For years, I have referred to our local homeschool conference as “summer camp for the adults.”
Your friends, your favorite speaker, caffeine, and tons of books. Sounds like the perfect retreat to me!
This is what I learned and what I think you need to know for your first conference:
1) Be prepared. There will probably be tons and tons of people. For that reason, be prepared: arrive early, locate exits if you need people breaks (this is for my introvert friends), have charged cell phones to keep track of missing and meandering family members, and there’s no shame in having a leash on a child if your child is a crowd-runner –you know, the kid who always runs off when there are a billion people around.
2) Bring a rolling cart or better yet a stroller or wagon to contain your items. There’s always freebies, pamphlets, purses, food, plus your purchases.
3) Set a budget. This should go without saying, but set a budget before you go. Between the curriculum hall and the used book sale, it’s like a homeschool mom’s candy shop. Best to limit the candy purchases because you may not have the option to return the purchase once the conference is over.
4) Prioritize. There’s probably more to see and do than you have time for. So look at the program/schedule ahead of time if you can. It’s usually posted online, and see what interests you the most. Prioritize the best you can so that you don’t miss what’s absolutely necessary. This way you don’t leave without remembering to buy that one curriculum that you came for.
5) Be aware of the curriculum hall. It’s not like it was in the 80s when we only had Abeka, Bob Jones, Saxon, and Rod & Staff. It can be very overwhelming because there are hundreds of choices. This is how I handled the curriculum hall: before we attended the conference, I researched various curriculum that I wanted to view in real life before purchasing. Then, I asked friends for recommendations for similar curriculum. On the first day, I looked at every option I could find. I took notes and photos. That night in the middle of the 2-day conference, I did research, compared product, read reviews online, and made my selection. Then the next day, I went back and bought my selections. This of course won’t work for a used sale which is why I recommend the barcode reader in the next section.
6) Price compare. If you can, get the Barcode Scanner for Amazon App so that you can compare prices. I’m all for supporting the small businesses at the homeschool conference, but if you can get the book used for $4 with free shipping on Amazon why pay $35 for it new? If you have the funds to pay more and wish to do so, that’s fine. But if not, you won’t regret your purchase later when you find you spent 10 times as much. This is especially useful at the used curriculum sale where I recommend checking online prices after I made some regretful purchases. Even compare between vendors. I once found a book for $10 cheaper at a different vendor.
7) Bring your own food. Find out if you can bring your own food. Some venues will not allow it. If you want to and you’re able, this might be a better option. Not only can you save money and control what you eat, but you won’t have to wait in line. In my experience at multiple conferences, the venue was not prepared to feed that amount of people all at one time during the one hour set aside for lunch. I waited over an hour for fast food at one venue. I have food allergies now so I have to bring my own food, but I recommend at the very least bringing snacks in the event that you’re waiting an hour with very hungry children for your corn dogs and curly fries. I’m not saying that will happen, only that it has happened before.
There you have it, the seven things I think you need to know about homeschool conferences. Even if you don’t follow my advice, go! It is so worth it just for the encouragement.
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend the OCEANetwork Conference in Portland Oregon.
Come to the 2017 Oregon Christian Home Education Conference June 23-24!
Find the encouragement and support you need for your homeschool! You’ll enjoy amazing speakers including keynote Heidi St. John, a fantastic vendor hall, a used curriculum sale, and activities for the kids.