6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Homeschool Convention Experience

Navigate the convention crowd like a pro and come away with ideas and resources to make your homeschool even better

6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Homeschool Convention Experience
A homeshool convention is a good place to make contact with homeschool groups, which may offer co-op classes or educational activities. (Ground Picture/Shutterstock)

It’s the most wonderful time of year for homeschoolers: homeschool convention season. It’s a time to peruse all the different homeschool curricula, connect with fellow homeschooling families, and listen to renowned veteran homeschool parents speak on a multitude of topics.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to attend multiple conventions because the season runs through late summer.

Attending our state’s annual homeschool convention always helped to reaffirm the lifestyle choice to teach my children at home and to refresh my mind and spirit.

That being said, attending a homeschool convention can also be a bit overwhelming if you aren't properly prepared. So here are some tips I’ve gleaned from decades of experience.

Visit the Used Book Sale First

Most homeschooling conventions host a used book sale. Start there. While this is a good spot to find gently used curriculum as well as reference books for yourself, you can also find books to add to your kids’ reading lists, unused workbooks, CDs and DVDs, musical instruments, and all sorts of fun extras to add a little sparkle to your homeschool.
One year, we found a Mario Brothers typing DVD for practically nothing. And another time, on the last day of a local convention, I bought a nice pair of binoculars complete with a carrying case for a big discount.

Avoid Buying New Books, Materials

I know it’s tempting to shop at these conventions. Everything looks amazing. Everything has the potential to be a must-have for your homeschool. Patience is your superpower, because it can get expensive. This is the time to look at the books and materials that interest you. Take good notes so you can compare and contrast later. Then, once you’re home, you’ll have time to consider what products and curricula will best suit your homeschooling philosophy and your kids’ needs.

Buy One-of-a-Kind Supplies

While it isn't wise to purchase curriculum on-site, it's savvy to shop for and buy one-of-a-kind supplies if your budget allows.
One of the first vendors my husband and I always visited was Miller Pads and Paper, to check out the fabulous sales on their unique paper bundles. Their quality colorful construction paper, lined journaling pads, and blank maps were favorites and typically lasted the entire school year and then some.

Plan Your Time Wisely

Visit the convention’s website prior to convention day to determine which speakers will be in attendance. Make a list of those you’re interested in hearing and note the day, time, and location of the presentation. This will no doubt be a long list, so you’ll need to prioritize. Fortunately, most conventions record the presentations for exactly this purpose. So if you find yourself feeling like there are so many speakers but so little time, you can purchase professionally recorded sessions for just a few dollars each.

Use the time in between speakers’ sessions to stroll around the vendor hall looking at curriculum, books, and materials. This is your chance to get an up-close-and-personal look at each vendor’s products, to take notes, and ask questions. While many vendors offer sample pages for viewing on their websites, it often isn't enough to get a good sense of the product. Ask if you can snap photos to help you remember key characteristics of the curriculum and materials.

Take regular breaks. In fact, schedule them into your day. There is always so much to see and do at these events, it can be exhausting. Drink water and have a snack. Talk with your spouse if present and compare thoughts and notes on what you’ve seen and heard.

Fellowship With Other Homeschoolers

While you wait for the speaker to begin or wait in line to view curriculum, introduce yourself to those around you. Share wisdom.

Also, introduce yourself to the vendors and the speakers. This is a great time to connect, share your positive review of a vendor’s product, or express gratitude for a speaker’s insights. Your words may just be the highlight of their day.

At state and local conventions, some of the larger support groups often set up informational booths. Stop by and say hello. Ask about the kinds of support they offer, such as co-op classes, field trip days, educational activities, gym time, etc., to see if these might be a good fit for your family. Thank the representatives for all they do for the homeschooling community.

Enjoy the Experience

Embrace the experience. When you take a break, relax, and take it all in. Smile and say hello to those who pass by. Bask in the spirit of the camaraderie all around you and let it revitalize you. Be thankful for the many resources and reflect on the speakers’ insights.

Further Resources:

Homeschool Legal Defense Association: HSLDA.org/post/state-homeschool-organizations
Karen Doll is a freelance writer and homeschooling consultant based in the small village of Wassergass, Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing about homeschooling, gardening, food and culture, family life, and the joys of chicken keeping. Visit her at AtHomeWithKarenDoll.wordpress.com