Finally, homeschool convention season is here!
If you don’t homeschool then of course that means nothing to you. And if you do homeschool and you’ve never considered attending a convention, it may still mean nothing to you.
But homeschool conventions are like a lifeline for me. I go to soak up words of encouragement, glean new and fresh ideas, and check out all the available resources to help me in my homeschool. Springtime conventions are always the breath of fresh air I need to help me finish out the current school year with success and look ahead to the coming year with a greater sense of direction and confidence.
But how do you prepare for a homeschool convention, particularly if you’ve never been to one before? If you’re making plans to visit a convention, here are a few things you can do to prepare.
If a convention map, schedule, and vendor list is available online, look it over before you even step foot outside your home.
Familiarizing yourself with where you’re going can set your mind at ease and save you a lot of time upon arrival. No, a map can’t tell you everything you need to know about a certain venue, but it can definitely help you get your bearings and even quell some of the jitters that can come with visiting a new place.
Looking over the convention schedule beforehand can also be a big help. While it isn’t usually necessary to have every workshop session selected before you arrive, it doesn’t hurt to at least have an idea which sessions are most important to you and when and where they will take place. Reviewing a list of vendors can be helpful, too. If time for visiting the vendor hall is limited, you can be sure to make certain booths your priority.
Go with a list in hand.
If you’re a veteran homeschooler, more than likely you know of specific materials you’re looking for when you attend a homeschool convention. If you do, write them down! Too many times I’ve shown up at a convention and totally blanked out in the face of so many available resources. Having a list helps me stay focused.
But don’t forget all the other odds and ends you might need for your homeschool! School supplies, flashcards, manipulatives, games, visual aids, and a million other useful supplementals are often available at conventions. Make a list of all the things you’re looking for, including necessities and wish-list items.
Check out prices on curriculum beforehand.
Granted, there may be times you don’t know in advance what curriculum you will purchase at a homeschool convention, but if you know you want to purchase curriculum X, it might be helpful to have a general idea the price of it before you arrive.
Many curriculum companies offer significant discounts at homeschool conventions, but in certain cases it may still be cheaper to purchase online. Check curriculum X‘s website beforehand, as well as other sites offering that curriculum, and do a little price-checking so you can ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Of course you can do a quick check on your smartphone right there at the convention if need be. Oh, the beauties of technology!
Pack drinks and snacks.
Especially if you’ll have kids in tow, and even if you won’t, don’t neglect this one! In addition to saving money, having your own snacks and drinks can save a ton of time. I’ve been to homeschool conventions where lines just to buy a drink required a 30+ minute wait, and that 30 minutes can seem like an eternity if you have a screaming toddler. Having snacks on hand can tide kids, (and hungry moms and dads!) over until you can get a more substantial meal.
And on that note, don’t be afraid to pack full meals if you have a way to transport them and keep them relatively warm or cold! I have friends who faithfully pack sandwiches for their midday meals at homeschool conventions, which is as much a blessing for the TIME saved as for the money!
Bring a backpack or rolling cart.
You’ll need someplace to put those snacks and drinks! And while many vendors will give you a bag if you make a purchase, remember that all of them may not. Backpacks and tote bags are fine for carrying lighter items, but I learned a long time ago a rolling cart can be a big plus, especially if you plan to make many purchases. Keeping up with a cart throughout the day can be somewhat of a hassle, but it sure beats carrying all my purchases and food or having to make multiple trips back and forth to my vehicle.
Don’t forget good shoes and a hoodie. (Or a sweater. Whatever.)
I’m not sure why exactly, but temperatures in meeting rooms tend to either be suffocatingly warm or intensely cold. Having a hoodie to put on or off can be a good idea for whatever temperature fluctuations you encounter.
And as for the good shoes… do I really need to explain this one? Between the vendor hall and darting from one workshop to another and meeting up with friends here and there, I usually leave homeschool conventions feeling like I’ve walked 30 miles. And that may not be much of an exaggeration! Wearing comfortable shoes is a must.
So are you planning to visit a homeschool convention this spring or summer? What tips would you offer someone planning to visit one for the first time?
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