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Convention Season: Are You Ready?

  • Cindy Short and Sue Welch The Teaching Home
  • 2009 25 Mar
Convention Season: Are You Ready?

Unique benefits await you at your local, regional, or state home-school convention, conference, or book fair.  We urge you to attend! Be sure to get the most out of any home-school event with the practical suggestions and check-lists below.

A big "Thank You!" goes out to the many homeschool leaders who give so much of themselves to make these events possible.

Benefits of Attending an Event

The opportunities brought together in this once-a-year event can renew and expand your vision for teaching and training your children. Be encouraged, rejuvenated, inspired, motivated, and better equipped to home school!

1.  Speakers  can broaden your horizons with new ideas, methods, materials, and approaches as well as reminders of the basics.
2.  Workshops  give you practical training in specific topics to make your teaching more efficient.
3.  Exhibit Halls  enable you to examine, compare, and purchase home-education products from many vendors in one place. You can speak to authors or knowledgeable representatives to learn more, and you can usually save on shipping.
4.  Networking  with other like-minded home schoolers can offer valuable friendship and support.
5.  Extras.  Check to see if any of the following are offered:
 •   Used Curriculum Sale.
 •   Teens' or Children's Programs.
 •   Tapes of General Sessions and Workshops.
 •   Luncheon or Meeting for Support Group Leaders.
 •   Graduation Ceremony.
 •   Boxed Lunch or Snack Bar.
 •   Special Hotel Room Rates.

Who Should Go with You

1.  Spouse.  It is ideal for a husband and wife to go together to share perspectives and focus on family goals and budget.
2.  Friend.  If it is not possible for your spouse to attend, a friend can help you in much the same way.
3.  Nursing Babies, of course, stay with Mom.
4.  Young Children.  Children might not be allowed and will be a distraction; either you will not be able to get all you can out of the convention, or you will not be able to give adequate care to your children.
5.  Teens and Older Children.  If programs are offered for them, you may want to consider this option.

Ways To Save on Registration

Homeschool conventions can be expensive, but check out these cost-cutting possibilities to make the trip more affordable:

1.  Preregister.  This can save you money that you can spend on buying materials.
2.  Volunteer To Work.  A few hours or more can be a real help to the organization sponsoring the event, and you might be rewarded by a reduced entrance fee and/or other benefits. You will also get to know some great home schoolers while working with them.
3.  Join Organization.  By joining, you help support home-school efforts in your area, plus you might receive discounts on your convention fee and other benefits.
4.  Special Rates for couples, grandparents, teens, children, pastors, and other full-time ministers.

How To Prepare

The vast array of workshops and exhibit booths, combined with a limited time to take it all in, can be overwhelming when you walk into a convention unprepared. On the other hand, if you go with a plan and focus on your purpose and priorities, you can spend your time and money more wisely and get the most out of the convention.

1.  Pray for the Lord's promised wisdom in all your decisions.
2.  Your Spouse and you should discuss your educational goals, plans, and budget.
3.  Gather Information.  Obtain a convention schedule, list of exhibitors, and exhibit hall floor plan.
4.  Select and Prioritize speakers' sessions, workshops, and exhibitors you don't want to miss and conference tapes you might want to buy. Make a list and/or mark your program and exhibit hall floor plan.
5.  Compare your agenda with that of your spouse or friend attending with you and see if you can each cover several different sessions and then share their content with each other.
6.  Research.  Check out publishers' and suppliers' catalogs (in print or online) to plan which materials you would like to examine.
7.  Shopping List.  Make a list of specific materials or the types of materials you will be looking for.
8.  Questions.  Make a list of questions to ask exhibitors, speakers, and/or other attendees.

Things To Do the Day Before

Make these last minute preparations.

