As valuable as they are, conventions can be overwhelming, budget-blowing venues for the unprepared. Get ready this year with tips from the pros!
Mental Prep Checklist
1. Call the convention number in advance and pre-register
This will often add discounted hotel prices and free events. Ask about stroller/nursing accommodations, child programs, and extra family events. Note these things.
2. Keep a file detailing needed purchases
Pro Tip: Make this info work for you by including prices. Then you become knowledgeable enough to compare. Convention prices include discounted rates and free shipping, but it helps to know if you’re getting a deal. Once you’re at the convention, use your phone to take pictures of wants and needs to be placed in future files.
3. Before you leave home, be sure to set a budget
It should include money for gas, food, accommodations, family fun, and books and curriculum.
Pro Tip: Decide on an extra amount of cash to bring. Use this money for fabulous deals and unexpected finds. This provides flexibility with reasonable accountability.
4. Consider helpers
Could Grandma come along and entertain the kids in the hotel or at the convention? If hubby can’t make it, could you team up with another mom and alternate child care? Maybe paying a young teen, if you don’t have one yourself, would help?
5. Read the online convention schedule
This often uploaded months ahead of time. Extract the names, times, and locations of the sessions you’d like to attend. This information will be valuable when you plan.
Pro Tip: Pray; ask God to use the convention to deliver what you need (curriculum, advice, encouragement).
6. Pack comfortable clothes and shoes
Bring a sweater (even in summer; convention halls are cold).
7. Pack a variety of small snacks and a water bottle
Pack snacks and water for each attending family member. Food is typically expensive at conventions.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to spend most of your money on the convention and not on food, prep and freeze slow cooker meals in advance in large freezer bags. These flat meal bags will fit in a cooler. Bring a slow cooker and cook or microwave meals in your hotel room. The savings are enormous.
8. You’ll also need paper or a notebook and pens
A clipboard is essential since workshop rooms contain mostly chairs with few hard surfaces.
Pro Tip: Bring address labels, an address stamp, or business cards with double-sided tape on the back. When someone or something requires your info, just hand it over or tape it down.
9. Invest in a pull cart
Books weigh a ton, plus you’ll receive several pounds of informational papers. Give your shoulders and back a break. Pull something that will carry it all.
10. Don’t forget a small essentials bag to hold your ID, debit card, and cash
The best choices include side bags, a wrist clutch, or a cross-body bag.
Convention Plan Checklist
11. Start with your book list
It may be easier to navigate if you make a spreadsheet with a price column and a column for the location of the cheapest source. You may be surprised to learn that large book companies that carry many selections sometimes have cheaper books than the wholesaler. Highlight your top needs.
12. Add a column or separate list
Make a column or separate list for the information you extracted earlier about the times and locations of particular sessions. Add this to your plan.
Pro Tip: Families who’ve been to a convention or two already know that there isn’t enough time or energy to attend all the sessions. They overcome this problem by dividing the sessions among family members (teens can take notes) and/or purchasing audio versions for a small fee. Many families listen to and discuss these selections on the ride home.
13. Make a schedule that includes at least two separate times to view the convention hall
Don’t buy anything until you’ve been through the exhibit hall at least once and had time to process it all. Many families make all their purchases at once. This eliminates surprise totals.
14. Allow time to talk to vendors
These people know their products, but many are also knowledgeable about homeschooling in general.
15. Ask these questions when considering a curriculum:
- Does it have a K–12 program?
- Is it tested?
- Do evaluations coordinate with daily work?
- Are there connections between subjects?
- Does it have lesson plans?
- Could I use this to teach multiple children?
- Does it have a scope (info a particular grade should learn) and sequence (the particular order to learn it)?
16. Schedule a time to talk
with your spouse or a close friend before making major purchases and curriculum decisions. These can be some of the weightiest decisions of the year. Relieve the stress by sharing the burden.
17. Bring busy bags, books, or electronic games to entertain your children
While there are pockets of fun for kids, this event requires patience and waiting from children.
18. Go through everyone’s handouts
during lunch and supper each day. Highlight pertinent information. Throw the other papers away.
19. Allow time to discuss
what everyone is learning.
ProTip: Veteran homeschooling families add action points to the items discussed.
Convention Hall Checklist
20. Make copies of the schedule
for family members. Have a plan for everyone, even if it involves playing in the pool with Grandma. Designate check-in times.
21. Purchase the most expensive items first
If you are making multiple purchases, give someone the job of keeping a running total of what’s been spent.
22. Put greater emphasis on attending workshops that answer questions you’re currently asking
After that, attend workshops presented by known speakers or ones that seem interesting. Think about this question, “Is this workshop about a product or is it otherwise informational/inspirational?” Try to attend a blend of both types.
23. Make sure you have copies of the convention map
One for every family member attending sessions. It’s sometimes easy to get lost.
24. Use the map to mark vendor locations
Orient yourself by looking for vendors with large signs that hang from the ceiling or rise above the others.
25. Take advantage of the refreshing fellowship
Meet as many people as you can!
Pro Tip: Don’t let the free vendor and presenter expertise go to waste. Be in the hall or at the sessions early and ask questions.
There are few events of greater value than a good homeschool convention. The people met, the conversations enjoyed, and the information learned to sharpen and inspire homeschooling moms. Often, a homeschool convention also confirms God’s call, and with it, the confidence to continue.
Abeka will be coming to several homeschool conventions this year. Come see us!
Download this checklist to help you here!