by Laura, A Reason for Homeschool
I attended my first homeschool convention when my oldest was only three years old. I was grateful for those extra years to get comfortable with the idea of home education and to learn what was available. That was before it was “cool” and now there are so many more resources for homeschoolers. The laws of supply and demand have kicked in – with so much more offered, we moms must exercise even better judgement to make good choices when choosing curriculum.
Whether you are thinking about home education, just starting out, or a veteran mom, I hope this Top Ten list inspires you not only to go to a convention, but to get the most out of it by adopting a strategic, intentional approach to your time there.
1. Why should I go?
Every professional needs to stay current in his field. Nurses, CPAs, graphic designers, pharmacists, stock brokers, engineers, and dieticians—every field offers continuing education to keep professionals abreast of new developments and also to keep them motivated and excited about their life’s work.As a homeschool mom, you are a professional. Your children deserve the best you have to offer. And for you to keep pouring out, you need to get your cup refilled. A homeschool convention is a great opportunity to do that. You will rub shoulders with and be spurred on by those who share your passion and your calling. There is always something new to learn. (And if you think you have it all figured out, please go read Proverbs 16:18.) As the years go by, you may learn fewer new things than when you first began, but sometimes what we really need is to be reminded of what we already believe, to be encouraged to walk in the truth we already know.
2. What should I do before I leave home?
Evaluate the current school year. Ask: What worked well? What didn’t work well? What do we need to change up? What new subjects will be added next year? Do I already have teacher guides, but need to purchase student texts for younger children? Is my child struggling in a certain subject or exhibiting a learning style that might require a different way of learning?After answering these questions, make a tentative list of questions to get answered and books to purchase in order of priority.
3. How can I plan well to maximize my time while there?
Preview the list of speakers and speaking topics. Highlight those you want to hear, and map out a schedule for what seminars you will attend and when you will shop. Make a timetable for yourself. Note the rooms where each seminar will be offered. Because there are multiple seminars offered concurrently, it is imperative you plan to ensure you hear what you need and want. Look online for a map of the convention (or download the app to your smartphone, if available) to get your bearings and help save time when you are on site. Plan to wear comfortable walking shoes, take along snacks and a bottle of water, and consider packing a lunch to save time and money. Take along a wheeled bag or cart to transport your purchases. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the convention begins, leaving plenty of time for parking and arriving before the first session begins. Pack a notebook to jot down notes, websites and blogs you want to check out later, and books you want to read in the future – or, if you prefer, be sure your phone is fully charged each morning so you can use it to take notes throughout the day.And first and foremost, pray before you go!
4. How do I know what advice to accept?
As you listen to speakers and receive advice from various booksellers, remember that YOU are the primary expert on your child(ren). You know them best and love them most. Education is not one-size-fits-all … after all, isn’t that part of the reason we chose to home educate in the first place?Exercise discernment when a speaker says, “I’ve figured this out and this is THE WAY to do this. Trust me!” With all due respect, that comment reeks of more than a little pride. The method may work beautifully in one person’s home and school, but you feel free to accept it, reject it, or tweak it to make it work in yours.In short, think of all the advice, counsel, and great ideas and insights you receive as a church potluck. Everyone believes their recipe for potato salad is the greatest, but maybe you prefer mustard instead of mayo for your base. Choose what works for you, adjust and adapt it to your situation, and feel free to leave some ideas behind entirely.
5. What should I buy?
I conducted a personal survey of several homeschool moms before I attended a convention the summer my oldest was beginning first grade. I had a plan for what I was going to purchase based upon my survey results. When I was able to actually put my hands on the curriculum at the convention, I made a drastic shift in plans. The teacher’s guide was clearly written for someone with an Education degree. It was overwhelming to me. I just could not see myself facing that scary thick teacher guide every day! I learned an important lesson from that experience. The curriculum I choose needs to absolutely fit my children, but it also needs to fit me. If you are not excited about the curriculum at the convention, you certainly won’t be come January, when the novelty has worn off and summer vacation is a distant hope. Bottom line: buy what fits you, as well as what fits your children.
