Deborah Morris Burton
Top 5 Reasons You MUST Attend a Homeschool Convention
If you have the opportunity, you MUST attend a homeschool convention this year!
Why would I make such a blanket statement? There are some families that have used one curriculum provider for all their children so far and will continue that until the last child graduates. They already have every subject in every grade up to the current grade of the oldest child. There are families in financial trouble. There are families who live very far away from the closest homeschool convention and they would need to stay in a hotel to attend. There are families who…well, you get the point. Every homeschool family is different, so how can any statement be true for all homeschool families?
The reason I make such a bold assertion is because I have seen the benefit in attending these conventions in my own life while homeschooling two sons from birth up to high school graduation. We faced many obstacles in our journey, but homeschool conventions were hands-down the best money we ever spent.
I attended my first homeschool convention with a breastfeeding infant and my three-year-old. I was drawn to homeschooling and convinced that it was God’s best for our family, but at the time, my husband was not so sure. He was leaning towards a Christian school near us. When I walked through the entrance of that convention the first time, I felt a rush of emotion when I saw all the homeschooling parents and families there. I was so excited to go to as many seminars as my children could tolerate (sitting in the back for an easy exit, of course) and to walk around the vendor hall and see all the fresh, new curriculum options.
The next year, my husband attended with us. We would take turns with the children while the other attended a seminar or looked at curriculum. He could not believe all the options available. And the thing that I think made the biggest impression on him was the thousands of homeschool parents there—so, this wouldn’t be a crazy thing to do? By the end of the convention, he was completely sold on homeschooling and has been a huge proponent of it ever since!
[Please note: For those of you who want to go but cannot see a way to afford it, please know that many conventions provide a way to earn back some of your registration fee by volunteering at the convention. And other conventions provide free registration for certain parents, such as those in full-time ministry or those with preschool children. Before you decide you can’t afford to go, make sure you check out all the options available to lessen the cost.]
Here are my top 5 reasons you MUST attend a homeschool convention:
#1 The Encouragement Factor
These reasons are not necessarily in order of importance, but to me, this is probably the most vital one. Like my husband and I found out, just being in the presence of hundreds or thousands of homeschooling parents encourages beginning homeschool parents (or those considering it) with the fact that a huge number of diverse families have chosen to homeschool. This can be just the encouragement someone needs to take the plunge into the homeschool pool.
Let’s be honest and admit that homeschooling can be hard and demanding. Once you’ve begun the often challenging job of homeschooling, encouragement becomes even more important. This is why seminars offered at the convention are so crucial.
Sometimes you need to be reminded why you chose to homeschool in the first place. If your reason was because God called you to this life and it provided the best chance of discipling your children (like it was for me and my husband), sometimes you will need to be reinvigorated by God's Word. Many conventions are held by Christian groups, so most of the seminar speakers will be providing this most fruitful refreshment and encouragement.
In most conventions, there will be a variety of seminars or workshops, often targeted to special segments of the homeschooling population. There will be seminars by experienced homeschool parents to deal with almost any season of life or homeschooling challenge: teaching preschool, teaching high school, how to homeschool with a large family, how to improve your organization or run a home more smoothly, how to homeschool if your child has special needs, how to homeschool if you are a single parent or both parents work full-time, homeschooling the strong-willed child. Experts in academic subjects and various therapies may also provide seminars or workshops that can encourage a parent that he/she can conquer that overwhelming challenge.
A tip you hear in a workshop (either at the convention or listening to the audio later) may be the very thing that restores your own enthusiasm and resolve to homeschool another year. Just knowing that other homeschool parents have had the same struggles and have persevered can revitalize you. Speakers who explain how homeschooling can be the tool God uses to grow your family spiritually can uplift you and remind you of your original reasons to homeschool.
#2 Valuable Practical Help
Practical help can be obtained during seminars or by curriculum vendors. Most likely, there will be seminars providing advice about teaching certain subjects, especially reading and math. Teaching a child to read is often the first hurdle homeschooling parents face and it can seem daunting. Another common frustration for parents is a child who struggles with math. Experienced parents who can give advice about how they cleared those hurdles can be a godsend.
On the other end of the spectrum are parents who worry (even when their oldest child is in first grade!) about how they will teach high school subjects: calculus, economics, writing a research paper, physics, robotics, engineering, ancient history, Shakespeare, public speaking, Latin, a foreign language. Not only can they see this curriculum for themselves, there are probably seminar topics about many of these subjects or about teaching high school in general.
Perhaps even more helpful to parents are the seminar sessions and vendors with advice about general topics of concern to most homeschool parents. A vital topic for Christian homeschool parents is how to pass along their faith to and build godly character in their children. Practical advice about appropriate expectations for family devotions with different ages can be a lifesaver. How to maintain an efficient household is often a need for busy homeschool families, with tips and tools for chores, scheduling or living frugally. Parents can also use practical advice about grading or creating a high school transcript. And hearing from college representatives or homeschooling parents whose graduates have successfully gone to college and/or received scholarships is certainly practical for many parents.
