It’s homeschool convention time! I’m so excited! I loved visiting Great Homeschool Convention’s South East Convention at the TD Center last year. There were so many encouraging and informative speakers at this Christian homeschooling convention. And of course there’s the exhibition hall, packed full of curriculum, books, and oh so many kits and gadgets. But I know some folks don’t share my excitement. I’ve heard from many homeschooling moms and dads who avoid these events. Many are afraid of being overwhelmed by the offerings, spending a bit too much in that lovely exhibit hall, or fear long drawn out sales pitches disguised as sessions and workshops. If that sounds like you, read on, especially if you’ve never visited before. ~Maria Bassett, KAG contributor
Tips for making the most of your visit to a homeschool convention
So Many Sessions! Where do I start?
While its subject to change, the convention organizers provide not only a schedule of session titles, but also a detailed summary of what to expect in each session (and a bit about the presenters, too). Spend some time a day or so before the event looking over the offerings, so you’re not left standing in the hall staring at a program booklet of session titles trying to figure out which might be relevant to you. If you print your own list, do make sure you follow the locations listed in the program you receive at check-in. Locations are the most likely to change.
Help! This session…..is not what I thought it was going to be!
I know. You don’t want to be rude. But if you should find yourself in one that’s not quite what you had in mind, or isn’t helpful to you, its okay to get up and find another. There are so many sessions happening concurrently, don’t waste your time if the one you’re in is not for you.
These presenters are all selling something!
Yes, a lot of them are presenting about a specific curriculum, or a specific problem their product can help solve. But here’s the thing. Those sessions are like live, in person manuals to the products. They teach you how those products are structured and are intended to be used. If you skim the exhibit hall (more about that later) and you see something that interests you, check when the representatives from that booth are presenting and go see them. It’s a no stress, no pressure way to hear about a curriculum. Last year, some of these sessions were attended by folks already using the curriculum being presented at the session. They asked questions about how it was intended to be used, or commented about how they use it. So it’s really not just a sales demonstration. To me, that discussion was so helpful. I found the perfect reading program for my special learner this way. And if you’re there, and it doesn’t sound like it will meet your needs, don’t be afraid to go visit another session!
Exhibit Hall. WOAH…….
I might be alone in my curriculum addiction. I don’t know. But I just love looking at all that material. However, it definitely can be overwhelming. My advice? Take a walk through on the first day of the convention purposefully buying nothing. Just take non-committal, no stress walk through. If this is your first time visiting a homeschool exhibit hall, nearly everything you look at is probably going to make you rethink what you’re doing in your homeschool. It’s enough to make your head spin and your wallet empty. But you’re not frazzled! Because you know there’s a lot of excellent material out there, but it’s NOT all excellent for you. So use the map in your program to mark the location of booths with products you might be interested in. See when and what the vendors you marked are presenting about and decide if you want to go to any of their sessions. Remember, most people go to the exhibit hall between sessions, so these are the most crowded times. If the crowds overwhelm you, visit the booths you are interested in when there are sessions happening that don’t really interest you (or if you need a break from sitting and listening!). You’ll be able to see the curriculum and products better, spend more time looking through them, and talk one on one with the representatives.
Buying Curriculum in the Exhibit Hall
There are definitely deals to be found. Last year there was a used book vendor with good deals, and there was a paper and art supply company that had some very inexpensive paper, journals, and more. And while it is true that some curriculum vendors will sell out of some of their products before the weekend is over, many will give you convention pricing if you order it at the convention and have it shipped to you (added bonus, no lugging it around!). So don’t feel pressured to buy before you are ready. And definitely go home and check prices online before you go back for day two or three of the convention and make your purchases.
What sessions do you recommend?
There are so many good sessions, and many are completely new for this convention. However, I will say Kirk Martin’s sessions dealing with parenting, discipline, and behavior struggles are very popular. I also enjoyed several of Heidi St. John’s sessions last year, for a good dose of encouragement and conviction. The value of the sessions involving specific curriculum are too dependent on your own family’s specific homeschooling needs, so I won’t venture into those for recommendations. For a full list of session titles, and a detailed explanation of each session and presenter, go here. (Use the links under the SE convention.)
Want to go?
Greenville’s TD Convention Center
March 10-12 (Registration begins at 2. First session begins at 3:30. Exhibit Hall opens at 6.)
Go here to register ahead for the best price.
Do you have a tip to add to my list for visiting the Great Homeschool Convention?