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My husband and I decided to homeschool our children, who are currently in public school (grades 3 &6), in the fall. This weekend we are attending our first homeschool conference. I hear it can be pretty overwhelming. Any conference tips for a newbie? Thanks :)
Have you done any research into homeschooling methods? I would recommend doing some basic research over methods and "learning styles".
Always remember, many of the workshops are little more than commercials. This isn't a problem, just keep it in mind. The curriculum fair can be *very* tempting. It's quite easy to spend hundreds of dollars... in minutes!
I would "divide and conquer" the sessions so you can cover twice the number. :-)
Take some sort of nice tote bag for all the brochures and freebies. If available, print out a map of the vendor hall in advance so you can mark "must see" booths and plan some sort of logical path. Do NOT purchase anything in the vendor hall on your first run through - unless it something in short supply. You may find it cheaper at another booth. Rainbow Resource Center tends to have the best prices, and you can order for free shipping from their catalog (which is HUGE) if they don't have something on hand you wish to buy.
As Sheri said, figure out your childrens' learning styles and what method of HS'ing you want to try before you go. If you have a very hands-on child, avoid the workbook & text only curricula, for example.
Take a nice notepad for the info sessions, and to make notes about curriculum as you walk the booths. If you have a HS budget in mind, keep that handy also, as it's *very* easy to overspend at a fair. You'll become a "curriculum junkie" in no time :-).
If your kids are allowed - I'd take them to the vendor hall, but not to sessions. There may be a children's program for them. My son always enjoys them. In the vendor hall, they can get a feel for curriculum themselves. My son can write off, or accept something at first glance :-).
Most importantly, have fun, and welcome to the HS community!
Wear comfy shoes! ;)
I agree with the above-buy nothing on the first run through no matter how much you want to. It's too easy to get caught up in the excitement and the glowing words of the vendors. There's so much to see and check out.
I actually would not buy any major purchases at the conference. I'd take home the info, discuss, read on-line reviews, look at samples, and discuss some more. Then buy if you like it.
You'll be surprised how you'll find that "perfect" program, then get home and learn more about it and kick yourself for spending $100 or more on it. So be patient on buying.
Try to take notes on the vendors/products of interest. Ask lots of questions and don't be afraid to ask how one program compares to another you're interested in. It's interesting to hear what the vendors say compared to what you find out yourself.
Take a sturdy bag to carry all the literature you pick up and the few things you might buy.
Have fun!! I love conferences.
Last Edited on: 5/28/08 3:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
take a brown paper bag to breathe into when you start to hyperventilate!
seriously, it can be overwhelming, so try to take it in small bites.
my #1 tip is: bring money to buy cd's of speakers you couldn't get to or you really liked. you can double or even triple your learning by buying the taped sessions and listening to them at your leisure. I usually spend at least $60 on cd's. When I am done with them, I share them with firends in my homeschooling community.
have fun, and don't forget that brown paper bag . . .
Last Edited on: 5/28/08 8:03 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
It is good to have some idea of some curriculums, books, science kits or whatever you might want to buy. Seeing them in real life can be very different than what you've heard by the way of praise or in catalog descriptions. Look at the stuff in your hands and see if it is worthwhile.
Have a plan. Is your goal to hear lectures to learn certain things? Do you need more time to shop? Read the lecture descriptions before you go and circle the ones you must hear vs. might be nice.
I have issues with taking kids to the vendor hall as they sometimes beg for stuff that you may not have money for in the budget. The kids don't want to hear the money needs to go to spelling curriculum when they see a cool stop motion animation computer program and kit etc. LOL. Or the vendors with great toys...
Take notes on what looks awful vs what looks good. Later when you are home the notes will help remind you of what to not buy and what to buy, if you didn't already buy it.
Try not to get overwhelmed. Do not let pushy salespeople talk you into anything. Also beware other HS parents who might try to dictate to you what THEY think you should buy. Beware.
Try to get inspired and get excited!! And let us know how you made out.
Great advice, thanks! Y'all brought up some things I hadn't thought of.
So, I have my notebook, saddle bags, walking shoes, some cash, my critical thinking cap, my vendor-awareness goggles... oh and Cindi, of course my brown paper bag (LOL!) and off I go.
