Making the Most of a Home School Conference

It’s that season again!  Okay, I realize it’s nowhere near Christmas.  And yes, we’re in the middle of March Madness season but I’m not talking about that either.  I’m talking about home-school conference season.

Over the next few months thousands upon thousands of home-schoolers will be flocking to conferences large and small.  Some of the attendees will actually be parents who have decided to make the leap into home-schooling for the first time.  Others will be those who have been home-schooling for a short time and are eager for advice or encouragement or are looking forward to a couple of days away to get refreshed and re-energized for another year of home-schooling.

Some parents attending a conference may have been home-schooling for years and are attending a conference because one of their children is graduating and they will be participating in a graduation ceremony.

As you can see there are many reasons that home-schoolers attend home-school conferences, and I have really only scratched the surface here.  But knowing why you are attending a conference and having a plan will help you to benefit more fully from the conference you attend.

When I started home-schooling in 1990 I had already been hobnobbing with home-schoolers for several years.  I found that veteran home-schoolers, even if they had only been home-schooling for a couple of years, were my best resource for choosing curriculum.  However, there are many other challenges that arise as you actually venture into this new territory and sometimes you just feel like you need a little something more.

Now those of you moms who use the annual home-school conference as an excuse for an extended moms’ night out, you can be honest with me.  You’re welcome here too.  I get it.

But for most home-schooling parents attending a conference there are more urgent concerns such as figuring out how to homeschool when you have five kids ages 3 to 10, or deciding on the best program to teach your child to read, and all the information out there may have you confused and overwhelmed.

I attended the Florida Parent Educators Association’s annual conference many times.  It’s one of the largest and best conferences in the nation and Florida home-schooling families are very fortunate to have such a great resource.  But even small conferences can benefit your family.

Regardless of what size conference you decide to go to, I want to offer some specific advice on how to get the most out of that conference:

  1. Plan ahead.  Make sure you get your hands on a conference schedule and spend some time before you go planning how you want to spend your time.
  2. Try not to be too ambitious about how many workshops you are going to attend.  Generally speaking the conference planners usually tape the workshops and offer copies for sale.  Believe me, it is worth it to limit the number of workshops you attend to two, or perhaps three, a day and order CD’s of the other workshops that interest you.  You could also talk to some home-school friends and pool your resources to buy copies of the workshops you couldn’t attend and then share them amongst yourselves.
  3. If the conference offers a curriculum exhibit, be sure to plan plenty of time for perusing resources.  I love the fact that the Florida conference brings in a hundred or so curriculum suppliers that attendees can check out.  It is, for me anyway, arguably one of the best advantages of attending a conference.  I cannot tell you how many times I have read about how wonderful a home-school resource is, and then when I actually got a chance to look at it realized it wouldn’t work for our family.  I’m not saying that the reviews were misleading, it’s just that what might work for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another.  Additionally, budget how much you will spend at the conference, but keep in mind that the real purpose is to have the opportunity to peruse as many different resources as possible while you are there, and you can always order products at a later time.  You also might want to ask the supplier if they offer a shipping discount to conference attendees.
  4. Allow yourself down-time.  You will want to have time to digest what you are learning in workshops.  You will want to have time to just sit and chat with other home-schoolers, whether they are friends or even someone you just met.  Give yourself permission to relax a little and you will go home feeling refreshed and re-energized.

I would encourage new and veteran home-schoolers to try to make some room in their home-school budget to attend a conference.  You cannot imagine how much you can get out of a conference until you actually go to one.  And if any of you have other ideas for my readers of how to get the most out of attending a home-school conference, will you please leave your thoughts in the comments?  Thanks!

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  • I’m trying to go to my first one – in Philadelphia this June.

    • Anonymous

      I predict you will enjoy it and undoubtedly make an impression on your fellow home-schoolers! 🙂

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Great post!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks! Hope you’ll visit again!

  • Lila

    What a wonderful job you do of sharing this info – and your resources! Have not homeschooled my kids, but sometimes wonder about it. Thanks for a well rounded article! Found you on SITS!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stopping by from SITS! And thank you for the kind words. I hope you’ll consider home-schooling your children. It has so many advantages not the least of which is strengthening the family bond. And if you have any specific questions about it just send me an e-mail: anne@homeschooling911.com

  • I used to go for years then quit when I thought I knew ‘everything’ I needed to know. Last year i went back. So glad I did. I’m heading to ours in April. Can’t wait! Great article, thanks for sharing!

    • Anonymous

      I haven’t gone to our state conference since my oldest son graduated our home-school program five years ago (the Florida convention has a huge graduation ceremony that attracts kids from all over the country). But I would LOVE to have the chance to peruse the curriculum exhibit there again. So much fun! I hope you have a wonderful time at your conference!

  • Ann

    This is a great article, Anne! There is much I would LOVE to share as I attend the GHEA Convention in Atlanta each May, but will try to keep my comments short. This year, they not only have Little Patriots for the younger children, but have a full weekend planned for older teens which we are quite excited about.

    My eldest daughter (who also home schools) and I purchase CD’s for the daytime sessions because we spend the majority of Friday and Saturday going over the different curriculum, tools, and games. This keeps us from stressing with time constraints. There is so much more available now than when I began 10 years ago. I would highly encourage families to attend the major speakers on Friday night and not just go to the shopping hall. Two of the main speakers this year are Ken Ham and Voddie Bauchman.

    Can you tell that I am anticipating that weekend? How I hope that your article inspires others to take advantage of the planning their home states or even their area has done to provide this opportunity!

    • Anonymous

      Ann:

      I was hoping you would come by to comment! I know how much you love that Atlanta conference. It must be a delight to see your grandchildren having access to so many wonderful resources. Have fun in May!