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.
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.
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.
I mean, really. Do I need to say anything else?
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of attending homeschool conventions?