6 Tips for First Time Homeschool Convention GoersMy kids were all well-fed and dressed, my backpack was bulging with baby supplies, and my stroller was overflowing with toddler toys.

Having prepared for every possible scenario that might have occurred at my first homeschool convention, I was ready to soak up everything I would learn.

After waiting for thirty minutes to enter the vendor hall, my toddler was grouchy and already needing a nap. All my formerly must-have baby paraphernalia turned into excess baggage I was condemned to cart around with me the rest of the day.

If you want to successfully pull off a visit to a homeschool convention, here are 6 tips from someone who has learned her lessons the hard way. 

1. If you can, leave your precious kids at home.

Children are always welcome at a homeschool convention. No one is going to turn them away a the door. But don't let that mislead you.

Leaving your baby and toddler at home with Dad, allows you to focus on what you wanted to see at the convention without feeling worn out and pulled in multiple directions.

Even one nursing baby with you is much easier than having all of your little kids with you.

As my kids turned into teens and approached middle and high school, conventions became an exciting event for us. The teens could make friends, explore new learning games, peruse curriculum they liked, or join in the entertainment while I shopped. But before that stage, taking children along to a homeschool convention was a challenge.

2. Carefully read the details in your email or on the convention website beforehand.

Most convention groups spend hours of time explaining thoroughly in both their emails and on their website about vendor workshops, speakers, and enthusiastic exhibitors among other important details.

Being familiar with the schedule of workshops, the layout of the vendor hall, and convention hours allows you to plan your visit and maximize the best use of your time.

Another insider tip is to check if the convention has a bookroom that will store your purchases. Even if you pay a few dollars to rent a space, it is well worth it.

The first convention I went to had a bookroom, but I didn't even know about it until after I was home. Using that locker area would hve saved me countless trips back and forth to the car with kids in tote if I had only read about it before attending the convention.

3. Learn by touching the curriculum.

Nothing can compare to the ecstatic feeling of walking into a vendor hall to see massive amounts of books, curriculum, crafts, and supplies, waiting for you to touch and see.

And though I did try to visit every vendor at my first homeschool convention, I encourage you not to do that. Whittle down your list to the curriculum providers that fit your homeschool approach, and visit them first. 

By comparing similar curriculum, opening the books, looking at the table of contents or scope and sequence, you can make a much better fit for your child when you are less fatigued. If you have any time left over, then you can spend it aimlessly wandering up and down every single aisle.

4. Make time to talk to the vendors.

Talking on the phone or emailing is no substitute for talking face to face with an exhibitor or curriculum author. Many times I have been able to ask very pointed questions about curriculum as well as receive practical usage tips for curriculum I already loved.

Although you want to be patient and wait your turn to talk to a vendor, don’t rush through a booth without getting your questions answered. Vendors have spent thousands of dollars to exhibit and are eager to tell you about their products. Let them.

5. Buy at the convention.

I learned that some vendors give a discount for buying at the convention. It may be small, but it’s still a savings and helps when you have multiple children.

I wished I had bought more things at my first convention! Being able to put my hands on the curriculum, bring it home immediately without paying shipping, and not having to wait for backorders rate high on my list of convention shopping perks.

6. Public school teachers have continuing education, why shouldn’t you?

Plan to sit in at workshops, take notes and ask questions. Focusing on the needs of your children is important, but as the homeschool educator you need refreshment and resources to help you stay the course.

Be sure you attend as many relevant workshops as you can, and buy the audio recordings for the ones you miss.

You will remember your first time at a homeschool convention. Make it memorable for the right reasons by avoiding some common first time mistakes and walking away renewed for another school year.

BookShark will be at several conventions this year and we hope to see you at one of them. Have you checked our convention schedule?

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