Safely Navigating a Homeschool ConventionLeah Courtney
As spring nears, homeschool conventions around the country begin. Chances are there is a homeschool convention near you. If you’re a new homeschooler or even a seasoned homeschooler who has never had the opportunity to go to a homeschool convention, I can definitely say that they are informative and encouraging — very worthwhile.
But there are some dangers in attending a homeschool convention. If you go in unprepared, you might end up leaving frustrated and overwhelmed instead of encouraged and empowered. So pull out your convention checklist, workshop schedule, and vendor list and get ready to prepare to avoid the dangers of your upcoming homeschool convention.
The Danger of Over-Planning
I’m a planner. I love to plan. I love calendars and checklists and schedules. When I went to my first homeschool convention, I planned it out to the last detail. I eagerly printed out the workshop schedule from the convention website, and I began to plan.
I had everything laid out in perfect detail. I read the workshop descriptions and the large group meeting descriptions, and I starred everything we needed to attend and allocated time for walking the vendor hall. I had it all together.
And it worked perfectly until we actually arrived.
Because we arrived later than expected, we missed a workshop. And then I needed more time in the vendor hall than my original schedule allowed. And then that speaker was so good, I needed to hear her next workshop, but I hadn’t planned for that one. Aaaak! Instead of enjoying the speakers and wandering the vendor hall in peace, I spent the day in turmoil worrying about what we didn’t get done.
I quickly learned that to get the most out of the convention, I had to have a FLEXIBLE schedule. I could mark workshops that sounded interesting and vendors that looked promising. But all in all, I really needed to take a step back and be flexible. I learned that over-planning can cause unneeded pressure and stress.
The Danger of Comparing
Sometimes we homeschooling moms fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with other homeschooling families. This can be bad online when we read other homeschool blogs or look at all the great Facebook pictures of another family’s last field trip. Comparison can rear its ugly head at the homeschool convention also.
We haven’t ever taken our whole family to the convention because we use it as a date weekend. But sometimes we see those families — dressed in matching clothing, the children quiet and patient in the adult workshops or trooping off happily to the kids’ program. The mom talks excitedly about the Latin class the violin lessons, and the Hebrew class. And I cringe inside when it seems my family doesn’t measure up to that.
The truth is, no homeschool family is perfect. My family doesn’t need to be compared with anyone else’s. We just need to be seeking God’s will for our homeschooling and doing what He’s led us to do. Don’t let the convention be a place where you leave discouraged because you don’t measure up to some assumed standard.
The Danger of Too Many Great Ideas
I get so much great information from the convention workshops: great curriculum programs, new ways to teach my kids, even how to lead a more healthy lifestyle. I’ve been encouraged, informed, and deeply inspired.
But I’ve also gotten carried away. The first few times I attended homeschool conventions, I think my kids were afraid to see me come home because I wanted to implement every great new idea I had learned. I wanted to add classes to our schedule and start this record keeping program. I wanted us to try new foods.
The kids weren’t impressed. They knew that all this “inspiration” meant mom was running around like a crazy person, making changes and adding new work for them to do. And I couldn’t maintain that enthusiasm very long because I quickly realized that now I had an over packed schedule and new curricula that didn’t work for my kids. And then I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, and I felt like I had failed to do these wonderful new things I had learned.
Thankfully, God has shown me (though I’ve been slow to learn) that we don’t have to do everything that is so wonderful for someone else. What worked so well for that workshop speaker might not fit with my family’s needs and goals. That new class or new curriculum might be amazing. But adding it to our schedule right now might not be the right thing to do. Now I go to the convention with a goal in mind. I know where we’re headed. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to turn down something wonderful that just doesn’t fit.
Homeschool conventions can be great sources of support and encouragement. Attend one this year if you can. But go in prepared. Avoid the dangers. Then you can walk away inspired and renewed instead of frustrated and overwhelmed.