by Anjuli Watanabe, CHEA Events Manager

It’s convention time! CHEA’s 36th Annual Homeschool Convention is July 11-13, 2019 at the Pasadena Convention Center. For some, attending Convention brings an overwhelming sense of dread, for others it feels like Christmas. I, admittedly, fall into the latter category. I am very extroverted and cannot wait to spend my days around others, talking and running around the convention floor. My friend, who is introverted, loves Convention, too. She likes walking the floor, taking in the sessions, and running into old acquaintances.

There is something for everyone. If you are a bit overwhelmed, or just want to make sure you are fully prepared, I have a list of tips and ideas to help make this a fun and memorable Convention!

Do your homework. We have all the sessions and exhibitors listed online for you to look over and explore. Print them out and mark the ones you are most interested in. We even list them by topic so you can find the sessions that may be of interest to you. If there are multiple workshops at the same time that you would like to attend, know that we record the sessions and that the audio files are available for purchase at Convention.

Bring a water bottle. We have water fill stations throughout the convention center.

Dress in layers. Since we are in a large building, we cannot control the temperature throughout the building as well as we would like. Bring a light sweater and/or dress in layers to adjust accordingly to the temperature of the room.
Wear comfortable shoes. I cannot stress enough how much better you will feel if you are in a comfy pair of shoes. I will be wearing my running shoes!

Bring a couple of pens/pencils and a pad of paper, or if you are tech savvy, use your phones and tablets. You are going to want to take notes at our wonderful speaker sessions, from exhibitors, and with people you will be meeting.

Bring a backpack or a roller bag. Due to Fire Marshal codes, we cannot allow rolling carts in the Exhibit Hall, so come with something easy to sling over your back or small enough to pull by your side. We also offer free package check. So, if you want to make a purchase, but do not want to carry it around all day, you can leave it at our package check booth and come back for your things at the end of the day.

Bring your sense of adventure and eagerness to learn! Every day we can learn something new. Every day provides us with new insights and new adventures. This Convention will provide that in a multitude of ways. There will be some speakers you immediately connect with, and others that may make you raise your eyebrows. But that is what is so great about the many workshops we offer–you can find the ones that work for you and leave the rest at the door. All of us are different and will find some things work well for us but not for others. Find what works for you and take the rest with a grain of salt knowing that what is being offered is blessing someone else.

Bring your family, or attend with your friends. Decide what is best for you. I have attended Convention both ways and I have been blessed by both. The first few years I came with friends. I loved it because we went back to the room and talked throughout the night about what we had learned and found in the Exhibit Hall that day. It was so great to have that time to myself to just think and not be interrupted, to learn, and to let it all soak in.

I have also brought my entire family to Convention. In the beginning my husband wasn’t against homeschooling, but he wasn’t involved either. He “let” me homeschool and I was happy with that. But as the years went on I really wanted him to learn more. The first Convention he came to, I made some suggestions on sessions I thought he would enjoy and encouraged him to go. He went to a couple. He didn’t like all of them, but he did enjoy learning more about what it is I do week in and week out. Over the years he has come to enjoy Convention as much as I do. He happily volunteers and I love that he is more interested in the process now. So, if your husband isn’t totally into it, its okay. He’s still a good husband.

CHEA allows children to attend the general Convention with their parents for free. Personally, I do not do well with this option as I find my mind constantly on them, trying to be vigilant and make sure they aren’t doing something they shouldn’t. But I know parents who can navigate this quite well. Again, the choice is yours.
I enjoy having my kids attend the Children and Teen Conventions. There is an additional cost for these conventions, but they keep my children engaged, and every year they learn something new.

I am very excited about this year’s Children and Teen Conventions! Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), the host for this year’s Children’s Convention, is using Pilgrim’s Progress as the basis for their activities. The leaders from CEF and I were able to come together and pray over the facility and the Convention. I have never met a group of more motivated, dedicated, or joy-contagious people. I just couldn’t be around them without feeling joy! I cannot wait for my child to be in their program. If you register online before June 6, we are offering a multi-child discount for the Children’s Convention, so register soon!

This year, our Teen Convention is going to be lead by Generation Joshua, part of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Action. They are running a simulated presidential election. I am looking forward to this since we have a presidential election coming next year. I know my kids will learn a lot about the process and have a better appreciation for what we will be seeing in 2020.

To buy or not to buy? That is the question. If you are like me, you like being able to see the curriculum choices –to touch and feel and look through the materials being offered. You also like a good deal and that can make it hard for you to commit to buying in the Exhibit Hall.

If I can be candid … the size of exhibit halls are starting to dwindle. The price exhibitors pay to attend the Convention is becoming less valuable to them each year. They lose money when we choose to purchase our curriculum elsewhere. I would like to ask that you consider, very carefully, the option to purchase at Convention. Many of our vendors will offer their best prices there.

Should you find a better price elsewhere, please let the vendor know. I understand this can be very awkward, but we need our vendors to know that their presence is important to us. I know most of us are shopper savvy, but we are going to lose the chance to see these great items first hand if we do not make purchases at Convention.

If you do make purchases at Convention, we offer a great giveaway! It’s called Shop to Win. For every $25 you spend in the Exhibit Hall, we give you one ticket to enter our drawing for one of five $100 cash prizes. We have had many happy winners over the years. This year it could be you! Please see details here.

We also have our Used Curriculum Sale that is always a favorite. Please note that items purchased at the Used Curriculum Sale do not qualify for Shop to Win.

Still on the fence about this whole Convention thing? Did you know every year we offer help for homeschoolers at our homeschool help booth. Neither did I! It wasn’t until I started working for CHEA that I realized we had great resources that have been somewhat lost in the mayhem of Convention. This year we are bringing the homeschool help booth out into the lobby in a big way. We are going to offer a more relaxing environment, where you can come sit for a while and speak with moms who have been or who are currently in the trenches of home education. They will be happy to listen to any concerns you may have with your homeschool, offer advice, and even walk the Exhibit Hall with you to help keep it from feeling so daunting.

We are also going to host several group “meet-ups”. From area “meet-ups”, where you can meet other homeschool families that live near you, to homeschooling philosophy and methods “meet-ups”, where you can learn how to homeschool in the Charlotte Mason, Classical, or even unschooling methods from other moms. There is something for everyone.

We are working hard to make this Convention a wonderful experience for all attendees. We want this to be a place where you can come and be with your people. No judgement, just friendly conversation and help where you need it most.
If you haven’t registered yet you can do so here. Remember to register before June 6 to save $25 on your registration!

Anjuli Watanabe joined the CHEA Staff as Events Manager in March 2017. She is married to her husband, Bryan, and homeschools their three children, ages 16, 13, and 7.