[Today’s article “How to Choose a Homeschool Conference” was written by contributor Michelle Habrych.]
It’s spring and that means homeschool conferences! So many workshops attend and vendor halls to explore! But, how do you choose the homeschool conference that’s right for you out of the many options?
First Year of Homeschooling
My first year homeschooling I did not know there were choices, and that was probably a good thing. I may have been overwhelmed if I’d had to choose which conference to attend in addition to all of the other choices I would soon be making about curriculum, teaching style, and more. I went to the local one recommended by a homeschooling friend, and it gave me much food for thought.
However, as I spent time homeschooling, I learned there were other groups offering homeschool conferences. I live in the Midwest and there happen to be many options within a six-hour driving radius. While that might not be the case for your living situation, know that there are still other options than the one you hear about from all of your friends.
What to get from the conference
First, what do you want to get out of the conference? Are you hoping for a time away to recharge your homeschool batteries and or gain a new vision? Do you want a fun, family vacation? Homeschool conferences offer vastly differing experiences based on the goal of the event. I have attended polar opposite conference in this respect. Some conferences charge extra to discourage you from bringing the kids; they want it to be for parents only. Others offer separate workshops especially for the kids or encourage you to bring your kids into seminars with you. It’s up to you to know what you’re looking to get out of the conference experience.
For your teens
This year I am actually attending a homeschool conference for my teenagers’ benefit. The conference is offering “Real Faith for the Real World” teen seminars, and my kids were both excited about the workshop topics. Of course, as I plan for our trip I am finding topics that interest me as well.
Who is putting on the conference?
Next, consider the group putting on the conference. Does its purpose mesh with your homeschool philosophy or religious beliefs? There are benefits to attending a variety of seminars, but I would not personally find much value in attending something that was in direct opposition to my beliefs. Just as learning about other cultures can be beneficial, a workshop on a different style of homeschooling may give you a new idea to try. For example, as a Christian “relaxed classical eclectic homeschooler” I personally would not want to spend an entire conference on unschooling. However, I believe I could find something of value in one workshop on delight-directed learning. Remember, a conference is specific time away from home to prepare you for educating your children in the way you decide. Don’t waste time and money on something that you feel is not for you.
Another consideration is overnight accommodations. Do you have to travel far and stay in a hotel to attend? Are you able to split costs with another homeschool family? Is the conference close enough that you could return home at night? Are there events late into the evening which would make it better to stay in a hotel? Have you thought about nontraditional overnight accommodations such as camping, Airbnb.com, or even staying with friends, family, or another homeschooling family in the area?
Plan ahead for next year
If you already missed the conference you want to attend, you could do a couple of different things. First, try a different conference in the area. You could also try planning ahead to next year for the one you really want to attend. On the flip side, you could try something I did a few years back. I borrowed audio recordings from friends to stage a “conference-at-home.” My husband took the kids out for the day while I listened to seminars in my living room. Something else to try is the online conference. There are numerous options available in this format as well.
Consider homeschool conference options as your continuing education. Find what works for you and go learn something new!
Michelle Habrych will be attending the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her friend and their teenagers. The term conference is used solely in this post, though convention is another name for these events.