by Susan K. Stewart

Brain Drain – (n) what happens to most of us when we leave a convention

You know the feeling. You arrive the first morning, fresh, ready for all the wonderful and inspiring things that you will learn at the Convention. You leave when the lights go out wondering how you could already forget those unforgettable pearls of wisdom. No problem you say, you’ll just review your notes. Really, what happens to those notes? They are laid aside when you unpack and unwind. When you do finally bring them out, there is no way that you can decipher what you have written. You begin to wonder why you went to all those workshops anyway. For your trip to the Convention to be meaningful, you must be able to use the information that you gather. Let’s look at a method that will help you pull out those fine ideas even after Brain Drain has occurred.

  1. Preview materials. Before attending a workshop read the description carefully and review the speaker’s syllabus pages, if available. By knowing what to expect, you can concentrate on what the speaker has to offer.
  2. Prepare to ask pertinent questions. Preparing your questions before the workshop will help you to listen for information that is important to you. When the speaker answers that question during the workshop, note his answer and how to apply it to your home school. If the speaker does not answer your question, you are prepared during the question/answer period.
  3. Sit in the second or third row from the front. Most people tend to start sitting in the middle of the room. Be bold. Go right to the front. If possible, move to the center of the row; you’ll not be distracted by latecomers. Now you can focus on the speaker and your mind will not wander as easily (especially important after lunch). You will also have eye contact with the speaker, very important when you want to ask a question. When you are at the front of the room you hear more clearly and have a better view of any visual aids.
  4. Listen for pertinent ideas. Don’t try to take notes on everything the speaker says. Listen for what meets your needs (based on your pertinent questions) and note inspirations that you can actively use. You’ll get 80% of what you want to know from 20% of the material presented.
  5. Be concise. Don’t try to take word for word notes. Using the outline provided, your previous reviews, and pertinent questions, you’ll be able to take notes that apply to you.
  6. Review immediately. This can be an impossible task when you get home from the Convention suffering from Brain Drain. So review immediately after the workshop. Stay in the room a few moments to look over your notes. This will put the important ideas firm in your mind.
  7. Don’t lose your notes. This may sound silly but if you have attended many Conventions you know how notes can pile up in a file cabinet. When you get home, store the notes from workshops you attended with your lesson plan book. When you begin planning for the next school year, your wonderful ideas will be right at your fingertips. Download syllabus pages of workshops that you will be listening to on CD or MP3, store those with your tapes. Again, they will be handy when you need them.
  8. Put your ideas to work. Sort through your new ideas again while you are planning your school year. You will be inspired at the right to time to implement them. Your inspirations will become a reality.
  9. Be discerning. At home, under the reflection of reality, you may find that some of those great Convention inspirations just aren’t going to work. Discard them. It’s o.k. not to try everything that sounded so good in the glow of the Convention.

Brain Drain needn’t destroy your Convention experience. A little advanced planning can make the Annual Convention a time of learning, encouragement, and unforgettable.

Copyright 2013. Used by permission of the author.

Susan and her husband Bob began homeschooling their three children in 1981, graduating all three from high school at home. Susan speaks and writes on homeschooling for CHEA as well as for other organizations and publications. Susan is also the author of Science in the Kitchen: Fearless Science at Home for All Ages and Preschool: At What Cost?. She currently serves as CHEA’s Communication Adviser and CHEA’s Prayer Partner Chair. You may contact Susan at [email protected].