Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Attending a Homeschool Convention

Having attended many homeschool conventions, I sometimes forget what it is like for a first time attendee. Then, this year, my husband decided to attend a spring homeschool convention with me. It will be his first. As we discussed all that we could do at the convention, he started to get a glazed over, too much information, sensory overload look. I realized what I now consider typical homeschool convention information was way too much for a first time attendee. Taking a few steps back, I started over and explained it all again.   

Are you considering attending a homeschool convention or conference this year? In an effort to better explain homeschool conventions, I have broken down the information into a question and answer format. It is my hope that this information will be beneficial to you.

What is a homeschool conference or convention?
These organized meetings for homeschoolers occur in a variety of locations around the country each year. Most are scheduled in the spring and early summer months. Organized lectures, workshops, curriculum fairs, and encouraging seminars may be some of the events planned. Primarily, each conference or convention has several purposes, but one main purpose: to encourage you to start or keep homeschooling. To find a homeschool convention near you: search here.

Who should attend?
Anyone interested in homeschooling or actively homeschooling should consider attending, if possible. Also, grandparents of children homeschooled or supportive friends/family members who are interested in learning more about homeschooling might consider attending a conference or convention.

How does one prepare?
If you have already decided to attend a conference or convention, then perhaps you are wondering how best to prepare for it. Several suggestions follow.
  • Read through the speaker/workshop/break out session schedule. Decide which sessions you definitely want to attend, would be nice to attend, and could skip. Rank the sessions if needed. Also, if there is more than one session at a given time, and you'd like to attend both, then consider purchasing the audio for one of the sessions after the conference. By deciding which sessions you must attend, you can then devise a plan or schedule for your day(s).
  • Obtain a map of the convention center. This will help you learn the set up and plan your travels through the curriculum hall. (Maps are essential for large conventions.) I have found it helpful to highlight the rooms or booths I want to visit during the convention.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Most people will recommend sneakers. This is a great choice. However, I have a pair of sandals that are actually more comfortable and more accommodating for a full day on my feet. So, wear something you are comfortable walking and standing in all day long.
  • Wear light layers. Convention halls can vary in temperatures. Large halls may be cool, but as they fill with people temperatures may increase.
  • Consider your accessories. If you are going to be purchasing books bring something light, compact, and on wheels that you can roll behind you. It is much easier on your shoulders than a heavy back pack. Also, it can be carted across long distances, like to your parked car, easily. However, if you aren't purchasing books a large shoulder bag or backpack may be ideal for carrying your notebook or clipboard and pen for note taking.

What is the one essential thing to remember when you are there?
Remember your plan. When you get to a convention, especially for first time attendees, it can be, well, overwhelming. The homeschool conventions I have attended have crowds of people, lots of curriculum booths, ample speakers, and multiple sessions each hour. It can be sensory overload. Having a plan in place can make the convention easier to navigate. While you are at the convention, remember what you want to do and see. You are attending the conference for a reason. Be sure to fulfill your reason by completing your list of priorities outlined in your plan.

What about after the conference?
After the conference, you can sort through your notes from the lectures, workshops, and seminars. Pulling out the information that is vital to your homeschool and attempting to implement any changes. Also, remember that after the conference you can sometimes purchase audio feed to any sessions you missed.

If you can't attend a homeschool conference or convention, then perhaps you might consider an online option. Many workshops or seminars are now offered online. A few places to consider: Ultimate Homeschool Expo; Heart of the Matter Conference; and HSLDA @home E-vents.

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