10 Pros and Cons of Homeschool Conventions

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I remember my first homeschool curriculum fair. Our local event is always held late in the summer, so I’d already researched and purchased our curriculum for our inaugural homeschooling year. It was already at my house in the Big Box.

When I walked into the vendor hall, I think my jaw may have physically dropped. There were so many homeschooling families and so much curriculum. I was only about halfway through when I called my one and only homeschooling friend in a complete panic, certain that I’d purchased the wrong curriculum and we were doomed to failure.

Thankfully, she talked me down and I left with a few purchases, ready to trust my judgment and research and use the curriculum I’d already purchased.

Homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs can be so helpful, but they’re not without their downside. That’s why I wanted to explore the pros and cons of homeschool convention.

10 Pros and Cons of Homeschool Conventions

I guess the post title is a bit of a misnomer. Technically there are 5 pros and 5 cons, but that seemed like a really wordy title. I like to reserve my wordiness for my actual blog posts. You’re welcome.

Let’s start with the cons so that we can end on a positive note.

1. They can make you feel inferior.

Going to a homeschool convention and hearing the speakers, who seem to have it all together, and seeing all the homeschooling families, who seem to have it all together, can really turn a spotlight on the idea that you don’t have have it all together.

One mom on my Facebook page mentioned feeling a bit inferior at a convention workshop as she sat behind “…the mother and her daughters who were wearing matching homemade dresses and knitting while the speaker talked.”

Yeah, for someone like me who can’t sew or knit, that could be the impetus for feeing a bit less than.

However, I can’t help thinking of what Eleanor Roosevelt said: “’No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I’m sure the sewing, knitting mom has areas in which she feels inferior. Maybe she has trouble teaching her girls grammar or algebra. Often, feelings of inferiority come from comparing our areas of weakness with someone else’s area of strength.

It takes people of all gifts and talents to create our diverse world. Even at homeschool conventions.

2. It can be easy to blow your budget.

I wonder if the convention planners have ever considered making Dave Ramsey the keynote speaker at every homeschool convention in the U.S. It can be so easy to blow your budge when you see all the shiny, new curriculum. And, homeschoolers and books, y’all? Need I say more?

My best tip for not overspending is don’t buy anything the first day. I like to browse on the first day, and make a list of things I’d like to look at more closely. Then, when I go back home or to my hotel room, I can get online and read more about them to narrow down my list for the next day.

When I go back, I like to look at the items on my list and ask the vendors my questions before making a final decision.

3. You start second-guessing your curriculum choices.

You saw my opening story, right? Seeing all the curriculum options can make wonder if you made the right choice. I like my friend’s advice here: Use what you already bought and see how it works for your family before making any changes.

If you’ve already been considering making curriculum changes, that’s one thing, but if you were happy with your choices before you arrived at the convention, don’t make impulsive changes. Purchase some fun extras, but trust your instincts on your initial curriculum purchases.

4. Conventions can be pricey.

The big homeschool conventions typically involve involve hotel and travel expenses, such as gas, parking, and meals out, in addition to your admission cost. Small, local curriculum fairs, though more economical, may have limited or irrelevant vendors.

One way to look at it, though, is that traveling can be fun. It may not exactly be your spouse’s idea of a weekend get-away, but a little road trip, a bed you don’t have to make, and meals you don’t have to prepare qualifies in the eyes of most teaching parents.

5. They can be overwhelming.

For people like me – introverts who have difficulty making decisions – big homeschool conventions can be overwhelming. I can only imagine if the first-year homeschooling me had walked into one of the huge conventions that are popular these days. Those weren’t even a thing back when I started, and it’s a good thing. I’d have probably run  screaming from the room.

A few ways to keep the large conventions from being so overwhelming are:

  • Take a veteran homeschooling friend, if you have one. Even if your friend has only homeschooled 2 or 3 years herself, she’s still most likely been at it long enough not to find the vendor hall so overwhelming.
  • Do some research ahead of time. Know which vendors are going to be there, do a little research on the ones you’d like to visit, and take your list!
  • Allow at least two days for shopping, if you can. Use the first day to get over the awe-factor of the sheer volume of choices.
10 Pros and Cons of Homeschool Conventions

6. Local conventions are like a big family reunion.

One of my favorite things about our local homeschool convention is catching up with friends that I haven’t seen in awhile – often not since the last convention.

