Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for a Homeschool ConventionTyler Hogan
After speaking and selling at homeschool conventions year after year, we’ve gotten pretty good at identifying the newbie homeschool moms. The ones with the sad-but-cute deer-in-the-headlights look and the overwhelmed-yet-enthusiastic manners are pretty easy to spot.
It can be hard to navigate a vendor hall, so for you first-timers and repeat convention-goers here is my top 10 list of dos and don’ts for homeschool conventions.
Homeschool Convention Dos
- Check ahead of time on the conference’s website for a speaker schedule. Print it out and highlight which workshops you have to attend, which would be nice, and which you should buy the MP3 replay for.
- Come equipped! You’ll want a rolling cart or suitcase for your purchases (they get heavy quickly), a sheet of address labels (for mailing list sign-ups), pens/highlighters/paperclips (for notes, marking on your convention program, or annotating catalogs you pick up from booths).
- Make a list ahead of time of what programs you know you need, what subjects you need to investigate, and what extras you’d like if you have leftover money. Feel free to ask vendors if they have a particular item on your list. Most of them know their stock backwards and forwards and can save you a lot of time browsing through shelves.
- Ask lots of questions. The vendors are usually quite familiar with their products (and their competition’s too) and can help you decide if a particular program is right for your family. (As a courtesy, if you spend a lot of time with a vendor, don’t go buy it from someone else for $5 less. The worker is worthy of his wages.)
- Go through the whole hall quickly and highlight on your program which booths you want to visit again. On your second pass, pace yourself. Take water breaks. Sit down some. You don’t want to end the day dehydrated, with hurting feet and a headache.
Homeschool Convention Don’ts
- Don’t go without a budget! There are far too many wonderful books, maps, DVDs, programs, gadgets, and toys out there for you to buy them all. Know how much you can afford for each subject; then don’t spend more then that. Make sure you bring your checkbook in addition to any plastic you might bring, as some smaller vendors don’t take credit.
- Don’t bring your younger kids if you can help it. Older kids are usually fine and can give good input on which programs appeal to them, but younger ones get tired, hungry, bored, or (terrors!) lost after long hours in a big hall. Let your spouse spend the day with the smaller ones, or let them spend the weekend with family or trusted friends. It will free you up to make the most of your time.
- Don’t buy anything on the first day. Spend those hours collecting catalogs, talking with vendors, and finding out who has what. That night, compare prices, and make a list of what to buy the next day. It’s way too easy to spend a fortune on impulse, but it’s always better to take a night to think over any potential purchases.
- Don’t buy the vendor hall food. It’s almost always overpriced and often not very good (besides, sales usually benefit the conference hall, not the association renting it). Better to pack snacks or meals in a cooler to leave in your hotel room.
- Don’t skimp on staying the night. Most conventions offer special rates at nearby hotels or within the conference center. Take advantage of them! Taking a long drive there and back for two or three days is exhausting, and you’ll likely spend as much in gas as you would on a room.