Suggestions for How to Get the Most out of an In-Person or Online Homeschool Conference
If you are a veteran homeschooler, you may have the whole conference thing down. You may love networking with other homeschoolers like you, learning about new homeschool programs and resources, and browsing through homeschool products. For new homeschoolers, however, homeschool conventions can be overwhelming. When I attended my first one, I was told to be careful: Many new homeschoolers tend to spend too much money on new curriculums and other materials because they feel they need all of it to be successful. I was even told that I shouldn’t go as a first-year homeschooler.
While I understood the perspective, I did go, but I also took the advice and planned not to spend one cent while I was there. I learned a whole lot, gathered information about curriculums and other materials, and then I went home and did my research and buying. I was thankful for the advice I had received back then, and I hope to share what I, and other homeschoolers, have discovered that can help make homeschool convention attendance worthwhile and even fun!
|How to Find Homeschool Conventions|
|What To Do When You Get Home|
General Advice and Information about Homeschool Conventions
You can learn a lot from listening to homeschool organizations and other homeschoolers. The topic of homeschool conventions is no different. Check with your homeschool support group and see what advice is out there by exploring these websites and blogs:
5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Homeschool Conventions | Time4Learning
Find out what you can get out of attending homeschool conventions and how to have the best experience.
25 Homeschool Convention Tips from Bloggers | Demme Learning
Check out this wealth of information from homeschooling bloggers.
How to Survive a Homeschool Convention | Homeschool Christian (Faith-Based)
Tammy Montel offers a number of tips for how to attend a large Christian homeschool convention and bring home useful educational materials.
The End of Homeschool Conventions as We Know Them? | Build Your Library
Explore how the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected homeschool conventions. What do you think?
Should You Attend the Homeschool Convention | Arizona Families for Home Education
Explore why homeschooling conventions can really benefit your family. Read about the advantages as well as how to get the most out of the workshops and exhibit halls.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Homeschool Convention | Homeschool.com
Find ten tips for maximizing the benefits of a homeschool convention from a veteran homeschooler of five.
Why You Need to Attend a Homeschool Convention (Online!) | Homeschool with Moxie (Faith-Based)
Read the perspective of Abby, a homeschooling mother of five and former classroom teacher, as she discusses how attending a homeschool convention can benefit you.
Why YOU Should Attend a Homeschool Convention | Homeschool Your Boys
Discover seven reasons that you should attend homeschool conventions every year that you are homeschooling.
How to Find Homeschool Conventions
Is this your first time attending a homeschool convention? You may also hear it referred to as a homeschool conference, homeschool curriculum fair, or homeschool seminar. Be sure to read the descriptions to find out more before deciding to attend. Some are more focused on faith-based workshops while others feature mostly secular topics. Some have many curriculums and educational materials available while others target information more than products. You can search for homeschool conventions that fit your religious and cultural homeschool view or your particular methods and styles of homeschooling, or you can find more general conventions that provide a lot of options.
Here are some resources to help you find homeschool conventions that are right for your family:
Great Homeschool Conventions (Faith-Based)
Although these conventions are considered faith-based, you will find a mixture of faith-based and secular topics and resources here. Each of the conferences features dozens of speakers, discounted hotels, hundreds of exhibitors, and special events at locations across the US. If you can’t travel, an online homeschool convention is also offered.
Homeschool Conventions, Conferences, and Events | The Homeschooling Mom
Choose a state to find homeschool conferences and events in your area.’
SEA Homeschoolers Online Conference Series
Secular, Eclectic, Academic homeschoolers can find information about an online conference series here. Events include “presentations for parents and educators, live Q&A with speakers and vendors, and interactive workshops for students.”
Secular Homeschool Conventions & Events
“Learn about SEA Homeschoolers Conventions & other events for and by the secular homeschool community.”
Sonlight Homeschool Conventions (Faith-Based)
“Sonlight is on the road–in-person & Virtually–for a cross-country tour… helping families where they are on their homeschool journey. Join us at an upcoming homeschool convention near you or check out the many online options.”
Teach Them Diligently (Faith-Based)
“For 10 years, our Christian homeschool conventions have been a help and encouragement to new homeschool families, seasoned homeschool families, and families who are just thinking about starting homeschooling alike…. Find an event near you (or virtually) and plan to join us there!”
You can also find homeschool conventions sponsored by state homeschool organizations like Arizona Families for Home Education and the Texas Homeschool Coalition. Local homeschool curriculum fairs or homeschool expos may also be scheduled in your area.
Remember to check our Events calendar to learn more about scheduled homeschool conventions or add one of your own!
