[Today’s post “How to Navigate a Homeschool Conference was written by contributor Michelle Habrych.]
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Navigating a homeschool conference can be tricky. There are many things to see, much to learn, and lots of activities to take part in. If you’re not careful, you can easily become overwhelmed. Here are some of my best tips for getting the most out of a homeschool conference.
Tip #1: Purpose!
What is your purpose in attending the conference? Is it to see the vendor hall and get new ideas for curriculum? Is it to renew your vision and enthusiasm for homeschooling? Perhaps you need help with a special needs learner or you struggle to teach science and seek new ideas. You might choose to learn about homeschooling higher grades since your student will be approaching middle school in the fall. Maybe you need a reminder of your reason for choosing a particular method of homeschooling.
All of these purposes are unique and require you to look at attending a conference in different ways. If you want to go to the vendor hall only, you may choose to just buy a pass for the hall, which many conferences offer. Benefits of attending a conference to purchase curriculum include discounts and free shipping. You also get to see things in person, which is great for our kinesthetic learners (and you may be one yourself!). If you desire to fall in love with homeschooling again, there is no better place than a homeschool conference. Look for topics on the workshop schedule which offer topics such as “Homeschool and loving it,” “Peace for a homeschool mom’s soul,” “What I’ve learned from 30 years of homeschooling,” or “How to enjoy homeschooling again.” Attending to learn about special needs, teaching science, home educating high school, and Charlotte Mason philosophy will be on the workshop schedule as well. Some conferences offer “tracks” for those interested in attending with a specified purpose. Be on the lookout for parenting topics, beginner seminars, and preparing for college, and make a plan.
Tip #2: Flexibility!
While you should make a plan or outline of your intended goals for the convention, I will share the best tip I ever learned regarding attending a conference. Here it is: Remember it’s your time. If the session speaker is not connecting with you, or the topic is not what you thought it would be, or you just need a breather, quietly get up and leave the session. You may choose to enter another workshop or you may go get a coffee. Perhaps a walk outside of the conference center is just what you need. Perhaps you want to see something in the vendor hall while the crowds are all seeing the main speaker. Be flexible. Don’t feel obligated to attend the workshop just because it sounded good to you on paper. It’s your conference! Make the most of it.
Tip #3: Just one!
Less can be more when it comes to change. At homeschool conferences, you may get a lot of ideas for changing things in your life or in your homeschool. Before leaving the conference, choose one or two new ideas to implement first. That’s all. Wait until you and the kids have adjusted before changing anything else. Prioritize what needs to be changed versus what would just be nice to try.
Tip #4: Budget!
Have a financial plan and stick to it. Don’t buy a bunch of new curriculum because it looks good right then. Never buy anything at a conference that is not somehow saving you money. If you can buy it for the same price at home, wait. Instead, use the conference to take advantage of free shipping offers, free-gift-with-purchase specials, or percent-off deals. Remember, there are also used curriculum sales and online resale groups from which to purchase your curriculum.
Tip #5: Notes!
Write down anything you hope to remember. Your brain will be filled with so much by the end of your time at the conference that you’re likely to forget it if you don’t write it down (or type it in your device). I suggest a notebook for seminar notes. Write any curriculum notes on flyers from the companies or in catalogs. Write on the vendor hall map if you want to be sure to visit a specific booth or as a reminder of which companies’ websites to visit.
Visiting a conference can refresh your vision and equip you for another year of homeschooling! Whether you attend with friends or on your own, make the most of your educational experience.
**Let us know in the comments any tips you have for navigating a homeschool conference!
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Michelle Habrych has attended numerous homeschool conventions throughout the past decade of homeschooling her two children.