5 Reasons to Attend a Homeschool Convention

Three years ago, I was just finishing up my first year of homeschooling.  It had been a wonderful year overall, but I was definitely still in the trying-to-figure-this-thing-out stage.  (For that matter, I think I may always be in that stage.)

I traveled to Oklahoma City for my very first convention.  It was HUGE!  There were so many great speakers and sessions to choose from.  The vendor hall had representatives from every curriculum company I had ever heard of (plus many I hadn’t known about before).  By the end of the first day, my brain was full, and my mind was spinning.

It was an overwhelming experience, and perhaps in another post I’ll give some tips for getting the most out of it, but for now, let me try to address the question, “Why should I attend a homeschool convention?”  Depending on how far you have to travel, they can be a little pricey (although the actual registration fee is usually nominal).  Nevertheless, it’s worth the money spent.  Truly.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

1.  Learning new teaching methods.

Professionals of all sorts are required to attend continuing education courses every year or complete a certain number of credits during a particular period.  The purpose is to keep them up-to-date and relevant in their fields.  Homeschool moms can also benefit from a bit of professional development.  Whether you are a brand new homeschooler or you’ve been teaching your children for many years, there’s always something new to learn about how best to communicate and educate.

2.  Seeing the textbooks, workbooks, and other curricula for yourself.

It’s so hard to choose curricula online if you’re selecting for the first time or wanting to make a change.  The websites naturally tell you all of the reasons why they are “the best” for your family.  Most will also show you a few sample pages or lessons.  But there’s just no substitute for holding that book in your hands and getting to flip through the pages.

(Having said that, I do suggest doing a bit of research before you get to the vendor hall.  Also, be very reasonable and purposeful about how much time, energy, and money you have to devote for the upcoming year.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “more is better” mentality and then find yourself completely drained a few weeks into the new school year.)

3.  Time alone to think and recharge (or bond with friends).

One of my favorite things about attending a homeschool convention is the alone time.  I usually have several hours in the car each way plus time in my hotel room to process information, make plans for the coming year, or just simply enjoy the quiet.  No offense to any of my friends, but I wouldn’t want to go to a convention with anyone else.

Others of you may really benefit from traveling with friends.  If you’re someone who is energized by being with friends, this is a perfect opportunity to spend some fun time with other homeschool moms away from the pressure of trying to simultaneously wrangle the kids.  Plus you can split the cost of the gas and hotel.

4.  Being reminded that you’re not alone in this crazy calling.

Homeschooling can be a rather isolating experience at times.  Unless there are many other homeschoolers in your area, it can be easy to feel like no one else really understands (or cares about) your experiences.  Just looking into the faces of all those other homeschool moms and dads (yes, many dads attend, too) can be encouraging.  Plus, you might make a new friend or two while you’re there.  (Hi, Jennifer Tolman!)

5.  Remembering why you’re homeschooling in the first place.

This is THE reason I love homeschool conventions.  Getting inspired to try out new teaching methods is great.  Checking out the different curricula options in person instead of through a catalog or online is invaluable.  Seeing proof that you’re not alone in this lifestyle is heartening.  But being refreshed in your vision for home education is priceless.

So, now that you’re motivated to attend a convention, how do you find one?  Well, truthfully, many of the “big” conventions have already been held (Great Homeschool Conventions, Teach Them Diligently, etc.).  But many state and local conventions are still holding registration.  I found a great website with many different ones here.

{Shameless plug alert.}  If you live in Mississippi, South Carolina, or Tennessee, I’d love to meet you in person at one of the following where I’ll be speaking:

Mississippi Home Educators Association Spring Conference
Mississippi State University
Starkville, MS
May 15 – 16, 2015

Low Country Homeschool Convention
Charleston Southern University
Charleston, SC
May 29-30, 2015

Appalachian Home Educators Conference
Johnson University
Knoxville, TN
June 26-27, 2015

I may also be speaking at the Central Arkansas Homeschool Convention on August 1st in Cabot, Arkansas, but that hasn’t yet been formalized.  (For fans of the show 19 Kids and Counting, Ben and Jessa Duggar Seewald will be speaking there.)

What questions do you have about homeschool conventions?  Have you attended one in the past?  If so, what was your experience?  I’d love to hear about it.