How to Prepare for Homeschool Conventions
You might think that you can just register and then show up for homeschool conventions, and you can, but doing a little preparation can help you make the best use of your time. Here are a few points to consider once you have registered (early, if you can—to get the discount!):
- Who will go to the homeschool convention? Decide whether you want to have the whole family attend or whether selective participation is better. Some conventions will make accommodations for children, and even encourage their attendance, while others discourage children attending. Here are some questions to consider: Do you need a break (and some alone time at the convention could do the trick)? Is there something to interest all members of the household? Are there children’s workshops or activities for teens? Can you and a partner alternate watching children, or can you bring along a sitter? Are you prepared to leave a workshop if your children need something? Does it make sense to bring a non-homeschooler who may either be skeptical of what you are doing or may be interested in beginning homeschool?
- How will you get there and where will you stay? If you are traveling for more than the day, be sure to make your travel plans early. See if you can take advantage of reserved hotel rooms and other arrangements through the homeschool convention. Plan for any downtime that will be available for meals, breaks, local sightseeing, etc. If you can, consider adding a day or two to the end of your trip for a mini-vacation to see the local sights.
- What are you trying to learn? You can start by making a list of what you want to know about homeschooling your children now or for the future. This list can help you decide which speakers or workshops to attend (and make a schedule ahead of time), provide ideas for questions to ask presenters, and give you topics to discuss with other homeschoolers you meet. Research the speakers and workshop facilitators online. You can even buy their books, read them before going, and then bring them to get signed!
- What kinds of educational materials interest you? Start to research the types of homeschool curriculums and materials that might work for your unique family. Consider different homeschooling methods and styles and learn what you can about how to choose a homeschool curriculum (don’t forget to download the free Homeschool Curriculum Workbook). Make a list of products that may be of interest, along with their online prices (or send for catalogs). If you are not a new homeschooler, include a list of what you already have and try to identify gaps.
What to Bring to Homeschool Conventions
Whether you are packing for the day or for a longer trip, you want to make sure you include certain items in your conference day bag. Here are some suggestions:
- Money: Bring just the amount of money you have budgeted to spend (or know what you plan to put on a credit card). Seeing all the wonderful homeschool products can make you overspend. Be careful!
- Cell Phone/Camera: Besides being available to family members who are at the conference or at home, you may want to capture images of presentation slides, products of interest, or friends you and your children meet at the social events. Just make sure you set your cell phone to vibrate when you are in conference sessions!
- Clothing Layers: Although the weather outside may be warm, homeschool conference halls are known to be cooler. Wear layers so you can remove clothing, if needed, but you don’t have to freeze throughout the day.
- Extra Bag: You may want to bring an extra bag with you to hold brochures and other items you collect during the day. Some homeschool conferences will provide bags when you register, but you don’t want to get stuck trying to hold a pile of papers in your hand all day. If you plan on buying products, consider bringing a rolling cart to save your back.
- Notebook or Device: You will likely want to take notes as presenters and other homeschoolers share their nuggets of advice. You may also want to collect names and contact information of homeschoolers you meet. And, if you are really on the ball, you may even try bringing homemade “business” cards containing your contact information to share with those you meet!
- Supplies: Although water may be served in some workshops, you will want to bring a water bottle with you, along with some snacks. You will have breaks, but workshop rooms can be far from snack shops or vending machines. Think about whether you want extra writing utensils, books/games for the kids, lotion, or other supplies as well.
- Small Hole Punch and a Lanyard: At registration, you may be given the perfect nametag or conference pass, but you may want the option to put your tag or pass on a lanyard (maybe with keys or whatever). Also consider the clothes you are wearing and whether the provided pins or other attachment methods can damage your clothing.
Tips for Homeschool Convention Days
The day of the homeschool convention, there are a few things you want to remember in order to get the most out of your day:
- Arrive Early: If you arrive early, you are more likely to get your preference in the hotel, find better parking, and avoid long lines for registration. You will also have more time to review the map and schedule. If you have additional time before the speakers start, you can get comfortable with your surroundings (i.e., take a swim or get a bite to eat) or even do a dry run finding rooms for the workshops you don’t want to miss.
- Determine a Central Meeting Point: Find a location where you and family members and/or friends will meet at scheduled times or in the event you get separated. Homeschool conventions can be surprisingly large, sometimes spread across multiple buildings, and can be very populated. Make sure your group members can find each other without anxiety.
- Attend the Welcome or Opening Session: Often the first or keynote speaker is well-known and has awesome content to offer. Beyond that, you will find out about conference rules, announcements, changes to the schedule, etc. You’ll also meet conference organizers and learn whom to go to if you need direction.
- Attend Your Top Priority Presentations and Workshops: You may have had to choose from among a few events that were of interest but that occurred during the same time slot. Attend the one that is the highest priority (especially if you have questions for the presenter) but also check to see if you can get access or handouts to sessions that you missed. You can also split up if you are attending with another adult to cover more ground. Many presenters return year after year, so you may be able to catch a missed presenter next year.
- Talk to Other Participants: You may feel that other homeschoolers are keeping to themselves, but you will find that many are more than willing to discuss topics and share experiences. Other new homeschoolers can share concerns while veteran homeschoolers can share advice, resources, and suggestions for workshop presenters and other events.
- Take Breaks: Take advantage of any scheduled breaks, and don’t be afraid to skip a session if you need an unscheduled one. Stop for food or meet with family and friends. If you are staying at the hotel, take a quick swim or nap and then come back to the convention refreshed.
- Be Open-Minded: Have an open mind for new methods of homeschooling. Look for fresh ideas, new perspectives, and different philosophies. Think about possibilities and move beyond simply duplicating school at home. Homeschool conventions can be eye openers!
- Enjoy the Evenings: After a long day of listening to presenters, shopping the vendor halls for curriculum, and networking, you may be exhausted and want to spend a quiet evening alone or with family. Maybe, on the other hand, you have more energy and want to meet new (or old) friends at a nearby establishment. Find affordable places in the area (maybe not the hotel restaurant) to enjoy the evening or take advantage of social events that are sometimes scheduled as part of the conference.
Getting the Most out of Homeschool Convention Vendor Halls
For some—especially new—homeschoolers, the vendor halls can be intimidating. Know what you want for your family (have your planning lists ready) and your homeschooling budget, and then start shopping. Understand that “window shopping” without buying is okay (unless there is a really good conference discount) and that you can walk past certain vendors to get to the ones you really want. Here are some tips:
- Use the Map: If you received a map of the vendor hall at registration, note the vendors that interest you and find their locations. Map out a route with the understanding that something else may catch your eye along the way.
- Involve Your Children: If your children are with you, let your children join you in the tour of homeschooling products. See what interests them and take notes.
- Talk to Vendors: Some will be homeschoolers themselves and will be able to share firsthand experiences. Others will not be connected to homeschooling at all. Ask lots of questions!
- Consider Purchasing Used Curriculum: Some homeschool conventions will offer used curriculum sales. This is a great way to try curriculum materials and get a bargain. Find out ahead of time if the convention you are attending has such an event.
- Determine When to Buy: Watch for conference discounts or discounted prices toward the end of the conference (so vendors don’t have to ship home large quantities of products). Avoid impulse buying just because there is a limited supply at a vendor’s table. If there is no incentive to buy then, you can wait until you get home and think about a later order.
What To Do When You Get Home
You have survived your first homeschool convention, so what do you do now? Here are a few suggestions:
- Trash Anything You Don’t Need: You may have picked up materials for a product because the woman at the vendor’s table was so nice, but you may not really be interested in that curriculum based on dog training and broccoli (or whatever). Get rid of those extras!
- File the Keepers: File information by homeschooling topic or type of material, so you can refer to it later. You may not need a particular curriculum or resource now, but you may want to find information about it later. Put the information you want to keep in file folders or a binder, so you can always find what you learned about homeschooling from that conference.
- Note Websites: Write down or bookmark important web resources you learned, so you can fully research materials or find relevant materials later. Having websites already listed in a bookmark “Homeschooling” folder can really save time in the future.
- Make New Materials Accessible: New stuff is always exciting, so let your kids’ excitement be motivation to learn. Put new books on bedside reading tables and new reference materials where they can be found quickly. Leave learning games and toys out so that kids can grab them right away and start enjoying them. And, of course, dive into any new books or materials purchased for you while they are still fresh and intriguing. Keep the learning going after the conference!
Virtual Homeschool Conventions
What if you are attending an online homeschool convention or conference? While many of the benefits and learning opportunities are the same, there are some key differences:
- Obviously, the biggest difference is that you will not need to travel. You can save those costs and also attend the conference in your sweatpants!
- You may have longer access to homeschool speakers and workshops. Sometimes a single day’s workshops are left open for several days or weeks, so you can space out your conference viewing.
- You may be able to have more flexibility to see workshops you don’t want to miss. For example, if two workshops are scheduled for the same time, you may be able to access a recorded version of the second one. Attend the live version of the one where you may want to ask questions or add comments.
- You may not have the same opportunities to network with other homeschoolers. What can be missing are the hallway conversations you may have had with other homeschoolers. Instead, you may be able to learn from other homeschoolers by listening to their questions and comments during live sessions, or you can read through the chat posts.
- You may not have the same opportunities to touch and feel vendor products. Depending on the conference, you may still have the chance to interact with vendors and ask questions.
Whether you attend an in-person or online homeschool convention, the possibilities to learn about homeschooling are endless. Follow the suggestions of veteran homeschoolers and take advantage of the opportunities that are both scheduled and informal to make the best of your homeschool convention experience. Go get inspired and return with renewed energy and focus!
A special thank you to Ann Zeise, our founder, for many of the ideas shared here!
Do you have advice to share with new homeschoolers who are thinking about attending their first homeschool convention? Share with our community here in the comments below….