1.  Family Needs.  Spend some special time with your children and husband, as you might be a little scarce during the convention. Prepare meals and make provision to meet other needs while you are at the convention. Confirm child care arrangements.
2.  Directions.  Make sure you know exactly how to get to the convention facility and what parking is available.
3.  Schedule.  Plan to leave in time to be early or on time.
4.  Pack items you will take with you.
 •   Directions and/or map.
 •   Cash, checks, or debit card.
 •   Highlighter to mark your program.
 •   Canvas tote(s) for handouts and purchases.
 •   Steno pad and pens to take lots of notes.
 •   Return address labels to use in filling out forms.
 •   Wrist watch to keep track of time.
 •   Comfortable walking shoes.
 •   Water, snack, and lunch.
5.  Sleep and Eat.  Get a good night's sleep and a good breakfast.

At the Convention

Once at the convention, follow your plan.

1.  Schedule.  If you have not already obtained and marked a schedule and exhibit hall floor plan, do this first.
2.  Breaks.  Take breaks to rest your feet, reassess your progress, and write notes while your impressions are fresh.
3.  Speakers.  Don't expect to agree with everything a speaker says. Compare everything to God's Word; accept and use what you can and let the rest go.
4.  The Unexpected.  Allow some free time to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.

In the Exhibit Hall

1.  Work Your Plan.  Use your prioritized plan of booth visits and your shopping list to do your "must see" visits first, then go through the exhibit hall finding and learning more new things.
2.  Talk to vendors about their products' methods, goals, and philosophy, and how to use them. Use your list of questions.
3.  Purchases.  Use the parcel check or take your purchases to your room or car rather than carrying them around.
4.  Busy Exhibitor.  If the representatives are busy at a "must see" booth, go on and return later, or ask to be included in the discussion.
5.  Sleep on It.  If you are attending two days, gather information the first day, and then think and pray about your purchases before making them the next day.
6.  Also visit nonprofit and service organizations' booths to find out what they can offer you (e.g., your state organization).
7.  Give Feedback.  When appropriate, give a vendor a brief, clear, and focused comment about your needs, opinions, and experiences to help them produce better products and services.

Mind Your Convention Manners

Observe these guidelines to show consideration to everyone involved at the convention.

1.  Convention Rules.  Follow the rules set out for the convention regarding food and beverage in exhibit hall (check if bottled water is OK), children, strollers, etc.
2.  Exhibitors.  Support the ones who help you. Do not take up an exhibitor's time in counseling and explaining his products and then go buy the same product from another exhibitor or from a discount supplier. Exhibitors help make the convention possible.
3.  Babies and Children.  Immediately remove a crying or disrupting child from a workshop or meeting. Ask your child to give his chair to an adult if there is not enough seating.

Ways To Network

1.  Meet and talk to other attendees; greet old friends and make new ones.
2.  Ask advice.  Get feedback on ideas and products and share opinions and experiences. You may get your most valuable information and encouragement from another home-school mom.
3.  Offer to help someone.  Hold a baby and give a mother's arms a rest; find a new home schooler (it will be obvious) and give a word of encouragement; offer to help a speaker or exhibitor.
4.  Smile at everyone!

Follow-Up Activities (Get the Last Bit of Good from the Event!)

1.  Debriefing.  Have a debriefing discussion with your spouse or friend. Discuss the ideas and products you encountered at the convention to help you sort through things, keeping some and discarding others, focusing on how to get the most out of your experience.
2.  Just Do It.  Return home with at least one new idea that will make a difference in your home school to put into practice. Look over all your notes while they are fresh, and narrow down all the wonderful things you would like to do to no more than six. Then prioritize your list and start on the first one the following week.
3.  Be Accountable.  Ask your husband or a friend to pray for you and keep you accountable to work on your goal. The results may surprise and encourage you.
4.  Share the information you have gathered with your support group or someone who was not able to attend. Let them know if you would recommend that they plan to attend next year.
5.  Clean Up.  Sort literature you received into four categories:
 •   Take action.
 •   Save for future reference or reading.
 •   Pass on to someone else.
 •   Toss.
6.  Thank Yous!  Write a thank you note to those who put so much effort into putting on the convention, a speaker that ministered to you, or an exhibitor that took time to help you.

Published on March 25, 2009

Veteran homeschool sisters Cindy Short and Sue Welch edit a free e-mail newsletter.
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