6. What if I make a mistake?
Accept the fact that you will make a mistake. You will, at some point, invest in a book or a curriculum that is not optimal for you and your family. At that point, you have a choice to make: trudge on in misery or sell/give away/trade for something else. If you pull a hammer out of a tool box and realize the job really calls for a screwdriver, do you refuse to switch out? Aren’t your children more important than a shelf in your garage?When you acknowledge up front that you will make mistakes, it’s much easier to recognize them and do a course correction when the time comes.
7. How can I rationalize spending this much money?
Home education is a commitment. We are making sacrifices of our time and our treasure. But our children are worth it! We plan and budget when we want to take a vacation, get a new sofa, or buy a new dress. Home education must also be planned and budgeted. Consider setting aside some money from each pay period during the year, then going into the convention knowing how much you have to spend. It will help you prioritize and make good decisions. And when you think about it, the education you provide for your children will last a lot longer than your sofa or your new dress!
8. How can I differentiate and choose when several options seem workable for our family?
At some point, you will need to just make a choice and make the most of it. Sometimes, we can compare it to buying a new car. Every car will get us from Point A to Point B – some just provide a more comfortable ride with a few more bells and whistles.
9. When should I buy?
Unless there is an awesome deal the first night of the convention, I recommend looking the first day and then going home (or to your hotel room) and spreading out the options. Compare what you what to buy with the priority list you made before the convention. Most assuredly, you encountered a new product. It may very well be the answer to your prayer for a struggling child in a challenging subject. Taking some time to think through and pray through will confirm your decision and ensure it is well thought out. Then go buy the next day.
10. Why should I buy products at the convention?
My answer to this question may be a little self-serving, as our blog is sponsored by a curriculum provider who has a booth at many homeschool conventions. (You can see the schedule here.) Let me candidly make you aware – if you are not already – that the vendors who attend these conventions are underwriting a huge portion of the cost of bringing the event to you. Admission fees alone don’t begin to provide the funds required to make these amazing conventions possible. When you choose to attend and make a purchase, you are helping to support these vendors and encourage them to keep coming back year after year, so you continue to have an opportunity to learn and be encouraged. Please support them.
So, then … why should you go to one of the homeschool conventions near you? Yes, I do realize I’ve already answered that question, but I wanted to end where I began and give you one last why for going: JOY! You will enjoy this time. There is something amazing about sitting in a room listening to a speaker with other attendees who are part of your “tribe.” You may not know each other by name, but you share the same heartbeat, the same passion. It’s truly exhilarating to walk into a crowded convention hall and feel an instant connection with all the other parents in that room who share your worldview and aspirations for their children.
Be blessed. Be encouraged. Encourage someone there. Make a new friend. Expect to get your cup filled so you can home and keep on pouring out.
I hope to see you at the 35th Anniversary CHEACon in Pasadena, June 28-30, 2018.
Editor’s Note: Attend Laura’s convention workshop, “Mary Heart + Martha Home = Peace and Joy” on Saturday, June 30, 12:40 – 1:20 p.m. You can also visit Laura at the “A Reason for Homeschool” booth in the exhibit hall. On-site registration will be available for the CHEA Convention at the Pasadena Convention Center, June 28-30, 2018. Please visit the CHEA Convention website for additional details and pricing information.
Laura and her husband Kevin have four amazing adult children, two precious daughters-in-love, and one grandchild! After devoting 20 years to home education, she now teaches a weekly women’s Bible study and writes, speaks, and teaches through her non-profit, Cross My Heart Ministry. Laura is a CPA, a volunteer hospital chaplain, and has served as an adjunct professor at John Brown University. Her passion is encouraging women to love God and love His Word.
First published April 3, 2018 and excerpt used with permission.