I was asked to speak tonight at our homeschool support group about going to the annual homeschool convention. Ours is in June and this was our last meeting of the “school” year. Here’s my talk. I hope it will be a blessing to you:
The convention is almost here! Now is the time to prepare!
Before you start gathering materials, making lists or deciding which workshops to attend, the first thing you should do is PRAY! Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in all your decisions. James 1:5 says “but if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” My second suggestion would be to discuss everything with your husband; your choices, your budget, etc.
If you are new to hsing, now is the time to determine your homeschool philosophy. Once you know that, it will help you decide which workshops to attend and which products to buy. The library has lots of hsing books that can help you better understand the various methods of hsing. I would also encourage you to go to the free workshops that are on Thursday night. They will help you with your hsing choices.
Once all that has been decided, go through your hs catalogs or websites (most have their catalogs online) and make a list of the various items you wish to purchase. Just the HEAV website to see which vendors will be attending. I’ve made a copy of a convention shopping list that you can use. Soapbox here: one thing I would like to remind you of is that a lot of the vendors are just homeschooling families like yourself and this is their home business. Support the ones who help you. Don’t take up an exhibitor’s time in counseling and explaining his products and then go buy the same product from another vendor or from a discount supplier. The exhibitor’s help make the convention possible.
Next make a list of the workshops you would like to attend. The HEAV website lists all the workshops and descriptions and your convention brochure does also. You’ll probably have more than one per session that you want to attend. Decide which one you would like to attend the most and then purchase tapes of the rest. This is a good way to have a mini-convention whenever you want! If you are going a friend or friends, try to go to different workshops and then share your notes. The same with tapes: go into together and purchase a bunch of tapes and then share them.
Now is also the time to line up babysitters if you aren’t putting your children into the children’s program. Thursday night is a good time to bring the children so they can shop and also see all the other hs children. They are not alone!
The night before gather all your items that you are going to bring with you:
~a rolling cart, suitcase or backpack. The first year I went to the convention I didn’t have any of those and I suffered. There are bag checks to store your items but you still have to take them to the car. You won’t regret getting something to carry your purchases in. I would use the backpack or fanny pack for your personal items—money, credit cards, etc. A backpack can get very heavy if you have to lug books around.
~bottled water. There are places near the workshops that have water and the last few years they have been good about keeping those filled up but I like to bring water with me just in case. I bring that and a small snack in a cooler. You’re not allowed to bring lunch into the convention center so make plans accordingly. There are food vendors inside or you can go out to eat.
~a sweater. Some workshops are very warm and some are very cold. I always bring a sweater so I don’t freeze!
~wear comfortable shoes. The vendor’s hall can be tough on your feet. Plus you’ll be doing a lot of walking from workshops to the hall and back again.
~notebook and writing instruments. Not all workshop leaders give hand-outs so you’ll want something on which to take notes.
~your shopping list
~money; even if you use a debit/credit card or checks, bring some extra cash to pay for parking and tolls.
~if you have already registered ahead of time, be sure you have your info packet with you. Be sure you have your ticket for the used curriculum sale with you!
~make a list of questions that you want to ask a vendor or workshop speaker
~directions. Make sure you know how to get there, where to park and how much it will cost.
~Return address labels. Use these to fill out forms and catalog requests. It will save you time!
When you get to the convention center, either register if you haven’t done so or pick up your name tags. There will be free bags of brochures and catalogs for you to take but I would suggest you wait to pick those up on your way out. They are sometimes very heavy!
Check over the brochures to see if the workshops, vendors, speakers, etc. are still the same. There are sometimes changes you will want to plan accordingly.
Once you’re at the convention, plan your visits to the booths you want to see the most and also the vendors that are on your list. After that you can go through and browse the other vendors at a more leisurely pace.
Don’t overlook the smaller vendors. You might find some great bargains or books there!
If you are attending the full convention, I would suggest you gather your information the first day, take it home, discuss it with your husband and make your purchases the next day. If you are unsure, don’t purchase it! Even if you have to pay shipping later on, it is better to wait to be sure it’s what you want or need than to go ahead and purchase something that will just sit on your shelf.
(The following are from Teaching Home magazine)
Mind Your Convention Manners
Observe these guidelines to show consideration to everyone
involved at the convention.
Convention Rules. Follow the rules set out for the convention
regarding food and beverage in exhibit hall (check if bottled
water is OK), children, strollers, etc.
Exhibitors. Support the ones who help you. Do not take up an
exhibitor’s time in counseling and explaining his products and
then go buy the same product from another exhibitor or from a
discount supplier. Exhibitors help make the convention possible.
Babies and Children. Immediately remove a crying or
disrupting child from a workshop or meeting. Ask your child to
give his chair to an adult if there is not enough seating.
3+ Ways To Network
1. Meet and talk to other attendees; greet old friends and make
2. Ask advice. Get feedback on ideas and products and share
opinions and experiences. You may get your most valuable
information and encouragement from another home-school mom.
3. Offer to help someone. Hold a baby and give a mother’s arms
a rest; find a new home schooler (it will be obvious) and give a
word of encouragement; offer to help a speaker or exhibitor.
+ Smile at everyone.
6 Follow-Up Activities
(To Get the Last Bit of Good from the Event!)
1. Debriefing. Have a debriefing discussion with your spouse
or friend. Discuss the ideas and products you encountered at
the convention to help you sort through things, keeping some
and discarding others, focusing on how to get the most out of
2. Just Do It. Return home with at least one new idea that will
make a difference in your home school to put into practice.
Look over all your notes while they are fresh, and narrow down
all the wonderful things you would like to do to no more than six.
Then prioritize your list and start on the first one the following week.
3. Be Accountable. Ask your husband or a friend to pray for you
and keep you accountable to work on your goal. The results may
surprise and encourage you.
4. Share the information you have gathered with your support
group or someone who was not able to attend. Let them know if
you would recommend that they plan to attend next year.
5. Clean Up. Sort literature you received into four categories:
1) Take action. 2) Save for future reference or reading.
3) Pass on to someone else. 4) Toss.
6. Thank Yous! Write a thank you note to those who put so much
effort into putting on the convention, a speaker that ministered to
you, or an exhibitor that took time to help you.