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.
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?).
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?