by Katie Julius

Hearing about a homeschool convention can evoke a variety of emotions – from uncertainty to trepidation to wish-filled longing. Many of these feelings come from the variety of myths that are out there about attending a homeschool convention. Today, we will bust several of those myths to give you the confidence and assurance you need to get to Convention this year, whether it will be your first or twenty-first!

Myth: I’ve been homeschooling for a while now. I don’t need to attend.

This is probably the most common myth we hear. You’ve found your community; you’re in a groove; everything is going well. What would attending a homeschool convention benefit you? Lots!

Most professions encourage “professional development” to grow and develop better skills in whatever their duties may be. Homeschooling is no different! We should always want to be bettering ourselves and learning as we grow with our kids. Homeschooling changes as our kids get older – sometimes even year to year. While it may be smooth sailing right now, rough waters may be ahead as you add another child to your school routine or make the transition to high school. A homeschool convention can provide both information and encouragement as you navigate the ever-changing dynamics of your home-based school. The workshops offered cover a variety of topics, from parenting to worldview to preschool to high school to writing to math and everything in between. Every parent can find workshops that are relevant to them this year.

While you may have community within your homeschool group, attending a convention is just different. You are surrounded by hundreds of homeschool families who are like-minded. Conversations that happen before a session or over a meal can be just what you need if you’re struggling with a specific situation. Surrounding yourself with the greater homeschool community is an environment you can’t find anywhere else. You can take the time to be refreshed and refocus as you finish this school year and look to the next.

Long-time homeschool mom, Marie Stout recommends that families, “go before, go early elementary, go late elementary, go when you need to teach them to write, go in Junior High and go every year in High School.”

Myth: I can’t attend because I don’t have childcare.

The great thing about homeschool conventions is that children are welcome! It’s not uncommon to see strollers lining the hallways or kids quietly coloring or playing a game on the floor of a workshop session. At CHEA’s Conventions, parents are always encouraged to bring their children with them to any session as long as they are respectful of others who are attending. We recommend bringing quiet activities for them to do during those sessions and we have special seating toward the back for families so you can easily duck out if you need to.

Another great option for kids is Children’s and Teen Conventions. Providing age-appropriate activities gives you the opportunity to focus and enjoy your sessions while they’re having fun, learning (yes, we count it as a school day!), and making friends of their own. My daughter looks forward to seeing the friends she makes at Children’s Convention every year.

Myth: I can just get the recordings after. I don’t need to be there in person.

Yes, it’s true, recordings are available for most workshop sessions – and they can be a great way to bring the convention experience home with you. However, as has been mentioned, there’s nothing quite like being there in person. You can’t experience the community through a recording. You can’t have those conversations between sessions or at meals through a recording. You can’t ask questions or get clarification from a speaker through a recording.

Speakers also often have visuals that enhance their presentation that you would miss out on if you weren’t there in person. CHEA’s Events Manager, Dena Bless explained that she would often use that as a deciding factor in which workshop she would attend in person and which one she would get the recording for (when she wanted to attend more than one workshop in a given session). The recordings are still helpful, but there’s “nothing like the interaction and energy of the speaker and the group when it’s in person.”

Myth: It’s too expensive to go to a convention.

We recognize that we live in a state where it’s not exactly cheap to raise a family, especially if you are trying to do it on a single income. However, we encourage you that attending a homeschool convention is worth it. It’s important to invest in yourself as both a parent and educator (remember that “professional development?”). The encouragement and information you will receive at convention to finish the year strong and plan for next year is truly priceless – there’s nothing like it.

CHEA aims to make our events as affordable as possible. Not only is the Family Registration rate a great deal – it includes you, your spouse, all your kids, PLUS 2 grandparents (who can even help with watching little ones on campus while you attend workshops), but we also offer ways for families to offset those costs through volunteering. All of our volunteers can get free recordings of the workshop of their choice and if they volunteer at least 8 hours, you can even receive a free Family Registration! There are lots of different options to help as well as time frames so that you can still attend the parts of the convention that you’re interested in.

Myth: I need to go to a convention with the biggest exhibit hall possible.

When I went to my first convention, I remember walking through the exhibit hall and being completely overwhelmed. There were SO many options and I didn’t even know where to start. Over the years, I have found that a smaller exhibit hall is actually a better experience. As a more experienced homeschooler, I don’t really need all those options anymore. I find that I am stopping at only a handful of booths that I’m interested in. While not always the case, I have also found that larger exhibit halls tend to have more non-homeschool related vendors, so larger isn’t necessarily better.

Myth: Conventions are like drinking from a firehose. It’s just too much to take in at one time.

So, this one is not entirely a myth. It’s true that going to a convention will be like drinking from a firehose. It will feel like you are on information overload. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come! Attending convention in person allows you to see and experience thoughts, ideas, and products you wouldn’t have otherwise.

However, there are ways to help manage your experience during the event to get the most out of it. First, come prepared. Look over the schedule and make a plan of the workshops you know you want to attend. Know that you can’t do it all. Be selective in what you do. Maybe even plan to skip a session so you can take time to process and reflect on what you have heard already. Bring a notebook to take notes so that when you take that time to reflect, you can remember those important points or the things the speaker said that was most impactful to you. 

Plan to purchase the audio recordings so that you can go back and listen more in depth or with greater focus when it’s not quite so overwhelming. You can use it as a reminder or encouragement when you’re having one of “those” days throughout the year.

We hope that this article has helped to alleviate any hesitation or apprehension you may have about attending a homeschool convention. We hope you will join us May 9-11, 2024 at Biola University for CHEA’s Annual Homeschool Convention as you invest in yourself, increase your knowledge, and get refreshed and rejuvenated for the year ahead.