Every year toward the end of winter, I become tired of the cold weather, the children are bored and are suffering from cabin fever, and it seems like spring will never arrive! I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to get refreshed and revived is to begin planning for the next homeschool year. My excitement is increased if I keep in mind the fact that once the planning is over I will be ready to purchase everything I need for the next year. After all, what other activity lifts the spirits of a homeschooling mom more than shopping for new materials?

Plan Your Curriculum Early

By beginning my planning in February or March, I avoid lots of stress. I have plenty of time to carefully consider what has worked well during the current year and what could use a change. I don’t want to wait until time for school to begin in the fall to make my curriculum choices. When I wait that late, I feel pressured to buy something soon, and therefore I might not make the best choices for my family.

I am also able to place my order rather than waiting until the summer months, when the possibility of my items being placed on back-order is much higher. I remember one particular year when this very thing happened to me. I had carefully planned and chosen my curriculum, but I procrastinated when it came to buying it. When I finally did get ready to make my purchases, many of the items I needed were back-ordered. I was so disappointed! There is not much that thrills me more than a box full of brand-new (or new-to-me) schoolbooks for a new school year. Forget reading a novel on the seashore under a beach umbrella! Give me a box brimming over with literature, math, science, notebooks, workbooks, and unit studies any day!

Attend a Convention

Another great way to prepare for the coming school year is to attend a homeschool convention or two. I love listening to the speakers, attending workshops and classes, perusing the vendor hall, and visiting with other homeschooling families. It is so encouraging to see the growing number of families who are choosing to make the sacrifices that homeschooling requires and who are also enjoying the benefits. Every year I meet many new homeschooling moms (some who are new to homeschooling and some who are veterans) and have a chance to visit and talk for a while with at least one or two of them.

It is well worth the effort to reach out to another mom when you attend your convention. I have learned so much from other moms! After all, aren’t we the real “experts” when it comes to teaching our own children? Make time to eat lunch or shop at the vendor hall together. Take the opportunity to discuss your teaching styles, routines, and tips or tricks that work well for you. Then give her a chance to share hers!

Discuss your curriculum choices too. Other moms introduced to me to most of my favorite curricula, which I currently use with my children. Other moms also introduced me to many of the books that my children and I have read and loved over the past twelve years that we’ve homeschooled. While you are already there at the convention, take a look at some of the suggested curricula and books to see if they might be just what you need. If you’re not absolutely sure that a curriculum or other item is just what you need, though, don’t buy it at the convention. Instead, pick up a catalog or brochure to look at and take the time to learn all you can about it before making a purchase. It’s better to order later, even if you have to pay shipping, than it is to get home only to regret your purchase and wish you had waited to think it over. (Ask me how I know this!)

While you are at the convention, there are several things you will probably want to be sure to do. First, be sure to hear the keynote speaker’s address. If classes are offered, it is a great idea to attend at least a few of them. Also, try to listen to one or two vendor workshops if they are available for items you are interested in purchasing or learning more about.

Keynote Speakers

The keynote speaker will usually speak about issues related to homeschooling and will probably be a great source of encouragement to all those who attend the convention. I love the renewed vision and the feeling of excitement that I have each year after listening to the keynote speaker’s address. Whether you are a brand-new or veteran homeschooling family, encouragement and renewed vision are things you will definitely need “boosted” from year to year! Don’t miss out on your chance to receive that encouragement!

Workshops and Classes

Most conventions offer a wide variety of helpful classes for homeschooling moms and dads. Some also offer classes or activities for students. Check well in advance to see if the convention you are planning to attend has activities planned for children and teens. If not, you may want to consider having your children stay with a relative or friend while you and your spouse attend the convention. Not only is this actually a nice time for Mom and Dad to get away and spend some time together, but it also is a chance for both of you to learn together how you can support each other in your homeschooling efforts, whether you are the teaching parent or whether you provide support for the teaching parent.

The classes that are offered usually cover various topics of interest to homeschooling families. Sometimes they focus on how to teach particular subjects, such as writing, math, or science. Other classes might provide information on topics like how to keep toddlers busy while schooling older children or teaching special needs kids. Some classes may simply offer general encouragement for homeschooling parents. I usually don’t have a problem finding classes that interest me; it is just the opposite. I have a hard time trying to narrow down the list to only one possibility for each time period! If at all possible, it is a good idea to look over the classes that will be offered ahead of time. You don’t want to spend so much time deciding which classes to attend that you miss part of the class.

Sometimes my husband (or my sister or a friend) and I will choose to attend different classes. We all take notes and exchange information with each other later. We also sometimes choose to buy recordings of particularly helpful classes before we leave the convention. These recordings are normally fairly inexpensive, and they can be quite helpful when it comes to learning new information and retaining it so you can put it to good use later.

Vendor Workshops

You may also want to plan to attend a vendor workshop or two while you have the chance. If there is a particular resource that you are interested in using, it can be extremely helpful to attend a vendor workshop on that resource if one is offered. Be sure to ask questions and try to get an idea of how the materials might work for your family. Don’t be so enthralled with the presentation, however, that you don’t make a well-thought-out decision. Be sure to give yourself a little time to digest the information before making a decision about any new-to-you resource purchases.

Support Your State Convention

Whether you are looking forward to attending your very first homeschool convention or if you’ve been attending for many years, be sure to support your state’s homeschool convention. In order to attract well-known speakers, quality vendors, and presenters who will teach great classes, your state needs your help. I like to try to attend my state’s convention and possibly a larger convention (aimed at several states) in another state as well.

With a little early planning, attending a convention may be just the thing you need to help you prepare for the next school year. Not only will you have a fantastic time at your convention, but your next school year will be off to a wonderful start, as you will be equipped and prepared well in advance.

Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in Winter 2010-11 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com  or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Wendy has been married to Scott, her high school sweetheart, for twenty-one years. She has homeschooled their three children for twelve years and has at least nine more to go. She works from home for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine as Assistant to the Publishers/Conventions Coordinator. She also serves on the Homeschool Crew. Wendy blogs at Wendy-HomeschoolingBlessings.Blogspot.com and would love for you to stop by and leave a comment.  

Publication date: January 18, 2013