Putting the Convention Puzzle Together
- 2006 3 May
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.
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.
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.
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?
Once the list is made of exactly what we need for the next year, then I research which supplier has what will work best for us. I order their catalog, research their items on the Internet, and find out which vendors at the convention carry them. If a vendor spends time showing or explaining a product to me, I like to buy from them, remembering that their time is money.
Another upsurge in homeschool conventions is hosting a large centralized used curriculum sale. Homeschoolers bring their no-longer-needed curriculum and other resources, setting a price to sell to others. This is such a blessing to homeschool families—to be able to sell their unneeded items, and for others to be able to buy at a reduced rate.
If you are an impulse buyer, then it might help to have your husband go along with you to keep you focused on the list, or help you justify your purchases.
A suitcase with rollers, a milk crate, or another container on wheels is great to put purchases in. Just check out the constraints of the convention with the planners. Some prefer only open containers while others have no problem with closed.
If you can arrange for someone to watch your children on convention day, it provides a wonderful opportunity for your husband to come along to the convention, to hear the speakers and rub shoulders with other homeschool dads. Dads also can get a vision for their own homeschool and learn more ways on how to be a good support for the mommy/teacher role you have. So, if you can get someone to keep your children while you’re at the convention, it will help you be able to better concentrate on the seminars and purchasing you do at the convention hall.
Some conventions plan for children with a camp or program created especially for their age. This can be a great blessing in their lives, as well as giving you the assurance they are well cared for.
Ask about protocol for strollers and nursing babies.
When you return home, everything will be a jumble. You might be tempted to throw out all you’ve been doing and copy someone else’s style or begin the new curriculum. Instead, pick the ball up and finish the school year following your previous plan. Use the summer months to put all the pieces together. Mull over all the notes you took at the convention. Let the Lord direct and guide you to the specific changes which will work best for your family, your children, your specific situation and needs. Then welcome in a wonderful new school year with all of your well-planned purchases—and the puzzle will all fit together nicely.
Twenty-year homeschool veteran, author and speaker, Kym Wright pens the "Learn and Do" Unit Studies, written for or with her eight homeschooled children. You can visit her websites at: www.KymWright.com and www.Learn-and-Do.com. She can be reached by email at: Kym@KymWright.com
This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr ’06 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, and to request a free sample copy, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com