Planning for Your First Homeschool Conference
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 12, 2010
It’s the time of year to prepare for homeschool conferences! If you are planning to homeschool next year–or even in a year or two–and you’ve never been to a homeschool conference–I hope you’ll consider attending this year. Conferences are a blessing that’s not to be missed; they will give you the confidence to know that you can homeschool. You can learn all about homeschooling legalities, methods, support, and more (most conferences offer a “newbie” track that explains all the basics), as well as having the opportunity to look at curriculum “hands-on” before you buy. Here are some tips to help you get all you can out of your first conference:
~Pre-register. If you preregister for your conference, you’ll save time and money.
~Check for deals: Many conferences offer free admission (for one conference day) to parents of children ages 5 and under who are planning to homeschool the following year. Almost all offer a “free information” night to families who are still making the decision.
Check and see if you can save money on registration by joining your state’s support group first. Many times joining your state group will get you a discount on membership in HSLDA as well.
If you have to travel for your conference, try to car pool with a friend if possible. Reserve your hotel room in advance and share that, too.
~Plan ahead: Be sure to study your conference’s schedule and plan your day ahead of time. Don’t skip the keynote speaker or the “warm up”; they add to the total experience. When you plan your day, remember that you’ll want to schedule plenty of free time to browse the used curriculum sale (go early if you can–the good stuff goes fast), as well as the convention hall.
Before I leave home, I make a list of the things I must buy, the things I want to buy and the things I want to look at.
~What to bring: Most large conferences are held in hotels or convention halls, which are notoriously cold—so be sure to bring a light sweater, and dress in layers. Plan to wear modest clothing and comfortable walking shoes (tennis shoes are best); wear a fanny pack or bring a lightweight, over-the-shoulder (no hands) purse. You’ll also need bottled water, snacks and/or a sack lunch if these are allowed (you won’t want to leave the conference for lunch—you’ll want to browse the convention hall or discuss the lectures with friends.) You’ll also need something for taking notes. If you pre-register, you might be provided with a bundle of maps, seminar descriptions, outlines and notes that are pre-punched for a three ring binder—so bring a binder! But remember that you’ll still want blank paper as well. Finally, you’ll need something to carry your goodies in. Find out if your conference allows a small crate on wheels or a small wheeled suitcase. If not, you’ll at least want to bring a roomy, lightweight canvass bag for catalogs and purchases. Tip; It’s worth the time it takes to stash your goodies in a locker, car, or hotel room (if it’s close enough) once in a while so that you can save your back.
~Budget: Be sure you and your husband have agreed on a budget before you leave for conference. Remember that you will usually save money by buying there. This is because many vendors offer specials, and because you won’t be paying shipping costs. Purchase the items on your “must buy” list first, and then decide what else you want/need.
You’ll want to have at least some cash, and if you bring a credit card, make sure you stick to your limit. Most vendors do take the more common credit cards.
When I plan my budget, I plan for travel expenses, lodging, food, curriculum, some inexpensive but fun surprises for the kids, and some books to help me teach or encourage me (“teacher training”; I’ll share my favorites in my next post.)
To find your local conferences, Google your state’s name and “homeschool conferences,” check with your state’s support group (find them at www.hslda.org ) or look on these sites: http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/calendar/events.htm
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.