Overwhelming or Opportunity? Making the Most of Homeschool Conventions

by Kathy Kuhl

Ever been to a homeschool convention? I often attended as a homeschooler. Now as a speaker I’ve been to dozens. Today, I’m sharing tips on how to make the most of yours.

Because if you don’t prepare, you may fall victim to Homeschool Convention Brain (HCB).

The seven warning signs of HCB:

1. Ideas continually popping to mind: “Must remember to read/ask/buy/…” (Write it down!)

2. Disorientation. “Which aisle was that science kit in? Which way is the snack bar?” “Where’d I park?”

3. Memory loss. “What did I come back here to buy?” “Who was I supposed to talk to today?” (Cure: mark your program!)

4. Word retrieval issues: Recently, I mispronounced my own name. Of course, I was introducing myself to someone famous.

5. Sore feet.

6. Inability to notice that sore feet are not a brain condition.

7. Difficulty making even minor decisions: Sweet potato fries or onion rings? Buy the green or purple pencil?

So why go?

1. Wisdom, humor, ideas, and insight from speakers. There are so many great speakers that often, when I’m speaking, I pick up CDs to learn from them. And I’m not even homeschooling since my youngest graduated.

2. Inspiration: a talk, or even a passing remark of a speaker or vendor may suggest something you want to read, do, or ponder.

3. Handle and study curricula before you buy it.

4. Find cool stuff you didn’t know existed–from programmable hexbugs to music and art lessons, to that book you never heard of that’s exactly what you need to read.

5. Ask vendors your questions. Many working at a booth are homeschoolers. They’re there because they use and love those products.

6. Perspective: get away from your daily homeschool routine; see the big picture. Fall back in love with homeschool and with your kids.

7. Community: the joy of being with other parents who are on the homeschool journey.

8. Learn by talking to folks homeschooling for different reasons, in different circumstances, with different methods.

9. Find new friends. At my booth, I see parents who face similar challenges meet and start talking. Some end up exchanging phone numbers and hugs.

My tips for enjoying a convention:

1. Wear comfortable shoes.

2. Bring a water bottle. (My hip pack holds one, keeping my hands free to shop.)

3. Take a rolling cart or suitcase to hold your purchases. Save your back.

4. Make a budget and a shopping list.

5. Before you go, study the program. Circle all the talks you want to hear. Then decide which to attend and which to buy recordings of. Reserve time to shop.

6. Work your way through the whole vendor hall. There are cool tools and books waiting to be found!

7. As you shop and listen, take notes and put a star by important insights and action items: things to ponder, read, or buy. Mark on your exhibitor hall map which booths to return to.

8. Share the love, not the germs. Don’t hug people if you or your kids have been sick. (If you have a fever, please stay home and rest.)

9. Don’t wait until the last hour to buy. Stuff sells out.

My top tip:

10. Before you go home, put all the starred items from your notes on a one-page summary. Take a few minutes to reflect on what you’ll do or ponder next. Sometimes I do this sitting in a hallway between workshops. You could stop and do it on the way home. But make time. Otherwise, you’ll get busy and find your stack of notes and brochures seven months later, and miss many benefits of attending a homeschool convention.

I hope to see you at a convention soon. I’ll be at these conventions.

What advice do you have for parents attending a homeschool convention?

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