15 Ways to Make the Most of your Next Homeschool Conference
- Register and Book Your Hotel Room Early
To ensure the best savings and availability, take advantage of any early-bird discounts available. For convention passes, paying at the door is usually an option, but oftentimes you will end up paying more. Book your hotel room early as well. Browse your homeschool conference’s website and see if they have posted any hotel suggestions. Hotels close to the conference location may have a special discount for the homeschool conference. If so, these rooms sell out quickly. Check the maximum occupancy rules to see if you might need to book adjoining rooms for your family. Suites with multiple rooms are also an option for large families. These tend to get booked quickly, so if you are a planner, book as soon as you know you are going!
- Set a Budget
Make a list of what you anticipate you will be spending your money on. I usually have a set amount of money for each item on my list. My list usually includes family admission, hotel, parking, meals, children’s activities, and curriculum. I try to save a significant amount to spend on curriculum, and if I don’t go over my budget in that area, I save it for the curriculum I may want to purchase later in the year.
- Plan Your Speaker Schedule
Once your conference schedule is in hand, it can be overwhelming to see how many amazing speakers and sessions are on the list. As you look over the schedule, take into consideration the ages of your children and the time of day the sessions will be. An exceptional keynote speaker might be attending your conference, but if they are speaking at 8 a.m. or during your toddler’s naptime, you might want to reconsider. Maybe the keynote speaker that drew you to the conference in the first place is speaking at 3 p.m. You might not want to plan to attend a 2 p.m. session so you can be sure decent seats are available for your family for the 3 p.m. session. Making a plan rather than winging it will ensure you can get in on the sessions that you are excited about and work best for your family.
- Plan to Visit the Vendors
As you plan each day of the conference, plan at least two times to visit the vendor hall outside of the sessions. Though you could easily fill up your day with sessions, planning specific times to visit the vendors allows you to learn more about them and take advantage of their conference deals. Though your favorite curriculum companies are bound to be there, you might be surprised to find some that you never have heard of before yet are exactly what your homeschool needs!
- Review the Vendors
If you enter the vendor hall without any prior knowledge of where the vendors are set up, your head is guaranteed to spin. Your eyes might lead you to a large, enticing display followed by an exciting hands-on activity for the kids. You will be pulled to the table with the free candy and then over to the breadmaking demonstration. Know where the vendors you want to visit are located and be sure to visit them first. Then go ahead and make your rounds!
- Wear Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
Since you will be walking and moving often during the conference, stay comfortable in loose clothes and walking shoes. If your children are joining you, this goes for them as well.
- Bring Layers to Stay Warm
The vendor hall and speaker rooms can get cold so be sure to bring layers.
- Pack Snacks and Water
The food at a conference hall can be expensive. Find out if snacks are allowed in the venue. If so, pack enough to keep you and your children set between meals. If not, plan to tailgate or have a snack outside of the conference center if the weather is nice. If you book a hotel within walking distance, plan breaks in the day to drop off your purchased materials while grabbing a snack in the room.
- Bring a Rolling Suitcase or Cart
You will be handed promotional materials, fliers, freebies, and goodies for the kids. A simple reusable bag that you receive from one of the vendors will not be large enough to carry it all! If you are planning on buying curriculum (most likely you are!), then a rolling suitcase or rolling cart is imperative. I have seen parents bring strollers to carry their purchases. This can become bulky and take up a lot of room as you maneuver through the vendor hall. A rolling suitcase or cart will free up your hands, save you from back pain, and make the whole experience more pleasant!
- Arrange Childcare
Do you need mom time? Ask your husband to stay home with the kids so you can escape for a few days. In need of couple time? Recruit grandparents or trusted friends to watch the kids for the weekend. If your children are coming with you, bring a trusted adult to help watch the kids for a few hours each day or take advantage of the children programs provided.
- Entertainment for Children
If childcare isn’t available, bring quiet activities for children to do during sessions or while you are shopping. Purchase some inexpensive and easy crafts, coloring pages, or toys that you can surprise them with during the sessions to keep them busy and entertained.
- Pack a Notebook and Your Favorite Pens and Pencils
Don’t be stuck taking notes on the back of the promotional flyers you received that can easily get lost in the shuffle. Be prepared with a notebook and pen because you will most definitely need them as you glean from so many knowledgeable session speakers!
- Questions to Ask Vendors
Vendors are in go-mode at a homeschool conference. They are alert and ready to answer any question that comes their way. Being surrounded by so many like-minded families gets the adrenaline going and the excitement flowing! They are there to impart what they know about the company they represent to you, so be prepared! Write a list of standard questions you want to ask vendors about their curriculum and be prepared for informative and detailed answers!
- Review Handouts at the End of Each Day
As you settle down for the evening, be sure to review the handouts you received during the day for sales, specials, and other information you might want to follow-up on. Most offers are for a limited time only.
- Make Time for Fellowship with Other Homeschoolers
This is often one of the greatest benefits of attending a homeschool conference. Refreshing fellowship with other homeschoolers is good for the homeschool Mama heart. Meet up with old friends or make new ones. You will be in the one place where you will not receive strange glances because you homeschool. Take advantage of it!