Thanks again :) I'll let you know on Monday how things turn out.
Our local homeschool convention runs 2 days, and they have a humongous vendor hall. I've gone the last several years, and these are some of the things I've picked up:
1. If you think you might end up buying stuff that you don't want to carry, then I would highly suggest bringing a wheeled bag (many of the attendees at our convention bring those rolling teacher totes - the plastic, almost egg-crate type looking thing on wheels with a handle. Others bring a rolling suitcase or something similar. Basically, you don't want to have to lug your purchases around from workshop to workshop all day long.
2. Get a catalog from each of the vendors if it's something you may be interested in. If your conference is more than one day, then don't buy anything the first day. Instead, go home and look through your catalogs and any notes you may have taken that day. Then, go back with your money on the second day. It sometimes is a good thing to buy or at least order at the conference, as many of the vendors will give big discounts/free shipping etc for placing an order then.
3. Bring a soft cooler with you filled with bottled water and snacks!
4. Bring a notebook & pen(s) and take notes during the workshops.
5. If you have access to the workshop schedule in advance (either a brochure in your hand or the info on the conference website), and there are multiple workshops going on at the same time, plan out which ones you want to go to the most. Then, make sure you have a backup just in case your first choice is full.
6. If your kids are allowed to come with you, and you bring them along, make sure you have plenty of snacks and things for them to do. (Children under 12, unless they are breastfed infants, aren't allowed at our conveniton. However, I know that some conferences don't have this restriction.)
7. Walk the vendor hall and take lots of notes. I usually write down all the book titles/authors that I'd love to have but can't afford right now. I've been able to find several available at our local library (free checkout!) or for much, much cheaper on ebay, vegsource, or homeschoolclassifieds. Of course, there's always pbs too! :)
Have fun at your conference!
You've gotten a lot of terrific tips. I agree-- I prefer not to buy any major curriculum at a convention. I usually do buy special paper at Miller Pads and fraction dice, etc. These are usually cheap at the convention, but hard to find elsewhere and so small they're not worth shipping fees.
Yes, take LOTS of notes with specific headings so you can quickly scan through after you get home and organize your thoughts about social studies, English, etc. Also, take A LIST OF THINGS THAT YOU ALREADY OWN organized by grade level and subject. How many times have I come home with a great new text only to find that I already have something for that subject. Homeschool mom Alzheimer's I guess... probably never happens to you guys!
Finally, take A ROLL OF ADDRESS LABELS so that your hand doesn't get worn out signing up for giveaways and catalogs.
For cheapest prices on new items (scour local group sales and craigslist/vegsource first), I have had good experiences with www.christianbook.com and www.rocksolidinc.com, and, on occasion, www.amazon.com (gotta love the $25 threshold for free shipping). You may also special order just about anything from Barnes and Noble with a 20% teacher discount (no membership fee), plus they won't charge you to ship it to the local store, and you can look it over before you buy (no paying for return shipping!).
Hope you have a great time!
that's what it is! It started about 12 years ago, and it isn't getting any better . . .
most commonly heard phrase in my house: "Where are my glasses?"
I'm also going to my first convetion soon, and I never even considered that I be overwhelmed. I'm going to make note of what you veterans wrote!
Well, the conference is over and I am exhausted! I was thankful for the helpful tips from all of you.
Cindi, I was walking around with my head spinning when I thought... "she was right... where's my paper bag!"
Dani, I did buy some curriculum, but only things my husband and I agreed on before the conference. We were able to save 10-25% on items and there was no shipping charges. Anything we were not previously familiar with, but it looked interesting, we brought the catalog home to look at with a level head. Oh, and I wish I would have read your address label tip before I went. It would have been helpful for the give-aways, etc.
Kim, you asked how to find a conference near you. Well, now is the season, some states have already had theirs. I am a Christian, so in Google I just typed in "christian homeschool" and my state which brought me to my state's Christian Home Educators website that had all the conference information. Or you could type "homeschool seminar" and your state... I am sure you'll find something. Happy searching!
Thanks again everyone, I read and took all your advice.