Having teens, we don’t do a lot of the things we did when they were little, like music class and park days, so it’s easy to lose touch with other families, particularly those who’ve moved a bit out of the immediate area. They’ll often make a point to come to the area fair to catch up. I love that!

As a blogger, I enjoy that same experience at the bigger conventions. There are always lots of people that I know from online attending, and I always enjoy catching up or finally getting to meet someone in person.

7. You get to meet and talk with vendors.

I also love being able to chat with vendors and hear the heart behind their products. More often than not, they’re homeschooling parents who created a product out of necessity for their own family. Listening to them share their passion always makes me appreciate their products even more.

8. Conventions can renew your excitement.

Talking to the vendors and my homeschool mom friends, seeing all the new products (and usually purchasing a few), and listening to the speakers almost always renews my vision and gets me excited for the upcoming year and finishing the current year strong.

9. You can encourage new homeschool parents.

Homeschool conventions offer those of us who’ve been doing this awhile the opportunity to encourage new homeschool parents. Our local fair asks veteran homeschooling parents who are willing to help newbies to wear a little flower on their nametag. That way, the new moms and dads know who to look for if they have questions.

Even if your fair doesn’t do that, you can often tell the new parents (the ones looking really overwhelmed), or you may overhear them mention the fact that they’re just getting started. Don’t be afraid to speak up and offer to help. Chances are, they’ll appreciate it.

10. Books.

I mean, really. Do I need to say anything else?

What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of attending homeschool conventions?

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday and the Hip Homeschool Hop.

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve never been to a convention and honestly don’t know if I could handle it. I got completely overwhelmed at the curriculum fair held by my church’s homeschool group and that was only in one room of our church! A friend did tell me that if I would ever choose to go, I should know exactly what I am looking for before going. Honestly, I think I’d rather stay home and order my stuff online.

  2. Man you’re hitting all my nostalgic feels this week lol. I haven’t been to a convention as the homeschooling parent but we had a big one in our area growing up so we went to that one; my favorite memory is finding used books, finding a quiet spot to read and staying there til my mom was finished browsing.

  3. i would love to shop online, if you could for instance see what an entire spelling lesson looked like, as an example. Showing me the cover with nothing else to tell me about how it’s taught does nothing for me. :/ But taking (our) 4 kids to a convention would be insane. We’d cause so much headache. I’d be overwhelmed before we even got to where we needed to be. Going back multiple days is not an option, sitters are not a realistic option. Everyone in our tiny home school group recommended a different spelling resource– and every amazon listing had brilliant and devastating reviews. Bah. And that’s just ONE subject! [goes back to pulling together own free resources from the library in defeat]….

  4. I decided to skip the convention this year. Our budget is extremely limited and I know I have great things in my house to use. I need to keep my blinders on and have faith in what I have.
    Blessings, Dawn

  5. My favorite part of the convention is the speakers!!!! It’s like cramming in all kinds of teacher training and encouragement and great ideas in 2 1/2 days. It renews my enthusiasm and helps me get out of my box and be more creative. I always look at the speaker schedule, print it and highlight it and make a plan. The first time I went I overwhelmed myself and my family, so now I make sure to leave breathing space in between, for meeting up with friends, etc. We are blessed in that my favorite convention is held 10 minutes from my house. I research curriculum on line before going, and if I can get a good deal or ask questions from the vendor then I buy it there. (The people at Beautiful Feet are amazing!) My daughter graduates next year, so my needs for convention are pretty much done, but I’m thinking of signing up as a volunteer this year.

  6. I just went to my first convention this year and I loved it! I’ve already made a plan to go next year and am working on convincing other people to go with me.
    I can’t say that I had a favorite part. The vendor hall was overwhelming but I had a list of things I wanted to look at and that helped a lot.
    I was disappointed about the cost of ordering the whole convention on CD. There were often several sessions in one time block that I would like to have heard.

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