So, the homeschool conference is approaching and you’re wondering — should you, or shouldn’t you?
You’re not sure what you’ll find there.
It requires travel.
There’s child care to think about.
Plus, those ticket prices are enough to feed the family for a week.
Despite all the objections, I say go for it. Turns out, attending a homeschool convention is a really great investment, financially and otherwise.
Here’s why you should go:
1. Easily get your ticket price back. Between conference discounts on books and materials, freebies you receive throughout the exhibit hall, and money saved on shipping when buying online, the ticket price easily pays for itself. Though it may seem steep (and it is), even a $50 or $100 registration price is no match for saving 20-50% on thousands of materials you’d normally buy online, plus that goodie bag full of paperbacks, office supplies and CDs they’ll hand you at the door. Just buy the ticket.
2. Find the best products for your student. Conferences with vendor exhibits offer the chance to browse materials before buying, insuring a better fit for every student. Better yet, take the student with you, and let him/her choose books themselves. Bonus? This saves money by avoiding expensive returns and restocking fees when buying the wrong products from home, or worse, holding onto items you can’t return and will probably never use.
3. Connect with the people you really want to meet. By meeting book authors, curriculum developers, real parents who use methods and products, plus lots of other homeschoolers with the same questions, you’re gaining valuable information that’s impossible to get anywhere else — at least not all in once place. There is no equivalent to talking one-on-on with people and getting questions answered on the spot. Very satisfying and optimally efficient, if you ask me.
4. Expose yourself to new things. Conferences are opportunities to learn new things, hear of new products, and share in discussions about new practices. Chatting with new people offers a different perspective from the year before. The homeschool market changes rapidly. Sometimes, attending a conference is the only time during the year you’ll hear what’s new.
5. Solve difficult educational or parenting challenges. Conference speakers are there to help you. Choosing conference sessions wisely means you’ll hear from real people with real challenges just like you. Parents who have met with difficult situations, solved a problem, or conquered a particular obstacle can offer real words of encouragement in the areas you need most. Take advantage of sessions, even with speakers who are lesser-known or those that appear to be poorly-attended — as these could be the sessions that speak to you most.
6. Feel a part of a larger community. Homeschooling is not a solitary activity, but occasionally families act like it is. Attending a conference is an excellent way to see and feel the sheer number of people who do what you do. This is particularly beneficial for kids who feel they are missing out on opportunities or may never have friends. Few things make such an impact as standing in the center of a room surrounded by hundreds of other people who either look, think or act like you, and who care about the very same things.
7. Find out what homeschooling really is. And, by this, I mean, what homeschool is not. Should you or your partner be entering homeschooling with the notion that it’s exactly like school — only at home – then attending a conference is guaranteed to be a real eye-opener. Hearing about schooling without books, schooling on the road, self-directed learning, schooling multiple ages, and many other different philosophies and approaches will help shatter the image of duplicating a classroom at home, and encourage creating something new and better at home instead.
8. Challenge yourself. To tackle a new subject. To teach a new course. To break out of a mold you and your children seem to be stuck in. When homeschooling, playing it safe is not always the way to go. Now — conference time – is the time to face it head on. Attending with a specific goal in mind helps focus your attention on finding resources throughout the day. Don’t be afraid — conferences seem to have a way of giving parents confidence about things they need most.
9. Renew your commitment. If you’ve had a bad year, or you’re on the brink of a breakdown after weeks of wrapping up lessons or dealing with disobedient children, the last thing you want to do is think about the joys of homeschooling. But contrary as it may seem, that’s exactly why you need to go to a conference. Remember the last time somebody told you to start exercising (it will give you more energy, they said)? It’s the same thing. Don’t quit just yet. Do one last thing before you shelve the books for a while. Head to the nearest conference to remember the reasons you started homeschooling to begin with.
10. Leave feeling a whole lot better. Whether it lasts one day or three, there is nothing like a good homeschool conference to change a person. While there may be nervousness or frustration (even tears) on the way in, most everyone goes home with a smile at the end of the day. Sore arms and tired feet aside (an uncomfortable, yet welcome, consequence of attending larger conferences) the feelings of encouragement, refreshment, renewal and new-found motivation that come from attending a homeschool conference cannot be found anywhere else.
For new and prospective homeschoolers, I always suggest starting with a smaller conference first. Larger conferences can be overwhelming, to say the least, and come with a lot of pressure to spend, spend, spend. Veterans should absolutely tackle the larger conferences, but new comers are advised to start with baby steps.
And if I haven’t convinced you to register for a homeschool conference right away, how about one final reason to go — to have a day off with friends? Forget everything you know about homeschooling and simply enjoy a day off with friends or families you rarely see throughout the year. Pack up the kids, grab a hotel room, and just enjoy the social aspect of taking time off and doing something different!
Will you be coming to any of the Florida conferences this year? If you do, please look for me, so I can say hello!
Related posts you might like: