website a few weeks in advance. Here, you’ll find helpful information that will allow you to carefully plan your days. And don’t forget a map of the exhibitor hall and a schedule of events. The map will help you navigate through the crowds, point out where the restrooms are (really important!), and where the workshops/sessions are being held.
List the exhibitors you’re interested in visiting and make a note of their booth number. Meandering around without a plan only wastes valuable time. Also, bring a small suitcase with wheels or rolling cart. This will make collecting all those freebies more efficient and save you from an aching back.
Choose the sessions that interest you the most. If you have a scheduling conflict, you can always purchase a CD or download the session that you don’t attend. Once you arrive at the session, sit close to the front and take notes. Some parents take notes on a tablet, others use their smartphone. You may prefer a good old-fashioned pen and notebook — they always work and don’t need recharging!
Curriculum options are abundant. Many new homeschoolers will tell you that choosing the right curriculum, or combination, is what worries them most about homeschooling. Conferences are great because you can peruse the many choices available and become better acquainted with the ones you’re interested in. And don’t forget to ask the representatives as many questions as you desire – you can even write down some questions before you arrive. These reps are extremely helpful and many offer hands-on samples of their products.
The conference website will tell you which curriculum providers are attending and where they’re located. Once you’ve established who will be attending, look up their websites and examine their products. Also, contact the vendors and inquire about conference specials.
Not many people enjoy creating a budget. But in reality, it doesn’t take much time — and you’ll thank yourself when the credit card bill arrives the next month! After all, when you’re concentrating so hard on the sessions, curriculum options, and vendors, you could end up spending much more than you expected.
Here are a few tips for making a budget. First, jot down your necessary expenses and make certain you have the money to cover those items. If you have leftover money, call that your “fun” money and divide that up into categories such as gifts and souvenirs.
Aside from the previously mentioned money-saving tips on travel and curriculum, consider bringing your own cooler with water, lunches and snacks. The cost of food can add up quickly!
If you use your time wisely at the convention, you’ll not only find new products, but you’ll experience a magical event. Just think, you’ll be surrounded by other homeschoolers who, like you, want the best for their children. Make the most of it. Talk with as many parents as possible, ask questions, listen and learn. But remember, doing your homework beforehand will save you tons of time and frustration later.