Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Navigating Homeschool Conventions

My shopping buddy, Stephanie gathering up her
convention purchases!
We are half-way through March which means the homeschool convention season is about to begin (or has begun for some!). Conventions are a great way to get up close and personal with curriculum publishers and the products they offer. Publishers usually offer a discount ranging from 10% or more off your purchase to free shipping on ordered items.Beyond all of the new curriculum for you to look at, most conventions offer break out sessions with encouraging speakers. And let's not forget the satisfaction of walking to your car with your arms loaded with books for the new school year. There really is nothing like being surrounded by your favorite curriculum in a room full of other like minded parents. Conventions really can be a homeschooling dream come true.

They can also be a nightmare. Yes, conventions are a great way to save money and get all of your homeschooling material in one place, but they are also intimidating to first time attendees and even to those of us who have been several times! Going in blind is the surest way to overwhelm yourself with all of the great options offered at conventions. Let me help you prepare for the convention season by giving you a few pointers.

1. Pre-register. In the age of the internet, most conventions have a website with an online registration option. Not only will this save you time when you arrive, but you often get a discounted price on convention tickets when you pre-register. For our local convention that translates into a $10 per ticket savings!

2. Visit the convention website and check out the speaker list. You will want to decide which break out sessions, if any that you want to go to. Most of the bigger conventions last 2 days so knowing which speakers you want to listen to will help you decide which day(s) you want to attend. Remember, these are totally optional. You can skip the speakers all together, but be sure to check out the list because there just might be someone you really want to hear!

3. Visit the convention website and check out the vendor list and the floor layout. I know this sounds silly but you will want to go in with at least some idea of how the floor is laid out. You should also take a moment to mark which vendors you definitely want to visit. It is easy to get lost in the sea of vendor booths if you don't have a plan.

4. Have a budget before you go. Better yet, take cash. Oh, if I could only give you one piece of advice this would be it. I love most of the homeschool publishing companies that I have had contact with, but at convention everything seems to draw me in. Going without a budget is a rookie mistake that will cost you dearly if you tend to be like me and are easily distracted by shiny new books.

5. Know that it is ok to walk away. I hate to put it this way, but sometimes, vendors can get pushy. Think used car salesman. You need to know before you go that you may have to walk away from a vendor who is still trying to sell their product. I found out the hard way that trying to be "polite" can cost you a lot of time.

6. Go with a friend. This is not an absolute must, but it is so much more fun to share the car ride and the convention experience with friends!

Conventions, in my opinion, are a must have experience for homeschoolers and with the right preparation can be an exciting and encouraging experience for you!

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