The following post is from contributing writer Demetria Zinga of Christian Homeschool Moms.
Every year I look forward to attending a homeschool convention, or finding an equally appeasing alternative, like an online webinar.
There’s just something about tucking away for a few days of uplifting encouragement to get me pumped for yet another year of homeschooling. In my beginning years of homeschooling, conventions were almost a lifeline for me, and I looked forward to them each summer. Nowadays, I may miss a year or two, but those summers in between when our family has the opportunity to attend a convention are priceless.
However, there’s just one little thing about attending conventions that I must remind myself of each time I go: I really need to prepare ahead of time!
Attending a convention can be a big deal (especially if you select a larger one, like Great Homeschool Conventions), so it pays to prepare way in advance of embarking on your trip.
1.) Take inventory of your homeschool stash weeks before the trip.
Before you leave home, a good idea is to take inventory of what you have in stock. Sometimes I forget what I already have if I don’t carefully look at my homeschool shelf and check the garage. In the past, I’ve made quite a few purchases on instinct alone and ended up bringing home more than I should have.
2.) Make a list of must-buy items.
Once I take inventory, I like to go ahead and make out a list of items that I know I’ll want to pick up at the convention. Remember, there will be many homeschool vendors and supply companies in the vendor hall, so you’ll want to be prepared with a list of what you actually need before you go.
If you’re anything like me, you may be tempted to pick up items you don’t need. There’s just something overwhelmingly convincing about being in the middle of a room filled with over fifty different companies, all ready to sell you brand new, shiny curricula.
If you know what you need in advance, you’ll avoid purchasing items you don’t need and you’ll navigate yourself straight toward the vendor booths where you intend to make a purchase. You’ll save both time and money.
3.) Familiarize yourself with the vendor hall setup and conference speaker lineup.
Sometimes the speaker lineup is listed in advance on the convention website, so check there weeks (or even months) in advance of arriving. You’ll gain a pretty good idea of which workshops you won’t want to miss.
Also, vendor hall setups are sometimes listed on the conference site as well, so be sure to grab a copy of that before you leave. It will offer a complete list of each homeschool publisher that will be at the conference and a map of where each booth will be set up in the vendor hall. Print it out, circle and highlight, and get prepared.
If you’re pretty strategic about where you plan to be, you’ll be more relaxed while at the convention and can free yourself up to just have a good time.
4.) Arrive early.
The earlier you arrive, the easier it will be for you to mentally prepare yourself and your family for this big day. The bigger the convention, the earlier you’ll want to arrive. Remember, you’ll have to find parking and get your family checked in before the keynote workshop begins. If you don’t want to miss anything, arriving early will help you to settle in more peacefully.
5.) Get your children situated.
If you have younger children, this will be one of your most important tips.
For little ones, bring blankets, crayons, coloring books, and whatever it takes to keep them happy during meeting times. Child care for tots is usually not included at conventions, so come armed with plenty of comfort toys, mess-free snack foods, patience, and a lot of love.
Also, keep in mind that many conventions sell recorded sessions on CD of each workshop, so if you miss a session because your baby was fretful and you had to leave, you still might have a chance to hear the workshop.
Older kids may have an option to attend a meeting event just for kids during the conference. f you plan to register your kids for this, just be sure to brief them on all the details ahead of time.
Older kids might actually enjoy the visits to the vendor hall if they get to pick out their own curricula.
6.) Know your schedule.
You’ll want to ask yourself a few of these questions:
Where is the vendor hall located?
What time will vendors be selling curriculum?
When will you have breaks between workshops, and how will you maximize that time? (You could browse the vendor hall, check in on your kids, or just enjoy the free time.)
Is there a used book sale available- and if so, where?
Where will my kids be and when do I pick them up?
Where will I be during morning sessions? Afternoon sessions? What time is lunch?
7.) Relax and enjoy!
Well now that you’re here, you may as well enjoy your time at the homeschool convention.
This is your day to be renewed and encouraged for yet another year of home education. Enjoy the speakers, browse the curriculum, make the best choices for your family, and make it your day.
Speaking of homeschool conventions, have your registered for the Great Homeschool Convention that will be happening in April in Cincinnati? It’s not too late to register to see all of the amazing speakers and check out that astoundingly impressive exhibitor hall.
Demetria is a homeschooling mompreneur of two. She loves motivating homeschool moms and helping mompreneurs with their online business ventures. You can find her blogging, designing, and podcasting at Christian Homeschool Moms and WebSuccessCoaching.com.
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