An Insider’s Guide to Homeschool Conventions
- Friday, May 22, 2009
“For several years, three friends and I made the annual convention our ‘girls’ weekend away’ and brought our high school-aged daughters with us. We always booked two rooms—we were in one, the daughters in the other (they complained that we kept them up all night). We moms had so much fun planning which workshops to go to (you go to that one and I’ll hit this one, then we’ll meet at the cafeteria for lunch!), helping each other find items in the used curricula, and letting each other know if we found what the other was looking for (love those cell phones!). We also held each other accountable to get only those items we needed.”
Donna adds, “Our daughters enjoyed touring the exhibit hall and hanging out together. One year the girls brought a video camera and went around doing impromptu interviews with convention exhibitors and even Gregg Harris and his twin sons! They produced quite an entertaining DVD that we still enjoy today.”
Donna’s comment reminds me that some of my fondest memories are of the nights spent in the hotel after a long day at the convention, sharing laughter, tears, prayers, and encouragement with either my girlfriends or my family. We love convention weekends!
General Convention Tips
With your spouse, set a budget and agree to stick to it. Consider the following suggestions:
- Prioritize your curriculum needs. By looking at prices online, you should be able to estimate a fairly accurate budget. Once at the conference, watch for great “conference-only” sales and bundle packages.
- Budget for impulse purchases. You are probably going to make a few anyway, so having the money set aside up front will cut down on both guilt and overspending!
- Budget for speaker CDs. These are motivational and will help you year in and year out.
- Be on the lookout for birthday and Christmas gifts, which often can be found at great bargain prices.
Register in advance to obtain any early registration discounts.
Book your hotel in advance to get the best rate and to ensure that you are staying where you want to stay, not where you “have to” stay because all the good hotels were booked.
Do you go alone, with your husband, or with friends? Consider this question carefully. Some strongly prefer one way or the other, but only you know which way will work best for you. I can’t imagine going alone, but I know women who relish that time “off” and don’t want to be bound by others’ agendas.
If possible, leave the little ones at home.
Wear a comfortable backpack—not all conventions allow rolling carts, and even if they do, it can get mighty crowded in the vendor hall.
Determine your priorities: information, encouragement, or shopping.
Obtain a map of the facility and plan your day. (Find the restrooms and pick “off times” to use them!)
Ahead of time, decide:
- Which workshops you want to hear.
- Which booths you need to visit.
- What questions you need to ask.
For tips about specific conventions, talk with homeschool veterans who previously have attended your particular convention.
Beware of the food court’s high prices and low quality. If allowed, bring snacks and a water bottle, or plan a tailgate picnic.
Bring a set of address labels to use when signing up for catalogs.
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