If you have never attended a state or regional homeschool convention, it can be more than overwhelming. If you happen to be an introvert, it can be hard to even make the decision to attend. However, once you have committed, the true terror strikes! What are you supposed to do? What are you supposed to wear? My husband and kids are coming along, what do I do with them?
New homeschoolers tend to share similar fears. Who else will be there? What if I attend a lecture and no one else is there? How do I decide what to do? Now that you know this secret, you know you’re not alone. No matter how big or small your state/region is, you will first confront what a LARGE number of homeschoolers are there to join you for the conference. You will see women actually wearing denim jumpers with a baby strapped to their chests. You will see incredibly chic women who appear to have no children as well. (That’s your clue on what to wear – anything goes. Be comfortable.) The beauty is you’re all there for the same reason!
If you are seriously looking for books and programs to use with your children for the upcoming year, do as much research as you can ahead of time. Make a list of questions for each vendor you’re interested in before arriving at the hotel. Do it even if it seems silly or obvious. Depending on where you live, the vendors venue can be overwhelming enough to put everything you ever knew right out of your head. Stick to your questions! Have a budget and stick to it. There is little you will see at a convention that cannot be bought later, online.
Do some research before you attend. Visit the speakers’ websites and google them as well. Do the same with vendors. Rate speakers and vendors on a 1-10 scale based on what interests you and what materials you’d like to get a real-life look at before purchasing. Talk to local and online homeschoolers to get their opinions as well. Do not rule out a speaker because you think he might be too/not enough religious/non-religious for you. You do not have to agree with a speaker 100% to learn from them and there is much to learn. Go with what interests you even if it does not apply to your upcoming school year. If you find a speaker particularly inspiring, buy the audio version before you leave to give yourself a boost in February!
Now, what to do with your husband and kids? Make sure there is a pool! Get a room with at the very least a small fridge so you can make lunch and snacks in your room. Homeschool convention food vendors are notoriously slow and pricy. Most of the larger homeschool conventions offer activities for pre-school aged children and above. If you have a child who is still nursing, you can bring them with you to a session. However, if your child becomes disruptive, be courteous and leave. You can usually get a tape or at least notes on what you miss.
While some make attending a homeschool convention a family affair, far more homeschool moms make convention weekend a weekend for themselves. They meet with real friends, online friends and enjoy the freedom that comes from traveling without children. A lot of moms rely on this once a year event to recharge their batteries.
Read what you can, talk to those in your homeschooling community and with online friends. It might be overwhelming, but a homeschool convention can be a big boost just when you need it.