I absolutely love homeschool conventions. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve been to, but trust me when I tell you it’s a lot. There is just something about a program full of encouraging sessions and a vendor hall full of shiny books that just gets me so excited I could squeal!
But I’m well aware that it can be quite overwhelming for many families, causing the whole experience to feel like a disaster. But don’t worry. I won’t let that happen to you. Let me share 7 ways to ruin your homeschool convention experience with you. This way, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Haha.
1. Don’t go.
I mean, you do know everything already, right? Why bother going to a homeschool convention? You’ve got this whole thing running perfectly. Ha. Ok, I know you don’t. So seriously, this is the fastest way to ruin your homeschool. You NEED refreshment, encouragement, and new ideas. Every other job requires such training. Isn’t homeschooling even more important to you?
2. Make up a rigid schedule before you go.
I know this might not seem like a mistake, but it’s a HUGE one. If you go to your homeschool convention with fists clenched tightly around a detailed schedule, you’ll miss the blessing God has for you. He intends to work in your life through the people, sessions, vendors, and friends at this convention. Be willing to change your plans and follow His lead while you are there.
Nearly every time I speak, someone comes up and shares a story with me of how God rerouted their plans and landed them in my session. I love hearing how God used something I said to meet a very specific need in their lives… often a need they didn’t even realize they had. I know this has happened to me too at a homeschool convention. So, don’t clench your fists around that schedule, and be willing to hear God’s voice. You’ll be blessed!
3. Focus on “big name” speakers and don’t worry about the topic.
I see this a lot at conventions. We figure that the big name speakers are a must-see and we toss aside all else to get there. Friend, don’t do that. If the topic doesn’t meet your needs, let God lead you to something else. It’s not necessarily bad to hear a big name speaker. In fact, please do! Just make sure you choose topics that are indeed relevant to your family’s needs this year.
4. Avoid the vendor hall.
The vendor hall is your chance to get your hands on curriculum and resources that you can’t see in real life. This is an invaluable time to look at what is needed for the coming year and also to plan for years to come.
I’ve heard many people say they avoid the vendor hall at conventions because everyone is just selling stuff and the choices are just overwhelming.
Trust me when I say that most vendors are there to support you. We want your homeschool to succeed. If our products help, wonderful! If they don’t, we can often still help you find something that will. Take the time to express your needs and struggles to the vendors, especially those who are speaking at the conference. Our primary goal is to help you and we love to do it!
5. Wing it.
Since I told you not to go with a rigid schedule in mind, you might be tempted to just fly by the seat of your pants. But don’t. That is an equally fatal mistake. Take some time before you go to assess your needs. Go through the old curriculum. Consider what is working and what is not. Look through the schedule of sessions and even make a list of vendors to visit. Of course, be willing to change anything at the last minute, but having a plan of some sort will guide you. It will also keep you from feeling overwhelmed when you arrive.
I have a FREE convention notebook planner that will help with this. Simply click the image below to learn more.
6. Run Yourself Ragged.
Homeschool conventions are packed full of awesomeness. Sessions, encouragement, shopping... it's easy to run yourself so ragged that you miss the blessing of refreshment. Don't let that happen. Get plenty of rest before you go. Try to leave the kids at home or put them in the children's program so you have some time to focus and think.
I know many who bring their husbands or a good friend and make the weekend a goal-setting, life-changing experience. This is such an awesome way to set the tone for your family. Of course, I'm not saying you can't enjoy the weekend if you bring your kids. There is great motivation for coming as a family. Just make sure you find some time to think, plan, and listen to God. (By the way, my kids love to walk the vendor halls and suggest curriculum for our family. It's such fun when they are old enough to do this!)
7. Pick the wrong convention to attend.
Yes. It's totally possible. I did it once. Our group of friends decided to go to a convention because of several of the big name speakers that were appearing. We drove a few hours and expected an amazing time. It didn't so much go that way. In fact, we were sorely disappointed because of the lack of focus on things that were important to us.
When you pick a homeschool convention to attend, always keep this in mind: The resources and speakers offered will be a direct reflection of the goals and focus of the convention organizers. Do they line up with yours? As a conservative Christian, I find many conventions actually don't line up with my beliefs. Of course, I could go to that convention and pick and choose what would help me. But what if there was a convention that did line up with my beliefs and goals?
For me, there is. It's called Teach Them Diligently. Based on Deuteronomy 6, even the name of the convention shares my personal vision. For me, it's as much about the hearts of my kids as it is about their intellectual development. Teach Them Diligently is a conference focused on Christian discipleship. I have attended every single convention since the first one in 2012 and can't say enough good things about them. Of course, if you've been around here a while you know that I now speak at all of their conferences and I'd love to meet you. Come join us!
Seriously, my friend. The purpose of this post isn't to point out all of your "homeschool convention sins" but rather to help equip you for the journey this year. Don't worry about how guilty you may have been of these little things in the past. This year is a beautiful chance to enjoy all that God has for you at your homeschool convention. I'm praying for you (and I do hope to meet you if you happen to be at a Teach Them Diligently location!)