Homeschool Conventions? I love them! And I encourage every homeschool mom to go to one each year. They greatly encourage the heart and help us set a vision for our next school year. They remind us why we’re really doing this homeschooling thing, and they allow us the opportunity to be with other like-minded people, to let us once again remember we are not alone.

I get inspired and rejuvenated seeing old friends, making new ones, talking to vendors and speakers, helping with the registration, and just soaking up all the goodness to keep me running for another year.

When we began homeschooling in the mid-80s, there were no homeschool conventions. We just met with a dozen other families to share and encourage each other. Several years later we held a "large" one-day seminar at a church with other homeschool groups from several large cities within an hour’s drive. There were no Keynote speakers, just moms sharing and a few authors with their books on tables. We’ve come a long way since then, and now homeschool conventions are planned years in advance with good speakers booked years ahead. Vendors line up their calendars in the fall and prepare their stock for travel. And homeschool families are supplied with the latest and greatest in homeschool resources.

But, a homeschool convention can also be overwhelming, especially to a newcomer. So, how do we put the convention puzzle together? After prayer for guidance, we make a plan.

Choose Location

The first piece in the puzzle is to find out where the homeschool conventions will be held. Are there several large ones to choose from? Can you reach another state’s convention in a reasonable amount of time? Is there more than one offered in your state? Would you rather be at the largest one you can find, or attend a smaller one with a more intimate setting? Who are the speakers and what will they share? What do you need help with this year?

The answers to these questions will help you decide which convention to attend.

Choose Speakers

Once you’ve decided which convention you’ll go to, the speakers and their topics is the next piece of the puzzle to put in place. Are you homeschooling teens, preschoolers, elementary, special needs? Do you need help with phonics or college entrance? Do you long for encouragement to continue in hard times? Or how to set a vision for your school? Is history just not your thing and you need some guidance? Or do you fall apart once you reach algebra?

My advice here is not to just attend what everyone else is going to, but go to the seminars which will help you the most. Make this convention work best for you and your family—meeting your needs, giving you the information, help, and hope you need.

Choices, Choices

One of the most overwhelming pieces of the convention puzzle is the vendor hall. With many vendors selling hundreds and thousands of different titles, where do we start? I like to make a written plan beginning months in advance. Starting with a list of each child in the family, I make a spreadsheet on the computer itemizing the staples each child needs for next year: English, math, history, geography, science, etc. Which curriculum do I have that can be used for another child? Do I need any support resources, especially consumables, workbooks, project kits, hands-on lab supplies?

What else do we need to round out our school year? Biographies of great Christians? Resources for unit studies? Maps, flashcards, geography games, math manipulatives, science supplies?