And perhaps one of the best benefits of attending a homeschool convention is the chance to talk to the authors of the curriculum you're considering. No one knows that resource inside and out like the creator of it. We have had wonderful opportunities to talk with authors at length about our specific child and figure out the best fit for him.
#3 A Marriage and Planning Retreat
If the convention weekend isn’t a date weekend for you and your spouse, you’re doing this wrong! Now, I understand this is not always possible—perhaps there is no grandparent to watch the children, perhaps you’re breastfeeding, perhaps you or your spouse cannot get away from work.
However, if you and your spouse are able to create this date weekend, it will provide rewards to your marriage and to your homeschool. I always cherished this time with my husband. He was very busy supporting the family with his full-time job, was in the Army Reserves and often worked a third job. In addition to getting to spend precious time alone with each other, I was also able to have his undivided attention (and he had mine) as we talked about the needs of each of our children and dreams of the upcoming year. We were able to focus on the needs of our children and come up with solutions and plans together.
In addition, many conventions now provide workshops or seminars to help strengthen your marriage. The homeschool life is so busy and all-encompassing that your marriage can often be put on the back burner. Taking the time to make your marriage a priority is vital to the health of your marriage and your homeschool.
#4 The Children Aren’t Forgotten
Some of you will have to or choose to take your children with you to the convention. There are many advantages to this and some are similar to the advantages for you and your spouse.
First, your children will also be encouraged by the sheer number of people they see who are homeschooling. Depending on your locale, they may not know many homeschoolers and they certainly will not have the vantage point to know there are hundreds or thousands of people homeschooling in your state or region.
Secondly, many conventions now provide substantial programs for children and teens. While their parents are shopping or attending a seminar, they can participate in a program with other young people. There are science programs (such as robotics), drama programs and civics programs where your teen runs a presidential campaign with a vote at the end of the weekend. One of my sons attended a teen activity where a Christian drama group taught the students about drama from a godly perspective and they participated in a short drama for attendees at the end of the convention.
Some conventions have a high school graduation during the convention weekend, where family and friends, many of whom do not homeschool, can attend. Some of these family and friends may not know another homeschooling family than yours. This allows those family and friends to have the same eye-opening experience of the numbers of people that homeschool.
#5 Last But Not Least—the Shopping
We all know homeschooling demands a lot of time. Unless you are going to spend endless hours scouring homeschool vendor websites and blogs, you are never going to be able to research as many products as efficiently as you can in a vendor hall. And in the vendor hall you have the advantage of receiving special convention-only pricing on products.
However, the biggest benefit is the ability to actually pick up the curriculum you are considering, open it up and look through it. That’s something you simply cannot do online—you may see a page or a table of contents, but you are not able to leaf through and see whether the product is a good fit for your family. This will save your family money, as well, as you will buy fewer products that look good online but aren’t a great fit for your children or you.
I mean, where else can you go and look at literally thousands of books and resources that your family might love? You won't believe the variety of choices until you see it in person!
You will be able to find specific resources that allow you to fully customize your child's education. Three's no need to buy all your curriculum from one provider (although you certainly can if you'd like!). You will see products for all types of homeschooling, from traditional textbooks to unschooling and everywhere in between--as well as books explaining the various homeschooling styles.
Most of the resources you will find at a homeschool convention will be Christian curriculum that will emphasize building character in your children—and that it is just as important, if not more so, as academic subjects.
One of the sheer delights of convention shopping is finding that perfect product you didn’t know even existed! You will find amazing resources that you would never think to look for online. When our sons were young, we happened upon Adam’s Synchronological Chart or Map of History. This oversize book includes a chart that is 23-feet long (but is folded up) that starts at creation (4004 B.C.) and goes to 1870. As you work your way down the panels from the top of the page, it is fascinating to see what events were happening around the world at the same time as biblical events. While we thought it might be years before our sons became interested in this oversized book, it really wasn’t that long—and the amount of history they absorbed through perusing this book was amazing! We were so thankful we stumbled upon this find at the convention.
As your children grow older, this advantage of being able to see and hold and look through curriculum helps them as well. Older children and teens can be instrumental in planning the next year and choosing curriculum. I’ve had my sons look through some books and reject them out of hand, while looking through other books gets them enthusiastic about that class. And of course, if your children are enthusiastic about a particular curriculum, it becomes all the more enjoyable for both student and teacher.
There are many other reasons to go to a homeschool convention, from the camaraderie of fellow homeschool moms to the possibility of finding that elusive resource that will take away one of your academic headaches. But the main point is—GO! You won’t regret it and you will have many cherished memories after your homeschool journey is done.
Homeschool Court provides an engaging way to teach about the American judicial system for grades 4-12. Ending with a mock trial, debate or paper, students synthesize the material learned and practice critical thinking, public speaking and persuasive writing skills. This curriculum is written in a conversational style and is a great addition to any government or civics class! Check it out at the home page: https://www.homeschoolcourt.com/.