When I attended my first homeschool convention a few months before I started homeschooling, I went as an unsure, half-terrified mom. I had no idea how to even get started homeschooling. I arrived at the conference ready to soak up all the information that I possibly could. I’ve gained confidence since then, but I still go to homeschool conventions. They provide me much-needed support and inspiration, but they do require an investment.
In order to make the most of your experience, you will need to invest both time and financial resources. Below are some tips for all of you—whether veterans or newbies—who are headed to a convention this year.
Before You Go
- Choose the ticket that meets your needs.
Homeschool conventions offer different price packages depending on how long you stay and whether you want to attend workshops. Although the cost may cause you to hesitate, I highly recommend trying to attend the workshops not just the main sessions. That said, a day-long shopping pass alone is usually worth the admission cost. Some conventions even offer free shopping passes for one evening during the conference. If you choose to go to the vendor hall during the free shopping period, be prepared to deal with crowds. And do some curriculum research beforehand because the time goes by quickly!
- Schedule your time.
If you do decide to attend workshops, check the convention website a few days before you go to view the workshop schedule and speaker information. Make note of the workshops that interest you, and be sure to set aside some “free time” for shopping. I recommend that you include at least two one-hour blocks of time for the vendor hall.
- Plan your budget.
Conventions provide wonderful opportunities to shop for homeschool curriculum and supplies—you can often get better deals at a convention than you can through a company’s website. Before you go, make a list of what you need for the upcoming school year and decide on your budget.
During the Convention
- Don’t be shy.
As an introvert, I don’t particularly like talking to people that I’ve never met. But I’ve found that the greatest benefit of going to a homeschool convention is connecting with others in the homeschool community. You will probably meet someone who’s struggling with the same things you once did that you can encourage. Or you will meet someone who’s a little bit further along in the homeschool journey that you can glean some wisdom from. Take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships with people. Those relationships will be invaluable to you when homeschooling gets tough.
- Try to attend some keynote presentations.
There is something pretty special about being part of a large group of people that is unified around a common purpose. That’s why attending keynote sessions at a homeschool conference is so beneficial. I always find my resolve to homeschool strengthened as I sit there surrounded by hundreds of other homeschoolers. It’s a great reminder that I am not alone in this homeschool journey.
- Review curriculum options.
A homeschool convention vendor hall can sometimes be intimidating—there are a ton of homeschool products available. Take the time to check them out before you buy. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. One of my favorite questions to ask vendors is “How is your product different from anyone else’s?” It’s also helpful to talk to vendors about your child’s specific needs so that you can get a better sense of whether a product will be a good fit for your homeschool. Finally, involve your spouse in the decision-making process. Not only will he or she help you discern the best homeschool curriculum for your family, but you will likely have more success with your choice if you make the decision together.
If you’re headed to a homeschool convention this year, be sure to stop by the BJU Press booth! Read more about BJU Press convention discounts, and use our interactive map to locate a homeschool convention near you. We hope to see you there!