Simple Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Conference Time
by Kristi Clover
{This article was featured in CHEA’s California Parent Educator Digital Magazine May/June 2015}

It’s that time of year again—homeschool conference time! Time to get inspired, learn something new, find some new ideas, and buy assorted curriculum needs—and be reminded that you are not alone on this homeschool journey.

Inspiration is what we all crave as homeschool moms, especially by spring. We are tired and running out of energy to finish the year strong. So homeschool conferences are often just what we need to get rejuvenated.

I love conferences! I’m kind of known as a conference junkie. I actually attended three one year, all within a few weeks of each other. But attending your first conference can be a bit overwhelming. In fact, I found conferences to be a bit daunting for my first few years of homeschooling. Information and curriculum overload. However, now I am pretty settled into my homeschool routines and needs, so I just enjoy the great lectures and seeing what’s new to the exhibit hall.

Conferences are great for getting our questions answered. Whether you are new to homeschooling or have been at it for a while, we always end up wondering if there is some other way we can tweak things within our homeschool. And really there are just times we want to scream, “HELP!” So, listening to a veteran homeschool speaker can be just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, there are always subjects we either don’t particularly like or aren’t particularly strong in. Conferences are great at helping us find tools and the tips we need. Sometimes it’s great just to get advice on how to handle homeschooling with preschoolers or how to keep records (if your state requires it).

Finding a Conference Near You
There are usually homeschool conferences held through your local homeschool support groups. However, there are a few that are statewide, as well as nationwide. You will have to check on what conferences are in your area. Most conferences have amazing speakers who are homeschool veterans and curriculum writers. The information to be gleaned is endless!

As I am in California, I have to highly recommend CHEA of California. They have great speakers and information about “all things homeschooling” — and parenting. Fun fact: HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) & FPM (Family Protection Ministries) both have strong ties to CHEA of CA (in fact, FPM got its start from CHEA).

If there is more than one conference in your area and you can’t figure out which one to attend, just narrow your decision down by looking at dates, topics and speakers that look interesting. The larger the conference, the more exhibitors there will be. If there is a particular exhibitor or curriculum you are interested in seeing, then check the list of exhibitors.

One thing that I recently learned is that not all conferences are created equal when it comes to where the income from the conference goes. For instance, CHEA of California pours the money it earns from the conference back into running its ministry of helping homeschoolers, homeschool groups, and maintaining our homeschooling freedoms. Other large conferences are for profit. So, no money goes back into supporting you as a homeschooler in your state. However, they all provide incredible speakers and venders.

To find a conference in your area, check out:
(The conferences listed on this site are typically sponsored by your state’s homeschool support organization.)

The Speaker List
The list of speakers is sometimes a bit overwhelming, especially at large conventions. So many great lectures all in the same time slot. So, here are a few tips that I’ve found helps me to organize my convention time and get the most out of it:

Print up the schedule with the speakers and lectures on it
Look through and mark which topics look interesting
Look at the bios (and websites) of the speakers and mark the ones you might want to hear
If there is more than one lecture of interest in a time slot, think through which one you’d like to sit through and which one you might want to just get the CD. Keep in mind whether the topic is one that might have visuals that you should be present for.
Make a note of any lectures you decided to get CDs of. CDs will be available shortly after the allotted time.
Don’t forget to pray over your time at the conference — that God will lead you to the resources that will best help your homeschool

The Exhibit Hall
Books, books, and more books. My mind spins at the onslaught of choices ahead of me as I walked into my first homeschool conference. I keep thinking, “I need that! and that! and that?”

Some exhibit halls can be overwhelming, especially the bigger conferences. You will want a game plan when it comes to the exhibit hall, here are some tips to help you organize your own plan of attack:

Look through the list of exhibitors and which ones look interesting — curriculums you want to get your hands on and look through. If you are totally new to homeschooling and haven’t a clue where to start at all, I highly recommend looking at Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. This book is great for helping you narrow down what curriculum might be best suited for you and your students.
Research the vendors you might want to be sure to stop by. You can usually look at their websites.
Make a list of any supplies you need and which vendors may have them.
I try to have my course of study somewhat figured out so that I know exactly what I need to be looking for — a course of study is a list of all the subjects you will teach and the materials you will use to teach them.

To do a basic outline of a course of study, just:
List all the subjects you’re going to teach and what materials you might need
List the different curriculum you might want to look at, if there is more than one that you’re interested in (ex. Math U See versus Teaching Textbooks)
Once at the conference, you will be given a map of all the exhibitors and where they are located on the floor. I, again, circle or mark all the places I want to visit from my previously made list. I sometimes even write a little note of what I want to look at or get at that particular exhibit. This all just streamlines your time there.

* Don’t forget to save time to go to the exhibit hall. There are so many great lectures, but you will want to allot time to go explore the exhibits.

What to Bring
Back pack with wheels. You will be getting lots of catalogs and possibly curriculum items. Carrying all this gets tiring without wheels. Some people even have small suitcases with wheels.
Notebook and pen for taking notes during lectures, plus notes at the exhibit hall.
Your printed copy of the lectures with notes on which talks you will be attending and which ones you will get the CDs for
Snacks and water bottle-there isn’t always time for getting away for a meal. Some exhibit halls have lunch items, some don’t and you might have to walk or drive to get food. If you are a real go-getter and saver, you can pack a lunch.
Ear plugs (if you are staying in a hotel) – I always forget how noisy it can be in a hotel room.
Your big kids. If your kids are old enough to appreciate lectures and the exhibit hall, it’s great to bring them along. Most conferences have lectures just for kids. I plan to take my 12 year old to at least one conference this year.

Breaking News: I am going to be speaking at this year’s CHEA Convention in Pasadena, CA June 28-30, 2018. Come out and support CHEA — and me.
New to Raising Clovers?

Clover for AC16Kristi is our Featured Speaker for CHEA’s 35th Annual Homeschool Convention June 28-30. She is also hosting our Bloggers Night Out Friday June 29. Visit Kristi’s blog.

Kristi will be speaking on the following:

Sanity Savers for a Homeschool Mom
Family Unity Through Traditions and Fun!
Help! I Homeschool and My House is a Mess
Getting Started! The Nitty-Gritty of Setting Up Your Homeschool in California