Homeschool Where to Start

10 Ways to Get the Most from a Homeschool Conference

After more than 20 years of homeschooling, I have been to my share of conferences, book fairs, and seminars.  I have been overwhelmed, underwhelmed, and occasionally both at the same time.

10 ways to get the most from a homeschool conference

 

Conferences these days are bigger and brighter than ever before.  They bring in the big speakers, have hundreds of fascinating vendors, and often there are dozens of sessions happening at once. It’s hard to know how to get the most from such a huge event!  I mean, you got your kids all taken care of and you have a whole weekend to decide what you will do for next year’s school and purchase all of the materials you will need.  No problem.  #faint

This is why I go to a conference prepared and armed for battle.  And I want to share my tips with you so you can get the most of your big weekend.

Check out their website

Conferences will have a site that lists all of the participating vendors.  Make a list of the ones you want to check out so you don’t get caught by surprise when your favorite one isn’t there.  If you have time, you could also look at the websites of the vendors you want to know more about.

Get the schedule ahead of time

If possible, find out the sessions ahead of time and plan your weekend.  At least make sure you know the few that you absolutely do not want to miss.  If you are there with your friend or spouse, you can divide and conquer so you don’t miss anything.

Go to bed early

Conferences are tiring, and you want to be your best.  So get plenty of rest the night before and don’t stay up late doing last minute things.  Spend the few days before getting little things ready so you can go to bed in time to get a whole night of sleep (remember those?).

Comfortable shoes!

I like to look cute and, while I refuse to wear my running shoes to a conference, I do wear something comfy…like the shoes I wore to Disney.  There is a lot of walking and standing at these events.  Your feet will thank me.

As soon as you arrive, scope out the scene

Right after I register, I spend 15 minutes checking the entire place out.  I find the restrooms, a place to sit down when I’m tired (or to nurse if you have a baby with you), where each session room is, and if I have a stroller I find the elevator.

Make a thorough list of what you need

I like to write down each of my children and list the classes we want them to take the next year. I also go through my shelves and see what we already have.  Then I write down what I still need to for during the conference.  Math, for example…..if you want to get math for your 8-year-old, there will likely be several vendors selling their programs.  Go around and ask them questions.  If they have a session, attend the session and see if you think what they do is best for your child.

Have a budget

If you only use one of these suggestions, let this be the one.  The budget comes from 2 things….what you need and how much money you have.  Write them both down and decide what is reasonable for you to spend while at the conference.  I will always run my budget amount past my husband so he doesn’t go into shock when I get home.

Do your Christmas shopping

Beyond school needs, these conferences will have products you won’t see anywhere else.  I love to pick up gifts for my kids’ Christmas and store them away.  So in addition to my school budget, I add some money for gifts.

Remember, you don’t need everything at once

You might be able to wait a few months before you will use some materials.  So get the contact information for the vendor you want to reach later, and order it in the future.  You don’t have to walk away with everything for a whole year.

Make some down time

Just sit.  Talk to people.  Force yourself (if you’re an introvert like me) to talk to strangers and see how they do things in their homes.  Every hour or so, just stop and regroup for a few minutes.  A slower pace will make the conference experience so much richer!

Most of all, have a good time!  If you don’t like a session….slip out and go to another one.  Skip the sessions one hour and talk to people.  Most homeschool conferences offer the recordings of the speakers so you don’t have to miss anything.  The main goal for me was always to get my tank filled so I was motivated to keep going with this very hard job of being mother and teacher.

What conference/s will you be attending this year? Do you have any tips to share with us?

About the author

Lisa Pennington

Lisa and her husband have homeschooled their 9 kids from the beginning. Her oldest three are graduated and with only 13 more years of teaching to go she declares, “It’s all downhill from here!” Her family lives on a hobby farm in a small Texas town where she is constantly in the middle of a DIY project or scheming up new ideas. She writes at The Pennington Point and runs Shop24 on etsy with her daughters. There’s always something exciting happening around her place!

5 Comments

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  • Thank you for your insights! I’d love to follow you on Facebook! I’m the Mom of a 5 and 7-yr-old and our family will be moving to Ohio in June to start an organic farm starting with broilers and layers. I homeschooled my son through kindergarten and I plan to continue to homeschool my daughter indefinitely. My son went to a public charter school this year, and he has reading difficulties we are currently testing him for. From everything I’ve read, my guess is that it is in the area of dyslexia or dysgraphia. I will probably homeschool him again next year, with help from someone that has some expertise in the area he is struggling in. Because you have so much experience and we have some things in common, I’m sure I could benefit greatly from your experience & knowledge.

  • I am new to homeschooling. What are considered the top 10 conferences? I would love some ideas of which ones to attend. Thanks!

    • Jan, we don’t really recommend certain conferences. I think it’s great if you can attend your local conference (if you have one) or your state conference. Also, the Great Homeschool Convention conferences are good ones. 🙂 Another idea is to ask other local homeschoolers which conferences they attend.

  • Thank you for your article. I am new to homeschooling and overwhelmed! 🙂 Would attending a convention be helpful? I am trying to pick out curriculum by reading reviews, but this is tough! Would attending a convention be a good move? Thank you for your help!

    • Erin, we do like to recommend that new (or potential) homeschoolers attend a conference if possible. Even those of us who have homeschooled for a long time (I’ve been homeschooling for 18 years.) still often benefit from attending homeschool conferences. There’s no substitute for actually putting your hands on curriculum that you’re interested in and flipping through books or looking at manipulatives or science kits, etc. Catalogs are great for those who can’t attend a conference or for those who attend a conference but still need more time before settling on curriculum and actually making a purchase, but they are no substitute for being there in real life and getting an up-close look at materials. It’s also great to be with other families for support, ideas, and encouragement. And there are often lots of great speakers who provide inspiration and tips. If you’re able to attend one, we definitely recommend that you do!

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